The Kitchen Table #400 – Quadricentennial Arrivals

Check out Abe’s 400th weekly article for StarCityGames.com in which he highlights some of his favorite articles, talks about AbeDraft 3.0, and more!

Welcome to my 400th weekly article for StarCityGames.com! I also wrote 59 daily articles, so this is, in reality, my 459th article for SCG, but let’s not get overly caught up in numbers. Today I want to treat you to a special Kitchen Table article for you and yours.

My first article was published on SCG on October 8, 2001. Typically in these anniversary articles, I look back at my earlier columns, link to some interesting articles for you to peruse, and then take a popular series or idea and make it the nugget of my column. For my 10th anniversary on October 8, 2011, I created some characters with Magic: The Role-Playing Game. In the past, I’ve written Equinaut, Five Color, and Underused Hall of Fame articles on major anniversaries.  

Anyway, I want to continue the theme of looking back at some older articles. Let’s begin with a stretch of some and then move to the meat of the today’s article.

With that many articles, there are many I am proud of. Not all of them chart on any of my Top 10 lists, thus I usually don’t link to them. Nevertheless, I think they still offer something nice to the modern audience. These articles are organized by type:

Multiplayer Theory

The Standstill Dilemma –Goes over what happens when someone plays a Standstill at a multiplayer table and how to use that to your advantage.

The Density of Creatures – One of my favorite discoveries during multiplayer games is how the table reacts to having several creatures in play, regardless of their quality.

The Best Player Syndrome –What happens when you are the consensus best player at the table? I flesh out this idea more here.

Advanced Multiplayer Strategies – Two major strategies for ensuring you win at your next multiplayer night.

Card Evaluations

Finding Silklash Spiders – After a continuing love affair with Silklash Spider, I seek out to uncover other similar cards. I continued this with and Finding Guiltfeeders.

The Baton of Morale Syndrome –This article combines some multiplayer theory with the hunt for cards as good as Baton of Morale. If you think Baton of Morale sucks, read this article today!

No Rares Allowed Vol 1, Vol 2, Vol 3, Vol 4 – I count down 200 of the best commons and uncommons over the course of four articles. It’s hot stuff.

A Quick Vorthos Stop

More Stories from the Three Kingdoms –I go over cards from the Portal Three Kingdoms set and detail stories from the unabridged Three Kingdoms story so you can understand the backstory of some of these cards.

Four Issues

Why Red Sucks and What Needs to be Done About It – Everybody likes ranting articles, right? Right? Sometimes I put the whole article in the title.

Art Attack! – This discusses my 20 favorite pieces of Magic art.

A Professional Look at the DCI –I consider what the DCI does in judging people in the context of my own role as a conduct officer at universities for more than a decade.

The Death of a Casual Format –How did Five Color die and what can be learned from it?


Fun With Changelings – I’ve written thousands of decks for SCG over the years. But for some reason, this article with the changeling decks still always sticks out.

Dong Zhou for the Memories – You know how some independent-minded folk say, “I listened to that band before they were cool?” Well, the same thing is true of me apparently. I played with Portal cards before they were legal.

Abe’s Deck of Happiness and Joy – It’s now two or three years out of date. I was let go for a time by SCG and joked that it was because I had finally revealed Abe’s Deck of Happiness and Joy. Like a television show that has a couple at its core with sexual tension, once you bring them together, the show loses its premise. After teasing the column with my deck for years and years, after finally revealing it, I lost my mojo and went on an elongated hiatus.

Now that we’ve finished looking to the past, let’s look to the future!

Today, for my 400th weekly, I want to head back to my first article ever for SCG and bring it to the present. I’ve actually done this before. I updated it in 2007 in a two-part article and then again in 2009.

I have a project I’ve been working on for years and years: a draftable collection of every card ever made, inspired by Ben Bleiweiss. However, I’ve talked about that often in previous articles, and so today I’m going back to an earlier stage of this project. I’m taking this all the way to its roots!

What project am I discussing?

AbeDraft 3.0

(Note that you can name it after yourself, so make your own and call it KatieDraft or SteveDraft or SamirDraft.)

Today we are going to discuss the creation of your own draft pool of cards for casual uses. Wait, isn’t that a cube, you ask? Nope! A cube contains the best cards we have; this is not that. Plus, this is a much larger project than a simple few hundred cards of a cube. What you are going to want is a group of commons, uncommons, and rares from your collection.

Now, if you have been playing Magic for any amount of time, you have boxes of cards you are not using. This is where AbeDraft comes in. You are going to grab cards from all up and down Magic’s history that you already own and then make a draftable pool of these cards. Then you will pull out fifteen cards and draft with cards from all over Magic’s history. You want this pool to be so large that you have flanking, morph, infect, bloodthirst, and shadow all vying for attention. You have tribes from Kamigawa’s Spirits to Innistrad’s Humans all clamoring to be played. If you have a large enough pool, then each draft will be completely random.

A few rules:

1). Your draft pool should be Highlander. I have had pools which were not, and that was a major mistake. The randomness of the drafting experience is enhanced by not having any duplicates in the pool.

2). Emphasize commons in your draft pool. After all, in real life, a booster pack has a lot more commons. If the ratio of commons to uncommons to rares is not 10:3:1 tight, that’s fine, but at least play a lot of commons. If you bought one booster box of a set, then you easily have a full set of commons from that expansion. Toss the whole set of commons in. You may want to pull out some bad commons first to keep your draft devoid of cards like Chimney Imp.

3). As mentioned above, you don’t need a lot of rares to get things done. It’d be nice to have a good swath of rares from all across various sets. Check out that box of rares you have that are so bad you don’t even put them in your trade binder. I bet you’ll find quite a few cheap “good in draft” rares that you can just toss in.

4). Hey, it’s your draft, right? But I’d cap the cards at between 1000 and 2000 cards, just to keep things easy on yourself.

5). Make sure you balance two things when adding cards. The first is to ensure that you add the same number of cards in each color. Sure, you can be off by a bit; if you have 300 red cards and 305 white cards, no one will notice. Most people understand the color balance. The other is to make sure you give each color enough creatures. I recommend giving each color at least 50% creatures so that your decks have a chance to fight in the red zone. You might want to up that percentage to 55 or 60, like modern sets often entail.

Feel free to change these “rules” as necessary to fit your collection and ideas. After all, this is JakobDraft, right?

Now that you have begun to compile a pool of cards, I recommend keeping them in a fun location for drafting. I kept a brown cardboard box with all of the cards flung about in it. We could swirl the cards around with our hands to mix them up and then pull randomly from the big box o’ cards. It’s a lot of fun.

All of the clever ideas that people use for cube you can use here. You can do a multiplayer draft with the cards in boosters of fifteen cards each. You can do an eight-man tournament or a four-man round robin one.

Here are a few I suggest:

Auction – This takes a while and is a massive amount of fun. Flip up around 40 cards per person. Give everyone 150 dollars or so. Each person takes turns nominating a card and beginning the bidding at one dollar for that card. At the end, build from your purchased cards. You won’t need as many cards per person since no one will bid on cards that no one wants for their deck or sideboard. You might be able to get away with 35 cards per player after a couple of auctions are under people’s belts. You’ll learn the format quickly.

For example, the first time someone waits until everyone has spent their money and then one dollar bids all of the good remaining cards, you’ll figure out how to counter that strategy. (Keep money back or create a rule that once half of the players have spent all of their money, there is one extra round of auctioning and then the game is up. You can also have everyone flip up one pack at a time, bid on just one pack’s worth of cards, and then move to pack two. Or you can flip one card randomly from “your” pack, and if no one bids, the flipper gets the card for free.)   

Rochester – While not in vogue anymore, I still love drafting Rochester style, and you can do that easily with the InsertYourNameDraft you built. It takes a little more time, but it is a lot of fun.

Backdraft, AnacondaIf you want a faster-paced booster draft, don’t forget Backdraft and Anaconda. In Backdraft, you draft the worst cards and then hand the pile to your enemy to build from. However, in Anaconda, you draft one card normally, and then you can swap previously drafted cards with cards still in the pack on a one for one basis. Both are a massive amount of fun!

Magicshop, Shandalar – I love format/league things where you start out small and then, over time, grow and grow until you have enough cards to build something nice. Both of these do that very well, but space does not allow me the time to spend on each of these league/format things. I created rules for a real life Shandalar league that tried to replicate the actual play experience of the PC game made by MicroProse and Sid Meier in the 90s. It was a lot of fun to play in real life. Magicshop was a group of games and a league played on IRC by a group of dedicated Magic players; you grew your deck and collection over time. Today, the only playing experience that is even close to these two is playing Campaign mode on Forge, which is freeware which anyone can play.

You can find an article on Shop here with a follow-up article here. You would obviously need to use the AbeDraft cards for Shop instead of the ones mentioned. However, if you are going to league it out, I recommend the following format/league/limited thing… 

Shandalar is here.

Is it amazing? Having played it in real life, I have playtested it tons. I got people addicted to playing it, and they came over every single night for weeks to play. Just use the random card pool you created for XDraft and you have already added the cards. I would recommend that when you need a random common, uncommon, or rare to add to someone’s pool, just pull from your Draft until you find one randomly. Otherwise, make decks for drafting from your pool!

Well, I hope that you enjoyed this tour of articles and a look at GavinDraft. It was fun to revisit the past for a bit. Now that this is over, let’s move on to the future! I look forward to many more articles with you, and I’ll see you in two weeks for the next adventure at the Kitchen Table. Here’s to 401!

Until later,
Abe Sargent