Ever want to make your own Magic Environment?
Think metagame analysis ruins the purity of Limited Magic?
Are you looking for something new to spice up your Magic life?
A few years ago, a friend of mine sponsored a draft wherein he created the packs of cards from a carefully selected pool of cards, placed them in sealed envelopes, and proceeded to have a normal booster draft. That idea bounced around in my head for some time before I eventually embarked on a strange new course of Magic play:
If you are like me, you may pine for cards of old. Rootwater Alligator will never see play again. It is hardly alone – Argothian Pixies, Ghosts of the Damned, Kor Chant, Burning Shield Askari, and Tolarian Drake all fall into that nebulous area of Magic to which cards are consigned upon leaving Type 2. If they are not playable in Type 1, Extended, or something like 250, then they recede to the back of the trade binder, and serve time as filler in large lots of cards sold on some auction site.
I have lived and played Magic now in several different geographical locations. In each place I have unveiled Abedraft to an audience that became quite receptive. However, each place changed it and made it their own. This is a malleable format, meant to be designed to the tastes of the individual.
Ever wonder about the interaction of Alliance cards with, say, Urza’s Legacy?
Enter Abedraft. I have created a card pool that allows for a lot of variety in limited events. In the following article I shall answer some basic questions: What is Abedraft? Why should I care? How do I make my own Abedraft? And finally, What can I do after making my Abedraft?
What Is Abedraft?
Essentially, Abedraft is a large pool of limited cards with which any limited format imaginable can be played. Commons, uncommons, and rares make up the pool. The beauty of Abedraft is that all sorts of cards are included, from Arabian Nights through Odyssey. Abedraft is fun, and tests a person’s Limited skills. There is no metagame. You can only rely on generalities, not specifics. Red burn will come up, but what form it will take is unknown. Blue will probably have fliers, but whether they will be 1/1 birds or more substantial creatures is unknown. Each time is unique and fun.
Except in Abedraft.
Why Should I Care?
First of all, Abedraft is simply fun. There is nothing like deciding between a Staff of Zegon or a School of Piranha. When your Green/Black draft suddenly turns over a Dark Heart of the Wood, your blood starts pumping. When you think of Rock Slide as a powerhouse card that you pray to get, then you have experienced Abedraft. Sure, you can always do a Visions/Exodus/Odyssey draft – but in Abedraft, every set is represented. It just seems more authentic.
I also enjoy setting up the card pool. It is pure joy for me to go through and make sure the environment is balanced. The card pool can be salted to your desire. And once you have your very own card pool, you get to call it”Ericdraft,” or,”Scooterdraft,” or”Ferretdraft.” (Now there’s a gratuitous remark meant to help the odds of publication.)
Thirdly, Abedraft can really test your Limited skill. Finding synergies in vastly different cards will help you to find even more synergies within a set or block. At prereleases you have a leg up as well, since you have an idea of what it is to draft, build a deck, and so forth out of a limited card pool wherein you have no idea of the metagame. And when constructing a deck, you can reuse ideas you got in a particular Abedraft.
I think that I am a pretty decent Magic player, and I attribute most of that to the continued playing of Abedraft. I think that the explanation of how to construct the Abedraft card pool will really illuminate some of these ideas.
How Do I Make My Own Abedraft?
I have three boxes for Abedraft. The first is your stereotypical box that you move stuff in. It is about two and a half feet long, a foot deep, and little more than that long. I think it was used to transport apples. In this box are my commons. I have your typical half size card box for my rares, and I have a box that my Ethernet card came in for my uncommons. At one point in time, I had combined all three types of cards into one box, but that resulted in wild statistical variations, such as four rares in a pack and so forth – so I went back to the old system.
The common card pool is the most important, simply because it represents over two thirds of each pack; bear with me as I go into some details of its creation. Since the common pool is so important, I feel a need to explain the process in detail. It also shows how to create a pool that is fair and balanced (like the Fox News Network). To start things, I included one copy of every common card from The Dark on. I would include earlier sets if I had common sets. Cards from other sets, like Legends or Unlimited are included later (I have an Invisibility, for example, in the pool). If a card is printed multiple times, then it gets included multiple times. This is the foundation of the common card pool.
I made some exceptions, actually, as to what was included. Shadow creatures, for example, are extremely powerful in an environment where they are exceedingly rare. As such, I felt that their exclusion was warranted. Likewise, flanking creatures, although not as grossly overpowered, were still felt to be of such power that they hurt the environment. As children often played Abedraft, Phasing cards were also eliminated. Finally, Balduvian Shaman was also not included, because it was waaay too limited to be a common. I am considering revisiting some of these however, and I think that Phasing and Flanking will go back into the pool. Shadow, however, will stay out.
Decide what sets should be included, and use every common. Feel free to later put in common cards from sets where you do not have an entire common run. For now, however, just stick to the sets where you have every common. I also included a common set from Portal and Portal Two. Some players will love this, and some will shirk at drafting a Tree Monkey. After you play with them for a while, however, you will think of Portal as powerful in Limited – I swear!
Now, after you have this foundation, we need to assess the balance. Begin by dividing the cards into twelve categories: Land and Artifacts, Gold, and then two piles for each color, one for creatures and the other for non-creatures. After you have these piles, take a count for each pile and write down that number.
The very next thing to do is to choose a target number for each color. You may choose, for example, five hundred cards for each color. Now that you have a count of the number of cards you have, you can begin to add cards to the card pool. Some abilities are so basic to a color that you will often want multiple cards available. When you add duplicates beyond the initial pool, make sure not to add copies of cards that will never be used. There should be but one Tahngarth’s Glare, for example, because it is so poor. Only add duplicates of appropriate themes as well, do not start going wild and toss in four extra Psychic Purges, for example. Examples of cards I often duplicate are: Countermagic, blue fliers, fogs, green mana producers, average burn, black –X/-X effects, white enchantment and artifact removal, red haste creatures, red land destruction, and so forth. When you add the cards, place them in their respective pile.
The reason you made those two stacks from each color is that you want your color to be representative. For example, blue has less creatures, and green has more, when you look at the occurrences of cards. In 5th edition, which was when I began doing this, red and black were 50% each, blue was one-third creatures, green two-thirds creatures, and white around 40% creatures. Although those percentages have changed over time, it is still an accurate representation of the colors to have less blue creatures than green creatures. Of course, the flip side is that blue gets broken spells, such as Capsize, while green gets broken beef.
Uncommons and rares are much easier card pools to make. Create some number, like a hundred, for uncommons and twenty-five for rares, and simply include that many cards of each color (gold, lands and arts can be any number). Try to maintain creature to non-creature balance, but here, statistics are not as important with a smaller card pool and less cards in each pack. Try to keep the power level the same for uncommons in a general sense, and make sure to include a variety of cards. Older and newer cards, useful and… Well, not so useful – all should make appearances. Include out-of-flavor cards, but try not to overpower the card pool with them. Unyaro Bee Sting and Withering Boon are fine, so long as the pool is generally thematic. Also make sure your gold cards are balanced.
In rares, I try to specifically balance them. I ration out three broken rares, two crap rares, eight solid rares, eight decent rares, and four specialized rares. So, for example, White may have Catastrophe as a broken rare, Planar Collapse as a solid rare, and so forth. This way, the colors are balanced out, as mostly crappy rares in one color with mostly broken rares in another will unbalance the environment.
Now, remember that there is lots of room to spice Abedraft to taste. Combine all the cards in one giant pool, if you want. Include cards from whatever sets. I do not like Unglued cards in my pool, but you might toss them in. You might decide to take out any Portal set, that’s fine. You may not like my percentages – one gentlemen wanted 50% creatures in every color.
Every time a new expansion set comes out, throw a common set in the card pool. Also look at the commons and throw four additional common cards or so per color into the pool, thus allowing for new mechanics or abilities to be played. People like having the new cards in the set. I had an Odyssey common set in the card pool the night after the prerelease. Look through the uncommons for a nice even selection of cards to put in as well. In Apocalypse, for example, I put in one of each split card, one of each Herald (no Kavu guy; he’s too limited), and one creature in each color. I also like to take one rare of each color of approximate power and put it in the Abedraft. By doing this shortly after a set comes out, the environment stays current.
The idea is to have a balanced environment. If you do not want to put in the work, you certainly do not have to; just toss in some commons laying around and have fun with it. If you enjoy it, but you see holes, then you can start weeding out bad cards, and putting in others. One gentlemen created an environment with a bunch of Rolling Thunders. I quickly had him take out most of them for some weaker burn. It was still fun though. I won with Shauku, Endbringer. When do you ever get to say that?
What Do I Do After Making My Abedraft?
This is where the fun really begins. First off, any limited environment can be recreated with Abedraft. Simply mix the cards up, and randomly choose one rare, three uncommons, and eleven commons. I do this just prior to any event, and involve others in doing it. There is usually no need to seal the cards, either. By the way, this could never have been done with Homelands or Fallen Empires packs, because they ran eight cards each; now those cards can be involved in typical draft. Do make sure that people return the cards after they are done playing, by the way. This also has the benefit of destroying the”rare drafting” strategy (otherwise called”money grubbing” by a drunk Abe), which makes the draft more authentic.
Try booster drafting if you want, but I have found it to be ho-hum compared to other options. Rochester, on the other hand, could not be more fun. It is great to have a person turn over old and new cards alike. Trying to choose between that Aesthir Glider and a Sleeper’s Guile is very charming. If you have, say, three or four players, you could”Rochester” it, where you turn up double the number of cards as players and draft like that. It makes for a very effective draft.
At one place, they always wanted to auction, and since that was all we ever did with the Abedraft cards, they referred to the auction itself as Abedraft! Various formats present themselves here as well. Anaconda draft, back draft, and so forth all have a place in Abedraft. There are even some fairly exotic games that my friends and I have made up regarding the Abedraft card pool.
Do yourself a favor. Get a nice sized box, and pull out those boxes of commons from under your bed. Make an Abedraft tonight, and then take it down to your local card store this weekend.
Hours of fun (and an encyclopedic knowledge of every card) can be had by all.