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The changing face of the CCG draft

Draft when you want, how you want
Draft when you want, how you want2013 Blizzard Entertainment

While there’s no doubt that Magic: The Gathering popularized drafts and the Limited format, changes are happening on the digital front. Draft and Limited play are some of the more popular formats on Magic: The Gathering Online. These game modes are especially attractive for players looking to play “on an even field” against other players that may have years of experience and many thousands of cards in an existing collection.

In the world of digital CCGs, one of the most popular forms of play is draft, or an environment where players select from a limited pool of cards to form the best possible deck.

The deck is then used for a period of time, generally the length of a tournament, and then the cards are either added to the player’s account or vanish forever, depending on structure. Over the last few years, the way drafts are being handled are changing to make the format more convenient and accessible.

In the traditional draft, cards would be drafted, decks assembled, and the tournament played to completion right then and there. It’s a big time commitment – but it’s still probably one of the best ways to handle competitive events. What about taking these formats outside of strict competitive play? Hearthstone and SolForge are radically changing what it means to “draft” and it looks like Scrolls may be taking this approach as well.

The New Draft

These “new-style” drafts start off a little differently in a significant way – Players are not drafting “against” other people. There’s no way to “steal” other player’s picks or interfere with their choices in any way, and deck structure by faction is determined by selections before card choices even begin. This leads to corralling people into decks that can’t go off the rails quite as much as they could in say, a traditional draft, as the controlled nature of this ensures players won’t end up with a completely unplayable mess.

There’s another significant change – Players can choose to play matches at their leisure instead of having to commit a singular chunk of time. The nature of these new draft formats allows players to be paired against other participants with similar records at any time, with rewards given out for final performance based out of X matches. In Hearthstone, that’s currently 9-X, with players dropping out if they acquire three losses. This means a player can draft a deck on Monday, play a few matches on Wednesday, and maybe not even complete things until the weekend!

Will emphasis on accessibility and convenience define the new era of digital drafting?