Welcome to Playgroup Evolution! Today we’re going to talk about changing up the game on everyone to improve in a different way. My group did something different this week for EDH.

We did a Deck Draft.

I first came across this idea when I was in college. Brandon Isleib’s basic idea is that everyone uses different decks to play everyone round robin style. In college I used this idea to draft decks to use over the course of the night. If I remember correctly, we drafted 4 or 5 decks and played 3 games. We changed decks and pods each game. The night was a blast, we all got to use powerful decks from opponents that blew us away or really cool decks that we didn’t own cards to build.

If I was in a non-multiplayer focused group this draft works even better as is (French EDH players, this could be fun for you. Tiny Leaders (is this still around?) it can work for you too!), but I had to just take the concept of playing with other people’s stuff and run with it.

  1. Pool commanders and lay them out so everyone can see options.
  2. Roll off.
  3. Draft a deck.  Highest to lowest.

Easy peasy!

The roll off went smoothly, and we drafted. I don’t think anyone took his own deck, mostly because the group favored a “No Own Deck” rule. I was fine with it. We podded up, we played, we made mistakes left and right, we won or lost, we had a blast. We gave some comments about game play or deck construction to owners. One guy drafted my Jeleva deck and decked the table by casting her something like 9 or 10 times from the command zone and bouncing her too. I have NEVER even gotten close to using her exile ability as a win condition. The best part, he even made me think about a card that does not belong in that deck.

We drafted again, using a “Chaos Orb Draft” as someone called it. We used a basic land, held it above our heads, and dropped it on the grid of commanders. The commander who had the majority of the land on it was the choice. This method appealed to many (see the article about my group regulars) while I disliked it. However, the games were once again very fun and entertaining.

Why do a deck draft?

There are a few reasons to try this. One of the biggest reasons are the ability to try new strategies and use deck ideas that may normally be excluded. What I mean here is doubling up on ideas. In college I was a ‘Tron player. U/R, B/U, U/G, mono-G, and I had a couple lists that I never built. No one else played with the Urza lands (Urza’s Mine, Urza’s Power Plant, and Urza’s Tower) in their decks. When someone built a deck, it was generally left alone. The new hotness was always excluded for a bit, we didn’t have 6 Vampire decks running around after rotation, just one player stuck with it. EDH works the same way. My local store has I think 4 players that share a commander between decks. We had something like 20-25 people this past weekend. There are plenty of options and most people don’t tread on each other’s toes.

During the draft I got to play Oloro, Ageless Ascetic. I wanted to give that controlling piece of work a game. Had I not had the option to draft that, I would have snatched up a Krenko, Mob Boss deck that has beaten me more times than I care to admit. Normally I would never build either of these decks since they are signature decks. Getting to play strategies that look interesting without devoting the time to building a deck for this strategy can help players develop their skills and lock onto what they enjoy the most.

The Oloro deck? I don’t have anything built with nearly the amount of mass removal and counterspell effects that it contains. I got to play something that grinds games a lot more than even my Damia, Sage of Stone deck or my Vish Kal, Blood Arbiter– it was a blast. We had people grabbing decks that beat them often, others grabbed decks to try new strategies, others just wanted to try that color combination. Everyone tried something new.

Helping the Little Guy


One of the best stories I have about a deck draft is the player who rarely ever wins. In college we had a guy, Andrew. Andrew was a really awesome person, but he was limited in his Magic budget (a lot more limited than most of us) and he had several other interests that competed with Magic. He developed a style that would try to make one HUGE play, one play or spell that wrecked someone’s game (often the most experienced player at the table, Andrew could pick them well) so that he had an impact in the game. He knew he really had no shot of winning, so he adapted.

In our college deck draft he grabbed a B/w deck called “The Clock”. It used all sorts of “drain everyone” effects Infectious Horror, Pulse Tracker, Syphon Soul, Blood Tithe, Exsanguinate were all headliners in the deck. Andrew saw it, loved it, drafted it, and he had more fun playing that deck than I thought a single person could have before their heart gave out. He drained the whole table on attacks, he had blockers and recursion for his annoying cards, he gained life left and right to make killing him hard. When the whole table was ganging up on him- he was cheering because everyone was terrified of his next top deck.

Andrew is why I love the deck draft. Someone who normally played to hang out with some friends, and was usually one of the first out of a game was able to run the whole table like a tyrant. He had an absolute blast. I even told him how most of the cards are commons and uncommons so it would be easy for him to build his version.

Improving the Draft

Time to work on one my obsessions- improving things. The draft format my group used for EDH is viable, but it is not the best way to do this. Instead- I highly recommend you either use the original idea for a mini-tournament like environment or draft one or two more decks then you’ll have games for. If you know you’ll get three games in before people need to leave- draft 5 decks for everyone (numbers assuming there are some people with a bunch of decks (in college we did this with like 16 people so I brought all of my 60 card decks, there were over 40)). Add a rule that each deck can only be played once. Now you have a draft with more options and you get the wheel effect where the first few and last few plays can make picks in very quick succession (or back to back for two lucky ducks) to help sculpt the games. Is there a notorious engine of doom in the group, like Kaka’s Arcanis the Omnipotent? Someone can hate draft it away from the group and responsibly not play it. Or be mean, I’m not here to judge. This allows people to also just have more options. If I draft 2 good decks and 3 decks that looks crazy but aren’t that competitive and I get podded with all the best players in the store- I’m like Master Chief, “I need a weapon.”


One caveat, if your group has THIEVES in its midst- DO NOT DRAFT DECKS. Other than that, go for it! It’s an awesome way to shake up a night. Let me know what you think, if you’ve done this, if you think Brandon Isleib is a better writer than I am (he probably is), how excited you are for Fallout 4, and how your playgroups are progressing!