Battle Pack Draft: Alternate Formats

Jason Grabher-Meyer

9/7/2012 12:40:00 PM

Though 40 card and 30 card Battle Pack Sealed continue to be the most supported Battle Pack formats, many duelists have experimented with Draft play as well. I've seen quite a few competitors state that they prefer Draft, in fact, since Sealed is “too easy.” Personally, I think if you have that opinion you may not have tried 30 card Sealed yet, which is a far more challenging format. But facts are facts: Drafting offers a more interactive, more dynamic form of play, that pits you against your opponents not just when Match 1 starts, but right from the moment your first pack is opened. It's hard to not want to give that a try.

Cool! So Uhh, What's Draft...?
Before we go any further, it's important to address an important question some of you may have: what is Draft play, exactly? Like Sealed, Draft is a form of “Limited” competition, meaning that you build your deck only with cards opened during the event you're playing in. However big your collection is at home, it won't matter, because what you get is what you're going to work with. In Sealed that means opening up a bunch of packs and then building your deck. In Draft, things are a little different.

Conventional Drafting requires a group of players - usually eight, though four can be acceptable. In Battle Pack Draft, all competitors receive a set number of boosters and sit at a shared table. Everybody opens their first two Battle Packs at once; chooses one card from the ten cards opened; and adds the chosen card to their Draft pool. Then the remaining nine cards get passed to the player seated to the left or right, depending on the instructions of the Judge running the Draft. From those nine cards, everyone now chooses another to add to their Draft pool. They pass the remaining eight cards; take another; pass their seven; pick another; and so on, until everyone has Drafted ten cards and there's nothing left to pass. Then you open two more packs each and begin the Drafting process again, this time passing in the opposite direction that you passed last time. The passing and Drafting continues until all the cards are distributed, whereupon everybody makes their decks and plays off as normal.

 Tour Guide From the Underworld
Tour Guide From the Underworld59147
Set Battle Pack: Epic Dawn
Number BP01-EN023
Level 3
Type Effect Monster
Monster Fiend
Attribute DARK 
A / D 1000 / 600
Rarity Rare
Card Text

When this card is Normal Summoned, you can Special Summon 1 Level 3 Fiend-Type monster from your hand or Deck. Its effects are negated, and it cannot be used as a Synchro Material Monster.

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Drafting is fun because it gives you more control over the cards you're going to build with than regular Sealed play. If you're better at making the right choices than your opponents, you can wind up with a better card pool than you would if you'd just opened up ten Battle Packs. For every ten cards you open, you're actually going to see 52 cards total - and while those last few are going to be cherry-picked pretty hard, that's still alot of cards (and lots of space to make good or bad decisions). This kind of traditional Draft tests a skill that's rarely seen in other forms of play, rewarding set knowledge and the ability to think on your feet. You can also employ unique strategies that involve manipulating your opponent's choices by depriving them of certain types of cards, which in turn forces them to make decisions that favor you. “Forcing” is a formal Draft term, representing a set of techniques and tricks that are geared toward making your opponents pass you the cards you want.

But There Are Problems
A conventional Draft is far from a perfect form of competition, for alot of reasons. First up, the actual Drafting process is long, complicated, and easy to screw up if you're unfamiliar with it. Since Draft is still a relatively new way to play for most duelists, there's a good chance that if you sit down with seven other people, someone's gonna make a mistake. Maybe they take an extra card; or forget to take one; or pass everything in the wrong direction. It sounds absurd, but it happens in almost every Yu-Gi-Oh! Draft I've played in or even just observed. Figuring out what went wrong during the Drafting process is often impossible; even in the best-case scenario, it takes time to correct player errors. Add the time it takes to build your deck once you've got your Draft pool, and you can wind up spending ages before you even get to your first game.

That's not everybody's definition of fun.

It really helps to have a ninth person acting as a Judge to make sure everything's going smoothly, too, which complicates things further. And sometimes, just finding a group of eight people who all want to Draft is impossible. And then there's Grabby McRare Drafter who just wants to snach the most expensive cards and has no intent of really competing, and the veteran competitor who's very vocal about how he just wants everyone to hurry the hell up, and all sorts of stock characters that can make the process miserable.

Those challenges exist in any traditional 8-man or 4-man Draft experience, no matter what game you're playing. But unfortunately, Battle Pack Draft faces even more challenges that can kinda kill the fun factor.

The biggest problem, at least in my opinion, is that Battle Pack was designed chiefly for Sealed play and not for Draft. The cards themselves are a balanced mix for any Limited format, but the collation system - which is brilliant for Sealed - becomes a challenge to balanced Drafting. If you're not familiar with Battle Pack, every booster comes with five cards, and each is drawn from a certain card pool within the set. You'll always get one Rare card, which were selected to be powerful game-changers. You'll always get some sort of removal card; a big monster; and another monster that doesn't have high ATK, but that packs a good effect or high DEF. The fifth card - the Starfoil - can come from any of those four pools, functioning as a wild card.

That's awesome for Sealed, because it means you'll never open ten packs, get nothing but low-ATK monsters, and get blown out. You'll always open a balanced play pool. But unfortunately it can make Drafting really sequential. In most of the Drafts I've seen, players default to grabbing power-rares; then removal cards; then beat sticks; then little guys. It still takes some skill, but the actual number of dynamic choices you'll be making isn't that high. That's disappointing, because if you're going to go to all the trouble of Drafting, you want a fun experience that twists your brain and makes you think about your picks. Otherwise, you might as well just save time and play regular Sealed.

The Good News?
The good news is that even though traditional 4-man or 8-man Drafting has alot of pitfalls and flaws, it's not the only way to Draft! There are tons of Draft variants out there, each offering different experiences and advantages. I wrote a couple articles about alternative formats here on TCGPlayer almost seven years ago, and two of them work really well with Battle Packs.

What do I consider a good Draft format, given the perception of Limited play in the game right now? I'm looking for simple formats that offer a unique play experience - if it's not entertaining and different, I'd just play Constructed. But beyond that, I want any Draft variant I play to be...

-Fast. If the Drafting process takes a long time, the wait's only going to be compounded as slower competitors build their Decks. I want to make challenging decisions, but I don't want to spend ages passing cards in a circle.

-Easy to understand. I don't want to spend a ton of time explaining how the Draft works, I just want to give a quick explanation and then go. I definitely don't want to lose time clarifying things mid-Draft, because that just means my fellow players won't be playing proficiently.

-Tough to screw up. Nobody's going to have a good time if the Drafting process goes awry and we have to waste time trying to figure out a fix. That bogs down the fun, and makes people feel stupid.

-Playable with a minimal number of duelists. Look, I don't have any delusions here: sometimes, finding eight people to throw down twenty bucks a pop, plus a Judge or Draft supervisor to watch everything, is going to be impossible. In alot of places, finding that many people who want to play Battle Pack isn't easy yet. Give me a format that doesn't need supervision, and doesn't need a bunch of players to agree on a single activity they want to do, and I see a potential winner.

With those goals in mind, I want to present to you two of the easiest, most entertaining Draft formats of all time! I used to play these Draft variants with older Yu-Gi-Oh! sets, but overpowered cards - and a ton of underpowered cards - always made it a shaky experience. Now, with the balanced play pool of Battle Pack: Epic Dawn, these formats can really be played to their full potential. Let's start with the simplest of the two.

Turbo Drafting
Years ago this was called Continuous Drafting, but that name wound up getting confused and applied to different variants. In honor of its speed, me and a few friends renamed it Turbo Drafting during the 5D's era. It's fast, it's really easy to set up, and it throws tough choices at you at a lightning pace. Here's what you need:

2 Duelists
20 Battle Packs

Not exactly hard to pull that together, huh? Spoiler: both of the Draft variants I'll be suggesting are two-person formats. If you can't find one other person to play with, well, you probably lead a very lonely life and have bigger problems than choosing how to Draft Yu-Gi-Oh.

First, agree on the number of duels you want to play. Then flip a coin to determine Player 1 and Player 2. Player 1 is going to make the first Draft pick to start things off, while Player 2 is going to go first in Game 1.

Open the Battle Packs without looking at them, and shuffle them together in one face-down stack. Once the cards are shuffled, Player 1 flips over the top four cards from the stack and chooses to Draft one of them. Player 2 Drafts two of the three cards left. Player 1 then takes the remaining card. Put the cards you Draft face-down: once they've been Drafted, they're no longer public information. Remembering what your opponent took is part of the skill to this format.

You repeat this process until all the cards are Drafted, switching Player position each time. So Player 1 gets first choice of the first four cards; Player 2 gets first choice of the next four; and so on. Once each duelist has fifty cards, you'll build main decks of 40 cards minimum and play your agreed-upon number of games.

Once all the games have been played and the dust clears, I recommend letting the winner take one card of their choice from the opponent's Draft pool. That way there's a little something at risk to keep things interesting. It also prevents mindless rare Drafting.

Turbo Drafting is fast, fun, and it throws meaningful decisions at you all the time. You'll be surprised at just how often you really have to think about your pick: you have to be concerned both with building your own deck, and depriving your opponent of cards he wants; there are a deceptive number of skills wrapped up in this tight little format. Turbo Drafting also solves the problem of Battle Pack collation hindering your Draft experience, because you shuffle all the cards together and break that sequencing right at the start! It does everything I want.

Solomon Drafting
If you want to take things a little bit slower, Solomon Drafting is is an even more fascinating Draft variant. The choices in this format offer more extremes, and each Draft pick acts like a sort of mini-game. The requirements are the same as Turbo Drafting:

2 duelists
20 Battle Packs

...But the set-up's a little different. Your Draft session opens the same way: decide the number of duels you want to play, then flip a coin to determine Player 1 and Player 2. Like before, Player 1 is going to make the first Draft decision to start things off, while Player 2 is going to go first in Game 1. But from there, things get a little different.

When you play Solomon Draft, you don't open all the Battle Packs at once, and you don't randomize the cards. Just set your twenty packs aside and open one. Lay the five cards out face-up in front of both players. Player 1 will take a little time to examine them, and then divide them into two stacks. He can make a stack of two cards and another of three cards; or stack four cards together and leave one card on its own. Player 2 then chooses one of those stacks for his Draft pool, and Player 1 gets the remaining stack. Again, keep your Draft pool face-down.

Once the first Battle Pack has been Drafted, it's Player 2's turn to open a Pack, make two stacks, and then let Player 1 choose which card(s) to Draft. Keep alternating until all twenty Battle Packs have been Drafted. Then the real fun begins.

Each duelist must make a 40 card main deck, so if someone ends up with fewer than forty non-Xyz cards, their opponent gives them cards from their play pool. If you got greedy with power picks and didn't take enough little cards, you'll be getting your opponent's worst stuff, adding another level of strategy. If your opponent opens a Battle Pack and places Raigeki all on its own, challenging you to choose it over four other cards, you can always take the other four cards. Do it enough and you can deprive them of a full 40 card deck, then make them pay for it later.

Same suggested rule as last time: the winner gets one pick from their opponent's play pool when everything's over.

Because you don't see each pack until they're opened, this format really rewards people who know Epic Dawn. It also rewards the player who can keep track of what his opponent's Drafted. By knowing what your opponent has - or what they don't have - you can force them to take less important stuff and make them give you powerful cards you really want.

That's the real strength of this format. Because every pack has a distinct mix of cards, you can play that fact to your advantage when it comes time to make your two stacks. This format actually turns the Battle Pack collation from a problem that inhibits regular 8-man Draft, into an asset that enriches the experience.

Both of these formats are simple to set up and easy to learn, but tough to master. They move quickly, but they're more complicated than they look and you can create some really interesting situations in each. If Battle Pack Sealed isn't quite thrilling enough for you, then Turbo or Solomon might be just what you're looking for! Try them out yourself and let me know how you feel about them down in the Comments.

-Jason Grabher-Meyer

Here's a couple of cheat-sheets that you can keep around to make Drafting easier. You can even print these out in smaller font and throw them in toploaders to loan out to newbies.

Turbo Draft:
2 Duelists - 20 Battle Packs

-Agree on the number of duels you'll play
-Determine Player 1 and Player 2
-Open the Battle Packs without looking at them, and shuffle them all into a single face-down stack
-Player 1 flips over the top four cards from the stack and Drafts one
-Player 2 Drafts two of the remaining three cards
-Player 1 gets the last card
-Reverse player position - Player 1 becomes Player 2, and vice-versa
-Repeat that process until all the cards have been Drafted, switching player position each time
-Each duelist builds main decks of 40 cards minimum, and play off
-At the end of the agreed-upon number of duels, the winner gets a card of their choice from the opponent's Draft pool

Solomon Draft:
2 Duelists - 20 Battle Packs

-Agree on the number of duels you'll play
-Determine Player 1 and Player 2
-Player 1 opens the first Battle Pack, and divides it into two piles
-Player 2 chooses one of the piles, and adds them to his play pool
-Player 1 gets the remaining pile
-Player 2 and Player 1 switch positions, with Player 2 opening and piling the next Battle Pack, while Player 1 gets first pick of the piles that were made
-Reverse player position - Player 1 becomes Player 2, and vice-versa
-Continue until all twenty Battle Packs are Drafted
-Count your non-Xyz cards - if Player 1 has fewer than 40 Main Deck cards, Player 2 gives that duelist cards they Drafted until Player 1 has 40
-Each duelist builds main decks of 40 cards minimum, and throw down
-At the end of the agreed-upon number of duels, the winner gets a card of their choice from the opponent's Draft pool

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