Typically in a Magic the Gathering (MTG) draft, there are three phases:

  1. Select (i.e. draft) cards
  2. Build deck
  3. Play games Though this counts as a deck-building game, the deck-building happens entirely separately from the actual games you play with the built decks. To be sure, this kind of play can be very fun, but what if you wanted to have the deck-building happen amidst play? This sort of deck-building style has been made popular by such games as Dominion (board game) and Slay the Spire (video game). In MTG itself, the Conspiracy set (2014) experimented with cards that had abilities relevant during draft, inviting some interaction between draft and play itself.


The following setup provides a way to conduct an MTG draft where the deck-building happens between MTG games, the idea being that each player’s deck is progressively built to be more refined and with better cards, where cards of higher rarities are only available later in the draft.

Main goals.

  1. Decks start off weak and unrefined.
  2. It is still possible in the early and middle stages of the draft to change major deck strategies.
  3. More powerful cards are presented randomly throughout the draft, and to be obtained they require the trading-in of some amount of other cards.


Let \(n\) be the number of players and \(r\) be the number of rounds to play. You will need the following volumes of cards (preferably color-balanced to at least a reasonable extent).

  • commons: \(45 n + 8 r n\).
  • uncommons: \(8 r\).
  • rares + mythic rares: \(5 r\).

This format is best played with 2 or 4 players, and for 5-10 rounds.


  • Common starter pack (15 cards, all common)
    • 2 mono-color of each color
    • 2 colorless
    • 3 multicolor
  • Common booster pack (8 cards, all common)
    • 1 mon-color of each color
    • 3 colorless + multicolor
  • Uncommon booster packs (8 cards, all uncommon)
    • 1 mono-color of each color
    • 3 colorless + multicolor
  • Rare booster packs (5 cards, all rare or mythic rare)
  • Draft
    1. Each player opens one pack.
    2. Each player selects one card to keep from the pack they are holding (i.e. drafts one card).
    3. Each player passes their pack to the next player in the ring.
    4. The players repeat steps 2-3 until there are no cards left in the packs.
    5. The players repeat steps 1-4 until all 3 packs have been drafted.
  • Market (16 cards)
    • 1 uncommon booster pack
    • 1 rare booster pack
    • (Old Rare Market) all rare cards from the previous round’s market
  • Buying a card
    • Common: worth 1.
    • Uncommon: costs 10, worth 8.
    • Rare: costs 20, worth 14.
    • To buy a card that costs X, trade in a collection of cards with a total worth at least X. Cards in the collection are worth +1, +2, and +4 for commons, uncommona, and (mythic) rares respectively extra for each color they share with the card being bought.


  1. Setup where n is the number of players and r is the number of rounds. Form the following packs:
    1. common starter packs: \(3 n\).
    2. common booster packs: \(r n\).
    3. uncommon booster packs: \(r\).
    4. rare booster packs: \(r\).
  2. Initial Draft.
    1. The players drafts with 3 common starter packs each.
    2. Each player builds 40-card minimum decks (including freely-available basic lands) from the cards they’ve drafted.
  3. Competitive Drafts.
    1. Players play 1-versus-1 deathmatch (best of 1) games.
    2. Each player is dealt one common booster pack.
    3. Deal 1 uncommon booster pack and 1 rare booster pack into the market.
    4. In cyclic order from losers to winners, players take turns either buying a single card from the market or passing. Continue until all players pass consecutively.
    5. Discard from the market the old rare market and all uncommon cards. The rare cards left in the market become the new old rare market.
    6. Steps 1-4 constitute a round. Players play \(r\) rounds.
  4. Scoring.
    • Each win is worth 2 points, each tie is worth 1 point.
    • The winner is the player with the most points after the last round.


  • Don’t make all packs perfectly color-representative.
  • Mofify costs and worths of uncommons and rares.
  • Make mythic rares cost and worth more.

Design Notes

  • The losers buy first, giving losers an advantage, because otherwise the repeated games would suffer from a runaway leader — the winner would have the advantage of getting first pick from the market which makes them more likely to keep winning in the future, dictating that an early winner gain an insurmountable advantage. Giving intermediate losers an advantage keeps playes closely competative, never allowing the tournament to feel “decided” too early on.
  • There isn’t a final game(s) that decides the winner, because otherwise there would be an incentive to lose the competative draft games in order toget first choice in the markets.
  • Note there are never any common cards available in the market. This is because, if there were, they would probably be costed around 2-3. This opens the door to a lot of little calculations and metagaming, where players must consider buying and selling more that 10 cards each round in order to be competative, since there is enough liquidity with the ability to trade in commons later and some commons being only slightly better than others but are still worth the optimization against your opponent’s specific decks. Though this could perhaps be a fun addition for very dedicated players, to me it seems to introduce too much complexity and not enough fun and/or interesting decisions. It’s just a bunch of micromanaging and annoying risk-assessment or having to know the huge common pool.