In the wake of COVID-19, the Magic: The Gathering community has found new and creative ways to enjoy our favorite hobby. In the past few weeks, we’ve offered tips on how to play Magic at home and keep your collection organized. We’ve covered the new tournament series springing up online and the efforts Commander players are making to engage their communities.
But where does this leave drafters? How can 40-card fanatics get their fix during these trying times? It’s nearly impossible to replicate the draft experience with paper cards – unless, of course, you happen to be quarantined with seven other Magic players.
Naturally, most drafters will gravitate to Magic Online and MTG Arena. These digital platforms have offered plenty of options for Limited fans, including Modern Horizons, the Magic Online Vintage Cube, and the brand-new Arena Cube.
The only downside to playing online, of course, is missing out on time with your friends. If you prefer to play Magic with people you know, then jamming drafts online may not be for you.
In that case, you’ll have to get creative and find ways to play that are more easily adaptable to our current circumstances. And we can’t think of a draft format that lends itself more to social distancing than Rotisserie Draft. In this article, we’ll break down all the basics you need to host a Rotisserie Draft with your friends and hopefully feel a little less isolated.
(Note: We’re writing this guide with experienced drafters in mind. If you don’t know how to draft yet, check out our intro to drafting.)
What is a Rotisserie Draft?
If you’re ever participated in a fantasy sports draft, you already know how a Rotisserie Draft works. Instead of drafting Magic cards in secret from booster packs, you and your fellow players choose cards one by one from an open pool. All the drafters know what cards are available to be drafted and what picks the other players are making.
Before the draft begins, each player is assigned a number from 1 to 8. The draft itself is takes place over several rounds, during which each player gets to choose a card from the pool. In odd-numbered rounds, the players make their choices in ascending order (Player 1, Player 2, etc.) until everyone has picked a card; in even-numbered rounds, players pick cards in descending order (Player 8, Player 7, etc.) This drafting method is known as a snake draft because the pick order “snakes” back and forth from Player 1 to Player 8.
Once the draft is over, players put their decks together and battle as they would after any other draft. The only difference here is the Rotisserie Draft itself, which can take longer than a typical Booster Draft. But, if you and your friends have a free afternoon, a Rotisserie Draft can be a fun way to spend it.
Before we get into more specifics, here’s a quick list of everything you’ll need to run a successful Rotisserie Draft:
- Eight players
- A pool of cards to choose from
- A method of tracking picks (we suggest using a shared spreadsheet)
- Basic lands, dice, and anything else you need to start playing
The Card Pool
Most players use a Cube as the basis for their Rotisserie Drafts, and it tends to work out well. Cubes contain some of the most powerful cards in Magic’s history. They’re customizable to suit your group’s tastes and knowledge of the game. And most importantly, they traditionally include just one copy of each card in their card pools, which creates a sense of drama and tension during a Rotisserie Draft. (You can learn more about how to build a Cube in our article here.)
However, you could realistically Rotisserie Draft with any card pool you like. You could even include multiple copies of cards (though, trust us, card scarcity creates more exciting draft experiences). If you have some spare booster packs lying around, crack them open, lay all the cards on a table, and have at it.
It’s important to track every pick during a Rotisserie Draft, especially if you and your friends are all participating remotely. Once you have your eight players on board, we recommend setting up a Google Sheet (or any other type of shared spreadsheet) and sharing it with everyone. The main point is to create a system that allows players to enter their picks and see what everyone else is choosing in real-time.
You can set up a simple spreadsheet with a column for each player, like this:
Before the draft begins, make sure to share the list of cards with all players beforehand so they can start strategizing. You can include the card list in a separate tab in the same spreadsheet you use for the draft, or you can send it along as a separate file.
Rotisserie Draft Strategy
There are a few key differences between Rotisserie Draft and a traditional Booster Draft that will affect how you make your picks.
Unlike a traditional Booster Draft or Cube Draft, there’s no hidden information in a Rotisserie Draft. Everyone knows what’s in the card pool and what cards everyone else is choosing. It’s much easier to plant a flag in a Rotisserie Draft, and it’s also easier to cut another player off. In many ways, Rotisserie Draft works more like a deck-building board game than any Magic format you may have played before; if you’ve spent more time playing those types of games than the other players, you may have some transferable skills you can use.
You’ll also want to study the card pool before you go into the draft. What are the most powerful cards in the pool, i.e. the cards most likely to be picked first? What strategies seem the best? And, based on what you know about the other players, what cards are they most likely to select? Go into the draft with a plan in mind, but come prepared with several back-up plans in case one of your fellow drafters does something unexpected.
Finally, you’ll want to consider your place in the pick order. Players 1 and 8 each have distinct advantages in the draft: Player 1 gets the first overall pick, and Player 8 gets to make the first two back-to-back picks. If you’re Player 8, try to draft the most powerful two-card combo from the card pool; you’re in the best position to pick up these cards, and your fellow drafters have too much to lose if they challenge you. If you’re in the middle of the pack, you may have to think on your feet a bit, but if you can identify an under-drafted strategy, you’ll be golden.
Adapting Rotisserie Draft for Social Distancing
Rotisserie Draft may be the best draft format for social distancing, but there are still a few constraints that you and your group will have to work with.
The biggest challenge will be ensuring that everyone has access to cards so you can play your games after the draft. Most Rotisserie Drafts take place in a single room, where players will literally pick cards off a table and play with them afterward. If you’re drafting in separate locations, you’ll need to choose cards that everyone has in their collections. If your group drafts regularly, or if you’ve all been playing for about the same time, this may be relatively easy to work around.
You’ll also want to make sure everyone is set up to play games via webcam. You can use software like Discord to communicate and play games; you could even start a separate server or channel for your draft group. Also, as you choose your card pool, be mindful not to include cards that steal or copy your opponents’ permanents, as these can be challenging to represent with paper cards. (If you can’t bear to part with your favorite Clone and Mind Control effects, advise all your players to keep some sticky notes handy.)
Ready for Rotisserie?
While Rotisserie Draft is a great format to try while social distancing, we hope you enjoy it enough to continue drafting once you can gather with your group again. Until then, we hope you stay safe and healthy, and we’ll see you all around the table soon enough.