Howdy folks, and welcome to HowWL. Today I want to build a foundation of understanding for Draft, one of the most exciting ways to play Final Fantasy. Draft has lots going for it: it gives a use for all those cards that will only see marginal play in constructed; lets you experiment with cards you would not have otherwise; it gives you practice making the most of limited tools; it helps refine decision making skills; and it’s just damn fun! Here I want to go over the ins and outs of the format and create a resource for anyone looking to enter the world of drafting, or to work on its fundamentals. I’m going to place a brief version at the bottom for those who are sitting down to their first draft right now and don’t have time to read a whole article.
The standard FF draft is played in a pod of four people, with each player receiving four packs. You’ll open your first pack, select one card to keep, and pass the remaining 11 cards to your left. You’ll take the pack from your right and repeat this process, taking one card and passing the rest. With four players and 12 cards a pack, you’ll see each pack three times, each time with fewer and fewer cards as you and the other players take from them. Once each pack ends, you’ll open the next and switch the direction you pass, from left to right to left to right.
At the end you’ll have 48 cards with which to make a 40 card deck. This means eight cards drafted will be able to be cut from the deck. Towards the end of each pack, the last few cards are more and more likely to be a bad fit for your deck, so being able to remove one out of six cards is a blessing. Now, you don’t have to cut down to 40, there’s no top end to your deck size, but the fewer cards you have, the more chances you have of drawing your best ones, so it’s highly recommended to play the absolute minimum.
There are three major differences between Draft rules and Standard Constructed, and those are:
- You lose at 6 damage, not 7
- You may put any number of copies of a single card into your deck
- A deck must contain a minimum of 40 cards
Lets look at the implications of these changes. First, the damage means that games will be quicker, which helps to offset that the decks will be slower than normal. Also, you will have one fewer chance at EX Bursts. Second, by removing the 3 card limit, you don’t have to worry about keeping track of how many of a card you’ve already taken. This can be especially interesting for cards that get better in multiples, like Dominion Legionary (check out Opus V if you want to see 13k PSICOM Wardens!) Third, with a smaller deck size, it’s marginally easier to lose by drawing a card off an empty deck.
You’ll want to limit yourself to as few elements as possible, in order to increase your deck’s reliability. Four is probably as low as you can reasonably go with four packs, but you’ll want one or two “main” elements and the rest as your “splash” rather than an equal split.
Having the biggest Forward on the field puts you in a great position. Most sets will have a lot of trouble removing a 9k body. If you can land one, you put a lot of pressure on your opponent to come up with an answer that doesn’t cost them more CP than you paid. This also means that finding efficient ways to deal with your opponent’s big bodies is very helpful.
When possible, try to pick cards that are good on their own; Synergy can be hard to come by. Cards which care about Category tend to be easier to enable than cards which care about Job or Card Name. Once you have a couple cards that work together, you may change your priorities to focus on that synergy, as having lots of parts that work together is better than just two or three.
Try to prioritize the 3Bs. Not the Better Business Bureau, but Bombs, Breaks, and Bodies. Bombs are your high powered cards that can end the game on their own, often these will be your Heroes and Legends, but some Rares reach this level. Breaks refers to removal, even if it doesn’t technically break a character. Bounce effects, remove from game effects, power subtraction, and direct damage fit into this category, anything that can get rid of your opponent’s problem cards. For Bodies, make sure you have a healthy amount of Forwards, or Monsters that can Forwardify themselves. Big bodies are better, but since all Forwards deal the same amount of damage to players, even small powers are relevant if you can clear the way with your Bombs and Breaks.
Its tough to find a balance on when to settle on your elements. Typically you want to play whatever your first picks were, but be willing to abandon them if no more good cards of those elements are available. It really helps to be in whichever elements are getting passed to you in the end of the pack, as you don’t want to be stuck getting unplayables. Try to see what elements are most represented, as that will give you an idea of what other drafters aren’t taking.
Most of the knobs and handles of Draft can be tweaked to better fit you and your playgroup. Many casual drafts will use modified rules for Backups. Early rules allowed Backups to dull for any element of CP, while Simplified Sealed lets you play Backups with any element. Adding players is easy, although I wouldn’t try a draft with fewer than 4. Adding packs can be fun, giving a lot of flexibility to the deck construction. Chaos draft is where the packs are all from different sets, throwing a lot of variance into the mix. You can also do a Reverse Draft, where you build the WORST deck you can, and when you start the match each person plays with the deck their opponent built!
Crafting a deck on the fly with narrow options is a great way to challenge yourself. It puts everyone in the draft on equal footing in terms of deckbuilding. It can be a great way to take a break from grinding out matches with the same deck. It often helps promote a more friendly atmosphere, taking away the ruthless edge that sometimes comes with more competitive events. People are almost always happy to offer advice on individual cards or strategy. All these things combine to make Draft one of my favorite formats. I hope you enjoy it as much as me!
- Open pack: take card, pass left, repeat until pack is empty
- Pass pack 2 right, 3 left, 4 right
- Make a 40 card deck
- Lose at 6 damage
- You can use more than 3 of a card