Do you feel like you just busted out of a cocoon and stumbled into a draft? Do multicolor cards weird you out and make you long for a format where every pack is just full of green cards and your only choices are mono-green and super-mono-green? Do you feel like everyone else knows the secret to signaling, as if they can just bring their ear close to the pack and listen while the cards whisper secrets?
Pssst, hey you, that last guy didn’t even look at that Grisly Spectacle, Dimir is totally open!
Well, the secret is that there is no secret. Signaling is and always will be error prone, and the only thing you can count on is that you can’t count on anything for certain. That being said, here are a few basic rules of thumb to help you hear the saucy secrets those cards are whispering to you:
- Don’t change course based on any one pack. Any one pack can be a fluke. Just because your fourth pick comes from a pack loaded down with Orzhov cards doesn’t mean much on its own – it’s possible that pack just happened to have a lot of Orzhov cards to begin with. A pack with three top picks in a guild doesn’t mean nearly as much as three packs with one great card each.
- Signals mean more the later it is in the rotation. If there’s a rare missing in your second pick of the first pack, you can’t really rely on the remaining cards as signals. Who knows what the first player may have taken? Plus, he or she might switch into a different color based on what’s passed to them. By picks 3 or 4, hopefully you are seeing some patterns and are ready to commit. It’s just like dating – don’t get married until the fifth date.
- Ignore the signals in pack 2. Packs 1 and 3 go in the same direction, but pack 2 is different. That means the signals you see in pack 2 aren’t going to give you any insight into pack 3. If your first pack didn’t go well, you might be scrounging to put together 23 playable cards, and switching up your colors in the middle of pack 2 based on the signals you see there isn’t going to help you accomplish that.
- Know what to avoid. You may not know exactly what guild or colors you are in early on, but if you keep track of which guilds are the least available, you can avoid going into those colors at all costs, and if you need to change track mid-draft, you at least know what colors not to go into.
Now that you know some tips, feel free to jump into a Gatecrash or Dragon’s Maze draft and look for some signals. Or, if you want to get some practice under your belt, take a look at Wizards’ draft viewer and see if you can figure out how many drafters are in each guild and where they’re sitting at the table.