Monday, March 14, 2016

Pro-Level Draft with DFCs

This is our 3rd time drafting with Double Faced Cards (DFCs).  The first, Innistrad block, went okay, but it had some issues that always bothered me.   Those issues came home to roost in Magic Origins draft (with 5 mythic DFCs).  And I’ll like to see these issues discussed and possibly corrected before the third dance.

I believe things work fine as is at low stakes.  Drafting at home, drafting at FNM, fine.  But in a super competitive or professional-level setting, there are real issues:

1) Asking players to keep their eyes forward (so as to not be able to see, or appear to have seen, the normal cards people are drafting), while simultaneously scattering a bunch of tempting “public” information around the table is asking two incompatible things of the players.

A Jace was opened in one of my Pro Tour drafts and I had no idea whether I was allowed to track it as it went around the table.  Was it cheating to look while my neighbor had cards in his hand?  Was it cheating to look between picks when the cards were laid out?  This was never made clear.  I ended up using “the corner of my eye” to look at the top card of my neighbor’s draft pile once that neighbor had selected a card.  Was this cheating?  I sure hope not, but I really don’t know.  Could I have looked 2 people over between picks and gotten more info?  I don’t know.

2) Even bigger than that first large issue: It makes the timing of when you select a card hyper-relevant.  I want to wait until my neighbor picks a card, and he or she wants to do the same to me (and our other neighbors, etc.).  With two DFCs per pack in SOI [EDIT: between 1 and 2 per pack], the upcoming set, the odds of a first-pick DFC is super high.  So to maximize the impact of the info I can get (whether legal or illegal to look, people will look), I should wait as long as I can.  How long can I wait?  Well, theoretically my neighbor and I both have to draft a card simultaneously immediately when the called says “Draft” but that is laughably unenforceable and rife for opportunities to shoot the angle better and get an edge.

This is a major problem.  If people didn’t realize they should wait to take a card in Innistrad, they will realize now that every pack has 2 DFCs.  Really surprised me to see on Twitter than Matt Tabak and Toby Elliot (two people who I respect a great deal and who don’t miss much) don’t even have it on their radar. 

Proposed solutions:

1) Use checklist cards in professional level drafts.  Cleanest, best solution.  No chance of hidden costs.  Has the obvious cost of losing the “cool” feel of drafting with DFCs, and another cost of making practice difficult, but those are known costs at least. 

2) Permit looking around between picks.  Allow 3 seconds for this.  To prevent the timing issue related to peeking, come up with a way players can cover cards as they select them, and only reveal during the “look around” 3 seconds.  Drafting player covering their pile with their hand is one way, have a tool that covers the pile like a small tent which you can slide picks under and then lift to reveal is another.  

If neither solution is adopted, life will go on, but we may end up playing a “don’t flinch!” Pro Tour where players are waiting to see their neighbor’s card before selecting their own in a cascading effect.  Players might also be penalized for looking around OR not penalized for looking in directions where they could see hidden information, both disasters at the pro level.