Back to the Strategy Guide...
I've been doing a *lot* of drafting lately...Booster draft in particular is now probably my favorite Magic format. With the next round of PTQs having Booster Draft final 8s, I thought I'd share some basic strategies towards having a successful draft.
1. Concentrate on removal. Removal is always scarce in Limited formats, and your early pics in each pack are where you are most likely to find it. I take a removal spell probably 80% of the time from my first pack, and the only times I don't are when it just isn't there or when there is something truly amazing on offer, like Morphling, Processor, Helix or Dragon's Blood. As you become more experienced you may make exceptions -- for example, Diesel Bad Boy Matt Rauseo often first picks Pouncing Jaguar because it is a great card in the aggressive G/R deck he often builds -- but it is a lot easier to make up for a creature-light start then it is to make up for not having any removal. Expunge over a Skirge or Hollow Dogs, Path of Peace over Pegasus Charger, Symbiosis over Blanchwood Treefolk, Heat Ray over Viashino Bey...not everyone will agree with these, but I think they are almost always the right choices.
2. Be very aware of the signals you are sending, and receiving. The third and fourth picks in a Booster draft are often the most important -- not just for the cards you pick but for the information you are able to send, and gather, about the draft. The gross cards you have to pass in your first two packs are very likely going to influence the colors drafted by the people you are feeding, and you should be looking for first-pick quality cards that are still coming. Be careful, though...different people place different priorities on cards. If I pass you a Windfall later than the first couple of picks it probably means I'm not taking Blue, but I know not to read too much into getting passed one myself because I know a lot of people undervalue (in my opinion) the card.
3. Don't counter-draft. Randy Beuhler wrote a good article on why, in an 8-person draft, it is better to take the solid creature for your R/G deck than to counter-draft the Befoul someone else might use against you. His logic was that even though Befoul is a more powerful card, the fact that your card is potentially a factor in every game whereas your opponent's card is only a factor if you and s/he play, means that the overall benefit you get from a solid creature is worth more to you than denying your opponent the removal spell.
I think there is another reason. Counter-drafting screws up signals. Let's say you've been drafting R/G and have a solid start, with Symbiosis, Heat Ray, and two each of good Red and Green creatures. You passed some good Black cards early, and then Black dried up. Suddenly you see a seventh pick Befoul, along with Wild Dogs. The Dogs are a card you'd be glad to put into your deck, but you can't stand the thought of handing someone an eighth pick Befoul. You take it.
What happens now? Remember, the person you're feeding probably doesn't have their colors completely set. Suddenly they see an eighth pick Wild Dogs. No Befoul, but what if they snagged a Winding Wurm and another solid Green creature early on? An eighth pick Dogs might make them conclude that Green is under-drafted. Then they open Rancor and Phyrexian Reclamation, think for a while, take the Rancor, and you get your second Black card. Sure, they're both good, but are you going to make Black one of your colors now? That late Wild Dogs (and the signal that Green might not be heavily drafted) might be the difference between you getting a second pick Rancor in Legacy or watching a Reclamation pass by.
4. Build a deck, not just a collection of cards in two colors. One of the skill factors in Draft is that you can choose between cards of roughly equal strength in order to build a deck with a good mana curve and synergy. The classic example of this was Darwin Kastle drafting B/G in Rath Cycle. Many people have assumed that his success was mostly to do with those colors being underdrafted, with players like Finkel deriding Green and preferring the more patriotic colors of Red, White and Blue. But Darwin drafted much different cards than most people might assume. He often avoided Shadow, but would first-pick Nausea and played as many StrongHold Taskmasters (4/3, give -1/-1 to all other Black creatures) as he could. He drafted an archetype that few if any other players fully understood, and it gave him a significant advantage.
Let's say you're drafting R/W and you have to choose between an Opal Gargoyle and Viashino Outrider. Both are strong cards, but I will usually take the Gargoyle. Why? First of all, casting cost. R/W has a lot of good 3cc picks in Legacy -- Ghitu Slinger, Opal Champion, Goblin Medics, Radiant's Judgement are all commons. R/W will often be spoilt for choice of 3cc spells, so I prefer to take a 2cc spell of comparable power. (This was more true in S/L/L than S/L/D, since Destiny's good R/W cards are more evenly split.) Another reason is that R/W tends to have a lot of removal and wants some good early threats to put pressure on the opponent.
Another advantage of knowing what deck you're building is being able to use cards you can pick up late for their power. For example, Sluggishness isn't a very strong card in most decks, and often comes late. Scent of Cinder is removal, so it doesn't come nearly as late, but it's not very strong in most decks, both because you have to be holding a reasonable number of Red cards for it to be any good and because you have to show your hand to your opponent. Both cards, however, are very strong in the mono-R draft version of stupid red burn. Quick Goblins force through early damage, Scents often get aimed right at the opponent, and Lava Axes and Reckless Abandons do the last bits of damage. These decks don't care much about counter attacks, since they are faster than damn near anything out there, but they don't much care for blockers, especially Wall of Glare. Sluggishness is therefore about as good as "Kill target creature" for 1R.
You can learn about archetypes from practice (the best way) or by talking to players you respect about why they made certain choices, especially if they are playing a card that surprises you. (I remember asking Darwin why he would maindeck Taskmasters since they would kill all of his shadow weenies and he explained that he didn't have any...he had drafted two Evincar's Justices and had only one or two creatures in his entire deck with power 2 or less.)
The early picks from yesterday's S/L/D draft illustrate some of these points. I first-picked Heat Ray, the only high-quality card in my Saga pack, passing Tony (of Team Better Looking than You) Sanctum Custodian and Serra's Embrace. My next pack had Befoul, Path of Peace and Viashino Runner. The Runner is the worst of the three cards, but I wanted to send a clear signal to Tony that Red was off-limits, so I took the Runner over the Befoul. I would not have taken the Path in any case, since the Custodian and Embrace would probably have both Tony and the next person drafting White.
The third pack had a solid Red creature, maybe an Outrider, but also had a Symbiosis. Symbiosis is a first-pick quality card and probably the best Green card in Saga, so getting it third pick meant that I would probably see good Green. I also hadn't passed more than one or two strong Green cards so far (one Winding Wurm was all I remembered), and I know Tony wouldn't be likely to draft G/W anyway, so G looked like a strong bet in terms of signals.
Now I'm drafting R/G beatdown, which is much different than mono-R. It's a bit more of an 'honest' deck...instead of winning just as you have no board control (like one game where I used Acidic Soil and three Reckless Abandons to kill an opponent, leaving myself with no non-land permanents to his Custodian, 2 Expendable Troops and a couple of Trees), you have to work for most, if not all of your damage. You need card advantage creatures like Yavimaya Grangers, good tricks like Symbiosis and Silk Net, and you definitely want at least one or two Taunting Elves. I won't try to reconstruct the rest of the draft, but I ended up with a strong deck despite seeing no removal in Legacy (meaning neither Tony, the next guy playing G/W, nor I opened a pack with a Slinger or Parch in it) because I knew the types of cards I knew I wanted.
Hope this helps, Chads of MephistophEllis
Most players of Magic: the Gathering are familiar with the usual environment where players make decks out of cards they own and pit those decks against one another. This is known as "constructed deck" play, of which there are three types, Classic (Type 1), Classic Restricted (Type 1.5), and Standard (Type 2). Then, there is the "limited environment", where players are given cards and they must construct competitive decks out of those cards. There are two types here, Sealed Deck (SD), and Booster Draft (BD).
Booster Draft is reportedly one of the favorite formats of Magic creator Richard Garfield. It tests both the skill of the player in recognizing the power of cards in the limited environment (which can be very different from constructed environments), and the speed at which he can construct a viable deck. It also tests the ability of a player to play with scarce resources, and the ability to improvise deck strategies almost instantaneously. BD is a recent development on the MTG tournament scene, being officially formalized in Pro Tour 2 (won by Shawn Regnier). It has since become a standard part of the most major of MTG tournaments, particularly the World Championships. A player who aims to become one of the best in the world must necessarily be capable in Booster Draft.
Competitors sit down at a table (ideally eight to a table), and are given identical sets of boosters - typically two (2) 15-card boosters and one (1) 12-card booster. On the signal from the tournament judge, the players open one booster specified by the organizers. They then have a limited amount of time to look through the cards, and "draft" one card. They then count out the remaining cards to the player on their right or left, as specified. Once the allotted time expires, the judge gives the signal to pick up the cards on the players' left or right, and then draft again. The time for succeeding rounds is reduced, reflecting the diminishing number of cards to consider. This repeats until each player has drafted fifteen cards. The second booster is then drafted in the same fashion, with the passing direction reversed. Finally, the third booster is drafted, with the passing direction reversed again. The players than are given any type and amount of basic land they wish to construct their deck with.
As can be seen, the interactive dynamics of this format are very different from any other. Players new to booster draft should consider the following:
1) Familiarize yourself with the cards. You don't have time to read cards during the draft - being able to take time to consider the strengths of each card is crucial. Try to have at the very least a passing familiarity with the card sets being drafted. This can be done by reading the various card lists available on the net.
2) Know the strengths of cards in limited environments. No one uses cards like Cuombajj Witches or Goblin Sappers in constructed environments. In BD, these cards could win you matches. As the motto of the Pacific Coast Legends goes - "If it flies, draft it!" The primary reason for this is that cards that take away resources are scarce in BD. Creatures that cannot be blocked (landwalking, flying, protection), or that force your opponent to do things he would normally not want to do (Norritt, Lure, Siren's Call), or that take away choices from him (banding) are very powerful in this environment. Also, any card that has direct damage capability of any sort, from the strangest (Brothers of Fire, Banshee, Voodoo Doll) to the most obvious (Disintegrate, Incinerate, Drain Life, Kaervek's Torch), and cards that kill or control creatures (Afterlife, Ray of Command, Control Magic, Dark Banishing) are very valuable in BD. My friends in Team Wyrms, Jun Llorin and DJ Paculio, have a simple formula - if your deck has good creatures, and good anti- creature capability, you have a good BD deck. Finally, for lack of a better way to put it, BIG is good. Big boys like Crash of Rhinos, Craw Wurm, Obsianus Golem and any Dragon are excellent drafts, simply because they are fiendishly hard to kill.
3) Be flexibile in playing colors and styles. You have to know how to play each and every color of Magic effectively, and you cannot be stuck in a "color mindset". You cannot decide, before the draft itself, that you will draft and play red and green. Be prepared to end up with the strangest color combinations or strategies, even if you hate "cheesy DD" or "cheesy counterspells". If they get passed to you, draft and play with them. Don't play permisson? Learn. Case in point here is Regnier's PT2 draft - he came up with a strategy seldom seen in BD - the primary road to victory of his deck was by decking opponents, and he had no Millstones to help. His draft of four Gaseous Forms were essential to his game plan. He drafted them, and had a strategy in mind when he did that. That's why he won.
4) Practice, practice, practice. If you want to compete seriously, then practice makes perfect. Don't have the cash to buy a lot of boosters? Simulate them with the cards that you do have! There's a great program out there called Decksealer that will generate boosters for you to make out of the cards you have. Don't have a specific card? Substitute it with a card of the same rarity. Then draft away. It helps to compare drafts with the other people at your table when practicing. You will find that each player has a unique outlook on how to use cards, or why he took one card over another. (F'rexample, my teammate DJ drafted a Kaervek's Torch over an Amber Prison. I would have taken the Prison over the Torch - I prefer battlefield control, while he wanted a sure finishing kick. Differences in opinion and style, neither obviously better than the other.) After the practice draft, make decks and play to see if your draft strategy worked, and to get the feel of playing with a deck made in this environment. Soon, you'll notice that you're drafting faster, and your choices are surer. Now you can go to that tournament.
1) Check your table and choose your seating (if allowed). Some tournaments will allow you to choose the table where you will draft. If you can, sit beside someone who might not draft well. If you know a certain player likes playing black no matter what, then sit beside him and he'll probably pass you good cards that are not in black. Or sit beside a kid who'll grab the rare card and pass you the commons that win BD games. The people beside you in the draft are important - they're the ones who'll be passing you cards that can make or break your deck.
2) Let the first eight cards set the mood. Don't expect to be able to go mono in BD. It's likely that at least one other player at the table will be drafting the same color as you. A simple rule we have made is that for the first four cards, take the best card you can see regardless of color. You shouldn't have more than three colors in the first four cards. For the next four cards, draft the best cards in the two to three colors you already have, unless it's a DD spell and you're not in red. At the end of the first booster, you should have a clear idea of the two to three colors you'll be playing. (The third color should be minor, typically just two or three important cards with no more than one specific colored mana in casting cost.)
3) Recognize the colors being drafted. You might notice that certain cards just float by you, and you wonder what the guy beside you drafted. If a good card or two get passed to you in the middle of the round, then there's a good chance that there are few people drafting in that color. If you're already in that color, good. If not, consider "jumping" to that color. If your guess is right, the next two booster rounds will be very good to you.
One evening, we settled down to practice a Mirage/Chronicles draft. Early in the first booster, I began drafting blue flying creatures. By the fifth round, I noticed that two Dirtwater Wraiths had passed by me - ergo, no one seemed to be drafting in black. I drafted black cards in the next three rounds, and the Wraiths came floating by again, confirming my suspicions. In the second booster, I got passed Harbinger of Night and Abyssal Hunter in the middle rounds, giving me a fantastic set of creature control cards. My recognition that there was little competition in black paid off.
4) Review your draft after the first pack, and between packs. Check the fifteen cards you now have. Remember that you should have something like fifteen to twenty decent creatures in a standard draft. If you already have lots of creatures, go for other stuff in the next pack. If you're short on creatures, then that's what you'll be drafting next. Remember, good creatures and good anti-creature cards are essentially what you're after. Other things like fast mana (elves, Nature's Lore, Untamed Wilds), land destruction and artifact destruction are less important (though ideally you should draft one or two of those in the later rounds when you've got all the creatures you need). Remember to try to get small, fast creatures (for the early game), and BIG stuff (to hold the field in the mid- and endgames).
Don't forget to count your cards between rounds. You should have the exact number of cards for the boosters you just drafted. Miss out on a card and you could get disqualified.
5) Round out your draft deck with the last pack. By the last pack, you should know what's missing from your draft. This is the last chance to grab the stuff missing from your deck. Now, you can afford to pass up decent creatures (say, War Mammoth) to get a card you need to destroy potential threats (say, Tranquility for COP:Green). Take note that you won't necessarily be playing against the people at the table where you drafted; BDs are usually Swiss in format. Get some cards to deal with every permanent type, if possible - just in case you run into the guy at the other table where less capable drafters passed him all the COPs.
1) Balance your deck. When putting your deck together, return to the axiom that I've been repeating : creature and anti-creature. Toss in fourteen to sixteen of the best creatures, keeping in mind that costs should slowly escalate. Add all the anti-creature cards that you were lucky enough to draft (note that these two categories may overlap; Orcish Cannoneers, Prodigal Sorceror, Pirate Ship). Add whatever other "good stuff" you think you absolutely have to play with (I tend to slap in Living Lands and Orcish Oriflamme when I have them), and add land. As in constructed (actually, those skills are what you're relying on here), thirty-five to forty percent mana should be the way to go (see why I like Living Lands?). That's about sixteen land in a forty-card deck (as in constructed, try to stick to the limit unless you have a good reason to do otherwise).
2) Designate your sideboard. Set aside the stuff that you drafted "just in case" - cards that get rid of enchantments, artifacts, land and whatever else. Note the stuff in your deck that you'll use as "sideboard space". This will make your sideboarding decisions during matches faster and easier.
3) Test draw. The simplest of the "testing tools", the test draw will give you a feel for your deck. Actually, if you can play test games against other players (ideally your friends), that would be best, but this is usually prohibited. Besides, your friends might still be building their decks. BD is a format where time is usually scarce. You can also play against "The Punching Bag"; just see how fast your deck can deal twenty points of damage.
1) Count your cards, before and after every duel. Very simple, yet many players forget to do this. The main reason for this is that lots of cards in BD get played in the opponent's territory, notably creature enchantments. It's easy to forget that Pacifism you played on your opponent's Volcanic Dragon. Failing to get it back may cost you your the Pacifism (if the opponent leaves the tournament), or it could even cost you a duel or match (if that Pacifism was your 4oth card and you began your next match without realizing it was gone).
2) Patience, patience, patience. It's easy to slap down creatures turn after turn and attack, but a single Savage Twister, Wrath of God or Harbinger of Night could ruin you. Pay attention to the environment, and always have contingency plans. Hold a spare creature in your hand, or save that solitary Afterlife for something really unmanageable, like a Crash of Rhinos. BD games tend to last longer than constructed deck games. Watch and wait for the opportunity to gain an advantage, and seize it when it comes.
In addition, try to save any "X DD spell". Use it to kill a creature if you must, but these spells are best used to deliver a killing blow.
3) Exercise care in, and pay attention to creature combat. Nine times out of ten, BD games are won and lost on the creature battlefield. (Hammer's deck was that 1 out of 10.) Knowing how to play creatures - maximizing combat abilities and playing creature enhancers at the right time - is the key to winning close duels. Players who habitually play creatureless constructed decks (I admit to being one of these) tend to have problems in BD play. Practice makes perfect, here. How do you use banding to the hilt? When do you cast that Ether Well? Should you use your only Armor of Thorns to pump up your Gibbering Hyenas, or wait and use it to kill an opposing creature? These are the decisions that make or break you in BD play.
4) Use your sideboard. Don't forget that you have a sideboard in BD - that's all the cards that you drafted and didn't put into your deck. Check it after every duel - you might see something that will help. Kaervek's Hex has won me several games, and spells like Soul Rend and Mind Harness work very well against specific creatures or strategies. Remember those "just in case" cards you got? Now you can put in the Tranquility for the guy with all the COPs in the world, or the Tropical Storm for Mr. Flying Critters. Hosers work very well, even in Booster Draft.
1) Reflect. You might have found a card that didn't seem like a good draft at the outset, but which has now proven its worth. Conversely, you might have lost a duel because of a card or strategy played well by your opponent. As they say, there's no substitute for experience. Share your experiences with your friends or team. If you didn't win this time, maybe next draft will be better. It usually is. ;-)
Any questions, comments or flames? Send them my way - firstname.lastname@example.org I've been playing Magic since the Revised/The Dark period, and have played in very major tournament in the Philippines since. Thanks to Team Wyrms - Bot Butaran, NiX Garcia, Jun Llorin, Froggy Ong and Deej Paculio, for the input. Magic: the Gathering is a trademark of Wizards of the Coast. All rights reserved.
Anyone who has taken a basic economics course can decribe a what a "Market System" is. It's a system in which people (sometimes called market "agents") can exchange goods and/or services for other goods and/or services.
For example, any store is a small market where people trade money for goods, such as food, clothes, books, or cards. People with money are refered to as the "buyers" and people with goods are refered to as "sellers". In the one store system, there is one seller and many buyers.
Note that groups of stores (such as all stores within 20 minutes that sell cards) also form markets. Such markets have multiple buyers and sellers. These markets are very useful in most areas of economics, but we only need to consider the one store market for the following analysis.
Consider Booster or Rochester drafts as a Market System. In particular, there is one seller (the judge who provides the cards) and eight buyers (the drafters). The judge "sells" cards and the drafters "buy" cards by expending draft picks. Normally in economics we consider the interactions between buyers and sellers, but because there is only one seller, the interaction is trivially a monopoly. Instead, lets consider the interaction of buyers with other buyers. In other words, we're going to use economics to explain how drafters interact with each other in a draft setting.
Mercantilism was an economic belief held by the British government in the 17th and 18th centuries (1600s and 1700s). The idea was that all trade with colonies (eg. America, India) must go through the central government (eg. England). The purpose of colonies was to increase the wealth of the central government.
Note that Mercantilism is very similar to socialism's economic policy of central planning. The ineffectiveness of Mercantilism and central planning contributed to the respective downfalls of the British and Soviet empires.
In the draft market, a Mercantilist economic policy is embodied as the strategy of forcing colors. Forcing a color is intentionally drafting a lot of one color so that others will not draft that color and instead draft relatively worse cards. It's equivalent Mercantilism in that in both cases, one buyer (eg. England, or Jon Finkel) tries to force another buyer (eg. America, or Randy Buehler) to pay a higher price for a valuable commodity (eg. Food, or Saga Black).
In 1776, Adam Smith wrote "The Wealth of Nations", a mammoth treatise explaining why Mercantilism was an ineffective economic policy. In "The Wealth of Nations", Adam Smith proposes a new market system, called a "Free Market", and explains why that system produces more economic prosperity.
The basic idea is that when the government leaves a market alone, sellers naturally maximize their profits and buyers naturally maximize their utility. (Maximizing utility is economic jargon for, "do the thing that makes me happiest.")
Suppose all buyers in a market have equal impact on the market, as do all sellers. Buyers and sellers can all make decisions about the market. "I am willing to buy X for any price less than $35." "I am willing to sell X for any price higher than $15." Buyers and sellers know what the best decision for them is. When the government tries to legislate decisions, such as, "All colonists in America will buy X for at least $40," they're forcing buyers and/or sellers to make decisions that aren't optimal. This causes loss of utility for the buyers AND the sellers. (Loss of utility is economic jargon for, "I'm not as happy as I could be.") See an economics text book for a more detailed treatment of why free markets work and what limits exist on them.
SURFING THE DRAFT
In the draft market, the free market economic policy is known as "surfing the draft." Surfing the draft refers to drafting whatever colors people aren't taking. It's like a free market system because you let the whole market (the other drafters) determine what the optimal choice for you is (whatever color exists in quantity).
To understand why draft surfing works, we need to clear our minds of old prejudices of colors. We might say, "In Urza's Cycle, black and white are good in draft, but the red is terrible." Concluding we should always draft black or white, but never red, is a mistake.
View the cards in a draft as providing a certain amount of utility (usefulness) that the drafters can buy by expending draft selections. We can assign point values to each color in the draft. In Urza's Cycle drafts, I personally assign points as follows:
White: 4 Blue: 3 Black: 4 Red: 2 Green: 3
Your milage may vary. In any case, it's no coincidence that the point totals add up to exactly 16. In general, draft decks consist of two colors. Mono-color draft decks naturally have twice as much as one color. There are 16 points divided between 8 drafters, so each deck should contain 2 points-- 1 for each color.
Rather than saying, "Urza's cycle black is good and red is bad," we should say, "Urza's cycle black can support 4 drafters but the red can only support 2 drafters."
If a player tries to force a color, there is a good chance that color will become saturated. Suppose I tried to force black and took some white. Lets say that because of this, 5 people drafted black and 4 people took white. Then my deck is worth less than 2 points. The black cards are worth 4 points spread between 5 drafters, so we each got .8 points from black. 4 points of white between 4 drafters gives me 1 point, so my deck is worth 1.8 points. If I had tried to draft mono black, then the table would have 6 black drafters (2 of which were me), and my deck would be worth 4 * 2 / 6 points, or 1.333 points. Of course, others players would be likely to drop black, so perhaps there would only be 5 drafters: 4 * 2 / 5 is 1.6 points.
When surfing a draft, each player chooses colors that other players are not drafting. Since no player chooses a color that has become saturated, there will always be 4 white drafters, 3 blue drafters, 4 black drafters, 2 red drafters, and 3 green drafters. In this situation, each player gets 1 point from each color, so everyone's deck is worth 2 points. This is a perfectly balanced draft.
Real world drafts are a mixture of forcing and surfing. Some player inevitably thinks that the best thing to do is force the draft, and the players who surf take advantage of the situation. Here's how that works.
Lets suppose that all other players at the table have selected their colors but you, and that they are overdrafting blue.
White: 2 (Max 4) Blue: 4 (Max 3) Black: 4 (Max 4) Red: 1 (Max 2) Green: 3 (Max 3)
Note that the numbers add up to 14 because only 7 players have made color selections. The two unclaimed colors are white and red. Incidently, no matter how you break out the numbers, there will always be an underdrafted color if there is an overdrafted color. (For a proof of this, just apply the pidgeon hole principle.)
You must either draft white twice or white once and red once. If you draft double white (100% white), your deck will be worth 2 * (4 / 4), or 2 points. If you draft white and red (50% of each), your deck will be worth 4/3 + 2/2, or 2.333 points.
I think the optimal solution is to draft 67% white, 33% red. Your deck will be worth 2 * (2/3 * (4 / (3 + 2/3)) + 1/3 * (2 / (1 + 1/3))) points. Simplified, that is: 2 * (2/3 * 12/11 + 1/3 * 3/2), or 2 * (8/11 + 1/2). This is 27/11, which is 2.4545 points. The optimal solution can be derived using maximization techniques from calculus.
In any case, the best thing to do is draft heavy white and splash some red. By contrast, the average blue/black deck will be worth 1.75 points, because 3 blue points got spread out between 4 blue drafters.
"If surfing the draft is such a good idea," you ask, "then why do some profession players advertise what colors they like?" It certainly seems like they're trying to force colors.
Well, they are and they aren't. Think of it as letting other players know ahead of time which colors you would like to claim. This encourages the drafters to select colors you have not selected. Advertising colors helps everyone do a better job of surfing the draft.
Remember how Jon Finkel would only draft Red, Blue, and White during Rath Cycle? It doesn't matter which three colors Finkel chose as long as everyone knew what those colors were. Darwin Kastle did as well as Finkel, but Kastle advertised that he played Black and Green. The colors themselves are worthless compared to the information that the other drafters in the market receive. Giving other players information about what colors you draft helps them help you.
BROKEN ASSUMPTIONS: BOOSTER DRAFT
Advertisement helps solve the problem of missing information, which plagues booster drafts. Many pros prefer rochester draft to booster draft because in rochester, it's obvious who is drafting what color. This enables drafters to avoid oversaturating colors. In booster draft, maybe some packs just had a lot of black in them, despite the fact that three people upstream from you are taking black. You could accidently oversaturate black because you didn't have all the information.
So if you try surfing a booster draft and things just don't work out, it's probably because of this. The Draft Market assumes that each player knows how much of the colors the other players are drafting, and this isn't true in booster draft.
BROKEN ASSUMPTIONS: ROCHESTER DRAFT
Rochester draft breaks a different assumption. The Draft Market also assumes that each player starts with identical resources. This is not true in rochester draft, because some players have to take their first picks earlier than other players.
Normally rochester drafts don't get oversaturated colors. Sometimes, however, the drafts are more suceptable to color forcing. If I have the very first pick in the draft and draft corrupt, I'll want to play black. But after that, I only get 8th/9th pick, and then 7th/10th pick. It's quite likely that I won't get any decent black cards for a while, if the players to my left force black.
Of course, even in this situation the players who force colors don't get decks worth that much more than 2 points. The players who really win from this situation are the players in seats 6-8, who haven't expended their early picks on a card it turns out they can't play.
In either draft format, someone can screw you if they want to, but it's better off for both of you to help each other and not draft the same colors.
Back to the Strategy Guide...