Modern Horizons Pre-Release Draft primer
Close Menu

Hit enter to search or ESC to close

Modern Horizons drops this weekend at local game stores all around the world. The set features a lot of crazy mechanics and unique creatures that players old and new are sure to enjoy. Like with War of the Spark, we wanted to give you a handy guide to pre-release weekend.

A change in format

Typical pre-releases for Magic: The Gathering sets run a format called sealed. The sealed format normally gives you 6 packs with a promo card to build a 40 card deck from. Modern Horizons, however, will not be using this format for pre-release. Instead, since the set focuses on some of the older formats in the game, the pre-release event will run as a draft.

Many players are familiar with this format from previous draft events or playing drafts on MTG Arena. For those that haven’t experienced draft before, here is a quick overview. Each player starts the event with three packs and sits in a pod of 4-8 players. Each player then opens their first pack. After taking one card from this pack, the player passes their pack to the player on the left. This then repeats until there are no more cards to pass. The process is repeated for the second pack (with players passing to the right) and the third pack (again passing to the left). At the end of this process, each player will have a carefully selected set of 45 cards to build their deck from.

We covered the BREAD method of drafting in our War of the Spark article. Instead of repeating the same information over again, we will provide an example of how to draft here.

Starting off the draft

Using draftsim, we will run down what to look for when looking through the packs, as well how to build the deck after choosing the cards. I will not go over all 45 picks here, but I will show off the most important pieces of the draft.

Pack one, pick one

The first pick of draft really sets the stage of the rest of your drafting experience. This pack contains a lot of good options, like Scale Up and Serra the Benevolent. Both of these cards are major bombs, but Serra is definitely the choice for us here. This gives us a little direction in both color and theme.

Pack one, pick two

Our current focus of our deck is on flying creatures to utilize Serra’s +1 ability. Thankfully, Battle Screech is a beautiful addition to our deck. Choosing this card, which creates two flying creatures, bolsters the overall effect of our deck. Other cards to keep an eye on if they return include Headless Specter and Unsettled Mariner.

End of pack one

draft pool pack 1

After the first pack has been drafted, this is our current pool. An important point during the draft is pick five, in which we branched out into a second color. Due to Bogardan Dragonheart only gaining flying if you sacrifice another creature, in the next few packs we should look for cheap and disposable creatures.

Pack two, pick one

Pack two gives us a couple different options for the first pick. Ayula could provide a cool theme and powerful creature. Due to it only being pack two, we would not be punished heavily for changing our theme. However, the other card that sticks out in this pack is Talisman of Conviction. Since we have already worked into the red and white colors, this card is great for mana ramp and fixing.

Pack two, pick four

Pack two, pick four potentially held the most weight in the draft apart from our first pick. Lavabelly Sliver is a hugely impactful pick for our deck. The card fits nicely into the colors our deck focuses on while also giving us good aggro.

End of pack two

draft pool pack 2

Our pool after pack two has improved heavily. Firebolt added some great removal for the deck, and we gained a good amount of aggro and protection with Goblin Champion and Wall of One Thousand Cuts.

Pack three, pick one

Pack three did not start out extremely impressively. The biggest problem with this pack comes from the lack of cards within our colors. For this reason we pick up Wall of One Thousand Cuts.

Pack three, pick two

While it is late in our draft, we wanted to show off a skill known to many drafters. This is a technique called “Hate Drafting.” Hate Drafting is when you pick a card that doesn’t necessarily fit into your deck. This technique is a higher-level skill, so we want to introduce newer players to it here.

We single out this Force of Negation here for Hate-Drafting. The card boasts a very powerful ability with an alternate cost but is also foil in this iteration of the draft, making it a very valuable card to draft.

End of pack three

draft pool pack 3

At the end of pack three, we find that we strayed from our original plans a bit. While we picked up some good Slivers and white cards, we also had to dip into blue as well. Thankfully, a good amount of our blue picks wear the flying keyword. Now that we have finished drafting, its time to build a deck.


Option 1: Red/White Flying Slivers

draft deck option 1

This first version of our draft deck focuses on the original plan of our deck. It centers mostly on Serra and Bogardan Dragonheart. The deck also splashes in a bit of Sliver creatures to push some extra damage through. This deck focuses more on the aggro and evasion parts of the BREAD method.

Option 2: Blue/White Control the Skies

draft deck option 2

The third pack of the draft greatly inspired this version of our deck. Swapping out the red for blue in the deck allows us to play the game a little more safely. Our hate drafted Force of Negation pushed this option over the edge.

Final Tips for draft

Bring a notepad and pen: Players are allowed to take notes on the cards they have seen in each pack. Use pen and paper to track cards you might want later, take a guess at which cards other drafters have taken, or plan your deck during down time.

Take your time: While you don’t have forever to choose a card in each pack, you do have time to read over each card and make informed decisions.

Practice: With a week before the event, take your time to practice drafting against either bots or other players. The best way to improve is to practice your skills.

Hate-Draft: Hate-drafting is a tough skill to learn, but with enough practice, you can learn to think like other players and ruin their strategies.

Learn the set: Modern Horizons has an overwhelming amount of unique mechanics. We advise you to look over all 40+ keywords from the set to know how these cards work together.

For more information and to see some of these ideas in action, check out our draft practice stream by Kyler Plackowski on June 4th at 2:00 PM ET.