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Zero to Draft – Free at Last, Free at Last

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Zero to Draft Series: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7


Insiders may be familiar with this series already, but I’m excited to introduce it to an expanded audience here on the free side of Quiet Speculation. I’ll still be writing weekly Insider content, but for reasons I’ll explain below, we’re making Zero to Draft free to read. How things will go from here will be partially up to you, the readers. But first, let’s get everyone on the same page.

The Project

I started Zero to Draft with the Theros prerelease. My goal was very simple: to draft as much as possible for as little as possible. Frankly, I want to play Magic for free. If you’re visiting Quiet Speculation, you’re likely in a similar boat. This is an expensive game we play, and any way to mitigate that fact is welcome to us all.

Starting with the Theros prerelease, I tracked every dollar I spent to play in Limited events. Any cards I sold or traded were noted. All the cards I ended up with were kept separate from my personal collection in order to maintain the purity of the project. I never opened any prize packs ever, except to play Limited. After my last Theros draft, this was the state of the project:

Events played: 14 total – 12 Draft, one Sealed, one 2HG Sealed
Money spent: $114
Money received from card sales: $100.52
Buylist value of trade binder: $79.78
Net money spent: -$66.30
Packs held: 0
Draft record: 24-5
Sealed record: 3-1
2HG Sealed record: 2-2

The Problem

From the prelease to the very last triple Theros draft, I came out $66.30 ahead while playing in 14 separate Limited events. I achieved my goal of playing for free and then some, but it soon became clear that keeping articles on the project financially relevant was more difficult than I anticipated.

This is partially because I’m not trading much these days. I’ve identified very few opportunities in Standard lately, instead focusing my speculative efforts on Modern cards. Given that players who draft frequently are mostly packing draft leftovers in their trade binders, I just didn’t see many cards I wanted to acquire during the past several months. In addition, I haven’t opened a whole lot of money cards during much of this project, so I’ve lacked trade bait in general.

Insiders are primarily paying for financial content, and while I tried to incorporate some into my Zero to Draft articles, the project just didn’t provide enough material to always keep things focused on finance. So I wrote articles in the series infrequently, trying to save up material, but then details got lost in the shuffle. I’ve continued tracking stats, but it’s been quite a while since I wrote an update.

Free at Last

Basically, I think the Insider audience was wrong for the series, and that’s why we’re moving it to the free side of the site. This will allow me to occasionally put emphasis on topical non-financial matters. At the same time, the series will still ultimately be about my quest to play for free, and hopefully the incidental financial advice that comes along with that will help others do so, too. The first step to becoming a full-fledged financier is becoming a financially-minded player, and if you’re not in that mindset yet, I want to help you get there.

I’m also passionate about Draft. It consists of the vast majority of the matches I play. I’m an avid listener of the Limited Resources podcast and a huge fan of its nuts-and-bolts-Spike mentality. To the extent that I don’t travel to GPs or PTQs, I’m a casual player. But my mindset is competitive: I’m looking to win as many drafts as I can, make as few mistakes as possible, and consistently improve my game. I draft several times a week on MTGO, and while I do well enough to draft at a fraction of the list price, I’m not satisfied. I’m ready to level up.

One of the best ways to become an expert at a subject is to teach it to others. I’m a pretty good drafter, and while I haven’t won any major Limited events, I draft often enough to become very familiar with current formats. This experience gives me insights and knowledge that I can share with you, the readers. This doesn’t mean that I consider myself to be an authority on drafting. I have learning to do, too, so feel free to share what you know in the comments! A collaborative effort will help us all improve our games, which I expect is a goal of every Magic player.

Moving Forward

So the focus of this series is shifting. The fact is that building a collection three packs at a time (or six packs on occasion), is slow going. Each installment will address the financial implications of my most recent draft(s), but sometimes the only update will be the addition of some bulk and maybe a trade or two. I’m going to make it fairly easy to follow along with the financial goal of the project, but the majority of words I write here will now be focused on non-financial topics, mainly Draft strategy.

I considered the possibility of starting again from zero so that new readers could follow the series from the ground floor, but like I said, building a collection one draft at a time is not a fast process. I don’t think it’s a stretch to share the contents of my trade binder and assume that new readers can extrapolate how such a folder has been assembled over the course of several Limited events and a few trades here and there. If you disagree with me and strongly believe I should be starting fresh, let me know. In any case, here’s the trade binder with which I’m currently working:

It’s nothing special, but there’s a few sweet cards in there. I recently sent in a buylist order, so I got rid of a few of the more overpriced cards I had. I was particularly happy to get an absurd $3.50 for a copy of Pain Seer I opened at the prerelease. I could not get out of that card fast enough (and there’s some of that incidental financial advice I promised).

Speaking of the prerelease, it went quite well. I played only one event, a Two-Headed Giant Sealed tournament with my wife. She opened the Elspeth listed above, and it did not underperform. We managed a 3-0-1 record, taking home 14 packs in addition to a pile of cards worth close to the $50 entry fee (Xenagos and two Temples were also in that pool).

I also participated in my first Born of the Gods draft recently. After some incredibly close matches, I was able to split the finals. It was also the most financially advantageous draft of this entire project so far, considering I opened both Thassa, God of the Sea, and Thoughtseize. Yes, I think Born of the Gods-Theros-Theros is going to go just fine…

Here’s my updated Zero to Draft stats:

Events played: 16 total – 13 Draft, one Sealed, two 2HG Sealed
Money spent: $164
Money received from card sales: $111.32
Buylist value of trade binder: $124.95
Net money spent: -$72.27
Packs held: 14
Draft record: 26-5
Sealed record: 3-1
2HG Sealed record: 5-2-1

Please let me know in the comments or on Twitter, @dbro37, what you’d like to see from this series. There are many ways it could go, and you have a chance to shape the direction I take things with your feedback. Thanks for reading!

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