A Case for Swiss Drafts

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Any Magic Online player will tell you that 8-4 drafts are the place to be if you want the best competition and the most return on your drafts. I'm not here to disagree with this assessment—it's clearly correct. I fancy myself a pretty decent drafter and have won my share of 8-4s, but without fail, I begin each new format jamming Swiss drafts.


I like Swiss drafts early in a format for a few reasons. First, I just want to play as many games as possible. If I lose in the first round, I want a slightly larger sample size to decide whether that was variance or bad strategy (and really, even three matches is not much of a sample size, but it's better than one).

Second, it's easy to go on a run where you lose in the first or second round of several 8-4s in a row. This tends to make for an expensive evening. By playing in Swiss drafts, even though you won't very often come out ahead, it's much easier to break even or just cut your losses.

Finally, I'm more likely to experiment with new or novel strategies in a Swiss draft. I don't want to try out something I'm unfamiliar with in a single-elimination event only to draw poorly and not even have a chance to see how the pieces fit together. Even going 0-3 or 1-2 provides a better learning experience than getting knocked out in the first round without getting to see how things work.


Once I feel comfortable in a format, losing in the first round of an 8-4 stings significantly less. When I'm very familiar with a set, my goals switch from getting some games in and having a good time to winning a lot and proving to myself that I can crush this format. I got there with triple Theros, but I'm nowhere close with Khans of Tarkir yet. So I'll just keep jamming Swiss drafts until I get there. Even though I like the thrill of tough competition, I like playing Magic even more, and Swiss drafts are more likely to provide those opportunities while I'm finding my feet.

What prize structure do you usually play on MTGO? (And please don't say 4-3-2-2. How is that still a thing?)

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Danny Brown

Danny is a Cube enthusiast and the former Director of Content for Quiet Speculation.

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Posted in Drafting, Free, MTGO

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5 thoughts on “A Case for Swiss Drafts

  1. Completely agree. Swiss serves a very real, tangible and important purpose.

    Although, I will say that if they changed 4-3-2-2 to 5-3-2-2, I would absolutely play those, probably more than 8-4.

  2. I have employed this strategy before, but ultimately switched back. I found the wait times in between swiss rounds too long, and often with a 0-2 record (sometimes 1-1 as well) my last round opponent never showed up, so I didn’t even get the extra experience with the deck.

  3. I admit it, as you may have read in the forums…
    I proudly play 4-3-2-2s most frequently, especially when sets are new. Why?

    1) Mostly time constraints. I usually just want to jam a draft, and they are the quickest. I can’t guarantee I’ll stay conscious through the finals of an 8-4, and almost certainly not a Swiss.
    2) At most skill levels, you’re only giving up at MOST 50 cents playing 4-3-2-2 over Swiss
    3) 4-3-2-2ers seem to have the worst sense of “value”. So things get passed around that really, really shouldn’t be.
    4) I feel like the slight EV negative is mitigated by the lesser competition.
    5) It’s REALLY fun to offer a split in the finals.

  4. Absolutely agree with this article. While practicing against good competition is more important if you are trying to hone your skills at the format for upcoming tournaments, sometimes you are just playing because drafting is fun and you want to play the full three rounds guaranteed.

    Your winrate is also so much higher that you actually lose money extremely slowly. Since losing is rarer, each loss is more indicative that you are actually doing something wrong, so it becomes a teachable moment in its own way.

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