Fun Times with Adam: Negotiation Draft

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Hello Pucatraders, I am back again today with more fun times, and today I will be discussing a fun new draft format with all of you. Negotiation Drafts pit you against one to two friends in a format that not only tests your ability to judge card quality, but also your ability to convince your opponents to give you the cards you need to beat them. This format was developed by a good friend and fellow draft enthusiast James and I as an alternative to the Winston Draft. Both of us agreed that it lacked the excitement and strategy of a real draft and we wanted something that was more hands on. After a few revisions and several hours of play testing we finalized the rules that you see below. When you play, you will find that the draft progresses incredibly smoothly, but still feels involved as your choices and ability to determine card value are constantly tested. Below I will quickly go over the setup and rules of a Negotiation Draft before discussing a few insights James and I learned about this format from our testing. If you take them to heart, you will be conducting your own Shrewd Negotiation in no time.

Fortune's Favor

To play, you will need a pool of cards like a cube or several booster packs, one to two friends, and a 6 sided die for each player. As a final note before I go over the rules, let me advise you not to try this with more than three people. If you have more people who are interested in trying a Negotiation Draft, break them up into pods of two or three players to keep the draft moving smoothly.

Rules

  1. In a Negotiation Draft, there are 10 rounds of drafting that each involve a Bidding Phase and a Negotiation Phase.
  2. To begin, construct a draft library by taking a random selection from your cube, and placing it face down on the table.
  3. Each player begins the draft by receiving 15 random cards from the draft library as a seed.
  4. To begin a round create face up piles equal to the number of players in the draft, each containing three cards.
  5. The draft begins with the Bidding Phase where each player secretly places their 6 sided die on a number to represent which pile they want to draft, and placing their hand on top of it to keep it hidden from the other drafters.
  6. Once this is done, all players reveal their die at the same time:
    • If the numbers are all different, each player receives their chosen pile and you proceed to the next round.
    • If any players reveal the same number, those players proceed to the Negotiation Phase.
  7. Players also have the choice of placing their die on the number 6 to represent that they aren’t interested in any of the available piles.
    • In the event all active players do this, all piles are discarded and the round is restarted with new cards.
    • Otherwise players who reveal a 6 may take the top three cards from the draft library and all unselected piles are discarded.
  8. The Negotiation Phase begins with both active players rolling their six sided die. The player with the highest roll decides if they would like to make the first offer or receive the first offer. Any player who accepts an offer in this phase is also awarded an extra face down card from the top of the draft library.
    • Making an Offer - Similar to Fact or Fiction, Player A gets to redistribute the cards into two new piles and offer one pile to Player B, while they keep the other.
    • Accepting - Player B may accept the offer and the players move to the next round.
    • Countering - Player B may also refuse the offer and instead make a counter offer by redistributing the cards again and offering a pile to Player A.
    • Push - If this counter offer is refused, a push occurs where the revealed cards are shuffled together and randomly placed into two new piles. After the new piles have been formed, add one face up card to each pile and players return to the Bidding Phase, in step 5.
  9. In the event two Pushes occur in the same round, repeat the Push process so that their are now two random face up piles of five cards each. Instead of bidding on the new piles all active players roll their 6 sided die. The player with highest roll gets their choice of the new piles and the loser may either choose the remaining pile of five cards or three face down cards from the top of the library. Then proceed to the next round.

Fact or Fiction

3 Player Clarifications
In the event player A&B want the same pile, but player C wants a different one. Player C takes their chosen pile and player A&B proceed to the Negotiation Phase with the two remaining piles.
In the event all players choose the same pile in the Bidding Phase, it is an automatic Push. Randomly redistribute the three piles equally and add one face up card to each, before moving to the second Bidding Phase.

Insights
Staying Open - Just like in a regular draft there are advantages to staying open and your initial seed should give you some idea which direction you intend to go. However in a Negotiation Draft, it is dangerous to stay open too long. With less card selection than a regular draft, staying open past the third round can lead to a deck that is spread incredibly thin and is ultimately ineffective. If you stay open just long enough to determine if you and your opponent are fighting over certain colors, I guarantee that you’ll be rewarded.

Reading Your Opponent - It is crucial to quickly learn which cards your opponent is after. This not only gives you a sense of what packs they will pick, but also gives you a great advantage in the negotiation round. If you know your opponent has already drafted Splinter Twin and in a later pile you see Deceiver Exarch you can try to force a negotiation by selecting that pack. Because you know that their deck needs that card to win you might be able to get them to accept a 5/1 split when you make your offer.

Card Value vs Pile Value - Another important skill to learn is determining what makes a particular pile good. Sometimes it is because the pile has a bomb that most decks want, like Sword of Fire and Ice. Other times it is because a pile contains two cards that work well together like Tinker and Blightsteel Colossus, and if the cards are split up they lose their value. Finally it may simply be that one pile contains more cards of a certain color. Determining how to make an enticing pile for your opponent is the next step in getting what you want from the negotiation.

The Value of Face Down Cards - Don’t be afraid to take cards off the top of the library if nothing on the table appeals to you. This format is based on shared information and by having six or seven extra unknown cards in your pool you gain the advantage of making your opponent play in the dark. James and I did a draft where he ended up taking 15 cards off the top of the library. In other drafts I had a reasonable idea what kind of deck he was playing and could alter my strategy accordingly. However this time he walked away with game one after resolving two sweepers I didn’t know about.

Difficulty - The rules I listed above will give players access to the minimum number of cards they will need to build a deck and offer an exciting challenge for veteran deck builders. Fortunately the rules are easily adapted to make the game fun for newer players who want less difficulty. By increasing the size of a new player's initial seed to 20 or even 30 cards, you can help level the playing field against an advanced player. Additionally if both players are new, you can increase the number of rounds so that everyone gets access to more cards. 

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