What To Bring To Your First Paper Magic Draft

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So your addiction began with MTG Arena. You’ve grinded your way from Eldraine through New Capenna, building your collection through drafts and sealed. Climbed the ladder on the backs of your opponents. But now that local game stores are opening back up, and FNM is becoming a thing again, you want step foot into the world of paper for the first time. You’ve done your homework, are a pro drafter, know the set in and out but have never played in person before. This is a guide for you.

Like with most things, these are mere recommendations and are, in no way shape or form, requirements. Technically speaking you could walk in the front door of your LGS with nothing but the money to buy-in and have a lot of fun playing Magic. In fact, you might see a lot of this. However, there are items that you can bring to make things a bit easier on yourself, and your new cards.

Something To Drink

You’re going to get thirsty. Bring water. Stay hydrated, friends!

Basic Lands

As you know, booster packs do not contain enough lands to build a 40-card deck so you will need basic lands. Every LGS that hosts FNM drafts or pre-release will always have lands available as they expect and prepare for players needing to borrow lands.

That being said, it is entirely possible, especially on those busy nights, that the collection of available basics might not have exactly what you need left over. This isn’t going to happen a lot, and if it does, we are sure the store will be able to accommodate you. But if you’re anything like us and would rather have one less thing to worry about, just bring your own basics.

The cheapest way to obtain basics if you don’t already have some would be to literally ask someone at the LGS if they have any extra. Most paper MTG players are flush with basics and would be happy to hand them off. However, if you don’t mind spending a little money, basic lands of all kinds can be purchased for pennies each at sites like TCGplayer and Card Kingdom. That way you could get some of those fancy Pokemon Nyx Lands, Zendikar Full Arts, or Un-lands. There’s a ton to choose from for a little bit of bling.

We recommend bringing about 11 of each of the five basic land types, so 55 lands in total. In all the decks we’ve drafted we’ve never once needed to borrow lands. Why 55? While we’ll touch more on this later, sleeves come in packs of 100 and deckboxes hold 100 cards, and you’ll be drafting 45 cards. Math isn’t always just for blockers.

While it’s not high on our list of recommendations there is an official Land Station product from WotC that will give you 400 total basics (80 of each) for about $25, which is obviously way more than you’ll need if you’re needing them just for FNM, then again having a box is nice and it works well if you have need lands elsewhere.

Playmat and Sleeves

Statistically speaking, the cards you open in your 3-6 packs during a draft or sealed sit-down usually won’t exceed the value you paid. But, protecting your cards and having the tools at your disposal to do so, is well worth the investment, especially if you end up drafting non-standard sets like Modern Horizons II. Sliding a naked fetchland across the surface of a wooden tabletop next to sweating beverages will earn you plenty of concerned glares.

There’s isn’t much to choosing a playmat other than size, so it really boils down to what you find aesthetically pleasing. It’s easy to find a simple, plain mat for next to nothing or you can create your own custom one on sites like inkedgaming.com. It is worth noting that in some cases a “stitched edge” playmat can catch on the corner of cards, so remember to do your due diligence when researching potential buys. Additionally, we’ve found that buying a tube for your playmat keeps your playmat clean and makes it last longer. Also makes it easier to throw in your bag.

On the other hand, sleeves are something you should be very particular about. While there’s a million resources and reviews out there for the endless varieties of sleeves, we’re going to make it very simple for you and save you a lot of time: buy Dragon Shield sleeves. Rather than give you all the supporting evidence for this recommendation, we guarantee that if you choose to do your research, you too will come to this same conclusion.

Life Total Tracking

There are many ways to do this, but you’re going to have to pick one. This is one of the “musts” in terms of stuff you’ll need – keeping track of a life total is important and more or less a requirement.

Besides the ever-so-handy pen and paper (which is high on our list of recommendations for various reasons) everyone has the means to track their life total in their pocket at all times. Your phone. There are a ton of free apps to keep track of your life total which can do things like flip a coin, a d6, a d20 (super useful for AFR) and a bunch of other things. Want to remember what cards your opponent has after you sneaked a peek? Snap a photo! However, unlike pen and paper, phones do require batteries to run which, if you’re anything like us and constantly forgetting to charge, could run out which is the one downside.

A number of MTG players utilize something called a “spindown“, a 20-sided dice, to keep track of their life total. These are great because they are small and come with every pre-release kit. The downside is that spindowns only go to 20, meaning you’ll need a second if your life goes above your starting total. Additionally, spindowns can be accidently knocked over by careless hands and while this isn’t a common occurrence, it is something to keep in mind.

Before moving on there’s a very important note: a spindown isn’t a d20. While they may look the same, a spindown’s numbers are arranged in order so that you can “spin down” the dice to count from 20-1. This is why players will not and should not use a spindown to come to a random number and why the distinction between the two similar dice is important.

Counters and Tokens

Speaking of dice… As you’re aware cards often times require counters. While there are no rules about how what you may use for counters, tokens, and other non-card items, the general rule is that you and your opponent’s board state should be understood by one another. This means that things like counters have to be represented by something. Often times that something are dice since they’re small and very versatile.

Does a card have a +1/+1 counter? Set the dice with a 1 facing up. Keeping track of Planeswalker loyalty? Dice work. Generating a bunch of tokens? Snag that useless ad card and use dice to show how many you have. Need to roll for who goes first? Does your card have a trigger that requires a random outcome? Dice can do it all and is why nearly every player at your table will likely have them available.

While I’m sure you could find any number of dice that suit your aesthetic requirements, I can almost guarantee you could open up a dusty board game and grab a couple on your way out the door to FNM.


Last but not least is the deckbox. One of our favorite magic accessories. We could spend multiple articles talking about deckboxes, the variety, functionality, brands, the best, the worst, etc. It’s a subject you could pour endless hours of research into. For the sake of brevity and to stay on topic, let’s just say we suggest investing in one, especially if you’re planning on brining your own lands. A no brainer choice for price, construction, functionality, variety and style is the Ultra Pro Satin Tower.

You cannot go wrong with a Satin Tower. Since it can hold 100 double sleeved cards you can sleeve up your 55 lands (a great time saver) and have space for the rest of your sleeves. At the end of the night, you can fit your 45 new cards you drafted alongside them with room to spare. It has a removable tray at the base where you can fit your dice and spindowns to keep track of your life and counters. It’s extremely durable and sturdy; throw it in a backpack and you’ll never have to worry about it popping open or damaging its contents. If you don’t believe us, just listen to what Tolarian Community College (who have reviewed more deckboxes than any person should) have to say about it.


In short, here’s a list of stuff. Our stuff more specifically.

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