Pancake draft: cube draft for two players

Magic: the Gathering has been one of my favourite games ever since I learned to play it in 1994. When I was in highschool, I played a lot with local friends. However, when I went to university, our play group slowly fell apart and I played less and less.  For about ten years, I didn’t play Magic at all.

Somewhere in 2011, I decided to see if Magic was still popular, and it turned out that it was. I couldn’t resist, and started playing again.

I learned of an interesting alternative to Booster draft: Cube draft. Not having a big play group nearby, I investigated whether there are any good ways to draft with 2 players. There are some ways, like Winston draft, Solomon draft and Continuous draft. However, these drafts don’t give you the “pick one card from many” experience that Booster draft gives you.

My friend Merlijn and I discussed how to make a two-player cube draft format that is more similar to an eight-player draft in the “choose which card you want” stage. We didn’t want to choose between piles that contain relatively many junk cards, or split piles to have the other player choose which pile they want. After some testing with my Cube, this is what we ended up with. We call it the Pancake Draft.

Start by creating 18 “boosters” of 11 random cards from the Cube each.

The two players, A and B, each take one booster, 1 and 2, and choose one card from it. They draft this card to their card pool.

Step 1

Then, the stacks (now 10 cards each) are exchanged.

Step 2

Each player now chooses 2 cards from the stack of 10, that was opened by the other player, to add to their card pool. The stacks are now 8 cards each.

Step 3

The next step is for each player to choose 2 cards from their pile to put in the trash, face down. These two cards will not be used in the draft.

Step 4

Then, the stacks are swapped again, so each player gets their original stack back. There are 6 cards left in each stack.

Step 5

Then, each player chooses two cards to draft to their pool.

Step 6

Finally, the remaining four cards are put face down in the trash.

This way, each player drafts several cards out of several stack sizes: 1 of 11, 2 of 10, and 2 of 6. In total, each player gets 5 cards from each pair of stacks. 18 stacks means 9 times 5 equals 45 cards each. Add basic land and play with 40+ card decks, as usual.

To reach this, we went through a few iterations.

First, we tried having boosters of 9 cards. The first player picks 2 out of 9, then the second player picks 4 out of the remaining 7, and the first player gets the last 3. The main disadvantage of this method was that both players would end up with a lot of junk, which made it difficult to even build a reasonable deck.

Then, we tried boosters of 9 cards again, with the picks being 1 out of 9, then 2 out of 8, then 2 out of 6, and the remaining 4 cards would go to the trash. This made our decks significantly better. However, it was still trivial to read what your opponent was drafting. This made the draft boring and easy: just draft 2 colours your opponent is not drafting, and both players end up with tons of playable cards.

The “trash 2 cards” part after the second pick helps immensely with this problem. It serves two goals: obscuring what you picked, and allowing the possibility to hate draft cards that you really don’t want to play against.

We are happy with this two-player Cube draft format! It allows us to experience almost the “real” draft feeling even if it’s just the two of us playing.

There are some changes that can be made to the numbers involved. For example, playing 12 card boosters instead of 11. Or trashing 3 cards instead of 2. This might make the format even better. We are still experimenting with it, and would like to hear other people’s thoughts about that.

Have you tried Pancake Cube drafting? I’d love to hear your feedback in the comments!

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7 Responses to Pancake draft: cube draft for two players

  1. Minnie Moses says:

    This involves a little bit of math. If you just want to do eight-person drafts, then you’ll need three 15-card packs for each player. That’s 45 cards per player, for a total of at leat 360 cards. If you want to handle 16 players, you need at least 720 cards. My cube can handle 10 players, and I needed 450 cards to make that happen. I actually have 500, for variance.

  2. Zephyr says:

    Been running this format on and off for the past few months and it’s been pretty good. previously we were running grid and tenchester drafts (from mtgsalvation forums), and the hidden information from pancaking was a refreshing change.

    Have you come up with any improvements to the format?

    Thanks again.

    • Garion says:

      Glad you like it, Zephyr!

      Personally, I haven’t played it much the past weeks, so I don’t have any improvements yet. What about you? Do you have any suggestions for change or improvement?

      • Zephyr says:

        Funny you ask. We were starting to have issues with some archetypes since my cube is 450 cards and a standard pancake lets you see 198 cards which was causing some issues. So we tried a few variations. We increased the number of packs to 15 each but each only had 10 cards in it, drafting was as normal except that rather than picking 2 cards after the packs were passed you only picked one card each time, still discarding 2. After the draft we felt that signalling was a mess with this system as you were discarding more cards than you took so we tried again but only discarded one card instead.

        This worked ok but we’ve only done 2 drafts like this so far. Signalling is now a bit easier but only getting 1 card from your opponents pack leads to some really tough picks. Having access to 300 cards out of 450 does help as in the last draft I ended up with a very nice wildfire/burning of xinye/upheaval deck that chained gilded lotus into phyrexian metamorph into coalition relic with tolarian academy and Ral Zarek. Floating 20 mana into an upheaval is good times, it was basically a one sided wipe for my wife as I replayed everything I bounced. Likewise, she could have had all the tools for a nutty reanimator deck but didn’t jump on it quick enough.

        Will let you know if I get anymore ideas, but I am considering cutting my cube down to 360 cards so that it works better with your system. Pancake is probably my favourite way to draft with 2 people as it lets you see a lot of cards while keeping the information hidden pretty well.

  3. Vegechopd says:

    This format is super fun. I think it is one of the better two player drafts formats out there. It alows both players to have the feeling of drafting (much more so than winston/winchester variations). Only problem (if you consider it a problem) is that the decks are potentially much more powerful because both players inevidably end up in different archetypes without the worry of other players taking their pieces. This I admit is reduced a lot by the “trash” phase of the draft. I’ve only drafted a handful of times with this format but it is very well thought out. Thanks for posting this!!

  4. Tomas says:

    Tried this with a friend last night using cards from my cube ( ).

    We had a great time, it does a nice job of both being able to send signals via picks&cuts, and completely mis-read them as well, as you don’t know which they are cutting or picking, which seems like a nice balance.
    And as you stated, feels more like drafting than winston or Solomon (or grid).

    One thing I wish we had done is seperate the cut piles (2 cuts, and 4 end ofs) so that afterwards we could both have looks at the cards we were both actively cutting from the other player.

    Great format, takes a little while to set up but well worth it once underway.

  5. Chris says:

    I haven’t tried pancake draft yet but this sounds like a lot of fun. Will definitely try it this weekend.

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