Burn Draft is a variation on standard booster draft, each player opens a pack and passes it along to the next player, but in addition to picking cards for their deck, they ‘burn’ some number of cards which are removed from draft.
The format is typically used for a smaller group of players to emulate the experience of an 8 player pod by drafting with a larger set of cards than necessary for the group and ‘burned’ cards emulating picks by additional players.
The draft follows the structure of a typical Booster Draft with a larger number of packs and cards ‘burned’ at every pick or specific points in the draft.
As a baseline, for 4 players: create 6 packs of 15 for each player (24 packs). Each player opens their first pack, drafts one card into their pool, and then removes an additional card from the pack before passing it to the next drafter. The additional cards are removed from the draft entirely. When no cards are left in the first set of packs, players open the next pack and repeat the process passing in alternating directions.
After the draft all ‘burned’ cards are set aside and players build decks and play games as normal.
There are many Burn Draft variations by many names which vary the number of players, packs, cards in a pack, and how many cards are burned with particular picks. Alternatively to removing cards with each pick, a number of cards at the end of a may be removed instead.
Generally the goal with variations is to scale down a draft designed for a certain number of players to a smaller group, so it makes sense to keep pack size similar, increase the number of packs per player, and burn a proportion of cards similar to the missing players.
Burn drafting is easy learn for players familiar with drafting and doesn’t involve any additional setup, making it a great choice for those nights where one or two players are a no-show.
For cubes designed to be drafted with a precise number of players and players expect to always have the possibility of drafting particular micro-synergies, burn drafting can allow a smaller group to draft the entirety of a cube while drafting normal size pools.
Some players also prefer burn drafting to give critical-mass decks a fighting chance (think Mono Red aggro in many classic legacy cubes), since they require a particular density of cards to be competitive.
Burn drafting introduces a new layer of complexity and meta decisions to the draft. This could be a pro as well, but this editor has not experienced anyone making burn picks with interesting agency other than a weird form of hate drafting. The result of this is often counter to the goals of the format, leading to cards that are leaders among synergistic packages or part of easily targeted micro-synergies get burned on a whim. The alternative form of burning cards only at the ends of packs rather than with each picks largely avoids these issues.