Dead Last Picks
Often this is unavoidable since so many picks can be dead. However you can do something to extract maximum value by planning ahead. For example in a 3-player game, once you get passed a 4-card pack, you need to realize that 1 of those cards is going to be your last pick. Let’s say the last four cards are:
chopsticks, salmon nigiri, 1maki and egg nigiri
Assuming the maki is irrelevant, taking the salmon might seem like a no-brainer, but that pretty much ensures that your last pick is going to be chopsticks. If you take the chopsticks instead your last pick is probably going to be maki, or maybe the egg nigiri if another players finds the maki useful. In the mean time you can probably still get some minimal value from the chopsticks in the next pack. Just something to keep in mind. When you get a pack that is (numbers of players + 1) one of those cards is going to be your last pick. Plan around that.
Memorize the Packs
The most fundamental drafting skill is to remember what you have already seen. You have 100% information after you have seen all of the packs. Have you ever said “I hope there is a 3rd sashimi” after you have seen every pack at least once? If you have, you have some practicing to do. It’s easy to just take what you need from a pack and pass it. But if you want to get better at this game (or any drafting game) you need to try to store as much pack information as possible. Obviously you can play Sushi Go and never memorize the packs, but this is about winning right?
There are only 10 puddings in the entire deck. In a standard 4-player game your group will draft 96 cards, thats 88% of all the cards. That means statistically, you should see 9 puddings total in a 4-player game. Because the pudding stay in play throughout the rounds, you can get a pretty good feel for what to expect. For example if one 1-2 puddings end up out after the first drafting rounds, the pudding concentration is going to be higher than usual in packs 2 & 3. This information is slightly less useful in a 3-player game since only 81 cards are seen, but still relevant.
Don’t Over Eat Maki
Remember you only need enough maki to be first or second. You cannot be MORE first. I often see people taking 1maki over other cards to “secure the lead” when they already have 7 and no one else has more than 3. If you are leading the maki race you need to be diligent about keeping track of how many maki exist in the pool. You probably already first-picked the 3maki right? Do you know how many maki you passed? After you have seen every pack you have 100% knowledge of how much maki exists. Taking other peoples picks into consideration, you should be able to deduce exactly how much you need to stay in first. Do that. Do not just start taking all the maki to make sure.
Wasabi or Chopsticks!?
I realize I said “Always” first pick both of these items. But what if your pack has one of each? Well wasabi is more powerful because it will usually score you 6 or 9 points. However there is a chance it will miss the good stuff and only catch an egg for 3. Chopsticks on the other hand will get you a more modest 5-6 points, but they will never give you 0. It is probably a matter of style. They are both excellent picks.
Understanding Deltas (Know the Score)
A score delta is the difference between two scores. Reducing or increasing a delta (depending on which side you are on) is just as good as gaining points. For example if you have the option to take a squid nigiri for 3 points, or hate-draft a single sashimi for 0 points to block the player to your right from making the sashimi combo you need to consider the delta. If you take the nigiri you gain 3, and he will gain 10. The delta between your scores is 7 (you might call this -7 since you are losing). Now what if you took the sashimi for 0 points, and your opponent takes the nigiri for 3? Well now he is only +3 points on you. A much better outcome for you.
But before you get all excited about your epic block, you need to make sure it helps you! That is where knowing the score comes in. You can’t just play deltas in a 3+ player game because crushing player A might put you behind player B. In the above example if you were in 2nd place, and the player to your right was in 3rd place and your delta with him was already +15 then letting him have the sashimi while getting a +3 with the player in 1st is the better play. Or, if you are in last place (which you shouldn’t be if you read this guide) then you probably shouldn’t worry about deltas very much at all and just try to draft maximum points. The whole delta thing gets really complex when you are trying to figure out pudding… What a headache.
The point is, you need to know the score. You need to know what position you are in relative to your opponents. That information will tell you if you should draft for points, or draft to block your opponents.