The way to have "draft" patterns is, as you correctly suggested, by disabling (un-publishing) the patterns you don't currently use.
Pattern ordering has different purpose. The first pattern in the order is not always used if it is "strict" (strict property set to "Yes"). A "strict" pattern is skipped if any of its parts could not be evaluated. Pattern ordering is actually a way to define the order in which patterns are evaluated. This ordering together with the strict property of patterns is one of the possible ways to have different patterns for different parts of your web site.
You can read more about strict patterns and pattern ordering in the user manual. Feel free to ask anything if the topic is still unclear.
Enless Soft Support Team