The Evolution of Drafting

The Very Beginning

Draft was added as a new way to play Eternal as the centerpiece of Patch 1.8.2 on May 27th, 2016. Incidentally, this patch also returned Ranked to a single game format after a one week of Bo3 ladder gameplay. For the first month, people experimented with a variety of builds and strategies as they explored the format. Asynchronous drafting was a new experience for many players, and figuring out the top archetypes took some time. However, as we moved into the second and third week, a single piece of advice took hold.

Force Rakano no matter what.

morningstar

At the time, Rakano cards were head and shoulders above what the rest of the factions were doing. At the time, a very common opening was Oni Ronin into a 2 power 3/2 Morningstar, giving the Rakano player an attacking 5/3 Warcry on turn two. And I do mean common, as at this time both of those cards were common. Forcing Rakano was a very successful strategy at the time because of the power of the low rarity cards. You could get a top quality Rakano card fourth pick even if the other three players took Rakano cards as well! With so much Fire and Justice in the format decks skewed around it, prioritizing early defense and removal. In some ways, it was a foreshadowing of what was to come in Constructed just a few months later.

Initial Balancing

deathstrikeFortunately, things didn’t stay like this forever. Patch 1.9 on June 29th shook things up for draft, changing the stun mechanic to its current form and changing the rarities of a number of draft cards. By far the most impactful changes were Morningstar (then still a 2 power 3/2) and Elder’s Feather shifting to Uncommon, and Deathstrike shifting to common. Rakano decks were able to find their premium weapons far less frequently in draft. There were still some great Rakano decks, led to the power of the average Rakano deck being much lower. Stonescar decks, especially Stonescar sacrifice decks, really took off during this time period. At common, they had access to three premium removal spells (Deathstrike, Execute, Combust) and could quickly end games with burn from Torch and Burn Out. Rakano’s weapon based game plan fell in value as Shadow players had so many ways to remove the unit, no matter how large it got. Primal decks also got a nice boost this patch, as Static Bolt moved down to common, allowing you to actually collect multiples.

The First Pick Order

Patch 1.10 went live on July 28th and had a couple of card changes intended for constructed that incidentally affected draft (Unlock Potential and Madness got worse, Combrei Healer got slightly better). Five days later, on August 2nd, the first ever Draft Pick Order went live. The pick order had been developed in collaboration with a number of then-top players over the course of two weeks. The pick order was experimental and not comprehensive, as it ranked cards in a vacuum and didn’t include any Legendary cards. However, it served as a starting point for many players and slightly warped the draft format – highly rated cards started to go earlier, low rated cards started to go later.

However, Stonescar continued to be the favoured deck until Patch 1.11 on August 17th. That patch included a number of constructed changes that unintentionally modified draft, as well as some draft centric changes. Morningstar and Reckless Nomad both received nerfs, further weakening Rakano draft decks. Stonescar lost its grip on the format when Deathstrike returned to Uncommon and Burn Out received a cost increase.The loss of its cheap, plentiful removal, combined with the growing power of Combrei and Elysian decks nudged Stonescar off its throne. Both Jotun Hurler and Avalanche Stalker also received buffs this patch, giving Primal decks a nice boost.

Modern Day Drafting

Players adapted their draft strategies during this time, and splash cards became more popular. There was less incentive to draft aggressive decks and more incentive to go over the top with powerful cards. Both the standard aggressive archetypes had had their teeth pulled and removal was back in a reasonable spot. Players began to favour TJP decks that were primarily Time based but played powerful cards from Justice and Primal. Accelerated Evolution really took off during this time. With many players favouring a late game board stall plan, flying became very important to break through or stall enemy fliers.

Patch 1.13 released on October 20th and contains the only remaining card changes of note. Feln got five of its cards improved, while Combrei got an improved Amber Monument and a “side-graded” Combrei Magister. Rakano got nothing substantial while Stonescar only improved due to better Shadow cards rather than direct buffs. Players continue to favour Elysian and Combrei decks as the best archetypes, while Feln decks along with the occasional strong Stonescar deck make strong showings. Rakano continues to languish at the bottom of the pile due to almost all of its powerful cards residing in high rarities.

The Second Pick Order

Which brings us to today. I can’t believe that it had been over four months since I’d updated the pick order. A lot has changed during that time, and I’ve been remiss to leave it this long. However, I’m happy to finally bring you all a comprehensive Pack One, Pick One pick order for draft that includes ALL the cards you can see in a draft pack. So much time has passed that I took a totally fresh look at all the cards rather than updating the old pick order. I expect a hearty discussion as to why this card is slightly better than that card, but please keep in mind that cards are evaluated in a vacuum and the pick order is intended as a rough guide only. With that in mind, I look forward to seeing how draft changes in the future!

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