Scion’s School – Building A Powerbase

Welcome back to Scion’s School!  Today we’re going to expand a little on our previous deckbuilding guide and go in-depth about a core deckbuilding feature that can often be a headache for new and older players alike – your power base.  This is knowledge I use both as a competitive tournament player and longtime fan of fun, often janky brews.  Whatever other cards are in your deck, an appropriate power base will improve the decks reliability and consistency – and thus, your winrate!

Drawing cards off a deck is always random.  Being good at card games is often a result of capitalizing on the benefits of this randomness and mitigating their disadvantages.  As you may have experienced, there are three key events we want to minimize in Eternal:

  1. Power Flood, or drawing power cards when we no longer need them.  Usually flood is the least offensive, as it makes many topdecks (including card draw) better.  But if it gets out of hand, it’s a real problem.
  2. Power Drought – failing to draw the power needed to cast spells in our hand in a timely fashion.
  3. Influence Lock, failing to draw power in the faction we need to play.

These things happen to everyone from time to time.  But by managing our power correctly during deckbuilding, we can greatly minimize the amount and severity of power screws, which leads to a lot more games where we get to do our fun strategies! First things first, make sure you have the Advanced Deckbuilding option checked so that Eternal doesn’t manage your power for you.

advanced-deckbuilding
It’s in the main menu under Gameplay Options.

Influence Fixing with Seats, Seals, and Banners

Let’s start with a quick look at influence fixing through the inclusion of your special power cards.  These are the ten Seats, the ten Banners, and the Diplomatic Seal.  These are not the only influence fixers, but they should be enough to demonstrate a few basic concepts before we talk about the rest in detail.

First off, Seats rank the highest in overall influence fixing.  They are almost always a “free” double influence power, which is to say, they have no Tempo Loss.  Tempo loss simply implies that, as a cost of fixing your power, you may not be able to play a card the turn you would normally be able to.  Every now and then, you will draw a Seat without a power in your hand, and you’ll have to play it depleted, missing your power for one turn before getting it back the next.  This is a rarity with Seats, especially when they’re the only special power card in the deck and we are more than happy to run four of these in any hybrid deck due to the more extreme cost of being influence locked.

Banners represent slightly higher tempo loss, due to their requirement – having a unit in play – being somewhat difficult to fulfill with consistency.  Most aggro decks are fine with stacking Banners on top of Seats, since they’ll likely have units down early, but they might miss a one drop due to drawing both Seats and Banners at the same time (or losing a unit before they can play the Banner).  Still, if they have double or triple influence requirements to meet, hybrid aggressive decks will play banners.  If you have triple influence requirements to meet in two colors, then you should run both Seats and Banners regardless of if you have sticky units or not – the fixing will be crucial for you.

Diplomatic Seals are an alternative to Banners – they never miss tempo, but they can miss influence.  They’re dead useful due to their ability to fix influence lock early, but they will not fix influence late.  Diplomatic Seals should be included in any deck that only has single influence costs in it, as opposed to doubles or triples.

The depth of your influence fixing should depend mostly on the frequency of your most complex cards and their proximity to each other in cost.  (If you’re a Magic player, note that the habit of counting mana symbols to determine how many of each color should go in a deck isn’t quite right here, because influence runs on a threshold system.)  Do you need to hit both Deathstrike and Wisdom of the Elders?  That’s a little tricky, but doable with small fixing. Feln Bloodcaster costs the same as Wisdom, though, so if you draw that one instead you basically need to be running both Seats and Banners, along with some other cards like Seek Power that we’ll talk about later.  But once you’ve done that, it shouldn’t be that much trouble to hit either Vara, The Fate-Touched or Eilyn, Queen of the Wilds at eight, because all of your fixing is already there.  On the other hand, throw in The Witching Hour and you’ve suddenly got a really intense need for a lot of fixers!

Start heavy, and then tune down a little bit to counter tempo loss – remember that you can run twos and threes once you’re convinced the base is stable.  The Rakano Pantsless deck, for example, runs 3 Seals, 3 Banners, and 4 Seats in order to keep tempo loss on Seats and Banners slightly lower while still providing tons of fixing.  This kind of light tuning is usually done during testing, but it can be ballparked if you’re very comfortable with it!

How Many Power Cards?

To prevent you from building a cheat deck that will constantly drought you, every deck has a minimum powerbase of 1/3rd of your deck, or 25 cards.  (There’s also a maximum of 2/3rds for the opposite reason).  Because this minimum/maximum system is in place, Eternal can also do something a paper card game can’t: guarantee you between 2 and 5 power on a redraw.  This is a helpful tool for super aggro decks with handfuls of 2 drops, as they will never get a hand that’s completely drought or flood.  However, for any deck other than blazing fast aggro, the 25 minimum is barely adequate.

We want to run somewhere between 25 (fast aggro) and 35 (very slow control) power sources, which include not just Power cards, but also cards that ahem seek power.

To determine the correct number of power sources, we need to identify the particular areas of difficulty for our deck.  This is based around our power curve – the cost of each card in our deck.  The maximum here is important: if we have seven or eight drops, the curve needs to be high in order to reach them.  But equally important is the frequency and the importance of all of our drops at three or above.  If a deck is heavily weighted towards 3 or 4 drops (the midrange archetype) then we will access less than half of our deck if we don’t draw that crucial third power, and 25 power does not cut it for this.  Likewise, if our deck needs a particular five drop to win, then it doesn’t matter how many of them there are – we need to plot around that number.

For example, an open beta Master Rakano deck that ran 4 Deepforged Plate also ran 29 power sources so that it could quickly curve into their bomb legendary.  Despite being a heavily aggro deck, the final damage push on Plate (and its synergy with a three drop, Silverwing Familiar) was so important that the deck fully supported it with its power base.   Most midrange decks also run at least 30 for cards like Cirso, Ironthorn, or Umbren Reaper, with a few more added in to hit six drops like Predatory Carnosaur or Infernal Tyrant. Likewise, decks that want to routinely hit Channel the Tempest will run 32 sources or more (it mostly depends on how many six-eight drops they want to hit).

That gives you a general graph – slowest control at 35, Midrange at 30, fastest aggro at 25.  Use this as an axis to guess at a particular number you need, then build the deck with that many power sources in mind.  (The draft axis is more like 16-21, with 15 being a pretty bad idea in most cases).

The only problem is, even if you’re a control deck, just running 35 power is actively terrible. Running this many power can lead to easy floods in games where you don’t draw your Channel, which is why most decks don’t just add in sigils and call it a day.  In addition to being flat-out boring, it’s also a weaker strategy than using cards that grab power from your deck.  These power-seeking cards, along with actual power cards, are called power sources, which is to say any card that technically draws you a power. The most common non-power power source is Seek Power, or as I have previously called it: The Most Important Card In Eternal.

The Most Important Card In Eternal

seek-power
The first question you should ask if you have power difficulties: Am I forgetting this card?

Let’s put this out there right now:  With few exceptions, every two-five color deck in Eternal should be running Seek Power, and about half of the monocolored decks should be too.   This is a card that Direwolf moved to the front of the card list just so that people wouldn’t forget to put it in – because they know, like you now know, that almost all decks work better with Seek Power in them.  Seek Power does three things for every deck it’s in:

One, it fixes influence really well.  The odds of drawing a hand without your chosen colors are significantly lower if you are running four Seeks.

Two, it fixes power drought really well.  Seek is always an extra source of power, and you actually have a slightly higher chance of drawing 2 power and a Seek than just two power alone due to the fact that it is not one of the maximum 5 power.  (A player named Arglebooster ran a 100,000 game simulation that showed hands with 25 power and 4 seeks outperforming hands with 29 power by three to five percent, which is a pretty major fix considering we use no extra card space)  Because it’s cheap, it rarely interrupts your tempo (aggro decks with lots of one-drops notwithstanding) and lets you develop the board at a normal speed a higher percentage of the time.

Three, it helps fix power flood really well!  Because Seek is a power source that pulls another power source out of your deck, the result is that your deck gets slimmer and you have less of a chance of drawing power later in the game.  This usually doesn’t hugely effect your ability to draw up to the highest cost cards.

If you’re an aspiring eye, you’ll note that we just named all three of the ways that your power base can majorly work against you.  Seek Power fixes all those problems, and it does so in a colorless card that fits everywhere and costs next to nothing.  It’s really that good.

The one weakness that Seek Power does offer – in a very small amount – is tempo loss.  Seek mostly only hurts if you run a lot of one-drops, which means that an aggro deck that wants to hit good five drops may instead choose to take the extra flood risk and run 29 power cards instead.  It can also sometimes be a topdeck that only guarantees your eight mana spell can be cast next turn. This isn’t an ideal situation, but is still better than not drawing the card at all.   Odds-wise, Seek Power is the fixing card where the benefits most often exceed the cost.  Remember that a slight trip in your tempo is better than a screeching halt!

Even monocolored decks can benefit from Seek Power over a common sigil, although they may be more inclined to use some cards with similar effects:

Favors

varas-favor

On the monocolored side, there are the Favors, a cycle of five cards costed at two that fix flood and drought, but not influence (although they do assist in getting two, three, or six influence cards going).  Each of these effects pulls a sigil of your influence color, once again helping you keep your deck slim and your power drops regular.  This effect would actually be OK on its own, but each also comes with fringe benefits for their cost.

The most powerful is Vara’s Favor, which frequently plays the role of hard removal, an aegis popper, the required point of life to survive to your combo, or just plain lethal damage.  Vara’s is the swiss army knife of Shadow and it’s a stunningly good card because of it.  Each of the others has its place too: Kaleb’s Favor pushes damage in a way that is crucial to Fire’s strategy, Eilyn’s Favor keeps you healthier against burn decks and protects you from powerful control effects like Rain of Frogs and Azindel’s Gift, and Talir’s Favored supplements token strategies and Xenan Obelisk based decks stupendously.  Rolant’s Favor stands in as the probable weakest, with its armor-based buffs being only efficient for relic weapon use – but it’s still a 2 health bonus on top of the fixing you needed anyways.

Favors are more common in midrange decks (and even some tempo) and slower, due to their cost. They do represent a heavier disruption of tempo than Seek Power, and if the side benefits they develop are of no use to you then you’ll be better off with Seek. Still, don’t overlook them when you are putting decks together, as they again give you better odds against both flood and drought and that makes the minimal strength of their bonus effects entirely worth it.

Monuments

amber-monument

Now here’s an interesting one:  Monuments counteract flood hard, because as soon as you hit the range where you would flood, they immediately take 4 power directly out of you

r deck and replace them with useful cards.  Due to this, they’re actually a little stronger than Seek power in combating drought, which makes them great in monocolored decks (as they offer no influence fixing for dual colored setups).  The power level of the cards is again varied – the 5/5 Rhinarc stands in as the strongest with the 3/4 flyer and 4/1 charge unit both offering passable benefit to their colors strategy.  The 3/3 gemblade has a specific style of deck it wants to fit into (ironically the opposite of Rolant’s Favor), and the Puma probably stands as the weakest drop due to its overall weakness to removal.  Because they have the same tempo loss as Seek, they are not used that much in hyperfast aggro decks, although you might get away with 2 or so to effectively lower your minimum power count.

The main reason not to include monuments is that they make it harder to hit drops above 5 due to immediately putting your deck at -4 power.  If your deck wants to play anything higher than six, there are a lot of situations where it will want a power more than it wants a unit it can cast.  Monuments also have the same tempo disruption as Seek Power, making them iffier in decks that want perfect tempo.

Remember, Monuments are fixers first!  If you have a hand with two to three power in it, play the Monument on turn 1 so you don’t incur tempo loss.  Monument Greed is a great killer of card game players.

Strangers

These guys are the bread and butter influence fixers in Draft, and it’s pretty clear why – they offer no interruption in tempo (just a slightly weak card for the cost) and fix influence in the same way a seat or banner would.  Strangers have a ton of uses in constructed decks both due to their potential on-tempo fixing and the way that they “stack” influence fixing in a turn, allowing you to achieve three influence by turn 2 and easily hit some of the tougher marks for low cost and high influence cards like Midnight Gale or Champion of Cunning, Progress, and Chaos.   Aggro decks don’t like paying for them, especially since they don’t help them get unstuck or reduce flood chances, but most other archetypes can slot a few in if they have some really tough requirements.  Strangers are almost required for 5 and 6 influence marks, and they make five-color decks a legitimate possibility, though it takes a lot of tuning.

This is still more of a gag than a fully legitimate deck due to the minimal number of cards that benefit, but I’m personally a huge fan of using Strangers, Seats and Banners to construct three-color, entirely monocolor decks with only one type of sigil.   They hit a few splashes in their side colors while still playing 1-2 Justice influence a turn for Mantle of Justice, or accruing more Fire influence than power for a disgustingly strong Flash Fire.

Draw Effects

levitate

If you’re encountering too much flood in a deck with heavy card draw, you may have forgotten to factor in your draw effects in calculations.  Remember, 1/3rd of each deck is power, and everyone’s guaranteed to have a hand of two power to seek around.  So if your deck contains small draw-one effects that cost 2 or less, like Levitate, Temple Scribe, and (weirdly enough) Pilfer, each of those cards can be considered as about 1/3rd of a power source for the purposes of counteracting drought. This may not seem like much, but it makes a difference to your overall power calculation, which allows you to squeeze in more cards where you almost shouldn’t. Temple Scribe in particular is dramatically underutilized as a fixer card.

Decks with huge draw effects, like Wisdom and Ancient Lore (but not Smugglers Stash), can also count those as half a power source or so – but only if there’s at least enough power in the deck to hit them with regularity, so factor with care.  This is the reason why most control decks don’t ever actually seem to have as high a power count as you think, and high-draw decks get away with some criminally low power numbers.

Alternate Power Fixers

privilege-of-rank

If you’re in Time, you’ve got a lot of these.  Justice has one: Privilege of Rank, a card that is absolutely gorgeous for deck thinning and hitting high power counts, but needs a reasonable amount of power in the deck to hit it on time.  Ignore the discard effect for a moment – if you’re not doing anything on three, Privilege of Rank is not a bad card to cast, especially if you’re the type of deck that always wants to Harsh Rule on 5.  Usually we don’t count Spire Chaplain as a fixer since its effect is not immediate and therefore not reliable, but if your deck revolves around it, you can probably cut the count a little.

In Primal, you have the draw spells we discussed above to fix.  You can also slightly overshoot on overall power sources in order to fix drought and focus on cards that throw them away to fix flood, like Blind Storyteller and Whispering Wind.  Bonus points for discarding your Privilege.  Fire and Shadow have less of these by design, mostly relying on hyperefficient threats and getting other factions to do the lifting in this area.

Voice of the Speaker is a bit of a trap, because it doesn’t increase your chance to draw your third power (or whatever your next power drop is after you play it).  The doubling effect will make that eventual draw a good fix, but you can be just as stuck on power before playing Voice as after, and if it gets removed, you won’t see any benefit from it at all.  To make matters worse, it also increases your chance to flood out, creating useful power up front but not thinning your deck out of less useful power for later.  That isn’t to say the card doesn’t have a specific role – it has one in Empower decks, Vodakhan combos, and other decks that really, really like flooding and run enough power to not worry about drought.  But you should avoid this card for general fixing.

Amber Acolyte is a Seek Power on a stick that’s well worth it in three-color decks due to the body being aggressive enough to be useful.  Due to its minimal tempo loss, I highly recommend it if you’ve got Time.

Secret Pages is weird, because it only fixes as well as a Seek Power, represents a significant loss in tempo at 3 cost, and then delivers slightly better tempo due to the ramp effect.  It’s as likely to bite you as Voice of the Speaker, so have a strong plan for this one and don’t just include it as a base fixer.

Finally, Initiate of the Sands is a legitimately powerful ramp card, which can often allow you to skip your two drops straight to the midrange core of your deck.  It will die before it hits eight drops usually, so don’t add it to your count if you’re trying to cast Channel, but think of it as at least half a card in fixing in other situations.

Tuning

OK, so we’ve picked all of our power sources, and we have a basic number in mind.  Did you know Eternal has a Sample Hand feature?  You can access it by clicking on the graph button and looking at your decklist.  Now click it.  Click it click it click it.

OK, look at that hand.  Does it have a plan for the next three turns?  Is that plan a good one?  What if you redraw?  How does that one look?

Do this a couple of times, be as fastidious as you want to be.  If you hit too many droughts or floods in a row, something might be off with your count.  If the hands look by and large OK, take them into games, and start playing!  Keep track of the first ten games or so – if your power works badly against you in one of them (especially influence lock or drought), something might be amiss.  If it happens twice, somethings probably amiss, and if it’s three or more, you should definitely go back to the drawing board and scoot some cards around.

A lot of the very best players keep spreadsheets of this kind of stuff, but it’s not necessary to be competitive as long as you have a good feel for how often your deck is working against you.  Just note down when you lose a game to power problems, and keep an eye out for the tilt effect, which says that you will likely think that number is twice as high as it is due to the memorable frustration of that event.

No matter what you do, there’ll still be times when you have a bad run.  Take a few deep breaths and remember that sometimes poker players have the higher straight, XCOM Rookies have 65% aim and Ragnaros can hit face on a 1 in 8.  Chaos is a part of all games, but you’re keeping it to a bare minimum here.

Go Forth and Conquer!

What a mouthful!  That’s it for today.  Remember:

  • There are four points of failure to strike a balance with: Influence, Drought, Flood, and Tempo Loss.  Balance these costs based on what your deck needs.
  • A small stumble in tempo is better than a big fall.  Deal with the big three first – put the fixers in!
  • Don’t forget Seek Power, basically ever.
  • Seriously though Seek Power is the best
  • A Sample Hand in the… hand is worth two in the… something.  You can tune your decks before they go horribly awry!

And may the deck stack ever in your favor!

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