Welcome back to Scion’s School! Today we’re going to talk about an oft-requested topic: the inexact science of redrawing a hand.
A key factor of skill in card games is the ability to reduce or mitigate the damage of randomness on any one particular plan. As much as our opponent, chaos is the enemy of our strategy. Everything that we can do to reduce the impact of randomness on our lives will substantially improve the percentage of games that we win. This isn’t about eliminating randomness entirely or winning every game – indeed, most Master players have a winrate of about 60%. What it is about is having the best possible chance to win a game due to our own decisions in deckbuilding, play, and that scary initial choice of what hand to keep.
We’ve covered mulligan rules at RNG Eternal before, but here’s a quick primer:
- Your first hand is always completely random.
- Your redrawn hand will have 2-5 power, meaning it will always have at least two power and/or two playable cards.
- Seek Power and other spell cards that we grab us power sources from our deck will not count towards this limit.
- You get to see who goes first while making redraw choices. That player won’t draw a card on his first turn, while the player who goes second will.
The Three Turn Plan
Since we can’t just look at every hand of cards in Eternal and say which ones are right and wrong, we need a broad rule of thumb to help us make decisions. Here’s the one I use: For every hand of cards that you are looking at, we need a plan for turn one through three. We don’t need to do something on every turn, and we don’t have to do something amazing with those turns. What we do want is to know that, at the end of three turns, we have done something to influence the game in favor of our deck. At least four of our cards should contribute to this plan in some way.
A good three turn plan has the following qualities:
- Your three turn plan should support your deck plan.
- Your three turn plan should survive first contact with the enemy.
- Your three turn plan should not rely heavily on drawing a particular card.
1. Supporting Your Deck
The first question we need to ask ourselves is: what does our deck do? If it’s an aggro deck, the only good three turn plans are the ones that create aggressive, early threats and keep them alive. For example, a Rakano Warcry deck is only going to keep a hand that has 1-2 cost units in it, preferably several. The Stonescar Maulers deck focuses heavily on removal as support for its units, so naturally, it wants to play a unit or two worth supporting and have some amount of removal to back it up.
If we’re a slower control or midrange deck we care more about two things: playing a power drop each turn, and living long enough to see our late game. Remember, a lot of aggro decks can kill you in four to five turns. Plopping a Sandstorm Titan on turn 4 is powerful, but it isn’t necessarily going to save us if we did stone nothing for the first few rounds. Likewise, playing cards like Harsh Rule on turn 5 allow us to have a very thin three turn plan, but we still have to play something or we are almost guaranteed to get smacked down by aggressive decks. Keeping hands with stall units like Temple Scribe or Talir’s Favored or helpful removal like Permafrost or Lightning Storm is crucial to getting to later game cards. We don’t keep a hand with two Channel the Tempest; we throw it back and expect to draw that card later as part of our decks strategy.
If we’re a combo deck, our overall deck plan is going to involve assembling and defending the combo. We should consider hands that have at least some of those cards as part of our three turn plan, as even without playing them, we have made progress towards our goal by keeping them. But again, we still need cards to defend the deck and progress the game into a position where we can play that combo. Be careful keeping combo hands unless they have what you need.
Regardless of what kind of deck you have, there are a lot of obvious indicators that there isn’t have a good plan:
- Hands with two power and only 3+cost cards.
- Hands with 3 or more high cost (5+) unplayable cards.
- Hands with 5 power or more and nothing to build to.
- Hands with only one influence color. Building your influence supports your deck later!
Our first three turns should set the tone for what’s to come. Influence and power need to be in a place where we have enough to play most of our cards. We typically need to play at least one unit, and it’s also very helpful to have at least one card that screws up your opponents plan. Speaking of:
2. First Contact
As fond as we are of Von Moltke, our basic battle plan should always be designed to survive first contact with the enemy. We need to know what hurts our deck in the early game – whether it be an aggressive curve or a quick removal spell – and keep some sort of answer to that problem in the back pocket.
Removal in Eternal is common and expected. We shouldn’t play a hand that only does one thing and not expect it to get messed up somehow. For example, say we have an aggressive hand with three power, two Torches, an Oni Ronin, and a Hammer of Might. At first glance, this is on the raw end of OK – it’s got some removal, which is a helpful part of your plan to aggress, and the Hammer at the top is probably going to be ready since your first three turns will be playing power. So we keep that hand, plop the Oni Ronin down on 1, and – boop – it gets hit by a Torch, a Permafrost, or perhaps most insultingly, a Snowball.
Suddenly, we’re not an aggro deck anymore, and the whole battle plan goes south immediately. If we’re on the draw, we might have a 3 in 4 chance to draw a new unit and get your Warcry roll started. If we’re on the play, the odds of finding a two-cost card are practically a coin toss. This stumble is very bad for our deck plan.
Now, if that Ronin were a Crownwatch Paladin, this hand becomes perfectly keepable because Paladin usually survives at least one spell. With the torches in tow to clear blockers and set up your warcries, we can easily get our aggro roll started with this card or force our opponent to blow two good removal spells on it. That isn’t to say it’s impossible to kill, but it’s likely to cost enough resources or time that developing the card will have been worth it. Likewise, playing a Champion of Chaos as our only unit with three influence of a color behind usually makes a decent plan, since only Vanquish tends to kill it early. Playing it as a blank 3/3 means we’re likely to lose it immediately.
In most aggro situations, the real solution here is to have multiple units so that the first, and hopefully even second, removal don’t send you grinding to a screeching halt. Aggro decks want redundancy in their early hands.
If we’re playing a slower, mostly unitless control deck, it’s not removal that bothers us, but an aggressive curve. If the opponent’s play is Oni Ronin, Rakano Outlaw, Valkyrie Enforcer, how bad does our situation look at the end of three turns? If we have a Lightning Storm and a Lightning Strike, maybe not too awful. If you have Levitate, Wisdom of the Elders, and a Whispering Wind, it’s completely miserable. We should have at least one piece of removal in our opening hand – probably even two.
Think about what commonly hurts you and whether or not you have a response to it. You don’t have to have a hand of perfect answers to keep, but you do need to mitigate the potential damage a deck can do if you want your initial hand to transition into a fully fledged gameplan.
3. No draw-or-fail scenario
“This hand is awful, but it’s really good if I just draw-” No. Throw it back. If we’re looking for one card in particular out of a 4-of set, we have less than one in five odds of seeing it in the first three turns. If it’s a particular influence we’re looking for in a two-color deck, it is less likely than a coin toss we will get it by turn three on the play.
In fact, let’s assume we have 68 cards left in our deck (75 – the initial hand of seven) and we need something by turn 3.We can use a card calculator to estimate these chances. Here are some rounded odds – remember, we’ll get three draws if we’re 2nd, two draws if we’re 1st in the first three turns:
A specific unit or spell (4 sources)
- 1 draw: 6%
- 2 draw: 11%
- 3 draw: 17%
One of three 2-drops OR a splash color influence (12 sources)
- 1 draw: 18%
- 2 draw: 32%
- 3 draw: 45%
A common influence (17 sources)
- 1 draw: 23%
- 2 draw: 40%
- 3 draw: 54%
Our third power in a super-fast aggro deck (23 sources)
- 1 draw: 30%
- 2 draw: 52%
- 3 draw: 67%
Our third power in a slow control deck OR a unit in a super-fast aggro deck (30 sources)
- 1 draw: 44%
- 2 draw: 69%
- 3 draw: 83%
This is why we rarely if ever keep hands with one power, or two power hands with a bunch of three-drops in them. Even at 69% odds, keeping a hand with two power and nothing to play in control is an abysmal idea since we have a 31% chance to completely fail to get to our mid-game. Cards like Inspire or Levitate dramatically increase the keepability of these hands due to the extra draw they provide, although they also make visualizing your initial plan more difficult.
Gambling too heavily on cards is one of the most common reasons a new player will feel their deck is against them or the power system is unfair. That hand may look great in principle, but if it’s pass or fail on the draw, you need to weigh that risk very carefully!
Beyond the first three turns
The primary reason we want to focus on the first three turns is because your hand is going to change quite a bit with each card you draw and with each play your opponent makes. As such, the overall picture of the game in your head – everything you can imagine to happen – can only extend so far. But what about the 4-drops and above, cards that don’t factor into that plan? There are bound to be a few of them in every hand. And as long as there’s only a few, that should be fine!
Have a decent picture of what your board and hand looks like after three turns when considering bigger cards. If your early plan looks healthy enough to carry you into the mid-game, that’s a good sign! You can hold onto a card or two in excess.
The easier that you can play cards that aren’t in your three turn plan, the more often you should keep them. If you know what you’re going to do on turns 1-4, your plan is the best you can possibly make it based on your initial information. If you’re not sure what you’ll draw for turn 4 but know your turn 5 is a doozy, that’s still pretty great. Ease of play isn’t the only weighing mechanism – if a card is important, like a combo piece, you may want to keep it even on a thin hand. If a card is harder to play but very important to your overall deck plan, you should keep it as long as you have at least some early game.
Every deck should have a plan, and every plan starts with a few key turns. Whatever those key turns look like for you, make sure your hand can support them! Bad luck can happen to everyone, but a good plan will limit the role of luck and lead to a better, brighter game for you. Choose well, choose wisely, and we’ll see you next time for Scion’s School!