Howdy! The name’s Zoochz, and I’m the meanest drafter in these here parts.
For those of you that care about credentials, I’ll briefly introduce myself. In the few short months that I’ve been slinging sigils, I’ve aimed to make my way to the top the of the Eternal draft ladder, earning a berth in the top 5 spots over the last couple months. While I don’t really play any more, I’ve won a few limited Magic: the Gathering PTQs and top 8’d a couple of limited Grands Prix.
As my first article for RNG Eternal, it feels appropriate to provide more of a primer than anything. If you’re new to the drafting scene, this article is for you! If you’re a grizzled veteran, well, it might come across as rather obvious and shallow. Still, you may gain some insight from reading on!.
I’m going to spend today talking about each of the “allied” faction pairs in draft. I’ll look to give an overview of their main strategy, and try to note the powerful commons and uncommons that make up the ideal deck while noting the cards that I otherwise consider “traps.”
Let’s start with my absolute favorite:
Feln (Primal + Shadow)
Like many folks, Feln is by far my favorite faction pair to draft. In addition to being rather tempo-oriented–a facet that tends to fit my preferred play style–it also has copious amounts of removal, flyers, and aggressively costed creatures which are all factors that have historically been the hallmarks of good limited archetypes. Let’s elaborate.
Feln’s main mechanic is “Infiltrate,” a characteristic that encourages doing exactly what you want to be doing in draft anyway: attacking the opponent. Because the Infiltrate bonuses on various units are often quite powerful, Feln is the faction pair that punishes missteps and slow starts from the opponent more than any other. With incidental bonuses from cards like Lethrai Ranger and Yeti Snowslinger, a quick salvo can often snowball into victory. PUN INTENDED!
Feln also happens to have a metric ton of removal. If you have ever drafted before–be it Magic, Hearthstone, Eternal or some other game–you’ll know that removal is extremely important for victory. If you’re able to deal with your opponent’s threats, how are they supposed to kill you?! The importance of removal is a little more nuanced than that and is probably deserving of its own article, but trust me when I saw that Feln has access to some of the best removal in the game. Feeding Time, Deathstrike, Execute and Annihilate are all clearly draft all starts. Even Feln’s more situational “tier 2” removal spells–Lightning Strike, Suffocate, Violent Gust–are on par or better than other factions’ removal options.
At this point, you’d expect something like, “In exchange for this removal, Feln has relatively poor creatures.” Sort of, but not really. In the world of ground-pounders, the flyer is king and Feln’s ranks are filled with them. Flying is one of the most, important keywords that a creature can have in limited because they let you easily win an otherwise awkward stalemate. Again, presumably if you’ve drafted before you’ve experienced first hand the effectiveness of a flyer in a standoff. While many of Feln’s creatures are mediocre, there are plenty of solid bodies that let you create a powerful, removal-filled killing machine.
How to draft a good Feln deck: By far, the most successful Feln decks I’ve drafted have been tempo oriented. They prioritize aggressive low-cost cards like Lethrai Ranger and Twilight Raptor over “better” albeit more expensive threats like Sapphire Drake. They use cards like Jarrall’s Frostkin, Levitate, and Rapid Shot to push through damage rather than trying to win an attrition war through cards like Wisdom of the Elders, Argenport Ringmaster or Cabal Recruiter. Feln’s all about sacrificing a little bit of long term power for potentially game-ending short term gains, so if you’re trying to win the long game you’re going to have an uphill climb.
Combrei (Time + Justice)
Up next we have probably my next favorite faction: Combrei.
Unlike Feln, Combrei is about having the game go long. Its keyword, “Empower,” lends itself to a longer game since even otherwise useless sigils result in some sort of positive gain meaning its topdecks will be better on average than its opponent’s.
Also on the opposite end of the spectrum from Feln, Combrei has abysmal removal options. It’s relegated almost entirely to removal via relic weapons and creature combat, especially on the back of cheap fast tricks. Fortunately, it’s often able to translate tricks like Finest Hour and Teleport into de facto removal spells by pressuring the opponent’s life total and demanding an awkward series of blocks.
Despite this dearth of removal, Combrei tends to survive by racing opponents extremely well. Be it Karmic Guardian, Silverwing Familiar or Brightmace Paladin, suiting up one of these lifesteal creatures with a variety of buffs and weapons often leads to incredible life swings turn after turn.
How to draft a good Combrei deck: More than any other faction, Combrei decks tend to want a healthy amount of weapons in their deck to suit up their various units with. A good mix of flyers, lifesteal units, and big ground creatures help it whittle away at an opponent in the air or smash through several units on the ground. There’s a lot of filler in these factions to avoid. Initiate of the Sands, for instance, isn’t a card I’d usually want to run since it’s such a miserable late-game top-deck. The best cards are easily Awakened Student, Karmic Guardian, Fourth-Tree Elder and Brightmace Paladin. Notably, Combrei is the faction that can best capitalize on Ornamental Daggers due to having creatures with Warcry.
Elysian (Time + Primal)
This might end up being one of the more controversial opinions espoused in this article, but Elysian is merely “ok” in my book. While it sports some of the best parts of Feln–plenty of flyers, strong tempo-focused units–it’s paired with some of the worst parts of Combrei, namely its big creatures at the expense of removal. While I’ll still happily draft it, I almost always feel like it’s just a weaker Feln and/or Combrei deck since you’re leaning on the same tempo cards without the Infiltrate-infused payoff and the same big units, except none of them have lifesteal. It does have some strong Elysian-specific cards such as Pteriax Hatchling and False Prince to lean on as well.
Elysian’s biggest strength, in my opinion, is its ability to shore up some of those weaknesses via splashing a third faction. Be it for a Feeding Time or Karmic Guardian, Amber Acolyte in particular (and Find the Way to a much lesser extent) can enable Elysian to borrow the more powerful spells from outside of its faction.
How to draft a good Elysian deck: Don’t get caught up in the faction’s signature “Echo” synergies. While cards like Second Sight and Twinning Ritual clearly benefit from cards with echo or fate, if your opponent is putting you under any sort of pressure, the tempo loss is often too great to run these cards. If your opponent is playing a turn 2 Lethrai Ranger and you’re casting Twinning Ritual, whelp, you’re in trouble. Lean on the back of Elysian’s excellent flyers, Pteriax Hatchling in particular, while using defensive bodies to protect yourself.
Rakano (Fire + Justice)
Ah, we’ve come to Fire at last. While not “unplayable” per se, I generally steer clear of drafting Fire if at all possible as the faction has a lot of shortcomings.
For starters, it has almost no flyers. Unless you’ve drafted some rare dragon or pheonix, you’re going to have to go through the ground to win. Unfortunately, Fire’s ground units are also fairly lackluster. Compare Dusthoof Brawler to something like Towering Terrazon. They both cost the same, except one has sacrificed three stat points for a marginally easier casting cost and overwhelm. That’s maybe an unfair comparison since Dusthoof Brawler is clearly a miserable unit, but I hope it illustrates my point.
Its removal and tricks are also generally subpar. Again, compare Finest Hour to Rampage; you’re paying more for less. Overwhelm is a fine keyword, but it’s not worth double the cost and much lower chance of saving a creature. Even cards like Torch are merely okay. In constructed, sure, the cost-to-damage ratio is great and efficiency is paramount. When you’re facing down a Towering Terrazon or Karmic Guardian or 4/4 Lethrai Ranger or Fourth Tree Elder, would you rather have a Torch or a spell like Feeding Time?
All of this being said, Rakano isn’t the worst. Indeed, “Warcry” is an incredible mechanic that (like Feln) lets you translate an early bit of pressure into more pressure later on. It’s especially potent when you can pile a few warcry triggers on a weapon, relic or otherwise, as those tend to let a player truly dominate a board.
How to draft a good Rakano deck: Like Feln, the best Rakano decks I’ve drafted have been aggressive ones. Warcry only triggers on attacks after all. Because of this fact, tricks like Finest Hour and, yes, Torch, and Rampage tend to be rather important. Cheaper, more fragile relic weapons like Sword of Icaria and Magma Javelin are ok filler cards, but the real winners are the most robust, 6-drops like Stonescar Maul, Daisho and Ceremonial Mask. Probably the most important card in this archetype is, surprisingly, Rebel Sharpshooter. Innocuous at first, this 3-drop is able to really pressure an opponent’s life total if he gets even one weapon or Warcry boost. Take them highly.
Stonescar (Fire + Shadow)
Ah Stonescar. I’ll try not to belabor this point: Stonescar is bad. It has almost no flyers, and while its removal is fine (albeit worse than Feln’s), its creatures are pathetic, leading to it getting outclassed very easily and very often. It’s the weakest draft archetype by far and the one I go out of my way not to play.
The reason why is because the faction’s strategy is extremely synergy dependent. It’s keyword “Entomb” is all about reaping a benefit whenever a creature with that ability dies. Notwithstanding that benefit though–SPOILER ALERT–actively wanting your creatures to die is generally bad in limited. There simply isn’t enough payoff 99% of the time to take advantage of cards like Burn Out or Combust which means that more often than not you’re fighting a battle on an axis where you’re inherently at a disadvantage compared with other faction pairs.
How to draft a good Stonescar deck: My biggest piece of advice is simply “don’t,” but in case you’re hellbent on doing so, here we go. If you’re looking to go down the sacrifice-dudes-for-value rabbit hole, the absolute best card to draft is Madness. There’s very few feelings more satisfying than borrowing your opponent’s creature and then sacrificing it to Combust. At the end of the day though, I’ll note that it’s still merely a 2-for-2 trade in most cases.
When I’ve actually had success at drafting Stonescar, it’s been on the back of aggressive strategies that eschew the faction’s theme. Lethrai Ranger + Morningstar, for example, is an ideal pair that can win a game on its own. While just going wide is often a losing strategy, if you’re fast enough, you can turn that motley crew of Grenadins, Spiders and other one-drops into a W.
This article got a little long, but hopefully it can be a nice, comprehensive resource for those just joining Eternal. Feel free to let me know what you’d like to see moving forward. Until Set 2 drops, I’ll likely spend more time focusing on each draft archetype more specifically.
Tata for now!