Scion’s School: Getting Started IV (Drafting)

Welcome back, folks!  Now that you’re all (hopefully) familiar with the ins and outs of Eternals first three modes, its time to cover the mode with the greatest risks and the biggest rewards:  Draft!  Eternal drafting is (if you’re an efficiency junkie) the best place to spend your free-to-play coin, and with a potential top end of three Diamond Chests (plus four packs worth of hand-picked cards), it’s well worth the price of admission.  First things first, the specifics:

Drafting Basics

Eternal drafting is a 5000-coin per play format of Eternal where you construct decks out of individual packs of cards and play them against other human beings until you either win seven games or lose three.  To picture a draft, imagine sitting in a circle with 11 other players, each with 4 packs of 12 cards in front of them.  You open a pack of cards, pick one card out of that pack, and pass it to your left. From your right, you get a new pack, this one with a card already picked out of it.  You pick and pass cards until they are all gone, then open a new pack, pick a card out of that, and pass it to your right.  The third pack goes left again, the fourth pack goes right again, and once you have drafted all 48 cards, you can build a 45 card deck (with space for some 15-20 lands).

Eternal’s drafting system is actually only a simulation of this system – it uses picks made by players in the past to determine what gets handed to you in the present.  But it’s close to the real thing – the packs coming to you on your first and third packs are still being passed by the same real person, and your second and fourth packs not only come from another real person, but a person who was passed cards similar to what you passed on your first and third packs!

One important note – you keep all the cards that you pick, forever.  At a 5000 gold entry fee, you will be given a number of cards equivalent to four packs, plus a guaranteed two silver chests (about 500 coins + two uncommons).  If you just pick rares, uncommons and premium cards with no respect to the games you are about to play, this will end up being better than buying packs virtually 100% of the time on a dust-gold ratio.  In addition, it’s a great way to fill out your favorite decks by “forcing” or deliberately picking cards in that deck’s factions.

Still, it’s likely you’re going to want to draft to win!  Not only is Draft an exceptionally fun format where almost anything can happen, but each win upgrades your prize – first up to three chests, then subsequently upgrading each chest in turn – until you reach the maximum of three Diamond chests.  With these Diamond chests containing enough gold to buy back into Draft, you will have essentially turned a profit of 3 packs, 48 cherry-picked cards, and 3 premiums.  Draft offers the best potential rewards and one of the most fun experiences in Eternal, so give it your best!  The rest of this article will focus on some early tips to get started in building your collection out through this format.

What To Prioritize

Most decks in Draft need a little of everything to consistently hit seven wins.  Here are the main things you will need, listed more or less in the order of importance:

  • “Bomb” cards – something that can dramatically swing the game in your favor.
  • Large, evasive units
  • Removal or soft removal – Kill spells, Silence, Ambush units, Stun effects.
  • Influence and power fixing cards.
  • Card advantage.
  • A decent power distribution or “curve” of cards. 

Keep in mind that all of these things are relatively equal considerations in building a deck.  We pick the bombs and removal first because they’re the least likely to show up later in the pack while fixing and 2 drops can be tremendously undervalued and will usually get passed to you in the middle to late end of a pack.

Bombs/Big Evasion

 

Bombs are cards that massively swing the board in your favor, either by stabilizing your board from a position of terrible disadvantage or turning an evenly matched fight into a massive blowout.  It can be a little hard to define a bomb due to their effects being transformative and unusual.   Crystallize is an impressive bomb – it locks down the board for two turns, wins stalled games and damage races decisively, and is entirely one-sided. But so is Thunderstrike Dragon, which is a tanky unit that provides card advantage, evasive damage, enormous size and excellent synergy all in one package.  Bombs are often a factor of rarity because rarer cards can’t be easily planned against – many legendaries are bombs, but not all.  It shouldn’t matter too much what your personal definition of a bomb is – if it usually has the potential to win (or just un-lose) a game for you all on its own, you’re gonna want to grab that card before you fill out the staple cards that make up your average deck.  Draft decks can survive without bombs, but having a few of them always helps!

Even if they’re not specifically bombs, there is a category of cards slightly below that which will still rank higher than other cards – large, evasive units.  Specifically, Horsesnatcher Bat, Fourth-Tree Elder, Worldpyre Phoenix, Sapphire Dragon and Rolant’s Honor Guard all rank pretty highly above even most removal, because they are impressively difficult threats to deal with who will close out a game of their own volition if unanswered.

Removal/Tricks

Torch.png

Removal increases the level of interactivity you have with your opponent’s strategy, allowing you to delete crucial cards at crucial moments.  Removal is probably the most important type of card to prioritize due to the sheer variety and scope of potential threats to your deck.  There are many cards that demand removal – perhaps the most obvious example is Order of the Spire, a simple 1/1 unit that can, over the course of multiple turns, double up to a gigantic 999/999.  

If your opponent suits up an Endurance, Flying or Lifesteal unit with a giant weapon – if they play Oni Quartermaster and have built a deck full of attachments – if they set Argenport Ringmaster down on the board and you can just see them hovering over their Levitate – then you are going to need removal cards to keep your deck strategy intact.   Removal cards are the great equalizers and the final gatekeepers on your opponent’s deck – they decide what cards get to trade with your units and which do not.

A removal card represents damage as well, getting rid of blockers at important times, allowing you to flit through with infiltrates and surprise your opponent at the end of a game with a sudden swing.    They keep the other player’s best cards in check, support your own units as they swing, and just generally solve problems.

Fixing

As you’re picking, you’ll likely settle into a color pairing that works best for you, with a potential splash of some kind.  The signal you send in your first pack will determine what gets passed to you in the second, so you’re even more likely to get cards in your colors (but not guaranteed) if you strongly signal a specific pair.  Like in Forge, allied pairs offer very strong hybrid cards (although, with Set 2 releasing June-ish, that won’t be true for long) but most of the time your color pairing will be decided either by your personal style or by the bombs and removal that you find early.  Regardless, monodrafting is not likely to get you enough cards, and dual-color drafting has some inherent reliability, so influence-fixing cards can be extremely important.

A lot of sites (including this one) publish articles sorting cards into tiers – S, A, B, C, D.  I’m reluctant to do that sort of sorting because cards vary strongly by synergy, but, hey, let’s talk about an A card:

Feln Stranger.png

Here’s the thing: you are going to be playing 7-9 games of cards to get to your ultimate goal of Diamond chests.  In those 7-9 games, there is a higher than average chance that you will lose at least one because you didn’t pick up a Stranger.  You’ll know that game immediately when you see it: you’ll have a hand of cards that you don’t particularly like, choose to redraw, and the resulting hand will have a host of power in exactly one color of your deck.

All of your cards will be the other color.

What if, instead of running into this situation at an average of (what feels like) once a draft, you could easily turn that instant game loss into a win by picking up a basic high-synergy two-drop that you needed anyways in the draft stage?

Strangers dramatically increase the number of hands that you can keep due to having both of your required colors, and dramatically reduce the number of games you get locked out of due to poor influence.  They’re also great with other Strangers, great against your opponent’s Strangers, and good at setting up your colors respective Champion cards (all of which are especially strong Draft picks).  Their stat line is stone average, but it’s big enough to defend you against early aggro and push damage against decks that ignore their two drops.

It’s also a good idea to pick up Banners in your colors, and Seek Power (the most important card in Eternal) if you get lucky enough to see one!  Influence fixers are not the cards that you need to win, but they are the cards you need to not lose, and I cannot stress their importance enough in making sure your early turns never turn a 7-0 draft into a 0-3.  Influence fixers are especially relevant because they can open you up from two-color decks into three and four color decks while still playing all of your cards reliably.  This allows you to pick much higher quality cards, since there will always be something good passed to you.

Card Advantage

I’ve talked before about this concept, but to go over it again:  card advantage is anything that increases the amount of material you have in hand and on the board in comparison to your opponent.  The person who has the most card advantage:

  1. Has a wider variety of options than the opponent to choose from
  2. Will be favored to win given an otherwise equal quality of cards, because they will continue to have cards after the opponents hand and board has exhausted or stalemated.

Four examples:  Wisdom of the Elders is the most basic card advantage card.  You play it, you draw two cards, now you have one more card than you started with. Wisdom of the Elders is a top pick in draft for exactly this reason – it’s always worth two cards in value, and represents only a small amount of power spent extra to get this effect.

Subvert, on the other hand, represents the exact same amount of card advantage.  You play it, and you steal one of your opponents cards.  Now you have +1 card and your opponent has -1 card – what’s more, if you play it at the right time (typically after your opponent misses a power drop) you will likely take a very strong card that your opponent is as of yet unable to cast.  Subvert is slower, but is actually a more powerful effect than Wisdom due to its disruptive nature – assuming you don’t cast it into an empty hand.

Harsh Rule is also a card advantage card!  Playing it onto a board where your opponent has three units and you have one means that your opponent goes down 3 cards and you go down 2.  Unlike most removal, board sweepers can generate enormous swings in card advantage.

Finally, a card like Furnace Mage or Outlands Sniper can also represent card advantage.  They get rid of opposing cards while leaving something on the battlefield that your opponent is usually required to spend cards to deal with.  These cards can be valued extremely highly because they are both removal and card advantage.

Any card that offers 2-1 card advantage is a high pick in Draft.  There are some good 1.5’s too, like Unstable Form or Jotun Hurler, which generate weaker than average cards in multiples that can be used to smartly whittle away at your opponents overall card count. All other things being equal, the person with the most added value in the most likely to win.

Synergy

We list Synergy and Curve last not because they are unimportant but because they do not strongly influence your first picks.  Your first picks are all about getting the best cards possible for any deck you might want to build.  But once you have enough of these, you have to start thinking about what kind of deck you want to build.

First, the broader strokes.  Are you a fast tempo deck with a lot of aggression?  Then you need to stack a lot of combat “tricks” like Rampage and Rapid Shot.  Does your deck have a lot of infiltrate units?  Cards like Flash Freeze and Levitate are much stronger in those decks.  Did you end up picking up a LOT of big units in time?  Initiate of the Sands, Sauropod Wrangler, and Secret Pages all will help you get to that.  These cards are all reasonably strong on their own, but if there’s no cohesion between the cards you’re picking they’re not worth as much.

Some more specific examples:  Treasury Guard is a middling 3 drop unit in most games.  But if you pick a weapon heavy setup with cards like Protect and Safe Return, he’s more often than not an unstoppable monster who will dominate the board.  Karmic Guardian and Silverwing Familiar are middling drops that happen to be some of the most significant bombs in Draft when paired with any number of stat-boosting cards like Ageless Mentor or weapons.  Second Sight is a card that ranks between borderline unplayable by itself and one of the best cards in your deck with Static Bolts and Echo units.  Gorgon Fanatic and Direwood Beastcaller are decent plays, but it’s Haunting Scream and Levitate that makes them truly terrifying.

As your draft progresses, the exact value of cards will change from any prescribed tier list you might have.  Eternal has a surprisingly high volume of playable cards if you leverage the right synergies, making even the jankiest decks into contenders.  Look for these synergies, and weigh that added value into your picks!

Curve

One of the easiest ways to lose a game with a deck full of bombs and legendaries is to run into these two cards:

These are tempo snowballs.  They’re not big beaters, they have only average stats, and they’re easy to block, zap, or snowball away.  But if your hand has nothing to play until turn 4, and your opponent plays Ronin 1 or Lethrai Ranger 2, you are already intensely close to losing the game due to the massive swing in advantage they represent from being ignored.

There are two major schools of thought that are common in draft – one is the one you see here, the tempo deck, and it’s loaded up with cards like District Infantry and Bladekin Apprentice that want to reduce your health to 0 before card advantage starts to matter.  The other deck expects that, due to the minimal amount of removal and the difficulty of getting a perfect aggro curve in draft, the game will go long.  They want to win out on the quality, not the speed of their cards.  But in order to do that, they still have to put up at least a rudimentary defense against this kind of rush strategy, which means that every deck should have at least eight units between 1 and 2 power to set up a defensive or offensive line in the early game.

1-2 drops are the most important cards because they are the cards that you can always play off of a mulligan, regardless of how little power you may have drawn (the guarantee is 2-5).  If you miss a power drop or two, these are the cards that will keep you alive, so weigh Scaly Gruans, Bold Adventurers, and of course, the many Strangers as required pickups at some point in your draft.

Beyond that point, you want to have enough cards at 3 and 4 that you can comfortably play out all of your power on those turns and efficiently use each turn to establish new advantages.  These will make up the bulk of your deck – the value cards that can be played down early enough in the game to make a difference.  Finally, in the 5+ range, your deck should start to thin out and focus on just a few good cards that can significantly influence the game.  If you pick too many of these drops, your hand can become loaded with dead cards in the early turns, leaving you extremely vulnerable to the tempo decks.

Occasionally you can cheat your curve, but it’s a lot harder to do than in a ranked game.  For example, if you happen to pick up three Lightning Storms, you’re probably pretty safe from your opponent’s early game units and can focus on grabbing 3 drops and higher to weigh out in the late game.  Sweepers like Harsh Rule and Plague also influence the curve towards the higher end a little bit.

Building the Deck

OK, the hard parts over.  Now to kill your darlings.

You have 45 cards in your deck, and they’re probably mostly of the colors you actually want in your deck.   Just like in Gauntlet and Ranked, the minimum deck size is the strongest configuration that you can make – that means that at least fifteen cards have to go to make room for your minimum 15 power.  But 15 power isn’t really enough – not unless your deck is full of two drops and doesn’t really need to hit five or six very often.  The better average to be shooting for a balanced deck with a few good heavy drops and a lot of 3 cost cards is 17-18 power sources, including Seek Power and the Favors.  That means only some 26 cards will be making the final cut!  This part gets a little tough.

There will always be a few cards that are easy to pick out as weak links.  Once you’re done with those, look to the following guidelines:

  • You typically need to play a lot of units – 18 or higher, typically in the 20 range for a strong tempo deck.
  • Remember to keep your curve intact!  It might be worth ditching a mediocre value drop at four if you only have a few two-drops, and even if you have a lot of good drops at six-eight, consider cutting some if you don’t have a plan to live that long.
  • You want to keep any fixers you have picked up.
  • If you have a lot of good cards to go through, you might be able to make your deck more reliable by cutting a tertiary color, even if one of your best cards is a splash.

When you’ve got it down to your bare minimum, give the old “Sample Hand” feature a twirl.  It’ll give you a good feel for how your deck plays and expose inconsistencies that you might have missed.

Playing the Deck

Like everything, practice makes perfect here!  The better you get at Eternal in general, the better you’re going to do at Draft. There are a few major and minor differences here, so we’ll try to delineate them:

Expect the expected.  The vast majority of bombs in Draft are commons and uncommons, with a few rares.  Don’t spend time worrying your opponent has Harsh Rule, worry that your opponent has Fourth-Tree Elder.  Learn the common fast-spell and ambush tricks: Torch, Rapid Shot, Finest Hour, Scorpion Wasp, Teleport, Storm Lynx, Lightning Strike, etc – and try to read when your opponent is holding them.  Be fearless – the card that foils your plan may not only be unlikely to be in the opponents hand, but in their deck.

Your hands can be lower quality than they are in Ranked.  Remember, consistency matters here, and the nightmare scenario is to throw back a hand with most of the cards you need only to be confronted with four red sigils and three Knifejacks.  Strongly consider keeping anything with three power, both influence, and a playable card.

Hold onto your removal if it doesn’t cost you too much to do so.  Like you, your opponent may have picked up a limited supply of bombs.  You want to match up your removal to your opponents best cards, not the ones that they play first. (likewise, bait removal with less powerful units when you can!).  Play every card like it’s your last.

When your opponents deck is slow, use your health as a resource against your opponent.  Sometimes taking a small hit to establish a unit or Subvert a crucial card can be worth it over removing a middling threat.  If you’re the aggro deck and win the damage race, it won’t matter how close you got to death.

Closing it out

Aaaand that’s a wrap!  We’ve at least scratched the surface of how to play a good draft – a topic we might come back to in more detail someday.  I hope this series has been helpful in giving you the broad strokes needed to learn and excel at Eternal.  Best of luck out on the battlefield!

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s