Eternal Brews Retrospective: In Memory of Sweet Jank

Hello everyone, and welcome back to retrospective week!  As we prepare to enter into a new era of janky brews, it seems like a good time to look back at where we’ve been – not least of which because it might provide some insight to where we’re going.  Kinda like how we planned a retrospective week just before the launch of a set called Omens of the Past.

When open beta officially opened up, the Empty Throne set got one last massive overhaul, which cut or reworked a pile of cards and reduced the set to a slimmer, more focused version of itself.  We lost a few good designs, a lot of bad ones (like filler colorless cards that are now only played by AI’s), and quite a lot of cards that, well… let’s just say they were interesting.

As the preeminent “everything is good if you try hard enough” brewer here at RNGEternal, I played with pretty much all of these in some context or another, and I loved them all like they were my children (I did not, however, love all my children equally).  Because I’m excited about card design and because this week is retrospective week, I thought it would be a good time to talk about some of the old designs. I won’t enter the way-way-back machine here, but we will look back to the point after the NDA was lifted – which, lucky us, also happens to be when card gallery sites started saving images.

Now, most of these cards are never coming back, but in card games, assets and ideas rarely disappear forever. So, in addition to being a look at the wayback machine, we might be able to get a few speculative spoilers out of these cards for future sets – at the very least, expect to see some of the cooler art return.  For each card, we’ll have three focuses – what it did, why it died, and where, how and whether or not it will return.  These are just my best guesses, of course.

TL;DR: Psst.  Hey.  Wanna see some weird cards?

Retribution

Let’s start with one of the simplest – and also, one of the strangest.

What Did It Do?

Retribution is a fast spell, direct damage card in Justice, and I think the thing it really shines at is establishing Eternal’s unique take on that factions identity.  Justice in Eternal is a faction of law but not lawfulness, and order through tyranny as well as peace.  The result is that it pretty well recognizes that balance in the force can be achieved by killing all the Jedi and that the words Vengeance and Revenge usually mean exactly the same thing.  So a card that takes that full on attack into a Flame Blast, glares balefully at you from its two health position, and then murders you right back is a pretty good example of what you might call Justice.  Poetic Justice, even.

Why Did It Die?

While it’s flavorful as heck, Retribution is mechanically somewhat of a cheaty card, co-opting one of Fire’s shticks and then, er, Justifying it through the lens of the aggrieved. In MTG terms, it’s almost a Desert Twister – the cards just not supposed to do what it does, but it can because the faction’s flavor leans heavily into it.  Such a card is not good for showing off a first set.

In addition, it was clunky to play – requiring you to have six power, 3 justice influence, and to have recently taken a massive amount of damage without dying was a bit of a stretch.  Once you got up to speed, the card could be used aggressively with relic weapons – which was fun, especially if you were ramming your face into a monster creature with a Lifedrinker and then firing off a huge lifestealing burn spell out of nowhere.  For the most part, I think the card had eyes too big for its stomach.  So it went.

Will It Be Back?

Well that art for sure will be.  It’s one of the most gorgeous cards in Eternal, and I’d expect that art to pop up in Omens of the Past somewhere.  Retribution itself probably won’t reappear – too weird to predict for certain – but it’s interesting enough the design might be reworked into a much later set.

Crownwatch Commando/Sparring Partner

[insert joke here about how glad you are Rakano’s not good anymore]

What Did It Do?

Crownwatch Commando upended draft environments.  Sparring Partner upended ranked.

Why Did It Die?

Rakano has a lot of kit in The Empty Throne, and it wasn’t really looking for a lot more help.  Partner had a lot of issues, including playing well with Jito, being crushingly hard to kill for a 1 drop, and generally being a 5/3 with no additional card expenditure on turn 2.  Crownwatch Commando sort of had the opposite problem – it wasn’t amazing by itself, and in a field of good two drops like Overseer, Paladin and Outlaw, he just didn’t stand out enough.  Neither are bad designs, but they just didn’t play very nice with others in the Empty Throne.

Will It Be Back?

Crownwatch Commando is one of my biggest bets for a set 2 card, because he’s Argenport through and through.  Those abilities are relevant on an Argenport card, he’s got good synergies with current Argenport cards (for example, he’s a lovely carrier for Beastcallers Amulet), and if Rilgon is any indication, Hooru decks will care about weapons too.  I don’t know if Sparring Partner will return, but if he does, it might be with a point or two less in potential stats.

Slagmite Swarm

Who can forget Slagmite Swarm? The vermintide rises.

What Did It Do?

Probably one of the favorite cards axed for the Open, this wonky beast nommed up anything it could kill and incorporated it into its superstructure.  While buggy at first, it did eventually get to the point where suicidal attacks boosted it as it went to the void, meaning you could trade even with smaller targets and then Dark Return for some sick eats.  With the proper resurrection utilities, Slagmite Swarms grew to dominating sizes, often towering over the rest of the battlefield and eating Carnosaurs for breakfast.

Why Did It Die?

So why’d this one get axed?  Well, it wasn’t great for a start – hard to get it up and running, low on stats and not blessed with an abundance of recursion to get it going.  With more cards, it might have flourished, but it rarely graced most Stonescar decks in practice.

However, I think the primary reason Slagmite Swarm might have slipped this mortal coil was color identity – the Killer skill, as shadowy as it may sound, has actually changed hands to give Primal the hint of savagery its faction name implies (With the nixing of Avalanche Stalker, Shadow appears to have picked up Ambush in return).

That leaves Killer in two colors, both of which aren’t really Stonescars beat.  While the mechanics could spread out again in set two, it seems more likely that the ‘mites ain’t right for their color pair.

Will It Be Back?

Because of the appeal of its design, I think Slagmite Swarm will resurface again in set two – but if it does, my bet would actually be a Xenan take. If that’s the case, we may see it again in Set Two, making Xenan Cultist a lot more appealing.

Let’s move on to some jankier designs. Heals plox.

Force Field/Cocoon

What Did It Do?

Force Field is one of the weirder cards to exist, although it pretty clearly demonstrates a central conflict between opposing color pairs.  Note that its relationship to Refresh closely mirrored that of Magma Javelin and Charchain Flail, one offering bog standard stats at a lower influence requirement and the other requiring a slightly deeper cost for a flexible gain spell.  It’s an imperfect mirror, but it certainly creates a dichotomy.  The central weakness of this card is pretty obvious: if you use it just to gain life, you have no board presence, and if you use it to enhance your board presence, you’re likely to commit to a 2 for 1.  Still, if you ever wanted a wall of meat with a dozen toughness or more, Force Field was the card!  Cocoon also feels like a fun counter to Flame Blast after the fact.

I ignored both of these cards right up until the very end, when burn Queen decks suddenly became the most prevalent archetype and having some semblance of lifegain in your deck could actually be a solid option for the New Tomorrow ramp I often come back to in ladder. Playing Ironthorn or Ascendant into a power, then Force Fielding to defend against Obliterate or Flame Blast, offered a permanence of invulnerability against Burn and Armory that Protect could not.  The card could also be used in the late game on yourself to scale out of multiple burn finishers, and, as a personal favorite, cast at end of turn on a unit before following up with a Healer’s Cloak for entertaining numbers.

Why Did It Die?

Direct life gain is typically quite bad due to its lack of board advantage built, and this card generally lacked the flexibility of Protect for solving other problems.  Like most health gain cards, it proved to be a bit of a trap, and almost no decks wanted it.

Will It Be Back?

I think Cocoon has more of a chance of coming back than Force Field (and again, that art is terrific), but both seem unlikely.  It really depends on whether Set Two does in fact have a strong lifegain mechanic and how it interacts with big life spells (if it interacts with gaining lots of life, then maybe.  If it interacts when you gain life, then less so).  At the moment, there is already a gamut of health gain in Time, and that wasn’t even the last heal card to be axed!

Nomad Healer

What Did It Do?

You may recognize the art from this one as the art for Amber Acolyte.  You’ll probably also recognize what this design eventually changed into – Slumbering Behemoth, the laggardly midrange bomb of Jekk’s Bounty.  I’m not sure if I’ve given Behemoth due diligence yet – it ranks up with Hone in terms of cards that just haven’t found their potential – but Nomad Healer did see some play.  It was a perennial favorite for Crown of Possibilities decks due to its fate effect being a slightly more powerful version of the big dino’s.  In those games where you were stalled out and digging for answers with Second Sight, Nomad Healer could keep you above-board and come down every now and then to block tokens and Ronins.

Why Did It Die?

Lifegain cards being the traps they are, Nomad Healer was not terribly different.  It didn’t work in most decks and even in the decks it did it needed some love. The statline was pretty oddball – Behemoth’s is certainly better – but a little incidental healing goes a long way, and I recall some entertaining bronze league games versus monofire burn where I’d start at 31 health.

Will It Be Back?

Nomad has already been fully subsumed, which is a pity, but new designs could take its place some day.  I like Nomad’s fate effect a lot, and I’m kinda hoping someday that the lackluster Behemoth gets a boost up to 3. But since we’re fairly certain there will be life gain interaction in Set Two it may end up being valid in other ways.

That’s enough timey-wimey nonsense, though.  There’s some Feln cards I want to top the list off with.  Let’s talk about Di-

Unexpected Arrival

What Did It Do?

It made Scourge of Frosthomes.

Why Did It Die?

Unexpected Arrival is pretty playable fun, so I suspect this one might be a factor of space.  The card may also have been a bit too Hearthstone in design, relying on pure randomness in a way that, while fun, allowed only a slight level of control in terms of what you wanted to summon.  Burning an opponent to death with a 9 cost Unexpected Arrival for 6 damage was usually a high point in these matchups.

Will It Be Back?

I’d rate this one as low odds to return, but it was a favorite of LSV’s streams so it’s possible it could come back.  There’s nothing inherently wrong with the design, and with a bigger card file the chaos is less controllable and thus would make this card less likely to be a dominant RNG-only card.

I give it 0% odds.  That way it’s unexpected.

Push Onward

What Did It Do?

Bizarrely predict key scenes from Dr. Strange with alarming prescience.I was freaking out in the theater.

Why Did It Die?

Faction identity seems to be the key look here.  Spell cost reduction is now a Fire card ability, and Shadow appears to have all the selective digging, leaving Primal with looting and raw card draw. Not a bad deal, but we’ll be excited for Set Two to shore up the faction’s loss, as this card was so good as to be a four of in almost every Primal deck.

Will It Be Back?

Nope!  Scheme and Quarry now completely occupy this cards design space.  Quarry’s pretty much just as rad though.

Cabal Mastermind

What Did It Do?

The worst card to hardcast and the best card to Unstable Form, Cabal Mastermind was the greatest and grandest of the 7-drops, and responsible for many a concession by players facing down my Funstable form decks.  Shamanic Trancing (now Trail Stories) into Levitate into North-Wind Herald turn 1 and then Unstable Forming and stealing my opponents hand turn 2 was pulling from the dirtiest lucksack in Eternal, and while we only dipped into that well a few times over the course of our Eternal career, it was magnificent to watch every time.

One of the first Eternal Brews articles I ever wrote was Ironthorn Impossible, a four color monstrosity with an absurdly high winrate (I can claim this because no one can play it anymore).  The deck ramped up to 9, ate the opponents Harsh Rule or other attempts to kill Ironthorn, and then played an Accelerated mastermind to seal a game with style.  It also featured a notably expensive ten drop that we’re going to finish out on.  One day after I published the article, it ceased to exist. C’est la vie.

Why Did It Die?

This was another card that interacted poorly with most cards in the set, and the ones that it did interact with it cheated horribly.  A lot of legendaries are also on this list just to simplify the set; anything that didn’t fit well went away.

Will It Be Back?

As a card that trolls other players heavily with the right combos, I’d say its chances are low.  It’s another card that was negatively affected (in design terms) by the lack of other cards of its power cost.

I’ve saved the best (or at least, the most expensive) for last:

What Did It Do?

Kill two Temple Scribes, pretend to stun two Sandstorm Titans, draw a Lethrai Ranger from the void…

Just kidding, it does everything.  Dimensional Rift is a bananas card advantage card representing a total reversal of board and hand advantage for ten power.  It also has a cute obsession with twos.

Why Did It Die?

Feln already had two expensive, cool finisher cards in The Last Word and Channel The Tempest, and usually just wasn’t playing Rift.  The card also feels a little close to MTG’s Cruel Ultimatum, which didn’t make it a great representative of Eternal’s style.  Though, to be honest, I think the design might be even cooler.  You decide:

Cruel Ultimatum

Will It Be Back?

I certainly think so! The design was solid, it played pretty well, and it’s flashy and fun as heck.   I’m waiting eagerly for Rift’s return, in whatever form it takes.  The world needs more multicolored ten drops with abhorrent amounts of text.

That’s it for now – thanks for reading! Assuming Set Two doesn’t drop immediately, our next article will be a Scion’s School expanding on the concepts of color identity we talked about in brief here.  When Brews next returns, we’ll likely have some exciting Set Two brews for you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prosecutor-at-Arms says what

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