Scion’s School – Faction Identity

Hey everyone, and welcome back to Scion’s School!  The monocolored event is coming up, so today we’re going to talk a little about color identity.  There’s a lot to unpack here – more than one articles worth, most like – so I’m going to get right into it.

In Eternal, cards are divided up into a wheel of colors – the faction wheel.  As one of the games most Magic-like elements, the faction wheel does a couple of exciting things:

First off, it provides specific identity to cards based on their color type.  If you see a red card, you know that cards pretty likely to be about being aggressive in some way.  If you see a Time card, you know it will probably have something to do with being tough and huge.  Color pairings define what a card can or can’t do – it’s strengths and weaknesses.

Secondly, it divides the cards by these identities to limit – but not prevent – cross-play of cards.  The primary idea here is to create variance – to prevent every player from just picking the one best set of cards and glomming into a single deck.  Instead, there are multiple good decks, each strong against particular decks and factions but weak to others.

There is an inherent balancing mechanism to the faction wheel that tends to keep the game stable even when mistakes are made in designing cards.   When a good card is printed in a game with no inherent barriers to play,  can make the game feel stale and repetitive, if not strictly unfair to those who don’t like the card. If you know of the Hearthstone meta when it was bad, you can understand how important this kind of division is to keeping things healthy. For example, the Patches the Pirate combo was once played in over 50% of all Hearthstone decks – 4 cards out of a 30 card deck, in 1 out of every 2 decks.  Good cards can be played in many decks, but if they are played in too many decks, the meta becomes very unhealthy.

Finally, the faction wheel adds a new resource system, increasing the level of strategy of the game at a deckbuilding level as well as requiring new tactical decisions inside the game.  While limiting the effectiveness of any one true deck, the faction wheel still maintains an anything-is-possible mentality: You can play any card in the game in your deck, as long as you’re willing to pay for it.  While the power system maintains when in the game a card can be played, the faction system is more about reliability – are you going to be consistently capable of playing that Feln Bloodcaster every third turn when you draw it?  Can you really activate both sides of a Champion of Wisdom at opportune moments while running Fire cards in your deck?

This is just a handful of things that the faction wheel does for the game, and the deeper you understand how it interacts with the game at large, the better off you will be.  Today we’re going to focus on the simplest part – the identity of each mono-colored faction, what it’s good at, what it’s weak at, and where to take it.

Fire Cards

Fire is the color of creation and destruction.  Most Fire cards tend to demonstrate some form of violent upheaval, from the rather literally volcanic to the hot-tempered and rebellious units under its command.  As creation, Fire is all about the beauty and power of the forge – of melting steel to your whim, of building machines and weaponry from scrap. You can see these subthemes in its units: on the creative side, the tricksy mechanical goblinoids known as Grenadin and the samurai-influenced Oni forgemasters; on the destructive side, gunslingers with a wave of fiery spells and the rebel factions of Icaria and Kaleb. 

The emphasis on pure destructive force makes Fire the premiere aggro color – if a deck is red, it’s fairly likely to be aimed at the opponents face.  It also means that Fire is one of the easiest colors to pick up and play with; it also means that it can be one of the trickiest factions to build slower control decks around (not bad, per se, but requiring good game sense and an understanding of risk-reward).  Fire decks do not look ahead very often, so if you want them to have a future you have to plan well for it.

Fire decks are great at:

Direct Damage (Burn)

Aggression

Weapons and Relic Weapons

Destructive disruption (smashing attachments, directly damaging units)

Fire decks are NOT great at:

Defensive strategies

Efficient statlines

Key Skills:
Quickdraw, Overwhelm, Double Damage, Charge, Exhaust, Entomb, Deal Damage, Reduce Spell Cost, Spark

Aggressive fire decks pull out all the stops to kill you, capitalizing on multiple efficient 1 and 2 drops.

Justice Cards

Justice is the faction of order, both in brutal tyranny and civic unity.  It emphasizes the lawful axis across the sprawling city of Argenport, which encompasses most of the factions but is often best represented by its citizens and guardians in green.  The Auric vaultlords, the Tinker craftsmen, the silver-winged Valkyrie, Rolant and his complement of enforcers and thugs – everyone’s here to keep things civilized, though your mileage may vary.  

Justice is a very straightforward, no-nonsense color in terms of what it wants to do, and tends to play a balanced board of units with no particular strengths or weaknesses.  It’ll punish your opponent for getting too big or having too many skills, build constant advantage through smart and well-reasoned play, and generally reward you for having a keen tactical eye and good game sense.

Aggressive Justice decks build off of Warcries and efficiently costed flying units while protecting these units from shenanigans with Aegis effects.  More to the midrange, these decks transition into weapon and relic-weapon focused strategies while still keeping a good mix of offense and defense.  At the top, a suite of silence effects plus Harsh Rule and Vanquish make Justice a strong control color choice with the biggest board reset in the game.

Justice cards are great at:

Board advantage through reliable, incremental gains

Flexible, evenly statted units and weapons that can balance offense or defense

Efficient flyers.

Relic Weapons

Fixing power (but not influence)

Silence effects, “balancing” weird board states, punishing risky play lines.

Justice cards are NOT great at:

“Tricky” lines of play

Card draw.

Interacting with the hand, the void, or your opponents relics.

Key Skills:  Aegis, Armor, Flying, Endurance, Empower, Lifesteal, Warcry, Draw/Discard, Invulnerable To Damage

Primal Cards

Primal is the faction of nature, both in pristine beauty and savage fury.  Of the five factions, it’s probably the least developed lore-wise, but still has a number of unique and splashy things going for it.  Due to the existence of cards like Wisdom of the Elders, Second Sight, and Herald’s song, Primal is an established control color with a lot of available advantage engines and internal synergies.  They tend to be very good at inevitability, whether through airborne threats that resist killing or repeatable spell effects and card draw meaning they always run out of cards last.  Primal cards are the masters of flight, whether mounted on cloudsnakes or as one with the winds themselves, and the majority of their cards support flying strategies.

As a color, Primal is one of the best supporting factions, and is also a premiere control color due to its wide suite of card advantage and answers.  Its removal tends to focus on transformative effects like Rain of Frogs, Polymorph and Unstable Form, leaving something on the table but dealing with threats at hand with a degree of finality and certainty that other colors lack.  It can also stun units at a cheaper cost, which again targets most everything (Endurance units excepted) but only delays their advantages.

Primal cards are great at:

Drawing cards and hand advantage.

Answering diverse threats through reactive play.

Well-statted flyers and evasive cards that are hard to kill.

Organizing and assembling combos.

Primal cards are NOT great at:

Early aggression

Proactive board development.

Answering Relics

Key skills: Stun, Flying, Echo, Ambush, Aegis, Negate, Copy, Fate, Transform, Infiltrate, Draw, Discard, Mentor

Time Cards

Time is ostensibly the faction of learning and discovery, with the intimation that knowledge is the key to true power.  If you have issues with this line of reasoning, you can talk to the enormous horde of dinosaurs that this faction have somehow managed to secure at their beck and call. This may feel like an anachronism (and it literally is!) but consider:  Time players are the pokemon trainers that read all the strategy guides.  They specced Vermin because it was the munchkin thing to do.  

Though they have names like Student or Mystic, they’re far more Harry Dresden than Raistlin Majere, with a physicality that looks to mix martial arts with magic.   Their oldest and wisest are Talir and Marisen, two hefty 8-drops that flood the board with scary threats.  Most of their ancient secrets will beat you down with bravado, and even the cards that aren’t sky-scraping Sentinels, towering Titans or destructive Dinos can take a hit and pack a punch.

In short: Don’t mess with the brains.  They know enough to bring the brawn.  And they will throw the book at you!

As a color, Time decks reward slow, patient play and tend to keep a good defense up at all time.  As one of the greedier colors, Time decks love to get a lot of bang for their buck in terms of card cost to stat ratios, and boast some of the largest units in Eternal.

Time cards are great at:

Size advantage and enormous, stompy units.

Defensive or counter-aggressive play that promotes longer games

Ramping and fixing power and influence

Relic superiority

Time cards are NOT great at

Fast aggression

Spell-focused strategies

Spell-based removal

Key Skills: Ambush, Deadly, Echo, Endurance, Empower, Overwhelm, Killer, Silence, Gain Health, Maximum Power+, Reduce Unit Cost, Play/Draw From The Void, Lifeforce

Shadow Cards

Shadow is the faction of ambition, instinct, subterfuge and subtlety.   

As a color, Shadow is disruptive and good at messing with your opponents plan, whether by stealing, killing, or discarding the key pieces.  When playing proactively, it takes risks, playing units with drawbacks for power, and expects you to understand the weaknesses of a particular plan and build to protect those weaknesses.  Aggressive shadow decks sacrifice health for better board state.  Controlling decks sacrifice board state for power and cards.  Shadow makes ruthless trades for every kind of advantage, and tries very hard not to pay the bill for those advantages when it comes due.

Eternal’s shadow cards are particularly notable for their ability to plan ahead using cards like Quarry and Scheme.  They’re very good at digging the right answers out of either your deck or your void, and will even discard cards from their deck to have their pick of the litter.

Shadow cards are great at:

Disrupting and interacting with your opponents board, hand, and deck.

Utilizing the void as a resource.

Digging through decks for exact answers or combos.

Sacrificing resources for extreme gain.

Shadow cards are bad at:

Making efficient units with no downside or risk involved.

Defensive play.

Resisting silence and disruption.

Key skills:  Quickdraw, Lifesteal, Deadly, Entomb, Flying, Unblockable, Infiltrate, Steal, Look at/Discard the Top X Cards, Play/Draw From The Void, Revenge

 

That’s it for today – we should be revisiting this topic soon to talk about the alliances, and oppositions, of each color pairing.  See you soon!

One thought on “Scion’s School – Faction Identity

  1. You missed a whole bunch of the new keywords, including Warp entirely, Revenge and Mentor in Justice,Spark in Primal, and Lifeforce in Shadow. Also, I have to question the wisdom of writing this sort of article right before a large change to the card pool. Faction identities are almost certain to change to some extent with the new faction pairings; we now have Justice able to interact with the void through Revenge and Shadow at least ostensibly able to play defensively through Lifeforce, which are two of the weakenesses you outlined for those two factions (I know it’s through a pairing, but the new keyword cards have come in on both sides of the pairing, not just on dual-faction cards). In addition, who knows what sort of nerfs or card changes might hit with the new set? It seems foolish to me to write an article that will likely be outdated in two weeks.

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