Drafters’ Corner: Evaluating Cards and NEW Draft Tier List!

Hi everybody! One of the hardest things to do when drafting is evaluating cards and deciding which card is a better pick. So, for today’s article, I’m going to talk about how to evaluate cards and release a new tier list for people to refer to! It’s at the end of this article though, so for the lazy bums busy people, you can find the tier list here. I would recommend at least reading through the paragraph above the link on how to use the tier list.

When trying to evaluate a card, I adopt a four-step process:

  1. Does this card pass the Vanilla Test?
  2. How good is this specific card’s text and effect?
  3. How well does this card perform on each of the quadrants?
  4. How well does this card synergize with my deck?

The Vanilla Test

recipe-image-legacy-id--44893_12This is a term that came from MTG (as did most of the other terminology that we use in Eternal!). For those unfamiliar with MTG terms, the Vanilla Test is essentially evaluating the card’s base stats without consideration of any specific text. For example, Minotaur Oathkeeper and Steadfast Deputy would have the exact same score on the Vanilla Test since their base stats are identical.

For eternal, the average base stats that you would expect at each power is as follows: (Stat points refers to the sum of the unit’s health and strength)

  • 1 cost: 3 stat points
  • 2 cost: 4 stat points
  • 3 cost: 6 stat points
  • 4 cost: 7 stat points
  • 5 cost: 9 stat points

On top of just pure stats, the distribution also matters. For example, you would much rather have a 3 cost 3/3 unit instead of a 3 cost 4/2 vanilla unit because the latter trades with any 2 power 2/2, a common sight in draft. In general, a card that passes the vanilla test (and with no drawback text) gets a B- rating minimum.

Specific text and effect

However, there are also other cards that are fail the vanilla test, but still get higher rating due to the power of their specific text and effect. The effects can be broadly classified into the following:

Evasion: Card with unblockable or flying, and cards that grant those two effects will generally be extremely highly valued. These units provide additional means of navigating around board stalls and can easily swing the game in your favour despite having slightly weaker bodies. For example, Stormcrasher is a highly rated pick despite failing the Vanilla test.

Card Advantage: Two types of cards fall under this catergory. Firstly, there are units with the echo keywords, such as Pteriax Hatchlings and Twinbrood Sauropod, which effectively gives you 2 playable units in a single draw. Secondly, there are cards that are able to replace themselves by their summon effect, for example Ornate Katana and Amber Acolyte. Cards that can generate card advantage are also highly valued in draft. As an illustration, Smith’s Hammer is D Tier while Ornate Katana is B+ Tier, and the only difference is that Ornate Katana replaces itself.

Battle Skills that affect combat: There are a broad range of battle skills that can affect combat. Given how unit-centric most draft games are, good combat abilities are extremely important. In my opinion, quickdraw is the strongest combat ability, followed closely by deadly. Both keywords make it extremely difficult for the opponent to block favourably. Endurance is also a great keyword, allowing you to swing and block with the same unit.

Aegis: Because of the rarity of spells that interact with opposing units, I tend to value aegis much less than other combat abilities. Units are much more likely to die to combat rather than removal spells. Thus, a big unit is almost always better than a smaller unit with aegis. The only exception is fliers. Aegis on fliers is extremely valuable because there are some decks that rely solely on removal and silences to combat fliers.

Silences: Silence is an extremely powerful mechanic in draft because it is able to answer both fliers and units with strong keywords or text. Given how most units with strong effects fail the vanilla test (for obvious balance reasons), silencing any of those units can effectively remove them from the board.

Stun effects: While not great in constructed because the roles of beatdown and defender is obvious, many draft games do turn into races where a single stun on a critical blocker can snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Even if you are on the defensive, stunning an opponent’s attacker can buy you a crucial turn or two to draw into your answers.

Other effects: There are many other effects that I did not go over, but the evaluation I used for the above cases will still hold true. Thinking about how effective the text is and how and when it can be used can provide a good idea of it’s rating in draft.

The quadrant theory

The quadrant theory is another useful idea that came from MTG. The principle is to evaluate how good a card would be at each of the following points in the game:

  1. Developing stage
  2. When you are ahead
  3. When you are behind
  4. When you are at parity with your opponent

Ideally, you want cards that are good in multiple quadrants, if not all. For example, Minotaur Oathkeeper is a great card because it’s an excellent turn 1 play (developing stage) and late game, being able to give you biggest attacker +1/+1 can help push you further ahead or break a board stall (Quadrant 2,4). Similarly, while Waystone Infuser is not great in Quadrant 1, it has an excellent health pool to block with and the ability to filter power out of your draws makes it a great card to draw and play for the other 3 quadrants.

For a more in depth explanation, this site and this podcast provide a great overview. While the examples used are MTG cards, the same principles also apply for Eternal!

Synergy with your deck

There are two types of synergy that I am looking at for a card: 1) synergy with the overall game plan of the deck and 2) synergy with other cards in your deck.

I always like decks with a consistent and synergistic game plan and in my experience, such decks also perform the best. Going back to the quadrant theory, you want cards that peak at the same quadrant. For example, as an aggressive deck, you want cards that are great in the developing stage to push you ahead, and cards that are great in quadrant 2 and 4 because odds are, if you fall behind, you have already lost. As such, despite being an insane card in quadrant 3, Lumen Defender would almost never make the deck for an aggressive Praxis deck. As another example, while Copperhall Shieldman is probably the worst 3 drop for an aggressive slanted deck, it fits perfectly in a Hooru’s fliers deck because the 7 health makes it an amazing blocker to hold back ground units while you swing with your fliers.

Card synergy refers to cases where 2 or more cards in your deck become significantly stronger when played together. For example, Karmic Guardian and Silverwing Familiar are pretty medicore attackers. However, if you manage to play any weapons on them, they suddenly become insanely strong and make it near impossible for your opponent to race you. Similarly, Valkyrie Militant (with it’s recent buff) makes any relic weapon you play significantly better because you are highly likely to be able to kill multiple units with 1 weapon. Infiltrate units, such as Direwood Beastcaller and Argenport Ringmaster, become significantly stronger if you have multiple ways to push them through, such as Levitate, Trickster’s Cloak and Minotaur Lighthoof.

Cards that get significantly stronger due to synergistic effects make for better picks early because you can prioritize picking the synergistic cards, but worse picks late if you don’t already have the pieces. For example, if I have zero ways to push a unit through, Direwood Beastcaller would be fine as a p2p1 but terrible as a p4p1.

The Tier List

For my tier list, I’ve rated cards ranging from S (game-winning bombs) to F (cards that I will never play in a million years). Cards rated A- and above are great and almost never get cut from decks. B- is the bottom of the good cards rating, and I would be extremely happy with any deck that has no card with rating lower than B-. Cards rated C are generally scrapping the bottom of the playable pile or potentially cards that only do well when other narrow synergistic cards are in the deck. D-rated cards are cards that I hope never to play in my deck and cards rated F should always be replaced with a sigil.

These ratings are more directed towards early picks, so cards with good synergy potential (such as Rebel Sharpshooter, Karmic Guardian, etc) get a higher rating because of the high potential upside. When making final cuts for your deck, use this list with discretion. Synergy and curve considerations will often outweigh the difference between a A- and a B+ in the list.

So without further ado, here’s the list:

Credits to Konan’s Tier list, which while not as perfect as mine (kappa), served as a great starting point. This list is also slanted towards my own playstyle so I definitely expect some disagreements with regards to some of the ratings, but hopefully most of them are in the right ballpark. Huge shoutout to Neon, Mann_Und_Mouse and Isomorphic who helped to look through the list and giving me their opinions!

Most importantly, this list will be a constantly evolving one, as I garner more feedback and my evaluations change over time. There are also plans in the works to create a more representative tier list with heavier input from other top drafters so keep your eyes peeled for that!


Well, hopefully you’ve found the guide on evaluating helpful. For further reading, you could check out this awesome article by ScaldingHotSoup and individual faction breakdowns over at JankJunction. If you disagree with any of the ratings on my tier list, do comment here or on the reddit chat and we could discuss it!

May your draft packs be filled with bombs,

6 thoughts on “Drafters’ Corner: Evaluating Cards and NEW Draft Tier List!

  1. Excellent article and tier list. I was wondering how much more difficult it would be to add visual links to the list so when you hover over a name you can see which card it is. This is especially helpful for all of us new kids who don’t have everything memorized.