Mastering Draft: Navigating the Board Part 2 (Blocking)

Hi everyone! For today’s article, I’m going to talk about the other half of board combat, blocking! If you haven’t already, I would recommend checking out my first article on the attacking half. Just like how a wrong attack can cost you the game, a missed block could be the difference between you dying versus rounding the corner and winning the game.

Do you block?

This is probably the hardest question to answer in all of Eternal. The decision of whether to block or not is not a simple one, and a whole host of factors can contribute and affect the decision. The most important thing though, is to consider the 4 possible outcomes from declaring blockers. What happens if:

  1. You block, and your opponent doesn’t play a trick
  2. You block, and your opponent plays a trick
  3. You don’t block, and your opponent doesn’t play a trick
  4. You don’t block, and your opponent plays a trick

Breaking down the scenario into each of the 4 different sub-cases can often help to simplify things and make the correct decision. Importantly, both you and your opponent has a hand in the final outcome, and you should always assume your opponent isn’t a monkey on a typewriter (i.e. if he attacks with a 2/2 and you block with a 3/3, he probably has and will use a trick. He won’t just let the block happen without playing a trick.)

How valuable is your unit?

My first point of consideration in declaring blockers is always evaluating how important the blocker is to me. Could I afford to trade this blocker for a trick? Would I be extremely sad if I lost the said unit? For example, if I have 5 power, an Ageless Sentinel on board, a Sigil and 2 Scourstone Sentinel in hand, I will never, ever block with the Ageless Sentinel (unless my opponent is threatening lethal, of course). Losing the Ageless Sentinel would basically strand both Scourstones in your hand, whereas having it alive allows you to play running Scourstone Sentinels, often just winning you the game on the spot. Similarly, even if you have a good block with a more valuable unit (such as a flier) , it is often right to just let the damage through.

How valuable is your opponent’s trick?

In a similar vein, you should also consider how valuable your opponent’s trick is. For example, if you suspect that your opponent has a Rapid Shot (argubly the best trick in the game), forcing your opponent to use it as soon as possible is often the correct line, since it will end up trading for a smaller unit. In contrast, if you feel like you will be able to play around the trick on subsequent turns (such as multi-blocking to play around Pummel/Finest Hour), you can elect to take the damage so as to strand the trick in your opponent’s hand or force them to use it to get a 1-for-2.

Does the damage matter?

Another important factor, especially since the introduction of Set 2, is whether the damage that you are taking matter. Firstly, if your opponent is in the skycrag faction, you need to be wary of spark triggers, and thus, it is often good to trade units for the sole purpose of preventing spark triggers. Secondly, you should consider whether the actual loss of health is a significant enough cost to justify blocking. For example, if you are at 25 health, taking 3 damage this turn is probably fine, but at say 7 health, I would be much more hesitant about taking the extra 3 damage. That said, it’s always important to remember, the only point of health that matters is the last point. So sometimes, it might be optimal to go down to 2 health (note, not 1 because of nightfall) so that you can crack back for lethal.

Do your blocks improve with subsequent turns?

It’s also important to consider future turns when planning out your blocks. For example, if you are going to able to hold up a trick for the counter-blowout next turn, it’s often fine to let the first attack through. Similarly, if you are going to play a 3/3 next turn, you could consider not trading your 2/2 with your opponent’s 2/2 since your opponent is unlikely to get value from the 2/2 in future.

Another example would be if your opponent has a 2/2 and a 3/3 on board and swings with both. You have a 2/2 on board, and intend to play a 2/2 next turn. While it’s fine to trade your 2/2 for your opponent’s 2/2 this turn, you can actually reduce the total damage you take (3 vs 2), by not blocking this turn and threatening the double block on his 3/3 the next turn. This forces your opp to only swing with the 2/2 next turn, and if you trade then, you saved 1 health! This might seem like a small amount, but it could be the crucial 1 last point of health that you saved!

On the flip side, if you don’t foresee your blocks improving, you might as well take the trade or block then. For example, if your opponent only has a 2/2 and you currently have a 2/2 and are intending to play another 2/2 the next turn, there’s no reason to trade on the subsequent turn. It’s also good to take blocks, especially multi-blocks, if you see that your opponent is tapped out since that guarantees that you won’t get blown out by a trick. (As a sidenote, I think this is also a way for attackers to “nudge” the opponent into blocking.)

Don’t play around things you lose to!

Now, this is probably the most important bit of declaring blockers. You should never play around things that you can never beat since you will lose to it anyway. This is a very important point of consideration, but also one of the most overlooked ones. For example, if you are at 6 health, with a 6/6 in play and your opponent attacks in with a 2/2 and a 3/3. It is always a snap block on the 3/3 in this case. Sure, if he has a Finest Hour or Torch, he trades the 3/3 for your 6/6. However, the important point of consideration is if you don’t block the 3/3, you are dead to Finest Hour anyway! As such, there is no point playing around it and you just have to block as though your opponent doesn’t have it. You are probably losing anyway if they have it, so you should give yourself the best possible chance to win.

Conclusion

Well, this article was another long read! If you made it all the way to the end, congratulations! And I hope that you found it useful! As always, let me know what you think in the reddit thread! Also, as a heads-up, next week I’ll be taking my usual week off of draft writing to write some thoughts about the correlation between skill and variance in Eternal, so stay tuned for that!

Till then, may all your blocks resolve in your favor,
Flash2351