Hi everyone! The recently announced Merchant mechanic is HUGE and has some extremely interesting implications for both ladder and competitive play. LightsOutAce shared some of his hot takes here and I definitely think that the introduction of Markets will have a huge impact! But constructed aside, I think Markets are also a great addition to the Draft format and will make for some interesting decisions. As I was writing this article, DWD also released the Beserk Mechanic, so I’m including it here as well.
Evaluating the Market Mechanic
The market mechanic is pretty hard to evaluate given we don’t really have any precedent to compare it to. After some discussion with some of the other drafters, I think the easiest way to think about it is as comparable to the loot mechanic (Draw a card, Discard a card from your hand). Of course, this is not 100% accurate since you are drawing from a selection of 5 cards from your market. These 5 cards are often going to be cards 46-50 of your deck, or very situational cards such as Ruin or Talir’s Intervention. Thus, their power level will be worse than the average power level of your deck, but the fact that you get a choice counter balances that.
For example, if your opponent has an Eye of Winter, drawing Ruin off Merchant is probably better than the best card in your deck. Similarly, when you are stuck on 3, being able to draw a guaranteed power from the market is a lot better than drawing a random card off the top of your deck. In most other cases though, a random card off the top of your deck would be better than a card from the market. Effectively, the Market text gives the Merchant somewhere between +0.5 to +1.0 in terms of rating.
Evaluating the Merchants
The Merchants themselves also generally have decent bodies. Notably, the Time, Justice and Fire merchants effectively get their text for free if we were to compare them to a good common (Avirax Familiar for Time, Stormcrasher for Justice, countless 3/3 for 3s for Fire). For these 3 merchants, I think they are easily 3.5 material and will be an easy p1p1 in most cases. The Primal Merchant suffers from a weaker body and Aegis is generally less relevant on a ground unit without weapons. The power of the Primal Merchant will boil down to how easily you are able to suit him up or give him flying and so depending on the rest of the set, he will be somewhere between 3.0 to 3.5. The Shadow Merchant, much like the rest of Shadow in draft, has gotten the shortest end of the stick. Rather than being comparable to a good 3 drop common, it is basically a 2-drop (Nocturnal Creeper). This means that we are essentially paying 1 extra power for the text, and that is not a good rate. Depending on the popularity of 1 damage pings in the format, I see the Merchant fluctuating between 2.5 to 3.0.
Building Your Market
Unless your deck stops at 4 on the dot, I think you should always run 1 sigil in your sideboard. This significantly reduces the chances of you getting stuck on 3 since your merchants can now draw a Sigil as well. Next, you want to run your extremely situational cards in the Market as well. Examples include Ruin, Decay, Infinite Hourglass, Icebreaker and Backlash. These cards are extremely high variance and generally useless, but in the right situations, they might even be better than your best card. For example, if your opponent has been swinging with his biggest unit every turn and you can’t double block because you know he has finest hour. Being able to fetch backlash from your sideboard would allow you to counter his fast spell. Similarly, Icebreaker is often a dead card if you dont have any stun effects in your hand, but being able to fetch it with a Merchant after you draw your Eye of Winter is huge.
If there are any slots left, you should put in the 29th+ playable that did not make the cut into your deck. In this case, if you are flooded, you can effectively just swap an excess power for the next playable. However, you should also bias the playables towards 4+ cost cards; in fact, you generally want 1 very high cost card in your Market. This is because fetching a random 2 drop and playing it on turn 4 is hardly amazing value. Similarly, if you were stuck on 3, you would much rather have another sigil rather than another 3 drop. Thus, if you were fetching an additional unit, it’s much more likely to be a higher cost unit. Having a very expensive unit in your Market also makes your Merchant a MUCH better topdeck as compared to any other 3 drop in the late game (except maybe Siraf).
Let me preface this part by saying: I REALLY LIKE BERSERK. If you have read my previous article on variance and how to make games more skill intensive, you’ll notice that adding skill-testing activated abilities was one of my suggestions. And Berserk is great skill-testing ability. You need to weigh the pros and cons of activating it and doing it on the wrong turn can be extremely costly. I can easily imagine games where the decision is nowhere near cut and dry and it adds an additional and interesting decision point into the game.
Berserk is a keyword that is at worst neutral, and more often than not, an upside. The ability to attack twice is no laughing matter and the threat of it can force your opponents to hold back multiple units. Similar to Double Damage, Berserk allows you to take advantage of powerful temporary buffs (such as Finest Hour, Rapid Shot) and weapons to inflict a huge burst damage. Thus, if you have multiple Beserk units, such tricks and weapons become much more valueable
Deciding when to activate berserk is extremely interesting, because not only does it have the downside of giving your unit reckless, you can also only use it once. Thus, once you’ve used it, you lose the threat of being able to berserk. For example, if you have a 3/1 Berserk unit, your opponent might be forced to hold back a blocker even if he is at 12 health since you can easily hit that number with a single combat trick.
Acquisitive Crow (Draft Rating: 3.5)
This card is amazing, and probably a huge reason for the Rapid Shot nerf to 2 power. A 2/1 flier is reasonable at 3 cost, and the ability to go beserk, together with it’s powerful attack ability makes this card pretty insane. That said, in contrast to Beserk, I’m not a huge fan of this card from a design perspective because unlike adding more skill to the game, the text simply adds more randomness. There is a gigantic gulf between the best and worst 1-cost spells, ranging from game-winning Finest Hours to absolute duds like Bloodcall Invocation. While I do think that there needs to be randomness to make card games less repetitive, I feel that this is way too swingy. Perhaps an improvement would be a leaf out of Hearthstone’s book and allowing us to discover a 1-cost spell instead (choose 1 out of 3 random 1-cost spells).
Rusty Grenamotive (2.5)
This card is pretty interesting, but it just contributes further to Fire’s identity crisis. The ramp effect is extremely powerful, but given cards like Stonescar Sawed-off and Oni Ronin, you would think that Fire wants to be all aggressive and in your opponent’s face. However, a 1/4 for 3 is nowhere near aggressive and rather seems to drag fire towards this more mid-rangey and ramp centric deck, where you want to try and cheat out Cannonbearer on 4. The good news is that attacking with a 1/4 on turn 4 isnt unlikely, so Rusty Grenamotive is pretty likely to get the ramp effect. Whether this card is going to be average, good or great is really going to depend on what DWD has in plan for Fire as a draft faction.
Territorial Elf (1.0?)
Now this is a card that I would call aggressive. Sadly, the inability to block is a huge downside and reckless without evasion or a good health pool is dubious at best. The viability of this card will ultimately boil down to how aggressive shadow can be and if there is sufficient aggression in the format or support (with cards like Blackguard Sidearm or Cobalt Acolyte). Without them, this card is probably a 0.5 at best, but in the right format, with the right support, I can see this card going up to 1.5, or even 2.0. That said, a meta where this card is 2.0 is probably way too aggressive and not a healthy one, so I’m going to optimistically put this card at 1.0.
All in all, I’m a huge fan of both of the mechanics spoiled so far and I really can’t wait to play with these new cards. While some of the other spoilers have been pretty lacklustre *cough* Miner’s Canary *cough*, I’m still pretty hyped for the set. After all, every set will have its unplayables and given these two new mechanics, it feels as though Eternal is moving towards a more skill-intensive direction; something that I’m a huge proponent of. What do you think? Let me know your thoughts on the reddit thread!
Going Beserk for Set 4,