Forging Fundamentals

New Eternal players, y’all don’t realize how good you have have it. You might not know @Jedi_EJ, but he’s got your back.

“How can I help newer players get better at limited?” I’ve been asking myself. My overexcited brain:

“Decks that are hard to draft and play!” (Feln Control)

“CHOO CHOOO in big letters!” (Quadrant Theory Part 1)

“Trivia Jokes!” (Quadrant Theory Part 2)

@Jedi_EJ: “Forge. An article about forge would be helpful for newer players.”

Rest assured, Eternal community, @Jedi_EJ has your back – thanks to him, I’ve got your forge article. You should definitely check out his stream and podcast, Eternal Journey.

Forge is a solo Eternal mode that simulates draft in a lot of ways and rewards many of the same skills. It’s a great place for new players to practice applying deckbuilding fundamentals without spending the full 5,000 gold that draft costs. Forge decks consist of 40 cards: 15 power and 25 cards that you select. My intention with this article is not to make you a master of Forge – it’s to introduce Forge as a stepping stone to Draft. With that in mind, I won’t be breaking down the AI decks you’re likely to face or provide a list of cards you should take just to beat them. Instead, I’ll highlight similarities between building good forge decks and building good draft decks using the guidelines I laid out in Be Boring.

All Forge decks are two factions. Most draft decks are also two factions, though there is a tremendous amount of variety among draft decks and formats. Sticking to two colors is a good strategy for practicing fundamental deckbuilding, but this strict Forge limitation impacts the card selection process in ways that differ from draft in small but significant ways.

In addition to the strict two-faction limitation, another major consideration when selecting Forge cards is that you can’t alter your deck in any way. Every card you select goes in to your deck. As such, it’s critical that your deck contain very few narrow or conditional cards, which just so happens to be a pillar of the Be Boring approach.

I’ll give some specific thoughts about each individual pick but, broadly, want to emphasize how often I talk about what my deck needs instead of asking which card is better.

I asked the wonderful Eternal community on the Farming Eternal Discord for their advice on Forge prior to writing this article. Special thank you to @zsjostrom35, Alabazoo, @MercurioBlue, @Collecter, @Cotillion, and @jedthehomarid for their input. Here are some of the takeaways:

  • You can afford to make your curve a little higher
  • Late game power sinks are very good (This is true in draft as well)
  • There is no option to mulligan to 6, so players should be a bit more conservative with sending their first hand back.
  • Flyers are particularly problematic (This is true, to varying degrees, in basically every limited format)
  • Playing deadly units will often cause the AI to stop attacking.

With the above information in mind, I completed a Forge run. Card choices will be referenced as A, B, & C as labeled from left to right. Below example- A: Defiance. B: Desperate Courier. C: Suffocate.

Selection: C. Suffocate

Draft removal spells highly – a timeless piece of draft advice. My only considerations here are A and C. Neither of them deal with large threats, which would be preferable, but I’m happy to have either of these cards in my limited decks. I like Suffocate a little bit more than Defiance because it can remove blockers as well as attackers, so I went with C.

Selection: B. Copperhall Porter

A is not a playable card in my opinion. Bad in quadrant theory, bad in the Be Boring approach. There are corner cases, but especially if you’re newer, you’re far better off just not putting cards like this in your deck.

B and C are both good cards but I’m a sucker for a 2-drop with upside. I’m also not looking to take average 5-drops this early in the draft.

Selection: B. Silverblade Reaper

I only see two cards in this pack. In a draft, I’m probably taking the Evangel. I prioritize 2-drops, love the fixing, and I’m not very high on Silverblade Reaper. That being said, multiple people mentioned the importance of dealing with flyers against the AI, so I took the flying/deadly creature.

In general, cards that provide influence are worse in Forge because the default power base is already pretty good and you can’t build synergies like Surge.

Pick 4 Selection: Bouldergate Guard.

Maybe I saw a bird outside. Maybe one of the dogs needed something. For whatever reason, I didn’t take a screenshot of pick 4. I took a boring unit (Bouldergate Guard) over other unexciting cards because it plunders.

Selection: A. Fervent Siphoner.

I really like Vara’s Favor, but given what I just mentioned about fixing, I value it a little bit less in Forge. Also, given that I never know what my future Forge choices are going to be, I want to make sure that my deck has enough units, so I took the Fervent Siphoner.

Selection: C. Spiritweaver.

Card A is not a consideration for me in this pack, so it’s between B and C. Giving Razor Lash plunder has been a huge upgrade, but still not enough for me to take it over Spirit Weaver.

Selection: A. Solemn Clergy

Even keeping in mind that Forge games go longer and you can make your curve go higher, I can’t in good conscience start recommending that new players put cards like Improvised Club in their decks. If I were able to cut cards from a Forge deck, I’d take the club and see how the rest of my list played out. Since I can’t cut cards and Audacious Ruse isn’t my favorite, I took Solemn Clergy because it plunders and acts like pseudo-removal for flyers.

****Pick 8

Selection: Badge of Honor.

Selection: A. Minotaur Duelist.

This pack has two cards in it. Dark Betrayal is the antithesis of the Be Boring approach.

Camouflaged Musket is fine. That’s it. Minotaur Duelist is great and it’s my first card at the top of my curve so I’m very happy to see it.

Selection: A. Banewulf.

I like Willbreaker, but this deck really needs bigger units at this point, so it’s a choice between A and B. Caravan Guard would fit into this deck really nicely, and I’d probably take it if this were a draft, but I took the Banewulf because it’s an adequate finsiher and the AI doesn’t play around the mastery trigger the way an actual opponent would. Would have liked the Caravan Guard but thought I needed Banewulf more.

Selection: C. Auric Official

Still need bigger units and Auric Official fits nicely.

Selection: C. Town Watchman.

I don’t even see card A (Rick – see Quadrant Theory Part 2). Promising Pupil is a filler card. Town Watchman is mediocre but I love cards that can block forever, so I took C.

Selection: C. Longtail Cavalry.

This is a choice between A and C because they both fly. Again, I don’t love Silverblade Reaper because it’s so vulnerable but I would have been happy to play another. Longtail Cavalry kind of deals with flyers in a different way and can serve as a win condition as well, so I took C.

Selection: A. Pack Conjuring.

Two cards in this pack. Unbreakable Tradition is great and I would love to have one, especially against the AI who won’t play around it, but removal is too good to pass. Pack Conjuring is removal and has Invoke, so pick A joined the deck.

Selection: B. Lurking Brute.

Hindsight being what it is, I wish I took the Auric Official with this pick. At this point in the draft, I didn’t really have good targets for Auric Official to Imbue and already had one in my deck. Lurking Brute is perfectly fine – it’s filler – but slightly better against the AI because it won’t play around the damage trigger like a real opponent would. I took B but the final deck would have been better with A.

Selection: B. Audacious Ruse.

A is not a playable card. Would have taken the Caravan Guard earlier if I knew I’d be seeing another Banewulf. Hindsight, I’d probably take a second Banewulf. At the time, the deck was pretty light on interaction and I didn’t know if my future picks might also include expensive cards (e.g. 6, 7, 8+ power), so I took Audacious Ruse.

Selection: B. Auric Official.

I don’t have enough weapons to make Copperhall Marshal good. I’ve been so impressed with Auric Official lately, so I was happy to take another one.

******Pick 18

Selection: Devour

Maybe I saw another bird. I don’t remember what I picked Devour over, but I really having one in my Argenport decks because it lacks card draw.

Selection: C. Lurking Brute.

I took another Brute instead of a third Auric Official. If I had some larger two and three drops, I would have taken another Official. With so few imbue targets though, I thought it was a better idea to take another two-drop that can grow in to a decent imbue target by turn four or five.

Selection: A. Nightwatch Broadsword.

It’s not that Improvised Club is unplayable. It’s not. But I really need new players to understand that 8 power is a huge investment. Massive. Your bar for putting an 8-power card in your deck should be incredibly high. Improvised Club doesn’t clear that bar for me most of the time.

Nightwatch Broadsword isn’t spectacular, but you usually get 5 power worth of value out of it and can often kill more than one unit. As a type of interaction, I was more than happy to snag it.

Selection: A. Caravan Guard.

A and C are the only cards I see. Evangel would be fine, but I’m thrilled to take Caravan Guard.

Selection: B. Lurking Brute.

B and C are the only cards I see. I probably should have taken the Sword but didn’t think I had enough sacrifice fodder to make it worth spending four power, so I took the 2-drop.

Selection: B. Murky Tentaclesis.

I suspect most players would quickly pick B, but I wanted to mention that Soul Collector is so much better than it looks and was a real consideration for me. Given that I only have one way to trigger Destiny, getting Tentaclesis back wasn’t all that likely. Having Spiritweaver swayed me. A 5/2 with unblockable and lifesteal lets you race pretty much anything, so I took Murky.

Selection: A. Lurking Brute.

Forge loves Lurking Brute I guess? I’m not sure how the Forge picks cards but I was surprised to see so many of the same common.

Forge Specific:

Let’s talk about Seek Power. This card is trash in Forge, treasure in draft. You can’t splash cards in Forge and the fixing provided by the power base is already pretty good, so a card like Seek Power does almost nothing except essentially change your spell-power ratio from 25-15 to 24-16. You’ll see experienced drafters take Seek Power, and other cards that fix their influence, early and often in draft over seemingly better cards. This allows you to fix your influence, make your deck more consistent, and leaves you open to potentially splash cards that you find later in the draft. Forge already makes your deck consistent and doesn’t give you the opportunity to splash. Seek Power is a fantastic draft card – awful forge card.

Taking it a step further – Seek Power is substantially better than other cards that look similar, like the Rolant’s Favor seen in pack 22, because it doesn’t have influence requirements.

Seek Power/Petition- Bad in Forge, great in Draft.

Rolant’s Favor, Eilyn’s Favor, etc. : Bad in Forge – bad in Draft.

This was a choice between A and B. Peacekeeper’s Prod was my initial choice but, after thinking about it for a while, I decided that Wretched Rats fit this deck’s gameplan a little bit better. Prod is great at pushing through damage but this deck isn’t planning to win that way. Also, I don’t have Aegis creatures, so whatever I put the Prod on will be extremely vulnerable. The lifesteal among two units seemed much more conducive to the deck’s overall gameplan of playing a grindy game.

Here’s the final list:

I really wish I could say that the deck won 7 games like I expected it to, but it went 5-2. A couple notes on the losses. I lost to a 5/7 Aegis flyer against the Kosul Heroes deck after they Permafrosted two of my units, including the Wretched Rats I was planning to gain life with. Ask anyone who has drafted recently – you won’t face decks with double permafrost very often, nevermind the 5/7 ageis flyer.

Here’s how I lost the second game – this time against Natural Order. I had curved out pretty nicely, AI didn’t do a ton until they played Nostrix, Lord of Visions on turn 6 and then Icequake to clear my board on turn 7. Shockingly, I then died to their 5/7 flyer. I feel confident saying this is atypical limited gameplay. Notably, I didn’t have a great answer to the huge flyer because I never saw one in the Forge. I took every piece of removal I saw but still ended up wanting more – that’s just like draft. A single Grisly Contest would have improved this deck a lot. Make sure your decks have answers to 5/7 flyers I guess?

If you’ve never done Forge – don’t worry – you won’t be facing legendaries in most of your games. The AI decks get better as your Forge rank improves, so I’m playing against the best Forge has to offer. I almost never consider the AI Forge decks while I build my Forge decks – I just try to build functional (boring) decks. I level up in Forge whenever it resets and then do it once in a while just for something different. To reiterate- this approach won’t help you become a Forge expert. That would require knowledge of the Forge card selection process and AI decks that I don’t have. This approach will help you rank up in the Forge and start to apply frameworks and concepts that will make you a better drafter. If you can build good Forge decks by following fundamentals, you can build good draft decks.

Takeways after the Forge run: Plunder, as always, is incredibly valuable.

Fundamentals – Playing against AI

I was surprised to see that I’d unlocked the achievement for winning 10,000 games of Eternal. If someone asked me if I’d even played 10,000 games, I probably would have said no. It gives me enough confidence to say I’ve played a good amount of Eternal and Magic. I know my fundamentals but still play against the Gauntlet – pretty often, actually. Not only do I find it enjoyable but I believe it helps keep my gameplay sharp when I don’t have a lot of time to dedicate to Eternal. Let’s talk about how our brains work and why playing against AI is beneficial.

Your AI opponent isn’t bad – it’s predictable. Explaining how the AI makes decisions is far beyond the scope of this article (and my knowledge), but it follows very simple rules. If you attack your AI opponent with a 2/2, they’re going to block with their 3/3 every single time. The AI understands combat math so it attacks and blocks based on what is fundamentally profitable (a 3/3 is bigger than a 2/2, so it blocks). Given any board state and enough time, it’s possible to predict what the AI will do with 100% accuracy. (This is usually the case against very new players as well. We all start somewhere.)

Here’s why, even after winning 10,000 games, I still play gauntlet against the AI: First, I enjoy piloting a variety of decks. I don’t play constructed competitively, but I like to cast good cards once in a while believe it or not. Once or twice a week, I find a deck that looks cool on Eternal Warcry, import it, and run it through Gauntlet. I’m not looking for the variance (and occasional frustration) that comes with playing against real opponents, so I just play against the AI.

This might seem like a waste of time from a competitive standpoint, but I don’t see it that way. I’m not at all comfortable comparing myself to another Eternal player, so let’s compare myself to a player who is similar to but just a liiiittle bit worse than I am: me from two years ago. We’ll give him a random pseudo-name. Let’s call him Brian. So we’re comparing Schaab in 2020 to Brian in 2018. You sit both of us down in front monitors and have us evaluate board states for a variety of reasons. Here’s what I would expect to find:

Brian and I would reach the same conclusion a large percentage of the time (>95%). I certainly hope I’m better at these games than I was two years ago, so I like to think I’d get a few things right now that I wouldn’t have back then. For the most part, though, I had a good understanding of Eternal/Magic in 2018 so it’s not like there would be a significant gap between our two abilities to analyze any one board state.

Given any one board state, Brian and I would likely reach the same conclusion. But after an hour of analyzing board sates, I’d expect Brian to be more fatigued than I would be. Our brains do an extraordinary amount of work under the surface while we are busy thinking about other things. Brian & Schaab have roughly the same skills but my brain has done combat math tens of thousands of more times now. Again, this likely wouldn’t be relevant or obvious during any one turn, but would have an incremental effect over hundreds of games, thousands of decisions.

Our brains are not machines that work equally well at all times. Schaab’s brain is a little bit better at combat math than Brian’s, so analyzing hundreds of board states will be just a little bit easier for him. It doesn’t sound like much, but you make hundreds or thousands or decisions when you sit down to play Eternal in a tournament setting. I want my brain to do simple things, like basic combat math, as automatically as possible so that I can actively think about more complicated decisions (e.g. what my opponent has, my plan, their plan, etc). Maybe I’m in the minority, but that’s why I think playing against the AI isn’t a waste of time, even if you’re an experienced player. This does not – at all- substitute for testing against human opponents. It’s just a way to keep your fundamentals sharp. Mike Trout still fields fly balls. LeBron still practices free throws. There is value in practicing fundamentals.

Another benefit of playing against the AI is that you have more time to make your decisions. These games are complicated – and it’s really OK to take 5 minutes against the AI and thoughtfully consider if one line of play is even slightly better than the other. Take your time, picture your whole turn, and ask other players that you trust for help if that option is available to you.

Newer players: Here’s a general way to approach your turns against the AI that will translate to more success against real opponents. At the start of your turn, don’t ask yourself what you want to do most on that turn. Instead, start here: Can I use all of my power this turn? If you can, that will often be your best play for the turn. There are exceptions, of course, but if you’re not sure which play is better, choose the one that uses more power. Defaulting to the play which uses more power is an incredibly useful heuristic that can increase your win percentage pretty quickly.

In my younger, wilder days, I never would have imagined I’d be associated with a phrase like “Be Boring.” Thinking about how excited I was the other day to add – not one, but TWO – new entries to my Birds of Maine Field Guide, I’ve come to embrace the philosophy. My advice for Forge? Just like draft. Be boring. Make sure you have enough units, prioritize filling out your curve, take removal when you can get it. When you’re comfortable with Forge, come join us in the draft community. We’ll be happy to help. For now, there’s a collection of Blue jays and Mourning Doves on the deck that I’d like to give my boring, undivided attention to. Happy Saturday and Happy Forging!


Author’s Note:

I intended to write one Eternal article, but the community is fantastic, appreciative, and eager to learn, so I find myself writing more than playing these days. If you enjoy my writing and have found it helpful, the best thing you can do is help other new players. If you’d like to do a little extra on my behalf, please share your thoughts on my work with DireWolf. Writing about a card game I love would be a dream come true for me, so I’d love for my writing to be part of 2021 Eternal player experience in a more official capacity.

If you’re obscenely wealthy, feel free to check out the Patreon. Otherwise, help new players, let DireWolf know you’d like to see more of my work, and please continue to be excellent to each other.

Let’s Talk Limited Patreon:

You can find me in the LetsTalkLimited section of the Farming Eternal Discord

Useful Reddit post about Forge:

Forge Simulator on Eternal Warcry

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