Television in the Schaab household often plays Nailed It, an amateur baking show featuring people who would be abysmal Eternal players. I’m sure they’re lovely individuals, but their inability to sequence and manage time would undoubtedly leave them struggling to climb the Eternal leaderboards. These qualities, however, pale in comparison to their unanimously shared flaw: they don’t follow the recipe. It’s all right there. They don’t have to pull the recipe from their memories. They just have to read the instructions and follow them – but they don’t. These jovial rebels treat baking like it’s cooking, where you can adjust the recipe according to your tastes and expect the same results. The results are spectacularly, predictably, awful.
New drafters: try to bake. Find a recipe (18 power, 16-18 units, 45 cards) and follow it as closely as possible.
Becoming a great Eternal drafter isn’t a singular skill – it’s a combination of multiple skills including drafting, deckbuilding, and playing. If you’re a newer player, baking Boring decks allows you to cast your cards and develop your playskill over time (this approach is great for learning but also involves a lot of losing. That’s just part of the process). When playskill becomes an area of strength, baking Boring decks allows you to leverage that skill.
All that being said about how you should learn to bake, follow recipes/models, and heed the instructions that lead to consistent success: today we’re talking about the opposite of that. Today we’re talking about what you can do when you’ve mastered all the basics. I snuck into Bettorup’s kitchen the other day and found him bending all the rules while cooking up some spice, so let’s take a look at a different approach that an elite Eternal drafter is having success with. Let’s cook up some Eternal decks with Bettorup. Let’s Talk Limited!
What? Why? How? My brain really struggled to process Bettorup’s decklists when I first saw them. Here were the most likely scenarios I came up with:
- He lost a bet
- He lost several bets
- Twitch chat did it.
“He drafted these decks on purpose” came in somewhere around number 24 on the list. To provide additional context, I found these in Bettorup’s 7-win decklist thread, not a joke or trainwreck thread, and he pretty much lives in the top-5 on the Draft leaderboards so we can be sure he’s playing against tough competition. The decklists were intriguing but Master Chef’s note about them was the real surprise.
“I would say I have a problem, but as long as fixing is flowing like water pack 1, 3-5 color good stuff is 100 percent viable if not excellent in this format.” -Bettorup, Eternal Drafter, Master Chef.
My response: “I think I might dedicate an article to this 5 color nonsense. Any advice for the readers?”
And he suuuuuure did have advice for the readers! Just a huge thank you the my buddy, Bettorup, for helping me out with this one. I don’t have a ton of time to play Eternal lately but don’t want to leave y’all hanging, so picking another drafter’s brain and reporting the results is a fine solution. Plus, let’s be honest, I’m never drafting these decks. Maybe one. But I’m certainly not going to be the one who discovers them or drafts them often enough to lay out a recipe.
Actually, there is no recipe. That’s kinda my whole point. The decklists we’re going to look at are only possible if you know why you’re drafting the cards you’re drafting. It requires a broad understanding of Eternal draft gameplay and more nuanced knowledge that applies to this specific format. Ya gotta know how to cook, and Master Chef Bettorup has some advice for aspiring young chefs out there.
Above we have your classic Amber Lock/Glen Scout/Bloodboil Executioner/Illicit Armament deck. Pairs nicely with confusion.
I had to check this ^ three times to make sure the second image I added actually goes with the first one. Yes, it is somehow the same deck. Ya know, the Shorthopper/Deathwing/Customs Officer deck we all draft so often.
Exotic Purchase. There’s an Exotic Purchase in this list to go with other cards that encourage a long game like…. Assault Shield and Blackguard Sidearm? What is even happening?
And a quick reminder from Bettorup: “as long as fixing is flowing like water pack 1, 3-5 color good stuff is 100 percent viable if not excellent in this format.”
“Almost every game in this format comes down to the skies, so be ready for that battle one way or another. Prioritize cheap interactive cards cards that give an edge to that strategy. Avoid double influence cards except for maybe a couple in your main color. Tempo wins a lot of games in this format, so build a cheap curve that tops off at three for the most part. 15 power is ideal in this strategy when card draw is scarce, as it helps mitigate flood. Most importantly of course, prioritize fixing much higher than is comfortable. Identifying early that you want to move into the strategy is key. It rarely works as a bailout out to a messy draft.”
- Fliers are incredibly important
- Prioritize cheap interactive cards
- Avoid double influence cards
- Tempo wins a lot of games
- Curve should top off around three (mostly)
- 15 power is ideal
- Prioritize fixing highly during the draft.
- This is NOT a backup plan to save a trainwreck draft.
All from Bettorup:
- When in doubt while choosing between two committal picks, take fixing instead.
- Bannerman is way better than a token and should be taken aggressively.
- Hard removal should usually trump fixing, and it’s really really important to get the cheap stuff.
- The quality of your interactive cards and/or 1 for 1 potential units has to be really strong if you want to play a higher curve strat with lots of 5-7 drops.
- Tapped power doesn’t matter as much if your curve is cheap enough.
More from Master Chef:
- Arguably one of the most important things is to assume the role of the beatdown if it’s offered. That goes hand in hand with cheap curves of course.
- Plunder really helps – Always hold a power if you can, especially as the game progresses. Know what you need to cast your stuff and hold power (also to mess with your opponents sequencing).
- Regen generates tempo similarly to stun.
- Always plan for having answers for 1/1 deadlys (oh hello snipe), especially if most of your damage is going to come on the ground (really really important for Basher-based strats).
Continuing to let Bettorup do the writing for me:
- Illicit armament is best in a market, but also can work in a deck with mulitple weapons/and/or weapon recursion. It’s tricky to pull off fair value, and should generally be replaced by a cheap interactive card instead if possible, but if you can get it to act as a two-mana removal spell without 2-for-1-ing yourself, it can be pretty nice. But I’m not saying it’s good, but it can be extremely good [i.e. low floor, high ceiling).
- Even cards like snipe are solid, as long as you get a tempo-generating 1 for 1 (3/1s usually).
Bettorup knew how to draft long before I started writing about Eternal, so let’s not pretend that he started with Be Boring and ended up here. But if someone can prepare a 9-course meal, we can be sure they know how to chop vegetables and cook some eggs. These decks are only possible after you’ve drafted hundreds, probably thousands, of successfully boring decks. You learn what works, what doesn’t, what really matters during a draft or in a game. You understand the why of drafting the cards you’re drafting, what function they serve in your deck, and how they should be used against your opponent. You learn how to cook.
If you read my work, you know that I advocate for taking Seek Power early in the draft to smooth out your boring 2-faction decks. But taking a Boring approach at first doesn’t mean you have to draft that way forever. Eventually you take Seek Power early in the draft so you can do this kind of five-color nonsense. The lesson is always take Seek Power. If you’re a new drafter, you get to cast your cards. If you’re an experienced drafter, you get to do whatever you want for the rest of the draft. How did I get a 10th pick Seek Power the other day? That means at least 9 drafters haven’t read my articles! Humbling.
There are so many ways to enjoy draft. It’s absolutely possible to just follow recipes, draft boring decks, boringly win games, and be happy with the outcome most of the time. But if you want to be great, you eventually need to learn how to cook. You need to know why you’re doing what you’re doing. A fundamental understanding of the process is what separates Walter White from all the other cooks and Bettorup from lots of other drafters. They know the why.
Master Chef is so wise, making sure to include this statement at the end of our discussion (he explained a bunch of stuff, I copied and published it): “Of course this isn’t THE WAY, but it’s the way that’s been working for me”
It occurred to me that I often mention there are several different ways to approach draft but I, uh, never really talk about the other ways. So when I visited Bettorup’s kitchen and saw what he was cooking up, I just knew I had to share. My approach to draft might be boring, but Draft itself isn’t. Draft is fun for so many different reasons, and you get to decide which way you want to enjoy it. Whether it’s the two-faction Schaab special, peanut butter & jelly, or Bettorup’s “Open the pantry and throw everything into a pot!” approach, there are a million ways to cook. Now go make something delicious.
Again, HUGE thanks to Bettorup for the decklists and information. You can find his Discord here and Twitch here. I don’t know his exact schedule, but I know I try to drop by and say hello when he’s streaming on Friday nights.
You can contact me with comments, feedback, or coaching inquiries at BeBoring@letstalklimited.com
My content is a labor of love to help others get better at draft that will always be free. Writing gives me significantly less time to grind gold, so all contributions are used to fund more drafts. The best thing you can do is help other people (draft is really hard) but financial support through donations or the Patreon is always appreciated. Thank you!
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Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: I fell in love with Magic as a kid, left the game for a while, then returned to it as an adult. When I returned to casting cardboard in 2016, Draft replaced Mahamoti Djinn as the pinnacle of my Magic affection. Oath of the Gatewatch was the draft set, Limited Resources became my primary source of information, and I’ve loved drafting 40 card decks ever since.
As a student of the fundamental approach to draft, I tend to undervalue cards that don’t immediately impact the board. While writing about another game, I advocate for following fundamentals during the draft, deckbuilding, and gameplay. That being the case, I’m more than a little stunned that my first article for the Magic community is about a conditional card that might actually make your deck worse according the 17lands data: Rise of the Dread Marn.
Rise of the Dread Marn found its way into several of my draft decks simply because people kept passing it to me and I wanted to try the rare “for science.” My initial impression of the card was low, the community consensus is that it can be serviceable but nothing special, it doesn’t fit with the approach I usually take to deckbuilding… but I just keep winning with this card. As an LR advocate, I’m aware of small sample sizes and that my personal experience might not match the experience of others, so let’s see if we can find concrete reasons why this underdrafted rare might be better than it looks.
This is the opposite of my normal approach. Typically, I spend a lot of time thinking about and theorycrafting Magic, then I play the games and update my opinion from there. Today we’ll be working backwards. Rise of the Dread Marn has been unexpectedly great in my draft deck and I’d like to figure out why. Let’s see if Kaldheim’s cards support my great-in-a-small-sample-size experience with Rise of the Dread Marn or if it’s closer to the playable-but-replaceable rare I expected it to be. Let’s create the best card in either players’ deck with a rare that you scooped up 3rd or 4th pick. Let’s make an absurd number of hasty zombies. Let’s Talk Limited!
We all have our biases (in Magic and life) and my initial reading of Rise of the Dread Marn didn’t exactly give me warm fuzzy feelings. It has a setup cost, the potential to be an absolutely dead card, and the payoff of some zombies doesn’t seem worth the risk of such a questionable card. Again, I didn’t intend to draft this card but people kept passing it to me so, ya know, science.
I failed to adjust. Rise of the Dread Marn has a setup cost, is a potentially dead card, needs help from other cards to be great. That’s all true… but it costs one. One. At instant speed. One. It’s usually so hard to make cards like this great because the cost restricts what else you’re able to do on a particular turn but that’s not the case with Rise. Leaving up 2-3 mana per turn is exponentially more difficult than holding up a single black.
The card evaluation tools (e.g. The Vanilla Test, Quadrant Theory) I learned from LR are incredibly helpful in general but don’t seem to be a great fit for evaluating Rise. Instead, I’ve been evaluating it with a question Marshall and Luis often ask: “What has to happen for me to be happy with the mana I spent on this card?” Two zombies. In a game of limited, I would be happy to spend 3 mana and get two 2/2 creatures in return. That’s a fine rate. That’s the benchmark. Ignore the rarity, ignore the zombie hordes you envisioned when you drafted it, just view it as a card that needs to make two zombies in order to be worth taking up a card slot in your 40-card deck. Three mana, two zombies is good. Three mana for one 2/2 zombie won’t help you win many games but it’s not the end of the world. Two mana to foretell a card you never cast is a disaster.
So how hard is it to make at least two zombies? Let’s take a look.
To determine if Rise can be good consistently, let’s take a look at Black’s other cards to see if they help make rise great.
Priest of the Haunted Edge can make two berserker zombies on its own if you have the snow lands. Koma’s Faithful encourages your opponent to block it and likely trade it off in combat. Deathknell Berserker is a quality two-drop that replaces itself with just a little bit of help so can be easily traded off as an attacker or blocker.
Jarl of the Forsaken and Elderfang Disciple is quickly becoming one of my favorite two-card combinations. I groan when my opponent plays Elderfang Disciple – that’s how I know it’s a good card and I should play it more. You’re already up a card when the 1/1 enters the battlefield, then use it as a blocker and finish the attacker off with Jarl of the Forsaken. As a nice little bonus, you can get both clerics back with Raise the Draugr to do it all over again. The scenario described above (block, cast Jarl, cast Rise of the Dread Marn), costs 3 mana, kills your opponent’s creature, and leaves you with 7 hasty power on the battlefield for next turn.
Even cards I don’t particularly want to play like Withercrown and Demonic Gifts involve creatures dying.
These days, I’m making room for 1-2 Village Rites in my Rakdos decks. I’d probably play them in my Orzhov decks too if I ever drafted them.
Black’s commons, predictably, involve and encourage creatures dying. With very little work, you can make Rise a decent card in your deck using only commons.
Let’s just get this beast out of the way first.
The top-end in a lot of Rakdos decks, Kardur can make combat a nightmare for your opponent. This is where Rise of the Dread Marn costing One is such a big deal. Playing Kardur with one extra mana open is just so much easier than playing it with two extra mana. Cast Kardur, pass turn, wait with a single black mana open.
One advantage of planning to use Rise on your opponent’s turn is that you have much more agency over combat. You can only block your opponent’s non-tokens with your non-tokens to maximize its effectiveness. You can make seemingly disadvantageous double blocks to kill your opponent’s bigger units. The other day my opponent attacked me with two 4/4s, I blocked with four creatures, they all traded, then I made six 2/2’s on their end-step. “Come on, Schaab, that’s anecdotal” I kept telling myself as I watched these scenarios happen repeatedly. What I keep coming back to is that these aren’t corner cases, these are just typical turns in games of limited. Creatures battling and dying is the most typical aspect of a draft game. And what is your opponent playing around when you have a single black mana available? Village Rites. As far as your opponent is concerned, they have nearly perfect information to make their decisions. Then you just have a normal combat step and make a horde of zombies on end-step.
Tergrid’s Shadow isn’t my favorite card, and it seems like community as a whole doesn’t have a very high opinion of it based on where it goes in drafts. Honestly, this is theory-crafted. I haven’t cast Tergrid’s Shadow and Rise of the Dread Marn in the same game (probably because I don’t have Tergrid’s Shadow in my deck very often) but if you’re planning to play Elderfang Disciples anyway, there are certainly worse ways to make a bunch of 2/2 zombies.
Poison the Cup is phenomenal on its own. No help needed.
Drafting and building your deck around playing two rares sure is a great way to lose more games of limited. Consequently, talking about what rares Rise of the Dread Marn pairs well with feels a little absurd. But Rise isn’t a rare that you have to first-pick. You can get it pick 3 or 4 after you’ve already started your draft with a more powerful rare. Rise pairs very nicely with a lot of cards I already want to play and am happy to start my draft with. To give you a sense of who I am as a player, Blood on the Snow and Doomskar were among the first cards I drafted playsets of and you can sign me up for Rise of the Dread Marn in any deck with these cards. Ya know what helps cast Rise of the Dread Marn on the same turn as these sweepers? It costs one.
Consider yourself lucky if you haven’t played against Immersturm Predator yet. It’s incredibly hard to beat and fuels Rise of the Dread Marn, which fuels Immersturm Predator….
I’m an educator, not a salesman, so we’re going to talk about some of Rise’s flaws as well.
Rise doesn’t work well with some of Black’s most powerful cards, including its best common in Feed the Serpent. If you start your draft with Blood on the Snow or Immerstrum Predator, you’re on your way to having an excellent Rise of the Dread Marn deck. That’s not the case if you start with Draugr Necromancer or Sarulf, Realm Eater.
The “non-token” clause is quite relevant in Kaldheim and should be considered during deckbuilding. Dwarven Reinforcements keeps moving up in my estimation, but it’s not the kind of card you want to pair with Rise. This is part of the reason I prefer to engineer scenarios where I’m the blocker. That way I can ensure that more of my and my opponent’s non-token creatures leave the battlefield.
In terms of gameplay, Rise doesn’t fit very well in aggressive decks that want to be adding to the board on turn 2 instead of foretelling. That being said, I’ve found Rakdos midrange to be a perfectly viable deck given how good the removal is in those colors and Rise fits in there nicely (though it gets worse with more Feed the Serpents).
It’s a dead card that stays in exile forever after you’ve cast it. This is possible and has happened to me in one game. My opponent played Bind the Monster on both of my creatures, I drew lands for the rest of the game, then that game ended. So there are definitely downsides and I don’t want to pretend that this card automatically makes two 2/2s when it’s cast because it doesn’t. It’s definitely possible for you to spend two mana and get nothing out of this card. But my experience with Rise of the Dread Marn has been the inverse. It’s been a dead card once – but every other game it has ranged from acceptable (three mana, two 2/2 zombies) to downright absurd (Adding 12 power and toughness to the board for one mana on your opponent’s end-step).
Being a good scientist is an excuse I often make for taking the rare out of a pack (I’m new to Arena, gimme those gems) and that’s certainly how this Rise of the Dread Marn experiment began.
Hypothesis: Rise of the Dread Marn is ok but mostly pretty bad.
Results: Rise of the Dream Marn is mostly pretty great but can be bad sometimes.
My results have surprised me. I started putting Rise of the Dread Marn in my deck because people kept passing it to me and still do. Believe me – I understand why people don’t like this card. I didn’t either. But it’s possible the negativity has shifted too far and players are passing Rise of the Dread Marn even when it would be excellent in their deck. As a casual player who only drafts a few times a week, I don’t have time to replicate my results by drafting Rise of the Dread Marn over and over again. Small sample sizes and theory crafting both tell me Rise of the Dread Marn is better than it looks, but I know better than to trust small samples. So here I am reporting my qualitative data – Rise of the Dread Marn is deece. Now I’m counting on you, fellow Magic players. Be good scientists, draft Rise of the Dread Marn, replicate my results if possible, and report back to your new friend, Schaab, with the results.
Happy Sunday and Happy Drafting!
-Schaab, Draft Enthusiast
Writing about draft is a hobby of mine that started last summer while I was preparing for the 2020 Eternal Draft Championship. If you’re not familiar with it, Eternal is fantastic game with an even better community. The draft format is excellent and I’ll be publishing an article in the near future telling you, Magic player, why you should check out Eternal. I’m not affiliated with Eternal or its parent company in any way.
You can find all of my work at LetsTalkLimited.com. This is my first Magic-specific article but I’m sure there will be more in the future and many of the articles I’ve written about drafting and gameplay are applicable to both Magic and Eternal.
A few card evaluation/gameplay articles of mine you might enjoy:
To directly promote more content, check out the Let’s Talk Limited Patreon page.
You can contact me with comments, feedback, or coaching inquiries at BeBoring@letstalklimited.com
You can find me in the LetsTalkLimited section of the Farming Eternal Discord.
My content is a labor of love to help others get better at draft that will always be free. The best thing you can do is help other people (draft is really hard) but financial support is always appreciated. Thank you!
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Draft is wonderful because we make so many choices before the games even start. Flashy rare or boring common, aggressive archetype or slow and grindy, all of your deckbuilding choices, and the list goes on. Interesting decisions are what keep me coming back to Eternal draft.
Deciding whether or not to mulligan shouldn’t be one of your interesting decisions. Just apply your default setting: Never mulligan.
I’m convinced that I made better mulligan decisions before I saw this tweet a few weeks ago. There’s a heuristic or piece of advice that can support almost any decision you want to make, and lately you can hand me any 7 random Eternal cards, ask me if I want to mulligan, and my brain will go “ya know what Seth Manfield says…… Keep!”
People have wanted an article about mulligans since I started writing about draft. It’s easy to see why – making better mulligan decisions is a simple way to start winning more games. For the past 9ish months I’ve waited for a stroke of genius to occur, as if suddenly I’ll wake up and know how to explain mulligans. Here’s the problem: when I think of articles about mulligans, I think of Paulo Vitor Damo Da Rosa. PV is obviously in the discussion for best Magic player of all time, but he’s in a class of his own when it comes to writing about Magic/gameplay theory in my opinion (I can’t link to just one article. He’s written hundreds). When people say that Eternal or Magic are more about variance than skill, I just think of Paulo’s articles. When you delve into the minutia of how PV makes his choices, it’s evident that he hasn’t been successful because of luck or variance. I can only speak for myself, but when I started to become interested in tournament Magic, Paulo’s articles made it blindingly clear that the best players aren’t luckier – they’re just better.
Fellow better-than-the-rest-of-us player LSV explained some mulligan heuristics on a recent episode of Limited Resources (beginning around 49 minute mark) which serves as the basis for this article.
Holding myself to Paulo’s standards is clearly absurd – I couldn’t write articles like his if I wanted to (and I do) – but I can cover some of the fundamentals that LSV talked about. Now that I’ve accepted this very obvious realization, let’s talk limited mulligans!
Heuristic #1: Never Mulligan
Simple enough. Article over, I guess.
Ok – so it can’t be correct to never mulligan, so why the absolutist heuristic?
Think about the premise.
“Time to decide if I’ll keep or mulligan this hand” is a very different thought process from “I’m never going to mulligan unless I absolutely, positively, break-glass-in-case-of-emergency have to.”
LSV: “your win percentage falls off a cliff when you go to 6.” Math and probability bear this out in the long run. Starting down a resource makes you far less likely to win that game. Factually, mathematically so. I’ll refer you to Frank Karsten’s body of work if you’re interested in the math of mulligan decisions and hitting your land drops. For now, let’s accept the simple premise that your win percentage decreases significantly when you mulligan.
Heuristic #2: Two Things Away
Don’t keep hands if you need two things to go right. Keeping a hand that needs to draw a power is correct, keeping a hand that needs to draw two power in a row in order to be functional is not.
If your hand is sketchy and you’re relying on your first 2-4 draws of the game to smooth it out, be wary of the word “and.” When you start to say “I need to draw a power AND and early unit” or any version where you need two things to happen, you should strongly consider throwing that hand back.
Know Your Format
Though drafters are always my target audience, many of the skills or concepts I write about are also applicable in Constructed. This is NOT one of those times.
Making mulligan decisions in Constructed is a far different process than Limited. In constructed, part of the thought process is “how does this hand win?” or “what is my plan?” At the risk of sounding too simplistic, the question you should be asking yourself in draft is if your hand is remotely close to functional. If it is, you keep. If you have a two-drop that you can play on turn two, you keep. If you have power for one of your two factions but have early plays you can make until you find your other faction, you keep.
All drafters have different strengths. It’s a fun mental exercise to think about what separates the good from the great, the great from the excellent, the excellent from the elite, etc. If there’s one aspect of my game that’s substantially different from your average Eternal drafter, I suspect I mulligan a lot less. Part of this is due to my strong aversion to it that I’ve developed over time based on math and Magic, but the other reason is boring deckbuilding.
The factors that impact your mulligan decisions occur far before you draw your opening hand – they occur during the draft. I advocate for following fundamentals during draft and deckbuilding based on a very simple idea: Make sure you can cast your cards. Most of my decks are two factions, I always follow the rule of three for splashing, take cards that fix like Seek Power early in the draft, and cast my cards in a large majority of games.
Building boring (fundamentally sound) decks allows you to keep more questionable hands than you would otherwise. When you look at your opening hand, you shouldn’t just be considering those seven cards. You should be considering those seven cards plus the most likely draws in your next 3-4 cards. If you keep a two power hand on the draw with a boring deck, chances are really good that you’ll hit your third power by turn three. Mulligan decisions don’t occur in the abstract – they occur within the context of the rest of your deck.
In my Argent Depths Feln Control decks, I’d keep two power hands on the draw because you’re just so likely to hit power 3 on turn three. I’d wrap up in my verbal security blanket, whispering “this is why we play 19 power” as I hit the “keep” button.
Sometimes you keep really good two-power hands and never draw another power. Sometimes you keep 4-5 power hands and then only draw sigils for the rest of the game. These things will happen and it’s important that we both recognize and accept it.
Reminder: you can make the correct decision and still lose. It’s incredibly difficult, but you must separate your decision from the result. If it was correct to keep that two-power or five-power hand, then it was correct regardless of the outcome. The goal is to make decisions that have a high probability of working out. If you keep a hand that looks questionable but has an 80-90% chance of being successful, then you just have you to be aware that it’s going to fail 10-20% of the time accept when those games occur.
Cotillion, Empire of Glass draft leaderboard maintstay and much appreciated Let’s Talk Limited Patron, recently posted in the Farming Eternal Discord about Eternal’s mulligan system, specifically questioning whether the two guaranteed power on redraws was sufficient. Oh my sweet summer child, you do not know the winters of the Magic Mulligan system.
Having grown up playing Magic, redrawing a hand of seven cards still feels like cheating to me. It’s tough for me to be critical of Eternal’s mulligan system in limited because I think it’s really good. Redrawing a seven card hand leads to fewer non-games. Having 2-4 guaranteed power after a mulligan leads to fewer non-games. Six card hands with two power don’t bother me at all because I’ve drawn so many six card Magic hands with one or zero lands.
My sense is that people redraw a little bit optimistically. Drafters will redraw seven cards just because their hand isn’t perfect – that’s a constructed mindset. For me, the only question is whether or not my first seven is better or worse than the average starting hand for my deck. I realize that’s very vague and I’m not exactly sure how I come to that conclusion on a hand-by-hand basis, but I’ll be paying more attention to my redraw/mulligan decisions in the future.
Play vs. Draw
See Heuristic #1.
I’ll go into more depth on this in the advanced mulligan article (estimated publication date: 2036).
There are times when going down to six cards is correct, but the times should be very few and far between. Your default setting should be to never mulligan and then only deviate when the seven cards you’ve drawn and most likely 3-4 cards off the top of your deck are truly dysfunctional.
Here’s what helps me. Two-power are hands are scary. Sketchy five-power hands are nerve-wracking, especially on the draw. I get it. They make us feel uncomfortable because there’s a chance they’ll fail. But going down to six cards is a guaranteed disadvantage. Essentially: I don’t want to take the risk that this hand might stumble and lead to a lower win percentage, so instead I will make a decision that undoubtedly leads to a lower win percentage.
If you consistently opt for six-card hands instead of imperfect but keepable seven-card hands in limited, you’ll lose more of your next 10,000 games as a result. A hand being scary doesn’t make it a mulligan – it just gives us bad feelings. And if you never draw the power you need or draw too many, that has no impact on the correctness of your decision to keep those seven cards. It’s very hard to separate your decision from the result when you’ve just lost a game, so reaching out to other players you trust is a great way to evaluate your choice.
Stop thinking of mulligans as an option. Start thinking of them as a terrible occurrence, a travesty, a near-crisis event that can be used in the most dire of circumstances.
Of course there are unkeepable seven-card hands that you should mulligan. Never Mulligan is easy to remember and correct most of the time but you’ll miss the exceptions if you fall in to Seth Manfield snapkeep mode too quickly. When his games trainwreck, I bet being Seth Manfield sure helps him come back from behind and win those games. But I also bet he drafts decks that minimize the chance he’ll ever have to mulligan. I bet they’re beautifully boring.
I had a blast streaming for a few hours last night and am planning to do a lot more of it in the future. I’ll be drafting most of the time, but would also like to set up a stream after publishing articles so people can just hang out and ask questions – starting with this one. A 4-month-old currently dictates my schedule and every aspect of my life, so I’m not exactly sure when it’ll happen but keep an eye out for me on Twitch in the near future.
Having a PC will make it a lot easier for me to create content, like on this Sunday morning for example. Mulligans are such an important and endless topic that I might Keep or Mull series. You can submit tough choices in the Farming Eternal Discord or email them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Aforementioned 4-month-old is currently demanding my attention, so I’ll leave you with the usual advice: Be Boring and happy drafting!
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No Easy Answers
Luis-Scott Vargas (LSV) and Paulo Vitor Damo Da Rosa (PVDDR) are inarguably two of the most successful Magic players of all time. As Hall of Famers and mainstays in competitive Magic for decades, it’s safe to say that their player experiences have many parallels: they’ve drafted the same sets, played the same formats, and competed in the same high level tournaments. If there’s a singular way to win games of limited, surely those two individuals know it.
Draft had been my obsession for almost a year when episode 365 of Limited Resources was released (Technically I learned to draft Odyssey in 2001 but it was just another way I couldn’t afford to play Magic at the time sooooo that was cool). I wasn’t familiar with Paulo but was eager to learn how to draft Kaladesh from not one, but two, of the game’s best players. After listening to the episode, I found myself with more questions than answers. They didn’t just disagree on a few individual cards, they disagreed about their entire approach to the format (and did so without arguing, a level-up of its own).
People always want simple answers. I certainly wanted them at the time. As Huey said on my favorite episode of LR “people want to be told what to do. Like a checklist for how to win games of Magic and it just doesn’t work like that.” There is no The Way. There are lots of ways. And just because one way works in this format doesn’t necessarily mean it will work in the next.
You might’ve heard me say that context matters. A lot. I repeat this often because, frankly, even really good educators often miss this point. Skills aren’t static – they’re context dependent. Think of something you’re excellent at. Can you do it equally well in front of a large crowd? How about while someone you hate talks to you incessantly? How about when you haven’t slept or eaten all day? How about when you’ve flooded five games in a row?
A critical component of truly learning a skill is generalizing to different environments – learning to become an excellent drafter is no different. So if you are an excellent Empire of Glass drafter, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be an excellent drafter of the next set (without a lot of hard work). This is true for cards as well. A great card in one format might be mediocre in another.
Today, let’s talk about limited lessons that generalize no matter what set you’re drafting. Let’s talk about draft concepts that helped me improve early in my draft career. Let’s also hope witty introductions are easier in my optimistically well-rested future. Let’s Talk Limited!
We’ve all lost games that seemed unlosable. We’ve won games we had no business winning. And we all know why: bomb rares and legendaries. While it is my strong opinion that focusing on the rares is a suboptimal approach to draft, there’s no doubt about the impact these cards have on a game.
Drafters, both in Eternal and MtG, tend to shy away from Primal/blue. This isn’t true for proponents of drafting the hard way or MtG boomers like myself (draft any old school Magic cube and you’ll see why) so I found myself drafting blue like Kaladesh clockwork at my LGS in 2016. It became a joke before the draft even started. Everyone knew it: Schaab is drafting sky whales.
If you’re struggling to remember the tribal whale theme in Kaladesh, it’s because there wasn’t one. Long-Finned Skywhale was a lonely whale on that plane of existence.
The whale I seemed to draft every FNM wasn’t a whale at all – it was a leviathan, but “drafting sky whales” is just so much more fun to say.
Aethersquall Ancient isn’t exactly splashable, so this big boi ended up in my deck every time it was opened at the table. It quickly became clear: when I cast this card, I win the game almost every time. Naturally, I started building my draft decks with a singular focus – Find the whale, play the whale.
We all hope to draw and play the sweet rare we drafted – very few people actively try to make that happen. When you have the best card in either players’ deck, channel your inner Captain Ahab and go find that whale.
“Draw a card” is a much beloved phrase among card players. “Scout” or “scry 1” aren’t nearly as catchy and, rightfully, don’t grab our attention in the same way. But there are many scenarios in games of limited where these phrases are functionally the same. And I’m not talking about corner cases – they occur with regularity.
Imagine you’re in a close game of limited and sigh with frustration as you draw your 10th power. Now imagine I say “hey, would you like to put that power in the void and draw another card for the turn?” Why yes I would! I would love to take an extra turn! That’s functionally what you do every time you loot away an excess power, put one in the void with Valley-Clan Sage, or Scout a useless card to the bottom of your deck.
In my humble amateur opinion, I think this is one of the biggest differences between approaching Constructed and Draft. Simple aspects of gameplay take on slightly different meanings.
Constructed- Draw a Card: draw a card, stay even on resources.
Draft- Draw a Card: draw a card, stay even on resources, get closer to my best cards.
Constructed players would undoubtedly take great pleasure in watching me play their format. It takes about 5-10 games for me to really switch gears. Before that, I snap-keep truly horrific hands because I’m so fooled by the power level of the cards. Look at how good all these cards are! Who cares if I’m playing off curve? All I have to do is cast these cards and surely I’ll win! Then I get crushed by Constructed players doing Constructed things.
Because, of course, all of the cards are good in Constructed. When you draw a card, you’re usually replacing one excellent card with another one. But that’s not the case in limited. Some of your cards are game-winners, others are 2/2s.
Which brings me to the way I approach plunder in limited. Plundering your cards into power doesn’t draw you any closer to your best cards. Plundering your power in to treasure troves does. That’s why my default plan is to use plunder as a way to draw extra cards in the late game, not cast my cards in the early game. I suspect there are deckbuilders out there who successfully use early plunder to build greedier decks. I’m not saying that’s wrong – I’m saying I dont know how to do it.
So why do some Drafters always seem to have bombs or the answers they need? One possible reason: They dig for them.
Forbidden Research doesn’t just draw three cards and make you discard two, it draws you three cards closer to your best card(s). When you activate Valley-Clan Sage in the late-game and it puts a power you don’t need in the void – your 0/5 just moved you forward an entire turn cycle in terms of drawing your most relevant cards. Before I was the President* of the Valley-Clan Sage Fan Club**, I was the President of the equally exclusive Aether Theorist fan club in Kaladesh.
** Fictional Organization
Remember, the whole goal was to find and play the big sky whale, so I put an absurd number of undesirable cards on the bottom of my deck while I turbo-scryed toward Aethersquall Ancient.
Sometimes it’s pretty clear that you have the best card in either players’ deck. When that’s the case: find it.
Pastor Tim is a good man. His naturally kind demeanor might lead one to believe he’s a Pastor in the same way that Aethersquall Ancient is a whale, but no, he spends his Sunday mornings preaching to a congregation. Also a dedicated family man, Pastor Tim only occasionally joined us at FNM to play Standard or Modern.
Shortly after Kaladesh’s release, I watched Pastor Tim play against a mutual friend. They talked casually about various cards in the new set and what impact they might have on Standard, including a narrow counterspell called Ceremonious Rejection. Pastor Tim expressed curiosity, politely nodding his head while his opponent gave a quick rundown of the new card.
Game two, after sideboarding: opponent casts Aetherworks Marvel.
Pastor Tim: “Ceremonious Rejection”
Pastor Tim is a good man, but he’s also a cardboard assassin. He had an entire conversation where he pretended not to know about a card that was already sitting in his sideboard. Essentially, Pastor Tim told a story. Without directly telling him, Pastor Tim told his opponent that he doesn’t have Ceremonious Rejection in his sideboard. Huh? What? New counterspell? Color me intrigued.
This happens less frequently in Eternal because we’re not face to face with our opponents, but your opponents are telling you a story. If they don’t play a unit in the early turns of the game, the story they’re telling you is “aw shucks! I’m so unlucky this game” when in reality they might be holding a sweeper.
If your primal opponent keeps holding up 3 power, the story they’re telling you is that they have biting winds. It’s up to you whether or not you believe them.
In general, your opponents don’t want to give you information – they want to conceal it. But sometimes they’ll tell you a story about cards they’re not actually holding. Don’t trust information from your opponents. Don’t listen to a word they say. Even if you’re sitting across from the local pastor.
Playing Around Cards
PVDDR recently ranked the 10 best Magic players of all-time and listed LSV as 4th on the list. Paulo said one of Luis’ strengths is making lesser players believe he’s holding cards he doesn’t have. He tells them a story. And because he’s LSV, a lot of people believe him. Earlier in my playing career, I’d believe any story my opponent told me and play accordingly. I lost a lot of games that way.
Here’s a typical progression for a CCG player.
1. You don’t play around anything.
2. You learn that you can play around cards – then play around everything.
3. You let the game decide when to play around cards. Context matters. A lot.
I intentionally learned every combat trick in the format when it was released and shudder to think of all the games unnecessarily lost to cards my opponents weren’t holding.
Here are some extremely simple pieces of information from Hall of Famer Ben Stark that helped me get over this hurdle.
Statement One: your opponent doesn’t always have everything.
Statement Two: you can’t beat everything.
Statement Three: sometimes your opponent has it, and when that’s the case you just say “good game.”
Bonus: When our opponents get really lucky, we don’t think about all the times we’ve gotten lucky. It all evens out in the end. I try to notice when I draw the perfect card to balance this out in my brain.
Statement One is a mathematical certainty. Your opponents dont always have everything even though there are undoubtedly times when that feels like the case. That’s how small sample sizes work. I used to put cards in my opponents’ hand all the time. Now I pretty much never do unless their game actions give me a reason to.
Statement Two is where the learning happens. You can’t beat everything – your job is to figure out what you can beat. This is the hard part.
Let’s go back to Argent Depths draft. Your Justice opponent has attacked you with all their units and 5 power available. Let’s say the format only has three Justice tricks: Audacious Ruse, Wind Conjuring, and Unbreakable Tradition.
Which one do you play around?
First, do you have any concrete, factual reasons to believe they’re holding one of these cards? Have they left up 2 power on previous turn to indicate they’re holding Audacious Ruse. If so, think about what would happen in combat if your opponent has it. Can you minimize its effect in some way (e.g. Triple blocking, using your own fast spell)? Then think about what happens in combat if they have Wind Conjuring, then Unbreakable Tradition.
It’s a lot to consider. Trust me – I sympathize. It gets easier with time… But it also gets worse. Let’s add Finest Hour and Victor’s Cry now. So now there are five combat tricks for us to consider.
If you have no factual reason to believe they’re holding a specific card, you have to consider all of them. In most cases, it’s extremely unlikely that you can play around every possiblity. You have to make the play that’s good against most of them. If you find a line that beats every trick but Victor’s Cry, that line has an 80% chance of working out and you should take it.
Here’s the hardest part: if you really did figure out a line and block in a way that beats everything but Victor’s Cry, that decision is correct even when they have Victor’s Cry. You can’t beat everything. Make the play that beats the most things. When they have it, you accept your loss and say good game.
Another quick point: if you can’t beat a card, pretend it doesn’t exist. Let’s imagine some insane hypothetical – all of your blocks are bad against Martial Efficiency. If you can’t beat it, pretend it doesn’t exist and hope they don’t have it.
One more: Playing around rares is a luxury that should be reserved for when you’re extremely far ahead – when you’re in “How do I lose this game?” mode. Otherwise I never play around rares or legendaries.
Hall of Famers are real people, just like us. Hearing Paulo talk about his flaws comforts me and gives me hope. He contrasts his thought processes when he’s winning/losing in a tournament – to be honest, I completely forgot about this part of the episode but it really hit home when I relistened to it for this article. When things are going well, PVDDR thinks through all possibilities and what might happen if his opponent is holding a specific card. But when things aren’t going well and he’s in a bad mood, he’s more likely to say “well, they probably don’t have it” and play into it without thinking through all the outcomes. Paulo and I have something in common. Hoorayyy.
Remaining analytical after tough losses is hard. Not just for us, but for the best of all time. Every aspect of playing this game is harder when you let frustration enter your thought process. My brain’s favorite way to waste my time is calculating what percentage of power in my deck I’ve drawn when I flood. An extraordinary waste of time and mental energy. But I’m aware of it so it’s easier to catch myself, refocus, and concentrate on the game. I strongly considered deleting that last sentence based on how rarely it happens in practice.
Lessons From 2021
You can’t beat everything. You can’t beat parenting, teaching, husbanding, sanity, sleeping, and elite Eternal drafters all at the same time. It’s just not possible.
The 2021 Eternal World Championship announcement entered my inbox the Friday following Mrs. Schaab’s return to work. A week I’d just spent as the only adult in a house with a newborn, two young schoolchildren, and two dogs who are needy enough to qualify as people. “Eternal Draft Tournament” is an exciting set of words for me but context matters. A lot. At the time, the phrase “prepare for big draft tournament” was similar in appeal to “sleep outside for the next three months” or “go to dinner with talkative strangers.” No thank you. I’m all set.
Part of becoming a great card player is becoming aware of your flaws, and time certainly gives you plenty of opportunities to learn what those are. I shouldn’t stay up until 2 in the morning drafting Eternal – but I will. I shouldn’t let a bad day of drafts affect my mood – but I will. I shouldn’t let myself get frustrated by the fact that I don’t have adequate time to prepare – but I absolutely will.
I’ve always liked Eternal. I’ve grown to love it this past year thanks to a fantastic community and great draft formats. At no point has playing Eternal ever felt like something I have to do, it’s always been something I want to do and I intend to keep it that way. Writing about Eternal causes me no stress. It’s always a positive EV way to spend my free time. Losing games to variance and my own bad decisions…. Not the best.
Is it possible for me to spike and win May’s draft tournament? Of course! It’s possible for a lot of us. But it’s extremely unlikely. Just like it’s possible that a triple faction legendary makes your draft deck if you take it pack 1 pick 1, but the odds aren’t good. So I’m making the Seek Power of decisions and sitting this one out.
The series of articles I wrote for Empire of Glass was fun and I’ll probably follow that structure when the next set is released. So while y’all are pouring your mental energy into tournament preparation, I’ll be here in my rocking chair teaching people how to make hookshots from half court. I’ll do the theory crafting, y’all play the games. You experience the highs and lows of bomb rares, I’ll update my Birds of Maine field guide as the spring flocks return. You keep reading, and I’ll keep writing even when I’m not playing much. To be clear – I’m very content with missing the tournament because I’m very happy to be your Draft writer, so there’s no reason to feel bad for me. Best of luck to everyone with their tournament preparation and happy drafting!
Valley-Clan Sage Fan Club President
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Oh! We ordered a PC, so I’ll start streaming again when that arrives Streaming from mobile was doable but I’m very optimistic about the change in platform. I write and operate the blog 100% on mobile, so a whole lot of things should be easier in the near future which is very exciting for me.
When I shamble in to my Local Game Store 50 years from now, there are three things I’m certain will be true: 1. The Constructed players and the Drafters will be arguing about which format is better. 2. The Drafters will be arguing about which approach to draft is correct. 3. They’ll all frantically whisper “Hide the Magic cards! Don’t let Old Man Schaab see them. Don’t even look at him or he’ll come over here and start talking about how dual lands cost $10 when he was our age.”
Disagreements among players are as old as CCGs themselves and will persist in some form or another wherever these games exist. The Eternal community is no exception.
Our progressions as CCG players, particularly drafters, have many similarities. We all learn the foundational concepts that win games, like a 2 for 1. My opponent used two cards, I used one, I am up a card. The effect that finding and creating these opportunities has on a player’s win percentage is evident immediately.
But not everyone gets the memo at once or heeds it. After learning about the pitfalls of limited, losing to players who draft or play the “wrong” way makes one feel like a victim of grave injustice. That’s not how it’s supposed to work. That’s not how you’re supposed to win games. One of the most obnoxious aspects of draft development is feeling frustrated after losing to perceived “bad” cards or strategies. I experienced this yesterday, today, and will do so in the next set. It’s a childish feeling that I wish I could shake but haven’t yet – maybe next week.
While there are some tried-and-true heuristics, like playing 45 cards to maximize the chance you draw your best ones, there are very few aspects of limited that have a “correct” approach. This is true in all three phases: drafting, deckbuilding, and playing.
I can come up with some hypotheticals but really there aren’t many approaches to these games that I’m comfortable calling incorrect. Let’s imagine a new player came to me and said they have a different approach to draft: they only draft cards that cost 4 or more. Those are the most powerful cards, they’re the ones I usually lose to when my opponent plays them, they win me most of my games, so I only play 4-drops or higher. I’d be pretty comfortable telling them they’re wrong.
“I don’t draft removal spells.” Ok well that’s incorrect. “I mulligan every game to give my opponent a false sense of security!” Ok well that’s definitely wrong. “I think Call on Allies is a better card than Vine Grafter to begin your draft.” Ok well I disagree.
Disagreement about a draft format is a fantastic indicator of its depth. Players have strong opinions about the right way to approach Empire of Glass draft and that’s great. Eternal would be incredibly boring if it were easy to figure out and we all agreed on everything. “We did it everyone!” the community would collectively shout two weeks after set release. “We figured out another one! A+ work.”
Empire of Glass isn’t easy to figure out. If it is, well, that’s super embarrassing for me because I’ve spent a lot of time writing about it and I’m still unsure of multiple areas. Some things I’m sure of: There’s disagreement about how to value individual cards. That’s ok. We disagree about fundamentally different approaches to draft this format. Also ok. What’s great about the Eternal community is that we don’t fight about it – this is a card game, not Cobra Kai (though striking first, hard, and without mercy is a valid approach to draft.)
The method of drafting I advocate for is often called Drafting the Hard Way based on Ben Stark’s article detailing the approach. My knowledge on the topic is derived mostly from the Limited Resources podcast, hosted by Marshall Sutcliffe and occasional Eternal streamer (and MtG Hall of Famer) Luis-Scott Vargas. If you’re looking for someone to model your game after, there are worse people than one of the most successful Magic players of all time. I pitched this concept to the Eternal community with an exhilarating and catchy tagline: Be Boring. It’s one way to draft. It’s not right, it’s not wrong. I understand the urge to say “This is the Way” because I loved the Mandalorian too, dear reader, but that’s simply not the case. There is no “The Way” when it comes to drafting. Don’t think Mandalorian, think Mr. Miyagi: It’s about balance. Let’s Talk Limited!
Drafting the hard way requires a basic understanding of the format and its available decks. It’s impossible to select cards that go in a large number of decks if you don’t know what decks are out there.
Here are the 14 mental frameworks I have for the available decks in Empire of Glass. So when I look at a card and think “what decks does this go in?” these are the Empire of Glass options on my mind:
Argenport Good Stuff
Feln Mandrakes (mill)
Rakano good stuff
Stonescar aggro/good stuff
There are other viable decks that can be built in theory (e.g aurelian mandrakes) but they’re uncommon, inconsistent, and therefore unlisted.
This list is not exhaustive – I haven’t been drafting that much so there are nuances I’m definitely unaware of. But when I’m drafting EoG, those are the 14 possible decks in my mind.
These decks are some of the best in the format. The Shadow and Justice cards are good on their own. They make a classic mid-range limited deck: quality units, quality removal. So even if the deck has no Valkyrie synergies you can build a very good deck by selecting good cards and having a curve.
So now let’s take the above formula of quality units & removal and add “warping Deathwing off the top of your deck.” Good Argenport Valkyrie decks are gross. Sludge Blade gives the Valkyrie Argenport decks a significantly different feel than Argenport good stuff. The weapon is either one of the cards you’re most hoping to see in your deck or it’s a less than desirable 3/3 relic weapon for 5. If you see a late sludge blade in pack 1, Shadow might not necessarily be open but Valkyries almost definitely are.
Unlike the midrange Argenport lists, Xenan decks have to be drafted synergistically or they won’t function . One cannot simply draft Time cards and Shadow cards and expect to finish the with a functional 7-win deck most of the time. However, Xenan Mandrakes gets my vote for most powerful deck in the format when it comes together. It’s incredibly fun to play and difficult to play against.
When drafting a mandrake deck I no longer think about drafting Shadow cards or Time cards. I think in terms of essential roles for that deck: Mandrakes and ultimates. Many of the Mandrake cards trigger upon activation of an ultimate ability. When those triggers don’t occur you can be left with subpar units that easily get trampled by your opponents normal curve out sequences. Therefore, cards that are easy to ultimate like Darkwater Vines and Mandrake Simulacrae are at a premium. Cards that ultimate for free such as Goliath FlyTrap are incredible. There are no xenan midrange decks in this format – there are only Mandrake decks. It’s not “if” you’ll get an ultimate trigger, it’s when and how many.
These decks are difficult to draft and play, but here’s a very basic framework: Mandrakes come from packs 1 & 4. Shadow removal spells come from packs 2&3. Any cards that says Ultimate moves up in value. Some cards that are already great (e.g. Xenan lifespeaker) become even better. Cards that give Killer, like Predator’s Instinct, move up slightly because getting units from the void is often part of the gameplan.
There are three types of decks that I see when I look at the Feln cards: grenadin, mandrakes, and mill. The latter two overlap quite a bit so I lump then together as one mental framework for drafting purposes. Personally, I love milling my opponents in limited. Playing the game on a different axis than your opponent expects is super fun (and, at times, hilarious). Many of the mill effects in this deck are symmetrical so you’ll need a way (e.g wretched raven) to ensure that you don’t die before your opponent. Sunset priest is incredibly valuable in this archetype, as it triggers Darkwater Vines (and then the two of them can block a barricade basher together) and rosebloom Mandrake is easily castable in a good version of this list.
While Feln mandrakes are a possibility, and Root Ripper is an extraordinary card, the Feln Mandrake decks feel significantly worse to me than the xenan ones. And if you’re going to play cards with Revenge like Grisly Contest, pay attention to where your milled cards come from (i.e. top or bottom of your deck) because you might not be thrilled if your Sunset Priest mills it.
Stonescar can be built with a sacrifice theme or an attack-your-face-until-you-are-dead theme. Both can be built and piloted to seven wins. The sacrifice theme, however, is a much more delicate balance than one’s typical Stonescar deck. The sacrifice deck has access to some of the best removal in the format in combust and grisly contest, and that’s certainly a reason to be on the lookout for this style of deck. Good versions will also have Rotoscavenger to provide extra ping value and sometimes grow into its own threat. Being a fire-based deck, there’s no shortage of ways for this deck to eventually kill you. Sometimes it’s a basher, sometimes it’s a wire chewer to the face.
Bettorup showed me an effective Skycrag deck the other day by killing me with one. He played a good version very well, I didn’t play great… and I still barely lost. Just avoid the Skycrag decks if you can. Excellent Drafters and players can make these decks work but the upside isn’t very high.
This archetype was spoiled as part of the preview event and looked incredible. It doesn’t feel that way now. The deck is still viable but a lot of the cards that make it great (barricade basher, laser blast, okessa’s Audience) are taken out of the packs early and often. So while these decks are still out there, and there might not be much you can do to beat them if they draw laser blast, they don’t appear all that frequently.
Are all Eternal Combrei decks just good stuff decks? Seems like it. The EoG Justice cards are really good. The Time units in the Eternal packs perform really well in this format. Put ’em together: Combrei. There are soldier and sentinel synergies, but really it seems like the way you get in to this deck is identifying Justice as open in pack 1 and Time being wide open in pack 2.
One of my early contenders for best deck in the format – wrong. When it gets there, it really gets there, but both Time and Primal are better as support colors in EoG. Two of the core cards you’re looking for, Send for the Reserves and Maveloft Elite, are being scooped up by other drafters. I’ll always love Elysian decks, especially because Glen Scout is in this format, but most of these decks miss because the factions aren’t very deep.
The most explosive deck in the format, often killing opponents out of nowhere. If someone told me there was variation between the soldier decks and the stun decks I wouldn’t be…. Shocked.
You’d have to try not to find 27 playables in these colors (this is not a challenge). These factions have the deepest card pools and many of the best rares & uncommons in the set.
Dividing rakano in to two decks is the classification I’m least certain of. There are so many ways for Rakano decks to kill you that I’m not sure what the distinctions are. How’s this for analysis? Rakano decks can kill you with anything. Some Rakano decks try to kill you with one big something. I’ve labeled those decks Rakano Valkyries.
Let’s Talk Two-drops
To draft is to experience tension. The safe pick or the flashy one? Is this pack 3 rare powerful enough to pivot in to a new faction? I really want this 5-drop but my curve really wants this mediocre 2-drop. Do I plunder this card or put my faith in drawing a sigil? A single draft choice can pull you ever so slightly towards one deck or another. So do I start my draft with Maveloft Elite or Bastion Gatekeeper? Let’s break it down.
In any generic limited set, Bastion Gatekeeper is the better 2-drop. But that’s not how draft works. Context is critical, so let’s look at that.
Maveloft Elite decks: 5. Decks where it shines: 2.
Bastion gatekeeper decks: 6. Decks where it shines: 0.
The glaring piece of information above is that Maveloft Elite is outstanding in two decks while Bastion Gatekeeper is outstanding in zero. Given that abstract choice, my general advice would be to draft the card that has a chance to be great in its respective deck.
More desirable turn 2 play: They both have benefits. Bastion Gatekeeper can plunder and attack for 6 next turn if you don’t have a turn 3 play, but really Maveloft Elite on turn 2 makes the rest of the game terrifying. It just has to sit there and get buffed. So while the Gatekeeper is the better immediate turn 2 play because it plunders and can attack more effectively on turn 3, Maveloft Elite is a better turn 2 in my opinion.
Better enables its deck’s gameplan: Maveloft Elite. Gatekeeper is generically good but usually doesn’t make your other cards better.
Before we continue, let’s talk about plunder on cards you want to play in the early game.
Cheap cards with plunder like Okessa’s Audience or Bastion Gatekeeper are often described as early plays that help smooth out your draw. Smoothing out your early plays is something cheap cards with plunder can do, it’s not what you want them to do. In an ideal world, you’ve built a consistent deck that provides you with a balance of sigils and spells. When that doesn’t happen, sure, plunder away. But plundering in the early turns isn’t desirable. Something has gone wrong. If I’m on the draw with 4 sigils and three cards in hand and not much to do, I’ll immediately plunder away sigil number 5 if it’s my first draw. If I’m about to miss my third power, yeah I’ll plunder a card away. But that’s not the plan. The plan is for my deck to run smoothly. If it doesn’t: plunder during the developing phase.
For limited purposes, plunder might as well say “draw a card in the late game.” My plan is to play my sigils as sigils until I don’t need them anymore and then turn them in to treasure. If you have cards with plunder in your deck, you should have a very specific reason for playing your excess power instead of holding one.
So now which one is better in the late game: One of these units draws me a card and attacks for 6 the next turn with no help from other cards. The other is a 2/2. I know it feels like Maveloft Elite enters the battlefield as a 2-cost 7/7 but that’s simply not the case. And maybe Bastion Gatekeeper does a good impression of Pyre Adept in some games because it does what 2-drops do: trades with other two-drops. But to view it mostly as a 3/1 undervalues both lines of text on the Sentinel, in my opinion. Again, when drawn later in the game, Bastion Gatekeeper draws a card and attacks for 6 the following turn. That’s not an average 2-drop.
If you’re choosing between these two cards P1P1, I’m sorry your pack isn’t great. When it’s good, Maveloft Elite will be great. It’s a 2-drop that can grow in to a threat and makes combat math a nightmare for your opponent. Just the threat of activation makes attacking and blocking more difficult. Playing it on turn 2 will be a better play than Bastion Gatekeeper most of the time. But the floor on Elite is very real. In any typical game with a decent amplify deck, Elite will grow in to a threat as the game develops. But that’s not a given. Sometimes it’s the 13th card you draw. Sometimes it’s your topdeck. What then?
Choosing a Lane
We’re not robots. We’re not sitting there coldly calculating percentages about which draft card will lead to the highest win percentage. We’re human beings, so biases creep into every facet of our lives including drafting. Becoming aware of the ways your human brain works against you can dramatically improve your skills as a drafter and player.
If you have a favorite streamer that you watch draft, you’re primed. If you read my articles, you’re primed. You’re ready to believe something. Your brain already thinks something is true and wants information to confirm that.
If you’re in the Farming Eternal Discord or listen to the podcast, you’re primed and probably well aware of the fact that Justice has a significantly higher win rate than Primal in their data set. So when looking at Bastion Gatekeeper and Maveloft Elite, your brain is tending towards that Bastion Gatekeeper whether you know it or not. If you choose Gatekeeper over Elite with the active reasoning of “Justice decks win more than Primal decks based on the Farming Eternal data, so I’ll take the Justice card,” that is not a great use of the FE data and I strongly caution you against using that line of thinking as one of the primary influencers of your early draft choices (though this is perfectly fine if you’re newer to draft). Choosing Gatekeeper over Elite after gathering information from a variety of sources, including FE, and concluding that Justice decks are overall more desirable than Primal decks, however, is a very different conclusion and reasoning for taking a card.
We don’t have to go far back to see a discrepancy between a deck’s win rate and power level: Argent Depths. Feln Control was one of the best decks in Argent Depths even when no one was drafting it. The fact that the FE data didn’t support it didn’t change the truth of the matter: Feln Control decks were bonkers good. If someone mentioned that Feln probably wasn’t good based on its win rate, my response would have been a more eloquent version of “I don’t care. That doesn’t matter.” We need other tools and methods of evalution to determine what cards and decks are best. Let’s use them.
Ignoring the FE data: would a drafter rather be Justice or Primal? Evaluating the cards from a purely fundamental perspective, many of the Primal commons provide temporary board effects or presence without replacing themselves (i.e. draw a card). Those aren’t the kinds of cards I want in my limited decks. The Primal units are below rate on average. I don’t want those cards in my limited decks. Justice, in contrast, runs deeeeep. There are playable cards all over the place in Justice. That’s certainly a bump in Gatekeeper’s favor.
One argument I’ve seen is that Drafters might be building their Primal decks incorrectly – fair, and a legitimate argument. I’m certainly not an expert on these tempo-based decks. I can build them and win with them but not consistently. My experience with these decks – that they’re inconsistent, that they struggle from behind – falls exactly in line with what I’d expect to happen if I built a deck with units that need spells to be good and spells that only provide temporary board presence. If there’s a way to build consistent versions of these tempo Primal decks that can still win a game after they’ve fallen behind, I am an eager learner.
Drafters like myself will always shy away from fundamentally questionable cards at the beginning of a format but you’ll miss some of the most powerful (and fun) draft decks if you don’t adjust once the format takes shape. Cards that I would typically dismiss like Hardiness and Frostbite are much better than they appear, so I’ve mentally adjusted them from unplayable to “another viable strategy.” This works the other way as well. Bastion Gatekeeper is undoubtedly worse due to the prevalence of ping effects people are playing, so that works against it.
Bastion Gatekeeper: Better individual unit, better late play, goes in what I consider to be better decks.
Maveloft Elite: Better on turn two, synergistic part of its deck’s gameplan, potential to be a game-winner in the right deck.
But that brings us back to the fact that I’m just not very interested in the Primal decks because they’re either fundamentally questionable (hooru, Elysian) or just not very powerful compared to the rest of the format (Feln, skycrag). So I dislike starting my draft with Elite and would much rather start with the Sentinel.
If you disagree with any single point I made about Gatekeeper, Elite, or the decks they go in, then I can see why you’d take the Primal two-drop to start your draft. I wouldn’t – and it’s not because the FE data say they’re bad or I dislike Primal decks in general – it’s because Primal’s cards are fundamentally unsound. If I’m passed three Elites and it’s obvious Primal is open, sign me up happily – that’s how I draft. But I see no reason to pursue a strategy I’m not fond of for a 2-drop that’s not good outside of it.
Call on Outliers
Each limited format is its own animal. There’s a lot of draft advice out there and it’s difficult to determine which nuggets of wisdom apply to a particular set, especially when they have incredibly powerful outliers. Whether it’s a deck (affinity, snow in MtG) or a card, many limited formats have an unmistakable best deck or strategy. When that’s the case, it can be correct to warp your entire draft around that strategy, often passing very powerful cards that don’t fit that gameplan. Passing Zenith Flare in MtG Ikoria draft meant you were undoubtedly passing the best card in the best deck. Call on Allies sure ain’t Zenith Flare.
Let’s put Call on Allies in quadrant theory.
Ahead: Phenomenal. If you’re already ahead and cast this, your opponent better be topdecking some miracles.
Behind: Horrendous. Even if you have a soldier on the battlefield, losing blockers for a turn when you’re behind usually isn’t ideal.
Parity: If we assume parity means multiple units on the battlefield, this breaks it and ensures that you draw more units. Excellent. If it means One or Zero units on the battlefield, this can set up your next draw but is otherwise terrible.
Developing: Not great most of the time, but there are instances where it’s great. Shock troops on 1, Elite T2, Call to Allies T3, next game in all likelihood. There are far worse plays than giving your 2-drop soldier a 3/3 weapon on turn 3 if you have to but I’d much rather be adding another unit to the board on that turn. Due to its relatively cheap cost, it can be a very effective card later in developing (turns 5-6) as one of two cards cast.
So we have a card that’s great when you’re ahead and terrible when you’re behind. That’s the opposite of what I’m looking for. A card that doesn’t perform well in quadrant theory, doesn’t win the game reliably when you draw it or even cast it, and goes in a deck with cards like Hardiness and that I don’t want to play. No thank you. Give me Vine Grafter every time please.
If you start a draft with three Call on Allies, sure, you’ll probably have a busted soldier deck. Give me Vine Grafter as my first three picks and the rest of my deck will be busted no matter what archetype I end up in.
There are certainly cards, like Zenith Flare, that are light-years better than everything else in the format and worth taking a chance on p1p1 just in case they’re open. Call on Allies doesn’t come close to clearing that bar for me. My favorite part about this card is that Patomaru referred to it as “Bring your Friends” on an episode of the podcast. Call on Allies is a prelude to war. “Bring your Friends” is what I say to my children when I’m trying to show them a bird’s nest they’re not interested. “Hurry, It’s right over here! Bring your friends!”
I want to make decisions and I want them to matter. Once Vine Grafter hits the battlefield on Turn 2, the decision tree branches exponentially. I have options. I have a chance to win this game if I make good choices. That’s what I want in games of limited. It’s not obvious when Vine Grafter wins you the game like Call on Allies is, but when I beat my opponent to death with a flying regen monster I got from my market, I sure did win with Vine Grafter.
Vine Grafter decks: 7
Call on Allies decks: 2
Full disclosure: I could see an argument for bumping the number of Call on Allies decks to 4 if a Soldier drafter says it can be splashed in Elysian and 3-color soldiers is a consistent deck. Bannerman being nerfed, and the general lack of fixing, makes it hard for be to believe any true 3-faction deck can be drafted consistently but I haven’t drafted a ton so I could be convinced.
Better in quadrant theory: Vine Grafter
Goes in what I consider to be the most powerful decks in the format (xenan Mandrakes, Argenport): Vine Grafter. Not only does it go in the best deck, it performs an important function in that deck (Ultimate) and picks up buffs from the units around it.
Splashable: Vine Grafter (though usually not a great idea for a 2-drop)
If you started off 10,000 drafts with either a flexible card like Vine Grafter or a powerful but narrow card like Call on Allies, I think you’d have a higher win percentage starting with the mandrake. And if that’s the best way to approach 10,000 drafts, it’s also the best way to approach one. That’s assuming your goal is to maximize your win percentage – if your goal is to have fun and blow your opponent out, easily draft Call on Allies.
Finding Balance – Packs 2 & 3
The draft packs will inevitably change ten minutes after I publish this, so I won’t be deep-diving the current curated packs in terms of drafting then the hard way. My goal is never to give you answers – it’s to improve your process. Teach a man to fish and all that. So let’s talk about how to think about the middle packs.
All factions in a given set have their strengths and weaknesses. Fire cards are generally good at being aggressive. Shadow tends to get the removal. Primal specializes in causing division in the Eternal draft community. All unique.
Let’s look at Combrei, often one of the most boring archetypes in a draft format. It’s pack 1- you’ve primarily drafted Justice cards but you’re not sure what your second color will be. A couple of Coretap Maximizers sneak your way towards the end of the pack, making it appear like a ramp strategy might be possible. If you know EoG well, that’s not appealing. Justice doesn’t have large units at the top end and Combrei doesn’t have nearly enough to justify such a strategy.
But Time is full of chonky monster bois in the curated packs, making that strategy perfectly viable. I often rely on the middle Time packs to fill out my Xenan Mandrakes deck with a standalone threat or two. It’s perfectly fine to build a synergistic deck that can also say: Here’s Powerbreach Sentinel – deal with this.
Early in the curated packs, it’s still possible to take flexible cards that go in to multiple archetypes.
Battlefield Scavenger is a classically Argenport card – but it’s also a Xenan card in this format. I’ll play a Silver Blade Reaper in my Xenan Mandrakes list to potentially get back with this sneaky good little two drop. And if I’m really lucky, maybe I’m getting my Reappropriator back and ruining someone’s day.
You’ll be thrilled to see this card every time you draw it in Praxis. It will probably be good in Combrei too. But, stop me if you’ve heard this before, it’s also good in Xenan. I’m much more comfortable putting this in a deck with relatively few targets because putting cards in my void is highly desirable. This adds a unit to the battlefield, potentially draws a card, makes dredger cheaper, activates Darkwater Vines, and curves perfectly in to Shoal Stirrings on turn 5 like this:
When the Draft format changes, the first step is identifying what decks there are. Once you know how they all work, it’s easier to see which seemingly narrow cards go in multiple archetypes – cards that go in multiple archetypes are the ones you draft confidently.
The idea that you won’t get to draft powerful but more narrow cards like Call on Allies unless you take them early in Pack 1 clashes with the concept of drafting the hard way. If it’s clear that the person passing Pack 1 to you isn’t drafting hooru amplify, you take those cards. If a Call on Allies is opened in Pack 4, the person passing to you isn’t going to take it. You get all the goodness of the open factions you’ve identified – that’s the reward for getting it right. So you still get to play with all the most powerful spells and archetypes, it just requires faith that the process will work out in pack 4. If a Call on Allies isn’t opened in Pack 4, you’ll still get all the best cards that are opened in those factions.
In some formats, the signals are clear and reading them is easy. Reading signals in EoG is like this page in House of Leaves by Mark Danielewski.
Cool…. I… but like …Where do I start?
When large portions of the community disagree about which cards, decks, and approaches are best in a draft format, the signals become a mess. An underlying assumption of reading signals is that, generally, everyone values cards similarly. That doesn’t seem to be the case in EoG. While I do think reading signals is difficult in EoG, it’s certainly not impossible.
An Oni hybrid late in Pack 1 doesn’t tell me that Fire might be open- it tells me Rakano good stuff, Rakano Valkyries, and Stonescar good stuff might be open. It doesn’t tell me anything about Praxis or Skycrag.
These are commons that might signal a faction is open picks 3-6:
Fire: Barricade Basher
Primal: Maveloft Elite
Time: Send for the Reserves
Justice: Send to Market
Writing about Eternal has forced me to evaluate my own process. I’ve internalized a lot of draft information, so there are some aspects of the process I don’t think about anymore or notice – I just do them. Lately I’ve noticed that I don’t think in terms of factions anymore when I draft EoG, though I did in the beginning of the format. Now I think in terms of available decks.
I generally dont recommend pick orders because draft picks are context dependent, but here are also the top 5 uncommons I’m happy to start my draft
2. Martial Efficiency
3. Vine Grafter
5. Nectar of Unlife
Taking it Too Far
Applying principles or advice incorrectly can lead to disastrous results. The heuristic of “use all your power if you can” directly contradicts general pieces of advice like “only use removal spells on units you can’t deal with otherwise.” So do I cast this Send to Market to be efficient with my power or save it in case my opponent plays something better? Great question, engaged reader. You can find a phrase, quote, or piece of information to justify almost anything you want to do in Eternal or in life. Context matters. A lot.
A pillar of drafting the hard way (being boring) is spending early draft picks on flexible cards that can go in a variety of decks. This is only an effective strategy if you’d never cut that card from your final draft deck. If you’re first-picking solider Simulacrae or valkyrie emulator, you’ve taken it too far. Those cards are replaceable, even a little below average. You should definitely be taking more powerful but narrow cards like Call on Allies over cards you might end up cutting.
Above, we discussed choosing between Bastion Gatekeeper and Maveloft Elite from an otherwise uninspiring pack. Let’s add Call on Allies to that pack.
One argument I’ve seen is that EoG is rich in playables so a drafter can afford to take a risk on high-upside cards like Call. That’s generally true. There are limited formats where you can’t afford to pass a single playable but that’s not the world we’re living in right now. Your 27th card will still be perfectly serviceable if you take a risk in Pack 1. So if you’re choosing between Maveloft Elite, Bastion Gatekeeper, and Call on Allies, this is a format where you can pass playables like the two-drops for the card with the higher upside. The two drops are both good, but a lot of the time they’re going to do what 2-drops do: trade with other 2-drops. So most of the time they’re replaceable, while Call on Allies is not.
A playable-rich format allows you the luxury of passing perfectly good 2-drops, but taking Call over premium flexible uncommons because there are a lot of playables is the wrong application of that idea in my opinion. You can replace Maveloft Elite. You can’t replace Metalfang or Nectar of Unlife with equally good cards.
If you’re first-picking Call on Allies over clearly above-average cards like Vine Grafter or Metalplate Crasher, I won’t say you’ve taken the approach too far but I certainly disagree with it. I think evaluating Call on Allies like it’s Zenith Flare (when I draw this, I basically always win the game) is inaccurate and leads to the deep divisions of opinion.
There will be a card like this in the next set. There will always be cards like this. A narrow but very powerful card that Drafters are tempted to take early. The question isn’t whether or not that approach is right or wrong – sometimes it is and sometimes it isn’t – the question is whether or not the card you’re risking your first pick on in is a powerful outlier.
A shirt that makes me laugh everytime I think about it says “There are two types of people in this world: 1. Those who can draw conclusions from incomplete data sets.” Data sets and statistics are dangerous ‘cuz boy oh boy will they lie to you.
The Farming Eternal data, or any information you use to inform your draft choices, is incomplete and imperfect. That will always be the case with these games. We make the best decisions we can with the information available to us. I covered some aspects of using the FE data in Learning from Losses, but I’m thinking the community would benefit from an article about how to use data to inform drafting – so keep an eye out for that.
As long as draft exists, there will be this tension between powerful and safe draft choices. Some of us more established players are firmly in our Draft camps. We’ve found success with our approaches and advocate for them. My goal, really, isn’t to convince established drafters that they should try a different approach. Drafting the Hard Way is a well-known approach, certainly not mine, and the excellent Drafters who disagree with me are undoubtedly aware of it. My only real concern is that the people who advocate for different approaches present them to newer players as at odds but equally valid.
Truth be told, I still like and respect the players who disagree with me. There are extraordinary players who have different opinions about the best way to approach this format and draft in general. I’ve learned and become a better player after our conversations. We happen to find success with different draft approaches. Not only are disagreements like this ok, they’re great for the game, inevitable, and lead to learning opportunities as long as both sides are willing to listen.
There is no “The Way” when it comes to drafting or playing CCGs. Players can be successful with a variety of Approaches – that’s one of the coolest aspects of Eternal. Find whatever appproach works for you. If it’s drafting boring cards and finding narrow edges, do that. If it’s taking more powerful cards and enjoying when they work – cool, do that.
We get to be any kind of player we want to be. Some necromancers gravitate towards Shadow decks as soon as they see them. Other mages enjoy saying “No” with counterspells. Still other pyromancers like dealing damage directly to their opponent’s face. And who’s to say what’s correct? If I walked in to my LGS as a young Magic player and decided to spend my entire $20 on one Balduvian Horde instead of two Tundras, who’s to say what would’ve been correct? That’s right. Tundras were ten dollars. Force of Will was only eight! All of the dual lands were around $10. Even Underground Sea! Let me tell you about Magic when I was a kid….. (Happy Drafting!)
Valley-Clan Sage Fan Club President
Reviewing Empire of Glass has been awesome. Thanks so much to my Patrons for helping to make it possible. I don’t have time to grind for gold these days, so the extra drafts I was able to do thanks to you went a long way. To directly promote more content, check out the Let’s Talk Limited Patreon.
“Rats Ablaze” or “Rally Rats” is how I affectionately refer to my favorite Eternal draft archetype of all time. Was it a premiere archetype in that format? Probably not. Was it a good deck? Debatable. Was it insanely fun? Yes. Yes it was and I forced it every single time I could: my relationship with Eternal draft was very different at the time.
These 1/1 rats can’t block. This removal spell is a potentially dead card even when you have the three factions to cast it. Rally is Rally. If you’re familiar with my approach to draft, you can probably guess how I feel about these cards. I hate them. But I love the Rats Ablaze deck.
My reputation as a boring drafter is both understandable and factual. When everyone is trying to discover a new format’s hidden synergies and nuances, I’m usually drafting 2 drops and filling out my curve. Then when my opponent crushes me with some fancy new tech I say “ohhhhhhh, that’s how you use that card” and update my evaluation of it. Had this always been my appproach to Eternal draft, oh the blazing good times I would have missed.
Thanks to this jank draft deck I adore so much, today’s article won’t focus on the things a drafter should do in Empire of Glass draft (I’ll cover that in Drafting Empire of Glass the Hard Way) we’re going to look at some of the things we can do.
EoG has well-supported synergies and multiple competitive archetypes. These decks can be drafted the boring way to maximize your win percentage, the buildaround way based on a couple of powerful synergies that are bananas when they work, and if you draft well while variance is working your way your deck can be both boring and bonkers at once. Let’s take a look at the EoG archetypes and maybe we’ll find the next Rats Ablaze deck among them. Let’s Talk Limited!
Factions: Fire, Justice, Time
Chonky monster bois came to play in this format. You can draft a good sentinels deck by accident because a lot of the good cards you already want just so happen to say “Sentinel.”
What a good Praxis version can do with commons:
Turn 1 okessa’s Audience
Turn 2 coretap Maximizer
Turn 3 barricade basher, crack audience.
Turn 4 bond out Scourstone Sentinel. Turn 4. With commons.
Combrei Sentinels can’t accomplish the same kind of absurdity with commons and don’t feel like true Sentinel decks because the gameplan is less about playing huge monsters and more about just playing good cards.
Note: I’m getting used to looking at units’ health because that’s what laser blast cares about, but Scourstone Sentinel has Bond, which cares about attack. You can cast it for 6 with bastion gatekeeper.
You’re Rakano so you’re mostly focused on, ya know, attacking your opponent’s face until they’re dead. A lot of the cards that are very good at attacking your opponent’s face in these factions say Sentinel. A well-timed Controlled Demolition costs 2 when targeting sentinels and can end the game quickly.
You get the two most powerful factions in EoG draft, Laser Blast, and Controlled Demolition. Have fun!
Titan Foundry is castable but you need to plan for it. The Justice sentinels are terrible at reducing its cost, so your large units need to come from your other factions. If you open Titan Foundry, your best bet is probably to play Combrei.
Factions: Justice, Time, PrimalWhile all the factions have amplify cards, Justice, Time, and Primal are supported with amplify and soldiers. Let’s break down soldier decks two different ways: aggro and value.
Hooru: Turn 1 Shock Troops, Turn 2 Maveloft Elite, Turn 3 Call on Allies has to be among the most broken starts a deck can have in limited.
Call on Allies is a much better card than I gave it credit for. You can’t just put it in any Justice deck, but in the right deck it acts like a legendary. These are sometimes referred to as buildaround uncommons. The aspect of this card I misevaluated was its cost. At 3 power, it’s not hard to get even value from this card: 3 power for a 3/3 weapon is fine. The upside, however, is enormous. Shock troops becomes an instant 7/7 for just one example. Justice has tons of soldiers and Bannerman in the format. My initial evaluation of this card would’ve been more accurate if it cost 5, but its cheap power and amplify cost allow you to play it and another card on the same turn. I still don’t consider it a to 5 uncommon but it’s in my top 10 now. When it comes to powerful things you can do in EoG draft, Call on Allies is among the best.
Maveloft Elite is a nightmare to play against which always makes me raise my evaluation of a card. I don’t think there’s a limit to how many I’d play in a primal deck.
Like Hooru in Argent Depths, the soldier Amplify decks are capable of doing absurd amounts of damage in a single turn by getting multiple amplify triggers and buffs from a single spell. I often feel like I had no chance to win after losing to a good version of this deck (Martial Efficiency is usually involved).
Nothing too special about Rakano amplify. It has two of the best combat tricks in Martial Efficiency and Bottoms Up as well as Conflagrate at common. None of my opponents have played Roving Workshop against me, probably because I’m dead before they get the chance.
Amplify value. In an early article, I guessed that Elysian amplify would be one of the more powerful archetypes in the format based largely on the strength of Send for the Reserves. While those decks are more than capable of taking over the game once they’ve stabilized, it’s often difficult to get to that point. The value decks are good, but don’t seem nearly as potent as the hooru decks – which I drastically underestimated.
Combrei gonna Combrei, and this is no different. You can just play good Time cards and Justice cards. Some of them will say amplify. I don’t think I’ve seen shock troops in the Combrei versions and that feels correct to me.
Argo Ironthorn sure is a card.
I’m seeing these mechanical critters all over the place and I’ve gotta say, the ingenuity of the Eternal community is fantastic. Most of the units are suboptimal but people are making it work. These decks are hard to play against and the best versions have Combust and Grisly Contest so they’re more than capable of handling big threats.
Mages are chucking Pesky Wirechewers at each other’s faces, which is a visual I find hilarious. Credit where it’s due: @hatsonlamps is the first person I heard mention the sacrifice theme and has been having success with it, last I heard.
The sneaky MVP I’ve seen in some builds has been Sparking Vermin. It trades up with most two-drops thanks to the entomb Snipe, which always seems to be relevant in this format.
What can you do with a grenadin deck? Potentially wipe your opponents board with Cyber Combustion. Lawl. Lightning storm is a very good limited card and the difference between 2 and 3 damage is huge for this effect. I’ve seen some spell subthemes going on with these lists, and while I’m a huge sucker for blue/red spells decks (lots of MTG boomers are), I really caution players against including a card like Lens of Clarity unless you are 100% committed to only winning a few games. Get your buffs from Plated Hookclaw instead.
Shoaldredger makes for a great top-end in grenadin decks.
If your goal isn’t to win the most games but instead to delight in your victories when they happen, grenadin decks might be a good place to look. Decks with bonus spell damage themes are usually inconsistent but a ton of fun to play.
Factions: Fire, Justice, Shadow
Rakano and Stonescar do what they always do: a-space. The floor on these decks is pretty high because the Fire cards are just so good, which brings us to the only deck that feels synergistic to me: Argenport.
There’s a big difference between a warped Sludge Blade and a 3/3 relic weapon that costs 5. Metalcraft Cadet isn’t ideal in decks like Rakano or Hooru but fits nicely into Argenport because they buff relic weapons more often (which is usually better than buffing a unit) and enable Valkyrie-Warp for Deathwing and the aforementioned Sludge Blade. The best decks will find ways to utilize the 1/1 unit with cards like Devour. Grisly Contest, Ravenous thornbeast, and Direwood Prowler. The Argenport decks are much harder to build but are very powerful when drafted correctly.
The valkyrie rares are just good cards. Warping Heavy Artillery is one of the easiest ways to win a game in the format.
Factions: Time, Shadow, Primal
What you need to do: Draft well, build well, draw your cards in the right order. These decks are not easy. When they come together, though, they’re nearly unbeatable.
The mandrakes are distributed beautifully across their three factions: each has two commons, two uncommons, and a rare. Mandrake-themed cards are some of the most powerful in the set including Goliath Flytrap, Root Ripper, and Shoal Stirrings just to name a few.
What can you do? You can play a bunch of 0/2s and then wait for them to transform into 5/7s. Should you? Shruggy shoulder face emoji. I’ve seen it work. I’ve seen train wrecks. “Rats Ablaze” was the same way, so playing Little Seeds is just another thing you can do in EoG draft.
In Shadow-based mandrake decks, I want as many Darkwater Vines as I can get. They really tie the room together, man. One Ultimate trigger can completely transform a board of mandrakes so units that can trigger them easily are at a premium. Plus, they help prolong the game so you can do all your durdly nonsense.
Speaking of cheap Ultimates, Mandrake Simulacrae is much better than I initially thought. I play it happily in all my decks.
So what’s the “Rats Ablaze” deck in Empire of Glass? Hooru soldiers gets my vote. Individually, you’re playing cards like Hardiness and 1/1 vanilla units, but when it works the games aren’t close. Keep an eye out for Valiant Leap in the draft packs too. @Jedi_EJ can’t possibly draft them all.
Soldiers: Justice, Primal, Time
Grenadins: Shadow, Fire, Primal
Valkyries: Fire, Justice, Shadow
Mandrakes: Time, Shadow, Primal
Sentinels: Fire, Time, Justice
I definitely missed a bunch of rares & legendaries, but y’all are smart enough to fill in the blanks.
There’s no shortage of powerful cards and interactions in Empire of Glass draft. If you want to do absurd nonsense, you can do that. If you want to draft the hard way and maximize your win percentage, you can do that too. If you don’t know how to draft Empire of Glass the Hard Way, don’t worry, I’ll be covering that next time. Until then, happy drafting!
Valley-Clan Sage Fan Club President
To directly promote more content, please check out the Let’s Talk Limited Patreon.
I mentioned that @Gunner116 started streaming a few weeks back because, well, he’s the 2020 Draft Champion. Now having watched him draft and play a few times, you should definitely be watching him if you want to get better at draft. On rare occasions he even drafts non-Fire decks! Last year was no fluke and I won’t be the least bit surprised if he makes the top 8 again this year.
Drafting and playing Eternal well is incredibly difficult – that’s why I enjoy it. Eternal provides my brain with both entertainment and an outlet for critical thinking.
Seven weeks have passed since my daughter was born, so critical thinking is neither desirable nor possible for me right now. I’m starting to accept that I might never feel smart again. My days are a blur of cries and cups of coffee that go unconsumed. Critical thinking? No thanks. Staring out the window silently? Oh yes please.
I keep waiting for the moment when I feel clever enough to figure out Empire of Glass by drafting and playing games, but y’all might never hear from me again if we wait for that to happen. For now, I’ve done a small handful of drafts and have a sense of the impactful Empire of Glass cards. With a baseline for Empire established, it’s easier to see what about the curated draft packs is relevant.
If you’re going to draft the hard way, anticipating what you might see in future packs is essential. Knowing what’s in packs 2 & 3 can significantly change a card’s value in a format. While there’s not a ton of removal in Empire, the good news is that the draft packs have plenty of good 10x boosted cards and even more quality spells when looking at the 5x options.
Rhum Constructor sized appreciation to @Pusillanimous and Shiftstoned for their format update articles, which makes the draft changes so much easier for my brain to process. Thanks so much for your hard work.
I’m not getting any smarter as the day goes on, so let’s get started and hope for the best. Let’s Talk Limited!
20x boosted cards
Merchants and Etchings being 20x boosted make perfect sense in this market-heavy format. The two valkyries, Renegade valkyrie and Valkyrie Enforcer, being 20x boosted also makes sense to me. They’re quality cards but their prevalence won’t negatively impact the format.
Then there’s Leyline Tracer at 20x boosted….
You’re likely to see this card in draft, especially if the person passing you packs 2 & 3 isn’t in Time. The benchmark for a unit in Empire of Glass is “what does it do against Barricade Basher?” By itself, Leyline Tracer shrinks basher to a 2/2. With any 2-cost fast spell, it trades with the sentinel. In a good deck, this eats the sentinel for free.
Here’s why it matters in draft. This comparison appeared in my first article and continues to be my “Seek Power” of examples.
Knowing that Leyline Tracer is 20x boosted, there’s no doubt which of these cards I want in my Time decks. I want the one that blocks basher twice in the worst case scenario and eats the sentinel for free while making two humbugs in the best case scenario.
While we’re on the topic, ya know what else the Eternal Draft Packs have? Time units that can block basher without dying while also providing value elsewhere.
Sandbinder Sentinel (10x) always overperforms and I don’t see this format being any different. Deals with a flyer, blocks basher, and even helps trigger muster in a deck with cheap spells.
Go ahead and twist my arm, I’ll talk about a card that blocks well while potentially providing long game value: Ancient Excavator (5x). Get back anything and this card is already great. Draw an Amber Lock from your void and the game has just swung massively in your favor.
As if Powerbreach Sentinel (5x) needed help being great. Eats basher as a blocker, provides value as a problematic attacker. Nothing but fun in the sun for Beach Boy.
I’ve seen enough high-quality drafters bond out enough Scourstone Sentinels (10x) to accept them as a threat that might be faced consistently. Hint: you want to target this with Laser Blast.
For the next basher blocker, I present the 10x boosted Ancient Machinist. The question, always, is how reliably can we trigger the 2-drop? Answer: Send for the Reserves exists so we can do whatever we want. Anything with amplify potentially triggers the machinist, so it can transform fairly reliably in the right deck.
I’m not here to talk about the reckless elephant in the room, Barricade Basher, who finds himself in a barricade-less Empire. While Fire decks aren’t my personal preference, steering readers away from them would be the equivalent of recommending you play Reflection. You should absolutely be drafting Fire decks if they’re open and maybe even if they’re not. In some limited formats, a particularly strong faction can support two side-by-side drafters playing it. Fire in Empire of Glass might be that good. Players who like more controlling decks (e.g. me) will always search for answers, but I don’t think there’s much debate that Fire decks are the strongest.
We all know what Fire decks are trying to do on turn three, so the big question is what are they doing on turn 2? Empire of Glass doesn’t provide much in the way of two-drops but the draft packs make up for that.
Flameheart patroller is x10 boosted and continues to be an excellent two-drop, in addition to being a sentinel. At uncommon,
Firemane Lioness (10x) attacks for two in the early game, makes multiple units when you draw it later in the game. Quality two-drop.
Overheating minibot (x5) has gone from card I will reluctantly play to unit that I actively want in my Fire decks.
On the removal front, the highlight is conflagrate being x10 boosted. Three damage at instant speed that also scales well later in the game will always be a good limited card.
Ruinous burst is more than playable in Empire of Glass draft and 10x boosted.
Also at x5: chemical rounds, char
The curated draft packs do a lot of heavy lifting for Primal in terms of removal. Two premium removal spells are 10x boosted: polymorph and permafrost.
Also 10x boosted, lightning strike isn’t at its best in this format. It still acts like a removal spell for small units but doesn’t kill most of the things you’re worried about (Metalfang being a notable exception). Whereas I would’ve run 3-4 in my old Feln decks, now I might want 1-2 in Primal decks.
As is often the case, Primal feels more like a supporting draft color than a foundational one. If I’m playing Primal, the quality removal mentioned above is high on my priority list in packs 2 & 3, as are the next two cards: Wisdom of the Elders (x5) and Forbidden Research (x5).
If you’re planning to win the long game, accumulating more resources than your opponent is usually part of the plan. Card draw spells and successful control decks are usually matched pairs. There are no pure card draw spells in Empire of Glass, so I’ll be taking them highly out of the curated packs.
Rose bloom Mandrake
I’ve never been more intrigued by Rosebloom Mandrake. The all-or-nothing discount means this needs to be in right deck, but in those decks, this will be one of your best cards. I’ll be trying to play a lot of these.
All 10x boosted: Grisly Contest, Execute, suffocate. Worth noting that Grisly Contest is potentially worse (like all Revenge cards) in a format with so much mill.
5x boosted: Deathstrike
The removal is what really stands out, but Triumphant Return (x5) is also very powerful, unique effect in this format so it might be worth drafting higher than usual.
Sunset Priest is 10x boosted which helps Shoaldredger and Darkwater Vines. In Empire of Glass, Sporespitter (10x) also acts as a legitimate win condition in mill decks, though it shouldn’t be plan A.
Vanquish is fantastic and is 10x boosted, so that’s the highlight. The rest of Justice’s interaction is more conditional or pseudo-removal like Rebuke (x5), Edict of Kodosh (x5), and Ensnare (x10)
On the bright side, Justice doesn’t need much help from the draft packs because it has Send to Market.
In Case You Didn’t Know
Getting value out of your power base in limited can be game-changing. When your opponent draws an excess power and you draw an actual card instead, that turn cycle worked positively in your favor. Each faction’s standard is 10x boosted in the curated packs and they should be on your radar. Replacing a sigil in your power base with a standard is usually more valuable than drafting an average playable.
Pompous Historian (x10)
Pompous Historian is better than it’s ever been in my experience. Close to unplayable in some formats, this is basically a 3/3 that draws you a big threat most of the time in Empire of Glass draft.
Seasoned Drillmaster (x10)
In case you haven’t played with it, this card is even better than it looks. Passes the vanilla test as a 3 power 3/3 and has an effect that’s relevant at any point in the game. Goes in any Justice deck despite it being an irrelevant unit type. Anyone seen any Justice 2-drops that wear buffs particularly well???
Bottoms Up (x10)
When it comes to combat math, there are nightmares, Martial Efficiency, and Bottoms Up. You want to be the person casting this, not playing against it.
Speaking of cards that make combat impossible for your opponent, Parry is often 2-for-1 for a whole investment of two power. This card isn’t always a blowout but there are definitely games where Parry is one of the most impactful cards cast.
The slingshot isn’t on the same level as Parry but with so many x/1s in Empire of Glass this feels like a better card than usual.
Spirit Drain (x10)
This is not the removal you’re looking for. Spirit Drain doesn’t kill the most common threats in the format (barricade basher and Shoaldredger). I’m not looking to play Spirit Drain in a typical format because it’s hard to get 6 power worth of value from it but the above information makes me steer far away from it in Empire of Glass.
Most Improved Performance
Though I mostly played casually, I’m pretty sure I’ve drafted every Eternal set. When that’s the case, it’s easy to look at old cards and fail to evaluate them in the context of the new format. Here’s a quick, incomplete list of cards that are better than I can remember seeing them or seem particularly good in this format.
Personally, the dumpster fire that was 2020 contained three highlights:
1. The birth of my daughter. I’m an incredibly fortunate stepfather to a son and daughter, but this is my first time caring for a newborn.
2. Spending more time at home with my family. I left my job this summer so I could teach my kids during the school year. While not ideal, I’ve been home with them far more this year than I would’ve been otherwise so I’ll always be thankful for that.
3. Joining the Eternal community. This game that I’d occasionally play on my phone became a much larger part of my life than I ever would have anticipated entering 2020. Writing about Eternal has been a pleasure. My first article came into existence because Argent Depths draft was excellent. Every article after that was motivated by the community. Becoming an active member of this community has been fantastic, so thank you.
I’m enjoying myself so much that I’ve tried streaming a few drafts from my phone. Most of the kinks have been worked out now, so I’m planning to promote the stream a little more and establish a schedule in the near future. My Twitch username is Schaab214 and I really hope to see you there.
I’m not any smarter at the end of this article but I sure hope you are. Happy new year and happy drafting!
Valley-Clan Sage Fan Club President
To directly promote more content, please check out the Let’s Talk Limited Patreon.
Thank you again to Shiftstoned.com for the draft pack change article.
Thank you always to Stevercakes because I use Eternalwarcry all the time while I write.
None of my 2020 highlights would have been possible without Mrs. Schaab, who has stopped by my stream to say hello a couple of times. If you see her there, please show her some love. She very graciously tolerates me staring off in to space for hours and forgetting what she just asked me to do because I’m writing in my head. She’s been great about all the time I’ve spent on Eternal these past few months, so feel free to say thanks to my favorite person if you see her in my Twitch chat. Thanks.
Fine. You win. You’ll get your article about Legendaries, but only after I make these jokes at your expense.
Youth basketball coaches worldwide have my sympathy. I’m over here trying to help people like “ok, kids, let’s talk about fundamentals. Time to practice free throws.”
The Farming Eternal Discord : “HOW DO WE MAKE HOOK SHOTS FROM HALF COURT?!”
Coach Schaab: “… We’re practicing fundamentals. Free throws”
Twitch Chat: “WHAT TIME IS THE DUNK CONTEST?!”
Coach Kasendrith, who’s supposed to be helping me out: “Boooooo free throws! Boooo Coach Schaab! TIME FOR THE HALF COURT DUNK CONTEST!!!”
My goal, always, is to educate readers about limited. Fun promotes learning, legendaries are fun, so let’s use them as a teaching tool. I mean, let’s talk about CHONKY MONSTER BOIS, amirite kids!? I won’t even tell you which of these cards you shouldn’t play. I won’t write a single bad word about them.
You opened an Empire of Glass legendary card! Hooray! Let’s be real, you’re taking it and putting it in your deck. Only 47 more cards to go, so what kind of cards do you want? Are we building boring decks? Nooooo (yes). We’re playing our legendary as often as we can (by following fundamentals)! That’s not boring! Let’s Talk Limited!
The Speaking Circle
I’ve only looked at one card and my brain is broken. What is even happening here? What does this card do? All I know is my opponent can’t play sites. Crisis averted. It’s colorless so just play it in any deck that can get to 6 power, find out what it does, and let me know. Starting with colorless cards was a bad idea. Let’s just do them in order of appearance on Eternalwarcry.
If I understand this correctly – and someone please correct me if I’m wrong- but you still need an actual valkyrie in play to warp all of the non-valkyrie units, right? And the valkyries themselves won’t necessarily have Valkyrie-Warp?
Stonescar is probably the best place for this card because it has the highest number of common and uncommon valkyries that you already want to play. Plus, you get to draft Metalfang if its one of the 47 cards passed to you. Don’t pass Metalfang. You could also play Kyoju Elevator in Rakano thanks to all the justice valkyries.
The best strategy might be to draft as many Valkyrie Emulators as you can for your 2-drops and try to give all your other units warp. I don’t know. Just don’t pass Metalfang.
Other 47 cards considerations: Draft fire cards and a fire weapon for your market. That’s all. Great cards are easy to evaluate. Next card.
Opum, the Gemblazer
The name Opum makes me think this is Wump’s servant, but the art and rest of the card tell me otherwise.
Other 47 card considerations: Draft Rakano or Praxis for best results. A lot of the cards you already want are sentinels, so you don’t have to go far out of your way to draft them. This turns anything in to a big threat and is an auto-include in any Fire deck.
A wump & opum card would be awesome. Truly next level analysis today.
The dream: turn 1 Okessa’s Audience, turn 2 coretap maximizer, turn 3 Opum.
Izha Chi, Daredevil
Pfffffft okay. So this is good. We know that. The question is: can we draft an autotread to make it truly busted?
Just drafting Izha Chi (Easy E, in my head) and attacking is an excellent plan, but there are probably also a lot of ways to abuse this card by hitting it with ping effects.
A 5/5 overwhelm for 5 is great. The spell damage bonus will matter in some matchups, so that’s cool. Being able to amplify it later in the game helps you come back from behind and triggers your amplify synergies. As Mrs. Schaab’s celebrity crush would say “alright, alright, alright.”
Other 47 card considerations: Some of the amplify payoffs are busted, so this would probably be best in an Elysian deck but really you can put this in any Time deck. Maybe you could even play Cyber Combustion for a one-sided board wipe. Go nuts.
Send an Envoy
Skyguard sentinel seems really good in this format because flyers are hard to deal with so far. The triple Time influence for a single sentinel isn’t ideal but fine. So, the amplify. I’d be happy to discard sigils for this effect, but play them depleted? Sure.
Other 47 card considerations: I thought my love for trail maker and amber acolyte had reached full capacity but they just continue to be tremendous. As usual, dont pass a waystone gate if you see it. And I’d be plundering all of my irrelevant cards into sigils later in the game given the opportunity. High floor, high ceiling. This card is cool.
The Great Kudzu
We’re not trying to play a 7/7 that gains three health. That’s boring. We’re trying to ultimate this at 10. Ya know what we’re gonna do? Steal cards from the boring nerds.
Unlike Send an Envoy, we don’t need sigils in our hand – we just want to get to 10 power any way we can. Coretap maximizer is the best way to do that. Steal as many as you can from the boring nerds so you can ultimate your humongous mandrake at least once. Same goes for apprentice mages and trail maker.
Rhum, First Constructor
This sentinel is big! Really big!
Cards like Coveted Gemstone that ramp you and can grab Rhum from your market when the time is right become more playable.
Lord Steyer’s Tower
Lord Steyer’s Tower is a site in limited. Draft it, play it, look at the art! Card art isn’t my thing but Lord Steyer’s Tower is gorgeous.
Plea for Aid
There are a lot of playable 1-drops in this format. That’s what I’ll say about this legendary card.
I must’ve looked at this card five times before I realized her name isn’t “Aggro,” but I knew the card was busted after reading it once.
Other 47 card considerations: Draft Rakano, Combrei, or Hooru. My gut reaction is that it’s best in Combrei because Send for the Reserves is an insane common.
Oh good. A card that costs twelve. This would probably be best in Rakano because barricade basher makes this 5 cheaper all on its own. This is way more playable than it looks because of the cost reduction. Are there problems with this card? Nahhh we’re living in magical Christmas land! You could probably cast it in Combrei sometimes too!
Okessa’s Audience makes a sentinel with 5 health, so those go up in value even more if you see them in your next 47 cards.
Now we’re talking. You can play Daru Lee early and bash with it in an aggro deck, you can hold it in your hand and play her as a 6 drop. It’s obviously better with more soldiers but this card is great without much effort. Draft it, add to your collection, and play it happily. It’s even splashable as a 6-cost pseudo-dragon!
Other 47 card considerations: Draft Xenan, Elysian, or Feln. You’ll get the synergies naturally with other cards you already want to play.
Playing a mandrake on turn 2, 3, or 4 and then playing this and another card on a follow-up turn is probably the ideal play pattern.
I liked Matriarch Zende before I even read the card it creates, Balm, which is obviously great because it says “draw a card.”
Let the shenanigans begin. This card will lead to some gross games. If your goal is to have fun with your legendary card, this is the one you want to open.
Stabilize, play Replication Cell, win.
Thundrus & Snooze
BEST CARD! Just look at the size of that napping bear! Snuggling up for some sleep next to my mini-bear, River, is great and Snooze would be a happy addition to our pack.
How does Thundrus even keep Snooze fed? Does Snooze hunt for his own food? I wonder how many calories he has to eat. Surely he can’t hibernate all winter. Does he snore? How old do we think Snooze is?
Anyway, I guess you could also play Eternal with this card.
The downside of coming into play stunned is annoying but who cares? It’s an 8/8 with killer. An 8/8 doesn’t really need regen unless the creature it’s bashing in to has deadly but it’s a nice bonus.
Whoa. If you’re going to first pick and build around a legendary, you could do far worse. I’d try to play this in stonescar because the temptation of playing it with scrapmetal fury is too great, but it would also be stellar in Feln grenadins, which is an odd sentence to type.
With two or more grafters, I’d consider putting this in my market so it always comes into play with two power, but this card needs no help. Draft it, play it, be happy.
Turning one card into two is good, so that’s positive. Card selection is good. Cards that can trigger amplify payoffs are good. So yeah, I said a lot of nice things.
It all works out. Just amplify Diabolic Machinations with Snapyx in play! A quick search for amplify cards looks like this would pair nicely with Primal, but this card will be great no matter what other 47 cards you draft.
Krull, Xumuc Occultist
It took me a few tries, but I get it now. Draw Krull – it deals damage to you – you get a unit back from your void. Then if Krull hit your opponent, you play a unit from their void that costs 7 or less.
Look, I’m not talking about downsides today so I won’t mention the casting cost and I’ll phrase another thought this way: How funny would it be if your opponent had Krull and it killed them when they drew it in the late game? lolz
Here’s how I’d be having my fun if I first picked Krull: by drafting every Darkwater Vines and Shoaldredger I can find.
Well at least we’re back in the faction with ramp. You’re on the Coretap Maximizer plan. You should win the game one way or another once Goldplate Goliath is on the battlefield.
If your one goal is to play the sweet legendary you drafted, go ahead and play Fire Sale if you see one. It’ll even activate all the maximizers you stole from the nerds.
Blow the Dam
There’s so many cool words on this card! Double damage! Lifesteal! So cool.
Other 47 card considerations: Have 5 cards in your market I guess.
You’ve really done it, my friend. Not only did you open a legendary card but it looks fun, fine when it’s bad, and phenomenal when it works.
The following Empire of Glass cards become a much higher priority in draft:
Deathwing is as good as ever, and there are plenty of valkyries in Argenport. Battlemaster Kitaxius is awesome.
Align the Tesseract
I love that the 12/12 grenadin beast is a common.
Real talk: this card is castable in limited. Easy, no, but possible. Medibot station gives me a lot of hope. Primal grenadin are new so you won’t see them in the draft packs but a quick glance at the Empire of Glass cards says there might be enough to support Feln grenadins.
If not, it really might be possible to play skycrag or stonescar grenadin and try to splash the double influence. It’s a lot easier to do with symbols, especially if you’re aware of it from pick 1 onward.
Weirdly, I think Align the Tesseract might be easier to cast than it looks.
Cast Iron Furnace
This is doable. There are a lot of good factionless cards in this format that could end up in your void.
If all else fails, draft a lot of plunder cards to make treasure troves. And bannerman is in the format! And seek power! Getting your factionless legendary power to work might not be as crazy as you think.
Make sure you’re having fun. If you want to draft and play legendaries, go for it. That aspect of the game left me a while ago but this has been a nice reminder that not everyone’s idea of fun is maximizing their win percentage at all times. We’ve looked at all the Empire of Glass Legendaries, so now we can start asking more of the important questions:
Is Snooze unique or is there a whole army of napping bears? Does he prefer to nap after meals or at a scheduled time of day? How long would it take me to befriend Snooze? Happy drafting! Does he kick in his sleep like the dogs do?
Valley-Clan Sage Fan Club President
Big thanks to Stever who runs Eternalwarcry.com for making all cards easy to find. I’ve been slacking but will be submitting articles to the site in the near future.
Don’t miss tomorrow morning’s (December 19th) Quadrant Theory Set 10 review on Kasendrith’s stream featuring me and Sunyveil!
If you’ve been enjoying the content I create, please check out Let’s Talk Limited’s first Patreon Promotion! Thank you to the two fantastic individuals who joined yesterday, officially doubling Let’s Talk Limited’s number of Patrons! Only 8 more to go before I’m giving away some fetchlands.
This article was prompted by a conversation that happened just yesterday. My Patrons, for sure, get what they want.
New limited formats are like the Wild West and @TempestDragonKing is mighty quick on the draw, providing this and more feedback on my initial Empire of Glass article within an hour of publication.
As much as I’d love to fill this article with Wild West references and Doc Holliday gifs (Trivia: Doc Holliday was an actual doctor. What kind?), I had my share of fun last week when we only knew the preview cards. Now that Empire of Glass has been released I’m ready to live up to this site’s name. We’ll talk a little bit more about my Do Not Draft list – and find out our trivia answer – later. For now: Let’s Talk Limited.
Rares in Empire of Glass
The irony of evaluating rares after publishing a whole article about how they don’t matter that much is not lost on me.
Draft formats are largely defined by their commons, uncommons, and boosted card rates in the Eternal draft packs. So why talk about the rares first? Kasendrith, Sunyveil, and I will be reviewing the Empire of Glass commons and uncommons from a Quadrant Theory perspective on Kas’ stream this upcoming Saturday, December 19th! My plan is to listen to everything the two World’s competitors have to say, write some of it down, and claim it as my own. Stay tuned.
Looking at the rares, collectively, I’m excited to say that a lot of them are bad for draft! Formats that are defined by their rares usually aren’t the most fun. While I won’t be evaluating each rare individually today, we’ll learn (or review) a few guidelines for analyzing cards you’ve never seen.
The Vanilla Test
Ignore a unit’s text box at first. Look at the power cost and then its base stats. Once you’ve played Eternal for a bit, you’ll find that you have expectations for a card based on its casting cost. 2/2 is your typical stat line for a unit that costs two power. If a card costs four power, you should probably expect it to at least be a 3/3. Cards with skills (e.g. flying, lifesteal) and abilities (e.g. ultimates) are typically underpowered compared to their vanilla counterparts to provide balance.
*In my experience* starting with the vanilla test leads to more accurate analysis of cards. The goal of evaluating a card in limited is to figure out what it’s going to do on average. Constructed decks are optimized to utilize units’ abilities – limited decks aren’t.
Cards with both skills and abilities can sometimes be evaluated as though one of them is irrelevant.
This card is already well worth the cost of three power as a 3/1 flyer with regen. The rest is a bonus. In this format especially, there are a lot of relics worth stealing for 3 or less, so you’ll play this card for its full value more often than usual and it will be absurd. Still, I think this card should be viewed as a 3/1 flying regen unit with upside. It should not be evaluated as a relic-thief that also flies. It will steal relics sometimes – it will be a 3/1 flyer with regen always, which is much more important to us when drafting it. Worst case scenario is great – best case scenario is obscene.
Contrast the above valkyrie with this sentinel, Forge Sanitizer. Evaluate it with the vanilla test first.
A 1/1 regen unit is far below rate for three power. Now let’s look at the rest. With a non-weapon relic in your void, this is a 5/5 flyer with regen – clearly busted.
If you read the text box first, you are priming yourself to fall in love with this card. “It could be a huge flyer with regen! Who cares what else it says!? A 1/1 with regen isn’t that bad.” And then most of the time you play this as a 1/1 regen and it’s bad.
This isn’t to say Forge Sanitizer is undraftable. The condition is far easier to meet in this format than most. My point is that it’s NOT Reappropriator. At its worst, Reappropriator is still one of the better cards in your deck. Forge Sanitizer, in contrast, would be one of your worst cards if the condition isn’t met.
Start with the vanilla test, then skills, then abilities. You get units’ stats and skills 100% of the time you play them so that’s what you’re most concerned about. It’s much easier to fall in love with a card when you read its abilities first. Becoming smitten with a card isn’t a bad thing, but you want to be a cold and calculating drafter if your goal is to maximize your win percentage.
Symmetrical Effects impact both you and the opponent. Generally, cards that produce symmetrical effects are undesirable because you spent a card to produce that effect. Reflection is the poster child for this concept. Both you and your opponent draw a card when you play this card but you used a card to make that happen. You are down a card. That is bad.
Empire of Glass has a cycle of rare relics that produce symmetrical effects.
Hello, old friend. I cast a lot of Howling Mines before I understood why it’s fundamentally bad.
Let your opponents play these cards against you and enjoy the bonus you get. Don’t be the one to spend three power and a card to benefit both you and your opponent.
Gatecrash Trooper is a symmetrical effect. Both you and your opponent draw a card – BUT- you don’t use a resource to make that happen. All you have to do is draw the card. This is acceptable if your deck is looking for a 3/2 with aegis. Reflection is not.
Some cards require more work than others to be great. The best limited cards have no setup cost whatsoever.
Quadrant Theory all-star Dichro, Vindicated is tremendous on his own. On any limited board state, this card is going to be great. That’s not the case with a card like Tactical Superiority. When a card needs to meet a condition in order to be effective, that is often referred to as its setup cost. Essentially, how hard do I have to work to make this good?
High setup cost
Sure, it’s a slow removal spell with an annoying condition to meet, but at least it also costs four and requires double influence! Okay, so this card needs a lot of work.
There’s no denying that Tactical Superiority has upside. Kill a bunch of creatures, draw a bunch of cards. Sweet! But if so many of your opponents creatures are stunned and you have so many soldiers lying around, why not just attack and kill them?
Tactical Superiority is not a card that I first pick and build around. If I’m in primal and have both stun effects AND soldiers, maybe I’ll take it later in the draft. I’m aware of the upside but the downside is, uh, nothing. A card that does nothing. Wasn’t interested in Shatter at 1-cost, not particularly interested in it at 4 with upside, though Covenant Peacekeeper’s existence has my interest piqued slightly more than usual.
Low setup cost
Floor: 2/2 for four. Not exactly what you’re looking for out of your rare but it’s still a 2/2.
Common scenarios: Silence a unit with one battle skill and play a 4/4. Silence the flyer that’s killing you and play a 4/4. Silence a unit with a relevant Ultimate and get a 2/2. I’m happy to spend four power for any of the above.
Uncommon scenarios: Silence a unit with two battle skills to make a 6/6. Silence your opponent’s flyer, allowing yours to attack, while also getting a 4/4 ground blocker. Sign me up.
Rare scenarios: Silence the absurd multi-skilled creature (e.g Deathwing) that’s killing you while also playing your own 8/8 or bigger. That’ll do, minotaur soldier. That’ll do.
Just noticed you can also silence your own units. You won’t want to very often, but the fact that you can makes the floor on Sharp Tactician even higher.
If your cards pass the vanilla test and have low setup costs, you’ll have the opportunity to make more meaningful choices while playing, improve your overall gameplay, and win more games while you’re at it.
Cards that give you multiple options (i.e. modal cards) always play better than they look and these already look great. I won’t be drafting these early if they’re only good in their respective two- faction decks, but they’ll probably move up significantly in my pick order if I can reasonably play them in multiple archetypes.
Truthfully, I don’t have a technique for evaluating modal cards. Flexibility is always highly valuable in draft and these don’t seem to be an exception. I misevaluated Collective Brutality badly when it came out and I won’t make that mistake again, so I have a hard time being down on modal cards.
General rule: Cards that give you choices are good. Cards that give your opponents choices aren’t.
Cards I Want to Draft
Not saying these are the best rares in the set, but these are ones I’ll probably be drafting a lot of:
Full analysis: I don’t think about them or play around them. When I get the chance to draft legendaries, cool. When my opponent plays them, bummer. My main concern is what the average draft game looks like, so I don’t spend time evaluating legends. Honestly, I’ve been looking at the commons, uncommons, and rares so much that I’m not even sure I’ve looked at the legendaries. If I had to guess: They’re probably really powerful and you should draft them.
My writing is targeted towards players whose goal is to maximize their overall win percentage. When I say players should do this or that, I’m speaking through that lens. Really, you should do whatever improves your own experience. Wanna draft all the rares and put them in a deck? Go for it. Build a pile with some insane but fun win condition? Cool. Play 50 cards in a deck? Have your fun, @cercasparkles. A guy at my LGS always first picked the rare and built around it regardless of what it was. That will never be me, but I think the fact that people can enjoy Eternal for different reasons is one of the things that makes it great.
Writing to Different Audiences
@TempestDragonKing is correct. Shadow walk Cloak and Expand the Reach are meaningfully better cards than the other four I included on my DND draft list. Reminding myself that a Do Not Draft list is specifically for newer players, I added them with a note about how they’re not unplayable, they’re just not Be Boring cards. Neither one fits CABS (Cards that affect the board state) and they don’t perform well in Quadrant Theory.
There are several respective decks in which Shadow Walk Cloak and Expand the Reach perform an important role, but how likely is it that a new player will correctly identify those decks? Slim. How likely is it that a new player will hold Shadow Walk Cloak in hand until they find an acceptable unit to wear it? Highly unlikely. New players will drape that cloak over the shoulders of their 2/2 as soon as their opponent plays a three drop. Are new players identifying which Combrei ramp decks really need Expand the Reach? Probably not.
New players, in all likelihood, won’t draft and play these cards effectively. In most cases, drafting and playing a 2 or 3 cost unit instead of the cards mentioned will lead to a higher win percentage. The better you can articulate which situations and decks these cards belong in, the less you need a DND list from me or anyone else. In the future, DND lists will only include truly unplayable cards and I might make a separate list for cards that are good but require more advanced deckbuilding to be used effectively.
Thank you, as always, to TempestDragonKing and others who provide constructive feedback when they disagree with a portion of my writing. Eternal draft would be incredibly boring if we all agreed and knew the right answers all the time. Working together to find the answers is part of the fun.
For more detailed discussion, including full explanations about which decks should play Shadow Walk Cloak and Expand the Reach, join us in the Farming Eternal Discord.
Do Not Draft
All that being said, don’t put these cards in your draft deck (markets are acceptable).
Not pictured but on the list: the cycle of 3-cost symmetrical effect relics discussed earlier.
With only a handful of drafts played, Empire of Glass has been really fun. To hear what’s sure to be an interesting and informative conversation about the set’s commons and uncommons, don’t miss @Kasendrith’s stream this Saturday, December 19th. Hearing the opinions of two World’s competitors and everyone in chat will help paint a clearer picture of what’s important in the format. Personally, I’m hoping to draft a lot while my kids are on Christmas break so I can start figuring out what will be the last installment in this series: Drafting Empire of Glass the Hard Way.
The topic of next week’s article is a mystery. I’m not trying to tease anything – I just don’t know. This weekend’s show with Kas and Suny will help me figure that out. Optimistically, maybe next week will be about archetypes if I gather enough information. If there’s something else you’d like to read about, please let me know. I’ve received some great questions – so good, in fact, that I need to roll them around in my brain for another week before I can talk about them confidently.
Writing is fun, but I need to actually play some games now so I can inform my opinion. Happy Drafting!
Draft Enthusiast, Valley-clan Sage Fan Club President
I’m realizing now that there’s no exciting way to say “Dentist!” But there you have it, Doc Holliday was a dentist.
Confession- I made sure I was in the top 5 on the draft leaderboard when my first couple of articles came out to give myself some credibility. Now that this is article 13 or 14, I’m pretty sure I can stop doing that, so that’s freeing. I’ll probably rank up today or tomorrow if I get the chance.
As I continue to write about Eternal and promote the work of others, concerns about getting a person’s pronouns wrong are always in the back of my mind. If I misidentify someone, please send me a message to let me know so I can correct it. I promise it is not intentional. I don’t think this has happened, I just want to proactively throw this message out there just in case. Thanks for your help!
Let’s Talk Limited is offering its first promotion!
Starting now, new Patrons will receive a thank you note and at least two times the value of your contribution in the form of Magic cards from my personal collection. A write-up of your undoubtedly adorable pet is also an option.
Until the end of December 2020, new Patrons will receive at least 2.5 times the value of their contribution in MtG cards. (Example: contribute $10, get at least $25 of my Magic cards)
If the site reaches 12 Patrons by the end of 2020, I’ll give away a fetchland to a Patron at the end of every month in 2021.
If LetsTalkLimited reaches 31 Patrons by the end of 2020, I’ll give away a Zendikar expedition every month in 2021.
Why 12 and 31? Mrs Schaab and I got engaged on New Year’s Eve. Also, arbitrary.
Truth be told, I was a F2P (Free to Play) user until I started preparing for the 2020 draft Championship. Drafting boring decks usually helped me do well enough to pay for my next draft without grinding too much gauntlet. Exploring new draft cards, archetypes, and strategies requires resources though. While I was happy to support Direwolf financially this past spring, I left my job over the summer so I could teach my children at home during Covid. That still being the reality of the situation, I can’t justify spending both time and money on my hobby right now. So if you enjoy the content I’ve been creating and would like to see more of it in 2021, please consider financing a draft or two through the Patreon so I can draft enough to be well-informed. Thank you so much for considering. Happy drafting!
Audio of my first article about Empire of Glass Draft. This version has some additional insights not included in the article, along with a few exciting announcements! Happy drafting!
Listen to Schaab-tacular Ep. 2: Empire of Glass by Farming Eternal on #SoundCloud
Special thank you to Patrick of Farming Eternal for hosting this episode!