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.