Drafting Empire of Glass: Evaluating rares

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

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.

Setup Cost

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.

Modal Cards

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.

Looking Ahead

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!

– Schaab
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.

Author’s Note

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!

Patreon Update

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!

Let’s Talk Limited Patreon

Drafting Empire of Glass: Zero Games Played AUDIO version

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!

Drafting Empire of Glass: Zero Games Played

Fresh outta grad school, I could’ve written an extraordinary 30-page paper about improving speech & language therapy outcomes for individuals with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder)*. Google Scholar and I were best friends, transition sentences flowed effortlessly while I typed, and I had a campus full of academic and professional resources at my disposal.

*Source: Schaab, SLP (speech-language pathologist.)

Fresh outta grad school, if I had to perform 30 minutes of direct therapy with an individual with ASD: Panic. Silent screaming. Nothing therapeutic would have occurred and it would’ve ended with this frazzled man repeatedly muttering “I am so sorry. I’m new at this.”

Knowing an abstract, complex process in theory is far different from being able to perform that process in action. I could’ve told you how to do therapy, I couldn’t have done it.

When it comes to another abstract and complex process like draft, it’s one thing to know heuristics like “draft flexible cards, “stay open,” or “draft the open color.” It is another thing entirely to sit down at a draft table and actually execute those simple concepts. Knowing something in theory is not, at all, the same as being able to apply that knowledge.

So, do I know how to evaluate the new Eternal draft format, Empire of Glass? Yeah… in theory. I have some ideas about how other people do it. During my first guest appearance on Farming Eternal, Patomaru explained how Sam Black tests archetypes in new limited formats and then asked me about my process. In his mind, these two questions seemed reasonably related.

Ah yes, my counterpart, Sam Black. Very similar resumes, he and I. One of us is a potential Magic Hall of Famer for his various deckbuilding innovations, contributions to the game, and three Pro Tour Top 8s. One of us is making line drawings and thinking “How can I make more Jeopardy jokes?” Here’s how Sam Black does it, Schaab, how do you do it? Uhhhhhh

Here’s how I imagine someone like Sam Black identifies what’s important in a new limited set.

Here’s what I’ll be doing today.


Evaluating Limited Sets

Now that we’ve lowered our expectations, let’s go ahead and dip them down a little further. Evaluating a new draft format requires a depth of knowledge that I don’t possess. Let’s talk for a moment about my actual area of expertise: language.

When you describe something, you use information that both you and the listener are already aware of to inform them about something new. If someone who plays CCGs asked “What’s Eternal?” you’d probably reply “It’s like Magic…” or “It’s like Hearthstone…” because that person knows those games. They would already have a framework in mind so you wouldn’t describe it in complete detail from the beginning. If my Nana asked me about Eternal, I’d probably just say “It’s a game I play on my phone” because everyone is familiar with the concept of games.

Ideally, I’d have a deep pool of limited formats in my head to draw from (Narrator: He doesn’t). The actual number of Magic draft sets that I’ve really learned (i.e. know and could play well) is probably around 10. I might know 20 Magic draft sets in theory, but that’s not all that many considering how many new ones come out in a given year. When it comes to knowing sets of limited, I’m much closer to my Nana than I am to Sam Black. So now I’ve written a page and a half as pretext to this one sentence: I don’t know how to evaluate all this market access. I’ve never played a limited set like it.

Doing my best, I reached into my brain with “ok, markets. What can we say about markets?” and my brain came back with “obviously this little piggie went to the market, one stayed home. Another had roast beef…..” so that’s where my brain is right now. Sam Black’s mind works similarly, I bet. Throughout this writing, I’ve typed “Set 10” because I can’t type the words “Empire of Glass” without hearing Stone Cold Steve Austin’s intro music in my head. My mind is a circus.

A month or two ago, I said the first thing I do when learning about a new format is play a lot of games. NOOOOOOPE. WRONG. Elite awareness over here. When a new format comes out, I read the cards. Always. Spoilers are great. Not sure I could stay from them if I tried. So no, I definitely don’t just start playing a lot of games when I want to learn about the format. First, I look at all the cards and see if anything stands out.

My early writing especially was intended to inform newer players about the fundamentals of draft. The information I provided was accumulated over years by some of the most brilliant, elite minds these games have ever seen. Telling people to draft flexible cards and make sure their cards impact the board, none of which I figured out on my own, feels almost like this:

Figuring out Set 10 and then writing about it on my own feels like this:

Though writing Eternal articles is still very new to me, I’m guessing the number of memes in my articles increases as my confidence in the information decreases. Proceed with caution: these are not limited fundamentals – this is Yosemite Schaab’s best shot at a few aspects of the new format. Let’s Talk Limited. BANG! BANG!

Format Definers

Let’s all gather round for some group therapy. The urge is to read this card as “Put a unit into EXILE FOREVER!” because that’s essentially what it would be in most limited formats. Not this one. Market access is much more prevalent in Empire of Glass, though I expect Send to Market will be premium removal in most games. Your opponent getting their unit out of their market feels slightly more likely than getting a unit back from the void in a format with recursion given that all factions have market access. In a lot of games, this is a version of Disappear that’s cheaper and easy to cast, but the drawback is real. It’s a premium common for sure. Just don’t tilt too hard when your opponent gets their unit back, because it’s probably going to happen more often than you’d like.

I’ve already tweeted my thoughts.

Unless I’m misreading it, this card is a great topdeck for Fire decks. Maybe that seems like a weird way to think about a 3-drop, but drawing low-quality cards in the lategame has been the demise of more than a few aggro decks. There are going to be so many games where I think “I’ve stabilized! Just as long as they don’t draw that big, dumb 5/5.” And then they are going to draw this big, dumb 5/5. You don’t even have to think about decimating your Conjurings! Decimate away! This card scares me tremendously.

On the other hand, this card rewards thoughtful deckbuilding. Premier drafters will discard half-cards (e.g. rustlings, snowballs) more often than average drafters over the course of the format, just like they sacrified more half-cards (e.g. shepherds, copperhall porter) to Grisly Contest and Siphoner Paladin during Argent Depths. That won’t be an accident – it will be the result of good planning. The concept of a half-card, or the value of a card in general, is a difficult topic that I will cover in a future article. For now, let’s just say that really good drafters find ways to get incremental value out of phrases like “sacrifice a creature” or “discard a card.”

Update: Some early feedback on the Farming Eternal Discord indicates this card might not be as annoying as I think it is. Fingers crossed, but I’m still skeptical.


Relics seem abundant both in number and payoffs. Evaluating the common and uncommon relics is pretty difficult given how much the synergy of a set can impact a card’s value. That being the case, I always tend towards cards with a mediocre-floor but upside like this one:

I tend to stay away from cards with low floors (i.e. potentially dead cards) and low ceilings like this one.

Okessa’s Audience seems important to me but I don’t know exactly how. Yosemite here just firing away.

Here’s an example of how I learn about a format:

Cotillion, currently #21 ranked drafter (and Patron ❤️), advocating for a card I’m unlikely to draft. The explanation is more than just “I played this. It was good” and seems correct to me when I read it. Mentally, this card moves from Potentially Unplayable to Potential Sneaky Value. If Cotillion is right, and my opinion of Munitions is closer to accurate because of it, then I’ll be just slightly better at Set 10 draft. I’ll have a small edge I didn’t have before. Drafting well is that x10,000.

Aurelian relics

Hearing through the grapevine already that Aurelian (Time, Shadow, Primal) relics seems like a supported, powerful archetype. Relic decks can be very difficult to draft/deckbuild because they don’t function when they’re imbalanced or you just draw the wrong half of your deck. They’re also very fun. I’ll be keeping an eye on this archetype (and those who are building it particularly well) for sure.

Grafter Cycle

This cycle is fantastic, and that opinion is only slightly inflated by how much I love two drops. They’d all be acceptable cards with just one of their two activated abilities (i.e. market access and buffing a card in your hand), but luckily we get both. With all the market shenanigans happening, you could be swapping late-game sigils with very impactful cards from your market thanks to your two drop. I will be drafting these early and often.

Newer players: Don’t rush to activate this on turn 3 if you have another option. A majority of the time during the developing phase (turns 3-6), putting more units onto the battlefield is a higher priority. Plus, the longer you wait, the more likely it is that you’re trading a card you really don’t want for a card in your market. 

Between the relics and the activated abilities of units, it looks like this set has a lot of ways to spend power. That makes me happy. More decisions rewards better decision making. Tough decisions are a large part of what makes games like Eternal great, so I’m particularly excited about players having multiple options on every turn. 

Signpost Uncommons

Signpost uncommons are multi-faction cards that give you a clue about what that deck is trying to do. If you read Grubbot, you could reasonably conclude that grenadin is a theme in Skycrag. Stormhalt Batallion tells you Hooru still cares about stun effects. Based on its 3-drop uncommon, Deathwing, Argenport’s theme is broken cards.

These haven’t all been spoiled, but I tend to love signpost uncommons. They send a pretty clear signal for what your deck wants to be doing. Draft is hard. Signpost uncommons make it a little bit easier.

Rewarding the Informed

I suspect a lot of Set of Glass decks will fall into these categories:

(A) Decks built around synergies and relics that do cool stuff but are usually pretty bad.

(B) Boring decks. Focused less on synergy, more on individual card evaluation, casts cards consistently.

(C) Effectively uses the attempted synergies in (A) while adhering to the rules of (B).

(B) is pretty much where I live at the start of a format. I let other people have their fun and stories with their (A) decks. When I start to lose to an archetype or card(s) consistently, then I know I’m playing against (C). Someone, or more than one someone, has figured out how to do powerful things on a consistent basis. It makes me think of Echoes of Eternity draft in a way, though I’m not claiming the experiences will be similar.

With so much going on in the new format like market access, relic synergies, etc., there are likely a lot of narrow edges to be gained during the draft and deckbuilding once the rare drafters and bots have done their thing. Typically, I don’t draft enough to find a lot of those small edges on my own. I learn them from my opponents. If you want a well-informed opinion, keep an eye out for @Tyler_Chaney’s stream. His approach to draft is excellent and he experiments with different archetypes to see what’s viable. On a recent episode of Farming Eternal, he said something like “I forced mono-shadow decks for 4 hours yesterday.” I can’t even type write now because I’m so jealous. Just check out his stream if you want great analysis of the current draft meta.

Drafting (B) decks was within my skillset without consuming Eternal content – (C) decks weren’t. That’s why I started looking for content. When my competitors at the top of the leaderboards were crushing me with regularity, I knew my process had to change.* Yosemite here couldn’t figure it all out on his own, so I started listening to draft podcasts like Eternal Journey and Farming Eternal. LetsTalkLimited’s chief web designer doesn’t come in to the office frequently (it’s me, y’all), but he’ll be adding a Resources section to the blog with links to all of the Eternal resources I use along with some recommended reading, watching, and listening.

*I was perfectly content to get crushed by the elite drafters until the 2020 Draft Championship was announced. Once that tournament was in my brain, (B) decks were no longer acceptable and I started looking for content to improve my game. More draft tournaments would undoubtedly get more people interested in draft. Just listen to that anecdotal evidence! Hello, DireWolf. Schaab here. We’d love more draft tournaments, please. Want tournament reports? You got it. Feature profiles of the top 8 finishers? Sure. Deck techs with unnecessary Jeopardy themes? Twist my arm. I will commit to all sorts of things Mrs. Schaab would be angry about in exchange for more draft tournaments. Thank you for listening. Sincerely, Schaab on behalf of Drafters. 

Context Matters. A lot.

Here we have two Magic cards.

One looks like Char and the other is  a 4/4 flyer with a desirable effect (Ancient Serpent-ish). There’s no doubt which card is more powerful and you’d be correct to take the big flier in most limited formats – but not this one. In that draft format, Magma Spray is the correct choice and it’s not particularly close. Amonkhet was very aggressive and Magma Spray was in contention for best common in the set. Most drafters, I think, would’ve been more than happy to start their drafts with two of the removal spell. The angler is an incredibly powerful card but it didn’t fit in that format. Looking at these two cards, knowing nothing about Amonkhet, I would’ve taken the angler – and I would’ve been wrong. Context matters. A lot.

We can do a lot of theory crafting just reading the cards, but sitting down and playing the games changes card value significantly in some cases.

Schaab’s DND (Do not draft) List

These are cards I won’t be drafting and putting in my deck until my opponents show me why I’m wrong. I won’t provide explanations – I’ll refer you to my articles on Card Evaluation and Be Boring. If you’re a very new drafter: it’s ok for you to trust me and avoid these cards. If you’ve read my previous writing and want to become a better drafter, it might be helpful to think about why I don’t like these cards. If you’re not sure why I like a card or just disagree, that’s fine! I’m not saying these cards are unplayable, they’re just not Be Boring cards. You’re doing the right thing just by going through these thought processes and asking questions, which is far more important than getting the right answer about whether a card is “good” or “bad.”

Not a complete list.

Update: Shortly after publication, @TempestDragonKing correctly noted that Shadow Walk Cloak and Expand the Reach are far more playable than the other cards. I agree but decided to put them on the list anyway. Find out why in next week’s update!

New Mechanics

Regen – “The first time this would be dealt damage, prevent all of it.”

Units with regen are impossible for me to evaluate until I see what some typical gameplay is like. Stay tuned.

All damage based removal spells get slightly worse (i.e. Sear might not kill their 2 drops with Regen. Defile will).

Definitely intrigued by this colorless card.

Valkyrie-Warp – “If you have a Valkyrie in play, you can Warp cards with Valkyrie-Warp and get a bonus when you play them.”

Warp is a great limited mechanic. Remains to be seen how big of an impact this has on draft choices.

Drafting Set 10: Preview Event

Enjoy it! New cards are sweet. The rare drafters and bots make formats difficult to pin down at the start. It takes a couple of weeks to get a real sense of what the format will be like. For now, it’s the Wild West. Rares and legendaries will be everywhere. Even I force rares in draft because I want to play with them. You’ll lose with great decks, so be prepared for that.

It’s a strange time. Enjoy all of the new interactions you discover and don’t tilt too hard when your opponent gets to do cool stuff. Have a lot of fun and let me know what you learn, ‘cuz I sure can’t figure it all out on my own. For now, I’m only sure of one thing: I need to dodge JohnAvon if I want to win games. Happy drafting, y’all. BANG! BANG!

Draft Enthusiast
Valley-Clan Sage Fan Club President

I genuinely love helping people get better at draft, but make no mistake, I hate losing. Visual approximation of me waiting to get matched up in game

The Stone Cold Steve Austin intro music has been in my head all day.


@telemokos has been running a Tuesday night Eternal tournament. I don’t get to participate or watch live, but you absolutely should if you’re able to. I mostly consume Eternal content while I’m hiding in the laundry room from my kids. My children are wildly misinformed about how often I need to check the dehumidifier in the basement. Still, I’ve been loving the coverage the few times I’ve seen it. You should definitely check it out.

If you’re curious about the type of decks and level of play you might see at the tournament, PLEASE read this fantastic write-up from Stormguard798. I don’t play constructed, but I assume the analysis is correct. I do write – and I highly recommend their article (It’s their first, so please be sure to let them know if you enjoyed it).

Learning from Elites: Shouta

Shouta Yasooka’s name inspires fear, respect, and the following associations throughout the worldwide Magic community : 1. Control Decks. 2. Playing insanely quickly. 3. Brilliant technical play. 4. Making balloon animals for opponents after losses. Okay, so the last one is a lie, but hopefully I have you hooked now. While it’s easy to find someone with a dissenting opinion on almost any topic, everyone seems to agree that Shouta is a stone cold master of the game, particularly control. At any given tournament, it’s a safe bet that he’s playing a control deck. It’s possible he’s countered more cards than I’ve cast. When you play against Shouta, there’s no doubt who’s in control.

There are very few instances in professional settings where competitions truly seem unfair. Usain Bolt on the track. Greg Maddux on the mound. Ruth-Bader Ginsburg in a courtroom. Shouta playing mono-red?

The 2017 World Magic Cup featured many of the best players in the world – none of whom had a real chance to beat Shouta, playing for Team Japan, in the games I saw. How disheartening it must be to play control against the world’s best control player. How do you beat someone who knows exactly what you’re trying to do? Worse, how do you beat someone who probably plays your own deck better than you do?

If you wanted to, you could start playing the same archetype (e.g. mono-fire) decks in every Eternal and MTG constructed format for the rest of your life. You could literally only cast Fire cards and become one of the most knowledgeable Fire mages in the world. Watching Shouta, the blue-based control master, dismantle his opponents with mono-red made it obvious to me just how incorrect that would be from a competitive standpoint.

Honest Report Cards

My tendency to shy away from aggressive decks in draft has become a bit of a narrative. While it’s true that I don’t draft many aggro decks, proactive decks were always my weapon of choice in constructed Magic tournaments. Killer Robots (Affinity) helped me top 8 the Maine State Magic Championship in a format I hated (modern). Turning creatures sideways isn’t foreign to me.

The motivation for mentioning this is to provide context. I’ll often refer to piloting aggro decks as a gap or flaw in my game. What I want to emphasize is that I’m quite comfortable attacking my opponents. Piloting proactive decks has led to decent tournament results – and yet I consider drafting/playing aggressive decks a competitive disadvantage when it comes to draft.

If you’ve been playing CCGs for a while, you’re probably average-above average in most or all aspects of Eternal gameplay. But if you received an Eternal Report Card, you wouldn’t receive A’s in all categories. No one would. My Eternal Report Card wouldn’t have “F”s in the subjects of Drafting & Playing aggro decks. I’d probably be somewhere in the C+ range. For reference, I’d probably give myself a B+ or A- for Drafting & Playing Control decks in draft.

If your goal is to become an excellent drafter, you have to be honest with yourself about which areas of your game need work. I can draft average aggro decks and beat new players with them all day long. I struggle to draft above-average aggro decks that can beat experienced players consistently. That’s a serious problem if you want to play competitively. What if Fire is the open color again in my 2021 Draft Championship draft!? (< this grammatical construction, an exclamation point and a question mark, is called an “interrobang.” There’s your trivia for the day).

Big question – Do I think my time is well spent focusing so much on aggressive decks heading in to 2021? No, I don’t. Not efficiently spent anyway. It’s going to be a lot of time and work for very minimal gains. That’s the truth about leveling up in CCGs once you’ve internalized all the basics. Lots of work for a little improvement. My focus in 2021 will be to draft and build better aggressive decks because that’s why I enjoy Eternal. There’s always something to focus on and get better at. Finding areas where I’m not great and fixing them is part of the fun for me. It all comes back to “What’s your goal?” My goal is to give myself a topic to occupy my brain when it wanders off in 2021. Building better Fire decks, and any benefits that may generate in the 2021 Draft Championship, will be a happy byproduct of that effort.

Sitting in the other Seat

People have this misconception that aggro decks can be completely autopiloted, both in limited and constructed. That’s true for, like, two turns. Then you have to start making hard decisions. Dealing the first 15 damage usually isn’t that difficult. Dealing the last can 10 be. I’m a strictly-mobile player, but I’m pretty sure there are other ways to end your turn besides A-space, y’all.

Watching Shouta navigate the end-game against control is a clinic. It’s like watching him play against himself. He knows what the control player wants to do. He knows how a control deck usually turns the corner on one powerful turn. He knows it all. Analyzing Shouta’s gameplay is far beyond me, but it made me think of a question that I frequently ask myself when I’m making difficult choices in game: What does my opponent want me to do?

As the resident Control Master of planet Earth, Shouta knew exactly what his opponents wanted him to do in the endgame – and he didn’t cooperate. You shouldn’t either.     

Answering that question: “What does my opponent want me to do?” requires you to have an understanding of your opponent’s deck and gameplan. When I see my opponent playing Feln, it’s safe to say I know their plan. Then I try to screw it up as much as possible. Enacting your deck’s plan is one aspect of playing well, but disrupting your opponent’s plan can be equally important (both in limited and constructed).

My tournament and testing partner, Charlie, mastered the Aetherworks Marvel deck while I was piloting Mardu Vehicles around Southern Maine. While playing against the deck so often was a miserable experience, I got to see it played at an extremely high level repeatedly. When I sat down at a tournament and saw my opponent was playing Aetherworks Marvel, I felt advantaged in that matchup. Time and again, I’d played against this deck in the hands of a great pilot. Playing against Aetherworks Marvel felt easy when I wasn’t playing against Charlie. These people made mistakes he didn’t make. They sequenced improperly. Weirdly, I knew my opponents’ deck better than they did in some matchups because I’d seen it played well so many times. I was used to playing against the deck on hard mode – everything else was easier by comparison.

Playing games of limited when you have a deep understanding of the format can feel just as easy. If my opponent plays their third power and it turns out they’re playing Feln, I’ll map out their next 3-5 turns in my head. What are those turns going to look like if I’m playing against a good Feln deck? I will put uncommons in my opponent’s hand at this point but not rares. What if they play Hearty Warrior and then Feartracker? What if it’s Acrid Scorpion and Feartracker?  Hearty Warrior and Tentaclesis? Can I beat any of these things? I make a plan assuming that my opponent’s deck is good and they’re going to play it well. When those things don’t happen, the game is on Easy mode. When you’ve mentally prepared yourself for your opponent to do reasonable but powerful things (playing a common 4 drop and uncommon 5 drop on curve is hard to beat, but not broken,) anything else they do seems simple to deal with.

It’s easy for me to map out my opponent’s next 3-5 turns when I’m playing against Feln. It’s easy for me to look at the cards they’ve played, how much power they have, and make reasonable assumptions about what cards they’re holding. Extrapolating that same information when I play against Rakano or Stonescar is hard for me. It’s almost guesswork. Why? I don’t know those decks nearly as well. I haven’t drafted or played them enough. My brain hasn’t internalized that information. After thousands of hours of play, my brain maps out 3-5 Feln turns without much active thought on my part. It doesn’t map out Rakano turns as easily. That’s what I’m trying to correct. It takes serious mental effort to mentally map out what my aggro opponents might do over multiple turns. I can do it – but it’s difficult and I often get it wrong. That’s the gap I’m trying to close.

In-game Examples


You have a sweet Time deck and que in to the guy who write the articles, Schaab, who’s playing the deck he won’t stop talking about, Feln. You cast Wurmcalling on Turn 3 and the game is looking great for you. On my turn 5, I cast a cheerful shepherd and pass the turn.

How can you tell if I’m planning to cast Grisly Contest or Wisdom of the Elders at the end of turn? You can’t. The play patterns look exactly the same. I could be planning to chump block and dig for answers at the end of turn with Wisdom of the Elders or I could be hoping to kill your first monster. Okay, so you recognize that I passed the turn with three power available to potentially grisly contest your wurm, so now the question is what do you do?

Predictable opponents are easier to beat. This is true even when they play really powerful cards like Wurmcalling. My gameplan changes when I see that card played against me on turn three. I’m assuming I’m going to see a 7/7 on turns 5 and 6 and start crafting my plan accordingly. That plan isn’t always great, mind you, because I’m going to be facing two gigantic monsters eventually but at least I can plan.

Let’s talk about the above scenario for a minute.

Schaab turn 5, playing Feln:  cast cheerful shepherd and pass the turn back with three power available.    

If I’m the one who cast Wurmcalling: I’m spending 5 power on turn 5. My opponent’s three available power on such an important turn is definitely a red flag so I’d consider other options if I have them. This exact scenario happened to me in game the other day. I held up three power for grisly contest on turn 5 expecting a wurm but instead my opponent played a 2-drop and a 3-drop and then passed the turn back. Now what? Use my grisly contest on the 3-drop? I only have so many creatures to sacrifice and obviously I needed them to kill the wurms. I ended up not using that three power for the turn, which doesn’t sound like much, but that’s the kind of resource advantage that can quickly snowball in a game of limited.

It’s important to highlight that my opponent had another way to spend 5 power on the aforementioned turn. If they hadn’t, I think it would’ve been correct to play the wurm even with the threat of grisly contest. Make your opponent have it. If you don’t cast your wurms, you lose the games when your opponent has the removal and you also lose the games when they don’t. If I’m holding Wisdom of the Elders in the above scenario and my opponent doesn’t cast a wurm, I’m throwing a party in my head.

Biting Winds

Wisdom of the Elders being 10x boosted makes decisions so much more difficult when playing against primal decks. Here’s a recap of a game I played a while back:

Schaab T2: Play Sky Serpent

Opp T3: play power, pass.

Schaab T3: no attack with Sky Serpent. Opponent Casts Wisdom of Elders at end of turn. Schaab feels dumb.

Opp T4: play power, pass.

Schaab T4: My opponent is representing biting winds. Obviously they cast Wisdom last turn and might have another one. I don’t want to miss three damage but I also don’t want to let my opponent keep drawing cards at end of turn with multiple Wisdoms. Two years ago, I probably would have said “if they have it, they have it. I’ll have to get it out of their hand eventually” which is generally true. But I decided, again, not to attack. They didn’t cast another Wisdom. This continued for a few more turns. They’d leave up three power. I wouldn’t attack with my Sky Serpent.

Later in the game, after my opponent had played all their cards, I learned that they never had biting winds in their hand. They were just representing it the whole time and I was playing around it. One might bemoan all of the damage missed with sky serpent in the early turns while I was respecting the removal spell my opponent didn’t have (I certainly would have earlier in my playing career) but it was a calculated decision. Here’s information I knew at the time but my opponent didn’t: I had ways to spend all of my power for multiple turns while they were representing biting winds. I could spend 4, 5, 6, & 7 power on those turns while my opponent used 0, 2, 3, & 4 power. That’s a favorable exchange I was willing to make even if I was potentially missing sky serpent damage. Eventually, my opponent had to play all of their cards to keep up with all of the power I was spending every turn. They didn’t have biting winds but it didn’t matter. The resource advantage I had accrued over those turns by using all my power was too much to overcome and won me the game.

Play your cards. Don’t lose to cards your opponent doesn’t have in their hand. Especially in draft. But if you have equally good options, don’t do what your opponent wants you to do. Your opponent has a plan. Your job is to screw it up.

Mentally, I think my turns look like this:

  1. How can I spend all of my power this turn?
  2. Is that what I want to do?
  3. What does my opponent want me to do?

If my Time opponent has an Ancient Machinist in play and passes turn 6 with all their power up, I’m gonna go ahead and assume they want me to play my most expensive unit on my turn so they can make it disappear or play reality snap. I’ll play two 3-drops instead if I have that option. Your opponent has a plan – you don’t have to help them enact it.

The Knowledge Grind

Draft leaderboard mainstay, streamer, and Farming Eternal podcast guest @Tyler_Chaney (JohnAvon in game) described limited as a “massive knowledge grind” on a recent episode. Having listened to him on the podcast and his stream, I agree with a lot of what Tyler says, but this phrase specifically spoke to my gaming soul. What a perfect description. Draft, both during the drafting process and in-game, is trying to apply what you know to make the best decision you can over and over and over again. A knowledge grind indeed.

There are no secret answers out there that will make you great at limited. It’s a matter of repeatedly applying simple principles to novel situations. The fundamentals are easy to learn. The masters of the game know which fundamentals apply in which situations. Winning games isn’t about knowing facts. It’s about applying simple concepts correctly.

Attempts to improve my Fire drafting skills have been a harsh reminder of this reality. I’ve been posting some questions on the Farming Eternal discord and have received responses from some the game’s best drafters (this is not hyperbole. I also bother my buddies at Friends of Eternal when I need their constructed expertise).    

My questions, after some reflection (which you should never put in your deck), boiled down to this: GIVE ME A PICK ORDER FOR FIRE! I stated my questions more eloquently but that was the gist of it. When I asked about how to value certain cards, the answer was essentially the same answer I’d give: it depends. What does the rest of your deck look like? What’s your plan? Is it to go wide? How heavily are you leaning fire?

…… Good questions. Annoyingly correct questions. That is not a pick order, but thanks. Those players, the ones who so graciously gave me their insights about drafting aggro decks, see what an aggressive deck’s plan is far before I do in the drafting process. They see the pieces of that puzzle coming together in a way that I don’t. You can’t fix that with generic card evaluation. It all depends on everything else. That’s why it’s hard. So I’m going to continue to watch people who are better than me. I’m going to ask questions. Then I’ll listen.

Areas of Aggro Focus


It’s agnozing, really. Even knowing the outcome, watching Shota pass the turn back to the control player with lethal Shock in his hand for multiple turns is almost painful to watch. He has his reasons, obviously, but everything about it seems intuitively wrong to me. Of course you shock your control opponent. They’re going to draw their more powerful cards soon. But no. Shota waits, takes away his opponent’s outs so the only one left is Negate, then fires it off. Again, analyzing Shota’s play is far beyond my ability, but my general takeaway is this: Sometimes it is correct to wait even if everything about intuitive play screams that you should just fire away.

The Turn

From a drafting perspective, I need to build stronger mental frameworks for aggressive archetypes so I can see them coming together earlier in the draft. From a gameplay perspective, Tyler_Cheney accurately described my greatest obstacle:

“The toughest part of aggro is knowing when to flip the switch. Up to a certain point you an’t afford to waste a single card, but after that point, value doesn’t matter at all and it’s correct to throw anything away to close the gap. Identifying that point is the most skill testing part of aggro I think. When you transition from the ‘playing with what is in your hand’ phase, to the ‘playing with what is in your deck’ phase.”

Exactly. I identify this turn more often than new players. @emoneybags identifies this turn more easily than I do. Lee Shi Tian (another Magic Hall if Famer) gets it right an extraordinarily high percentage of the time. We all know what we are supposed to do. The elites are just better at it.

My response:

“For me, it’s really difficult to separate my decision from the result. For example, when I play Feln, I can lose a game and be 100% comfortable with my decisions even if they didn’t work out. I never feel that way when I lose games with aggro decks. I’m constantly questioning if I pulled the trigger too soon, misevaluated the game state, etc. And since results aren’t a great indicator of the ‘correctness’ of our choices, I’m never sure if I flipped the switch too soon (or not soon enough).”

There are no easy answers for becoming better with aggro decks. It’s the correct application of simple concepts repeatedly, just like with control decks.  

Looking Forward

Watching Shouta methodically dismantle his opponents taught me the value of knowing my opponents plan. I imagine the game is much easier if your internal thought process is something like “Why would I, the best control player in the world, make that play?”

“Why would I make that play?” isn’t a very useful question for me right now when I play against great aggro drafters. They make better aggro plans and decks than I do. Will I be the best Fire drafter in Eternal if I spend all of 2021 focusing on building better Fire decks? No, I won’t be. But here’s the point: Let’s say I spent the next 6 months drafting Fire decks. Naturally, I’d be a better Fire player by May 2021, but I’d also be a better Feln player. I’d have better mental frameworks for the decks I’m playing against. I’d be able to more easily identify what’s in their hands by their lines of play. I’d be better at figuring out their plans and trying to disrupt them.

For an example of why knowing your opponent’s plan is important, look no further than Shouta. Mono-red in the hands of the control master looked unbeatable. He knows the control players plan better than anyone. The game is much easier when you know what your opponent wants to do. That’s why he makes very few balloon animals (also because that was a lie intended to entertain the reader and motivate them to continue reading. Mission accomplished I guess. Happy drafting!)


Let’s Talk Limited Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/LetsTalkLimited?fan_landing=true

You can find me in the LetsTalkLimited section of the Farming Eternal Discord https://discord.gg/YfQVbjZ


Quadrant Theory Set Review

@Kasendrith, fantastic streamer and Pack 1 Pick 1 kinda person (Oh yeah, and top 16 World’s competitor), has been kind enough to invite me on his stream for a Quadrant Theory-centric review of Set 10! Kas is the first Eternal streamer I started watching, I tune in every Saturday and Sunday morning, and I am oozing with excitement to be a guest. Time and Date TBD

For those unfamiliar with Quadrant Theory as a card evaluation tool, here’s your primer.

  • I made a Twitter. I’m not sure why. My real life is the opposite of when I play Eternal: I have no plan. @LetsLimited if Twitter is your thing.
  • 2020 Draft Champion @Gunner116 has started streaming. If you want to hear high-level drafting explained with a cool accent, check them out sometime.
  • At every opportunity, given the choice between formatting the blog and writing something new, I have very clearly opted to write something new. That being said, given that I still have so much to say after I’ve written this much, the functionality of the website is increasingly becoming a priority for me. Updating the website and perks for Patreon members have both been on my mind lately, so be on the lookout for those in the near future.      
  • There are few things I enjoy more than listening to high-level Magic players commentate on the play of other elites. If you want to see Shouta play control, here he is vs. Reid Duke with LSV and Marshall Sutcliffe in the booth.

Author’s note

My favorite part of having this blog, by far, is seeing that people from all over the world are reading my work. To my international readers: I adore you. Thank you for reading. As someone who loves words, I sometimes worry that my cultural references or idioms will be confusing for non-regional readers (Who is Stevel Urkel? What is Full House? Why is he calling me a choir?). If any of my more eccentric writing didn’t translate particularly well for you, I’d love to hear about it. Thanks again for reading!

Learning From Losses

Whether you’re the educator or the student, the process of teaching and learning is unique for every individual. Your approach to education should vary based on who you’re teaching. While my writing is always intended for newer players, I’m aware that players of all skill levels see my work so I try to keep that in mind as well. Regardless of background, skill level, learning style, luck, and all other factors, there’s one aspect of CCGs that all teachers and students of the game will experience: Losing.

Reading it back, my Message to World’s Competitors seemed a little harsh. I wrote three sections, two of them were about how they were probably going to lose and the other reminded them to complete an automatic bodily function (breathing). Truly inspiring stuff. Obviously, if I had some great advice for the World’s Competitors I probably would’ve been in the actual tournament. My intention certainly wasn’t to dishearten anyone. Personally, I play much worse when I put pressure on myself. Games are much easier for me to play when I don’t feel like I have to win them. I meant to write something that sounded like this: Best of luck and don’t put too much pressure on yourself!  Ended up writing this: Congratulations! You’re gonna lose. Like, yeah maybe you’ll win but probably not. But you might! But probably not. But good luck though!

This time around, I have some tiered messaging for the readers. The best CCG players in the world lose 30-40% of their matches when they play against other elite players. That’s a lot of losing when you’re one of the best in the world at something. I’m not sure what you’re like, reader, so I have a few messages for you.

If you benefit from someone supportive, here’s Mr. Rogers:

“Being the best loser takes talent, just as being the best winner does. Whether you’re first or middle or last, what’s important is that you’re you. And people can like you just the way you are.”

Maybe it helps to hear someone calm and rational like Captain Jean-Luc Picard:

“It is possible to make no mistakes and still lose. That is not a weakness. That is life.”

For those who prefer a more authoritarian approach, here’s New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick looking disappointed in you and wishing you’d be better:

Jul 30, 2015; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick listens to a question during a news conference before training camp at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Ok, so losing is inevitable. We are going to lose games. What now?

Three Types of Losing

Before we get in to specifics about learning from losses, I want to take a quick moment to identify three common scenarios after a loss.

  •  (A) Lost, able to think back on it and learn something
  • (B) No feeling at all. Forget it almost immediately. On to the next game.
  • (C) Frustration/Annoyance/Anger

Let’s be honest. We all experience (C) sometimes. How often we experience it varies greatly among individuals. If you find yourself frustrated or angry after most of your losses, then the thing you need to learn is how to get to scenario (B) and then (A) after a loss. That’s it. That’s your focus. If you’re carrying those negative feelings in to your next game, I can pretty much guarantee you’re playing worse. You can still win games while you’re angry. You won’t win against the best. 

Most days, I’m in (B) mode. I fly through my drafts and games far quicker than I should. I most definitely feel (C) sometimes but it’s an area I’ve worked on for a long time and being aware of it helps a lot. When I’m preparing for a tournament, I play in (A) mode, which is what we’ll be talking about today.

One other thing. If you’re a person who finds themselves annoyed or angry after a loss, you’re not some rage monster – you’re a human being. You’re allowed to feel things. Mr. Rogers taught us that too. If you’re angry about a loss, be angry. Be furious if you want. Let yourself be irate for a minute – then let it go. As a person existing in the world, you’re going to get angry. It’s how you handle it that matters. If you’re in (C) mode after your losses, you’re just a human person, so you shouldn’t feel like you’re doing something wrong. But you have to recognize it. Acknowledge it, feel it, let it go before the next game starts. I can’t tell you how to do that for yourself. You’re on your own for that part.

What’s Your Goal?

It’s important to determine your goal before you start playing. Eternal’s gameplay is far too deep to play games with the broad goal of improving. In Listen, I advocate for approaching the game with deliberate practice (i.e. focus on smaller aspects of the game and work to perfect those instead of working on the whole). My goal is different every time I play Eternal. When a new draft set comes out, my goal is to enjoy it. When a set has been out for a while, my goal is to figure it out which archetypes are best. When I feel like I’ve figured out the basics of a set, my goal is to try new things to find small edges.

While my goal is different each time I sit down to play Eternal, I also have long-term goals or areas of my game that I’m constantly trying to improve. Examples of current broad goals that will last for weeks/months: Slow down, work on my endgame (last 2-3 turns of a long game), don’t concede when I still have a chance to win, build better aggro decks, etc. Examples of past broad goals: Use all my power each turn, make better mulligan decisions, don’t put cards in my opponents’ hands and lose to them.

So when I sit down to play next week, my goals will probably look something like this:

Short-term: Look for trends in Draft/Gameplay now that the bot packs are done. Start to identify most common/best archetypes.

When I first played with Jekk in Gauntlet, I had to actively remind myself that his ability cost 1 and required a sigil. Sometimes I forgot the cost. Sometimes I forgot that it specifically had to be a sigil. So every time I drew Jekk I’d say something like “Jekk, costs 1 and needs a sigil. Costs 1 and needs a sigil.”

Long-term: Slow down. Focus on endgame if you find yourself in a long game. Don’t concede if I still have a chance to win. Pay extra attention when I play against aggro decks.

Prior to writing, I posted in the Farming Eternal Discord asking for specific questions about this topic. @Alabazoo asked “How active is learning from losses during your gameplay?” – I usually have something broad in mind that I’m trying to learn (e.g. what archetypes are good in a format) and focus on specific interactions (e.g. looting) or gamestates when they occur. I actively try to learn from my losses while preparing for tournaments to look for trends.

“Do you try and remember 1-2 key moments?” Again, it’s impossible to improve in all areas at once, so I strongly encourage you to determine which areas you want to focus on before you play your games. I probably only remember a couple things about my games but they relate to the specific area I’m trying to improve. I can remember more if I try but it takes effort so I usually don’t.

“Form a hypothesis and see how that plays out?” – I do this while I draft. Not sure about gameplay. If I’m unsure between two cards while I deckbuild, I might keep track of that. For example, maybe I’d play Envelop instead of Teleport. Then every time I draw Envelop, I ask myself if I would rather have Teleport instead.   

“It seems impossible to remember every card drawn, board state and hand state during the game: How do you remember all the details of the game? What key moments DO you remember (pay attention to) to clone that one-side feedback loop?”

I remember very little about most games I play I think. Maybe because I play so quickly sometimes. Having played so much, I can play Eternal without making egregious mistakes most of the time. Playing optimally takes a lot of effort though. When looting was an area of deliberate practice for me, I’d try to remember everything I could about particularly hard choices so I could ask people I trusted about it later. That doesn’t happen naturally though.  I have to actively commit it to memory. Otherwise most games just leave my brain. These days I’d take a screenshot and ask others.

Evaluating Losses

We’ll group losses in to three categories: gameplay, deckbuilding, and draft. You are allowed to blame variance if you’ve checked the other three categories, but only then. For example, you can blame variance if you keep a two power hand and never draw a third in a deck with 19 power sources. You can’t blame variance if you never draw a third with 17 power sources in your deck. That’s on deckbuilding. That’s not variance. I hesitate to even include variance as a category because people attribute their losses to luck faaarrrrrrrr more often than they should in my opinion. Losses due to luck happen though and it’s important to recognize that for both your sanity and process.  

  1. Gameplay

@TempestDragonKing “What detail in a loss do you look for the most?”

Answer: Can I attribute this loss to one of my decisions?

A better way would probably be “which of my decisions contributed to this outcome?” but I usually try to identify one choice I made that affected the outcome of a loss. After some games, my focus will be on a specific interaction: Should I have blocked differently? Maybe I should’ve spent my power differently one turn.

Ben Stark describes Magic as following heuristics 90% of the time and finding the 10% of the time when it would be correct to go against the heuristic. Hall of Famers like himself identify those 10% scenarios more frequently than a player like me, and the elite of the elite (PVDDR, LSV) identify that 10% more often than Ben Stark. When it comes to gameplay, I’m constantly asking myself if I missed a 10% scenario.

Given where I am in my development as a player, I find myself attributing more losses to improperly evaluating the gamestate rather than a single interaction. Playing against Stonescar a couple months back, the low-cost cards that my opponent played led me to believe they were a very focused aggro deck. That being the case, I made some unfavorable exchanges to reach parity with the idea that my average draw would be better than my opponent’s for the rest of the game. Then they continued to draw and play 4-5 power units and eventually won the game.

Two possibilities I considered:

  1. Did I misevaluate this game based on the information I had (e.g. the cards I’d seen my opponent play)?
  2. Did I get unlucky? Did I have a good plan but my opponent just so happened to draw more of their top end in those turns?

I still don’t have an answer.

Often, one of the hardest decisions you’ll face is whether or not you should use your removal spell on an opponent’s creature. What if they play a bigger creature later? Is that likely based on what they’ve done the last few turns? Is it likely based on how the rest of their deck is constructed? Can I beat this other creature without using my removal spell on it somehow? To answer this question effectively, you have to imagine how the rest of the game might play out with each choice.

If you’re a newer player, you should look more at your individual gameplay decisions (e.g. attacking and blocking optimally). Get that stuff perfected first, then worry about losing due to bad theorycrafting.  

After a loss, the detail I look for most is which of my decisions contributed to that outcome. Sometimes my decision occurred during the game, other times I cost myself the game during the draft or deckbuilding.

2. Deckbuilding

Did I give myself opportunities to get unlucky? This is the question you should be asking yourself over and over again. Couldn’t cast my splash cards! So unlucky! Did you have enough sources for your splashes? Does your fixing justify it? Does your deck need those splash cards or do you just really want to play them? Are they really even splashes or are you playing three colors?

Couldn’t cast my Smogwing Tinker! So unlucky! Dude, you have eight justice sources. Are you planning to cast it on turn 20? Be Boring.

Here’s an actionable step you can take after a loss: Look at the cards in your hand. Why are they still there? An incomplete list:

1. Too expensive. Do you have too many expensive cards in your deck? Do you have enough power in your deck overall? What does your curve look like?

2. Splash cards: Follow the rule of 3 when you build your decks. You need at least three sources of a color for every card you splash. Something I’m still working on – Drawing your splash card without drawing a source is completely within the normal range of variance. It’s unlucky but it’s not unusual, and it’s not even that unlucky. Every time you splash, you give yourself an opportunity to get unlucky – so it’s on you when *not if* it happens.

3. Conditional cards: How’s that Precision Plunge looking? If you couldn’t cast your conditional cards, yes, you got unlucky. But you gave yourself the opportunity to get unlucky. And I’m here to tell ya that’s totally fine if you recognize that’s the risk you’re taking on. If you recognize that a conditional card might be dead a percentage of the time but are willing to put it in your deck anyway, then you just have to accept the times when it’s rotting in your hand at the end of a game.

4. Not enough power: Start with 18-19, look for good reasons to stray from there. If you go down to 17, you’ve earned all your power problems. I always encourage newer players to err on the side of more power rather than too few. Not only does it help guarantee you can cast all your spells, it also makes a lot more of your hands keepable. When I keep a two-power hand while playing Feln Control, I whisper “this is why you play 19 power” to myself like a verbal security blanket before I click the “keep” button.

5. Cards you chose not to cast: This is a tough one and really should go under Gameplay.  There are a variety of reasons someone might not cast their cards but I’ll address one specific one that I often fell prey to as a beginner and worry that I still occasionally do: waiting to get full/extra value out of my cards.

Let’s start with a fairly big creature, Minotaur Lighthoof:

This effect is pretty unique, is perfect with infiltrate or berserk, and honestly just feels great when used effectively.  There were definitely points in my playing career where I would’ve held this card in my hand on turn four because I didn’t want to waste the effect on something like an acolyte. Now? Here’s my 4/4. Go. All experienced players will say you should try to get full value out of your cards, and that’s true, but in this case it conflicts with another heuristic: spend all your power every turn. This is especially true in the developing phase of the game. You can find a heuristic or piece of gameplay wisdom for almost any play you want to make – the key is figuring out which heuristic or simple principle applies to a given situation.

Okay, so maybe you wouldn’t consider holding a 4/4 in your hand, so let’s go lower.

How many turns are you waiting to ambush a 2/2 instead of just playing this card? One? Two? How much potential damage did you miss? Are you holding up power every single turn now?

Sure, you’d obviously play a 3/3 and attack for 3, but what about Sand Tornado? How much damage are you missing there waiting to get extra value? Two damage? Four? Six? These things add up over time.

Are you holding your premium uncommon just in case your opponent plays something huge and you have to ambush it? Are you holding it even though you have no reason to believe this is going to happen? Even though the board state says your opponent isn’t attacking you anytime soon? Are you not attacking for two per turn and plundering a power because you’re waiting for a scenario that’s very unlikely to occur?

Of course, as always, there are exceptions. Sometimes it’s correct to play your Sand Tornado on turn 3. Sometimes it’s not. Personally, I’ve definitely held cards in my hand for far too long waiting to get that little extra bit of value. By waiting so long for extra value, I missed the regular value I could’ve gained. If you lose with cards in your hand that you had opportunities to cast earlier in the game, you should think long and hard about whether that decision was correct based on the information you had at the time.

3. Draft

Drafting and deckbuilding clearly go hand in hand. If your deck is a three-color pile, you need to work on your drafting skills before you worry about deckbuilding. Attributing losses to your draft is difficult – the draft process is incredibly complex and it’s hard to draw a straight line from any one draft choice you made to any specific loss. If your overall deck seems below-average though, you probably didn’t draft the open colors. Maybe you forced the draft based on your first few picks. Maybe a personal favorite of yours (hello, from below) led you astray in pack 2. Here’s a real example of how it might play out.

I forced a Feln deck after opening From Below in Pack 2. The curve was fine, it had win conditions, and it had card draw. Not the best Feln deck but it looked pretty ok to me considering I forced it during the draft.

Game 1 opponent: Stonescar

Turn two: Flameheart Patroller

Turn three: Vorpal Cutter

Turn four: Hired Gun and chemical rounds

Schaab’s Feln deck:

Turn two: Terrazon Echo, plundering for fixing.

Turn three: Hired Gun

Turn four: Tears

By the end of turn four, they had three creatures on the board – I had a terrazon echo that couldn’t effectively block any of their units. I lost that game.

Now, it’s super easy to look at that loss and come to these conclusions: 1. My opponent’s Stonescar ran beautifully (it did) 2. Given how well my opponent’s deck functioned, there was nothing I could do. Both of those conclusions are true. There was nothing I could do with the cards I drafted and put in my deck. I forced that Feln deck. I knew that while I was doing it. Ya know what I don’t really want in my Feln deck? Terrazon Echo. Hired Gun. Terrazon Echo was a fine inclusion because it’s a two-drop and helped fix my power but it’s definitely below average in a Feln deck.

If Feln were actually open during the draft, I would’ve been playing lightning strike, valley-clan sage, cheerful shephard, or a Shadow removal spell on turn two. Instead, I played Terrazon Echo which couldn’t block anything. My opponent’s deck looked great, but that game is winnable with a good Feln deck. I played suboptimal cards because I forced my draft and got punished for it. That’s the real reason I lost that game.


 You will lose to bombs. You will lose to variance. It’s okay to acknowledge when that happens. But make sure that was the actual reason. Did you get unlucky or were you too greedy during deckbuilding? Was your opponent’s deck really that good or was your deck lackluster because the draft didn’t go well? Should you have saved that removal spell or was it correct to use it given the information you had at the time?

Focus on what you can control. The good news is that you can control a lot in draft. You make so many decisions before you even cast your first card. I’m an imperfect person, so my first reaction after a loss is usually to blame it on something my opponent did. You can always find a reason to blame a loss on your opponent. Preventing you from winning is kinda their whole goal. Your job is to determine your role in the loss. Maybe you really couldn’t have done anything against your opponent’s deck, but did you draft perfectly? Deckbuild perfectly? Unless you’re drafting, deckbuilding, and playing 100% perfectly (you’re not. No one is), there will always be something you did incorrectly that you can learn from in the future.

Questions From Discord

@Cotillion “What’s the most effective tool you use when analyzing a loss? Something the software provides to us? Something you keep track of yourself? Just thinking back on the game for a minute?”

I don’t track my results, so we can get that one out of the way. The Sometimes-Schaab-Draft thread in the Farming Eternal Discord is the closest I’ve ever come to cataloging my drafts. I wish I were the type of person who tracks his results but I don’t.

Sometimes I review my match history after a loss. Typically, I do this to see if I got as unlucky as it felt. If I look back and see that five of my first seven draws were power or something like that, then okay my draws were just bad. Sometimes when I look I find that my draw was kinda normal and I didn’t get all that unlucky. Occasionally, and I hate when I do this but I’ll admit it, I will look at match history when I’m tilting just to see how unlucky I was. I don’t need to check the match history to know there are only three power left in my 20 cards but I’ll do it anyway.   

After a deck does poorly, I usually take a look at my match history to see which decks I lost to. Then I think about why I lost each game and look for trends.

When I’m preparing for a big tournament, I write thoughts down in a notebook. I don’t trust myself to remember everything, nor do I want to place that cognitive demand on my brain unnecessarily, so I write some stuff down.

“How do you separate could I have won from should I have won? Sometimes the wrong line would have worked out when the right line didn’t.”

Great opportunity to talk about a very important point: Don’t trust your results. You can make mistakes and win. You can play perfectly and lose.


I won = My decisions were correct.

I lost = My decisions were wrong.

Thinking of the game in terms of percentages helps me immensely. I really try not to think in terms of “I should have won that game” because no one is entitled to wins. Instead, I try to frame it as winning a certain percentage of the time. Let’s say you paused all of my games at turn 10 and asked how it was going. My response wouldn’t be “I think I’ll win/lose,” it would be “I think I win this game 70% of the time” or “I’m really behind. I probably win this game 20% of the time.” Turn after turn, decision after decision, all you’re doing is trying to increase the probability that you win the game. You’re not trying to win the game on any particular turn – you’re trying to increase the probability that you win. If you can make a play that increases your chances of winning from 20-25%, sweet! Still not a great chance, but 1 out of 4 isn’t all that bad.

When I’m at my best, I very rarely think of winning and losing. All I do is ask if I gave myself the best chance I could to win the game. Losing is inevitable. It’s going to happen. Did I give myself the best chance I could to prevent it? If yes, cool. On to the next game. If not, how can I be better next time. Of course, I’m usually not at my best, so most of the time I lose and think “THIS GAME IS STUPID AND SO IS MIGHTWEAVER!”

@Patomaru “How do you learn from losses if you have the memory of a goldfish?”

Answer: Take screenshots and ask others for their opinions like this fine fella did.

@Collecter making his own rules by providing a comment instead of a question: “Sometimes you got your loss on the mulligan or deck building, which I feel like people miss the most. A lot easier to say ‘oh I should have charred the trail maker.’”

One of these days I’ll get to write about how wrong @Collecter is, but today is not that day. He’s right for a couple reasons. It’s definitely easier to see your gameplay mistakes than your draft mistakes so most people miss them. Also, some games are won or lost when you decide to keep or mulligan a hand. For more thoughts of his, I highly recommend this episode of the Friends of Eternal Podcast.

@Alabazoo “There’s the tactical; ‘How well did I play my deck that game?” but also “was my deck structured to beat that deck? What could I do differently next draft to beat a deck like that?”

I want to approach this question two ways. Instead of asking “was my deck structured to beat that deck?”, let’s talk about separating “how well did I play my deck that game” from “Is this deck good?” because that’s far more important to determine.

Let’s imagine you’ve heard of a hammer and what it does but have never seen one. One day, you’re given a hammer and some nails for some clever reason I’m too tired to come up with right now. You pick it up by the wrong end, think “this must be so you can hold it a special way” and then start whacking nails with the handle. You’ll bend some nails and make slow progress but eventually you might come to some conclusions.

Conclusion 1: I am very bad at using hammers.

Conclusion 2: Hammers are terrible tools

Conclusion 3: Hammers are terrible and I’m bad at using them

Based on your experience, all three of these conclusions are correct. At the very least, you’re sure about Conclusion 1: you’re very bad at using hammers. But of course, we all know that Conclusion 2 is incorrect. Hammers are very effective tools. That also invalidates Conclusion 3, which leaves us with Conclusion 1: You are very bad at using hammers. So far, yes. You’re holding it the wrong way. But once that’s corrected, maybe you’re actually really good at using hammers. We won’t know until then. So all three of your initial conclusions would’ve been incorrect even though they felt correct based on your personal experience.

If you handed me a random tool and told me to use it, I would probably try to use it incorrectly 80% of the time. I’m not very handy. But once I saw someone else do it, it would be easy for me to see my mistakes. If I showed you a video of someone using a hammer, you’d recognize and correct your mistake pretty quickly.

In Listen, I advocated for using models while learning. How can you tell if you’re piloting Rakano decks correctly if you’re not building your decks the right way? You can’t. You’ll reach incorrect conclusions based on your experience. You’re not using those tools the way they’re meant to be used if you’re not drafting them well. If you want to get better at playing Feln decks, you better make sure you’re drafting good Feln decks. Otherwise your conclusions about Feln and your playskill with it will all be based on bad information.

So now let’s look at the second part of the question: “was my deck structured to beat that deck? What could I do differently next draft to beat a deck like that?”

Sometimes you encounter bad matchups for your limited deck. I had a very solid Combrei midrange deck meant to play a long game and queued up against an Elysian flyers deck. I had a good plan – clog the ground until I played my win conditions – but that plan was bad now. Flyers don’t care about Caravan Guards and DuneDivers. I had answers to flyers but not nearly enough to handle the quantity of flyers in my opponents deck. It was a bad matchup, maybe I win it 35% of the time, and I lost that game.

That’s a data point. I wouldn’t draft any differently next time. If I continued to see Elysian Flyers, or a lot of flyers in general, then I’d start to draft my decks differently. So bad matchups happen sometimes but I don’t typically change anything about my draft process unless it starts to look like a trend.”

Also from @Alabazoo “When do you ignore this process? i.e. what are the situations you can safely ignore as variance? (Drawing 8 power back to back in an 18 power deck).”

First I’ll look for any clear indicators of why I lost a game. If you finish a game with 10 power and your opponent finishes with 6, they drew four more cards than you did. It’s hard to win games when you’re down four resources. It’s tough to overcome that type of normal, but unlucky, variance. I forget those games almost immediately.

Let’s talk for a second about flood because people love to be greedy with their power bases and will find any excuse to cut corners. Like losing, you’re going to draw too many power sometimes. That’s the normal range of variance. Two games isn’t enough to tell if a deck is built correctly. Ten games isn’t enough. Our sample sizes aren’t big enough. If 18 power was correct when you built your deck, it’s correct even after you flood horribly two games in a row. Concluding otherwise is being results-oriented. And if you draw seven power in a row, only one of those was the extra power you so desperately want to cut. The rest was just bad variance. But people draw four power in a row and suddenly “THAT’S IT! I’M PUTTING 12 POWER IN MY DECK!” Ignore your results. Check your fundamentals.

Should you learn from your wins too? Of course, but “Learning from Wins” doesn’t sound nearly as catchy, so here we are. Winning feels great, but losing well is essential if you want to become elite. All of the greats handle their losses well. If you want to be great, you’ll have to lose well too. Don’t worry – Mr. Rogers believes in you – and so do I.

Happy Drafting and Learning (Losing)!


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You can find me in the LetsTalkLimited section of the Farming Eternal Discord https://discord.gg/YfQVbjZ

Message to World’s Competitors

Greetings, World’s Competitors! If there’s one thing people love, it’s unsolicited advice. I’ve got ya covered. Schaab, Winner of nothing, has some invaluable advice for you, winner of something (I’m assuming. You’re competing at World’s, after all.) It’s probably inaccurate to even call it advice – these are reminders. Even if you’re not competing at World’s today, here are some friendly reminders about tournament play.

  1. Breathe – Take Your Time

Not once have I lost a game of Eternal and thought “You know what I regret about that game? Taking time with my choices.” You know you’re not supposed to rush. You know you should take time with your decisions. This is just your reminder to do so. Breathe. Take an extra five seconds. There’s no downside. Rushing leads to mistakes. You know this. Take your time. Breathe. And eat something before you play.

2. Trust the Process

What do ya know, there’s a Limited Resources reference in this piece. In my favorite episode that I’ve mentioned multiple times throughout my writing, William “Huey” Jensen talks about the process of working hard when it comes to Magic, though it applies just as well to Eternal. From memory, so not a direct quote, but he essentially says: “Part of the ‘working hard’ is just grinding through the losses. You can be the best player in the world and you’re just not gonna win that many tournaments. The best players in the world win 60-65% of their matches. You’re going to lose a lot of games. You have to be mentally prepared to deal with the defeats – because they’re frequent.”

When I went 0-2 at the 2020 Draft Championship, I just stared blankly at my table and played that quote in my head like a song on repeat. If all 24 World’s Competitors read this, the above quote will apply to 23 of you. That’s just the way it goes. You’re qualified for the 2020 World Championship – you are on the path to becoming excellent – but that path involves losing games and tournaments no matter how skilled you are. Don’t take it from me – take it from Huey.

3. Your Tournament Performance Doesn’t Define You

Wasn’t sure if this was just the new parent in me or something actually worth writing about, so I was very happy to see this interaction between Brad Nelson (Incredible MTG player – Many consider him the best Standard player in the world) and the aforementioned Huey on Twitter yesterday (November 13, 2020).

@fffreakmtg (Brad Nelson) – “Don’t attach your self-worth to your Magic results.”

@HueyJensen reply – “This was one of the hardest lessons I learned in life. (One of the other hardest, which I learned earlier, thank god, was to not attach other people’s worth to their Magic results.)”

I get it. I really do. When you love something and dedicate your time to it, it becomes part of your identity in a way. But you are not your result in this tournament – or any tournament. Playing Eternal at a very high level is something that you do – it’s not who you are. Even if World’s goes horribly (and there’s a possibility that it will no matter how well prepared you are. We signed up to play a game with variance), it doesn’t take away from your accomplishment and doesn’t make you any less of a player. That last part is true even if you make mistakes today.

Selfishly, I want y’all to take your time and play well because I think Eternal is a phenomenal game. It’s easy to learn but I firmly believe its gameplay is incredibly deep when played at the highest level – I’d like everyone watching to see that. I don’t know all of you, but those I have seen play can just straight up ball. I’m excited for all of you to demonstrate what Eternal looks like in the hands of great players.

Breathe. Take your time. You’ll never regret double-checking your math or considering your lines one more time. Variance gonna variance – but I hope you get to make meaningful choices in your games and enjoy yourself even if things don’t go your way. No matter what happens: Congratulations on making it to World’s! You’ve accomplished something truly great. Best of luck today!*

*And just a bit more luck to the drafters. It’s not their format (and I am extremely biased).


Pretty sure I wrote this article just so I could share pictures of my daughter in this section. I won’t be watching World’s this weekend because my parents will be here soon and then I’ll have visitors until eternity. My two children I’ve mentioned in the past are actually my stepchildren, so Maci is my first infant. My wife – who is a rockstar – assures me that I am physically capable of putting Maci down, so I am practicing that right now and writing this instead. Can you imagine if I had to worry about playing in World’s right now? Nightmare. Not qualifying was the best outcome for me. Saved from myself, really. I don’t need the World Championship – I have my prize. She was born on Tuesday and she is perfect. Apologies for not making this article look nicer. I can no longer resist going to pick up my daughter, so I’m going to do that instead.

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Schaab Blog*: A Dozen Drafts

*Schaab Blog: Considering starting something like this as its own segment. My long articles try to teach people broad concepts about limited – and they take me a long time to write. Might use the Schaab Blog term to differentiate full-form articles from stuff like this, which is just me sitting down and writing down a few thoughts on the format. Never planned to write this much about Eternal so I’m not exactly sure what I’m doing and would greatly appreciate feedback about whether you find shorter pieces like this helpful/enjoyable. Anyway, on to content.

Delving in to a new Eternal draft format is like Christmas morning for me. Bots and rare drafters make it hard to learn about the format once a set is released but I can’t help myself. Drafters end up with obscene numbers of rares/legendaries and some absurdly powerful decks. It almost feels like drafting cube-lite. It’s not a great time to draw large conclusions but we can certainly start collecting some data points and looking for trends.   

As mentioned briefly in “Listen,” exploring a new draft format on my own is a fairly new experience for me. I can’t explain in detail how I approach a new format because I don’t know. Honestly, I’m pretty curious myself. Posting my drafts in the Farming Eternal Discord is the closest I’ve come to tracking my decks and their results. So far, I’ve done twelve drafts and am currently 1-1 with my 13th. At the beginning of an Eternal draft format (the first week or so), I strongly recommend you try to just enjoy it.

This is not in any way meant to be a guide for any part of the format. It’s just a few things I’ve noticed early on while drafting and playing my games. My decks have mostly been, ya know, boring. My opponents, however, drafted some sweet decks that I’ll be keeping an eye out for. Here are some early Thursday morning (11/5/2020) thoughts on the draft format.

  • More playables

 Now that I’ve experienced a few format changes in Eternal draft, the boosted cards in the curated packs seem to almost define the format. That being the case, I’ve started paying close attention to the changes when they occur. The best place to find that information for me personally is this chart at Shiftstoned (Thank you so much to @Pusillanimous and anyone else involved with putting it together.) Knowing what cards are 10x boosted helps immensely in game (e.g. what combat tricks you might see) but also impacts card selection during the draft process.

Not putting it under a microscope today, but this format feels like it has a lot more playable cards than the previous Argent Depths format. We’re still in the land of bot-pack weirdness but I find myself cutting a lot of playable cards from my final lists. If that holds true when the dust settles, that will change the way I value certain cards. In this new format filled with playable cards, here are some things on my mind:

  • Unique Effects

In a format filled with good cards, your draft choices are a lot tougher. Players always have their preferences, of course, but most drafters can agree on what the best couple of cards are in a pack of Argent Depths. That doesn’t feel like the case at all right now with this format. Here’s a P1P1 I put in the Farming Eternal Discord:

There are a lot of good cards here.  Quick version of draft analysis for some of them

Champion of Fury: Not taking a 2-color card this early

Outlands sniper: Good four-drop. Not sure if the 4-drop spot is crowded in fire. Don’t like the double influence early in draft.

Linrei Evangel: good 2-drop, would be happy with it in my final deck, but also might cut from final list because there are a lot of good primal 2-drops

Kodosh Evangel: same as above, though I doubt I’m cutting Kodosh Evangel from many justice decks.

Gravewatch Ancestor: Good 3-drop. Have cut it from a couple of time lists already, so it’s replaceable.

Felrauk’s Infiltrator: Hard to cast 3-drop that’s really good in the right deck. Usually happy with one in my lists, certainly not looking to pick it first.

Sky Worshipper: Nothing else in the format does this. Not only that, but this is a power sink in the late game when the board stalls out. This is a unique effect. So the question becomes, are there enough flyers in the format to justify taking this card first? Based on my experience so far, yes. Looking at the weight changes and seeing Humbug Nest, Platinum Qirin, and Humbug Swarm all 10x boosted tells me yes. The boosted primal flyers tell me yes.  Elysian flyers might actually be really good in this format.

Seek Power: Goes in 100% of decks, fixes my power, and it’s unique. I took the boring Seek Power. And then another Pick 2.

I could see arguments for a lot of the cards in this pack. But if the format is full of good cards, you need a way to separate the good cards from the slightly-better-than-good. I could see myself cutting all of the above units from decks because I have other cards that do effectively the same thing. That’s not the case with Sky Worshipper. Even though I didn’t take it out of this pack, I might look back on it in a month and think differently.

Speaking of unique effects, let’s talk about a card whose value shifts wildly from format to format: BladeCrafter

Helloooo unique effect. Played against a really sweet Stonescar deck built around Corrosive Dagger maybe? The deck had at least three corrosive dagger, Morningstar, and Claw of the First Dragon. It was a fun game but in hindsight that game was over when that first bladecrafter hit the board. One of the insanely hard parts about limited is trying to answer the following question: Was my opponent’s deck supposed to do that or did I just get unlucky? Remains to be seen if there’s a midrange Bladecrafter deck in the format but I certainly have my eye out for it now.

  • Praxis Ramp

Just this morning I went 1-1 against someone playing what looked like an excellent praxis deck with Omenscar Wurm at the top. Either they had multiple Wurms or drew it in both games. Decks with Omenscar Wurm might be a little more common now because taking one P2P1 after you already have some time cards doesn’t feel nearly as committal as taking it P1P1.

Don’t know my opponent’s whole list, obviously, but it had all the usual suspects of trail maker, amber acolyte, and ancient machinist (which worked quite nicely with Vital Arcana now x10 boosted). Wish I could give you more details but all I know is that the deck ran beautifully and would’ve beaten me twice if I didn’t have Disappear ready to go in the second game.

Also in Praxis Ramp’s favor: Wurm Calling is 10x boosted. I didn’t need to look that one up. You’ll notice it pretty quickly when you start playing your games.

  • Xenan Ambush

Xenan Ambush was kind of a nightmare to play against in the original Argent Depths format and it might be making a bit of comeback. Of all the data points I’ve gathered, I’m most skeptical of my experience with the Xenan decks I’ve built so I’m waiting for things to cool down before building this deck more often. I’ve been happy with the results so far, but most decks won’t have 3 defile and 2 desert alchemists, so Xenan ambush is something I’m on the lookout for but not convinced about.

  • Feln Update:

Not sure if I’ll do another full writeup about Feln in this format but here are a couple of things I’ve noticed so far.

Card draw is back! Wisdom of the Elders is back to 10x and I’m right back to putting 2-3 of them in my Feln decks. Especially with the acolytes being so good, it’s easy to build a deck with too many 3-cost cards, so look out for that. We also have Swindle now but I suspect that goes more in an Elysian deck and the five-drop slot in Feln is already crowded thanks to False Demise. Oh! And a little card called FearTracker is 10x boosted. Just an absurdly good card in Feln.  

Annihilate is 10x boosted again. It’s easy to splash, so first pick early and often. Lightning strike is 10x boosted again. Defile and Cut Ties are 10x boosted. Lightning storm is only x1 boosted now and is definitely a unique effect so I’ll draft it highly. Not removal, but Feln now gets Plagued Gryffin at 10x as well.

This is much more like set 9 Feln Control than it is set 1 Feln Flyers. The formula is basically the same one I laid out here. Don’t die, don’t die, don’t die, kill you with something.

There are a lot of playable 2-drops in Feln and you really need to know how you’re going to be killing your opponent’s creatures. You don’t want cheerful shephard if your removal is annihiliate and defile instead of grisly contest. I played Scaly Gruan in my last 7-0 list. It just needs to block for long enough to let your other, more powerful cards take over the game. What’s your plan?  

  • Fire update:

Duh, I’m not drafting fire decks. Not well anyway. Considering the games I’ve played against them and looking at the 10x boosted rares, fire is full of huge flyers. No doubt they’ve got finishers. I’ve lost to some very aggressive decks so far in this format, and while I wouldn’t expect them to be the norm, it definitely looks like fire has the tools to close games at the top end. I’ll just wait, see what the fire drafters do over the next couple weeks, and then recalibrate.  

  • Justice:

Fourth-Tree Elder. Draft this card.

I’m hopeful that it’s time to draft the hard way in Eternal again. Thus far, it feels like it is. Draft decisions are tough. Deckbuilding cuts are tough. A lot of your wins and losses will be decided during the draft, not games (though it will be extraordinarily difficult to see this at the time). Maybe I’m just seeing what I want to see. Maybe I was just sick of the old format. Maybe I’m biased because I’ve done fairly well so far. Whatever it is, I’m enjoying the draft changes immensely.

My first dozen drafts or so were just meant to be fun and try some new things. Now, it’s time to start looking a little deeper. I’m not sure what that means for me yet, but I’m glad to have you along for the ride. Here are the results of my drafts so far. You can find full decklists in the Farming Eternal Discord. Feel free to drop by, say hello, and ask a ton of questions. Happy drafting!

Xenan 3-3

Argenport 7-2

Feln 1-3

Xenan 7-0

Stonescar 3-3

Hooru 0-3

Xenan 7-1

Elysian 7-0

Feln 4-3

Elysian 3-3

Xenan 2-3

Feln 7-0

51-24 = 68% win rate (meaningless at this point in a format and with such a small sample. Just thought people might be curious)

Highest rank: 1

Rank at time of writing: 2

Fun had: Lots

Distraction from the US Election: Hours upon hours.

Future Drafts planned: Lots


If you’d like to support the creation of more limited content, please consider becoming a member of the Patreon. I am immensely grateful for my two current patrons: Bryan and Cotilllion. Thank you!

Let’s Talk Limited Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/LetsTalkLimited?fan_landing=true

Be Boring – Audio Version

The following episode of Farming Eternal is an audio version of “Be Boring,” one of my first articles about the drafting process. While the set-specific information in the article primarily focuses on set 9, Argent Depths, the audio version contains some of my general thoughts on limited and opinions on set 1 that I try to, uh, explain to the, um, audience without writing them down first.

Link to the episode can be found here: Be Boring.

HUGE Thank you to Farming Eternal for hosting this episode.

If you enjoyed the audio version of this article, please consider supporting the LetsTalkLimited Patreon so I can offer more of them in the future.

The best place to find me and ask me questions in in the Farming Eternal Discord

Happy Drafting!


Listen – Leveling up and Learning

Thank you so much for being here, choir. You may sit down and relax for a while, ‘cuz I’m about to preach.

You’re preparing to read a lengthy CCG article written by a person who has won zero tournaments. That being the case, it’s safe to assume that you recognize the value of learning from others. Whether you’re an amateur, average, or outstanding Eternal player, you are already doing the single most important thing that leads to consistent improvement: You’re listening (Reading counts, in this instance).

*** CHOIR! Let’sTalkLimited (Schaab) is thrilled to be part of the Eternal Celebration! DireWolf Digital has generously provided gifts in the form of Free Packs for me to give away! Each winner will receive a code which can be redeemed for 5 free packs of Argent Depths. Details will be on my poorly formatted blog soon!

How do I Know Anything?

Writing about Eternal has me living in fear that, one ominous day, the entire community will wake up and collectively say “Heyyyyy, this Schaab guy doesn’t actually know what he’s talking about. He’s just repeating what other people say!” Yes. That is what I’m doing. That’s why I provide references. When it comes to limited, I don’t have an original thought in my head.  I’m just repackaging old information cloaked in 90’s references and trivia jokes.

The more I write about Eternal, the more people are expecting me to know things. Lately, I’m finding that my answer to most questions is “I don’t know. I would just ask someone who knows,” which is the truth. How would I figure out how to build Rakano aggro? I wouldn’t. I’d ask someone who already knows how to do it. Giving this answer so frequently has caused me to question how I know how anything, really. Have I ever figured anything out in my life? How is it possible there’s still so much I don’t know about limited? Like, why aren’t I more comfortable drafting aggro decks in Eternal? Let’s start there.

Why Doesn’t Schaab Draft Aggro?

In 2019, I was confident that I knew how to draft aggro decks. I’d drafted them before, was comfortable playing them, and would’ve been happy to draft them again. Now I’m not so sure.  

The Limited Resources podcast has been the single biggest influence in the way I think about, play, and approach games like Eternal and Magic. When I first learned to draft near Oath of the Gatewatch’s release, I listened intently to every episode in preparation for the weekly drafts at my LGS. Draft wasn’t just a format I played – Draft was a subject I studied. Week to week, format to format, I was getting top tier information about which decks were best and how to build them. If there was a particularly good aggro deck (Red/White in Amonkhet comes to mind), LR would do a breakdown of the deck including how it works, what cards were most important, and how it comes together during a draft. I listened.

In 2020, I don’t believe I have a complete fundamental understanding of how to approach drafting aggro decks. I knew how to draft various aggressive Magic decks when they were good because I would listen to LR and learn what was important for that specific deck. I didn’t have a mental blueprint for aggressive decks – I was following a recipe for each different one. This realization is new to me, but now I don’t think I intrinsically understand limited aggro decks the same way I understand limited control decks.

Preparing for Eternal draft competitively is uncharted territory for me. I’m used to getting my information about draft formats from someone who has already done all the hard work. How do I figure out which aggressive decks are good in a new format? Uhhhhh I listen to a podcast and wait for LSV to tell me. How will I figure out which aggressive decks are good in the next Eternal format? Uhhhh good question. One I’m still figuring out the answer to. Part of my plan is to watch 2020 Draft Championship Top 8 competitor and Experience Provider @Emoney_Bags morning stream, which I affectionately refer to as Aggro School. The other part of my plan is to play a lot of games. I’m still figuring the rest out, but a huge part of my plan will be to seek out information – and then listen. 

Spying on the Competition

My scheme included espionage and intelligence gathering when I started watching Eternal streamers to prepare for the 2020 Draft Championship. There was no way I could draft enough to evaluate every card properly. Eternal Journey and Farming Eternal were great resources but I had specific questions about cards that I wanted answers to. Streamers were unwittingly going to provide me with information that I was then going to use to defeat them at the tournament. Not exactly a Dr. Evil plot, but it felt very sneaky at the time from a competitive standpoint.

“Is Flamebathe Reformation a good card or am I just having a really good time?” is the first question I remember asking multiple streamers.

Wow this card is fun. Like an amusement park all to yourself if you have a wide enough board. Cards that are fun when they work are incredibly hard to evaluate, so I sought input from others. In the early days of my brief spy career, two things consistently stood out: 1. Top-ranked drafters are constantly in chat and love to share their opinions 2. Eternal streamers and the people in chat are overwhelmingly kind, welcoming, and helpful individuals. Spying isn’t my area of expertise but I’m pretty sure you’re not supposed to like the people you’re targeting. Imagine watching @Kasendrith help every single person who needs it and then thinking “Yes, this is the person I’d like to exploit for information for my own personal gain.”

Gradually, I transitioned from spy to casual conversationalist to recognizable name in the chat. My plan was to steal information for a competitive edge – I wrote a blueprint for my favorite deck (Feln Control) a couple months later. Plans change.

Source: SLP (Speech-Language Pathologist), Scribe*

Eternal or otherwise, I believe the source of your information is incredibly important. When I talk about limited, as mentioned above, I’m repackaging information and providing references whenever possible. When it comes to learning, I’m slightly more qualified to talk about these concepts than I may appear at times – definitely more qualified than your average faceless internet user making claims like “HERE’S HOW OUR BRAINS WORK!” I need to stop being Schaab, limited try-hard, and speak as the real world version of myself for a moment to give some context for my opinions. Hello, my name is Schaab, M.S. CCC-SLP. It’s a pleasure to meet you. Thanks for coming to my impromptu TED talk about learning.

In my career, I’ve had the pleasure of working primarily with individuals who are non-verbal or possess limited communication skills. Considering what others might be thinking, what they know (even if they can’t tell me), and how their brains work or learn best is an essential part of my job. At least, it was until teaching my 5 and 7 year old became my full time job, which requires a pretty singular skill: Patience. My children are most definitely verbal.

When it comes to limited – I’ve had to do research to become comfortable talking about some limited concepts (Quadrant Theory: Part 2) and have ample homework to do before I can write an article about mulligans.  But when it comes to learning, I just sit down and write from a decently deep pool of academic and clinical experience. Limited credentials: none. Learning credentials: some. Back to Schaab, Valley-Clan Sage Fan Club** Scribe*, Siege Train Operator: CHOO CHOOOO.

*Unofficial Position/Title

**Unofficial Fan Club

Learning Efficiently

Asking questions of others is a great way to gain information that you don’t have the time and/or skill to determine on your own. Even the most dedicated drafters probably don’t play enough games to reach adequate sample sizes for any card, deck, or matchup in a draft format. They extrapolate from small sample sizes and do their best to reach larger conclusions. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to play with Flamebathe Reformation enough times to form an adequate opinion, so I asked.

But let’s imagine for a moment that I did have enough time to draft and play all of these cards. Let’s say I had a free few months – during which I would have plenty of time to play with and against Flamebathe Reformation to form a strong opinion on the card, what decks it goes in, and when I should draft it. Let’s say I have that amount of time. Let’s say it again. Schaab has months of free time. Let’s imagine it some more. Fantastic. Anyway, let’s say I could adequately test Flamebathe Reformation to my liking. Is that really my plan? Am I THAT confident my conclusions will be correct? Am I doing this for every single card in a format? Seems horribly inefficient. Maybe I’ll be right about most cards, but what are the honest chances that I get everything right? Here’s the big question: Even if I could do it all myself, why would I?

I can tell you one reason I might’ve tried to do it all by myself a decade ago if Eternal were around then: Arrogance.

Helpful person: “Hey Young Schaab, want to ask these smart people for help and save a bunch of time?”

Young Schaab: “Pssssshhhhhhhh. Smart people. Right. I’m a smart people! Pretty sure I’m smart enough to figure out a card on my own. Do those people really know more than me?”

Hopefully I would’ve at least kept that last sentence in my head but who knows. It’s painful to own that thought process, but I’m willing to bet we all experience a version of that sometimes. It doesn’t make you horrible, it makes you human. It is essential, however, that you move past this. Acknowledge that you had a dumb, egotistical thought. You, even as a smart human being, will have at least a billion more dumb thoughts during your life. Accept it, laugh at yourself a little bit, recognize that you still have a lot to learn from other people, and then listen.

Required Work

Given that I don’t play much constructed, I try to learn decks that won’t change much over time. Piloting Modern Affinity in 2016 wasn’t much different from playing Modern Affinity in 2018. Given the tournament success of Rats, I’ve given some thought to learning it.

When @Batteriez streamed shortly after winning the Throne Summer Challenge, I took the opportunity to ask a master of the archetype about a crucial aspect of any deck: heuristics or general guidelines to follow when making mulligan decisions. As has been my experience with most Eternal streamers, they were happy to take some time and answer my question thoughtfully. Tons of great information in a short amount of time. So efficient.

To get a sense of how much time this saved, I reached out to The Friends of Eternal Discord, which is filled with some of the best Constructed (and all-around) players in the Eternal community. I posted this question in their “Keep-or-toss” thread:

“How many reps do you need with a deck before you can confidently make mulligan decisions? Just need a ballpark range.”

Community members offered some incredibly advanced, nuanced feedback about the process of making mulligan decisions, which Future Schaab will revisit when he writes an article about mulligans. @Stormblessed, however, accurately translated my question this way “how long until you can short cut most mulligan decisions and be right a good percentage of the time?” Shortcuts – that’s what I’m after. General consensus among a small handful of players is that you need to play 15-25 games with a deck to be right most of the time with your mulligan decisions.

If we assume a game lasts about 10 minutes, I saved myself three or four hours of agonizing over mulligan decisions that I didn’t know how to make. Instead, I asked the deck’s best pilot about the decision-making process behind keeping or redrawing hands – they answered – I listened.

Let me take a moment to emphasize an important point: If your goal is to maximize your win percentage in a tournament, you should NEVER plan to use shortcuts for mulligans or any other decision. I’m talking about taking shortcuts where you can in the learning process. There is a huge difference. Maybe I really did save myself from 20 games worth of bad mulligan decisions by asking @Batteriez for some guidelines – but general consensus among the same community was that a player most likely needs to play around 100 games with a deck to make fully informed mulligan decisions. If you’re planning to play in a tournament – you want to be fully informed, not taking shortcuts. Even if I saved myself 3-4 hours, I’d still need to play with the deck for another 12-16 hours before I would feel truly confident about my mulligan decisions.

The process of becoming an excellent Eternal player, like most skills, takes an extraordinary amount of time and repetition. Making fully informed mulligan decisions with Rats might take me 20 (I’m making this number up) hours. 80% of that time – 16 hours – the actual playing of at least 80 games and making those decisions is an essential, non-negotiable, no shortcuts allowed part of becoming excellent. When trying to learn a new deck, strategy, or format, take shortcuts where you can. Those shortcuts come in the form of information. You might be able to save yourself 20% of the hard work just by asking people who have already been through the process. They have the answers to the test and will just give them to you if you ask and listen.

No amount of listening, watching, or reading can replace playing the games and actively making these decisions yourselves though. All I’m saying is that you don’t have to figure everything out on your own. You have to play a lot of games. You have to do that. Just you. That’s required work. But figuring everything out on your own isn’t. Eternal is really hard. Save yourself time. Be efficient. Find people who know things you don’t, ask them questions – and listen.  

Who Do You Ask?

This answer varies greatly depending on your goals, opportunities, and personality but here are a few guidelines when looking for people you should learn from.

  1. Find people who are open to being wrong and update their opinions based on new information
  2. Find people who, at some point, refer you to someone else or admit their limitations in some way. If the person you direct all your Eternal questions towards seems to always have a confident answer – be wary. The odds of that person having all the right answers is approximately 0%, so at least some of the information they’re giving you isn’t completely correct (they might not be aware of this, of course). You want to learn from people who tell you when you’re better off learning from someone else.
  3. Find people who understand sample sizes. If I ask someone a question and they preface their answer with something like “I’ve only played a few games with it, but…” I am FAR more likely to ask that person for their opinion in the future. Be skeptical of people who are too confident in their opinions after only playing a card or deck a small handful of times: that’s not a big enough sample size to evaluate most cards. Find people who understand this.

All forms of content mentioned in this article are resources that I actively use to get better.

Since he’s not mentioned elsewhere in this article, I’d like to mention @Walking_Sponge – “Collecter” in game. One game. One. That’s all it took. Having no idea who Collecter was, I checked out his stream for the first time a couple months ago. To give you an idea of what my actual thought process is like, it took all of one game for me to say “oh this dude can straight up ball, man.” Not only one of the community’s most successful players, but also quite active in Discord and in Twitch chat. Always helping people out with decklists, lines of play, card evaluation, etc, all at a very high level. Like I said earlier, the people you should learn from will depend on a lot of variables, but I’ve continued to be impressed with the frequency and quality of information that he provides. Most importantly, he does it kindly. In game though? Collecter is ruthless. Straight gangster.

Listening, by the way, doesn’t mean you have to agree with what the person says. Consider it, think about it critically, and forget about it if you really think they’re wrong.

Following Models

Asking experts (e.g. @Batteriez and Rats) for their opinion is a great way to improve your knowledge in any area, but it’s not the only way. Even Skyrim knows this. You can gain experience in an area by reading books (studying), utilizing the skill (practicing), or learning from experts (asking questions) at the right virtual price.

If you’re learning or teaching a new skill, models are invaluable. Want a young child to write neater letters? Be sure they have a model. Want to learn to paint quickly? Watch Bob Ross. Want to learn how to throw axes at your bachelor party? Watch the guy who owns the place and already knows how to do it. Find a successful model and try to replicate it.

Spoiler: On Episode 72 of the Farming Eternal podcast, we discuss Rakano in Argent Depths draft – not my strongest archetype. Hypothetically, I said, if the Draft Championship were next week and I wanted to learn Rakano the first thing I’d do is look at some 7-win decklists. It sounded like a planned pitch for their data collection project but it’s genuinely how I would do it. That’s how I found their site in the first place – while looking for information to improve my Eternal draft game.

If we consider the same invented numbers I used before, the process of mastering a new draft archetype might break down something like this:

20% – Having knowledge of the deck’s gameplan, what cards are important, etc.

80% – Going through the process of drafting the decks and playing games.

If I wanted to do 100% of the work – a challenge I do enjoy and would’ve gladly taken on at a different point in my life – I’d start by drafting a lot of Rakano decks to see what works. But I don’t have time to figure out the Rakano puzzle, and the Praxis Puzzle, and the Elysian puzzle, and on and on, so I look for ways to save time. One way I do that is by looking at models. It’s difficult to find sufficient video of people drafting different archetypes, so I look at decklists instead. When LSV starts doing a podcast where he breaks down different Eternal archetypes, I’ll also get my information from there.

When the next draft set comes, my natural drafting tendencies will pull me towards the slow decks: Feln, Elysian. I’ll get a good sense of those decks on my own through my natural drafting process. But when the time comes for me to learn Stonescar or Rakano, the first thing I’m going to do is look at 7-win decklists to see what other people have been successful with. I can do that 20% of the work on my own – or I can find a model and focus on replicating it while I do the other 80% of required work.

Deliberate Practice

My favorite episode of LR, a Special Edition episode which I will continue to reference for as long as I write, discusses deliberate practice beginning around the 15 minute mark. Masrhall Sutcliffe, LR co-host, explains: “It’s the act of not just simply doing a thing over and over but actually concentrating on specific aspects of it and getting those as perfected as you can.”

There are a lot of aspects to this game – some of which I’m still learning- and it’s impossible to improve in all the areas at once. You have to pick a specific area where you want to improve. 

@gatosujo of Team Misplay wrote a great piece recently about creating S.M.A.R.T. goals – a framework frequently used in education while writing learning objectives. The author’s final thoughts on their own process, however, closely mirrors that of my own and deliberate practice.

“identify what you want to improve, find and create ways to work specifically on that skill, and get feedback so you can adjust and continue to grow” @gatosujo

Looting (drawing a card, then discarding a card) used to be an area of deliberate practice for me. This effect, experienced players will tell you, is great. I hated it. Never felt like I knew what I was doing and always discarded the wrong card. Felt like I was losing games to myself. Elite players talk about how great looting is, but I never wanted to do it.

This hole in my game could not be ignored when I started playing Mardu Vehicles with four copies of Smuggler’s Copter. Competitively, I knew I couldn’t avoid looting just because I hated it.  I’d knowingly be giving myself a competitive disadvantage because I was afraid of making the wrong decision. My game couldn’t have a flaw like that, so it became an area of deliberate practice. Regardless of competitive setting, I’d always loot, and then take extra time thinking about which card to discard. For particularly tough choices, I’d remember what I could and ask a friend about it later. These days I’d screenshot it and ask people for their advice.

Eventually, I no longer worried about making the wrong choice while looting. Now it’s just something I do automatically because it’s strategically correct. Figuring out which card to discard while looting is often one of the most difficult decisions to make in a game, but I always force myself to make it. If I get it wrong, I get it wrong – but I didn’t feel that way before it became a target for deliberate practice. If I didn’t specifically work that area of my game, I’d still be afraid of cards like Forbidden Research, which I now adore.

Painting with All the Colors of the Wind

“Like they say in Pocahontas ‘You’ll learn things you never knew you never knew’” – @Sunyveil*

*Quick story about Suny. I didn’t know Eternal’s tournament history when I agreed to be on the podcast. I recognized Suny’s name, but mostly from a recent episode of Eternal Journey. Here I was, talking to arguably the game’s most accomplished player, thinking : “@Sunyveil- knows to put Direwood Rampager in his draft deck sometimes. Yeah, that guy knows what’s up.”

I came to talk about Eternal draft, I stayed for the Pocahontas quotes and Dunning-Krueger jokes. Towards the end episode 45 of the Friends of Eternal Podcast, I say “people don’t know what they don’t know.” This includes me. When it comes to Eternal, I don’t know what I don’t know. Apparently I don’t truly know how to draft aggro decks. Could’ve sworn I already knew how to do that, but here I am. Finding such a glaring hole in my game is a good problem to have – it gives me something to work on.

At this point, having consumed so much limited content, I would be genuinely surprised to learn about an entirely new method of card evaluation or deckbuilding that I haven’t heard about. But when it comes to evaluating a board state? I don’t know what I don’t know. When it comes to drafting aggro decks consistently? I don’t know what I don’t know. Those unknowns deepen my appreciation of these games. There are most definitely areas of my game that I’m actively working on, which the folks over at Farming Eternal and I will discuss on an upcoming episode, but there are also deeply flawed parts of my game that I’m not even aware of.

Let’s go the top: LSV and William “Huey” Jensen. During the 2017 MTG World Championship, Huey seemed to somehow play at an even higher level than the best Magic players in the world. When I think of Magic being played at the highest level, I think of Huey. I have no doubt that he thinks about the game in ways that are significantly different from the way I think about them. Eternal and MTG are complex games, so of course one of the best to ever play will think things about the game that I don’t. But I’ve heard about players like Huey joking that LSV can win games with a pile of ham sandwiches (Would love a source for this anecdote if it sounds familiar to anyone). If that’s how Huey – Hall of Fame, World Champion, Huey Freakin Jensen – feels, how on Earth is LSV thinking about this game? How many more variables could there possibly be? Just how deep does the rabbit hole go?!


Listen – I wasn’t planning to be here today. My only goal was to compete well in the 2020 Draft Championship. My goal was to find a competitive edge – I found a community instead. Shortly after I started watching more streamers, @Jedi_EJ hosted a community-organized charity tournament for Child’s Play and then DireWolf matched the contributions (full story by @Parmele here). That’s the type of community I want to be a part of and help thrive. I published my first article, It’s time to Draft the Hard Way in Eternal, about a month later.

Today, I’m glad that I can laugh at the second sentence in the above paragraph. Competing well in the 2020 Draft Championship most certainly did not happen, but this year was from a failure. Farming Eternal recently released an episode featuring 2020 Draft Champion @Gunner 116 which had more chemistry than a season of Breaking Bad. This might surprise you, but I listened. Just a few months ago, I was talking to my wife about how cool it would be to be a guest on one of the podcasts I started listening to. Now the 2020 Eternal Draft Champion is referencing my writing on one of those very podcasts, on which I’ve also been a guest. My strong preference would have been to win the actual tournament, but this truly feels like the next best thing. 2020 has been a dumpster fire, but Eternal has been a lone bright spot. I have a 100% day 2 conversion rate in Eternal tournaments (1 for 1), an upcoming Quadrant Theory Review of Set 10 with @Kasendrith, and a small but wonderful community that knows me by name. I can’t ask for more than that.

Truly, I hope y’all enjoy the Eternal celebration, though I’m expecting my participation to be minimal. Mrs. Schaab is 9 months pregnant, so my focus will be elsewhere for the next couple weeks. Make no mistake – you’ll see me trying to qualify for World’s if I find the time – but my Eternal celebrating will be in the form of sprints, not a marathon.

Celebrate the game – it is fantastic. Thank you DireWolf! – but also celebrate the community. My fear is that the Eternal community will change as the game grows. That future players will encounter more hostility, confrontation, and other forms of negativity that I found largely absent from the 2020 Eternal community I’ve grown to love. If new players with undesirable characteristics and/or ways of communicating enter the community, don’t listen: speak up (kindly, constructively). The Eternal community, in my experience, is much better than that – let’s work to keep it that way.

The 2021 Eternal Draft Championship hasn’t been announced yet, but I plan to be there. If there’s a possibility to automatically qualify for day 2 by accumulating DCP (Draft Championship Points), my quest to do so will begin as soon as possible. I hope more players will do the same. Honestly, I hope there are months when I struggle to finish in the top 20 because the quality of competition is so high. This is probably just the expectant father in me talking, but I’d also be immensely proud if this happened.

I doubt I’ll have time to prepare for the tournament as much as I’d like. Currently, my only plan is to endlessly adore my daughter when she gets here any day now. I’ll likely find myself unprepared, by my standards, for the 2021 Draft Championship. So I’ll reach out to the Eternal community – a community I never planned to join in the first place. A community I planned to pry for information for competitive gain. A community filled with kind, compassionate, helpful individuals. I know the Eternal community will be there to patiently answer my questions about the current format. I’ll probably have a lot of questions. Then I’ll listen. 


Huge Thanks to @mail, @AustinAru’reTheIncomprehensible, @Matt117, @Stormblessed, @NotoriousGHP, @chriseay for their mulligan insights.

Author’s note:

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

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

Let’s Talk Limited Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/LetsTalkLimited?fan_landing=true

You can find me in the LetsTalkLimited section of the Farming Eternal Discord https://discord.gg/YfQVbjZ

Forging Fundamentals

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

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

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

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

“Trivia Jokes!” (Quadrant Theory Part 2)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Selection: C. Suffocate

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

Selection: B. Copperhall Porter

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

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

Selection: B. Silverblade Reaper

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

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

Pick 4 Selection: Bouldergate Guard.

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

Selection: A. Fervent Siphoner.

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

Selection: C. Spiritweaver.

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

Selection: A. Solemn Clergy

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

****Pick 8

Selection: Badge of Honor.

Selection: A. Minotaur Duelist.

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

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

Selection: A. Banewulf.

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

Selection: C. Auric Official

Still need bigger units and Auric Official fits nicely.

Selection: C. Town Watchman.

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

Selection: C. Longtail Cavalry.

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

Selection: A. Pack Conjuring.

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

Selection: B. Lurking Brute.

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

Selection: B. Audacious Ruse.

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

Selection: B. Auric Official.

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

******Pick 18

Selection: Devour

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

Selection: C. Lurking Brute.

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

Selection: A. Nightwatch Broadsword.

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

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

Selection: A. Caravan Guard.

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

Selection: B. Lurking Brute.

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

Selection: B. Murky Tentaclesis.

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

Selection: A. Lurking Brute.

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

Forge Specific:

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s the final list:

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

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

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

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

Fundamentals – Playing against AI

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Author’s Note:

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

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

Let’s Talk Limited Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/LetsTalkLimited?fan_landing=true

You can find me in the LetsTalkLimited section of the Farming Eternal Discord https://discord.gg/YfQVbjZ

Useful Reddit post about Forge: https://www.reddit.com/r/EternalCardGame/comments/jbu0tf/consolidated_list_of_forge_references_for_new/

Forge Simulator on Eternal Warcry