Hello and welcome to a new installment of Drafting with the Stars! Now that I have gathered more knowledge about Dark Frontier drafts, I hope I will not stumble as much as I did in my previous episode. In general I like this format a lot as it has some great hidden synergies and strategies underneath a dense layer of 1/10 and 2/10 cards in curated packs. Let us begin anew!
Pack 1 Pick 1
At first my eyes obviously venture to the upper left of the pack where I see … Kira, the Prodigy. It is a decent-stated unit and a potential first pick, as you can try and build your deck around her with High Alerts, Daring Maneuvers and such. Next up we have Auric Reclaimer, a better-stated unit and a cornerstone of Argenport weapon- and armor-based decks. Read the Runes is unplayable in drafts and we finish the top row with Eternal’s take on Serra Angel, i.e. Steel Legion – great stats and abilities, as well as the artwork. Side note – artwork does not win games … unless it is on this card! From the common pool the only outstanding card is Retribution, a card that is considered to be the best removal in the current format, with the rest of the cards being mediocre or straight-out bad.
What do I do now? I could go for Kira and build something around her, but if I wanted a build-around card I think Auric Reclaimer is a much better card. Please note that if you have a Relic Weapon in play and gain armor or you already have armor and play a Relic Weapon, that amount of armor is added to your weapon’s stats permanently. That in turn means that Auric Reclaimer can get back 3/7 Twin Sais for you on a regular basis … if your deck is up for it. Given that I do not know what colors and strategies will be passed to me later on I opted to go for one of the Justice cards that work well alone, with Steel Legion being a better choice in my opinion.
Caleb’s choice: Steel Legion
Pack 1 Pick 2
Ancient Clocktower has a lot of text and some potential, but I think it would be a better addition in fourth pack when you already have a lot of warp units picked up and ready to be played. I know, if you pick it up early it is also possible to just build around it, with cards from curated packs such as Meditate and Excavate gaining a lot more value – sure! Moving on, Isolate is too conditional and works about as often as Fall Short, with the latter being a constant disappointment for me. Reclaim is good material for ramping up, but there are not that many expensive cards you should be running in the current format, with amplify gone and being a thing of the past (at least for now). Spellstrike Sorceress is a good cornerstone of a hidden spell-matter strategy, but I think that is a story for another episode of Drafting with the Stars. Kosul Bladebarrier is a good card if you have a lot of ways to gain armor. Furnish and Bloodnurse are filler material, and the rest is just bad.
Prior to this draft I heard a lot about armor-based decks and strategies, but have not built any decks with that in mind, which is why I wanted to explore this strategy right here. This is not the only correct choice from this pack, though, more of a … scientific one for me.
Caleb’s choice: Kosul Bladebarrier
Pack 1 Pick 3
Both red cards are plain bad. Inner Might looks very bad at first glance, but over time I am thinking more and more of this trick. The commons are mediocre aside from the Emerald Coin, which shines even if it is splashed. Here it would be in my current main color, which makes it an easy pick over more strategy-based Inner Might. Mind you, if I went for the Sorceress in the previous pack, my choice Might have been different here.
Caleb’s choice: Emerald Coin
Pack 1 Pick 4
Given that I started the draft off three Justice cards, this is where my eyes turn to from the start. Steadfast Paladin has a very unique ability and is a great bluffer and onslaught-triggerer – you attack with him each turn, right? His only downside is that there are a lot of ways of dealing with one-health units in the current format, with Granite Coin being the cheesiest (i.e. the best as far as I am concerned) way of doing so. Auric Lookout is okay, but nothing to write home about. One might think about picking up Expedition Leader, but that unit is both fragile and is just a delayed Wisdom of the Elders after the first emerge. It could be great, mind you, in very shifty Praxis decks. The best card here power-wise is Streets Aflame, which also makes me venture into Rakano as the color combination of choice. That is actually good, as both Rakano and Argenport have good cards for the armor-based synergies.
Caleb’s choice: Streets Aflame
Pack 1 Pick 5
This is a rather weak pack and considering that I am currently viewing my deck as Rakano, there are still some choices to be made here. Flash Grenade is an outstanding trick as it is the card you need to be playing around. It is also quite easy to pin down, stop-reading-wise (if that came out confusing … I meant reading the opponent’s stops during the game, i.e. the game pausing for them with one power open on Justice influence). Mining Team has been better for me than I initially gave credit to and you should think of this unit as always costing two instead of four. That is right, that is the secret right here. It also triggers all the Scout, Warp and Shift synergies, a good old (new?) unassuming trifecta. Oh, and there is also Roosting Warhawk which – despite being worse than Steel Legion at its best – is still a good flier. Did I ever mention that fliers win games?
Caleb’s choice: Roosting Warhawk
Pack 1 Pick 6
Both red cards here are very bad. High Alert is a great, albeit expensive trick that is obviously at its best when played from Warp. To be honest, if you have it on top of your deck, you usually just A-Space that turn, as it works both on offense and defense. Another consideration here is the Cobalt Coin that you could count as an off-color curse costing zero that permanently gives you a colorless power. Still not as good as High Alert, though.
Caleb’s choice: High Alert
Pack 1 Pick 7
A good red unit and a bad red card are here. It is strange for me to see Omnivorous Vorlunk this late. On other colors, Belligerent Yeti and Angry Prophet are playable as well. I am still just going to take an on-color card.
Caleb’s choice: Horde Duelist
Pack 1 Pick 8
Prior to this pick one of my fans in Twitch chat asked if I am going to change into Argenport like Mann_und_Mouse did during the Entrance Exam’s final draft. I said no. Then I am being passed Auric Reclaimer in pick eight! Given that Heist is the only on-color card and it is not really playable, I am willing to take the Minotaur and see where this leads me.
Caleb’s choice: Auric Reclaimer
Pack 1 Pick 9
Okay, so having a good Shadow unit synergizing with relic weapons now I get passed a relic weapon, with no good cards in my colors? Sure! Side note #1 – another late Omnivorous Vorlunk. Side note #2 – when I was first glancing through the Dark Frontier cards after the set came out, I dismissed Bandit’s Flail as a straight-out bad card, usually as unplayable as Iron Hook. Boy, was I wrong! In armor-based decks you just need weapons, okay? The higher the attack, the better. The second stat matters less, as you are adding armor by other means.
Caleb’s choice: Bandit’s Flail
Pack 1 Pick 10
A late High Alert is a very good pickup and a sign that either people are under-valuing this card or that Justice will be wide open in the last pack.
Caleb’s choice: High Alert
Pack 1 Pick 11
I should have gone with Illicit Armament just for science’s sake, as it can turn even the lowliest Curator’s Spears into very deadly weapons – especially that I have Auric Reclaimer. I opted for a filler unit instead.
Caleb’s choice: Bloodnurse
Pack 1 Pick 12
Caleb’s choice: Yeti Bully
Pack 2 Pick 1
To sum up pack one – I am heavily into Justice and armor synergies, with Fire or Shadow being my second (and third?) color. Valkyrie Bodyguard is much better in the current format than it was ever before, as the stat line on the card is great and the drawback is right now negligible. Improvised Club is a good high-end weapon and Backpacker’s Machete is (unfortunately) one of the better weapons available in the card pool. Ghostform and Overheat are … I wanted to say unplayable, but actually they could make great Market material. Given that a) I have no Merchants or Smugglers and b) there are better cards here then c) I will just go for a good card in the color I am sure to be playing.
Caleb’s choice: Valkyrie Bodyguard
Pack 2 Pick 2
Wow, is Silverwing Familiar weak in the current format – there are few permanent buffs for it and there are no lifeforce cards at all. I am very low on Rallying Banner in the current format as well. The best card in my Winchest potential colors is Pummel (Fire is the new Justice when it comes to fast interaction), but I am thinking of myself more as Argenport than Rakano at this moment. This is also why when in doubt what your other color will be, pick a card in your main color
Caleb’s choice: Argenport Soldier
Pack 2 Pick 3
This is a pack of generally weak cards. Now that I look at it, it is one of those moments where I would usually pick the off-color Seat with the thought of ‘okay, if I get passed a Time bomb later on it will be easier to splash, and I will not play the other cards anyway’. I took another card anyway and that is the Tinker Apprentice. It is another card that can enhance a relic weapon that you have – and that is all that matters. It is also a good onslaught trigger early on.
Caleb’s choice: Tinker Apprentice
Pack 2 Pick 4
Important note – Crests are so good that I would advise you to play them even if they were for just one of your colors … as is the case here. Please note that if I took the Seat in the previous pack I would be more incentivized to look for good Time cards in packs as well.
Caleb’s choice: Crest of Progress
Pack 2 Pick 5
Dark Return has been good or great in all the formats it was in. Sharpened Reflexes pales in comparison .. in fact both cards give a unit +1/+1 permanently, with one of them scouting and the other drawing a card. Going full math mode I will add that scouting is usually treated as ‘drawing half of a card’ (i.e. half of the time you will put it on the bottom where otherwise it would have been a dead draw), which clearly marks Dark Return as a superior card. The other Shadow cards are straight-out bad.
Caleb’s choice: Dark Return
Pack 2 Pick 6
Valkyrie Militant is another card that is better in the current format because armor matters more. Especially that the other cards in this pack are mediocre at best and generally around 2/10 and 3/10.
Caleb’s choice: Valkyrie Militant
Pack 2 Pick 7
Filler unit is better than a bad trick. Also, say it ten times: filler flier filler flier filler flier …
Caleb’s choice: Flickerling
Pack 2 Pick 8
I tend to play Lingering Influence in place of a power card, the same as Seek Power and Cargo cards. It does not fix your influence (unless you need double, triple or even quintuple Justice), but it does scout for you.
Caleb’s choice: Lingering Influence
Pack 2 Pick 9
Bad unit is better than nothing, eh?
Caleb’s choice: Direwood Rampager
Pack 2 Pick 10
Now I get the chance to Sharpen my Reflexes.
Caleb’s choice: Sharpened Reflexes
Pack 2 Pick 11
I already have the unit and Lock Horns has not been terrible for me in Dark Frontier Drafts.
Caleb’s choice: Lock Horns
Pack 2 Pick 12
…on the other hand two is one too many.
Caleb’s choice: Lock Horns
Pack 3 Pick 1
The rare is certainly not splashable and both Shadow cards are bad. Very bad even. Tinker is also a bit sub-par, but not totally unplayable. Kosul Diplomat is just a silence effect with a 1/1 token attached to it. Armorsmith on the other hand is actually good. You can think about the card as a free 2/2 that you play right after you play a relic weapon, allowing the weapon to survive for another attack and leaving a 2/2 token on the ground. Sure!
Caleb’s choice: Armorsmith
Pack 3 Pick 2
Once again, the Shadow cards are bad, but pose a thematic dilemma. If The End is Near – will you Betray the Cause?
Anyway, Spire Spellsword is not as bad as I initially thought – there are some spell-matter cards spread throughout this format. One Sharpened Reflexes is usually enough. Soaring Guard (which is almost pronounced as Elder Scrolls’ Sovngarde) is – once again – much better than ever before, especially when you have relic weapons. By the way, I keep talking about relic weapons but I only have one Bandit’s Flail. How about Bandit’s Fail? Got to think about getting more of those, or – better yet – some upgraded weapons!
Caleb’s choice: Soaring Guard from Sovngarde
Pack 3 Pick 3
A third chance of getting a Time fixing is a bit funny. What I should have gone for here was Improvised Club, even if I was not sure it would make it into the deck. My thoughts went elsewhere – I do have Streets Aflame that I might end up splashing off of Seat of Chaos. That is also what I went with.
Caleb’s choice: Seat of Chaos
Pack 3 Pick 4
Brightmace Paladin on the other hand is one of a few cards that are weaker in Dark Frontier drafts than ever before. There are not a lot of weapons you will put on it and the only permanent spell buff is off of Sharpened Reflexes (and Dark Return to be honest). In the previous formats (Defiance, Homecoming) I would have snap-picked Winchest Cargo here, as it not only fixes for both of my Argenport colors, but also helps with splashing that Streets Aflame. In Dark Frontier, though, I have found that you do not need to pick fixing that high – or at all – if you are running just two colors with a max of two influence requirements in each color and have some scout effects to help with that as well. Another thing that I found in Dark Frontier drafts is that I usually end up with fewer units that I would like. Sold!
Caleb’s choice: Brightmace Paladin
Pack 3 Pick 5
Oh boy, I do not like Fall Short at all. There are really many battle skills out there, on top of that both Infinite Hourglass and Porcelain Mask are in curated packs (both are also worse than in the previous format and lo and behold – when relics do not matter, Porcelain Mask is just one step up from being utter garbage). It is still better than nothing … I guess.
Caleb’s choice: Fall Short
Pack 3 Pick 6
Tinker and Direwood Rampager are near the bottom of my card ratings. Resolute Paladin is slightly above them, but I did pick up a lot of spells and fast spells.
Caleb’s choice: Resolute Paladin
Pack 3 Pick 7
This Justice card matchup was played previously. The winner is still the same.
Caleb’s choice: Soaring Guard
Pack 3 Pick 8
I guess I will pick the only on-color card in a fringe case that I might need it … somehow.
Caleb’s choice: Blood Quill
Pack 3 Pick 9
Filler, probably will not even make it off the bench.
Caleb’s choice: Steadfast Deputy
Pack 3 Pick 10
Caleb’s choice: Backlash
Pack 3 Pick 11
Caleb’s choice: Grit
Pack 3 Pick 12
Caleb’s choice: Snowfort
Pack 4 Pick 1
Not a lot of choice here, with only Steel Legion, High Alert and Boot Knife being in Argenport colors. Boot Knife should not even be considered a relic weapon for me. It is more like a Granite Coin-like effect i.e. finishing an opposing unit off, that even does not give you a power. Steel Legion is superb and we already have two High Alerts – that is as high as I am willing to go on alerts. Well, maybe three if I have no other tricks, but not here and especially not versus the Valkyrie.
Caleb’s choice: Steel Legion
Pack 4 Pick 2
This was a tougher choice than I initially would think. Both Svetya’s Faithful and Kosul Bladebarrier are good units, with Faithful being overall good and Bladebarrier being situationally good. Armor is the theme here, though, and that is what pushed this decision over the top.
Caleb’s choice: Kosul Bladebarrier
Pack 4 Pick 3
Finally I am presented with a decent relic weapon. I have to admit, at the start of the current format I was very low on Twin Sai and Bandit’s Flail. Now they are the cornerstones of the Argenport Armory. As for the Warhawk, I already have three good 5-drop fliers. Inner might is also a consideration – but only if I already had at least three or four relic weapons.
When it comes to the weapon themselves, there are a couple of factors. First of, Twin Sai is in my main color. Next, it has warp, which sometimes constitutes card advantage. One additional armor also means that it can potentially take care of two 2/2 units on its own. The one cost does not matter as much as the other consideartions.
Caleb’s choice: Twin Sai
Pack 4 Pick 4
I think other people would go for the fan-favorite Tauride Test Pilot here. Do not underestimate Pioneering Aviator, though. This unit is usually a Locust that gains you armor on more than one occasion. Solid stats and abilities for both armor- and spell-matter decks.
Caleb’s choice: Pioneering Aviator
Pack 4 Pick 5
This is a rather late Shieldcrafter – a total wall on the ground and a very high pump for your armor! For me this is better than the Test Pilot, even despite the fact that I have a ton of 5-drops already. It is just that good!
Caleb’s choice: Shieldcrafter
Pack 4 Pick 6
Getting a great removal this late is premium!
Caleb’s choice: Retribution
Pack 4 Pick 7
Nothing here, really, so I just go for the shinee.
Caleb’s choice: Death from Above
Pack 4 Pick 8
Third relic weapon is where I want to go!
Caleb’s choice: Twin Sai
Pack 4 Pick 9
In retrospect I should have gone for a third Twin Sai here – as they were that great in the deck. What I did go for, though, is Granite Coin (I have already explained the case of playing it without any actual on-color cards).
Caleb’s choice: Granite Coin
Pack 4 Pick 10
A filler blocker in my colors.
Caleb’s choice: Kosul Curator
Pack 4 Pick 11
Caleb’s choice: Snowmass Jotun
Pack 4 Pick 12
It is around two power too expensive, but you will never know. I have played this card a couple of times. Not that it was good or anything, but it is still good to get a card in your colors as the last pick.
Caleb’s choice: Winnow
When I looked at the color breakdown my initial thoughts were to look through the rest of the pool and see if there were any other Justice cards to put in and make a mono-Justice deck. I know I at least had Grit, which would already make twenty sevenm Justice cards, fifteen Justice Sigils, two Coins and a Crest thankyouverymuch! After a moment of pondering over actually being able to play a mono-colored deck in a draft (!!) I looked through the filler Justice and playable Shadow cards. Auric Reclaimer, Bandit’s Flail and Dark Return were too good to be left out and the option of playing them was worth going for a couple of Shadow sources – especially over Grit, Steadfast Deputy and the like.
I did cut one of the Shadow cards pretty fast and that was Bloodnurse. I have no support for twist in this deck and that is just a lowly 1/1. That is the same reason that I threw out Steadfast Deputy and Tinker Apprentice. That left me with twenty nine cards. Now the question was how much power do I want to play – is it the usual eighteen or am I will ing to get a little greedy and go down to seventeen? As for the greed – no, but I do have a Lingering Influence that I treat as a power card. Seventeen it is, which alkso means I have to make one final cut. Eighteen units, three relic weapons and eight spells. I do not like to play too many units and would rather have more tricks – even mediocre ones like Lock Horns. The last cut ended up being Kosul Curator as both a conditional attacker and in an overcrowded 4-drop slot.
The deck looked very solid and I was excited to finally test out armor synergies in Dark Frontier drafts. It could have gone the distance, but I made some mistakes in my final game and the deck ended up with six wins and three losses. One of the losses was to an Improvised Rubbler that allowed the opponent to stabilize on two health (!), a very aggressive Rakano deck and a badly-played game against a Winchest deck.
What did win me games was kind of obvious – good fliers and relic weapons pumped up a million times to be used and re-used and re-used again. I do wish I has another Twin Sai, though … or a better weapon for that matter! A four attack weapon would be amazing and next time I got to look for them.
In the end this draft was a great experience for me and opened my eyes to a lot of intricacies of the current draft format. I hope you enjoyed this lengthy story and that I will see you on one of my streams!
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