Hello and welcome to a new installment of Drafting with the Stars! A new format is upon us, along the new and much improved teamrankstar.com website!
This is a story of the seventh draft of the seventh set format. After playing in the so-called pre-release draft format we all got a taste of things to come … Is the new reality what we were hoping for? Let us dive in and start picking and choosing and analyzing and …
Pack 1 Pick 1
Oh my goodness! Look out, Mr. Blue-Jacket-Eating-an-Apple! Baleb is right behind you! I guess it does not fair too well for Mr. BJEaA … maybe he will survive, or maybe we will see just a big blood splatter the next time this card comes around in a late pick, because no-one wanted it … because it is not really playable in draft. At least it is not first-pickable, as a) there are not a lot of damage dealing spells in this format and b) paying five power (and possible one maximum power) to draw two cards conditionally is not what I really want in a card.
Moving on from Mr. Blood Splatter and on to the uncommons – Funeral Pyre is quite expensive for what it does and is usually an underwhelming piece of removal. At least it is fast. Forgemark Scrivener has a slightly underwhelming stat line, but is worth its investment after a first successful attack – given you have another Oni on the board. Edict of Kodosh – and the whole Edict cycle, by extension – is a decent option, as you will more often than not remove an opposing unit with the stronger effect of the card. This one even silences a unit, which is removal-like, more often than not.
As for the commons I will only mention the ones that are worth any consideration. Reconnaissance looks expensive – and is, as you need to sacrifice a point of power if you want to re-draw a card – but being able to break through a board stall is nothing to frown upon. It is also one of many cards which is just perfect when combined with Razorquill in this format – making the Direbeast in question much better these days. Wanderlust Qirin has a low stat line to begin with (being one power more expensive than, let us say, Cloudsnake Hatchling – which has usually been a weak unit) and the Muster ability is usually quite difficult to trigger. Fervent Siphoner is a very nice addition for many strategies, whether you are milling yourself in Xenan or your opponent in Feln (or both in Auralian!), and even just the 1/2 Exalted body is decent on its own. Proselytize gives you a lot of Cultist tokens to work with (which usually means sacrificing them for some greater goals – Baleb).
In the end this is a very underwhelming pack – especially given the other pack one pick one choices I had so far. I felt a hankering to go for some Rakano Onis, which is why I went for the Scrivener – without tying myself to this choice, though, as I would rate this card around 6/10.
Oh, and a huge public service announcement! Do not play Breath of Voprex – it is a bad card! You have been warned! Thank you.
Caleb’s choice: Forgemark Scrivener
Pack 1 Pick 2
Ghostblade Outcast is a strictly better Ardent Convert … which is probably not a lot. If you have a lot of tricks and are able to pump this unit while trading with another and give someone else the buffed up version of the Exalted Weapon – that is the dream scenario. Does require a lot of setup, though, which is why this one is worse than I initially gave credit to. Kairos’ Choice is a great, fast piece of removal or an option of saving your own unit – two great modes. As for the commons, Sunset Priest is my favorite from the pre-release days, where it enabled some cool plays – now even more so! Ancient Manual is the perfect piece of influence fixing for three and four color decks. Whether you should be running more than two colors is another matter and I still cannot put my finger on what is the default number of colors you should have. Yeti Gryffyn Rider is a solid early drop with a lot of potential. Linrei Evangel – while slightly worse than the other four Evangels – is still a good and solid Stranger replacement and your main source of influence fixing in this format. Always grab some of those and remember – they already give you one influence, making their requirement technically a single one.
Here one could go for Ghostblade Outcast and try to stay with the color of the previous card, but given that this is just the beginning and the previous card was not a real indicator of what I want to go for, I would rather just go for the most powerful card in this pack, even if it is the two color Kairos’ Choice.
Caleb’s choice: Kairos’ Choice
Pack 1 Pick 3
Back in the pre-release many people said that Blood of Makkar was one of the best cards in the format. In the current one I heavily disagree with that statement. I do not know whether this is due to these two formats differing that much or just me playing with Blood of Makkar slightly more. This is – in my opinion – what one would call a strictly win-more card, more often than not. There are obviously some cases where this Cursed Relic comes in very handy – mainly if you are running a lot of small fliers of other evasive units, or if you have a ton of Curse support. Otherwise it is not something worthy including in your deck. I know that probably many people will disagree with this assessment, but it is where I currently stand on this card.
Nahid’s Curse is an okay source of tokens, but nothing to write home about. As for the commons, Yeti Traditionalist is this format’s Peaktop Trekker, with the Muster ability being much harder to proc than Scout, i.e. a worse version of the card. Warhorn has brought many a woeful situation to my enemies, especially when equipping a flier or an overwhelming, big unit. Marsh Dragon is a high variance card, either being an overtly expensive 3/1 flier or bringing you back from the brink of defeat with a 3/11 body and healing you for ten! Or, obviously, somewhere in between. Experiences may vary.
With Kairos’ Choice being a stronger influence on what I want to pick than the Oni, the choice was between the previously not mentioned Swaying Sea Qiring and Warhorn. Given that I said nothing about the Qirin, you might have guessed my choice by now.
Caleb’s choice: Warhorn
Pack 1 Pick 4
I will not focus slightly more on the three colors I have picked up so far, unless I see a card that is worthy of swerving into another direction. Which brings me to the Insignia. If you are thinking of running a three plus color deck, you have to pick all fixing that is presented to you very high – as it is mostly in the uncommon slot these days. Also, if you are in two colors and there are no good cards from those for you to pick, getting a one on-color Insignia is a good spring board for you to potentially grab a splashable bomb later. Majestic Mandrake has a huge, overwhelming body, and while its Muster ability is worse than Plated Goliath’s Warp – this one is still going to dominate the board and make your opponents cower in fear each time you swing with this … Mandrake?
Sol’s Fury has a huge cost of sacrificing a unit for the huge damaging hit, but given that Combust was played in the previous formats, I believe that in a combination of Fire with Time and/or Shadow you should have many a small units to use up here. Relentless Combatant is rather a filler, but each unit with Berserk has huge potential of delivering quick and vicious victories. As for Wilderness Refuge, I believe there might be a deck for it … somewhere. At least it is not a complete dud when drawn later in the game, due to the Spellcraftable bounce effect.
Caleb’s choice: Majestic Mandrake
Pack 1 Pick 5
If I am considering the Oni I picked up in the first pack, I should go for the Rakano Insignia. If not, then Warbrush Oni and Relentless Combatant are my fiery choices. Were I paying more attention I would remember that in the two previous packs there were no Justice cards. This might be due to pack variance or just someone picking them up right from my nose. The more adult choice would be to get probably the Warbrush Oni and stay in Fire with at least a splash of Time. Are we adults here, though?
Caleb’s choice: Rakano Insignia
Pack 1 Pick 6
It seems my recklessness finally paid off, as I snatch up Draw Strength without explaining much more than that is an awesome card. Okay, maybe a bit more on this subject – Draw Strength for me is on a similar level to Finest Hour, sometimes being better, sometimes being worse, but generally a very high quality card. As for the others, Skyfire Hellkite is a very expensive – but at least flying – Calderan Gunsmith and can finish the opponents very handily when it comes into play. If not, it will just start attacking for seven in the air. Yes, you heard it right – just. Xultan Paladin and Gaudy Showman are fillers more than not, with a slight nod towards Showman, as it can provide you with some very good tempo plays in the early and mid game.
Caleb’s choice: Draw Strength
Pack 1 Pick 7
Huh, I guess if I picked Forgemark Scrivener as my first card, it is a good pick for my seventh card as well? Cindermaw Tota can provide value in some decks, but the pile that I am currently gathering does not seem to be it. As for the Time cards, Ardent Convert does not seem to do much without Cultist, sacrifice or Muster synergies. Cult Recruiter, on the other hand, is the Time trick to play around in the current format. Unfortunately it has a double Time requirement. Yes, I know, I already picked up the Mandrake, but that one is a more late game card and has a higher impact on the board. That does not change the fact that I am skipping the Recruiter and this one goes to Scrivener #2. Here is to hoping I get more Onis to choose from.
Caleb’s choice: Forgemark Scrivener
Pack 1 Pick 8
Inflict Conscience is quite the basic Curse and I would not run it without Curse support, having a low number of tricks or not being able to get rid of huge or evasive units. On the other hand, Storm of Feathers is quite mediocre and Crowd Queller is a Relic Weapon that makes use of a spell that you really want to use as a fast one, not as a slow one – thus making the Spellcraft effect kind of worse, but still helping with the weapon in question. Right here I am going for the Curse, with the foreknowledge I will probably not be including it in the final deck.
Caleb’s choice: Inflict Conscience
Pack 1 Pick 9
There is an Oni that provides good tempo. That is two notches above Cindermaw Tota. Deal!
Caleb’s choice: Gaudy Showman
Pack 1 Pick 10
Please remember that Grodov Evangel already paid for half of his influence requirement, making him a single Time-needing unit.
Caleb’s choice: Grodov Evangel
Pack 1 Pick 11
Let me do the PSA once again, in case you skipped over the first one: Breath of Voprex is a bad card, do not play it. Thank you.
Caleb’s choice: Breath of Voprex
Pack 1 Pick 12
I still wonder about the value of this card. How many units do you have to have in your hand to make this one worth sacrificing both a card and probably your second turn. Later in the game it usually falls short, as you try to play out all your units as fast as you can. Oh well, we will see if the end deck wants this or not.
Caleb’s choice: Chant to Grodov
Pack 2 Pick 1
Welcome to the Expedition curated pack world, where there are almost eight hundred (!) different cards to choose from. Fortunately these are the cards we should all know by now, so this is just the case of figuring out how they fit in to the Xultan reality (timeline?) To start the analysis we have Field Captain, a mid to late game heavy hitter, especially in aggressive and go-wide decks. Bannerman is a great source of influence fixing, especially for three color decks like this one. Archive Curator is all that you need in a unit – evasion, decent stats and a silence effect that can shut down the most troublesome unit your opponent has in play. There is also Fall Short that would come in very handy against said silenced unit.
The choice here comes down to what you want your deck to be in the end. If that vision is just a two color Rakano deck, then you cannot go wrong with Field Captain or even Fall Short. On the other hand, if you believe you can make three colors work, but have doubts, go for Bannerman. If you believe in the heart of the cards and future sources of influence fixing and just want to go for the best card – Archive Curator is your go-to-Mage. I do feel lucky…
Caleb’s choice: Archive Curator
Pack 2 Pick 2
…and get no Time cards in the next pack. Fortunately there are plenty of Rakano goodies to choose from. I quickly shorten the list for potential picks and get it down to two uncommons – Steel-Eyed Pistoleer, an early game Gunslinger that has the potential of dealing tons of damage, and Calderan Gunsmith, a slightly overpriced … also Gunslinger that lets all your units deal one damage to the opponent when it comes into play. Now, there is a huge distinction on who deals the damage, especially now with a ton of Mastery units running loose.
I believe I can get enough solid 3-drops to make Pistoleer redundant. Gunsmith, on the other hand, can turn some board stalls into outright wins. If I can somehow replay her and proc the Summon ability more than once, e.g. using Kairos’ Choice I already have…
Caleb’s choice: Calderan Gunsmith
Pack 2 Pick 3
Streets Aflame is easier – and faster – to play than Omnivorous Vorlunk, making it the perfect choice for my deck. There is also Seat of Glory here, a great piece of influence fixing for Rakano. Given that I have already picked up a powerful card over fixing early in this curated pack, my conscience made me pick the Seat to at least be able to play out all the goodies. This is a very fine line to walk in three color decks and all depends on whether you will be offered more fixing in the future.
Caleb’s choice: Seat of Glory
Pack 2 Pick 4
A rather lackluster pack. Two main options here are Civic Peacekeeper and Hoof Slash. There is a ton of great tricks in Fire/Time/Justice in The Flame of Xulta drafts, making Hoof Slash one of the worst ones. On the other hand, later in the game Civic Peacekeeper can turn all your power draws into powerful stun effects.
Caleb’s choice: Civic Peacekeeper
Pack 2 Pick 5
Another weak pack. Predator’s Instinct is a slow and insidious Killer (yes, this is a Darkest Dungeon reference) or – to translate it into Eternal-talk – yes, it is a decent effect that can turn one of your bigger units into removal, with the obvious potential of bouncing it back to your hand later and re-using the Killer ability. The other choice is Hooru Fledgling, a slightly overcosted flier … yeah these cards are rather bland and there is not much to highlight. Cannot go wrong with either, I went with the Owl.
Caleb’s choice: Hooru Fledgling
Pack 2 Pick 6
High Alert was one of my favorite Dark Frontier tricks – while slightly overcosted, it is potentially backbreaking, especially when warped! If I picked up Predator’s Instinct in the previous pack I could have also gone for Safe Return for the do-over. Also, if you are feeling not influential enough, there is a Learned Herbalist waiting for you. As you can see, personal preference and perception of what is still necessary for your deck to succeed can lead you into different paths.
Caleb’s choice: High Alert
Pack 2 Pick 7
Ornamental Daggers is a Crownwatch Longsword you can split with a friend, which in this case means it is just better than the Justice counterpart. There is also the case of Amber Coin, and despite I have no Horn of Plenty or other global buff for the Wisp, I opt to go for the little 1/1 that could. Once again, you cannot go bad with either choice.
Caleb’s choice: Amber Coin
Pack 2 Pick 8
This time Safe Return is clearly the better choice than Detain – although Detain has had its share of highlights in a couple of previous formats.
Caleb’s choice: Safe Return
Pack 2 Pick 9
Ruination Sledge is a great pickup this late in the pack.
Caleb’s choice: Ruination Sledge
Pack 2 Pick 10
I already said that Razorquill has a lot more potential in the current format, given that there are some when this unit hits the enemy player effects in The Flame of Xulta. Let me just take this potential from someone who is potentially going to use it…
Caleb’s choice: Razorquill
Pack 2 Pick 11
Caleb’s choice: Slow
Pack 2 Pick 12
Caleb’s choice: Snowfort
Pack 3 Pick 1
This is the moment when you have to ask yourself the question – why are you doing this? No, not reading this article! Why are you playing drafts? Do you want to build your collection, do you want to win as many matches as possible – or maybe you are balancing somewhere in-between? Mind Link is as meme a legendary as possible and it is (almost) never playable in drafts. On the other hand, there are no really exceptional cards for the deck I am building. Maybe I could go for a Token of Ambition as a bad Rakano Banner…
For this one I had to right click on Mind Link to see whether I already had a playset of this card. No? Okay, then, this one is very easy…
Caleb’s choice: Mind Link
Pack 3 Pick 2
This is quite a weak pack, but it does offer some choices at least. I am looking at manufacture, Crownwatch Longsword and Rampage. After some deliberation (and looking at the decklist so far) I opted to go for Rampage, a very aggressive trick that is unfortunately providing you with card disadvantage, but on the other hand gives you an option to take down a bigger unit with a much smaller one.
Caleb’s choice: Rampage
Pack 3 Pick 3
Now this is a much better and much complex situation. Living Example buffs all the units you draw while it is in play, but it has a stingy double Time requirement on two power. Strength of Many is a decent trick, but remember not to confuse this one with Draw Strength. One gives a buff based on the number of units you have, the other – on the number of units your opponent has. Brightmace Paladin and Granite Acolyte are all-around great 3-drops, although for different reasons. Archive Curator is – as I have previously mentioned – good stats on a Silence effect, and Silence is very powerful effect in limited.
Caleb’s choice: Archive Curator
Pack 3 Pick 4
And we are back to pretty simple choices. My choice is to get this pretty little Trail Maker that will fix my power and ramp me up towards some more powerful cards.
Caleb’s choice: Trail Maker
Pack 3 Pick 5
Speaking of influence fixing in Time, well hello, Bulbous Humbug! I hope you remember this flier from the previous formats, where it was providing both card advantage and a source of damage in the air. Even without any external buffs it is a 2/1 flier that draws you a Sigil of your choice from your deck for five power, that you can pay over two turns. If you can buff its health, though, it turns into a powerful source of advantage!
Caleb’s choice: Bulbous Humbug
Pack 3 Pick 6
I know I will pick up a 2/2 for two power, but will it be the inspiring Living Example or the fixing Bannerman? Given that in the two previous picks I have gotten two great pieces of Time fixing I think I do not need the Bannerman and go for the more powerful Mystic.
Caleb’s choice: Living Example
Pack 3 Pick 7
I only have one five plus attack unit picked up, so Sauropod Wrangler does not have many units to … wrangle. I would rather go for Rebel Sharpshooter.
Caleb’s choice: Rebel Sharpshooter
Pack 3 Pick 8
Second Safe Return is a bit too much for me. I am considering Valkyrie Aspirant and Minotaur Grunt. I do not think I will be able to get to eight power too reliably for the Aspirant to grow, which is why I am really considering Grunt. I mean, it does stop most of the 2-drops in this format and – on occasion – can buff one of your future units or weapons with its Warcry ability. Not the greatest of choices, sure, but at least I have an option for my deck later on.
Caleb’s choice: Minotaur Grunt
Pack 3 Pick 9
This is a choice between Hoof Slash and Teleport. I do believe that this format might be quite close to the Defiance Voltron days, i.e. a format where you put a lot of weapons and other buffs on one unit and attacked with it until the opponent conceded. This is where Teleport (and other bounce effects) come in handy! Remember, if you put a unit into its owners hand, all weapons fall off of it … unless that bounce is Temple Standard, of course, but that is not a concern for this format fortunately!
Caleb’s choice: Teleport
Pack 3 Pick 10
Can we somehow inspire these Grenadin to be better at what they do? Wait, what is it really that Grenadin do? Besides letting others blow them up, obviously.
Caleb’s choice: Manufacture
Pack 3 Pick 11
Caleb’s choice: Spitefeeder
Pack 3 Pick 12
Caleb’s choice: Lost in the Mist
Pack 4 Pick 1
This is going to be another case of rare-drafting, ladies and gentlemen! A shiny Zhen-Zu goes into my collection with just a slight glimpse at the other cards. Grodov’s Favored is a great pick if you are going for just winning drafts. There is also Borderlands Lookout that is on average a 2/3, albeit a unit very weak to all Silence effects. If you were to choose between the two Time cards, now would be the time to take a look whether your deck is missing its early game or its late game. Fortunately, for me the choice was very simple.
Caleb’s choice: Zhen-Zu, Hand of Nahid
Pack 4 Pick 2
The obvious best card to pick here is Draw Strength … but this is still early in the new season and rare drafting will be more in effect than later on, when people already have their rares and legendaries assembled. If you have seen any of my streams on which I played constructed decks you might already know my inclination towards playing mill decks (yes, I am one of those people!). This makes this pick of Kindo Shadowstep strictly a pickup for my ranked decks. If you want to see Kindo in action, I believe you can look forward to a Deck Check video sometime next week…
Caleb’s choice: Kindo Shadowstep
Pack 4 Pick 3
Calebovitsch has been rewarded with another chance to pick up Draw Strength. Calebovitsch takes the second chance … as the well of rares seems to have dried up.
Caleb’s choice: Draw Strength
Pack 4 Pick 4
I do believe I picked up enough meaty cards to skip on Majestic Mandrake #2, Warbrush Oni and Cult Recruiter and get straight to a second copy of Rakano Insignia. Once again, in a three color deck in a format where there is not a lot of influence fixing, all instances of it are a premium choice!
Caleb’s choice: Rakano Insignia
Pack 4 Pick 5
Xultan Paladin is a nice 2-drop to round out the early game. As for the other cards – the uncommons are really lackluster and Prancing (Pony) Gryffyn is a card I usually end up cutting, more often than not.
Caleb’s choice: Xultan Paladin
Pack 4 Pick 6
That is a gigantic body for the Silence effect, and it is a good thing. For example, if you play Grodov’s Favored and silence an enemy flier, you already have a huge unit to block that now-ground attacker.
Caleb’s choice: Grodov’s Favored
Pack 4 Pick 7
Xultan Brushfang is one of my favorite 1-drops in the current format – especially if you can help it out with some tricks. Even if you will just be able to upgrade this unit’s venom, i.e. trigger the first level of Mastery, it is the ultimate Deadly defender. If it can get buffed with the second Mastery, though … 4/5 Deadly for one power – what more do I need to say?
Caleb’s choice: Xultan Brushfang
Pack 4 Pick 8
There is only one card in my colors in this pack. It is of the highest available rarity as well, which means even if I do not end up playing it, it is maximizing my shiftstone value.
Caleb’s choice: Aspirant’s Robes
Pack 4 Pick 9
Another 2-drop to round out the early game.
Caleb’s choice: Xultan Paladin
Pack 4 Pick 10
Caleb’s choice: Cruelty
Pack 4 Pick 11
Wow, this is a great late pickup. I do not know if I want to play two of them, though.
Caleb’s choice: Xultan Brushfang
Pack 4 Pick 12
Caleb’s choice: Breath of Voprex
This is the card pool I ended up with, alongside one legendary, one premium rare and one rare I want to play in constructed. Not too shabby! Anyway, this looks like a three-color deck no matter how much I wanted to cut a color down. With three pieces of Rakano fixing, one Evangel, one Trail Maker and one Bulbous Humbug I was quite optimistic. Back in Defiance drafts my theory was that you needed at least five pieces of influence fixing for your three color deck to work, and here we have six. Also, just two cards need double Time, and the rest … is satisfied with single Justice and single Fire!
Okay, now for the cuts. With three six drops this is looking like an eighteen power deck, which means we need to cut just four cards. Huh, rare-drafting came in pretty handy, decreasing the options I have now wink wink nod nod. Let me start with cutting the bad cards, and those seem to be Aspirant’s Robes (which – now that I think of it – are kind of like Ornamental Daggers, with the second Dagger being a 1/1 cultist) and Inflict Conscience. With two cards left to cut I turn my eye towards the units. I have nineteen of those, plus a Manufacture. After some deliberation I decide to cut both Scriveners, as the only other Oni I have in this pool is Gaudy Showman. Yeah, not much to work with. After adding power and dabbling a bit with the numbers this is what this long story boils down to:
This deck might not look like much, but it enabled me to win the draft with losing just one game during the whole playthrough. It has all – good and aggressive early game, some evasive units, big bodies on six power, a load of tricks – you name it!
I wanted to also give a big shout-out to Calderan Gunsmith, as it proved to be a great finisher on more than one occasion. If you look closer, I can re-apply the summon effect thanks to Kairos’ Choice, Safe Return and Teleport, and I did have a game, where playing Gunsmith into Teleport and replaying it on the following turn dealt around sixteen damage to the opponent, which was enough to break through the board stall!
Now once again I have some homework for you, dear reader! Try and go through these picks once again. What colors would you end up with and why? Please make the decklist on eternalwarcry.com and link it in the comments. I hope you enjoyed this lengthy story and that I will see you on one of my streams!
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