Hello and welcome to a new installment of Drafting with the Stars! The update to the drafting guide and to the card ratings list should be coming soon(TM). In the meantime, let me tell you a story.
You might have heard my rant about how disappointed I was with the implementation of the Muster mechanic in the current draft format. No? I am sure there is a recap of that somewhere on the Internet. There are some powerful Muster cards out there, though…
Pack 1 Pick 1
If there ever was a color combination for Cheering Section’s Totemite creation clause, it is not in Time nor Fire. Now, if this was a Feln Relic that created … very unkind crows maybe? As it is, this rare is utterly unplayable in draft. Parul’s choice is a decent trick giving one of units a permanent, albeit small buff or fetching a Curse from your deck. The thing is, we are playing in a format with an overabundance of good, cheap tricks. With one power Finest Hours and Draw Strengths out there, this is not a card I would just play for the second effect and especially not as a first pick, committing to two colors right off the bat. Aspirant’s Robes is a decent card that can support some strategies, but not a powerhouse in and of itself.
As I browse further and get to the commons, we have Spiketail Qirin. Now this unit is very good because it fills two or even three roles at the same time! It is a 2/2 for two power, which is the basic curve out scenario. It is a 6/6 mid- to late game on offense, which means it usually trades up. Also, if played correctly, it can be a one-time buff across your whole board, which is a nice added bonus for sure. That makes this card very flexible and thus also very good. The other commons that stand out are Makkar Evangel, the Xultan Shadow Stranger – that is the closest comparison to former cards I could give. Other commons are either fillers or decent cards, but ones not worthy of being first picks.
In the end you should go flexibility or power here. Both the Qirin and the Evangel fill those roles, but I believe Qirin is strictly the better card here.
Caleb’s choice: Spiketail Qirin
Pack 1 Pick 2
Mistrust is a decent value card in itself that gets better if you have other cards that trigger off of your Curses. Eager Offering is the Time equivalent of a delayed Wisdom of the Elders with the possibility to synergize with other Cultist-related cards. Befoul is a card slightly worse than I initially thought after the FoX pre-release drafts, but only because it works well in some color combinations (ones with a ton of small unit creation like Stonescar or Xenan), but can be a dead card in other factions (like Argenport or Feln). As far as the commons go, Linrei Evangel and Wanderlust Qirin are the basic Primal choices, but honestly I did not have a lot of success with Elysian in this format. Marsh Dragon is usually at least decent and can b a true powerhouse in some decks, for sure. There is also Champion Grappler – a very aggressive Praxis common that people are still not expecting of being tempoed out on them, and Sol’s Fury, a Fire equivalent of Combust.
Given that I already took the Qirin in pack one, I wanted to go for something relatively aggressive. I do not have any token generation for Sol’s Fury yet, which makes me want to grab Champion Grappler and start working on my late game. Please remember that we are playing in a format where it is okay to have 7-drops in your deck as you will be able to play them out more often than you think.
Caleb’s choice: Champion Grappler
Pack 1 Pick 3
Greenstretch Empath is the best non-legendary Muster card in the set, for sure – especially where drafts are concerned. It has a decent defensive body and is worth it’s weight in ones and zeroes even if you use its Muster once every two games. I remember I paused at this stage of the draft for several long minutes thinking about this specific card and trying to put my finger on the exact value of it. Now, once again, Greenstretch Empath is a good card in itself, even though Muster as an archetype is not really a thing due to a low number of cards with this ability in the set. Would you pick this card if you opened it in your first pack, and then grab some synergistic tools like Spellcraft attachments slightly higher?
Empath, when it comes to pure value, is the best card in this pack. Now here comes the hard question – do we pick it, given the fact that the first two cards we got are Time and Praxis? The answer was a long-winded one, so I will try to make it more brief. The fact is that in the current format you play either a two-color or a three-color deck, usually with one of them being the splash. You also have to remember that (in theory) five of the ten three-faction combinations are supported slightly better when it comes to the theme of cards, e.g. Linrei aka Justice/Primal/Shadow has Curse synergies. Now, Jennev is a thing of the past and it is not really supported in the current format … although not entirely! We still have the Defiance Token power cards in the curated packs. Yes, this is a conundrum, and you could surely try and go for Jennev here, or just start on your own path in other colors, because you should not let two commons dictate the end result of your deck.
I personally did not feel that Jennev was the way to go, although if this was my first pick (with the two missing cards being just bad, unplayable cards like … Cheering Section?) I would probably just grab Empath. The two cards I have, though, want me to go with an aggressive Praxis build. That means I would like to choose between the more aggressive cards, and in this case that is Warbrush Oni or Gaudy Showman. Both of these are decent, although work slightly different. You cannot go bad with either of them, for me the choice was Warbrush Oni.
Caleb’s choice: Warbrush Oni
Pack 1 Pick 4
Now that I solidified myself in Praxis (albeit quite early) I will be focusing on cards in those colors first, unless a pack comes dry or there is a strong indicator that another color is open. Okay, let me start with Mountain Goliath, a very strange card because it is a 7-drop you want to have in your opening hand. That makes it slightly clunky in my opinion. For this one to be good, it would have to be at least an 8/8 for seven power, which means you have to draw at least two units after having this in your hand. I mean, in a more controlling deck with some card draw (Elysian with Greenstretch Empaths, maybe?) it could be better, but not as your strict top end. There is also Warhorn in here and although it is not as game-breaking as some people think, it is still a very good weapon that helps you on a lot of fronts. It makes a unit bigger, probably helping with achieving its Mastery. It grants you additional 2/2 Grunts, which make for great chump blockers or sacrifice targets for cards like Sol’s Fury. Yes, this is clearly a pick here, especially that the third Prais card in this pack, i.e. Ardent Convert, has been really underwhelming for me so far.
Caleb’s choice: Warhorn
Pack 1 Pick 5
I believe Slayer’s Edge is a very good piece of removal in this format, but it belongs more in a Stonescar deck, where you can proc its Summon effect more often. Borderlands Lookout is usually a 1-cost 2/3, with the occasional upgrade to a 3/4 – and that is a great stat-line. You just have to be weary of it being susceptible to Silence … but on the other hand, if you opponent is silencing your 1-drops, you should be in a good spot. There is also another Champion Grappler in the pack. In this case I wanted to solidify my early game with the Lookout.
A small side note here. If you are running 1-drops in this format, remember to pick Evangels in that color slightly higher.
Caleb’s choice: Borderlands Lookout
Pack 1 Pick 6
Not a huge choice to be made here. If I picked Spiketail Qirin as my first card, it is sure worthy of being my sixth pick! The other contender is Desperate Gambit and while that trick does have potential, the small buff to health there means that your units will probably be dying anyway, which does often mean that you will be trading anyway. Also, the fact that you have to Decimate your power in order to copy this effect means this will usually not be a 2-for-1 maneuver. So, yes, I value Qirin higher than this trick, although if I already had enough 2-drops and not many tricks, the choice would be different.
Caleb’s choice: Spiketail Qirin
Pack 1 Pick 7
Okay, now I can grab the Gambit. Just a few words about other cards in this pack before I move on. Cindermaw Tota is a rather weak card on its own, but if you have the right tools to support it (i.e. cards that need you to sacrifice a unit … or just lots of Dragons) it can prove very powerful. Wilderness Refuge has even more fringe uses, mainly if you are Muster-heavy and top-end heavy. When it comes to the cards in other colors, Nivia’s Inquisitor … has the same asterisk when it comes to the card’s rating. If you have a lot of Decimate cards in your deck it can prove to be a true powerhouse – especially if those can be played in the middle of combat. Would you take it as your first pick, though?
Caleb’s choice: Desperate Gambit
Pack 1 Pick 8
I believe that Champion Grappler has the highest impact on the board from among the cards in this pack and can come out of the left field right in the moments when people forget about the giant’s existence. I mean, you could not go wrong with getting either of the Onis here as well, just … try to stay away from Relentless Combatant as it is the weakest card here.
Caleb’s choice: Champion Grappler
Pack 1 Pick 9
Razorwire Totemite is generally a weak unit, but there obviously will be situations when it can shine. Very fringe ones, especially once the format settles in better and people learn to play around Exalted better. Swaying Sea Qirin has a decent defensive stat line, but I would not put a lot of trust in its Muster ability. I mean, do not get me wrong, this card has a high value ceiling for sure. If you can reliably create lots of small fliers and make them bigger via Living Example or Horn of Plenty, or to just have tons of fodder for cards like Sol’s Fury then it becomes a true bomb … -ish.
Caleb’s choice: Swaying Sea Qirin
Pack 1 Pick 10
Let us cast the fury of the sun itself upon the enemies … all we need is a huge magnifying glass. Also, Sol’s Fury is a very nice finisher and has worked for me as such on more than one occasion.
Caleb’s choice: Sol’s Fury
Pack 1 Pick 11
Caleb’s choice: Rosebloom Mandrake
Pack 1 Pick 12
Caleb’s choice: Kodosh Evangel
Pack 2 Pick 1
Arcanum Hourglass has a very fringe use in Xenan self-mill decks, but even there its effect should not matter that much, as the build-up is extremely slow. Just play a basic Sigil instead of it and you should be fine. In other news – this is a relatively weak pack. Given we are currently in Praxis, there are just three choices here, in my opinion.
Granite Acolyte buffs the attack of one of your units by playing a weapon on it. Please remember that this is half of a Muster trigger, which makes this Acolyte a very interesting option in the current format … if you have one of the few Muster cards, obviously. Moving on, Bannerman is a card that is very good if you are running a three-color deck, but honestly in two-color decks he is very replaceable by other 2-drop 2/2s with better abilities – or rather, any abilities. Hotblood Barbarian has some very interesting synergies with some of the Flame of Xulta cards as well. If you discard Faceless One or Icy Gaze to it – if you have the appropriate influence, obviously – you bet to both play the discarded card and create and draw a Temper for your troubles. This is not Stonescar nor Skycrag, though. I do believe that for Praxis one of these cards is much better than the others, but that is more due to the color combination I am playing than to the card’s relative rating.
Caleb’s choice: Granite Acolyte
Pack 2 Pick 2
Stinging Wind has slightly underwhelming stats for its conditional Flying battle skill. Journeyman Armorer is a Praxis version of the Granite Acolyte, but with Warp – which makes him much better for the deck I am building here. Predator’s Instinct has some uses, but for me this card will usually be more filler, with higher probability of it being played if I am sorely lacking removal and tricks. Magma Javelin is a one-shot removal, plain and simple. That does not make it bad, though, quite the opposite – in this removal-light format. Be wary of all the Justice tricks, though, as they can ruin your throw.
Caleb’s choice: Journeyman Armorer
Pack 2 Pick 3
I believe that Infinite Hourglass has some very good uses, even in a format where there are almost no Relic-matter cards. The ability to attack each turn and be able to block with your units is great in aggressive races. Also, your units are immune to being stunned and exhausted. Sometimes it can be a dead card, though. That is why I opted to go in a different direction and pick up Amber Coin. I really like the utility of creating a 1/1 Wisp that is looking very sacrificable – especially that I picked up a Sol’s Fury along the way.
Caleb’s choice: Amber Coin
Pack 2 Pick 4
Although card advantage is one of the basic concepts of card games, I somehow find cards like Ancient Lore and Wisdom of the Elders lackluster in many draft formats. Sure, drawing at least one unit with Ancient Lore is great, but on the other hand you are paying four power for this effect, which sets you way back on tempo, and tempo is what you want to do better than your opponent – especially in Praxis. Grenade is another Sol’s Fury-esque card with a similar, yet somehow more devastating effect. Play a cheap unit, sacrifice it to both get rid of a blocker and deal additional three damage to the opponent is huge on the tempo. That is why I am throwing a Grenade into my deck.
Caleb’s choice: Grenade
Pack 2 Pick 5
There are no Praxis cards in this pack – yes, Oasis Sanctuary is an illusion, not a real card. I could either take ten Shiftstone or take a look at some potential splashes. There is such an opportunity for the latter with Cut Ties and Combust. Both options are viable, but one of them costs much less than the other and I am already gearing towards having a lot of small units to sacrifice.
Caleb’s choice: Combust
Pack 2 Pick 6
The choice here comes down to Teleport or Horned Vorlunk. The former has a nice place in the current format, with a plethora of good weapons being played – Exalted ones included. The latter is a filler mid-game unit, and unfortunately I am missing those, with just the low and high ends of the curve present in my pool. That is why I have to pick the Dinosaur up … reluctantly. Also, Crooked Alleyguide is not even a consideration here – even if I end up splashing for Combust, having early, non-bomb drops on the splash color is really not the way to go.
Caleb’s choice: Horned Vorlunk
Pack 2 Pick 7
Firemane Lioness has the ability to generate a lot of small charging kitties that can be later used as fodder for other, devastating cards. Amber Acolyte provides you with influence fixing / ramping up as well as a small body to be also used as fodder. Both options are more appealing to me than the Teleport. At the moment of drafting I believe that I picked the Acolyte up pretty quickly, although now that I am re-examining my picks, I believe there is a strong argument to be made for the Lioness as well. In the end, the additional Sigil from the Acolyte for sure helps with getting up to six power for the Grapplers.
Caleb’s choice: Amber Acolyte
Pack 2 Pick 8
Now there is a strong Shadow presence in this one! Dark Wisp is the only playable card for us, albeit borderline. We do have a lot of sacrifice effects in the deck, though…
Caleb’s choice: Dark Wisp
Pack 2 Pick 9
A fourth sacrifice effect is slightly pushing it, as I do not have an infinite source of getting fodder for those cards. Ornamental Daggers is a card that I have seen a lot of being played against me, but have not done it myself. It has a lot of potential, just like a Crownwatch Longsword that you can split among two units. Another upside is having two different attachments and thus being able to trigger this half of a Muster card twice. As for Voyaging Lumen, there are no Lifeforce triggers in my deck. Goodbye.
I believe that here the Daggers are a clear favorite, given how this card pool is building up, with the added benefit of me wanting to test this card out on the battlefield.
Caleb’s choice: Ornamental Daggers
Pack 2 Pick 10
Caleb’s choice: Jack’s Knife
Pack 2 Pick 11
Caleb’s choice: Cobalt Coin
Pack 2 Pick 12
Caleb’s choice: Vicious Rumors
Pack 3 Pick 1
Cryptic Master is more often than not a conditional 2/2 that gives you a slow Relic that generates slow value, which is not a lot for this deck in this format. Burn Out is a fast version of Sol’s Fury, but I do not think I need any more sacrifice effects. Displaced Oryctodon is another base 2-drop 2/2. There is also another chance to grab a Magma Javelin in here. None of these picks are very exciting. I guess I am going for a 2-drop, and with both being relatively mediocre and cuttable, I am going with the one that is worth more Shiftstone.
Caleb’s choice: Cryptic Master
Pack 3 Pick 2
Centaur Outrider and Accelerate… no! No! NO! NOOOOOOOOO!
Okay, Caleb, settle down. There is also Elder Astrologer in the pack. So you either get two hundred Shiftstone or can splash a bomb of a flier. Just take a look at Shadow cards and fixing next time, okay?
Caleb’s choice: Elder Astrologer
Pack 3 Pick 3
Unlock Potential is a one-time Horn of Plenty … or just a Spiketail Qirin activation … without the body. Next! Sizzleback Salamander has a weak stat-line and a very expensive Twist that theoretically does something, but actually not a lot. This just leaves me with Oni Patrol, one of the more aggressive 1-drops out there. Yes, go for it! Also, no decent Shadow cards to pick up for the Astrologer and Combust.
Caleb’s choice: Oni Patrol
Pack 3 Pick 4
In this pack I get to choose whether I grab a second copy of Journeyman Armorer or a second copy of Oni Patrol. I usually try to stay away from 1-drops as much as possible, but in an aggressive, tempo-oriented Praxis deck you truly want to have good 1-drops. Given I have two already I would rather go for another Armorer.
Caleb’s choice: Journeyman Armorer
Pack 3 Pick 5
Not a lot of choice here. I believe Char is the only viable option, to be honest.
Caleb’s choice: Char
Pack 3 Pick 6
Once again I am not left with a lot of choice here, just one of these two 2-drops here. Living Example is usually the better one, unless you are running a three-color deck and are afraid of being able to run it out on turn two. Bold Adventurer also has the upside of stopping most of the 2-drops running around, all Evangels included! In a two color deck, though, I clearly have to set an example as for what the better card is!
Caleb’s choice: Living Example
Pack 3 Pick 7
Hellfire Rifle is a very good Mastery trigger and a nice finisher, but you do not usually want more than one of those in your deck. Horned Vorlunk is just another middling body. I also already picked up one, and for sure would not to play two of them. Let me try out the Rifle, even if I end up cutting it, it is giving me more options during deck building.
Caleb’s choice: Hellfire Rifle
Pack 3 Pick 8
Humbug and Accelerate are rather unplayable, which is why I went for slightly more Shiftstone. Okay, now think about this – for every time I write (and choose) slightly more Shiftstone, think about how much that would accumulate to by now – especially given how many drafts I am usually playing.
Caleb’s choice: Cowardice
Pack 3 Pick 9
Caleb’s choice: Touch of Grace
Pack 3 Pick 10
Caleb’s choice: Cabal Cutthroat
Pack 3 Pick 11
Caleb’s choice: Angry Prophet
Pack 3 Pick 12
Caleb’s choice: Devour
Pack 4 Pick 1
Mettle is a card I would like to avoid, if possible. I mean, it can prove to be good or even very good in some situations, but does not do much on its own, i.e. does not make your unit bigger in order to take down a more powerful drop, like Finest hour does. Gaudy Showman is rather a filler at this point, but a card I like having at least one copy of in an aggressive deck. There is also still the case of the Shadow cards I have picked up – mainly Combust, Dark Wisp and Elder Astrologer. Do I still want to play them?
If yes, then I have a choice between Xenan Insignia and Ancient Manual. Given that both would come into play depleted, I believe that an Insignia with a splash color is better in a three-color deck. In a four-color deck I think Ancient Manual would be the correct choice.
Caleb’s choice: Xenan Insignia
Pack 4 Pick 2
Magebreaker is a decent Relic Weapon even without its Spellcraft, and that makes the card okay in and of itself. Funeral Pyre is a bit over-costed for its effect (although it would probably be under-costed on two power), especially that Decimating it usually makes it a 2-for-2 scenario. A third Champion Grappler could be pushing it a bit as far as the high-end of the curve goes. I guess I would like the removal on a stick here.
Caleb’s choice: Magebreaker
Pack 4 Pick 3
Although Shavka Evangel is a great 2-drop, I believe I am more than covered in the early game department. The only other choice here, though, is Vinepetal Creeper, a decently-sized Muster unit that turns into a huge beast if you are able to trigger its ability. To be honest I have three Weapon-making Onis alongside some other attachments, with enough spells in tow to trigger this one’s ability. Yes, I would like to test this theory.
Caleb’s choice: Vinepetal Creeper
Pack 4 Pick 4
Another Creeper? I mean, if I want to test it out, this is my chance, right? Also, I am not in a point where thinking about great off-color cards like Aamri’s Choice is going to do me any good.
Caleb’s choice: Vinepetal Creeper
Pack 4 Pick 5
Grodov Evangel is a good pickup here, whether for the fixing or the tempo. The other choices are pretty underwhelming, too.
Caleb’s choice: Grodov Evangel
Pack 4 Pick 6
I am really disappointed with Razorwire Totemite, Relentless Combatant and Ardent Convert on a regular basis. Ancient Manual could come in handy when splashing Shadow, but I think that ship has finally sailed. There is also Mettle, which – as I have stated – is a weak trick. It is a trick, nonetheless, and if you are not sure if one of these cards is going to get into your deck, remember that during drafting you can pause for as long as you need to browse through the cards you have already picked and see what you are really missing. Is it early game, mid game or tricks?
Caleb’s choice: Mettle
Pack 4 Pick 7
This pack is the other side of the spectrum, with several good choices being presented to us. Majestic Mandrake is the powerhouse finisher that decks usually need, but I believe that my two Grapplers should be more than enough for the top end. There is another Warhorn in here, as well as another Spiketail Qirin. I believe that the Qirin can act as a late-game unit as well as the Mandrake, with the obvious upside of it also being an early game card. Wow, I am really in love with Spiketail Qirin in this draft.
Caleb’s choice: Spiketail Qirin
Pack 4 Pick 8
Breath of Voprex is not a cards I am willing to play, even in the most aggressive decks. That only leaves me with Proselytize, a card that is actually useful, given the number of units I need to sacrifice for Sol’s Fury and Grenade. Sure thing.
Caleb’s choice: Proselytize
Pack 4 Pick 9
I do not believe that the Chant is a very good card in draft. You need very specific scenarios for it to generate good value, and even then you are giving up some tempo.
Caleb’s choice: Chant to Grodov
Pack 4 Pick 10
This is an easy pick. The harder art will come in deck building.
Caleb’s choice: Sol’s Fury
Pack 4 Pick 11
Caleb’s choice: Razorwire Totemite
Pack 4 Pick 12
Caleb’s choice: Gaudy Showman
This is looking like a very aggressive Praxis deck, just as I wanted it to be. For sure we do not need Combust, Dark Wisp nor Elder Astrologer, so all of those are out, alongside Xenan Insignia. That leaves me with thirty one playable cards. Given that my deck curves out at six power and does not need as much power as other decks in this format, I believe the correct power number for this one is actually seventeen. Or is it eighteen? I mean, Chant to Grodov and Mettle are easy cuts here. I either need to cut one more card and play seventeen or two cards and play eighteen power.
At first I wanted to cut the underwhelming Horned Vorlunk and was looking for another card to get rid of, but in the end decided to cut one of the six drops – Hellfire Rifle. The deck ended up having slightly more units than I would like to play usually (i.e. seventeen – eighteen) and there is a drop in the curve after 3-drops, but I am being optimistic.
It turns out I was right to be an optimist. This deck ended up going all the way, losing just two games along the way. The curve was one of the high points here, for sure, with me being usually able to play out turn two and three drops in all the games. As for Vinepetal Creeper, I got to trigger its ability several times throughout the draft, which usually amounted to either killing a blocker and returning for the defense, or just dealing more damage. Sol’s Fury and Grenade did a lot of work, too, with me winning one game after playing double Sol’s Fury with the opponent on eight health.
On a more general note, this rather aggressive approach was very successful, which in turn resulted in me going for Praxis in the very next draft I played. Now, for the bonus segment, let me fast forward and show you the end-result deck from the next draft, too!
Bonus Draft Deck
Bonus Draft Summary
As you can see, this one is quite similar to the previous one. Counting in Proselytizes as units, they have the same amount of units, removals that sacrifice my own troops and a similar curve that cuts out after 3-drops. This one went 7-2 as well, which should give you a good baseline of what a successful, aggressive Praxis deck should look like when it comes to the composition and curve. Oh, and yes, seventeen power in this one was slightly more pushing it, but I relied on Trail Maker, Bulbous Humbug and – to a degree – Sauropod Wrangler to provide me with the additional power boost.
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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