When it comes to the Eternal community, I’m probably known for three things: complaining a lot, wanting rotation, and being called Isomorphic. This article is about rotation because I think that Eternal finally really rotated this Monday. And to really demonstrate the emotional impact this event had on me, I want to talk a quick bit about the background that lead to writing this article.
Back in early summer, I basically quit. I didn’t really play in Eternal for around two months, maybe booting up the client a combined five or so times in that time-frame. After that, I started playing again a bit, just to have a casual card game to play while I was doing other things. Then, rotation was announced, we would finally be getting an Expedition without set 1.
After that point, I was completely invested in the game again, playing two to three hours every day just to grind to a point where I had a comfortable amount of Shiftstone for when the game finally rotated. As I had spent my time building up a full collection, I had surprisingly little dust and gold on hand compared to how much I have played. It was still enough to comfortably afford a couple of decks, but after five weeks of playing, my Shiftstone went from ~40,000 to ~150,000
Then, the true nature of expedition was announced just three days before the format really came out. Set 1 was still going to stay, alongside all the other sets. Even though it was only in a limited form, this devastated me, not because I was expecting anything at that point, but because I had spent the past month grinding the game constantly. It felt like this was primed for failure, especially given that we only got the information about it three days before the expedition released. It felt like a hasty decision that was not communicated because it had not yet been made.
After publicly embarrassing myself, I was contacted by Patrick Chapin who assured me that this was not a hasty decision. So in the span of a few hours, I went from fairly devastated to cautiously optimistic. And after that, expedition launched. I played it for a while with my JPS control deck and it was pretty fun. The main problem was the same one Expedition had suffered from for it’s entire existence. There was no ladder and people weren’t playing serious decks. I only really enjoyed Expedition when they ran tournaments for it. And with the new format, this trend didn’t stop, people weren’t really trying to push the format to its limits, but were just playing cards that they thought would make for cool decks.
I have nothing against playing card games casually, but I’ve personally moved from being someone who just wants to play the biggest jank to someone who wants to play cool decks that win games. It might have something to do with getting a few years older and having more experience with card games. Long gone is the young and brash Isochron who just wanted to put Mana Leak and Path of Exile onto Isochron Scepter. Long live the old and wise Isochron who just wants to appreciate all the small cool plays that every complex deck intrinsically has. So, I played plenty of Expedition and I appreciated all the small cool things about JPS control. But then I got tired of it. There was no real meta and most games just came down to draws and card quality, which is the main problem with casual formats. Decks can be more “fun” and feel more fair, but the games themselves usually deteriorate into seeing who has better luck and who put better cards into their decks. There’s no real pressure to create a heavily optimized list that can completely demolish the opponents’ strategy or do something busted on it’s own. But then this week, Expedition went competitive and it’s true colors finally shined.
And I gotta say, it’s a really great format. Before the in-client ladder, it just felt like mashing casual piles against each other with some well tuned lists sprinkled in. But now those piles have rapidly evolved into decks that people are trying to climb with. Winning and losing started really mattering and it shows. It was already intuitively obvious that the gold standard for expedition were fast decks that could slot in a few pieces of removal to not be caught off guard by whatever the opponent was doing. What wasn’t obvious was that everyone should be playing decks that can get as much tempo as fast as possible. And that’s what Expedition became really fast, a format all about tempo.
Stonescar aggro has become a tempo deck that tries to see if it can start chaining Masteries and various other synergies before the opponent removes it’s creatures. The Elysian tempo deck is probably the most obvious tempo deck of them all, it just gets infinite tempo and tries to win by never slowing down and delaying whatever the opponent is doing until it’s beyond the time horizon for the inevitable victory of Elysian. The small Combrei deck is the same, except instead of relying on burn and removal, it uses a higher quality of low curve cards alongside pump spells to completely dominate the board. Rakano is just a mix of Stonescar and Combrei, creating it’s own monster that can compete with the best of them.
And this is just the meta very early on, there are still countless ways to innovate and find new decks in the card pool. Tempo might be completely dominant now, but I’m pretty sure there’s some control deck that’s based in either FTJ or FJS that can keep up with any tempo deck. And it’s not like Primal control is bad, the card draw is a great advantage and there are good removal spells and sites to play around with. But Primal control will need to wait for it’s turn, the current meta is about tempo and Primal can only completely demolish midrange. I’d even say that the lack of board wipes is good for control players, since control in Throne has long ago deteriorated into just seeing when you draw your Harsh Rules and maybe Hailstorms. Actually interesting control decks where counterplay and resource management play vital roles can take over the spot of just playing an oppressive pile of good cards.
And all of this is possible because the card pool for Expedition is expertly crafted. Playing Expedition does not feel like playing multiple sets, the draft packs themselves are just compliments to Flame of Xulta. There are a few obvious problems that come with using draft packs for expedition, and I hope that DWD manages to avoid them in the future, but I have nothing but good things to say about this particular Expedition. It feels like I’m playing with cards from a specific set, and that set itself is really fun to play. Obviously, since I’m Isochron and all, I need to point out some obvious problems.
First, since DWD is moving to a release schedule of a set every five-ish months, the time horizon for specific formats will always be fairly small. This is a good thing on a lot of counts, but it will make Expedition expensive. Eternal will still be fairly free to play, but Expedition might not alleviate the problems that come with having a large card pool. And having to completely change your decks every five months might be a bit hard for casual players to keep up with. I hope this has a solution that works for everyone before it becomes a problem. And I really hope that DWD does not stick to the schedule of creating two draft formats per set, because that would speed up Expedition way too much to be reasonable. And if they do, I hope that they at least leave the Expedition card pool unaltered between draft formats. There’s obviously a part of me that would like to see the format change constantly, but that wouldn’t be viable for competitive or casual players.
Furthermore, I really hope that they can bring in good balance changes when they are necessary. Because even though I think this format has the potential to be really good, it’s completely dominated by tempo decks right now. And even though that’s a cool thing considering that we have barely had any tempo in the past (TJP Alessi and Maul are the only prominent examples I can think of), it needs to change after a while to a more diverse format. If it doesn’t do that naturally, changes should be implemented as I don’t think the mentality of just waiting until the next rotation is going to work well. I don’t think any specific balance changes are necessary right now (even though I wouldn’t have a problem with rotating Finest Hour out early, making the spellcraft on Sodi’s Spellshaper cost three, or bumping Jekk’s Knife up to two power), there will inevitably be a time where something has to be changed.
If I had to find anything to complain about, I think the Edicts are a good gimmick for Throne decks, but too much of a necessity for Expedition Markets. I really think the ability to punish certain faction combinations is a good way to have the game self-balance more when the Market is already a highly competitive place, but there’s just no reason not to run both faction hate options in your market when playing Expedition. I don’t think that this is inherently a problem, but something that could use some small tweaks to make the format more fun, especially considering how important they make matchmaking RNG.
But overall, Expedition is shaping up to be a really fun format, and I hope that it can stay this fun for a long time. Even though I’m either too jaded to really enjoy card games as I used to, or Expedition just doesn’t compare to how fun the early sets in Eternal were, it’s still a good format and the most fun I’ve had with Eternal in the last twelve months. Here’s to hoping that the next Expedition is even better than the current one.
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