Welcome home to your brave new drafting world! Boy oh boy, did Direwolf Digital surprise us, Eternal drafters, when they said they would change drafts at the beginning of April! The changes were numerous and multi-dimensional and I would like to talk about them and – more importantly – what they mean in terms of creating a successful drafting strategy!
Why change anything?
Card games need to undergo constant play format changes in order keep the player base interested and engaged. In case of Eternal, we are getting two big sets and two smaller campaigns each year. While big sets tend to change a lot of things – especially given that each of them consist of more than 200 cards! – the campaigns have between sixteen and twenty-six playable cards and are never included in the draft format. This means that constructed gets a makeover twice more often than limited and although the recent Homecoming campaign launched just a couple of weeks ago, nothing has really changed for us, drafters. That is, until Direwolf Digital decided to stir the pot with a slew of changes.
What has changed?
There were just two changes made, but their implications were huge. The first change was switching the order of packs we are choosing from. In Defiance drafts we started the party with a Defiance pack, then were picking from two curated packs and had another Defiance pack for dessert. In Homecoming drafts we are getting a curated pack first, then we have two packs of Defiance and another curated pack at the end.
The second change was more momentous – the contents of the curated packs themselves have been altered dramatically! It is no small thing, so I will discuss it in more detail.
Changes in the curated pool
In Defiance, the curated card pool consisted of 503 cards. For Homecoming drafts, 53% i.e. 267 of these cards were removed and 146 other cards were added in their stead. So not only will you not find more than half the cards that were here before, the whole pool consists of 24% fewer cards. The biggest implication of this change is that it is now statistically easier to get specific commons and uncommons that are needed for some of the strategies. Of course the bigger question is what has been removed and what has been added.
Changes in influence fixing
The first thing that everybody saw in Homecoming drafts is that the five influence-fixing Strangers are gone, never to be seen again (or at least for the time being). These cards had two huge roles in the previous draft format. First of all, they provided us with the necessary fixing to smoothly run three or more color decks. Second of all, they have proven to be solid 2-drops you could run even if they were helping with fixing of just one color.
The implications here are also twofold. First, it is going to be more difficult to successfully draft enough fixing to run smooth three- and four-color decks and you should honestly tone it down to running just two- to three-color decks. A couple of cards were added to fix our color problems (pun intended), but only Veteran Strategist seems like it fits the same categories as the Strangers did – early defensive body on top of color fixing – but it is uncommon instead of common. There is also Common Cause and Diplomatic Seal, but both of these are just sub-par at best.
This also means that the remaining color fixing is of more importance now, and should be picked higher! In Defiance I usually said that you needed at least five Strangers / Banners / Tokens / Bannermen in your colors to successfully run a three-color deck. Now that the Strangers are gone it will be much more difficult to get this amount of fixing. I also value Tokens much higher now, even if they are to be just ‘bad Banners’, i.e. if they are just used for two of their three colors.
Changes in early game strategies
The second implication of removing Strangers from the curated pool is that it is going to be more difficult to get good 2-drops to fill your deck. In Defiance I had no problems in achieving a minimum of five 2-drops in more defensive decks. Now I sometimes struggle to get at least three good early units. This comes in hand with other good early drops being removed from the curated pool as well, e.g. Storm Lynx, Oni Ronin, Grenarender, District Infantry, Crownwatch Paladin, Tranquil Scholar, Snowcrust Yeti, Magenta Wisp, Scavenging Vulture, Bold Adventurer and Illumination Wisp.
Changes in weaponry
A lot of good Spellcraft (and regular) weapons were removed from the curated packs, such as Ruination Sledge, Welding Torch, Peacekeeper’s Helm, Copperhall Cudgel, Changeestik, Thief’s Pick, Hair-Trigger Pistol and Surgeon’s Saw. People were getting tired of losing to single big units wielding a ton of weapons, and cutting both the amount of weapons and early units as stated above should in theory make for slower and more balanced games. Another notable removal from these so-called Voltron strategies is Renegade Valkyrie.
Changes in bombs and duds
When I was going through the card changes in curated packs I came to a strange conclusion. Most of the cards that were removed had been rated by me in my Defiance Draft Card Ratings of Awesomeness as either between 1-3 (i.e. duds and unplayable cards) or between 8-10 (i.e. bombs and must-pick cards) on a scale of 1 to 10. Most of the things in the middle remained unchanged. That is a very interesting way of getting rid of problematic, overpowered-in-draft-format types of cards. Good example of premium cards taken out are Slay, Knight-Chancellor Siraf, Welding Torch, Zuberi, Outlands Warlord, Dashing Rapscallion, Ironfist Chancellor, Tranquil Scholar, Auric Sentry, Spire Chaplain, Geomar, the Steel Tempest, Silverwing Commander, Ironfist Archon, Permafrost, Changeestik, Whispering Wind, Acquisitive Crow, Cloudsnake Harrier, Ice Sprite, Temple Shihan, Torgov, Icecap Trader, Aeva, Eilyn’s Elite, Alu, Death-Dreamer, Mistveil Drake, Renegade Valkyrie, Suffocate, Thief’s Pick, Surgeon’s Saw, Impending Doom, Memory Dredger, Slimespitter Slug, Umbren Occluder, Jekk, Lone Gun, Amaran Armadillo, Amaran Stinger, Wurmcalling, Alhed, Mount Breaker, Mystic Ascendant and Siphon Vitality.
There were also some great cards added, but they are not that numerous. Examples of new premium picks are: Jekk, Hunted Fugitive, General Izalio, Insatiable Serasaur, Twinbrood Sauropod, Worldbearer Behemoth, Serasaur Bull, Elder’s Feather, Vanquish, Sheriff Marley, Amilli, Cloudmarshal, Elias, the Broken Wing, Dusk Raider, Jotun Feast-Caller, Beastcaller’s Amulet, Deathstrike, Kyrex Coach Driver, Shadowlands Tyrant, Feeding Time and Rindra, the Duskblade. Many of these have triple or quadruple influence requirements, though, which makes them even more difficult to get played if you manage to draw them.
Changes in synergies
The Defiance draft format had five main factions and thus five main strategies you could build your deck around. Going into ‘non-sanctioned’ three color combinations usually meant you were sacrificing some of the consistencies and/or synergies that were available. One of the main messages from the developers of Eternal was that for Homecoming drafts they have added new synergies to the curated packs themselves, mainly Nightfall synergies and tribal synergies, i.e. synergies for unit types such as Yetis, Gunslingers, Sentinels, Dinosaurs and Explorers.
The Nightfall synergy part was a bit of a reach, to be honest. While there are cards like Rindra, the Duskblade, Agile Deathjaw, Darkclaw Ravager and also Entrapment for an anti-synergy … that is about it! Unless you count Inspire units such as Dusk Raider as Nightfall synergies – then you have … a couple more. As for the tribal synergies – they are present, to some extent. As one might suspect, Yetis are in Primal and Fire, Gunslingers are in Fire, Shadow and Justice, Explorers are in Time, Primal and even Fire and Shadow, Dinosaurs are in Time, Primal and Shadow and Sentinels are in Time and Fire. The highest number of these synergy cards are just Ally and Bond units, but there are some other boosts in there as well. The biggest problem here is with Justice, as it only has access to Gunslingers and does not provide any other tribes, while for example Time has Sentinels, Dinosaurs and Explorers and Fire has everything except for Dinosaurs.
So here is where most people have a problem with the Homecoming draft format while I think it actually makes the format more interesting than the previous one. There are tribal synergies in the curated packs. There are three-color synergies in the Defiance packs. There are almost no synergies between Defiance and curated packs. Do not get me wrong, though. If you have a Serene Excavator you can pick up Sentinels in Defiance packs, and there are a couple of Empower cards in the curated packs. It is just that in Defiance you only had your five three-color synergies. Now in addition you have four more tribal synergies (as Explorers usually go with Sentinels or Dinosaurs). This increased diversity also means that you can safely go into other three-color combinations than the ones sanctioned in Defiance. As an example, I have already won one Homecoming draft by playing Primal-Fire Yetis and another one with just going an aggressive Fire-Primal-Shadow route.
Changes in tricks
A lot of fast spells and Ambush units were removed from the curated packs, while some others were added. Given that reading your opponents’ stop signals is very important, it is necessary to know what they can be holding.
Notable tricks that were removed:
Storm Lynx, Rindra’s Choice, Hoof Slash, Reinvigorate, Jump Kick, Backlash, Gruanform, Lightning Strike, Violent Gust, Flash Freeze, Lock Horns, Infused Strike, Umbren Occluder, Kaleb’s Choice, Meditation, Randori, Disjunction, Siphon Vitality
Notable tricks that were added:
Changes in removal
Many people were claiming Shadow to be the weakest color in Defiance drafts, usually because it was sorely lacking solid removal. Well this has changed! Welcome back Deathstrike and Extinguish! Also, Feeding Time! On the other hand, Suffocate, Slay and Permafrost were removed, so is there a change in the number of removal? Really?
Changes in pack order
If I have to be honest I could write a whole separate article on how just changing the pack order to Curated-Defiance-Defiance-Curated changes drafting strategies and card ratings. Back in Defiance drafts when you opened a three-color Display you had two main choices – take it and try to force yourself into this color combination from the get-go or go for a single color card and try to stay open for as long as possible. This resulted in good three-color cards such as said Displays or Kosul Beastmasters to go as very late picks.
In Homecoming, though, you are first presented with a card set that is more focused on having single-color cards. Usually after the first pack you will be settled in one or two colors and will have more information where you stand befoire going into the color-heavy Defiance world. This makes your picks more informed and it is more likely for you to play all these powerful multifaction cards if you pick them.
Changes in card ratings
All these changes, inclusions and removals also change the value of some cards that were already present in Defiance. For example, the addition of tribal synergies for Yetis mean that I value Mischief Yeti a bit higher and that Gear Master is more of a first pick than a dust-gathering late straggler. I do have to play even more drafts to get to know all the new cards and synergies, but you can expect an updated Homecoming Draft Card Ratings of Awesomeness spreadsheet quite soon!
Changes … changes … changes …
One thing that has not changed is my eternal love for all the draft formats! That is why you can usually find me streaming Eternal drafts, Monday through Friday, 10am – 2pm CEST.