A guest article by aReNGee
Hello, I’m aReNGee! Welcome to my first article in recent memory, where I’m going to illustrate some points from a recent Skycrag deck I played. A huge thanks to Team Rankstar for hosting this article and another thanks to everyone who voted on the Twitter poll that pushed me to create it. Sorry, guy who wanted a podcast. It should go without saying, my opinions are solely my own and I do not represent Team Rankstar in any way.
For those of you that already know who I am, you can skip this paragraph. For those of you that don’t, I’m aReNGee, best known for running the Eternal Tournament Series. I started playing Eternal in May 2016 and in my, let’s call it, prime I wrote a number of strategy articles and made the error of maintaining a tier list. For more about me and some easy cross promotion, read the interview MantidMan did with me.
Before I begin the article proper, I want to say something that can’t be said enough – Eternal is a game, and while we all have our own goals, it’s going to be an unhappy climb to the top if you can’t have fun along the way. Don’t be afraid to have your kind of fun, whether that fun comes from playing Nictotraxian and Knucklebones, cheesing people out with a blitz OTK, or playing just one more turn of prison. No matter what anyone says or what your record may be, if you’re having fun you’re not doing it wrong.
Let’s talk about what’s going on here. Firstly, I was interested in adding the new cards Thudrock’s Masterwork and Skycrag Insignia to an existing Yeti shell that I had played on and off since Wump came out. Second, I was extremely disappointed to discover that Skycrag Insignia did not in fact get printed in Dark Frontier, and I was down to one new card. Fortunately, we fit a few more new cards in the Market.
Lesson One: There are no wrong choices
Is this the best deck in the format? No. Is this the best version of this deck? Also probably no, but the choices made during the deckbuilding process do allow for me to illustrate some points. No matter what the deck, there are no right answers – different players will play and build the deck in different ways. Are there choices that are more optimal than others? Yes, but winning games isn’t everyone’s main focus. Make sure you take your own style into account – if you want a Harsh Rule in the market of every Justice deck as a panic button, put that Harsh Rule in! You’ll feel better and play better and hopefully have more fun – and that’s the real bottom line.
Lesson Two: Have a plan
What is this deck trying to do? It wants to play a one drop, play a two drop and bond Pokpok, then play Wump/Masterwork and push for a lot of damage. After that, the deck will figure it out, but you always want to be aggressive. This means you’re trying to push damage just about every turn of the game – yes, even playing into Hailstorm and Harsh Rule. Other versions of aggro can stick around and win later. This deck plays a lot more like the closed beta era Bandit Queen decks – you’re looking to end the game on turn 4, turn 5 at the latest. Go wide, play your yeti boosts, stun your opponent’s blockers, and push for lethal.
Lesson Three: Context is everything
What pushed me more than anything to write about this deck is the dichotomy between Mischief Yeti and Dusk Raider. Most of the time, Dusk Raider is a fantastic two drop. It’s a must kill on turn 2 and berserk enables a ton of powerful attack steps. Conversely, Mischief Yeti is an unplayable 2/1 for 1 with no text. I may have a penchant for them, but even I admit that Mischief Yeti, in a vacuum, sucks. However, in this deck Mischief Yeti is elevated to the status of necessary evil and Dusk Raider is the worst card in the deck. In order to curve out, the deck needs at least 8 one drops to have a one drop reliably, and Mischief Yeti is the best option. Conversely, Dusk Raider’s many strengths aren’t actually strengths here. Not being on tribe is extremely punishing, as it can’t bond Pokpok or use a tribal buff, and a 2/2 does not attack into anything. Berserk is powerful, but the units (except for Champion of Fury) are too small and slow to really take advantage of it and you REALLY don’t want to play it on curve. The card retains its position mostly on the back of Nightfall, but I would replace it with any 3 power 2 drop yeti if I could to bond Pokpok and set up for attacks.
Card evaluation is usually done in a vacuum or, at best, with a specific existing deck in mind. That’s not how things work in practice, and you’re often unable to make fair judgments until you’ve played many matches with the deck to get a feel for the game plan and how all the cards fit in. Sometimes something that seems out of place makes sense in context, and sometimes a card that should be powerful just doesn’t get it done.
Lesson Four: Having no outs is okay (if you’re okay with it)
Sometimes you lose games. The thing I learned most with this deck is to concede early and often – not instantly, but as soon as you’ve lost your pressure and your opponent isn’t in instant burn range, it’s time to pack it in. If this deck runs out of steam, it loses. If this deck floods out, it loses – and there’s no flood protection whatsoever. I’ve lost countless games to mulling into four power and drawing two more immediately. That’s variance, and for me, that’s okay.
Many aggro decks include Standards, or Waystones, or other ways to use excess power. This deck does not – I value the guaranteed undepleted power over the potential late game strength. This deck just doesn’t reach 5 power very often, never mind six, and if it does it not only isn’t winning, a standard probably isn’t going to turn the tide. Conversely, despite this undepleted focus, I’m running 4 crests because I value the fixing and your deck is cheap enough that you can weave them into your turns without too much disruption. That’s also the reason I only play one-cost removal spells – I value being able to continue your deployment over having the pure power of multiple Ice Bolts. In my view, you’re probably not putting enough pressure to win a game where you have to cast multiple Ice Bolts anyways.
The lesson here is twofold – first, you’re going to lose some games no matter what, so it’s important to come to terms with that. Second, it’s not always important to add in a failsafe. Some players like having outs in any situation – this is not a deck built to have any backup plan if plan A goes awry.
Lesson Five: Card Advantage Doesn’t Matter (if they’re dead)
Drawing cards is fun. People feel smart when drawing cards and you can better manage – if you draw enough cards, you’ll draw out of flood or screw and you’ll eventually draw your good cards. However, it’s important to realize that cards in hand are just resources, and unused resources are worthless. Killing your opponent draws seven new cards just as reliably as losing does.
Some players have a tough time understanding the aggro mentality – cards in hand are not valuable. Maximizing your power usage is extremely valuable. Speaking specifically for this deck, prioritize your development first, your attacks second, and your removal third. You want lots of units in play for your anthems, you want to be able to attack, and you want to be able to remove the few problem cards that you care about. This deck is fast – a temporary stun is good for two attacks, and that’s fantastic for your purposes. Spend your cards to push damage, toss away units to push damage, whatever it takes. Ending the game with no cards in hand and a dead opponent is a job well done.
Lesson Six: The Market
Probably the most unique element of Eternal is the Market, and some sixteen merchant decks that we won’t talk about in this article are making great use of it! This deck… uses it far worse. Merchants aren’t yetis, and you really only want to play yetis. Additionally, playing a merchant usually costs a whole turn – 3 is a lot in this deck. On the upside, spell damage boosts your many snowballs, and there’s a lot of cheap spells you can get. In this market I prioritized interaction that I could play alongside the smuggler the turn it is played, which is why the whole market is cheap. I had Eclipse Dragon in the market for a while, but I realized that I rarely got up to five power and never wanted to take a turn off to play a merchant in order to deal 4 damage next turn. It just wasn’t close to winning me games that I was losing.
Unfortunately, camat0 and several others will confirm that I have a handicap that prevents me from playing with more than 4 good market cards in any given deck. (I also have an unrelated handicap that prevents me from featuring decks with good powerbases.) Most of the time, I know which card is the odd one out, but here I don’t. I’ve narrowed it down to Flame Blast or Censari Dervish, but which is it? It’s possible it could even be both. If you find a better market, please let me know.
Tips and Tricks That Don’t Involve Thudrock’s Masterwork
- If you can play a one drop on one and ANYTHING on two, play the one drop on one instead of the crest.
- You can and should bond Pokpok off of units that you just played. You also don’t need to bond for the full 3 –one drop bond Pokpok on 3 is a real line.
- If you can warp Cinder Yeti, do that instead of anything else unless you kill your opponent – it sucks to draw.
- Play Champion of Fury last because it has charge, unless circumstances dictate otherwise (like having no two drop or wanting to bond PokPok)
- This deck plays the bare minimum of power to reduce the odds of flooding. Pledge Chunk Chunk aggressively, but hold it in power heavy hands unless you have multiples (3 is heavy).
- Mulligan and keep aggressively. If your second seven won’t get the job done, go to six. Starting with 4 power is basically a death wish since you lose to any power draw. Conversely, you can win with only 2 power even if you miss your third power for a turn or two.
- Snowcrust Yeti into Fearless Yeti bond Pokpok is a very common line that renders Hailstorm mostly ineffective.
- Prioritizing playing your units before your anthems to get more value out of them – but prioritize your attacks over everything. If you have two 2/1s and they have a 1/3, play that anthem and A+Space.
- Yes, Permafrost is powerful. No, it isn’t valuable. Permafrost that two drop and attack with 3 units.
- Wump’s snowballs proc “when this hits the enemy player” effects. This only matters for Fearless Yeti and Thudrock off of the site – the damage and anthem is the valuable part of the card.
- Using anthem effects as one shot pumps is totally fine if you got the attack in and still have a board when they’re cleared.
- Snowballs can hit sites. I hope this isn’t important because if you’re hitting sites you’re probably losing.
Tips and Tricks That Involve Thudrock’s Masterwork
- Fend Off is the best card on the Site and the most common card you choose. Anthem plus stun plus scout is very powerful for 3 when you have any kind of board.
- However, you can’t play Fend Off when they have no units (or no legal units) just for the scout trigger – the spell just fizzles.
- Playing Jump Kick on Mischief Yeti gets you a snowball off the Renown trigger. It’s the only way in the deck to do so.
- Thudrock’s Masterwork only has one health, so it dies to Snowballs and Vara’s Favor.
- You get a 5/4 if the site survives, which is great because it usually means you’re already winning.
That’s all I have for you today. The inspiration for this article was basically “Dusk Raider is really bad here and it’s interesting to talk about why, plus I’m playing some other bad cards for a reason” but I don’t feel as though it came together quite like I imagined. Regardless, I hope something written here can be of use to you, for entertainment value if nothing else. I’d like to thank the countless people who have supported me over the years (!) I’ve been a member of the Eternal community, and I hope that in the future I will be sufficiently inspired to write another, hopefully better article. Until then, keep having fun!