My name is Peter “Babam” Golightly, and if you played Magic on the SCG Tour or tuned into coverage back in 2012 you might be familiar with this face.
Photo Credit : mtgmom.com
No no no no, not the guy on the right. That’s GerryT. I mean this scrawny looking dork.
Photo Credit Unknown
Thankfully, I am no longer scrawny. Happily still a dork though
I’m a person who’s passionate about three things (well okay, maybe four, or six.. or a ton) and that’s card games, winning, and highly polished player experiences. This article is going to be about all three of them.
(Or the best digital CCG you’ve never played..yet!)
The goal of this article is to arm you with the knowledge to be able to dive headfirst into the Open Beta and have as much fun as possible with what I consider the next great digital CCG. Eternal and Magic have quite a bit of rules overlap so we’ll be covering that first.
So just what is this new-comer to the digital CCG genre? It’s the game we all wanted Hearthstone to be, and the experience we all wanted Magic Online to become. Developed and published by Direwolf Digital out of Denver, CO by a team sporting some names you may have heard of. Names like Patrick Chapin.. LSV…Conley Woods..Josh Utter-Leyton..Michael Jacob.. Direwolf has been no slouch in finding people who know and love TCGs to help make their digital CCG come to life. As a result of this pedigree Eternal is an extremely polished experience that is not only fun to play, but appeals to the pro and casual alike.
Collecting cards is similar to Hearthstone, where you either open them in packs (or keep them from your drafts!) or convert cards you don’t want into Shiftstone to craft other cards. One nice thing is that whenever you open a pack, you automatically get 200 shiftstone just for opening a pack, ignoring dusting any of the cards in the pack. At $1 a pack this means the most expensive card in the game will never be more than 16 dollars. (A legendary card requires 3200 dust to craft, or 16 packs worth of Shiftstone)
For those of you who’ve played any Hearthstone or Magic you’ll pick up things pretty quickly and the way you actually play the game will feel very familiar. We’ll start by going over the card types found in Eternal, of which there are five. (Technically seven.) They are Unit, Power, Relic, Weapon and Spell.
First off we have Units, the bread and butter of any card game these days. If you’ve played Hearthstone the card frame for units will look pretty familiar to you.
In the top left we have the units Power cost (essentially it’s mana cost) and next to it it’s Influence requirements (more on Influence later). After that we find a pair of numbers, one on the left and one on the right. The leftmost number is a unit’s attack, or how much a damage it will do in combat. On the right is it’s health, which is how much damage a unit can take before it will die and be sent to the void. After that, we’ve got the name of the unit, and in it’s text box a list of any abilities it has (In this case, Aegis and Warcry) followed by the green symbol indicating it’s rarity and then it’s subtype on the very bottom.
Units in Eternal behave very much like creatures in Magic. They exhaust to attack players, and block other units in combat if they aren’t exhausted. Units can’t attack on the turn they are first played, but can still block on your opponents next turn.
Next up, we have Powers. Unlike the current leader of the pack in digital CCGs, Eternal uses a resource system similar to Magic’s with a few key differences that open up some really interesting bits of game design and also do a very good job of removing some of the feelbad that can happen when you’re using a land-based resource system like in Magic.
There are five Factions in Eternal, each with it’s only little slice of mechanics and varying types of creatures to call their own. They are Fire, Primal, Shadow, Time, and Justice. You play Power Sigil cards of these factions to gain Maximum Power and Influence. There are other Power cards in the game or cards that increase your Power, but you are limited to only four copies of these cards. Think of Sigils as Basic Lands and they click right away. For the most part they behave exactly as they do in Magic. You play them from your hand, at a limit of one per turn and use them to play your other cards that actually win the game for you. The key difference between Eternal and Magic though, is how you use these Powers to play your cards. Powers increase your Maximum Power by one, which you spend to play cards. At the start of your turn all of your depleted power is rejuvinated and ready to be spent again.
That brings us to Influence, a mechanic that prevents some of the unfun moments in Magic such as drawing only a single Mountain in your multi-color deck and only being able to cast a single Red spell in a turn. Instead of having your Powers be exhausted or used in some way each turn to produce power of a specific Faction to pay for your cards, instead cards rely on your influence to determine if you can play them. What this means is that if a card requires a single Shadow Influence if you have played at least one Power this game that gave you a Shadow Influence, you can play any number of Shadow cards that require a single Shadow influence as long as you have Power to pay for them.
Using Infernal Tyrant as an example, we can only play this Unit if we have played at least six Powers this game, two of which had to have granted us Fire influence and two that had to have granted us Shadow Influence. Now this influence system leads to some pretty interesting card designs.
Twilight Raptor is a 2/2 Flyer for only one power, however he requires Shadow and Primal influence. This means the only way you’re casting him on Turn 1 is if you’ve played a dual Power that grants you a Shadow Influence and a Primal Influence. On the right, we have Sand Warrior. He’s a 3/2 for 0 Power, but he requires three Time influence to play, so the soonest this guy is coming down is turn 3, but when he does he’s free as in beer. These are some of the more pointed examples, but I’m really looking forward to what DWD does with this design space in the future.
Coming up next we have Relics. Relics are cards that permanently grant an ability or effect until they are removed. They are basically artifacts and enchantments from Magic rolled into a single card type. You pay a cost for them once, and they are on the table until an effect removes them. They do everything from grant static effects like Xenan Obelisk, which is a four power relic that gives all your units +1/+1 that doubles to +2/+2 if you reach eight power during the course of the game. Or, they give you an ability to activate once per turn, such as Brimstone Alter. A Fire/Shadow Relic that lets you sacrafice a unit to deal two damage to an enemy. There is one other kind of Relic, but we’ll cover that in the next section as we discuss..
Weapons! These are basically auras from the Magic the Gathering although slightly better, as they don’t create a priority window when you put them on a creature. This makes damage based removal slightly worse, but the tradeoff is that weapons are actually constructed playable instead of being left with the rest of the draft chaff on the table at the end of the night. Weapons usually grant an ability or additional attack or health to a unit that it’s placed on.
There is one other type of weapon we need to talk about though and those are Relic Weapons. Any one who has played Hearthstone will be familiar with how these work with one caveat. Instead of the having a durability number that goes down when the weapon attacks, instead the weapon grants you armor which works just like armor in Hearthstone. However, if you run out of armor your relic weapon breaks. Other than that they are pretty much just the same. They attach to your avatar (you) and allow you to attack sort of like you are a creature. This attack happens independent of your attack phase, and can be aimed at creature or player alike. If you attack a creature they will do damage back to you, however if a you attack a player who also has a relic weapon you won’t take any damage from it. The only time you can attack another player is if they have no units, otherwise you’ll have to clear a path first.
Our final card type is Spells! Spells and Fast Spells work exactly the same way as Sorceries and Instants in Magic. You pay a one time cost and they do something, then go to your void after they’ve finished doing their thing.
Now that we’ve covered the card types, let’s get into some of the Mechanics there are in Eternal that you’ll be reading on your cards. Since Eternal being a digital CCG and all gives you helpful hints whenever you read a card, we’ll just cover the ones that are new to Eternal.
First up, we have Warcry. Warcry is a very aggressive ability that reads
“Warcry X, when this unit attacks, the next unit in your deck gets +x/+x”
Because Eternal is a digital card game, we can affect cards in zones that are hidden and as a result we get rewarded with this very aggro friendly keyword. Just take a look at this unit.
A red Savannah Lions that buffs the next unit I’m drawing into for only one power and one Fire influence? Sign me up and hand me a playset, because I want to start attacking as much as possible and as soon as possible! It’s not uncommon (nor incorrect) to make suicide attacks with your Warcry units just so you can get the effect. At the best it trades in combat and your next unit is going to a bigger threat, or you’re in a board stall and it’s going to let your weenie fire aggro deck draw a huge creature to end the game by buffing up one of your weaker creatures still in your deck.
After that, we have Echo. Echo is a mechanic printed on cards that essentially reads
“When you draw this card, draw an additional copy”
Not only does this essentially let you draw two cards the turn you draw it, but it also allows you to play an effective 8 copies of a card in your deck! Just take a look at this card and tell me you don’t want to play eight of them.
Much like a Pack Rat, your Clockroaches will grow and grow until eventually you get to pay only three power for one as large as a 8/8 or 9/9.
The other nice advantage of echo is you can play only two copies of a card and have an effective playset available to you. Very nice for some cards you’d like to play four times, but don’t want to spend four deck slots on.
Next up is Aegis, which is a very defensive keyword. Aegis basically functions like a single time use Kira, the Great Glass Spinner effect. A unit (or player) with Aegis will stop the first effect controlled by an opponent that would affect it. Creatures with Aegis are prime targets for Weapons and there is even a card that lets you provide an Aegis at Fast speed allowing you to counter any harmful effects aimed at your units or even your poor poor, Torchable Face.
That brings us to the next mechanic to discuss and we really must have been fated to read about it, Fate. Fate reads “when you draw this card, do something” That something can range from gaining a few life, to putting other units into play. My personal favorite Fate card is Static Bolt, combined with Second Sight you can keep on re-drawing it until all of your copies do massive damage and go to the face for the win!
The last new Eternal mechanic is Destiny, which is sort of like Miracle but if Miracle had been hitting the gym six times a week and punched it’s way out of Avacyn Restored’s horrible limited format into a card game where it’s actually fun. Destiny reads as “When you draw this, play this card for free, and draw a new card”
As of right now destiny only shows up on a few cards, and they are either cards created by other cards or cards granting destiny. My personal favorite is a one power fire spell, that puts four Firebombs in your opponent’s deck. When they draw the bomb, they take Five damage and draw again! Cast this spell enough times and your opponent’s deck is so full of bombs they can’t help to chain them together as each new one they destiny causes them to draw a new card.
Now that we’ve gone over the new Mechanics that will be new to you and some of the differences between Eternal and Magic, I’d like to guide you through your first few games of Eternal and as a new player what you’ll want to do to get up and running in this great game!
The first time you login you’ll be presented with a campaign where you go through a series of battles with a preconstructed deck from each faction to teach you the basics of the game and allow you get familiar with how everything works and feels. Once you finish the campaign with each Faction, you’ll unlock that factions deck and some rewards. After you’ve unlocked all the factions you’ll be given a free Forge entry and sent out into the world of Eternal. First thing you’ll want to do is cash in that Forge entry.
Forge is similar to Hearthstones arena. You are shown three cards at a time, and make 25 picks from those cards to build your deck. Power is added automatically for you and as you solidify your factions early in your picks the Arena stops showing you cards of other factions. so no need to worry about being stuck with a five faction pile. You’ll then play your deck against a roster of increasingly more difficult AI opponents, unlocking a new tier of rewards for each win until you either have seven wins or have lost two games. At the end of the forge you’ll get to keep all the cards you picked, and if you went far enough you’ll get enough gold to enter another Forge right away. Forge will be your main avenue for building your collection until you have a constructed ready deck to hit the ladders with. It’s also a great way to get practice playing the game and reap some nice rewards while doing so. One thing to note though is as your performance in Forge gets better, so does the quality of the AI as well. They will have stronger decks and play smarter (although they do not cheat! Which is very nice) pushing you towards playing in the multiplayer formats.
Once you have one constructed deck, or if the Forge starts stomping you game one with a deck full of nothing but legends you can safely move onto drafting against real players. Draft will become a better investment of your gold as you will get more Shiftstone and new cards from drafting then you will from forge, and the rewards for winning are much better as well.
A few mechanical things to watch out for if you’re a Magic player coming to Eternal. You’ll want to disable smart auto-pass so you can do things like kill your own units when it would benefit you. Remember that the only time you get priority is during attacks, if your opponent casts a Spell or Fast Spell or goes to end their turn. Ambush units can only be played when you are attacked or at the end of the turn, unlike Flash units. Ambush units also jump in front of attacks from Relic Weapons and Killer units. Other than that, most everything will feel like Magic to you and you’ll be able to hop right into the game and get started.
That’s all for now! Stay tuned for the next article where I go over the landscape of the current constructed meta-game and help you figure out what the best deck to be playing in Ranked is right now.