Red. Green. Purple. (Sorry Yellow and Blue)
Being a good drafter is essential if you want to have any kind of success in Eternal. Until there is a system of buying packs and cards, the only way a player can build their collection is through grinding rewards from the various Eternal formats. These are: Ranked, Draft, Gauntlet, and Forge. Draft gives you the most rewards for your efforts but it’s also the most complicated of the formats and the least unforgiving of bad luck and bad choices. Five-Thousand gold is no joke, so when you finally save up enough cash to queue up into a draft, what should you do? What are the best cards to take first? How do you navigate forty-eight picks to maximize your chances at seven wins and those sweet, sweet diamond chests?
There are many answers on how to approach draft and there are many layers to those answers. (I recommend Ben Chapman’s Beginner Draft Articles for insight). For this article I’ll be looking at the more basic picture of the three factions I think are the best “first colors”, and why. What is a “first color”? Well, in draft (and mostly in constructed) most decks will consist of two factions. Any more than that and you risk having your sigils line up poorly with your hand, and going one faction can make you miss out on more powerful cards. Within a two-faction deck you usually will have more cards of one faction than the other, and most of your best cards tend to be in one faction. Rarely do you get a perfect 50/50 split of colors and powers between your two factions.
The faction that is the more represented in your deck is your “first color”. It is the faction of the card you probably picked first, and it’s the faction that you have the most sigils for. In theory, all of the five factions in Eternal work equally well as first colors. After many, many drafts I can confidently say that this is, in fact, just a theory. There are clearly better factions to focus on over other ones and they are: Fire, Justice, and Shadow. Time and Primal, while having strong cards, do not have the versatility and raw power of the other three factions. In my opinion this means that you should always be looking at Time and Primal as your “second color” or as splash options. Now, let’s take an in-depth look at why Fire, Justice and Shadow are the primary colors of draft in Eternal.
Overall theme: Aggression, speed, all-in damage.
Major Key-Words/Abilities: War Cry, Charge, Overwhelm
Pairs well with: Justice, Shadow
Pairs poorly with: Time
Best Removal Spells: Torch, Combust
Lacks: Card draw, Flying
Can you go Mono-fire? Yes.
Tier 1 Picks (Bombs): Shogun’s Scepter, Worldpyre Phoenix, Steelbound Dragon, Deepforged Plate, Statuary Maiden, Icaria The Liberator, Champion of Chaos
Tier 2 Picks (reason to go Fire): Oni Ronin, Torch, Rakano Outlaw, Champion of Glory, Bandit Queen, Smuggler’s Stash, Pyroknight
Deceptively bad cards (only good on paper): Vorprex, the Great Ruin, Field Captain, Claw of the First Dragon, Sparring Partner, Censari Brigand, Steelfang Chakram, Sword of Icaria
Fire is aggression. No matter the game, no matter the art form, no matter the psychologist’s test, the color red equals fire, fire equals passion, and passion equals fast. The Fire faction in Eternal wants to end the game as quickly as possible, by any means possible. This means that if you choose to draft fire, look for the best sources of damage, and the most efficient sources of damage. What do I mean by efficient?
The Face of Death
It doesn’t get better than this. Snowballing effects are very good in draft because the player who starts establishing their damage/threats first has a massive advantage, since it’s less likely your opponent will have the proper answer in their limited deck. This makes war cry arguably the most powerful ability in draft because it increases the threat level of every other unit and weapon in your deck, while also making them harder to kill with damage spells that may suddenly find themselves one or two points short of killing your unit.
And there is a lot of war cry in Fire. Oni Ronin is the best example how good war cry is, but he’s just one of many units that go from being basic to must be answered.
Who needs weapons when you have a flag?
Paying three power for a 1/1 unit is a pretty bad deal on the surface and I would never ever recommend drafting those stats. But drafting a massive threat that makes each draw better for only three mana? Yes, please. The fact that Fire goes deep on war cry is a strong reason to consider Fire cards early over other cards. As the draft goes on and you are looking at less and less premium cards, having lots of war cry increases your ability to turn mediocre units and weapons into real threats.
Another reason to go into Fire is the overwhelm ability. Chump blocking is common in Eternal but especially in draft. Both you and your opponent are going to have decks filled with random units that don’t do much else than take up space and boards can get cluttered easily. But with a strong overwhelm unit you can break through a stalled board and get in those final points of
damage. That’s a big deal, especially when you’re just one or two hits away from getting a gold chest instead of a silver chest.
Fire can take hold of the advantage early and never let it go. It’s this kind of right-out-of-the gate pressure that makes Fire so good in draft. It’s also one of reasons why Fire can be drafted by itself. I wouldn’t recommend entering a draft looking to go one faction, but if you have to, Fire is one of your best bets because if you get even a decent deck, you will not be short of threats. Ironically, this also makes Fire one of the best factions to pair with because it can always provide the offense to whatever defense your other faction is creating, and/or it can buoy the offense of your other faction. Basically, by going Fire you have a very high ceiling of efficient, quick threats and a very low risk of a deck that just fizzles out, because you lose nothing by pairing Fire cards with strong defense.
One risk of going Fire however, is that you get stuck with the mediocre, low-defense units that don’t do anything, while getting decent to bad cards in your other factions. Fire might be the best faction when it’s at its best, but certainly is the worst faction when it’s at its worst. If you first pick an Oni Ronin and by the end of the pack all you have is a bunch of Centaur Outriders and Blazing Renegades, get out before you get burned.
Overall theme: Tempo, Value, Big-Stats, Weapons
Major Key-Words/Abilities: War Cry, Aegis, Flying, Endurance
Pairs well with: Everything (Time and Fire especially).
Pairs poorly with: Nothing.
Best Removal Spells: Vanquish, Harsh Rule
Lacks: Direct damage, card draw.
Can you go Mono-Justice? Absolutely.
Tier 1 Picks (Bombs): Gilded Glaive, Rolant’s Honor Guard, Paladin Oathbook, Fourth-Tree Elder, Siraf Crownwatch Hero, Reality Warden, Icaria the Liberator, Deepforged Plate, Rolant the Iron Fist
Tier 2 Picks (reason to go Justice): Karmic Guardian, Copperhall Elite, Silverwing Familiar, Vodakhan’s Staff, Harsh Rule, Silverwing Familiar, Crownwatch Paladin, Awakened Student, Desert Marshall, Finest Hour, Combrei Healer, Sword of the Sky King
Deceptively bad cards (only good on paper): Field Captain, Claw of the First Dragon, Marshal Ironthorn, Sword of Icaria, Mithril Mace, Tinker Overseer, Vodakhan Temple Speaker
The Justice faction is basically a better version of the Fire faction. It too has excellent early game threats that can snowball into mid-game power plays, but Justice can end the game with massively powerful late game plays that Fire (and most factions) cannot. You can find incredible Justice units and weapons at every point along the curve, making it the first faction you should
look at when you go into a draft. To borrow a phrase from Magic: The Gathering; Justice is the deepest color. If you want to go aggro and take a bunch of powerful small units, you can! If you want to go slower and build to powerful late-game monsters, go ahead! Already going two factions but think your deck needs a splash of power? Justice has you covered. Justice. It has it all.
Specifically, Justice has Aegis and flying. Aegis is such a busted mechanic that I wouldn’t be surprised that if somewhere down the line it gets nerfed to open up design space because Aegis gives every card that has it a built-in two-for-one. In constructed getting a “twofer” is powerful enough but in limited it can be absolutely game-breaking. And a large portion of Justice cards create, or already have, Aegis. This means that a large portion of your Justice deck is already “twoferring” your opponent with absolutely no effort on your part.
The Face of Value
Just look at this guy! Silvering Familiar is the quintessential Justice unit; it’s aggressive, evasive, defensive, and races well. Basically it has all the game text you would ever want from a mid-range unit and it builds value as quickly as you can pile on your weapons and/or buffs. Most importantly though, Silverwing Familiar flies. Flying is incredibly powerful in Eternal, just like in Magic: The Gathering (almost as if one idea led to the other…) and the more flying you have in your deck the better off you are. Justice is the faction of fliers. Where other factions have flying units with restrictions (like North-Wind Herald) or mediocre stats (Towertop Patrol) Justice fliers almost all have solid stats for their power cost.
One thing Silverwing Familiar does not have that a lot of other Justice cards have is endurance. Endurance is pretty good in Eternal, it’s not as good as it should be because it’s not an ability that helps you win the game so much as it helps you not lose the game. What I mean by that It is great to have more options when attacking because you know your attackers will be able to defend, but in general having a more powerful offensive effect is better than having a flexible defensive option. That said, endurance is pretty awesome when you are ahead, or even, with your opponent. In other factions like Time, that are really good at defending but need help to get their offense going, endurance is incredible but in Justice it’s just another way to generate value with your tempo-based units.
The other face of value
Finally, Justice is so deep that it pairs with any other faction and loses nothing. Every other faction benefits from the weapons Justice has to offer and Justice benefits from having more creative ways to generate value. Justice especially needs help with removal as even though it
has one of the best removal cards in Vanquish, it is very light on interaction and by itself it relies on blunt force rather than finesse. This can be a good thing in general but in a complicated game of Eternal, a little flexibility can go a long way and Justice benefits greatly from what other factions, any other factions, have to offer. Add all this up, and Justice is the faction to get into early when drafting. You will have options that range from early game aggression to late game power, with everything in-between. Whatever becomes open will only benefit from your early Justice picks and even if you only splash Justice, it will be well worth it.
One thing to keep in mind however is that Justice without it’s early game units is very, very very slow to close out games. While cards like Crownwatch Paladin put your opponent in a tough spot, cards like Copperhall Recruit and Auric Bailiff can largely be ignored and played around. Justice is deep but it’s very narrow it how it wins the game and if you don’t see the cards coming that support late game power or early game value, then Justice will be exactly what you don’t get.
Overall theme: Removal, Disruption, Interaction with the Void
Major Key-Words/Abilities: Lifesteal, Infiltrate, Deadly
Pairs well with: Fire, Time, Justice,
Pairs poorly with: Primal
Best Removal Spells: Annihilate, Suffocate, Deathstrike, Feeding Time
Lacks: Finishers (bombs), Tempo
Can you go Mono-Shadow? No
Tier 1 Picks (Bombs): Champion of Cunning, Black-Sky Harbinger, Snowcrush Animast, Champion of Chaos, Bandit Queen, Statuary Maiden, Vara Fate-Touched, Venom Spine Hydra
Tier 2 Picks (reason to go Justice): Pretty much any of their removal spells, Smuggler’s Stash, Feln Bloodcaster, Ashsara the Deadshot, Direwood Beastcaller, Argenport Instigator, Dark Return
Deceptively bad cards (only good on paper): Vorprex the Great Ruin, Midnight Gale, Slumbering Stone, Hair Trigger Stranger, Sabotage, Cabal Recruiter, Spirit Drain
Shadow, as you might expect, is all about death and destruction. Sometimes you’re destroying your own unit, sometimes it’s your opponent’s unit. All Shadow wants to do is kill everything no matter the cost. And usually, the cost is pretty reasonable and even advantageous if you’re the one playing Shadow. Shadow has all the best removal spells and this makes Shadow something you should always be looking to draft.
Purple Explosions = Good
Premium removal is very hard to come by in limited and many games will be decided by whoever played the best removal spell. Almost always this spell will be a Shadow spell. No matter how good your curve is, no matter how powerful you bomb, the Shadow faction has an answer in its card pool. Never underestimate how much value something like Deathstrike or Annihilate can give you and I would say that almost no matter what stage you’re at in a draft if you get the option to take a Shadow removal spell, stop and think about it.
The other themes of Shadow, life steal and infiltrate, are very powerful but a little narrow in what they do. Life steal is good no matter what and a key way to steal wins you otherwise couldn’t get but without a proper unit to put life steal on it’s a very underwhelming ability. Infiltrate is similar in that it requires certain situations for it to be good. When it’s good, it’s very, very good but it’s a transparent, delayed plan. This is why I think Shadow does not pair well with Primal in draft. If you manage to get the Feln Infiltrate deck, then you’ve got it made as that is one of the best decks in limited, but it needs a lot of pieces and a good amount of rares and uncommons. And without the specific cards for infiltrate, what you end up with is a deck full of awkward minions that are very poor without help. It’s better to look for a faction that has a strong curve that needs the removal and/or life steal Shadow offers to put it over the top.
First pick me at your own risk
With all this said, why do I think Shadow is a “first color” as opposed to a “second color”? It has under-stated units and difficult synergies to pull off and no strong finishers like Justice. Simply put, Shadow offensively does a little bit of everything mediocrely but defensively it does everything you want. Shadow is the most flexible faction because it’s units and themes can win the game multiple ways; through a large amount of plink damage starting at turn 1 with Blood Beetle and Knifejack, or with big mid-game swing turns with units like Stonescar Magus or Impending Doom, or it can value-trade with deadly minions, or it can use lifesteal to race any board an opponent might challenge you with. All of this flexibility, backed up with the best removal package, arguably makes Shadow the best faction to go in draft. You can easily shift your game plan into whatever strategy you think the draft is pushing you and if nothing else, you’ll have tons of removal to help bail you out if it all goes wrong or to finish off an opponent quickly if it all goes right.
Shadow is also the hardest faction to focus on. Lacking solid, individually powerful units, you will need to have a plan when taking Shadow units and if you don’t much experience doing this, things can fall apart quickly. Removal does not win the game. Killing your opponent with damage wins the game and Shadow does not present an obvious path to doing this. I would recommend getting familiar with Shadow as a second color first, then once you start to figure out what kind of limited strategies you like, go full Prince and beat down your opponents with a storm of Purple Rain.
In conclusion the best way to figure out what major strategies you want to explore in draft should be the strategies that you enjoy the most. Drafting in Eternal is a serious grind and you will have runs that end with three losses. Experiment with all of the different decks that you can and find what appeals to your sensibility as a player. I hope this article has given you a broad idea of where to start, and I hope you discover that I’m a total noob and you go Primal every time. Or you discover that I’m a genius and you agree that when it comes to Eternal draft, it’s all about Fire, Justice, and Shadow. See you on the ladder!
–Keith “TheTrystero” Watabayashi