Deck building in Eternal has always been difficult for two reasons: the large size of the deck, and the high number of playable cards. However, I think it’s gotten especially hard as we’ve gained more powerful options that completely change the way we play the game. The two most important things—Crests and Markets—have had the largest impact. Between those and the addition of new powerful cards and a more fleshed-out design direction as the game matures, it’s worth talking about new trends and possibilities in building decks. A lot of deck builders and competitive players already believe some of these concepts, though few of these ideas have been openly voiced or put to words. I also don’t think these are specifically related to the Fall of Argenport and Into Shadow metagame and are instead more likely to be long-term realities for Eternal.
More Decks Can Afford To Be 3-Faction
One of the many things holding me back from Haunted Highway for a long time was it’s power base. Like many, I looked at the 3-faction aggro deck and turned away from how uncastable the entire thing looked. After playing and winning an ETS with it, I can tell you this is not true at all. With each faction combination having three sets of dual-influence cards—Crests, Seats, and Banners—it is incredibly easy to assemble the influence requirements for decks, especially considering that the majority of cards in this game require only 1-2 of a single factions influence. Though power will always need to be considered with proper power curves, influence is a different resource altogether, and it’s clear as the game has gone on that it can be stretched much more without any significant hindrance in most cases.
I could make further arguments, but the fact that Haunted Highway is a successful deck at all, especially while playing zero copies of Seek Power, should be testament alone to this statement (and I mean either build—with or without Diplomatic Seals, as both have pros and cons.) When playing three faction decks with a reasonable power base, you will lose very few games to actual influence issues as long as you haven’t gone too crazy. Your third faction will often be a splash which gives you a lot of options you previously didn’t have—a standard Big Combrei deck gains access to Slay, Banish, and Azindel by adding Shadow. The amount you gain by adding the tools available in another faction will often far outweigh any negatives that might come from a potential increase in losses from power issues (which, again, are really overstated.) The problem is that it’s easy to see when you lose to power issues, but it’s very hard to recognize when you win from having Bandit Queen and Haunting Scream in the same deck.
A likely reaction to this is to suggest that I’m just telling you to play greedy, but my point here is that adding a third faction is often not greedy at all. Many decks will be at their best playing on schedule, such as Argenport Midrange, Skycrag Aggro, and Combrei Aggro, but these decks are dedicated to playing a tempo game based on the raw power of their cards or the amount of cards they can play within a few turns. For most other decks, and potentially even some listed above, the deck might actually get better from having access to more powerful cards in exchange for consistent tempo.
I think looking towards more three faction decks (or four factions??) could yield a lot of powerful, synergistic decks akin to Haunted Highway that we haven’t fully explored yet. Just don’t let your expanded influence options make you greedy with too many high-cost cards, as that will always be a liability.
Your Market Allows You To Do Broken Stuff (Or Answer It)
I think this one is pretty obvious to most players right now, but it’s worth talking about it more. The very nature of markets means strategies that require combinations of cards are a lot easier to assemble. Whether they’re soft combos like Madness and Combust, or hard combos like Talir combo or Westwind/Mirror Image, Markets allow these combos and synergies to happen consistently. Soft combos and synergies in particular could be explored a lot more via Markets, as there are a lot of “engine” cards that can create entire decks if they’re online consistently—think Combustion Cell in Kennadins. On the contrary, the other thing Markets do well is give you on-demand answers, be it for specific units or just in general. The ability to grab silver bullets or removal on-demand is game changing, as the more dedicated a combo deck is, the more it falls apart to specific answers.
The main thing I want to state here is that doing one of those things is probably always going to be better than just grabbing a threat for curving out (like grabbing your standard 4-drop to play after your Merchant 3-drop.) Assuming you aren’t playing control, your deck is likely to be chocked with threats, which serve a more general purpose than most removal spells. By grabbing a general 4 or 5 drop (that doesn’t specifically combo with something you’re doing), you risk just drawing more of them from your deck. You could instead ensure you have removal to keep the board, specific answers to your opponents combo and synergy pieces, or play your own pieces. All of those things are way better than just grabbing your Worldbearer Behemoth to drop on turn 5.
The one exception to answers and combo pieces is big finisher units that you usually only want 1-2 of in your deck overall, such as Icaria, the Liberator, and threats that work very well vs. specific archetypes, such as Jotun Feast-Caller vs. many control decks. Otherwise, realize that your Market is capable of doing broken things or stopping your opponents from doing them, and you should make sure you’re doing at least one of those things.
Less Beatsticks, More Value
This is Sandstorm Titan, and I think this card is the most unjustifiably overplayed card in the game. It has remained so since Fall of Argenport, when Merchants, among other things, dramatically spiked the potential power level of decks. Though it’s stats are impressive, I think we’ve long past the point in the metagame where it’s a key component in decks. Four is a lot to play for something that just doesn’t do anything other than attack, at least without Aegis or Charge. The upside is getting in for 5 damage a turn—on the ground, with no evasion. The downside is playing a unit that almost always results in negative tempo from two-cost removal spells and locking you out of the ability to win in the air. It puts very little pressure on a Harsh Rule player, as they can often just take the hits and do other things with their power until you commit more, knowing full well they can stabilize later. Titan also makes a boardstall, which was once desirable for many Time decks but now unattractive due to the rise of Combo decks which will always do better things in the late game than you (unless of course, you are a combo deck trying to stall out the game.) That gives it an okay floor and a low ceiling, which isn’t really what you want in a card. Other than being a Sentinel for Sentinel decks and occasionally stopping Skycrag players when played in multiples, it generally serves little purpose. It’s just a beatstick.
We’re at this point for a few reasons. First, though it is still popular to say otherwise, our removal in the game is actually very good. With multiple factions being very easy to run, every deck can have access to powerful removal. Justice also now has access to more than four Harsh Rule effects, meaning midrange and control decks make a mockery of units like SST. Second, Merchants mean that removal is available almost on demand. Unless your life total is under immediate danger, the Sandstorm Titan’s of our game can be ignored or chumped and removal can be allocated to threats that actually need to be answered (like a Tavrod, for example, which offer way more value if they gets to attack.) Finally, Crests have meant that removal is easier to be found when it’s needed.
All of this means that most units need to offer more than just attacking for damage. The best units are ones that offer things other than just stats, such as:
- Summon effects
- Are hard to remove via Aegis or other qualities that dodge popular removal
- Make multiple units, such as Grenadin Drone
- Have Charge, Killer, or Lifesteal (since all of those impact the pacing or board position)
- Capable of otherwise powerful effects, such as growing constantly in the case of Alessi, Combrei Archmage
- Offering something powerful on attack, such as drawing cards.
To experienced players, these are probably somewhat obvious, yet for a long time the metagame has allowed cards like Sandstorm Titan not only to be playable, but to be thriving in it. Those days, I think, are gone. If your unit is going to only matter for ending the game, then it better be very good at inflicting a lot of damage (such as by having Flying, especially with other keywords) and/or be put in a deck that is dedicated to putting your opponent at zero. When there are plenty of units that offer comparable stats to the beatsticks like Sandstorm Titan, I don’t see much reason to include them excluding relevant unit types or specific synergies.
Wrapping It Up
Fall of Argenport changed the way we play the game in a huge way and we’re only just now starting to catch up. Take these ideas with you when you start to craft your next deck to take on the metagame.