Hi everyone – my name in the Epic community is konan – some may also know me as konanTheBarbar from Solforge. I used to write limited and metagame article on www.ghoxssocks.com and was very active in the Solforge community. I actually played Solforge together with Jonah – TheAce – Acosta, who placed top8 in that last Epic World Championship and told me about the Epic kickstarter.
So while I’m fairly new to Epic – I had some good success in the currently ongoing Dark Draft tournaments. My first Epic Dark Draft Tournament I won with a 5-1 record and in my second I won the swiss
followed by the top8.
I read most of Tom’s articles about Epic and Dark Draft which helped me improve immensely – I think his Epic Core Dark Draft Tier List is really good – which is probably the only reason I haven’t started a tier list myself 😛
Tom asked me if I would be willing to share some of my insights here on his blog, and I thought it was a great idea. I will first write down some principles that are important for dark draft in general, but especially for the core only dark draft format. I will then try to give a visual example by going through my picks in the finals of the last dark draft tournament against kinger.
- Never pass all burn and lifegain
This is a really important principle for dark draft in general, but more so for the core only format due to it’s high density of burn spells. While it is ok to pass the one or the other category, you should be aware of how easy it is get burned out if you haven’t picked up any lifegain. So (hate) picking burn becomes more important when you didn’t pick up any lifegain.
- Keep track of potential counters – most importantly bounce effects and board clears
This is also true for any format, but in the core set there are only a very few cards of the given categories. If you pay attention during the drafting process, you can often get a very good understanding of which cards your opponent can have and try to exploit that knowledge as much as possible. For example, there are only Sea Titan and Erase as direct bounce effects, Time Walker (given sage loyalty), and Hasty Retreat when attacking. A card like Trihorror is very weak against bounce effects and can also be punished by Palace Guard and Banishment. But that’s about it. If you can rule those cards out, Trihorror suddenly becomes a really good threat! The same is true for the token sweepers. There are only Flash Fire and Wither, which are blowouts against Zombie and Wolf
Tokens – if you have both or burned them – Wolf’s Call is actually a pretty solid punisher.
While there are quite a few Board Clears, there are only 4 off turn Board Clears (one for each faction – Wave of Transformation, Zombie Apocalypse, Hurricane, and Inheritance of the Meek). It’s easy to keep track of them, which helps you to not overextend or exploit their weakness.
- Hate pick over getting a card of your main alignment
I will usually even pass the best Loyalty 2 cards, if I can give my opponent a weak pack that way. This has to be done carefully and is also closely related to paragraph 2 – especially in core only dark draft you can often hate pick/prioritize certain categories to make some of your cards really shine.
- Good hand size management
The point I want to emphasize, where I disagree with Tom, is that you don’t need 10+ cards of a certain alignment to be able trigger your loyalty cards. In my opinion it is often more important to have enough draw 2/recycle cards and keep a healthy handsize during the game. E.g. it is often not a problem to hold back 2 evil cards when you have 6 or more cards in hand. Simply wait for the third evil card to appear and have a better deck quality overall. Don’t mistake this for being able to pass all cards of a certain alignment.
- Don’t be afraid to spend your gold on your turn first
This is completely different from constructed, since there are often not tons of good off turn gold punishers/answers in the core dark draft pool for a given threat. You can also rule lots of cards out, because you picked or burned them or passed them along with much stronger cards. Just think about the worst case answer your opponent could have (e.g. Thought Plucker) and see if that’s an acceptable outcome. I don’t want to say that you can slam your 1 cost cards left and right, but the risk of getting blown out is much more manageable in dark draft than it is in constructed.
I’m actually much more careful to spend my gold before my opponent on his turn, since there are lots of good on turn gold punishers, which require a gold to deal with.
Lets move on to a typical drafting process to explain what I’m actually talking about.
This is an interesting first pick – consulting the Tier List the pick is either Lash or Lying in Wait and I agree with that assessment. The thing is that Lying in Wait is actually pretty good against a Lashed creature that’s why I picked it over the Lash. The best viable options for my opponent are Angel of Mercy and Lash, which are reasonable, but not fantastic. I will try to keep both of them in mind, because they are important cards to play around.
Here my opponent had to pass me 3 strong cards – Necromancer Lord, Plague, and Ancient Chant. I think Necromancer Lord is so good that I can’t pass him here. So the second choice is between Ancient Chant and Plague. While I love Ancient Chant (which is basically a draw 3), I value board clears very highly and this way I already get some loyalty going.
I think the Dark Knight pick here is quite obvious, but I have to keep in mind that my opponent will get a Noble Unicorn (he probably has picked the Angel of Mercy in P1) and potentially a Strafing Dragon.
One of the picks is obviously Forcemage Apprentice. The other options are more or less equally weak, but how good they can potentially be strongly depends on which answers my opponent could get during the draft. Since it’s this early and I can’t rule out Flash Fire and Wither, I don’t like Wolf’s Call here. The same is true about Bounce and Banish effects. If you know your opponent can’t have Erase, Sea Titan, and Palace Guard, a card like Trihorror suddenly gets much better. I simply don’t have enough information yet, so Pack Alpha is the safe pick.
There are 4 good cards in the pack, which is always bad for me. I really love Drain Essence, since lifegain and removal in one card is really strong and lets you care less about the burn spells of your opponent (it would also fit to my Evil Alignment). I picked Flash Fire, which is a bit of a hate pick here. I have Necromancer Lord, Forcemage Apprentice, and Dark Knight already so I can’t allow my opponent to have Flash Fire – as simple as that.
This is one of the easier picks. Both Juggernaut and Turn are fantastic cards and also work well together, while the other two cards are fairly weak. Keep in mind that you can use Turn to untap one of your units (to attack again), or you can use it while your opponent attacks to get one of his other champions, use it to block, and kill one or both of those champions in the process. The ability to take control of a champion gets stronger the more Bounce effects you have in your deck.
Ok, this is one of the Facepalm packs. Angel of Death would fit my deck perfectly. I don’t wanna pass Sea Titan though, and if I pick him I pass my opponent two burn sources and a Raging T-Rex. At this point I’m fairly certain he will dig into Wild
because I passed Strafing Dragon, Rampaging Wurm, and Triceratops. My best guess is that he’ll take the T-Rex and the Flame Strike. So I have to keep in mind he could already have 13 points of burn damage in his deck (Strafing Dragon and Flame Strike).
I think the Final Task pick is quite obvious here, but the second pick could either be Banishment or Army of the Apocalypse. I like Army a little more, simply because I want to hit my Evil loyalty more reliably and there is still a small chance I get more Discard Pile removal later on, which can turn Army into a huge threat.
I value board clears high enough that the pick was Apocalypse for me here. I didn’t pass any 0 cost answers to my annoying threats, so denying a board clear is really valuable. My best guess is that my opponent would pick Angel of Light here along with Memory Spirit or even the Fire Shaman (since he is lacking 0 cost answers :P).
I’m definitely picking the Hurricane here – it’s actually quite a good off turn board clear – especially against a deck with a good alignment. I think Time Walker is quite reasonable, but I like Winter Fairy a bit more, since I don’t have to hit the loyalty for her to be good.
I know quite a lot of people will disagree on my pick here, because it is really hard to pass Murderous Necromancer and Succubus (knowing my opponent has a few Good Champions already), but I picked the Thrasher Demon. My reasoning is that Thrasher Demon is also a fantastic card, and this way I leave my opponent with the Pegasus and 3 cards he will most likely not hit the loyalty for.
Given that I have quite a few Evil cards Unquenchable Thirst is a pretty good pick and my only source of lifegain so far. It’s also good to have more than 1 0-cost answer to Muse and Plucker (both of which I haven’t seen so far). In hindsight, I could have also picked the Lurking Giant, since that is quite a reasonable off turn punisher, and I completely lack those so far, but 0 cost cards with recycle are hard to pass (since they replace themselves), so I picked the Gargoyle.
This pack has 4 really good Wild Cards. I suspect my opponent to have Wild loyalty, so one of my biggest concerns was that he shouldn’t get all the Burn (since I didn’t get lifegain yet). I hate to play around Surprise Attack and usually prefer to have it myself, but sometimes you have to pick what is best for your deck. My guess was that he would pick Hunting Raptors and Rain of Fire if I picked up the Surprise Attack, so I ended up picking the Rain of Fire, because it is so effective against many of my threats.
I knew directly that I would pick the Gold Dragon – it’s a card that is really hard to punish in the core dark draft format even when you use your gold first, since your opponent either needs a combination of cards to make a somewhat favorable trade or use his gold to remove it. It’s also a reasonable source of lifegain, which should not be underestimated. I thought briefly about picking the Mighty Blow as a simple draw 2, but at this point I have enough Sage cards that Blue Dragon fits my deck very well.
Do you remember how I argued I have to first pick Rain of Fire and Flash Fire? For me there was still no question that I’m picking the Erase over Fireball here. It’s the best card in the pack, fits my alignment, and most importantly I can now safely rule out my opponent having any bounce effects (besides a potential Hasty Retreat). I picked Sea Titan and burned Time Walker, so by picking Erase, suddenly Turn, Necromancer Lord, and Final Task are getting much better (since if bounced, creatures that I stole from my opponent are returned to his hand). I would even go so far to say that this could be the game deciding pick. I also have to keep in mind my opponent will pick the Fireball and the Angelic Protector.
I briefly thought about picking up Secret Legion, because I think it’s a pretty potent card if you can rule out your opponent having a good counter for it, and I already picked up Flash Fire and Plague, but I still couldn’t rule out Wither, so I passed it. On top of that, there are three other fantastic cards for my deck. I first wanted to snap pick Plentiful Dead, but on second thought I didn’t have that many 1 cost evil cards that I could play it with, since two of them were board clears and leaving Plentiful Dead in the discard pile didn’t seem like a smart plan given I have seen 0 discard pile removal. That made me also realize that I should pick Keeper of Secrets to have at least have some form of Discard Pile removal, and I was pretty sure I could trigger the recycle ability quite easily. I also felt like I needed more single target removal and Bitten fills that role really well.
There are three outstanding and two good cards in the pack. It really hurt that I had to pass Zombie Apocalypse (and Ogre Mercenary), but I picked the Lightning Storm with a reasoning similar to the Rain of Fire. Never pass all the burn and lifegain to your opponent. I already passed Angel of Light, Drain Essence, and in this pack Inner Peace. On top of that, Lightning Storm hits my opponent’s Wild alignment and again – it is fantastic against Necromancer, Juggernaut, and lots of other 0 cost cards that I picked.
Getting the Guilt Demon here is fantastic, since it’s the second best discard pile removal after Amnesia in the core only format. There aren’t many higher picks than Guilt Demon so my guess was he got either Muse, Plucker, Kong, or Amnesia here (in hindsight I’m fairly certain it was Muse). The second pick was between Deadly Raid and Feint. Feint is the better card, but often it’s just a draw 2 as well, so I picked the Deadly Raid to hit my Sage loyalty more reliably (and there is still a small chance that Deadly Raid will end the game when played as an on turn gold punisher).
Here I’m really happy to pick up Word of Summoning. You basically get an off turn 4/4 demon token for free, which is pretty awesome. I guessed my opponent would take Lord of The Arena and The People’s Champion. Lord of The Arena is definitely one of the on turn gold punishers you have to keep in mind when playing against.
Picking the Warrior Golem here (given my Sage alignment) was the easy part. As a second pick I chose Resurrection, since it’s never bad to pick up a draw 2 that has a situationally really useful effect. In general I try to stay away from Psionic Assault, since that is one of the most complicated to play correctly cards in the dark draft format. Now looking through all the picks it would have actually been the correct pick here. I didn’t pass my opponent that many draw 2’s, which makes Psionic Assault much more valuable. On top of that, my deck has more than enough draw 2 cards already, and I don’t really have good off turn gold punishers.
Overall I’m pretty happy with the deck. I just got one of the 5 S-tier cards (Thought Plucker, Kong, Amnesia, Sea Titan, and Muse), and while I don’t have that many off turn gold punishers, I have lots of answers and draw 2’s. I also have some really good 0 cost cards, enough board clears, and some decent discard pile removal. I also denied my opponent some efficient answers to lots of my threats (namely Flash Fire, Rain of Fire, and Lightning Storm), which could make it awkward for him to respond to them efficiently.
I had a quite decent opening with enough removal, card draw and threats, so I kept my whole hand. I thought about either passing or directly opening with Gold Dragon. From the cards that I saw during the draft, he could use either Strafing Dragon or Ice Drake to block and maybe use Lash or Fireball to get a favorable trade. Another possibility was something like Surprise Attack into Kong/Palace Guard, but I still had the Lying in Wait on his turn for that case and the Word of Summoning in case he got a big Blitzer as follow up.
So, I lead the game by attacking with Gold Dragon. My opponent answered with Strafing Dragon, showing me a Fireball and Jungle Queen. So he finished off my Gold Dragon with Fireball while keeping the Strafing Dragon. I then used Lying in Wait to remove his attacking Strafing Dragon (which didn’t feel great), since I guessed he would play Jungle Queen anyways. My response was to Sea Titan his Jungle Queen, which he responded with a Wave of Transformation. While it seems like I got punished by the Gold Dragon play, this sequence of plays baited out quite a few good resources from my opponent (and also prevented him for getting the loyalty for T-Rex for a long time).
At this point in the match we had
equal hand sizes. As you can see the turn before I removed his Muse with Unquenchable Thirst. He attacked, dealt 5 damage and played Zombie Apocalypse (he got 2 more tokens than I did). Remember how I hate picked both Rain of Fire and Lightning Storm? That really payed off here.
I traded off some Zombie tokens and used Necromancer Lord to get back my Gold Dragon (the turn before). Again, my opponent didn’t have a good answer (he used 3 board clears over the course of the match already), so he played T-Rex and put up some 0 cost threats. He needed the Fire Shaman for the T-Rex loyalty so he didn’t kill my Necromancer. It wouldn’t really have helped him, because I had Resurrection for that case. In hindsight I misplayed slightly, because the really smart play would have been to use Turn on my Necromancer Lord to get back Juggernaut on his turn and then on my turn get his Angelic Protector to protect my Necromancer Lord before a board clear.
I drew 2, got back the Juggernaut on my turn, attacked with Gold Dragon and then played a board clear. This left me with Juggernaut which is Unbreakable on my turn. So I took down my opponent to 8. He had a pretty good answer in the form of Angel of Mercy to block my Warrior Golem and got back Angel of Light on his turn to gain 10 life and then removed the Juggernaut with Palace Guard. The tides suddenly turned around again, but I drew into Hurricane on my turn to clear the board.
He played the Triceratops on his turn, and I made another mistake again in not seeing that I could use Final Task, to get Necromancer Lord, to get Angelic Protector, to protect my Lord, to not die to Final Task (to get Gold Dragon on my turn). I simply drew more cards and used Turn to give his Triceratops blitz and attack him with it. He had to take the 10 damage play Ice Drake to block Guilt Demon, and I could use Dark Knight to finish him off. Also note that I just reached deck 2 – the last card that I drew was Sea Titan 🙂
I hope this illustrates how I used the principles stated above to get the edge in this match.