Introduction to Draft Deck Building

4

July 19, 2014 by KonanTheBarbarian

After you’ve mastered the SolForge basics you’ll want to grow your collection to be able to build new decks and become more competitive. The best way to grow your collection is either buying boosters or drafting. SolForge started with the promise that you would be able to draft for free at least once a week and has kept that promise. For your first online win of the day you earn one ticket and need four to enter a casual draft tournament and seven to enter a competitive draft. For every win in a four round system you’ll get better rewards and if you’re able to win three of the four games you’ll get all the entry back and can draft again immediately.

Draft

To be clear – it’s definitely not an easy task to go infinite in draft, because the system will always try match you against an opponent with a similar record. So the better your record is the harder the matches usually get. In contrast to other (digital) trading card games SolForge drafts work asynchronously. You can start to draft your deck and stop for a while and ask others to help you with your current pick and could continue next day. There is also no limitation that you have to play all four games in a row. You just have to find a spot for a single draft game and can finish the remaining games at any other time.

If you want help for your first drafts I can recommend the Steam SolForge community chat or the SolForge Strategy Forum (although that can take quite some amount of time, but you will learn strength and weaknesses of most cards better). Just ask someone there and most likely you’ll find help.

 

How can I build a good draft deck?

 

If I would have to describe SolForge draft deck building in one short sentence it would be: “All synergies optional, nothing is a must.” Of course you don’t want to have a pile of random cards thrown together. You want to build a deck of cards that works together or follows a certain strategy. But you won’t be able to construct a streamlined deck so you’ll also need cards that are good on their own.

The best draft decks are decks that are flexible and contain cards that fulfill certain roles. You want to have finishers – big bad level three threats that can end the game or swing the board around in your favor. You want to have cards that affect multiple lanes, support cards like pump spells and cards that you can play under leveled. shardboundinvoker123

I will talk more about the different categories later, since the different categories are sometimes just a theoretic thing, because the cards you choose from are limited and often you have to take what you get. Sometimes you are only offered a pile of bad cards, while in other drafts you might get great heroics and rares and steamroll your opponents.

I’ll start with the most basic rule and advice that you should follow. In almost every draft you can usually influence the picks of underdrops. They are the cards that make your deck more consistent and help to survive an all Level 1 (L1) hand later.

 

What are underdrops and why do I need them?

 

Underdrops are cards that you can play underlevel in the higher player levels – a common example would be are high attack creatures like Nyrali Ambusher and Totembound Berseker– you can use them to block and hopefully kill a wounded L3 creature, but you don’t want to level him actively in Player Level 1 (PL1).  As a more general rule cards with 6 attack at L1 serve that role very well. (See: The Care and Feeding of Underdrops)

Why are they so important? I’ll give you an example. In my last draft loss I just couldn’t handle a 20/6 Grimgaunt Predator 3, because none of the creatures in my hand had 6 attack. I drew very well before so I expected to see an all L1 hand soon, but having no creature with 6 attack made the difference between a win and a loss.

Underdrops are good for more than just blocking. A card like Tanglesprout can be a reasonable threat later – especially if you have other cards on the board that your opponent has to deal with. It’s usually not a problem to let a 3 or 4 attack creature attack you for a couple of turns, but an 7-8 attack creature is another story and can also mean the difference between a win and a loss.

 

 

How do I pick underdrops?

 

If you start your draft you want to pick the best cards available – cards that level reasonably well and present a threat later. While doing that you should keep count of your underdrops. You can sort your deck by attack power and as the most simple rule count the cards with 6 or more power. Of course there are other cards that kind of fall into that category – e.g. creatures like Nyrali Ooze that block twice and deal 6 damage overall. They do not replace a good underdrop, but they complement them because blocking twice is also important, though not the best tool at all times.

As a basic rule you want to have at least 6 underdrops in your deck. The reasoning behind this is that you want to have a good chance to draw an underdrop with every hand. Especially after picking your first 15 cards you should be concerned if your deck doesn’t have enough underdrops and you should prioritize them over cards that are good for the lategame. ebonboundwarlord123

One of the best underdrops are cards from the bound cycle. They only work optimally when you play them in the later player levels, but they scale well, all follow the rule of 6 and can affect multiple lanes.

If you are only presented a few bad cards it’s also usually smart to pick the creature with the highest attack and most of the times also rather take a bad creature than a bad spell.

What other generic rules should I follow?

 

1) Draft threats and finishers early: The easiest way to shape your deck is to pick the cards that level well during all player levels and present a big threat later. Special mention goes to creatures with movement, because they can often help to push through damage in the lategame and can be just as good as a huge bombs like Borean Stormweaver. Cards that make your deck more consistent and help to smooth out underlevel hands (consistent cards and the “bound” cycle) also fall into this category. A good overall target would be around 10 threats/finishers. Just make sure you do not have too many creatures with a very weak L1 in this category (not more than 2 or 3).

2) Keep track of your spell count: In general you only want to pick one spell every five cards – make sure your deck doesn’t get too spell heavy. There are a few exceptions, because some spells (cards that affect multiple lanes, e.g. Group Meal) are better than a lot of creatures and therefore do not really count here. A good number of spells is six and never pick more than ten.

3) Keep track of your must-level cards: This holds true for Constructed as well as for Draft. If your deck only consists of cards that you must level before they present a threat, you are likely to lose because your deck will contain a lot of bad cards later (best examples: all level-gated cards like Blight Walker and cards that are weak in PL1 in general).

4) Draft cards that affect multiple lanes: This category does not only include creatures, like Matrix Warden, Magma Hound or Brighttusk Sower, but also spells that affect multiple lanes. Ideally you want to play a spell that turns two trades around in your favor (e.g. Hungering Strike, Twinstrength). If your opponents can’t effectively handle multiple lanes it is a great and simple tactic to empty lane creatures in the lategame. If you have three open lane creatures and your opponents can only cover two lanes you can often win by presenting more threats than they can answer.

5) Do not pick for synergy only: Let’s assume you have first picked a Weirwood Patriarch. Should you therefore prioritize cards that work well him with, because they could get his boost (cards with less than three attack)? The answer is no. You should only start looking for synergies if you’re stuck on a pick after the other suggestions above. If one card is better 75% of the time, better take the 75% advantage and not hope for the 25% chance of an awesome blowout combo. The more copies of particular cards you have the more you should look for related synergies and allow them to influence your picks. In short: Do not build your deck around cards that you only have one copy of.

 

Which cards are good – how can I evaluate them?

 

There are a two great sources that give advice about which cards are good in draft. Sometimes it is rather obvious, but often it is good to have a reference.

The oldest one is Avelak’s Draft Tier List, which is now kept up to date by Pion (make sure to prounounce it PIE-ON). He takes into account the different faction combinations for his card ratings, it is a great source for any draft beginner to determine which cards work best in which faction combination. On top of that he shows the card quality as underdrop and as finisher, which is also good to know.

The other draft tier list is hosted by Team TIC Draft Tier List. What I like about their list is that they show which are the most competitive faction combinations in the current meta and which are the best first picks. So definitely check out their list as well and decide which one you like better.

Example Draft

 

I just wanted to add some practical information and give you an example draft. It was actually my last draft and doesn’t feature a particularly good deck, but rather shows how to evaluate certain cards. The first pick was actually pretty nice, since it contained two of the top ten heroics in draft. Weirwood Patriarch (WWP) and Grimgaunt Predator (GGP). You can see how highly they are considered in the community rating mentioned above.

First Pick

First Pick

 

If you have the option to pick between two good cards, pick whatever you feel like. In the end I took the WWP, since my last draft also contained Nekrium and WWP helps a little more to smooth out draws. Screenshot_2014-07-16-00-58-19 After my first pick I chose two Forge Guardian Betas. Normally I like more aggressive cards, but he was the best card in those packs and I’m happy with Alloyin as second faction. As mentioned above I like to pick my finishers first. If this pack would have been later I could have also taken the Twinstrength or Grove Matriarch (if the deck were more aggressive).

Screenshot_2014-07-16-00-59-10

I continued with a Forgeplate Sentry and after six picks I already had four cards that I consider “must -level”. This pick is actually quite interesting, because now I got a little worried that I might fall behind early with the cards taken. Especially because the Forge Guardian Beta is very vulnerable to 4/6 creatures. Overall Lifeshaper Savant is the better card in the pack, but I chose Matrix Warden because I didn’t want another must-level card. Matrix Warden has not only 6 attack at L1 (underdrop), he also affects multiple lanes and can turn other creatures into underdrops at higher levels.

Screenshot_2014-07-16-01-04-59

Remember what I said about having too few underdrops? Now it’s pick number 16 and I was starting to get worried. Lightshield Patrol would have been my pick if I weren’t short on them, but I picked the Spiritbloom Dryad. As you can see I also picked up an Uterrra Packmaster in between in a four card pack. The next best card in that pack was a Sparkblade Assasin and I picked the Packmaster over it just for the collection. I knew I would never play him with only the WWP as a good target for his buff. I think there is nothing wrong with picking a legendary in draft over other (slightly) better cards.

Screenshot_2014-07-16-01-05-47

I could pick up an Alloyin Strategist and an Aetherguard on my way to help with underdrops,  but looking at pick 21 I knew I was still short on underdrops and could also potentially fall behind in PL1. I therefore took the Tanglesprout over the Oreian Justicar. The Justicar is a great card for draft and a Heroic, but I wouldn’t take Heroics over other cards that are better for my deck. I sometimes make exceptions, when that specific heroic is missing for a deck that I already have (or really want to play a new deck that needs it), but it should be an exception. For the last cards I picked up a Swampmoss Luker and another Matrix Warden as underdrops and the rest was pretty unexciting (Skynight Glider, Metamind Operator, some fillers). Overall I was quite happy with the deck since it had the magic number of six high attack underdrops (plus 2 Metamind Operator, since they can often also be used as underdrop), three good heroics, a couple of good lategame cards, and not too many spells.

 

Extra Credit

 

How did the draft work out?

After finishing the article I played the draft and won all four games. My two copies of Matrix Warden were key to my success and looking back it could have been the difference between the 4-0 and the 3-1 that I took Matrix Warden over Lifeshaper Savant. Forge Guardian Beta won me two of the games. In one I had the lead going into PL3 and drew the L3 Beta early, which finished my opponent off. The other game my opponent tried to chump block the Beta and had a grow wide strategy, which I countered by simply casting Feral Instinct on him.

The last game I won early on the backs of two Matrix Wardens, Twinstrength and the Alloyin Strategist. WWP and Nexus Technician didn’t play big roles that draft. Although I had a turn 2.1 WWP draw which helped me to get ahead on the board I never saw the L3 version of either of those cards.

The underdrops performed well. I won two games simply because of Spiritbloom Dryad and Tanglesprout. They are both great cards not only to block underlevel, but they often survive when blocking an L1 creature. With all the attack buffs I had I could often kill an L1 creature with them and buff their attack so they would not only kill an L1, but also an L2 creature when my opponent had to block (or take tons of damage).

Before I forget it – I really never played the Uterra Packmaster. Be aware that a lot of legendaries require some synergy to be effective. Use legendaries with care and do not rely on them in your drafts.

 

How are the packs for draft generated?

If you ever wondered which cards you are offered for your draft picks – there is an algorithm that works based on card popularity. The six card packs are all simply chosen randomly and usually contain the best cards since no card is removed from that pack.

For smaller packs one card after the other is removed randomly based on popularity. Each card is given a certain percentage to be removed from that pack based on how often the card was picked when presented (only the relative numbers count – the pick percentage).

This can also mean that even if a legendary is picked 100% of the time there is still a chance that it won’t be removed from that pack (although the chance might be small).


4 comments »

  1. cinanul says:

    Once again, fantastic work!!

  2. kjax says:

    So glad you decided to make an article out of this. Great work Konan. You just seem to put out a constant stream of quality stuff.

  3. David_SBE says:

    Fantastic article! This will be my go to link for new players looking to get into draft.

  4. EvilAaron says:

    thank-you for dedicating time, great resources for understanding before blowing my humble tickets 😀

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *