Well, look who wandered in… Hello and welcome to The Misplay! This the start of a new article series that will accompany act two of the podcast.
This year we plan to expand our website content and to supplement the podcast. On the show we try to entertain, and provide food for thought about learning and improving at Eternal. This series will usually be an introduction to those topics and skills.
On our last show, we discussed tempo in Eternal. We talked about what tempo is, why it’s important in Eternal, and how to apply its components to your games. Tempo can be broken down into a handful of components—board presence, power efficiency and advantage, and low-cost interaction—that create an advantage in the early game and convert that advantage into a win.
Establish a strong or dominant board presence
It’s easy to envision what a dominant board state looks like in a game of Eternal: when my opponent goes off with Xenan Reanimator and brings back two Icaria, The First Reapers, removing my only unit, I’m running for the concede button.
When trying to maximize advantage through tempo, the key is to establish a strong board presence in the early game. I want units that can win the game on their own, are resilient to opposing interaction, and have good stats for their cost. Kira, Ascending and Jarrall, Ascending are the stars burning brightest in the current Throne and Expedition metas with these characteristics. At their six-influence thresholds they have incredible stats for their costs. A 4/3 and a 3/5 for two power are wildly powerful. They also have powerful battle skills and may draw more cards, which allows them to continue attacking or find critical pieces of interaction to protect the threats on board.
Now, a heads-up reader might point out that both of these units just die to Annihilate. I concede that’s true. However, if you support these units with cheap interaction after putting your opponent on the back foot, it’s possible to make them miserable trying to make their Annihilates stick.
Low-cost interaction is another pillar of tempo oriented strategies. If dominant early-game units are peanut butter, the cheap interactive spells that support and protect them are the jelly. Low-cost interaction plays a variety of roles. The three most common are:
- removing an opposing threat
- protecting a deck’s MVP units
- disrupting the opponent’s game plan
Removal is a staple in most decks, except maybe the most extreme all-in combo decks. When a deck relies on creating and maintaining a tempo advantage, cheap and flexible interaction are at a premium. Brutally efficient answers are what tempo-oriented strategies need to maintain their advantage. Permafrost, Torch, and Open Contract are some premier options in Throne. They have some limitations, but for the units these cards are meant to answer there’s almost nothing more efficient.
Other forms of interaction are dedicated to protecting an all-star unit. Thinking back to Kira and Jarrall, they each come with some BFFs that really pack a punch. Between playsets of Bubble Shield and Silverblade Intrusion, for the low cost of one power you can usually protect Kira from just about any single piece of removal. Jarrall players have to be a little more creative, but it turns out that Pause for Reflection is an efficient way to save Jarrall from removal spells and Killer attacks alike.
The last common role of interaction is disrupting the opponent’s game plan. There is some overlap between protecting your units and disrupting an opponent. Negating your opponent’s spells, attacking their hand, and playing specific pieces of hate all fall into this category. Pursuing a tempo-oriented game plan prioritizes board position over just about everything else. Cards like Exploit or Adjudicator’s Gavel are not the type of interaction that it wants. Spells like Dazzle and units like Svetya, Lightbringer are good examples that disrupt an opposing deck’s game plan and still impact the board.
There haven’t been any earth-shaking revelations so far: cheap, powerful threats are great. Low-cost, flexible interaction is great. The payoff comes from answering why those cards are great.
A deck gains tempo or power advantage by making more efficient plays than the opposing deck.
When I try to Hailstorm away my opponent’s Kira, Ascending and Hojan, Crownbreaker, Hailstorm is my plan to catch up after not having developed my board in the early turns of the game. If my opponent plays Silverblade Intrusion to save both units, something has gone terribly wrong for me. I used my entire turn to play Hailstorm. Silverblade Intrusion preserved their board presence, while I have done nothing and lost a card. My opponent extracted a huge power advantage by beating my 3-cost hailstorm with their 1-cost interactive spell. When I pass the turn I fall even further behind. My opponent got an insane tempo advantage that I am unlikely to recover from.
Another way to convert power advantage into big tempo gains is by using efficient cards to make multiple impactful plays to the board earlier and more often than decks with slower curves or powerbases. Imagine an Elysian Jarrall player setting up a turn 4 where they play a Jarrall with four primal influence, then pass holding up two power. Their opponent plays a Vara, Vengeance Seeker and passes back, when the Elysian player Equivocates the Vara. Both players used four power, but the Elysian player made two board-impacting plays while their opponent only made one. The Elysian player successfully leveraged their power advantage into a huge tempo swing in their favor.
Hopefully this introduction to tempo helps you use tempo to your advantage in your games. If you are looking for a deck to practice these concepts with, I recommend Doc28’s Krull Kira as piloted by 3eowulf in the most recent Tuesday Night Eternal tournament or Doc28’s Krull Elysian.