A few weeks ago I published an article on Eternal, a new OCG by Direwolf Digital, which I believe to be everything an OCG needs to be: free-to-play, major bug free, deep, varied, and having a way to interact when not your turn. Today, I will be examining the non-ranked play modes, and how best to turn your starter decks into a collection from which you can make an attempt at ranked play.
As of the time of writing, Eternal is peaking at 1700 players online. Due to the small playerbase, newer or less skilled players attempting ranked play will often find themselves “paired up” against players with significantly more play time and more cards, and losing as a result. I urge new players to avoid ranked, except for completing daily quests for those sweet Silver Chests.
Before I begin, I’d like to state, for the record, that Direwolf Digital has done an amazing job with this game, I literally cannot gush about it any harder. So please, while I may be about to show new players how to most efficiently go from starting to having a real deck without breaking the bank, please consider supporting the developers and making some purchases in the store. Thank you.
For players of other Card Games, the biggest cause of early player dissatisfaction can be boiled down to one thing: the cost of getting good. Players start the game with a small card pool, often of underpowered, overcosted cards which have little to no synergy and get beat down on by players who have sunk some amount of money and time into the game. For these new players, there are two or three options depending on the game: Buy Packs/Sets, Quit, or Grind Free-To-Play (some OCGs only).
Eternal has made the last of these three significantly more viable, especially for new players, which has mostly to do with the three non-Ranked game modes offered. These are: Draft (5000 gold), which is similar to an MTG draft, picking cards from packs and passing the remainder, then adding Power and playing against other humans. Forge (2500 gold), similar to a Hearthstone style Arena picking one card of three offered, then playing the deck constructed against the AI. And Gauntlet (Free), choosing a deck to run against AI opponents. Each of these events lasts for a maximum of seven round wins and are triple, double and single elimination respectively.
From this point, we will simplify everything into total number of packs at the purchase rate of 1000 gold per pack. None of the following will be taking into account the random chest upgrades, as these are equally likely regardless of mode. We will also be disregarding the singular cards in each chest, as the Shiftstone acquired makes very little difference to the final value.
Each of these modes has their own ranking system, in ascending order: unranked-bronze-silver-gold-diamond-master. Ranked has an additional three sub-ranks within these. For those of you grinding gold and packs this is the biggest source of resources in the game. Each rank up in a non-PvP mode nets you a special chest that contains one to two packs and 250-1000 gold, depending on the mode. If a player makes Master rank, the rank up chest is replaced by an additional Silver/Gold chest (Gauntlet and Forge respectively). Over the course of ranking to Master, the maximum amount one can make from these rank up chests in one reset period is 17 packs. For the PvP modes, the rank based rewards are paid out at the end of the season, so will not be included here.
In addition to the rank-up chests, a player will also earn two Silver chests in Gauntlet or two Gold chests in Forge. This means, that by ranking up to Master in each (assuming no losses or restarts), you will receive 6000 gold and eight packs, or an additional 14 packs in sundry rewards, bringing the total for a perfect run to Master to 31 packs.
Further to this, is that both Draft and Forge allow players to keep what they take for their decks. This is an awesome addition as you have the option to draft sub-optimal cards for the sake of potentially acquiring cards for your deck of choice. For this reason, I suggest players at least have an idea in mind of the deck they want to build; though not necessary, it can speed up the Shiftstone grind significantly. I would also suggest that players instantly pick legendaries that appear during these modes. At 800 Shiftstone to destroy, taking a slightly underpowered legendary may hamper your deck, but will make up for this by being crafted into a Rare later, which is where the majority of your Shiftstone in a competitive deck comes from. This goes doubly for Premium (animated) rares and Legendaries, being equivalent to 800 and 3200 Shiftstone respectively.
When calculating which mode is best when not earning ranking chests (either you’re at Master, or have “Hit a Wall”) the math gets a little trickier. Firstly, considering Gauntlet, to have the equivalent payout to winning three ranked games, one must win five Gauntlet games in a row (remembering that Gauntlet is single-elimination), with fewer wins than that being brutally punished by rewarding a maximum of three Bronze Chests (50 Gold each – 0.05 packs). As with all ranked systems, the ranked system in Eternal will drive players as close to a 50% win rate as possible, which means that a player will eventually plateau at three ranked wins after six games. Obviously, five is less than six, so it is always more efficient to grind the Gauntlet for gold and packs, even before taking into account the AI’s lack of durdly play and fast mulligan speed.
Comparing this to Forge, we must take into consideration the 2500 gold entry fee, so all winnings will be reduced by 2.5 packs. A player who achieves a record of 6-1 or better (as Forge is double elimination) will make their entry back, plus the equivalent value of six ranked games (0.35 packs plus entry vs rewards of 3 packs). This is further offset by the quality of the cards picked in the process of constructing a deck, with each rare being approximately equal to the value of a pack, and legendaries at higher still.
Taking all of this into account, it is evident that the PvE modes in Eternal are simply better value for time and money than ranked play. A player can expect to profit on their time if they can maintain a win rate of 5-1 in Gauntlet and 6-2 in Forge. These modes also play significantly faster, not being subject to a human opponent hesitating or tanking on a play (or the salt-riddled player who ropes every turn when its clear they’ve lost), as well as how forgiving they can be on an opponent who has not constructed a tiered deck list.
So, for those of you who are new to the game, the best course of action is to grind Gauntlet with whatever deck you may have, and spend the acquired gold on Forge runs, remembering to take those rares and legendaries where possible and suitable. Also keep completing quests, and ranking through the PvE modes as fast as possible. You’ll find yourself with a working, tiered deck in no time.