Philosophy: The long game
My favourite win condition is actually Fatigue, it means that I have managed to beat all of the 30 cards in your deck with all of mine.
Assuming that both players survive the early to mid game, let´s say to turn 7. Now it becomes a matter of
- a) bringing your opponent to 0 with a swift push (this usually means they have run out of answers / have mismatching answers to your threats). It often means that you have to take a risk (but the reward is the game)
- b) grinding away the card in their hand so that you can leverage inefficient value spending to gain complete board control. At this point, the risk becomes minimized, since you only have to fear their next topdeck card, which often is just a river crocolisk.
- c) Play the value game to the bitter end. Lure out their answers with your threats. Portion out your threats in a manner that prevents the opponent from gaining too much value, but also try not to get tempo-ed out.
The last one is my favourite style, but it requires careful planning and is not possible with every deck.
For example, if you look at all of your remaining cards, there should be sufficient answers left to deal with multiple big threats (Bog Creeper and similar road blocks.). If you only have one *hard* removal and your opponent has 15 cards left in their deck, chances are that you will have to deal with more than one big threat.
In this case it´s often not wise to enforce the long game.
This is especially true against Priest and Paladin, they have many cards that provide value in addition to being large threats, not so much against Rogue or Mage (Warrior and Druid have lots of fat ones as well, but are currently severely underrepresented).
Against Rogue, going for the option b) is usually the best way, as they often grind down their own life total, and you can find a window of opportunity to just kill them.
Conversely, depending on your own class, Mage can sometimes burn you out over two turns, from life totals as high as 18.
Pyroblast is a real card nowadays.
With the classes I am comfortable with (Paladin, Priest, Mage, Rogue), I will usually try to keep an answer in hand that catches the worst-case card my opponent could have.
For example, keeping a silence effect against Spikeridged Steed, or a hard removal for Mind Control.
So what does all of this mean for our draft? Let´s take Mage as an example.
Mage has the most (and sometimes best) removal/answers of all the classes, but it does not have many really good threats in it´s class cards. Water Elemental at common and Steam Surger at rare are the only “win condition” type minions for the class. The rest is removal, decent minions and card generation.
“Win condition”? I consider any minion of 4/5 and above to be a win condition. Smaller minions are usually just ground up in the trenches and seldomly do more than trade 1:1 or chip away 3 HP and then get caught in mass removal.
For our Mage draft, this means that we will have a plethora of removal and we need to get our win conditions from the neutral cards. Sturdy minions like Nesting Roc, Frost Elemental and Sated Threshadon are some of the things that we need.
Any card that doubles as removal and win condition is gold, if we can make it work (in the rare slot, Spiked Hogrider, Servant of Kalimos and Steam Surger are good examples.)
If you can make the Elemental deck work, do it, it´s a good option.
Card draw is bad, card generation is good
And here´s the big one: Card draw is bad. Arcane Intellect is not a good card. I will often pick a supposedly “weaker” card, and am happy with that.
The card does actually nothing. It is negative tempo. It reduces your deck size (fatigue is real), it means that you only have 29 real cards to beat your opponents 30.
So the only effect that it has is providing us with more options.
When playing Mage, I will often have six or more cards in hand. In which situation do we want to play Arcane Intellect (or Acolyte of Pain, or Gnomish Inventor)?
In the early game, when we need the tempo? Can´t afford 3 mana to spin the wheel for random cards.
In the very late game? When we are starting to hover the mouse over both decks to see who will fatigue first?
I would often rather have a vanilla minion than this.
Of course, not all card draw is bad. Excessive, repeatable card draw sometimes provides so many options that we can intentionally bleed value in bad trades because we know that it drains our opponent faster. Cult Master is an example
Card generation on the other hand, is king. Stonehill Defender, even if it only fetches you a mediocre card like Stegodon, provides additional value beyond your 30 cards. (A 1/4 Taunt is the additional value, not the discovered card, because we would not play Silverback Patriarch by itself.). You can also hit the jackpot (Soggoth).
Two more specific exceptions:
Arcanologist is actually a good card (if we have a secret in the deck), despite what I said above.
On-curve, it provides us a 3-drop (not optimal, but sometimes Mirror Entity is enough). We also know which card we will draw, which is often important when planning mid-game turns. It thins the deck out of secrets so that we have a marginally increased chance to draw answers or threats later.
This is a wonderfully designed card, in what allows you to do:
On turn 4, it is a below-average minion, but it draws you a card that you can play on-curve in turn 5.
On 9&10 mana it guarantees that you draw a card that you are guaranteed to play.
Sometimes it produces a sick tempo advantage for turn 5. The times where you draw a 4 or less cost card are not too bad either. Just imagine that you drew the next card instead, at some point you can just chuck out the bad 5.
Knights of the Frozen Throne
Looking at the currently spoiled cards, Coldwraith seems to be the onlyMage common card yet, its a Spider Tank with upside, so we auto-pick it if no top tier cards are present.
Ice Walker seems like a good rare, it can protect itself and might get out of control.
Cobalt Scalebane (5/5 for 5, at end of turn give a random friendly +3 attack) might be the new best friend of all the good 3- and 4-mana taunts.
Bone Mare (5/5, Battlecry give another minion +4/+4 and Taunt, for 7 mana) seems like a really sick card, and it´s a neutral common. This card will wreck you so many times.
So far, nothing super-fast is spoiled, so for now, the long game might be safe.
Winter is coming in mid-August, brace yourselves. 🙂
– Rane2k out.