It’s been nearly a week since the set 6 draft pool was scrapped in favor of the new Prelude to War draft pool. I’ve had the opportunity to get in several drafts and I think I have a pretty good handle on at least the basics of the format. And I have to say, I think Stoneblade did a great job balancing the pool this time.
For instance, take Set 6 draft. Just two or three drafts in, it was readily apparent that Umbruk had a leg up on the competition, and that Tempys was the faction to be in due to its high density of very strong heroics and commons. This time, though, I honestly can’t say with any high degree of certainty which faction is the best, or even which faction pair. For the first time since set 1&2 draft, the faction pairs all seem to be very closely balanced.
Vandergus had a fairly succinct first impressions article on his site here where he talked about gains and losses for each of the four factions*. His mini-article covers most of what I think about each individual faction, though of course I have minor nitpicks here and there. In this article I’m going to go through each of the six faction pairs and discuss a bit of what I’ve experienced.
*By the way, if you’ve not had a chance to read Vandergus’s tubmlr and you’re interested in draft or just general Solforge strategy, take the time to check it out. It is a very good read.
In set 6, Byzerak was very aggressive despite many Nekrium shortcomings, mostly due to the Tempys strengths. Now, we’ve lost Bitterfrost Totem, Thranik Ambusher, and Frostshatter Strike. However, I think the gains of Infernal Visage, Byzerak Drake, Zombie Titan,and Storm Caller have nearly made up for it.
If you weren’t around when I was recording set 5 drafts back on my Free to Play blog, you probably won’t know that I love Infernal Visage in Byzerak. Byzerak has no access to pump spells – it’s the only faction pair without either Uterra or Alloyin in it. All Byzerak had previously was Darkheart Conjurer – one of the best heroics in the faction pair. Now, Infernal Visage is back! Playing Infernal Visage in a mobility faction pair without pump spells feels like cheating.
Despite the lack of truly excellent removal spells – no Frostshatter, Bitterfrost, or Flame Jet – Byzerak can be a potent aggressive threat in the new format. However, it tends to rely more on good creatures and Infernal Visage than very strong creatures and very strong removal spells.
Dysian is the pair I’ve drafted the least. Dysian now has no resemblance to set 5 at all – there are no sacrifice outlets like Corpse Crawler, nor creatures with very easy access to grow wide like Snowdrift Alpha, Dysian Broodqueen, or Tuskin Sporelord. We also lost Ursine Strength and Nyrali Symbiote, so comboing pump spells onto one creature is not nearly as reliable as it was in set 6 draft. But, luckily, both Nekrium and Uterra are better as a whole, so you are no longer singularly reliant on such a strategy.
I’ve found no one good way to draft Dysian. Making a big threat is still doable, but harder. Uterra has a more spread gameplay this time around. This works well with Infernal Visage and Twinstrength, but does weaken the power of the One Big Monster strategy. Ravenous Hydra – one of the better Uterra commons – also works well with Visage, Necroslime, and Zombie Dreadknight.
I honestly need a bit more time to evaluate all the different permutations of Dysian – it may be one of the hardest pairs to draft this time.
Esperian in the last format was one of two things – Darkforge-infested, or garbage. While the Darkforged deck is still there and stronger than ever, Esperian now also has a lot of gain, mostly due to the all new Alloyin toys. My favorite strategy so far in Esperian is to draft as many Breakthrough creatures as I can find (Dusk Hammer, Esperian Wartusk, Ravenous Hydra), and a crazy amount of Alloyin pump (Ironbound Reinforcements, Pummel Pack, Darksteel Enforcer). This lets you play very aggressively while still pushing in a lot of damage even through blockers, turning Esperian from the faction pair with the least amount of reach into the pair with the most reach.
Oratek is very different from set 6 Oratek. It’s harder to be aggressive without the old Tempys cards, but Alloyin’s commons were strengthened so much from set 6 that the deck is likely net better, even with the sizeable hit both Tempys and Alloyin heroics took from the switchover.
The deck plays as it did before. Draft a bunch of mobility creatures, draft a lot of power pump, and go to town with your board control mobility machine of death. The addition of Skyknight Glider and Ironbound Reinforcements thankfull gives the deck a lot more lategame oomph which it tended to lack in the previous format, Borean Stormweavers notwithstanding.
Onyxium is by far the biggest winner from set 6, though granted it does not take much of a nudge to reach that benchmark. In Set 6, Onyxium had nothing, as Alloyin and Nekrium were weak factions, and its Darkforged deck wasn’t nearly good enough to make up for all the bad cards.
Now, however, Onyxium Marauder and Infernal Visage are back, making quite a splash in the Onyxium power curve. The more natural armor carriers are also great for Nekrium cards like Scourge Hydra, Necroslime, and even Torrent Witch. Onyxium actually finally has enough good standalone cards to make drafting the armor plus regeneration combos worthwhile. I have had the best results with Onyxium in draft so far.
Umbruk is the “big” loser in that it lost a lot of very strong heroics, along with a bunch of crazy commons (Swampmoss Ancient, Borean Stormweaver, Thranik Ambusher, Frostshatter Strike, Ursine Strength… the list goes on and on).
But honestly, it’s still a good deck in set 6, you simply have to take a step back and play it more like set 5 Umbruk. Be VERY aggressive – Umbruk has the tools to take a great early lead and push a lot of damage. An Umbruk deck will typically try to dominate the early game with its various dinosaurs – of which there are now a critical mass – and then aim to close out the game early in rank 3, or at least before rank 4.
After Onyxium, I have had a lot of success drafting Umbruk and smashing face. The pair does suffer a bit from the lack of great pump like Alloyin has in Ironbound Reinforcements, but Blood Boon and Razortooth Stalker put in a lot of work for me. Speaking of Razortooth, this is finally a format where he doesn’t die on sight – a rare thing to see in set 6 draft!
That’s all I have for my first impressions, but I want to take the time to talk about my plans for upcoming articles, since there are a couple of big things coming up.
First, Prelude to War draft primers. I am still looking forward to doing these, despite being burned by SBE while doing the previous series. However, I’ll need to put in more drafts before I feel confident enough to give a complete picture, so it will be a week or two before the first one comes back up.
Secondly, what else do you guys want to see? I have a couple things planned for the near future, but I’m always interested in seeing what the community wants. Is there anything you would like to hear about specifically? Any ideas you want to impart?
Thanks for reading!