Oratek Overview – Explosive and Dynamic
Oratek is a difficult pairing to draft for many players. At a fundamental level, the two factions seem to be at odds with each other. Alloyin is thought of as the late game faction, leveling large unkillable robots while stalling the board with attack reduction effects. Tempys is the hyper aggressive faction, specializing in direct damage and playing oversized bodies to establish an early lead. In the current draft format, Oratek is at the bottom of TIC’s strength ratings, and not many people have argued with the placing. But AT decks can still be good, as long as you are conscious of what type of deck you are trying to build and are picking cards that create a cohesive game plan.
These core commons are cards that every deck in a faction pair seeks. They are high quality commons that are rarely bad picks. Each archetype will be able to use these cards, regardless of the overarching strategy.
Archetype – Aggro
First pick heroics that give you a reason to draft a particular faction pair or archetype.
Key Cards – Big and Dumb
Key cards are important to a particular archetype within a faction pair. They will typically have more unique effects or be required in greater numbers to enable a given strategy.
Key Cards – Pressing the Advantage
Based on the initial overview, you’d think that Tempys cards would be the primary focus of the archetype, but the Alloyin cards actually play a big role. Aggressive decks need to establish an early lead on the board. They need to win trades and Batterbot and Crucible Colossus are two of the best brawlers around. Additional options like Aethertap Shaman, Blizzard Shaman, Stampeding Mongosaur and even Vault Intruder (all at common) mean you can pack your deck full of positive level 1 trades. Your opponent may be able answer one or two of them but eventually you start to overwhelm them with raw stats. If things go as planned, you should enter rank 2 with a one or two lane advantage.
In addition to the oversized workhorses, you’ll also want to level a couple cards that can push big chunks of damage later in the game. Skyknight Glider, Cloudcleaver Titan, Warhound Raider, and even Spiritsteel Infiltrator can fill this role. These creatures have average sized bodies but the flexibility they add to your deck is very valuable. Creatures with mobility can deal face damage if your opponent is on the back foot or preemptively remove a creature that is about to become a threat. Having a Skyknight Glider attacking into one of five lanes makes it a lot harder for your Uterra opponent to safely set up their Spring Dryad and Shardclaw Crusher plays.
Lastly, you want a good set of combat tricks and utility cards to round out the deck. These are cards that can change the outcome of combat (Ordnance Captain, Warbringer Uranti, Steelskin Spelunker), push damage past blockers (Uranti Elementalist, Jet Pack, Shatterbolt), or clean up damaged creatures for little cost (Warhound Courser, Chaos Twister). It’s important to choose combat tricks that don’t need to be leveled in order to be effective. Jet Pack, for example, is going to be better for your deck than Cypien Augmentation. Rank 1 is about leveling finishers and winning the board with big bodies. The lead established early is then used to set up your combat tricks, which are much more effective when you’re ahead. A card like Armory Outpost becomes great for pushing damage and also prevents your opponent from beating your creatures in combat to recover.
While this deck closely resembles a Big Dumb Animals style aggro deck, it doesn’t suffer from its main weakness, i.e. playing into the late game. Crucible Colussus and Batterbot have oversized level 1 bodies but they also turn into real late game threats. Deepbranch Prowler or Ether Wolves may provide significant early game pressure for Umbruk decks but at the cost of future deck quality. Solid level 3 bodies plus a bunch of underdrop mobility tricks means the deck has no trouble finishing off games in rank 3 and beyond.
The main weakness of the archetype is the ability to deal with big, resilient threats. Spiritsteel Infiltrator on top of a Shardclaw Crusher is a problem. The pairing has no hard removal and has to rely on stacking large chunks of damage into a single attack to take down big hitters. Fit of Rage can work but requires just the right setup. Iceshard Berserker is an absolute necessity with its huge attack when blocking, but even it falls short in many cases. You aren’t completely at the mercy of your opponent’s draws, though. When you are lacking hard counters, the best defense is a good offense. Establish a lead on the board, have mobility creatures ready to attack, minimize the number of lanes available for your opponent to freely play threats and make it painful for them when they do. The more aggressive you are, the harder it is for them to invest multiple plays into a single lane.
Archetype – Defenders
Key Cards – Woke Walls
Key Cards – Utility and Support
The defender deck typically tries to stall for the late game where its extra-large creatures start taking over the board. Crucible Colossus and Avalanche Guardian can provide early pressure but Forge Guardian Alpha and Cinder Colossus don’t become truly intimidating until they reach level 3. The trick is figuring out how to survive the early game without falling too far behind on board and life. Metatransfer can skip the bad level 1 body of Cinder Colossus while Barrier Soldier slows down your opponent’s aggression. Palladium Wave is another great tool in the higher ranks if you fall too far behind on board. Once you’ve got a bunch of big defenders in play, the activators become potent underleveled plays, turning your partially damaged walls into real threats.
In addition to the defenders, it is good to have a few mobility creatures in the deck as alternate win conditions. If possible, try to pick creatures that have more than 1 mobility at higher levels. A Tower Scout will have trouble moving around a board clogged with defenders while Skyknight Glider and Cloudcleaver Titan can still find open lanes to attack in.
While this deck has a focused game plan, I don’t think it’s as powerful as the aggro deck. When I first saw the new draft pool, I thought the defender deck would be the direction to go, with three animators and a good selection of quality walls. The pool also lacks hate cards for defenders so you don’t have to worry about auto-losing to the guy that picked three Wallbreaker Yetis. And yet the deck doesn’t seem to match up well against other popular archetypes. It’s too passive. Yes, it gets to play giant monsters (mostly later in the game) but those monsters don’t apply immediate pressure. In the mean time, your durdly NU opponent gets to setup their powerful synergies, which can actually negate the stat advantage of your big defenders. It’s still a playable archetype, especially if you are more comfortable piloting late game decks, but I would look to draft the aggro deck first.
Honestly, I think the aggro archetype is well worth playing and can deliver 7 win finishes. It’s capable of beating a lot of the popular decks in the format such as NU spawn and AN shrink. It’s meager popularity has more to do with two secondary factors rather than the actual power level of the faction pair. First, AT heroics kind of suck. At least compared to Nekrium and Uterra heroics. If a player sees a Bulwark Battalion and a Necromoeba in the opening pack, they’re going to take the Necromoeba. The power level of the heroics available to a faction pair has a significant impact on its popularity due to the way draft is structured. Secondly, if players do happen to draft Oratek, they probably start with the defender deck, since that is the most obvious strategy. But, as I stated above, the defender archetype is not the best deck in AT, and if you draft a mediocre deck and don’t have success with it, you are unlikely to come back.
So here you are Forgeborn. If you’re tired of non-stop NU and want to refresh your drafting experience, give Oratek aggro a try. Skip that first pick Ebonskull Knight and slum it with Hammerfang. I especially recommend it to players who miss the recent past of dominant Umbruk aggro decks. Oratek will conjure sweet memories of overwhelming lane advantages, brutal combat tricks, and lethal Blizzard Shamans.