By Phil Cape
The newest patch for HEX: Shards of Fate has an addition that many of us here at Cryptozoic have been eagerly anticipating: Draft Tournaments.
At its heart, Draft is just another way to enjoy HEX. The games are the same as those you’ve played in tutorials and with your Constructed decks. The difference is that prior to playing your games, you take part in a “draft,” where you and the other seven participants build your decks from a limited pool of random cards. Not only does this make every draft a unique experience, featuring cards and shards you may not normally play, but it also puts every entrant on equal footing, even if you are brand new to the game you can compete with the guy who has four copies of every legendary card. Additionally, since you add all your cards from the draft to your collection, it can be a more fun way to open your booster packs! Rather than just cracking ’em open and seeing what you get (which is a perfectly fine way to do it), you can pick your favorite cards from several packs while also competing for great prizes.
The process of drafting is fairly simple. Each player provides three booster packs and the 100 platinum entry fee (to go towards prizes), taking their place around a virtual table.
Players begin by opening their first pack and selecting one card out of the fifteen. The remaining fourteen go to the player seated to your left, and you receive fourteen from the player seated to your right. You then select another card to add to your deck, and this process continues until everyone’s first booster is empty. The second pack proceeds the same way, except packs are passed to the right rather than the left, and the third pack switches once more, heading left just like the initial pack.
You will have 75 seconds to make your first selection, and the time will be reduced by 5 seconds for each subsequent pick. Should you fail to select a card before the timer expires, the computer will select one of the available cards randomly. After all three packs have been opened and picked through, you will be taken to the deck building screen. There you will see the 45 cards you selected, from which you will build a 40-card deck. You will also have access to as many standard resources as you need, as well as any of the Champions available. Simply move the cards you want to play down the deck and click “Save Deck” once you have your selected forty. Don’t forget to add gems to any socketable cards you drafted!
Booster Drafts are currently single-elimination with prizes going out to the top 4 players in each 8-person tournament. The winner earns 5 packs, second place earns 3 packs, third place earns 2 packs, and fourth place earns 2 packs. Players also keep the cards they draft out of their initial 3 packs.
While the mechanics of drafting aren’t particularly complicated, the strategies to win at draft can be. Your deck will, in most cases, comprise of 17 resource cards and 23 selections, meaning you will only end up playing a little over half the cards you pick. Of these 23 cards, you want roughly 13-17 to be troops, with the remaining 6-10 as actions. Additionally, you want to generally limit your deck to two shards so that you will have an easier time meeting your thresholds and actually playing your cards.
One easy way to do it is to try and stick with good cards in the same shard as your first pick, then figure out your second shard based on the good cards being passed to you. If you select Wild cards with your first three picks, and then see a pack with a lot of good Blood cards still in the pack, that can be a good indicator that the players to your right are not playing Blood. By selecting a shard that fewer other people are playing, you give yourself a leg-up on everyone else, as more and better selections will be available to you throughout the draft.
The second big thing you should be watching is your cost curve. You want to make sure your costs are diverse enough that you can efficiently spend all your resources each turn. While cards with lower costs usually don’t have as big an impact on the game as your higher cost cards do, the fact that they are more likely to actually be played in a timely fashion means you want to make sure to include some. During the draft, it is often useful to sort your cards by cost to see what types of cards you need. Click on the Stack View in your drafted card window, then select “Sort by Cost.”
So I mentioned above that you should try to take “good” cards in your shard, but what that means requires a little more unpacking. What makes a card “good?” To answer this, you must look not only at the card’s impact, but also at the card’s efficiency; that is, its impact-to-cost ratio. Take Savage Raider and Zodiac Shaman, for example. Savage Raider is often better than other one-cost troops (since he has two points of ATK), while Zodiac Shaman looks small next to a number of five cost troops, such as Paladin of Naagaan. So, you’ll generally see more Draft decks with Savage Raider than Zodiac Shaman.
If you’re new to Booster Draft, a good rule of thumb to follow when evaluating cards for Booster draft is the BREAD system.
B – Bombs. These are cards that can win the game all by themselves, and are generally rare and legendary cards. Uruunaz, Jadiim, and Living Totem are good examples of cards that can carry a draft deck all by themselves, and you shouldn’t see these past the first couple picks in each pack.
R – Removal. These are cards that can handle threatening opposing troops. Cards like Murder, Burn, and Inner Conflict are always welcome in draft decks. The more ways you have to handle their quality troops, the more likely you’ll be able to bring yours to bear against them.
E – Evasion. Here you are looking for troops that have powers to evade opposing blockers. Flight is the most obvious, and cards like Thunderbird and Giant Corpse Fly are at a premium in large part because they are difficult to stop. However, this also includes cards like Wailing Banshee or Gem-Crazed Berserker socketed with Ruby of Tenacity. The tougher it is for your opponent to block, the easier it is for you to finish them and move on to your next opponent.
A – Aggression. When in doubt, you want to try and kill your opponent as fast as possible. Troops like Arena Brawler and Headless Executioner are good enough to kill an opponent, and you want to fill in the rest of your curve with troops your opponent cannot simply ignore.
D – Defense. Defense may win championships in other games, but here you generally want to avoid picking cards that can only effectively defend you, like Soothing Breeze or Zodiac Shaman. Such cards can be good in the right circumstances, but given the choice I’d much rather include a card in my deck that can kill my opponent than one that can maybe stop them from killing me.
While it’s not a foolproof pick order and an individual card’s membership in each category may be up for debate, BREAD is a solid way to get started drafting. Upon receiving any pack, first scan for any bombs, then any removal, and so on. A big part of draft is thinking on the fly, and integrating the shard, cost, and BREAD systems into picking your card can be tricky. Say that you start off strong with a nice bomb in Blood, and follow up with a second pick removal effect in Terrible Transfer. Your third pick might present you with the options of another removal effect, Inner Conflict, or an evasive threat like Zombie Vulture. These types of selections are part of what makes draft so fun, as you weigh the relatively higher strength of the removal spell vs. the consistency and color commitment of the flight troop. Draft games also tend to feature a wider range of troops and actions than other games due to the limited card pool. The combination of more cards smashing into each other plus a skill-intensive, interactive deck-building process means that while draft is easy to learn, it is truly difficult to master.
So are you excited yet? HEX draft provides everything you could ever want from a TCG tournament: each draft is fresh and ripe with potential. You have control over what type of experience you want. If you like blazingly fast aggressive decks, you can draft it; if you like slower, methodical controlling decks, you can draft those, and everything in between. Draft is the best way to open packs and build your collection while at the same time sharpening your skills. It’s been our most anticipated feature, and now that it’s here, it is finally time for all you alpha testers to give it a try. You’ll soon see why everyone loves it and become a draft fanatic yourself!