Article written by Paradox
Among the selection of giant dinosaurs and game-ending dragons, Temple Scribe manages to stand out as one of the better units in the game. In fact, you’ll find him in almost every tournament deck that has the Time faction in it.
If you’re confused as to how this little 1/1 for two power can be so good, that’s okay. Today, we’re going to talk about a core concept in Eternal that explains why he is so good: card advantage.
A Game of Resources
Let’s first get something out of the way: Eternal is a game of resource management, and the player who best spends their resources will win almost every single time. Now, Eternal’s primary resources are Power and Influence, which let you play your cards. Not spending your power to play cards or doing so without enough contemplation will surely lose you the game. There are, however, many other less obvious resources in Eternal, and you’ll lose just as many games for spending those frivolously. The resource we’ll be talking about today is your cards.
In addition to the power cost and influence requirement of a card, casting a card also costs you one card out of your hand. If you had two power and six cards in hand before you cast Oni Ronin, you’ll have one power available and five cards in hand after you cast him. Simple enough.
Likewise, you start the game with seven cards in hand and draw one additional card each turn. If you go first (which causes you not to draw on your first turn), and you play a game that lasts an average length, say eight turns, you’ll have only 14 cards that entire game assuming you don’t draw cards any other way. If six of those are sigils, you’ll only have eight units/spells/weapons over the course of that game! Your cards are very valuable.
Now we can talk about card advantage. Simply put, card advantage is any means in which one player gains effectively more cards than the other player. The key word here is effectively, as there are many ways to gain card advantage. Let’s go through them.
Cards In Hand
The most simple form of card advantage is just changing the amount of cards in your hand or your opponents. If you cast Wisdom of the Elders, you spend one card in order to draw two, gaining you effectively one card.
Likewise, taking cards out of your opponent’s hand also count. If you cast Subvert, your opponent loses one card out of their hand and you gain one card. You still lost one card in hand—the Subvert—making the number of cards in your hand the same after the Subvert, but your opponent is down one card, so you’ve once again netted one card. Just imagine if the card you stole from your opponent also granted card advantage!
Cards on the Board
The next place to consider cards is on the board. Let’s look at the Oni Ronin example earlier: casting him puts you down one card in hand, but it does gain you one card on the board, so at a very basic level, casting Oni Ronin will leave you even on cards.
If a unit is killed, that is losing a card. Suppose you and your opponent both have an Oni Ronin (a 2/1) on the board. Your opponent attack with theirs, you block with yours, and both of them die. Both of you lost a card and, thus, neither of you gained card advantage. (They did gain the Warcry trigger, which is good, but is a topic for another day.) But suppose you didn’t have an Oni Ronin but instead had the Temple Scribe I talked about at the beginning of the article. Because you drew one card when you cast the scribe, it already “earned” itself back, so taking out the Oni Ronin in combat puts you up one card over your opponent. Considering you also gained one life from Temple Scribe, that means you’ve drawn a card, killed another unit on the board, and gained one life, all for the cost of just one card. Now that is good value.
This might seem small and insignificant, but it is often these little incremental advantages that win games.
Virtual Card Advantage
Virtual card advantage is a little bit harder to measure, but in short, it’s any card advantage that’s gained from the current context of the battle. Such advantages will only exist in specific scenarios or require certain things to exist, unlike the raw card advantage gained in the examples above. This may sound confusing, but it will make more sense with some examples.
Suppose you have a Bold Adventurer and a Copperhall Recruit on the board and I have Towering Terrazon (see below). Without any pump spells like Finest Hour, your units can’t attack me while my Towering Terrazon is unexhausted without getting hopelessly turned into dinosaur breakfast. While your two units are on the field, I’ve essentially blanked two of your cards for the cost of my one; I have a virtual card card advantage. If you were to get rid of my Towering Terrazon with a card like Vanquish, you’d “gain” your two cards back for the time being, assuming I don’t have anything else equally as large on the board.
Virtual card advantage can also extend from cards on the board to cards in hand. Imagine we’re in another game. You play Stormcaller and immediately use her ability to zap my Oni Ronin on the board. Not only did you knock me down one card, but unfortunately for me, I actually have two more Oni Ronin in hand. I never manage to kill your Stormcaller and so, for the rest of the game, I never bothered to cast another Oni Ronin. There, you gained a sizable virtual card advantage because you blanked two cards in my hand.
The virtual card advantage gained in both of these scenarios is through size advantage (or lack thereof.) It’s worth emphasizing how strong this type of advantage is in Eternal, as in the current state of the game, almost all of the removal in the game is based on size. Units with huge amounts of health will survive hits from damage based spells and Relic Weapons. Having a low or high strength will make your units untouchable by spells such as Vanquish or Suffocate, respectively. Proper manipulation of the size of your units will reap tremendous advantages.
Card Advantage isn’t the only thing that matters in games—all the cards in the world won’t save you when your life total is zero. But card advantage will almost always make it a lot easier to win the game, as you’ll have a lot more things to do if you draw a total of 20 cards in a game and your opponent only draws 14. Just one card can make the difference of winning or losing a game, and that one game could be the difference between ending a draft at 2-3 or going all the way to 7-2. You can’t control what cards you draw, but you can control what you do with those cards, and the player who better spent their resources will usually come out on top.