Something to remember when you are picking your Arena deck is that you are not picking thirty individual cards, you are picking a deck.
Many people quickly grasp the concept of changing their choices based on cards they already have, but something that is often overlooked is you can sometimes change your selections based on cards you are likely to pick in the future.
I’m going to discuss three such times in this article.
There is no exact number for how many 5-drops should go in your deck, but most people will agree that you don’t want a huge number of these.
Below are some very playable neutral commons on five:
and some strong rares:
On top of that are others that some people will rate highly enough to be in that company, and also the 5-drops within the class you are playing.
There are lots of cards competing for a relatively small number of slots in the deck. The shown commons are roughly interchangeable in value and the shown rares are all powerful cards.
This has big implications for picks early in the draft.
If one of your first picks is a 5-drop that is a little stronger than another card, it may be correct to take the other card.
At first this makes no sense as you are deliberately taking the weaker card. Why would you do this?
To see why, we have to consider other parts of the draft. I’m going to put in some hypothetical numbers to try to make the point more clear.
Let’s assume that the first pick of your draft has a 5-drop that is a 6.5/10 rated card and a 2-drop that is 6/10. This situation comes up surprisingly often. (Throughout this part of the article, the phrase 2-drop can also be used interchangeably with “removal spell” or other key part of typical decks)
If we take the 5-drop, we have a slightly stronger deck after one pick. However later in the draft we may regret this, which I will now explain.
Hopefully you can see from the list above that the number of quality 5-drops is quite high. Something that happens surprisingly often is that later in the draft you’ll be offered a similar rated 5-drop card to your first pick, but it will be up against two garbage cards. You are now compelled to take the 5-drop. Throw in the factor that the rares listed are cards you won’t turn down very often and you can see that it is very easy to end up cluttered on five.
This can snowball pretty rapidly into you being short of 2-drops. It will feel like you haven’t been offered enough of them because you forgot the one you were offered at the start of the draft. The one where you took the better card instead!
This can leave you desperate for some early game and, for instance, you may end up being offered a two drop that’s 5/10 rated and a five drop that’s 6/10 towards the end of the draft. Because you understand how curve and drafing works, you’ll pick the two drop to accommodate your needs and not simply take best card. It’s probably the correct pick at this point in proceedings, but that 5/10 could have been a 5.5/10
This concept requires a little trust in your future picks. After reading this article, you might not want to jump straight in and use it straightaway, but keep an eye on how the 5-drops work out in drafts. I’m pretty comfortable that you’ll notice you pass good cards late in drafts more often than you realise, just because you don’t need any more of them.
Note: As with any Arena draft, sometimes this will go wrong and you will end up short on 5-drops because of it. I truly believe though that the amount you gain outweighs the losses.
Something that comes up a lot is the situation where you have two picks of similar strength early in the draft and you are struggling to decide which to take. Let’s take an example where you’re struggling to decide between an early Gilblin Stalker or Acolyte of Pain in Mage.
The cards are of similar value and both are useful. You haven’t got enough information on your deck yet to know which one is going to be better.
The way I break this tie is to take the card that is harder to approximately replace.
If it really comes to it, then later in the draft you can replace the Stalker with a River Crocodile at worst, or more likely one of numerous other two drops. They are not as powerful, but they will do a similar job.
The Acolyte however can only be realistically replaced with a small number of cards. In this instance I would pick the Acolyte because it has a more unique effect.
At the end of the draft we’ll have the same power level either way, but we’ll have a better balance of cards we wanted. Sometimes our Croc will be Frostbolted when the Gilblin wouldn’t have been, and we’ll be sad, but we’ve got more versatility overall which means that the same total power level has given us a better deck.
There are a small number of cards that you really want one of in your deck but don’t want two of very often. Sprint and Bloodlust are examples of this. The second copy of the card is significantly worse than the first.
If you get offered one of these early you have to weigh up what the card is up against. If you are passing a good card to grab your one and only Sprint you may end up having to take a second one later in the draft when it’s matched against two terrible options.
On the other hand, if you don’t get offered another one then you’ll probably end up regretting passing it, so what is the best plan?
If the card is offered really early in the draft, it is usually correct to select as if you’re going to be offered another one. If it’s easily the best card then take it as usual but if it’s a close call then take the other card and hope to pick one up later in the draft.
Quite often you won’t be offered another one, but the downside of being stuck with two of such cards is usually worse than not getting one at all, especially if you’ve covered yourself by taking a decent card anyway.
The purpose of this article was twofold. Firstly to present the concepts to help your Arena drafting but also to alert you to the fact that you can plan for the future as well as working around the cards you already have.
Being aware that concepts like these exist will help you develop your own similar strategies to fit into your play style.
Neil “L0rinda” Bond