Author Topic: A Rift Guide: Card Ranking and Analysis  (Read 1792 times)

Offline heavyyield

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A Rift Guide: Card Ranking and Analysis
« on: October 29, 2014, 05:40:58 PM »
Hello all,

After being inspired by an insane winstreak (*brag*) and several other good runs, I have decided to share some of the insights with both new and old players. There are already some excellent articles up here, so I will try to keep things fresh.
This post will be split in two parts. Part 1 will be about the relative power levels of factions, playstyles and traits, with a grand list at the end, to be used as a ranking for when you are doubting for picks. The second part will be an analysis of most of the popular cards in Rift Runs, which you can use to motivate your own picks and to understand good Rift Decks.

Part 1: value ranking
Playstyles and factions
In Rift Runs, you cannot reliably pick your cards. Therefore you need to make use of what you have. A solid strategy that a lot of players employ is just picking big stuff on curve. Vanilla characters like Glorious Warrior and Behemoths are prime examples of stat sticks that will trade well and put up some pressure. Other players will pick up a style they're comfortable with: control, aggro, midrange, tokens, ramp. There are several cards that cater to these styles and are prevalent. Without further ado, I will present a list of the factions as a ranking. I will rank individual cards later.

1. Flame Dawn
Kicking off our list is one of the weaker factions in Ranked. Flame Dawn is the embodiment of Tempo and Offense. Being able to rush down an opponent before they react is both crucial and extremely effective. Many of the FD cards synergize with neutral cards and FD has a small but versatile toolkit to push through some nice damage. In Ranked it is not uncommon to simpyl run out of steam against a deck that is catered to a faster meta, but in Rift Runs, most players opt to play Midrange. Flame Dawn handles single, big creatures handily and is too fast for most Control. If you have a chance to pick FD, do it. They are best taken as a 2 purity pick.
2. Genesis
Making fringe cards look imba, Genesis is close contender for the nr1 spot. This is mainly due to the "Win Machine" card, which exploits the very narrow range of answers your opponent can draft. Genesis has some excellent value cards (Splitter, Support, Aleta in command) and ways to both deal with and create flying units. Most of the good cards are at a mere 1 purity.
3. Sleepers
Clocking in at 3, Sleepers are arguably the strongest faction when they get going. Traits such as Bloodlust or Infect will always garner value and the sole presence of an Evolving Parasite will improve results dramatically. Sleepers also have some of the better dual-faction cards and big stat sticks. They perform excellent in all purities, and facing 3 purity Sleepers can be really daunting. Unfortunately, they still suffer from their Achilles' heel...
4. Overseers
...Which is where the OoS come in. Having relatively few cards, many Overseers cards are versatile and offer great value. The Unique characters synergize well and many of the cards can perform multiple roles at once. Flying is one of the strongest traits in Draft and picking OoS ensures you have some nasty flyers with utility! Unfortunately, OoS lacks inter-faction synergy. Genesis has some potential, but generally speaking, Angels keep to themselves or Ruin their non flying allies.
5. Warpath
Warpath has the biggest and baddest characters, but has only that. The Haste and Unstoppable trait can be exploited to a good degree, and the presence of Reach units gives WP a good toolkit to fend off enemies. Unfortunately they are both too slow and too fast. They cannot keep up with a good FD/OoS rush, will lose out to heavy control decks and will see the Sleepers turn their own Beasts against them. Packing some solid Abilities and Characters, WP should be kept at a purity of 1.
6. Descendents
While having the same big units as Warpath, the Descendents lack both anti-air defense and a good way to put up pressure. While Glorious Warrior, arguably the second (or third) strongest 4-drop in the game, can put up both morale and damage pressure, DoD has no follow through. It is very hard to win on Morale or to punish players for playing around you. Luckily, many of the great cards are at a mere 1 purity. Splashing DoD for Daode or Yuanshi is never wrong.
7. Cult of Verore
Despite being a top dog in Ranked, Verore simply cannot bring any consistency the table. Lacking good creatures and not being able to rely on drafting your removal is a death sentence. Some cards such as Aether Acolyte and Siphoner can put up hefty pressure in combo decks, and Kidnapper is a solid spot-removal. Nonetheless I advise against going CoV at all. If you try to draft double or triple CoV, you basically bank on the Mass Death to pull you past 10 wins, which is not a position you want to be in. This is not to say that CoV cards aren't incredibly effective and won't make your opponent cry, but missing out on those vital Death Rays and Hubris will be felt way more than not drafting Bromich in Flame Dawn. There are other cards that fill that slot/drop. The Warpath also has excessive redundancy in its 3 and 4 slot. About a third of the CoV removal is in the double or triple purity range, meaning Annihilate or Dark Wish is well out of reach. Missing your removal is basically not drafting War Machine in Genesis, except CoV feels it harder because it doesn't have the backup cards like Splitter Robot.
8. Exiles
Lacking any sort of inter- (or intra, for that manner) faction synergy, the Exiles end up at the bottom of my advised picks. Demon Synergy is lackluster and many of the cards sacrifice stats for fringe effects or discarding actually useful cards. Spontaneous Combustion, Mindbender and Demonic Mercenary are great cards to pick up, but anyone picking exiles in the current format is Insane.

As I said, running Tempo and Rush lets you dictate the game. This is why Genesis didn't come out at top: a good rush deck will simply destroy the War Machine. If you manage to force the opponent to put stuff in the defense zone, you are generally on top of things. Any unit in the back of the line not blocking is also not attacking and not trading. This forces inefficient trades and sets the pace at your leisure. It also means your big late game threats (which is generally what stalling players rely on) will pack a relatively large impact. Imagine seeing Shikana come down while you are at 30 health? Or seeing a double purity FD player save up creatures for a Sacculas? Or just anticipating the inevitable while the OoS are soaring over your defense line and putting you on a clock?

Midrange tries to do a similar thing. It is more reliable, but wins less often, paradoxically. This is because Aggro forces iminent bad trades. In a way, a Fleeting Footman puts up more pressure than an unenraged Skraar's Young. Being forced to chump or instantly dump the support zone to prevent death is what makes aggro so strong. A good Midrange player will steadily wear down a control deck, while putting up with the aggro player. Your bigger creatures will make a few favorable trades and then you should be able to seal the game in. As a rule of thumb, aggro gets in and gets out, midrange is here to stay. If midrange establishes board presence, aggro is done for.

Control, as witnessed by the low ranking of Verore, is simply not reliable enough. Picking up the Mass Death, Calamity, playset of Death Rays etc. is a dream and will easily get you high up there, but is simply not realistic. If a FD player cannot draft Bromich, they will simply draft Kali, Crusade or Emberstarter. Those will also put on huge pressure. If a control player cannot draft Win Machine or Death ray, very little alternatives remain. Given the tendency of the Control to focus on the late game, this also means you are vulnerable to small units (or you will have to burn Deathrays on measly 3 drops).

Combo is more of an addition than an actual playstyle. Drafting the Fear-Knight-Ferocity combo is great, but should not be your win condition. Pick up smart combos (there is another thread, but for reference: ZomBGone + Undead Corruption, Siphoner + WoC, Fear-Knight-Ferocity, Lingbao-Yuanshi, Jetpack-AA missile are the most common)

Picking a style
While I portray the choice as clear cut, different players may feel comfortable playing different styles. I for one do not feel comfortable ending up topdecking at turn 7 to finish off an opponent with FD. Decide what kind of player you are, and what you want to be. This guide is written to optimize your picks, so you can take at least 15-25% of your decks to the Legendary level.

« Last Edit: October 29, 2014, 07:44:11 PM by heavyyield »

Offline heavyyield

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Re: A Rift Guide: Card Ranking and Analysis
« Reply #1 on: October 29, 2014, 05:41:10 PM »
Card ranking
Now that faction ranking is out of the way and you know your style, let's delve into the cards. Which ones are good and which ones are bad? Instead of plumping down seperate tables for each faction, I will make one large table. If you picked multiple factions, this allows for a relative comparison. Legendaries will not be ranked. Epics will not be considered. It is not realistic to draft these and ironically, many of them will perform worse than Rare equivalents.

Note that this list contains all factions. Generally speaking, the best cards are on top. This means that I'd pick a Parasite over anything in any faction under neutral circumstances. I'd also happily pick Infected Purifier over any Kali. Nonetheless your deck may want you to pick another 'suboptimal' pick, based on your playstyle. For example, if we run a artificial-heavy deck, we may want to opt for the Genesis Construct instead of One of Many. If our focus is with Rushing, we may want to pick Sacculas over War Machine. Obviously you'd want to pick the first Precautionary Measures over your third Cornicen, but this list is a balance between synergy, playstyle and the playability of the card when needed and drawn.

As a small disclaimer, this is made with mainly the factions themselves and eachother in mind. I'm assuming the player will mix and match the playstyles of 2 or 3 factions and try to mash them together. Cornicen is ranked very highly because she synergizes with swarm tactics, Guns of Goliath and Harahel, very common picks for anyone splashing OoS. If you only picked OoS with the intention of drafting Consecration because you want to stall out the game with War Machine and CoV, you wouldn't rate Cornicen that highly.
« Last Edit: October 29, 2014, 09:26:15 PM by heavyyield »

Offline heavyyield

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Re: A Rift Guide: Card Ranking and Analysis
« Reply #2 on: October 29, 2014, 05:41:19 PM »
Part 2: Card Analysis
Instead of reviewing every single card, I will take some prime examples from my Sheet, in order to illustrate what makes for a good pick and what doesn't.

Evolving Parasite kicks off my list and for good reason. Being able to kill any card is great, being able to copy any card is great, but what truely makes this card top of the top is its potential. Coming back to my premise that tempo forces bad trades: Evolving Parasite will force some really, really awkward blocking or scare your opponent into letting minor attacks through. Best yet, they may waste removal if you keep it in support or play into your mindgames. This makes for a huge card to play around, often going 3 for 1, wasting removal and stalling out a defense.

Splitter Robot is value incarnate. It's a strict 20/20 in stats, but being staggered and spread, it responds well to buffs and  has remarkable resiliency against board wipes, kill spells etc. The tokens are useful for things such as chump blocking or powering Win Machine. In trades, Splitter will usually take 2 cards to take down, being the epitome of efficiency.

Following the same logic, the infected line of units has what is effectively Two Lives at a very competitive 3 cost. With both the Devil and Purifier geared towards offense, these guys will trade with their 3 drop peers and live. It is very hard to not go at least 1 for 1 with these. Being able to block two attackers regardless of their power is a big trait that has saved me more than once. The infected Monk has the added benefit of keeping buffs, meaning that after a few buffs with Daode or Support Drone, he becomes a big wall. His disadvantage is bouncing to the support zone, ranking him slightly lower in terms of defensive potential.

Harahel makes two 2/2 tokens, making him 10/10 for 4, slightly below curve. After ascension however, he gives 16/16 worth of stats plus some more. Pushing all of your minions beyond range of some common board clears, boosting their attack and flying past any blockers, he truely is an example of card worth and a board warping presence.

Two other cards that see massive use in Draft are Shikana and Bomb Bot. Being relatively easy to play around in constructed, these guys can kill an entire battlefield by themselves. What makes them stand out even more is the fact that you can retreat your own board at the same time. Shikana comes with a massive flying body, and the bomb bot can be grafted on your flyers if need be. Just like Parasite, the vast mind games these cards bring about can allow you to make small, unblocked attacks or provoke excessive responses. Their effects also trigger before anything else (resolution), meaning even a pre-emptive Suppress or Temporal Anomaly will fail to stop these guys. Simply put: with one of these two out, you control the board state.

What makes for a great card?
Great cards warp the field around them. They bring big stats to the table (Behemoth, Harahel, Splitter), threaten the opponent (Skraar's Young as someone eloquently put it: "Bullies other characters off the field"), make good trades (Parasite, Shikana) or bring about huge tempo swings. It is obvious why Splitter bot is such a good card. Nonetheless a card such as Consecration may seem inconspicuous but is both incredibly cheap, versatile and easy to draft. Being able to diminish an enemy board is just as important as building up your own.

Generally speaking, vanilla stats on curve will net:
1: 9 stats, generally as 5/4 or 4/4 with an ability
2: 14 stats, 7/7 being the benchmark or a sum of 12 with an ability
3: 17 stats, 8/9 being the benchmark, most cards offer 8/8 with an ability.
4: 22 stats, 10/12 being the optimal distribution, most cards offer 20 stats with an ability
5: 25 to 28 stats, with 12/14 being a popular one, most cards now deviate from total stats and instead have good abilites.

Big abilities are usually unique to a card or are the following traits: flying, bloodthirst, untouchable, charge, consume. These traits justify lower stats.
Small abilties are minor traits and usually don't interfere with stat distribution to a crippling amount: vigilance, unstoppable, immolate, reach.

If a card is significantly below curve, investigate its effect. Evolving Parasite is only 5/7 (12) worth of stats and doesn't pass the vanilla test. Nonetheless its effect is absurdly good, meaning it doesn't need to conform to these stats. Coyle Immovable is a 7/10 for 5, failing the vanilla test. Nonetheless it has vigilance and cannot take more than 3 damage from any source. In combat this effectively values him at 7/32+, being able to absorb 4 hits of his peers, each hitting for an average of 8-10 damage.
Look at stats for an indication of trade efficiency. Above mentioned cards will trade very effectively with their peers.

In short: a good card makes the battlefield revolve around itself. It is reliable, affordable and has either immediate effect or so much potential that it warps your opponent's play around it. Every card that made you say 'oh crap!' when you saw your opponent play it: that's a good card!

So what makes a bad card?
Bad cards fail to do the above or do so at an abysmal cost. Some 'bad' cards may see play in constructed, Best Fiends being a prime example, but they require certain synergies or tactics to work that are simply not viable in draft. Many Exile cards fail because of this, but every faction has some junk cards. Let's look into that.

The Hunter line of cards (bounty hunter, demon hunter, spec op) are 3 resource 6/8 humans. For comparison, 8/9 is the benchmark. Checking out their effect, they are both niche and restricted to a specific card type. Even worse, they will trade down for some 2 drops and will lose to pretty much all other 3 drops. The best they can do is break even and maybe go 1 for 1 with a 4 drop. This is not what you want in a card. For comparison, the infected line will also trade for most 4 drops but will not lose out to their peers. Upon further inspection, you will see that there is no reason to ever pick one of these cards over Infected Monk (stat equivalent) or any other 3 drop in the game.

Vandalize, Perils of Command and Rift to the Old World are also niche, but offer a neutral answer to Win Machine and Kyrallic. "What is so bad about that? Consecration is top tier!" The answer is versatility. Vandalize and Rift are both answer cards. Answer cards, such as spot-removal, are played under certain conditions and are otherwise dead weight in your hands. Almost all factions have answer cards to artifacts and locations, and theyre better than these. Consecration is cheaper (3 vs 6 cost), more versatile (targets both artifacts and locations), has a better effect (removal from game). It is mainly the expense that is vital: even if you destroy the Win Machine with a 6 cost Vandalize, he only spent 2 resources and you could not spend more resources on turn 6! In other words, you gave up playing something for only poking his board. This is a pit that Perils of Command falls into. Costing 5 mana, this card is both too slow and ends up being dead weight for most of the game.

An ideal answer swings games: tempo. This is why Corrupt Machinery is so good. It both kills their artifact and gives you the same artifact, being a strict 2 for 1. Being niche should be with great rewards, and Rift/Vandalize/Perils fail miserably.

Every card that you scoff at is a bad card. Cards that do not impact the board in a soonish fashion (Crystal/Chalice of Madness), that trade down (Hunters) or simply have strictly better equivalents (Vandalize) are awful.

« Last Edit: October 29, 2014, 09:36:56 PM by heavyyield »

Offline heavyyield

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Re: A Rift Guide: Card Ranking and Analysis
« Reply #3 on: October 29, 2014, 05:41:28 PM »
Conclusion: pointers to create a 30+ win deck
I can't construct your deck for you and I cannot guarantee that my table is the truth. I can only give some advices and challenge you to think about your picks.

First of all, keep in mind the theme of your deck. Are you drafting a rush deck? Do you have a certain subtype such as Undead? Some strategies rely on specific cards and are not viable. Nonetheless there are common combos (discussed above and elsewhere) that anyone can draft easily. If you already drafted ZomBGone, Undead Corruption easily becomes a 'great' pick. It may very well be correct to draft Lilariah over Splitter Robot if you have an Angel themed deck. Keep using your brain.

Keep the curve in mind. If you have commanders that are plain stat sticks, you can forgo their resource costs while drafting. For example, if you have Knight of the Flame Dawn and Splitter Robot in command, you do not need to balance out your 2 and 4 resource slots. You already have those bases covered. Instead focus on keeping your curve smooth. In above example: draft some more 1 and 3 drops. Play something every turn. Do not draft more than 2 cards over 6 resources. This drastically increases chances of dead hands and is inefficient. Following our Vanilla stat sheet, it is better to play a 2 drop and a 3 drop instead of a single 5 drop in 80% of the cases. Cheryl may seem very good, but those 2 and 3 drops won't leave you hanging if you drew them early and offer similar board presence. Board size scales power.

On a side note: unlike Hearthstone and to a degree Magic, there is no true 'card advantage' in IW. Being up a total of four cards in hand does not win you the game if they are all answers or cannot be played in time to stop the onslaught. The Trading Post heavily favors Tempo and Aggro decks that can draw or swap in a card in addition to playing a threat every turn.

For my decks, I generally like:
* Genesis, Flame Dawn or Overseers
* A tempo focused deck, with about 28 characters, 10 abilities and 2 other cards. Control decks in draft usually go 20/20.
* Pack 3 Anti-artifact, 1 Anti-location, 2 Anti-flying
* At least 2 Flying units
* A curve centered around early midgame: being relatively high on the 3 and 4 drops
* Commanders picked for faction and value (basically any character from my 'excellent' list would be a good commander, regardless of faction). Faction is more important than the actual character itself. It may be worth to pick an Kali over Yuanshi if you prefer FD over DoD, despite Yuanshi being almost strictly better in terms of worth. Good commander picks can compensate for a bad curve. What makes for a good commander is a whole other subject though, best explained elsewhere.

Tempo wins games. Tempo is not the same as aggro. For your picks: balance value in stats with potential in trading. Good cards are either answers to popular 'questions' or warp the board around them. This is why Parasite and Splitter Robot are insane, Consecration is great and Vandalize is Puffy-awful. Balance out the curve and play stuff on curve, keeping in mind that playing two smaller cards is generally better than a single large one. The curve from 2 to 4 is the most vital part and should hold at least 60% of your picks.

Use the Sheet for rough advice and GLHF!

« Last Edit: October 29, 2014, 09:36:29 PM by heavyyield »

Offline MerliniX

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Re: A Rift Guide: Card Ranking and Analysis
« Reply #4 on: October 29, 2014, 06:11:43 PM »
I have to disagree with some of the faction analysis here. CoV is arguably one of the - if not the strongest splash in rift - simply because of the amount of cheap removal you are almost guaranteed to get. Hubris of the Strong, Death Ray, Lightning Blast, all are exceptionally good in rift, and you will likely get multiple copies of each with only a single purity splash in CoV. Death Worshippers, Aether Acolytes, and Siphoners are all solid as well.

Offline heavyyield

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Re: A Rift Guide: Card Ranking and Analysis
« Reply #5 on: October 29, 2014, 07:26:41 PM »
I have to disagree with some of the faction analysis here. CoV is arguably one of the - if not the strongest splash in rift - simply because of the amount of cheap removal you are almost guaranteed to get. Hubris of the Strong, Death Ray, Lightning Blast, all are exceptionally good in rift, and you will likely get multiple copies of each with only a single purity splash in CoV. Death Worshippers, Aether Acolytes, and Siphoners are all solid as well.
I agree that Verore has a lot of powerhouses. Unfortunately it seems that there is no mid ground between good drafts (IE: lots of bolts, rays and other removal) and bad ones (creature heavy, slow). If you miss out on Mass Death, Death Ray or Hubris, you are going to have a very bad time. If Warpath misses their Hulker, they still have One of Many, Stag, Protector etc. I generally tried to rank in terms of consistency and performance. I have no hard data of course, but in my experience both as and against CoV, it would be one of the riskiest picks. In the Sheet I have put up, many CoV cards will rank highly individually.

Vertu Honagan

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Re: A Rift Guide: Card Ranking and Analysis
« Reply #6 on: October 29, 2014, 09:50:46 PM »
I have to disagree with some of the faction analysis here. CoV is arguably one of the - if not the strongest splash in rift - simply because of the amount of cheap removal you are almost guaranteed to get. Hubris of the Strong, Death Ray, Lightning Blast, all are exceptionally good in rift, and you will likely get multiple copies of each with only a single purity splash in CoV. Death Worshippers, Aether Acolytes, and Siphoners are all solid as well.

I have to agree with heavy. Out of the 3 times I've drafted Verore, only once did I ever get the chance to draft a Death Ray. My luck with getting kill spells from verore in draft are about as bad as finding an epic in Draft maybe even worse. I've decided to completely stop drafting Verore until they actually get some more good stuff to pick.