Regarding Synergy in Draft

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When deciding between picks in a draft, there’s always one question people ask: do I pick Card A because it is stronger than Card B, or do I take Card B because it works better with the cards I already have?

If you always answer to taking the stronger card, your deck will probably turn out decent. Drafting cards that are good by themselves make playing the games pretty simple – just play the best two cards in your hand. There are a couple of problems with this. First, your deck won’t be as strong as you could make it, because cards working independently are going to be weaker than cards working in harmony.  Second, you won’t be picking among only good cards in an average draft. You are going to have some cards that won’t look as good on their own.

Let’s talk about drafting synergy.

What is Synergy in Draft?

Synergy in draft has a pretty loose definition for me. When I refer to “synergy”, I only mean a card is better when played with a specific subset of cards. So, for instance, Windborn Hellion is a card that works well with movement effects. Mosstodon is a card that works well with other Dinosaurs. Spiritstone Druid is a card that works well with cards like Spring Dryad.

In contrast, cards that are solid without any synergies at all are cards like Oreian Justicar or Bitterfrost Totem – cards that have their own individual impact on the game without needing any help or set up.

Drafting for Synergy

Like with most things in SolForge, there are good synergy cards and bad synergy cards. I have a list of rules I keep to make sure I’m drafting the good ones.

  • Synergy cards have to be able to stand on their own.
  • The cards required to make synergy cards good aren’t difficult to obtain/play.
  • The payoff for the synergy is worth what I’m giving up by playing the synergy.

Now, your synergy card doesn’t have to hit all of these points in order to be considered. If it hits two of them, I’d consider the card worth playing. Let’s consider each of these points on their own.

Has to Stand on Its Own

batterbot

This is a very simple criterion to meet. It asks “If I play this card without any of its buddies, will it do just fine?” Normally, this is just a stat-check. If your synergy creature has good stats, that’s perfect, you don’t need to look any further.

Good: Batterbot

Bad: Ruthless Wanderers

These are my two examples for this. On one end, we have Batterbot. Batterbot is a rock solid creature with excellent starting stats at level 1 – 6/8! It levels decently throughout as well, with 9/11 and 14/16 being serviceable stats. If it ever gains any Armor, it becomes a fearsome powerhouse. But if it doesn’t, well, it’ll still compete with creatures with an average stat line.

Contrast this with Ruthless Wanderers. Ruthless Wanderers absolutely does not stand on its own – with pitiful stats of 3/5 into 6/10. I can’t even recall its level 3 stats, as any of my opponents playing this card in rank 2 lose quickly thereafter. 3/5 and 6/10 are both very poor stats in their respective levels. If we consider 5/5 and 10/10 to be the baseline for levels 1 and 2 respectively, we see that Ruthless Wanderers cannot even trade with an average creature on the same level as it. This is quite pitiful for a creature. Its ability (-3/-3 to opposing creature when you play another Spirit Wanderers) does not make up for the fact that the creature has such poor stats, since the ability is both situational (only affects a creature in front of a previously played Ruthless Wanderers) and hard to reasonably obtain (you have to play with a lot of poor Spirit Wanderers to trigger it).

You want your synergy creatures to improve with their respective synergies, like Batterbot, but not completely rely on them, like Ruthless Wanderers.

The Payoff is Easily Obtainable

windbornhellion

This criterion measures how readily available the synergies are to draft and include in your deck. You want to play synergy cards that aren’t overly hard to “turn on” and make work.

Good: Windborn Hellion

Bad: Forge Guardian Omega, Spiritstone Druid

Windborn Hellion is a decently sized creature (4/8, 8/12, 12/16), so we know this card passes our first test. But how easy is it to draft around its ability, and then include those cards? The answer depends on the draft pool. Typically, draft pools have a wealth of creatures with Mobility. For draft pools that do not, Windborn Hellion isn’t as attractive. But for pools that do, Windborn Hellion is easy to turn on. All you need to do is play a mobility creature and then move it while Windborn Hellion is in play. This even works for cards like Blizzard Shaman, which do not have Mobility, but do move creatures. Since Mobility creatures are valued for their flexibility, including them in the deck and playing them is a natural part of SolForge, and not something you need to stretch for.

On the other hand, we have cards like Forge Guardian Omega or Spiritstone Druid. Forge Guardian Omega is rather simple – it’s extremely hard to get to. You need to play a lot of Robot Guardians, or sequence them perfectly with a Forge Guardian Delta at the end of it. The payoff for doing so is extreme, but the weakness of the creatures and difficulty in achieving it makes Forge Guardian Omega the posterchild for jumping over impossibly high hurdles.

Spiritstone Druid may surprise some of you. Initially, I was sold on this card because making two or three triggers for cards like Spring Dryad is phenomenal, even if the Spiritstone Druid itself has fairly weak stats. The thing is, Spiritstone Druid has such a situational ability that it is difficult to make work. You must have enough empty lanes to play this, then want to replace it, then you NEED two empty lanes on either side of the Spiritstone Druid, as well as a Spring Dryad or Harbinger of Spring type of effect on the battlefield. Since the stats on the Druid are quite poor, you need to make sure you are getting two Spiritstone tokens with its effect. But this is difficult to do, especially when your opponent is pressuring you and forcing you to play things in lanes that aren’t conducive to taking a turn and playing a Spiritstone Druid.

To not warp your game flow, synergy creatures need to be like Windborn Hellion and reward you for doing things that you already want to be doing. They shouldn’t make you veer off on a subgame of “making my cards work correctly” like Forge Guardian Omega and Spiritstone Druid do.

The Payoff is Worth It

gloomreaperwitch

This criterion measures if you are getting a good deal with the synergies you are creating. Typically, I like my synergies to be capable of producing an entire play worth of advantage, without costing too many plays. I’ll happily settle for less if the card is easy to activate. For instance, if I have a Windborn Hellion and move three creatures, it has gotten +3/+3 – that’s like casting an Enrage on it for free. That’s great! But I’ll still take moving just one or two creatures, since it is such an easy card to make work and has potential for high upside.

Good: Gloomreaper Witch

Bad: Bulwark Bash

Gloomreaper Witch is my best common example for this. Gloomreaper Witch can destroy an entire creature – providing the power is low enough. Now, Gloomreaper is nowhere near as easy to turn on as some other cards, but because of the huge power of its effect and decently sized body, I love picking up Gloomreaper Witches and don’t mind warping my draft a little in order to support it.

Bulwark Bash is the opposite. Though it has the same effect on the board as a Gloomreaper Witch (killing a creature), Bulwark Bash requires much more setup before it can even be cast. You need a creature on the board with sufficient armor and a creature on the opponent’s side of the board that you want to kill and that has sufficiently low enough health to kill with the armor you have on the board. And in return for this, you end up trading one play for one play – Bulwark Bash for whatever creature you killed with it. Unlike Gloomreaper Witch, there is no potential to go up in plays, since Bulwark Bash doesn’t linger on the board as a creature and does not require further attention from your opponent.

The fewer hurdles you have to jump and the higher the payoff of your card for jumping those hurdles makes for a good synergy card. You want your cards to have high upside if you are living the dream, like Gloomreaper Witch. You do not want cards that require you to live a dream before providing mediocre payoff, like Bulwark Bash.

Final Thoughts

I still haven’t answered when it is correct to draft for synergy over raw power. The answer is complicated, like most decisions in draft. Typically, I try to draft for power in the early and late stages of draft, while I draft for synergy in the middle. The reason for this is because early in the draft, I don’t know what factions I’m going for or cards I’ll pick up, whereas later on in the draft I have a better idea of what I can get away with. Similarly, I’ll avoid picking up any synergistic cards late in the draft if I don’t already have the cards to support it.

Drafting with synergy in mind is more challenging than simply drafting the best card in each of your packs, but is typically more rewarding. These three criteria have helped me go through numerous drafts and doubtless will for many, many more to come. I hope these guidelines help any players who struggle with knowing what are the right types of synergies to draft, and what is and what isn’t an acceptable risk.

Good luck in your drafts!

-Gard

6 Comments

  1. DraftSilver

    Synergy is really important in draft. To help with synergy i add one category in my draft tier lists named: Category. Is the category of the cards like Underdrop and others. Right now my complete draft tier list is for 7.1. Next week i will add Category to my 7.2 Draft Tier List too.

  2. soda_quasar

    Nicely written. Some cards in draft are so good that it can be considered auto-pick. Matrix warden and Stygian lotus for example.. But sometimes it is very satisfying to draw some crazy cards with difficult synergies and pull out an epic win. Getting Omega in draft rarely happen.. But I had experienced being Omega’ed by some other players in draft. I feel nothing but pure respect to my opponent even though I ended up obliterated badly. *salute* lol.

    1. Gard

      Stygian Lotus is quite a poor card; it is far from an auto-pick. It’s extremely small and mostly serves to prolong a game you are losing, and even then only when you are very far behind on board (or very lucky).

      You definitely don’t want Stygian Lotus in the vast majority of draft decks.

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