The day has finally come. We have ROTATION (kind of…). The powers that be over at DWD, hallowed be thy name, have announced a new format that they are calling Expedition. The format launches Tuesday, July and will temporarily replace the casual queue though there will be a new practice toggle added to the competitive queue. You can go read the announcement here https://www.direwolfdigital.com/news/new-format-expedition/ but I can sum it up for you. Expeditions is a rotating format that will last about a month with a specific ban list. The first Expedition is a de facto crack at what a set rotation would look like in Eternal as the legal cards for the first Expedition are cards from Empty Throne (set 1), Defiance (set 5), and Dark Frontier (set 6).
When Expeditions were first announced I was very excited. Players have been calling for something like this for quite a while. I first floated the idea on twitter 6 months ago and Marvin the imp brought it up over a year ago on Reddit. Unfortunately this is not quite the curated ban list we were hoping for. Instead of targeted card snipes this pseudo rotation takes a machete to the meta and leaves a rather interesting landscape. The two biggest changes coming to this new format are the loss of crests, losing half the banners, and a significant reduction in attachment interactions. Let’s take a look at what an Expedition meta might look like.
As I said we are losing some very important cards out of our power bases. The crests have been staples of the game since their introduction, the only card I would say that has had a bigger impact on the game are the merchants. Losing the crests will have a negative impact on game variance because we lose a consistent method of scouting and influence fixing. Speaking of influence fixing with the removal of Omens of the past (set 2) we lose half the Banners, this means that Argenport, Hooru, Praxis, Skycrag, and Xenan have lost 8 dual influence cards from their respective power bases. In the case of Praxis and Hooru this issue is ameliorated by the existence of Insignias. Poor Argenport, Skycrag, and Xenan are left in the cold though. For this reason alone I expect those three factions will not be meta contenders. If you also look at some of the key cards those factions lost it paints a grim picture for them. Praxis no longer has Heart of the Vault or Teacher of Humility. Argenport lost Vara Vengeance Seeker, Slay, and Tavrod Auric Broker. meanwhile Xenan will be doing without Vara, Vengence Seeker, Mask of Torment, and Azindel Revealed. Beyond those changes, we also have a general reduction in relic interaction.
If you played the game back when we only had set one you ran into the issue of low relic interaction. Basically you had a few bad spells and one unit that interacted with relics at all. That wasn’t a huge problem though because relics were not all that amazing. A few, like Crystalline Chalice and Xenan Obelisk, made nuisances of themselves, but overall you just dealt with the board against those and treated Permafrost like hard removal if a Feln player used it on you. Now, though, we have things like Avagraft and Martyrs Chains, relics that can have a huge effect when they are played and left sitting on the board. The fact that most of the attachment interaction now sits in fire means that Stonescar and Rakano are going to be big players. I would put Rakano and Stonescar tied for second best positioned faction(s) in the new Expedition meta with Combrei taking a pretty decisive lead.
Having looked at the big losers for the set let’s take a look at the winners. Right off looking at available power you can see that Combrei, Feln, and Stonescar are going to have an edge. All Three factions have access to three dual influence power cards and still have most of their powerful cards. The Combrei decks will still have access to Stand Together, Desert Marshal, Sand Storm Titan and Martyrs Chains, additionally Defiance and Sediti, the Killing Steel are among the most played cards in the format and also both still available. Big Combrei decks have historically been very rampy and the archetype has even gained there when you consider Reclaim. It isn’t all roses and sunshine for Combrei though. The faction is losing World Bearer Behemoth and Telut, but with the recent enhancement to Siraf the deck isn’t losing a 7 drop threat. Moving on to look at Feln you can see that while, as a faction, it is still well positioned none of the traditional feln midrange decks survived the move to this Expedition. The deck still has Champion of Cunning, Dark Sky Harbinger, and Wisdom of the Elders, additionally it picked up Ice Bolt and possibly Royal Decree. The loss of Strategize and In Cold Blood will hurt, as will the loss of Jennev Merchant, not to mention Vara, Vengeance-Seeker. That said we might see Feln move back toward it’s early tempo days with cards like Twilight Raptor and Blood Beetle powering up Royal Decree’s Onslaught. Ultimately the reason I feel Feln will not be as good as Combrei is the potential prevalence of Aegis in the Combrei lists. Finally there is Stonescar. Even though Stonescar has an edge on power against Rakano I predict that Rakano will be able to leverage the better removal and temp packages to edge out Stonescar in the meta. In a heads up match Stonescar might come out ahead as it has the bigger more powerful units, but Rakano midrange can leverage card advantage in a way that Stonescar can’t with cards like Avigraft and Sedidi, the Killing Steel. I feel that the aggro and snowball Champion of Glory, Highland Sharpshooter, Champion of Glory, Hojan, Crownbreaker, and Red Canyon Smuggler will overcome Stonescars more midrange units, especially with the nerf to Stone Scarmaiden since it will now trade on any block. What keeps both decks in contention is that they still have access to torch and relic interaction so they are the best positioned against the widest array of the field. Stonescar loses Desecrate, In Cold Blood, and Vara, Vengeance-Seeker, but not much else though you can not underestimate the loss of Vara’s lifesteal. Rakano, on the other hand, loses Vanquishers Blade and Whirling Duo but gets Icaria, the Liberator back to her svelte 7 drop cost.
In wrap up I have to say that overall I am looking forward to trying out the format. I have a feeling that it will be very akin to classic Eternal with a few splashy bombs from the newer sets and that is both a good and bad thing. There will be quite a bit more variance and relics might be a bit oppressive but overall this will be a shake up from the current Praxis and Hooru dominated meta that haunts the competitive que. I for one hope that everyone gives the format a try and it replaces the existing competitive queue rather than casual. I am also hoping that, should this become a forever format, we will get a more curated Expedition for the next run.
I will close out with a list I am calling “Classic” Combrei as it is heavily based on old school Big Combrei and while not unique is a solid looking list.
4 Defiance (Set5 #77)
4 Finest Hour (Set1 #130)
2 Seek Power (Set1 #408)
4 Awakened Student (Set1 #331)
4 Desert Marshal (Set1 #332)
4 Friendly Wisp (Set1 #82)
4 Hojan, Crownbreaker (Set5 #86)
4 Temple Scribe (Set1 #502)
4 Pearl Abbey Smuggler (Set6 #231)
4 Stand Together (Set1 #334)
4 Sandstorm Titan (Set1 #99)
4 Marshal Ironthorn (Set1 #174)
4 Mystic Ascendant (Set1 #116)
5 Time Sigil (Set1 #63)
5 Justice Sigil (Set1 #126)
3 Emerald Coin (Set6 #91)
4 Combrei Banner (Set1 #424)
4 Combrei Insignia (Set6 #230)
4 Seat of Progress (Set0 #58)
1 Adjudicator’s Gavel (Set5 #76)
1 Vanquish (Set1 #143)
1 Pristine Light (Set6 #111)
1 Reclaim (Set6 #121)
1 Martyr’s Chains (Set5 #110)