First off, a HUGE thanks to Dylan Northrup for his help in decoding UIDs for FiveShards, as well as props to Chark, Chris Woods, and the rest of the HEX team for recording the data and providing it to the community.
Thanks to the HEX team, we are able to get the full picks from every participant in the HEX $100K Invitational Draft. There is a lot to look at, and we are going to jump around a lot in this article, so hold on and let’s get to it:
Another 5 cards at 5 copies and 21 cards at 4 copies. Ethereal Caller and Spirit Eagle are particularly interesting, as likely they are the most powerful cards on the list and both just happen to exist in Diamond. This can either be a major boon (if you are the only Diamond drafter, then welcome to the Top 4…) or a major bust (if everybody sees early pick Diamond cards, it’s gonna be a bloodbath draft).
Another 13 cards come in with only 1 copy each, but I wanted to highlight the removal here to point out how this draft had it pretty rough with some of the common pieces of removal simply not showing up in big numbers. Focus, Slicer, and Brave are all also considered fairly solid cards in their respective shards, so players that might have been hoping to see one floating around in the middle of the packs ended up disappointed on this day.
Do bombs matter?
Three players had Pack 1, Pick 1 rares or legendaries. Cyriius took Yancy, Tinkerer of Terror, JadiimJedi took Golden Avenger, and Koma took a Crocosaur. JadiimJedi didn’t even end up playing the Golden Avenger, so we are left seeing a 2-1 and an 0-3 for the players that picked a rare or legendary that made it into his deck. You could argue (and probably argue correctly) that Crocosaur is on a slightly different level than Yancy. However, on the stream we see Koma winning without Crocosaur and actually losing with it in one game where Demon of Dusk stalls out the game while Koma draws poorly, so in the samples we can see, we don’t find evidence that Crocosaur was the reason for victory.
Stepping back to rares and legendaries that were played, we get the following totals compared to the players win percentage:
Seeing the only players at the top with 3+ rares and legendaries certainly can led us to think that there might be some weak correlation happening here. However, our admittedly small sample size gives us a correlation coefficient of (.26). That isn’t really enough to say that there really is a positive correlation happening between players who had the most rares and success in the draft.
The thing to remember about this data point when trying to apply it to your own games is that each of the Invitational players had knowledge of their opponent’s deck before each match. Cards like Noxious Glory lose a bit of their bomb status if the opponent can try to play around it even in game 1, while things like Syyn, Etherdrake Nomad can result in the opponent bringing in cards like Return to the Soil after reserves even if they never saw Syyn in the first game. The power of bombs could have been slightly reduced due to this.
Cards Opened in Each Shard
You can only control what you pick, not what everybody opens. It can sometimes be hard to decipher between what isn’t open and what just hasn’t been opened. When we break down the cards of each shard that were opened, one thing becomes immediately clear:
This table is breaking down the contents of all 8 packs for each portion of the draft (so “Pack 1” here refers to the totals from all 8 players Pack 1s, and so on).
Assuming we see 14 “Other” shard cards in each pack (this includes Artifacts, Multi-Shard cards, and resources), you would expect to be around 24-25 cards in each shard opened in each direction. We see a few outliers here as Wild is deep in Pack 2, Diamond is opened heavily in Pack 3, and most importantly Blood is just GONE in Packs 1 and 3. Especially important is how this affects Pack 1 when players are still settling into their various shards. 18 opened is very far below what we would expect, and we see that reflected in our breakdown of Shards played, as Blood only had 3 players in the Shard.
Also interesting is that we only ended up with 2 Sapphire drafters despite it being tied for the most opened Shard in Pack 1. Part of this can be attributed to Cyriius flirting with the idea of RS in Pack 1, but part can also be attributed to what looks like a rather uninspiring lot of Sapphire cards in Pack 1. We don’t have good data for comparing cards in a numeric power level, but if we did it would speak poorly to the quality of Sapphire cards players saw for the most part in Pack 1.
How much do the best drafters value cost?
This is more an experimental analysis than the others, as when I started with the question I wasn’t sure at all what the answer would look like. We rarely get enough insight into regular drafts to gather data on things, like how highly drafters value taking high or low cost cards, so even though we have a very small sample, I thought it would be interesting to see if the data lined up with any common knowledge. Some drafters prefer to take the less expensive of two cards if given a choice, while others say it doesn’t matter as long as you draft to a curve. Getting 8 great players in one room lets us take a look at their feelings as a whole.
For Pack 1, we see a blip at the start as a few bombs get taken (so not surprising, really) and another at pick 7 (where suddenly Smashodon, Parriphagy, Zakiir’s Whim and Pyroknight all weigh down the average). Otherwise, it seems to be that players try to take the cheaper cards, with the end of the pack looking like it was the place players left the more expensive cards.
Pack 2 still trends upwards if you look at the pack as a whole, but it is much closer to level as again we see a big dip in the middle of the draft where players fill out their curve and then a rise at the end where players leave the expensive cards.
Pack 3 looks to be the noisiest of all the packs. To some extent, this can be explained by saying that by this point in the draft players are set in their archetypes and the picks all will follow a standard pick order much more closely rather than creating as many tough choices.
I would love to see what this graph looks like over 100s or 1000s of drafts as opposed to one single draft. We can never draw conclusions in stone from just one chart based off an 8-player data set, but all in all it looks like drafting cheaper cards first at least seemed to be the wisdom that the Invitational Top 8 tried to take.
Interesting picks throughout the Draft
For reasons that will become apparent later, I am going to start with JadiimJedi and go over some picks that ended up defining what each player was looking to accomplish.
The Spot: Pack 1, Pick 3
What Happened?: JJ has a first pick Golden Avenger in his pile, and Spiritbound Spy is a great part of RD or BD that plays especially well with the Avenger. Instead of going down the road of trying to make a Diamond deck take shape around Avenger, he chooses to take what might be the most objectively powerful card in the pack in Psychic Torment. We see him jump around in various shards a lot in Pack 1, up until Hatchery Cultivator laps back around to him, and from there it is all Spiders.
Result: Had JJ not stayed open, it could have been a much more difficult decision to switch into Spiders at the end of Pack 1. Instead, he gets to be the one to know that Spiders is wide open and move in. While he doesn’t 2-0 anybody, he still ends the draft at 3-0 and moves on.
The Spot: Pack 1, Pick 1
What Happened?: Vazrael takes what many would consider a lower power level card that doesn’t commit him to a shard over any one of a trio of powerful uncommons. One thing to note about all three of those powerful uncommons though is that they each are best in a Diamond deck, so staying away from fighting for Diamond means that Vazrael can take the flexible card and see what comes to him instead. After Pick 1, we see him float around all of the non-Diamond shard combinations before finally settling into Wild/Sapphire after amassing enough cards from each shard as the packs finally start all coming together.
Result: Vazrael both avoids fighting for Diamond and helps send the three players behind him into Diamond combinations thanks to passing a pack full of powerful cards in those archetypes. This lets him get rewarded handily in Pack 2, and it all pays off as he wins his first two rounds and moves on.
The Spot: Pack2, Pick 4
What Happened?: ValueCity’s first pack is very much taking advantage of a good run of Ruby and Diamond cards and moving in hard. Some criticize the P3 Pyresoul over Cultivator, but I think that pick was easily justifiable as Pyresoul is a decent signal most of the time and an incredibly strong card to boot. With the pick being discussed here though, we see something interesting in that ValueCity is pushing hard away from hate drafting cards outside his archetype and instead takes the Emberleaf that likely is coming in out of the reserves at best for a RD deck. We see throughout the rest of Pack 2 and the remainder of the draft that ValueCity doesn’t cut anyone else’s shards intentionally.
Result: ValueCity has an incredibly deep pool of reserves cards from which he can pull from in every match. His opponents might have gotten a slightly better deck out of it, but he banked on making his deck better rather than winning by subtracting from the opponent’s pool. Unfortunately for ValueCity, he runs into the two Ruby/Wild decks and loses to both of them thus ending his tournament.
The Spot: Pack 1, Pick 2
What Happened?: MasterMattchu clearly had a favorite archetype heading into the draft, as exampled by his pick of Ethereal Caller over Deathmask Assailant or Demon of Dusk with his first pick. All three of these cards are major reasons to be in various archetypes, and the selection of Neophyte put MasterMattchu on the Blood/Diamond sacrifice deck extremely early on in this draft.
Result: MasterMattchu ends up with a decent, if unexciting, Blood/Diamond deck. It likely feels like this strategy was intended to try and ensure a 2-1 deck, with the result falling slightly short of the goal. Considering he went 4-4 in games, you certainly have to feel he was right on the edge of making it in.
The Spot: Pack 1, Pick 5
What Happened?: Bootlace has been dabbling in Diamond, Blood, and Ruby so far in the draft. Cultivator is a signal that Spiders might be there, but Bootlace sticks to remaining in one of the two Diamond shard pairs rather than switch over or commit heavily to Blood or Ruby.
Result: Bootlace ends up with an okay deck, but the overdrafting of Diamond leads to too many cards being shared among its drafters. Bootlace and all the other Diamond drafters end up missing the top 4, although it is hard to say with certainty if committing to Blood/Diamond or Ruby/Diamond at this juncture would have improved things much.
The Spot: Pack 1, Pick 6
What Happened?: Outside of Martyr, Cyriius has a pile of good Ruby cards and has seen little else impressive in most of his packs. Skewer seems like a slam dunk here to continue the aggressive Ruby train, but with little Diamond seen so far that means passing Cultivator here leaves Cyriius planning on either moving into Diamond or Wild as a second shard in Pack 2 or to start taking Sapphire cards and go down the less-utilized Ruby/Sapphire deck.
Result: Things spiral from here, as really only Sapphire is open to him from this direction when you look at the other drafters. Pack 2 offers some Diamond, but by taking it here, you are either hoping to amass a high amount of quality Diamond in Pack 2 or that you somehow force others out of the shard. No one leaves, and when Diamond dries up quickly in Pack 3, it makes for a playable, but rough draft deck that ends up going 0-3.
The Spot: Pack 1, Pick 9
What Happened?: Koma’s been scooping up a pretty strong Wild deck thus far. Just 3 picks earlier, he hate drafts a Parriphagy when the pack is empty for him, but this pick better exhibits something that not all the other drafts do quite as much in this draft. Soup, Infuser, and Return are all borderline reserves cards that have their place in certain match-ups and against certain cards. Koma eschews all of them, instead opting to hate out the Hatchery Priest and keep a Spider deck from coming together.
Result: Koma hated a few more cards throughout the draft, but given the depth of the packs and his ability to read his position in Ruby/Wild, he is able to build a very good deck at the same time and moves on with a 2-1.
The Spot: Pack 1, Pick 3
What Happened?: Starting off with back-to-back Tempestuous Bladedancers, Eaglov moves on the Seer as opposed to taking some more on-shard options that many consider at the same or a slightly lower power level.
Result: He moves back into Ruby/Wild with subsequent picks, but taking Seer in that situation is a sign that Eaglov hadn’t totally ruled out switching to a different deck, even after taking two very strong picks in Ruby/Wild. Eaglov ends up moving on with a 2-1 record; thanks to his willingness to explore the picks instead of committing far too early.
One Pack in this draft seemed to draw a lot more attention than all the others, and indeed the way players approached it seemed to help determine their fortunes. The pack in question was opened by JadiimJedi, but it wasn’t until Pick 9 as it lapped back to its original opener, that Hatchery Cultivator made an exit from the pack.
This is the pack that viewers were likely screaming at due to the presence of Hatchery Cultivator, Nazhk Webguard, and Parriphagy (until late in the pack). In the moment, it can be frustrating to wonder how a card that is one of the more obvious Spider signals can possibly go all the way around the table. When you break it down to what series of events led to it happening though, it starts to be a bit more understandable.
1) Golden Avenger is a slam dunk first pick.
2) Storm Drummer spoke to Vazrael’s intentions that we see throughout Pack 1 of “Stay Open, but not in Diamond” as the Coyotle is amazing in two archetypes instead of just one.
3) ValueCity had a great Ruby card and a great Diamond card, so seeing a third pick Pyresoul was about all he could ask for as a sign to keep going.
4) MasterMattchu, by this point in the draft, had already started forcing the Blood/Diamond sacrifice deck. It is possible he should have switched, but also he likely felt that he had an edge on drafting one of the niche archetypes rather than trying to move over into what is normally a very contested Spider deck.
5) Bootlace by Pick 5 is going the exact opposite direction of Vazrael, in that he wants to be Diamond/X, and just hasn’t figured out what X is. Ethereal Caller over Skewer and Parriphagy is a pretty strong indication of that.
6) Cyriius has probably one of the most difficult decisions to make. Aggressive Ruby has been flowing to him, and Skewer is another sign he might be good to go on that front. On the other hand, it isn’t too late to switch and Cultivator is a pretty strong signal. The fact that he has seen very little Diamond to this point is probably concerning for what the second shard in his deck will be, so it is a tough call to make when so much is on the line.
7) Koma is very happy where he is with Ruby/Wild already by this point, so he is more than willing to simply hate out the card that is best against him in the first pack that doesn’t offer much to his build.
8) Eaglov also could have hated out the Cultivator, but instead we see him grab an Ashwood Soloist that didn’t make his final deck. At the time, his picks were all cards that work well in the more aggressive Ruby/Wild versions as well as the typical 5-drop version. This seems to mostly be a pick made in order to be prepared should he have to build a slightly different variation.
9) At this point, JJ has seen Hatchery Cultivator lap and moves all-in on Spiders.