You might be surprised to know that you don’t need that much skill to make it to the top of constructed ladder.
- By far, the most important thing to do is to identify and play a Tier 1 deck. (Sorry Icaria Blue fans.)
- Skill matters, but only up to a point. You have to be good but you don’t have to be amazing at this game. Some have reached the top of ladder with only a few weeks of experience- jaypeg did it when open Beta began.
- Get a win streak and stop playing once you’ve secured a high position. Sunyveil held the #1 spot on ladder for a long time because he went on vacation.
- Figure out how to game the system.
Identifying Tier 1
In every metagame, not everybody in Top 10 ladder is playing the best deck. While Party Hour was the deck to beat, some of the top players were playing some form of aggro (e.g. Bandit Queen / Jito Queen was strong back then). You generally have to play the best deck or a deck with a good matchup against the best deck.
One way to identify the Tier 1 decks is to look at the current top 10 and figure out what each player has been playing. You can join Discord and ask.
Because my Eternal play is a little rusty, I actually have no idea what the best decks are right now. Here’s my current list that I have played to top 50:
3 Flame Blast (Set1 #2)
4 Grenadin Drone (Set1 #5)
4 Oni Ronin (Set1 #13)
1 Pyroknight (Set1 #16)
4 Rapid Shot (Set1 #259)
4 Torch (Set1 #8)
2 Annihilate (Set1 #269)
4 Argenport Instigator (Set1 #268)
4 Quarry (Set1001 #15)
4 Vara’s Favor (Set0 #35)
1 Cabal Countess (Set1 #506)
4 Champion of Chaos (Set1 #402)
1 Shogun’s Scepter (Set1 #26)
4 Bandit Queen (Set1 #389)
4 Obliterate (Set1 #48)
2 Soulfire Drake (Set1 #47)
10 Fire Sigil (Set1 #1)
4 Shadow Sigil (Set1 #249)
3 Diplomatic Seal (Set1 #425)
4 Seat of Chaos (Set0 #60)
4 Stonescar Banner (Set1 #419)
This may not be the best deck list for ladder. My performance this season has not been good because I have not cracked top 10.
Batteriez has an interesting Combrei plate deck that he piloted to #1 on ladder this season. ManuS should be coming out with a video on it… once it’s out I’ll post a link to his video and the decklist here. And of course you can just go on Discord and ask about Tier 1 decklists.
Lastly, the top players happen to enjoy playing whatever the best decks are (or are willing to put up with it). Many of the game’s most skilled players choose to play something else and don’t rank as high on ladder as they could, simply because they don’t enjoy playing certain decks. Or they hit #1 and decide to play something more fun (e.g. dark clockroaches, Spaceplague’s reanimator, etc.).
You do need a good understanding of the game:
- When you should take risk (e.g. you’re not favored to win) and when you shouldn’t.
- That you should try to prolong the game when you are power flooded or screwed, so that you have time to eventually draw out of it.
- Playing to your outs.
- Figuring out who’s the beatdown and who’s the control.
- Understanding the various matchups.
- Understanding the deck that the opponent is playing and what cards to play around.
However, many of the players who have peaked at #1 on ladder only had a few weeks of experience with Eternal. Months of experience are not necessary.
Breaking the metagame
Discovering the best deck before everybody else can certainly push you to the very top of ladder. However, this isn’t easy.
Early season ranking
At the very beginning of a season, it is much easier to reach #1 when there are very few Masters-ranked players to beat. This is one of the easiest ways to hit #1 on ladder.
Win streaks and not playing
If you grind out a lot of games, eventually you will get lucky and put together an excellent winstreak. Being lucky is necessary to achieve the highest ladder rankings, though luck will come with grinding a very large number of games.
Not playing is a strategy that has worked in the past in regards to holding your position on ladder. (Though you may lose a few positions at the end of the season due to people trying harder to get that number beside their name.)
Gaming the current ranking system
I haven’t figured out how the current ranking system works, but I strongly feel that there is something wrong with it. Some of the game’s most skilled players are ranking lower than they should be (e.g. Finkel, who is UK-based). I haven’t put in the time and effort to figure it out, but it likely has to do with the time of day that you play.
Some players will have an inflated rating due to win streaks, i.e. their rating exceeds their skill level due to luck. Those are ELO/MMR-favorable matchups since ELO-like ranking systems make adjustments for the skill level of your opponents. You want to play against opponents whose ranking exceeds their actual skill. If you play at popular times, you may get more matchups against those players versus playing at odd hours. That “edge” from playing Eternal at the right time might be why some players do better than others on ladder.
Or, it could be that the developers have put in some type of decay into the ranking system… or there is a bonus for playing frequently. But I doubt that’s the case.
Currently I am not enamored with ladder because it’s not about achieving higher levels of piloting skill (or deckbuilding skills).
Perhaps the next ‘innovation’ is somebody figuring out how the ranking system works and figuring out how to get advantageous matchups. I would look on steamspy.com/steamcharts.com to determine the best times of day to play (~3-4PM Eastern Standard Time is the peak)… and then keep stats on matchups, skill level of opponents (largely the deck that they bring), and the effect of wins and losses on ladder rank. But that isn’t something that interests me.
I suspect that some players naturally “game” the ladder simply based on the time of day that they normally play. Some players are based in North America and play at the most popular times, gaining a ladder advantage unintentionally. So perhaps the takeaway for high-ranked play is to simply play during peak hours.