Had a lot of fun playing in the season 2 Vassal League and was fortunate enough to actually win the thing, which is always good. While the play-ins and finals were 3v3 & 5v5 Pick & Ban, respectively, the final itself was a 31 hero draft on Scorched Earth. Drafts can be pretty daunting, particularly when we are talking about 31 heroes, and by the time it got to the final, I was quite keen to win so I sat down and starting to write a drafting strategy. This proved more difficult than I initially thought, because, where do you start?

Eventually I got some ideas down and then these formed into, what I believe, is a solid template for anyone wishing to do well in draft formats. I thought I would share it with everyone to get their opinions and also to help you get better at draft mode.

Step 1: Draft Priorities

The 1st thing, for me, was to recognise which heroes would be a priority for me as this would form the basis for the rest of my draft. After considering all my options, these were the top 4.
  1. Kvarto
  2. Styx
  3. Nephenee
  4. Skye

Kvarto and Styx are considered top tier, mainly due to their ability to move things around out of sequence. Positioning is so important in Judgement so the ability to move a piece, particularly after it has activated, is huge. Nephenee is just fantastic at lots of things and in the hands of an experienced player, she can dominate. Skye is a defender I have really come to love of late, and the buffs he received from patch #6 elevated his utility a lot.

As things worked out in the Vassal League final draft, I did get Kvarto & Skye, denied my opponent Styx and decided, due to the way the draft was going, to ban Nephenee and take Fazeal (a hero she counters heavily). I came out of the draft feeling like I had nailed it, based on my prior planning, and that was very satisfying.

Step 2: Combinations

In this step, I identified the classic combinations of heroes so that I had something to reference should I manage to secure one of the heroes at the start of the chain. It is no coincidence that my top 2 priorities are also 2 of the best combination heroes in the game.

- Skoll -> Xyvera
- Bastian -> Skoll, Nephenee, Piper
- Kvarto -> Zaffen, Thrommel
- Styx -> Zaffen, Thrommel, Kogan
- Sharn -> Zaffen, Kogan, Thrommel
- Loribela -> All Dwarfs & Minotaurs
- Zaron -> Rakkir

In hindsight, I didn't manage to get any of these combinations off, however I still ended up with a decent Warband.

Step 3: Dependencies

This step is to identify any red flags where certain heroes really need another to perform at the top level. These heroes can still work well in pick & ban, however I find they are potentially pit falls in draft.

- Xyvera -> Doenrakkar or Skoll
- Thrommel -> Kvarto or Loribela

Step 4: Avoidance Combos

This is a fairly advanced step where I identified combinations of heroes that I believe do not work well together, for various reasons. That is not to say you cannot do well combining them, just that you have to be aware of why they do not synergise perfectly.

- Zaffen & Allandir - both want Heart Seeker and both suffer from the same problems such as hard cover or getting dived by high manoeuvrability heroes
- Zhonyja & Rakkir - both are fate heavy. They want to spend a fate every turn to gain the most out of them.
- Nephenee & Rakkir - both have 1" reach. I never like my 2 melee aggressors to be reach 1
- Kvarto & Styx - I feel these two overlap too much in their abilities and they provide too many tricks and not enough substance. Sure you can use Styx for movement and Kvarto for just damage however you may as well get either Istariel . who is better at ranged, or a melee aggressor, to replace Kvarto.

Resulting Warbands

These were the Warbands that Chunky and I ended up with:

Guns: Fazeal, Svetlana, Kvarto, Skye, Istariel
Chunky: Kogan, Sharn, Brok, Skoll, Kruul

I was really happy with my Warband. I felt I got the the Istariel counter for Kogan, Brok & Skoll. One of the top 2 disruptors in the game with Kvarto and a solid core with Svetlana, Fazeal and Skye. Chunky's looked solid as well, and was very tanky however, if you watch the battle, he made a few early mistakes in deployment, followed up by some poor rolls trying to kill the monsters on his side which let me get the ascendency and never take my foot of the accelerator, except for a decent mistake right at the end. 😉

Interested in everyone's thoughts on this, particularly if you have additions to each of the steps that I missed.

If you are interested in watching the battle you can do so here.


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I think its kind of interesting that you didn't include Jaeger in your combos section, other than I guess he just fills a lot of spots? I did find it funny that you listed the same 3 models working well with Styx and Sharn, but did them in a different order 😋
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Ah, yeah, I found trying to write down combos and things while staring at 31 heroes was, in itself, not easy. I find that Jaegar is one of those models that kind of synergizes with everyone, with Retarius, and also is a hero that operates just fine on his own. So I tend to just slot him into any Warband and he kind of works. I normally do not equip him with any items so that is another thing that makes him not clash with any other hero either. He is a great all-rounder and can slot into any Warband IMO.
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Thought I'd do a thing where I put my notes in here as well, and maybe go through the video and do a bit of commentary on some interesting things that happened in the game.

First, the notes:

Notes for Vassal League final Map 6

Overall strat – ignore Forin shrine, dominate Eldrin and Soulpit for victoly

Important aspects: Really want to pick top side to cater for this strat

Need to be able to deal with Dorgokaan spawns and close monster spawns - Kvarto, Styx, Brok, Jaeger, Sharn, Viktor – Svetlana would be too far away at the soul pit

If going first, definitely want a soulgazer, probably want one anyway – souls can be grabbed from behind wall – if going second, ideally want Kruul

Need some beef to hold strategic areas – also ideally do damage – Sharn best, maybe go double defender

Allandir and Zaffen must be banned – both can shoot soulgazer while keeping Forin

This strategy will be fate starved if no early soul – outside of Sharn and Kvarto/Styx, need everything else to be fate light Potential first picks – Sharn, Kvarto, Styx Ideal – Sharn, Kvarto, Thorgar, Kruul, Skoll

I think our thought processes were somewhat similar, both looking to dominate a particular area of the board, and both identifying Kvarto and Styx as some of the key models for the map.

One thing for me, is that I hadn't played this map at all prior to the stream, and I probably underestimated how tough the area around the Eldir shrine is to dominate between Dor'kogaan and the random monster, especially once I got banned out of Kvarto and Styx. I failed to adjust my plan at that point in the draft. I'm finding Burning Earth tends to strongly favour one side over the other - in this case I picked side, but I think I picked the wrong one.

I also don't normally think things through much ahead of a draft, and I think in this case I got too fixated on the grand masterplan and failed to adjust to what was happening. When Kvarto and Styx got banned, I probably should have pivoted to a more range based warband in order to threaten Kvarto in particular.

I also made a few important mistakes in the game itself that were probably more decisive than my drafting - I think the warband I picked could have gotten the job done if I'd played better.

I'll do a separate post for timestamped commentary on the game.

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<4:40> OK, Draft process kicks off proper - Viktor is banned 🙁
<5:45> In hindsight, I should have picked Styx and hoped to float Sharn through since I had the next pick, but I also hadn't played Sharn at this point, and I'm a big fan, so I really wanted to use her.
<7:00> If I'd been on video the standard of my poker face would definitely have been revealed when Guns banned Styx
<10:10> I'm not sure Jaeger was a good ban, I was thinking I didn't want 2 RNG heroes, but he probably would have been good for enabling Kogan, and I'm not sure he fit as well in Guns warband

The rest of the draft I was pretty OK with.

<18:35> I badly misdeployed Sharn here, largely to some cognitive dissonance in regards to Kvarto. I had intended on using Kvarto to clear monsters away from the Eldir shrine, and Sharn was my Kvarto movement shenanigans counter by pulling people back in that Kvarto had moved, so I was thinking Guns would go for Eldir as well. This left her drastically out of position. Given that she was the lynchpin of my strategy, she should have been more central.

<25:30> I made a big mistake on my very first activation of the game, throwing Null Magic down largely just because I could. If I had instead moved up to within 4" of the soul, the game could have turned out very differently.

<26:45> Fazeal Decap #1 - getting this allowed Fazeal to push high up the board, really threatening considering the first strike capacity decap grants him.

<41:20> Guns makes me pay for my earlier mistake, pulling in Kruul so that he is almost certainly dead. If I'd been able to grab the soul then move back, Kruul would have been safe from that attack.

<45:00> Brok has a horrible activation going in on Dor'kogaan, leaving him on 8 health. This really slows down my advance on that side of the board.

<48:15> Decap #2 for Fazeal, nailing Kruul for 12 damage.

<49:40> I moved Skoll close to Kruul to make sure he would inherit the soul, but I think I'd have been better off writing it off at this point and opting to reset positioning further towards my lines.

<54:30 Guns surprised me with the Svetlana charge - easy to forget she has Pathfinder

<56:25> I kill Dor'gokaan at range, leaving Kogan stranded out wide and not getting the precious fate - would have been much better off charging.

<1:00:00> In Sharn's activation, I could have pulled Skoll back further

<1:02:30> Random spawning Vujasha's are very game turning moments, due them activating with each soul, as well as dropping a soul when they die. With Guns controlling the soul pit, he gets to control when the Vujaas activate.

<1:05:30> Really should have used the rock throw here, to enable me to keep Terra going for free (this game was prior to the errata on Terra)

<1:10:40> Activating Skoll before Kvarto was a mistake. I should have simply gone after Vujasha with Kogan at this point.

<1:15:00> First time using Sharn, and the inexperience shows here, as the main intention was to pull Skoll back, but by charging forward so far I couldn't pull him back as far as I'd have liked

<1:21:00> Another whiff on a omnster - i really did fare poorly in this turn, activatin models in the wrong order then compounding it with poor dice trying to kill monsters

<1:24:00> This activation from Istariel is brutal - max damage, fire and then fate for 12 damage out of nowhere, leaving Skoll on 5 health

<1:27:30> Fazeal decap #3 - one each turn. Guns was so far ahead at this point that he didn't need it, instead using movement to move up and threaten my effigy

Guns went conservative and gave me a punchers chance to get back into the game by harvesting with Svetlana, but I was too far behind and he was able to finish the effigy for the win.

In the end, poor deployment and poor order of activation put me in a hole that I needed good dice to dig my way out of, but it didn't happen. Guns played a very fundamentally sound game to keep me under pressure and reacting the whole time.
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Judgement - The 54mm scale, MOBA inspired, table-top miniatures game