According to Steam I've put 24 hours into SolForge so far, which is a pretty good number for me in a beta. I hate betas in general and this one is no better than average. Server stability is flaky, it's incredibly light on features, and a crazy launch day bug kept me from getting the starting cards for about a week.
Yet I keep playing every day in order to get my three daily bonuses. One for logging in, one for winning a game, and one for playing three online games. Some days my online time synchs up with James, Josh, or Jamie and I get to play my three games with people I know who's name starts with a J. Most days I play games against random people. And then beyond that I'll pop the game open and play games against the computer for fun to see how my deck runs.
It evolves with the free stuff I get every day and with experience playing the game and it's gotten to a pretty reasonable spot. I don't think I've lost a game against a random opponent online. I'm not sure how much that's saying, because I figure most of the people playing random opponents probably are doing so because they need the random reward and therefore have questionable decks. But even when I play against people I know, I find I'm winning almost every game that makes it to the late game. I get blown out by good fast decks, though!
I have a couple of brutally powerful cards that have incredibly weak first stages. A dragon that starts as a 0/6 wall and ends up as a 24/24 mobility 2 guy who hits all opposing creatures for 5 when it comes into play and a robot that starts as a 1/1 armour 1 dude and ends up as a 20/20 armour 10 dude. These are cards I find fun, so my goal was to build a deck that could survive in order to level them up a bunch and then draw the powerful versions.
The problem is by default you only draw 20 of your 30 cards each time through your deck. In order to resolve a tier 3 guy on turns 9-12 you need to have drawn it both of the first times through your deck and draw it the third time through as well. That's less than 30% for any specific card! And I don't exactly have a lot of super powerful cards. So when I was first getting started I kept finding that I'd play a 0/6, and a 1/1, and die. I wouldn't get the goodness of those cards, but I would get all the terribleness of playing terrible tier 1 cards.
I've added a few things to my deck to try to smooth things out. There's a 5/4 guy who draws you a card when you play him and I'm running 3 of those. It doesn't sound like much, but the 5/4 body is big enough to trade with most other tier 1 plays and the extra card is deceptively good. Assuming I play two of these guys I'm up to drawing 22 cards each time through my deck, not 20. On it's own that brings me up to about 40% of playing a specific card each of my first 3 passes through the deck. It's actually even better than that, since the tier 2 version of that guy draws you 2 cards when you play him and the tier 3 version draws 3 cards.
The other thing I've added to the deck is Technosmith, which I think may be my favourite common. It's a 2/2 guy at tier 1 which is pretty terrible but he can sometimes trade with things. The key to him is that when he comes into play I get to discard a card from my hand and level it up. This lets me skip the terrible tier 1 aspect of some of my best cards while still getting them to a better stage. 2/2 isn't good, but it's better than 0/6! His upgraded versions have reasonable bodies (8/8 and then 15/15) while continuing to let me level cards up. On top of Technosmith I have a legendary card which is a 1/9 that lets me discard a card every turn to level it up.
What is Technosmith doing for me? Well, he's also sacrificing the early game by being only 2/2 but he's really powering up my mid game. With a normal deck you'll level up 8 cards in age 1. You expect to draw 5 of those cards the second time through as well, so your age 3 deck expects to be 19 tier 1 cards, 6 tier 2 cards, and 5 tier 3 cards. On the other hand if you get 2 free levels each age by running 3 Technosmith (I only own 2, sadly, but the legendary fills in) then you rate to level up 10 cards in age 1 and rate to draw 6 of those to level in age 2. So your age 3 deck expects to be 16 tier 1 cards, 8 tier 2 cards, and 6 tier 3 cards. That's a pretty significant swing in power level. Things can get fudged by drawing all your leveled cards in one hand and then drawing hands with no leveled cards at all, but the second set will weather those storms better than the first too.
Combine them both, with drawing extra cards and leveling extra cards, and I find any game that goes long is mine for the taking. I don't get hands where I'm stuck playing tier 1 cards and my opponent does. Tier 1 cards have no hope of fighting off a 20/20 with 10 armour, or a 24/24. Or even just the 15/15 Technosmith body, really.
I think I need to figure out a better way to survive the super early game. I need some way to kill multiple Echo Whisps in one go. (A 6/1 that comes with a copy!) Maybe I should add more Magma Hounds to my deck? (A 4/3 that does 2 damage to something when it comes into play.)