In the first dedicated strategy article here on Between The Lanes, I’ll be going over a topic completely unique to The Elder Scrolls: Legends: runes!
The concept of runes is relatively simple; each player has five runes attached to his or her character along with a life total of thirty. At increments of each five damage that your hero takes, one of your runes is “broken,” which basically just means you draw a card. The extra layer of strategy attached to these runes has to do with the Prophecy keyword found on some cards in Legends. If you draw a card with Prophecy off of one of your rune breaks, you get the option to play it for free right there.
Runes are there to benefit the defending player. In some games like Hearthstone, interaction is completely nonexistent on your opponent’s turn and you have no potential decisions to make. In other games like Magic: the Gathering, there are tons of possibilities on either turn. The rune system is a happy medium between the two that really accomplishes what you want out of an interaction on the enemy turn – it gives the defending player a fighting chance. Without the rune system, the game runs the risk of the aggressive player (the one keeping the tempo and playing threats first) completely steamrolling things. Runes, at the very least, give your opponent card advantage if you’re on an aggressive game plan and have the potential to offer huge swing turns depending on which Prophecy cards were added to the deck. Deck building is an article for another time, but in this article I’ll be discussing a few things to keep in mind that should help you play around runes more efficiently. Since this is likely something you’ll have to do in every single game of Legends you play, I figured it was quite a worthy topic for the first article on the site.
Step 1: Know the Prophecies
I realize saying things like “know the metagame” is fairly unhelpful at the moment since the meta itself still needs time to develop and a lot of people still don’t have beta invites. However, this is something to keep in mind going forward. The meta will continue to change and popular decks and cards will fluctuate, and staying on top of these changes will be paramount to your success for a variety of reasons, Prophecy cards among them.
In order to adequately plan a line of attack or even the order you do things in a turn, you have to have some idea of the Prophecy cards you want to play around. Which attributes (colors) is your opponent playing? What style of deck does it look to be? Given those two answers, which Prophecy cards is he or she most likely to be playing? Only after answering these questions can you make a truly effective game plan. This might seem tedious, but through playing a lot of games it will become clear which Prophecy cards are important to play around.
For the sake of a very basic example, I think we can safely assume that Piercing Javelin is one of the Prophecy cards most likely to see competitive play among the cards available currently. Let’s say I have the only creature on board and am poised to break an enemy rune, and I also have some powerful creature in my hand that I definitely want to summon this turn.
Since I know that Piercing Javelin exists and also that my opponent (assuming he’s playing Willpower) is likely to be using the card, I can make the relatively easy decision to attack first and break the rune before summoning my new powerful creature to the board. This might seem inconsequential given the actual chance that the Javelin is drawn off that exact rune, but this type of ordering can easily help dictate the result of the game and it all stems from knowing what to play around in the first place.
Proper Ordering of Plays
In the last example, the correct line of play involved thinking about the order of actions to take. Since TES: Legends gives players pretty much complete control over the order in which things are done (after drawing a card at the start of the turn) we were able to attack first, check for a nasty Prophecy, and then summon a creature. This doesn’t just begin and end with checking for removal actions like the Javelin, though.
Creatures with Prophecy also exist meaning there is a chance your opponent could develop their own board on your turn if you break a rune, potentially interrupting your strategy with a Guard or other nasty Summon effect. If you have an Execute in your hand that you’re probably going to use on a “vanilla” (or effect-less) 2/2, it may make sense to hold back on that until after you make any rune-breaking attacks. If you’re aiming to deal a bunch of damage in a clear lane with your creatures but your opponent drops a Lurking Mummy out of the first rune break, you are definitely going to want to play that Execute in the middle of your attacks. You can look at the board and come to the conclusion that you are almost definitely going to make a certain play, but remember; breaking runes means the board could change significantly. If you have the opportunity to hold some removal back just in case, I suggest it.
Until now, my examples have basically been warning against playing cards too early without seeing how the rune breaks go, but there are indeed situations where it’s correct to play out most of a turn before making rune-breaking attacks. This can be due to a number of things, but two of the most common are the need to clear Guard minions out of the way with removal or trying to deal the maximum damage. Yes, if you equip that item to one of your creatures, it may in fact die to some Prophecy card and lose you two cards for the price of one, but that doesn’t necessarily matter if you’ve properly assessed the risk against the reward and are trying to put your opponent on a clock. If you have a 2/2 in play and want to play your Savage Ogre to give it +5/+0 for the turn to deal that extra damage, you run the risk of the Ogre getting hit with a Prophecy instead of the 2/2, but that does not mean it’s incorrect to play the Ogre first.
Proper Ordering of Attacks
The ordering of attacks also comes into play here. Whereas it’s usually best to hold off on actions from your hand until after runes break, if you have creatures that you want to trade into opposing creatures, it’s often better to make those trades before breaking runes. The reason is simple; if your first attack goes face and a Prophecy sets up an additional Guard or destroys your creatures that were set up to trade, you might have just lost out on a very important opportunity to kill enemy creatures.
When it comes attacks just on the opponent’s face, it’s usually not right to save the biggest attack for last since it increases the chance that a Prophecy will interrupt the attacks before then and lead to you dealing less damage overall. For this example, we can say you have a 7/7 and a 1/1 on board and discuss two different scenarios; one where the opponent has 21 life remaining, and one where they have 19 life remaining.
- In the 21 life scenario, attacking with the 1/1 first breaks one rune as opposed to two (since they will break at 20 and 15 life) meaning your opponent is overall less likely to get a Prophecy, but the Prophecy he or she gets could be much more damaging since it could block the 7/7 from hitting face. Going from eight potential damage to one could be a pretty huge loss, whereas you’re guaranteed seven damage by attacking with the 7/7 first and likely wouldn’t care if the 1/1 got interrupted before attacking; a card like Piercing Javelin would likely still have to be used on the 7/7 anyway.
- In the 19 life scenario, attacking with the 7/7 first would be incorrect in almost every circumstance. The 1/1 going in first doesn’t destroy any runes, whereas the 7/7 attacking first would. As previously mentioned, we probably don’t care too much if the 1/1 gets interrupted, but in this scenario the life total is allowing us to ensure we put all eight damage to the opponent, so if you’re attempting to win the damage race, attacking with the 1/1 should happen first to guarantee all eight.
These kinds of small decisions will happen constantly whenever the board contains more than one or two creatures. Effects that trigger on attack like Pilfer could change things given the priority you place on making sure they go off, so be constantly analyzing the board and thinking of what you definitely want to accomplish with your attacks to give your opponent’s runes the least chance of negatively affecting you.
Know When to Hold Back
The simplest way to not let a winning position turn into a losing one through an unlucky Prophecy is not breaking a rune. You may be asking yourself, “isn’t this counter-intuitive if the whole point of the game is to break all my opponent’s runes while bringing them to 0 life?” While you wouldn’t be wrong per se, as that is the idea of TES: Legends, there is no rule saying you have to take every direct attack on your opponent that is available to you. As a matter of fact, you often should not.
The thing about breaking a rune is that even if you don’t give your opponent a creature or action with Prophecy, you are still letting them draw a card. When you’re firmly in the driver’s seat and have a ton of board presence, this probably doesn’t matter since they will be unlikely to play enough cards to keep up with your tempo unless they get a Prophecy. However, I’ve seen a lot of players break runes in situations where neither player had a firm grasp on the board, many resources, or the ability to close out the game quickly.
Unlike in other games where you’d only be dealing free damage, this often equates to giving your opponent free cards just to deliver a negligent amount of damage. In many cases, I’m more than happy holding back a small amount of damage if I know my opponent is low on resources and I can make a safer push for damage in the coming turns. Your opponent has one natural draw per turn. Increasing that to two by breaking a rune while giving them the potential to play one of those cards for free to regain the tempo has to be respected. Know your opponent’s outs, assess what they have the ability to play, and then decide if your attack is worthwhile in the long run. Your opponent may be left hoping you broke that one extra rune.
Hopefully you all found this first article helpful, and I wish you good luck in applying these tips to your next games of TES: Legends. Stay tuned to the site for more upcoming content as well as the site’s Facebook and Twitter pages to know when new content is posted. Feel free to drop by one of my Twitch streams if you want to see some gameplay, and I’ll see you all next time!