Ask Justin #2: Arena Drafting, Carts, and Poetry
Every time I make/draft a deck I always seem to draw a hand of 3 magicka cost cards (because I have lots in my deck). Once I must have pulled 6 in a row which is great for drops 3 and 6 but not much in between.
So are my skills terrible or are there just a lot of great cards that cost 3 magicka that are irresistible?
An old complaint back when the game was freshly into Open Beta surrounded the number of quality three drops in green – this was back when green was considered the most powerful color in the game, and the question frequently arose of how many of these high-quality cards you could fit into a deck. In the early days of the game, there was also a lot of experimenting to figure out what were realistic magicka curves for a deck – there was even a time when Supreme Atromancer was considered by some to be a greedy and impractical card outside of a ramp strategy. We were jaded from our experiences playing other games, and held that decks should prioritize the cheapest cards possible – and that even three drops should be limited.
Of course, the game has turned out to be a lot more flexible than I and some others believed it to be back then. The truth is that the core set of cards is well enough balanced that curving out perfect in the early part of an arena game – having a 2 drop into 3 drop into 4 drop – isn’t essential. If I had the ring of magicka, I can see keeping an opening hand in arena that starts with Ash Servant or Hive Defender, as an outlier example.
I mention all of this because there is no doubt that the raw power level of cards really begins to tick up a notch at the 3-cost spot – possibly because unlike 1 and 2 cost cards, there is no chance of them being played on turn 1.
This isn’t to say that a great Arena deck just ignores cards that cost less than 3. There are definitely times when I will take a 2-drop card of a lower power level than a 3-drop card that I could take simply because I’d prefer to have a handful of 2 drops available to me. Arena doesn’t require you to curve out in order to win, but it can definitely help. In Arena, all other things being equal, the deck that hits its curve most perfectly will likely win. Finding a proper balance of raw power and a magicka curve that focuses on cheaper cards is tough, and takes some practice, but it’s likely the most consistent way to hit those 5, 6, or 7 win runs.
Generally, my strategy is to grab a handful of 2 drops or cheap removal early, and then fill out my curve with my later picks. You can win the late game with an Iron Atronach as well as you can a Lowland Troll if your early cards held things down well. Firebolt and Fighters Guild Recruit will almost always find a use – the same isn’t necessarily true of Elsweyr Lookout.
How do you use Marked Man? Why does he come with an overturned cart? Which came first, the Mark or the Cart?
I decided to consult with famed Cartographer Ptolemy to provide you with the sort of high quality answers that an inquisitive mind such as yourself deserved. I assure you that this has nothing to do with the loss I suffered at your hands in a Crusader mirror recently. Here is Ptolemy now!
(Translated from Greek)
The problem with Marked Man, is, of course, that he has no beard. Few know this – and even fewer speak of it, what with the recent decrees of our God-Emperor, of course – but Marked Man actually used to be a Dawnstar Healer named Clement, which I believe we can all agree is among the noblest of all Elder Scrolls professions, second perhaps only to the fine alchemy exploiters who create wondrous potions and enchantments beyond the wildest imaginations of those proud and bearded men and women who designed these glorious games.
Clement the Dawnstar Healer’s beard infused him with magicka on par with the mightiest of dragons, so as you may imagine, it came as quite a shock to this young man when a Penitus Oculatus Agent (his name was Carl) used his summon ability to steal this mighty beard, reducing Clement to simply a man with a cart. Clement wandered about Skyrim for a few months, trying to trade his cart for wares, but was dismayed to discover that his cart was, in fact, not worth coin, and therefore… well, you know the rest.
My studies have actually discovered that the cart preceded the birth of both Clement and Carl – and it outlived them both, as well. In a tragic twist of fate, the cart was actually born Henrietta the Lovely on a small farm in northern Shadowfen. Henrietta had an uneventful childhood, until as a young woman she grew a beard that drove the local men wild. Henrietta’s parents managed to pay a travelling band of Khajiit merchants a small fortune to hide her and smuggle her to Skyrim, but it was too late – Henrietta was already pregnant with twins. Nevertheless, the Khajiit disguised her as – you guessed it – a cart, and used her to transport their infamous wares into the barren wastelands of the Nords.
Henrietta the bearded cart was left, conveniently, near a Temple of Namira, the residents of which were shocked to discover two crying baby boys sitting in a cart one morning. They named the boys Carl and Clement and placed them up for adoption, and they were quickly taken in by traveling heroes who both claimed to be the Dovahkiin and were accompanied by a woman named Lydia. The cart soon forgot that it had even been a woman, happy with its new life as a cart, and faithfully served the temple’s devotees for many years, until one day, many years later, a travelling healer from Dawnstar fatefully arrived in town, seeking a place to quiet his mind in prayer.
This healer, it turned out, was none other than the young Clement who had briefly stayed there many years earlier. The moment he laid eyes on his cart-mother, Clement felt a connection that he couldn’t shake, so he grabbed the cart and ran off into the woods with it. The temple director (a woman named Georgina, although it’s not necessary to remember that) saw Clement ran off and placed a bounty on his head… a bounty which drew the attention of a Penitus Oculatus Agent with some outstanding gambling debts by the name of Carl.
Carl chased down Clement and, as I mentioned earlier, used his ability to steal Beardwords to horrific effect. Clement’s power was stripped away from him, and he was forced to flee deeper into the woods with the cart. The beard removed, Carl thought that Clement looked shockingly like himself, and as a man who rather liked himself, decided not to pursue the bounty any further.
Unfortunately, the damage was done. With no reward for breaking runes left, Clement was a lost man, and he turned to begging in the streets of whatever town he rolled up into as his only means of getting by. His cart-mother, Henrietta, was so distraught by the bizarre family reunion that she never revealed her true identity to Clement, and last I heard, they were attempting to cross the Missouri river when, due to dysentery and a broken axle, they died.
Elusive Schemers. They’re everywhere. What are they scheming? Should I be worried?
Dear In Need of A Poem,
There is no reason
Why a schemer creates art
He simply draws cards
I have been struggling with versus arena play. I’ve tried researching some tips on other sites but nothing seems to work…my opponents always seem to have decks that synergize well. Aren’t the card picks random? Can you offer any helpful advice for versus arena players?
There are a number of things entirely outside of your control that can lead to a short arena run, but I’m going to offer a pretty safe answer, I think. It’s a simple philosophy that I think can get you some positive experience in arena as you increase your skill over time.
A bad aggro deck is more consistently going to win than a bad midrange deck or a bad control deck. A good example of this is mono-color decks in constructed play – Mono-Red decks do better than any other mono-color deck because the entire deck is cheap and focused on a single objective. Applying this reasoning to arena can help you steal some wins – focusing on colors with the most reach – Red’s charge creatures, green’s burn spells and charge creatures, and blue’s direct damage – can help you create a straightforward deck that isn’t worrying about whether or not support card X or niche action Y will support your overall strategy. That’s my simplest advice.
On Sunday, April 23rd, I’m also releasing a 30 minute long video where I go into some serious depth in an draft, which you might also find helpful.
I encourage you, though, to draft a very straight forward aggressive deck – deviating only for removal or obvious two-for-one cards (cards that demand more resources from your opponent to answer than they cost you to play) – and then write back and let me know how it goes. We will figure this out – keep notes on what works and what doesn’t, and how you won or lost each match. Draft Battlemage, Assassin, or Archer, if you can. Good luck, and I look forward to hearing how it goes!
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I am a huge fan of yours Justin. By far imo the clearest most understandable content creator I’ve found for the Elder Scrolls: Legends. I just have one not so small complaint. Many times I have heard you write off a card as unplayable. What does it mean to be “unplayable”. Clearly all cards can be played. I’ve had levels of success playing cards u have called unplayable. So when I hear u call one of my favorite cards unplayable I start looking for reasons y. If it’s not too much to ask for new player’s sake (such as myself) maybe a tad more explanation is warranted before dismissing any card…