One of the things I most commonly see new players ask about is how the lane system works and how they should know where to play their creatures. There are a lot of factors that should be taken into consideration when placing your creatures, but the more you play the easier it should become for you to make decisions regarding creature placement more quickly. So let’s start with the basics.
While card games featuring direct creature combat have been around for quite awhile, most of them usually only have one field of play. However, one of the first things you are likely to notice about The Elder Scrolls: Legends is that it uses a two lane system. I personally find that this gives the game a greater strategic depth than many other similar card games. Frequently in games featuring direct creature combat and a single field of play one player will take an early lead on board. When this happens it can make it difficult for the disadvantaged player to ever have a real chance at getting into the game. If you’ve ever fallen behind early on board only to have every creature you’ve played rendered irrelevant for the rest of the game, then you probably know what I’m referring to. The two-lane system makes it much more difficult for one player to simply lock up the board early via combat.
There are a few small things that are important to cover before talking about the lanes themselves.
- Creatures are limited to attacking creatures in the same lane. This means that generally speaking creatures in one lane will not be engaging in combat with creatures in the opposite lane.
- In the default game mode a player can only have a maximum of 4 creatures in a lane. If a lane is full you can still play a creature there, but you will first be required to sacrifice one of the creatures you already have there.
While there are two lanes in The Elder Scrolls: Legends, these lanes are not the same and have different rules. The left lane is the field lane and the right lane is the shadow lane. The field lane doesn’t use any special rules. The shadow lane however, does have a special rule. When a creature without guard enters the shadow lane it gains cover for one turn. While a creature has cover it is unable to be attacked. A covered creature can still be targeted with actions and creature summon effects, but you won’t have to worry about it being attacked for a turn. So let’s examine some scenarios and look at what this means.
Creatures that are in played into the field lane do not have cover. So what are the ramifications of this? Most creatures need to wait a turn before attacking. This means that if the field lane is empty the first player to have a creature there will have the option to attack first. This ends up becoming a fairly large advantage when your creature survives the attack. If both players have multiple creatures in the field lane then the first person that gets the opportunity to attack will get an advantage and be able to to pick the combats they want. For these reasons, having control of the field lane generates a significant advantage.
Let’s look at the shadow lane on the other hand. What are the implications of creatures having cover for a turn? Well, the first and most obvious implication is that your creature can’t be attacked for a turn. If your creature can’t be attacked then it is more likely to survive for a turn. A large number of creatures have effects that are either contingent on the creature being in play or having to attack. This means that the shadow lane can be an excellent tool for keeping your creature alive for a least a turn.
The thing is that the shadow lane will also give your opponent’s creatures cover. Which means that you won’t have the opportunity to trade into their creatures before their creatures get a chance to attack yours. So while the shadow lane might be better for keeping your creature alive for a turn, it will also make it harder to keep alive after that first turn. If both players have creatures in the shadow lane then the player whose creatures were played there first will also lose cover first. This means that the player that plays their creatures into the shadow lane second will be the one to choose the flow of combat.
So taking all of these things into consideration we can see that these lanes are not created equally. Being the first person to control the field lane is usually a significant advantage. The shadow lane on the other hand favors the person whose creatures come into play second. The advantage of controlling the field lane is often very significant. Because this is the case, fighting for control of the field lane will often create a focal point for creature placement.
Where Should I Put My Creatures?
While there are a lot of factors that should be taken into account when placing your creatures, you will still only have to decide between two lanes.
Here are some things you should consider when placing your creatures:
- You want to control the field lane. This is pretty much true for every deck, every game. If the field lane is empty then there is a very high probability that you should default to playing your creatures there. The type of deck you are playing and the type of deck your opponent is playing will likely influence just how hard either of you will want to fight for the field lane. Just keep in mind that it’s usually easier to fight for the field lane sooner rather than later, as once one player establishes a solid field lane presence their creatures will have the first choice of combat against future enemy creatures played there.
- Stacking multiple creatures in a lane will give you more combat options against your opponent’s creatures. This is often very important as it can allow a large creature you control to deal with an opposing creature that would kill one of your weaker creatures, or can allow one of your weaker creatures to remove a guard or lethal threat that would otherwise interfere with your larger creature. Stacking creatures is also helpful for helping push through guards.
- While keeping your creatures grouped together can provide you better options and leverage in combat, it can also expose you to a number of AoE effects that hit all of your creatures in a lane. Cards like Dawn’s Wrath, Skaven Pyromancer, Giant Snake, Chaurus Reaper, and Red Bramman can be very punishing when a player ends up heavily stacking creatures in one lane. A lot of the time the best way to deal with this is by splitting lanes the turn before your opponent can play one of the likely lane AoE cards. In the case of AoE cards that hit both players’ boards it can often be correct to develop into the same lane as your opponent’s creatures just to prevent the effect from being one-sided. Try to be aware of the sort of full lane effects that are commonly played in the colors of your opponent’s deck. While it won’t always be worth playing around such effects, sometimes you will be far enough ahead that you should.
- A lot of the time you will want to position your creatures based on where your opponent’s creatures are located. This can happen for many reasons but usually falls into two categories; avoidance and desire to engage. There are a number of reasons to want to avoid a creature. Perhaps you are trying to push damage and one lane is less defended. Perhaps one lane has a lethal or warded creature. Sometimes you just want to avoid an unfavorable combat situation. On the other hand there is really only one reason you would position your creature to engage the opponent’s; you want to kill their creature. Now there might be a lot of reasons you want their creature to die, but creature combat is one of the best ways to remove enemy creatures from the board. If your opponent has a creature that you absolutely need to get off the board, even if you already have a creature poised to trade, you should consider playing an additional creature in that lane. This can give you a backup option to make sure that you can kill their creature even if they end up having a guard or removal effect to stop your first creature from trading.
- Creatures with guard often want to be positioned in front of enemy creatures. Guard is generally a fairly obvious reason to position your creature in the same lane as your opponent’s. While this will not always hold true, guards can be a very effective method of restricting your opponent’s combat options. Additionally, when your opponent is playing the role of the aggressor you will often want to take a moderate level of control of the field lane with non-guard creatures if possible. This will generally cause your opponent to begin playing into the shadow lane. At that point if you start putting guard creatures in the shadow lane they either have to fight past your guards or move back into the field lane where you already have a creature waiting to trade with theirs.
- Just because the field lane is empty doesn’t guarantee that a creature that’s played there will be safe from creature combat. Green has access to lane shift effects that can allow your opponent to effectively attack across lanes. While these effects do tend to see more play in arena than constructed, cards like Shadow Shift should not come as a huge surprise. More important than lane shifting effects are charge creatures. With a few niche exceptions almost every charge creature currently in the game is either green or red. If you have a creature that you absolutely need to live for a turn and you’re playing against a deck that you might expect to play charge creatures you might just be better off playing your guy in the shadow lane.
- Once you manage to get your opponent low you should consider splitting lanes for the sake of presenting lethal damage in both lanes. This will often make it so that your opponent will require multiple answers to survive. Whereas a single large guard would sometimes prevent every creature in a lane from connecting with your opponent, by placing threats in both lanes you can often sneak through the last bit of damage in the undefended lane. Another place where this strategy is helpful is against the card Mantikora. If you’re playing against a slower yellow deck then there is a good chance that once your opponent has access to 10 magicka they will want to play Mantikora. If you only have 2 creatures then if you put them in separate lanes you will still be able to attack with one of them after Mantikora destroys the other. If you play them both in the same lane then after Mantikora destroys one of your creatures your second creature will find itself obstructed by the 6/6 guard now occupying the lane.
- The advent of the Fall of the Dark Brotherhood changed some of the rules of positioning, primarily because of cards with the slay mechanic as well as the card Unstoppable Rage. The nature of these cards can make them very punishing if you over-commit creatures to the shadow lane. If you happen to have slay cards or Unstoppable Rage in your deck then you might consider playing weaker creatures into the shadow lane in an attempt to bait your opponent there so you can pull off slay triggers or a powerful Unstoppable Rage. A lot of the time you won’t be able to easily get rid of your own creature in the shadow lane, whereas a creature in the field lane can usually either clear the opposing creature with slay or can just be suicided to keep the opponent from having a slay target. The reverse of this is true as well, if you suspect that your opponent is trying to bait you into the shadow lane for Rage or slay effects it will sometimes be better just to avoid that lane. Even when it means that your weak creature might get killed for relatively little effort it can still be correct to play it in the field lane just to avoid having it get picked off by a slay creature later on.
- Some positioning is just common sense and shouldn’t really require any decisions. Cards like Sanctuary Pet, Giant Snake, and Mantikora require you to play them in the lane where you want their effect. This will usually take precedence over most of the other positioning concerns.
- Similar to common sense positioning is the fact that sometimes a lane will simply be full of creatures. If this is the case then there is a high probability that you will want to play creatures in the other lane that has room to accommodate them just so you’re not throwing away resources. Bearing this in mind though, there will be times when you actively want to overfill a lane so you can trigger a creature’s Last Gasp effect.
As you continue to play you will probably come across additional factors that will influence how you should position your creatures. Many times these factors will be highly situational, which means that correct lane placement won’t always be simple and straightforward so don’t feel too bad if you don’t get it correct every time. That said, you should expect that creature placement will likely end up having a significant impact on the outcome of the game, so the sooner you are able to become comfortable with it the better. Keeping in mind the factors that I’ve discussed should help to provide you with a solid foundation for how to position your creatures.