The Orrery pt. 2: Arena Updates in Skyrim

Fivefold venerations, everyone! Several months ago I published an article on Between the Lanes explaining The Orrery, my attempt to put out some hard data on different classes’ arena curves. Well, Bethesda and Dire Wolf Digital have dropped over 150 cards on us since then, and I’ve spent the last week updating my stats to reflect the exact changes Heroes of Skyrim has caused (for reference, you can find the pre-HoS stats here.) What follows are some notes concerning shouts in arena, as well as observations regarding which classes have gotten stronger and weaker with the new set; as well as how arena curves have changed at large.

One brief note before we begin: it’s been mentioned by the developers that cards from Heroes of Skyrim have a higher probability of showing up at the moment. However, we don’t know just how much more likely they are to appear or how long this boost will last. For the purposes of this article, I will not be taking this increased probability into account in my numbers, but I will be noting where this change may cause even greater shifts.

You Make Me Wanna Shout

Say you’re ten picks into a Sorcerer draft. You’ve grabbed a Mystic Dragon, a couple of werewolves, and some solid late-game, but you’re still light on removal. Pick eleven comes up, and you’re offered Dragontail Savior, Fire Breath and (for simplicity’s sake) Niben Bay Cutthroat. The Savior would help fill out your curve, but you could use some spot removal–on the other hand, just one Fire Breath isn’t going to be worth it. So how likely are you to get another?

(Warning, math follows.)

Well, around 60% of your picks will be commons, and for each common pick you’re offered, you have three cards that could be that shout. The total number of commons varies slightly from class-to-class (for instance Crusader and Warrior have 89, Assassin has 92), but we can say each card has roughly a 1 in 90 chance of being that shout, or a 98.88% chance of not being that shout. The probability that all three cards aren’t that shout is 98.88% times 98.88% times 98.88%, or 96.7%. So the probability that any common pick will include that shout is about 3.3%. Of course the probability you’ll get a common pick in the first place is around 60%, so the actual probability is closer to 60% of 3.3%, roughly 2%.

(Here ends math.)

Given that for each pick you have a roughly 2% chance of picking up a specific common, you can figure out just how likely are to have a shot at a higher level shout. If you grab Fire Breath on pick 11, you have 19 more picks, so about a 38% chance of getting another. On the other hand, if you grab a Fire Breath pick one, you still have a 58% chance of being offered a second one later on. And at the moment, given that HoS cards are available at boosted frequencies, that might be worth it. Just don’t expect your shouts to hit anything above level two with any frequency.

Some Winners and Losers

  • Loser: Intelligence – With the addition of Heroes of Skyrim, 585 total cards can appear in your arena picks, over 25% of which are Heroes of Skyrim cards. HoS skews the common slot even more, taking up 57 of the 187 total commons, around 30%. Around three-fifths of your picks in arena will be commons, so changes to the common slot are the best metric for judging the average power of a class or attribute. Intelligence is the hardest hit here–not so much because it’s received bad commons (Mystic Dragon, Conjuration Scholar, and Dragon’s Fury aren’t slouches) but because those commons are now taking slots that could be filled with several of the best commons in the game–Lightning Bolt, Firebolt, and Cunning Ally. As mentioned above, the probability that you’ll pick up any specific common is now roughly 2% for each pick. Compared to pre-HoS, where each common had a roughly 3% per-pick chance of appearing, that’s a sizeable drop-off. You’ll be seeing 50% fewer Lightning Bolts, even fewer with the current HoS boost. Intelligence also takes a hit at the rare slot–while Icewing Dragon is powerful, the rest of the Skyrim rares don’t compete with the Wardcrafters and Shrieking Harpies they’re displacing. It’d be a mistake to say that Intelligence is bad now though; it simply has less access to the efficient low-rarity cards that have made it so powerful in the past (but unless Crystal Tower Crafter is suddenly un-nerfed it seems unlikely that Mage will be a top-tier arena class any time soon.)
  • Winner: Strength – While it seems Direwolf has been slowly reducing Intelligence’s arena power over time, Strength has consistently received solid cards in its low-rarity slots with each new release. Fall of the Dark Brotherhood gave us Fell the Mighty and Underworld Vigilante, and Heroes of Skyrim’s commons provide card draw that the attribute was sorely lacking–they also include one of the better finishers in the set (Swiftwing Dragon) and what might be one the set’s best commons, Circle Initiate. This means fewer Morkul Gatekeepers and Skaven Pyromancers, but this also means fewer Nord Firebrands and Valenwood Huntsmen. It’s really at rare where Strength gets its biggest buff, though. Of the six Strength rares in HoS, only one (Stormcloak Camp) is a dead pick. Candlehearth Brawler and Battlefield Scrounger are both charge creatures that can frequently pick up extra value, Aela’s Huntmate replaces herself, and Skyborn Dragon can serve either as removal or a high-attack finisher. Considering that these cards can appear where you might have seen Intimidate, Bone Bow, or Fireball in the past, it’s safe to say that Strength lives up to its name a little more these days.
  • Honorable Loser: Orcs – Note this doesn’t mean that Warrior is a bad class (though it did receive one of the weaker dual-attribute cards.) In fact, given that Strength and Endurance have both fared well in Heroes of Skyrim, it’s probably just as strong as ever. However, those who are used to drafting the orc warrior deck are in for a rude surprise. There are (apparently) only two orcs in Skyrim–Stronghold Patrol at common and Steelheart Vanquisher at rare. How bad is that? Well, not only are you less likely to be offered Bangkorai Butchers and Stoneshard Orcs in the first place, you also now have only a 29.37% per-pick chance of being offered an additional orc to go with them (that’s a reduction of 7.5%, meaning an average of 8 or 9 orcs a draft instead of 11.) So while it’s not impossible to put together an insane orc deck, one’s much less likely to wind up in your (or your challenger’s) hands.

How Curves Have Curved:

We can also use statistics to see how the curves of each class have changed with the new expansion. The below tables show the probability of a pick at a certain magicka cost appearing for each class (a fuller explanation of how these tables are calculated can be found in my previous article.)


0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
Battlemage 5.66% 15.09% 44.16% 45.70% 28.41% 18.64% 13.47% 7.56% 3.71% 0.51% 0.51% 0.27% 0.27%
Crusader 7.28% 18.79% 40.07% 48.37% 28.47% 24.91% 12.04% 9.94% 0.50% 0.00% 0.87% 0.26% 0.26%
Archer 8.36% 12.12% 39.55% 54.47% 28.02% 18.80% 12.79% 9.48% 1.62% 0.26% 1.07% 0.00% 0.26%
Warrior 5.75% 12.55% 38.54% 48.21% 37.62% 20.66% 13.93% 11.66% 0.25% 0.48% 0.85% 0.00% 0.48%
Mage 4.33% 22.84% 45.74% 41.45% 28.46% 22.55% 14.75% 6.97% 3.67% 0.51% 0.84% 0.51% 0.27%
Assassin 5.49% 16.53% 45.58% 48.35% 29.31% 16.35% 14.79% 6.56% 4.13% 0.74% 1.06% 0.27% 0.27%
Sorcerer 2.83% 17.08% 44.56% 41.52% 37.34% 17.76% 16.36% 8.70% 3.41% 0.92% 0.83% 0.26% 0.50%
Monk 7.07% 20.23% 41.26% 50.81% 29.02% 22.67% 13.09% 9.06% 1.07% 0.26% 1.39% 0.26% 0.26%
Spellsword 4.34% 20.84% 40.37% 44.17% 37.80% 23.50% 14.75% 11.14% 0.25% 0.48% 1.22% 0.25% 0.48%
Scout 5.58% 14.35% 39.83% 50.64% 37.74% 17.73% 15.09% 10.79% 0.83% 0.89% 1.40% 0.00% 0.48%

Pre-Heroes of Skyrim curves by class.

0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
Battlemage 4.00% 15.62% 41.74% 43.34% 32.98% 20.61% 14.78% 5.87% 4.81% 0.33% 0.33% 0.17% 0.48%
Crusader 5.17% 18.86% 40.26% 47.60% 31.29% 27.05% 11.49% 7.62% 2.52% 0.00% 0.68% 0.17% 0.47%
Archer 5.93% 14.69% 39.59% 50.41% 32.24% 17.98% 12.79% 9.56% 3.30% 0.17% 0.81% 0.00% 0.47%
Warrior 4.04% 14.38% 38.43% 46.54% 37.90% 21.62% 14.79% 10.64% 2.51% 0.32% 0.67% 0.00% 0.60%
Mage 3.11% 22.68% 42.98% 42.13% 31.33% 25.54% 15.66% 5.24% 2.97% 0.33% 0.66% 0.33% 0.48%
Assassin 3.92% 18.68% 42.73% 45.37% 33.22% 16.43% 16.42% 7.16% 3.22% 0.48% 0.79% 0.17% 0.48%
Sorcerer 2.00% 18.57% 41.62% 41.23% 38.01% 19.97% 18.53% 8.26% 2.96% 0.62% 0.65% 0.17% 0.62%
Monk 5.07% 21.74% 40.84% 49.34% 31.09% 23.07% 13.14% 9.02% 0.96% 0.17% 1.12% 0.17% 0.47%
Spellsword 3.12% 21.76% 39.77% 46.20% 36.42% 26.04% 15.38% 10.04% 0.60% 0.32% 1.02% 0.16% 0.60%
Scout 3.96% 17.66% 39.34% 48.43% 37.41% 17.29% 16.18% 11.97% 0.96% 0.60% 1.13% 0.00% 0.60%

Post-Heroes of Skyrim curves by class.


You’ll probably notice that 2-drops and 3-drops are the most common creatures available for every class–however, the probability of pulling these drops has fallen for nearly every class (exceptions: Crusader and Archer for 2-drops, Spellsword and Mage for 3-drops). Meanwhile, 1-drop probabilities have largely risen across the board, as have those of 4-through-6-drops.

We can somewhat ignore the 1-drop change, since it’s mostly a result of Blackreach Rebuilder and Word Wall both appearing as neutral commons in all classes (incidentally, the former is one of the few dud results of Spellsword’s Summoning, having the same 3.4% chance of appearing as Ungolim or Crown Quartermaster.) And while you rarely will wind up with a deck lacking 3-drops, a dearth of 2-drops is a frequent issue in arena. Particularly in endurance-based classes, you may want to prioritize your 2-drops over late game since you have a better chance of filling up holes in your upper slots than most other classes. Interestingly, this solid upper curve is more true of Spellsword than Scout, and applies reasonably to Monk as well.

On the other hand, the reverse may be true of Strength-based classes (and is one of the primary reasons why Strength has improved). Apart from Battlemage, which appears to be becoming a significantly slower class, Strength classes have retained or improved their 2-drop percentages–including the fantastic Circle Initiate (with the HoS boost, it’s not uncommon to be offered 3 or 4 in the course of a single arena.) This is good news for aggressive Archer decks, though it’s worth noting that Warrior still has more trouble picking up 2-drops than any other class in the game.

So, more 4-through-6-drops, that means a less aggressive arena, right? Not necessarily. If you review the tables, you’ll notice the number of 7-drops has fallen for classes other than Agility (due to the presence of the fairly mediocre Dova of the Voice), and the only rise in 8-drops is due to the hyper-aggressive Swifting Dragon in Strength. This isn’t to say control is impossible to draft, but the decrease in high-cost creatures, particularly Shocking Wammasu, will mean these decks appear in arena somewhat less often. On the other hand, true value-based midrange decks that can capitalize on turns 4 through 6 will have more chances to pick up quality drops for their midgame (expect, for instance, fewer hole-filling An-Xileel Invaders and Ferocious Dreughs.)  

Revealing the Unseen

While many of the strongest new cards in arena are easy to spot (Shearpoint Dragon, Devour, Circle Initiate, Soul Tear), there are a whole bevy of Heroes of Skyrim cards that still require testing to determine their power. How good is A Night to Remember? Which of the ally-attribute draw creatures are worthwhile? How unfortunate is a singleton Drain Vitality or Unrelenting Force? Grounding our evaluations with statistical analysis lets us get a better sense of what we’re competing against and what slots in arena decks are most competitive. I’ll continue to update (and hopefully, upgrade) The Orrery as more information about arena picks and Heroes of Skyrim becomes available. Explore, gather information, and have fun

About ZyzzyvaProject (2 Articles)
Part time writer and musician, full time gamer and data nerd. Two decades with CCGs, 10 months and counting with TES:L.

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  1. An Intro to Strategy for Beginners – Between The Lanes

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