ReiRei’s LevelUps – Card Advantage

Hi there! I’m Rei Barker and I play The Elder Scrolls Legends (henceforth TESL) a lot. I used to play Magic: The Gathering every day but I read PV’s article, downloaded TESL and I haven’t touched it since. This is the first in a series of articles looking at fundamentals of game theory aimed at beginners.

I clock about ten hours each day, I’ve made Legend #1, I’m Rank 1 in both arenas. That should make me a good player right? Yep, but how good and by what metric? I’m competitive, and I want to be the best. Time + effort + luck + skill will get you to Legend, but tournaments are starting to pick up; and whether you want to be the undisputed best, have fun for free (#twitchdrops), or somewhere in between – being aware/ brushing up on game theory will give you an edge.  

Keep 2 things in mind.

  1. I played Magic:The Gathering (for 20+ years), which gave me a LOT of the skills and knowledge I apply/use in TESL. The crossover is huge.
  2. No lesson/point/heuristic (more on these later) is 100%. However, they need to be learned before you can break them.

Everybody knows of advantage. It’s an intuitive concept – being ahead, particularly in a competitive setting. The first concept I’m going into today is Card Advantage, or CA, for the rest of this article. The loose premise being that an action, person, creature, play, or variance causes one of the two players to be up or down a card or more. The simplest example is a hypothetical one. [card that costs 3 magicka, draw two cards.] If you play this, you’ve spent one card and drawn two. You gained card advantage. -1, then +2 – simple. This is called a 2 for 1.  Ideally, if you go through the game playing actions, maneuvering combat and managing your resources in a way that gives card advantage, you will win the game.

This hypothetical card does not exist, but Revealing the Unseen does. As a case study, it’s pretty interesting. It’s one card for two, but those two cards are random. It’s card advantage in some cases, but winning decks are consistent so it doesn’t see play.  If a card was printed that read [discard a card, deal 2 damage], it might see play in a combo deck built around it, but let’s stick with reality.

Daggerfall Mage is an excellent example of card advantage. 3 magicka for a 2/2 with ward. In a perfect world you’d trade with an opponent’s 2/2, survive and get a Tome of Alteration. Already you’ve spent one card, killed a creature effectively gaining a card, and got a Tome for your troubles. That’s a 2 for 1 right there. Casting the Tome makes the Mage a 4/4, let’s say that’s worth half a card, but you draw a card when casting the Tome. That’s a 3 and ½ for one. Building a deck with cards like that, and making plays that net card advantage are a surefire path to win the game. Although, you could just get killed by an aggressive deck before that card advantage matters. They usually operate on Virtual Card Advantage and Tempo, two concepts I’ll touch on in another article.

Deck Spotlight

Here’s a draft of a Mage Control deck I came up with. This deck has many card choices which relate to the concept of card advantage. I don’t want to sit here and criticise someone else’s choices – I’d rather explain my own. I was going to use it as one of my decks for Sunday’s Community Cup, but I lost a preliminary vs sleep management. I’ll group choices that serve a similar purpose in bold

2 Execute

3 Firebolt

3 Crushing Blow

3 Mage’s Trick

The most efficient early and cheap spot removal around, with Mage’s Trick drawing a card to boot.

3 Shrieking Harpy

3 Wardcrafter

These are the only 2 drops in the deck. Harpy is great at keeping something locked down for a turn, then doing damage to a player, or taking out a creature – at the very least contributing to it. It’s a prophecy too, so it can poke its head in at any time. Wardcrafter is pretty easy to get CA out of. Whether it’s being able to fight twice with a ward, or warding up another creature – it’s great early or late.

3 Daggerfall Mage

1 Dawnstar Healer

Daggerfall Mage we’ve discussed, Dawnstar Healer joins it at the 3 magicka slot. Fine as a body, passing the Vanilla Test (a future article) and if played at the right time, can give some much needed life vs aggressive decks.

2 Desperate Conjuring

A clutch conjuring on whatever you have in play to try and not lose is not CA. Using one of your 2 copies to transform your Mantikora into an enormous dragon isn’t. It can bring some power into the game, but really – I play cos I like it(also a future article.)

2 Hive Defender

One of the best guards around. At four mana it puts up a big wall that aggro has to get past.

3 Lightning Bolt

3 Piercing Javelin

It’s 4 damage for 4 mana WITH prophecy. It gets played in every Intelligence deck. Javelin is similar. These cards are what people fear when looking to pop runes. Giving your opponent one of these for free is something to always consider.

2 Mystic Dragon

4/4 for 4. Good deal. Off a prophecy for free? Priceless.

1 Ayrenn

2 Knight of the Hour

1 Winterhold Illusionist

My 5 drop creatures all aim to slow down the game. Ayrenn is a 2 for 1 when you play it. Cheapening your removal from there is amazing. Knight has guard and prophecy, as well as gain 3 life. Aggro nightmare that undoes turns and swings games in your favour. Winterhold Illusionist resets Daggerfall Mage, rebuys Knight, or keeps an item-buffed creature honest. Also, I play it cos I like it ™.

3 Ice Storm

1 Arrest

2 Dawn’s Wrath

Ice storm. I feel naked without it. One of the linchpins of control and Dawn’s Wrath’s pretty little sibling. The setup cost on getting CA out of this is simply having the magicka. Dawn’s Wrath is bigger, badder, but only targets one lane. I’ve been known to run 3. Arrest is expensive for ‘spot removal’ but I prefer to disallow ramp scout recurring Odahviing. Wouldn’t you?

2 Undying Dragon

I’ve been up and down on these, but they are the only creature I don’t feel a bit scared attacking with. Over 30 life? Feelsniceman.

3 Mantikora

1 Paarthurnax

These are the finishers, the clinchers, the ones that knock. In a perfect world, by the time you’re playing these the game is yours. You have cards in hand, a healthy life total, and are thinking about getting to that OTK turn(one turn kill.)

With that, the high end comes something that can be counterintuitive. Attacking your opponent breaks runes, runes draw cards. Players with cards in hand can win. Don’t let them do it. That’s my take, anyway.

That’s all for today. I want the next topic to be decided by YOU, so here’s a poll. Go get that card advantage, and have a nice day. Feedback, critique, questions will be answered so feel free to HMU. ReiReiBarker (on most of the internet) signing out.


Let Rei know which topic you’d like to read about next in the comments here or on Reddit!

. Aggro decks and Virtual Card Advantage

. Midrange

. The Vanilla Test – Evaluating Creatures

. I Play it cos I like it

. Luck, RNG, and you.

. Tempo

. Heuristics

About ReiReiBarker (4 Articles)
I am ReiRei Barker. I write, Play T:ESL as well as I can, and twitch drops actually worked on me. All about the love and kindness, though I paradoxically lean towards aggro decks. I provide coaching services for $10 an hour, negotiable for students, the sick and the poor. I really need the cash too.

16 Comments on ReiRei’s LevelUps – Card Advantage

  1. Nice article and I enjoy watching you play on Twitch. Any of the suggested topics would be nice for a new player like me

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Lateralus19 // August 23, 2017 at 3:11 pm // Reply


    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for writing this article. My experience mirrors yours in several ways: I’ve played Magic for over twenty years, I also read PV’s article, and I’ve made rank 1 in both arenas. Here are the differences: I haven’t touched ranked play, and I have far less time to play–about 2 hours a day, if that. How would you allocate your time given this time constraint?

    I Play it cos I like it


    • ReiReiBarker // August 24, 2017 at 4:56 am // Reply

      A pleasure. Thanks for reading. 🙂

      Hmm. That answer would be pretty long. Pm me? Orrrrrr, give it a few days for thnsg to shake out then grab a deck in your budget and go at your own pace. An archetype you preferred in mtg would crossover. Control = Control more or less. Hope that helps. I’m quite tired but I’ll answer any other questions. 🙂


  4. Lazarus Long // August 24, 2017 at 10:16 am // Reply

    Awesome article, i hope this will become a series. I love reading and learning more about the games i play. I have been MTG fan and player since forever (at least it feels like that). Never quite liked Heartstone, for it seemed too easy/grindy/moneygrabby for me.

    But as soon as i have seen TESL release on mobile platforms, i knew i found my new love. 😀 (i mostly play on mobile/tablet lately, as it is more convenient/comfortable for me…)

    I would absolutely love to read about all those topics, so i will not vote. 🙂

    Thank you and may your draws be always playable!


  5. Great article! As someone who’s “played” (meaning just for fun) card games for a few years, information like this is helpful to keep me improving. For future articles I’d love to see something on the ‘mindset when ranking’. I know it’s a grind, but at the same time its crushing to lose and see a regression, so would be cool/nice on some insight when grinding out. Again, great article and nicely done!


  6. Nice article.

    My vote for next article is Midrange.


  7. Matthew Fee // August 25, 2017 at 1:23 am // Reply

    Please write an article about how to counter ramp scout! Too many people complaining about it.


  8. Matthew Fee // August 25, 2017 at 1:24 am // Reply

    Please write an article on how to counter ramp scout! There are too many people complaining rather than thinking proactively.


  9. . Aggro decks and Virtual Card Advantage – here is my vote.
    Thanks for and article Rei. Had a blast reading, hope to have some fun with control mage on ladder, always hated it but never tried as much 🙂


  10. Great article. I vote for: The Vanilla Test – Evaluating Creatures.


  11. I vote for: Do all the topics! Really love your content Rei and BTL in general! @CVH please do not consider not investing in this website anymore, its great!


  12. Well I’m late for this one, can’t wait for the next. Thanks for putting this out there!


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