It’s been a while since I wrote something regarding the Versus Arena game mode in The Elder Scrolls: Legends, especially since I had little time to get used to the Alliance War impact to this game mode due the (very) fast introduction of the Khajiit homeland. Thus, I want to start discussing little by little some of the aspects I might have missed in the past months. I know, it might be a little late, but better late than never!

Alliance War forced a huge change to the Versus Arena environment by introducing the remaining 5 tricolor classes to the game: Daggerfall Covenant, Aldmeri Dominion, Ebonheart Pact, Empire of Cyrodiil and the Guildsworn. This completely shifted the Arena metagame mainly due the unknown performance of each new class and how the new color combinations could affect/bring in new powerful card combinations in the draft mode. Let’s briefly discuss the main mechanics in this expansion: Mobilize, Empower, Each Lane, Expertise and Veteran.

Daggerfall Covenant

The Alliance formed by Bretons, Orcs and Redguards is represented in game as the combination of Blue, Purple and Red. The Covenant is designed to work around items either by buffing them, drawing them or give them keywords. However, the interesting mechanic here is their own keyword – Mobilize.

This keyword is interesting enough in the Arena environment because you can play these items on their own without the need of having a creature to play it, thus this items are highly flexible because they give you the option to either play them in an empty lane to either split push or fight for it, or equip them to a present creature and gain a bonus effect.

We have 9 cards in total that can play this way, and all of them are quite good on their own. Covenant Plate and Covenant Mail are Prophecies with Guard, helping with the option to recover if left behind in the game. Plate has more aggressive stats, so it can be harder to play correctly than Mail, which has more defensive numbers and makes creatures survive more often.

Cruel Axe, Poisoned Dagger and Ornamented Sword have effects that we’ve already seen in other items, but are good enough to be picked thanks to the flexibility they offer in a game.

On the other hand, Ebonthread Cloak is my favorite card here, because it becomes a 2/3 that can trade or give immunity to actions, which is a plus in this game mode. Lion Guard Armaments seems to be a little odd, but Blue has few good option in that spot, so a 4/5  for 5 is not that bad at all.

Finally, we have Staff of Ice and Covenant Masterpiece. The Staff has a pretty weak ping that can be combined in multiple ways: as 2 damage ping to clear damaged creatures, with Drain or Lethal creatures, etc. The Prophecy is a nice bonus – I’ve hit a pretty good number of Staffs from runes and helped gain some lost tempo back then. Covenant Masterpiece is the highest cost item here, and is packed with a lot of Keywords. The card offers a lot of power for a single creature, which I personally dislike, but it’s the perfect example of playing the late game curve: drop this on a creature and it will offer you a tempo advantage thanks to the given Ward.

In general, I think the Mobilize mechanic is a nice option to play items in a different way. They are overcosted considering they give you the +1/+1 recruit, but that’s the main reason you pick them – to not end up being a brick in your hand. 

Notable cards: Covenant Masterpiece, Staff of Ice, Covenant Mail.

Aldmeri Dominion

The Alliance formed by the High Elves, Khajiit and Bosmer is represented in the game by the combination of Green, Yellow and Blue. The class is oriented to play spells and Empower them by inflicting damage to your opponent, perfect for the Arena environment if you are playing the tempo game! The Empower mechanic has various effects that usually require a specific strategy to take full advantage of them, so it can be tricky to play them correctly, especially since this varies from match to match.

For example, Channeled Storm and Luminous Shards are two good single removal Actions that can be upgraded each time you hit the face. However, the difficulty of playing these cards comes from having the right board and correct timing to remove potential threats that affect your current game plan (going yolo, defend yourself, etc.).

Alchemy is not the best option in Arena due the limited quantity of Supports you might want to pick, but again, there are exceptions considering your current build. Wish is actually an interesting card, mainly because you want to maximize the output and summon a high-cost creature for “free”. Spoils of War, a slower draw engine that fits in slower drafts, is a nice draw engine in Arena, just remember to push for lethal.

Ayrenn’s Chosen and Debilitate are hidden behind the Epic rarity balance, but they offer good value if Empowered enough. Debilitate is a good board clear (all board clears are Talos-like here) and the tokens generated by Chosen offer a good boost by protecting/pushing both lanes. However, the same issue appear here considering you need a board to trigger the Empower, which can be tricky.

Notable cards: Wish, Channeled Storm, Luminous Shards, Debilitate.

Empire of Cyrodiil

The good Empire is represented by the combination of Green, Yellow and Purple. This class is designed to work around the Token archetype with a little twist: have a creature in each lane. Indeed, it sounds a little hard to activate, but it’s rewarding if you meet the criteria for each card.

Imperial Lacky and Supply Runner are the cheapest ones here. Supply is a simple, direct Ramp tool that can hit relatively hard. Lacky’s effect is actually the hardest to trigger in my opinion. It can serve as an opener in earl game but you don’t usually get to choose when to trigger the effect, loosing the Last Gasp bonus.

Bruma Oppressor and Legion Zero Templar are two excellent picks in Arena. Oppressor offers control potential by minimizing a huge vertical threat by setting its attack to 1, giving you time to deal with the board without risking the game. Legion Zero Templar going high in the defensive side allows you to make trades and protect your own creatures. It’s really sad that it dies to Execute, though.

Daedric Titan and Bishop of the Hour are locked behind rarity. Titan’s effect is decent considering the Drain ability, allowing you to recover yourself, and hits hard to the face. On the other hand, Bishop is perfect if you are playing defensively or slowly. The +5/+5 effect is really slow, but drawing a creature on steroids is really hard to answer, so consider Bishop for mere late game value.

Clivia Tharn, as a Legendary card, is pretty hard to deal with. Giving you free resources each turn and protecting (to an extent) herself makes it a valuable option for a legendary pick. Finally, we have Empire Dreadmage. The card itself has an “arena-like” effect that seems odd in constructed mode, but works perfectly in drafts. The -2/-2 is something we’ve already seen in cards like Shearpoint Dragon, and we know it’s annoying. However, Dreadmage is packed with a high attack, profiling it as decent aggressor in the beginning of the late game.

As you can see, we have excellent cards here that work in various color combinations and in different play styles. We’re not limited to play one way or another giving diversity to each color in their play style.

Notable cards: Empire Dreadmage, Bruma Oppressor, Legion Zero Templar.

The Guildsworn

Back in 2017, I actually imagined how tricolor combinations would work, and I was highly curious about Red, Yellow and Blue. The Guildsworn is packed with the Expertise mechanic which triggers an effect at the end of the turn if an Action, Item or Support was played. In general, I consider this to be the most challenging mechanic to benefit from considering you need a decent number of supplies to trigger the ability. However, the effects are good enough on their own that a veteran player could take advantage at the moment of the draft and shape the deck to maximize the value.

Guildsworn Revitalizer is the heal ping we’ve asked for for so long. Playable 2-cost card in early game, life saver at late game if you have the appropriate tools to trigger it. Guildsworn Wayfarer has another Arena-like effect, a simple +1/+1. The card can snowball, but it serves more as a trade body.

Fighters Guild Berserker is a simple card: a 2-damage ping. However, don’t underestimate it. The reach ability can help you end games or push for lethal each turn. Renowned Instructor helps to go wide, and in general, tokens help you trade more efficiently. Paired with Guildsworn Cavalier, this rare but powerful combination helps buffing a board to practically sentence a match. Both cards are situational, though.

Vanus Scribe hits hard, but the action cost reduction is too situational. You can highroll a good result, but I don’t think it’s worth the spot in a deck. Guildsworn Incendiary is another bizarre card in Arena. With the potential to clear a lane under the right conditions, Incendiary has decent stats to survive more than 1 turn, just be aware that you might damage your own lanes too (damage synergy here!).

Mages Guild Conjurer is an extremely powerful card in Arena. The “lack” of removals makes it a threat difficult to ignore considering it starts by giving you a 5/3 with Breakthrough up to a 7/7 with Guard, Breakthrough and Ward. Conjurer is a priority target if you face one. On the other side, Guildsworn Bloodluster has another Arena-like effect by buffing itself and allowing you to battle. Yes, Bloodluster is a powerful removal tool that plays nice with cards like Cloak/Dagger or Steel Scimitar, so consider drafting the card. Master of Incunabula offers a lot value if you manage to draft “enough” Expertise assets to tinker with. Just consider it’s quite situational, although it has nice stats.

Regarding the Legendaries here, Fighters Guild Elite is a snowball card with decent stats if you happen to trigger the Expertise the same turn it is summoned. Guildsworn Honeytongue is… unique. In theory, you can make your opponent lose tempo by stealing a powerful card, for example, the highest attack creature or problematic cards like Sotha Sil. However, you face an exchange match where you fight for a given creature until someone can’t trigger the Expertise, so it requires clever thinking considering it gives a momentary advantage. Vanus Galerion, on the other hand, is sick. I haven’t had the opportunity to pick it yet, but the card offers a lot value with the correct set up. Nevertheless, it is quite expensive and you might consider other tools that might help you end matches sooner.

As you can imagine, Expertise is a highly rewarding mechanic that requires good drafting techniques, especially since you might want to pick cheap triggers like Cloak/Dagger or Lesser Ward. Keep it mind it’s not the easiest to play, but it’s highly rewarding.

Notable cards:  Guildsworn Bloodluster, Mages Guild Conjurer, Fighters Guild Berserker, Guildsworn Revitalizer.

Ebonheart Pact

We’ve finally arrived to the Green, Red and Purple combination that represents the pact forged by the Nords, Dark Elves and Argonians. This class got the Veteran mechanic: if a creature with Veteran survives its first battle, it triggers the Veteran ability. The mechanic looks perfectly suited for Arena, and I think it is, considering that most effects are of the “+x/+x” form.

Let’s begin with the Common ones. Great Moot Squire is a simple +1/+1, nothing special here! Dunmer Tyro is a special card considering it has Charge and a Veteran effect of +2/+0, and good stats considering it becomes a 3/4 for 3 magicka. Usually, this card goes face and then becomes a removal/trade attractor, but it works fine with items and to trade cards in a rush. On the other side, Inspiring Soldier works fine generating the free token (again, free resources are always welcomed). It hits hard and… that’s it. Windhelm Gatekeeper is another good example of an Arena card with the +3/+0… useful Guard but nothing more. Black Marsh Centurion has a simple, yet impacting effect of gaining Guard. The card is heavy, and every time I face it, it always ends up blocking a lane.

Black Marsh Prodigy starts as a 1/1, a small threat that goes high becoming a 5/5 if it manages to hit face. Scary, to be honest. Shadow Scale Hunter is hard to play correctly. Moving for free is a good thing, especially if you have Dune Smuggler in you deck. However, the card bricks if you just move from shadow to field into a big Guard or something that instantly trades with the Shadow Scale Hunter. Forerunner of the Pact is a class specific card, but it requires you to have at least 2 copies of it to take advantage of its effect, becoming a plain 4/3. Jorunn’s Vanguard is another Arena-like card that works extremely good with the +2/+2 buff to it and another creature. Remember that free stats are a huge boost to our value game.

Moving to Epics, we have Mournhold Taskmaster, which in a void sounds fine considering the lack of removals and the ability to power play in the following turns (if you have Veteran cards to play, though). Pact Shieldbreaker sounds good in theory, and to be fair it is. At the end, you might think that the increase cost to actions sounds too situational, but you don’t know if your opponent has or hasn’t a Sanctuary Raid or Edict of Azura in their hand, so it’s virtual time for your general strategy.

Finally, the Legendary cards, we have Steel-Eyed Visionary. Well, the card has a powerful effect for healthy creatures. As you know, Purple has access to many of these creatures, but it depends in your current draft. No one knows! Invoker of the Hist sounds good for mid tempo power plays, but I’ve never played it or seen it being played so this remains as a theory.

Veteran is a decent mechanic that incentivises battling. Perhaps the least demanding from a draft perspective, it still requires some thought in lane positioning to secure, at least, going face to trigger the Veteran effect.

Notable cards: Jorunn’s Vanguard, Inspiring Soldier, Black Marsh Centurion.

Not every card within a specific mechanic in CCGs should be expected to do a lot. Some of them are plain simple/bad and some of them have powerful effects that end up being included in meta constructed decks. The same applies to draft modes, but to a lesser extent. Here, some of the considered mediocre cards have an opportunity to shine thanks to the value theory of the game mode.

As a whole, each color has interesting cards that boosts certain strategies (go turtle, play the tempo game, go face, etc.) and, of course, there are some that remain hard to play masterfully. At the end, each card has a moment to shine due the different possible combinations with cards from other sets that result in powerful outcomes. It’s hard to rate them right now, especially since that opens the discussion for another project, but let’s leave the discussion here.

Alliance War introduced different tactics to Versus and Solo Arena, and to be honest, I hadn’t finished mastering all the combinations we were offered. It takes a lot of time to dive deeply into this game theory, and I’m sure you might have a different opinion on some cards, but that entirely depends on the situation they are used – sometimes they end up being useful and sometimes they brick your hand. Nevertheless, Alliance War introduced various tools to keep the game fresh (at the moment) and keep us thinking what are the best cards to pick each time a new set enters the battle.

In the next article we will talk about Moons of Elsweyr and its impact in Versus Arena.

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