A look at Quadrant Theory in TESL to assess the value of cards to gain, keep and leverage board control.
Quadrant Theory – The Origins
Quadrant Theory is a concept that has been introduced for Magic: The Gathering. It has been originally put in writing by Marshall Sutcliffe (here in the M:TG blog) and is based on findings by Brian Wong. All courtesy of the idea goes to them, but the concept is equally applicable to The Elder Scrolls Legends (TES:L). Wong’s Quadrant Theory will help you to quickly assess the value of cards. This is enormously useful for newly released cards that you have not yet played with, but it also helps in deck building when looking at what cards to add/ remove from your decklist. For use in deck building, you will need to assess all cards in your deck based on Quadrant Theory. Sounds complicated? It actually isn’t. But, let’s have a deeper look…
Quadrant Theory looks at Board Control
The whole concept of Quadrant Theory is based around board control. The idea behind this is simple: if you control the board, you are more likely to be controlling the game and it’s outcome in your own favor. This basically means, that you will need more creatures than your opponent, or bigger ones (to trade favorably), or more evasive ones (to avoid trades). Additionally, you will want removal to mitigate your opponent’s board state, thereby improving your own.
In Quadrant Theory you evaluate a card against it’s impact on board control and evaluate it against four criteria, called quadrants.
The Four Quadrants in Quadrant Theory
- Opening or Developing. Both players are playing cards from their opening hands, and establishing themselves as the aggressor or the control player. This is the early part of the game, and one that is critical to how the rest of the game will play out.
- Parity. Both players have played most or all of the cards from their hands, but neither has been able to establish a dominating board position. It’s a stalemate, with the top of the deck providing the only fuel available to both players.
- Winning. You have two big flying creatures attacking in the air while your guards gum up the ground, for example. If nothing changes, you win the game in three turns. This is one possible winning board state.
- Losing. See Winning, but the opposite. You are being beaten down by some threats you can’t handle, and you need an answer fast.
When you look at a card, evaluate it against each of these quadrants. Look at what is most important from a card-evaluation perspective and consider that a card can be good in multiple quadrants. Hence, don’t have the mindset of putting the cards into one individual bucket only but look at utility for all quadrants.
If you see a card that is bad in all quadrants, you have yourself an unplayable. If you see a card that is good in all four quadrants, you have an all-star.
Opening or Developing
Cards that are good in the opening stages of a game are usually just cards that you can play during this part of the game. Two-drop creatures are your friends during this stage, but it goes all the way up to five magicka (roughly). Tempo plays and combat tricks flourish here, as well as cheap removal. Cards like this let you get ahead, and stay ahead. Some cards even provide a utility after turn five, so even if you draw them later, they might be a bigger threat. Such cards would also have utility in another quadrant (like Parity or Losing).
Opening and developing is really just about making board impact, and being castable in the early stages of a game. Excellent opening or developing cards are creatures like Daggerfall Mage in Intelligence, Wind Keep Spellsword in Endurance or Goblin Skulk in Agility . These are often less exciting in the other quadrants, however, so remember that.
Cards that are good when the board is at parity are cards that are powerful topdecks in a stallmate situation. Usually, a card that’s good at parity comes in the form of raw power statistics. Imagine drawing a Bleakcost Troll, a Child of Hircine, a Nahagliiv, a Shrine Guardian, a Vigilant Giant or an Aspect of Hircine at this stage of the game. With this creatures, you now have the ability to overpower your opponent.
But there are other great cards in this scenario beyond just your typical, over-the-top creature. Cards like Disciple of Namira are fantastic draws in this quadrant: while the board is stalled, you get to draw cards to your hand as you trade in the creatures in one lane. This will help you to overwhelm your opponent with card advantage. A card that breaks parity does so by being a really big stick or by being a silent poison dart.
Imagine you have a sweet opening hand where you play a two-, three-, and four-drop, right on curve. You might likely have caused a damage of 5 and will cause another 9 this turn. What a dream, only 16 more to go! But when you look at your hand after you play that four-drop, you realize you are out of gas. What do you need to leverage your currently superior board state and finish off your opponent?
Generally speaking: any creature. If a card is good enough to go into your deck, it’s going to affect the board and help push you onto victory. Sure, you’d prefer your big five- and six-drops at this point, but really anything would help turn this great start into a victory. The best cards here are the ones that slam the door as quickly as possible on the opponent. It doesn’t take much to be good in this quadrant, but the best close out the game quickly.
This is the most important and hardest quadrant to be great in. Cards that can dig you out of a losing position don’t come around too often, and they are highly sought after when they do show up. What we are looking for here are cards that either kill a lot of creatures at once (like a lane removal effect) or creatures that protect incredibly well (e.g. Guard, Ward, non-targetable by actions).
There are other types of cards, but remember we are focusing on board states here. The come-from-behind cards have to affect the board in a major way. Cards that excel in this quadrant are often prohibitively expensive to play and when they aren’t, they are early picks. Cards being good in this quadrant are Alduin, Dawn’s Wrath, Odahviing, Vivec, potentially Sotha Sil.
Quadrant Theory in Action
When you look at a new card, ask yourself how this card performs in each of the four quadrants. The goal isn’t to find cards that perform excellently in all quadrants (although when you do, it’s pretty amazing), but instead to find cards that at least do well in most of them. Cards that help out in the most diverse set of circumstances are more valuable than cards that only work well in some.
Versatility matters. Cards that do something at all stages of the game carry a lot of the weight for your deck and should be valued highly.
Let’s explore a popular card example to test out the Quadrant Theory.
A Look at Tullius Conscription Using Quadrant Theory
Opening and Developing
It’s very good here, as it can be used to immediately put loads of creatures on the board. Oh wait, for a magicka of 11?! No, that cannot be good in the early stages of game. Can you combine it with other cards to reduce it’s cost? Maybe a little, but overall Tullius’ Conscription is not good at the beginning of the game.
On first sight, it seems to be really shining at Parity. At least, if parity means, the board has been cleared on your side, as well as on your opponent’s side. Then it is superb. For 11 magicka, you get to play creatures worth 14-16 magicka and even better – you won’t need cards on hand. You can easily flood the board with 2-cost creatures and embark on the road to victory with the 16 damage that will hit your opponent shortly.
However, if parity means, that you have 4-8 creatures on your side of the board, opposed by 4-8 on your opponents’ side – it won’t do much difference. It will cost too much magicka as well. To summarize, it has great utility in specific situations when there is really an empty board. Hence, many players combine it in decks with Journey to Sovngarde or Praetorian Commander (to get more powerful creatures for the draws).
If you are winning the game, and you have loads of creatures on the board, the card is not generally the first choice. Reason: It will add only rather few creatures at a high cost. From an empty hand, this will be good, of course, so it might come in handy in some situations. If, however, the board has only 2 bigger threats on each side of the table, some additional 6 creatures will definitely be able to push more damage or let you remove the big threats of your opponents. If you assume to get 6 creatures with a total of ~12 power onto the board, this might be the winning push you might have needed. Hence, it has good utility in Winning when the board is empty. But little utility when it’s a crowded token army on your side of the table.
This card can turn a game for sure. Your board is empty, you still have a good bit of life and 11 magicka, and all of a sudden you will be back in the game. From almost nowhere. Be sure to include a few 2-cost creatures with Guard (ideally a Lethal one) or Charge (best with Guard) and you can remove some of your opponents threats, which might be enough to buy you another turn or two.
Summary: Tullius’ Conscription requires your deck to be build with loads of 2-cost creatures. It’s no use in the Opening/ Developing phase. It’s amazing on empty boards in Parity, but bad, when there’s already legions of armies engaged in the fights. Winning – yes, if you have few huge threats. It can do it’s magic and flood the board to push for victory. And when you are losing, in certain conditions it can help, but you need to consider this already when you think about the diverse 2-drops to include in your deck.
Summary and Additional Background
What are the takeaways?
Cards that don’t affect the board at all, or require some extremly unlikely circumstances to be good, will often miss on all four quadrants. Cards that are good in all quadrants are the ones to keep your eye out for. Whenever you are looking at a new card, try putting it to the “quadrant-test”. This gives you a decent idea of how good the card is terms of it’s ability to manage board control.
Shouldn’t all TESL content creators use Quadrant Theory?
I hope this article made the Quadrant Theory a bit more understandable in the context of The Elder Scrolls Legends. I would appreciate to read your thoughts in the comments. Also, I would like to recommend to the community of content creators (e.g. who share their views about new monthly reward cards or new expansions, etc.) to embrace Quadrant Theory as a consistent methodology to assess the value of (new) cards. This allows even new starters to quickly see the purposes of a card and it’s value. This might also highlight nuances in opinions and open interesting discussion.
Wanna see more?
For those of you being knowledgable in Magic: The Gathering: please refer to the following interesting YouTube videos to see the Quadrant Theory technique in action: