Aggro decks are one of key deck types in almost any collectible card game. The idea is simple and everyone is supposed to know how to play these decks: playing creature, after creature, after creature and go face with them to beatdown your opponent’s life points turn after turn after turn. That’s what everyone thinks. But there is a lot more subtelty to Aggro decks. Some theory around this has already been developed for Magic -The Gathering and can equally be applied to The Elder Scrolls Legends.
Why should you care? Because knowing about these different aggro strategies will make you a better Legends player – and it does not really matter if you play aggro decks or your opponents plays aggro decks. What’s important is that you understand the game plan behind these decks, because they are a lot more strategies to aggro then “just going for face”. We can basically differentiate the following types:
- Hit Hard
In fact, all these strategies can be used in isolation or in combination with each other, but picking the right plan when building your deck is the first key to success.
The Dominate game plan looks to summon the best possible small creatures, to dominate the board and keep on attacking until the opponent is dead, using removal actions as available and appropriate to keep in control of the board.
Ideally, this plan starts with a 2-power (or 3-power) creature on turn 1, followed by a 4-power creature on turns 2 and 3. This already gives you 2+6+10=18 damage during the first three to four turns if the board is uncontested and your opponent does not run many prophecy cards. If all goes well, it allows you win the game in turn 5.
As the Endurance attribute runs the creatures with the best statistics, a lot of Warrior, Sorcerer or even Scout aggro decks fall into this category with creatures such as
- Purple/ Endurance: Barrow Stalker, Hist Speaker, Siege Catapult, Wind Keep Spellsword, Aundae Clan Sorcerer, or Young Mammoth and Bleakcost Troll.
- Red/ Strengths: Fiery Imp, Relentless Raider, Afflicted Alit, Graystone Ravager, Mage Slayer, Stormcloak Vanguard, Blighted Alit, Morkul Gatekeeper, Mighty Ally or Bangkorai Buthcher.
- Green/ Agility: Murkwater Goblin, Morag Tong Aspirant, Awakened Dreamer, Deranged Corprus, Goblin Skulk, Mornhould Traitor, Ash Oppressor, Cornerclub Gambler, Elderglam Matron, Guar Stablemaster or Murkwater Butcher.
Of course it is not just the creatures that help to dominate the board. Removal actions will keep you in control and ensure that your opponent falls behind very quickly.
Dominate aggro decks rely on control of the board, and are therefore vulnerable to decks that have bigger creatures, that allow 2-to-1 trades, particularly if supplemented by cheap Guard creatures or removal actions that that weaken the initial assault.
This brings us to game plan number two …
The Dodge game plan also involves summoning cheap creatures and going face with them, but rather than using the creatures with the best attack power, Dodge-type decks look at the magicka cost ratio and run creatures that can dodge the defences that are expected from opponents. These cards usually bear the Ward keyword, or use a combination of Guard and Regenerate to fight-off opponents. Another option are creatures providing Cover to their fellow fighters or cards that Move creatures to the other lane.
Under the Dodge plan, Ward creatures are used for two-to-one trades, thus helping to gain card advantage and to gain board control over a player on the Dominate strategy. A few cards to consider in this category are Iliac Sorcerer, Evermore Stewart, Redoran Forerunner or Breton Conjurer. They slow down your opponent and can provide further beatdown power (Iliac) or protection (Evermore, Breton Conjurer) for some of your higher attack creatures.
You will also to keep in mind that many removal cards currently work for creatures with 2 power (Execute) or 2 health (Firebolt, Sorcerer’s Negation). Thus, having a ward creature with stats of 3/x or/3 or better improves their chances of survival. Currently these cost 4 or more magicka (with the exception of Embassy Guard) but there is certainly items that can help bridge this gap or Mundus Stone, or Lion Guard Strategist or maybe some future cards filling this gap.
Regenerate and Guard
The purple Endurance attribute provides a few Guards with Regenerate. The idea is to create blockers that are not easily overcome by one or two smaller creatures of the opponent. Most notably, Oldgate Warden, Whiterun Protector or a small Guard with Hackwing Feather can be used to facilitate this. The self-healing effect in combination with additional health buffs allows the Dodge plan to slow down and eventually stall players on the Dominate strategy.
Cards using Cover can mostly be found in the green Agility attribute and include examples like Gloomlurker, Shadowmaster, Back-Alley Rogue or Elder Centaur. Even Hidden Trail can keep creatures safe for a little longer. Additionally, a few red cards like Ratway Prospector or the item Assassin’s Bow help with the Dodge strategy.
Evasive Maneuvers! Creatures on the move, are flexibly allowing you to either evade your opponents threats or guards or trade them favourably into creatures that your opponent wanted to protect in the other lane. Card advantage can be gained from such maneuvers. Notable examples for a Dodge game plan based on moving creatures are Shadow Shift, Archer’s Gambit, Caravan Enforcer, or Dune Stalker and Dune Smuggler.
The drawback of playing creatures that allow you to dodge is that your game plan is slowed down. Dodge plan decks usually have a horrible time against decks that don’t care whether creatures have evasion or not. In particular, the slower beatdown deck loses against decks that don’t try to contest for board control, but use Ice Storm or other Creature or Lane Removal cards instead.
While both the Dominate and the Dodge game plans are about seizing the initiative and making the opponent react to your plan, the Disrupt strategy attempts to disrupt your opponent’s game plan. In this scenario you are trying to steal a creature or a creature’s attributes or to remove powerful (longer lasting) effects from play by silencing or removing the corresponding cards.
Stealing Keywords, Items or Creatures
There are several cards allowing you to steal keywords, items or even creatures from your opponent to disrupt their plan. Ahnassi is likely the most who steals all keywords from all your opponent’s creatures. Other examples for disruptive cards are Arenthia Swindler (doesn’t see much competitive play; consider in item-heavy meta only), Penitus Oculus Agent, Mecinars Will, the 7 cost action Arrest, or the 9-cost action Chodala’s Treachery.
In decks following a Disrupt game plan, hard removal and lane removal cards are a key counter strategy to your opponent’s game plan. While hard removal can remove indidivual creatures that are threatening your health considerably, but lane removal cards are even more powerful and can turn a game around. Ice Storm, for example, is a card that causes many players to trade unfavorably, only to keep their creatures above 3 health.
By including creatures in your deck, that allow you to Silence your opponent’s creatures you can gain substantial advantage in the Shadow Lane. In addition, the ability to silence a creature can also remove a pesky Last Gasp or Guard effect from a Sower of Revenge, a Haunting Spirit or a Restless Templar. In close games, such disruption strategies help you to keep the edge over your opponent.
Several support cards provide long-lasting effects that can swing in your opponent’s favor. Divine Fervor is the most popular example, providing a +1/+1 buff to all creatures. Being able to remove such support cards is a key requirement when building almost any deck, and definitely also an important element in any Disruptive game plan. Since your opponent may not be running any support cards, the best support removal cards also have additional uses.
There are two main situations in which you might need want to go onto a Defend plan. The first scenario is when facing another aggro beatdown deck. In this casee, if the long game favors your deck (i.e. if your deck has a few high-cost-high-reward-type-of-creatures), then not getting into a damage race but instead trading cards one-for-one and trying to maintain your life total is the best way to win. In this case, gaining card advantage and the ability to effectively protect the Shadow Lane can be the key to victory.
The other time when you need to go on the defensive is if one of the above plans has failed. Sometimes you don’t manage to overrun your opponent with your creatures before they are able to wipe out all creatures or before your opponent summons one or more much bigger creatures. For example, you might find yourself with more life points than your opponent, and with removal actions in hand but no creatures in play, and then facing a Belligerent Giant or a Vigilant Giant. In this case, the defensive play is to use the removal actions to kill the Giant and to protect your health points hoping that there is not another big power creature hitting the opponent’s side of the board next turn.
Hit Hard and Reach the Face
Most good beatdown decks have a back-up plan if they aren’t able to control the board or force through any more creature damage. The Charge attribute on Cliff Racers, a Tazkad The Packmaster, the Reach of one or two Lighning Bolts or the 5 (Breakthrough) damage from an Ancano are oftentimes the last little bit you need to get your opponent’s health to just under zero. Due to a lack of cards dealing direct damage, there are almost no decks currently that are relying on this strategy alone. Instead Reach is a key ingredient to ensure that an aggro deck does not run out of steam as a control deck is about to stop the initial attack of the first few turns.
Hybrid Strategies – Getting the Right Mix
Apparently, it is extremely unusual for any particular deck to only be able to use one plan. The dream of dominating the board from turn one can easily stall on turn four or five. The mid-game stage sees the aggro player adjust their plan, not trying to dominate the board, but just to sneak a few more points of damage through, with some disruption, or by dodging through with a hasty minion without breaking the next rune.
The key point is that you need to work out during each point of the game which plan is the correct one to follow for the next few turns. To get an edge in beatdown versus beatdown matchups, you can try to dominate the board in the early game, switching to the defensive and relying on card advantage and to draw some of your Reach while your opponent has board control. Not for long, as you might disrupt them. There is no one plan which will always work in every single matchup, but if you know where you can look to get an edge, you’ll be one step closer to victory.