The Alliance War expansion introduces the veteran effect to The Elder Scrolls: Legends. The veteran effect of a creature triggers after it survives its first attack. The mechanic is designed to promote a proactive game plan. It aims to use creatures to fight for the board or to go face, alternatively. The mechanic supports beat down strategies within aggressive or mid-range decks. While the veteran effect is designed for the Ebonheart Pact (red/ green/ purple), individual cards with veteran effects are accessible to Archer, Scout, Warrior, as well as all Houses of Morrowind and all factions. Here are a few examples of creatures with a veteran effect from the Alliance War expansion.
Let’s compare the veteran effect to some other already existing effects like summon and last gasp. From a theoretical perspective, summon effects are in many ways superior to a similar veteran effect.
Summon Effects vs. Veteran Effects
For one, the summon effect immediately triggers once you spend the magicka to play the creature. Depending on the effect, you will immediately shackle, ward, remove a creature, influence the board state by other means, gain life, draw a card, or etc. This helps to advance your game plan further by playing fewer cards with positive effects.
Ability to Intervene
At the same time, your opponent cannot intervene and stop you from gaining the benefits of a summon effect. Compare this to a veteran effect: here, you need to play the creature to board without triggering an immediate effect. While the creature waits for its first attack, your opponent can silence, attack, or use an action to remove it. Even if you manage to get that first attack in, your creature still has to survive it. Oftentimes this will be easy, since you can just go face. However, on occasion, you might find a big guard blocking your way, and your creature gets killed before the veteran effect is triggered. Thus, veteran effects are more difficult to trigger.
There is a third advantage to using summon effects over veteran effects. Since there are multiple synergistic cards allowing you to re-trigger or reuse a summon effect, you can earn the benefits of a summon effect multiple times. Some examples: A Night to Remember, Ulfric’s Uprising, Winterhold Illusionist, Fleeting Apparition or Abnur Tharn.
Veteran effects are slower and much more difficult to trigger than summon effects. Assume there were two different creatures with identical stats and identical effects. Only one of them triggers the effect via summon, while the other uses the veteran mechanic. Wouldn’t you always prefer the creature with the summon effect? In most cases the answer is automatically “yes”. Why even have a veteran effect then?
Well, you can better influence the timing to trigger the veteran effect exactly when you need it. Let’s take a few examples.
Invoker of the Hist
The veteran effect of Invoker of the Hist restores your magicka. With this Argonian on board, you obviously want to utilize your magicka twice. First, you get to play cards for your available magicka, then attack with the Invoker. This restores your magicka, allowing you to play even more cards from hand. You can achieve a similar result with Nix-Ox’s summon effect that grants an additional 5 magicka. However, Invoker of the Hist can actually grant you more than 5 additional magicka on its own.
A neat OTK combo for the Ebonheart pact involves three veterans: during early game, you play Galyn the Shelterer to shuffle three additional copies of Forerunner of the Pact into your deck. Then, at 9 magicka and with Invoker of the Hist and Mournhold Taskmaster on board, you play six Forerunners with charge for a total of 33 damage.
Pact Shieldbearer – Veteran Effect to Disturb Your Opponent’s Game Plan
The 4-cost Nord Pact Shieldbearer comes with stats of 3 power and 5 health. As a veteran, he increases the cost of your opponent’s actions by 4 on their next turn. You might think of him as protection against an “Unstoppable Rage from hand”-combo or to delay your opponent’s Tullius’ Conscription for another turn. However, you can also delay his first attack until your Aldmeri opponent has a full board and deny them their empowered Spoils of War or their Swindler’s Market turnaround move.
Granted, usually you want to play the veteran effect as early as possible to avoid your creature being silenced or removed. However, there might be situations where you can use the threat of triggering a veteran effect to bait your opponent’s removal or silence spells over a period of a turn or two. This might help to protect a more critical support or creature in your hand, and give you a slight tactical advantage.
Veteran Effect vs. Last Gasp Effect
While veteran effects are triggered when a creature attacks and survives, a last gasp effect is triggered when a card (usually a creature) is destroyed. Thus, the veteran mechanic provides an incentive for the creature to survive, while last gasp benefits from the creature getting killed. When you compare the different available effects there is very little overlap between veteran and last gasp effects. While your veterans get a buff when you trigger their effect (e.g. Windhelm Gatekeeper, Jorunn’s Vanguard, Dunmer Tyro, Great Moot Squire, Black Marsh Prodigy), last gasp effects can buff another creature, provide card advantage, or remove or damage an opponent’s threat.
Last Gasp Effects – Primarily a Control Tool
Although there are a few exceptions, last gasp effects are usually seen in control decks. You can use prominent creatures with a last gasp effect to control your opponent’s game plan. Examples areBrutal Ashlander, Balmora Spymaster, Murkwater Scourge, Sly Marshblade, Berne Clan Nightstalker, Telvanni Arcanist or Telvanni Catspaw. You play them to trade or even betray them to benefit from their last gasp effect. Altar of Despair has been a key synergy card for a lot of control decks running last gasp effects. Here, you are in for the very long game, attempting to out-value your opponent over time.
A Veteran Effect Promotes a Pro-active Game Plan
Veteran, however, incentivizes a pro-active game plan. Your veteran goes face only to hit even harder next time. Alternatively, it allows you to trade and survive to pose an even bigger threat for your opponent. All these characteristics are useful for aggressive or mid-range game plans.
Summary – Quo Vadis Veteran Effect?
In between Aggro Hlaalu and Control Tribunal, a lot of Legends players have an appetite for a meta where mid-range decks can compete at competitive levels. With the new veteran effect, Alliance War provides a new mechanic that is potentially suited to push mid-range Ebonheart decks into this spot. Already well-explored deck archetypes in Warrior (like Aggro Warrior, Self-Ping Warrior or Ramp/ Rage Warrior) or Scout (like Shout Scout or Ramp Scout) will probably find little new utility in the Veterans. Aggro or Mid-Archer, however, might find good use for Jorunn’s Vanguard, Pact Shieldbearer or Dunmer Tyro.
We can definitely be looking forward to building decks with veterans, and this is not limited to just the Ebonheart Pact. Particularly Steel-Eyed Visionary should bring our Ring of Imaginery Might, and High Hrothgar decks back for another trial-run on the ladder…