How do I play around prophecies? You’ve asked yourself that question when facing a Prophecy Battlemage deck. Maybe you’ve asked it when you lost a race in an aggro mirror match up. You’ve asked it when you couldn’t play around that last rune break which triggered a Piercing Javelin and made you lose. The prophecy mechanic is conceptually at the...
Play Around Prophecies and Runes #1 – The Basics
How do I play around prophecies? You’ve asked yourself that question when facing a Prophecy Battlemage deck. Maybe you’ve asked it when you lost a race in an aggro mirror match up. You’ve asked it when you couldn’t play around that last rune break which triggered a Piercing Javelin and made you lose.
The prophecy mechanic is conceptually at the very core of The Elder Scrolls Legends (see the article The Prophecy Mechanic). You will find the mechanic either frustrating or exciting. It really depends on who gets to play the prophecy. If it’s you, you are excited. If it’s your opponent, you will be frustrated. But there are ways to play around prophecies. However, even the best players in the game sometimes lose to the randomness of the effect.
We are therefore starting a series of articles in which we explain a few strategies and tips for new (and somewhat advanced) players to learn more about the mechanic.
1. Know Your Match-Up to Play Around Prophecies
1.1 What Archetype is Your Opponent Playing?
In any card game, it is important to understand what deck style your opponent is playing. This warrants a series of articles on its own, but you need to make an educated guess about whether your opponent is playing an aggro, midrange, control or combo deck. You can get cues by knowing the meta and by looking at popular decks on legends-decks.com or teslegends.pro. At the beginning of the month, many players play Prophecy Battlemage or other aggro decks to climb fast. Identifying the deck is almost an art form.
But it’s important because it will tell you if you are going to be the aggressor or not, and whether you should be breaking runes or waiting for your opponent to do it first. More info on this can be found in the article Aggro, Midrange, Control – The Ways and Means of Archetypal Match-ups.
Don’t be afraid of being too aggressive against greedy decks. If you know a deck can beat you in the late game, you have to get that damage in or they get an easy win. This can also lead to them burning cards, which is never a bad thing.
1.2 Guess-timate the Prophecies in your Opponent’s Deck to play around them
When you are the aggressor in your match-up, you will need to break runes to win. There is just no way around it. But in order to play around prophecies you need to know what prophecy cards your opponent might run in their deck.
In a tournament with open deck lists this is easy. You can print out your opponent’s list and mark their prophecy cards. In all other play modes, you will need to guess what prophecies your opponent may have included in their deck. We will dedicate a full article to this as it is an important point. Please see Playing Around Runes and Prophecies #2: An Overview of Prophecies by Attribute – Know Your Opponent (note: link will be added here, once article is published).
Once you know what prophecies you might be up against, you can decide on the sequencing of your plays and attacks.
2. Decide Your Play Sequence
The Elder Scrolls Legends puts you in the driver seat in terms of sequencing. Whether you decide to play a card or to attack with your creature instead is up to you. You can do it in any order you like. But there are general rules and exceptions to those rules.
2.1 Trade before breaking runes
When you are controlling the board and have multiple creatures in play, you need to decide whether to trade first or go face.
If you want to trade creatures, it is a good idea to trade them before breaking runes. The reason is simple: a prophecy off rune break might deny you the trade through a removal spell, a shackle, or a guard. Therefore, it’s always a good idea to trade in your creatures first, as they can otherwise be blocked or removed.
Fear Totem seems to be a thing in some aggro decks with access to Strength. If you suspect that your opponent is running a prophecy that can unsummon a creature, it is possibly a good idea to fully remove their creature before breaking the rune. In other words, don’t just damage it with your creature, but play the Firebolt to complete the trade first. Then go face.
2.2 Break runes before playing cards
Let’s assume you are the aggressor in an open decklist tournament matchup. You have a 3/3 creature in play, a juicy threat, and a removal spell in hand. You are playing against a Control Tribunal running playsets of Shrieking Harpy, Piercing Javelin, Lightning Bolt and Pointy Wall of Spikes. Your opponent has no cards in hand.
2.2.1 …to play around a Piercing Javelin prophecy…
In this situation, you should break the rune before playing your other creature. There’s nothing more satisfying than hitting face with a 3/3 creature that triggers a Piercing Javelin. Your opponent removes the 3/3 with a big smile. You follow up with an 8/8 Vigilant Giant with an even bigger smile on your face. If you play the bigger threat first, your opponent can chose which threat to take out with his prophecy Piercing Javelin.
2.2.2 …Shrieking Harpy and Pointy Wall of Spikes…
If they were to pull a Shrieking Harpy, they could only shackle your smaller creature and you could still play the bigger threat and attack with it the following turn. If their prophecy were a Pointy Wall of Spikes, your attack would have already hit them. With your removal action in hand, you could decide to remove their prophecy creature.
2.2.3 …and even Lightning Bolt…
Let’s assume their prophecy was a Lightning Bolt. Even if that could remove your 3/3 creature, they would normally not play it into your 8/8 Vigilant Giant, but still remove the 3/3.
2.3 …unless you have a Nord that benefits from broken runes
An exception to the above rule are some Nord creatures. Some Nords grant you benefits from rune breaks when in play. With such a Nord in hand you might want to play them before breaking the rune, in order to receive the added benefit.
For example, Ulfric’s Housecarl draws you a card when you a break a rune while he’s in play; Relentless Raider will deal one point of damage; Dawnstar Healer gains you 3 health; Riften Pillager gets a +1/+1 buff and Morthal Executioner a +2/+0 buff; Haafingar Marauder equips a random item to the creature breaking the rune; Phalanx Exemplar draws a 1/2 guard (though he is an imperial). There are even more cards to name that we will save for a later article.
When played before the attack, however, these Nords are magnetised to any Piercing Javelins your opponent draws from rune breaks. Obviously, your opponent wants to deny you that value.
2.4 … or you want to increase the attack of your creature.
Another exception to the general rule is when you want to maximise your damage to put your opponent on a one-turn clock. Let’s assume you had a 1/1 in play and a Sentinel Reclaimer, an Orc Clan Captain and a Morkul Gatekeeper in hand to buff your attack by +7. If you want to inflict the maximum amount of damage this turn, you should play the cards before your attack. Even though this might mean that a Fire Storm prophecy could erase your entire lane, it might still leave you with enough damage on board and in hand to close out the game the following turn.
2.5 …or you have a card that can grant Ward in a match-up without hard removal
Another exception to the general rule is when you have ward-giving cards such as Wardcrafter, Lesser Ward, or Assassin’s Ritual in hand. These cards can protect your attacking creature from Lightning Bolt, Burning Touch, Firestorm, Spear of Embers, Staff of Ice or Ransack. And in a match-up where your opponent has access to Lightning Bolts but not hard removal, warding the creature can be a good idea.
3. Deciding Attack Sequence
3.1 Skip rune breaks whenever possible
The best way to play around runes is to avoid triggering them. Thus, one of the most important rules for determining your attack sequence is to skip rune breaks whenever you can. When your opponent is at 6 health, do not attack for 4 and 2 points of damage. If you can, use an item to buff your 4-attack creature by +2 as this will take your opponent down to zero health without breaking a rune. In this case you skip the last rune break because your attack gets your opponent to zero health or below.
It goes without saying that skipping two rune breaks by attacking for 11 in one swing is even better. However, skipping runes is not always easy to achieve. With multiple creatures on board you have to make decisions about the sequence of your attacks.
3.2 Attack to the magic numbers…
3.2.1 …of 26 – 21 – 16 – 11 – 6 – 0 health
Ideally, you want to get your opponent‘s health to 26, then 21, then 16, then 11, then 6, and finally 0. When deciding the order of your attacks, use creatures with smaller attack values from one to four to get your opponent to those thresholds of 26-21-16-11-6 (or as close as possible). This avoids the rune break.
3.2.2. …but usually avoid going slightly across
Once you have your opponent on any of those magical health numbers, you should carefully consider if it’s worth it to do just one or two additional points of damage. At 26, 21 and 16 health you might want to avoid it, and potentially even at 11 health. The risk of triggering a prophecy can swing the board state too easily. Even giving your opponent an additional card from the rune break will usually increase their ability to deal with your entire board by a lot. And that 1-point attack usually doesn’t make a lot of difference.
Only when you are firmly controlling the board and your board state can absorb a Piercing Javelin prophecy and a few guards or removal spells played on your opponent’s next turn can you push further without too much risk.
If your opponent is low on cards and you can put them on a clock you can consider pushing damage. When you rely on creatures in range of Ice Storm and Debilitate however, you should be considerate about breaking another rune at 16. If an Ice Storm leaves you with a Pit Lion that still represents lethal, definitely push the damage, but otherwise always weigh the risks and the benefits, and take some time before making your play.
Let’s look at an example. You have two Orc Clan Captains and a Pit Lion in field lane and a Nord Firebrand in hand, and your Tribunal Control opponent is at 24 health and 5 magicka. You go in with one Orc Clan Captain for 3 damage to get your opponent to 21. This avoids a rune break. You then go face with the Pit Lion for 7, breaking two runes. Your opponent is now at 14 health. Two possible paths emerge, whether a prophecy was triggered or not:
- If no prophecy is triggered, you can swing with the second Orc Clan Captain, for another 3 points of damage leaving them at a marvelous 11. In this case, you can still decide to play the Firebrand for another 3 points of damage, to beat down your opponent to 8. It might be better to keep him though, as your opponent might have an Ice Storm to wipe away all your creatures but the Pit Lion.
- If your opponent triggers a Lightning Bolt prophecy, he can remove the second Orc Clan Captain. If you went in with your Firebrand your opponent would get down to 12 health, but your opponent would still be on a two-turn clock, as you have 6+2+2 = 10 points of damage on board. Again, the Ice Storm would clear everything but your Pit Lion, so keeping the Firebrand in hand is probably a better idea, as your deck may contain other ways to buff him during a later turn (e.g. a Sentinel Reclaimer and her items).
4. Breaking Opponent’s Runes When You Are at Low Health
When you are at low health yourself, and your opponent is still at a high health total, you should be very careful when going face. Giving your opponent additional cards will almost certainly put the nails in your coffin when you are at low-health.
4.1 What is Low-Health?
When you are at 4 health and your opponent is running blue cards in their deck, you are always in danger when breaking their rune. You need to hope that you are not hitting a Lightning Bolt prophecy, as it can win your opponent the game and interrupt the flow of your attacks. However, low health does not begin with 4 health. It can also be 6, 8, 9 or even 17 health and will depend on the amount of damage your opponent has on board and in hand. Ask yourself now the question, “what the maximum damage they can inflict?”
4.2 How to play around prophecies at low health?
Ideally, you want to get your health up before you break additional runes. If you have a drain creature on board that can attack an opponent’s creature and survive, you are in a much better position. Even if you need to go face and break a rune to regain health, it could be the best move. Try to protect your drain creature and try to buff its attack to get maximum health back.
When you cannot gain health back right there, you might extend your resources to do so by drawing more cards. If that’s not possible, try to find a line where you can get your opponent to zero health in one or two turns, assuming they cannot kill you before then. If they have you on a clock, trade to stay in the game for another turn and ask yourself what you could possibly draw to find a winning line. Maybe even one of your own prophecies can gain you another turn and swing around the math to your favor.
5. Questions to Ask Before Breaking a Rune
Before breaking a rune, ask yourself the following questions:
5.1 Do you have board control?
If you do not have board control, do not break a rune. The exception is when you have lethal from hand via a charge creature or an action like Lightning Bolt. Alternatively, if you are playing a combo deck and you don’t care much about the board state, you might also want to break runes to get your combo to work.
5.2 Can you kill them on your next turn?
If you can get your opponent to zero health on your next turn, and they have no way to win on their next turn, always go in. When assessing whether they can win on their next turn, factor in any creatures or actions they could pull off a prophecy. If there is a risk that they could win, hold your attack, aim to get board control, get your health up and extend your resources, if possible.
5.3 Will any of their prophecies kill you or screw your board position?
Is a Lightning Bolt going to kill you? Don’t go in. Is giving them an additional creature on board or a Piercing Javelin prophecy going to screw your board position? With lots of small threats (e.g. multiple Tokens, 2/3s or 3/4s) and a juicier threat (e.g. a 5/5, 7/5, 8/8 etc.) in hand, you definitely should go in and ask to be seeing those prophecies. If your opponent is forced to waste their Piercing Javelin on your 3/3, and you follow up with a bigger threat, it could be time to celebrate your victory.
5.4 Is giving them a card important or not?
If your opponent is playing a combo deck and you do not want to give them anymore combo pieces, don’t go face.
When you are playing in an aggro mirror, you don’t want to give them an additional card. If they are at 21 and your health is at 18 and your opponent has 8 damage on board, giving them an additional prophecy creature with 4 attack can lose you the game the following turn. Some aggro decks have no issue generating 6 points of burst damage with Orc Clan Captain and 3 Nord Firebrands…
In both cases, it’s usually better to play in a way that allows you to kill your opponent in just one turn. This will avoid them getting the cards they need for their lethal. You will need tools, though, to avoid them sneaking their damage through the shadow lane.
6. Summary – The basics when you play around prophecies
Playing around prophecies is still luck, no matter how much thought you put into playing around them. That’s simply the nature of the mechanic. There are a few ways for new players to avoid misplays and take their decisions more consciously, however.
The basics are important to keep in mind: play order, attack sequence, and how to deal with prophecies at low health. Together with the four questions to ask before breaking a rune, you will hopefully be able to up your game in Legends.
We will look at additional aspects of playing around prophecies across a few more articles. Please subscribe to the blog to support to get notified as we publish new content.
This second article in our Playing Around Prophecies series for new Legends players will look at the prophecies by attribute. Knowing the prophecies your opponent might be running allows you to make better sequencing decisions for your plays and attacks. This can increase your win rate and success in Legends. In the first article of the series, we looked at...