As promised in my first impressions article on Elder Scrolls: Legends, here is an in-depth discussion of the implications of runes and prophecies.
To review, every player starts a game with five runes. Each rune is associated with a certain health value (beginning at 25 health and then decreasing in 5 health intervals). When a player drops to, or below, one of these health thresholds for the first time in a game, the corresponding rune(s) is broken. Once a player’s rune breaks, they draw a card. If the drawn card possesses the “Prophecy” keyword, then the player may play it immediately for free.
Needless to say, the ability to draw and potentially play cards without expending resources is incredibly advantageous in a card game. That goes double for Elder Scrolls: Legends because card draw from playing cards is limited. Restraining oneself from breaking their opponents’ runes while allowing their own runes to be broken can result in a momentum advantage.
From my experience playing the game, I can say that the above case is generally true. Focusing on dealing damage to opponents early-on usually results in running out of steam prematurely. Without the ability to execute opponents after they’ve gathered multiple cards as a result of their runes breaking can leave you at the mercy of the oppositions. The only scenario in which I can envision aggressive play working is if your deck is focused mainly on inflicting damage with methods of drawing cards and dealing with large creatures. Even then, your success is dependent on drawing the correct cards for specific situations.
In other words, the mechanics of runes and prophecies forces players to be more reserved at the beginning of games, unless their deck is built around all-in aggression. Personally, I like how aggression is discouraged early-on. Losing games due to poor starting hands without drawing board clear cards against aggressive decks is never fun *cough* zoo decks *cough*.
The mechanics of prophecies have been explained already, but it’s worth examining how impactful they can truly be. Consider the scenario in which your opponent has a lane filled with one or two health creatures. The rest of the board is empty. After one of the creatures attacked you, one of your runes breaks. The card you drew is “Fire Storm”.
You end up killing every single creature in the lane, in addition to saving yourself from the damage that would’ve been inflicted by the three other minions. The game ends with you as the victor. This scenario might be overly step-up, but it’s a fact that prophecies can be game-changing when activated. When playing Elder Scrolls: Legends, players must be knowledgeable of the correct moments to risk triggering a prophecy. I really like this aspect of risk management that makes the game more skill-based. That being said, in the end, prophecies are based on luck. No matter how calculated your plays are, sometimes you’ll just draw the short end of the stick by repeatedly triggering prophecies.
While prophecies are essential assets to any deck, it’s also important to avoid overloading decks with them. In general, prophecies are inefficient cards to play for their magicka cost. A player will rapidly fall behind in a game if they consistently draw prophecies. Establishing a balance between prophecies and non-prophecies is another skill that players must learn to succeed at Elder Scrolls: Legends.
Runes and prophecies are easily the most unique aspects of Elder Scrolls: Legends. They dissuade early aggression and promote skillful play in the forms of risk management and deck-building. It can take some time to become accustomed to their mechanics, but I strongly believe that runes and prophecies bring many positives to Elder Scrolls: Legends.