The Alliance War: A Synopsys: Toastie Rambles #1: Unique Legendaries
The epic conclusion of my saga on the Alliance War. For the assessment of the expansion and the effects it had on TESLegends, check The Alliance War: A Synopsis. Furthermore, I have created a separate thread which includes a Tier List of the Alliance War.
In this last part, which is more opinionated, I will discuss what I did like, and what I dislike about the Alliance War moreso from a design perspective. You thought the Tier List was me begging for controversy? You ain't seen nothing yet!!.
I hope you enjoy the read!
The first mildly concerning trend I observed is the powerlevel and more importantly the 'uniqueness' of unique legendaries that has seemingly changed. This sounds a little ambiguous, but I am going to elaborate on it. I wish to mention ahead of time that the problem I perceive is in the combination of a couple of factors, namely a good statline, being a staple card, the effect being largely unique from all other cards in the pool, and the effect being powerful.
To illustrate, consider a few of the more commonly seen (then or now) Heroes of Skyrim Uniques. Aela, Ancano, Brynjolf, Paarthurnax, Journey to Sovngarde, Alduin.
We can distinguish these into two groups: The first group (Aela, Ancano, Brynjolf) and the second group (Papa Paarth, Alduin, Journey).
The first group consists of powerful legendary cards with a good statline, that are or were staples in several playstyles, however, their effects were not entirely unique. Aela's effect is similar to a combination of the Red Pings, and a removal effect like Leaflurker or even Belligerent Giant. Ancano is often jokingly called Bolt-on-a-stick, and that's surprisingly accurate. He represents from-hand Reach. Brynjolf is basically a good Draining body with a minor ramp feature attached, of which there is plenty in Green.
The second group has legendaries that largely unique effects but that come with additional restrictions. Paarthurnax generates a wide array of different spells, most with a removal-esque quality, but his power lies in recursion. Alduin has a summon effect that is still unmatched even today. Journey is one of the most unique cards in all of TESL. These are all very unique effects that you can't really assimilate or assemble in other ways in the current game. However, these uniques come in late in the game and you need to put in a lot of commitment to get the most out of their effects.
In other words, we have powerful uniques with "unique but not entirely irreplacable" effects on one side, and powerful uniques with a caveat with a "unique and not replacable" effect on the other side.
The first time we could observe this philosophy changing is Houses of Morrowind:
In the first group, we can place cards like The Red Year, Sotha Sil, Sun-in-Shadows, Dagoth Ur, Naryu Virian.
In the second group, we can place cards like Umbra, Stendarr's Hammer, Caius Costades, Vedam Dren and Bolvyn.
However, there is now a third group, which consists of Unique Legendaries with largely entirely unique effects, which are played often and have near-curve stats, such as Therana, Archcannon Saryoni and Vivec.
The problem is as follows: If Uniques have entirely unique abilities, are played often, and have good statlines, they can cause variance in games due to it being difficult to play around them, their appearance rates being low but their impact unceasingly high.
When we look at Isle of Madness and return to our groups, the change becomes more apparant.
Group 1: Tavyar/Rayvat, Haskill.
Group 2: Cyriel, Dawnfang.
Group 3: Fork of Horripilation (it being a Neutral and an item and thus effectively having Charge is key), Syl, Thadon, Luzrah, The Gatekeeper.
Subsequently, out came the Alliance War.
Group 1: Sai Sahan, Jorunn, Ayrenn.
Group 2: Emeric, Vanus. Group 3: Varen, Lyris, Abnur Tharn, Mannimarco, Clivia, Jorunn (whose combination of effects is unique and highly dangerous).
It is observable that there's a larger degree of Unique legendaries with very unique effects that still carry good curve bodies.
Now, it is worth mentioning that Syl and Lyris have a similar offensive precense as aggro-topend, but their impact can differ. Lyris is great to remove the healing from those Market decks, whereas you can drop Syl for additional card draw. I think 2-3 "similar" effects is where this concern falls off, because it takes out the variance of dealing with a Unique, and instead you can account for the effect instead. The "lateness" of the effect kicking in is also relevant. In games where 30+ cards are drawn, this phenomenon becomes a lot less relevant.
There is good news, though! Kaalgrontiid, the Willpower Unique for Moons of Elsweyr, shares an effect that is reasonably close to what Miraak or Sotha Sil can do. The description and implications of Kaal being played are different, but the end result, that of there being a few threads to deal with, is the same.
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