Alliance War Developer Diary – Infinite Combos and Swapped Attributes

With each expansion to The Elder Scrolls: Legends comes also stories of trials and triumph that the team went through during its creation. In this Developer Diary series, we take a behind-the-scenes look at some of the learnings from our latest release, Alliance War, with commentary from card designer Ryan Siegel-Stechler.

Dominion Battlereeve and Ayrenn, Dominion Queen

Dominion Battlereeve started life as a proposal for Ayrenn, Dominion Queen, (we’ll get back to her in a second). We really wanted the leader of the Dominion to be able to trigger Empower easily, potentially multiple times in a turn. Well, what better way to trigger Empower than to have multiple pinging triggers? The original design, however, had one minor difference:

“Summon, Slay, Pilfer, and Last Gasp: Deal 1 damage to your opponent.”

It took exactly one playtest to realize what we’d accidentally done. When you summoned Dominion Battlereeve, she’d deal one damage to the opponent...which would trigger Pilfer...which would deal one damage to the opponent. Over and over until they died. Oops!

TESL Dominion in-body

However, that experience ended up being incredibly valuable later on when we continued with the design of Ayrenn, Dominion Queen. We still wanted her to be able to trigger Empower multiple times per turn. Another proposal for that ability that we all liked and were close to locking in was:

“Whenever you draw a card on your turn, deal 1 damage to your opponent.”

Because of the accidental infinite combo we’d created with Dominion Battlereeve, however, we were able to identify the major problem with this line of text. Can you spot it?

TESL Bandit Ringleader in-body

Another infinite pinging combo! After trying it in decks, we quickly found that between Dark Rebirth, Altar of Despair and Bandit Ringleader just being good on its own in the Empower shell that the combo was a major problem and amended Ayrenn, Dominion Queen to her “draw an action” version. It’s important to learn from your mistakes!

Abnur Tharn and Sai Sahan:

Sai Sahan is a master swordsman. Abnur Tharn is a consummate politician. But would you believe that they once had each other’s ability?

We had slotted Abnur Tharn into Agility as the Empire was already increasing the number of Imperials in Agility, while Intelligence was a natural place for Sai Sahan as a Redguard. Originally, we conceived of “Summon: Sai Sahan uses the summon ability of a creature” to play into the trope of a master martial artist using their opponent’s greatest strength against them, and “Immune to enemy Wounded creatures. Summon: Give all enemy creatures -1/-1.” as representing Abnur Tharn’s political machinations.

We met in Baltimore (where the Sparkypants studios are) for a design conference, both to talk about Alliance War and the next set in the future. On a walk to dinner, almost as a joke, it was brought up that maybe we should just swap Abnur Tharn and Sai Sahan. The more we thought about it, though, the less it felt like a joke. Convincing an opponent’s creature to use their ability against them was totally a political move. Sai Sahan is renowned for defeating two armies of assassins and emerging unscathed.

TESL Sai Abnur in-body

What better way to represent that than an ability that allows him to single-handedly take down an army and not receive a scratch in return? Gentleman Jim Stacey and Speaker Terenus meant these wouldn’t even be the first Redguard and Imperial in their swapped attributes! Sometimes keeping an open mind in design allows you to find a very different perspective. In this case, we were all very happy with the result.