Another season is almost in the books as November draws to a close. With the end of the month comes the third edition of the BTL Meta Snapshot! In this edition, CVH, BradfordLee, Romanesque, and EarthP0w3R break down the most powerful and popular decks of the current meta into four tiers – read on to see where your favorites made it.
The primary purpose of the BTL Meta Snapshot isn’t necessarily to rank the decks per se, as I personally feel that the meta fluctuates regularly and certain decks become temporarily positioned higher or lower as a result. The use of tech cards can also skew matchups which, in turn, affect general rankings. The main goal of this snapshot is to show players what is being played and widely perceived as dominant on the ladder, and offer some insight into deck lists and matchups to make grinding the ladder easier – or at least a little more predictable. That being said, the decks are organized into “tiers” which can be defined as follows:
TIER ONE: These decks dominate the ladder at the high Legend ranks, both in popularity and power level. They are optimized and adaptable, with good matchups against many other popular decks that often lead to extremely high win rates and access to some of the most powerful cards and combos in TES: Legends.
TIER TWO: Though not quite of the power level as the tier one decks, these decks are also very capable of reaching the very top of the ladder. These are very solid decks that occasionally benefit from good matchups among other tier one and two decks.
TIER THREE: These decks are generally average. They aren’t particularly bad, but may not be optimized or well-positioned against the dominant tier one and tier two decks. These decks are still capable of making it to Legend, however, and many have room for improvement.
TIER FOUR: While not incapable of grinding the ladder or taking wins off higher-ranked decks, these decks find more of a struggle. They are typically unrefined or poorly-positioned. Winning against tier one and tier two decks with these usually requires great tech choices and deep knowledge of the matchups.
Beneath each deck is a general overview of the deck itself, an explanation of why it is placed where it is in the current Meta Snapshot, a link to a sample list, and (for the first two tiers of decks) matchups against the other decks in the top two tiers. While not irrelevant, matchup rankings for the decks listed in tiers three and four are not provided due to lack of data; however, they are mentioned in the write-ups of several decks.
A Summary of November
The metagame has continued to evolve as the popularity of different decks on the ladder ebbs and flows. Card changes nerfed many popular decks including Control Mage and a buff to Morkul Gatekeeper has given decks using Strength a new powerful option. Unfortunately, the October Monthly Reward card, Mechanical Ally, has failed to shake the metagame up anywhere close to the level that Hist Grove did, with Dwemer decks failing to make an appearance on this snapshot despite many players’ experimentation.
That said, the power of Hist Grove continues to have an impact on the meta with Ramp Scout maintaining its presence in tier one. This has impacted the rest of the metagame in a substantial way, as not unexpectedly, the rest of tier one is comprised of decks players are turning to in order to beat the Swamp Leviathan-spawning menace.
Besides Ramp Scout, other big winners this month include Aggro Battlemage, which jumped a whole two tiers this month. Some decks reacted more negatively to the card changes, such as Assassin variants and Token Spellsword. It will be interesting to see if these trends continue as we make our way closer to the official release of Legends.
With the introduction of Hist Grove as the September monthly reward card, Ramp Scout saw a surge in popularity. The deck is fairly straightforward in that it wants to draw the game out and win with a variety of large threats like Blood Magic Lord. Now that Hist Grove is available to Endurance, however, it offers and almost insurmountable amount of pressure in the very late game, giving the deck a huge advantage over slow decks not using the card.
Ramp Scout continues to excel this month and ascends to the very top of tier one, as the only deck that all four snapshot contributors ranked within the top two decks. The recent batch of card changes were also kind to the deck, with Endurance being left alone and the only relevant nerfs to Agility being Moonlight Werebat and Tazkad. For those looking to play the long game on the ladder, this is the deck of choice at the moment.
Highly Favored Against: Control Mage
Favored Against: Wrothgar Archer, Ward Sorcerer, Aggro Battlemage
Even Against: –
Unfavored Against: Midrange Archer, Midrange Scout, Aggro/Token Crusader, AAction Assassin
Highly Unfavored Against: Combo Battlemage
Merric Combo Battlemage
Merric Battlemage is a control archetype with the ability to use the cards Merric-at-Aswala and Supreme Atromancer to combo with your token generators like Raiding Party and Markarth Bannerman and thus kill your opponent out of nowhere. This deck offers a number of lines of play every turn and thus is hard to play optimally. Without a healing effect in the deck, one minor misstep can spell doom for the decks pilot. While mastering this deck can be hard it is also quiet rewarding to play as one becomes more comfortable with the deck.
Perhaps the biggest strength to Merric Battlemage in this current meta game is its match up against the Ramp Scout deck. The efficient and resilient early game threats in addition to the burst potential in the late game makes Merric Battlemage a strong favorite in that match up. This has propelled the deck to tier one this month, up from tier two in October.
Merric Battlemage struggles against hyper aggressive strategies and Ward centric Sorcerer builds. However, the real strength of the Merric Battlemage deck is that even its bad match ups are winnable given a decent hand.
Highly Favored Against: Ramp Scout, Control Mage
Favored Against: Action Assassin
Even Against: Wrothgar Archer, Aggro/Token Crusader
Unfavored Against: Midrange Scout
Highly Unfavored Against: Midrange Archer (particularly Withered Hand variants), Aggro Battlemage, Ward Sorcerer
Archer is a deck that has been dominating for months already as the premier Midrange deck of the metagame, and has been a mainstay of tier one since the BTL Snapashot’s inception. With powerful early game cards like Daring Cutpurse and House Kinsman and a mid-game comprised of the likes of Soulrest Marshal and Triumphant Jarl, this deck can outpace slower decks and keep the aggression up into the later stages of the game if need be. As a Midrange deck without many comeback mechanics, it does suffer against Aggro.
There are numerous versions of the Midrange Archer deck; some eschew Actions almost entirely (excepting Burn and Pillage) in favor of playing Withered Hand Cultists. This version excels against Combo Battlemage and Control Mage, and is typically more aggressive. Some run Rapid Shots and Finish Off, and no cultists. This month’s sample list is between the two, as CVH has included Cultists for Action hate along with the full package of Thieves Guild and Triumphant Jarl. TurquoiseLink recently hit #1 Legend with a version using Snowy Sabre Cat, Child of Hircine, and Savage Ogre, proving there is always room for experimentation with the deck.
Highly Favored Against: Control Mage, Combo Battlemage
Favored Against: Ramp Scout, Midrange Scout, Wrothgar Archer
Even Against: Ward Sorcerer
Unfavored Against: Action Assassin
Highly Unfavored Against: Aggro/Token Crusader, Aggro Battlemage
Aggro Battlemage saw a surge in popularity at the very end of the October season, and that upward trend has continued into and through November. The card changes didn’t negatively effect the deck in the least, and Morkul Gatekeeper fits perfectly in the strategy. Lists have been refined, and the most popular variant of the deck is highly reminiscent of Prophecy Assassin – except with much more burn damage thanks to Gladiator’s Arena, Dark Rift, and the damage-dealing Actions in the deck.
Aggro/Prophecy Battlemage is currently the most popular Aggro deck at Legend by a fair margin, and that is likely to continue for a while. This deck is one of the best options for those looking for fast games, and benefits from solid matchups against other aggressive decks thanks to the Prophecies. Against some slower decks where the Prophecies matter less, the burn damage is often enough to close games by itself.
MiracleGangja’s Aggro Battlemage (Note: Slaughterfish should be Slaughterfish Spawning, and Morkul Gatekeeper is a standard 3-0f post-card changes. Grahtwood Ambushers are one possible cut.)
Highly Favored Against: Combo Battlemage, Midrange Archer, Action Assassin
Favored Against: Aggro/Token Crusader, Wrothgar Archer, Midrange Scout, Ward Sorcerer
Even Against: Control Mage
Unfavored Against: Ramp Scout
Highly Unfavored Against: –
Ward Sorcerer is a primarily aggressive variant of the Sorcerer class that utilizes Wards and a low curve to provide pressure in the early game with creatures that are hard to remove. Ward Sorcerer has also seen an increase in popularity, in part thanks to the card changes effectively leaving the deck alone. Aggressive Midrange decks that can generate powerful tempo plays have seen an increase in play this month, and this deck fits that bill by using Royal Sage and Black Worm Necromancer to get too far ahead for most control decks to deal with. The list provided climbed to the very top of the ladder at Legend #1, proving that Ward Sorcerer is a powerful force in the current metagame.
Highly Favored Against: Combo Battlemage
Favored Against: Control Mage, Action Assassin, Midrange Scout
Even Against: Midrange Archer, Wrothgar Archer
Unfavored Against: Aggro Battlemage, Ramp Scout, Aggro/Token Crusader
Highly Unfavored Against: –
Aggro Crusader was hit hard by the nerf of Divine Fervor to five Magicka, but still holds strong in tier two this month. While not the most popular aggressive deck on the ladder at the moment, it remains one of the most potent, as Markarth Bannerman is incredibly hard for certain decks (like Ramp Scout) to deal with. Combined with the buff cards, a Raiding Party or unchecked Markarth can deal an obscene amount of damage after a strong aggressive curve and end the game in a flash. The continued decrease in popularity of Control Mage continues to be a major reason for this deck’s success on the ladder.
Highly Favored Against: Midrange Archer
Favored Against: Midrange Scout, Ramp Scout, Action Assassin, Ward Sorcerer, Wrothgar Archer
Even Against: Combo Battlemage
Unfavored Against: Aggro Battlemage
Highly Unfavored Against: Control Mage
Control Mage continues to fall lower into tier two this month. While it remains widely considered the second-best Control deck to Ramp Scout, it suffers poor matchups to many of the other top contenders including the Scout, Combo Battlemage, and Midrange decks using cards like Soulrest Marshal. Some of the deck’s best matchups, in Token Spellsword and Prophecy Assassin, have fallen out of popularity.
Last month Control Mage was in a great place and was one of the strongest archetypes in the meta. However, with the recent balance changes this archetype took a big hit. In the past, this archetype was able to use Healing Potion in the late game in addition to powerhouse cards like Mantikora to both stabilize the board while also pulling yourself out of lethal range. Additionally, Elusive Schemer gave the archetype card advantage and a 4 power creature that gave the deck an ability to trade in to 4 toughness creatures that the archetype inherently struggles against. Lastly, the change on Brilliant Experiment made it much harder to copy Pillaging Tribune, the premier stabilization/healing play in the deck, and it is now near impossible to copy Mantikora in the late game. These balance changes have drastically changed the way that Mage has to play today.
In the past, this archetype was able to play a more reactive hand control game plan. If you look at the example list by Dazer777, we can see that the archetype must now take a more proactive approach by putting minions on the board in the early game and having strong finishers like Supreme Atromancer to apply pressure in the mid to late game.
Highly Favored Against: Aggro/Token Crusader
Favored Against: Action Assassin
Even Against: Aggro Battlemage
Unfavored Against: Midrange Scout, Ward Sorcerer
Highly Unfavored Against: Ramp Scout, Combo Battlemage, Midrange Archer, Wrothgar Archer
Wrothgar Archer started as a fun idea that, with deck refinement, has proven its self to be a viable archetype. Its greatest strengths are the fact that it can run the core components that make up most mid-range archer shells. Archer stable cards like Leaflurker, Cliff Racer, Moonlight Werebat, and Earthbone Spinner gives this deck the ability to be both proactive and reactive depending on the circumstance.
The true engine of this deck is Wrothgar Forge plus the many Charge creatures that make up the deck. Without Wrothgar Forge this deck would not be able to out value other late game decks. Additionally, in the match ups where this deck wants to be aggressive, it can often play a Wrothgar Forge on turn 7 in additional to a Nord Firebrand from Raiding Party or Markarth Bannerman.
The reason this deck is not tier 1 is that its reliance on Wrothgar Forge makes the deck unreliable. When the deck doesn’t hit a Wrothgar Forge it can run out of resources. Additionally, Endurance decks like Ramp Scout or Control Spellsword can easily remove the Wrothgar Forge and leave you stranded without resources. As long as the meta is dominated by decks with Support destruction, Wrothgar Archer will remain a tier below those decks.
Highly Favored Against: Control Mage
Favored Against: Midrange Scout
Even Against: Ward Sorcerer, Combo Battlemage, Action Assassin
Unfavored Against: Aggro/Token Crusader, Aggro Battlemage, Midrange Archer, Ramp Scout
Highly Unfavored Against: –
Action Assassin took quite the hit after the recent card changes, as the deck leaned heavily on the power level of House Kinsman and Moonlight Werebat. While it benefited from great matchups last month, those matchups have become a bit more tame as a result. Even so, this is still the most popular Assassin deck currently on the ladder and hangs onto its tier two rating for the time being. After losing the board, Lillandril Hexmage and powerful burn Actions allow this deck to compensate with massive amounts of burst damage.
Highly Favored Against: –
Favored Against: Midrange Archer, Ramp Scout, Midrange Scout
Even Against: Wrothgar Archer
Unfavored Against: Control Mage, Combo Battlemage, Aggro/Token Crusader, Ward Sorcerer
Highly Unfavored Against: Aggro Battlemage
While not one of the more popular decks at high ranks on the ladder nowadays, this aggressive version of the Scout class still definitely exists. As a more aggressive variant, this deck too suffered with the nerfs to Tazkad, House Kinsman, and Moonlight Werebat, but can compensate with powerful midgame plays frequently involving Soulrest Marshal and Black Worm Necromancer. Bone Colossus remains a solid finisher for the deck. Lists are still being refined in the new post-nerf metagame, but more aggressive versions with cards like Slaughterfish Spawning have been popping up at high legend. The sample list provided is from last month’s snapshot and should give a general idea of how the deck works despite new lists still being under refinement. The lists right now are generally considered weaker to many of the other aggressive decks, but some of these matchups could change as new lists come to the forefront.
Highly Favored Against: –
Favored Against: Combo Battlemage, Ramp Scout, Control Mage
Even Against: –
Unfavored Against: Midrange Archer, Aggro Battlemage, Ward Sorcerer, Aggro/Token Crusdaer, Wrothgar Archer, Action Assassin
Highly Unfavored Against: –
Spellsword waned in popularity during the first half of the month, but has quickly become a more represented control deck due to the recent balance changes. This archetype, unlike Control Mage, has more situational early game removal and thus is more reliant on early game ramp cards (Hist Grove and Tree Mender) to bridge its self to the late game. If this deck can get to the late game, it is very hard to handle due to it having some of the best late game finishers in the game (Mantikora, Hist Grove, Blood Magic Lord, Oodahving) and having the best unconditional removal (Edict of Azura and Piercing Javelin).
This deck struggles against aggressive match ups but can be tooled to combat a more aggressive meta with the inclusion of cards like Execute, Healing Potion, Ravenous Hunger, and Kvatch Soldier.
This archetype, which essentially is what Midrange Warrior has evolved into, is trying to be so aggressive that even the other hyper aggressive strategies can’t get underneath it. It has positive match ups against many of the top decks in the meta but since the deck is such a hyper aggressive strategy, it will sometimes run out of cards before it can win the game.
One of the worst match ups for this deck is Prophecy Battlemage since this deck has to apply pressure to the opponents face as quickly as possible. The Prophecy Battlemage deck will often get run over by the tempo gained from all the prophecies on the Battlemage opponents side. Additionally, this deck often just loses to a prophecy from the first rune break of an opponent. Since this deck has to get board position on turn 1 and maintain it until turns 6-8, it becomes very hard for this deck to come back from the tempo loss of an early prophecy card.
This deck is not for the faint of heart but if played optimally and if tuned based on the meta it can offer great success to its pilot.
Hist Grove’s release led to control decks emerging outside the traditional Mage and Scout shells, and Control Sorcerer was one of the archetypes that emerged. A vastly different deck than Ward Sorcerer, Control Sorcerer has a much higher curve and aims to end the game as a traditional ramp/control deck would. The nerf to Elusive Schemer hurt the deck slightly, but Control Sorcerer still has access to Ice Storm and powerful finishers of Endurance in Hist Grove and Blood Magic Lord. One of the main flaws of the deck is a reliable way to heal, as Night Shadow takes a turn to begin draining life.
Aggro Mage, also dubbed Action Mage since most versions utilize Lillandril Hexmage to burn opponents out, remains in tier three though it does have several good matchups in the first two tiers of decks. It is poised for future success in the meta as it can outpace many slower Midrange decks and even burn Control decks out with Actions if they stabilize the board, something most other Aggro decks are not capable of. However, for the time being, it seems to have found a home in tier three as its power level is considered generally weaker than the other Aggro strategies such as Crusader and Battlemage.
Initially developed by CoreyMilhouse, his deck will frequently ignore opposing threats that can take over one lane like large Guards instead of dealing with them. It will move creatures out of the lane if able but can just as easily start developing in the other game, knowing it has a very high likelihood to win any race situations its presented with as all current variations of the deck are made up of at least 50% Prophecy cards.As expected, the deck is very powerful against other aggressive decks, including Midrange Archer and a plethora of Aggro strategies that didn’t quite make it to tier two in this installment, but struggles against Control decks that care less about attacking and can heal.
After a very strong showing in August and September, the prominence of Ramp Scout has caused the deck to suffer somewhat. This month, Prophecy Assassin finds itself in tier three due to the recent iterations of Aggro Battlemage doing what Prophecy Assassin generally wanted to be doing against other Aggro decks. As a result, the deck has seen a sharp decline in play, but remains a solid meta call deck.
Monk, while not among the most played classes, is also present on the ladder primarily in Midrange form. There are effectively two separate types of decks that both fit into the Midrange umbrella in Monk, one focusing on the Pilfer mechanic and one not. Due to the deck’s relative unpopularity and thus lack of refinement, it’s hard to adequately judge the matchups but a safe assumption is that the matchups between these two don’t differ too significantly. Unfortunately, Monk finds itself in tier three, as the Murkwater Savage nerf followed by the Werebat/Kinsman/Divine Fervor nerfs did a number on the strategy. The sample list by justinlarson attempts to compensate for that by focusing more on the Pilfer strategy.
Token Spellsword takes a significant drop this month. Once considered a tier one deck, Control Mage and Ramp Scout caused it to fall and the recent nerf to one of its key cards, Divine Fervor, did it no favors. By no means is Token Spellsword unplayable, as it still boasts some strong matchups against certain Midrange and Aggro decks, but its power level is generally considered much lower than other decks with the same good matchups, and it’s virtually nonexistent at high Legend ranks.
Control Monk continues to fall to tier four in this month’s snapshot, as versions of the deck using Moonlight Werebat and Divine Fervor got hurt by the card changes. Besides that, it struggles against many Aggro decks due to lack of an efficient sweeper like Ice Storm, and against any deck using Hist Grove such as Ramp Scout, Control Sorcerer, and Control Spellsword. Without many positive matchups, it might take new card releases for Control Monk to have its day in the sun.
Of the tier four decks, this is the one probably best positioned to climb in the next snapshot due to the various directions the deck can be taken. Hist Grove enables a ramp package, some variants use Doomcrag Vampire in conjunction with Sharpshooter Scout and Grahtwood Ambusher for easy Lethal clears, and some use Orcs for value. That said, the deck is generally unrefined and without much popularity on the ladder so it remains in tier four this month.
Midrange Spellsword is a deck that effectively acts as a Token Spellsword with more resilient creatures. However, that limits the deck’s ability to go wide somewhat and it relies on Black Worm Necromancer and Golden Saint to do so. It benefits from some better matchups than Token Spellsword such as against Combo Battlemage, but the lack of mass token generators and Prophecies in most versions cause it to struggle against very aggressive strategies like Aggro/Token Crusader that Token Spellsword can deal with. In addition, the deck shares Token Spellsword’s bad matchup to Ramp Scout, a very popular deck at the moment. However, it is a deck that can put pressure on other Midrange decks such as Archer and certain Control decks. If the popularity decrease of Token Spellsword was severe, Midrange Spellsword’s was even worse, with the deck barely seeing any play at Legend. Its survival in the metagame remains uncertain.