Between The Lanes Meta Snapshot #5 – Pre-Patch 1.61

As we near the end of the January 2017 ladder season, it's about time for another Between The Lanes Meta Snapshot. Unlike a few of our previous snapshots, this one is coming directly before a fairly substantial set of nerfs (as well as buffs) to certain cards such as Dark Rift, Gladiator Arena, and Black Worm Necromancer. With that said, this snapshot is more of an update to the previous snapshot, although there was another patch of nerfs between the two Notable cards that were changed since the last snapshot include Slaughterfish Spawning and Pillaging Tribune - read on to see how those changes affected various decks' place in the meta as we get ready to explore a whole new meta in a couple days! We look forward to bringing you February's snapshot to reflect it once the meta settles down a bit.

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 quite popular and fully 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. Unrefined new strategies poking their heads into the competitive ladder meta often wind up here. Many of these decks have either fallen out of favor slightly or have room for future improvement through refienment.

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 very 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. Many of the decks here are, in comparison to tier three decks, more extensively tested but found lacking in the current metagame.

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) a paragraph on matchup analysis against the other decks in the top two tiers. While not irrelevant, matchup discussion for the decks listed in tiers three and four are not provided mostly due to lack of data; however, they are mentioned in the write-ups of several decks.

Note: As tier four decks are those which essentially exist but haven’t found a competitive place in the current meta according to the snapshot team, they are simply listed in this snapshot with links to sample lists as decks that (essentially) almost made the cut and may find their way back to the top three main tiers in future snapshots.

Tier One

Midrange Sorcerer   intelligenceendurance

Midrange Sorcerer is an aggressive Sorcerer deck that utilizes high tempo plays in cards like Black Worm Necromancer and a low curve of resilient creatures to get far ahead of its opponents. After rising to the top in the previous snapshot, Midrange Sorcerer remains there now, boasting what may in fact be the strongest, most consistent curve in the game currently with resilient creatures. In addition, there is plenty of room in the deck to make tech choices.

Matchups: Midrange Sorcerer propelled itself to the top of the Snapshot due to its fantastic matchups across the popular decks of the last Snapshot, and remains there this snapshot despite Ramp Scout lowering in popularity. Besides a very favorable matchup to Ramp Scout and other Control decks, which it shares with many Midrange strategies, it also has the ability to get under those other Midrange strategies with a slightly lower curve and is one of the best (if not the best) decks to use against Merric Battlemage due to the difficulty the deck has of removing Sorcerer’s early creatures.

Sample list: CoreyMilhouse’s Midrange Sorcerer

Merric Battlemage   strengthintelligence

Merric Battlemage is an 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. In addition, it boasts powerful early removal and creatures with great snowball potential like Breton Conjurer that can keep up with the fastest Aggro decks on occasion. 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.

The recent nerf to Crystal Tower Crafter has made it virtually nonexistent in recent Merric lists, but that’s okay – the deck wasn’t hit at all in the previous patch besides that nerf. Popular replacements include Skilled Blacksmith, and in a version with less Intelligence and no Ice Storms, Graystone Ravager.

Matchups: This decks best matchups are all slower, control-oriented lists due to its burst potential, particularly those that don’t have easy answers to Supreme Atromancer, such as Ramp Scout. However, it isn’t without weaknesses, and while it can function against many Midrange decks, the newly popular Midrange Sorcerer is quite powerful against it. Without a healing effect, hyper aggressive strategies (particularly in Battlemage and Crusader) also threaten to outpace it, though it does typically have an adequate amount of early removal thanks to Rapid Shot, Firebolt, and Cunning Ally.

Sample list: s_l_w’s Merric Battlemage

Aggro Battlemage   strengthintelligence

Aggro Battlemage saw a surge in popularity at the very end of the October season, and that popularity hasn’t waned since. This is another list that doesn’t see much variation as lists have been refined for many weeks now. The most popular variant of the deck is highly reminiscent of Prophecy Assassin – except with much more burn damage thanks to Gladiator Arena, Dark Rift, and the damage-dealing Actions in the deck. The recent nerf to Slaughterfish Spawning did hurt the deck somewhat, but not to any extent it couldn’t bounce back from since the nerf hurt most aggressive decks equally.

Aggro/Prophecy Battlemage is currently the most popular Aggro deck at Legend by a fair margin. 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, though it has a very narrow window to start converting its early creatures into damage; once this deck loses the board, it’s almost never able to regain it.

Matchups: As the most popular and fastest mainstream Aggro deck currently in the metagame, players using this deck will be hoping to queue into decks with a higher Magicka curve, few to no heals, and inefficient removal – this makes Midrange decks and Merric Battlemage, which usually prey on Control, a perfect target. The rise in Sorcerer has been good to Aggro Battlemage and is why the deck sits at a comfortable tier one in this Snapshot. Prophecy-heavy Control decks are this deck’s hard counter, and they’ve seen a slight rise since the Hist Grove nerf. Even Ramp Scout has all the tools it needs to defeat the deck if it’s able to draw its cards in the right order.

Sample list: WorthlessProtoplasm’s Aggro Prophecy Battlemage

Tier Two

Gardener of Swords Tempo   intelligenceendurance 

Dubbed “Item Sorcerer,” “Item Assassin,” “Mono-Blue,” and others, decks centered around Gardener of Swords have seen a huge surge in popularity. Among the Legend ranks, Gardener of Swords has easily seen the most play of any of the recently introduced Madhouse Collection cards. In the previous snapshot, we included both the Sorcerer and Assassin variants here, but the Sorcerers have come out on top and are easily the most popular variant of this deck at high ranks currently.

Item decks with Gardener of Swords aim for a Tempo strategy which is a bit slower than the average Aggro deck but without the high threat density of many Midrange decks. Instead, the decks play a lot of efficient removal and disruption to keep the assault going and can make value plays in the late game against slower decks using Daggerfall Mage, Tome of Alteration, Master of Arms, and Gardener of Swords.

Matchups: Matchups are still being figured out as the lists themselves need perfection. However, if these decks don’t tech against the few faster decks such as Aggro Battlemage or Crusader, they run the risk of being out-raced. Against similar speed decks, the Shackle effects help greatly. Against slower decks, this deck can generate powerful value plays which are hard to come back from but which require drawing Master of Arms with Tome of Alteration in the discard pile. Typically, this deck has similar matchups to Midrange sorcerer with greater value plays in the late game against Control and slightly more awkward starts against faster decks at times.

Sample list: CVH’s Item Sorcerer

Control Spellsword   endurancewillpower

This archetype, unlike Control Mage, has more situational early game removal. If this deck can get to the late game though, 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, Odahviing) and having the best unconditional removal (Edict of Azura and Piercing Javelin). Executes have become staple to deal with the influx of Daggerfall Mages from the Gardener of Swords decks, Merric Battlemages, and this Snapshot’s #1, Midrange Sorcerer. Many current versions of the deck have taken out Hist Grove since the nerf, instead using the naturally strong finishers in the class and being able to use Edict of Azura and Shadowfen Priest on opposing Hist Groves should a mirror match be in store.

Matchups: This deck struggles against aggressive match ups but can be tooled to combat a more aggressive meta with the inclusion of cards like Execute, Ravenous Hunger, and Kvatch Soldier. This still leaves a lot to be desire in the Midrange matchups, but in the very late game, this deck is the Apex predator of the meta – if it can get there.

Sample list: CVH’s Control Spellsword

Ramp Scout   enduranceagility

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. The introduction of Hist Grove offered an almost insurmountable amount of pressure in the very late game, giving the deck a huge advantage over slow decks not using the card.

For a while, this was the go-to deck for anyone wanting to play the late game in Legends. Though it remains refined and powerful against aggressive strategies, its popularity has dropped off somewhat and other Control decks have been given room to compete thanks to the recent nerf to Hist Grove, which only allows it to spawn 8/8 Leviathans at the start of the turn. This has made the card much more able to be countered, and the incredible popularity of Midrange Sorcerer and Merric Battlemage at high ranks have also contributed to make Ramp Scout less of a favorite. The nerf to Snake-Tooth Necklace also hurt its Aggro matchups somewhat (although it still remains favored in most), but the upcoming nerfs to other decks might cause Ramp Scout to regain its high positioning in the next snapshot.

Matchups: Ramp Scout has gotten much better against straightforward Aggro decks with the recent modifications to the list and remains a great choice against Control decks that don’t have access to Hist Grove like Control Mage, although decks with Support removal such as Control Spellsword have gotten much more favored. However, the ladder has been full of bad matchups for Scout; Merric Battlemage remains the most potent counter, while Midrange decks can prey on the Ramp deck when it doesn’t draw a vast amount of Magicka ramp.

Sample list: CVH’s Ramp Scout

Control Mage   intelligencewillpower

Control Mage, a deck that epitomizes the Control archetype, suffered in recent months due to the popularity of the pre-nerf Hist Grove and many balance changes that negatively affected the deck. While the deck had all the tools, such as early defense, good board clears, healing effects, and late-game threats, it simply was not well-positioned. That part remains true, but the Hist Grove nerf has opened up a lot of viability against other control decks with Endurance, causing a slight bump in popularity. Sorcerer and Merric Battlemage remain tough matchups for most versions, but decks like Aggro Battlemage still want to stay far away from Control Mage even after the Pillaging Tribune nerf.

Whereas a more proactive approach was featured before, players are gravitating to a more Prophecy-heavy strategy and really capitalizing on the deck’s natural strengths against aggressive decks.

Matchups: The reactive Prophecy-heavy Control Mage boasts some of the best matchups in the game against straightforward Aggro decks and can even punish early aggression from Midrange with timely Propehecies to get far ahead before having to even worry about the threats the Midrange player can drop later. However, against a careful Control, Ramp, or Merric Battlemage opponent, this game plan makes those matchups almost unwinnable. This is truly a meta-counter deck for Aggro strategies.

Sample list: pautz’s Control Prophecy Mage

Midrange Archer   strengthagility

Midrange Archer has been one of the most popular Midrange decks since the game’s inception. With powerful early game cards like Daring Cutpurse and House Kinsman and a mid-game typically 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.

Midrange Archer continues to fall downward in tier two. While still a potent deck to climb the ladder, the popularity of Midrange Sorcerer has overtaken it this month by a fairly wide margin at the higher ranks. The Burn and Pillage nerf, followed by the Soulrest Marshal nerf, also affected this deck and, combined with lack of a reason for Withered Hand Cultist and Mage Slayer since Control Mage fell off a bit, encouraged players to leave Strength for their Midrange strategies. There have been slightly fewer Archer decks and more Scout and Sorcerer Midrange decks.

That being said, there have been many variations of the deck popping up recently as players continue to experiment and at the moment, one can be less sure what cards he or she may see when queued against Archer. Today’s sample decklist, for example, eschews Soulrest Marshal and uses cards like Snake-Tooth Necklace and Vigilant Giant to offer a more reactive strategy to combat faster decks.

Matchups: Traditionally, Midrange Archer has been good against Control/Ramp decks, quite poor against Aggro decks, and 50-50 against other Midrange decks.  This all depends on the variant, however; built more aggressively, it can defeat other Midrange decks but fall short against Ramp, and built more defensively as in our featured list, it can defeat slightly faster Midrange decks with a bit more consistency while still having enough threats in the late game.

Sample list: TurquoiseLink’s Soulrest-less Archer

Midrange Scout   enduranceagility

This more aggressive variant of the Scout class waned in popularity after nerfs hit many of its cards and the metagame picked up speed, but is seeing more play at Legend nowadays. A lot of this is due to the introduction of Illusory Mimic, which many have chosen to build around using cards like Giant Bat and Territorial Viper in additional to the usual Charge creatures. While this deck has gained steam, it remains near the bottom of tier two due to a rise in popularity for other competing decks as well. That aside, this deck is still a strong choice to climb the ladder and benefits from having many opponents mulligan for the much more popular Ramp Scout. A different version of the deck, featuring Siege Catapault and Imprisoned Deathlord alongside a package of Supress, Goblin Skulk, and Cursed Specters, recently rode a winstreak to top ten Legend as well.

Unfortunately, the recent change to Soulrest Marshal hurt the deck, and the upcoming nerf to Black Worm Necromancer threatens to weaken it to the point of questionable playability. Time will tell for this deck.

Matchups: Traditional matchups for Midrange decks apply and are even increased; this deck is typically even better than other Midrange decks against Control and combo decks due to having Soulrest Marshal, Black Worm Necromancer, and the threat of a Charge Mimic, but will frequently need to hit a lucky Prophecy to have any hope of keeping up with Aggro. Mirror matches are typically decided by who gets ahead on life in time to use Soulrest and Necromancer.

Sample list: Dazer’s Midrange Scout

Tier Three

Aggro Crusader   willpowerstrength

Aggro Crusader was hit hard by the nerf of Divine Fervor to five Magicka. While not the most popular aggressive deck on the ladder at the moment, it remains to be seen how the upcoming nerfs to Aggro Battlemage in particular will affect this deck’s status moving forward, since it often just got raced by the deck too easily. Markarth Bannerman is incredibly hard for slower decks without Lightning Bolt 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.

A new approach to the class, thanks to Stoneshard Orc’s introduction, centers around Orcs. This variant of the deck sacrifices just a bit of speed for a higher threat density with cards like Bangkorai Butcher, and is the featured list for this archetype this Snapshot again as few new builds have come to light recently.

Sample list: CVH’s Orc Crusader

Wispmother Combo Battlemage strengthintelligence

Wispmother Combo Battlemage is a true combo deck in that its win condition is a multi-card combo and its entire game plan is essentially to find those pieces and stall the game until it can win in a single turn. The combo, tried for a long time prior to this deck’s inclusion in the Snapshot, involves summoning five Relentless Raiders with Wispmother and then breaking a single rune with any creature or damage-dealing Action, causing all five Raiders to trigger indefinitely until the opponent is out of life, not giving any rune a chance to break and draw the opponent a life-saving Prophecy.

While previously this deck was too inconsistent to warrant mention, Close Call and Merchant’s Camel from the Madhouse Collection both gave this deck true potential. While it takes a lot of skill to play correctly and might not be the best choice against many of the faster Aggro and Midrange decks currently dominating the ladder, a change in meta slightly could see this deck as an incredibly powerful answer to slower decks as they give the deck a lot of time to cycle for its combo pieces.

Sample list: Commando18’s Wispmother Combo Battlemage

Token Spellsword   endurancewillpower

Token Spellsword took a significant drop to tier four in the last Snapshot. 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. Its rise to tier three this Snapshot is a result of a slight shift in the meta to more Aggro, Tempo, and Midrange decks and slightly less Ramp Scouts. On the lower ranks of the ladder primarily, this occurrence can mean Token Spellsword is generally pretty favored against much of the field.

Sample list: FrankLepore’s Token Spellsword

Wrothgar Archer   strengthagility

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 staple cards like Leaflurker, Cliff Racer, Moonlight Werebat, and Earthbone Spinner give 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. This season, due to the rise in popularity of other decks and the more successful variations of Midrange Archer being explored, Wrothgar Archer falls to tier three.

Sample list: BradfordLee’s Wrothgar Archer

Altar of Despair Assassin   agilityintelligence

Altar of Despair Assassin, similar to Wrothgar Archer, started as another gimmicky idea around a support card that proved surprising competitive playability. Game developer Matthew Nass played one of the first versions on ladder, and the deck continued to be experimented with. Altar of Despair combined with the package of Last Gasp effects and Necrom Mastermind can make game states that are almost impossible for the opponent to come back from, given the time to set up and correct planning. The biggest weakness of the deck is that while it has many of the tools Necrom Mastermind Assassin had to play the early game, the draws can be inconsistent and there are several RNG-dependent effects in the deck so Aggro and more aggressive Midrange decks can go to town on the board with their consistency before the truly powerful combos of the deck get set up. As the link shows, however, the deck can accomplish some of the craziest games given enough time. Against Control decks, the value from essentially infinite Elusive Schemers alone should be enough to have incredibly favorable matchups. This is one deck that I expect to see continuously refined moving forward, but for now it sneaks into tier three as a mostly unrefined idea with a ton of potential.

Sample list: CVH’s Altar/Mastermind Assassin

Tier Four

Action Assassin   agilityintelligence

Aggro Warrior (Sample)    endurance

Action Mage (Sample)   willpower

Pilfer Monk (Sample)   willpower

Control Sorcerer (Sample)   endurance



Follow CVH on Twitter
Follow CVH on Twitch

Follow BradfordLee on Twitter
Follow BradfordLee on Twitch

Follow EarthP0w3R on Twitter
Follow EarthP0w3R on Twitch

Follow CoreyMilhouse on Twitter
Follow CoreyMilhouse on Twitch

About CVH (54 Articles)
CVH is an avid player and streamer of TES: Legends and the owner of Between The Lanes. With competitive experience in many card games since the age of 11, most notably Kaijudo and Hearthstone, card games and creating content for them are longtime passions. In TESL, he has fourteen top 100 legend finishes and can be found regularly on Twitch and YouTube.

1 Comment on Between The Lanes Meta Snapshot #5 – Pre-Patch 1.61

  1. Cristian De Cesare // February 8, 2017 at 1:20 pm // Reply

    Excelent work. My firts Meta Snapshot but not the last, you have a new follower.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: