Between The Lanes

Between The Lanes Meta Snapshot #6 – Feb. 2017

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Curious to see how the meta has evolved as we move through the second month of 2017? Look no further – we’re pleased to bring you the sixth installment of the Between The Lanes Metagame Snapshot for The Elder Scrolls: Legends!

First and foremost, allow me to welcome you to the new and improved layout for BTL. After checking out the snapshot, I encourage you to take a look around and see what other strategy content for TES:L we have to offer. As many of you are aware, there has been a bit of a downtime for Legends as we eagerly await announcement of an official release as well as full mobile support, and with it, there has been a bit of a downtime for content on this site. Rest assured, though, we at BTL are very much looking forward to continuing to provide more and more content utilizing our updated layout to ensure everyone stays on top of his/her game leading up to and following the release of the game itself.

For the time being, though, we have the much-anticipated Meta Snapshot! As mentioned in #5, a rather large set of patch notes dropped fairly recently with relevant balance changes to a number of competitive cards, such as Dark Rift, Black Worm Necromancer, Shrieking Harpy, and Reive, Blademaster (which got buffed!). The monthly card, Stampede Sentinel, has also found its way into a couple lists, and we’ll be discussing how these changes have impacted what many had considered to be a mostly solved metagame.

Due to recent nerfs to other popular cards, Intelligence has become dominant. Daggerfall Mage has been one of the most powerful cards in the game since House Kinsman and Moonlight Werebat were nerfed to two health, and Supreme Atromancer has become the finisher of choice for a variety of decks. There has been an increase in experimentation and players looking to refine previously unrefined strategies on the ladder, possibly due to the wait for official release. This has impacted the snapshot, as all of the tier one decks prey hard on these unrefined strategies and certain decks, such as Control Mage, which tech hard against specific styles of established decks, can find themselves at a loss against unpredictable decks even if those decks are of a lower power level.

As always, 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. Newer 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 additional refinement.

TIER FOUR: Tier four is the “unrefined” category. This isn’t to say that they are incapable of grinding the ladder or attaining the power level of a higher-tier deck – they simply haven’t found a solid footing in the meta due to either an extremely low amount of popularity, a lack of optimization, or a combination of the two. That said, they are decks to watch, as with experimentation, they may find their way to the higher tiers in future snapshots.

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.

Tier One

Item Sorcerer    

Gardener of Swords has easily seen the most play of any of the recently introduced Madhouse Collection cards. In the previous snapshot, this deck was dubbed “Gardener of Swords Tempo,” but as the Sorcerer version of the Item strategy has become dominant, we will simply refer to it now as Item Sorcerer. Over the past couple months, Item Sorcerer has not only edged out the other Item decks, but has also seen such popularity and strong matchups that it has jumped to the top of tier one instead of Midrange Sorcerer in February.

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. These plays are capable of grinding out slower decks by burying them in card advantage.

Matchups: If these decks don’t tech against faster decks such as Aggro Battlemage or Archer, 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: eyenie’s Item Sorcerer

Merric Battlemage   

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.

Merric continues to be incredibly popular on the ladder due to its wide range of good matchups. While the featured list remains fairly standard, other versions of Battlemage have removed some of the reactive cards like Ice Storm in favor of more proactive threats like Blood Dragon, such as thescientist’s list.

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 and Control Spellsword. Prophecy-heavy Control Mage, with Ice Storms and heal effects, can be an issue. While it can function against many Midrange decks, the popular Midrange Sorcerer is quite powerful against it. Typically, the efficient early game removal is enough to maintain a positive win rate against most Aggro decks.

Sample list: s_l_w’s Merric Battlemage

Midrange Sorcerer   

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 at tier one 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.

Its popularity has waned somewhat in favor of Item Sorcerer at high ranks, but Midrange Sorcerer remains easily one of the best decks on the ladder. Recently, nerfs to Dark Rift and Black Worm Necromancer hurt the deck and made it slightly weaker against grindy matchups like Control Spellsword and Merric Battlemage, but players are responding by topping their curve with cards like Bone Colossus and Supreme Atromancer to fight back in those matchups.

Matchups: Besides a very favorable matchup to most 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: AlphaV’s Midrange Sorcerer

Tier Two

Control Mage   

Control Mage is a deck that epitomizes the Control archetype. It has efficient removal, ways to heal, and powerful late-game in Mantikora, Miraak, and Supreme Atromancer, which has been a near staple inclusion as of late to punish those slow decks without answers to it. There are multiple versions of this deck on the ladder; a more reactive Prophecy-heavy version jams well over twenty Prophecies in the deck to solidify its Aggro matchups, and more traditional versions, such as this month’s featured list, have tools to fight better against other slow decks. The lack of play seen from the post-nerf Hist Grove has greatly benefited this deck. Fortunately, the nerf to Pillaging Tribune wasn’t as detrimental as many had anticipated and it still remains a staple inclusion in the deck.

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 opponent, this game plan makes those matchups almost unwinnable. This is truly a meta-counter deck for Aggro strategies. The more traditional version has less polarized matchups due to the cards having better value in the late game and is better in the mirror match and against Merric Battlemage.

Sample list: Dazer’s Control Mage

Aggro Archer   

While Midrange Archer has been a part of the metagame since the Meta Snapshot’s inception, this month sees the rise in Aggro Archer. Discussing the deck in specifics is difficult since at the moment, quite a few versions are common and poised for success on the ladder, but the general idea is that the curve is much lower than in traditional Archer decks to get under the Sorcerers, and most have ample “reach” in the form of token generators or other Charge creatures to close out the game.

Some versions of Aggro Archer make use of an Orc package with Bangkorai Butcher and Wood Orc Headhunter, and some make use of cards like Raiding Party and Markarth Bannerman along with Northwind Outpost for added burst. Some use both, and even Goblins have made a splash! Two featured lists are therefore provided including Faylash’s, who used his version of the deck to reach the top of the Legend ladder for the January season.

Matchups: This deck is very capable of racing other aggressive decks and maintains high win rates against decks like Midrange Sorcerer, Midrange Archer, and Ramp Scout. Decks that are more prepared for Aggro, such as Merric Battlemage and Control Mage, can be an issue. This deck is very punishing to any mid-to-high curve deck with a poor draw.

Sample list: Faylash’s Aggro Orc Archer
Sample list: CVH’s Aggro/Token Archer

Aggro Battlemage   

Aggro/Prophecy Battlemage remains an incredibly popular Aggro deck this month. 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.

Nerfs to Gladiator’s Arena and Dark Rift didn’t hurt the deck’s overall playability as much as some thought, and the deck had at least one top ten finish in January thanks to ILikePasta; while Dark Rift has been generally cut, Arena is still seen in many lists. Some have replaced it with a late-game package of Supreme Atromancers to mimic the late-game power of Merric Battlemage in slower matchups instead of relying on Arena’s continuous value.

Matchups: 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 a perfect target. The rise in Sorcerer has been good to Aggro Battlemage. Prophecy-heavy Control decks are this deck’s hard counter, and Merric Battlemage remains a relatively poor matchup. The increase in Control Mage and Control Spellsword in the post-Hist Grove metagame is slightly troubling for the deck.

Sample list: Lyme-‘s Aggro Battlemage

Midrange Scout   

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. This deck has been gaining more popularity, and while still not near the popularity of Sorcerer, also benefits from opponents mulliganing for Ramp Scout. As mentioned in the previous snapshot, the recent nerfs to Soulrest Marshal and Black Worm Necromancer have hurt the deck. To cope, some versions are simply cutting those cards in favor of more reliable, harder-to-draw cards.

Matchups: Traditional matchups for Midrange decks apply. Depending on the choice of threats outside of Mimic, which has become more standard, the deck can even be more favored against traditional control decks than other Midrange strategies, but will frequently need to hit a lucky Prophecy to have any hope of keeping up with Aggro.

Sample list: Dazer’s Midrange Scout

Control Spellsword   

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 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, and it can be out-valued in the late game fairly easily by cards like Master of Arms and Supreme Atromancer, which are difficult to keep up with. Against other control decks, Spellsword typically prevails with some of the most dominant late game in the game.

Sample list: Snaxximan’s Control Spellsword

Ramp Scout   

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. 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 variants 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 and has caused many players to either cut copies of them or supplement them with cards like Moonlight Werebat and Night Shadow for additional heals.

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. Again, Master of Arms and Supreme Atromancer are issues, and even decks like Control Mage are typically including the card.

Sample list: Boomslife’s Ramp Scout

Midrange Archer   

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 in popularity compared to Midrange Sorcerer and Scout decks. Sorcerer in general can outpace the deck fairly quickly with better card quality after many nerfs slowly chipped away at many of Archer’s power plays, even some traditionally good matchups have gotten worse. 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, is more teched against Aggro with Curse effects.

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 be tilted towards the Aggro matchups.

Sample list: bgoldt’s Midrange Archer

Midrange/Control Crusader  

Traditionally an aggressive class, Crusader has been seen in more defensive variations on the ladder recently. Part of this has to be attributed to the release of Stampede Sentinel as the January monthly reward card, which encouraged experimentation with decks using Strength. Lists are still being refined, but they have been gaining popularity on the whole. Some focus more on mid-game threats while others have a slower curve and include cards like Mantikora. Today’s featured list, including cards like Golden Saint and Reive, is more of the former, although it does still have access to much of the same efficient removal such as Execute and Belligerent Giant, and healing effects to stave off Aggro. This is a class that is expected to continue to go under refinement and could easily climb higher in future editions of the snapshot.

Matchups: The slower versions of Control Crusader have very similar matchups to Control Spellsword, right down to some of the weaknesses: Supreme Atromancer and Item Sorcerer. With the ability to get aggressive faster, some of that can be circumvented and Control decks can become easier as well. As this deck isn’t “solved” by any means yet, many of the matchups depend on specific tech choices. For example, the featured list is particularly teched against Aggro.

Sample list: justinlarson’s “Tyrs for Giant Fears” Midrange Crusader

Tier Three

Token Warrior   

Among the classes being experimented with is Warrior. Though often considered the “Orc” class, Token Warrior aims to prove the class isn’t a one-trick pony. Efficient early removal and threat control with Doomcrag Vampire are combined with immense combo potential for any of the Nord Firebrands, which can also be generated with Raiding Party and Markarth Bannerman, similar to Merric Battlemage. Again similarly, this deck lacks heal and also has the potential to burst slower opponents out of the game or apply pressure with its Giants.

Sample list: MonsieurBonaire’s Token Warrior

Wispmother Combo Battlemage  

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. Some versions of the deck are incredibly focused on the combo and run Merchant’s Camel and Close Call, and others, such as this snapshot’s sample list, are less so.

Many of the deck’s matchups are similar to those of Merric Battlemage, although slightly worse. The exceptions to this are the fantastic matchups to Aggro Battlemage, which Merric is closer to 50-50 in, and Control Mage.

Sample list: slw’s Wispmother Combo Battlemage

Altar of Despair Assassin   

Altar of Despair Assassin 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. Some lists, such as the featured list, use Altar as more of a secondary win condition in what otherwise might be called a Wispmother Assassin deck. Against Control decks, the value from essentially infinite Elusive Schemers alone should be enough to have incredibly favorable matchups. Though it was mentioned in the previous snapshot that Altar was one to watch, it hasn’t really gained any additional footing in the last month and remains more of a fringe strategy.

Sample list: Dazer’s Altar Assassin

Token Spellsword   

Token Spellsword combines powerful curve plays from Endurance with token generators and cards like Fifth Legion Trainer and Divine Fervor to take advantage of them and create dominating board states. 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. On the lower ranks of the ladder primarily, the rise in Aggro can mean Token Spellsword is generally pretty favored against much of the field. Additionally, many players mulligan for slower versions of Spellsword when facing the deck, which players can use to their advantage.

Sample list: CVH’s Token Spellsword

Control Monk 

Control Monk has seen a slight rise in play again, as cards like Execute and Curse effects remain very powerful against Aggro and Sorcerer variants. Altar of Despair invited some experimentation with the deck, though the featured list in this snapshot doesn’t make use of the card. Similarly to other control decks without Intelligence, Aggro matchups are traditionally favored (especially Prophecy Aggro Battlemage), and decks capping their curve at Supreme Atromancer are problematic.

Sample list: Dazer’s Control Monk

Orc Warrior  

Since the introduction of Stoneshard Orc in the Madhouse collection, Orcs have seen more and more play on the ladder. This season in particular has seen a rise in Orc Warrior decks on the ladder. There’s no doubt that Orc Warrior, while generally a pretty linear deck, is capable of achieving high ranks on the Legend ladder, but the popularity increase has led to its inclusion in tier three this snapshot. As a Midrange deck with threats like Bone Colossus along with triple Triumphant Jarl and Black Worm Necromancer, the featured list is particularly good against Control, although matchups to depend on the build.

Sample list: Sciserr’s Orc Warrior

Tier Four/Unrefined

Tempo/”Control” Assassin  

(Sample)

Pilfer Monk  

(Sample)

Swindler’s Market Archer  

(Sample)

The tier four/unrefined category in this snapshot includes decks that are either not optimized quite yet with a lot of potential moving forward, or potentially powerful decks like Pilfer Monk which only see a very limited amount of play on the ladder. Swindler’s Market makes an appearance on the snapshot in the Archer list, as Archer has become the class most common to see paired with the card alongside Nord Firebrands. Pilfer Monk is a deck which still suffers from low popularity but has been an attempted strategy for a long time. Low curve Assassin decks such as the featured list which can play the control game against Aggro decks but have some powerful late game have also seen some play on the ladder. Moving forward, more successful runs with any of these lists could lead to refinement and a higher placement in future snapshots.

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Contributors

CVH
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s_l_w
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