The seventh BTL Metagame Snapshot for The Elder Scrolls: Legends is upon us as we near the end of March! This month has brought a resurgence in players to the game with the full PC Launch followed by iPad. Read on to see how the metagame has shaken up over the course of the past month.
Although the only new card introduced since the last snapshot, Heroic Rebirth, has failed to make much of an impact in top-tier decks, players have continued to refine existing archetypes and figure out new and inventive ways to climb to the very top of the ladder. Many of the tried and true decks of the past few snapshots remain incredibly popular, but shifts in trends have caused quite a few decks to move around. This month’s tier one, for example, features no decks that are new to the snapshot but the ordering of them continues to shift depending on the popular ladder decks of the day or week, since matchups vary greatly. Real change looks to be on the horizon as early as April 5th, with the introduction of the Fall of the Dark Brotherhood expansion bringing forty new cards to the table.
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.
Midrange Sorcerer is an aggressive Sorcerer deck that utilizes high tempo plays and a low curve of resilient creatures to get far ahead of its opponents. The deck boasts what may in fact be the strongest, most consistent curve in the game currently, allowing it to curve under more top-heavy decks and still maintain a decent reactive game against Aggro. In addition, there is plenty of room in the deck to make tech choices.
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. This month, the popularity of Merric Battlemage has caused Midrange Sorcerer to overtake Item Sorcerer (which struggles more against Merric) and reach the top of the snapshot.
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
Merric Battlemage is an archetype with the ability to use the cards Merric-at-Aswala and Supreme Atromancer to combo with 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 quite 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. TurquoiseLink even experimented by taking out the Markarths themselves in favor of the resilience of the Dragon.
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, although Item Sorcerer fares worse. Typically, the efficient early game removal is enough to maintain a positive win rate against most Aggro decks.
Gardener of Swords has easily seen the most play of any of the Madhouse Collection cards. 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 remained in tier one over the two most recent snapshots.
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
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 use of Control Mage to reach the top ten of the ladder in the past month by players such as inezz, TurquoiseLink, and faylash has proven the deck’s power level.
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, one reason for the rise in popularity.
Sample list: Faylash’s Control Mage
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 a midgame typically featuring threats and Triumphant Jarls, this deck can outpace slower decks and keep the aggression up into the later stages of the game if need be.
The experimentation mentioned in last month’s snapshot has seemingly paid off, as Midrange Archer has enjoyed more time at the top of the ladder this month and propelled itself to the top of tier two as a result. Many cards considered to be staple in the older versions of this deck have been cut, and the “Curse” package featured in last month’s snapshot has become even more common. This month’s featured list makes use of the package and resembles previous Archer lists but with several new inclusions that have made their way to the forefront.
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: TurquoiseLink’s Midrange Archer
Traditionally an aggressive class, Crusader has been seen in slower variations on the ladder recently. Lists are still being refined, but the efficient removal in the class coupled with potent threats in Strength has made for some very successful Midrange decks, such as this month’s featured list which eyenie played at the top of the ladder. This deck operates in many of the same ways as the Midrange Archer list, capitalizing on early board pressure with threats like Lumbering Ogrim and Blood Dragon, and even boasts powerful Guards and healing thanks to the use of Willpower.
Matchups: As this deck isn’t “solved” by any means yet, many of the matchups depend on specific tech choices. The featured list has many tools to fight against the ever-popular Sorcerer decks on the ladder and enough early game defense, heals, and Guards to combat Aggro effectively although incredibly light on Prophecies. Should it find its Eastmarch Crusaders and Triumphant Jarls specifically, the deck can maintain enough steam to defeat Control even without being able to add damage immediately from hand like the Sorcerer and Archer decks.
Sample list: eyenie’s Midrange Crusader
Aggro/Prophecy Battlemage is widely considered the fastest deck in the metagame, with an incredibly low curve and Prophecies to add tons of additional damage to the board against other decks that would dare to break runes early. 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.
The deck has been able to remain popular despite nerfs to cards within it like Gladiator’s Arena and Slaughterfish Spawning, proving itself with a top ten ladder finish. Some players have attempted to improve the deck’s matchups against slow control decks by taking a page from Merric Battlemage and including Belligerent Giants and Supreme Atromancers.
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 is slightly troubling for the deck although it can still prey on most Sorcerer variants.
Sample list: Pdmd’s Aggro Battlemage
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.
The immense burst potential is similar to that of Aggro Token Archer but with much more versatility. Although relatively unpopular compared to many of the other decks in tier two, it ranks so highly in this month’s snapshot due to power level and the ability of some players, such as MonsieurBonaire, to remain consistently high-ranked with the deck.
Matchups: As the deck is still relatively unpopular, not much data is available, but MonsieurBonaire’s guide contains some matchup analysis. Prophecy Battlemage and most Control decks are favored, and while the deck has the burst potential to handle a sub-par draw from Item Sorcerer, Sorcerer variants in general and Merric Battlemage put up more of a fight.
Sample list: MonsieurBonaire’s Token Warrior
The more traditional style of Warrior deck is Midrange, as both Endurance and Strength have access to a variety of very threatening creatures. These decks are straightforward “curve” decks with very few tricks up their sleeves, instead opting to simply pack a hell of a punch. These styles of decks can typically be broken down into Orc and non-Orc variants, both of which have seen a rise in popularity (particularly the non-Orc Variants), and as such, a rise in the snapshot.
Matchups: The traditional Midrange variants of these decks share the good Control Matchups and weak Aggro Matchups of other Midrange decks, with possibly even more polarized results. Bone Colossus and Triumphant Jarl are incredibly different for slower decks to overcome, but the deck has a relatively poor ability to come back on a lost board or heal.
Sample list: CVH’s Midrange Warrior
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. Control Spellsword remains one of the go-to Control decks in Legends, despite its popularity being somewhat overshadowed this month by Control Mage.
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
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, but the recent nerf to the card has allowed other decks to again compete in the late game.
For a while, this was the go-to deck for anyone wanting to play the late game in Legends. With Hist Grove able to be countered now and the incredible popularity of Midrange Sorcerer variants and Merric Battlemage at high ranks, Ramp Scout is 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. Several players can still be seen playing Ramp Scout to high ranks, but it is nowhere near as dominant as it once was and falls to the top of tier three this month as a result. Midrange decks can prey on Ramp Scout with a good curve and Supreme Atromancer remains a huge problem card, which is seen in decks ranging from Merric Battlemage to Control Mage.
Sample list: azures’ Ramp 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.
Midrange Scout remains a reasonable choice for laddering, but much of the hype surrounding the deck from last month has waned, and it ranks lower in this month’s snapshot. A few people have had success with the deck at high legend, but with other Midrange decks like Crusader gaining popularity, it’s unclear where the power level of this deck truly falls in comparison.
Sample list: Dazer’s Midrange Scout
While Midrange Archer has been a part of the metagame since the Meta Snapshot’s inception, Aggro Archer has seen a recent rise in popularity. 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. In March, Token Warrior has seemed to accomplish much of what this deck has wanted to, and Midrange Archer has made quite a resurgence and proven that it, too, can withstand decks with a faster curve. It remains to be seen whether Aggro Archer can again rise in popularity in the post-Dark Brotherhood metagame.
Swindler’s Market Assassin
Swindler’s Market, one of the most potentially devastating cards from the Madhouse Collection, has been seeing more and more play, particularly in Assassin. Swindler’s Assassin has some of the highest potential damage output in the game using the Market and Lillandril Hexmage coupled with 0-cost Actions and a ton of draw to find its damage. Petamax, who is our featured list for the month, has been playing the deck at very high ranks throughout the month.
Also worth noting is this deck’s potential for even greater things come the Fall of the Dark Brotherhood expansion; several cards already look potentially ready to slot into the strategy, so this is one deck to watch as players experiment with the new cards in the coming month.
Sample list: Petamax’s Swindler’s Market Assassin
Control Monk remains in tier three again this month, a potentially powerful yet underrepresented Control archetype. 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: Boomslife’s Control Monk
The most traditional style of Monk deck, Pilfer/Midrange Monk takes advantage of many of the Agility and Willpower creatures’ Pilfer abilities to curve out while generating huge burst potential. The Master of Thieves/Thieves’ Den combo can potentially give creatures like Daring Cutpurse and Quin’rawl Burglar multiple extra attacks, completely winning a game from nowhere as long as the cards align correctly and one of the Pilfer creatures sticks to the board. More Monk has been seen recently on the ladder, but the power level remains lower than other Midrange strategies. Many remain hopeful that the upcoming expansion will be able to shed new light on this archetype.
Sample list: Boomslife’s Pilfer Monk
Wispmother Combo Battlemage
Altar of Despair Assassin
Swindler’s Market Archer
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 decks which see an incredibly low amount of play and are thus either hard to rate accurately or known to have a low power level due to other options overshadowing them.
This month’s tier four includes the Wispmother OTK, featured in the last snapshot at tier three, which shares many of the same matchups as Merric Battlemage but traditionally viewed as slightly less favored in almost all of them. Token Spellsword continues to see very little play at high legend and moves to tier four as a result alongside Altar of Despair Assassin. Swindler’s Market Archer sees more play currently than the other tier four decks, but remains overshadowed by Swindler’s Market Assassin decks. Time and the new expansion will tell which version will eventually come out on top.
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