Between The Lanes Meta Snapshot #8 – April 2017
The Fall of the Dark Brotherhood is upon us!
Welcome to the eighth edition of the BTL Metagame Snapshot. This month, we welcome the recent Fall of the Dark Brotherhood expansion and celebrate all the changes it has brought to the game so far. We also welcome Lateralus to the snapshot for the first time, joining TurquoiseLink, s_l_w, and CVH as part of the panel! Read on to see how our snapshot team has assessed the post-FotDB meta.
In addition to the expansion, March’s monthly reward card (Sower of Revenge) has proven to be quite competitive. This is a relative rarity among monthly reward cards, but it has quickly taken up slots in virtually all Warrior decks. Combined with people testing new strategies from FotDB and old strategies that received very helpful cards, this has made the ladder experience incredibly diverse.
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.
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. Fell the Mighty has given the deck targeted removal, although nothing else from FotDB has stuck in the list. This deck benefits from being very optimized already and able to punish slow decks. Some lists also make use of Palace Conspirator or Skilled Blacksmith in the two-drop slot instead of Shimmerene Peddlers and Lesser Wards, although the Peddler/Ward package is much better against a slower metagame.
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/Slay Scout, Control Spellsword, and Ramp/Control Warrior. Control Mage, however ,with Ice Storms and ample removal for Markarth, is unfavored. The efficient early game removal is typically enough to handle most Aggro decks, and Merric can also hold its own against most Midrange strategies – although Midrange Sorcerer is slightly favored against the deck.
Sample list: s_l_w’s Merric Battlemage
Control Monk utilizes the late-game power of Willpower in cards like Mantikora and Miraak combined with the raw value of Eclipse Baroness to close out games. The deck has ample removal and, thanks to FotDB, a myriad of powerful early plays such as Sanctuary Pet, Brotherhood Slayer, and Astrid to reach those plays.
With the introduction of the Fall of the Dark Brotherhood, we finally see a Monk deck reach the top tier of the Meta Snapshot after eight months. The power of Eclipse Baroness in the late game against other slow decks has not disappointed, and Agility got several new tools which made it an obvious choice to pair with Willpower, an already strong Control attribute. This deck has seen a huge surge in popularity at Legend, much of that due to TurquoiseLink’s use of the deck in top five. The featured list is a proactive version of the deck that can punish other slow decks, but many versions of the deck exist. Some use Chanter of Akatosh and a copy of Nest of Vipers along with Shadow Shifts and Dawn’s Wraths to play a slower game and search for high-impact creatures. This is definitely one deck to keep an eye on during the next month as it continues developing.
Matchups: A lot of this depends on the specific card choices in the deck, although the early game options in Agility and healing options available in Willpower make this deck very hard to beat as a straightforward Aggro deck. If this deck techs threatening Midrange cards to power through other Control decks, it can be very favored in those matchups but might lose some viability against some of the actual Midrange decks which can curve under it. Decks that can win the field lane early and top out with Supreme Atromancer are very good against it.
Sample list: TurquoiseLink’s Control Monk
Another deck that has benefited from the new Agility options from the Fall of the Dark Brotherhood is Midrange Assassin. This is a curve-focused deck that, thanks to the new cards, can make powerful on-curve creature drops and high tempo plays through using the Curse effects and Leaflurker. The deck also typically has a lot of damage to burst opponents down and late-game cards like Supreme Atromancer and Eclipse Baroness that are incredibly hard to beat as a Control Monk deck. The featured list uses Nimble Ally and a very high Agility count to take advantage of it. This version has been popular at high legend, but versions more on the Intelligence side also exist, making use of cards like Ice Storm and Wispmother with the recently-introduced Blood Sorceress for more potentially strong late-game plays.
Matchups: This deck is still being figured out, but generally speaking, all versions are very strong against Control decks such as Control Monk and Warrior due to the sheer power of Eclipse Baroness, Supreme Atromancer, and any of the potential Wispmother plays in the Intelligence version in the late game. It definitely rose in popularity as a response to those decks being go-to strategies in the days after the release of FotDB. This deck is generally unfavored against Merric and some Midrange decks, such as Archer and Sorcerer, can be problematic; however, they are less problematic for the version with more Intelligence. Aggressive Midrange Warrior decks can be difficult as well if they gain the board because without Leaflurker, the deck has a hard time getting rid of large threats.
Sample list: eyenie’s Midrange Assassin
Midrange Archer has been one of the most popular Midrange decks since the game’s inception. With powerful early game creatures like Daring Cutpurse or Mournhold Traitor and 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.
There is still a variety of Archer lists out there, with some focusing more on a greedy late-game package and the new Eclipse Baroness, but today’s featured list is fairly standard and another testament to the power of the new Agility cards like Brotherhood Slayer. These cards have given Archer a lot of early game plays where as Midrange Sorcerer had previously monopolized those early turns.
Matchups: Traditionally, Midrange Archer has been good against Control/Ramp decks (although drawing Triumphant Jarl is usually critical in the less late-game heavy version), poor against Aggro decks, and 50-50 against other Midrange decks. This all depends on the variant, however. The Curse package has since made the Aggro matchups much more bearable and the new additions to the early game have allowed the deck to find an edge against decks like Midrange Sorcerer. Merric Battlemage and Control Mage, with their plethora of answers, remain unfavored.
Sample list: Warriors7’s Midrange Archer
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 one of the strongest curves in the game, 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.
While still good against Merric Battlemage, the experimentation of many players involving other aggressive decks using the new Agility early game package has been somewhat difficult for Sorcerer. While it remains incredibly popular, its popularity has definitely waned somewhat this month, though that could easily bounce back. The Fall of the Dark Brotherhood didn’t lead to a reinvention of this deck, although Wrath of Sithis has become a common inclusion to prevent any stabilization or critical Belligerent Giant/Dawn’s Wrath plays and Dark Guardian allows the deck to have a very strong anti-aggro play.
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. The new Agility cards can be somewhat hard to answer cleanly in the Midrange mirrors, but Dark Guardian has given the deck added game against the traditionally weak Aggro matchups.
Sample list: inezz’s Midrange 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. Other late-game options to consider instead of Supreme Atromancer include Brilliant Experiment, which can allow for re-use of heals in addition to looping Ayrenn nearly infinitely against other slow decks, and an Item package with Tome of Alteration and Master of Arms.
Matchups: The reactive Prophecy-heavy Control Mage boasts some of the best matchups in the game against straightforward Aggro decks. While a traditional version, such as the featured list, has less polarizing matchups, it is still favored against Aggro and very good against Merric Battlemage and Midrange Archer. Other Midrange decks, such as Sorcerer and the newly-popular Assassin lists, are unfavored. As a finisher, Supreme Atromancer is good against a wide variety of decks but a more narrow inclusion like Brilliant Experiment or Master of Arms can be specifically good against Control Monk.
Sample list: Blackfall’s Control Mage
The most 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 continued to rise in popularity
Garnag, Dark Adherent has given Orcs another powerful tool which retains value in the late game against Control decks by denying many of their most powerful plays like Mantikora just in time. Sower of Revenge, the monthly card for March, has also universally benefited the Warrior class, but specifically these more aggressive options. The card has seemingly increased the power level of these decks fairly substantially by itself.
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. Sower of Revenge, Triumphant Jarl, Bangkorai Butcher, and even Bone Colossus in some versions of Warrior are all difficult for Control decks to handle. The improved early game of Control Monk has made it something of an issue, but in general, Orcs have benefited from the lack of focused Aggro decks in the weeks directly following the Fall of the Dark Brotherhood.
Sample list: PauloDiogo’s Orc Warrior
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.
In the post-FotDB metagame, Aggro saw a serious decrease in play thanks to the popularity of Control Monk and other slow decks, but as more Midrange decks emerge again, Aggro has seen a slight rise to counter them that may continue into the next month. This deck has seen little change, but did get several new tools in the expansion, the most notable of which being added reach in the form of Underworld Vigilante.
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. 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 Monk is slightly troubling for the deck although it can still prey on most Sorcerer and Assassin variants.
Sample list: Dazer’s Aggro Battlemage
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 by playing defensively in the early turns and win with a variety of large threats like Blood Magic Lord and the Swamp Leviathans summoned by the aforementioned Hist Grove
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 continued popularity of many Midrange decks and Merric Battlemage, Ramp Scout has been less of a favorite and its popularity has waned in the last two months. That said, Eclipse Barnoess did give the deck another high-value play in the late game and allows certain versions to be built to defeat other late-game decks that don’t overwhelm the Ramp deck with Supreme Atromancers.
While “Slay Scout” has been experimented with, the general consensus is that the strategy is a bit too gimmicky and weaker overall than more traditional types of Ramp Scout.
Matchups: Ramp Scout has reasonable Aggro matchups but not as strong as most of the other Control decks, namely Monk and Mage. The deck is typically quite weak against most Midrange strategies; decks that prey on slow decks tend to prey on Ramp Scout the hardest as it has a very difficult time answering a wide board. Merric Battlemage is, as expected, very unfavored. However, Eclipse Baroness does allow Ramp Scout to have advantages in the very late game against other slow decks.
Sample list: Warriors7’s Ramp Scout
Ramp/Control Warrior took the post-FotDB metagame by storm as people realized the power of Unstoppable Rage on an unsuspecting opponent. This deck uses a traditional ramp package of Tree Minder and Hist Grove to get to powerful late-game plays involving Rage coupled with cards like Night Shadow, Falkreath Defiler, Belligerent Giant, or Blood Magic Lord to deal damage, drain for a lot of life, or get value. The deck is incredibly slow but can generate some of the most powerful plays in Legends if given ample time to set up for them.
This deck saw an immense amount of play in the first few days after the expansion, but has since waned significantly in popularity due to counters being found and players developing more of an understanding of what Unstoppable Rage can do and how to play around it.
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: CVH’s Ramp/Control Warrior
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.
One of the most powerful and popular decks in the post-Madhouse Collection metagame, the popularity of Item Sorcerer has dropped significantly as new strategies have come to light in the Fall of the Dark Brotherhood. The expansion did not give the deck any real new tools, although Palace Conspirator is not uncommon. While still very powerful in certain matchups, many players favor the consistency of the traditional Midrange Sorcerer decks to the explosive combo potential of Item Sorcerer. Time will tell if that trend continues, leading to Item Sorcerer falling further, or if it bounces back in the coming weeks.
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 but it is still hard to compete against the improved early game of many decks with the awkward draws Item Sorcerer can sometimes get. 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
This deck operates in many of the same ways as the Midrange Archer list, capitalizing on early board pressure with threatening creatures in Strength Belligerent Giant. Thanks to the use of Willpower, it even boasts powerful Guards and healing effects like Dawnstar Healer to lock out Aggro decks. Some versions in the post-FotDB meta play a higher curve than today’s featured list, and opt for potential power plays using Unstoppable Rage, although decks like the featured list are more common.
While light on prophecies, the number of Guards and heals in the deck allow this Midrange deck to actually be quite strong against Aggro. 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. The Control matchups, however, are not as good for this deck as they are as Midrange Archer/Sorcerer/Assassin. The popularity of Control in the post-FotDB meta has lead to the other Midrange decks being better answers to the ladder, although as the meta continues to evolve, that could change.
Sample list: JustinLarson’s Midrange Crusader
A more aggressive variant of the Mage class, Tempo Mage is another answer to the greedy late-game decks like Control Monk. This deck lacks the threats of a deck like Midrange Archer or Sorcerer, but makes up for that with cards that generate a lot of value for their magicka cost and ample ways to burn opponents out. Supreme Atromancer at the top end of the curve functions as the go-to closer against Control decks.
While Dreamore667 has played this deck at the very top of the ladder to success, this deck remains in tier three for the time being as very few others on the ladder are playing it. From a popularity standpoint, though, it does seem poised to improve as more players experiment with it and more matchups are figured out. For those looking for an aggressive deck to play within the Mage class, this is probably the correct option currently.
Sample list: Dreamore667’s Tempo Mage
Swindler’s Market Archer
Archer has been basically universally decided upon as the class best-suited to build around Swindler’s Market. The card, released in Madhouse Collection, can be used alongside Nord Firebrand generators to deal obscene amounts of damage while healing. This deck wants to cycle through its deck to find Markets and burn players out with multiple copies of Market on board. Against Control decks, it can get aggressive early but doesn’t need to fight for the board much so it’s often very powerful unless they can heal far out of range. However, some Control decks like the more proactive Monk decks and many Midrange decks can put the Market player on a clock too fast and pressure them before the combos can start dealing real damage.
This deck is also noteworthy as a very budget-friendly list, assuming one has access to the Madhouse Collection.
Sample list: BradfordLee’s Swindler’s Market Archer
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). 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.
This month, Control Spellsword continues to fall in popularity. Not only is it overshadowed by Control Mage, but Eclipse Baroness being given to Control Monk and Ramp Scout decks have pushed more players looking for slow decks away from the class. 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 benefits from having some of the most powerful late game control cards, but unfortunately not Eclipse Baroness or Supreme Atromancer.
Sample list: PauloDiogo’s Control Spellsword
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 of this aggressive variant remains lower than other Midrange strategies despite a few new tools being added to Agility’s card pool.
Sample list: glenn3e’s Pilfer Monk
Wispmother Combo Battlemage
Altar of Despair Assassin
Swindler’s Market Assassin
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 which shares many of the same matchups as Merric Battlemage but traditionally viewed as slightly less favored in almost all of them. Swindler’s Market Archer has overshadowed the less popular Swindler’s Market Assassin decks, leading to them seeing very little play and little refinement. Altar Assassin and Token Warrior, which has been nearly completely overshadowed by Ramp/Control Warrior but remains a deck with potential, round out tier four this month.
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Well I’m pumped that my deck made it into the meta list!