Welcome to the ninth edition of the BTL metagame snapshot for The Elder Scrolls: Legends! This month, we’re celebrating the recent release of TES:L on Steam, the introduction of Gauntlet mode, and also E3, which is happening right as this snapshot is going live. It’s been a big month already for the game, and things will likely get even bigger in the coming weeks. Whether you’re new to Legends or an experienced player trying to get an edge, our snapshot team of CVH, TurquoiseLink, and Lateralus19 have again compiled this tier list of the most powerful and popular decks on the ladder.
As I’m writing this intro and preparing to post the snapshot, the next expansion, Heroes of Skyrim, has been announced at Bethesda’s E3 showcase! It will be very exciting to see how this huge batch of cards will impact the existing metagame, and we at BTL are looking forward to covering the upcoming meta trends in next month’s snapshot.
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: These decks are weak, either in current power level or simply due to meta trends, suffering from a wide array of poor matchups against the higher tier decks. Decks in this category will occasionally be seen as very similar, yet strictly inferior to a deck in the higher tiers. Climbing the ladder with these decks is far from impossible, but definitely more of a struggle and will likely require very high-level play.
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.
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. 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. As this deck has seen a surge in popularity over the past month and attained several high ladder finishes in recent seasons, we will be showcasing each of the three different main versions as sample lists: one with Supreme Atromancer as a finisher, one more defensive without, and the Prophecy-heavy version.
Matchups: The reactive Prophecy-heavy Control Mage boasts some of the best matchups in the game against straightforward Aggro decks. While a traditional version with a normal amount of Prophecies 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 Mage. 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.
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 with threatening creatures, this deck can outpace slower decks and keep the aggression up into the later stages of the game if need be.
Midrange Archer greatly benefited from the Agility cards introduced in Fall of the Dark Brotherhood and has remained one of the most versatile decks in Legends. Teching specific cards like Murkwater Shaman, Withered Hand Cultist, and Triumphant Jarl can change matchups and allow the deck to adapt to virtually any metagame.
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, especially as the lists tend to fight other aggressive decks more nowadays.
Sample list: TurquoiseLink’s Midrange Archer
More aggressive versions of the Mage class have spiked in popularity over the past month. 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.
The Midrange approach to this deck has been the most popular, with several players taking top ten ladder finishes with it. However, some variants are even more aggressive with an ample supply of one-cost creatures and more focus on dealing as much damage as possible at the expense of keeping control over the board. On the flip side, there are slightly slower versions with more defensive prophecies and Divine Fervor, which look more similar to the Prophecy Control Mage than an Aggro deck. In the featured list, it isn’t uncommon to see cards like Royal Sage, Haafingar Marauder, and Skywatch Vindicator. The newest deck on the meta snapshot, it’s likely that Midrange Mage sees a lot more refinement over the next month, as its power level is already proven, giving it a tier one spot this month.
Matchups: As an aggressive deck with Supreme Atromancer at the top of its curve, this deck tends to do very well against most Control strategies, particularly those without Ice Storm. This type of deck rose in popularity partially due to the initial popularity of Control Monk and Ramp Warrior post-Fall of the Dark Brotherhood. Some of the more defensive versions can perform better against Aggro decks, though the ample amount of Prophecies means the matchup isn’t a blowout. Divine Fervor versions excel at the Control Mage matchup in particular, as the deck rarely has support removal and creatures stay out of range of Ice Storm.
Sample list: Snaxximan’s Midrange Mage
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 FotDB 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, although Baroness is absent from today’s featured list. There are lists focusing more on Agility and using Nimble Ally, one of which we featured in the last snapshot, but a version with more Intelligence, such as this month’s featured list, has become more common due to its well-rounded matchups.
Matchups: 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 even Wispmother in some versions. 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. The Goblin Skulk/Curse package again shows in this deck why it is so powerful against Aggro and other Midrange strategies.
Sample list: slw’s Midrange Assassin
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. Cards like Wind Keep Spellsword, Young Mammoth, Daggerfall Mage, and other strong curve plays form the backbone of the deck. In addition, there is plenty of room in the deck to make tech choices.
The Fall of the Dark Brotherhood didn’t lead to a reinvention of this deck, although Wrath of Sithis has become a fairly 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. Some versions, such as the one featured, play a heavier Prophecy count and cards like Midnight Sweep or Lurking Crocodile. Others simply focus on curving out. The top end of the curve, featuring Bone Colossus and Supreme Atromancer, are what gives the deck such an edge against Control strategies.
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. Dark Guardian has added to the deck’s viability against Aggro decks, although the versions light on prophecies still struggle hard in those matchups.
Sample list: inezz’s Midrange Sorcerer
Aggressive Warrior decks are the most common in the class, 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, but Orc Warrior has been far and away the more popular of the two in recent weeks.
Sower of Revenge recently brought Warrior a powerful, versatile tool that helped to improve its Mage matchup as well as help it race other aggressive decks. Coupled with the already powerful core of Orc cards, it forms a very powerful Aggro strategy that some consider the best Aggro deck in the game currently. Other, slower versions of Orcs sometimes play more late game and function as more of a Midrange deck, but our featured list and the more popular variant at Legend rank is Aggro. Fharun Defender can be played if other aggressive decks are a concern.
Matchups: Orcs can typically outrace most Midrange decks, with the notable exception of Midrange Archer; with the Curse package and Skaven Pyromancers, that deck has some of the best early answers to Orcs, as does Merric Battlemage. Aggro Battlemage, with its abundance of Prophecies, can be an issue as well, but hasn’t been incredibly popular as of late. While Control decks threaten to stabilize in the late game against the very Aggro variants of Orcs, Sower of Revenge has drastically improved the Control Monk and Control Mage matchups.
Sample list: PauloDiogo’s Orc Warrior
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.
Control Monk has continued to see a high amount of play, but not like the surge of popularity that it saw directly after the Fall of the Dark Brotherhood that propelled it to tier one in the last snapshot. Still, Control Monk is by far the most popular Monk deck at Legend and the deck’s late game is very difficult to handle. Protector of the Mane, while featured in the sample list, isn’t included in all lists as the five cost slot is very competitive and different healing options are always in consideration. Many versions play Stronghold Eradicator as a creature that can simply beat other creatures in combat as well as enable trades on covered creatures in the Shadow Lane.
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 – examples of these are Merric Battlemage, Midrange Assassin, and Midrange Sorcerer.
Sample list: CVH’s Control Monk
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.
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. While Fell the Mighty gave this deck a powerful new removal option, few adjustments have been made in recent weeks and the popularity of this deck has waned somewhat, partially due to the rise in popularity of Control Mage and the lack of good matchups in Control Warrior, Ramp Scout, and Aggro Battlemage.
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 favored against the deck.
Sample list: s_l_w’s Merric Battlemage
Aggro/Prophecy Battlemage is one of the fastest decks 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. While Aggro Battlemage does enjoy the appearance of Midrange decks to counter those Control decks, the immense popularity of Control Mage and Midrange Archer have caused a decline in this deck’s play. Time will tell if that trend continues into next month, but Aggro Battlemage is a very powerful deck when its game plan is favored in the meta. The featured list has taken out popular inclusions in Grahtwood Ambusher and Sharpshooter Scout in favor of experimental options to give the deck a better game against Control in Savage Ogre and Daggerfall Mage, although a more traditional and widely popular build such as the previous snapshot’s example is still very viable.
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 popularity of Control Mage and Control Monk is slightly troubling for the deck although it can still prey on most Sorcerer and Assassin variants.
Sample list: CVH’s Aggro Battlemage
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, unlike many other popular decks. 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. That said, Item Sorcerer is capable of some of the most powerful turns in the game when allowed the right setup, and the power level of an early Skilled Blacksmith in the field lane has led a few top players back to the archetype recently at high legend, though the popularity of the deck remains low compared to most other tier two decks.
Matchups: Item Sorcerer is typically even weaker than Midrange Sorcerer against straightforward Aggro decks. 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: TurquoiseLink’s Item Sorcerer
Chanter Monk is a very new style of deck making its debut on the snapshot due to TDCJason and a few other players having success with it at Legend. It takes advantage of the deck’s namesake, Chanter of Akatosh (from the Fall of the Dark Brotherhood) and a variety of actions. While very flexible, the deck is incredibly new and it remains to see if it will catch on in popularity, but the power level when it gets its combos going is very high. Many of the matchups are outlined in greater detail by TDCJason in the guide accompanying the featured list.
Sample list: TDCJason’s Chanter Monk
This is a fairly straightforward Ramp deck 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 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 few 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: Lateralus19’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. The popularity hasn’t been regained in recent weeks, but behind Orcs, Ramp Warrior is likely the most popular Warrior deck and one of the best at taking advantage of Unstoppable Rage.
Sample list: CVH’s Ramp/Control Warrior
Rage Archer is another deck, like Ramp/Control Warrior, that really came to life thanks to the introduction of Unstoppable Rage. While many of the cards are similar to a Midrange Archer list, Rage Archer is typically much slower and functions like a Control deck a lot of the time, ending the game with incredibly powerful Unstoppable Rages, as the name might suggest. Compared to the “curving out” strategy of traditional Archer decks, Rage Archer has proven to be somewhat inconsistent. It is worth noting, however, that while the today’s sample list is really emphasizing the Rage strategy, many fans of this archetype have moved to a more hybridized style of deck that looks more like a Midrange Archer list with a couple Unstoppable Rages added alongside some decent targets for the card.
Sample list: TurquoiseLink’s Rage Archer
While Midrange Crusader was featured in tier three of the last snapshot, the more popular variant recently has become the slower, more Control-oriented list such as the one featured in today’s snapshot. Control Crusader benefits from many of the strong late-game tools in Willpower that make Control Mage and Control Monk so powerful, and while Strength isn’t traditionally seen as a strong Control attribute, Unstoppable Rage has helped significantly. This deck is also tailored to suit Wrothgar Forge, which is the main value-generating engine in the very late game, and a very hard card for most Mage and Monk decks to deal with effectively.
Sample list: Pherian’s Control Crusader
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. Not much in the list has changed recently, and Swindler’s Market Archer still remains a viable deck to play at Legend with the added benefit of catching opponents off balance; many will expect the popular, traditional Midrange Archer or Rage Archer.
Sample list: BradfordLee’s Swindler’s Market Archer
Aggressive Crusader lists remain viable, but as mentioned under Control Crusader, the Midrange decks have been seeing even less play and have fallen to tier four as a result. While they have a reasonable game plan, it’s fairly clear that the Archer, Sorcerer, and Assassin are more viable Midrange classes at the moment. That said, the burst damage represented by the Token-oriented strategies, such as today’s featured list, is quite impressive at times and that seems to be the direction to take the more aggressive variants of Crusader
Sample list: meromorphic’s Token Crusader
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). This deck declined in popularity in recent snapshots and still hasn’t regained much traction in the meta, being overshadowed by Control Mage, Control Monk, and even Control Warrior. Hist Grove is one part of the deck that has gotten more popular as a viable win condition against Control Mage and Monk, however.
Sample list: Lateralus19’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. Protector of the Mane has also given way to some different versions of aggressive Monk decks, utilizing healing effects to make the stats of the card increase very quickly and effectively race opponents. Currently, however, neither of these styles of decks are very popular at Legend. 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
There has been a slight rise in the more aggressive Spellsword decks, but still nothing coming remotely close to the level of popularity of the other Midrange decks, or Token Spellsword in its prime in early Open Beta. While eyenie has had notable success with it on the legend ladder, the popularity of the deck remains incredibly low, possibly even more than the power level of the deck would imply. With the right techs, perhaps this is a deck that could once again climb in popularity.
Sample list: eyenie’s Midrange Spellsword