Welcome to the 10th edition of the BTL metagame snapshot for The Elder Scrolls: Legends! With the Heroes of Skyrim expansion, we have seen some of the biggest changes to established decks in the snapshot’s history. Whether you’re new to Legends or an experienced player trying to get an edge, our snapshot team of CVH, TurquoiseLink, Lateralus19, s_l_w, and Blackfall have compiled this tier list of the most powerful and popular decks on the ladder.
To illustrate the variety in card choices as the metagame continues to settle and evolve after Heroes of Skyrim, we have included multiple sample lists for many of the decks.
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 high ladder ranks (so both power level and popularity are taken into consideration), 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 weaker, either in current power level or simply due to meta trends, suffering from a wide array of poor matchups against the higher tier decks. That said, they are still established enough to be regarded as part of the meta. 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.
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. Cards like Thief of Dreams and Mystic Dragon from Heroes of Skyrim have become widely used in the archetype.
Matchups: Besides a very favorable matchup to most Control decks and Ramp Scout, 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
This is a curve-focused deck that can make powerful on-curve creature drops and high tempo plays through using the Curse effects (with Goblin Skulk) and Leaflurker. The deck also typically has a lot of damage to burst opponents down and late-game cards like Supreme Atromancer and even Eclipse Baroness that are incredibly hard to beat as a Control deck.
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. This deck is generally unfavored against Merric, and some Midrange decks, such as Archer and Sorcerer, can be problematic. 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.
More aggressive versions of the Mage class have risen significantly in popularity over the past few months. 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. Heroes of Skyrim has given the deck several new cards which has caused it to rise in popularity along with other Intelligence-using Midrange decks.
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.
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 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 versions), 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.
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, such as the Swamp Leviathans from Hist Grove and Blood Magic Lords. Many versions now take advantage of a dragon package from Heroes of Skyrim, utilizing cards like Paarthurnax and Shearpoint Dragon with Woodland Lookout for some additional healing. Soul Tear has only added to the immense power and versatility this deck has in the later stages of the game, and it has risen in popularity significantly since Skyrim’s release.
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; Ramp Scout has difficulty answering wide boards, so Supreme Atromancer is at its strongest against the deck. Merric Battlemage is, as expected, very unfavored. However, Eclipse Baroness and Soul Tear allow Ramp Scout to have advantages in the very late game against other slow 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.
This deck benefits from being very optimized already and able to punish slow decks. Although Heroes of Skyrim hasn’t drastically changed this deck, it remains solid, although a bit weak against many of the Midrange decks like Sorcerer despite the rise in popularity of Ramp Scout.
Matchups: This deck’s 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. 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
Token Crusader is a low-curve deck that aims to not aggro its opponents down, but instead generate a huge burst of damage with the Nord Firebrand tokens in combination with buff effects like Fifth Legion Trainer and Divine Fervor. It will typically leave the opponent at 26 life, or close to it, and then have a massive swing turn with Relentless Raiders, Bandit Ringleaders, and/or Morthal Executioners. Heroes of Skyrim gave this deck plenty of new tools, such as Crusader’s Assault, that have made it a force to be reckoned with.
Matchups: This deck preys on slower Midrange decks and Control/Ramp decks in particular, as it has time to assemble a large combo from hand which is hard to counter without a few lucky Prophecies. The fastest Aggro decks, however, can be a problem as they don’t give the deck time to set up and the most popular version, featured below, currently runs zero Prophecy cards of its own.
Sample list: bgoldt’s Token Crusader
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 Odahviing. 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 are Supreme Atromancer and Dark Rebirth, which can allow for re-use of heals and Mantikoras.
Matchups: This deck is 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 slow decks like Ramp Scout, but most versions don’t run it and instead focus on more defensive options.
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. Circle Initiate and Mystic Dragon, from Heroes of Skyrim, have become staple in the archetype, and many even run Thief of Dreams as a powerful body that can keep cards in hand.
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 and the greedier Ramp decks a perfect target, as well as other Aggro decks with few Prophecies. Prophecy-heavy Control decks are this deck’s hard counter, and Merric Battlemage remains a relatively poor matchup.
Sample list: SyNaTiiC’s Aggro/Prophecy Battlemage
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 put these decks on the map and remains a staple.
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.
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 powerful early defensive plays in order to reach the later turns.
Control Monk is still by far the most popular Monk deck at Legend and the deck’s late game is very difficult to handle. Several variants were discussed in the last snapshot, but the popular one to come to light since Heroes of Skyrim features a Dragon package, as the Dragons in Monk have very control-oriented effects.
A lot of the matchups depend 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: Blackfall’s Dragon Control Monk
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. Some versions of the deck even support Wrothgar Forge, though the more popular versions in the post-Heroes of Skyrim meta do not, instead using Praetorian Commander to generate massive stats in the very late game. This is similar to the Commander/Echo Mages, though with the added benefit of the Unstoppable Rage combos (such as the Ravenouse Hunger/Rage anti-Aggro clear). Crusader’s Assault and Grisly Gourmet have also given the deck more options.
Sample list: eyenie’s Control Crusader
Aggro “Time to Fight” Battlemage
Another aggressive Battlemage list, the Time to Fight Battlemage differentiates itself from the Prophecy variant by maximizing Charge creatures and ways to buff them, such as Corsair Ship and Orc Clan Captain. With fewer Prophecies, decks that can race it are a concern, but the style of deck is relatively new and still being refined. The amount of damage it can play from hand in a single turn is very threatening and more difficult for Control decks to counter than traditional Aggro strategies.
Sample list: CHARM3R’s Time to Fight 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.
Heroes of Skyrim gave this deck several interesting new cards, namely Master Swordsmith and Arcane Enchanter. These allow the deck to buff its items to obscene levels of power while utilizing keywords like Drain and Guard to swing games around against Aggro. This is deck is capable of some of the most powerful plays in the game, although lists are still being refined and consistency is a concern.
Sample list: CVH’s Item Sorcerer
These decks, based around Praetorian Commander and Echo of Acatosh and a large amount of Prophecy creatures, were among the most popular in the initial days of the Heroes of Skyrim meta. Though incredibly defensive, these are different enough conceptually from more traditional Control Mage lists to warrant their own spot on the snapshot. At higher ranks, the popularity of the deck has fallen drastically as the meta has continued to evolve, but the strategy of buffing all the cards in the deck and then playing them for free off of Prophecy can be very punishing.
Sample list: SyNaTiiC’s Commander/Echo Mage
Token Spellswocrd utilizes Tokens (or creatures generated from other cards) not as burst damage, such as the Token Crusader or Merric Battlemage lists, but as a means to flood the board and create a swarm of buffed creatures to overwhelm the opponent. Once very popular, the deck saw virtually no play at high ranks for a number of months, but Heroes of Skyrim is poised to revitalize the archetype. Several new cards are making appearances in lists, and a few have seen play at Legend. Time will tell if Token Spellsword continues to rise in popularity to where it once was.
Many Token Spellsword lists also play Bone Colossus for another powerful mid-game threat to close against slower decks.
Sample list: Zyzzvaproject’s Token Spellsword
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. While not nearly as popular as the more traditional Midrange Archer lists, one should prepare to identify a Rage Archer list early so as not to get blown out by a huge Unstoppable Rage play.
Sample list: Faylash’s Rage Archer
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: Snaxximan’s Swindler’s Market Archer
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