Welcome to the 11th edition of the BTL metagame snapshot for The Elder Scrolls: Legends! It’s been a while now since Heroes of Skyrim’s release, and after the plethora of changes to the rankings in last months’s snapshot, the metagame has continues to develop. Players have reacted to the changes, and some new decks have even emerged and proven themselves worthy contenders. Whether you’re new to Legends or an experienced player trying to get an edge, our snapshot team of CVH, TurquoiseLink, Lateralus19, and Romanesque have compiled this tier list of the most powerful and popular decks on the ladder.s.
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.
Token decks were one of the big winners of the past month, perhaps none moreso than Token Mage. With several successful tournament lineups featuring the deck and TurquoiseLink using his version to finish #1 Legend in July, it has already proven to be a mainstay of the meta.
Like other Token decks, this deck is heavy into Willpower, and uses “token” generators like Scouting Patrol, Marked Man, and Imperial Reinforcements to generate explosive starts alongside cards like Pit Lion and Fifth Legion Trainer. This allows the deck to quickly take over the board in the first couple turns, hitting the opponents down and making it difficult to remove all the incoming damage. The Mage variant in particular is good at fighting for the board early thanks to its creatures with Ward, and features additional reach to close the game thanks to Lightning Bolt.
Matchups: These Token decks excel at fighting decks that can’t answer the wide boards they create or early threats like Pit Lion. Most versions of Ramp Scout are a prime target, as are Midrange decks without efficient board clears like Sorcerer. Decks using Ice Storm, such as Control Mage and Merric Battlemage, are much trickier, and the Skulk/Curse package and Skaven Pyromancers can get the deck off to a poor start against decks like Midrange Archer/Assassin.
Sample list: TurquoiseLink’s Token Mage
Token Crusader is another of the Token decks that has gained popularity in the last month. Very similar to Token Mage, Crusader variants benefit from July’s monthly reward card, Ulfric’s Housecarl, which helps with continued card draw. Multiple variants of this version currently exist, with two featured here. One contains Withered Hand Cultist to help with the tokens’ weakness to Ice Storm and other removal, and the other features a slightly higher curve with more burst potential thanks to Raiding Party.
Matchups: These Token decks excel at fighting decks that can’t answer the wide boards they create or early threats like Pit Lion. Most versions of Ramp Scout are a prime target, as are Midrange decks without efficient board clears like Sorcerer. Decks using Ice Storm, such as Control Mage and Merric Battlemage, are much trickier, and the Skulk/Curse package and Skaven Pyromancers can get the deck off to a poor start against decks like Midrange Archer/Assassin. While the Withered Hand Cultist versions of Token Crusader are better against many of these removal options, they are slightly worse at fighting for the board than Token Mage.
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. Most 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, becoming one of the dominant forces on the ladder and one of the main causes of the rise in Token decks as a response.
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.
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, just about every Token deck when they aren’t able to stick a Withered Hand Cultist, and very good against Merric Battlemage and Midrange Archer. Other Midrange decks, such as Sorcerer and 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. That said, the Ramp Scout matchup remains quite weak and is a major problem for the deck on the ladder currently.
Sample list: Romanesque’s Control Mage
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) alongside Leaflurker and Shearpoint Dragon. The deck also typically has a lot of damage to burst opponents down and late-game cards like Supreme Atromancer and Tazkad that are incredibly hard to beat as a Control deck.
Matchups: As a Midrange deck with Supreme Atromancer as a finisher, Midrange Assassin doesn’t struggle much against Ramp Scout, although slow decks with Ice Storm (such as Control Mage) can be a problem. The Skulk+Curse package shows why it is so strong against Aggro in this deck, and it’s proven to be one of the most consistent Midrange decks on the ladder currently with no real unwinnable matchups.
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. Due to the dominance of Ramp Scout, this deck has continued to see play due to its solid matchup to the deck and its ability to use Dawnstar Healer to race the other aggressive 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. Some of the more defensive versions can perform better against Aggro decks, though the ample amount of Prophecies and Dawnstar Healer means the matchup isn’t a blowout despite not having much removal for a board of Tokens.
Sample list: Ikarus’s Midrange Mage
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 deck can function against Token decks thanks to the three copies of Skaven Pyromancer present in most versions. 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
Altar Control Mage
This deck functions very similarly to Control Mage with many of the staple Control cards still in tact, but is different enough to warrant its own spot in today’s snapshot. With a plethora of Support cards such as Altar of Despair and College of Winterhold, and Tower Alchemist and Cauldrom Keeper to back them up, this deck is capable of generating dominating board states against most decks. Despite that, it still remains much less popular than the more standard Control Mage variants, although time could change that.
Matchups: More data is needed as this deck isn’t as popular as the other decks in the tier two of today’s snapshot, although the core of Control Mage cards cause many matchups to go similarly to the standard Control Mage matchups. The additional heal of Elixir of Vitality and the added guard in Cauldron Keeper help tremendously against Aggro, and huge Conjuration Tutor value in the late game alongside Altar and Supreme Atromancers can be very punishing to other slow decks.
Sample list: GTO_Shenanigans’s Altar Control Mage
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. While many versions play three Supreme Atromancers at the top of the curve, today’s featured list does not, opting for the consistency of Bone Colossus.
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. While Dark Guardian helps against Tokens, the deck’s popularity has suffered somewhat due to the prevalence of Token Mage and Crusader on the ladder. Some variants have begun teching in copies of Ice Storm as a result.
Sample list: Midrange Sorcerer
Like other Token decks, this deck is heavy into Willpower, and uses “token” generators like Scouting Patrol, Marked Man, and Imperial Reinforcements to generate explosive starts alongside cards like Pit Lion and Fifth Legion Trainer. This allows the deck to quickly take over the board in the first couple turns, hitting the opponents down and making it difficult to remove all the incoming damage. The Agility in the Monk variant allows it to run the ever-powerful Goblin Skulk, this time to search Septim Guardsman, and Cliff Racer to give the deck additional reach (much like the Lightning Bolts of the Token Mage).
While powerful due to the deck’s obvious similarities to Token Mage and Crusader, the Monk variant has mostly been seen in tournaments as a supplement to the overall Token strategy in lineups with multiple Token decks, while Mage and Crusader are much more prominent on the ladder currently.
Sample list: Token Monk
Aggro Goblin Archer
August has seen the resurgence of Goblins, most notably in the Aggro Goblin Archer deck thanks to MattOblivium hitting #1 Legend with the deck. This is a fairly straightforward aggressive deck that uses Goblin Skulk to help flood the board with Goblins quickly, hopefully setting up for a huge Murkwater Skirmisher to end the game. The magicka curve is extremely low, as one would expect for an Aggro deck. Archer’s Gambit adds some utility to the deck and Eldergleam Matron can help generate additional threats against slower decks, with Cliff Racer and Tazkad able to close out the game.
Sample list: MattOblivium’s Aggro Goblin Archer
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 month, we’re featuring two sample lists. The first is similar to common ladder lists, where the deck’s popularity has waned somewhat. The second has been used by Toczic and Dark.Phoenix to several high tournament placements in recent weeks. While the deck has seen less play on the ladder recently, it has continuously appeared in many top tournament lineups.
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 and Token decks, and Merric can also hold its own against most Midrange strategies – although Midrange Sorcerer is favored against the deck.
Aggro “Time to Fight” Battlemage
An 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 Orc Clan Captain. With fewer Prophecies, decks that can race it are a concern. The amount of damage this deck can find from hand make it very difficult to counter for most slow decks. This deck has continued to rise in popularity after OGFlex became the first person to hit Legend using his variant within hours of the August season beginning.
There have also been several similar decks rising in popularity in Warrior and Crusader, focusing on the Strength shell with Mighty Ally and splashing for cards like Sower of Revenge or Crusader’s Assault. These decks are still relatively new, but might find their own footing in upcoming snapshots as additional powerful Aggro options.
Sample list: OGFlex’s Time to Fight Battlemage
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. While the post-Heroes of Skyrim versions using Praetorian Commander have fallen out of favor recently due to the Commander’s drastic nerf, Crusader’s Assault and Grisly Gourmet have also given the deck more options. The Assault can pair nicely with Ravenous Hunger for incredibly swingy turns with Unstoppable Rage.
Sample list: eyenie’s Control Crusader
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 continued to be the more popular between the two. Sower of Revenge put these decks on the map and remains a staple. In the past few weeks, Orcs have begun to fall in popularity; while they thrive against Ramp Scout due to that deck’s difficulty in answering the early threats, the rise in Token decks has not been kind to Orcs since the deck lacks efficient removal.
Sample list: Pdmd’s Orc Warrior
Like other Token decks, this deck is heavy into Willpower, and uses “token” generators like Scouting Patrol, Marked Man, and Imperial Reinforcements to generate explosive starts alongside cards like Pit Lion and Fifth Legion Trainer. This allows the deck to quickly take over the board in the first couple turns, hitting the opponents down and making it difficult to remove all the incoming damage. While other Token variants have climbed to the top in terms of popularity, Spellsword variants remain quite underplayed. Access to decent curve plays like Wind Keep Spellsword doesn’t seem to outweigh the benefits of splashing the other colors currently, though time will tell if Token Spellsword will find a chance to shine again. The core of the deck, as with the other Token decks, remains incredibly powerful in the right meta.
Sample list: Token Spellsword
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. In recent weeks, this deck has seen less play as other Aggro variants are more consistent against Ramp Scout and the Control Mages that have risen to counter the Token decks.
Sample list: Aggro/Prophecy 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 powerful early defensive plays in order to reach the later turns. While not as popular as other Control decks, Control Monk is still more popular than most aggressive versions of the Monk class. Today’s featured list is a support-heavy build by ksedden, who has seen success in multiple tournaments with different versions of the deck.
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: ksedden’s Control Monk
Slower versions of Warrior are still a part of the metagame, though nowhere near as popular currently as Orc Warrior and Aggro Warrior. Similarly to Control Crusader, much of these decks’ viability centers around Unstoppable Rage and its power to clear boards while dealing damage or gaining life. Ramp Warrior’s late game is also powered by the three copies of Hist Grove and Blood Magic Lord while Quicksilver Crossbow gives the deck more efficient removal alongside creatures with Lethal.
Sample list: Wingflier’s Ramp Warrior