Hi everyone, Endo here. With Masters Series qualifiers right around the corner, its important to get an understanding of where the meta game stands going into TESL’s latest expansion. While Alliance War will be bringing us 100 new cards and 5 entirely new color combinations to explore, any new competitive lists will need to be built with a strong understanding of the current top dogs and the environment they create. This Meta Snapshot will include many decklists. Unless I cite a player these are all my personal builds. Of course no build is optimal and all builds reflect the preferences of their intended pilot, so these lists are examples of archetypes, not their definitions.
Tier 1 decks are the high level go tos for tournament lineups. These are decks which have enough raw power that you can shove them in pretty much any lineup and they will pull their weight. At the moment these are the decks that you must be prepared to ban or beat.
Aggro Hlaalu has high raw power, substantial consistency thanks to its low curve and effect redundancy, one of the best matchup spreads in the game with almost no truly unfavored matchups, and ample tech slots available to adjust it for different metas. Additionally, Hlaalu is one of the more difficult decks in the game to play optimally and highly skilled players will make it do things the average person might not consider possible. In short if you aren’t playing Hlaalu right now, you better have a damn good reason why.
Aggro Crusader has a lot of similarities to Aggro Hlaalu and shares many of its strengths and weaknesses. People go back and forth on which of the two is stronger though most top players I’ve talked to lately have put Hlaalu above Crusader. Crusader has an even higher density of resource extension and burst tools than Hlaalu, however it is also a little less durable and frequently finds itself with fairly brittle board positions.
Control Tribunal is one of the only bad matchups for the other two decks that make tier 1 and that alone is enough for it to earn its spot. There are roughly fifteen bazillion ways to build Tribunal, some approaching a more Midrange style with others hearkening back to 2016/17 Control Mage. Tribunal has access to tools for basically anything and so can be teched out for pretty much any meta. While it is largely viewed as an anti-aggro deck, Tribunal can build itself to combat other control decks in a number of ways. It can disrupt opposing control decks’ win conditions by removing their Shrines with Edict of Azura, sniping their key pieces with Hallowed Deathpriest, Cast into Time, or Piercing Twilight, and even completely removing their Journey to Sovengarde or Flesh Atronach win condition with Memory Wraith. Alternatively, Tribunal can be built to take a durable proactive role against other control decks. Applying constant pressure can deny opposing slower decks from developing their win conditions and effectively achieve the same win con denial as a tech card from the angle of tempo advantage.
Proactive Control Tribunal:
Tier 2 decks are the rest of what I would consider standard tournament decks. These are decks that you should be prepared to face. There are many other tournament viable decks but those require special conditions to be played and are generally either meta calls or performing a specific role in a lineup.
Like Tribunal there are a pretty absurd number of Telvanni builds floating around out there. TC builds, Uprising builds, Shrine builds… all are viable and which you decide to go with is as much a matter of personal preference as it is a meta call. Telvanni has very solid Aggro match ups which is critical for the current meta and the development of win conditions like the Flesh Atro OTK for the control mirror mean it can hold its own versus slower decks too.
Thuldir TC Telvanni
Like the previous two decks, there are more ways to build BM than lines of spaghetti code in the old DWD client. Mid BM has been a staple of the tournament scene for pretty much the entire history of the game and it’s hard to see it really going anywhere. Its high degree of modularity and extremely high skill cap mean that the best players will be able to have success with it in basically any meta. However BM is also very punishing so I wouldn’t bring it to a high stakes tournament without getting substantial practice in first.
Withered Hand BM:
Tribunal Ban Lineup BM:
In the hands of the game’s top players, Doomcrag is one of the best decks in the game. It is quite vulnerable to support removal as well as Memory Wraith, but all in all this is one of the very best decks for the control mirror and its aggro match ups aren’t half bad. Doomcrag also benefited significantly from the nerfs to purple aggro as it is much better at dealing with wide boards early than it is tall ones, putting it in a very strong position for success at the moment.
Shrine Archer has a lot of similarities with Doomcrag Warrior but generally boasts a substantial boost to its aggro match up at the cost of sacrificing strength in the control match up. Admittedly it has not seen a ton of play lately, however from testing and the times it has popped up in tournaments I think that Shrine Archer has safely earned a spot in tier 2.
Token Crusader and Token Spellsword:
The main two Resolute Ally decks currently seeing play are Token Crusader and Token Spellsword. Both boast very strong matchups in the aggro mirror and so have been solid choices as of late. The last TRS Classic Qualifier before Alliance War was won by HoriuchiFufu who performed very well with both of these decks.
HoriuchiFufu Token Crusader:
HoriuchiFufu Token Spellsword:
Aggro Sorcerer was likely the deck hardest hit by the Catapult nerfs and it was already in a rough spot due to its unfavorable matchup into wide yellow aggro decks. However it remains one of the games better control killers and Skinned Hound, Manic Jack, and Wilds Incarnate’s large buffs to the deck remain. While it has lost steam, Sorcerer will continue to be a common and reliable tournament choice.
Reireibarker Aggro Sorcerer :
A non-exhaustive list of other viable tournament decks that can be/are used as tech choices or for personal preference but do not define the meta game themselves.
ILiKePaStA Aggro Redoran:
Flowmega Mid Dagoth:
TESL’s meta still has significant room for development after nearly a year of minimally impactful expansions. The Wild West we will enter when Alliance War hits might feel chaotic and challenging to navigate at first, but keeping your focus on the meta that currently exists and how new cards might change it will hopefully help you find your footing.
Until next time,
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