Hi everyone, Endo here. The TRS Classic Open Qualifier is just over a week away! You can learn more about and register for the event here: https://goo.gl/viQZP5 . In order to help everyone get up to speed, whether you are a fan or are looking to participate, I’d like to do a quick review of recent meta trends in competitive play (not ladder). The main focus of this article will be to give sample deck lists from top players that reflect archetypes you should be prepared to see in the tournament. As always, many people contribute to the development of competitive archetypes, the names I credit deck lists to are simply the players that I got the lists from. In addition, be aware that lists are always in flux and none of these lists are truly optimal.
A fairly broad umbrella, aggro decks are decks that are proactive and aggressive, looking to force their opponents to play inefficiently by putting them under tremendous pressure.
Aggro Warrior is the boogeyman of the current format and you should expect more of your opponents to bring the deck than not in any tournament you play. The deck has a low, consistent curve, great field control, and a collection of some of the most resilient “french-vanilla” creatures in the game. In addition, it has access to a surprising amount of reach as well as anti-control tools like Withered Hand Cultist and Garnag that are well stat-ed enough to not be embarrassing against aggressive opponents. Joe’s list should generally be considered the standard as he is the expert at the archetype. His recent experimentation with Sharpshooters and Shadowfen instead of Spinners is interesting and we will have to see how the deck develops moving forward.
Aggro Redoran has been under represented for a long time and upon the release of Houses of Morrowind was viewed as possibly the weakest available tri-color combination. However, recently various builds of the deck have been seeing significant success in tournament play and while I would never advocate for taking it instead of Warrior, I think it can perform a similar role very well and should be strongly considered in addition to Warrior. Redoran is different than Warrior though and to successfully build or pilot the deck means recognizing and accepting that difference. Certain builds of the deck such as Choate’s build above can take the archetype in quite a different direction as well, giving the deck more fast interaction and pushing it closer to a midrange deck where it can find lines to control and out resource other aggressive decks.
While not as destructive in terms of raw stats and forward momentum as Warrior, Aggro Sorcerer has significantly more interactive ability and a level of resilience that far surpasses most other decks that fall under the aggro umbrella. Similar to Redoran, Sorcerer has not seen play for most of the past few months, but this September saw a significant resurgence and swell of competitive success. Haymakers like Wrath of Sithis and Corrupted Shade, which see little to no play in other classes, create massive obstacles for opponents looking to respond to sorcerer in a tempo efficient way. Shrieking Harpy, Wardcrafter, and Sorcerer’s Negation allow the deck to manipulate trades to its liking and cards like Lightning Bolt and Ancano give the deck potent reach.
Iiiiiiiiiits baaaaaaack. Aggro Hlaalu has been dormant for a few months since its reign this past Spring and Early Summer, but the once and future king has returned and it is frightening. Most TESL players should be quite familiar with the alarming rate that Hlaalu can flood a board and a surprising amount of resource generation and reach can make it hard to shut down for good. Joe’s list takes advantage of a potent tech utilized to great success by Puddleglum this past spring, Deepwood Trapper. Trapper is fantastic in the aggressive mirror and, as this list so far should indicate, is quite well suited to the current meta. Other choices like the inclusion of Bruma Profiteer and reduction in resource generation also help to solidify this particular list as a good reaction to the current meta.
While arguably a sub-category of aggro, token decks differentiate themselves by focusing on developing very wide boards of many small creatures, generally utilizing things like aoe buffs to punish decks that struggle to deal with more than one threat at once. Token decks are historically a good choice in aggressive metas because of their ability to take board control early and put pressure on decks that are not built to be reactive. In TESL, token decks are generally built around yellow and take advantage of Resolute Ally.
Its been almost a year since Token Crusader was last a dominant force but as the representation of Ice Storm decks has been dwindling and raw damage output is highly valued it could be well positioned to put up some results in the current meta. Token Crusader separates itself from other token decks both with its wealth of card draw that prevents slower decks from running it out of resources, as well as its access to fast burst like Steel Scimitar, Orc Clan Captain, Crusaders Assault, and Raiding Party.
Joe and Super have been working on Token Spellsword since shortly before QuakeCon, and while it has seen minimal play by others, both have put up very strong results with the deck. Siege catapult is one of the best payoffs for being a token deck and Haunting Spirit is one of the most busted/imba/op/redicidonculous/absurd cards this game has ever seen, so while Spellsword doesn’t necessarily have a large archetypal difference from many of the other token decks, it just gets to play some of the best stat-ed, all around solid cards in the game.
Monk is another very solid token option that has seen considerable play and success recently. While it doesn’t have quite the resource extension of Crusader, Cornerclub Gambler does a fine job in the role, and the addition of Mournhold Traitor and Cliff Racer give the deck a significant boost in early pressure and reach, respectively. Of the above, I would consider Ikarus’ list the more standard, while FroGGer experiments with removing Goblin Skulk and providing additional aoe buffing with Hidden Trail. One inclusion in FroGGer’s list that does not appear in the other token lists in this article is Morthal Executioner. This card has seen varied play over time but is an important option to consider as it allows for games to snowball very quickly, and its 4 health makes it challenging to answer effectively. Also, Ahnassi is nuts.
In general, Midrange refers to a class of decks that aims to be the aggressor against control decks and controller against aggressive decks. These decks tend to have somewhat higher curves than aggressive decks and aim to win the game on a later turn than Aggro but earlier than Control.
Admittedly, Mid Battlemage has not been seeing much tournament play recently, nor would I expect it to during the qualifier, however it is likely the sole true midrange deck that sees competitive play, and while it is near non-existent on ladder, has been one of the most historically consistent and dominant decks in tournament play. Battlemage’s strength lies in its flexibility, being able to utilize Firebolts, Cunning Allies, and Breton Conjurers to lock down aggro decks, and simultaneously employs massive threats like Blood Dragon and Belligerent Giant that when combined with reach can pummel control players. This flexibility is the deck’s biggest strength, but can also be a vulnerability as navigating games when you draw “the wrong half of your deck” can be a major challenge. While it isn’t as omnipresent as it used to be, Mid Battlemage remains a strong contender in any tournament.
Admittedly, Strike Monk probably should fall under the aggro umbrella, but as it is the most “midrangey” of TESL aggro decks and tends to aim to win a couple turns later than them I’ll push it into this category. Strike Monk has solid early curve density, unlike Mid Battlemage, which allows it to keep up with aggro on board early and start putting pressure on control decks quickly. Most builds of the deck are base green, taking advantage of Nimble Ally. The namesake synergy in the deck, which differentiates it from other aggressive and midrange decks, is its utilization of Monk and Swift Strike. In conjunction these cards can allow for massive life swings and can be used both to burst down Control decks as well as to win a race against aggro or, in a pinch, efficiently clear their board. Both of these cards synergize well with other cards in the deck as well, so they don’t rot in their pilot’s hand if not drawn together. Choate has put up strong results with the deck recently and while its raw power may not be as high as some other decks in the game it may be well positioned for success in the current meta.
Simply put, control decks aim to win the game by effectively stopping their opponent’s game plan and stalling out to an inevitable win-condition, whether it be to run their opponent out of resources or a game winning combination of cards.
Despite seeing a surprisingly low amount of play in tournaments as of late, Tribunal Control remains a powerful choice for competitive play. Falling under the “run your opponent out of resources” camp this deck probably most accurately fits what most people think of when they hear “control”. Tribunal employs a wealth of powerful interactive tools at all stages of the game, with its particular strength compared to other control decks being its access to a wealth of unconditional hard removal. While challenging, it is important for Tribunal Control decks to build in such a way that they will not be forced to concede on the spot to a Withered Hand Cultist. As such, some level of creature-based interaction is important. Late game haymakers like Miraak, Sotha Sil, Genius Pathmage, and Odahviing help to put the nail in the coffin after the game has been stabilized.
Ox Telvanni is and has been one of if not the most powerful decks in the game pretty much since a week or two before the Drain Vitality nerf. However, the current resilient, aggressive meta poses some problems for the deck. Regardless you should still expect high turnout of this deck in any tournament you play in. It is extremely difficult to pilot optimally so some players may not have the confidence to bring it, but it does decently even in its bad matchups and demolishes most other control decks thanks to its inevitable combo finish.
Much more dedicated to its combo plan than Ox Telvanni, Miracle Scout aims to draw through most of its deck in one turn with Disciple of Namira by writing over creatures with 0 or 1 cost creatures. Once this is accomplished it uses Journey to Sovngarde to refill its deck with massively over-stat-ed creatures at which point a win is generally inevitable. Most of the play to the deck is not in executing the combo so much as defending yourself and finding the best way to prepare to go off. Word so far is that animation times on the combo are faster on the new client, which means the already very powerful deck that has dominated in the hands of a small number of players who have learned to adequately pilot it may reach even greater heights.
You really thought this wasn’t gonna be on the list?
While not played by many I do believe that Tempo Assassin is an extremely potent choice given the right meta and seeing as we are in an aggressive meta right now the deck is in a solid spot. For a more complete run down on the deck see my article: https://teamrankstar.com/endozoas-comprehensive-guide-to-tempo-assassin/
The meta has changed a surprising amount since QuakeCon and there is still a lot of room for innovation. While a few of the decks on this list have seen more limited play in recent times (Mid BM, Strike Monk, Miracle Scout, Tempo Assassin) I expect all of the others to be strongly represented at the upcoming tournament and the previously mentioned to still have significant presence. The overall meta is in a very aggressive state as far as tournaments are concerned so players should likely prepare for that unless they think that they want to beat the players trying to beat aggro… Best of luck to everyone participating!
Until next time,
Use the code “TRS12” to get 12% off your order at InkedGaming.com and support Team Rankstar directly!