This is Isochron presenting Meta Monday.
The following people made this article possible:
This week also features NotoriousGHP’s take on the metagame, which will hopefully become a monthly feature for Meta Monday.
As always, if you want your name in the article, make sure to submit your games to our form (which you can find by clicking here). If you have a large data set (over 50 games), you can DM it to /u/IsochronEternal on Reddit or to [TRS] Isochron#0801 on discord. If you want to talk about your experiences with the metagame, please join the TRS discord.
A lot of people submitted a lot of games to us this week, so we had a total of 452 games recorded in our data set. This is double of what we had two weeks ago and I can’t thank everyone who contributed enough. Since we hit my own self-imposed threshold of 400, two things are different in this article.
First, I will use more precise rounding. The reason I round to the nearest .5 or .0 is because I don’t want to make a data set seem too precise. I’m not confident that a deck with a 2.3% player base is more popular than a deck with a 2.6% player base if the difference is just one reported game. However, I am fairly confident that less aggressive rounding results in clearer data with a sample size this large.
The second thing that will change is that I will be looking at some tier 4 decks. And the more entries we have, the more tier 4 decks I will put in the article. My cutoff for a “well enough represented” deck has been 5 reported games, and I intend to keep it that way as long as it’s a manageable standard. So there will be more tier 4 decks if we manage to hit 500, 550 or even 600 games recorded next week. But now we need to have our regular explanation of how I define tiers. But keep in mind, the percentile cutoffs for tiers are completely arbitrary and just serve to divide a lot of data into a readable format.
(Tier 0 – Overwhelmingly popular, this is the deck you’re most likely going to face on ladder.)
Tier 1 – Very popular, a sizable minority of your ladder games will be against Tier 1 lists.
Tier 2 – Popular decks that you should keep in mind.
Tier 3 – Obscure decks that you’re unlikely to run across.
(Tier 4 – Very rare decks, only one person could be playing them.)
FJS has risen dramatically this week, now making up 15% of the metagame, with Rakano Aggro also rising by 2%. Skycrag Aggro is represented by 50% more than it was last week, while Jennev Peaks is stable. The ladder meta seems to be fairly solved by this point. FJS beats basically everything, while Rakano Aggro punishes decks that try to go too big. I would personally guess that Skycrag Aggro only increased in popularity due to the fact that people are trying to grind to Masters. Because even though we did not observe this in the last month’s data set, people could be switching over from their own decks to Skycrag Aggro to make the diamond grind go by faster. Another plausible explanation is that Skycrag Aggro beats TJP Control, which makes playing it more appealing.
Before we move onto the tier 2 and tier 3 decks, we have to tackle metagame diversity, which is the reason I think the metagame has become fairly solved. Last month, 35% decks on average had less than 2% representation in the metagame. This shows that people are playing unpopular decks alongside playing popular decks. The high point for fringe decks with less than 2% representation was week 4 of February, with 42% of decks falling into that category. The low points were both week 3 of February and week 1 of march, both of which had 31% fringe deck representation. This week, 26% of people were on fringe decks. This means that only one in four people are playing brews or unpopular decks. It does not necessarily mean that Eternal is doomed or DWD absolutely needs to push through some meta shaking changes, but less people are choosing to brew on ladder. This could just be because people want to win more at the start of the month, but we need more historical data to back up either of these claims. We simply don’t have enough information on trends to draw any definitive conclusions about why decks got less diverse.
But now, in tier 2 we have a fairly expected array of decks. Combrei Ramp has lost a bunch of players, but not enough to drop out of the running altogether. Feln Reanimator also dropped somewhat in player base, but mostly holds onto its relative position. TJP Control, Xenan Midrange, and Maul have shifted spots a bit, but are still near where they were last week. Combrei Ramp can out-value FJS and Jennev Peaks, so it’s a good choice to beat those decks. TJP Control can put up a respectable fight against FJS and any other midrange list. Xenan Midrange has game against FJS and Jennev Peaks, alongside being able to put up a fight against aggro. Maul is in a great spot against FJS, Jennev Peaks, and also some of the decks that beat FJS and Jennev Peaks. But overall, this mostly just establishes that the most popular tier 2 decks are those that beat the tier 1 midrange decks, but have a harder time against aggro lists. This is aside from Feln Reanimator which is powerful enough on its own that it has managed to see this much play even without considering its metagame position (which is fairly good too). Feln Reanimator might not be the meta killer many people hyped it out to be, but it’s a powerful deck and can perform respectably.
In tier 3 we have another fairly expected set of decks. More people are moving off Haunted Highway to play Rakano Aggro, so Haunted Highway dipped in popularity. Praxis Tokens has stayed very stable throughout the past month, so we almost expect it to occupy a spot around 2% by now. FJS Paladins was a solid tier 3 contender last week, and remains a solid option this week. It’s an alternative version of FJS, and those who want to play parts of that strategy in a more aggressive shell can play FJS Paladins. Kerendon Midrange still continues to be a decent midrange option.
This would be an awfully boring tier 3, were it not for the new entrants. The most interesting which is the Kerendon Talir deck, this is basically just a hybrid of Xenan Talir combo and Big Combrei, which includes 8 merchants to get both a Talir and a Vodakhan from the market. It’s a very interesting option for anyone who likes combo, and definitely worth checking out. It’s also a masterclass in deck building since it’s able to pull of very powerful combo plays, even with nerfed destiny. Praxis Midrange is also back in tier 3 and it’s a very solid choice for the current metagame. Playing time midrange can win some games just on pure unit quality, so playing the best time units has merit. And finally, Mono Justice is back on the map as an alternative to mainstream aggro decks. This is definitely a very interesting deck, using some really old school technology to put up a fast game. Although I’m not certain about the power level of this deck, it’s one of the more fun options out there.
In tier 4, we have Scrappy Hour and FJS Helm, which have both fallen out of favor in the tier 3 category. FJS Helm is ultimately just not a consistent deck, although it still has fight left in it. My bet for Scrappy Hour falling in popularity is the fact that more and more FJS lists are playing Harsh Rule. The two more interesting decks are the Feln Midrange and Stonescar Aggro, both of which have not been seen very much play in the set 5 metagame. Feln Midrange was a big player in set 4, but practically died out with set 5. Stonescar Aggro is a classic list that has been outclassed by Haunted Highway for a few sets now. The popularity of Stonescar Aggro is probably related to camat0 putting up an ETS finish with the deck, while Feln Midrange seems to just be a consistent fringe deck choice.
Now, moving on to the breakdown of archetypes and factions:
Factions are back to being as unhealthily distributed as they were before, and it’s mostly due to FJS returning to being more dominant. The gap between primal (which is now the least played faction) and fire is 21.8%, with only justice coming close at a 7.2% difference. For context, the difference between the most and leased played factions was 11.5% last week, and Fire and Justice were divided by only 1.5%. The only significant change in the distribution of archetypes is that midrange-control has drawn in 4% of the midrange player base.
NotoriousGHP’s Tier List
Since our current Metagame Breakdown is just based on popularity, I consulted with Team Rankstar’s foremost competitive player about his take on the powerlevel of decks. This is what NotoriousGHP had to say.
All of these decks have very few bad match-ups, and even the bad match-ups are typically against other tier 1 decks (Temporal is bad into maul, Maul is terrible into Highway.), and continue to put up amazing results while being extremely represented in events.
These are decks with a couple bad match-ups that still have game against the vast majority of the field. But although these decks seem very powerful, they haven’t been able to put up enough consistent results regardless of their play rate, but all of these could easily become tier 1.
All of these decks are powerful, but don’t often have the greatest results, as they all feel like they’re lacking something compared to higher tier decks. These are all still reasonable deck choices.
Decks that see play, but really, I don’t think these will put up results in the near future, and I don’t necessarily recommend playing them.
Now that I knew what GHP thought was good, I asked him about some specific decks that I thought were interesting. The tier list GHP made does not directly match up with deck popularity, and talking about these disparities is very interesting. Also, some of the decks are very interesting, as different players disagree on their power level. This is what GHP had to say.
Haunted Highway has game into every deck alongside many strong match-ups against top tier decks such as Maul and Temporal. The deck continues to put up results in hands of the best pilots.
Scrappy Hour has some extremely good match-ups (most control decks), but sometimes has consistency issues and near unwinnable match-ups against Maul and Temporal. And it can struggle against FJS lists that run a play set of Harsh Rule, despite having a good match-up against lists that only run a board wipe in the market.
FPS Control is very similar to Scrappy Hour, it has some extremely good match-ups like FJS. But FPS isn’t currently popular because it didn’t get the same sort of support that FTP did. It also has some real bad match-ups, specifically Scrappy Hour, Temporal, and Maul. These decks are popular and strong enough to keep FPS off the radar.
Talir Combo can struggle if put under pressure or forced to play fairly. The deck has a major issue against Cobalt Waystone and struggles especially with Temporal Control. Despite this, Talir combo is an extremely powerful deck and one of Eternal’s few true combo decks. And even despite nerfs, this deck can draw your entire deck on turn 5, giving it a way to win against almost any draw.
Feln Reanimator is a deck I don’t personally like, but a lot of people have had success with it so I can’t say that it’s altogether unplayable.
Seeing how GHP had such words of praise for Haunted Highway, which currently sits at 2.4% player base on the ladder, I asked him about why Rakano Aggro is much more popular, while only being tier 2 on his list.
Rakano aggro is significantly easier for players to build since it costs very little. And it also has some very explosive draws. Winning with Rakano also feels very good. Who doesn’t like to go Highland Sharpshooter + Warhelm and top deck a massive charge unit? Those games are so memorable that we keep playing Rakano. Highway has more non-games, which causes more memorable negative game experience, while also being significantly harder to play perfectly. Some people just find it harder to climb with Haunted Highway.
What do you think is the best deck to bring to a heavily FJS ladder?
I think Haunted Highway or Temporal control are currently the best ladder decks. Both have generally solid match-ups across the field, but I lean towards Haunted Highway because it has a much higher number of games per hour compared to temporal.
I have personally not had a ton of success with Temporal, is it just because I’m a bad player?
If you aren’t rocking a 99% win rate with temporal, you clearly aren’t doing enough galaxy brain math to determine that temporal + harsh rule + brilliant idea for a billion cards = ez game wins.
But jokes aside, Temporal is a deck that can have varying success rates. Sometimes it’s completely insane and has it all. But it sometimes struggles with how expensive its cards are and just can’t find the right answers. These awkward games are what determines a great temporal player. The deck is so different from other decks and requires a ton of knowledge and practice to perform well. If you want to play temporal but are worried about your win rate, just keep jamming games and practicing, because you won’t learn how to pilot it from being good at other decks.
But let’s turn this interview on its head, I’m going to ask the interviewer, Isochron something: You get to pick one item on my tier list and tell me I’m wrong about it and why, without me being able to argue, what is it and why?
See that’s a hard question because you have brought me over to your side on mostly everything that I had doubts about. However, I think that you have a really small case of the Kennadin syndrome. Haunted Highway is definitely very good into this meta, but I think it’s tier 1.5 unless it has a truly exceptional pilot.
I’ve been officially diagnosed by Doctor Isochron.
Eternal Tournament Series
Although I said that Haunted Highway is probably tier 1.5, it also won the ETS Invitational. But as I also said, a fantastic pilot can truly make it play like a true tier 1 list, and DrPringles is definitely a fantastic pilot. Congratulations to DrPringles for taking down such a big tournament.
Deck Spotlight – FTS
High profile tournaments in metas that have been figured out don’t usually inspire brewing, but this did not stop IIIserbIII, who brought FTS Midrange. This deck isn’t special, in that FTS Midrange has been a fringe archetype for a month now, but having the guts to bring such an off-meta deck to a very big tournament is admirable nonetheless.
The deck has some very interesting features, instead of running four Seek Power, the deck runs 2 of Seek Power, Find the Way, and Petition. This is to drive more value for the late game, as Seek Power is only that useful in the early game. And IIIserbIII made the choice to drop most of their early cards to have a better late game. Although a lot of the deck is early game removal, like Torch, Annihilate, and Vara’s Choice, these cards won’t necessarily come down on turn 2. The only other card that has a 2 cost is Quarry, which is the only true 2 drop in the deck. There is a case to be made that Vara’s Choice is also best played on turn 2, but I can’t agree with that in the current meta. The threats only start coming on board on turn 4, and waiting to discard them later has better chances of working out. Although this widely depends on the general game plan in a specific match.
The deck runs only 8 three drops, and only one of these is a merchant. Amaran Stinger is a fairly good card after the buff, so it makes sense that IIIserbIII chose to run it. Kerendon Merchant needs no explanation, but we might want to dive deeper into the market. Instead of going for a balanced market, IIIserbIII chose to aggressively focus on their game plan and hating out their opponent. Burglarize is a great tool whenever someone plays martyr’s chains. Steward of the Past is a massive blow to any deck that’s hoping to recur their void, and given the popularity of Display of Ambition, this is a large part of the field. Xenan Temple also helps with avoiding recursion while being a powerful card in itself. Dizo’s Office serves as one of the best top end stabilizers and I think IIIserbIII made the right choice in putting it in the market instead of main decking it. It’s a phenomenal card, but it doesn’t add onto the deck’s game plan. And the market is finished off with an Azindel, which the pilot almost never wants to draw, but very often wants to play.
The deck itself is just full of good cards, the Xenan Temple, Heart of the Vault, and Xo are massive engines for card advantage, while Sandstorm Titan, Statuary Maiden, and Vara help shut down any early game nonsense. This is a very straightforward game plan and should be a respectable choice for ladder just due to it’s sheer power.
Back when FJS was un-nerfed, and rapidly taking over the metagame I wrote this article. This week we had five very different FJS builds     . And since that premise is a great one for a section, I’m writing a followup. So, for the core of FJS, these are the cards that every decklist had:
4 Seek Power (Set1 #408)
3 Torch (Set1 #8)
3 Quarry (Set1001 #15)
3 Display of Ambition (Set5 #239)
4 Red Canyon Smuggler (Set5 #198)
2 Slay (Set2 #236)
4 Vara, Vengeance-Seeker (Set1004 #19)
3 Rizahn, Greatbow Master (Set4 #246)
4 Xo of the Endless Hoard (Set5 #36)
1 Bore (Set1003 #1)
As we can see, even fundamentals like running 8 smugglers or playing 4 torches are contested (mostly by Kroge), there’s still plenty of diversity in FJS decks, although this does not necessarily mean that the metagame is diverse. But the list of cards above is not really a good basis to start building FJS from, so it can’t be called the true core of FJS in my opinion. When we remove the outliers, we get something like this:
2 Defiance (Set5 #77)
4 Seek Power (Set1 #408)
4 Torch (Set1 #8)
4 Quarry (Set1001 #15)
4 Display of Ambition (Set5 #239)
4 Red Canyon Smuggler (Set5 #198)
4 Hidden Road Smuggler (Set5 #210)
2 Slay (Set2 #236)
4 Vara, Vengeance-Seeker (Set1004 #19)
4 Rizahn, Greatbow Master (Set4 #246)
4 Xo of the Endless Hoard (Set5 #36)
1 Bore (Set1003 #1)
1 Harsh Rule (Set1 #172)
Note: This section was originally written as a form of informational entertainment to showcase the trends in FJS lists, however, it turned out to be quite useful. If you’re looking for an FJS list to take to ladder and don’t like the options out there, following along to this guide will actually give you a fairly respectable deck list.
This is what I would consider the fundamental core of FJS, but as we saw with the universal card selection, it’s possible to cut some cards from the core and have the archetype still work, although that’s not a strategy I can suggest to people who are not great tuners. But here’s a quick guide to building your own FJS deck, according to the trends at the ETS invitational. To start off with, copy the core of the deck list into the Eternal client.
The first choice that you have to make is whether you want to run Vanquish or Slay as your main piece of removal. If you want to run Vanquish as your main piece of removal, just add 3 Vanquish to your main deck. If you want to run Slay, add 2 additional slay to the main deck and a vanquish into the black market. If you’re not happy with your suite of removal, you can add 1 Annihilate into the main deck to supplement the removal of your choice.
Then, it’s time to decide whether you want to play Regent’s Tomb in the main deck or the market. If you want to play it in the main deck, just add 4 copies of it to the main deck. If you want to play it in the market, that’s fine too, but you should then probably also consider adding 3 statuary maidens into the main deck.
Now, before figuring out the rest of the deck, you should figure out power, especially whether you should play any copies of Winchest Cargo alongside Seek Power. If you feel like the deck does not draw enough power at the start of the game, just add 3 copies of Winchest Cargo. Worst case, they become Contraband and you get a random card. After that’s finished, choose either 25 or 26 power, with 9-12 Crests and some seats and Sigils of your choice to flesh it out.
After you have done this, you’re probably running out of slots in the main deck, but if you have any main deck space left, you can run 2 Dizo’s Office as an additional finisher. If you don’t have any main deck space and still want to run Dizo’s Office, remove some non-core cards from the deck. If you still have some main deck space left at this point, choose some good card in FJS to flesh the deck out, there are tens of these cards and most of them help with the strategy. I would personally recommend trying Inquisitor Makto or Suffocate.
After you finish up the main deck, there are still some choices for the market, those being Adjudicator’s Gavel, Martyr’s Chains, and Deepforged Plate. Choose whichever of these will complement your strategy the best.
Once you have completed all of these steps, you have a perfectly stock FJS list that fits your own personal play style. If you want to be a bit more radical, you can tune the deck differently than anyone in the ETS did, but these steps are the general consensus on how to build FJS among these 5 decks that made day 2 of the ETS invitational.
This has been Isochron with Meta Monday.