TRS January 2019 TESL Tournament Meta Snapshot

Hi everyone, Endo here. Welcome to TRS’s first TESL tournament meta snapshot. This snapshot should help lift the veil on the current state of competitive play and give you a good idea of what to expect in the TRS Classic coming up on January 12th. Additionally this article documents the high level community’s opinions on the meta going into IoM. For this snapshot I invited several top TESL players to rank decks on a scale of 1-10 based on their overall power level in tournament play. Respondents considered decks assuming that they were brought in lineups properly built to support them but payed attention to the deck’s full matchup spread when rating them. Additionally, inspired by PVDDR’s recent pieces discussing deck difficulty in MTG I decided to add something extra to this particular snapshot and included a deck difficulty rating section for players to vote on. As always it should be noted that a deck being difficult does not make it good and as we will see later in the article there are plenty of relatively simple strong decks and difficult mediocre decks that exist in the tournament meta game. Difficulty ratings are based off a number of factors such as how punishing a deck is, how high of a barrier to entry it has, how much it requires knowledge of other decks in the meta, how much archetype knowledge it requires etc. I’ll discuss these various factors where applicable. For each category I’ll list the aggregate rating based on all respondents as well as my own score where applicable. Without further ado, here’s the list organized by aggregate power level top to bottom:

Miracle Scout:

Power: Aggregate: 9.22 Personal: 9.5

Miracle Scout is the clear consensus top deck in the TESL tournament meta, beating out the next highest rated deck by over a full point. The deck has been underutilized in competitive play for months, which I largely attribute to its games being a pretty terrible experience for most people involved, and buffs from FrostSpark have pushed it over the edge. The deck was also indirectly buffed from the recent balance changes as the nerf to Goblin Skulk made green aggro worse and therefore not as good at racing the combo while also reducing incentive to play decks with efficient ways to deal 2 damage, which happens to be important for killing Thieves Guild Fence on set up turns. Additionally the nerfs to Pathmage have made the deck even more consistent at racing Ox Combo.

As a brief summary for those unfamiliar with the deck, Miracle Scout aims to cycle through its deck as fast as possible by repeatedly playing 0 and 1 cost creatures into a full lane containing Disciple of Namira and ideally getting down a Thieves Guild Fence so that the 1 cost creatures become 0 cost as well. After most or all of the deck is drawn in this way Journey to Sovngarde is used to fill the deck with 1 cost 6/8s at which point winning is generally pretty simple.

Difficulty: Aggregate: 6.95 Personal: 6

Miracle Scout’s difficulty is quite abnormal in the TCG/CCG realm as what it is trying to do is pretty straightforward once you’ve watched a game or two of the deck in action and that gameplan remains very constant from game to game. Largely the deck is very linear and proactive, trying to do what it wants to do faster than its opponent can. The most conceptually difficult turns of the deck in a traditional tcg sense are the set up turns before it tries to go off, but this is still largely an exercise in optimal “goldfishing” so there isn’t too much you have to learn about how to change how you play these turns for different matchups. The actual execution of the combo can sometimes be tricky even if conceptually its pretty simple. A lot of the difficulty comes as a result not even of the complexity of decision making but the ability for the deck’s pilot to quickly input commands and make large quantities of simple decisions in a short time frame. This is something much more common to real time games so people coming to Legends from FPSs and MOBAs are likely to find themselves more at home with Miracle than those coming from other turn based strategy games like Poker or Go. Luckily for people who’s biggest strength is not APM there generally isn’t a huge difference between drawing 16 or 20 cards on a combo turn so punishment for suboptimal combo execution isn’t actually very high compared to many other decks. You definitely do need to get some practice games in with Miracle before taking it to a tournament but once you have the general strategy down you’ll already be able to execute the deck at a high enough level to warrant playing it.

Sample List: Petamax Miracle Scout

TC Telvanni

Power: Aggregate: 8.20 Personal: 8

TC Telvanni has had a slow rise to power since Houses of Morrowind’s release. The deck is one of the most durable and consistent in the game, with a solid early game, efficient interactive and proactive tools, and one of the best “fair” end games in Tullius’ Conscription. TC Telvanni can fall prey to decks that go over it like its cousin Ox Telvanni, Miralce Scout, or Doomcrag Warrior, but has a decent enough proactive plan of its own that those matchups generally aren’t a total wash. The recent nerf to TC did close to nothing and nerfs to other decks made it so that TC Telvanni largely came out of the balance patch better than it entered it.

Difficulty: Aggregate: 4.20 Personal: 3

TC Telvanni has a very linear gameplan and while Legends itself is inherently difficult, TC Telvanni both ignores a lot of the board based interaction that adds difficulty to the game and doesn’t bring a whole lot new to the table if you have experience with control as an archetype when compared to other decks in the game. The Telvanni package as a whole does consistently give the player options (what to keep off Camel, what to bring back with Necromancer, etc) but none of these are features unique to the deck. As a result, even players new to the deck can pick it up relatively quickly and can expect their results to largely depend on their ability to play control as an archetype as well as their skill more broadly with the game.

Sample List: Eyenie TC Telvanni

Ox Telvanni

Power: Aggregate: 8.10 Personal: 8

Despite nerfs to Genius Pathmage, Ox Telvanni remains a premier deck for competitive play. Ox Telvanni has access to many of the same fantastic control tools that make its cousin TC Telvanni so durable. It sacrifices a small amount of consistent efficient interaction for a much more powerful proactive plan based around a late game combo kill. The great thing about Ox Telvanni is that its combo pieces are decent cards in their own right and so the sacrifice it makes to have access to this late game plan is quite manageable. Ox Telvanni has become a little bit riskier as top aggro decks have become more refined over the months but it has decent matchups across the board and particularly in the hands of a skilled pilot is a force to be reckoned with regardless of what it finds itself up against.

Difficulty: Aggregate: 6.95 Personal: 8

Much of any Telvanni Control deck’s early to mid game is pretty straightforward but as the game progresses the number of lines available to Ox Telvanni get more and more numerous as well as complex to decipher. Its hard to think of a deck in the game that can reward you for putting large quantities of time into it as much as Ox Telvanni. However, somewhat like Miracle Scout, the countless small edges that a pilot can gain over a lengthy career with the deck, while quite important, are not essential. You can very easily miss an OTK combo with the deck but still end up generating such an absurd amount of value that as long as you can’t be killed immediately you’ll be in a good spot to win the game anyway.

Overall though I think the barrier to entry with Ox Combo is much higher than say with Miracle Scout. There are a few core combos that you will need to sit down and walk your way through on paper before you even think about bringing the deck to a tournament and it is very multidimensional, capable of finding many different routes to victory. Of course you can win a lot of games just by being a control deck and running your opponent out of resources or executing a combo at a mediocre level but there is a crazy amount you can learn with the deck and watching a novice vs advanced pilot doesn’t even feel like watching the same deck being played.

Sample List: superthx Ox Telvanni

Token Crusader

Power: Aggregate: 7.75 Personal: 8

Token Crusader is one of TESL’s longest lived competitive powerhouses, with mono yellow decks having success going all the way back to the game’s beta. Token Crusader is historically good against other aggressive and midrange decks because of its ability to quickly take board control and deny trade priority against decks that are used to having it. It’s also generally powerful against anything relying on high cost single target interaction because of its ability to go wide with several small threats, making cards like Lightning Bolt or Edict of Azura too low tempo to be used against it. The deck does lack fast interaction of its own though and when the corner is turned on it it can be very hard for it to come back. This lack of immediate interaction in the form of charge creatures and buffs to trick combat is the main downside to playing Token Crusader over Hybrid Aggro Crusader.

Difficulty: Aggregate: 6.75 Personal: Abstain

I personally lack significant experience with Token Crusader and so abstained from voting on its difficulty. However I can speak to the difficulty of Token decks in general and additionally to the added difficulty which comes with more fast interaction and the ability to change resource prioritization. Token decks in general are quite challenging because many of their threats need to be deployed in a specific order which can change game to game. Making micro mistakes resulting in missing Fifth Legion Trainer buffs or improperly setting up for a Pit Lion can and will lose you the game and understanding what to prioritize when is extremely difficult. Crusader specifically also gains more options as to what to prioritize than other token decks. Crusader can play for value at a tempo loss with things like Crusaders Assault, try to snowball the board with a Cloudrest, try to burst down one lane with an Orc Clan Captain, try to gain incremental edges while chipping damage, among many other lines of play. Token Crusader is a deck you will want to get solid experience with before you decide to take it to a tournament and what you can learn with it is very deep.

Sample List: Frenzy1 Token Crusader

Aggro Hlaalu

Power: Aggregate: 7.72 Personal: 9

While Miracle Scout may be the consensus most powerful deck in the tournament meta game, I personally think Aggro Hlaalu might be the defining deck of the current meta. There was a substantial difference in opinion regarding Hlaalu’s power with some players giving it a 9 like I did and others rating it as low as 6. I think this difference of opinion is largely due to mixed opinions on the relevance of the nerf to goblin skulk for Hlaalu. While many might see the deck as gutted because many of its historical “nut draws” incorporated Skulk I simply think that the deck doesn’t need to go turn 1 Skulk, turn 2 Oathman / Pit Lion to win games. Sure having draws like that that randomly won the game on their own was nice but the deck remains a major powerhouse and frankly is one of the decks that has benefited the most from its long time in development. Optimizing Tri-Color decks, particularly ones which have as wide an array of tools at their disposal as Hlaalu, is extremely challenging and so while the Skulk nerf hurts I’d say the deck is in a stronger place now than it was at QuakeCon simply due to the significant tuning it has received during that time period. Hlaalu is everywhere at the top tables and you need to have a plan to beat it or plan on banning it if you want to play in tournaments.

Difficulty: Aggregate: 6.44 Personal: 7

Hlaalu combines much of the difficulty of token decks with a range of its own challenges such as Gambler usage, Shadow Shift set ups, color prioritization to activate Oathman, and adapting to a wider range of draws. Hlaalu, in part as a result of being a 75 card deck, can play out in a number of ways and it will require experience to begin to see which route a game is likely to take and what direction you might want to push the deck into. As with any aggro deck, understanding racing vs board control, value vs tempo, etc is generally non-linear and has a huge ceiling for the pilot to explore.

Sample List: EndoZoa Aggro Hlaalu

Doomcrag Warrior

Power: Aggregate: 7.65 Personal: 8.5

Doomcrag Warrior is the king of the slow grindy game, eeking out small edges while stalling for an inevitable win either by burying its opponent in card advantage or literally taking them to fatigue since with Journey to Sovngarde it gets to play its entire deck twice. While Doomcrag is very susceptible to combo decks like Ox Telvanni and Miracle Scout it absolutely dominates other control decks that lack strong proactive win cons and in the hands of a skilled pilot does surprisingly well against aggressive decks as well. The deck does lean quite hard on its namesake Doomcrag Vampire as well as Shrine of Namira, making support removal one of the deck’s biggest banes, but highly skilled pilots can still find lines to keep themselves alive when they don’t hit their key pieces early. The deck has a high barrier to entry but the best Doomcrag Players are a force to be reckoned with.

Difficulty: Aggregate: 8.35 Personal: 9

I rated Doomcrag Warrior as the most difficult deck in this meta snapshot. Very strong players can still pick up the deck with limited practice and perform decently with it but for the vast majority of people it will require significant practice to obtain would I would consider even base level proficiency with the deck. Regardless of who you are, its a long long journey of learning and discovery to move from being an intermediate Doomcrag player to a truly strong one. If you think Doomcrag is something you might consider in the future then you should start getting some games in with it now. I know I tried messing around with the deck after it performed very well in testing with hakme about a week before QuakeCon and decided it just wasn’t worth having to invest the kind of time I would need to in order to feel comfortable with the deck in that short of a time before the event. If you are looking for a challenge and to reevaluate some of your base ideas about the game then Doomcrag might be a good deck for you to try.

Sample List: plzdonhakme Doomcrag Warrior

Aggro Warrior

Power: Aggregate: 7.60 Personal: 8

Aggro Warrior has been omnipresent in competitive play for the better part of a year now and it remains a key player in the meta game. If you ever have a slot in your lineup that you aren’t sure what to do with Aggro Warrior is a pretty safe bet since it has pretty even matchups across the board, being totally reasonable at racing other aggro decks or dominating board against them as well as having the speed and durability to get under more controlling opponents quite reliably. If you want to learn more about Aggro Warrior I recently wrote about it here.

Difficulty: Aggregate: 5.10 Personal: 6

Aggro Warrior has a fairly linear game plan and getting the basic idea of what you are trying to do matchup to matchup shouldn’t take too long. However the micro decisions that you must make with Aggro Warrior can be deceptively complex and tend to be extremely punishing. This is a deck that will punish you for missing one damage, will allow you to change the outcome of the game if you choose the right two drop, and will tear you a new one for a single lane misplacement. Its a fantastic deck to learn with because it teaches many game fundamentals quite effectively and I highly recommend it for any players interested in competitive play.

Sample List: EndoZoa Aggro Warrior

Hybrid Aggro Crusader

Power: Aggregate: 7.12 Personal: 8

Hybrid Aggro Crusader simply refers to Aggro Crusader decks that use a substantial amount of both red and yellow cards. This distinction is important because of the prominence of mono yellow (token) builds as well as mono red builds looking to take advantage of Resolute and Mighty Ally respectively.

While it is not a very common opinion in the competitive community, I personal believe that Hybrid Aggro Crusader is at least as strong if not stronger than Token Crusader. While Hybrid Aggro Crusader does not have as many snowball tools or quite as much raw beef to develop early, it has significantly more reach and fast interaction. I personally place a very high value on cards like Steel Scimitar which are unable to be used in Token Crusader and think that having mana efficient ways to immediately manipulate trades on board as well as regain board control when behind or simply off ring are extremely important for competitive play. Hybrid Aggro Crusader sacrifices some of the “nut draw” ability that comes with Resolute Ally, but as with post Skulk nerf Hlaalu I don’t think this is a major problem and that the overall increase in card quality that comes with better access to red and colorless cards is well worth the cost.

Difficulty: Aggregate: 6.93 Personal: 7.5

Hybrid Crusader, as the name likely implies, combines a number of different archetypes and as a result can play out in many different ways. While it is a 50 card deck I would argue that this flexibility is arguably even greater than Hlaalu’s as the deck can operate a bit like a Math Crusader, pooling burst damage in hand and setting up for a massive non-interactive push, a tempo deck, applying consistent pressure and forcing its opponent into a deeper and deeper hole preventing them from efficiently utilizing their resources, or even a midrange deck, controlling the board with an array of guard and charge creatures and running an aggressive opponent out of resources with a wide selection of card draw. Knowing which role to take when it is very challenging and as draw dependent as it is matchup dependent. Hybrid Crusader has the raw power for you to perform decently with it without too much practice but it is incredibly deep and will heavily reward those who seek mastery with it.

Sample List: Immortalaugust Hybrid Aggro Crusader

Aggro Redoran

Power: Aggregate: 7.12 Personal: 7.5

There are a number of different ways to build Aggro Redoran, most of which resemble a cross between Aggro Warrior and Hybrid Crusader. I tend to think of Aggro Redoran as being a small step bellow these two decks but the difference is very slight and a few players that I respect are of the opinion that it might even be slightly better. I think overall the dilution that comes with being a 75 card and subsequent reduction in synergy that follow is not balanced out by the expected slightly smoother curve or broader tool access. Its a very specific point but I think one of the big issues with Redoran compared to Warrior or Crusader is that it doesn’t get to proportionally increase its 1 drop density to the levels of its cousins. This is because in all 3 decks the best 1 drop by a mile is mudcrab merchant (in my opinion) and any copies of Illiac Sorcerer or Marked Man are really put in by necessity. There is a lot more to explore with Redoran and while I personally rate it a little lower than similar top tier aggro decks it should be on your radar when entering a tournament and you should do your due diligence and experiment to see if you have a preference for the 2 or 3 color variants of these decks.

Difficulty: Aggregate: 5.62 Personal: 5

This deck’s difficulty is quite comparable to Aggro Warrior’s in my opinion. I think its dilution reduces the prominence of some of the key synergistic elements of the deck however and causes it to require less deck specific knowledge to be successful. Of course there are lots of different types of draws to learn to navigate but because you cannot plan for your draws as well I think the deck tends to not have as many play patterns unique to it to learn.

Sample List: EndoZoa Aggro Redoran

Tribunal Control

Power: Aggregate: 7.06 Personal: 7

Tribunal Control has been an important deck in the competitive meta game since Houses of Morrowind and while it hasn’t seen as much success at the top tables as of later, it is an important consideration when building any lineup. Some decks are particularly soft to Tribunal so when building a lineup consider whether your lineup might require you to ban Tribunal if your opponent has it. Needing to ban it as opposed to something with higher raw power is a risk but can be worth it if its done with intention. Newer builds of Tribunal Control have adapted more proactive win conditions, generally either in the form of Genius Pathmage shenanigans or Tullius’ Conscription. However, the deck remains heavily reactive and is largely designed to out resource and out last Aggressive and Midrange decks. Given the recent heavily aggressive meta game, Tribunal could be a good call as long as the rest of your lineup has a solid plan against something like a Miracle/Ox/Doomcrag lineup.

Difficulty: Aggregate: 4.26 Personal: 3

This was one of the more divisive votes, with three respondents voting 3 and two respondents 7 with the rest of the votes for 4 or 5. Generally I find Tribunal Control to be quite straightforward in a very similar way to TC Telvanni. It has a very clear cut reactive gameplan, with durable threats and efficient interaction. Of course there is significant complexity to sequencing your interactive tools but the deck puts far less emphasis on race math, lane placement, or tempo maintenance than most competitive decks in the game and so ignores many of the inherently complex parts of the game that separate TESL from games like Hearthstone. The most important and challenging decisions with the deck are generally when to be proactive and when to be reactive: whether you should take a turn off to ramp or dig for a key card like an ice storm or if you need to contain your opponent’s immediate threat.

Sample Lists: Warriors7 Classic Control Tribunal, plzdonhakme TC Tribunal

Rage/TC Dagoth

Power: Aggregate: 7.00 Personal: 6

Rage Dagoth which lives somewhere in the grey area between midrange and control and in slower variants often includes TC, has been a quiet but consistent presence in tournaments for many months now. In the summer of 2018 Petamax worked extensively on the deck and in more recent times players on Listeners like Jele have put more time in on the deck. The deck has never been dominant, nor very popular, but you should be prepared to face it when entering a tournament. One of the big benefits of Rage Dagoth is its ability to apply very powerful threat when needed while also having access to lots of reactive tools. As with most Dagoth decks it is heavily variable and different draws will look very different but it can be a nightmare to play against because it has access to the “greatest hits” of both Mid Battlemage and traditional Rage Archer. As with all Dagoth decks, this deck is much weaker in tournament play than it is on ladder because, while it is still very hard to play around the wide array of tools at its disposal, its opponent does know what smattering of tools are in the particular build they are facing. Similar to Aggro Warrior I’d say that Rage Dagoth is a solid safe to choice to close out a lineup because it has game against every deck and strong plans regardless of matchup even if it is a bit inconsistent.

Difficulty: Aggregate: 5.16 Personal: Abstain

Similar to Mid Battlemage, much of the difficulty in Rage Dagoth comes from the necessity for the pilot to dramatically alter their play both based on matchup as well as draw. A Crown Quartermaster + Cornerclub Gambler opener plays very differently than a Fighters Guild Recruit + Crushing blow opener and being able to pivot your playstyle depending on what your hand supports is very important. Of course this variability is somewhat out of the pilots control and can cause the deck to feel somewhat “high-rolly” where half your deck might be very good for a particular matchup with the other half not so much. The deck’s draw will frequently dictate its play and being able to play Rage Dagoth will require the flexibility to adapt to the cards given to a more significant extent than other decks.

Sample List: Petamax Rage Dagoth

Hybrid Sorcerer

Power: Aggregate: 6.90 Personal: 6

While the core of the decks remain the same, board based Sorcerer builds have begun to diverge, with some being very low to the ground, going so far as to incorporate the likes of Siege Catapult, while others sport much heavier threatening tools deep into the mid and late game like Tel Vos Magister and Mighty Conjuring. Still other builds sit somewhere in the middle, not going quite as all in aggressive as the catapult builds or incorporating as heavy of a top end or value generating game plan as the midrange builds – let’s refer to these as Hybrid. Most competitive Sorcerer builds of recent memory exist in this Hybrid space. I’ve spent a lot of time working on Sorcerer builds the past few months and while the class is solid and can certainly fight with the best of them, I think it tends to fall a little short of some of the other options available on the whole. This is the case much more for tournament play than it is for ladder because one of Sorcerers big weaknesses is getting undercut by other aggro decks, which are both more common as well as far more refined in tournament play than they are on ladder. Sorcerer is remarkably durable though and is one of the better proactive board based strategies at fighting through the likes of tribunal thanks to its hefty and warded bodies, as well as its array of interactive tools, particularly silences, that help it push through and disrupt its opponents plan. I think Sorcerer is definitely a meta call but if you want to play aggro in a control meta it can be very powerful.

Difficulty: Aggregate: 3.45 Personal: 2

Sorcerer is the deck that I personally gave the lowest difficulty rating out of all decks in the snapshot. Now its important to note that I don’t think Sorcerer is easy, because I think that TESL is fundamentally hard. However compared to most other decks in the game Sorcerer’s decision making tends to be extremely linear: curve efficiently, take good trades, apply pressure when you can will get you pretty far on its own. Of course there is a ton of micro optimization that is very important to learn and will cause an amateur Sorcerer tournament player to look very different from an expert one. However, the barrier to entry on this deck is probably the lowest in the game and if you are newer to competitive play and have most of your experience on one or two decks, Sorcerer is an excellent choice to fill out your lineup.

Sample Lists: jele Hybrid Sorcerer, AlexJR Hybrid Sorcerer

Token Spellsword

Power: Aggregate: 6.50 Personal: 7

While Token Spellsword does live in the shadow of its cousin Token Crusader, it remains a relevant deck in the competitive meta with a high number of strong tournament finishes over the past few months. Token Spellsword has almost zero fast interaction which can make it quite difficult for the deck to come back from a losing position. However it contains some of the most durable and efficiently costed threats in the game and it requires a pretty bad draw for the deck to fail to establish a significant board presence early. Token Spellsword will make a fine addition to any lineup aiming to prey on decks unable to answer early dominant board control.

Difficulty: Aggregate: 5.57 Personal: 4

There is a high level of intrinsic difficulty to Token decks in TESL simply because of the number of trading and board placement options available. However, while Spellsword requires substantial foresight on the part of its pilot to understand where the game is headed and set up its game plan accordingly, it really has one mode, build a board, take good trades, push when you can. Honestly I think there are a lot of similarities to draw to Sorcerer as far as the straightforward gameplan is concerned, however execution is far more challenging.

Sample List: Frenzy1 Token Spellsword

Aggro Dagoth

Power: Aggregate: 6.375 Personal: 6

While hyper aggro builds of Dagoth like Karakondzhul’s from the last TRS Classic or Mattyborch’s from this past summer have seen close to zero tournament play as of late, they are still relevant decks to consider in the competitive meta game and beefier hybrid builds that move closer to the more popular Midrange Dagoth have been quite relevant in recent weeks. As with all Dagoth decks, Aggro Dagoth loses some of its power when used in tournaments because its opponent actually knows what it is playing against. Aggro Dagoth is still a very real choice and one of the better decks for racing and pushing raw damage in the game. It shares some of Tempo Assassin’s powerful racing ability making it quite strong in the aggro mirror, while not being quite as susceptible to aoe or guards.

Difficulty: Aggregate: 5.64 Personal: Abstain

I don’t have a lot of experience with Aggro Dagoth and honestly the label means so many things that its hard to give a concrete answer here. Racing focused builds are always very challenging to play because they break many rules about lane placement and since they are frequently “count to 30” decks, missing even 1 damage can be massively damaging. The more board centric builds should be a little more intuitive as they play by the rules of most other creature based decks in the game.

Sample List: Immortalaugust Aggro Dagoth

Tempo Assassin

Power: Aggregate: 6.35 Personal: 7

Tempo Assassin has very polarized matchups which makes it far better for tournament play than for ladder. The deck was hit hard by the skulk nerf but helped carry me to a lot of tournament success before the nerf and I am confident remains solid even after losing a key tool. There is no deck in the game that is better at the aggro mirror, however playing Tempo Assassin means accepting that you might need to ban Tribunal if it shows up. For this reason the deck is often best in lineups with other decks that want to ban Tribunal to begin with. While the deck is very targeted in its strengths, it is remarkably good at what it does and if you put in the time to learn it can do a lot of work for you.

Difficulty: Aggregate: 6.85 Personal: 8

Tempo Assassin combines a number of complex mechanical elements inherent to TESL and is very punishing for minor mistakes. Lane placement with the deck is often non-intuitive, as is resource management. Understanding how the deck operates can take some time and practice and novice Tempo Assassin players tend to not have great results. It takes a long time to really dig in and start to see all the different avenues the deck works in, so frankly I think one of the big things holding the deck back from seeing more tournament play is simply that many players don’t want to put in the time for the deck to become worthwhile (in the same way that I have avoided putting the time in necessary to make Doomcrag a good choice).

Sample List: EndoZoa Tempo Assassin

Mid Dagoth

Power: Aggregate: 6.22 Personal: 4

We’ve already looked at Aggro Dagoth and Rage Dagoth, now for Mid Dagoth which is in the middle and in my controversial opinion the worst of both worlds. Mid Dagoth is one of the better ladder decks currently available, but for high level pilots in tournament settings often plays as a diluted Mid Battlemage with some of greens best hits and Hand of Dagoth. The deck has been very popular in tournaments as of late but has also been one of the worst performing tournament decks, with its pilots routinely falling out in the opening rounds. Simply put, this deck often does not get too much control over how its games will play out and while it is a pile of good cards, it also lacks a lot of the synergy that make top tournament decks tick. People have been trying to figure Mid Dagoth out for tournaments for the better part of a year and it remains the mediocre performer it has always been.

Difficulty: Aggregate: 5.50 Personal: Abstain

As my rating of the deck’s strength should probably make pretty clear, its been a few months since I last thought it was worthwhile to pursue the Mid Dagoth problem. In general though I can say that this deck can take a variety of roles in various matchups depending on its draw and the way the game is progressing and knowing how to navigate and adapt to this unpredictable nature can be very skill intensive. Variance gets ramped up in Mid Dagoth compared to Mid Battlemage which in some ways adds difficulty because it reduces predictability, but in my opinion more significantly reduces difficulty because predictability is one of the primary ways that a deck can reward intimate knowledge with its workings (predictability enables anticipatory play based on deck and matchup knowledge much more meaningful).

Sample List: FierceInfinity Mid Dagoth

Mid Battlemage

Power: Aggregate: 5.95 Personal: 6

At and following QuakeCon I thought Mid Battlemage was the most powerful deck in the game. I continued playing it through the fall with several top tournament finishes and yet it now barely makes the cut on the meta snapshot. What happened? Well for starters I think the deck was likely rated a little low by basically everyone who filled out the snapshot since community sentiment has been recently declining regarding the deck’s strength. Mid Battlemage is the classic jack of all trades of TESL, the Jund or Abzan if you will, propelling top players via being 50/50 in every matchup. But recently as aggro has become more streamlined and decks in general become more and more tempo efficient it has seemed harder and harder to keep up as Battlemage. Recent nerfs also hurt Battlemage harder than might be immediately apparent. While the nerfs to Ash Berskerer had almost no effect on the deck’s ability to proc its ability, the stat reduction is very significant. Perhaps even more important though is that one of Mid BMs historical strengths has been dealing with Skulks and Skulk decks. Firebolt, Harpy, Wardcrafter, Cunning Ally, Vigilant Ancestor… these cards lose a lot of their historical strength and there is less reason to be a 50 card blue deck now than there used to be. It might be a good time to say that Skulk was comparably meta defining to cards like Ice Storm, there are decks previously discussed in this snapshot that are though of as good because they are good against Ice Storm. Being good against 2 mana 2/2s doesn’t matter anymore so one of the big incentives to play BM is gone. The deck is still very strong and very flexible so I wouldn’t go ringing the funeral bells quite yet but this is the lowest the competitive community has perceived the deck in the last year.

Difficulty: Aggregate: 7.40 Personal: 8

Mid Battlemage is historically a deck that heavily rewards extensive experience and developing mastery. Its flexible and can win in many different ways but as a result of this flexibility frequently barely gets over the line regardless of the avenue in takes to find the win. Of course their is some various involved where certain cards are targeted for certain matchups and at the end of the day you can’t control whether you draw what you need for the matchup you are playing. However understanding how to utilize tools that were not intended for the matchup you are playing in the most beneficial way is a complex task asked of you in most Mid Battlemage games to a degree higher than just about any other competitive deck.

Sample List: EndoZoa Mid Battlemage

Alright there’s the snapshot, can I leave the cage now? I’m hungry

(Lazergician’s editors note: no get back in the cage)

Best of luck to everyone playing in any upcoming events. What do you think about the ratings, any surprises?

Until next time,

-EndoZoa


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  1. […] an explanation of many of the common competitive archetypes see my tournament snapshot from earlier this month. All decklists from the event can be found […]

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