Lights Out – Aggressive Midrange

Eternal has undergone a substantial shift since The Dusk Road and Dead Reckoning were released. The days of glacial control decks are long gone, grindy midrange has never felt more vulnerable, and hyper-aggro is suffering from Hailstorms, Unseen Commandos and metagame shifts. All of this has coalesced to one fact: if you want to win the most games, you should be playing an aggressive midrange deck.

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When I say “aggressive midrange deck,” I mean a deck that isn’t solely focused on aggression (it has the ability to play reactively), but that can play aggressively when needed. Examples include most of the good decks right now – Argenport midrange, Hooru Fliers, TJP Midrange, etc. Aggressive midrange decks are much harder to attack when they are dominating the metagame than previous apex predators like Feln control, Big Combrei, Chalice, and Stonescar aggro. The tools to fight back are less effective when the target can shift its plan to fight whatever you’re trying to do against it.

Why is Aggressive Midrange Less Vulnerable Than other Archetypes?

Control and big midrange decks are excellent at surviving the early game, and have a lot of redundant tools so that they can sculpt the game the same way every time, whether those tools are removal spells or big blockers. However, since their early game is so focused on cards like Hailstorm and Combrei Healer that can’t really be used offensively, they are very vulnerable to hate cards. There are many obvious and effective counters to decks like this: Azindel’s Gift, Stand Together, over-the-top combo decks like Crown Roaches or Mask of Torment. A slow deck can never be TOO dominant, because the counters are extremely effective at punishing their inability to end the game in a timely fashion, and you have plenty of time to draw into your hate cards or combos.

Hyper-aggressive decks have an efficient and proactive game plan, and if they are ignored they will kill you very quickly. Like control decks, however, there are obvious hate cards that are extremely effective at shutting them down: Hailstorm, Lightning Storm, Combrei Healer, Harsh Rule, Unseen Commando. Linear aggro decks have the same problem that control decks do when they become the primary target of the metagame: they cannot adapt to hate. The nature of aggressive decks is such that nearly every card must committed to the primary gameplan of early aggression. If you draw too many removal spells or discard spells or burn spells, you won’t have enough cheap units to pressure the opponent and win the game.  If you’ve ever played an FPS Screaming Queen deck, you know what I mean – sometimes you have hands full of Madness and Devour instead of Charge units and can’t finish the game. When low-to-the-ground aggro becomes too popular, it lacks the tools to fight through the hate aimed its way.

Aggressive midrange decks have a collection of efficient units, removal, and card advantage or protection for their units. If the opponent is up to some durdle-y nonsense, they can play some big units and disruption and kill them. If the opponent is playing 1-drops and burn, they can sit back and block until they wrest board control back and finish the game in a few turns. The 3 and 4 drops are good enough to stop the 1 and 2 drops, and they are also good enough to pressure the control decks. Eternal’s midrange units can really do it all.

The real kicker, though, is what disqualified the previous two king-of-the-hill archetypes: there are no effective hate cards that just shut down these aggressive midrange decks. Harsh Rule? Cool, rebuild with a unit that can win the game on its own. Crown of Possibilities? Neat, attack you for 9 and hold up Stand Together. Azindel’s Gift? You’re already dead from having this uncastable in hand for the last seven turns while I fought for board advantage. When decks exist that ARE tough matchups for the aggressive midrange decks, they are flexible enough to adapt and fight these new threats. They aren’t locked into having a threshold of cheap threats because they can afford to play the long game. They don’t need a certain number of finisher cards or removal spells because they can use their units for all of that. There is plenty of space to adjust the deck to whatever is popular.

There are a lot of other upsides to playing aggressive midrange besides being difficult to hate out:

You have game against any random deck you meet because you can always default your plan to just beating them down. You don’t lose to greedy piles or clunky combo decks.

Your card quality is extremely high – you generally aren’t playing any cards that are weak on their own and need synergy. That means your topdecks are better and your opening hands are more consistent.

Your game plan is very consistent. You have very few auto-loss games to bad draws because you have plenty of cheap cards and won’t be stuck with a hand full of cards that are bad in any matchup.

What’s the Downside?

Honestly, there’s not much – defaulting to playing aggressive midrange decks when you don’t know what to play will serve you well. The weaknesses become more apparent in solved metagames where the main decks are known.

When the metagame narrows and they know what to target, control decks and bigger midrange decks can be built to have as few dead cards as possible against the popoular decks and have good matchups against them. Removal Pile is good against Argenport, for example, and bigger Time decks like Praxis are good against smaller Time decks like Combrei aggro. Slower decks can stretch out the game to the point that power becomes dead draws for the aggressive midrange deck and then overpower them.

Even in these unfavorable matchups, though, aggressive midrange decks can steal matches by having a more streamlined gameplan and a better early game. It’s impossible to stress how important and how powerful being proactive is.

The decks may change, from Combrei to Xenan to Argenport to Hooru, but the plan is timeless – play efficient units with some support spells and get them dead. Go forth and beat some people up.

LightsOutAce