Argenport gored the metagame last patch, and DWD took notice. Unlike 1.25’s “card changes” that were aimed at draft, 1.26 had some pretty serious implications. Bartholo went from 3 to 4, which seems to have priced him out of constructed for now. Without Bartholo for lifesteal racing and free wins, Argenport has gotten far weaker as a faction and Tavrod has exited the Public Enemy Number One Spotlight. Several other cards changed as well, most notably Purify, Vara’s Choice and Beckoning Lumen.
With Argenport falling off as the top dog, two of the decks it was holding down jumped to the fore. Armed with their new cards, both Praxis and Xenan forced their way into the spotlight. Naturally, the metagame responded. Praxis in particular was vulnerable to aggressive decks, and without the omnipresent threat of Lethrai Falchion aggro gained back valuable ground. Control decks also started to reappear, most notably a Chalice resurgence and the new Big Xenan lists. Without the warping effect of Tavrod, the metagame became more open with a healthy balance of aggro decks, midrange, and control. At the moment, aggressive decks are the most popular including aggressive midrange variants, but the format is just shaking of its Midrange inertia and starting to grow. At the moment, you can be successful with nearly any deck, as the metagame is wide open enough to accommodate all styles and there’s no Public Enemy Number One.
The Tier List
Keep in mind that in a rapidly evolving metagame a single piece of new technology can throw everything out of whack, but the following list should be a good snapshot of how things were the week of the ETS World Championships.
Explanation of Tiers
Tier 1 – These are the most successful and prominent ladder decks at the moment.
Tier 2 – These decks are powerful and great ladder choices, though noticable less popular or powerful than tier 1 decks.
Tier 3 – These decks are usually quite powerful when they go off, but need a strong draw to work or have some other exploitable weakness. Fine choices for the ladder, especially if the metagame favors them or you minimize their weaknesses.
Tier 4 – These decks are less powerful than Tier 3 decks or are wildly inconsistent.
Decks in italics were not on the previous Tier List.
Official Tier List
Explanation of Tiers
The more things change, the more they stay the same. Before Tavrod took over the metagame, Burn Queen was queen. Burn Queen had a hard time competing in Tavrod’s meta, so it’s dropped its curve down to Stonescar Rally – think the old Jito decks, just without Jito. Tavrod may now be dehorned, but the metagame is still full of ponderous midrange and control decks trying to go over the top. With a good hand, it generally kills you on turn 4 or 5 unless you’re playing Lightning Storm or Copperhall Baliff – neither of which are a common sight on ladder. However, the deck is fairly inconsistent and its weak hands put on far less pressure than conventional aggro decks. High risk but high reward and with few storms to counter it, Stonescar Rally is the favourite choice of fast ladder players at the moment.
Last time around, Praxis was good against everything but Argenport. What happens when you take away Argenport? Praxis lost its counter deck, but the meta added two fast aggro decks in Stonescar and Skycrag to punish its ponderous starts. The new Purify helps Praxis cull the early aggression and gives it a nice utility card against opposing Dawnwalkers, but doesn’t do all the heavy lifting. The deck remains somewhat vulnerable to aggro, but has some of the strongest cards in the game and plenty of late game for a midrange deck.
Right up there with Praxis is midrange partner-in-crime Xenan Midrange. We see a wider ranger of viable Xenan builds, from aggressive builds to more standard midrange to lifeforce shells. Held back before as the number 3 midrange deck, its now a solid number two that trades some of the late game power of Praxis for a more versatile removal suite. Deciding whether you like this deck or Praxis more depends on what you’re facing and what sort of play styles you enjoy.
Skycrag decks are back and they’re fast! Often sporting the Paradox tech of Steelfang Chakram, these decks stick to the original plan of attack early and often. Good hands snowball quickly and they’re more resilient to sweepers than the Stonescar decks. However, Sandstorm Titan remains an omnipresent problem and they have a harder time fighting though Midrange than most aggro decks. With Time based midrange so popular, the deck loses ground.
Argenport hit a lot of notes Chalice didn’t like, but with Argenport loosening its stranglehorn on the metagame we’re seeing a resurgence. Both Stonescar and Skycrag try to go under and Praxis and Xenan can play the long game, but Chalice is more than ready to outgrind everyone else. If they’re able to tune themselves up the curve a little to avoid losing late to Midrange, Chalice decks should be able to push back on top.
Dark Combrei combines the traditional Combrei core with a little Slay and a little Banish to end up with a midrange Combrei deck + removal. As has often been the case, this works out pretty well as long as the power is solid. Without going to greedy, the deck gets to cherry pick some of the best cards from several factions. However, it remains weak to decks that can go under it or over the top.
Big Xenan is the logical endpoint of the curve raising Xenan Midrange decks. Packing up to 8 or more six drops, this deck can go over the top of even Big Praxis. The deck has a great number of powerful cards, but lacks speed and is forced to rely on Stray into Shadow as its sweeper. You can go under it, or through it if you have a strong enough draw.
Everyone’s favorite tournament deck TJP Midrange sees a fair amount of ladder play as well. Tokens plus Obelisk plus Crystallize do the job here, but the decks perfect powerbase asks a lot from its pilots, and since its mostly tuned for tournament play you get some awkward games. If this is going to succeed as a ladder list, the deck needs to select the correct tech cards for its matchups – difficult to do into a varied field of decks.
Big Combrei has a number of things going for it – sweepers and removal, strong late game, powerful value engines. Unfortunately, it also runs into a few problems – it has a very difficult time outgrinding Chalice and can even be ground out by Praxis or Xenan if you don’t have enough lategame cards. If you go too high to the ground, you risk being run over by aggro. Deckbuilders need to walk a tightrope with their builds – something Combrei players are not accustomed to needing to do.
Armory is a very dangerous word to use nowadays – many decks play no Artisan, no Stash, only a few weapons. Some still do, and these FJS Harsh Rule – Maiden – Tavrod – Icaria decks have all been rolled into one. The deck has trouble with aggressive decks and Dawnwalkers, really shining at punishing non-time midrange and traditional control. There’s less and less of that in the metagame, so Armory’s stock is falling.
Feln, like Big Combrei, is finding it difficult to build the deck in a way that handles threats from all sides. Feln handles decks like Stonescar and Xenan quite well, but is vulnerable to getting burned out or outvalued by Praxis. Chalice or Armory present near non-games for Feln, and a stumble against an aggressive deck can easily be their death. A reliance on synergy and expensive cards makes Feln a difficult deck to position effectively.
Stonescar Sacrifice, the “new” old deck repopularized by Neon’s Obrak challenge ends up around here. I’m told it effectively stalls aggro and has game against large time decks that are vulnerable to Madness shenanigans. However, its weak to sweepers and decks prepared for this sort of “throw units at them” strategy.
Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Without Bart to hold them together, Argenport has removed most of the mediocre weapons from its list – and not found much to put back in. Argenport is a weak faction held together by a few powerhouse cards, and it just lost a key one. Lifesteal racing was a huge part of Argenport’s anti aggro plan, now it has lost that and is still vulnerable to players going over the top.
Somehow deader than Argenport, Rakano has ended up so far down even Unearthly won’t play it. It’s slower than other aggro decks, has no particularly powerful cards by modern standards (Plate is so last year) and lacks good draw filtering or late game. Without an aggressive opening, the deck is a nonstarter, and a single turn of stabilization often puts the game out of reach for Rakano. Things need to go well and keep going well for Rakano to be successful at the moment.
FUN AND INTERACTIVE
Combre Aggro and Elysian have combined to become TJP Midrange, Traditional Armory is just Armory nowadays, Tavrod Reanimator was a flash in the pan as was Hooru (tried it and dropped it).