Thursday Tier List #14 – March 16th, 2017

Thursday Tier List #14 – March 16th, 2017

We moved to patch v1.18 last week, which contained a large number of buffs and nerfs aimed at shaking up the top decks. Rakano, Jito, Stonescar and Primal all received nerfs, which means all the top decks got worse – except Combrei. As you can imagine, people immediately jumped on the Combrei train, but are slowly starting to branch out again as we learn the true impact of the nerfs. The metagame is pretty ephemeral at the moment, shifting moment to moment as people find success with one deck or another. We’ll check back in next week for a better view of what we can expect long term.

What is the Purpose of the Tier List?

The tier list is essentially a metagame snapshot of what you can expect to see on ladder, with added comments from me explaining what decks are doing well and why they are doing well. For some players, this is very useful – they can pick up a deck that’s doing well right now and experiment it. For brewers, it’s even more useful – they get an easy checklist to see what they need to be prepared for and can tune their decks appropriately.

How do I use the Tier List?

The most important thing you can do to enhance your use of the Tier List is to read my in-depth explanations. As I said before, data without context is useless, so it does you no good to know that a deck dropped a tier without knowing WHY it dropped a tier. I put plenty of information about new tech cards to watch out for or play patterns, so make use of that information! Even if a deck didn’t move much, I’ll usually have something useful to say about it. Once you’ve got all the information, you’re better equipped to make a decision – is this week’s top deck a flash in the pan? Should I play it? Play something that’s good against it? The decision of how you want to attack the metagame is yours to make.

How is the Tier List created?

The tier list is developed by combining the opinions of four top players: Finkel, Unearthly, Neon, and myself. We keep track of what kinds of decks we face on ladder and how we did, then use that information plus our personal opinions to rank the decks. Finally, all four opinions are combined to form the final tier list. While this is an imprecise method, this is the best that we can do until we can get real stats from the ladder. Opinions have been formed based on the following assumptions:

  1. Decks have been ranked into their tier based on both win rate and popularity. The most popular and successful decks are Tier 1.
  2. There is no special formula for weighing popularity vs win rate; each player has their own opinions.
  3. Decks are listed within their tiers in approximate order of success. Therefore, a deck at the top of a tier is at least slightly better than the deck below it.

The best deck varies moment to moment and is difficult to predict, but all Tier 1 and Tier 2 decks are reasonable choices for climbing the ladder.

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.
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.

Official Tier List

Tier 1
Big Combrei/Vodacombo
Elysian Shimmerpack
Traditional Armory

Tier 2
Rakano Plate
Stonescar Burn/Burn Queen
Aggressive Combrei
Icaria Blue
Stonescar Midrange

Tier 3
Stonescar Jito
Feln Control

Tier 4
No decks are Tier Four this week.

Newly Unranked
5F Nictotraxian

Metagame Overview

It’s been three weeks since the last tier list, and we’ve seen a lot of movement. We’ve retracted to just the core decks on the tier list as players stick to what works in the face of a new patch. Rakito technically did not make the list this week, but definitely bears addressing. The deck had a huge surge of popularity towards the end of 1.17, but the Jito nerf in 1.18 stopped it short. With no urgency to climb ladder and the deck receiving a serious nerf, the deck lost a lot of ground.

Speaking of nerfs, the Jito nerf definitely had the most immediate impact, but it wasn’t the only deck hit. Rakano had been struggling recently and received an additional knock with the Crownwatch Paladin nerf, as well as splash damage from the Soulfire Drake influence increase. Rakano’s power was tight as is and its very difficult for a Diplomatic Seal deck to play FFF and FFJJ cards on five. Speaking of influence changes, Steward, Reaper, Gift, and hilariously Subvert all got their influence requirements upped. Influence has become nontrivial in these Stonescar decks, as they now have to balance heavy influence requirements on all of their cards. Finally, Champion of Chaos got a much called for hit, and lost two health. This doesn’t change its offensive power too much, but it’s much more vulnerable to removal and trading and far worse on defense. This hurt Stonescar Midrange in particular, as Champion’s pile of stats was a core component of its early defense.

Speculation for next week is always tough to do in a brand new metagame, but I’d expect people to respond to the high curve decks that are doing well right now. Feln has traditionally done well against two of the three top decks, but received some hits of its own. It may be time for Shadow/X control to shine, as the curves are high enough that Gift can get some work done and Deathstrike isn’t a tempo loss. Armory has been popular, but will likely be pushed out by the other two top decks, opening up the ladder for hard control decks again.

Tier One Decks

Combrei decks blur and dance and play 65 of the same cards, which makes untangling exactly which archetype they are difficult. That said, the high curve Combrei decks are the ones that are doing well right now, with Harsh Rule, Parliament, and Mystic Ascendant. Some of the decks play Vodakhan and some don’t, but both are performing quite well at the moment. Aggro players have been slapped with some pretty serious nerfs that slowed them down and lessened their easy access to reach, and big slow Combrei is rejoicing. I’ve seen this pattern before and aggro will adjust, but right now it’s actually possible to face an opponent who does not have a turn one unit.

Well, you’re not dying on turn 4 anymore, and players are trying to gum up the board with units. Shimmerpack finds that kind of metagame rather refreshing. All of Shimmerpack’s good cards (Obelisk, Scouting Party, the namesake) are good right now and it’s even got a nearly free matchup in Armory. With Jito taking a heavy hit and Feln more or less absent, the number of Lightning Storms is way down as well, making it way easier to build up a big board. Shimmer still has the issue that 8 power is a lot and other decks have time to do their thing, but at the moment their thing doesn’t seem to be as good as Shimmer’s thing.

Armory is in a weird spot. On the one hand, token decks are down. That’s good. On the other hand, Big Combrei and Shimmerpack are back. That’s bad. However, players playing any of the tier two decks are in trouble against Armory, as it chops down Rakano, Stonescar, and Icaria Blue alike. If you can stomach losing to Shimmer (or have some secret tech that beats it), and know the Combrei matchup and the mirror, you’ll do fine with this deck. More likely that most people will abandon it in favor of something that beats Shimmer, but you never know.

Tier Two Decks

Rakano’s momentum has sputtered. Drake going to FFF makes Rakano ask itself some tough choices, as Drake was a very strong card for the deck, but is now nearly uncastable. Armory’s still there and both Combrei and Shimmer toss a million units in your way. Rakano will adapt (it always does) but has somewhat lost its way at the moment. It may be time to dust off ALL the plates and just overwhelm everyone.

A plethora of nerfs have left Stonescar Burn down, but not out. Yes, the deck is worse. Yes, the deck is not that popular. However, players are starting to take their anti-burn cards out of their deck and make their decks greedier. This gives Burn a bit of room to bounce back. I don’t think it will be good in a hostile metagame anymore, but I think it will be a solid choice whenever anyone forgets about it for too long – like Jito in past months.

Combrei decks of all kinds are successful this week and the aggressive ones are as well, if less so than its higher curve brothers. With no access to reach Aggro Combrei has no easy outs against a stalled board, and stalling the board is just what Big Combrei and Shimmerpack do. Aegis units are no defense against relic weapons, so the relic weapon decks can be tricky as well. Combrei Aggro doesn’t quite like the look of the metagame, but is having reasonable success even so.

Icaria Blue was quite a popular deck this week, and something I personally faced a lot. Unfortunately, I play a lot of Armory and that is not a good matchup for Icaria Blue. Icaria Blue’s lack of pressure gives big decks like Big Combrei and Shimmerpack a lot of time to set up, so if you ever run out of removal you’re in Big trouble. Staff losing a point of armor didn’t help, but it hurts this deck less than other decks due to Throne Warden.

Stonescar Midrange loses a lot of board control with the new, torchable Champion of Chaos. No more does Midrange easily control the board, as nearly all of its cards are removed by one of Torch or Suffocate. Stonescar Midrange does present a real clock to its opponents, and there aren’t many token decks to overwhelm it, so it has a reasonable chance in most matchups, but is just a bit lacking in power. Maiden is a bit anemic against a lot of the top decks, and there (usually) isn’t a lot of burn to quickly close out games. Umbren Reaper upping its influence doesn’t do this deck any favors, either.

Tier Three Decks

Jito is not dead. That said, I personally think a lot of the power of the namesake card is lacking. Jito costing two means that you’re not going to be able to actually use the charge until turn 3, which cuts a ton of speed out of the deck. We may be better off moving back to the older Bandit Queen focused builds, or moving to a different aggressive deck altogether.

Poor Feln. After week after week of being Flame Blasted, they came for Feln with not one, but two nerfs. As a consolation prize, we got… Scaly Gruan. Maybe it’s the card Feln needed, maybe its just harder to play Umbren Reaper now. Feln doesn’t really mind Gift or Steward going up in cost, but most players have been staying away from Feln for the moment. Maybe the new builds should try to leverage the power of Champion of Cunning? We’ll have to see.

People are struggling to figure out two faction decks in this wild and unknown metagame where its no longer trivial to play three factions. Where, then, does that leave the three-faction-basically-no-fixing Felnscar? Confused and alone. All of your good cards cost a billion influence and you have Seek Power, Banners and Strangers to make it work. Good luck.

Tier Four Decks

No decks are Tier Four this week.

Newly Unranked Decks

Nicto is a really fun deck! Unfortunately, it’s not a super competitive deck. After the novelty wore off people started to play serious decks instead. In a somewhat humorous turn, the metagame is slowing down enough that you could probably play Nicto if you wanted to.

Rakito was addressed in the initial remarks, but will be addressed again here. If this list came out last week it would have made the list for sure, but the Jito nerf threw a huge wrench in the deck’s plans and most people hopped off it. You see it here and there but it’s defenitely way down in popularity.