Thursday Tier List #7 – December 1, 2016 (Open Beta List #1)

Hello all! I’m aReNGee, and I’m happy to present the first Tier List since the collection wipe and the move to Open Beta. As there are many players who will be reading one of these for the first time, I would like to clarify the purpose of this Tier List. This list is NOT intended to tell you what decks to play, nor is it intended to tell you whether the deck you play is good or not. Simply put, this Tier List is designed to give you an overview of the metagame as a whole – high tier decks are both popular and successful, so you should be aware of them when playing ladder. Players do sometimes choose their decks based on the tier list, but that is not its primary purpose.

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 of course an imprecise method, skewed by personal biases and deck choice, until we get real stats from the whole of ladder its the best I can do. 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. A very successful but unknown deck will not show up on this list, while a popular but unsuccessful deck will show up but will be lower tiered.
  2. There is no special formula for weighting 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.

Explanation of Tiers
Tier 1 – These are the best decks right now, both in terms of representation and win rate.
Tier 2 – These decks don’t have either the representation or the winrate to be considered Tier 1, but are all powerful decks and great choices for ladder.
Tier 3 – These decks are usually quite powerful when they go off, but need the a strong draw to work or have some other exploitable weakness. Fine choices for 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
Stonescar Burn
Stonescar Jito
Rakano Warcry/Plate

Tier 2
Aggressive Combrei
Feln Control
Stonescar Midrange
Elysian Midrange
Icaria Blue/FJP Control

Tier 3
Big Combrei
Haunting Scream
Traditional Armory
TJP Spell Control

Tier 4
Mono Justice

JPS Control
Feln Midrange
Rakano Burn

Clockroaches/Dark Roaches
4F Control
Party Hour

Tier One Decks

Many of you will have faced the latest ladder boogeyman by now, Stonescar Burn. A cheap, powerful deck, it rose to prominence in the wake of the patch 1.14 shakeup. Decks now need to actually close out the game rather than just controlling the board, or they risk losing to a Flame Blast or three. While this is unquestionably the #1 deck at the moment, once players adjust to the matchup and collections expand, it will likely sink down.

Stonescar Jito is another in-your-face aggressive deck that piles on the damage quickly. Usually this deck asks a simple question: do you have a board sweeper? If the answer is no, you’ll be dead before you can react, especially to versions playing Rally instead of the now-legendary Bandit Queen. With decks favouring higher curve cards like Champion of Chaos and Obliterate, Jito gets to run over the unprepared opposition.

Rakano is broken, battered, and bruised, but still fighting. Considered “the noob deck” in early beta, Rakano has since had more than ten of its cards nerfed or removed entirely due to power level concerns. With Gilded Glaive rendered unplayable and Morningstar not quite the replacement people were looking for, players scrambled to reassemble Rakano. In a Stonescar Burn world, Silverwing Familiar’s lifesteal came through yet again, and players shifted up the curve to embrace Hammers and Plates. As with all decks, it still remains to be seen what the true best build of Rakano is, but rumors of its demise were greatly exaggerated.

That’s all for Tier One, or so I thought, but then Toth201 won the ETS November Invitational with a Shimmerpack deck! Players tried it on ladder and were shocked by how well it performed. Any units in play with a Xenan Obelisk puts your opponent in a very tough position come turn 7 – if they attack, they risk losing to a surprise Shimmerpack strike. Something of an 1 turn kill deck in that it can assemble a winning board from random tokens, Vault of the Praxis gives it the velocity it needs to push through. While the optimal build hasn’t been found yet, this deck is the real deal and demands specialized answers, a very fast clock, or lots of board clears to handle it.

Tier Two Decks

In the wake of open beta, players scrambled to put together the legends required for Big Combrei, only to find out it’s not quite the deck it used to be. With Big Combrei proving too slow and ponderous in the current burn metagame, players scaled down and started playing aggressive decks. These low-cost decks were better able to race, and Crownwatch Paladin into Vodakhan’s Staff is a tough opener to beat.

Feln Control decks rose up and stood tall at the very beginning of the beta. With good matchups against Big Combrei and token decks, as well as a passable matchup against Stonescar Burn once the tech cards came in, many players though that it would be the premier deck of the new format. Alas, it was not to be. Traditional Armory is back in force, a difficult matchup for Feln to tech against while still having a chance against Burn, and the aggressive Combrei decks are a lot harder for Feln to beat. With a less defined metagame to tech against, Feln Control lost some ground.

Mostly popularized by KampfKrote’s success at the ETS November Invitational, Stonescar Midrange emerged as a strong niche choice in the current Metagame. Stonescar Maiden gives unit based decks fits, and combineswith Steward of the Past to totally shut down Void nonsense. At the top of the curve, Infernal Tyrant gives you the huge life swings you need to push out of burn range or survive aggressive decks, and the rest of its cards are also quite powerful. However, with no sweeper outside of Plague and an high curve, the deck has exploitable weaknesses and is poor against unit light decks.

Unsatisfied with the lack of success of Big Combrei, players turned to the Elysian Midrange, the ultimate fatties deck. With Lightning Storm and Permafrost again at their height of relevance and all the Primal tech choices, Elysian is able to answer all sorts of meta decks while attacking with oversized units. Nonetheless, the deck remains a straightforward unit based midrange deck, and has no backup plan if its primary gameplan fails or if it doesn’t draw the correct tech cards.

Xenan decks follow in Elysian Midrange’s footsteps by presenting a slew of enormous units backed up by a selection of removal. In Xenan’s case, the deck is less resilient overall, relying on the void and with very few tech choices to beat burn or token strategies. Additionally, the deck was hit hard by the Dawnwalker change in patch 1.14, which is probably good because Killer Dawnwalkers would be very strong right now.

Rounding out Tier Two is Icaria Blue, another control deck many players pegged as the deck to play going forward. Unfortunately, Icaria Blue’s matchups aren’t quite as good as players initially thought, as it often struggles against Burn despite tech cards and is in deep trouble against Traditional Armory and Combrei. That said, the combination of removal and card draw is a solid one and its solid against the midrange decks.

Tier Three Decks

To put it bluntly, Big Combrei decks just get burned out in this metagame. Having your best plays cost 5 or more is not where you want to be right now without some fantastic early defense, and Big Combrei simply can’t offer that kind of early game. The loss of Secret Pages is keenly felt, as well. However, Combrei retains its powerful late game and is solid choice for beating relic weapon based decks.

Haunting Scream is a popular, but inconstant archetype. Relying on getting hits in with infiltrate units, it does poorly in the face of fast removal, permafrost, silence, and especially void hate like Steward of the Past and Statuary Maiden. With most of these cards out in force, Haunting Scream struggles in many matchups. That said, when the deck gets rolling, it REALLY gets rolling, and a good enough Scream draw can beat anything.

Another deck that got a popularity boost from the ETS November Invitational, Linyvine’s Traditional Armory list started popping up on ladder again. However, the deck struggles mightily against tokens, midrange fatties, and removal, and its not happy to see Vara’s Favors back on ladder killing its Artisans and Runehammers. Additionally, the burn matchup isn’t great. However, its the best deck in the game for chopping through Rakano and the addition of tutorable Stewards helps out a ton in many matchups.

TJP Spell Control is a difficult deck to define ladderwise as the kill condition often differs based on player collection and preference, but its invariably slow and unit light. This does not set it up well against Burn as it fails to clock them, although varients with Stronghold’s Visage can heal up. This is probably the deck second most damaged by the Secret Pages change, which it relied on for power consistancy.

Tier Four Decks

Glaive is dead and so is Mono Justice. Argenport Aegis (Justice/Shadow) decks tried to step in to fill the gap, but also proved unreliable. Without Gilded Glaive, you need Mantle of Justice to be your power card and it doesn’t work well in a two faction deck. In the absence of its strongest card, Mono Justice decks need to redefine themselves to compete.

Newly Unranked Decks

JPS Control, once lauded as “the worst of the control decks” got a new build around this patch in Feln Cauldron. No one has yet produced a defining (or successful) list, but its a deck to keep an eye on moving forwards. Feln Midrange relied on the power of Champion of Cunning and often Scouting Party, both of which received nerfs this patch. In the absence of these powerful crutches, the deck needs to redefine itself. Rakano Burn decks totally fell to the wayside in favor of Stonescar Burn decks, which had the same strategy but played better cards. I don’t think we’ll see them return. Felnscar decks were also absent this patch. It’s a very legendary heavy deck, so it may take some time before it hits mainstream ladder.

Decks that are now dead

Crown of Possibilities no longer gives the second copy of an echo card an extra keyword. Since this interaction, and keyword stacking, was essentially the entire point of the Clockroaches lists, that deck is dead. Party Hour was like a Feln Midrange list that took out all the pieces except for Champion of Cunning and Scouting Party. Since Champion no longer has the same effect, that deck is entirely scrapped. Finally, 4F Control is also dead for the moment. By far the most reliant on Secret Pages for a working power base, it’s now barely possible to play a consistent four faction deck. The deck may come back with a LOT more power search, but its going to be much worse.