I had some extra time during the pre-exam season lull this November, so I took the opportunity to scratch an itch that I’ve had for a while. I made a ‘smurf’ in order to see how efficiently I could grind ladder with a new, F2P account. It turns out – pretty efficiently. This was a personal undertaking, not one where I had set out to make a point, but I realize that this is the sort of content that I would be really interested in if I were new to the game. Knowing that, I decided to share my experience of making a new account halfway through last season, and finishing top 10 with it.
I didn’t really have a plan when I made mortalaugust. After finishing the campaign my first thought was of both how cheap and efficient aggro purple cards are. So I set out crafting a budget sorcerer, leaning on the strength of Wind Keep Spellswords, Wardcrafters, Haunting Spirits, Young Mammoths, and Corrupted Shades. It turned out fine, and would have sufficed for the climb to legend. However, I was uncomfortable with how pronounced the lack of Daggerfall Mages felt – this wasn’t to say it was making a major impact on my winrate, it was, again, a ‘feel’ thing. So, after having climbed to about rank 9, I reevaluated what I wanted to do this climb with. Aggro Hlaalu is one of the best decks in the metagame at the moment, and I recognized that none of its critically powerful cards are particularly expensive. There are a few sets of epics that are necessary, but after looking through my collection, I saw that I would be able to craft them all if I dusted most of the things I didn’t need.
I’m going to interject here. If you’re someone who, likely has some CCG experience, probably falls under the ‘Spike’ umbrella, and whose goal is to grind ladder as efficiently as possible – then I believe this is the best route for you to take. But, if trying to finish as high as you possibly can on ladder immediately isn’t your goal, and if you’re new to card games in general, then I would probably advise against this. You’ll be able to experience a broader swath of what TESL has to offer by being patient and only dusting extras.
Having gotten that disclaimer out of the way – once having dusted those unnecessary cards, the critical epics to craft were Mournhold Traitors, Cornerclub Gamblers, Withered Hand Cultists, and Divine Fervors. It’s worth mentioning that I believe you get one Fervor through the campaign, and possibly a Cloudrest Illusionist as well. In addition to being essential to the Aggro Hlaalu strategy, all of these cards are strong investments due to their presence in several other strong lists – making this a highly practical crafting strategy to build off, and branch out from as you progress. I used the High Elf racial avatar in order to roll for Cloudrests as the ‘random racial Epic’ level up rewards. If you’re bent on playing an optimal Hlaalu list then switching to Khajit to roll for Ahnassi as the racial legendary at level 24/32 is also an option (I forgot to try both times). Otherwise I would recommend Breton for the chance at Daggerfall Mages, which are almost a prerequisite for blue decks. All of the commons and rares required were easy to craft given my aggressive dusting strategy.
You can see what my first iteration of budget Hlaalu looked like here. Note – I didn’t have to craft either Cloudrest, whether it was due to packing them or getting them as rewards. They’d likely be next in the crafting priority order. This was the list I took from around rank 9 to Legend with a winrate that came in a bit over 80%. It took just under 80 games (including those played on the Sorcerer) from 12 to Legend, over about 3 days.
The next item on the itinerary was to lower the curve. I wanted to park mortalaugust in the top 10 before I pressed pause on the smurf experiment, and went back to my main. So, after dusting many of the cards I had acquired through win rewards, and buying a couple of packs with the gold I had for some more soul gem value, I crafted what I feel are the essential 1 drops to the Aggro Hlaalu strategy – first Deepwood Trappers, then once I had the soul gems again, Mudcrab Merchants. You can see the list after those changes were made here. I took that list to the top 10 in the next few days after reaching Legend rank, and it was the one I used for the majority of the remaining playtime on my smurf that month. I came back to my smurf in the last week of the month in order to push it back to the top 10, and towards the end (on the second last day of the season), I had the gems to craft the only ‘necessary’ legendaries – Ahnassi and Dawnbreaker – but would have had the same ladder finish without them.
Now, if the next step that you might be interested in taking as a new player is to have a tournament viable lineup of decks, my suggestion to you would be to first purchase the Dark Brotherhood expansion. This offers a number of powerful cards (Garnag, Rage, Marked Man, Oculatus Agent, The Black Dragon, Sanctuary Pet), which will aid in branching out from Aggro Hlaalu. Aggro or Token Crusader is the most logical deck to branch out into, and would feature many of the same cards. A Token or Strike Monk would similarly feature many of the same cards. Building off of the Agility backbone of this deck makes a Tempo Assassin à la EndoZoa feasible as well, and could also lend itself to Goblin decks. An Aggro Archer or Redoran are other realistic options.
I wrote this with the intention of providing content that I would want to read if I were new to the game, but I hope in addition to fulfilling that end, that it also helps to dispel any notions amongst potential newcomers, or even within the community, of TESL being a remotely P2W game. Feel free to ask any pertinent questions.
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