Few things are as controversial and open-to-interpretation as the relative powerlevel of decks being played in a very broad CCG like TESL. I am well aware that people will disagree with my interpretation, my specific ranking and my example lists here, and I think that's great! I invite everybody to shed their vision on whatever foundation I have laid here. Feel free to share your deck lists, tech decision, alternate option or even revolutionary builds.
This list is part of my "The Alliance War: A Synopsys" thread, but I ran out of characters (and on second thought, it seemed smarter to put the most controversial part separate from the "meat" of the discussion).
A few words on the tierlist itself. First and foremost, whilst I try to maintain a focus on Ladder meta, I do consider tournament appearances to some extend. Besides that, there are three main characteristics I use to judge the decks powerlevel: Popularity, Powerlevel and Consistency. The within-tier order is interchangable and the deck lists posted are supposed to be used as a guide to interpret the gameplan and are not the definitive be-all, end-all lists. Lastly, I do wish to say that Tier 1 stands a little bit apart from Tier 2, but the rest follows rather closely. It was difficult to really bring an order into this. So if a deck is in T3 but you think it's supposed to be in T2, it is rather likely that I do not neccessarily disagree myself.
Thank you for reading!
Tier 1: Ebonheart Slay, Crusader Aggro, Hlaalu Aggro.
Tier 2: Market Assassin, Telvanni Conscription, Daggerfall Midgro, Battlemage Mid, Dagoth Midgro, Sorcerer Midgro, Aldmeri Aggro, Guildsworn Aggro.
Tier 2.5: Tribunal Control, Redoran Aggro, Guildsworn Proactive Control, Crusader Proactive Control.
Tier 3: Dwemer Prophecy Aggro, Empire Aggro, Abomination Scout, Conscription ‘Anything’.
Tier 4: Dozens upon dozens of decks.
Tier ‘Y U DO DIS???’: Abomination Empire.
Tier 1: Ebonheart Slay.
Probably the undisputed king of the Alliance Wars. Ebonheart Slay brought the lategame value generation of contemporary control to a whole new level. With the defensive Archer package in the early game Ebonheart with the redundancy provided by a scarce Lethal creatures and Squish for activation in Endurance, has managed to assemble a level of synergy unheard of in Tricolor decks. The main drawing engines of Camel (recursion), Fork of Horripilation (Item, -2/+0, Slay: Draw 3) and Cicero helped Ebonheart dig through the deck at record speed and ramp into the lategame, where Unstoppable Rage reigned supreme. Having a build-in anti-Conscription machine, access to Breakthrough-Rage for burst and the obcene level of value that can be generated by Endurance in the lategame, Ebonheart managed to become the undisputed king of lategame.
Tier 1: Crusader&
Green Crusader Hlaalu Aggro.*
Where Control goes, Aggro follows. The staple Crusader lists (and the Hlaalu adaptation, which features a little more burst and drawing power at the cost of a reduced consistency in board contention) have remain largely unchanged. The fundaments of the strategy have stood the test of time repeatedly, in a game where powerlevels are ever inflating, Crusaders Aggro Package has remained top-dog. The main new inclusions for Crusader in the recent past have been some copies of Shining Saint, further helping the fight for field lane, a higher density of
Penis Penitus Oculatus Agents due to the meta shifting towards more Lethal (and subsequently Ward) creatures, and the new card Varen Aquilarus (Instead of a card draw, gain 5HP upon runebreak). An absolute powerhouse of a card which makes a good claim to the highly contested “Best Alliance War” card title. Varen has the ability to win Aggro mirrors on the spot. Even without the effect being relevant, the 4/6 statline is dangerous.
* I consider Crusader Aggro and Hlaalu Aggro largely interchangeable. They’re not exactly the same, but close enough. This is my personal opinion, don’t @me >_<!!!
Example List Hlaalu: Turquoise Link's Aggro Hlaalu from MSQ4
Tier 2: Market Assassin.
I briefly hesitated to put Market Assassin this high, but I think the impact it had on the metagame as whole warrants its position this high on the list. Market (aka. Burn) Assassin was build around a very interesting synergy between Lillandril Hexmage (deal 2 damage when you play an action), Swindler’s Market (deal 1 damage when playing a 0-cost card) and combining the two. Market Assassin used the same resources for defense as they used for offense, leading to a very interesting process where resource conservation is of the greatest importance to success. Utilizing the drawing engines provided by Gnarl Rootbender and the Spoils of War (often played at 0 cost) the deck could “flip the switch” and provide bursts of damage well over 30 points in a single turn.
The impact of Market Assassin on the metagame was fairly large. A previously unseen card in Seducer Darkfire (choose a number; your opponent can’t play cards of that value) has slithered their way into Thuldir’s Mid Yellow decks. Withered Hand Cultist became a must-run for Red Aggro even more than ever before. Some people have included Bedeviled Scamps (All cards cost 3 or more) and arguably even Hallowed Deathpriest found it’s way into Endurance Control again (to mummify the Hexmage).
Ikarus' Market Assassin from MSQ4
Tier 2: Telvanni Conscription.
Aka. The Ever looming danger. The Telvanni Conscription has been without question one of the most resilient and powerful control list in TESL. Utilizing a very defensive early game and the ability to cycle through their deck at high speed allows Telvanni to be the most consistent utilizer of Tullius’ Conscription. The lists have the ability to makes small adjustments as the meta develops and this flexibility, coupled with a very strong early game and one of the best top-end cards in the game, allows the deck to remain so strong. It’s an excellent list for the ladder because it has no truly weak matchups, and even sees repeated tournament play. The contemporary finisher of the deck is no longer the epic Journey to Sovngarde, opting instead to use Mentor’s Ring. Against aggressive decks, Mentor’s Ring on a guard/ward in game-ending. Against more defensive opponents, Telvanni can play for the long game and finish the game with a Territorial Viper/ Flesh Atronach/Mentor’s Ring OTK. Excellent deck for new and experienced control players alike.
Plzdonhakme's Telvanni Conscription from MSQ4
Tier 2: Midgro Daggerfall Covenant/Sorcerer/Dagoth/Battlemage
Does it feel a little weird putting these four archetypes in one paragraph? Absolutely, but I’m a lazy fuck.
Realistically though, all of them use rather similar styles of play. Their ‘midgro’ (a bit of a weird TESL phrase that basically means as much as ‘too fast for midrange but too slow for aggro’ which is a weird description in and off itself but let’s stop here because semantics are for chat to harass strimmers about) …. Er….. their Midgro style of play all show very similar features. They run a curve up and till roughly 5/6 magicka with very strong finishers at the top-end, including cards like Ancano, Belligerent Giant, Cliff Racers, Swift Strikes, Lightning Bolts, etc.) . They have a high reliancy on Ward as their tool of choice to sustain against the predominant control decks and this also gives them strong tempo-matchups, as Ward is an excellent tool to gain an advantage. Withered Hand Cultist is a staple for red deck whereas the purple lists generally use more bulky creatures to push damage through a little earlier. Usually, these decks aim to build a board that can go for an OTK/TTK, but they can absolutely wear the opponent down.
This style of play has always been one of the strong suits of TESL and it really shows the players grasp on the meta. The lists are extremely flexible and adaptable to the meta and making a handful of adjustments regularly is advices. This is one of their main strengths: the fundaments of the archetype are very conducive to teching the deck which can grant a huge advantage to smart players. Furthermore, there’s quite a lot of decisionmaking with regards to tempo and value which is relevant in almost every game you play. I would not advise this style for newer players because it requires some experience, but when you get the hang of the game, definitely give these lists a shot, they’re some of my favorites!
Example List Daggerfall Covenant:
Example List House Dagoth: Flow's Mid Dagoth from MSQ4
Example List Sorcerer:
Ikarus's Mid Sorc from MSQ4
Example List Battlemage:
Note that the MidBM lists generally play a little slower because their value is generated by the ‘break ward’ cards, which take a while to get online.
Minor Note: I haven’t seen established Ebonheart Midgro lists with any regularity yet, but it is my personal believe they can be included here as well.
Tier 2: Aldmeri Aggro.
I think we can say with no doubt that Aldmeri Dominion is probably the class that was the hardest to get a read on at first. We saw a lot of experimentation with different archetypes, including Leafwater Blessing, Drain-based lists utilizing Golden Saint/Wilds Incarnate/Undying Dragon, Midgro lists with Mighty Conjuring, but when the dust settled, it seemed like a very flexible aggro lists is what remained. Utilizing Agility’s early game, Willpowers midgame and the reach available to Intelligence allowed for a deck to form that could contest early board very effectively and reach surprisingly high levels of burst to close out the game. The author vehemently believes that Aggro Aldmeri is a list that, with a little more refinement and perhaps a few additional cards, can reach for Tier 1, due to how flexible it can be. I’ve also read on my own Twitter that it’s the cool boy class (After GS), just sayin’.
Example List: EndoZoa's Aggro Dominion from MSQ3
Tier 2: Guildsworn Midgro.
Basically Crusader with a lot more Reach. Battlemaces, Bolts, Wards, you name it, this deck runs it. It’s a little more resilient and slightly slower than the other Crusader-based lists, but makes up for that with the trickery that is Blue’s Aggro package. It lacks a little bit in performance and popularity to be considered on-par with Crusader or Hlaalu. My main gripe with the deck is that one of the key strengths of Crusader, the resource extension, is a rather large weakness of Guildsworn Aggro, but it is slightly faster than the other Midgro lists. It has more potential to snowball into a great lead, but there’s also the occasional game where your deck just screws you over and that appears to happen more often when your deck tries to encompass a little more synergy and trickery like the Guildsworn deck does. Nonetheless, the level of burst you can pull out with Seyda Neen and Battlemace is incredible and as such, Tier Two it is.
OrkhansGambit's Midgro Guildsworn from MSQ4
The Funpolice Tribunal Control.
I am well aware of the huge cop-out here. Hah. Can’t stop me, you fool!!!
Tribunal Control is basically the Queen Cersei of TESL. Everybody hates it, it just sits there, fucks your shit up, and when the stars allign everything crumbles and they fall over and die. Tribunal Control is our necessary evil. The deck fell a little out of favor because it has weak matchups against some very popular lists (most namely the two Combo decks and Ebonheart Slay), but for the anti-Mid or anti-Control matchup, Tribunal Control is still the absolute king. We’ve seen the lists curve slightly lower as a result of these weaknesses and it’s starting to look more like a proactive midrange deck in the latest iterations.
Tribunal Control uses the incredible Yellow removal package and strong lategame chonks to bully the opposition out of the game. New inclusions are fairly limited, but the toolbox-effect of Abnur Tharn and the huge value of Varen Aquilarus are definitely strong contenders for the deck. Whilst not the most exciting list for the opposition to play against, it gets the job done and successfully forces a few degenerate strategies out of the game. There’s nothing much to say about this deck, to be honest: it’s rather straightforward, generally hated because it stands for everything we hate about Control, but it gets the job done.
Tier 2.5: Crusader/Guildsworn Proactive Control
What the fuck is proactive control, you ask? Well, It is basically what we used to call Midrange before Midrange became what I just referred to as Midgro, because I’m an elitist like that.
The Eyenie list popularized in March brought a huge new flavor to the metagame. It re-invigorated the playstyle of the long-lost Midrange decks that we’ve missed so badly. Utilizing a core of generally powerful curve creatures, but also strong comeback mechanics powered by Unstoppable Rage, which could combo with Drain creatures to stabilize, with Crusaders Assault for value generation or just with a bigboi to kill the opposition.
A lot of experimentation with Eyenie’s foundation of the deck lead to still fairly new development of a stable Guildsworn Mid Rage deck. This maintains the same general strategy but the addition of Intelligence to the deck adds a few more proactive defensive measures and trickery for the opposition to play around. I would argue that this is one of the best decks to play on ladder right now, because like Telvanni Conscription, it has fairly good matchups across the board and is well-teched to perform. The main advantage of Guildsworn Midrage is that you can comfortably play the deck without your opponent thinking you’re a wuss!
Example List Crusader:
Eyenie's Proactive Control Crusader from MSQ3
Example List Guildsworn:
Eyenie's Proactive Control Guildsworn from MSQ3
Tier 2.5: Redoran Aggro
Rooted largely in the Crusader base as well, Redoran Aggro has finally reached the levels of refinement required to be a high-tier threat in the metagame. Known as one of the pet projects of SirChoate himself, the combination of Crusaders speed and the resilience provided by Purple in the early-mid game allows Redoran Aggro to be perhaps the fastest of aggressive deck in the game. Oddly enough, the popularity has been lagging slightly behind, but this is bound to change in due time. This is absolutely my pick for most underestimated list in the game and the only reason I didn’t rank it higher is the scarce representation it has had.
OrkhansGambit's Aggro Redoran from MSQ4
Tier 3: Prophecy Dwemer.
For some reason these decks always fly a little under-the-radar, but they show up when the meta starts to stabilize. Dwemer decks are build largely around utilizing their easily-generated wide boards and the strong push for damage provided by Halls of the Dwemer. It limits the inclusion of colored cards, usually only running those that are highly synergistic or help with the Prophecy Density well. We’ve seen players like Risinhigh run the Dwemer archetype in almost every color combination, though the strongest ones appear to be Yellow/Mage based due to the strong prophecies, token support (Divine Fervor and Fifth Legion Trainer) and the access to reach from hand. It takes some practice to pilot your Dwemer machinery, but once you get there, it’s a ton of fun!
Example List: HELPICANTFINDADECKLIST
Tier 3: Empire Aggro.
I find it hard to correctly place this deck, because the highs are very high, and the lows are not that low. I’ve decided to keep it in Tier three mainly because the matchups into some of the top-tier decks are somewhat sketchy and the decks success is a little too much rooted in drawing a strong opener for my liking. Nonetheless, this is an absolutely monstrous archetype that can go toe-to-toe with the best of them. It can repeatedly generate wide boards and runs the cards to really push the value on those forwards. Clivia Tharn has been an absolute titan in this deck, being a continuous threat that is hard to reach, and giving Empire another “LUL Aggro Mirror” card like Varen Aquilarus already provided!
EmpireOathman's Empire Aggro from MSQ4
Tier 3: Abomination Scout.
It’s gone into hiding with a more powerful Abomination deck coming out, but do not underestimate the power of this deck. It has gained new tools this expansion in the form of Bandaari Opportunist and it remains a large threat. The matchup into the combo decks is it’s largest drawback, but the abominable playstyle of discarding your entire deck, taking them on a field trip to Sovngarde and playing them again is still immensely powerful.
Petamax' Abomination Scout from MSQ4
Tier 3: Conscription Anything Really
It’s a testament to the combination of Tullius’ Conscription and Namira’s Shrine that this structure fits into basically every Tri-class with some success. Time has taught us there are basically two ways to take this deck. The first one goes for Atronach OTK’s in some fashion, whereas the other style utilizes repeated buffs available in Willpower to generate board of increasing powerlevels. The only sad-man-out is Daddy Ur, who despite trying again and again, has failed to really build a Conscription deck with a competitive wincondition.
It turns out filling a deck with early game that is also your late game is a powerful strategy. I don’t see this archetype going anywhere but Rage lists being in the meta is good to keep it in check. The reason Telvanni is put on a separate tier is because it basically executes this strategy the best due to access to ramp, rapid cycling and the Mentor’s Ring OTK.
Tier 4: Special Mentions
Because let’s be real, nobody has read all my gibberish this far… Whilst Tier 4 sounds very low, I consider the distance from 2.5 to 4 relatively small, so as a result Tier 4 decks are still pretty damn solid to play with! It’s a tier list after all.
Yellow and Blue-based Mid Mage, Strike Monk, Prophecy or Aggro Battlemage, Token Spellsword, Guildsworn and Dominion Unite, Exalt Tribunal, Support Aggro Mage, Control Empire, Nix Ox Telvanni, couple dozen more decks.
Tier ‘He Who Must Not Be Named’: Empire Abomination
Fuck you, Ian. Notable absentee. Nothing much to say, this shit is degenerate, should not exist, it’s going to get Red Mountained from orbit and that’s pretty much it. If you run this on ladder every player who ropes you is just karma giving you a slap on the cheek. Ggnore.
On a more serious note, this deck probably sits at Tier 2.5 due to how hard it is to pilot, Tier 1.5~ish for professional play.
Example List: KSedden's Empire Abomination list from MSQ4
Note: I have provided brief elaboration on key cards or cards that are slightly newer to the game (everything post-FrostSpark) to keep this read as easy to follow for newer/less experienced players as possible, if you think I missed one or should elaborate further, please let me know!
Note: Archetypes within-tiers are ordered arbitrarily.
Note: Tier 3 is hugely bloated and it becomes hard to distinguish decks here. Tier 4 consists mostly of decks that might as well be Tier 3, but I felt like special mentions were sufficient.
Source: Original link
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