JustAddBacon’s Meta Report #3
Visual Guides Graciously Provided by Werfs
Editing by SkyweaverLeagues Mod Team
Howdy everyone, my name is JustAddBacon, and I have good news and bad news. The good news is that open beta is… wait…. not yet here, but getting closer! We’ve seen our wonderful devs present us with new hero skins, features, and improved wallet, and the highly anticipated Conquest mode. The bad news is that this coincides with a heavy raise in Int based aggro strategies, most notoriously the incredibly dominant Banjo Aggro list! So, without further ado, let’s break it down.
Methodology and How to Read the Report
But first, I’ve finally hammered out what I believe is a solid, reliable, and objective methodology, and I feel I ought to make clear how these numbers and placements were decided. First and foremost, this report is not what I think the best decks are or my own personal tier list. The placements for this tier list was determined using a survey of players who are masters or grandweavers, each first being asked to list all the decks that they considered “relevant” to the meta, and then being asked to place all of those decks into tiers in a second survey. This gives raise to the first limitation of this survey: just because a list is not on here does not mean it isn’t good! The meta is still very new, and there’s only so many of us. Secondly, we are only considering decks we consider relevant to our high level meta. This means that even the decks that are in B and C tier in this report may be relatively much higher in terms of power level compared to their off-meta counterparts. This discrepancy in relative and actual power will be expanded upon at times throughout the listing to help keep this clear. Don’t be afraid to try something new, or play a “low tier” deck just because of my meta report! This is just me aggregating the knowledge of a couple high level players, but we don’t know everything.
Also, with my finalized methodology, I have introduced a way to score and compare decks across reports! Tiers were given point values of 4, 3, 2, and 1, for S, A, B, and C tier respectively. A plus or minus (+/-) option was also given for each tier, which would increase or decrease the points earned by .3. Decks received points based on responses, which were then weighted to prevent skewing if a deck received more total responses or less than average. What this means is that each tier can be thought of as it’s raw score, a generic A tier deck should have a score around 3 for example. This also means that we can use these scores to look at how far outside of a tier a deck is, how close in power it is to other decks, and so on! One limitation is that because of method, the scoring seems to trend to A tier, but relative power should still be clear. Now, with all of that out of the way, it’s time to actually break it down!
Avg Score: 3.416
Banjo Aggro 3.66
Fox Aggro 3.33
Axel Control 3.26
It may be hard to grasp at first, but Banjo has completely dominated this meta. To give a bit of an idea of just how hard, Banjo aggro decks have currently won all 4 of the past 4 leagues, in the survey 7 out of 10 players marked banjo as S tier exclusively, and by the math here Banjo has a third of a tier of power in separation between in and its closest competitor, Fox Aggro. To put that in perspective, that same degree of separation with Fox Aggro doesn’t occur until we hit the bottom of A tier. So yah, Banjo is strong.
My theory of why Banjo is so strong is two-part, revolving around his incredible units and extremely efficient spells. For starters, a good number of Banjo’s units can either automatically trade, float, or just generate a solid amount of value. Bauble is a 2c 2/3 floater, Ivy is another 2c 2/3 which disables an early unit along with its death effects and enchantments (and also has wither to deal with guards) and Gato provides hard disruption in the early game, being a free +1 at minimum when Sudden Gust removes a card from the opponent’s hand. Gato can also generate more value in the banner it provides on that turn and others. Numerous league games were decided by Gato deleting key cards in hand, or just the strength of a 2 for 1 trade. For those of you newer with terminology, saying a card goes “+1” or “2 for 1” refers to who has “card advantage” after a card is played, or simply who is holding more cards. Put simply, if two players of equal skill level play, it is usually a good predictor to say that the player who has more cards will win since more options means they can pick better options than their opponent.
In addition to Banjo’s units, Wisdom and Intelligence spells cover each other’s weaknesses surprisingly well, and also provide new options for coverage. Wisdom excels at removing small targets through tools like Whisk Away or Salvage, while Intlligence is the hardest of the hard removal prisms. Put together, as long as you have more cards than your opponent, you should always be able to remove what they play. Now see why Banjo’s value units are key? Additionally, search and draw tools like Ghost Duster, Curious, Reefus, Dr. Vile, and the beloved cat Nefurti keep the deck consistent. Add in Orion and Gemini to close games and you have, simply put, a very good deck.
Following in the same idea, Fox Aggro has gotten substantial improvements since the changes to Call to Action and Vlad becoming a 3/3. It’s hard to say if it does, but if there is any prism that can beat Wisdom in its ability to remove small units, it would have to be Agility. Grim Reprisal, Backstab, and Strength’s Strike Down are easily the most mana efficient removal spells in the game in terms of damage, and Fox is also reliably packing ways to find them. In Heatwave Lau Sensi finds Strike Down, but for more generic lists Fly Guy can reliably search into Grim Reprisal, or other key dark cards like Demon Pact, Wane Blade, or Mortal Blow. Demon Pact gets bonus point here because it can then also search into those cards, while wane blade can also also search into cards. Mortal Blow just kills stuff, and Fox likes that too. Additionally, draw engines from fire cards like Hot Dog, Fire Rune, Run Wild, and Trailblazer can keep the deck accelerating with draw and banner as the turn number increases, something other aggro decks may have trouble doing. Finally, in my own personal list, I have also started running a metal core in addition to other cores now that Deep Xlice is a fairly good card. Crystal Cache only has strong pulls for Fox, finding banner (Mecharai, Treasure Chest) removal (Backstab, Treasure Chest, Deep Xlice) or draw (Hannah, Treasure Chest.) Did I mention Treasure Chest, this card is the Agility answer to cards like Gato. Provided you have one other source of banner, 3 attack can reliably clear most things, while chest also provides some much enjoyed healing and a reload.
Ok, so the draw is good, but what are we drawing into? Well, Fox takes the inverse approach to Banjo. While Banjo has one card that goes +1 or +2 as removal, Fox instead uses a bunch of draw cards with 1 for 1 removal to overwhelm the opponent as they are buried under tempo. Provided he can trade his removal 1 for 1, Fox has no problem squeezing value out units like Hannah, Trailblazer, or Huntaro. However, the key issue here is that pesky if. Draw chains are only as good as being able to use them and capitalize on them, and this all assumes that the opponent doesn’t outdraw Fox, something a Wisdom or Heart deck could certainly do. Additionally, for all this speed, Fox is now much more prone to burning out, since he is emptying his deck much sooner than his opponent. For some decks like a Wisdom deck this may not be a bad thing, but Agility out-of-deck cards are not exactly something you want to be digging for. Especially when a lot of Agility cards already impose a recoil, be they Grim Reprisal with its face damage, or the implicit recoil that comes with a lot of one’s removal being banner. That all being said, I believe if Fox can find better ways to A. deal with Banjo’s value on units and B. find ways to generate more value outside of drawing, then I believe it may be able to challenge Banjo for a 50% win rate. Anything more may be too optimistic though.
Fox Heatwave 3.14 (Unfortunately not Pie)
Mai Unophobia 3.09
Mira Metal 3.05
Banjo Zam 2.94
Back in the land of mortals and fallen titans we find A tier, which has in my opinion a very good distribution. Recall that the “objective” A tier is a score of 3, which all of these decks are quite close to. Additionally, our average score is very close to our median deck, Mira, another indicator of good balance. Compare this to Banjo in S tier where the average score was 3.416, 8% above the median deck and almost 16% above the bottom deck. Here, it is almost dead even both ways and a very small difference of 10% of a tier at that. Finally the difference between the top and bottom decks is only about .2. All of this is to say that I believe any of these decks can easily win against any other, and that they are all very viable competitors within their tier. Heatwave stands above the rest, likely riding the coattails of the aforementioned Fox Aggro deck. Readers of the last meta report may recall my previous breakdown of this deck, and now that it has scored higher, it is safe to say changes to cards like Call to Action and Vlad have helped the deck. Mai Unophobia has also rediscovered some of its old strength, with players like AlphaSapphire specifically pointing to the rework of Hail of Arrows as filling a previously missing gap in the deck.
One deck I really want to highlight here is Mira Metal, which in equal parts fascinates me and aggravates me to no end. What is so interesting about this is that the historically underplayed Mira combines the very straight and narrow Strength strategy with the wacky and synergistic Intelligence cards and combos we love and hate it for. The odd result is occasionally playing beaters and big blocks of stats, and other times playing out some interesting shenanigans like the classic Forcefield–Savage Garden combo, which incidentally is also a huge ball of stats. What the Mira Metal deck does with this is find the best of both worlds by playing huge walls of armored stats that also do wacky things! Alight, which can be searched out by Cross Reference, is a great card for finding Glorious Mane, which is easily the most important card in the deck. Mane provides a stat buff for each metal unit in hand and deck once it’s played. Combine this with the nature of armor, and that extra point of health can often go a long way. This lends it well to its use on cards like Electron, Geode, or the dreaded Hide Shield, buffing already good stat lines beyond reason due to how armor works. Another thing to consider is what happens when a deck runs only armor units, as suddenly the banner and 1 damage removal cards of the opposing deck get much weaker. Single instances of banner don’t clear as often and usual aoe staples like Salvage or Three Lashes fail to have serious effect. This can lend the deck to generating a kind of card advance since common cards may now be less effective or straight up dead in hand.
However, this deck does have some flaws. For starters, as we saw in the latest league games, the current builds can run out of steam, neither Strength nor Intelligence are known for their draw power. This leads to the deck having some trouble in control matchups, as opponents with more draw trading 1 for 1 can easily rack up an advantage. A secondary issue comes from the reliance on sticking to board. Wisdom decks, especially Banjo, shouldn’t have much trouble removing Mira’s units. If the units are gone, Mira has no way to really build tempo, since she relies on trading units for her value. Finally, unless something like Hide Shield sticks, which I expect to be nerfed soon anyways, faster aggro decks like Fox can pretty reliably use their overwhelmingly efficient tempo to win games, since Agility’s cheap removal is generally more efficient than Intelligence’s.
Zoey Aggro 2.89
Mira Aggro 2.82
Sitti Control 2.72
B tier falls extremely close behind A tier in this report, which, if you need me to tell you, is a good sign. Aside from Banjo irregularities, the bulk of the pack is extremely close together which goes to show the amount of care put into balancing the game. With that being said however, these decks are certainly distinguishable from their A tier counterparts for lacking either the raw strength or the minimal weaknesses A tier decks have.
Starting at the bottom, Sitti control has fallen considerably from the last report, and it’s interesting to think of why. While Sitti control still possesses her copy shenanigans, repeating powerful death effects like Flame Phoenix, Timber, or Hydrex, she certainly doesn’t match up as favorably in this much more aggressive meta. Aggressive Intelligence decks like Banjo and Mira love tools like Encapsulate, Defragment, and Blow Away to wallbreak. Against Sitti, it’s the threat of these cards, but especially Encapsulate, that really scare it. Encapsulate is another great example of Intelligence’s value cards as, for one more than Mortal Blow, the target is dusted (instead of killed) and you get a free random spell. Dusting and removing a unit without the threat of a death effect is quite simply a lot of value.
Additionally, Zoey aggro has taken a marked fall from the last meta report, although that may be due to trends in what type of Zoey aggro is played (I don’t believe this to be the case, but it is worth mentioning.) While Zoey traditional death based floater strategy is still quite good, I think a more proficient list in this meta would be something closer to what I’ve listed, a more midrange style with the typical Zoey floaters but also strong spells and finishers in cards like Gusto. Personally, I’ve adopted a style that focuses more on stomping enemy aggro with spells like Chill, Three Lashes and Maelstrom, but Geenareeno (who’s list is given) has actual results with Zoey so I will give deference to him. However, both versions have the same problem of value generation against either Banjo or Fox, since the meta is becoming increasingly fast and dependant on sticking a board. 1c Zoey lists tend to lose to large amounts of banner cleaning their board, while the more midrange version faces the usual problem of the matchup: being behind on tempo.
Samya Aggro 2.66
Iris Aggro 2.5
Ada Aggro 2.41
C tier is where I will now return to my talk at the beginning on relative and actual strength. Relative to the other decks in this report, these decks are C tier, no question. They are generally slower, less effective, or have glaring flaws. In terms of objective strength though, these decks place about evenly between A tier and B tier, indicating that while they may be behind other decks, in terms of how good they are in a vacuum they are still fairly good. With their consistency, Ada and Samya can have reliably strong openings. As Maxim_Godov demonstrated in the league before last, Samya being on such a short list means her ability to find answers to common plays is very high, making her naturally better at wallbreaking, clearing board, and finding her value chains. Ada on the other hand can pull out massive units on curve, and even her cheaper staples like Halcyon can dominate the board. As the cardpool expands, and as the meta becomes more niche, I expect these heroes to become more dominant, along with the other monoprism heroes. Personally, if Banjo Aggro doesn’t get nerfed, I have 3 new decks to try on it, one of those being a mono-prism. However, monoprisms still have all the same issues that leave them vulnerable to threat exhaustion. A smaller deck means it is much easier to simply play removal pile and run the deck out of dangerous cards, then just heal up as a control player. Or, for aggro, one can just control the board to take no damage, then rush face when the out of deck damage starts to kick in. However, one deck that has none of these problems, and frankly I believe should be much higher, is Iris Aggro.
First off, Agility and Wisdom removal. There, that’s it, that’s all that needed to be said, it’s just that good to justify B tier at least. Whisk Away, Eradicate, Grim Reprisal, Backstab, Incinerate… there’s simply no way your opponent holds board early unless you draw poorly. And while the above list, piloted by Moon at the latest league, may not have ran all these options, it substituted it for some other interesting options. Hail of Arrows has been incredibly important for Agility decks as of late, as the change to 2 damage has made it far better at being a tempo swing that can also disrupt combo decks such as Zam. And considering that Fox can run it with Claw Swipe and Cache/Xlice, Zoey can run it alongside a wall of other aoe options, and Mai can dig for it super reliably with Angler, it’s no surprise to see it in Iris, where given the meta Mer Mask could be ran to find it quite often. In addition to these strengths, Iris still has some of the best top end finishers for aggro outside of Gemini and Hax. Kah Meht can be a huge wall and swing aggro games on their head with his keyword soup of effects and game changing attached spell, Kah’s Wrath, while Gusto can be a massive swing on tempo, disabling half the body of competing top ends like Gemini and also threatening a massive bout of damage barring very well timed aoe spells. Finally, despite the nerf, Meng’long is still an amazing card and while costing one more, can arguably control board even better now given the banner it’s now packing. And of course, it could also just be 7 points of face damage. Face damage is always fun.
I will conceded that the meta may currently be too fast for Iris to keep up. Her draw engines seem good just looking at the available cards, things like Skychannel could be 0c draw in the right deck, and Canny Mask is just 1c deck thinning, but the current results do not seem to bear that out. Nevertheless I still argue that Iris Aggro is being slept on, and wise experimenters would be prudent to give her a try. Any aggro deck that can run Kha Met surely can’t be that bad, right?
Special thanks to all our wonderful survey respondents, as well as Lyze on discord for helping me work out the statistics. Have a disagreement? Feel free to leave it in the comments down below somewhere, and I will personally find it and prove you wrong. And finally, a massive thanks to our wonderful Dev team for working hard on such a great game. Here’s to Open Beta!
Just Add Bacon is an aggressively pro-aggro control player of the Skyweaver community, working on projects between SkyStreamers, Skyweaver Leagues, and his own personal team, Fox Fang. He is also very active in the competitive scene, holding the grandweaver constructed rank and two tournament wins of his own, along with 2nd in two of the most recent leagues. His favorite decks are Horik control and Fox Aggro. “Basically, anything I can put a dragon or fox into. Or both.”
Just Add Bacon#7811
Fox Fang Official Discord Server https://discord.gg/ZgRFGjCD