Howdy everyone, my name is Just Add Bacon and I am proud to present this month’s meta report! While we haven’t had a balance patch since the last report, several decks have moved around considerably, and some new decks have managed to find their way onto the report. Most interestingly, aggro seems to have had a resurgence in order to deal with high level control decks, leading to an uptick in the number of aggro decks on ladder. So, without further ado, let’s dive in.
Horik Unrise Aggro
As per usual, Horik control appears to be the best general strategy in the game. Strength units on curve can be hard to deal with and can become overwhelming, especially when supported by Heart’s aoe (area of effect) and draw spells. Additionally, recursion on powerful units like Titanic or Tiamat can prove quite troublesome for many decks. However, Banjo aggro seems to have developed as a response to it as well as some other control strategies like Axel control. Banjo Aggro works by taking advantage of Wisdom and Intelligence’s exceptional early game control units, like Ivy, Gato, and Potion Seller, and using them to set up and snowball board and card advantage against slower decks. Cards like Tactician and Potion Seller also shine here, as they are able to easily disrupt hands. Additionally, Int’s exceptional hard removal tools like Shrink Ray and Encapsulate (which are also searchable by Alight) help it wallbreak effectively, usually generating big swings of tempo in the process.
On the other end of the spectrum, Axel control lists saw a huge spike, utilizing death effects similar to Horik but employing much more healing to stay afloat with less focus on units. That isn’t to say Wisdom’s units aren’t relevant for this deck though, Nomad is an amazing searcher for cards like Cleo and Eclipse, and Giza slots in nicely against aggro, popping stealth units and searching into either Allbane or Libra. On the top end, the deck uses Unfallow to prep for Prismata, while Grave Roil provides valuable removal, draw, and an Undragon (Fun Fact: If Giza is in your graveyard when you play roil, you will get Undragon 100% of the time, If Undragon is in the deck, then your draw becomes a chance of Hydrex or Amaruath, and so on and so forth.)
Over time, I expect Horik lists to find winning balances against Banjo and Axel pressures, likely through his newly expanded dust roster in Brimstone. That, along with a Raise Arms and Vishiva, and potentially Chomp, should help it heal through Banjo’s onslaught while disabling Axel’s late game schemes. However, if it comes to an endurance battle, Axel has far more dusting tools than Horik, which would force him into an aggressive game he’s not necessarily prepared for, provided that dusting is ran on both sides.
Sitti Copy Control
Mai Unophobia Aggro
In the Aggro tier we see a rising tide of, well, aggro decks, something we haven’t seen in the meta for quite a while. Fox and Zoey Aggro tactics are here from last time, while Mai has risen at the fall of Heatwave Fox. Additionally, Sitti copy decks have shown up considerably, likely from her performance at the last league.
Zoey, however, is who I want to focus on, because frankly I love her aggro. While Fox decks try to beat people out with fast, aggressively statted units and efficient removal, or Banjo tries to steamroll a board, Zoey plays a very tricky game. Agility is known for its cheap, aggressive units. Heart, on the other hand, has useful draw abilities and strong death effects. The combined result is a very fast and cheap deck that aims to overwhelm its opponent with units and is much more resilient than most other aggro lists. The deck is packed with floaters, cards like Crypto, Flyguy, Homebrew, Shade, and Tohtem and so is able to aggressively go one-for-one with its units until it wears its opponent out of answers and can start smashing face with quest effects. On the top end, threats like Righteous, Great Gusto, or even Undragon can turn up and suddenly flip the game on its head. However, like any Heart based deck, it can prove vulnerable to dusting effects, and being in Agility and Heart leaves it with few good tools for dealing with larger units, espescially in Strength, like Frank and Breacher.
In terms of control for this tier, Sitti is the clear winner and her snakes would love to meet anyone who says otherwise. For the uninitiated, Hydrex is a top-end threat for Heart, with four armored health with a massive ten attack. On death, Hydrex plays three little puppies, and by puppies I mean Vypers, each a 3/1 with armor as well. The conundrum with Hydrex is how to deal with it, as not doing so will usually lose the game. Four armored health is not much to get through, and Hydrex doesn’t have lead, so it can be easily dusted, but here’s where Int’s tools come in.Dual Boot, Illusion, Clone Army, Manage Memory; Int has a lot of tools to repeat effects or units. Combine this with Heart’s recursion effects and you have a very viable strategy for burying your opponent in snakes! Additionally, if Hydrex is dusted, Sitti has many more units that are amazing copy targets. Flame Phoenix provides a huge burst of damage against control lists and Timber’s lifestealing face-damage can be brutal against aggro lists. However, the deck can struggle with bricking on the opening, as well as getting harassed by aggro when it doesn’t draw its limited answers.
B Tier represents a fundamentally separate ground from A tier and C tier. Generally speaking, decks regarded as B tier may have elements or aspects of A tier decks. For example, I don’t think anyone doubts the ability of Samya to aggress like an A tier Fox deck. However, at the same time, B tier often carries some of the problems emblematic of the C tier decks. Going back to Samya, her gameplan can often be linear and predictable, relying heavily on an absence of early aoe to make her damage add up to lethal. So, it is for these reasons that I make the case that Heatwave Fox is still an A tier deck.
For starters, Heatwave as a deck is heavily categorized by how much it will refuse its opponent’s interaction. Shroud on Fan Dancer and the Perma-Shroud on Sky Keeper negate early removal options, while Wind Sword can apply it to other aggressive units like Sidekick or Talonous. Additionally, frequent and searchable silence options from Gusto’s Retort or Unstoppable Chop allow it to easily disrupt the heart decks at the top of the meta. Additionally, staple cards like Gusto and Huntaro double up on the shroud silence combo while also generating board presence. Combine these powerful disruption cards with fire’s search and speed tools in Run Wild,Hot Dog, and Trailblazer, and you have a consistent, disruptive, and aggressive package that is liable to have control decks running for the hills.
However, as much as I like it, it wouldn’t be fair to say that the deck is flawless. The draw package usually consists of Lau Sensei, which only draws from deck, Head in the Clouds, which is honestly just good (but there’s only one) and also… Pandora? I use a question mark here because while Pandora is good and has valuable cost reduction, Heatwave enjoys bulky midrange beaters like Garuda which makes emptying the hand a little difficult.
As for the other decks here, frankly I don’t think there is much to say about them. The Axel Etherwail list does similar things to the Titus list I will be covering below, as well as the Axel list above, but doesn’t really employ anything special outside of a spooky Ancients Rise. It can certainly be dangerous as we have seen from league games, but if those are anything to go by it can also be quite exhaustible with enough hard removal and sticky units. The Samya list still features the same problems as last time, but matches up slightly better against this meta.
And finally in C tier we have most of our combo and midrange decks. While the decks in the above tiers tend to be able to both oppress and react to their opponent’s deck, the reason I think these decks are here is that they are not capable of doing both. Take Titus Etherwail for example. Titus has a lot of things going for it. Being in Wisdom for a control deck means you have access to lots of incidental and impactful healing. Rosewater Charm, Take Root, and Gift of Aya all passively heal you while fixing your mana, while Gift also digs for your combo card in Etherwail. Additionally, Wisdom control tools like Seal of Doom, Doomsday and Touch the Sky are powerful aoe spells that can end games against aggro, especially when the deckbuilding makes them searchable by Call to Mind. On the unit side, the strategy is simple: “I play Tiamat and Amaruath. Can you answer that? No? I win.” It’s not exactly that simple, but against aggro that’s generally what it comes down to. However, it’s this linear game plan that hairpins the deck and others like it in C tier against other more dangerous decks. Zoey can throw waves of units at it, exhausting its resources, while Axel and Horik carry either the same dangerous removal or Units alongside Heart’s much more reliable draw engine. That’s not to say that Titus doesn’t have a chance in these matchups, it’s just that Titus will be playing outside his comfort zone.
Finally, one other deck I want to spotlight is Mira Midrange, taking notes from banjo and focusing on a unit-heavy aggro tactic with an emphasis on armor and buffs. Frankly, I think the deck is massively undervalued for several reasons. First, Strength and Intelligence are both hard-removal prisms. Mortal Blow, Shrink Ray, Soul Taunt, Encapsulate, Defragment, and many other options mean these prisms are primed to wallbreak any threat. Their aoe options are fairly good too, Volcanic Potion and It’s a Trap! are good stops against opposing aggro decks. Secondly, against opposing aggro decks, Mira can set up her combos very effectively, and when they go off they can end games. Crystal Cache is functionally zero cost draw, and can reliably find combo pieces in Reinforce or Lead Goblet. Add these cards to something like Savage Garden and the board quicky becomes armored and leaded, with draw even if the units are removed promptly by an aoe spell, although most aggro decks do not run aoe in this meta. Finally, Mira has access to powerful finishers like Gemini, Krakus, Tiamat, Dracomantium, or even Titanic. I’ll be writing an article on the value of finishers in the future, so keep an eye out for that, but for now I will say having numerous ways to secure games against opponents can be one of the best ways to limit their plays throughout the game, freeing up your units to find face more reliably. I will mention however that Mira’s most noticeable weakness is her lack of reliable draw and value generation. Against decks like Axel or Zoey, I’m confident that it could quickly turn to a resource grind, one which I believe Mira loses the majority of times.
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 #2 constructed rank and two tournament wins of his own, along with 2nd in the two 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