Just Add Bacon’s Meta Report:
The Combo Conundrum
Editing by AlphaSapphireX and Zygote
Howdy, everyone! My name is Just Add Bacon, loudly and proudly bringing y’all the latest and greatest with what’s happening in the Skyweaver Metagame! In this report, like with every report, I have good and bad news. The good news is that I’ve further refined my survey methods and expanded the number of respondents from the last report. This means that I can be even more confident in the accuracy of the data presented here, while also increasing the scope of our wisdom in the analysis process. The downside is that all these improvements went essentially wasted, as Banjo and Sitti cleanly swept the entirety of S tier… well, win some lose some. Anyways, let’s break it down!
Disclaimer: How to read the report
This report was constructed through a two-part survey. In the first survey, high-level Skyweaver players were asked for each hero to list whether or not they had an Aggro, Control, Midrange, or Combo deck that was relevant in the current meta. The lowest half of decks suggested were cut and the rest were added to a second survey. In this part, respondents were asked to name each tier a deck could be reasonably placed in. These tiers were given scores of 4 for S tier, 3 for A tier, 2 for B tier, and 1 for C tier. Additionally, a plus or minus (+/-) added to the tier increased or decreased the score by .3 (for example, an A+ tier would have a score of 3.3). The scores were added up to create a weighted average, which is the score listed next to each deck. The decks were then sorted into (nearly) equal groups to create the relative tiers for the previous meta.
Given that this report only addresses this meta, it’s important to note how the scores relate in relative and absolute terms. The difference between the scores of the two decks represents the rough gap in power between the decks. The absolute score of the deck represents the strength of it in a vacuum. For example, the majority of decks that ultimately made it in B tier have scores that would correlate more towards A tier. They are, however, in B tier due to their relative power with the other decks considered in this report. There is also now a Confidence Interval next to each deck, although this data is anecdotal, not empirical. Roughly, it correlates to the spread in the data. The more “tight” the data, the higher the confidence interval. Conversely, the more varied the opinion on a deck’s strength, the lower the confidence interval. Finally, part two of this survey contains an S+ and a C- tier, which were not in the previous report. This means their scores can not be used to make comparisons between decks.
However! All of this was done with a survey size of 11. The opinions used to create this report represent a very small number of players in an unexplored meta. So don’t be afraid to try things out that are “weak” or off meta! Who knows, you might discover something that makes it onto the next report.
Banjo Zam 3.908
- Confidence: Very High
Sitti Reanimator 3.779
- Confidence: Very High
Banjo NakaMask 3.545
- Confidence: High
Banjo Rainbow 3.521
- Confidence: Medium
After being stripped of his right to go face, Banjo has returned like a hydra, dominating the meta yet again with three decks for every one that faced the ban hammer! Oh, and Sitti is here too, but we’ll talk about her later. First off, while these numbers seem high, especially compared to the previous report, they actually aren’t too bad. S tier is marked at 4, so the fact that even the best deck in the game doesn’t meet that mark is a good sign for balance. Additionally, while the gap between Banjo Zam and Banjo NakaMask is rather large, this doesn’t correlate to unwinnable matchups. As we’ll explore, these are all decks that utilize very explosive combos to lock people out of games before they’ve begun. And while they are very good (and disgustingly fast), they are not perfect.
Starting with the domineer of our report, Banjo Zam is a relatively old deck taking advantage of a few recent changes. First and foremost is the loss of heavy aggro in the meta. Following the likely needed nerfs to explosive cards like Run Wild, Huntaro, and Hot Dog, Aggro strategies have slumped significantly in terms of speed. Secondly, cards like Magnanimous, Turn the Tide, and Fish —which were previously unexplored— have been found to be quite reliable in their ability to lubricate combos. Finally, with control strategies having to shift towards greedier plans to handle the more frequent mirror matchups, combo has become a very viable way to end games despite their resources. For Banjo Zam, this specific variant is known as MagZam, the deck that utilizes these cost reduction cards along with other mana resources like Take Root, Orchid, and Rosewater Charm to accelerate plays. Alongside this increased speed, Wisdom’s amazing draw cards like Hydrate and Canny Mask come into play, moving through the deck at an incredible rate. Seek and Fish also allow the player to bank mana for future turns, allowing plays like a 3c Turn the Tide (basically a mana flask + refuel) or a 4c Magnanimous. Finally, once the actual combo of Zam + Electron + Illusion arrives, the large number of 0c spells in hand allow for absurd numbers of damage, especially with Salvage or Turn the Tide.
Another serious contender is Sitti, playing Banjo’s absurd tempo game but with units instead of spells. Here, the combo isn’t something fancy per se, although the flow and consistency of it is quite remarkable. In short, the deck plays only 4 or 5 units: Warlock, Puppet Master, Hydrex, Undragon, and an optional Glacial Hulk. In the opening hand, the player fishes for Wartlock, Puppet Master, Fish, Dual Boot, or Chrome Cast. If none of these are available, draw cards are chosen instead. Then, the plays work as follows:
Play Wartlock, either through hand, Fish, Dual Boot, Puppet Master, or Chrome Cast. Warlock kills:
Puppet Master, which draws a 2/2 lead Hydrex/Glacial Hulk
Glacial Hulk, who gives Glacial Tomb for a second Wartlock
Hydrex, who plays three 3/1 armored Vypers on death or
Undragon, who plays two 1/2 wither Zomboids on summon
Alternatively, you can play Dual Boot into:
Puppet Master, who plays Wartlock
Glacial Hulk (Weak Pull)
Notably, if you get just a decent draw, the odds are very high of hitting either a Hydrex or Undragon on either turn 2 or 3. This doesn’t necessarily mean you win, but not many decks are capable of cleaning up the armored Vypers or Zomboids easily in those early rounds. Given that they live, Unliving Pact can be played the following turn, which usually seals the game. Also, if they die Glacial Tomb can be played, which can either seal the game or drain massive amounts of your opponent’s resources to answer. Dusting could be considered an answer, but anything pulled off of Puppet Master will have lead, resummoned Undragon’s and Hydrex’s have more health than the common dusting options, a unit pulled off of Dual Boot has a copy in hand, and grave dusting cards like Raise Arms or Ghost Duster are very specific and tricky to use effectively. Oh, and this is happening around turns 2-4. So if you don’t have an answer by then, you might be done for. Of course, this all expects them to get at least one of five cards within 8~10 opportunities, seven from the mulligan, and however many from the turn’s draw. Once a few turns have passed, removal tools (like Encapsulate, Gusto’s Retort, and Uppercut) and more board-control come online, significantly reducing the potency of what is still a crazy good combo.
Finally (as far as I care to discuss Banjo), there’s Grover turbo, another deck with a simple but potent combo. Grover is a 3c unit that discards every 1c unit from your deck. To anyone with a brain, there is nothing to write home about. But to those with a galaxy brain (or none at all), it’s incredible. Simply put, a Chrome Cast into Grover on turn one allows one to essentially play a mono-prism with two prisms to pick from. Combine this with Sky Phoenix, who now has a veritable buffet of revival food, and Desire, who gets substantially more potent with less cards left in the deck, and this list allows for some insane curves to be played with frightening consistency. Even when Grover doesn’t come down early, the 1c units are still generally good, with cards like Gato and Scooter acting as draw and removal seen in the days of aggro Banjo’s past.
Considering that the deck effectively runs much fewer cards than most other decks, it’s no surprise that its strategy is rather linear. Sky Phoenix is the early, mid, and late game unit of choice, due to its synergies with cards like Dual Boot and Soul Forge. Clone Army gets bonus points here for turning one early Phoenix into another with Lead. Clone Army also synergizes well with Desire, working to create a wall of overbearing guard units with impossible stats and Lead to negate dusting. Finally, other Rainbow staples like Sky Channel and World Tree just get better given that you start the game with all requirements met.
Horik Grave 3.308
- Confidence: Medium
Zoey Aggro 3.136
- Confidence: Low
Horik UnRise 3.04
- Confidence: Medium
Axel Control 2.822
- Confidence: Medium
Moving onto the All-The-Other-Decks Tier, or A Tier for short, we see a nice mix of heart-based strategies, which likely gained prominence from the latest Heart buffs as well as the slowdown in Aggro. Horik leads the pack at the top of A Tier with his usual grave-based control strategies, but two new ideas of old strategies have emerged as well, with Zoey Aggro taking the lead on Aggro and Axel Control finding new ways to disrupt strategies.
With the nerfs to Agility over the past month, it’s surprising to see Zoey Aggro doing so well. But, when one considers the myriad of buffs various Heart units have received, it becomes much easier to understand. First and foremost is Blood Hunter, which received a minor yet explosive change to its text effect. Before, Blood Hunter allowed only your hero to attack past guard units, enabling a small amount of poke damage from time to time. Now her effect also allows units to ignore guard, turning what was once an on-par card into an explosive turn 6 finisher. Blood Hunter’s attached spell is the aptly named Blood Moon, which increases the attack of your units by 2 and gives every unit guard. Considering that the most common breakpoint for health is 3 in Skyweaver, this alone was already pretty good for helping the user trade wide boards into the opponent’s for value. However, with the text change, it now translates more into 2 extra damage per unit, a negation of all enemy guards, and a board of guard units in the case that lethal is not secured. Compared to Agility’s Catch!, Blood Hunter is good. Other notable changes include Shoal Siren’s substantially improved text effect and the inclusion of Bill’s stat buffs to ally units on board. Both of these work to make Zoey far better at sticking and holding a board compared to past decks, which played a more attrition-focused style of aggro.
Of course, the deck does have some issues. For starters, probably the biggest issue is its poor matchups against the current combo decks in S tier. Zoey has no way to disrupt either NakaMask or Sitti decks, both of which can easily bury it in armor. Additionally, Rainbow Banjo can take a consistent lead on it with its speed and consistency, meaning cards like Uppercut, Gusto’s Retort, or Gusto himself are crucial if you want to take back control. Of course, that assumes you live long enough for those answers to show up. Finally, Zam decks have an absurd amount of speed right now, generally going off around turns 7-8 with high-rolls on turn 5. With Magnanimous as the only target for removal and the Zam deck’s far superior draw, Zoey has an uphill battle winning the game by turn 7 with her occasional dead draws.
On the other end of the spectrum is a new control deck I’ve piloted into Grand Weaver: the often unseen Axel. This deck makes heavy use of units—an uncommon sight in Wisdom decks—from which the deck draws its explosive niche. Readers may recall in my recent dragon breakdown that my primary issue with Kah Meht was that Meng’long generally does its job better, but that it can be effective to run both. Well, while that is still true, I had neglected Kah’s potential as a late game finisher. So, with that in mind, the flow of the deck becomes surprisingly simple.
Aggravate aggro with cheap, efficient removal in cards like Eradicate and Whisk Away
Build resources in hand for an early Meng’long.
Clear the discard pile with cards like Temple Watch, Unfallow, Evermore, and Undergrowth for Ancients Rise
Dominate board with cards like Meng’long (recur it through Temple Watch, Evermore, or Ancients Rise), Ancients Rise, and Kha Meht.
The actual execution is rather tight, but just remember to Always Be Controlling Dragons and you’ll be fine. Once the board is locked down, the deck has several ways to close out games. Prismata is an amazing greed option that can usually end games in its own right just from how much value it generates. Wisdom and Heart have more draw and healing spells than any other prism in the game, so drawing their cards late in the game can keep your deck afloat for many more turns. At the same time, Grave Roil expands the ood potential of the deck in the other direction, pulling a good number of units as well as a guaranteed Undragon off of Giza. Temple Watch will also return either a Meng’long or Kah Meht, which should allow for a cheap guard unit after the roil.
Given its focus on synergies, however, it does face a few hurdles. First and foremost is its issue with dead draws. Undergrowth, Ancients Rise, Prismata, Sphinx Mask, and Grave Roil can all be entirely dead when drawn too early. Even later in the game, it takes a lot of manipulation to efficiently play Prismata or Ancients Rise. Drawing them too early or being forced to play them inefficiently can cost you a lot of value that could’ve been decisive later in the game. Secondly comes the issue with dusting. Every grave-based deck will have issues with this, but while Horik has cards like Suit Up and Buckler Up and Sitti has Soul Forge and Puppet Master, Axel is lacking good ways to ensure his death effects go off. For a few cards like Mr. Whiskers, this isn’t as big of a deal, but it gets very bad once cards like Undergrowth or Ancients Rise are drawn, as they quickly lose value as the quality of their targets go down. This is especially true for Opal Golem and Giza, the units with arguably the most important death effects in the deck, as they both enable your dragons to come down much sooner.
Fox Aggro 2.816
- Confidence: Medium
Titus Removal Pile 2.76
- Confidence: Low
Iris Rainbow 2.744
- Confidence: Low
Iris Banner 2.709
- Confidence: Low
In B Tier we find the evidence of fallen aggro, along with a new interpretation of Titus decks piloted by Unjust. However, I need to state that the confidence in the placement of all of these decks is rather low, so tread carefully and feel free to experiment with the decks presented here. In short, this tier can be generally understood as either sub-optimal or niche strategies.
First and foremost is Fox Aggro, falling dramatically since the last report. This is expected, given the nerfs to its Fire and Metal cards, but the full extent of it is still surprising. Hot Dog and Run Wild both traded their Banner for an extra point of attack power, which has substantially pulled back the power of the decks. This is because banner is far more versatile than power, as your hero’s attack can be used to remove units from the board. Hot Dog was especially good with this: when he pulled either Fire Rune or Run Wild, your hero’s attack would be at least three, the aforementioned breakpoint for removing most units. This logic was especially important for Run Wild, as its banner helped ensure the unit could hit face and activate its glory. Without it, cards like Trailblazer, Hannah, and Coffin Moth are substantially weaker. Speaking of those cards, many other former staples were either tuned down or outright nerfed. Trailblazer no longer has lifesteal, which means the recoil from its spell is now much more felt. Imposter has lost its stealth, making it very hard to use. Blitz has gained a recoil, further taxing the ability of Agility to survive longer games. Even cards like Grim Reprisal have been changed, whose lack of Wither makes it less useful when dealing with larger units.
Altogether, this has led to a slower, less aggressive, and less “identifiable” Fox. Compared to Zoey’s many staple units (like Bill, Blood Hunter, or Shoal Siren), Fox has had trouble finding units to fulfill similar niches. Cards like Mushka and Squiddy, while recently buffed, have yet to prove reliable, and nerfs to cards like Sunder and Brimstone make Fox’s hyper-efficient removal less effective than it once was. Although cards like Crystal Cache, Geode, Gladiator, and the improved Firesight help the deck compete, it lacks the speed to properly and reliably address the serious Combo decks in S tier or the value-heavy Heart decks of A tier.
One interesting discovery in B tier, however, is the emergence of a new style for Titus: the Removal Pile strategy. For the uninitiated, Removal Pile takes the basic premise of value, which is that whoever has more cards generally wins, and plays fully into it. When played efficiently, every card in the deck either kills an enemy unit or replaces itself. Repeat this enough times and you can eventually leave your opponent with only one or two cards while you are holding a fair number more. Afterward, it becomes a simple process to bludgeon your opponent to death with big units like Libra and Titanic. It’s a fitting strategy for the Strength and Wisdom prism, simply putting a lot of removal behind really big units and letting them do their thing. The late game isn’t very deep compared to things like Horik or Axel, consisting of just a couple of units, but Wisdom’s amazing ood reliability helps make up for this. Additionally, Titus has no issue dusting away the opponent’s late game, with cards like Burn to a Crisp and Kha’s Wrath appearing multiple times in the list.
Of course, no list is perfect and Titus Removal Pile does have its issues, the most prominent of which is the general lack of draw. While there is a good amount of value generation, all it takes is a few bad draws for that strength to dissipate as aggro draws past the removal. Additionally, the deck is quite lacking in early game units. Mana Pot/Flask into cards like Beetle can help supplement this, but it may come back to bite the player, as the formerly dead removal in the opponent’s hand suddenly finds a very small number of very prime targets. This can be remedied by adding more units, but then the balance of removal is lowered, making it tricky to tune. However, among all the decks on the list, I believe this one has the most potential, since it is more capable than any other deck of disrupting common late game strategies.
Mira Metal 2.623
- Confidence: Low
Mai Midrange 2.583
- Confidence: Low
Ada Aggro 2.245
- Confidence: High
Last, and perhaps least, is C Tier, showing us just how disrupted the meta has been by the recent balance changes. Mai has tumbled even further than Fox did, with some players like Shpungo now advocating a more midrange strategy as opposed to her breakneck rush of patches past. Mira Metal has also fallen far from last time, although I suspect this is more due to an overreaction.
Suffering more than any hero from the previous patches, Mai has had a rough go of it. With the nerf to Banjo aggro, a lot of her key cards were caught up in the changes. Draw, stats, and utility were all tuned down across the board, leaving a good number of the units weaker, including Cobalt, Doctor Vile, Angler, Ghost Duster, and Gato. Additionally, the accompanying nerfs to Agility doubled down on the damage: cards like Huntaro became slower, and buffs to aggressive Heart cards have left Mai without a viable niche. With this in mind, the move to midrange seems to make a lot more sense—don’t compete in fields you can’t compete in—but in my opinion, Mai is seriously lacking the tools to make a good midrange deck. While other decks take advantage of cards like Casket, Eclipse, or Rhumbo to maintain board presence throughout the mid-game, Mai’s units are seriously lacking in stats. Her best-statted unit is Maw Worm, which is hard to play early as it is one of the only healing cards in the deck. Queen of Jacks and Plane Ranger would seem to be good at helping lock things down, but, without the presence of other good units to tank removal, I believe they are mostly just going to trade into spells. Given this, alongside a lack of serious late-game strategy, the deck is simply not good at anything it’s trying to do.
In what ought to be a much more favorable position is Mira Metal, getting harassed by a few of the nerfs to Fox and Mai but nothing as serious as them. Her general gameplan is still quite good: simply bury your opponent in armor units until they cry. The reason this works is through a special type of resource attrition I am calling Targeted Attrition. While some control decks like Horik or Titus work by making a large number of +1 trades, Mira instead doesn’t allow those trades to happen to begin with. By playing a large number of Armor units, it naturally follows that the opponent’s ability to remove your units is already taxed. Not every removal card can clear every unit, and some of those will by nature simply be invalidated. So, Mira does something similar to the combo decks by turning some number of the opponent’s draws into dead draws, giving her a natural card advantage without ever spending extra mana. It can be smothering when this occurs, as Mira has a lot of metal units that generate value on their own, like Ghost Duster, Cobalt, and Heavy Cavalry. Incredible draw cards like Crystal Cache and Tempest Brew also supplement the Prism’s normally lackluster draw.
All of this is predicated on the idea of Targeted Attrition actually working though. They still have the card, and while that Backstab may not clear anything now, that doesn’t mean it couldn’t be useful later. If Glorious Mane doesn’t go off, Mira’s units are decently statted, but not impossible to trade through. This leaves her vulnerable to things like Axel and Zoey simply running through them and going straight for face. Mira is also lacking a solid late game strategy, which means she can have trouble running out of steam in control matchups. All things considered, I believe she should certainly be higher, B Tier at the very least.
So, did I get everything right? Of course I did, I am always right. But, if for some reason you disagree, feel free to leave it in the comments! It won’t change my mind, but it’ll be fun to read later. Got a question about the survey, or want to help with the production of these reports? Feel free to message me on discord, my tag can be found in the bio at the bottom of this article. Special thanks to all our wonderful survey respondents, as well as Alpha and Zygote on discord for helping me with editing. 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