Tier List - Neon - December 7, 2018

 

We are reaching the end of the Fall of Argenport/Into Shadow format, but it is worth surveying the metagame for the last couple of weeks. As most of us should know, a new format is never truly new, meaning that the framework for the best decks in the future can probably be seen today. It is also worth keeping a record of what the format looks like for “historical” purposes.

Where Am I Getting My Numbers?

High level players! I recruit a rotating band of high-performing tournament and ladder competitors to fill in a survey to give their thoughts on different decks. I am deliberately trying to pull information from a range of high-level players to get a well-rounded perspective. If I didn’t ask you, it doesn’t mean I don’t care about your opinion, but I would just like to spread out the work from month-to-month. The players who filled out the survey this month were TonyGeeeee, Wodar, Toboo, finkel, and LightsOutAce. This is a different collection of players than last month, so some differences in evaluation will partly be a result of idiosyncratic effects. I am also offering a chance to win a $5 Steam card to those who fill out the survey, and this month the winner is Wodar!

I should mention that I asked players to ignore differences between Ranked and Tournaments. While I understand that there are some decks that have an edge in one over the other, this is not generally too important. I asked players to average their rating of the two formats if there was a difference in their mind.  

Players gave me suggested decklists for each archetype. I will admit that I did not test these myself, but they seem reasonable. These are at least a good starting point to understand typical builds of these decks.

Power and Popularity

I am dividing the tier list into two separate metrics: “Power” being a metric for how good a deck is, and “Popularity” being a metric for how often a deck is played.

Power

 The “power level tier list” is a summary of what top-level players think you should be playing. I specifically asked them to ignore complexity and fun, but focus entirely on maximizing the chance of winning. Here are the descriptions I gave to the players filling out the survey:

Tier 1: Heavyweight. Decks you would suggest to a skilled player who only cared about winning.

Tier 2: Contender. Some weaknesses, but has a lot to offer. Maybe a change in the meta will allow it to move up

Tier 3: Lightweight. This deck has some serious problems, but some people keep playing it for some reason.

Tier 4: Meme. If it is popular, it isn't because the deck is actually good.

Tier 5: Not important. The deck is so bad or so uncommon that it should not be on the tier list.

Tier 1

Skycrag Aggro, Feln Midrange, Haunted Highway

Tier 1.5

Praxis Tokens, Big Combrei, Combrei Aggro, Rakano Midrange, FJS Midrange

Tier 2

Argenport Midrange, Xenan Midrange, Xenan Mask, Praxis Midrange, Rakano Aggro, TJP Control, Stonescar Aggro

Tier 3

Feln Beserk/Scream, Stonescar Grenadins, Kennadins, Hooru Midrange, TJP Midrange, Talir-Mask Combo

Tier 4

Argenport Control, JPS Control, Elysian Midrange

Commentary: November was not kind to FJS decks. If you recall, FJS midrange was considered as one of the undisputed pillars of the format, but now it barely holding onto tier 1.5 status. This can largely be explained by Feln Midrange’s rise. A deck packed with high-impact aegis units like Feastcaller and Champion of Cunning is basically the perfect counter to FJS’s grindy playstyle. Along with this, we have seen Skycrag slide into the top-tier as well. It is difficult to tell if this is a result of changes to the metagame, tuning of Skycrag lists, or the deck simply getting the respect it deserves. One or another, Champion of Fury seems to be setting the pace of the metagame. 

Outside the first tier, things honestly look a lot messier. Some months I can look at the rating of various decks and draw clear lines where the different tiers start and end. That was not the case here. While there is a general sense that Praxis tokens and big Combrei are better than something like Stonescar Aggro, there did not seem to be much enthusiasm for any of these decks. While I always discourage people to take tier lists too literally, the difference between tier 1.5 and tier 3 in this particular tier list feels smaller than usual.

Still, there are a few decks that should likely be avoided. Argenport Control, JPS Control, and Elysian Midrange all had poor showings. I get messages every month that the tier list under-rates JPS Control, but it seems like most of the high-level players I ask think it is consistently bad. Maybe a few specific individuals have an acceptable win rate with the deck, but it is simply not putting up interesting results. Another minor deck that is worth noting is Feln Scream, which fell substantially in the power rankings from last month. This probably partly a result of Haunted Highway continuing to eat into its meta share, and Feln Midrange’s enthusiasm for Rindra’s Choice.

Talir Mask also lost a good deal of power over the last month, but that is relatively self-explanatory. The fact that Talir Mask isn’t in Tier 4 should really say something about those decks at the bottom.

Popularity

What is almost as important as what you should be playing is what other people are playing. If you want to metagame against the field, it is good to know what decks are the most common.

Tier 1: Very popular. Expect to see this deck in almost every ladder session, and every tournament.

Tier 2: Somewhat popular. Be prepared for the deck, but don't warp your deck around it.

Tier 3: Fringe. Some players are using the deck, but it is certainly not common. Be familiar with it. 

Tier 4: Off-meta. Maybe you have seen it once or twice, but it is not worth considering.

Tier 5: Not important. The deck is so bad or so uncommon that it should not be on the tier list. 

Tier 1

Skycrag Aggro, Feln Midrange

Tier 1.5

Haunted Highway, Combrei Aggro, Rakano Midrange, FJS Midrange

Tier 2

Big Combrei, Xenan Midrange, Praxis Tokens, Rakano Aggro, TJP Control 

Tier 3

Argenport Midrange, Stonescar Aggro, Praxis Midrange, Xenan Mask, Feln Scream/Berserk,

Tier 4

Kennadins, TJP Midrange, Argenport Control, JPS Control, Stonescar Grenadins, Talir Mask Combo, Elysian Midrange

Commentary: Feln Midrange has really taken off in the last month. The rise in the power level ranking of Feln midrange from last month to this month was only moderate, but popularity has really popped off. Not a shock, given the strong performance of the deck in tournaments. On the flip side, it seems that some people have gotten bored of Haunted Highway. While the deck is still highly rated from the perspective of power level, it seems to have fallen a bit in popularity. 

Outside of these top ranks though, it seems as if this group felt the meta was relatively narrow. The popularity scores seemed low across the board outside of the tier 1 and 1.5 decks. This is probably pretty normal as we move to the end of a format, where players settle on their favorite deck and ride that out until the next release. That being said, an enterprising deckbuilder might be able to find a way to counter this rigid metagame if they are so inclined.

Underrated Decks

This measures decks that were rated as significantly more powerful than they were popular, meaning that they may be underplayed at the moment, or might highlight some hole in the metagame. This month it seemed as if a lot of decks were underrated, but there were two that stood out.

TALIR MASK

This one surprised me a bit. While the team agreed that the deck is not great, some appeared to feel it still had a bit of life in it, despite being crippled by the most recent balance changes. I know I have seen some TJS versions including Grinva as a combo piece, which looked very fancy. Maybe there is still something there?

STONESCAR GRENADINS

This caught my eye during my end-of-season grind, when I came across finkel playing Grenadins in his battle for the top 10. The deck seems to have a strong Skycrag and Haunted Highway match up, though I expect Feln Midrange might be rough depending on the number of Hailstorms and Black Sky Harbingers. I’m not sure myself where the deck stands, but it is one to keep an eye on as new cards are revealed.

Overrated Decks

While some decks are more powerful than they are popular, the reverse can also be true. Which decks are seeing more play than they should? 

FELN MIDRANGE AND SKYCRAG AGGRO

This follows the theme I have been discussing about players being a bit closed-minded. Yes, Feln Midrange and Skycrag Aggro are very good decks, but they are probably seeing more play then they should be. It is really easy to get into a rut in the late stages of a format, so I don’t blame anyone who just queues up their Feln or Skycrag deck for some easy wins for daily quests.

COMBREI AGGRO

It seems like some of the more experienced players have figured out how to play around Sword of Unity. The card is obviously messed up, but a skilled player can manage a board state such that it is lower impact. This may explain that some of the team thought the deck was seeing more play then it should be. Alternatively, this could similarly be a result of the “daily and done” crowd, using a consistent aggressive deck to jam their quests.

Wrap-Up

While this format has been a wild ride, it is very clearly wrapping up. Players seem to have settled on a narrow collection of decks that they intend to finish out of the remainder of the format. The only major wrinkle is the ETS World Championship that is happening this weekend. Is there going to be a big shock? If not, I expect to see a fairly static metagame until the release of Defiance, so let’s hope we get something spicy. 

Thanks for checking this out! I’m sure a lot of you have opinions on this, and I want to hear them! Share your thoughts on Reddit, Facebook, Twitter, or on Youtube!

Thanks again to those who helped give me the information for the tier list, and thanks to all of you for checking this out!