Tier List - Neon - January 11, 2019
Hello everyone, and welcome of the first tier list of Defiance! I am very excited to talk about what is happening in the metagame to help navigate a very new format, especially on the eve of the second ECQ! This will hopefully give you some useful information on what to play and what to expect. Let’s jump right in!
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 aetherllama, InGenuity, Unearthly, Paradox, and Kroge. 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 Paradox!
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.
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.
Winchest has rapidly become the “deck to beat”. It turns out when you take a top tier deck, and you give it a bunch of amazing cards (and nerf the competition) you get a pretty good deck! In some ways it is unfair to call this a continuation of the old “Removal Pile” decks, as so much of the deck is new. The version linked above won the ETS event this weekend, and runs 27 cards from Defiance in main deck and market. For comparison, all other sets give 28 non-power in the main deck and market. The deck itself is marvellous example of the brutal efficiency we have come to expect from FJS, sporting a solid curve of high impact threats and efficient removal. As far as I have seen, it has very few match ups that are actively bad.
Winchest’s main adversary would be the various Howling Peak decks. This card is a banger. I am hoping to put out an article at some point about Howling Peak, but most people have figured out that this card is juiced. At this point, there is an FP Peak deck, an FTP Peak deck, an FJP Peak deck, and FPS Peak deck all at tier 1 or 1.5. That is all the possible Peak decks before moving into 4F Peak (which I am honestly considering). This group ranked peak decks as Jennev (FTP) > FPS > Kennadins > Ixtun (FJP), but these gaps are not large, meaning there is a wide range of potential builds that are competitively viable. While I love this card, I expect DWD is keeping a very close eye on it, especially given some of the language in the most recent patch notes.
Winchest and Howling Peak decks have captured a good deal of the attention of the community, but there is a third macro-archetype that has done well in the Defiance format: aggro. Rakano, Skycrag, Feln, Haunted Highway, and even Elysian aggro have all found a spot in tier 1.5. This is perhaps expected, as the greed-war between Winchest and Howling Peak decks has created an opening for beatdown decks, which was only widened by the nerfs to Ixtun and Jennev Merchant. Control decks seem to still have the upper-hand, but a shift in the metagame may upset that balance.
When looking at tier 2 and beyond there is a lot of mediocre midrange decks that got less help from the expansion. Looking at the grades from the “committee”, you could tell there wasn’t a ton of agreement on these decks. Take Big Combrei for example. It got scores of “2, 2, 3, 4, and 5” on the 1-to-5 scale. All over the place! While none of these decks are outstanding, there is certain some potential that may be worth exploring.
To do well on the ladder you need to both play a good deck, but also prepare against 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.
Winchest (FJS) Midrange/Control, Jennev (FTP) Midrange/Howling Peak, Elysian Aggro/Maul, Rakano Aggro, FPS Control/Howling Peak
Ixtun (FJP) Control/Peak, Skycrag Aggro, Haunted Highway, Kennadins, Feln Scream/Berserk
Combrei Aggro, Argenport Midrange, Big Combrei, Feln Midrange, Rakano Midrange/Valkyries, Argenport Control
Praxis Tokens, Praxis Midrange, Talir-Mask Combo, Kerrendon (TJS) Midrange/Ramp, Kerrendon (TJS) Alessi
Stonescar Aggro, Xenan Mask, Hooru Midrange, TJP Control/Chalice, JPS Control
This is pretty similar to what we saw in the power level rankings. Some of the top-performing aggro decks have moved up from tier 1.5 to tier 1, which is normal as these decks are generally quite popular given that they are easier to put together, and faster to play. I suppose the only thing worth emphasizing is not to forget about aggro – Winchest and Jennev are amazing decks, but sometimes you start the game with all Crests on the draw, and you just die.
I will also say that this ladder composition does not look like what I have been seeing. For example, I have honestly only run into FPS Peaks a couple of times, and while the deck seems good, I don’t feel it is super popular. That being said, the metagame is still moving fairly quickly, and I haven’t yet made it to Master this month, so it is entirely possible the top of the ladder looks different. It should also be mentioned that this tier list is geared to the meta since the patch nerfing Ixtun and Jennev Merchant, but it is possible that the committee carried over some impressions from the pre-patch meta. Moral of the story: tier lists are complicated.
This measures decks that are rated as significantly more powerful than they were popular, meaning that they may be underplayed at the moment. This might highlight some hole in the metagame.
Feln Midrange and Praxis Midrange
I am grouping these together because I think they suffer from the same problem: no new cards. Why play so-so midrange decks packed with boring cards when you can play new decks with exciting new cards! Still, there is probably some sauce here that is waiting to be explored.
There are very few rock-hard rules of Eternal tier lists, but let me offer one: whenever Kennadins is good, it will be underrated. The deck is very difficult to pilot, and requires a weirdo mix of Legendaries that sees play nowhere else. Still, when it is running at full steam it looks unstoppable. While the learning curve is rough, I strongly recommend everyone play this deck when you have the chance, since it is an absolute delight.
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?
For this month there is only one deck that seems truly over-rated, and that is Elysian Aggro/Maul. While versions of this deck did circulate in the previous format, Cykalis has clearly pushed it to a new level. Still, it seems the community might be a bit over-excited about the deck right now. I am very interested to hear if this deck is well represented lower on the ladder, as it is really powerful when your opponent doesn’t know the match up.
Defiance was a very powerful set. I sometimes think about how Winchest or Jennev Peaks would match up against Set 1 decks like Big Combrei or Feln Control. It would be embarrassing. The current format is a ton of fun, but there is clearly some power creep happening. Not that I find this problematic for the moment, but it is a strange thing to watch. Be that as it may, the format is a blast, and I feel like there is still a ton to explore. Looking forward to seeing more of it together!
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 the A+Space Discord, Reddit, Facebook, Twitter, or on Youtube! You can also support A+Space on Patreon or by checking out Inked Gaming, where you can use the code “ASPACE12” to save 12% off your orders!