Tier List: March 2019 - Neon - March 8, 2018
Note: there will be a video for the tier list soon, but it has been delayed until later tonight.
Welcome to the March 2019 edition of the Eternal tier list! The wild ride of the Defiance metagame has continued! We have seen all sorts of developments and changes in the meta over the last month, and while things have certainly slowed down, it was quite an interesting journey. We expect the next campaign should be just around the corner, but it is still useful to take stock of the metagame, especially with next week’s ECQ on the horizon. Before we get into that though, I want to let you know about a promotion we are running with our friends at Inked Gaming!
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Back to the Tier List - 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 Monstrum, isomorphic, LightsOutAce, Almost, and 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 format, 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 also 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. I am also 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.
As has been the case since Defiance was released, Winchest is still on top. While changes to the Smugglers and Rizahn have diminished the edge FJS once had, it seems that cards like Display of Ambition and Xo are still insane. Players who filled out the survey were unanimous in giving rank 1 status to Winchest – the only deck to achieve this honor in this edition of the tier list. All that being said, the particulars of how to build FJS are still open to debate. While it seems possible to build Winchest to beat almost anything you want, it is impossible to beat everything at once. One of the secrets to being successful with Winchest comes from picking how to customize your list for a given laddering session or tournament. I enjoy playing FJS personally, but I know a lot of people are kinda sick of the deck, so I expect we will see some FJS hate in the upcoming campaign (or maybe balance changes shortly thereafter).
The rest of tier 1 seems to be a collection of decks that can prey on Winchest. I say “can” because the particulars of the FJS deck make a huge difference in many of these match ups. Do you play Adjudicator’s Gavel in your market? Then your Reanimator match up should be solid. No Gavel means it is probably pretty bad. The problem is you sometimes need to cut Bore to make room for Gavel. In that case your Ramp matchup is going to be tough. These decks are not just about beating Winchest though, they are all independently very powerful, and have the ability to enact a proactive game plan. This is particularly useful in a world where there is a wide range of what your opponents can play.
As we move to tier 1.5 there are still a lot of great decks to consider. Elysian’s best draws are extremely powerful, and they have an amazing capacity to win games seemingly out of nowhere. Stonescar Grenadins is still able to grind out their opponents on the backs of haymakers like Gearcruncher and the Witching Hour. Etc. While I would agree that I would rather play one of the tier 1 decks rather than a tier 1.5 deck, these are all totally fine choices to get to master.
While the gap between tier 1 and tier 1.5 doesn’t feel large this month, the gap between 1.5 and 2 feels much larger. Almost every deck in the tier 2+ range has some serious issues to address. There are a couple specific decks in this range that I would like to mention. Winchest Paladins, Vodakombo, and Stonescar Aggro all made the top 8 of the ETS this weekend. Are these decks a flash-in-the-pan, or are they not established enough to turn the heads of these players? I’m interested to find out in the coming weeks.
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, Skycrag Aggro, Jennev (FTP) Midrange/Howling Peak, Combrei Ramp, Haunted Highway, Rakano Aggro
TJP Control/Ramp, Elysian Aggro/Maul, Xenan Midrange
Reanimator, Winchest (FJS) Paladins, Stonescar Grenadins, Praxis Tokens
Kennadins, Feln Midrange, Vodakombo, FPS Control/Howling Peak
Praxis Midrange, Argenport Midrange, Argenport Aggro, Ixtun (FJP) Control/Howling Peak, TJP Blitz, Kerrendon (TJS) Midrange/Ramp, Argenport Control, Combrei Aggro, Stonescar Aggro
This is an instance where power level and popularity seem to line up fairly well. Aggro decks do a little better, combo does a little worse, all of which is pretty typical. While this tier list does include dozens of decks, it still feels as if this doesn’t encapsulate all the random stuff happening on the ladder. It seems like every time I sign up for the ladder I encounter some new match up, like Auralian Aggro, Elysian Control, or Milos Tokens. None of these decks seem consistent or powerful enough to include in this tier list, it is entirely possible that a couple of card releases or balance changes could change things.
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. This time there are 4 decks that were all graded as significantly underrated, so let’s take a look at those.
Boy this deck is controversial. Reading opinions on Twitter and Reddit you see everything from “it’s broken and should be nerfed to death” to “it’s crap, and can only win through high-rolls.” These polarized views make sense when you see the deck in action, as there are some games it vomits its entire deck into play on turn 5, and other games it just rolls over and dies. All of this may spook people of the deck, in addition to being technically difficult to play. If you want a primer on the deck, be sure to check out my article from February, which has held up quite well.
This seems to consistently be one of the strongest decks that players don’t want to play. I suppose that it is similar to Reanimator in that some matchups are extremely polarized, leading to an uneven overall impression of the deck. Still, if you are able to avoid matchups like Ramp and Reanimator, I think Grenadins is a very good deck for ladder.
TJP Blitz and Combrei Aggro
It is hard to say exactly why Time-Justice aggro has been so lackluster the last few months. They get to play fabulous cards like Alessi, Awakened Student, and Stand Together, but they still see very little play. I suppose Winchest does a good job of sitting on these decks, as Vara and Defiance can be totally backbreaking. These decks do not rate well in terms of power level, so even though they are “underrated” that doesn’t mean they are “good”, but perhaps there is something there left to explore?
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?
Defiance felt like a major step up in power level, and while Skycrag got a couple new tools, it is difficult to argue that it has kept up. I have to admit that find some of the newer builds of the deck to be a little bizarre. Wump and Pok Pok are sweet, but I can’t say I have seen the proof that these cards are real improvements over traditional builds. Don’t get me wrong, Skycrag is fine as a deck! It is just... not much better than “fine”.
The Defiance meta has been great, but I am starting to really feel the pull for a new set release. There are lots of powerful deck floating around, and I am excited to see how they shuffle around with an injection of new content.
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