META SNAPSHOT #3

New balance patch, new leaders, and same two factions at the top. Great amount of changes which have modified the meta, specially supporting less used archetypes, giving them a new breath of life.

We have two different spots for factions: at the top, we have NR, SK and ST; and fighting to not be the bottom, SY, MN and NG.

TIER 1

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SK – Rage of the Sea Warriors

Skellige has received some nerfs in one hand and has also received a cool new leader, allowing it to play different strategies than the last patch. Warriors’ core is still solid, but it has suffered some modifications to adapt to the meta.

Still one of the best decks in the meta, a contender for an auto-ban in most of the lineups if Shieldwall wasn’t a thing, and with great matchups against every single deck, which can be adapted with only slight modifications.

Key Cards:

  • Harald the Cripple: The Skellige evolving card is an excellent mix between an engine and a point slam card, allowing us to benefit from veteran cards in the graveyard. While being nerfed, it is still a great card.
  • Hemdall: a great card against Swarm builds, and which in general capitalizes long rounds super good. A must include if token builds become a norm.

Pros:

  • Great long and short round.
  • Almost no real bad pairings.

Cons:

  • Some hands can be awkward while being on a blue coin.

Considerations:

Running different leaders, depending on what we prefer. Here we list the most commons:

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NR – Shieldwall Devotion

The new shield leader ability allowed us to build an even greedier Northern Realms deck, which freed Seltkirk from the long exclusive, and firm grasp of Inspired Zeal. Shielding our Duel units and the possibility to reuse their Orders with Viraxas is an incredible interaction.

Another point in our favor is protecting our engines, such as Anna Strenger or Vysogota of Corvo, by using the leader’s ability. All of this makes them difficult to stop, as they generate an insane amount of points in long rounds.

Key Cards:

  • Viraxas: King provides a way to reuse one of our powerful Orders of Prince Anseis or Bloody Baron. It is excellent even without Devotion as it doesn’t gain much more impact in phase 3.
  • Amphibious Assault: contender to the title of the best card of the Master Mirror expansion. It allows us to thin a low-provision card with an extra tempo, enabling Northern Realms to win round 1. It can also act as a worse Royal Decree with extra points, despite its excess limitation.

Pros:

  • Excellent point output in long rounds
  • Plenty of tall removals

Cons:

  • Consistency problems, as any Northern Realms deck
  • Worse finisher than Uprising when depleting the charges

Alternatives:

Even though it is worse in mirror matches, Uprising remains a great leader we can use on the ladder. It can even be favored in certain matchups, like against Fury of the Seas. Check an example list here.

Alternatively, some lists have cut War Elephant in point to add Falibor and a single Ballista to deal with the defender in mirrors.

TIER 2

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ST – Nature’s Gift Symbiosis

A new leader arrived at the town during this patch, and for sure, it has skyrocketed Scoia’tael popularity, mostly due to its passive Symbiosis and the ability to keep Hamadryads alive, making it a really menacing engine.

With fantastic long rounds, thanks to the procs of Symbiosis and our nature spells. Also being decent in short rounds, with great cards such as Harald Gord or Novigradian Justice, this deck feels so vital in any situation, making it a contender for a spot in every competitive lineup.

Key Cards:

  • Harald Gord: our leading finisher, which we built during all the match playing spells, assuring we have great short rounds.
  • Novigradian Justice: after Mahakam Volunteers buff, a 13 point tempo play which also thins a card, great for pushing or even for keeping tempo in blue. In exchange to that, we add two potential bricks on our deck

Pros:

  • Great long round due to our engines, and the possibility of capitalizing vitality on our Hamadryads
  • Ability to distribute points thanks to our passive Symbiosis.

Cons:

  • Vulnerable to bleed and tall removal.

Considerations:

Using a devotion-based version instead generates more points of Symbiosis procs. Still, which is more vulnerable to decks that go tall, we lose our tech options and consistency via Oneiromancy. Check example list here.

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ST – Precision Strike Schirru

An old nightmare of Skellige players has emerged once again to drive the ape-men into the sea: Schirrú. This greedy card has given rise to its own archetype. It is ridiculously difficult to pilot, as you need to carefully align cards by watching how lovely they burn.

A great list has survived between patches, showing that it is even more reliable than we expected at the start of the season. It is an excellent option for the tree huggers that prefer a more oriented control archetype.

Key Cards:

  • Harald Gord: This great short round finisher is the main reason special-heavy decks can exist. The addition of Echo cards increased its value by 1 point as you can circumvent the unit restriction and play even more special cards than normally possible.
  • Schirrú: an incredibly greedy card which can  wipe most of the board after it has been carefully set up with Isengrim’s Council and Precision Strike

Pros:

  • An excellent short round finisher in Harald Gord
  • Huge point swings with Schirrú can turn around matches.

Cons:

  • Vulnerable to bleeding
  • Lacks power in long rounds

Considerations:

Instead of running the boost package for Sheldon Skaggs, we can go safer using Saesenthessis, which is super useful in matchups, which relies on control, as it can be against Nilfgaard.

Running a Devotion based list is also a great consideration, as it can have a higher point ceiling.

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SY – Congregate Swarm

The last patch has provided Swarm new tools to deal, making the archetype almost competitive, principally due to the addition of Sacred Flame, and the buffs on some of the key cards, like Dies Irae. Said that our primary strategy is the same, swarm and generate a ton of points with the Fallen Knights.

Besides, the Echo-card (“Dies Irae”) might allow us to buff our board in rounds 1 or 2 and remain available as one of the deck’s wincons for round 3. The deck could be defined as a point slam deck with a preference for a long round. However, the lack of consistent control might suggest pushing against decks that are heavier in engine cards or those that run some control elements that might hinder our key cards such as vincent van moorlehem.

Key Cards:

  • Fallen Knight: this 6-provision bronze card benefits of both spawning units and playing crimes. In combination with Ulrich and the leader ability, it is easier to preserve them alive and boosts itself by the synergic cards throughout the round. This card can grow to a 15-ish value in a long round, and playing in the same round several of them might lead to a solid wincon if unanswered.
  • Jacques Miraculous Child: Jacques is a precious card in the deck, as he gives the points necessary to succeed in a short round 3, mostly if the deck gets bled. Utilizing devotion, Jacques is, in fact, a 12 point play that synergizes with Fallen Knights as well as an engine that generates coins when Firesworn cards are being played.

Pros:

  • High point ceiling, very synergistic.
  • Excels in long rounds but is still pretty decent in short ones thanks to Jacques and Helveed.

Cons:

  • Swarm is utterly weak against row punish in the form of meta cards such as Hemdall or Werecat.
  • Many of the points get condensed in Fallen Knights, which are weak to tall removal or resets.

Considerations:

We can consider it interesting to use different eight provisions cards, as can be Damnation for the mirrors if Azar Javed is played widely. In contrast, the most exciting card could be Lieutenant Von Herst, which was cut due to the lack of coins.

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SY – Hidden Caché Passiflora

It’s a strong contender for being the best deck in the metagame, but a tough one to pilot, as are all other Syndicate lists. Recent buffs to Hidden Cache have made all the decks that traditionally were played with different abilities to switch them, getting a more engine oriented deck, but which is more reliable, as it can output more points.

We can expect this deck to plague the ladder during the next month due to the difficulty of stopping it, as it runs a significant number of threats we need to answer. In our opinion, a deck that once is mastered becomes a real danger.

Key Cards:

  • Passiflora: Novigrad scenario, which paired in combination with other Blindeyes, makes us able to generate more engines which can create a large number of points between the mix of Hoard and Sly Seductress
  • Saul de Navarette: the real menace in Hidden Cache. A great engine that unanswered can become a problem.

Pros:

  • Great long round due to the engine overload style of deck.
  • The outstanding output of points in short rounds due to Passiflora and Jacques.

Cons:

  • Extremely difficult to play

Considerations:

A greedier version which plays Bincy Blummerhort has been seen in the ladder, with decent results, as it adds another threat that our opponent has to answer, in exchange for control. You can check an example decklist here.

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NG – Imposter Single Ball

Probably the second most popular decklist among Nilfgaardian players, which combines the strengths Poison by using Masquerade Ball and aristocrats;  and the new addition of Spies, which allow us to make more efficient use of the status given. Due to the multiples nerf to the faction, Imposter has become the go-to leader.

While being strong on the red coin, this list has more proactivity than the traditional one had had before the Master Mirror expansion. This makes it a perfect contender for the title of the most substantial list in the patch, even under the reign of Skellige.

Key Cards:

  • Vincent van Moorlehem: a multi-purpose tool that allows us to deal with multiple threats of this patch. Even veiled units are a great target; we only need to find a unit with any status.
  • Masquerade Ball: poison scenario, which is excellent with aristocrats, gives us an extra layer of removal. Despite we lose tempo if Bomb Heaver answers it, the pros outline the cons.

Pros:

  • Excellent in short and in long rounds.
  • Plenty of answers to engines.

Cons:

  • Difficult to pilot correctly.

Considerations:

One of the most popular alternatives is to run a similar list but use Lockdown as leader ability to improve our matchups against Fruits of Ysgith and similar decks, which highly depend on their leader ability. 

You can check an alternative decklist here.

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MN – Overwhelming Hunger Wild Hunt

As spiritual successor of the Haunt Overwhelming Hunger deck, this deck has provided the best shell for the new Wild Hunt units as it improves its long round by including Frost from Red Riders and Ard Gaeth.

Haunt and the Deathwish package composed of Miruna, Detlaff: Higher Vampire, and Werecat provide a tempo burst and make this deck a great option to contest the ladder.

The last patch has reinforced the list: Ge’els as a tutor for Ard Gaeth and Naglfa makes it much more consistent and robust.

Key Cards:

  • Haunt: in contrast to other Monster lists, Haunt is not only a means of tempo for the deck but also a crucial piece to generate Consumes, which will help us to conserve our leader charges and proc our Deathwishes. Being able to predict whether our opponent will answer it will force us to change our gameplan.
  • Auberon: the King of the Alders is not only a great tempo play in this deck, but also suitable for its utility: the Create effect gives us different units which we can use as Purify, extra Frost, or movement. 

Pros:

  • Extremely good at bleeding thanks to plenty of Frost effects.
  • Can commit into a full round using only bronze Thrive units while always threatening enough by catching up in just one card.

Cons:

  • Loses power if Haunt is answered
  • Awkward in short rounds

Considerations:

Playing the list without Scenario if the meta is full of Bomb Heavers

We can adjust the list to accommodate Yghern and Ozzrel, mainly by cutting Ard Gaeth, adding a second Red Rider, and downgrading some bronzes like the Wild Hunt Riders. After those changes, we lost some long round potential, but gained some reach and an improved short round.

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SK – Battle Trance Gedyneith

A breath of fresh air for the Skellige faction, especially after the warriors nerf. While it recovers one of the classic identities for Skellige, as it is the alchemical builds, it also has some new elements, especially the leader, which is mostly used for having a control element.

While it is not an excellent deck for long rounds, it demolishes the opponents in short rounds, due to the unhealthy amount of points Gedyneith is able to develop in two turns. Still, a niche option for Skellige, but a one which can grow in the next patches depending on the balance.

Key Cards:

  • Gedyneith: the critical piece of the list. Combined with Ermion and a Freya’s Blessing, we can reach 31 points in one play if the scenario survives.
  • Ermion: our best enabler for the scenario, great tutor of alchemy cards. The lack of Second Wind ability forces us to keep him for R3.

Pros:

  • Great if Gedyneith sticks.
  • Explosive short rounds.

Cons:

  • A lack of points in the case of Gedyneith is answered.

Considerations:

It is possible to run a more classical Blaze of Glory version, which allows us to have an extra control layer but lowering our ceiling.

TIER 3

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MN – Overwhelming Hunger Swarm

A deck that has been overshadowed by the prevalence of other options like Ethereal. Monsters had to get creative after all the nerfs the faction has suffered.

Plague Maiden, combined with Yennefer of Vengerberg, nets many points and enables us to survive card disadvantage. Despite not being the most competitive one, it’s another option in the arsenal of Monster players.

Key Cards:

  • Haunt: in contrast to other Monster lists, Haunt is not only a means of tempo for the deck but also a crucial piece to generate Consumes, which will help us to conserve our leader charges and proc our Deathwishes. Being able to predict whether our opponent will be able to answer it dramatically changes our gameplan.
  • Plague Maiden: the primary enabler of this deck. Its Deathwish effect provides seven Beast bodies, which can be turned into explosive tempo if paired with other cards such as Morvudd or Yennefer of Vengerberg.

Pros:

  • Extremely good in short rounds
  • The excellent capability of bleeding

Cons:

  • Extremely vulnerable if round 1 is lost

Considerations

We can consider an alternative list that uses Plague Maiden as an enabler of Glustyworp to gain a three-card round of 43 points in the case we have Ozzre to consume Yghern in our graveyard.

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MN – Force of Nature Kikimore Queen

The greediest list within this faction. While Death Shadow has been removed, Force of Nature has given extra consistency to the list, which lowers its ceiling and allows us to thrive our Kikimore Queens with the Token spawned by our leader.

With potentially more than 150 points in a single round thanks to the power of Kikimore Queen, this archetype instills fear in the heart of players running noninteractive decks.

Key Cards:

  • Kikimore Queen: Her tremendous point potential of over 20 points per Thrive proc by chaining multiple Kikimore Queens makes this deck an almost unparalleled threat in long rounds.
  • Caranthir ar Feiniel: The Navigator of the Wild Hunt enables multiple Kikimore Queens. The first Thrive is activated by Caranthir, already granting decent points upon Deploy. Even though the last patch’s slight buff was reverted, this card is still essential.

Pros:

  • Great long round if unanswered

Cons:

  • Extremely vulnerable to bleed
  • Highly dependant on drawing key pieces

Considerations:

We can consider Renew over Haunt, depending on the amount of artifact removal we face on the ladder.

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SY – Hidden Cache Nova

After her rework, Ciri Nova finally has seen a decent amount of competitive play, even reaching some final stages of important tourneys. The concession that Syndicate has to make to accommodate her is not too much, as we only lose Passiflora and Philippa Eilhart from the classic lists.

As we can see, the “shield” used for this Nova is an engine overload one, as most of the SY engines are cost under ten provisions, making this deck essentially a great contender for long rounds.

Despite not being the most competitive option for SY, we still think this archetype can shine in the correct micrometas.

Key Cards:

  • Ciri Nova: Her rework has made her an exciting deckbuilding challenge, as we can see in several decks. Having resilience makes her a really attractive pick.
  • Saul de Navarette: the real menace in Hidden Cache. A great engine that unanswered can become a problem.

Pros:

  • Great long round due to the engine overload style of deck.
  • Possibility of having carryover between rounds, due to Ciri: Nova

Cons:

  • Extremely vulnerable to bleed
  • Lack of big spenders as can be Philippa or Jacques

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NR – Inspired Zeal Commandos

If we had to define this deck as something, it would be a crazy combo-list, which is why it is often seen as the most memey of the lists presented here. The idea is to abuse the generation of Blue Stripes Commandos with cards such as Adalia into Blue Stripes Scout or even Reinforcements round 1, and shuffle them back into the deck with Pavetta in round 2, and yet again via Renew Pavetta in round 3.

The amount of points that we can pull off in a short burst is ludicrous, as we can easily go over 20 in a single play. Despite being a mostly fun-oriented list, it can perform well in the correct environment.

Key Cards:

  • Blue Stripe Commando: the primary enabler of this deck. We can produce a maximum amount of 6 copies with all the tools we are using (a 7th copy could be spawned with Roche: Merciless), resulting in 24 (or even 28) points in a single play.
  • Princess Pavetta: We have 6 Blue Stripes Commandos in the graveyard, what can we do? The answer to this question is Pavetta, which allows us to return them to the deck, and with the help of a tutor being able to replay our Commandos for an insane tempo burst.

Pros:

  • Great point output in short rounds
  • Relatively undisruptable

Cons:

  • Consistency problems, as it’s too dependent on drawing well at the right time.

Considerations:

The most traditional lists tend to cut Amphibious Assault/Oneiromancy in order to run Draug, as an alternative win condition.

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NG – Lockdown Double Ball

The infamous blue coin nightmare from the last patches got some new additions to make it more flexible. Oneiromancy is more expensive than Matta Hu’uri but helps us to fish for any piece of the combo.

This deck’s idea is to abuse the red coin and quickly out tempo our opponent, forcing them to pass on even which allows us to gain control of the rest of the match. Especially gaining double last say is super useful for poisons, as we can play two of them and do not have to fear an answer.

Key Cards:

  • Masquerade Ball: the Poison scenario, which can be played twice with Assire var Anahid and Oneiromancy. We need to keep the number of Aristocrats in mind to make it work twice, but when we do, the payoff is certainly worth it.
  • Assire var Anahid: we use Assire to move Masquerade Ball from our graveyard back to the deck. In some cases, we can also shuffle back other gold cards as required.

Pros:

  • The tremendous amount of removal via Poison.
  • Powerful list on the red coin.

Cons:

  • Extra vulnerable to artifact removal.

Considerations:

While Tactical Decision and Lockdown have been the most popular choices of leader among the double scenario players, Imperial Formation has won some popularity, with the card advantage version or a more classical one.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

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NG – Tactical Decision Nova Hyperthin

Interestingly, most of the cards run by the Hyperthin Tactical Decision archetype were under 10 provisions (except for Royal Decree), so it seemed logical to fit Ciri: Nova after her rework. As classical Hyperthin, this deck tends to abuse red coin with the help of Venendal Elites and Artorius Vigo.

While not the most consistent list, despite this patch it has been improved with the addition of Morvran Voorhis, for sure it is one of the most fun to play, so we expect to see a fair amount of players with it.

Key Cards:

  • Ciri Nova: a great carryover card, and the primary enabler of this 9p or less strategy.
  • Triss Merigold / Yennefer of Vengerberg / Xarthisius: the reveal payoffs for the hyper thin strategy. Ideally, each will play for more than 15 points as we will reveal Tibor Eggerbratch.

Pros:

  • Excellent in short rounds.
  • Plenty of answers to engines.

Cons:

  • Easily brickeable.

Considerations:

Imperial Formation has been used as an alternative leader to this archetype, leading to interesting lists like this one.

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NG – Double Cross Assimilate

Even though Assimilate is not the main focus of this expansion, it has received exciting tools that make this fun archetype a fascinating one to play. The introduction of great bronze cards like  Mage Torturer combined with some gold cards such as Braathens and Coup de Grace breathed new life into the archetype.

As the deck needs long rounds to shine, we can take control of the length of rounds by using our leader’s ability in the right moment to force a pass from our opponent. This allows us to optimize our point output when we go for a long round 3.

Key Cards:

  • Braathens: Even though we will pick Duchess’s Informant to support Assimilate most of the time, the other options offer flexibility in the form of extra removal or some protection.
  • Coup de Grace: Thanks to the addition of Mage Torturer, we have extra cards on which we can use our Echo card. It can be any attractive golden card from our opponent, and even if there is none, we can always generate a second Roderick de dun Tynne or Joachim de Wett.

Pros:

  • Extremely good in the long round due to the overload of engines.
  • Great point potential.

Cons: 

  • Slow start as we need to establish our engines first.
  • Vulnerable to bleeding.
  • It’s lacking points in the short rounds.

Considerations:

As a sort of meme, some lists based on Assimilate have used Master Mirror with moderate success. It can be interesting to use and even perform above expectations. If you want to try it, here is an example list.

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SK – Ursine Ritual Lippy

That’s another one of the all-time classic decks since Homecoming, another suspect of abusing red coins. As between Cerys an Craite and Roach, plus the cheat on provision system, it can quickly out-tempo in round 1.

The idea here is to play our golden cards in round 1, then play Lippy and abuse them another time. The addition of Oneiromancy this patch added extra consistency.

Key Cards:

  • Lippy Gudmund: the critical piece of the list. Combined with Knickers, Roach, and Morkvarg, it is a 15 point tempo play, while swapping our deck and our graveyard, increasing our deck’s card quality.
  • Cerys an Craite: a great tempo piece in round 1, which can be reused in round 3 with the extra upside of having one more Drummond Shieldmaiden, being a 19 point play at that time (25 including the last leader charge).

Pros:

  • Great tempo from the red coin enables us to win on even.
  • Explosive short rounds.

Cons:

  • Draw and coin dependant.

Considerations:

Running Master Mirror as a way to make a list more highrolly and its ceiling much higher, but more difficult to pilot, as you can see in this example decklist.

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NR – Mobilization Royal Guards

The Mobilization leader’s changes have been detrimental for all the classical archetypes, which used to be played using it except for one: Cintrian Royal Guards. Queen Calanthe’s guardsmen have been reinforced by the change, as the second guard would be played for virtually the value of the corresponding one from hand, but now has the advantage of being an extra copy.

Even though it is not a competitive archetype, the amount of points it can generate is insane: it reaches 15-18 points in the 5th-6th card thanks to their exponential growth.

Key Cards:

  • Cintrian Royal Guard: “Don’t recognize your old mates?” Open Beta’s Reaver Hunters are back in the form of Calanthe’s guards. The exponential value of these cards is not as high as it used to be during the beta, but still formidable.
  • Ronvid the Incessant: this one strength carryover unit is our Offering enabler and allows us to use Cintrian Guards we played in earlier rounds again

Pros:

  • Great point output if we can get several copies of Cinntrian Royal Guard on the board.

Cons:

  • Consistency problems, too dependant on drawing well at the right time

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ST – Call of Harmony

A long time archetype has returned after the revert of the nerfs in the Harmony mechanic. It has suffered a loss: Mystic Echo disappeared, so we can’t do double Water of Brokilon, but in exchange, we won Call of Harmony.

While at first sight, Harmony is a weaker archetype than Symbiosis can be, and slightly worse than Schirru, its another option in the short arsenal of Scoia’tael.

Key Cards:

  • Water of Brokilon: a source of two Harmony engines. It can be used in conjunction with Dana Meabdh to generate a third engine while protecting them.
  • Barnabas Beckenbauer: one of the finishers in Harmony, and whose value can be over 14-15 points if played correctly, having an Elf, a Dryad, and a Dwarf.

Pros:

  • Great long rounds due to the engine overload style.
  • Excellent during bleedings.

Cons:

  • Lack of points in short rounds.

Considerations:

Instead of running the Great Oak to have a finisher, we can consider cutting it and replacing it with Saessanthesis; if we decide, there is a great amount of row stack punishment.