May 2018 TESL Meta Snapshot

The ranking of a deck is determined by its power level, popularity, and its matchups. This style of ranking means that the most powerful decks found in tournaments are not always tier 1 decks on ladder, as popularity is an indicator for ladder efficiency as well as the entry skill level for a deck. For instance, Aggro Hlaalu is a very strong deck, but there are decks definitely on a higher power level with better matchups. However, Hlaalu is extremely popular, easy to learn, and efficient on ladder (50% of top 10 used Hlaalu), thus making it the top deck of May. As with the other decks, they are largely placed by their ability to beat Hlaalu and Scout.

Tier One

Optimized and adaptable decklists – these decks dominate the high legend ranks.

Aggro Hlaalu

Currently the most viable proactive deck on ladder. While the rest have been pushed out largely by Tel Vos and Drain Vitality, Hlaalu is able to overcome these hurdles with the ability to go both wide and tall thanks to Haunted Manor and Hlaalu Oathman. The Manor allows you to turn your tiny minions into legitimate threats while Oathman helps you to flood the board and activate your manor without depleting your hand. While the strength of these tools allow you to include a fair amount of draw in your deck, many players fall into the trap of “must have literally all of the draw.” You really don’t need that much, especially with the prevalence of Hlaalu itself on the ladder as many of the value cards (Thieves Guild Recruit, Eldergleam Matron, Triumphant Jarl, Conscription, etc.) that people are running are a liability in the mirror.


As with all classes, there are many ways to build Hlaalu; here I will touch on the most common matchups as they relate to the first build linked below. Under that is an anti-control version that I use that essentially trades a few percentage points (10-15%) against fast decks for a better matchup against slower decks.

Hlaalu: This Hlaalu has a quite favorable matchup against nearly all of the Hlaalu currently seen on ladder. It utilizes Bruma Profiteer and large guards with buffs to recover and win off-ring, while maintaining the speed that makes it an aggro deck to get ahead of your opponent when you do get the ring.  

Scout: Hlaalu-favored but not massively so, Scout certainly has the ability to get on top of you with the right draws. However, with a good start or an early manor or two, Hlaalu can usually stay ahead and close out the game with large chargers.

Telvanni: Slightly worse for Hlaalu than against Scout, control Telvanni is probably the worst matchup you’ll currently find on ladder. Black Hand Messenger, powerful prophecies, Drain Vit, a low curve for a control deck all contribute to Telv’s ability to keep up. However, Hlaalu itself does have plenty of ways to highroll and if you get an early manor or two to stick can easily steamroll even its worst matchup.

Battlemage: Another relatively difficult matchup, if BM gets their Conjurers rolling they can completely dominate the game. Likewise, if Hlaalu gets an early cultist on board and can follow up, it will swing in their favor.

Sample Decklist:


Uprising Scout

With the inclusion of Ulfric’s Uprising, scout managed to climb all the way to tier 1. Pretty much every minion in the list has a very strong summon effect so Uprising usually nets a lot of value. Alternatively, you can use it defensively on Word Walls, Necromancers or even Bramman – the flexibility is all there. With Indoril Mastermind, Thieves Guild Recruit, Camels and Scout’s Report, very few other decks can match the cycle of Scout, so finding the Drain Vitality combo is usually not a problem – and this combo is so strong that it’s usually enough to win a game by itself. For your slower matchups you could be fishing for Necromancer loops with Galyn instead of Drain Vitality and you are guaranteed to never run out of threats. Moreover, your opponent usually can’t simply ignore your board because of the threat that Uprising is in this list.


The resource extension of Hlaalu is usually a problem and sometimes not even a couple of lvl 3 Drain Vitalities is enough to win you the game. However, coupled with the other defensive tools scout has access to, the matchup becomes only slightly unfavoured. Scout is one of the reasons we don’t see more traditional control decks on ladder – they simply can’t keep up with you draw so scout is massively favoured against decks like conscription telvanni or tribunal control. Against Midrange Battlemage, the matchup comes mostly down to Drain Vitality – if you can assemble the combo by turn 5-6 that’s usually enough to win you the game so the matchup is slightly favoured for the scout. For the Strike Monk matchup, you have tools to win against it but it’s possible you don’t find them early enough so the matchup goes either way. Luckily for scout, the traditional weakness of the deck (more midrange decks) has been pushed out of the meta because of how popular hlaalu is. To sum it up, scout has a decent chance to fight the strongest decks in the meta but completely dominates slower decks.

Sample Decklist:

Shout/Nix-Ox/Conscription Telvanni

Nix-ox Combo has died out, but it has sprung from the ashes and evolved into a monstrous shout telvanni deck. The deck has the Scout core of the Necromancer/Uprising combos as well as adding the power of the old Nix-ox Assassin to amp up the Uprising power. It is better against control as it has more late game potential, but could end up with clunkier draw.


Hlaalu/aggressive strategies: Although it doesn’t get as consistent Drain Vitalities as Scout, it has other tools such as Harpy, Blackhand Messenger and Ice Storm, so it is equally if not more defensive than Scout. Its Uprising abilities are far more defensive as well.

Control: This deck is king of control, as there isn’t many control decks that can outvalue Uprising, Divayth Experiments along with Soul Tear.

Sample Decklist:


Shout Conscription:



Tier Two

Although not as strong as decks in tier one, they are still popular and can even find favorable matchups against tier one decks.

Strike Monk

Named after its signature combo of Swift Strike and Monk Strike, this is a powerful midrange deck which leans towards the offensive side, letting it take on decks like Scout and Telvanni, but excels against aggressive decks like Hlaalu thanks to its great racing tools. The deck mostly consists of green midrange staples like the Curse package, Mournhold Traitor, Cornerclub Gambler and Sanctuary Pet, topping off at Nix-ox and Tazkad. The rest are monk class cards and yellow staples like Hive Defender, Black Dragon, Javelin and Dawnbreaker. Gavel of the Ordinator plays a similar role to Wardcrafter, enabling good trades and protecting cards like Mournhold Traitor, not to mention it’s more damage for Strike shenanigans. Vivec is a 8 cost 10/10 that’s an excellent target for the Strike actions, and the ‘can’t lose’ condition quite often buys you a turn or two against aggressive decks.


Aggro Hlaalu: Weirdly enough, the best match-up for strike monk. Try to limit their damage as much as possible until turn 7 when the strike combo can be unleashed to heal up and preferably to set up lethal for next turn. If you want to trade instead of going face, be careful with lane placement when setting up the combo. Monk’s Strike (like Shadow Shift) moves the creature to the other lane. If Hlaalu just completely snowballs you, try to hold on until turn 8 for exalted Vivec and OTK. Try to bait hlaalu in using their silence before the vivec turn with cards like Cornerclub Gambler.

Shout Scout/Telvanni: Just beat them down, face is the place! The important part here is using your charge creatures wisely. Even when the opposing players have stabilized, you can still have them in range for lethal with Cliff Racer + Swift/Monk’s strike. So always aim to get your opponents to as low HP as possible as fast as possible (Obvious, ikr?) Nix-Ox gives an edge in this matchup as turn 7 5/5 + 4/4 cliff racer can be hard stats to deal with even after opponent has cleared the board.

Midrange decks: A lot of times these matchups can be decided by who gets the ring, especially vs Assassin and Archer. If you find yourself on the defensive try to stall until you can set up the strike combo turn 7, then take over the match.

Control Tribunal/Mage/Archer: The worst matchups for this deck as the hard removal will take care of your creatures before you have time to deal real damage. Aim to have one Cornerclub Gambler in your hand when you start with the ring as turn 2 (+ ring charge) gambler will give you the best chance for it to trigger.

Sample Decklist:

Eyenie’s Strike Monk:


Midrange Battlemage

Midrange battlemage continues to be one of the strongest decks in the game. The deck has not changed that much since last month, but due to the popularity of Hlaalu and Scout, it has dropped from the top of tier 1 into the middle of tier 2.


Hlaalu: It definitely has the ability to beat Hlaalu, as Breton Conjurer, Vigilant Giant, Cradlecrush are very powerful against Hlaalu. However minor misplays will be punished heavily, and if Hlaalu draws well, there is nothing the deck can do.

Scout: Since its power comes from warded minions, Drain Vitality punishes this deck very heavily and scout has vipers to finish bigger threats. However sometimes Mid BM is able to clear enough minions to deny uprisings, as well as have Ash Berserker stick to outresource Scout.

As for the other part of the meta, Midrange BM doesn’t really have weak matchups. It is one of the best defensive midrange decks, and has the resources to grind control – the reasons why it is such a popular tournament deck.

Sample Decklists:


Midrange Dagoth

Dagoth’s theme is 5 power minions, and midrange Dagoth utilizes that strategy very well. It has powerful minions such as Dagoth Oatman, Hand of Dagoth, Tel-Vos to provide both aggression and defense, as well as good tempo plays such as Nix-ox and Belligerent Giant. There are also powerful engines such as Awakened Dreamer and Ash Berserker that benefits from powerful minions. Gambler, Quartermaster synergy is a new powerful combo that helps with resource extension and green’s Shadowshift is a very powerful utility card that can win games when used in the correct situations. The deck occasionally struggles with curving out, but a Hand of Dagoth on curve usually means a win. The addition of Cliff Racer and Tazkad helps with the consistency of the burst potential; if the right draws happen, the deck is one of the most powerful decks as it seems to be as powerful as Midrange Battlemage with more utility and even more burst. Fortunately the 75 card requirement is also a hindrance to its consistency, keeping the power level in check by occasionally bricking hands or not allowing smooth curves.


The aggro and other midrange matchups are both favoured as midrange dagoth has a very good balance between tempo plays and resource extension. Moreover, with power cards like Hand of Dagoth and Tel Vos, it’s really difficult to go below the deck’s curve and win before dagoth stabilises – something that midrange battlemage used to struggle with. It has similar problems as traditional merric when it comes to facing heavy control lists – it’s possible that you never find your late game and they starve you out of resources. However, if the deck finds the right curve, it will win against any kind of control.

Sample Decklist:


Token Crusader

As with most token strategies, it centers around Willpower cards such as Fifth Legion Trainer, Scouting Patrol and Pit Lion to swarm the board early and overwhelm your opponent. Tokens have proven to be a really effective strategy against decks that rely on establishing an early board (such as midrange decks or Hlaalu).The consistency of 50 cards make it easier to have a consistent curve when compared to Hlaalu. However, tokens are rarely seen on ladder as it plays out in a similar way to hlaalu but doesn’t have its burst and resource extension.


Tokens usually can get under hlaalu as their curve is more consistent. However, this deck struggles to regain the board once it has lost it – which means that it struggles against decks that play Drain vitality or Ice Storm.

Sample Decklist:


Tier Three

Average in terms of power level and in need of refinement.

Chanter/Control Tribunal

The development of Chanter of Akatosh in control Tribunal has allowed the deck get to rid of some of the clunky top end without really losing any late game value. The interaction with the betray mechanic is key, as both instances of the action will trigger Chanter, leading to large swing turns. Rising of Bones is a staple, and the more adventurous may want to also experiment with things like Barilzar’s Tinkering or Traitor’s Flames. However, there are still some control traditionalists out there who neglect Chanter and cling to the old ways.

While it’s possible to achieve a decent win rate with control Tribunal on the ladder, games tend to take quite long and so it might not be the most efficient deck in terms of climbing over time. Its primary strength is as a tournament deck, and it has been a top priority ban for many players.


Tribunal usually preys on aggro, even if there is always the risk of stumbling early and getting run over. Garnag and Withered Hand Cultist can be punishing if the draw doesn’t allow for playing around them, but more often than not Tribunal should be able to find a way to stabilize.

Games against other control decks often come down to landing Cast Into Time on their main threats (such as the Necromancers in Scout) and trying to outlast their whole deck, unless an opportunity to attack presents itself. Tech choices can make a huge difference for either side.

Sample Decklist:

Time to Chant list:

Control Tribunal list:

Aggro Archer

Aggro archer is one of the more overlooked archetypes that has risen up during the Houses of Morrowind. The presence of powerful plot cards are aided by the Skulk/Firebrand package (much like Hlaalu), along with a low curve. Morag Tong Aspirant, Suran Pawnbroker, Cornerclub Gambler, Hlaalu Sharpshooter, and even Lower Canton Smith/Ashkhan all have viability in this archetype. Between Firebrands, Morag Tong, Scimitars, and Shadow Shift, there’s no shortage of cheap cards to activate your plot effects early on. Having a second set of silences in Sharpshooter in addition to Earthbone Spinner allows it to overcome guards and other pesky cards, like Tel Vos Magister or Hand of Dagoth.

The archetype has lots of versatility in how it can be built. Red variants with Mighty Ally, green variants with Nimble Ally, or a mix/match of both with no ally are all possibilities. Aggro Archer has the 2-drops that Aggro Crusader so badly needs, and with Ash Berserker and Gambler, it has closed the gap in card draw that Crusader once held over it. It is a strong option in the current meta, and can be easily built as competitive budget deck.


The deck is capable of curving under Hlaalu while it can tech in Withered Hand to help it against pretty much everybody else, especially Scout. Creating incremental tempo advantages with 0 cost card effects and plot effects allow this deck to function like Hlaalu, essentially sacrificing its resiliency and extreme board flooding ability for extra speed and early-game consistency.

In theory aggro decks should be able to rush down combo-reliant drain vitality decks, but scout in particular has grown so consistent at obtaining early-mid game lvl 3 drain vitality that the matchup is often more of a toss up.

Sample Decklist:

Midrange Sorcerer

Another midrange deck that is difficult to play in the current meta as it’s not aggressive enough to race Hlaalu. It just does poorly against the most common decks on the ladder. Tel Vos is also a pain to deal with so midrange sorcerer is simply not in a good spot.


Hlaalu is unfavoured – even when you are on the ring. Scout is also unfavoured as you can’t come back from a drain vitality combo.

Sample Decklist:


Midrange Warrior

This deck used to be the top of tier 1 but is now pushed out of it. Unfortunately for midrange warrior, Hlaalu is everywhere and it’s difficult to match their curve. Moreover, midwarrior gets really punished by Tel Vos so now control decks have a much better chance to fight against it.


Hlaalu is slightly unfavoured because you can still outrace them if you have the ring – it just happens that Hlaalu’s curve is more reliable. However, you are very unfavoured against anything that plays Tel Vos. Scout – a deck that midwarrior traditionally preyed on – has gained a lot of new tools that makes it more difficult of a matchup that can go either way.

Sample Decklist:


Tier Four

Decks that struggle in the meta, but are popular and can find success when played at a high skilled level.


Petamax’s abomination takes maximum value of Disciple of Namira. With 30 cards that cost 0-1, your first step is fill a lane with Disciple of Namira on it Once you do that, the next step is getting crazy.
Sacrifice your own creatures. keep drawing cheap creatures. Keep summon and sacrificing. With Thieves Guild Fence and Namira on board, you can easily draw half of your deck in one single turn. With 2 Fences and Namira, you can draw your entire deck. Once your deck is on the discard pile, play Journey and just start drawing your cheaps creatures once again and set an easy lethal for next turn.


The good matchups for this deck, as any other combo deck, are slow/ control decks: Telvanni, Tribunal, Scout, rage decks… all of those are really easy to beat.

The bad matchups are Aggro and aggressive midrange decks.  Specially mid warrior, where Cultist and Haunted Spirit makes Drain Vitality (the only removal) less effective.

Sample Decklist:

Petamax’s Scout Abomination:

Redoran Doomcrag

Essentially traditional doomcrag warrior with added in chanter synergy, along with the ability to add in Conscription, Chanter, Necromancer, Commander and Soul Tear due to the large decksize. Deck has a lot of token synergy and is a lot of fun to play – would recommend to try this deck.


Hlaalu: It runs 6 4-cost support removal, as well as a lot of cheap minions to contest the token strategy of Hlaalu. It should be quite a good matchup as Hlaalu will lack answers for engines such as Aundae Clan, Namira, Doomcrag, Chanter etc.

Scout: Tough matchup, but chaining Praetorian Commander and Conscription can win the game.

Sample Decklist:

Eyenie’s Redoran Conscription:

Rage Dagoth

Hand of Dagoth is Dagoth’s only saving grace at the moment. Control Dagoth can have the tools to deal with Hlaalu, but it comes too much of a sacrifice against its control matchups. Unstoppable Rage is just too slow against these fast decks and Control decks can generally play around it.


Hlaalu: The red package of Dushnik, Skaven, Cradlecrush makes it generally decent against Hlaalu, but it can struggle when it doesn’t draw the right cards.

Scout/Control: Against control it generally plays more like a Midrange Deck and uses Rage for burst potential.

Sample Decklist:


Midrange Assassin

While largely unexplored, this archetype was piloted by EndoZoa to a #6 legend finish this April with some pretty absurd win rates (there was one point while in the top 10 that his match history contained 28 wins and 2 losses with the deck). A dedicated tempo deck, it aims not to permanently answer its opponents threats but instead maximize its mana efficiency and provide enough temporary protection for its threats to overwhelm its opponents before the creatures they deploy can meaningfully interact. With a very large suite of shackle effects, warding abilities, and cover granting abiliies the decks brittle yet potent threats are well protected. The deck takes maximum advantage of what is arguably one the powerful cards in HOM: cornerclub gambler. By playing several cards that the deck wants to play already that produce fodder for gambler the deck rarely feels too bad about its downside and gets to take full advantage of the absolute insanity that is its upside. A surprising amount of card draw and generation allows this deck to dig deep and find its many reach tools which help it close out the game.


Tempo Assassin’s curve is quite low and as a result it quite consistently hits its early drops, many of which are able to interact quite favorably with those of other low to the ground decks. The addition of its many shackle effects and sources of fast damage give it the ability to race very effectively against most fast decks, identifying when it is important to fight for some amount of board is key however as while the deck frequently tries to deflect its opponent there are many times where some level of direct interaction will increase its ability to push its opponent aside in later turns, particularly fighting to protect its efficient threats is key. Against slower decks face is the place and the difficulty involved in interacting with tempo assassin makes it quite challenging to adequately answer it in time. Hiding from and shackling down threats is not very effective against guards however and so yellow midrange and control decks can prove somewhat of a challenge requiring the deck to dig deep to find answers.

Sample Decklists:

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*With help from Traitor-Joe, Blade102, docpbg, emikaela, mattyborch, Goblin Kingpin, Bones, Aquaman88, Providence. If you want more information on the decks, go ask these amazing players for advice.