TotG Tournament Tier List
June 11, 2017
Next major update after expansion
Excelsior Gaming is proud to present the first Shadowverse tier list organized by a team of competitive players.
This tier list is more tournament-oriented, and there are few archetypes that perform significantly differently in tournaments than on ladder. This means that archetypes that may succeed on ladder due to "surprise factor" may be rated lower than a ladder experience would indicate. Also note that tournaments generally limit players to one decklist per class, so relative performance is a critical metric: archetypes are compared not only to the meta, but to their class archetypes as well.
Many of the decklists below are by tournament participants. In those cases, we have provided their name and the date of the tournament in which they played with the deck.
Click any archetype name to skip down to the decklists and explanation. Click the image link to the left to open the featured decklist.
Even after the nerf, Ramp Dragon has still proven to be a top tier deck. While it has become much harder for dragon to beat control decks such as Aegis, some players have considered building faster "Storm Ramp" lists versus the standard anti-aggro Ramp Dragon. Now, many players are also considering Polyphonic Roar, which has proven to be very good in dragon mirrors and against control decks, but is a dead card against more aggressive decks. While the version without storm will more convincingly beat Shadow and aggressive lineups, it will lose more often to decks such as Aegis.
Among all archetypes we looked at, Ramp Dragon has been the most consistent archetype over all tournament formats. Unlike Midrange Shadow, which suffers from powerful counters in top 16 brackets, Ramp Dragon performs at a consistent 55%+ across all formats, and has no true counter due to its ability to vary its win condition. It is unclear if Nephthys may eventually stem the power of Ramp Dragon, but as it stands, Ramp Dragon takes the spot of #1 archetype.
Due to the Prince of Catacombs nerf, Midrange Shadow has lost the ability to consistently maintain a "sticky" board to snowball into the later turns of a match. Losing the ability to maintain a certain level of guaranteed board presence, the deck is now vulnerable to board sweepers at various stages of the game. While this does not make Catacombs obsolete -- most decks still run 1 or 2 Catacomb-- it does severely limit the resilience of Shadow boards and the abusiveness of Reaper.
Midrange Shadow is still a top tier archetype and an excellent choice to bring in any tournament format. Staples such as Soul Reaper, Eachtar, Death's Breath, and multiple board flooding tools remain perfectly capable of leveraging an early game advantage into a victory as ever before. However, the archetype now suffers negative winrates against Ramp Dragon and Aegis Haven in tournament brackets, making it not as unquestionable as it was earlier in TotG.
Aegis Haven has been the most popular control haven deck since TotG came out, and it seems to be a replacement to Seraph due to the sheer unstoppability of its win condition. It started out as a mostly defensive oriented deck centered around countering a Shadow-dominated meta, but in the current meta you can see Aegis variations with a lot of cards from Storm Haven (more 2-cost cards, Garudas, 3 Beastcall Arias, and even pinion prayers). How so?
Despite the fact that Haven is the very epitome of a control class, it often loses in combo potential to other control decks. There is no card which can help you to pull out Aegis earlier than turn 9, and even assuming you are able to drop Aegis, you still need several turns to kill your opponent through wards and heals. That is why players have started adding more aggression -- to have more ways to keep the opponent below 14-12 HP. Once fully optimized, Aegis may look a lot like Storm Haven.
Vengeance Blood has proven itself to be one of the top tier decks in the current meta. The deck is able to consistently contend with slower control decks (Ramp Dragon, Nepthys Ledger Shadow, Aegis Haven) due to its ability to flood the board with creatures that are difficult to remove, combined with an incredible amount of burst damage when in Vengeance. On the other hand, it has struggled with decks that have powerful burst damage like Aggro/Midrange Shadow, Midrange Sword, and Roach Forest. But with the disappearance of Midrange Sword and the decline of Aggro/Midrange Shadow in favor of control, the viability of Vengeance Blood is at a new high.
The deck's main strategy is to play a Vengeance activator on turn 4 (Belphegor, Soul Dealer), and then play Dark Airjammer on turn 5 to gain powerful value and initiative. The opponent will use their turns to clear the board while the Vengeance Blood player can use their turns to constantly chip away at the opponent's health and maintain board control. Vengeance decklists are currently mostly standardized around this idea, with the major tech ideas being Bloodfed Flowerbed, Blood Pact, Laura, and Alucard.
Roach Forest has been a powerful archetype since its inception in RoB, and has remained as the strongest combo archetype in the game over this time. However, the TotG expansion created a hard counter to the archetype in the form of Midrange Shadow, one of the most popular decks on ladder. While Roach Forest performs favorably or approximately even against all other major archetypes, this single problematic matchup has limited its success in 2 deck/0 ban formats and ladder, as well as in Bo5 sections of the 3 deck/1 ban format.
In order to regain its position as a tier 1 archetype, Roach Forest will either need to find a way to deal with wide board cards like Death's Breath, Eachtar, and Daria, or find a way to outspeed them (as it did in RoB). Given the slow direction the archetype took in TotG and its powerful top-end options, we consider the former more likely and more worthwhile for the archetype's development in Wonderland.
Generally speaking, Aggro Shadow is a faster variant of Midrange Shadow that sacrifices Death's Breath for more earlygame consistency and midgame burst. While Midrange Shadow was acknowledged as vastly superior in the early TotG meta, this may no longer be true given the dynamics at the top of the meta. As control archetypes grow in popularity and Vengeance Blood lurks in the shadows, Aggro Shadow threatens more consistency against these builds than can Midrange Shadow. However, swiss bracket stats on this relationship are inconclusive.
The Catacomb nerf severely hurt all variants of Shadow, and because it greatly diminished Aggro Shadow's ability to maintain the board in the absence of Death's Breath, Aggro Shadow is no longer as powerful as it was at the opening of TotG. Yet much like Aggro Blood, it will remain a force to be reckoned with as long as its core package remains, and a growing control meta may make it more effective in the final days of TotG.
Nephthys shadow received a significant boost in power with the addition of Tempest of the Gods, but due to the pre-nerf ubiquitous presence of Lightning Blast in Ramp Dragon decks and the dominance of Midrange Shadow, it has received little attention until now. Yet with the nerf to Lightning Blast, Nephtys Shadow once again finds its place as a control deck that has positive matchups against almost every control deck as well as against faster decks.
Nephthys' power was greatly enhanced by TotG: it received the powerful set of cards in the form of Zombie Party, Grimnir, and Ledger. Ledger decks enjoy midgame tempo boosts due to Liches which helps the deck survive the mid game without running out of removal spells and losing tempo. Alternatively, some builds focus on Death Ledger's tempo gain instead; these also run 2 drops in addition to the 3/4/7/8 structure, making the randomness of Nephthys' effect uncontrollable. This version is better against more aggressive decks at the cost of making your matchups against slower decks worse.
Sword got a pretty powerful card from ToTG in the form of Luminous Mage, but the fundamental problems with the deck still remain: there are no ways to heal, and no efficient board clears other than a tech of Cyclone Blade. The deck is already pretty clunky and it's hard to remove anything from it to add a Cyclone Blade without severely lowering the consistency of the deck overall. There are still ways to win with this deck in the current meta, but you just have to high roll a 1-2-3-4... curve and hope your opponent does not have the right answers to deal with your board. This is reflected in the most recent tournament stats: not a single Midrange Sword player made it to the top 16 in the most recent ExG, even as its winrate yet hovers around 50%.
Daria has not changed much in the recent expansion. The play style is the same, and the cards in the deck are pretty much still the same as they were in the beginning of RoB. The only new card from ToTG that has left a mark in this deck is Mutagenic Bolt, which people usually play 1-2 of. There may be a few techs from ToTG like Melvies and Chimeras, but otherwise nothing has changed-- so why is she returning to the meta?
As Daria pushed Storm Haven out of the meta with even better board creation, so did Midrange Shadow push out Daria. With the recent nerf to Catacomb, Daria once again has a place in the meta. Although Daria has a bad matchup against Dragon due to their abundant amount of board clears, it can win against any of the other archetypes pretty easily if you trust in your ability to high roll. You can even win without having Daria in your opening hand, if you spam early Oglers and Blade Mages to beat your opponent down to a pulp.
Storm Haven is inherently strong against control decks, where you abuse the fact that everything pops together at turn 5 and the board becomes unclearable. Furthermore, you have a lot of burn and burst to finish off the huge mid-game push. On top of that, Dark Jeanne is also a great fit in this deck because if you are not playing from behind, you can manipulate the board state to squeeze out maximum damage while keeping the opponent's board cleared. However, the susceptibility of pure Storm Haven towards aggressive decks and its tendency to miss its curve make this deck a weak contender for the top spots of the tier rankings. It also has few strong recovery mechanics; unlike Shadow's Eachtar and Dragon's Bahamut, there are few buttons you can press to reset a weak early draw.
DShift is one of those decks that can punish slower decks or decks that like to build houses. If your opponent lags in aggression for even a turn, DShift can easily capitalize on it and bring its ticking time bomb closer to lethal. As control gains a stronger foothold in the current meta, so does DShift return, and we may see it eke out some surprise wins in the last few tournaments of TotG.
Some builds have considered incorporating Dirt techs to slow down aggro decks; these include Iron Scrap Smelter, Petrification and Calamitous Curse. Iron Scrap Smelter is another alternative play on turn 1 that can help slow down aggro buying you a bit of time to dig for answers. Petrification and Calamitous Curse are extra removal spells that utilize the earth sigil produced from Iron Scrap Smelter, and Petrification may become more standard as Polyphonic enters the meta.
In the current meta, OTK Dragon has favorable matchups against control decks because the deck has the time to ramp and get the combo pieces without being too threatened, but has a tougher time contending with decks that flood the board with difficult to remove minions. The decrease of faster decks like Midrange Sword and Aggro/Midrange Shadow, and the increase of control decks in tournament play and ladder have made OTK Dragon much more viable, but given how standard Midrange Shadow remains even now, OTK Dragon continues to be an "off-meta" list.
The purpose of the OTK Dragon deck is to draw as many cards as possible in order to get the combo pieces of Wildfang Dragonewts and an Altered Fate in hand, while maintaining a large hand size. The deck also tries to ramp quickly to try to pull off the OTK quickly. Most OTK Dragon lists heavily rely on the making sure the OTK is performed perfectly, so bad draws usually dictate whether a game is won or lost. Ouroboros-Zell was a popular alternate win condition before the nerf, but current top decks generally go all-in on the OTK.
Seraph Haven disappeared with Tempest of the Gods, due to the addition of Lightning Blast in the now popular ramp dragon deck. It is possible that the increased power of aggressive decks (Midrange Shadow and Vengeance Blood, as well as Zell allowing dragon finish the game quickly) contributed to it as well, but that was never the main reason the deck saw no play. With the recent nerfs, Lightning Blast becomes a questionable counter card, just like Odin, which allows Seraph decks to finally be a competitive deck.
Seraph Haven is an alternative to the Aegis Haven, the main pros of the deck being that Seraph can be played 1 turn faster than Aegis-- allowing you to possibly finish the game 1 or 2 turns earlier. Further, small Countdown Reduction spells and followers are a core part of the deck. In Aegis Haven it is hard to justify those cost reduction cards, however in Seraph Haven those can make your amulets more effective later in the game, which is a flaw that Aegis Haven has trouble overcoming traditionally. While we are optimistic about this archetype's refound potential, it has seen little recent play, especially compared to Aegis.
Overshadowed by Vengeance Blood, this deck is vastly underrated, especially in Swiss format. Most Control archetypes are focus on board clearing over and over again vs the likes of Mid Range Shadow, Daria Rune and alikes. However, they tech vs value and mid game pushes (as Vengeance incorporates) and often are too slow to stabilize on the fast, burst-heavy early game of Aggro Blood. This deck is designed to deal 20-25 damage-- just enough to kill your opponent before they can take a breath-- and since most control decks out there are greedy, Aggro Blood still performs quite well in this meta.
Consider building a list where you want to go wide with Night Horde, Killer Devil, and Vampiric Fortress to punish the lack of early game board clear in this meta. Alternatively, you can build a Feena variant with more value generation, but Vengeance Blood is significantly better overall at value generation, and we recommend making maximum use of Aggro Blood's early speed.
Conjuring Force Rune has recently become popularized as a combo deck that relies on cheap spells and Conjuring Force to dish out massive damage. It has more board presence than DShift early on and can also push for lethal earlier, making it a serious consideration in the current meta. Newer, more optimized lists now include Daria in the list in order to provide powerful refuel options. This might sound the same as the Daria Rune archetype, but in Conjuring Force, we won't get discounted followers besides Blade Mage, and it is the combo, not the board, that we wish to fight for.
FAST DIRT RUNE
Fast Dirt Rune is at basis an aggro deck: it seeks to utilize some of the powerful offensive dirt tools in TotG-- primarily Mage of Nightfall and Halo Golem-- to end the game as quickly as possible. The archetype also can be built with more midrange options such as Hulking Giant, which makes a huge untargetable threat that people have to deal with. While tourney decks generally seek to end games by turn 6 instead of playing Hulking Giant, ladder players have found some success with the Hulking finisher.
However, compared to the other major aggro decks, Fast Dirt suffers from a lack of powerful Storm finishers. Much of its middling tournament success may come down to the surprise factor-- even in an open decklist format, few people are prepared to deal with the archetype.
Aggro dragon has been around since the release of Darkness Evolved, and maybe even before then. The deck mainly focuses on running early small minion to dish out as much damage as possible and finishing your opponent off with Forte. It has powerful consistency with Emissary pulling only Forte, and Dragon Warrior/Siegfried providing incredible tempo around the evolve turns.
The main disadvantages of this deck include their weakness to early control and running out of fuel too soon before they can finish off their opponent. It does fare well in tempo against aggro decks with Dragon Warrior, Siegfried, Blazing Breath, and Griffon Knight. Although not the best, it has always been a deck that's around for incredibly with little to no changes in the decklist. It may also potentially catch your opponent by surprise-- nobody expects the dragon to go face so early!
Wolf Forest has been severely weakened with the extant presence of aggressive decks even in a control-leaning meta. Midrange Shadow and Vengeance Blood require Wolf forest to burn a lot of resource to stabilize or survive the early onslaught. Whereas Roach Forest fares decently against such archetypes since it can afford to spend some of their combo cards early, Wolf Forest must hold its hand in order to make Bolt playable at all.
Wolf Forest does fare well against control decks that run a slower pace-- such as Aegis Heaven and Nephthys-- but there seems to be little point in playing Wolf when Roach Forest has equal or better matchups across the board, and when the win conditions of certain control decks-- like Seraph-- activate before the Bolt combo can be assembled. In the lat swiss bracket where Wolf Forest was played widely, it achieved a sub-40% winrate, and has now largely been disavowed in favor of Roach Forest.
The nerfs were to this archetype an indirect buff-- one of the worst match-ups this deck had was the infamous dragon deck. You simply could not recover from 11-13 dmg burst out of hand and you had no effective way of dealing with Bahamut and Lightning Blast. Now with the burst gone, you can savely hover around Vengeance health, but there still remains a fundamental problem that Bahamut easily clears a board of snakes (and Blood Moon if it is there). However, the reverse stands as well: Dragon only has Bahamut as a tool to clear a board of snakes, and if they do not have it for every set of snakes you draw, they are dead. Otherwise, most archetypes do not have the weapons to deal with a 20/20 or 25/25 board if you safely drop snakes.
The pure Snek Blood looks a lot like Control Blood with the addition of Maelstrom Serpent, but the newest decks hybridize Vengeance ideas with snakes. This hybrid is far better vs Haven and and decks with hard board clears, since you have more storm minions that can force a Themis before you even drop your snakes. It is yet unclear if this hybrid will become the dominant form of Snek Blood, or simply die off in the tournament meta as well.
Pepe Sword is one of the those annoying decks you do not want see when you're not playing Havencraft. A basically unremovable frog will repeatedly buff itself every turn, and with the one-sided Cyclone Blade, it is incredibly difficult to race this deck. Direct counters are few and far between, and your best hope is generally to pray that your opponent did not draw the frog.
Currently there are two variation of Pepe Sword, one which really focus on buffing the frog with amulet like Front Lines and Well of Destiny, and the other that focus on pushing out more minion and playing the beatdown like standard aggro decks. This deck is fun in the sense of being unable to be dealt with by most decks right now, but it is ineffective when you are unable to draw the frog, or if your opponent does have a counter. The all-in variant has a better chance of getting out the frog with Conscription and Cyclone Blade, but consider a more balanced build that has an alternate gameplan (generally, aggro).
OTK Blood can be considered a successor to the old Satan Control Blood. Rather than fight a war of attrition, it, like other modern control decks, adopts a powerful win-condition, in this case in the form of the Azazel-Laura combo. By reducing Azazel's cost with Baphomet, this deck can quite literally OTK its opponent on 10 with Azazel + Laura + Razory Claw.
There are two approaches to this archetype: one can either build in the direction of control, approximating RoB-era Control Blood, or one can seek to force a win on 8 by including Flowerbed as a setup card. As this archetype sees little play, it is unclear which direction is more optimal.