Aggro, Midrange, Control – The Ways and Means of Archetypal Match-ups

As a new player, you will have heard something about Aggro, Midrange, Control and Combo decks as being the different deck archetypes. In the Blood Warriors Guild, we are running a coaching section for new and experienced players. Recently, we discussed a few questions on the different match-ups:

  • What are good match-ups against each archetype?
  • Like what beats aggro, what beats midrange and what beats control/ combo? Do you have some examples?

The answers might be interesting for a wider audience and we want to make it easier for new players to get familiar with The Elder Scrolls Legends.

How do the deck-types beat Aggro?

Your Aggro beating Aggro

Getting under aggro is one way of beating aggro, either with faster aggro, or prophecy, for example. “Getting under” means you are beating down your opponent faster than he can beat down you. A crusader deck that is tokens, mostly yellow, is very fast and a good ladder climber, and beats most other aggro. Challenge is getting Divine Fervor up fast enough to last through an Ice Storm, against control. Another style of Token are the various Dwemer decks . They are neutral so could be paired with any sort of two color combination quite well.

Another way of beating aggro is by putting down cards of greater efficiency on curve, avoiding unnecessary trades, and this is through tempo. Control does this by surviving the early game, getting the cards they give you by breaking your runes, then recovery, and finally by achieving a better board state, and finishing them.

Your Midrange deck against Aggro

Midrange and mid-gro (=mid-aggro) decks have an earlier recovery stage, putting creatures with greater value in the lanes in front of aggro, swiftly gaining a superior board state with more or larger creatures, and eliminating aggro’s creatures before smashing to the face. The key is to answer the threats of aggro with larger creatures, taking the field lane so they have to switch to defense. Then you have the choice each round to make beneficial trades, or to go face. The field lane gives you this choice, whereas the shadow lane gives that choice to your opponent.

Your Control-deck against Aggro

The control method of beating aggro is to delay it, then recover/ stabilize. Recovery is also called stabilizing by some. An example of stabilization would be mass-removal with an Ice Storm, or it could be an “on curve” Hive Defender (dropped turn 4, a “4-drop”). Anything that stops their forward momentum works. Guards have to stick, however, while an Ice Storm achieves a stop, board clears, and doesn’t have to stick.

There are early cards in every color that help to slow down the momentum of aggro, so even a control or midrange deck needs some early game. Some examples of this are:

Basically, you could be beaten down to 1 life and still win. The better way is to have some drain cards or ways to gain life. There is an art to it, when it’s done well you time the recovery to get a few cards from rune breaks, then come back up in life. Don’t try to gain life too early if you want that card advantage, but if you don’t care because you have draw engines that are better, then gain away.  Examples of that would be of course, Ash Berserker, Gamblers (kind of, engines are more like every round, or death), Disciple of Namira, Altar of Despair, to name a few (Altar being mid-late game). Petamax has his name indelibly attached to the Abomination deck, he could describe that one better, its sheer card draw – then journey – then crush.

Aggro – Midrange – Control: Beating Midrange Decks

Midrange, or mid-gro, are decks with a curve more around 2-3, focused on winning the game after round 5, but before the late game. I’ve seen some midrange decks that have a few 7, 8, or even 9 drops, but most efficiently they will top out at 5-6 drops. Midrange Warrior is the classic example, starting typically with 2 cost cards (2-drops), and ending with Sower of Revenge, sometimes with a couple of 6 -drops (though a well-curved mid-gro warrior deck ends with Sowers and possibly a couple Underworld Vigilantes, and anything above that is a dead card in your hand when the opponent dies, or doesn’t help because you’ve lost to control already). A good 6-drop here is Triumphant Jarl. A better one is Sharp-Eyed Ashkan, because it procs even if you’re at one life, drops the dead cards and picks up 3 new cards.

Your Aggro against midrange

Getting under midrange decks is a way to beat them, of course, by playing aggro. This means being more aggro than them, having a curve that is higher earlier, and probably more draw. Play and go face, and the better aggro decks have good card synergy, so the cards that you play are low cost and buff each other up. Then go broadly across the lanes quickly and overwhelm the midrange decks with speed. Midrange decks try to slow down aggro with defenders that are larger. But aggro has some big creatures too, and can play to shadow lane (with the expectation that they will draw faster and get one hit or more per creature) and add the face damage up quickly. Aggro also has ways to deal with guards, which are the only way to block attackers.

Your Control against midrange

Control beats midrange decks often, by dealing with threats until the mid deck runs out of steam. By using creature removal and guards, or cards with lethal and multiple vectors (Sanctuary Pet shackles one creature, then Quicksilver Crossbow kills another, and finally the Pet kills another threat next turn).

Tribunal Control can use Execute, Firebolt, Lightning Bolt, Javelin, and Cast into Time, along with Barrow Stalker, Vigilant Ancestor, Hive Defender, Emperor’s Blade, etc… The aim is to slow them down, remove, then gain life, and finally lay down large creatures and go face in one single large wave.

The Ramp Warrior Control archetype controls the board and builds up ramp with Tree Minder but also with Archein Venomtongue and Quicksilver Crossbow, as well as the Sword of the Inferno. The game plan is to then combo the midrange deck for the win using Unstoppable Rage combos (e.g. with Night Talon Lord or Vigilant Giant).

Telvanni Control uses more creatures than removal, but has the advantage of very good synergies between cards, cards that do damage and gain life (Black Hand Messenger), cards with shackle and lethal (Sanctuary Pet), combinations that draw multiple cards while simultaneously removing large threats (combo of Goblin Skulk, Telvanni Catspaw, and Cruel Firebloom).

Aggro – Midrange – Control: Beating Control decks

If a control deck gets enough removal cards, or the right combination of removal cards and draw engine, you won’t beat the control deck. There’s a reason some competitive players keep playing a lot of control decks in their lineup. That said…

Your Aggro against Control

Aggro can beat control by putting a priority on their draw cards, by putting more creatures on the board than control can deal with. The other way aggro beats control is by focusing on raising power or defense to values that make it more difficult to deal with removal cards. Firebolt is cheap but cannot kill a Fifth Legion Trainer alone. Execute can, but Execute cannot deal with anything with a power of 3 or higher. Put down an Ambitious Hireling right after a Fifth Legion Trainer, and you will make the Fifth Legion Trainer a 3/5 creature that cannot be removed by Firebolt, Lightning Bolt, or Execute. You can achieve the same effect with a Steel Scimitar on a Fifth Legion Trainer.

The aggro deck must also play around certain control cards, like Ice Storm or Immolating Blast, both 6-drops, or Dawn’s Wrath, an 8-drop. If possible don’t play all the cards in your hand before the control opponent has 6 or 8 magicka, or raise the defense of your creatures above 3 defense for the majority of your creatures, or drop wards on them if you’re playing blue. These are ways of playing around Ice Storm.

Another noteworthy option for Aggro to sustain advantage over Control is to include tech-cards, that change the “rules of play”. Withered Hand Cultist makes it more costly for Control to play their removal actions. Garnag, Dark Adherent limits their magicka to 7, which would deny their Dawn’s Wrath entirely.

To play around Dawn’s Wrath, just play to each lane rather than just filling one, but by that time the aggro player may have lost anyway. When the control player has 8 magicka at hand they can generally play two removals or a removal and another card, and may start playing their big finishing creatures.

Your Midrange against Control

It is harder for midrange decks to play around control than it is for aggro, because they cannot put down as many creatures. Control is very good at dealing with one creature at a time. One method, though, is to play that one creature at a time, maintaining hand size, to draw out all the removal spells before putting down mass creatures. Hopefully the control opponent starts using mass removal spells to remove only one or two creatures instead of wiping out your whole board. Midrange generally has larger creatures too, so those cards are more resistant to damage removal. Here, the idea is to bait out the hard removal (Javelins, Edict of Azura, Cast into Time), and then take advantage of their absence to play creatures that cannot be removed by a single damage removal card like Lightning Bolt.

Combo decks

Frequently, combos are already included in the other deck archetypes. Combo decks are really decks that have an OTK, i.e. a one-turn-kill, combination of cards. That or the deck is made up of several combinations that can achieve the death of the opponent in various ways, but the deck isn’t about killing fast, killing steadily, or killing by stifling the opponent, like the other archetypes. Nix-Ox Combo is the best combo deck, was and still is, because it’s combo is very consistent and there are many ways to get the combo off.

Combo decks also try to achieve stabilization against the other deck types by several ways, by defensive creatures, removal, or creature superiority. Support Mage decks use supports to achieve this. Nix-ox uses Telvanni Control. Ramp Warrior is another control/combo deck, and uses Archein Venomtongue and items to remove threats while ramping.

Since an article could be written solely on each combo deck style it’s a matter for another set of articles. Suffice it to say, the way you beat a combo deck is by removing the pieces that are used for the combo. Or defeating them faster than they can get the combo off. If an aggro or midrange deck applies enough pressure each round, the opponent won’t be able to keep the combo cards safe in his hand. Also, there’s Hallowed Deathpriest (who turns the highest power creature in the opponent’s hand into a Mummy), and if they’ve had to discard a card they use (like Nix,-Ox or Genius Pathmage), there’s Piercing Twilight. There’s also Cast into Time to banish a combo piece.

In conclusion, there are many ways to deal with each archetype, and some tried and true strategies, and I wish you all the best of luck in learning them all, because new cards are coming and there will be new cards to deal with soon.

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