Welcome everyone to the Deck Spotlight series, where we have a new take on an old stalwart. The deck I am going to be breaking down is Brynjolf Archer, a re-tooling of Midrange Archer. I’ve always had interest in Midrange Archer, but between jamming Control decks and trying to figure Dwemer out I’ve never given it a chance. Until now. And spoilers, its just as good as I thought. However, if I’m giving a deck a chance, why not give a certain card a chance? Before I get to that, I’m gonna break down what makes Archer, Archer.
Standard Midrange Archer decks are made up of two types of cards: Aggressive, well costed creatures and card advantage engines. What differentiates this deck from say, Midrange Assassin, is that Archer actually gets to draw cards instead of generate value. Rapid Shot, Aela’s Huntmate and Triumphant Jarl all say “Draw a card” (or two), allowing this deck to pump out a constant stream of threats. This deck’s ability to pressure the opponent is unrivaled for Midrange decks. This deck is filled to the brim with 4 power creatures, costing as low as 2 Magicka or as high as 6 Magicka. And all of those creatures that cost 5 Magicka or more (Excluding Cliff Racer) offer either a situational kill spell or card draw. But what of the other cards that fill out the deck?
Outside of the 4 power creatures, the remaining creatures that fill up the lower-end of this deck are much more value orientated. Goblin Skulk is the king of these cards, being cheap, providing card advantage, and offering removal spells. There’s not much this card doesn’t do for Archer. Additionally, the natural Curses can help out a ton with the other pings this deck has. Speaking of pings, Rapid Shot has a similar function to the Curses, except it can draw cards, smoothing out your draws and helping you curve properly. Brotherhood Slayer is fairly straight forward, it has decent power, the Prophecy comes in handy, and when it manages to get it’s Slay trigger it can lead to some explosive plays. Skaven Pyromancer is an alright creature, but it’s Summon effect is great. It really helps in the Tokens matchups, and in tandem with the other pings and Curses, the Pyromancer has the ability to kill many more creatures. Murkwatch Shaman is similar, but the Shaman’s ability to take over games on it’s own is unique. If a Murkwater Shaman sticks around for two or more turns, it has usually generated enough of an advantage that the remaining cards in your hand can close the game out.
After playing more games with the Brynjolf Assassin list from a few weeks ago, I learned some things about Brynjolf-style decks. These versions are much more aggressive, and you have to fight pretty hard to make sure your important cards stay on the board. Additionally, with the extra life gain racing Brynjolf decks become very difficult, and the aggressive matchups become way better. The lower curve, the Drain creatures, and the ability to get huge Brynjolf ramps can swing the matchup by quite a lot. You also end up putting more Prophecies in your deck, which helps to a smaller extent.
The reason I like the Brynjolf version of Archer more than Assassin is simply because you end up drawing more cards in Archer. Being able to play three or more cards a turn on turns six or seven is ridiculous. The unrelenting stream of threats Brynjolf Archer can sling out is extremely powerful, and often too much for most decks to overcome. The lower curve, the life gain, and the snowball potential are all very real reasons why Brynjolf-style decks deserve a glance.
There are two main downsides that this Brynjolf version holds. First, if you miss out on your draw spells, it can be very easy to run out of gas. Many of the new cards in this Brynjolf deck are easily answerable and don’t offer much immediately. If the opponent has a fistful of removal spells and you don’t get any of your draw spells, it could spell your demise. Second, this version has no real late game whatsoever. This version of the deck has a clear mission: Attack your opponent, draw some cards, snowball out of control. If one of those steps falter, closing games can be very rough. The increased amount of Charge creatures does aid in this sense, but without Tazkad or a handful of good-quality four drops, this deck’s late game is virtually non-existent.
What isn’t Included
So, there are a lot of cards that slot nicely into Midrange Archer. Some of them are meta-tech to help in certain matchups, and some are personal preferences, but this deck is fairly customizable. Two of the usual inclusions I’ve skipped on is Blood Dragon and Thieves Guild Recruits. My reasoning for Blood Dragon is a similar reason as to why I didn’t include Nahagliv in my Ramp Warrior deck. Lethal creatures, Belligerant Giant, the fact that Piercing Javelin answers Blood Dragon on parity, it doesn’t help agianst Tokens, ect ect. In a world without Lethal creatures, less Javelins and Tokens being less frequent, I’d include Blood Dragon in a heartbeat. Thieves Guild Recruit can be explained fairly easily. I don’t have any cards that cost over 7 Magicka, and in a deck with a couple Pilfer creatures and a more aggressive playstyle, Shadow Shift is a better cantrip in my eyes.
Thieves Guild Fence is another very interesting card. Midrange Archer ends up drawing a butt-load of cards, and having their cost’s reduced could be super powerful. There are two things that keep me from playing Fence. One: It does nothing on Summon. I rag on cards that don’t do anything on Summon a lot, but in decks like this I really want the extra value. And two: Between Goblin Skulk, Murkwater Shaman, Brotherhood Slayer and natural Curses, this deck ends up drawing a lot of cards that already cost 0, so reducing their cost doesn’t do anything. If you were to include Thieves Guild Fence in this deck, I would want to re-include the Thieves Guild Recruits just to pump the deck full of cantrips.
Withered Hand Cultist could be quite powerful in this deck as well. My list only runs 6 Actions, three cost 0, and the other three cost 1. The other Actions this deck can generate all cost 0 Magicka as well, so Withered Hand Cultist would have little harm to us. Plus, it is a 3/4 that only costs 3 Magicka, so it’s stats are pretty good. My only reservation is that the decks Withered Hand Cultist crushes are growing fewer and fewer. Midrange Intelligence has fallen to the wayside and Control Intelligence isn’t as popular, though still very present. Willpower-heavy control decks usually run a bunch of Actions, as well as the Shout-heavy version of Ramp Scout, but without backup Withered Hand Cultist can come up short. Tokens runs a good handful of Actions, and stalling them there so they can’t progress their board too much can come in huge, but without Guard or a Removal spell stapled on, I don’t think its enough.
Speaking of matchups, lets take a look at Midrange Archer’s matchups as a whole. Midrange Archer destroys most Control decks, including Ramp decks. The exceptions are Control Mage and Ramp Warrior. These decks are still beatable, but drawing Triumphant Jarl is extremely important. Without Jarl, you have to bob-and-weave with them, sending out a constant stream of threats while utilizing Charge creatures or any Shadow Shift-effects to push through damage.
Other Midrange decks are fairly even. Stuff like Midrange Assassin or any rogue Battlemage or Warrior decks remain a 50/50 matchup, relying on a hardy curve with a steady stream of pressure. Midrange Sorcerer is probably your worst enemy out of the lot, if they curve Wind Keep Spellsword into Dark Guardian and manage to take it to the late game (as they actually have late-game threats) it becomes very hard to overcome.
Aggressive decks are very unfavored. Prophecy Battlemage, Orcs, Goblins and any Tokens decks are quite good against Midrange Archer. Of those decks, Tokens strategies are maybe the easiest if you get your “Curse” draws of Goblin Skulks, Murkwater Shamans and Shearpoint Dragons. The other decks have much more Charge and are their creatures are larger therefor harder to answer, so they remain poor matchups.
So what does the Brynjolf version change? It maintains your even win percentages against all Midrange decks. Nothing of those matchups really changed, except the mirror match got a lot worse. Other Midrange Archer decks are just more consistent, so they hold that above Brynjolf. Your Control matchups remain favored. Ramp Scout might be a bit worse, simply due to the lack of late game, but if you never let it get to the late game, you’re good to go. The Ramp Warrior matchup became a bit better simply because you can snowball before they stabilize. And finally, the aggro matchups improved a lot. They aren’t exactly favored for you, and rely heavily on either the Drain creatures or Curse effects, but they have been bumped up from horrible to just bad.
Welcome to the Aftermath. After a lot of testing, I can say that I do like this Brynjolf version a lot… when its time comes. If you have a hankering for some Archer action but you’re finding aggressive decks left and right, I would way rather play Brynjolf Archer in that field. Whoever comes out on top in the Brynjolf Archer vs Midrange Archer cage match will change from day to day, depending on the climate of the ladder. In the initial testing of Archer I found myself liking the deck, because it was different than my regular decks, and after jamming Brynjolf in it felt like a fresh new deck. I’ve always liked experimenting and brewing, and this came as no exception. Winning was just a side effect of all the fun I was having figuring my deck out, which isn’t something that’s been happening a lot in TES:L in the last few months. Most decks that have seen change have had upgrades, not full re-toolings aside from maybe the Shout heavy Ramp Scout deck, so this was an absolute blast for me. It reminded me a lot of old MTG standard, in that the big question was “What can we shove Thragtusk and Restoration Angel into next?”, except now its Brynjolf and his merry friends.
Thank you all for reading the Deck Spotlight Series. We’ll be back again next week on Friday for another installment, so hit me up if you have any suggestions or comments. Until next time, see you Space Cowboy.