Welcome everyone to the Deck Spotlight Series, where we are going to break down top-tier lists or explore strange new brews. This week we have a new take on an old classic in Midrange Battlemage. The aforementioned old classic was Merric Battlemage, but due to various nerfs it has fallen to the wayside. Merric Battlemage had a lot of good stuff in it, and plenty of great matchups, so this is going to be a modern recreation to try and capture those aspects. In addition, October’s Monthly Reward card is a very powerful Strength card in Dushnikh Yal Archer, so we are going to be including this Orc to see how it fares. Dushnikh Yal Archer was the final piece for me checking out this deck, so lets start there.
Dushnikh Yal Archer
This Orc is a very versatile creature and has sparked my interest. I haven’t been this excited for a Monthly Reward card since Sower of Revenge back in March. Dushnikh Yal Archer has a relevant creature type, a relevant keyword, and a Summon effect that ranges from only OK to really good.
In this week’s “What Magic: The Gathering card is this like?”, I’m gonna pull comparisons to Thornscape Battlemage. This Elf is a small creature that can shoot down another small creature or a pesky artifact, with a relevant creature type to boot. Is Thornscape Battlemage extremely powerful? No, but its versatility can be very impactful at times.
Dushnikh Yal Archer is a fairly medium creature, but when its Summon effect can be used to maximize its potential it can really come in clutch. At 4 Magicka it is one of the premier non-Legendary 4-drops in Strength, mainly butting heads with Earthbone Spinner and Aela’s Huntmate, especially in a Midrange deck like this.
So far I’ve only been able to test Dushnikh Yal Archer in Midrange strategies, but I would love to give this card a go in Control decks. I’m sure I could slot a couple copies in Ramp Warrior or perhaps a Control Crusader deck. Dushnikh Yal Archer seems like it is good against Tokens and Hist Grove in particular, so I would naturally want to slot it into decks where I would want to improve those specific matchups. I’m not entirely sure if the Archer could go into Aggressive decks, as it doesn’t seem like an aggro card at all, nor would I want to have it as a metagame-tech card, but I’ll give it some testing.
The Dissapearance of Merric Battlemage
Late August in Patch 1.66.1, we had our last big batch of balance changes. The most important of these changes were the nerfs to both Thief of Dreams and Supreme Atromancer. The nerfs were fairly thorough, bumping them down from multiple copies in virtually all Intelligence decks to a couple copies in very specific decks that are tailored to optimize them. The power level of both Supreme Atromancer and Thief of Dreams were dropped to a place close to Serpentine Stalker; Good in midrange-y Scout decks that are super heavy in either Dragon or Slay synergies, but pretty bad everywhere else.
Now with Supreme Atromancer in particular, it was one of the main reasons to play Merric Battlemage. Merric Battlemage had two basic paths to victory; their namesake card in Merric-at-Aswala plus a couple of Nord Firebrands/cheap creatures, or Supreme Atromancer. And of course, if you have spare Nord Firebrands or a couple of little creatures in tandem with the Supreme Atromancer, it only gets better.
The remainder of Merric Battlemage was filled with lane-controlling cards like Daggerfall Mage and Ice Storm. So without Supreme Atromancer, Merric was left alone as the sole payoff to this specific strategy. This proved to be really bad, as Merric Battlemage held good Tokens and Midrange Agility decks due to its Ice Storms and good Ramp matchups due to its great late-game in Merric-at-Aswala and Supreme Atromancer. No other deck has been able to step up and take Merric’s place in the metagame, the closest replacements being either Control Mage or Control Archer. With all that out of the way, I would like to present Midrange Battlemage as an alternative and possible replacement to its predecessor.
The Main Event: Midrange Battlemage
I’ve been meaning to give some sort of Midrange Battlemage deck a look for a while now, and with October’s Monthly Reward card I decided to pull the trigger. When I went to make this deck, I began to notice it took shape in the form of a Midrange Archer deck with most of its Strength Cards. Add in the Wardcrafter+Daggerfall Mage package, the Merric+Markarth Bannerman+Raiding Party package, and the deck almost built itself. Add in some Lightning Bolts, good old Ancano, and some lower-end stuff to fill out the curve, finishing with both Garnag and Reive as stand alone kill-spell magnets and it’s all done.
What I quickly learned is that my initial deck was too focused on ‘face’ damage with both Camlorn Hero and Underworld Vigilante, so I toned it back. Then I finally got my hands on Dushnikh Yal Archer, and the final version was completed.
My first observations show one massive problem with my deck: no Ice Storm. The deck is simply too low to the ground and the majority of the creatures aren’t resilient enough to survive an Ice Storm. I almost want to just include the Ice Storms in anyways, as the deck with the sweeper can play around it the best, but it seems like too much of a detriment. The deck could be re-tooled to have Ice Storms for sure, probably going back to the old Battlemage stuff of Breton Conjurer and maybe even Sentinel Battlemace. This would improve the aggro matchups a lot, but for the purposes of this Deck Spotlight I will stick to Dushnikh Yal Archer as the 4-drop of choice.
One other small change that could be made would be to include three Skilled Blacksmiths and two Mace of Encumbrance. I’m a big fan of this small five card package because it doesn’t have very much opportunity cost as Midrange Battlemage’s low end is pretty uneventful with the likes of Lurking Crocodile and Crushing Blow. In addition, this package has some real potential with cards like Crown Quartermaster and Daggerfall Mage already in the deck, with Sentinel Battlemace hovering on the outside of the list as well. But again, for the purposes of this article I want to keep the deck as clean and straight-forward as possible, so I will leave the Blacksmith+Mace package alone for now.
Lets get this out of the way right now: without Ice Storms, the aggressive matchups have become pretty bad. However, that does not mean it is unwinnable. This deck has avenues to control and attack the board early, ways to destroy pesky creatures with burn, and the new Dushnikh Yal Archer really shines in this matchup. Midrange Battlemage is also fairly good in damage races, so keep that in mind. That being said, if the Ward creatures, burn or Dushnikh Yal Archers are not drawn, the outcomes are very bleak.
The best part about Midrange Battlemage is that this deck is a Ramp-seeking missile. It’s not an absolute sure-fire 100%-win matchup, but it is really good (I’d say a 70/30 matchup, personally. 65/35 at worst). Midrange Intelligence decks have always been good against Ramp decks, plus this deck plays Merric-at-Aswala, plus Dushnikh Yal Archer gets to shoot down their Hist Groves, PLUS Garnag gets to basically shut down their whole deck. Now of course, if this deck doesn’t get to curve out the matchup’s strength decreases, and if Ramp decks have their perfect draw that can also throw a wrench in the plans.
Now of course, Ramp is technically a Control deck, and the same things can be said about most Control decks, to some extent. Your average Control decks sits in an unfavorable position versus Midrange Battlemage. As I stated earlier, this Battlemage list is still fragile to Ice Storm, so watch out for that. Without a good quality curve or any decent late-game threat of Merric or Triumphant Jarl, Battlemage doesn’t pack the same punch that Midrange Sorcerer does so the games do have to chance to fall astray. The Control matchups are really where Supreme Atromancer will be missed, as that was enemy #1 for basically all Control decks.
Speaking of Midrange Sorcerer, that deck has always been a thorn in Battlemage’s side. Most Midrange Intelligence decks are not favored against Midrange Battlemage. Sorcerer and Assassin are leaner lists with less shenanigans going on, so they have a leg-up on Battlemage. That being said, most other Midrange decks are weighted towards Battlemage. Stuff like Midrange Archer and Midrange Spellsword are favored for Battlemage, but not by much. In all Midrange matchups, the ways to gain card advantage are Battlemage’s most important cards, so Triumphant Jarl and Markarth Bannerman. They let you stay even on board pressure and ahead in the resource game, allowing you to slowly take over.
So the question was, does Midrange Battlemage fill the hole that Merric Battlemage left? I would ultimately say no. Without Ice Storm or Supreme Atromancer, it just isn’t the same. However, with the addition of Dushnikh Yal Archer I feel like a new Midrange Intelligence deck has been born. Midrange Battlemage has some positive aspects that Assassin and Sorcerer don’t have access to, primarily that the aggro matchups are better than Sorcerer’s and the Ramp matchups are better than Assassin’s. I also feel like Midrange Battlemage has more “kill me or I’ll snowball the game” creatures in Reive, Blademaster, Markarth Bannerman, in some games Garnag and to a smaller extent Daggerfall Mage. That’s always something I’m looking for in my Midrange decks: a blob of creatures that run the opponent dry of removal spells so the real threats go unanswered later on.
Only Control Mage and maybe Control Crusader have the ability to answer every single threat Battlemage plays, but step one would be surviving your curve, then step two is drawing all the right removal spells in the right order, and that is statistically unlikely to say the least. An thus we have Midrange Battlemage’s Deck Spotlight. As a debuting deck with a new, untested card, I think it performed well given the circumstances.
As usual, you can find me on Twitter, as well as Numot Gaming. Tell me what you think of Return to Clockwork City, the new expansion. Do you love Neutral cards? Are you as excited for Dwemer’s future as I am? Upset that it isn’t a Cyrodiil or Black Marsh based expansion? Let me know! I want to hear it all. Thanks for reading, catch you all next week~