In our previous two articles, we covered the polar opposites of the archetype spectrum — aggro and control. Now, we turn to what kind of lies in the middle: midrange decks.
Like aggro, midrange decks are proactive, unit-based, and somewhat straightforward to play. Where they differ from aggro is how they use their units and what spells do they choose for support.
Unlike aggro or control decks who spike in power early or late, respectively, but are very week the rest of the game, midrange decks start off well, reach their full potential in the midgame and manage to sustain that power throughout. What they lack in high power spikes, they make up for with consistency.
The following elements define the archetype:
- Durable minions — Midrange decks look to play stat-efficient, heavy units, which can stay on the board for several turns. Like aggro, the archetype wants to achieve victory through units. Unlike aggro, it cares about winning battles, rather than burning down towers as fast as possible. Since fighting midrange units is often cost inefficient, the best way to beat them is with hard removal… or with even bigger units.
- Board control through unit combat — The way midrange wants to get ahead is beat you in the action phase. It wants each unit of his to kill two or more. Such decks win the war one combat at a time, until the board is fully theirs.
- Supportive spells — Aggro decks want direct damage spells. Control decks want removal and card draw spells. Midrange decks want spells that support their units. This includes heals, buffs, ramping mechanics, debuffs, combat slot manipulation (so you get can the best duel possible), etc.
- Proactive/reactive duality — While the other two main archetypes will always want to play their style (offense for aggro, defense for control), the midrange can do it both. The way its units are positioned on the curve, such a deck can take defensive stance against aggro, or use the very same units to put pressure on slower decks.
- On-curve threats — The dream of the midrange deck is to play the strongest unit it can with the mana it has. One of the archetype’s biggest weakness is getting the wrong units at the wrong time.
- Midrange colors in Artifact: Green, red
In games like Hearthstone, the midrange archetype is one of the easier to play, especially when the deck follows a natural curve. Yet, there are strategies and mechanics the archetype has to track, which are not as apparent as they are in aggro and control. For every positive characteristic of the archetype, there’s a negative to balance it out and which has to be regarded, if the deck is to be piloted properly.
— Midrange decks are intuitive for novice players, because their primary goal is easy to spot: have the bigger unit in every battle. You can easily identify this, especially when Artifact clearly marks which unit will die. A lot of the units midrange decks will want to play are cost efficient and hard to kill and there’s nothing easier than just slamming them on the board.
— Getting a good battle is tricky, however. In Artifact, attack directions are random. Creeps spawn in random slots too. Your plans for the next action phase can go very wrong at the whim of the die. If your 14/14 Thunderhide Pack is wasted on a 2/4 melee creep, that’s a disadvantage. In Artifact, one of the challenges midrange decks face is using combat slot manipulation to ensure unit efficiency, as well as know which units to buff to deal the most amount of damage.
— Buffing stuff is awesome. When you already have a big creep, modifying it so it can
— You don’t really run out of threats, at least at first glance. At some point of time, an aggro deck will ask “where are my attacking units”, and control will struggle with finding the correct removal or just not have enough of it. In contrast, midrange decks always seem to have something to play. This is done by saturating each mana slot with enough threats and/or employing ramping mechanics that allow to “cheat” the curve, i.e. play a big creep early.
— Yet, threats aren’t really unlimited and midrange decks still have to track their resources, or card advantage. This becomes a bit tricky as midrange’s card advantage is generated through successive battles, so you’ll have to know exactly what you got from playing (and eventually losing) a unit. Midrange decks care a lot about “virtual card advantage”, too, (a concept we’ll explain in another article) which is another thing novice players tend to miss. Most of the time, whether you’re ahead or behind in resources overall or after a card is played will not be as obvious as “this Slay killed my Savage Wolf that I had buffed with spells twice, so I’m 2 cards behind”.
— Midrange can be played offensive or defensively, depending on the match-up. This is also great for novice players, as they don’t run the risk of running into hard-countering match-ups. Even though your plan remains the same — play the best threats available — the position of the deck in the battle changes. This is perhaps the best news for novice players…
— …But also their worst nightmare. Midrange decks care about tempo more than any other archetype, and tempo is the hardest concept to grasp for beginners. Don’t worry, we’ll cover that later, too. For now, suffice it to say that — especially when facing other unit-based decks — midrange decks have to ask every turn “am I attacking or defending” and, subsequently, “how fast am I killing/dying”. Neither of those questions will generally be as clear cut as when aggro/control decks have to answer them.
Cards you’ll find in midrange decks
1. Heroes and signature cards
2. Durable minions
3. Buff/debuff effects
4. Ramp and board manipulation
“Learning Artifact” series: