Editor’s Note: MoEsport would like to give a warm welcome to our new contributing writer The Rum Ham, who will be sharing his insights and strategy on Clash Royale here! The Rum Ham is a retired hardcore gamer who “plays mobile games with Michael Jordan’s competitive fire”. He is best known for being a top Clash Royale player with frequent appearances on TV Royale, but he was also a Legendary Hearthstone player, and reached Top 20 in Smash Land and Top 100 in Boom Beach. You can check out his Twitch Channel here.
Hey gang! The Rum Ham is here to talk about the Clash Royale metagame. People often talk about the meta in terms of specific units, like “its a Prince meta” or “everyone plays Tombstones”, but this can be a shallow understanding of what is really happening underneath individual card choices.
The metagame is really the share of people who are pursuing distinct lines of play in order to win a game. While individual card choices matter, it’s more important to understand the fundamental sequence of interactions each style of play is trying to impose on the other. No matter what deck you are playing, understanding the strategic metagame helps you better make decisions and ultimately win more games.
The Clash Royale metagame breaks down into 3 categories. These are loose groupings of various decks by their methods of winning the game, you’ve probably played against each type several times:
Beatdown – Fights you on your side, beats your Towers down
Control – Waits for you to act, Fights you on THEIR side, combo-kills a Tower on your side
Siege – Stays on their side, pressuring you to come to their side or lose a Tower
The best decks tend to focus on creating lines of play to reinforce a single strategy. When you are building decks, ask yourself which of the above play styles suit you and try to select cards that help that strategy. Don’t play too many defensive towers, for example, if you want to play Beatdown decks since the towers will never help you knock down enemy towers.
First up, the first strategy everyone starts with. Come over the bridge and knock down your tower, usually by winning in combat. Beatdown decks tend to be proactive, spending their Elixir on Troops that are likely to generate a large damage-to-cost ratio if uninterrupted. They put the pressure on the other player to react, and throughout the game adapt to the opponent’s defenses as the game progresses.
Beatdown decks are filled with mixtures of different Troops with the intention of creating synergistic waves that deal lots of damage to Towers. An early example when you are rising in the ranks is Giant and Musketeer. Individually, neither unit is particularly threatening. But together they can crush a Tower and defending Troops. Finding Troops that work together and abusing their interactions are the key to a successful Beatdown deck.
Whether low cost waves (Goblins + Spear Goblins) or 10+ Elixir superpushes (Golem + Wizard), they are designed to force a specific counter. If the opponent can’t counter your wave, their Tower is going down. Some Beatdown decks try to force this outcome by playing so many cards of the same style that an opponent runs out of counters, and others are very diverse in their card types in order to adapt to what the opponent shows them. Don’t be fooled – Beatdown decks can be very strategically deep and satisfying to play!
- Swarm decks are filled with cards that trade poorly with Arrows. But when your deck is 6+ swarm cards and their deck only has 1 Arrows, there are a lot of opportunities to catch them without their trusty spell.
- Superpush decks tend to play expensive tanky units by the back wall, supplementing them with supporting Troops when they reach the bridge. This creates a single wave of 13+ Elixir, which is difficult to counter even with a full Elixir bar.
These decks are the natural reaction to seeing how trades work in Clash Royale. The first time you Tombstone a Prince or Arrows a Minion Horde, your eyes light up and think “what if I just did that the whole game!” Turns out, you can!
Welcome to Control decks, where you want to counter enemy attacks with Elixir-positive trades, then use a very specific 2-3 card line of play to take a Tower with your excess Elixir. This is usually the Freeze type of decks, though really any way to kill a Tower for 10 or less Elixir will work as a win condition.
The trick is playing Control is knowing when to deploy your Tower killing line of play. Having a good sense of how much Elixir your opponent has and what cards they have shown you is crucial to making optimal decisions. You might think a Control deck would always be defensive, but knowing when to switch into attack mode is the difference that sets great Control players apart.
For example, let’s stay you’ve just Tombstone’d a Prince and Arrow’d a Minion Horde. You are up 4-0 with a Hog Rider in hand. What do you do?
- If you don’t have Freeze, play it right away. The Hog Rider will reach the Tower while they are at ~2 Elixir and likely won’t be able to stop the damage.
- If you do have Freeze, wait until the Elixir is at 6-2, that way you can Freeze whatever is summoned for maximum effect Note that neither scenario calls to hold your Elixir until 9.5 like you normally would as a reactive deck. Knowing when to switch from defensively holding Elixir to aggressively spending it will be the difference in countless games.
These are the sort of decisions you’ve have to make dozens of times per game at the blink of an eye. Control decks are among the hardest, but most satisfying, decks to play.
- Hog / Prince, fast moving ground units that deal huge DPS to Towers if unanswered are a great card to drop in the opposite lane after your opponent deploys a huge wave.
- Balloon / Giant Skeleton, trying to deliver a Bomb to the tower, simply getting there is worth the Elixir cost. Using Spells to keep the path clear or Freeze the defense can enable thousands of damage to go through.
Siege decks can often be confused with Control decks (as Control decks sometimes use X-Bow for their win condition, this is understandable) but they are distinctly different strategies. Control decks hold their Elixir and tend to play Troops and Spell reactively. Siege decks play Buildings proactively.
Siege decks set up a fortified side of the board that makes it hard to threaten a tower. Once ‘safe’, Siege cast damage sources from its half of the board that force an opponent to come to you or lose a tower. These can take the form of Barb/Goblin Hut, X-Bow, Mortar, or simply pockets of Rockets. The important thread that ties them together is you feel obligated to play aggressively into them or lose (whereas Control decks don’t put that same pressure on you).
The trick about Siege decks is that they tend to be very all-in on a single win condition (like X-Bow) so being a great Siege player is about skillfully placing your defenses to protect not just Towers but also aggressively-placed delicate weaponry. 90%+ of Siege deck wins are going to be close fought 1-0 bloodbaths, so if you enjoy decks where each decision can be worth hundreds of HP, then Siege decks might be for you.
- X-Bow / Mortar where Towers and cheap Troops are used to cover the Siege weapons. Mortar and X-Bow are the highest damage-per-cost cards in the game, protecting a single one for the duration of it’s lifespan is enough to win a game.
- Barbarian / Goblin Huts cost a bit upfront, but generate far more Troops than their cost over their lifetime. Several Huts create an endless swarm that eventually overruns a Tower, especially in the last minute of the game.
Rock / Paper / Scissors
What’s the best? It ebbs and flows with each passing week. The trick is to get comfortable and know how your cards interact inside and out. You are better off picking a strategy you enjoy playing and exploring units within that strategy than going on tilt and switching your deck up too often.
Your chance of succeeding will always be higher with Troops that are well-understood than switching to unfamiliar strategies chasing some perceived meta. That said, understanding your favorite strategy and how it interacts with the others will help with each tactical decision you make.
Beatdown decks fundamentally want to come across the bridge and fight you. They must play their Troops onto the field and wait for them to cross. This gives your opponent a chance to counter your cards, and Control decks are designed to do just that. Control decks are the natural predator of Beatdown decks.
Beatdown decks can overcome this disadvantage by either being very linear (spamming similar units like Hog / Prince / Mini-PEKKA) to run the Control deck out of counters, or by using a diverse cast of Troops. With a diverse Troop choice, you can bait out counters then play a Troop safely after (for example, holding Minion Horde and playing Goblins until the Arrows come out, THEN playing Minion Horde immediately after)
Control decks are designed to fight on their side of the board. Well, this is pretty awful when the opponent has no intention of crossing the bridge. Siege decks punish Control decks for their passivity by building defenses that require immense force to overcome, and Control decks usually skimp on the offensive weapons.
Control decks therefore either need enough offense to maneuver or overpower a defense (a single Hog Rider won’t do) OR some ability to prevent Buildings from staying alive too long (Lightning is a popular choice). You can also try to exploit the short lifespan of defensive buildings and time an attack during the downtime.
Siege decks have powerful defenses but tend to be the slowest to set up and execute their game plan. They are required to play their cards out in the open and hope to prevent a response. Beatdown decks, designed to power through defenses, are going to give Siege a hard time because with defenses on the field the Beatdown player can set up waves to overcome the tower AI.
Siege decks can overcome this by outsmarting the Beatdown player. Set up juicy traps, like an Inferno Tower near the river when you have Arrows in hand. Learn how to use buildings to drag Troops back and forth across the middle and disrupt their waves.
Beatdown is proactive. Control defeats Beatdown. But Siege defeats Control, because Control struggles to be proactive. Beatdown defeats Siege because it can present challenging waves to defense. What happens when two decks of the same type meet?
Anything and everything, usually dictated by who draws what in what order. Golem-based Beatdown decks, designed to create an unstoppable wave, usually can’t stop a Golem themselves. Two Control decks likely couldn’t kill each other so it comes down to poker bluffs and human error to pull off a win. Siege decks usually draw, though excellent skill can steal a game.
If you find yourself struggling with a mirror match, try to find a spot in your deck for a card that you would hate to face yourself. The Golem deck with an Inferno Tower will probably win the mirror. The Siege deck with Lightning is delighted to see enemy Huts and Mortars. Keep in mind, that every card you replace for a mirror match is likely hurting you in another matchup!
What About My Weird Deck?
Invariably, someone will come up with a deck and claim it doesn’t fit into these archetypes. That’s probably true. Nothing is ironclad, there is room for weirdness. But I haven’t seen any deck like that have consistent success. Usually these decks are incredibly powerful at one thing, but once their weakness is exposed they aren’t able to compete.
For example, on the last day of the season several HKEsports players were playing Hog / Prince / Baby Dragon / Mirror / Lightning / Elixir Collector, which doesn’t fit in anything above. They definitely snagged a spectacular victory here and there, but it’s very one dimensional and inconsistent. By the end of the night people adjusted their decks and styles to account for it and the deck went away.
While I totally support experimentation, I truly believe that we will see the Clash Royale metagame begin to crystallize around these three core strategies. If your goal is to win, you don’t get bonus points for being clever.
Enjoy playing Clash Royale and I hope this gave you some insight, please check out my Twitch channel for gameplay and more strategy!