How to Counter the Top 6 Decks in Clash Royale (Part 2)

If you missed part one, be sure to read it here first!

And we’re back with Part 2!  Before we start just wanted to give a warm thanks to all the positive feedback on the strategy write-up. It’s great to know you guys find this stuff useful, and be sure to look out for more strategy guides from me and other contributing writers in the near future!

4) Hog/Balloon Freeze

What is it: This deck once dominated the competitive Clash Royale scene before Freeze got nerfed.  Hog and Balloon both can do devastating damage to crown towers, but of course the guy defending the towers know that too, and will throw everything at the tower attackers before they reach the tower.  Enter Freeze: for a good 5+ seconds (depending on Freeze level), everything within the Freeze’s radius can not move or attack, leaving troops, buildings, and towers unable to damage the Hog Rider or Balloon.  The decrease in radius since the nerf has made this deck less effective, but the deck remains popular with players in lower Arenas, and players who have really buffed up Hog Riders and Balloons.  Many players also play Minion Horde in these decks, as an unchecked Minion Horde that reaches a frozen tower can really do damage to a tower.  Also be on the lookout for Goblin Barrels + Freeze, though it’s a tactic usually found in lower Arenas.

How to play against it: Once you have identified that your opponent has freeze, make sure you’re ready for the next one!  If you are playing a defense building, move it up a little closer to the center of the arena so that the Freeze’s radius can’t cover both the building and the crown tower.  If you are deploying troops to defend against the incoming Hog Rider/Balloon, DO NOT deploy them until your opponent casts their Freeze!  If there’s already a defense building or a troop that’s attacking their Hog Rider/Balloon on the table, then they will use Freeze.  Don’t get trigger happy and put down all your troops before that happens.

Keep in mind that Hog Rider/Balloon are drawn to your defense buildings.  Many players have a habit of stacking their defense buildings up right in front of the crown tower that’s weakened; this is not ideal, as the buildings will be susceptible to being destroyed by a spell, and does not draw the Hog Rider/Balloon away from your crown tower.  If you have more than 1 building (or can mirror one), try creating a path for the Hog Rider/Balloon to go from one side of the Arena to the other!  The update next week will have an effect on how troops are distracted by buildings, so it remains to be seen how much more difficult it will be to stop in incoming Hog Riders and Balloons.

The deck’s weakness is in the Freeze itself; the spell costs 4 elixir, and is essentially wasted if little or no additional damage was dealt as a result of the Freeze.  Also, Hog Rider and Balloon only inflict damage on your buildings and towers, so whatever troop you used to defend against it should still be in tack if they were not damaged/destroyed by other troops/explosions/spells.  Use this to your advantage, and pile on a counter-attack with your gang of survivors!  Be smart about the counterattack though; it doesn’t make sense for you to throw a Prince and Hog Rider over if you know they still have Barbarians or a Skeleton Army to stop the charge.  As always, play patiently, win your exchanges, and gain the elixir advantage.

5) X-Bow/Mortar Dogpile

What is it: Everyone’s most hated deck, I’m sure even the people who use it hate playing against it too.  As everyone knows by now, X-Bows and Mortars can hit opposing crown towers while still on their own side of the arena.  When anyone sees X-Bow/Mortar being played, the first instinct is to throw everything you have at it to take it out as soon as possible.  Your opponent knows this of course, so in their deck they have prepared a selection of Barbarians/Minion Horde/defense towers/Knight to draw away your attacks while the X-Bow/Mortar blasts away at your crown tower.  Get your angry emoticon ready.

How to play against it: There’s a reason you don’t see these kinds of decks being played much by top players, because 1) smart players know how to counter them and 2) everyone hates x-bows and you lose street cred by playing it (I’m talking to you Phonecat!!)  First of all, remember the facts about X-bows and Mortars: they don’t attack flying creatures, they hit whatever is on the ground that is closest to their own side first, and they take 5 and 3 seconds to deploy respectively.  If your opponent plays an X-Bow or Mortar, first determine whether they have anymore elixir remaining (count your elixirs!!).  If they don’t, then throw a defense tower like Inferno Tower or Tesla or troops right in front of it and take it out, simple as that.  But chances are they have saved up elixir and are ready to “dogpile” on top of it (hence the deck name).  In this case, you should play down a tanky ground troop (Barbarians, Knight, Giant or even Golem if desperate) or a non-Tesla building (even troop generating buildings) right in front of your crown tower, and let them take the first hits.   Your opponent will proceed to play defense towers and troops right next to their X-Bow/Mortar (if they haven’t already).  This is your chance to blast them with a spell (Fireball for Barbarians, Arrows for Minions); if you don’t have spells available, then try to take them out with a ranged troop(s).

As always, the key is to win your trades with your opponent.  The X-Bow or Mortar is dealing damage, but your opponent also just spent 6 or 4 elixir playing it, so you also have more elixir to try to stop it.  The X-Bow throws people off because of its attack speed, but keep in mind that it only deals 66+ damage per second; that means it will take around 30ish seconds for it to completely take out level 5 Barbarians, and 15ish seconds to take out a level 5 Knight.  By that time, if you play your cards well and win your exchanges, the X-Bow/Mortar should be long gone.  And even if the X-Bow/Mortar start hitting your tower, don’t panic.  Keep track of your opponent’s elixir spend, play your cards to counter what they’re playing, and you should be able to take down their X-Bow/Mortar within seconds.

X-Bow/Mortar users have a reputation for being not skilled, but in fact the best X-Bow/Mortar are very adaptable, and are mostly likely to change their deployment strategy throughout the game to try to throw you off.  If you managed to stop their X-Bow the first time around without taking any damage to your crown towers, don’t get cocky; you can be sure that the second time the X-Bow gets played, the same defense play you made won’t work so smoothly again.  Avoid throwing your weak troops into the dogpile, and dictate the pace of the game.

There are certain cards that are great at countering X-Bows, and you won’t need to worry much if you happen to have them in your deck.  Barbarian Hut is expensive by perfect for absorbing X-Bow damage, just be sure to play the hut in front of your crown towers.  Rocket can basically trade and take out the X-Bow, but avoid using it on Mortar as the elixir cost difference is not worth the play; same goes for Lightning.  Giant only costs 5 and can pretty much all the X-Bow/Mortar has to throw at him, so be sure to keep him around as a cannon fodder if he’s in your deck.

I'll just let the Barbarians pass first before playing my Prince...

I’ll just let the Barbarians pass first before playing my Prince…

...and now X-Bow is gone and I'm dealing massive damage to their crown tower

…and now X-Bow is gone and I’m dealing massive damage to their crown tower












6) Elixir Beatdown

What is it: While Golem/Elixir puts everything around the eventual Golem attack, Elixir Beatdown simply relies on the fact that they are generating more Elixir than you.  After having 3 or more Elixir Collectors on the board (thanks to Mirror), your opponent will start throwing waves and waves of Barbarians/Giants/Wizards/Archers/Goblins and whatever else at you until eventually your defenses get overran by shear number.

How to play against it: The key to play against this deck is to not let your opponent build up multiple Elixir Collectors, and the only way to do that is to take them out with spells or troops (if they are within attack range).  Let’s do a little math: Elixir Collectors cost 5 elixir to play, and can generate 7 Elixir points during its life cycle (1 elixir generated per 9.8 seconds).  Below is a breakdown of the trade off from blasting Eilxir Collectors with your spells:

Cost Damage to EC HP (%) Elixir Prevented
Zap (lvl 8) 2 15% 1
Arrows (lvl 8) 3 19% 2
Fireball (lvl 5) 4 41% 3
Lightning (lvl 2) 6 61% 5
Rocket (lvl 5) 6 88% 6

As you can see, no spell trades well directly with Elixir Collector – keep in mind that Elixir Collector is already giving the player 7 Elixir in the long run for spending 5 up front, so even by blasting the Elixir with a rocket, you’re giving up the Elixir advantage.  But while you lose the Elixir trade, you are preventing something that is far worse; the accumulation of Elixir Collectors so that your opponent will be generating say 6 Elixirs every ten seconds versus your 3.   Also on the plus side, chances are you’re not JUST blasting the Elixir Collector; you’re most definitely also going to do some damage on their crown towers, and perhaps other buildings/troops as well.  Be a little patient, and wait to see if your opponent will play cards beside their Elixir before you start blasting away.

Be sure to NEVER go on the offensive if your opponent has 2 or more Elixir Collectors in play, unless they just so happened to have played them back-to-back (spending 9 Elixir on EC + Mirror).  The last thing you want to do is lose an exchange on their side of the Arena, and have them counter-attack while generating more Elixirs than you.  Just like Golem/Elixir, be patient on defense, win your exchanges, and save up for the counter-attack once their Elixirs run out.

There are two school of thoughts regarding whether one should try for a sneak attack when your opponent plays the first Elixir Collector without any other defense towers: one school claims that it is a stupid move that will easily be stopped, while another feels it’s a good move to get in some damage before going on defense.  Reddit user denz1l left a comment regarding Golem/Elixir that I think summarizes well what the best play should be, and why I also think Elixir Collector is perhaps the most overpowered card in the game:

I am a guy in 2700-2800 now playing Hog and most people play different variations of Elixir decks in this range. If you play a collector and I don’t have а Lightning on hand you can bet I’m attacking.

Especially if I have a strong opening combination you will always take at least some tower damage. If I just sit and play some defensive stuff I can get two Golemmed or whatever 20 elixir combination you want to think of.

Is it the perfect play? No, that’s why massing Elixir collectors is an OP strat and everybody is playing it, a level 5-6 Collector has too much HP and cannot be nuked. I am gonna copy a comment that I posted two weeks ago in the “Stuck at 2500 trophies, any suggestions to get higher?” post:

My advice is that Tesla is better than Inferno for Golems, just because it cannot be nuked pre push. My biggest problem is lvl 6 elixir extractor, which is essentially not countereable without a strong Rocket or Lightning, that I don’t have. Counter attacks are futile since you have only ~4 elixir advantage, easy to control from the other players side. If the push prolongs itself, the other player keeps receiving this extra elixir to overcome and counter attack.

So, you say don’t do this but don’t give any alternative, and there is actually none. A good fast attack with Hog+Goblins+something for the Tesla/Inferno is the best play here.

And there you have it, the strategies to counter the top 6 decks in Clash Royale right now!  I’m sure there are some holes in the strategies that I presented (I’m currently at 2830 trophies with a level 8 tower so there are definitely better players than me!), but please share your thoughts and feedback in the comments section!


  1. Lee

    Can you write an article on the most skilled deck? This is what I’ve seen: Goblin Barrel, Goblins, Spear Gobs, Fireball, cannon, tesla, barbs, minion horde.

  2. Pingback: Impact of New Cards and Balance Changes from the ClashMeta Report |

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