vS Data Reaper Report #22
Welcome to the 22nd edition of the Data Reaper Report!
Number of Games
Note: With Yogg-Saron being nerfed and no longer a staple in the spell-centric “Yogg Druid”, we changed the archetype’s name to “Spell Druid”. We didn’t want to call it “Malygos Druid” since not all of the archetype’s builds utilize it as a win condition, and separating Malygos Druid by its very narrow spectrum of unique cards may cause bias in its win rates. This is a similar situation to Miracle Rogue where we have to be careful in how we identify it.
‘By Rank’ Games
Class Frequency by Weeks
- This week we observe a wild shift in the frequency of classes in response to the balance changes. The number of Shamans has drastically dropped. This is attributed to the collapse of the Aggro Shaman archetype. However, the number of Mid-Range Shamans has increased from last week, and is continuing to rise according to our metrics. The numbers of Mid-Range Shamans at rank 10 or lower is actually frightening at over 20%. If Mid-Range Shaman continues to exhibit its incredible win rates, the Shaman class will likely fully recover from the balance changes and then some.
- Hunter was the second victim of the balance changes, with a 25% decrease in its numbers. Secret Hunter seems to have recovered better and is currently significantly more popular than Mid-Range Hunter.
- Mage is now the 3rd most popular class exhibiting some decent archetype diversity. The number of Freeze Mages is higher than what we’ve seen in a while, which is a response to the horde of Mid-Range Shamans. Freeze Mage (and Aggro Freeze Mage) is currently the only reliable counter to the strongest archetype in the game.
- Warrior is seeing a slight uptick, with Pirate Warrior making its return to the Meta. The archetype has seemingly popped out of nowhere (or Hearthpwn) overnight and is now the 2nd most popular Warrior archetype.
- Druid is seeing more play. While Yogg-Saron was nerfed and caused a slight decrease in the number of spell-centric Druids, other Druids started seeing more play, such as Beast Druid and even the long forgotten C’Thun Druid. We’re also seeing quite a bit of Ramp Druids being experimented with, though their build variance is very high while their sample size is low, so it’s hard to pinpoint their performance.
- The four “underdog” classes (Warlock, Rogue, Priest and Paladin) have seen a surge in their popularity in response to the balance changes. Many archetypes in these classes were buried under the weight of oppressive cards like Call of the Wild and Doomhammer, and players are now giving these classes a second chance. Reno Warlock numbers, for example, doubled over the past week. Miracle Rogue saw a 50% increase in play and so did Anyfin Paladin.
- Whether this welcomed increase in archetype diversity on ladder will last, remains to be seen. Once the initial knee-jerk reaction to the balance changes ends, people return to play the best decks. So, if an archetype does not end up significantly benefitting from the balance changes and continues to lose often, it will fade away just as quickly as it appeared. We believe that some will do just that, but there are certainly archetypes that are becoming more viable options for ladder.
We now present the updated “vS Power Rankings” table for week # 22. The numbers we report are the expected win rates of each archetype based on their matchups against the field, factoring in the frequency of all potential opponents on ladder at different rank groups over the past week.
Impact of Balance Changes
Before we start discussing this delicious Power Ranking table, we’d like to fully clarify what we’ve done with certain archetypes after the balance changes hit. We closely monitored the performance of all archetypes in the game, as well as every matchup in the game, and evaluated the effect of the balance changes.
In cases where we saw a change, we have reset the win rates of an archetype using only games played since the the date of the patch. In cases where there was no effect on the performance of the archetype, we did not perform a reset. This means that some data was lost, and there is a higher value of variance in these decks’ metrics, but we wanted to make sure that our power rankings were up to date with the current state of the game.
The win rates of the following archetypes were reset, as we’ve observed a significant change in their performance: Aggro Shaman, Spell/Yogg Druid, Mid-Range Hunter, Secret Hunter, Dragon Warrior, Dragon Priest, Beast Druid, and Pirate Warrior. Note that the last three archetypes experienced a spike in their performance despite not being directly affected by the balance changes.
The following archetypes were not reset, as we’ve observed no changes in their performance against the field (other than the matchups against the archetypes that were reset, of course): Mid-Range Shaman, Tempo Mage, Zoo Warlock, and Control Warrior.
- Mid-Range Shaman laughs off the balance changes and continues to dominate the Meta. Its performance against the field actually increased from last week. This is in part a result of the balance changes causing players to try decks that aren’t very good against it. At one point this week, we’ve observed it hitting 56%. We can also say it is trending towards becoming stronger, so we fully expect the number of Mid-Range Shamans to increase further as time goes on. We strongly feel that a new expansion buffing other classes to the point of being as “broken” as Shaman is not the way to go, and balance changes are required to tone down this archetype’s power in order to create a healthier Meta. We’re actually very close to having a healthy Meta.
- Though the sample size is small for this week, we can safely say that Aggro Shaman was dealt a massive blow. The near disappearance of this archetype is helping other decks become stronger. Aggro Shaman was a highly oppressive deck and a prime offender of reducing the diversity of the Meta. The balance changes nearly removed it from the equation.
- Hunter has seen a big decline in its performance, but it’s still a perfectly viable class hovering around 50%. Secret Hunter has dealt with the Call of the Wild change better than Mid-Range Hunter, as it’s less reliant on curving out powerful minions every turn. It continues to be a very powerful archetype.
- Yogg-Saron? What Yogg-Saron? Spell Druid and Tempo Mage brush off the blow to the Old God and surge in their performance. The sometimes Yoggless Druid is now a Tier 1 deck, while Tempo Mage is very close to that point. The weakening of Aggro Shaman and the Hunter class was far more impactful than the loss of Yogg for these decks, and they are very well positioned in the current Meta. Tempo Mage’s even matchup against Mid-Range Shaman makes it one of the best decks in the game going forward.
- For those curious, had Yogg not been nerfed, Spell Druid would be sitting at 53.04% while Tempo Mage would have stayed where it is now. So we can conclude that Yogg-Saron, in its previous incarnation, contributed to an increase of about 0.75% in the win rate for Druid in the current Meta, while its positive effect on Tempo Mage was marginal. Ironically, the nerf to Yogg-Saron finally gave us some answer to how good the card was, as the question was so difficult to evaluate without any reliable ‘control’ sample.
- Beast Druid is showing an incredible transformation over the past week. This is both due to a shift in the field as well as internal improvement in its own performance. How can an archetype get so much better? It was being utterly destroyed by Shamans before the balance changes.
- If you want to hit face with weapons, it seems that Pirate Warrior is the way to go now. We suspect this archetype may emerge to replace Aggro Shaman as the new bane of Freeze Mage and Miracle Rogue on ladder, though these two archetypes are certainly breathing a sigh of relief at the moment with the disappearance of Doomhammer.
- It’s easy to be negative about the current state of the Meta, with such a highly oppressive archetype exhibiting uncomfortable power levels, but there are a lot of positives to take from the balance changes. If you compare this week’s table to last week’s, you can see the difference. There are a lot more viable archetypes to play on ladder at the moment. Many archetypes hover between 48%-52%, from different classes. Many of these archetypes were oppressed by some of the cards that were changed and now have a chance to finally see play. Many new archetypes could also emerge due to the new setting. Control decks can breathe easier now that arguably one of the most imbalanced cards ever designed, Call of the Wild, doesn’t automatically gimp them. Reno Mage snuck into Tier 2 and might be worth experimenting with. We even have a Priest deck in Tier 3!
- Of course, as Mid-Range Shaman continues to rise, this table might not look as good next week, as its oppressive effect will begin to take hold on some of these decks, but what we can gather from the data is that the Meta is close to being healthy, and instead of multiple broken mechanics, we have one clear offender. That’s a start.
Shaman is still dominating the Meta despite the recent balance changes, remaining a powerhouse on both ladder and tournaments. Although the potential turn three cheese that Tuskarr Totemic enabled is gone, the class has so many good cards that could take its place that it hardly matters. It appears that Feral Spirits has taken the 3 mana spot instead. Rockbiter’s increased cost did not affect Mid-Range Shaman either, as Lightning Bolt was quickly inserted in its place, being slightly worse in the early game but better in some situations during the mid-game.
Aggro Shaman got hit the most, as Rockbiter is more crucial to its game plan, and it was more reliant on snowballing board control very early on with Tuskarr Totemic and Abusive Sergeant.
What makes Mid-Range Shaman so good is its deadly efficiency. Spirit Claws, Maelstrom Portal and Thing From Below are extremely cheap cards that can provide an incredible tempo advantage. None of these cards might be broken by themselves, but their synergy together provides too much to the table.
Most Mid-Range Shaman lists are built nearly the same, and players are looking for creative ways to get an edge on others. Pavel, winner of the European Last Call Invitational, included Barnes and Ragnaros in his build, which leans towards targeting control decks. Ragnaros has become more popular recently in Mid-Range Shamans due to the increase in Freeze Mages looking to counter the archetype. Harrison Jones is also a very strong tech choice at the moment. Tictac hit top 10 legend, slightly altering his build by swapping out a Fire Elemental for Bloodlust, to give the deck a burst finisher, which used to be a role filled by Al’Akir before the Rockbiter nerf. JAB hit top 5 legend with a nearly identical list, with two Fire Elementals and an Argent Horserider instead of one Mana Tide Totem and the single copy of Bloodlust.
At the Asia Pacific Last Call Invitational, Che0nsu won the event with another similar list that cuts some AOE for Flamewreathed Faceless. This makes the deck worse in mirror matches and against aggressive decks where AOE is very important. However, it makes the deck better against Warriors and Malygos Druids, as those AOE spells are often dead cards in these matchups, while both of these classes can struggle dealing with a big threat so early in the game.
The one oddball Mid-Range Shaman build that continues to enjoy some popularity is the spell centric Totemic Might build with Wicked Witchdoctor and Primal Fusion. RDU reached the finals of the European Last Call with a list similar to Rosty’s build from last week, cutting Lightning Storm for Ragnaros, with a similar intent of improving control matchups.
Meanwhile, Aggro Shaman is falling flat, but some players are determined to keep it alive by rebuilding old school variants, and that even means adding Elemental Destruction to their arsenal. We saw a couple of these builds at the Asia-Pacific Last Call Invitational.
- Shaman Class Radar
- Pavel’s Mid-Range Shaman
- Tictac’s Mid-Range Shaman
- Che0nsu’s Faceless Mid-Range Shaman
- RDU’s Totem Mid-Range Shaman
- Ant’s Aggro Shaman
- Tansoku’s Aggro Shaman
Warrior has seen a shift away from Dragon Warrior, a deck that combines elements of both control and aggressive lists, to either end of the spectrum. Due to the Execute nerf, lists must either commit to running the card, which now is likely only viable in slower builds, or forgo Execute entirely, which leads to largely face-oriented game plans.
Some of the decks that have risen to prominence since the change to Execute include Rosty’s Yogg Control Warrior, N’Zoth Control Warrior, Iddos’ Pirate Warrior, and Rage’s Giants Warrior. Fibonacci also posted an unconventional N’Zoth variant, which includes Varian Wrynn and Fool’s Bane as an interesting tech choice.
In the tournament scene, Pavel won the European Last Call Invitational with a C’Thun Control Warrior build. Although the build is quite standard, the deck itself is not, as C’Thun has faded from prominence among the various Control Warrior archetypes.
- Warrior Class Radar
- Rosty’s Yogg Control Warrior
- Standard N’Zoth Control Warrior
- Fibonacci’s N’Zoth Control Warrior
- Pavel’s C’Thun Warrior
- Iddos’ Pirate Warrior
- Shoop’s Pirate Warrior
- Rage’s Blood Warrior
At the EU Last Call Invitational, 4 out of 8 players brought the Mage class (3 Freeze, 1 Tempo). At the APAC Last Call, 7 out of 8 players brought Mage (3 Freeze, 4 Tempo). Both respective winners, Pavel and Che0nsu, included Tempo Mage in their line-ups.
Che0nsu brought a value-centric Tempo Mage, opting to still include Yogg after the change. It seems as if an opinion is starting to form in the pro scene around Tempo Mage’s usage of Yogg. In the value variant, Yogg is still strong enough to include, but in burn focused versions, Yogg has become too risky and inconsistent.
One unique card which found its way into Che0nsu’s list is Barnes. Thanks in part to the inclusion of Ragnaros in the deck; Barnes has a multitude of strong targets that are able to greatly swing the game. This build has many minions with extremely powerful static effects: Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Flamewaker, Bloodmage Thalnos, Emperor Thaurissan and Archmage Antonidas.
Meanwhile, Pavel brought a very different Tempo Mage build, that is much more minion centric. Playing Water Elementals and Faceless Summoners, this deck has a clear minion curve that tops up at Ragnaros, which makes its playstyle less dependent on spell focused swing turns and more on curving out with minions that pack tremendous value for their cost.
In Freeze Mage developments, the Evolved Kobold variant has become the new standard in high level competition in an attempt to have an easier time killing Druids as well as pack more damage output potential in general. With less face rushing aggressive decks on ladder and an abundance of Mid-Range Shamans, adding a copy of Flamestrike while taking out one copy of Ice Barrier has merit. Aggro Freeze Mage is beginning to die down after the initial experimentation as players are moving back towards the slower and more reliable builds.
- Mage Class Radar
- Che0nsu’s Value Tempo Mage
- Standard Burn Tempo Mage
- Pavel’s Curve Tempo Mage
- Standard Kobold Freeze Mage
- Aggro Freeze Mage
- D0nkey’s Dragon Reno Mage
- Gallon’s Reno Mage
The Hunter class has experienced a decline this week, but remains an above average class after the changes to Call of the Wild and Abusive Sergeant. Secret Hunter and Mid-Range Hunter are the two main archetypes of the class, being evenly prevalent. Secret Hunter tends to play faster, and more tempo oriented, targeting fast mid-range decks. Mid-Range Hunter builds are slower, focusing on heavy minion threats to target control decks.
At the European Last Call Invitational, several players brought a Secret Face Hunter deck popularized by C4mlann and Xzirez, which they used to peak at #2 legend on EU and #3 legend on Asia. This is a relatively new build, not yet very common on ladder, which targets matchups like Mid-Range Shaman and Spell Druid by creating big swing turns with the secret package and Unleash the Hounds, trying to kill the opponent as soon as possible. Another interesting Secret Hunter build is Tom’s Mid-Range variant, which he used to hit top 5 legend. This deck doesn’t even run Call of the Wild, opting to include Sylvanas and Tundra Rhino to increase the deck’s mid-game power and Barnes’ synergy. The build’s success is another indication that Secret Hunter is far less reliant on Call of the Wild than its Mid-Range cousin.
Last Call Finalist, RDU, brought a more traditional Mid-Range Hunter deck similar to Fr0zen’s build. The deck includes Argent Squires and Horseriders to deal with early aggression, while adding more end game threats like Ragnaros and Stranglethorn Tiger instead of the nerfed Abusive Sergeant to push for lethal against slower/control decks. GeorgeC brought a similar list to the event, but added the package of Knife Juggler + Unleash the Hounds to improve the matchup against decks that flood the board, while running one copy of Call of the Wild.
- Hunter Class Radar
- RDU’s Mid-Range Hunter
- GeorgeC’s Juggler Mid-Range Hunter
- VLPS’s Curator Secret Hunter
- Tom’s Mid-Range Secret Hunter
- NickChipper’s Mid-Range Secret Hunter
- C4mlann/Xzirez’s Face Secret Hunter
It seems like Druid wasn’t drastically affected by the Yogg-Saron nerf though the card obviously isn’t as powerful as before. Yogg still finds a place in most Druid decks but isn’t an auto-include like before. The power of Druid was seen this weekend at the European and Asia-Pacific Last Call Invitationals where 15 of the 16 players brought some variant of Druid, most of them being Malygos Druid.
Pavel, winner of the European Last Call, played a Malygos Druid with Dark Arakkoa instead of the usual Gadgetzan Auctioneer and Moonglade Portal package. This gives the deck a more consistent defensive minion to play on turn 6, which allows the deck to perform better against Shaman and Hunter. RDU, who finished 2nd at the event, brought a Malygos Druid build with Ragnaros instead of Yogg, as well as an Ancient of War.
Che0nsu, winner of the Asia-Pacific Last Call, also played a pretty standard Malygos Druid build, but teched in a Harrison Jones due to the expectation of Shamans and Warriors. No matter which list, the spell-centric Druid archetype has proven to be extremely powerful, Yogg or no Yogg.
One of the new ladder decks this week is Feno’s Malygos Boomkin Druid. The addition of Jungle Moonkin is a tech response to all of the Shamans on ladder. The Jungle Moonkin/Swipe combo allows you to cleanly remove a Thunderbluff Valiant with a board full of totems. The build also utilizes a Curator instead of an Auctioneer in order to draw Jungle Moonkin, and Azure Drake or Malygos. The deck has already had some success with Feno hitting top 10 legend on EU and Xixo using the deck in his lineup to win the Europe WESG. This build is a good option if you want to play Malygos Druid but are experiencing difficulty in dealing with Mid-Range Shamans, but be cautious on when to put Jungle Moonkin on the board, as the card can backfire in some situations against other spell centric decks.
If you want to try something different than the various Malygos builds this week, Muzzy’s Yoggless Token build is a good choice. Muzzy used the deck to get legend on the European server with an impressive win rate of over 70%. His Beast Druid deck is also in a good spot in the current Meta, and has increased in its popularity lately.
- Druid Class Radar
- RDU’s Malygos Druid
- Pavel’s Malygos Druid
- Che0nsu’s Malygos Druid
- Feno’s Boomkin Malygos Druid
- Muzzy’s Token Druid
- Muzzy’s Beast Druid
- PzaiDuck’s C’Thun Druid
At the higher end of ladder, Zoo is mostly suppressed by Midrange Shaman and Warrior. Sjow’s Rank 1 Legend finish from last season highlights the deck’s potential, but most players are unable to replicate this success. Zoo still appears frequently in HCT events, since they require five decks and one of its bad matchups can be banned away. A recent example is RDU including Sjow’s build in his line up, getting second place at the European Last Call. Abusive Sergeant seems to have survived the change and retained his place in most Zoo builds.
Meanwhile, Renolock has been steadily increasing in popularity. It’s strong against Control Warrior, and the decrease in early high rolls and burst potential (Bloodlust excluded) from post-nerf Shaman builds means it stands a chance against Midrange Shaman too. Overall, the fall of Aggro Shaman and the decrease in Hunters has contributed to an increase in the archetype’s viability on ladder. Good examples of recent builds are Hoej’s list from Last Call, and VLPS’ Dragon variant.
There are reasons to be optimistic about the prospects of the Rogue class and the Miracle archetype in particular. The biggest one is the disappearance of Aggro Shaman, as that deck’s mere presence hurt the viability of Rogue, and while Mid-Range Shaman is still a difficult matchup, it’s not impossible to overcome with the right tech choices (Hint: Dark Iron Skulker).
While Rogue’s inherent weaknesses, the lack of healing or a reliable board clear, remain, the number of decks that can abuse those weaknesses are currently not as high as before. This could change however, with the emergence of the menacing Pirate Warrior.
Miracle Rogue is also popular in the tournament scene, especially in Europe, where 6 of the 8 Last Call participants brought some variant of it. This is due to its reasonable matchup against Druid and Warrior, which are ever present in lineups. Currently, the most popular win conditions for Miracle Rogue are Malygos and Questing Adventurer, with the latter version being faster and more aggressive.
Pavel won the Last Call Invitational with the current standard list for Malygos Rogue that utilizes Swashburglars, with which another participant, ShtanUdachi, had great ladder success last month.
RDU made the finals with a mostly standard Questing Adventurer build, with one tech choice being Journey Below. Most builds differ by just a couple of cards, with the flex cards usually being the 2nd SI Agent and the 2nd Deadly Poison.
No one brought Priest to the big Last Call Invitational events, so outside of some steamers such as Kibler and Zetalot still playing with potential builds, the Priest class remains where it has been for months: rock bottom.
There is a neat Priest Extravaganza being thrown by Twitch and Blizzard, but the players have mostly brought gimmicky decks as it is more of a promotional event than a serious attempt to show the competitiveness of the newly released Tyrande. Poor Zetalot, who has suffered through the class’ darkest times, was not even invited. Blizzard, please show some love to the biggest masochist in Hearthstone.
We are convinced there still must be a decent enough Dragon list to make some sort of waves, and with the balance changes, there are signs of some hope for the archetype. Could a deck resembling VLPS’ build become more relevant? Could Mr. Yagut’s hipster #11 legend Purify Dragon Priest be the unicorn we were searching for?
While Dragon Priest might be decent, in order for the Control Priest archetype to be competitively relevant, we feel the class needs new cards that can provide it with proactive strategies that are not so wildly inconsistent such as the Resurrect mechanic.
- Priest Class Radar
- Zetalot’s Resurrect Control Priest
- Amaz’ N’Zoth Control Priest
- Kibler’s Resurrect/N’Zoth Control Priest
- VLPS’s Dragon Priest
- Yagut’s Purify Dragon Priest
The Paladin class appears to struggle with the same problems it faced prior to the recent balance changes, namely the ladder dominance of its poor matchups: Shaman, Hunter, and Druid. The changes did have some effect on the power levels of these classes, but ultimately were not significant enough to shift their dominance in the Paladin matchups. The recent rise in popularity of Freeze Mages looking to counter the Midrange Shamans also does not bode well for the slow playstyle of Control Paladin.
Unfortunately, due to its current weak matchups against numerous popular decks, Paladin has also not been a popular tournament pick. ShtanUdachi was the only player to bring Paladin to the European Last Call, opting for the Anyfin build, which seems to be the only Paladin build that can find a competitive niche in tournament lineups as well as some consistent ladder presence. At the Asia-Pacific Last Call, Paladin was completely absent.
However, unlike Priest, Paladin does show that it has tools to be a viable class on ladder in the right hands. Jambre, Secret Paladin expert extraordinaire, has hit top 10 legend with his latest build. Muzzy, Hearthstone player extraordinaire, has hit top 10 legend with an Aggro Paladin build. Tars, a French Hearthstone player, has also had high legend success with a different Aggro Paladin build focused on buffs. We’ve felt for a long time that aggressive Paladin archetypes are underrated and largely ignored by the pro scene, and have potential to do very well on ladder.
ShtanUdachi brushed off his loss at the European Last Call, and proceeded to hit #1 legend with an Anyfin Paladin build slightly different than the one he brought to the aforementioned tournament, this time utilizing the Curator/Drake/Kodo package.
- Paladin Class Radar
- ShtanUdachi’s Anyfin Paladin
- ShtanUdachi’s Curator Anyfin Paladin
- Jambre’s Secret Paladin
- Tars’ Aggro Paladin
- Muzzy’s Aggro Paladin
- Hotform’s Control Paladin
- Hotform’s Dragon Paladin
As we prepare for the Mid-Range Shaman apocalypse to arrive, we feel that the Mage class is the strongest one that can deal with the archetype. Mage has two key tools that provide it with the chance of countering Mid-Range Shamans: Burst damage and strong AOE. Flamestrike, Blizzard, Frost Nova, Arcane Explosion and Flamewaker are very effective against the Shaman’s board, and the Mage’s plethora of direct damage leaves the Shaman vulnerable without any form of healing. While some archetypes are currently better suited to beat the rest of the field than others, simply countering Mid-Range Shamans might be an effective enough strategy going forward that can see ladder success. We also feel that even Reno Mage decks, ones that are not very greedy, have a chance of giving Shamans problems.
Credits and Thanks
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