It’s been a little less than a week since the release of one of the most significant balance patches in the history of the game. Innervate and Fiery War Axe, which might have been the most powerful cards in the evergreen set, were nerfed. The meta has spiraled into chaos, and our recognition algorithm has been updated to reflect the meta changes, which you can observe in our Live sheet.
Our next Data Reaper report will be released this Thursday, on September 28th. As usual, it will have all the details regarding the Hearthstone meta. In the meantime, we present a write-up on the biggest stories of the first week after the patch, as well as decklists for the top performing archetypes.
Valeera finds her prince charming and takes her seat on the Frozen Throne.
In a shocking twist, Tempo Rogue, an archetype that was completely ignored before the balance changes, has taken over the game. Of course, if you’ve read our previous reports, you’d remember us emphasizing the potential of this archetype multiple times. Elemental Rogue has looked good for a long time, and Prince Keleseth was its cornerstone card since KFT launched. The patch, which has weakened this deck’s (previous) worst matchup in Jade Druid, has sent players to experiment with the 2-mana build-around legendary. Turns out Prince Keleseth and Shadowsteps are pretty good. Tempo Rogue currently holds the highest win rate in the game and there are more players who have hit top legend ranks with it than we can count.
At the moment, there are two main approaches to the deck. The first and most popular one is running a standard pirate shell. Mr. Yagut and Asmodai have utilized similar builds to hit single digits. We think there is merit to running a more robust mid-game focused on Bittertide Hydra, as the card is extremely strong in the Priest and Druid matchups. The second approach is the hybrid Elemental one, which Corbett took to top 10 legend. This build is worse against Jade Druid/Razakus Priest and stronger in aggressive mirrors.
This archetype will likely continue to see a lot of experimentation and refinement, which is a bit scary to think about since it’s already the best deck in the game. Watch your back, Hearthstone players; Valeera’s got a nasty new dagger with which to stab you.
Thrall is unphased by balance changes, dominates early game board control.
Nerfing aggressive decks, in theory, was supposed to weaken Token Shaman’s performance against the field since it excels at winning aggressive mirrors with its ability to get on the board and leverage board control better than any other deck in the game. In contrast, it’s weaker to control decks packing multiple forms of AOE and stalling mechanics. However, the number of aggressive decks on ladder has seen no decline. In fact, Token Shaman’s standing in the meta has only improved and it is one of the strongest decks in the game, with its win rate being quite close to that of Tempo Rogue. One of its notable strengths is its domination of Hunter, a class that has received a lot of hype in the first days of the patch.
The standard list remains the same 30 cards which we’ve pretty much memorized by now. If you’re seeing less aggression and more Priest and Jade Druid, consider cutting a Devolve for a second Saronite Chain Gang.
Nerfing Pirate and Murlocs didn’t kill them. It only made them angry!
One of the primary intentions of the balance changes was reducing the power level of the tribal aggressive decks – Murloc Paladin and Pirate Warrior. But aggro always finds a way, and while these decks aren’t as powerful as they used to be, their performance against the field remains very strong, sitting right outside of the top 3.
Murloc Paladin hasn’t changed much, and there are two main directions around which you can build the deck (there is technically a third, which involves Divine Favor, but we’ll get to that in the full report). The first is the Corpsetaker variant, which includes Wickerflame and Stormwatcher. The second approach runs Curator and Cobalt Scalebane, the latter being a very popular tech against Priest.
Pirate Warrior has been more affected by the change to Fiery War Axe, and the builds that are gaining traction center around Prince Keleseth. Zlsjs’ build keeps the War Axe at the 3 mana slot, while Jambre forgoes it entirely and tops the curve at 6 mana with Argent Commanders! Both of these lists reached top 100.
Malfurion is weakened, but his pestilence still spreads.
Jade Druid has been knocked down a peg or two, and its current win rate sits outside of the top 5. However, this might be a red herring, as Jade Druid has been improving in its performance against the field every day. We can observe a clear and continuing trend of it becoming stronger as refined post-patch lists are taking over the outdated pre-patch builds. With that in mind, it’s not out of the question that the archetype once again climbs to the top end of the win rate charts. Whether that will happen, it’s very difficult to say, but we do think it has a significant scope for improvement. Jade Druid is still very good.
Sjow’s list is a good example of a post-patch Jade Druid build. Without Innervate, two Mire Keepers are core to get to 10 mana. Kun is also important as a strong tempo card in the absence of Innervate. Consider the Mind Control techs and the Tar Creeper as the build’s three main flex spots. Cards such as Doomsayer, Mark of the Lotus and Medivh also see quite a bit of play.
The bigger surprise for us is how well Aggro-Token Druid is doing (Top 3 WR). Considering that the archetype has been mostly ignored since the balance changes hit, and how little attention it’s received in terms of experimentation, it’s performing remarkably well. This is likely due to the importance of getting on the board early, something that Druid still excels at even without Innervate. In addition, the ability to easily tech against Pirates with Golakka Crawlers without sacrificing synergy is invaluable in a meta dominated by Patches.
RDU’s build is one of the few post-patch builds we’ve seen gaining traction on ladder. It cuts Innervate and Bittertide Hydra, while keeping Vicious Fledgling. A second Golakka Crawler can be added instead of a Dire Wolf Alpha. This archetype is likely far from figured out.
Rexxar returns to the spotlight, only to see it taken away from him.
Hunter looked incredibly strong during the first couple of days of the patch. Then, slowly but surely, its performance has begun to gradually decline. The rise in Rogues, as well as the expected rise in Shamans and Paladins, classes that are able to pressure and beat the Hunter off the board, means that Rexxar’s few days of domination have likely come to an end.
Don’t get us wrong. Hunter is in a much, much better spot than it was before the balance changes. It has benefitted greatly from the Innervate change and looks like a legitimately competitive class that’s no longer suppressed by Druid’s overbearing presence. However, its win rate is declining and trending toward the 50% mark, and its play rate is declining as well, especially at legend ranks.
Anduin seethes, his dreams of ladder domination shattered.
Razakus Priest, so far, has not lived up to many people’s expectation that it would be able to transfer its tournament dominance into ladder dominance once the balance changes hit. Its performance on ladder has improved, but it sits outside of the top 5, for now. There are a few reasons for this.
The first is that it’s being relentlessly targeted. Razakus Priest has had a big mark on its back from the first day of the patch, and with the class being flocked towards and becoming extremely popular, teching against it has become a very rewarding strategy on ladder. Bittertide Hydra, for example, is nearly a staple in multiple aggressive and midrange archetypes, aimed to punish Razakus’ Priest single copy of Shadow Word: Death. While most of Priest’s matchups against these decks are close 50-50 affairs, the ladder meta does not allow the archetype’s win condition to come online consistently, a win condition that can already suffer from consistency issues.
In addition, Priest’s matchup against Jade Druid has hardly moved. Jade Druid is still a significant favorite even after the Innervate change, which means that Priest is still struggling against one of the most popular decks in the game.
Finally, one of Razakus Priest’s biggest advantages is its flexibility. As a highlander deck, it can more easily fit tech cards aimed to target specific matchups, which is one of the reasons why it performs so well in tournaments. However, on ladder, against a diverse field of opponents, it just can’t target everything at the same time. At the moment, a diverse field of opponents is exactly what it is facing. So, its success is tied to identifying a situational meta and building the deck to beat that specific meta.
See you this Thursday for the full report!
Our Data Reaper Project has over 4,500 active contributors. Without them, this project would not be possible, so we’d like to thank all of our contributors for their help.
Preparing our weekly article requires a significant amount of time and effort from many individuals. We would like to wholeheartedly thank our current Patreons, whose generous donations help us fund computing and server costs.
Tier 3+ Patrons
Special thanks to Leo G, Chungfr, Kognar, Aaron B, Jed M, Caleb G, Drew M, Alan J, lalasong, Eric L, Steve F, Batz, Jeffee83, Zolstar, Pink Mage Diaries, and Dekkster Gaming for supporting us for the month of August.
A HUGE thank you to our Tier 5 Patron(s): ByteCookie, and Curt S!