Top Cards Played During the Mean Streets of Gadgetzan Meta

An analysis of the most frequently played cards during the Mean Streets of Gadgetzan meta.

It’s been over a month since the MSoG expansion released, making it a good time to examine statistics on the most played cards in the current Meta. These statistics will be helpful to both experienced players as well as to new players who are wondering which cards they should be investing their dust into. In addition, there’s been much discussion about the power level of the classic set compared to the expansions, and it seems that the Hearthstone design team is looking to reduce the power level of some evergreen cards in order to keep the Meta fresh from year to year. Thus, we are also interested to see how prevalent each set is in the current Meta, and how reliant is each class on the basic/classic set.

The data we present is based on 467,000 games from the months of December and January. The statistics we present are the following:

  1. The top 25 most frequently played cards filtered by:
    1. Set
    2. Rarity
    3. Class
  2. The percentage of cards played from each set:
    1. Overall
    2. Class specific

A couple of important notes on the cards played data:

  • The percentage reported is the frequency of a particular card being played as a fraction of all cards played in our sample of games.
  • This analysis gives us a sense of cards played, rather than cards used in decks. This produces a bias in favor of certain cards:
    1. Low-mana cost cards, or mulligan priority cards, since they get played more often than expensive, late game cards.
    2. Neutral cards over class cards, since they can be played by all classes. This pertains to general tables (not to the tables that report each class separately).
    3. Non-legendary cards, since you can have two copies of them in each deck.

It is very apparent that despite the presence of the maximum six expansions/adventures possible in the standard year, the evergreen set is extremely impactful. 50% of the cards played in the current Meta are Basic and Classic cards. Whether this is due to the classic set being too powerful, or the expansion sets being too weak and/or lacking volume, is a separate issue. To answer this question, we’ve normalized the pie by accounting for each set’s number of cards, so we can get an understanding of the usage rate of an average card in each set.

We can see that the classic set is not particularly powerful when you compare it to expansions. In the current Meta, League of Explorers is the most impactful set, card for card, quickly followed by Mean Streets of Gadgetzan, with its Meta defining tools in Patches/Small Time Buccaneer and Kazakus. Whispers of the Old Gods and The Grand Tournament are the weakest expansions by a significant margin. So the main cause of the evergreen set being so prevalent in the current Meta is not its power relative to the expansions, but the sheer volume of cards it offers compared to the expansions. This will be even more apparent at the beginning of the standard year, when the rotation occurs and the card pool is at its smallest.

Indeed, in order for the Meta to be truly “fresh” every year, a combination of things may need to occur:

  1. The evergreen set needs to be gutted in terms of power level.
  2. The expansion sets need to be more powerful, card for card, with less room for filler cards like Pompous Thespian or Ice Rager.
  3. The evergreen set either needs to shrink, with a significant amount of cards rotated to Wild, or a smaller core set needs to be determined (rotating or not).
  4. The expansion sets need to contain a larger volume of cards.

Next, let’s look at the class specific pies (not normalized):

There is also quite a difference when looking at each class’ dependency on the classic set. Rogue is the class most reliant on these cards, with 62% of the cards it plays consisting of the evergreens. Priest and Shaman sit on the other end of the spectrum at 38%. A change in the power level of the evergreen set will certainly impact some classes more than others. Once again, the cause for this is debatable. Is Gadgetzan Auctioneer or Azure Drake too strong? Or does printing class cards like Shadow Rager and Gadgetzan Ferryman result in a lack of viable, alternative deck building options? Or maybe, it’s a little bit of both.


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  1. Nice data. Thanks a lot.
    But I wonder one thing:
    How would we know a good card, if there were no bad cards?
    How can every card be better?
    They are good and bad in comparison to each other…
    I know you mean bad stat vanillas and crazy overcost cards that fit in no deck.
    But where is the line?

  2. Felt compelled to comment on the normalised cards played by set.

    Feel it is worth distinguishing between adventures and expansions. The 3 adventures are of similar card strength.

    When it comes to pack based sets Classic and MSoG appear to be significantly stronger than the other 2 expansions.

  3. Interesting data, had a lot of fun going trough it!

    One Q though – i spotted the Kazakus potion in some lists, doesn’t that also mean there’s a fourth point of bias in these results, in that copies of cards (Jade Idol, Brann) and discovery/creation of cards (Swashburglar, Drakonid Operative) would also schew the results to some extent?

  4. I feel like the lines, “Indeed, in order for the Meta to be truly “fresh” every year, a combination of things may need to occur”, followed by, “The evergreen set needs to be gutted in terms of power level”, although they are backed by statistics, don’t take into account the circumstances of the statistics.

    Take for instance, Azure Drake. A bunch of classes have absolutely horrendous draw power, so they all run Azure Drake. The high usage that this results in isn’t because of the power level of the card, it’s because the utility of the card does not exist in the expansions. The spell power is definitely nice, and the stats are passably definable as “not-bad” for the upsides of the card, but all that “gutting” the power of the card will do is further gut the power of the classes that have gotten no tools to cycle with. Hunter doesn’t need that kind of nerf. The Dragon tribe type on Azure might be a factor for concern, but dragon decks weren’t really so much of a thing until Blackrock and it’s safe to say that without those cards (and the other stuff that’s going soon), Azure Drake will not be the meta defining card that the sweeping statement, “The evergreen set needs to be gutted in terms of power level”, makes it out to be. You can say the exact same thing about things like Loot Hoarder, Thalnos, and almost all of the other draw cards (battle rage, etc). Do not propose nerfing simple draw cards without considering the horrendous possible future in which they all get replaced by things akin to King’s Elekk – nobody wants that future.

    The same thing can be said about a lot of the other cards. Ooze is still run? That’s not crazy, that’s just the only real way to tech against weapons. Savannah and Eaglehorn are not a problem, the horrible alternatives to them are. The whole of the basic Warrior set is not a problem, it keeps aggro on its toes and fights the hordes of cancer that everybody hates.

    None of these over centralisations are because of the basic set, they are because of the lackluster trashcards that fill every subsequent set. I love the statements, “The expansion sets need to be more powerful, card for card, with less room for filler cards like Pompous Thespian or Ice Rager”, and, “The expansion sets need to contain a larger volume of cards” because they really hit the nail on the head in regards to the over centralisation. If MTG or PTCG printed the amount of unusable trashcards that this game did, they would have died years ago.

    tl;dr: The basic sets are fine, the expacs are the problem.

    • We mentioned the options that are available in order to alleviate the problem of the current Standard rotation, we mostly stayed out of forming a strong opinion on which approaches are better out of the four we presented.

      On Azure Drake, I agree with you. I personally don’t think the card needs to be nerfed at all, for the reasons you mention. Card draw is scarce in many classes, and there aren’t good options available. If there were, Azure Drake would be played less. If Azure Drake was nerfed/rotated without any good card draw options being printed instead, that’s a step in the wrong direction.

      • Keeping strong cards in the evergreen sets is in the interest of the game. If I’m a casual player, I should be able to build a “competitive” (i.e. not complete trash) deck with the basic and classic cards I have. If those cards get “gutted” and become less playable, then it becomes a lot less fun to play if I don’t spend a lot of money to keep up. That would be bad for the game. Also note that the “most used” cards don’t necessarily sway the meta. The fact that fiery war axe is used in every warrior deck doesn’t mean it remains a deck-defining card. N’Zoth is a deck-defining card. Kazakus, Patches, the jade cards – these are deck-defining cards. Meta decks will shift significantly when Reno and Thaurissan and Brann rotate out. There are a few very strong evergreen cards (i.e. Ragnaros, Alexstrasza) that continue to form the backbone of certain deck archetypes, but is Ragnaros breaking the meta right now? No. That honor belongs to Patches, Kazakus, small time buccaneer, the 4 mana 7/7, etc. All expansion cards.

        tl;dr; The basic sets are fine, the expacs are the problem. (As OP said).

    • M:TG has a ton of trash cards. M:TG does a lot of things right that Hearthstone does wrong, and vice versa. But Hearthstone and Magic both print plenty of trash cards.

      • MTG prints trash cards, but doesn’t release 9 cards specifically for a single class that can’t be used by anyone else, and should be the most defining cards in a set. Look at what Rogue got in MSG!

        • That’s not true at all. They pushed their tri/dual coloured mana cards in many sets. That’s the same kind of specificity that Hearthstone has. If your desired tri colour deck didnt get the right support, it’s now a shit archetype in the meta. That’s much of the same as Hearthstone and their class specific cards

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