vS Data Reaper Report #117

A weekly Hearthstone Meta Report based on data from over 65,000 games.

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Welcome to the 117th edition of the Data Reaper Report!

Our Data Reaper Project, including the Data Reaper Live has 5,100 active contributors and we thank them wholeheartedly. Contributing to the Data Reaper project through Track-o-Bot or Hearthstone Deck Tracker (recommended) allows us to perform our analyses and to issue the weekly reports. Without the community’s contribution, there would be no project. Contributing data is very easy and takes a few simple steps, after which no other action is required. If you enjoy our content, and would like to make sure it remains consistent and free – Sign Up!

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Class/Archetype Distribution | Class Frequency | Matchup Winrates | vS Power Rankings | vS Meta Score | Class Analysis & Decklists | Meta Breaker of the Week | How to Contribute | Credits

Number of Games

Overall 65,000
Legend 2,000
Ranks 1-4 21,000
Ranks 5-9 33,000
Ranks 10-14 7,000

Class/Archetype Distribution

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Class Frequency

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Class Frequency Discussion

The meta shifts that we’ve anticipated two weeks ago have finally started to kick in. It seems like the holiday season delayed things but didn’t stop the inevitable. The Hunter class is declining at all levels of play, and the Spell Hunter bubble is beginning to burst: its decline measures at -25% at ranks 14-10, -20% at ranks 9-5 and a whopping -35% at ranks 4-1 and legend.

At higher levels of play, Spell Hunter has taken a backseat to both Midrange Hunter and the new Hybrid Hunter, which we’ve successfully split off from Midrange. The other older archetypes of the class are also declining, with Cube Hunter dropping off and Secret Hunter almost completely fading away due to its competition with Hybrid Hunter for the same niche.

The two classes chasing Hunter are blowing up. Both of Priest’s primary archetypes, Resurrect and Control, have increased in popularity, especially at higher levels of play. Odd Paladin’s numbers have nearly doubled across all ranks, and it is now the most popular Paladin deck once again. There’s also a small uptick in Even Paladin, while Exodia Paladin is declining.

Warlock is amid a transition phase to better adapt to a meta that has proven to be very hostile to it. Cube Warlock, the most successful archetype for Gul’dan after the patch, is continuing its gradual rise in play. Even and Zoo Warlock are declining after proving to be much weaker in the new meta. Control Warlock has entered its own experimental phase in search of re-inventing itself, while Mecha’Thun Warlock’s numbers have grown, especially at legend. Early in the month, the legend meta tends to be more experimental and jankier, which can influence the power levels of decks at higher levels of play.

The Rogue class is cleaning up. There’s a rise in Odd Rogue and a decline in every other niche archetype of the class. Tempo Rogue remains the most noticeable non-Baku deck, as Miracle Rogue fades away.

A similar process is happening with Mage, where Big-Spell Mage is creeping up in popularity while both Odd Mage and Aggro-Odd Mage are declining after failing to establish themselves in the new meta.

Warrior’s decline is a concern for the class’ prospects going forward since this decline is most noticeable at higher levels of play. It seems like the player base is losing faith in the class that has, once again, started strong before being mercilessly countered in the following weeks.

Shaman has almost completely rid itself of any deck not named Even Shaman. Expect this lack of diversity to continue through the rest of this expansion.

While Druid looks mostly dead outside of legend, it shows a curious rise in prevalence at legend, with Miracle Druid nearly hitting 3%. It seems like many players hit legend and then start to experiment with the class, and Miracle Druid is the archetype that has produced the most promising ladder results recently. Is it a false dawn born out of boredom or could it lead to something more?

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vS Meta Score

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vS Power Rankings Discussion

Three weeks into the balance patch era and after losing its most important build-around card, Level Up!, Odd Paladin has risen back to the top of the meta, establishing itself as the best deck in the game for the legend climb. While Hunter numbers dropped, it is still extremely popular, and Odd Paladin is the only deck that comfortably beats all Hunter archetypes. Furthermore, Odd Paladin is enjoying Warrior’s decline, Warlock’s fall from grace and Druid’s decimation. Priest is the only rising class that’s well equipped to put a dent in Odd Paladin’s dreams of domination.

While Hunter is powerful, we can see that the tide is shifting within it. Hybrid Hunter has emerged as the best Hunter deck, as well as the best deck in the early month’s legend meta. It is followed by Midrange Hunter, which continues to improve in its performance. There is no fear of Midrange Hunter declining due to redundancy, because it has some significant advantages over Hybrid Hunter, especially in the Resurrect Priest matchup, a deck that is gaining popularity. We believe that there’s a place for both new Hunter archetypes in the current meta.

Cube Hunter is feeling the effects of the rise in Odd Paladin and Priest archetypes that are well equipped to beat it. Furthermore, both Midrange and Hybrid Hunter are challenging opponents that do not give Cube Hunter any room to breathe. The deck that seemed untouchable not long ago, has been significantly compromised due to the massive shifts in the meta. Spell Hunter’s win rate continues to look lukewarm compared to other Hunter decks, while Secret Hunter is seeing its win rate collapse as a result of player abandonment in favor of Hybrid Hunter. Remember that the best players are usually the first to jump ship from an ‘outdated’ deck, so it will usually fall in its win rate before disappearing.

Control Priest’s rise in win rate continues, and it has now jumped to Tier 1 at all levels of play. This deck is incredibly flexible, both in its game plan and its card choices. The latter is often detrimental to its performance unless you’re in touch with each card’s merits, or lack of merit. When evaluating its matchups spread, Control Priest’s power level looks astounding. Beyond Odd Warrior decks, there is no real counter to Control Priest, with its worse matchups sitting at 45%.

Furthermore, Control Priest is one of the most skill-testing decks we’ve ever observed in the report. It’s comparable to other famous skill intensive decks from the Year of the Raven such as Malygos Druid, Quest Rogue, and Cube Warlock. Considering its matchup spread, its ability to outplay is unmatched. There is no deck that’s more rewarding to master in the current meta.

Resurrect Priest is a very influential deck in the current meta. It has seen a lot of success recently, and it’s also quite complex. The reason for its lower win rate, compared to Control Priest, is that it does have some very common hard counters, which keep it at Tier 2. Odd Rogue, Midrange Hunter, and Even Paladin obliterate it, and there’s very little that the Priest can do about it.

Paladin is the flag-bearer of both Baku and Genn, reminding us that a consistent curve is extremely powerful in Hearthstone. Even-Paladin is slightly weaker than Odd Paladin outside of legend but becomes a better choice at legend, partly to the Resurrect Priest matchup. Don’t sleep on Even Paladin in the face of Odd Paladin’s rise. The deck is just as strong and has numerous advantages over its Baku brother, including the mirror matchup.

Two weeks ago, we were concerned with Exodia Paladin’s future should Spell Hunter fall, and these concerns are materializing today. While Exodia still performs well against all Spellstone decks, it very much prefers running into Spell Hunter than Hybrid Hunter; and Midrange Hunter ups the difficulty further. Resurrect Priest’s rise is also an issue since it’s one of the most difficult matchups for the Paladin. Meanwhile, good matchups against Warrior are dwindling. Finally, Exodia Paladin sinks to Tier 3 at legend because of its struggles against Mecha’thun decks, which as we’ve said earlier, are seeing an abnormal amount of experimentation early in the month. You could say that Exodia Paladin is a victim of early month memes, and this could be temporary.

Although this decline in win rate is concerning, there is one adjustment that helps Exodia Paladin alleviate its weakness to some degree. Playing Blessing of Kings allows you to pressure better, which is very important in the deck’s poor matchups. Try it out if you’re struggling, because over the last week, we’ve seen that it works out well.

Times are rough for Warlock, as the class continues to sink. Its last bastion of success, Cube Warlock, has seen its good matchups decline and it is now also falling in its win rate. There’s not much room for Even Warlock and Zoo Warlock to improve, while Control Warlock has completely collapsed as it’s attempting to refine a different approach.

Although Mecha’thun Warlock’s win rate looks poor, it is the Warlock deck we’re more optimistic about. Its current performance is only indicative of a very messy experimental phase, and there’s a reason to believe it can improve its win rate once a strong build gains traction and breaks out. There’s potential there.

There are good news and bad news for Odd Rogue. The good news is that Spell Hunter and Warriors have declined, and one of its best matchups, Resurrect Priest, is seeing more play. The bad news is that Odd Paladins are a nightmare and Spellstone Hunters are still very popular. Odd Rogue’s good performance against the Priest class should keep it relevant. It’s a very strong deck, but it’s slightly weaker than the leading pack.

Tempo Rogue is enjoying the decline in Spell Hunters, but it still can’t shake off the shadow of Odd Rogue. Its performance level suggests it has a place in the meta, but due to its competition against stronger decks in the same niche, it’s declining in popularity. The same can be said for Miracle Rogue, which has dipped below the prevalence threshold that’s required for placement in the table. It’s sitting around the outskirts of Tier 3.

Warrior’s fall continues, as the Baku decks keep bleeding in their win rates. It’s hard to estimate when this decline will stop, but it’s clear that Warrior is currently settling for mediocrity. As the hardest counter available to Control Priest and Odd Rogue, there is some hope for its prospects, but both Odd Warrior and Odd-Taunt Warrior are too easily exploited.

We were wrong about Mage. We thought the class would be mediocre. Turns out the class is worse than we thought. Big-Spell Mage has fallen to Tier 4 and is being buried by the rise of Priests carrying more burst damage that it can handle. Odd Mage variants don’t look significantly better, and we don’t have any expectations of the class staying relevant because recent innovations don’t look promising either. It might be dumpster time for Jaina.

Shaman will stay out of the dumpster, but it sure is boring. What is there to say about Even Shaman that we haven’t said yet? How are we going to fill our talking space for Shaman over the next 4 months? That is our primary concern. Remember when Control Shaman played Madam Goya and was one of the coolest, most innovative decks in the game? We miss the days Shaman did genuinely weird stuff. Now, it just clicks a button every turn.

The promising rise in Miracle Druids at legend appears to be a meme. When we investigate the archetype, we don’t find the same scope for improvement as we do in Mecha’thun Warlock. Miracle Druid is very settled in its build and is almost completely out of its refinement phase, and yet it has a 44%-win rate. We can see it climbing another 1-2%, but it’s unlikely to climb 5%.

Class Analysis & Decklists

Druid | Hunter | Mage | Paladin | Priest | Rogue | Shaman | Warlock | Warrior

Data Reaper Report - Hunter

With counters to Hunter emerging, its impossibly high play rates are finally falling. Every Hunter deck, aside from the new Hybrid Hunter, has fallen in its play rate. The class is strong, but it’s not holding the meta at gunpoint.

Speaking of Hybrid Hunter, with the archetype’s emergence and a significant rise in play, we’ve had a good chance at properly evaluating its card usage. Our conclusion is that its scope for improvement is significant and that Corbett’s version, which is far less popular compared to the WiRer version, was close to optimal. There are three significant findings that lead us to this conclusion.

First, Timber Wolf is insane. It’s one of the best cards in the deck and any list that does not include it is missing out. For 1 mana, the card often deals as much charge damage as Leeroy and is invaluable at trades and leveraging board control. Looks absolutely core.

Second, the deck does not appreciate reactive removal, and the secret package also needs to be proactive. Snipe and Explosive do not fit the deck’s playstyle and are the worst secrets available to use. Snake Trap, Venomstrike Trap and even Rat Trap perform much better since they generate board while disrupting your opponent’s turns. Our one suggestion in Corbett’s list is to cut the single Flanking Strike, for the second Wandering Monster. Wandering Monster forces activation of Snake/Venom Traps when your opponent tries to ignore them by going face.

Third, Dire Frenzy sucks. Not only is it an underwhelming card upon immediate usage, but its payoff is also overrated, and sometimes even detrimental to the deck. Part of Hybrid Hunter’s strength is its fast cycle, allowing it to draw Rexxar and Zul’jin more consistently through deck thinning. It’s better to increase our chances to draw our hero cards rather than draw an over-statted minion on turn 10 (and float mana in the process). Dire Frenzy is only genuinely strong against Odd Warrior.

Midrange Hunter has been relatively quiet, partly due to players switching to hybrid builds, and partly due to counters such as Odd Paladin becoming far more prevalent. While the deck is slightly inferior to Hybrid Hunter in the current meta, it’s not redundant. It has genuine advantages over Hybrid Hunter in several important matchups, especially against late game strategies found in Priest and Warlock (as a rule of thumb, decks that deal well with Spellstone).

Cube Hunter quietly remains one of the stronger decks in the game, even with its numbers falling due to the rise of Odd Paladin, the deck’s worst matchup. It’s hard to effectively tech against Odd Paladin, so we don’t recommend it. Dragonmaw Scorcher is the most effective tech for Paladin but has no synergy with the deck’s game plan. Mossy Horror is a less effective tech for Paladins but one that has more synergy with the deck by allowing you to pop eggs. Either way, it’s better to switch decks if you constantly run into Odd Paladins.

Spell Hunter is the weakest, common Hunter deck in the current meta, and its numbers collapse at higher levels of play. There is only one matchup in which Spell Hunter performs significantly better than the alternatives: Odd Rogue. Otherwise, it’s hard to justify playing Spell Hunter over other Hunters decks.

Data Reaper Report - Priest

Priest is giving Hunter a serious run for its money. Although Hunter is still at the top of the food chain in terms of popularity, Priest is closing the gap, and this is observed more at higher levels of play. Priest currently boasts two of the most skill-intensive decks in the game, so its rise in popularity as you climb up the ranks makes a lot of sense.

Control Priest is one of the best decks in the game, and its rise to Tier 1 can be pinpointed to its successful refinement phase. There are a couple of potential adjustments to the featured build that are worthy of consideration. Tar Creepers are alternative 3-drops that perform well against Hunters and Odd Rogues, while Acolyte of Pain is superior in most other matchups. Card draw is very important to Control Priest, since it’s highly reliant on drawing Alexstrasza and/or Shadowreaper Anduin to win. If you’re seeing an overbearing number of Odd Paladins, Dragonmaw Scorcher is a good (but very narrow) tech option against it that can replace Scaleworm. Primordial Drake continues to be unimpressive, and Mass Hysteria is a far better card in Resurrect Priest than it is in the more proactive Control Priest. Wild Pyromancers and Divine Hymns have nearly disappeared from the archetype for a good reason. They’re too situational to consistently perform well, especially on ladder.

Resurrect Priest is also thriving, with many players enjoying success with the deck. Zalae recently had an incredible run to #1 legend with a slightly modified build that runs two copies of Power Word: Shield over a Witchwood Grizzly and Obsidian Statue. While PW:S is not as strong in a deck that has a mostly passive early game, its synergy with Radiant Elemental allows the Priest to contest early board more often. The cheap card draw is also quite beneficial in order to accelerate its win condition in slower matchups. In a list that cuts Shadow Essence, Obsidian Statue becomes weaker, so it’s a sensible evolution.

There are still a few off-meta archetypes of Priest running around, with APM and Mecha’thun Priest most noticeable. These decks can surprise opponents on ladder, but they are largely inferior.

Data Reaper Report - Paladin

Paladin is looking pretty good right now with its 3 primary archetypes. While Hunter receives most of the attention in the current meta, Paladin is arguably stronger. Uther’s got it all: A powerful late game strategy, a dominant early game strategy, and a flexible midrange strategy.

Exodia Paladin might be having a harder time in recent days, but it has the potential to become more flexible. While it does carry an inevitable win condition that is quite important in more than a few matchups, it can naturally win games through beating down the opponent or surviving through a significant amount of punishment. After we encouraged using Blessing of Kings more often last week, we re-evaluated the card and can confirm that it is very good. Blessing of Kings’ power level in the deck is comparable to more than a few key cards in the list. It makes both Lynessa and Shirvallah even more powerful than they normally are and helps you perform better in some of your difficult matchups, including the rising Resurrect Priest. This matchup often forces the Paladin to become the aggressor, and Blessing of Kings is incredibly effective at pressuring Priest decks in general. Even-Paladin players should know!

Odd Paladin is back with a vengeance this week and is looking sweet. It crushes all Hunter lists like no other deck in the game, and while it can be challenged by more defensive late game strategies, its matchup spread is still very good. With the absence of Spreading Plague from the meta, the loss of Level Up! has simply been canceled out. Instead, Frostwolf Warlord does a fair job in punishing opponents that cannot clear the Paladin’s board.

One cute addition that we’ve seen in more recent lists is Witch’s Cauldron, which usually replaces Divine Favor. Cauldron is stronger in faster matchups, where Divine Favor is harder to use, and board tension is higher. It allows you to win the attrition battle that Odd Paladin usually forces aggressive opponents into. Divine Favor is better in slower matchups since it’s more likely to draw you cards with lethality. Prince Liam’s inclusion in the deck is no accident, it’s genuinely strong. If you’re reluctant to craft him, Cauldron provides a decent alternative in the featured build.

Even Paladin is super solid and well-rounded. The deck can play an intimidating beatdown role in slower matchups while effectively controlling the board and closing games with Steed against aggressive decks. Even Shaman is the true kryptonite here, as the Shaman deck is more effective at seizing board control and leveraging it to its advantage. Every other deck is fair game. You will not be running into impossible opponents when you’re playing Even Paladin, and it’s hard to tech against you.

Data Reaper Report - Warlock

Cube Warlock’s popularity has generally stabilized across all ranks after its more steep rise in the last few weeks. The increasing presence of Priest, as well as the slight decline in Spell Hunter, puts a damper on the matchups Cube Warlock wants to play against, though this is slightly offset by the rise of Odd Paladin, which is a decent matchup for the Warlock.

Mecha’thun Warlock is seeing an increased play rate and has also seen significant success with Dog hitting #1 legend with the archetype by running a Skull/Voidlord/Bloodreaver package. While this package is tempting, we will note that the Corpsetaker package found in last week’s build still looks more powerful and is hard to pass. We wonder if there’s a way to effectively merge these packages into a consistent shell. Since the deck doesn’t see much play, it might take a bit more time to arrive at confident conclusions on specific cards. For now, this archetype is still very much a work in progress. Don’t let its current win rate scare you yet.

Zoo Warlock looks quite weak and any experimentation with different shells for the archetype looks grim, including a recent list from Dog which focuses on the synergy between Eggs and Grim Rally. We feel bad for knocking Dog’s Warlock decks and we would like to emphasize that we really respect him as a player. He is one of the drivers of innovation in the game, and we also agree with his fans that he should take off his shirt.

Both Even Warlock and classic Control Warlock are struggling. Even-Warlock’s matchup spread has become bright red with the domination of both Hunters and Priests in the current meta, and we can’t get behind the archetype at all. Control Warlock’s classic forms are just far too passive and easily punished.

We will note that Control Warlock has seen a recent rise of more proactive builds that run Keleseth, and these builds perform significantly better than the defensive ones. It turns out that Control Warlock is a lot better when it’s not actually sitting back and waiting to be killed.

Data Reaper Report - Rogue

Rogue has been mostly uneventful this week, as the numbers of noticeable archetypes for the class is dwindling down while Odd Rogue is taking over. Both Tempo Rogue (especially) and Miracle Rogue have proven to be competitive options, yet they’re being ignored since they’re inferior decks.

Odd Paladin’s rise poses a serious problem for Odd Rogue and we’re looking to make adjustments that help in this matchup. Recently, Crystallizer has been added to Odd Rogue builds in order to offer another 1/3 body to contest recruits in the early game. Tar Creeper has historically been a poor performer in the deck since it requires a significant mana investment for little pressure in a hyper-aggressive deck. The Hunter matchups and the mirror were the most noticeable bright spots for the card, but with the reappearance of Odd Paladins, Tar Creepers are given an extra push and become a more sensible choice today.

Data Reaper Report - Warrior

Warrior’s decline continues, as both Baku archetypes are falling further and further in their win rates. Warrior is unlikely to become stronger due to how exploitable it is once it sees a significant amount of play, but it carries enough strengths to stay relevant on ladder.

As for builds, not much has changed with Warrior. There are experiments seen in both Odd Warrior and Odd-Taunt Warrior, but nothing has convinced us yet to move beyond the standard builds. Ysera occupies a flex slot that can be replaced by every single tech you can think of in Odd Warrior, but tech options in the current meta usually carry applications that are too narrow. Of course, we’re always open to new ideas and evaluate every single one we run into.

Data Reaper Report - Mage

Mage is settling into its limited role in the Rastakhan meta, with Big-Spell Mage being its most noticeable ladder archetype. Big-Spell Mage players will have to accept that their deck is extremely polarizing, kinda sucks, and its success is highly dependent on the queue. BuckNasty managed to hit #1 legend early in the month with a pretty standard list, running a single Acolyte of Pain.

On the other side of the coin, both Odd Mage variants are on the decline. The player base appears to have become tired of the Baku gimmick and has switched to more efficient aggressive and controlling archetypes observed in other classes.

Data Reaper Report - Shaman

Even Shaman remains the standalone deck that keeps the Shaman class relevant. It’s powerful and consistent, but it’s not much different than it used to be.

Unless you play Rain of Toads. Much like Blessing of Kings, we’ve taken another look at the performance of Rain of Toads alongside Storm Chaser after receiving more data from players utilizing our suggestion, and the current verdict is very positive. Rain of Toads is very effective at shutting down aggressive matchups and serves a similar role to Spikeridged Steed in Even Paladin. It is also a reload tool that can change unwinnable scenarios in slower matchup into winnable ones. Having a single card capable of completely reloading the board after AOE is invaluable for a deck that’s so reliant on leveraging a board.

Data Reaper Report - Druid

It seems that the Miracle Mecha’thun Druid featuring Gadgetzan Auctioneer that we saw popping up last week is breathing a bit of life into the class. But it is just that – a bit.

Without using Wild growth or Nourish, the deck avoids the nerfs quite effectively. With Mecha’thun as its win condition, the deck does very well against extremely slow control decks such as Odd Warrior and Exodia Paladin. It struggles against decks that hit Malfurion in the face and does not beat late game strategies with reasonable clocks. Decks such as Control Priest and Resurrect Priest are quick enough to keep up.

Data Reaper Report - Meta Breaker

When we look at the data, we can’t help but feel that Control Priest is simply nuts. The deck is so well rounded that there is no deck in the game that can truly dominate it, unless we just abuse Tank Up, a tool that’s declining rapidly.

It’s also one of those decks that have such a drastic difference in its performance with experience. A common mistake that Control Priest beginners make is piloting it with a defensive mindset. Don’t be misled by its historical name.

Control Priest is about controlling the opponent’s face.

With Mind Blasts and Holy Fires.

Until they’re dead.

Control Priest is filled with strong, tempo-generating minions, and it needs to be played with an aggressive mindset. Our top priority Shadow Visions target throughout the game is Mind Blast, and we should take Mind Blast unless the situation specifically calls for another card. Our goal is to burn our opponent out as quickly as possible through Alexstrasza and/or Shadowreaper Anduin. We don’t need a 3rd Psychic Scream against Hunter if the 3rd Mind Blast ends the game. Develop this mindset and you will find yourself drastically improving with the deck, winning games you would have otherwise thrown.

This is not a value-centric deck and should not aim to take the game long. In fact, this is the reason why this deck is so powerful. Late game strategies with ruthless lethality have always been the strongest, meta defining strategies because they set the rules for everyone else.

Remember. Kill them, so they’re dead.

Control Priest

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  1. Talking about controling the opponents face with Cpriest i wonder if lich king would be a better fit than second holy fire, too often i find mysel with no minions to play.

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