Welcome to the 120th edition of the Data Reaper Report!
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Number of Games
Class Frequency Discussion
Hunter’s numbers may seem to reach stabilization, but within the class, there are some significant changes. We note a drastic shift from Hybrid Hunter to Midrange Hunter at all levels of play, elevating Midrange Hunter to the most popular Hunter deck from rank 4 to legend. As we’ve thoroughly discussed over the past couple of weeks, the rise of several “AFK until I OTK” decks is reducing the value of the secret package, which is more suitable for disrupting board development. In a slower meta, where opponents are playing more passively, Hunter is incentivized to run a greater density of threats that are not as susceptible to AOE, so Midrange builds are prioritized.
Priest is in decline, with both of its primary archetypes affected. Resurrect Priest’s play rate has been inflated for a while, so it was expected to drop in popularity to some degree. Its numbers at legend have been cut by 20%. Control Priest may also experience a harder time due to the rise and refinement of Holy Wrath Paladin, a deck that has proven to be a reliable counter.
Paladin is an isle of stability, with most of its archetypes mirroring their play rates from last week. The one exception is Cube Paladin, last week’s potential meta breaker. We can see that it has risen in play, but the process is slow and it’s still quite a rare sight on ladder. Only at legend does it exceed 1% of the field.
Rogue is one of the classes that seem to be in stasis when it comes to its development. Odd Rogue is the most noticeable class archetype on ladder, with Miracle Rogue and Malygos Rogue growing at legend.
Warlock remains a very fractured and diverse class, with several archetypes boasting similar play rates. Cube Warlock and Mecha’thun Warlock are the most popular class archetypes, with the latter continuing its refinement and transition into the Corpsetaker cycle variant.
Mage has experienced the biggest changes this week. The class was geared to fade away from the meta before it received a massive wakeup call from Baku the Mooneater. Both Odd Mage and Aggro-Odd Mage have significantly risen in popularity and look to become real players in the Rastakhan meta.
Druid, Warrior, and Shaman round up the bottom of play rates and haven’t seen any big changes. Each class is mostly represented by one relevant archetype, followed by a list of experiments that see very little play.
vS Meta Score
vS Power Rankings Discussion
On the surface, the meta looks “solved.” Hunter and Paladin still look very dominant and occupy most of the Tier 1 slots. Are we about to experience this meta for the next two months? Has Hearthstone gone completely stale? Not exactly.
There is one very interesting development that could provide a significant shake-up, and it comes from the seemingly harmless rise of Odd Mage. This deck has not only elevated in popularity, but it is also in the process of spiking in its win rate. Odd Mage is the biggest counter in the game to both Hybrid Hunter and Midrange Hunter, with both matchups exceeding 60%. We’re talking about two of the most dominant and influential decks in the meta, decks that have been so hard to effectively target over the past month, and Odd Mage farms them better than Odd Paladin. That is quite a big deal.
We can see the effect of just a modest rise in Odd Mage decks. Hybrid Hunter has been losing stock due to the meta slowing down, but now it finds itself kicked out of the top tier in several rank brackets because of Odd Mage. Midrange Hunter’s win rate is also falling rapidly, with both Odd Mage decks proving to be difficult matchups. While these changes look small, they might be a sign of the turning tides, and these trends could intensify if the Mage class continues to climb in popularity.
Should Hunter’s hold on the meta weaken, will Paladin become the undisputed best class? There is no guarantee since much of Paladin’s success is attributed to its good Hunter matchups. If Hunters fall, Odd Paladin will follow. There is no guarantee that Odd Mage will continue to rise either, but if it does, the implications on the meta could be significant.
The one Paladin deck that seems to be immune to a potential meta shift is Even Paladin since its matchup spread is so consistent. It has taken the #1 spot at all rank brackets as a result, enjoying the decline in Control Priest, one of its only reliable counters.
Odd Mage is not without flaws of course, and the deck is not difficult to counter. One effective answer that Hunter does have in its arsenal is Cube Hunter. The somewhat forgotten deck, overshadowed by the Master’s Call decks, destroys both Odd Mage archetypes with ease.
With Holy Wrath Paladin’s refinement, it has improved its performance in several matchups. One of them is Control Priest, and this has caused the Mind Blast spammer to drop out of Tier 1 at higher levels of play, where Holy Wrath is most popular. Control Priest is still very strong in the ladder climb but runs into a more difficult meta at legend.
Resurrect Priest has a good matchup against Odd Mage, but this is slightly offset by its terrible matchup against Aggro-Odd Mage, keeping its win rate close to the 50% mark.
Mecha’thun Warlock’s refinement still shows, with another significant increase in its win rate, launching it to Tier 3. As we’ve said over the past couple of weeks, the deck has Tier 2 potential should its optimal build completely take over, and the decline in Priest certainly helps its case. Alongside Cube Warlock, these are the best decks that the Warlock class has to offer. Control Warlock is clumsy, Zoo Warlock has dropped out of the table for good reason, and Even-Warlock has tanked further in its win rate due to some questionable card choices, such as Arena Fanatic and Marin the Fox, becoming popular. Yeah, we don’t know why that happened either.
Things may look “finished” for Warrior, but there is one very meaningful card usage change that has translated into a favorable win rate increase for Odd-Taunt Warrior. Blackwald Pixie is growing in popularity, and it is proving to be much stronger than it used to be due to the increase in passive combo decks.
Finally, a few words about Cube Paladin. The deck still isn’t popular enough to make it into the table, but its steady rise in popularity gave us more confidence about its performance level. At the current state of the meta, it’s sitting around Tier 2 at the very least, so it looks like a sleeper deck that merits more play.
Class Analysis & Decklists
With meta shifts moving in its favor, Midrange Hunter has become the most popular and successful Hunter deck over the last couple of weeks. This week sees it suffer a setback caused by two main culprits: the rise in Odd Mage decks, and the regression in its refinement.
Recently, Revenge of the Wild has grown in popularity with both Muffins and NickChipper hitting high legend ranks by piloting lists that include the card. However, we’ve found the card to be very underwhelming. Revenge of the Wild is most powerful when we’re ahead, or when board tension is high. Outside of its interaction with Unleash the Hounds, it’s a pretty terrible card when we’re behind, similarly to Dire Frenzy. Moreover, it’s also a terrible card when we’re facing a passive deck that mostly interacts with our board through AOE, so it’s not very good against Priests or Paladins either.
Midrange Hunter is a deck that already thrives when it’s ahead on the board, so it’s better to run standalone threats that can pull us from an unfavorable scenario rather than cards that make us “win harder” but are dead when we’re losing, which is a perfect description for both Dire Frenzy and Revenge of the Wild.
Hybrid Hunter has weakened relative to Midrange Hunter since the secret package is not very useful when we’re facing passive decks that are comfortable sitting back and not allowing us to get value from it. Therefore, we’re adjusting the build to reduce the number of secrets.
Important note on secrets: Explosive Trap might be extremely popular on ladder, but it is the weakest secret available to the deck by far. Meanwhile, Rat Trap is not common at all, but it is the best (!) secret in the current meta. Not only is it powerful against the same passive decks that give Hybrid Hunter a hard time, but it’s also particularly good in a ladder environment because it’s relatively unexpected and hard to play around. It’s also very annoying to deal with post-Zul’jin.
- Hunter Class Radar
- Midrange Hunter
- Hybrid Hunter
- Cube Hunter
- Spell Hunter
Priest has slightly declined in play this week, which was expected. Resurrect Priest was overplayed and attracted too many of its counters over the past couple of weeks, so it was bound to drop in play. Holy Wrath Paladin’s rise has also introduced Control Priest to something it isn’t used to seeing on ladder: an unfavorable matchup!
Even so, Priest remains one of the best classes in the game and it should continue to thrive until rotation hits. That’s when it must face its biggest obstacle to success: its terrible classic set. It’s not a coincidence that Priest’s strength this year has a familiar pattern that mirrors its history during Year of the Mammoth. Priest sucks in April, gets better in August and becomes very powerful in December once enough powerful cards have been added to plug its evergreen holes.
What it comes down to is usually lethality. Priest doesn’t have reliable win conditions in the classic set and is forced, with a smaller card pool, to play an attrition style that usually falls short of other late game strategies. When Priest gains the ability to kill opponents, that’s when it becomes good. Look at Warrior as an example of a class that currently suffers from low lethality.
- Priest Class Radar
- Resurrect Priest
- Control Priest
- APM Priest
The number of powerful options available for Paladin is quite amazing and even exceeds those of Hunter. It currently boasts 5 archetypes with competitively viable win rates, and they all have drastically different playstyles. With not one deck clearly dominating representation, queuing into a Paladin becomes a guessing game that’s as reliable as rolling dice.
With Hunters remaining very popular, Odd Paladin’s strength against the field is assured. The deck doesn’t lose to anything but the most AOE heavy control decks, and even those matchups are quite winnable. Since this deck has managed to shrug off the nerf to one of its most powerful cards, it begs the question: Can Odd Paladin still be strong after rotation? Is “the button” just that busted?
The “other button” deck is also quite good. Don’t be fooled by its play rate, Even Paladin is one of the best decks in the game, and its representation in tournaments is far beyond what we see on ladder as a result.
Another week of evaluation has convinced us further that Brewmasters are traps in Holy Wrath Paladin. We can also see that Hammer of Wrath is a pretty strong card in the current meta and prefer running two copies of it over running two copies of Potion of Heroism.
Since Holy Wrath’s rise, playing Exodia Paladin has been hard to justify and it might be the one Paladin deck that will inevitably fade away. Holy Wrath Paladin simply does everything Exodia Paladin does, but faster and better.
Finally, Cube Paladin has slightly risen in its play rate, and it’s maintaining a very strong win rate, making us more confident that it’s the real deal. While experimentation has attempted to cut Shirvallah, we’ve found it to be very powerful and a worthy inclusion. So far, there’s no concrete evidence that suggests deviating from Zeh’s build.
- Paladin Class Radar
- Odd Paladin
- Even Paladin
- Holy Wrath Paladin
- Exodia Paladin
- Zeh’s Cube Paladin
At this point in the meta’s development, we don’t expect much to change for Valeera; without Baku by her side, Rogue decks are either not powerful enough to be competitive, or not powerful enough to escape Baku’s shadow.
Odd Rogue is the sole Rogue archetype that sees a significant amount of play for the same reasons we’ve mentioned before: it beats up on Resurrect Priest, and it also benefits from the rise of Midrange Hunters not running Spellstones. Aggressive Rogue decks have traditionally been very effective against greedy decks, so if you’re running into that kind of meta, Odd Rogue is a pretty good choice.
- Rogue Class Radar
- Odd Rogue
- Tempo Rogue
- Miracle Rogue
- Jackiechan’s Malygos Rogue
Warlock numbers have stayed consistent since last week, with Mecha’thun and Cube Warlock being the most popular Warlock decks on ladder while other archetypes of the class have struggled to stay relevant.
Mecha’thun Warlock in its power cycle form is a pretty decent deck, but it does have some very hard counters it wants to avoid. Priests are terrible matchups and so are non-Secret Hunters, so it might be encouraged by recent meta trends that see Priests decline and Odd Mage rise to beat Midrange Hunters.
Cube Warlock is a solid counter to slow late game strategies as well as the several OTK decks that have emerged recently. Its main weakness comes from faster matchups in which its life total is pressured early, such as Odd Rogue. Priest can also be a problem due to Psychic Scream being a strong answer to Carnivorous Cube and the over the top burst available through Mind Blasts.
- Warlock Class Radar
- Cube Warlock
- Mecha’thun Warlock
- Even Warlock
- Zoo Warlock
- Control Warlock
In a surprising turn of events, the Mage class has been revitalized. Both Odd Mage variants surged in popularity to become the most popular Mage archetypes with each being tailored to counter different strategies.
Odd Mage has jumped in prevalence thanks to the success of players such as Thijs and Theo, hitting top legend ranks with the archetype. Odd Mage is one of the few decks that consistently beats both Midrange and Hybrid Hunter. The deck thrives in aggressive matchups thanks to its strong removal kit backed by its upgraded hero power. It struggles against OTK decks that take advantage of its slow, attrition playstyle.
If you’re interested in countering the same OTK combo decks that make Odd Mage suffer, Aggro-Odd Mage does this job very effectively. It obliterates Resurrect Priest, Miracle Druid and Mecha’thun Warlock. Though it’s to a lesser extent, it also does well against both Midrange and Hybrid Hunter. Where it struggles are the aggressive matchups against decks that are faster to get on the board, such as Odd Paladin and Odd Rogue.
Aggro-Odd Mage hasn’t received much attention from high-level players and streamers, which is why it hasn’t really gone through an extensive refinement phase. We do wonder whether Clockwork Automaton truly belongs in the list. While it’s a stronger card than Nightblade, which we’ve instantly cut, it might be worth trying out other cards and see whether they could perform better.
- Mage Class Radar
- Aggro-Odd Mage
- Odd Mage
- Big-Spell Mage
Druid didn’t have a good week. The introduction of Aggro-Odd Mage to the meta added a back-breaking matchup for Miracle Druid, recorded to be the most lop sided in the game from the ones we have a large enough sample size. In addition, Mecha’thun Warlock’s refinement has improved its performance in this OTK mirror. Today, it becomes clearer from the data that Warlock does Mecha’thun better.
Beyond countering the very slowest decks in the current meta, Miracle Druid doesn’t do much else. We think that Malygos Druid is just the better ladder deck overall since it still performs extremely well against Priests and most Paladin decks. People are usually reluctant to play a nerfed deck, but it’s quite underrated.
- Druid Class Radar
- Miracle Druid
- Malygos Druid
Warrior remains highly static, being influenced only by the minute changes in the meta around it. Of course, realistically these changes will barely make a difference since one would have to play an unrealistic number of games to average out the overall representation of the meta. So playing a very polarizing class comes down to the small sample size you queue into. This can have outcomes ranging from disastrous to successful, which makes Warrior very inconsistent.
One encouraging development is the addition of Blackwald Pixie in Odd-Taunt Warrior. Previously, this card was very slow and usually not impactful enough to be worth including, but with the meta slowing down, it’s gotten stronger. There are many decks in the current meta (Resurrect Priest, Holy Wrath Paladin, Mecha’thun Warlock/Druid) that are very passive and play few minions, so having the ability to burst them for 16 after quest completion can make a big difference. In contrast, Oondasta and Witchwood Grizzly were cards that performed better in faster matchups that consisted of more board interactions, so their stock has fallen over the past few weeks.
- Warrior Class Radar
- Odd Warrior
- Odd-Taunt Warrior
- Taunt Warrior
Shaman remains at the bottom of the charts, seeing very little play. The class remains split between Even Shaman, the most popular Shaman deck, and Bad Shamans. Even Shaman is still pretty good, but staleness has overtaken any interest that players have in the deck. Thrall is crossing his schedule, one day after another, waiting for April to come.
A Rastakhan meta that seems to be growing stale, may not stay stale for very long if the recent revival of the Mage class continues. Odd Mage is the best counter in the game against both Midrange and Hybrid Hunters, which makes it a valuable option for ladder considering the dominance and influence the Master’s Call decks have imposed on the field over the past month. If you’re interested in joining the ranks of the movement to end Hunter’s ladder domination, Odd Mage is the way to go.
But we do recognize that Odd Mage is a flawed deck with several hard counters it cannot shake, so while it could be the catalyst needed to break or bend the meta, it’s not a dominant deck by itself.
What’s interesting is that the decks that counter Odd Mage, usually get destroyed by its aggressive variant, Aggro-Odd Mage. This gives Mage players two viable options to switch between depending on whether the meta speeds up or slows down. The difference between Odd Mage and Aggro-Odd Mage is like night and day, and the only thing that’s common between them is their utilization of Jan’alai, the Dragonhawk, one of the most powerful build-around cards in the current format.
Spirit of the Flame, turn Hunters to ash!
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