Welcome to the 125th edition of the Data Reaper Report!
Our Data Reaper Project, including the Data Reaper Live has 4,000 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!
Number of Games
Year of the Dragon Discussion
The player base seems bored of the meta, and so are we, which is why this edition of the Data Reaper Report is a special one. Since most players are waiting for the next expansion to launch in order to get back into the game, and archetypes haven’t really made noteworthy changes in terms of refinement, we’ve dedicated the class sections towards a different purpose.
We’ve decided to evaluate classes based on the strength of their classic/basic sets as well as their sets from the Year of the Raven. This was done in order to assess how strong each class is, as we head to the Year of the Dragon. Without seeing a single card from the new expansion, we’ve ranked the classes and they are ordered from the strongest class to the weakest, according to the opinions we’ve formed.
The experience of going over the Year of the Raven sets was eye opening. There are so many synergies that we’ve almost forgotten about because the power level of Year of the Mammoth sets was so high. This becomes an intriguing subject: When every class looks weak, which class is strong?
We believe that the rotation occurring in April will be the most impactful one we’ve ever seen, possibly eclipsing the first one experienced in Whispers of the Old Gods. The game should be drastically different, especially without Genn and Baku, and we’re excited to speculate on what happens next.
Class Frequency Discussion
This week’s meta can be summed in a couple of paragraphs: Hunters are rising. Priests are falling. On the early climb to legend from rank 4, there are more Midrange Hunters than any other class. Though the legend meta is still very small at this point in the month, which is why we’re not presenting it in the report, it has an even more extreme tilt in favor of Hunters. The higher you climb ladder, the more and more Hunters you see.
There are very few other noteworthy trends. We see the rise of Tempo Rogue, which we’ve touted as a potential metabreaker last week. We’re seeing more Odd Mages, which is a response to the rise of Midrange Hunter. Most classes and archetypes have stayed in place, which is what drove us to steer this report in a different direction.
We will mention the decline in player activity, which is also affecting the amount of the data we collect. If you’re still playing the game and can contribute, please sign up. When some insights cannot be confirmed due to sample size issues, it’s unfortunate, and you can help us avoid that. Contributing data is incredibly easy, particularly important at the launch of the next expansion and well worth the 2-minute hassle.
vS Meta Score
vS Power Rankings Discussion
The biggest message that we can present from these results is that Midrange Hunter is firmly locked into a Tier 1 spot despite being drastically more popular than any other deck in the game. There’s an entire field of players fully aware that Midrange Hunter is the most popular deck and do their best to target it, and despite attracting the complete attention of the meta, Midrange Hunter’s win rate is still one of the highest in the game. This is indicative of a meta that is becoming less and less diverse as time goes on, with Midrange Hunter pushing its competition out of relevance.
Paladin is one of the only classes able to thrive in a Hunter meta, and even so, its power level has dropped. Odd Paladin has been pushed out of Tier 1 at higher levels of play with its matchup against Midrange Hunter interestingly getting worse. Unleash the Hounds is becoming more common as a 2-of in Midrange Hunter (which we’ve always recommended) and it’s extremely important in this matchup. Even Paladin clearly looks like the strongest Paladin deck in the current meta since it beats Midrange Hunter but is also more versatile and difficult to counter when we look at the rest of the field.
Warrior continues to look great on the climb to legend. Hard counters to Odd Warrior are not common enough to dent its win rate below Tier 1 and Odd-Taunt Warrior is an equally strong alternative. Odd Warrior has strong matchups against both Midrange Hunter and Odd Paladin while beating every aggressive deck in the field. Rush Warrior is also very serviceable, carrying similarly great matchup against Midrange Hunter and Odd Paladin.
Last week, we talked about how Control Priest might be the most consistent deck available to the class and this is ringing true in a meta dominated by Midrange Hunter. It’s the only Priest deck that doesn’t roll over against the meta tyrant, and its matchup spread is quite strong in general. Its hard counters are Warrior and Druid, while Rogue decks usually offer a softer counter.
Last week, we also talked about our anticipation of a huge spike in Tempo Rogue’s win rate, and this is transpiring before our eyes. Tempo Rogue looks like the real deal and we estimate a further rise in its win rate that could land it in Tier 1, or close to it, establishing it as the strongest Rogue deck. Based on her performance, Captain Hooktusk is completely absurd. We’re talking about Oakheart levels of winning the game upon entering the board. She ain’t fair.
While Togwaggle Druid has declined in its win rate due to the fall of Priests and down-tick in Odd Paladins, it’s still a very good deck. We also estimate that Malygos Druid is perfectly competitive, at a power level that’s close to Togwaggle Druid. Old Malfurion is still kicking, as the clock is winding down to his rotation.
A reversal of fates seems to be occurring with Warlock, as Cube Warlock has surpassed the performance of both Zoo and Even Warlock at higher levels of play, decks that benefited a lot from the latest balance changes. The decline in Priests is a massive help for the archetype that has exploded into the scene in Kobolds & Catacombs, and it’s looking to finish its role in standard format on a strong note.
Poor Jaina is lingering in Tier 3. Odd Mage beats Midrange Hunter, but almost nothing else. Aggro-Odd Mage is a matchup Yo-Yo, and Big-Spell Mage kinda sucks.
Thrall is crossing his schedule, day after day, waiting for the next Hearthstone year to come. His time may finally be near.
Class Analysis & Decklists
If we had to rate classes’ power levels in April only based on the cards we know of and ignoring the next expansion, Rogue is easily the strongest class and it’s not even close.
Sure, Rogue loses some powerful cards. Baku’s rotation dooms Odd Rogue to Wild. Fire Fly is a very useful utility one-drop that has great synergy with the class and its combo mechanic. Vilespine Slayer is an incredible single target removal effect on top of a tempo swing. Prince Keleseth was a Tempo Rogue staple. Fal’dorei Strider and Elven Minstrel are both very strong, true to their K&C origin. After being directly and/or indirectly nerfed, Kingsbane and The Caverns Below will also be retiring to Wild.
But we want to focus on what Rogue will still carry into April, and compared to every other class, it has the strongest classic set on top of some of the best cards the Year of the Raven has to offer.
Captain Hooktusk is the Kobolds & Catacombs card that’s not actually from Kobolds & Catacombs. A recruit mechanic card without the labeling of recruit. Already today, living alongside Year of the Mammoth sets, Captain Hooktusk is a cornerstone card for a meta breaking deck. Her entire pirate package is going nowhere in April either. Just imagine how relatively stronger Hooktusk can be when other competing 8-drops such as the Lich King and Kathrena Winterwisp go away. All Tempo Rogue needs to do is find a reasonable curve and slap Hooktusk on top of it.
And then, there’s Myra’s Unstable Element: a card that’s just waiting to break any Rogue deck if it just gets the chance. It’s extremely powerful in any aggressive shell looking to burn opponents out, but also has potential to redefine late game Rogue decks with the exit of Death Knights. Alongside Raiding Party, another extremely powerful draw engine complemented by Preparation, Rogue has the foundations to excel if it receives minions at even a moderate power level in the next expansion.
- Rogue Class Radar
- Miracle Rogue
- Tempo Rogue
- Cube Rogue
- Odd Rogue
- Malygos Rogue
Warrior is in as good a spot as it has been since the nerf to Fiery War Axe and looks promising going into the Year of the Dragon. Year of the Mammoth sets, especially KFT and K&C, were relatively poor sets of Warrior cards compared to other classes. Many of the tools that other classes have received during that year were hard counters to what Warrior normally wants to do in the late game, which is grinding out the opponent.
In a world lacking infinite value mechanics such as Deathstalker Rexxar, King Togwaggle, and Carnivorous Cube, among others, grinding out opponents might become a viable approach to Hearthstone games. Considering the low likelihood of the next expansion to produce highly powered late game mechanics, it’s fair to assume that Warrior will win big from rotation. Sure, it stands to lose Baku, which was responsible for most of Warrior’s success this year, but it stands to gain more by seeing the rest of the field weakened to a much larger extent.
Contrary to the Year of the Mammoth, the Year of the Raven released low power sets to other classes, but comparatively good Warrior sets. The Rush mechanic, introduced in Witchwood, was further supported throughout the year, and gave rise to a viable Rush Warrior deck during Rastakhan’s Rumble. Rush Warrior doesn’t stand to lose too much power from rotation, so it has the potential to become one of the more powerful early game decks in the new meta. The loss of Keleseth may open the possibility of running Redband Wasp and Woodcutter’s Axe, cards that were literally designed for the deck.
The Boomsday Project was also a very good Warrior set, providing Warrior with strong tools that might be able to support a Control Warrior deck without Baku. While Supercollider clearly has terrific synergy with Tank Up, it might be strong enough even without it. With the Death Knights’ exit, Dr. Boom likely becomes the strongest hero card after rotation as well.
What remains to be seen is how Warrior will approach the late game, and whether it can be proactive in it. We think Warrior has strong value mechanics on top of Dr. Boom to compete in a non-infinite meta. Dragon’s Roar and War Master Voone are the two cards we want to highlight that were introduced in Rastakhan’s Rumble, pushing a Dragon Control Warrior that looks to grind out opponents the old-fashioned way. Alongside Smoldethorn Lancer, Emberscale Drake and Crowd Roasters, a package that has already proven its worth in current Odd Warrior, April could indeed bring forth the Warrior’s Year of the Dragon.
- Warrior Class Radar
- Odd Warrior
- Odd-Taunt Warrior
- Rush Warrior
The future of Paladin is certainly interesting, as the loss of both Genn and Baku affects this class dis-proportionally compared to every other class in the game. What Paladin does have going for it is that its Year of the Mammoth sets are quite weak compared to other classes. Its standout losses are Sunkeeper Tarim and Call to Arms. Paladin’s current success basically comes down to getting carried by Genn, Baku and Call to Arms despite running a sizeable collection of vanilla junk like Amani Berserker and Frostwolf Warlord. While losing Genn and Baku hurts a lot, it opens things up for Paladin to utilize forgotten synergies.
Dragon Paladin is an archetype that has been close for a while now, mostly based on the potential of Cathedral Gargoyle. If we get a couple of strong dragons, we can see this deck finally getting off the ground with Cathedral Gargoyle and Firetree Witchdoctor rounding out its early game.
A deck that has popped in and out of the meta is Mech Paladin, and with so much power rotating out and Psychic Scream gone, this deck may finally flourish. Mechano-Egg and Kangor’s Endless Army are deliciously intriguing build-around cards when not every Tom & Jerry deck carries infinite value.
Heal Paladin could finally get a turn in the spotlight. Rastakhan’s Rumble gave healing synergy some very strong support, but healing is a weak mechanic in the current meta. Zandalari Templar, Crystalsmith Kangor, The Glass Knight, Flash of Light, and High Priest Thekal are great building blocks for a shell that we could see moving in either an aggressive or defensive direction.
And finally, let’s not forget that Shirvallah the Tiger, Baleful Banker and Holy Wrath are still a powerful late game combo waiting for a strong enough shell to pick it up. Paladin might be losing its button decks, but it has enough cards to click on instead.
- Paladin Class Radar
- Odd Paladin
- Even Paladin
- Secret Paladin
Finally……. the meta-defining and highly-oppressive Freeze Shaman will rotate to Wild. It’s been a tough year trying to deal with the Moorabi/Cryostasis combo, but, at last, it’s going to be gone, allowing us to play some Hearthstone games in peace.
On a serious note, much like Paladin and Warrior, Shaman didn’t really have strong Year of the Mammoth sets. Elemental Shaman in Un’Goro was mediocre in its peak, KFT’s Freeze Shaman was a joke and Shaman’s K&C set is relatively underwhelming.
Thankfully, Year of the Raven came after K&C buried the Shaman class in the gutter, and it started to receive help. Hagatha is one of the more powerful cards from Year of the Raven, and while it’s a weaker value engine than most Death Knights, it should become a fantastic late game win condition in April. Shudderwock may have seen its OTK combo removed, but it’s still a terrific late game win condition that can be very powerful in the right control shell. Both are very likely to produce some success once other late game cards rotate away.
Aggressive Shaman decks focusing on Overload have great potential in the Year of the Dragon. These decks were outclassed and pushed out in Rastakhan by Genn and Baku, since they couldn’t compete for early board control at the same level of consistency. With Thunderhead, cheap overload spells as well as Likkim, Shaman has a chance of carving out an early game deck.
Finally, Shaman also has combo potential. Eureka, Electra Stormsurge, Zentimo, Spirit of the Frog and Krag’wa the Frog are intriguing cards that can be used both as value engines and combo enablers, depending on the kind support they receive. With most classes taking a big step back in power level, having Shaman standing still means it’s already made a big gain, and these cards have a better chance to match up.
Druid might have been the biggest “villain class” in Hearthstone over the past two years. A class that has never truly been weak since the launch of the game, ramped up its assault on the meta in KFT. Its KFT and K&C sets were so incredibly strong that they basically had a chokehold on the meta for a long time. They established a versatile Druid core that remained almost unchanged throughout the Year of the Raven and enabled several strategies that won in different fashions but played out the same way. This ended when Wild Growth and Nourish were heavily nerfed shortly after the release of Rastakhan’s Rumble. But even now, the Druid core from Year of the Mammoth is still very strong: Both Togwaggle and Malygos Druid are good decks in the current meta.
April will be when Ultimate Infestation and Spreading Plague finally go, alongside an endless list of cards that could suggest that Druid has nothing left to play with in April. With its evergreen ramp card nerfed and the loss of Naturalize, does Druid have anything left?
While it’s true that Druid loses a lot, in the context of the new meta in April, Druid’s Year of the Raven sets were quite decent compared to other classes. It’s a layer of decent power level that was just buried deep under the weight of a Mammoth.
The Treat variant of Token Druid may have been an inferior build, but it looked borderline competitive before fading away. We think there’s a good chance that we will see Treant Druid return in April, centering on some pretty good Year of the Raven cards such as Wispering Woods, Mulchmuncher and Treespeaker.
What is also often forgotten is that Flobbidinous Floop and Dreampetal Florist, cards that feel like they’ve been around forever, were only introduced in Boomsday. While we could easily be fixated on their current utilizations, they are extremely strong enablers for combo decks in general. The same goes for Juicy Psychmelon, which we know from Wild can be an extremely powerful enabler of combo decks.
Finally, Rastakhan’s Rumble supported Big Beast Druid decks and there is a lot of potential for this archetype considering that next year it’s going to be one of the only ways to cheat out big minions, through Stampeding Roar and Witching Hour. Oondasta is also an incredibly powerful swing card that Druid looks best positioned to abuse.
So to conclude, while most of the attention is focused on Druid’s losses, we don’t think it’s going to be weak. Druid’s Year of the Raven sets have good foundations for decks of multiple playstyles, which other classes would envy.
- Druid Class Radar
- Togwaggle Druid
- Miracle Druid
- Malygos Druid
We won’t beat around the bush. Warlock’s K&C set might be remembered as, pound for pound, the most absurdly over-tuned class set in the history of Hearthstone. Out of ten class cards, ten of them (translation: all of them) became core in staple meta archetypes over the next year. Two of them were nerfed, continued to be played after the nerfs and persisted in a Tier 1 deck. You could argue that two more could have been nerfed and no one would have complained.
Cataclysm, the very weakest card in that set, ended up a core win condition piece in Mecha’thun Warlock a year later. We don’t believe there is a single class set from any expansion that can rival how blatantly broken this set was.
When you add Bloodreaver Gul’dan and Defile from KFT as well as emergency Hall of Famed Genn Greymane, it’s almost unnecessary to say: The Warlock class is about to drastically change its identity next year.
After these first three paragraphs, you’d think our next words would be that Warlock is donezo. We don’t think it’s hopeless. Year of the Raven has provided Warlock with admittedly weaker, but promising synergies that simply did not have a chance to compete.
The first involves Zoo Warlock. With Keleseth gone, the deck may look to run Spirit of the Bat and Void Analyst to complement a Soul Infusion/Doubling Imp package. With late game value dropping in power, a heavier build running Omega Agent and Hir’eek, the Bat could also become a relevant target for experimentation. These builds have been tested over the past few months and have always proven to be vastly inferior to Keleseth. April might be the time for them to shine.
The second involves Discard Warlock. The deck has received some very interesting support in Rastakhan’s Rumble. The value engines of High Priestess Jeklik and Soulwarden look stronger once Year of the Mammoth value engines are gone. Shriek and Reckless Diretroll are also specifically more powerful once they step out of the shadows of Defile, Stonehill Defender and Tar Creeper.
- Warlock Class Radar
- Zoo Warlock
- Even Warlock
- Cube Warlock
- Mecha’thun Warlock
Hunter is going to be hit very hard by rotation. Cube Hunter will be completely gone, as pretty much all its deathrattle synergy, including its cornerstone card, are rotating out. The remaining deathrattle synergy cards available in Hunter are left in the Mech tribe introduced in Boomsday, with Mechanical Whelp, Spider Bomb and Fireworks’ Tech the standard core cards in this package. However, we’re quite skeptical of its chances for success without further significant support.
Midrange Hunter is expected to be severely weakened, with the deck losing its only viable early game curve through Dire Mole and Crackling Razormaw. It is also losing Deathstalker Rexxar, so a midrange deck that tops out at 6 mana will no longer be able to outvalue hard control decks by playing a single card. This may force Hunter decks to run heavier builds carrying more threats while worrying about card advantage. For example, a card such as Halazzi, the Lynx will likely be considered more seriously.
Master’s Call, however, is powerful enough to keep a beast synergy deck alive. But, it will be effective only if Hunter gets some early game beasts in the upcoming expansion. It’s got none of them now, and a Midrange deck must do something in the first two turns. If Hunter doesn’t receive a meaningful early game, it’s in trouble.
Another Hunter archetype which might pop up is a slower spell-centric Hunter, in the vein of Spell Hunter but with some minions sprinkled in. Zul’jin remains one of the most powerful cards available for the class, but this archetype would need tons of help from the upcoming expansion. Watch out for minion-generating spells, as they’re crucial in order to empower Zul’jin.
- Hunter Class Radar
- Midrange Hunter
- Cube Hunter
Mage is about to experience a serious identity crisis. The class’ Year of the Mammoth sets have been paramount to any success it has seen this year. Meanwhile, its Year of the Raven sets only successfully support Odd Mage, a deck that’s seeing its build-around card rotating a year early due to crimes committed by other classes. Jan’alai the Dragonhawk, Daring Fire-Eater and Pyromaniac are very powerful cards left in limbo with the departure of Baku.
Mage’s Year of the Raven sets are particularly weak in the sense that they don’t carry enough standalone power or synergies. Many of these cards, such as any Elemental synergy card, are complementary pieces for sets from the previous year, and will likely become redundant.
The “strongest” Mage cards in Year of the Raven mostly support an aggressive spell deck. Cinderstorm, Shooting Star, Celestial Emissary, Stargazer Luna, Cosmic Anomaly, Vex Crow and Unexpected Results are barely okay, but they’re not outstanding building blocks and we wouldn’t count on them panning out.
Unless Mage gets a quality set in the next expansion, the most likely outcome for Jaina is a straight dive into the dumpster, in a seat next to Anduin. If Mage didn’t have its strong classic set, it would be completely hopeless.
- Mage Class Radar
- Aggro-Odd Mage
- Odd Mage
- Big-Spell Mage
While nearly every class can claim to be gutted after rotation, Priest is a stand out in this regard. Nothing will be left of the three primary archetypes for Priest that are currently seeing play. Psychic Scream was the card that put Priest on the map and enabled numerous powerful combo strategies. Meanwhile, Shadow Vision’s impact on Priest’s late-game consistency was massive, and it might be the card Priest players will miss the most in April. Remember that both Mind Blast and Divine Spirit were straight up meme cards before the introduction of Shadow Visions.
Spells have always been Priest’s bread and butter, and the loss of Psychic Scream, Shadow Visions and the entire resurrect package might be too much to overcome, as these were of what mostly kept Priest viable at all. Alongside powerful spells, we have Shadowreaper Anduin, Duskbreaker, Radiant Elemental and Lyra the Sunshard, that are also retiring.
Priest’s classic set is known for being one of the weakest, and the class has historically only been powerful towards the second half of a Hearthstone year as a result. Only when enough powerful cards have been printed to compensate for Priest’s permanently weak starting point, does Anduin stand a chance. Judging by the Year of the Raven sets, Priest is not in a good spot at all.
The clock is ticking. If you are a big Priest fan, enjoy it while you can. There’s a danger that this is the last month the class will be competitive for a long time.
- Priest Class Radar
- Gallery Priest
- Wall Priest
- Control Priest
To end this special report, we will list 10 Year of the Raven build-around class cards that we feel have the best chance of breaking and re-shaping the meta in April. Save your copies, ….if only for the possibility of them getting nerfed!
- Captain Hooktusk
- Myra’s Unstable Element
- Raiding Party
- Dr. Boom, Mad Genius
- Kangor’s Endless Army
- Shirvallah, the Tiger
- Hagatha the Witch
- Flobbidinous Floop
- Master’s Call
Our Data Reaper Project, including the Data Reaper Live has 4,000 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.
vS Gold is a new membership plan aimed to support our efforts towards improving our content and data analysis while receiving some bonuses and extra features.
Tier 3+ Patrons
Special thanks to Leo G, Aaron B, Jed M, Drew M, Alan J, Eric L, Zolstar, Sean H, Steve F, Andrew N, NObdy, Mark S, Alonso P, msKang, Andrew R, James Y, PinkMageDiaries, Je-ho, Adam P, Ziqiao Y, and Stephen H for supporting us for the month of March.
Here are all the people that participated in bringing you this edition of the vS Data Reaper Report: