Welcome to the 128th edition of the Data Reaper Report!
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Number of Games
Class Frequency Discussion
Rogue’s popularity continues to steadily climb, though it’s important to note that at legend, Lackey Rogue seems to have reached saturation. Not even the most powerful decks we’ve seen in the history of the Data Reaper Report managed to eclipse 30% popularity at legend. That popularity is higher at top legend, but at least there are some signs that indicate “enough is enough.”
Warrior has also stabilized in its numbers. Bomb Warrior seems to have successfully found a separate niche from Control Warrior, so while it is less popular at higher levels of play, it has not been made redundant.
Last week’s Meta Breaker has delivered on its promise. Bomb Hunter’s prevalence has spiked at all levels of play and it is now one of the most popular strategies in the game. Midrange Hunter’s numbers continue to be heavily suppressed by Lackey Rogue, and the underwhelming Oblivitron Hunter is keeping a small presence.
Mage is also settling down, though refinements within the class are still rampant. Conjurer Mage is trying to figure out its best build for ladder amidst the changes in the meta that have occurred over the past couple of weeks. At the same time, Miracle Mage is trying to figure out a competitive list that can pull it out of Tier 4.
Morpher Shaman has spiked in popularity and has become the most popular Shaman deck at higher levels of play. It’s nearly finalized its complete transition into the “Big Bad” Shaman builds, with Malygos Shaman variants almost gone from ladder. We might re-name the archetype next week based on this development.
Druid’s popularity is continuing to crash, and this trend is beginning to reflect all levels of play. The higher you climb ladder, the less Token Druids you see, and the differences become very dramatic. From experience, we know that this is usually a symptom of an early meta frontrunner that’s falling behind the field.
Priest is standing still, which might be a sign that enthusiasm for Miracle Priest is waning. The archetype’s performance this week should be indicative of whether it can survive at its current presence, or likely to fade away.
Warlock is also in decline, especially at higher levels of play, where we’ve already noticed last week that Zoo Warlock is susceptible to “hitting a wall.” Other than a few brave Handlock players, there’s not much to see here.
Paladin is stuck at the bottom. Mech Paladin has failed to gain traction due to the success of Conjurer Mage and Bomb Hunter, which have taken priority as Warrior counters. Mech Paladin’s low play rate is likely a result of its dim prospects against these two decks.
vS Meta Score
vS Power Rankings Discussion
Lackey Rogue sits at the top of the meta for another week, is the sole Tier 1 deck at higher levels of play, and exhibits a perfect meta score at every bracket. What’s interesting to note is that its performance against the field is continuing to decline due to the hostility shown by every other meta deck trying its best to gain percentages against Rogue. This establishes Lackey Rogue as the strongest and most influential deck in the format, but it might not be as historically “broken” as Jade Druid in KFT, Even Paladin in WW or Midrange Shaman in ONIK. Its global win rate would be very reasonable if not for its meta warping play rate. So, while we do think that Lackey Rogue is the best deck in the game, in a historical context it’s not completely running away with this title.
Bomb Hunter has the 2nd highest win rate thanks to its strong matchups against Warrior and Mage. Its issue is still the Rogue matchup, so while it is a powerful deck, it’s not a deck that can truly kick Lackey Rogue off its throne.
Lackey Rogue beats everything but Warrior. Garrosh is the only one standing between Valeera and utter domination. There have been very common calls to nerf Warrior, with most of them directed at the Mad Genius, Dr. Boom. What is certain when it comes to any potential balance changes is that nerfing Warrior cannot be done without nerfing Rogue.
Token Druid is getting a lot of flak recently, and there are certainly developments that have made things more difficult for the archetype. But, there are meta trends that indicate it should stick around as a relevant player in the meta. It performs well against Bomb Hunter, and its biggest counter (Zoo Warlock) is mightily struggling. While it isn’t a dominant deck by any means, it is still strong enough to be very competitive.
Shaman looks quite impressive. Murloc Shaman is continuing to get stronger, and it’s nearing Tier 1 status at legend. The deck is still in a slow process of refinement, so its scope for improvement suggests it could become a significant meta contender. Morpher Shaman is also continuing to climb in its win rate, and it’s possible it will eventually settle down at Tier 2. The archetype that isn’t showing promise is Control Shaman. While it has enjoyed quite a bit of attention at the World Championship in lineups that ban Warrior, the ladder environment still gives it great discomfort.
Conjurer Mage is a strong deck, but extremely polarizing, and its win rate is heavily suppressed by the rise of Bomb Hunter. This matchup is awful and makes Lackey Rogues look like a cake walk in comparison. We suspect that Conjurer’s Mage focus will shift towards trying to alleviate the pain of facing Bomb Hunters soon enough.
From examining its matchup table, we can understand why Mech Paladin hasn’t been able to take off. As a Warrior counter that competes with Conjurer Mage and Bomb Hunter for the same niche, it loses these direct matchups. Its main advantage over the other two is that it performs better against Token Druid and Zoo Warlock, decks that are currently in decline.
Zoo Warlock is in trouble. Its win rate is continuing to decline, and it’s evident that the deck struggles at higher levels of play, sinking to the bottom of Tier 3. Unlike Token Druid, which is stabilizing at a decent spot, Zoo may spiral completely out of relevance. It has some strong matchups against several meta contenders, but it just cannot shine in a Rogue/Warrior dominated field.
Miracle Priest has failed to improve in its win rate, which surprised us. We expected it to make several strides, but even that has failed to materialize. For now, it looks like a false dawn.
Miracle Mage remains deep in Tier 4, but it exhibits a noticeable increase in its win rate that piqued our curiosity. Should the archetype become competitive, it will likely be a result of running Sandbinders, Mountain Giants and Conjurer’s Calling. This direction, which was experimented with by Bunnyhoppor, Asmodai and Apxvoid, is the most promising one we’ve seen so far and may lead to further improvement in the archetype’s win rate.
This week, we may have finally found a secret deck that looks competitively strong. Obviously, it has a very low play rate, so we’re not 100% confident in this finding, but it’s an interesting finding, nonetheless. The secret deck is none other than Secret Hunter, running Secretkeeper, Sunreaver Spy, Masked Contender and Subject 9. The secret package in Hunter has always given Rogue problems, so this archetype has the potential to trade punches with the best deck in the game. More on this deck in the Hunter section.
Class Analysis & Decklists
Valeera is a 5-time World Champion with the Rogue class being present in all but one line up during last weekend’s world championship. Of course, this isn’t a surprise considering the dominance exhibited by Rogue in the current meta.
And if you thought Lackey Rogue was nearing a “solved” status in its refinement, another, possibly game-changing, breakthrough was found in Lifedrinker.
It’s very rare that you find a card to be a good performer in both the mirror matchup and against Warrior, but Lifedrinker is exactly that, making it an absolute staple inclusion in the current meta. Lifedrinker provides a 6-health swing in the volatile mirror matchup that is very often a race for lethal. It provides an alternative turn 4 play to Waggle Pick that is also a great bounce target itself, and it can produce the critical damage needed to finish off Warriors. Impact hit #1 legend with a double Lifedrinker build, making it the first notable achievement with the card, which has quickly spread at higher levels of play.
When evaluating the theoretical optimal build of Lackey Rogue, there are two ways we can accommodate Lifedrinker. The first is to cut Togwaggle and an EVIL Cable Rat, speeding up our build to become more aggressive. The second option is to cut Deadly Poisons, which are of a similar power level to the Togwaggle package. We consider Zilliax to be core due to its outstanding performance in the mirror, and we’re still not impressed enough with Cold Blood or Shadowstep. We think they’re the 33rd and 35th best cards in the deck.
- Rogue Class Radar
- Lackey Rogue
- Thief Rogue
Warrior’s core strengths and weaknesses have been firmly established in the current meta. On one hand, Warrior is the only reliable answer to the most influential deck in the game, Lackey Rogue. This makes the Warrior class extremely valuable at higher levels of ladder play as well as tournaments. On the other hand, Warrior is extremely susceptible to counters, and it’s hard for the class to exhibit a higher win rate due to the prevalence of Conjurer Mage and Bomb Hunter.
So, we’ve been searching for a way to improve these matchups and give Control Warrior a less polarizing ladder experience. One card has stood out this week as a potential breakthrough: Big Game Hunter.
When evaluating Big Game Hunter, we’ve found it to be a significantly better performer in the deck than Execute, which can be hard to activate in the current build. Big Game Hunter is terrific against all of Warrior’s popular counters and has utility in the Rogue matchup by providing an answer to an inflated Edwin Van Cleef. It’s even great against Warlocks and Priests since it helps us kill Sea Giants and Grave Horrors and works well alongside Youthful Brewmaster. Indeed, Big Game Hunter looks like an excellent inclusion in the current meta, and we believe you will be impressed very quickly by its utility and variety of targets.
- Warrior Class Radar
- Control Warrior
- Bomb Warrior
- Mecha’thun Warrior
Hunter is proving to be a very powerful class, only significantly impeded by its Rogue matchups. Therefore, we will focus attention to how Hunter can improve against Rogue in order to upgrade its standing in the meta further.
Bomb Hunter looks like the real deal, obliterating Warriors and Mages with impressive consistency. Its weaknesses lie in faster matchups, facing Lackey Rogue as well as board flooding decks such as Zoo Warlock, Token Druid and Murloc Shaman. Bronze Gatekeeper has looked like a strong card against board flooding decks, so we think it’s a correct inclusion in the current meta. A notable development within the archetype is the rise in the popularity of Cybertech Chip, but this card looks plain awful. This week, we’ve attempted to round out the build with a tech against Rogue that is stronger than the underwhelming Acidic Swamp Ooze, and we’ve found it in Defender of Argus.
Both Ooze and DoA provide some form of an answer against Waggle Pick, but Defender of Argus is a stronger card in other matchups. It also synergizes with the deck’s tendency to flood the board with bombs, forcing your opponent to pop them. Rogues do not mind dealing with one taunt due to the availability of Sap but creating two taunts on the same turn often meaningfully disrupts their game plan.
We can thank Viper and Bunnyhoppor for popularizing Vicious Scalehide in Midrange Hunter, since many players net-decked their builds. While their strategy usually involved banning Rogue, their builds perform better against Rogue on ladder than most common builds thanks to Vicious Scalehide and its combo with Dire Frenzy. In fact, Scalehide is such a crucial performer in the Rogue matchup that we recommend running two copies of it, something that is currently uncommon. Savannah Highmane has lost favor due to its weakness to Sap. We prefer Deadly Shots over Marked Shots. Both are equally useful against Rogue, but Deadly Shots are better in the Mage/Hunter matchups.
Don’t expect to ever beat Rogues consistently with Midrange Hunter, but these adjustments should make the Rogue matchup slightly less miserable. Midrange Hunter’s performance against the rest of the field is so strong that fixating on the Rogue problem is well worth it. In fact, should Rogue ever be hard hit by balance changes, Midrange Hunter might become one of the strongest decks in the game.
Secret Hunter is still a secret, but it may become the best Hunter deck of them all. The reason for our very bold statement is that it is the only Hunter deck that gives Lackey Rogue fits. With a Zul’jin shell, it also has the longevity to contest Warriors, so we believe it could be very worthwhile to experiment with this archetype.
- Hunter Class Radar
- Bomb Hunter
- Midrange Hunter
- Super-Secret Hunter
The meta has shifted quite a bit from two weeks ago, and as a result, Conjurer Mage is also shifting in its builds. From a meta that was littered with Zoo Warlocks and Token Druids, we’re now in a meta that is dominated by Mage mirrors and Hunters. This has encouraged us to prioritize single target removal rather than AOE effects.
As such, there has been a dramatic change in the performance of several cards. The most notable ones are Mossy Horror and Voodoo Doll. Initially weak, Voodoo Doll has now become important since it provides us with an answer to Mountain Giants in Mage mirrors and is also a very strong card against the rising Bomb Hunters. We’ve also been impressed with Arcane Keysmith over Scaleworm in the 4-drop slot. We prefer keeping Mind Control Techs since they have some utility in the mirror while keeping insurance against Druids and Warlocks, but we can see them eventually being cut for better options. Finally, our wild card suggestion is Spellbreaker. While it isn’t popular in the deck, its performance in Conjurer Mage is quite strong, and it is one of the best cards against Bomb Hunter, our worst matchup.
Miracle Mage might finally be showing signs of life that suggest it could become a competitive ladder deck. It is currently in a very wild stage of refinement, with builds scattering all over the place. We’ve curated a list that pushes this deck towards what is likely the best direction. Sandbinder is a game changer and is most responsible for the archetype’s increase in its win rate. Its ability to tutor our most powerful cards (Mana Cyclone, Mountain Giant) is invaluable and solves the deck’s biggest issue of inconsistency. Conjurer’s Calling is a natural fit in a deck that runs giants, and Khadgar’s upside is extremely high.
Shaman is on the rise, with its two promising archetypes producing some good ladder results lately. BoarControl’s Big Bad Morpher Shaman has spread like wildfire and is responsible for some of that success. The archetype is well-rounded: it doesn’t have unwinnable matchups and carries game against any opponent. It also boasts a significant advantage against Bomb Hunter due to the plethora of healing options at its disposal as well as Hex/Earth Shock. This deck is both fun to play and surprisingly effective.
Murloc Shaman is also making important strides in its refinement, largely thanks to Krea who hit top 100 legend with the archetype by running a build we’ve found to be nearly optimal. After evaluating his build, we suggested two card changes: Storm Chasers’ performance is still far too strong to ignore in any list that runs Bloodlust and Rain of Toads. This addition will replace Electra Stormsurge, which is too situational, and the 2nd Earth Shock, which carries diminishing returns. Krea followed up these changes with a top 20 finish, running a Harrison Jones instead of a 2nd Bloodlust to combat the extremely high numbers of Rogues at top legend. Drawing Bloodlust is extremely important in the Warrior matchup, but it’s possible that by running Storm Chasers, a single copy is enough.
- Shaman Class Radar
- Morpher Shaman
- Murloc Shaman
Druid is shaping up to be a one trick pony, and that trick is suffering from the refinement of other strategies, especially at higher levels of play. While Token Druid’s popularity has dropped across all skill levels, the difference in its representation is remarkable between skill levels; players are twice as likely to see Token Druid on their rank 5 climb, and three times more likely so see it on their rank 10 climb, than they are to see it once they cross over into legend territory.
Unfortunately, there’s not much to speak of Token Druid’s ability to improve. As you’ve seen in other classes, new cards constantly pop into our view and attract our attention, making us constantly adjust to changes in the meta, swapping weaker cards with clearly stronger cards. In Druid, this isn’t happening. Crystalsong Portal isn’t the most amazing build-around card we’ve seen, but cutting it always seems to make the deck worse. Mark of the Loa is hardly impressive, but alternative minions are just as underwhelming, if not more.
Beyond that, all other Druid strategies do not show any real signs of life. Heal Druid has proven to be remarkably weak, as neither Rogues nor Warriors truly care about your healing, and Malygos Druid is a poor imitation of the deck it once was. Until the next Wild Growth comes around, the circle of life is over.
Things look increasingly bleak for Priest as Anduin is losing grip on the last straw he has been clutching, Miracle Nomi Priest.
Let’s be real now. This deck is not very good. It’s convenient to label it as a skillful deck that’s super hard to play, and that Priest is somehow relevant in this meta, but this is not the best argument. Sometimes, decks are not just hard to play, they’re hard to win with, because they suck. We do see that the deck has a learning curve, and that players improve with the deck over time. But even at the theoretical peak optimal performance, Miracle Priest is much worse than the average deck. You’ll always have a few success stories in a large sample of players, but they’re the exception, not the rule. Wall Priest is the closest the class is to being playable, and it’s a watered-down version of the deck from a month ago.
Priest will probably continue to suck for the next few months. After all, we’re in May, a time in which Priest will usually suck (Control Priest in Witchwood was quite strong, to be fair). But don’t worry, everyone will be complaining about Priest once again in December, after it gets “completely broken AOE”, “absurdly overtuned dragon” and “rage-inducing Big Priest enabler.”
Zoo Warlock is continuing to dwindle away as players hit the reality that its power level is moderate at best. The deck has also gone through a horror showing at the world championship, which isn’t the best way to improve the perception of its power level.
Zoo performs well against some of Warrior’s counters, but the problem lies in its matchup against the two most influential classes. This leaves Zoo Warlock as a deck that gets worse at higher levels of play, where the cat and mouse game between Warrior and Rogue is most profound.
We haven’t seen any reason to deviate from Zoo’s current build. Rafaam may not have looked good at the World Championship, but only a significantly larger sample of games would show his merit. The Arch-Villain provides the deck with a net gain of a victory once every 20 to 25 games, in otherwise unwinnable scenarios. He’s extremely influential to Zoo Warlock’s current performance on ladder. Without Rafaam, a deck with Magic Carpet and 1-drops would sink deep into Tier 4. It would have to either be built differently without Rafaam or be entirely cast aside.
Other Warlock decks have pretty much disappeared. We’ve said in the past that the viability of late-game Warlock strategies correlates directly with the availability of powerful healing. With healing, Warlock’s hero power becomes much stronger and the class can sustain attrition battles. Without healing, Warlock fizzles out very quickly due to its weakness to burst damage and inherent disadvantage in fatigue.
Therefore, Warlock is a tricky class to balance when it comes to its core, late-game design. It will usually either boom or bust depending on how well it can abuse Life Tap. This is also why Warlock is omnipresent in Wild, where strong healing effects are always available. For Control Warlock decks to be strong, they need strong healing. That’s when they will be powerful, and that’s also when people will complain about them! There’s just no way around it.
Paladin spends another week at the bottom of play rates. Despite being an extremely effective Warrior counter, it seems that Mech Paladin is not being given the time of day by most players, who opt to utilize Conjurer Mage or Bomb Hunter for this purpose.
In addition, there’s a significant number of players who have decided it was a good idea to try Roger’s Mech Paladin build from the World Championship on ladder. Tisk, tisk. Guys, you should know better. That list does nothing besides beating Warrior, and it had a negative effect on Mech Paladin’s ladder win rate this week. We’ve seen other experiments with the archetype involving cheaper mechs, but it’s clear that the early game secret package alongside the selective high value mech package is the way to go.
Murloc Shaman has looked quite promising this week, a result of several stages in refinement that led to the featured build. While the tribal builds initially looked very weak, Hagatha the Witch was the addition that changed things for these variants. The reason is that Hagatha is a late-game win condition that allows the minion-centric murloc deck to last a very long time against Warriors. The second stage was the return of the big-spell package, fueled by Storm Chasers. Storm Chasers allow us to draw Rain of Toads very consistently, which is crucial in the Rogue matchup and any other aggressive mirror. It’s a game-closer at the level of Spikeridged Steed, and arguably stronger since it isn’t weak to Sap.
While the meta isn’t the most diverse we’ve seen, and Lackey Rogue dictates the game to a large degree, there are quite a few decks that can compete in the current meta. Murloc Shaman is one of them and considering its promising win rate and slow refinement phase, we believe it merits further exploration.
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