Welcome to the 129th edition of the Data Reaper Report!
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Number of Games
Class Frequency Discussion
Rogue’s numbers are reaching absurd levels, as Lackey Rogue continues to climb in popularity. At ranks 1-4, it has reached 30% of the field. While the legend meta early in the month is still in its diapers, it is telling when Lackey Rogue is nearing 35% of the field at higher levels of play. Has Valeera gone out of control? Is there no one who can end her reign of tyranny?
Warrior seems to be the only class well equipped to deal with Rogues, which is why it is firmly established as the 2nd most popular class. Control Warrior’s popularity has grown at higher levels of play in response to the oppressive number of Rogues, while Bomb Warrior has slightly declined.
Secret Hunter has grown in popularity and is becoming more noticeable. Its play rate is still very low, but we will now be able to evaluate it with more confidence. Midrange Hunter has also seen an uptick in play, while Bomb Hunter has declined at higher levels.
Miracle Mage’s popularity has spiked at all levels of play, and the archetype continues to be highly experimental. Builds are all over the place, and the archetype behaves as if it is at the beginning of an expansion. It will be interesting to see whether this volatile process of refinement is bearing fruit, and if there is a strong build path that can lift it from its currently poor win rate.
Miracle Priest is showing a very interesting phenomenon. On one hand, it’s declining at lower levels of play. However, its numbers at legend are rising. Several players at the highest levels have been swearing that this deck is the bee’s knees. When we evaluated its performance last week, we saw that Miracle Priest failed to make improvements in its performance even at those highest levels, so this week presents another chance to see whether things have truly changed.
Shaman maintains a relatively modest presence and is the most diverse class in the game, with three different archetypes exhibiting similar play rates: Murloc, Big (now renamed from Morpher) and Control Shaman. We know that the first two have recently shown quite a bit of promise, while Control Shaman has failed to live up to its pre-expansion promise.
Druid’s crash in popularity has now trickled down to all levels of play. Token Druid’s presence at legend is small, but finally stable. Unfortunately, other Druid decks just aren’t around.
Zoo Warlock’s numbers have also crashed, but unlike Token Druid, the deck is in danger of completely disappearing at higher levels of play. Last week, we saw that Zoo Warlock was greatly struggling to keep up with the rest of the field at legend, so it’ll be interesting to observe whether this trend is intensifying or not.
Paladin stays glued to the bottom, with seemingly nothing going for it. Mech Paladin is fading out of existence after being made redundant by Mages and Hunters. We can see a tiny bud of Holy-Wrath Paladins, but it’s nothing to write home about.
vS Meta Score
vS Power Rankings Discussion
Just when you thought that the meta was reaching “solved” status, it seems that the tides are turning. Drastically. Some of this week’s results genuinely surprised us, and we’ve learned new things about the Hearthstone meta. Of course, this meta isn’t very diverse (just look at how small this power ranking table is compared to the past), and it’s not the healthiest meta we’ve seen, but there are some developments that are fascinating to observe for us data nerds.
It’s hard to pick what to start with, so we’ll talk about Lackey Rogue, the most influential deck in the game. As it turns out, Lackey Rogue can actually bleed. Its numbers have reached a level that incentivizes every deck in the game to commit several deck slots just to beat it, and this phenomenon is knocking Lackey Rogue’s win rate at higher levels of play, kicking it out of its seemingly permanent Tier 1 status.
The field’s current win rates are extremely flat and balanced, but of course, this isn’t Un’Goro. The only reason Lackey Rogue’s win rate has dropped is that its popularity is stupendously high. However, this does suggest that perhaps, its continuing climb in popularity will end.
Lackey Rogue’s extreme popularity is pushing its biggest counter to the top of the meta. Control Warrior is now the best choice in the game to efficiently climb to legend from rank 4, because it is meeting so many Rogues that even the presence of its hardest counters is not enough to suppress its win rate. What’s more interesting is that Bomb Warrior is now performing better at higher levels of play, and we’ll get to the root cause of this soon.
Miracle Priest has spiked in its win rate at legend by over 3%. This is the spike we thought it would make last week, but failed to do, leading us to conclude that the deck was likely hot air. We were too quick to make that conclusion, as the root cause of this delayed win rate spike is unprecedented. Miracle Priest’s learning curve was already evident to us last week, but the extent of it surpasses anything we’ve seen before, and that threw us off. Its learning curve is so steep that even the very best players on ladder struggled to perform with it at an acceptable level for an abnormally long time. To put it in simple and slightly hyperbolic terms, Miracle Priest makes Raza Priest look like a Spiteful Summoner deck. Its barrier of entry is deceptively high and it is extremely unforgiving.
So, Miracle Priest is dramatically improving its performance at higher levels of play, while still looking completely terrible outside of legend, where it is basically unplayable at the hands of a less experienced player. We estimate that Miracle Priest’s win rate should increase further, perhaps reaching a win rate where it becomes a serious contender, but it’s very hard to say to what degree. Its improvement over the past two weeks is astounding. For example, its matchup against Lackey Rogue has increased by over 10% at higher levels of play, despite the declining use of Acidic Swamp Ooze (!). It is now favored against Lackey Rogue and goes about 50-50 with Control Warrior.
So while we are truly humbled to see this development, and Miracle Priest may have the potential to become a real threat considering its matchup against the two most popular decks, we are still a bit wary about its chances for long term success. The first reason is that its win rate obviously still has a way to go, even at higher levels of play, but the other reason is Bomb Warrior. Should Miracle Priest’s popularity grow, it might cause a transition from Control Warrior to Bomb Warrior. While Control Warriors are manageable for the Priest, Bomb Warriors are an oppressive, natural counter that’s very difficult to overcome. This is why Bomb Warrior is beginning to perform better at legend. Another hurdle for Miracle Priest are the Mage matchups, but once again, considering what we’ve just observed, we will wait and see how these matchups flesh out over time.
This isn’t even close to all the dramatic news for this week. Last week, we’ve alluded to Secret Hunter being a sleeper strong deck, and this estimate did not fail the variance test. The archetype is making its debut in the power ranking table at a very strong spot. It goes toe to toe with both Lackey Rogue and Control Warrior, which is promising. Of course, should it grow in popularity, it may suffer in its performance due to its secret package being better anticipated. However, we’ve already identified ways for it to improve in its build, so it has that going for it.
Other Hunter decks haven’t improved from last week. Bomb Hunter is severely limited by its Lackey Rogue matchup. It’s not a super terrible matchup, but Lackey Rogue is so popular that decks struggle to look top tier even when they’re slightly unfavored against it. Midrange Hunter has improved its performance against Lackey Rogue by a few percentages, but this is still a dreadful matchup. If Rogue gets nerfed, we would look at Midrange Hunter to become one of the best decks in the game, but until then, it’s kinda stuck where it is.
Miracle Priest isn’t the only miracle of the week: Just take a look at Miracle Mage’s spike in win rate. Unlike Priest, Miracle Mage has substantially improved in its win rate at all levels of play, and our observation is that this win rate increase isn’t skill related, but build related. The refinement of the deck is progressing nicely, but the deck is still far from reaching its potential, so its current win rate tells us very little about what it’s capable of. We’ve identified a build path that could establish Miracle Mage as a genuinely strong meta contender, and we talk about it in the Mage section. Watch out for this archetype’s continued improvement.
Token Druid’s and Zoo Warlock’s performance is matching up to what we see from their play rate numbers. Token Druid is somewhat stabilizing around the 50% win rate mark. Not the best deck, for sure, but definitely a serviceable one that can produce results. Zoo Warlock, however, has fallen down the rabbit hole. It is now a sub-50% deck on the climb to legend from rank 4, and it has sunk to Tier 4 at legend. Considering we see no promise with any experimentation done so far with the archetype, it looks grim for Gul’dan.
Shaman looks alright, but it will be difficult for Shaman decks to improve further due to the prevalence of Warriors and Rogues. These two classes seem to have become a glass ceiling to the Shaman class’ potential. Control Shaman is very far from looking competitive on ladder, and is a victim of Warrior’s success.
Mech Paladin is finally collapsing in its win rate, which is a typical phenomenon for a deck that’s been made redundant and is being largely abandoned by players. It will usually sink in its win rate before disappearing from the Power Ranking table. Judging by the way the meta is currently shaping up, we expect to see no Paladin decks in the Power Rankings table next week. Holy-Wrath Paladin is unlikely to be the savior that the class needs.
Class Analysis & Decklists
Lackey Rogue is likely going to dictate the meta for the rest of this expansion, or until balance changes arrive. The deck is powerful, flexible and dominant both on ladder and in tournaments.
This is actually the first week where we cannot identify potential improvements in the build. We’ve seen players have success with various novelties, but none of them have proven to be anything but underwhelming. In fact, Lackey Rogue is so powerful that it can house a few sub-optimal cards and still perform exceptionally well, which often leads to these experiments propagating. For example, Wisps have become quite popular despite being a clear liability. Don’t buy into that hype, or the Chef Nomi hype either, at least when it comes to Rogue.
If you’re playing Rogue and not running Lifedrinkers though, you’re putting yourself at a significant disadvantage. The card is core because of its importance in the mirror and against Warriors. Cable Rat is a card we’ve seen perform well, yet it does not see much limelight by other sources. Shadowstep is more flashy, but less effective and we suspect it is highly rated due to confirmation bias. If you have a target to Shadowstep, you feel good about it because you’re likely ahead. Cable Rat is a more consistent source of lackeys, but doesn’t have “wow” moments that will stick in your memory.
- Rogue Class Radar
- Lackey Rogue
- Thief Rogue
With Rogue becoming more and more prevalent, it’s pulling Warrior towards the top with it. As the only reliable answer in the game to Lackey Rogue, Control Warrior is clearly a top tier consideration for both ladder and tournaments. Bomb Warrior is also a very strong deck and it has its own merits due to its terrific performance against combo decks, and small edge against Control Warrior. Mecha’thun Warrior thrives in a heavy Warrior meta due its performance in the mirror matchup, provided the opponent doesn’t run Saboteur (and they shouldn’t).
A hot tech that’s increasing in popularity in Control Warrior is Ironbeak Owl. The card is mostly meant to answer early Edwin Van Cleef gambits, which is one of the ways Lackey Rogue can cheese out wins in this matchup. At 3 mana, Owl can be comfortably kept in the mulligan when Rogue has the coin and put an end to the shenanigans. This application alone is not enough to justify its inclusion, but most meta decks have good silence targets that make Ironbeak Owl worthwhile (Twilight Drake in Mage, for example).
The most extreme case is Owl’s performance against Bomb Hunter. Silence is just a great answer to a deck built around magnetizing, and should give you a few percentages in this unfavored matchup. We’re still very impressed with Big Game Hunter, and think the card is criminally underplayed considering how impactful it is in your worst matchups (Hunter/Mage). These matchups push Warrior’s removal kit to the limits, and both Big Game Hunter and Ironbeak Owl are often those extra pieces of removal that can make the difference between getting run over or stabilizing.
- Warrior Class Radar
- Control Warrior
- Bomb Warrior
- Mecha’thun Warrior
The primary development in Hunter this week has been the more widespread adoption of Secret Hunter. Secret Hunter seems to be Hunter’s best option for dealing with the plethora of Rogues on ladder, and while numbers are still small, the archetype has grown considerably in the past week and looks to become a major Hunter powerhouse in a couple more weeks.
We looked at how our suggested Secret Hunter build from last week performed, and there are some clear ways to improve it. The biggest liability seems to be the Warmage package and the deck’s lack of meaningful turn 4 plays. Baited Arrow is weak, and the Warmage payoff isn’t worth it. Lifedrinker isn’t an amazing turn 4, but it’s the best one available and it performs well against Rogues, so we’ll take it. Clearing room at the 5 mana slot allows to run Zilliax and Harrison Jones. Harrison Jones is great in the Rogue/Warrior matchups, while Zilliax is Zilliax. Of course it’s good! Our exclusion of Eaglehorn Bow also seems to be correct. It’s only strong in theory due to its synergy with secrets, but in practice, it is very weak due to the current popularity of weapon destruction. Deadly Shot is a far better performer.
The other debate revolves around the package of secrets. It may sound surprising, but Rat Trap is the best secret in the deck and should always be a 2-of. It’s powerful in most matchups, but particularly incredible against Rogues. Even when your opponent plays around it in order to avoid triggering it, it very often limits Rogue’s game plan. It also easily enables Masked Contender and Sunreaver Spy, since your opponent is less likely to proc it immediately. Snipe is another secret that’s strong against Rogues, but it requires you to be mindful of when to play it. It’s weak against Lackeys and EVIL Miscreant but a game changer against all of Rogue’s other minions.
Finally, we suggest keeping all other secrets as single copies and running Misdirection. We have a lead that suggests it’s good (Rogues killing their own Dread Corsairs with their Waggle Pick and taking 3 damage, anyone?), but would like to confirm it with more data. If you don’t want to be our Guinea Pig, run a 2nd copy of any of the other secrets. They’re all equally mediocre, which is why we’re very curious about Misdirection.
Meanwhile, Bomb Hunter is trying to adapt to the over-population of Rogues. Players are still toying around with Cybertech Chip and Unleash the Hounds, but both cards end up being underwhelming. The more common tech springing up is Acidic Swamp Ooze. While Ooze isn’t generally great, it’s possibly correct to cut our worst 2-drop, Whirliglider, and take the Bloodfen Raptor in other matchups. In the meta’s current climate, we just want to beat those damn Rogues!
- Hunter Class Radar
- Bomb Hunter
- Midrange Hunter
- Secret Hunter
As the strongest counter to the Warrior class, Conjurer Mage can be an enticing deck to play. The deck’s problem is that it doesn’t beat any of the other top performing contenders in the meta, keeping its win rate relatively close to the average.
We are encouraged by the refinement of the deck. Arcane Keysmith is a sleeper and one of the deck’s very best cards. It is strong in every matchup due to its flexibility and is far superior to Scaleworm as a 4 drop. We’re also very impressed by Spellbreaker, which has great synergy with Mountain Giants and helps us swing the board back against Hunters. We can see the merit of even running two Spellbreakers, cutting a Mind Control Tech or a Voodoo Doll to make room.
Miracle Mage is finally showing genuine promise and could reach a breakthrough. The archetype’s jump in win rate hasn’t been quite enough to put it at a competitive level yet, but it seems to be getting there, and at a very rapid pace. After another week of evaluating this highly experimental archetype, we’ve found it to be lacking threat density. Both Antonidas and Questing Adventurers are somewhat trap cards. Antonidas comes online too late in the game, and it’s hard to find the resources to invest into two Questing Adventurers.
A card that seems to be performing very well in the archetype is Sea Giant, which gives us another strong Conjurer’s Calling target. The Sea Giant package with Vex Crow might be enough to give us a much stronger matchup into Warriors, which have many ways to deal with a single large threat, but run into issues when their Brawls are forced out early. Sea Giants also give us much better game against Druids and Warlocks, and can punish Rogues who flood the board with lackeys. The 4-Giant package also works very well with Frost Nova, which seems to be another key card that’s currently underplayed, much like Sandbinder.
The meta is split into two. You have the top 4 classes that see the most play and also receive the most attention in terms of refinement. You have the bottom 4 classes that, whether they are competitive or not, have mostly stagnated or stabilized. And then you have Shaman. Its performance suggests it is certainly competitive, but it hasn’t impacted the meta in a significant way, especially at higher levels of play where popularity is very much centered on the top 4.
Murloc Shaman certainly looks strong. It’s a really good counter to both Conjurer Mage and Bomb Hunter. The reason it fails to grab attention is its slightly unfavored matchups against Rogue and Warrior. To be a compelling deck choice, it seems you have to beat one of them, at least. In order to improve these matchups, we’ve added Zilliax and Swampqueen Hagatha. Zilliax is just a very strong card vs. Rogue, and Swampqueen can be a game changer against Warrior.
Big Shaman is another fairly competitive Shaman deck, but much like Murloc Shaman, its inability to gain an edge against either of the top two classes leaves it at a modest play rate.
Control Shaman is capable of beating Rogues and other aggressive decks, but has a massive issue running into Warrior and threat dense decks such as Conjurer Mage. It can match the Elysiana game with Warriors, but it seems like it cannot match Dr. Boom with Hagatha the Witch. We’ve avoided featuring a build for Control Shaman until now since we haven’t found one we could get behind. This week, we’ve decided to float an idea based on the archetype’s current weaknesses. If we could maximize Hagatha fuel by adding a package of cheap minions that generate other cheap minions, we might be able to get over the finishing line more often against Warriors. The significant lackey generation in this build is also important against Warriors because of Ethereal Lackeys, and turns Shudderwock into a real value engine.
- Shaman Class Radar
- Big Shaman
- Murloc Shaman
- Control Shaman
Token Druid, and Druid as a whole, continues its steady decline. Token Druid’s cheap crafting cost and relatively simple game plan keeps its numbers up at lower levels of play, but its numbers at legend indicate that it’s hitting a wall.
We aren’t seeing anything promising related to Druid on our radar either. Other Druid decks look completely unplayable, and are paying the price for crimes committed by Ultimate Infestation and Spreading Plague. Perhaps something will change with some balance changes, but for now, Druid is a class doomed to play only one way.
Warlock’s spiral downwards isn’t showing any sign of a turnaround. Zoo Warlock seems to have hit a wall of innovation, with no alternative builds showing up that perform to an acceptable level. Magic Carpet Zoo just can’t seem to match up well enough against the top two classes. The Warrior matchup is an absolutely depressing affair, usually ending in Dr. Boom never allowing the Warlock to keep a single minion on the board. While the matchup against Rogue isn’t nearly as bad, it becomes progressively worse as you reach higher levels of play. EVIL Miscreant and Rogue’s massive tempo swings in the early game can simply blow the Warlock out of the game.
Meanwhile, late game Warlock strategies are a barren desert and we haven’t found an oasis.
Miracle Priest is finally showing improvement in its performance, which is restricted to higher levels of play. Over the history of the Data Reaper Report, we’ve identified plenty of decks that were very complex and carried a steep learning curve, displaying a noticeably different level of performance at different skill brackets. However, Miracle Priest might be particularly unique in that regard as it has proven to be very challenging to maximize even for the best players over an abnormal period of time. This throws our premature assessment from last week straight to the trash, and we can see Miracle Priest genuinely becoming a legitimate competitive option.
There are still some doubts about its scope for improvement, since its current win rate is still underwhelming, but we’re very curious to see how much more it can improve. If you’re not an advanced Hearthstone player, or if you’re a relatively casual player, do not touch this deck if you want to win Hearthstone games on ladder. Seriously. Outside of a small, dedicated subset of players, this deck looks unplayable. If you’re a high level Hearthstone player, you will find it to be one of the most challenging decks to play, but possibly very rewarding. How rewarding? Only time will tell.
Paladin is in a deep slump. There isn’t much of a reason to play this class at the moment since most of its archetypes are either straight up memes or outclassed by other options.
Mech Paladin is the best the class has to offer, but the meta has shifted in a direction that halted any chance of growth for the archetype. Rogues opted for the more brutally punishing Sap variant, Mage and Hunters have eclipsed it as Warrior counters that also beat Mech Paladin, and board flooding decks such as Token Druid and Zoo Warlock have declined.
This leaves Paladin at the bottom of the bin, waiting until either balance changes or a new expansion shake up the meta.
This week has brought forth many exciting developments, and on most of them, the jury is still out. What we’re most confident about is that Secret Hunter has a place in the meta. It performs admirably well against most of the top meta decks and it might end up being the strongest Hunter deck out there. There are a few key reasons for its success. The first is that Hunter secrets have historically been very disruptive to Rogues, and Rat Trap particularly shines in the matchup against Lackey Rogue. Alongside its early game minions, Secret Hunter can outpace opponents at a pretty good level. The second is its late game package. Subject 9 thins your deck to significantly improve your draws, while Zul’jin and Unleash the Beast can pressure Warriors in a drawn out game. It’s all about pacing your threats until your opponent’s removal is depleted.
Now that it made its Power Ranking debut, Secret Hunter is no longer a secret, it’s a pretty good deck. If you’re looking for a new thing to play with in a meta dominated by Rogues and Warriors, it can put up a fight.
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