vS Data Reaper Report #130

A weekly Hearthstone Meta Report based on data from over 55,000 games.

Welcome to the 130th edition of the Data Reaper Report!

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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

This week, the Data Reaper celebrates its third birthday!

A lot has happened in these three years, and we would like to thank all of our supporters for their continued interest in this project. When we started this project, Hearthstone Data Analytics was non-existent. Our vision was to change how the players and the community views and analyzes this game. We are glad that our vision has materialized. We have consistently produced our reports and we look forward to continue to produce them in the future. As always, we will continue to strive for improvement of our content. We’ve come a long way since we first started out, improving every aspect of our analysis since, and we’re certainly not done making further strides.

Number of Games

Overall 55,000
Legend 6,000
Ranks 1-4 22,000
Ranks 5-9 21,000
Ranks 10-14 5,000

Class/Archetype Distribution

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Class Frequency

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Class Frequency Discussion

On the surface, this meta has several things that might make it look stale. There are still a ton of Rogues out there, it feels like there are only 4 or 5 relevant classes, and strategic diversity is very low. What we mean by that is that very few archetypes are currently seeing play compared to past expansions.

However, this meta is not stale or settled down. There are actually quite a few dramatic meta shifts occurring, and your ladder experience should soon drastically change even without balance changes.

Lackey Rogue is finally showing the first signs of weakness. The deck is in decline at all levels of play. Its numbers at legend have dropped by nearly 20%. It is still the most popular deck in the game, but its recent decline in win rate, which we’ve started to observe last week, is beginning to affect its play rate.

Miracle Mage has exploded and entirely re-shaped the meta, especially at higher levels of play, where it has overtaken the older Conjurer Mage. Both decks abuse Conjurer’s Calling and Mountain Giants, but they couldn’t be more different. Miracle Mage is a faster shell that runs a heavy spell package with Mana Cyclone, making its playstyle more combo-oriented. Conjurer Mage is a midrange deck that plays out very similarly to Even Warlock or a Spiteful Summoner deck, overwhelming opponents with on-curve stats.  Miracle Mage has recently seen very high profile top legend success, and that helped its numbers blow up over the past week.

Warrior is also exhibiting a transition. Bomb Warrior is growing in popularity at higher levels of play, while Control Warrior is in decline. Mage’s rise in popularity was so drastic that it has actually overtaken Warrior’s numbers at legend, something that was inconceivable just a couple of weeks ago.

Secret Hunter has also dramatically risen in play at every rank bracket, and it seems firmly entrenched in the current meta. A small decline in Bomb Hunters can be seen, while Midrange Hunter’s presence remains very noticeable. The Hunter class is currently the most diverse in the game, with three competitive archetypes.

Priest is reaching stagnation, with Miracle Priest failing to build on last week’s improvement. The deck has actually declined at legend, which made us wonder whether current meta shifts are suppressing its development. The rise in Miracle Mage could definitely become a big problem.

After drastically declining over the last few weeks, Token Druid’s numbers seem to be finally stabilizing. Based on its recent performance, the deck certainly has a place in the meta, and we believe that its fall in popularity has come to an end.

Shaman is quite a diverse class, much like Hunter, but it’s not enjoying the same success. There are big question marks regarding the actual viability of some of its archetypes, with only Murloc Shaman looking genuinely strong against the field. Therefore, Shaman’s presence remains fairly modest.

Warlock is continuing its depressing decline, and it’s actually the least popular class at legend, even behind Paladin. Unless Zoo Warlock can turn around the collapse in its win rate, it’s in danger of completely disappearing.

Paladin’s presence at legend is boosted by experiments with Holy-Wrath Paladin, but the class is otherwise non-existent. Mech Paladin continues to shrink in its numbers, and there’s not much else to see. The class is almost dead.

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vS Meta Score

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vS Power Rankings Discussion

Baw Gawd, King, this meta’s been broken in half! Lackey Rogue continues to decline in its win rate to the point where its performance against the field is not even at an elite level anymore. It just looks like a good deck amongst good decks. While this development is obviously the result of the meta relentlessly targeting Lackey Rogue, the fact that the meta has been successful at targeting it is important. The meta is currently warped around Waggle Pick and weapon destruction, which is an issue that we would ideally like to see rectified, but Lackey Rogue is not the oppressive force that Jade Druid, Even Paladin or Midrange Shaman used to be.

The decline in Rogues is also affecting Warrior, another class that has been at the center of balance change discussion. Control Warrior’s performance at higher levels of play is certainly suffering as a result of Lackey Rogue’s fall. It is still extremely powerful on the climb to legend, and it could benefit from the rise of Miracle Mage if it results in the eventual decline of Conjurer Mage, an archetype that has now sunk under 50% due to its poor performance in the Mage mirror. At the moment though, Control Warrior looks inferior to Bomb Warrior at legend, mostly due to the Miracle Priest matchup. This aligns with a transition we currently see in tournaments too, where Bomb Warrior is often preferred over Control.

Miracle Mage is the real deal. While the archetype’s drastic increase in win rate can be observed at all levels of play, it is very clear that at the highest levels, players are ahead of the rest in the refinement process. This keeps Miracle Mage at a sub-50% win rate outside of legend, but Miracle Mage jumps dramatically in its performance at legend, where it is one of the strongest decks in the game. Outside of its refinement process, Miracle Mage is also showing signs of a high skill ceiling. It isn’t as crazy as the one we can find in Miracle Priest, but it’s certainly there. This deck’s hot!

Hunter is also looking strong. Bomb Hunter is benefitting from the sharp decline in Lackey Rogues at legend. Midrange Hunter should have also risen in its win rate, but is being held back slightly by a jittery refinement phase. Secret Hunter doesn’t want to see a decline in Rogue, but performs extremely well against Miracle Mage, so it should remain strong going forward.

Out of nowhere, the forgotten Token Druid has shot back up in its win rate, jumping to Tier 1 at every bracket outside of legend. What happened? A couple of things. Many decks are rightfully cutting tech that punishes board flooding, which helps Token Druid perform better at its lower play rate. Token Druid is the hardest counter in the game to Secret Hunter, one of the rising stars in the current meta. Finally, with Zoo Warlock fading, its biggest counter has significantly shrunk in size. Token Druid has received a lot of criticism in recent weeks due to the amount of initial hype it received and the way it has declined since, but it’s still a strong deck with a really good matchup spread. Don’t sleep on it.

Miracle Priest has failed to make the jump that Miracle Mage did, and it has now sunk back to Tier 4, even at legend. While the deck’s abnormally high skill ceiling is evident, current meta trends have crippled its ability to make progress. Both Miracle Mage and Secret Hunter, the fastest rising decks in the current meta, are proving to be terrible matchups for the Priest. The decline in Lackey Rogue is also hurting its niche, while Bomb Warrior is looking to rise in popularity. In terms of meta trends, what’s currently happening on ladder is literally Miracle Priest’s worst nightmare, and that increases our skepticism regarding its ability to succeed long term.

Shaman is growing weaker, with Big Shaman collapsing in its win rate at all levels of play. It is another victim of Secret Hunter and Miracle Mage, with the Hunter matchup being particularly terrible. Only Murloc Shaman seems resilient enough to the current meta changes, keeping its performance at a good level. Control Shaman stays deep in the dumpster, and we’re not sure why it has kept its current play rate compared to other decks at its level that have disappeared, such as Thief Rogue and Handlock.

As we’ve said earlier, diversity is not this meta’s strongest trait, with a list of archetypes that’s becoming smaller and smaller every week. A common question we’re asked is, what balance changes would we make? Considering current meta trends, we’re leaning towards making changes that aren’t too heavy-handed, but can go a long way.

For example. Increase Waggle Pick’s mana cost by 1, to 5 mana. Slowing down Rogue’s current game plan by a full turn is huge. It can no longer cheat out Dread Corsairs early or drop a Captain Greenskin on curve to enable 14 damage from a single weapon. This change alone would dissuade Rogue players from running the current Raiding Party package, but keep their lackey generating core, which is arguably a more fun and interesting element in the deck. This might push the archetype to a more value-centric direction rather than the burst damage it is capable of doing now, giving more time for the opponent to interact with Rogue’s game plan. It would remove the “Waggle Pick vs. Ooze” element that’s taken over the meta and is required for its currently “balanced” state. A big swing tech card being extremely popular is usually not fun for either player.

There’s another reason we don’t think it’s necessary for drastic balance changes to occur, and that’s Hunter. Gut Valeera’s tools and we might enter a heavy Hunter meta that could arguably be worse than the current meta we see today. Midrange Hunter’s matchup spread is particularly scary and the deck could lack reliable counters should Rogue become weaker. At least today, Lackey Rogue does have a reliable counter. Therefore, we would take a serious look at Scavenging Hyena. Nerfing it to 3 mana would reduce Hunter’s capability of snowballing the early game out of control. You could argue that this is a change that should have already happened during Rastakhan’s Rumble.

Finally, we suggest to increase Archivist Elysiana’s mana cost to 10 mana. This is a quality of life change that’s also relevant to the current late game meta. The fatigue win condition available to Warrior is too strong in combination with Dr. Boom and chokes out other late game strategies from being viable. Control Warrior mirrors are a miserable affair at the moment and a massive turnoff due to the Elysiana/Brew/Banker degeneracy. Dissuade Warrior players from running Elysiana and they might utilize proactive, more interesting finishers instead. We think that based on Warrior’s current performance, it’s unlikely that Team 5 will decide to nerf the Mad Genius, but if they do, the target should be the “Houndmaster Shaw” effect, giving Rush to mechs.

Class Analysis & Decklists

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

Data Reaper Report - Rogue

Lackey Rogue is quickly losing ground, dropping both in its win rate and popularity. The meta seems to have finally been able to curb the performance of this dominant deck to the point where its status as the most influential deck in the format is diminishing.

Chef Nomi has risen in popularity, which is likely the result of growing frustrations among Rogue players in dealing with Control Warriors, but when we evaluated different versions with Nomi, many weren’t built to perform as well as they could in the matchup. For educational purposes, we’ve curated a list that increases the performance in this matchup by around ~7%, making it only slightly unfavored (but still unfavored!). Note that this is at the cost of losing percentages against every other class, making it a net loss in your estimated win rate unless you’re seeing an abnormally high number of Warriors (much higher than 20%). In short, not running Chef Nomi is still the overall superior build path since Heistbaron Togwaggle is a far better card in every other matchup while still being very good against Warrior.

Some notes on the Anti-Warrior Chef Nomi build:

    1. Deadly Poison is strong against Warriors when used well (we also added it to the Togwaggle build). You don’t buff your Waggle Pick in this matchup, but the weapon you get from Weapons’ Project, punishing a Warrior who uses the spell to destroy your Waggle Pick. Greenskin can perform a similar role.
    2. Shadowstep is only a worthwhile card in the Warrior matchup, alongside Chef Nomi, which is why it’s included in this case. Outside this special purpose, it’s still lackluster  and we wouldn’t run it otherwise.
    3. Don’t run Spirit of the Shark. It’s a trap and not actually good against Warrior. Drawing such a low-pressure card in this matchup is usually game losing. The best case scenarios occur more often in your dreams.
    4. Don’t run Wisp. Not sure this needs an explanation.

Data Reaper Report - Mage

Miracle Mage might be the hottest deck in the game, spiking in popularity at higher levels of play, overtaking the older Conjurer Mage and elevating its class to the 2nd spot after Rogue at legend.

This rise is the result of multiple streamers enjoying top legend success with the archetype, and as new card choices are tested, the deck is slowly becoming more refined. The most notable success came from Asmodai hitting #1 legend and both Apxvoid and RDU hitting #2 legend. However, there are a few slots in which we deviate from currently popular ladder builds.

    1. Rabble Bouncer just doesn’t seem good. It’s not good against Rogue, Warrior, Hunter or Mage, and those are the 4 most popular classes. We’re actually slightly puzzled why this card found its way to this deck and has become so popular when its main selling points are opponents that have fallen off in popularity, such as Token Druid (for now) and Zoo Warlock.
    2. Frost Nova serves a better purpose at punishing wide boards while synergizing perfectly with Sea Giants. It’s a very good card in the mirror (which is going to become more relevant over time), insane against Priest and can just turn unwinnable games around quite dramatically in several matchups.
    3. Banana Buffon is important for enabling early giants, and the card is a perfect fit for a Mana Cyclone deck. We definitely like running two Buffoons.
    4. Weapon destruction has a very low return in Miracle Mage. This deck just cannot afford to run too many non-synergy cards. Our estimate is that running two Oozes and Harrison Jones improves your Rogue matchup by a measly 5% while crippling your other matchups much more substantially since Oozes are simply atrocious in the deck. We would only recommend running Harrison Jones for the draw effect against Weapons’ Project and (sometimes) Supercollider in the Warrior matchup. The matchup against Lackey Rogue isn’t bad even when we drop the Oozes.
    5. Vex Crow looked like the weakest card from the list we’ve featured last week, but finalizing the last two slots is quite difficult, with many underwhelming options out there. We’ve decided to include Stargazer Luna, which isn’t core by any means but is a serviceable 3-drop, and a single Questing Adventurer. We’ve said last week that this deck struggles to invest resources in two Questing Adventurers, but one QA could be worthwhile. We have other ideas in mind for the final two slots, but we’d like to properly test them before throwing them out there. Make no mistake though, the featured build is still very, very good. We just think it has the potential to be even better.

Data Reaper Report - Warrior

Control Warrior might be concerned by the decline of Lackey Rogue, but gains somewhat of an advantage with the breakout of Miracle Mage over Conjurer Mage. While Miracle Mage still plays an intimidating giants package, this is a fairly good matchup for the Warrior, with the Miracle Mage carrying less threats than Conjurer Mage and being more focused on individual swing turns which the Warrior cleans up more easily.

We are very much behind the currently featured build for Control Warrior. It does everything well and has a tech package that shores up its weaknesses quite nicely. You might consider running Supercollider to deal with the Giant/Conjurer combo, but the amount of weapon destruction targeted at Rogue has suppressed Supercollider’s performance recently. Control Warrior is certainly weaker with the decline of Lackey Rogue, but it still has good things going for it.

Most players, including us, talk about Control Warrior, but Bomb Warrior is arguably a stronger deck these days both on ladder and in tournaments. The matchup against Miracle Priest, in particular, has shifted attention to this archetype. Recently, we’ve seen Azalina rise in popularity thanks to the top legend success of Meati. Rather than running Elysiana, we run Azalina to steal our opponent’s Elysiana (and Banker/Brewmaster) in the mirror. Azalina encourages us to run less resource generation such as Omega Assembly, opening up a couple of deck slots to tech against Rogues. The problem with Azalina is that our opponents’ awareness of the card’s existence might become a problem going forward, encouraging them to play Elysiana earlier than expected. For now, though, it seems to be a stronger alternative to Elysiana on ladder.

Data Reaper Report - Hunter

Secret Hunter has continued its rise in play this week, as more players have become aware of its meta-breaking potential.  We feel pretty good about our featured build from last week, which shores up a few issues that the archetype previously had. Surprisingly, Misdirection has proven to be worthwhile, but not for the reasons we thought it would be. Rather than being good against Rogue, the Mage matchup is where it shines the most. Considering the increasing popularity of Mage, we should probably keep Misdirection.

The story of Midrange Hunter is one of trying to overcome its one terrible matchup against Lackey Rogue, and a breakthrough may have been found regarding this miserable affair. Senfglas, taking cues from Secret Hunter’s success against Rogue, added two Rat Traps to his Midrange Hunter list. These Rat Traps make a huge difference in the matchup, and also perform well enough against the rest of the field. Based on the evidence, cutting Headmaster’s Hatchet in this weapon destruction meta for Rat Trap is a no brainer and provides a significant gain in win rate. It’s possible that Rat Trap will perform worse over time in this deck, since it will become very predictable, very quickly. However, as we’ve said last week, Rat Trap is still great against Rogues even when they never trigger it. The same can be said for Mages.

We’re aware of hybrid beast builds that run Master’s Call alongside Subject 9 and a secret package, but these builds look inferior to the straight-forward Secret Hunters. Subject 9 and the secret package do not perform very well unless the deck is built around them, and from what we’ve seen so far, there is little justification to running them in this context.

Data Reaper Report - Priest

After the promising rise in Miracle Priest’s win rate at higher levels of play last week, the worst case scenario for the deck happened. Both Miracle Mage and Secret Hunter, which are painful counters to Priest, have spiked in play. Lackey Rogue, the most important matchup for Priest to thrive in at higher levels of play, has declined. With the potential of Bomb Warrior to also rise in play in favor of Control Warrior, nothing seems to be going right for Anduin. Yes, Miracle Priest is a unique deck that’s very difficult to play well, but even the best players are unlikely to overcome the steep rise in hostility the deck is currently facing. It seems that Priest was soundly beaten by Mage, which has taken all the glory.

To adjust, you could tech Mass Hysteria in order to improve the Mage matchup and your capability of dealing with large boards, but even then, that’s not enough to cover for the deck’s major weaknesses and Mass Hysteria has generally proven to be a pretty bad card in the deck. Unless you’re running into strictly Lackey Rogues and Control Warriors at higher levels of play, you’re unlikely to find consistent success with Miracle Priest because of Mages. If you’re not at that top legend level, you should invest your time in stronger decks.

Data Reaper Report - Druid

All is quiet on the Druid front. Token Druid has proven to be a fairly strong and well-rounded deck that’s a good choice for players who hate queuing into terrible matchups. It’s the least polarizing deck in the game, with a chance to beat pretty much anything it faces. This keeps it at steady representation after its initial boom period at the beginning of the expansion. Perhaps, the fall from its initial dominant position has caused players to write it off completely, but that notion isn’t justified. Token Druid is still quite good.

Druid’s biggest problem might be boredom. Token Druid has barely changed at all since day 1 of the expansion, and every other Druid archetype is dead in the water. There’s just nothing to write about.

Come back, Wild Growth, all is forgiven.

Data Reaper Report - Shaman

Shaman has not had any stellar performances this week, and looks noticeably weaker from last week. The class will continue to present a few different options that won’t create any meta changing moments. Murloc Shaman is a pretty strong deck, but has a glass ceiling when it comes to dealing with Warriors and Rogues. Big Shaman is beginning to fall off in its performance. Control Shaman is arguably overplayed considering it’s never proven ladder viability in the current expansion. We haven’t seen any interesting card choices that made us reconsider the currently featured builds so this section will be a short one, unfortunately.

Data Reaper Report - Warlock

Zoo Warlock is nearing extinction in popularity, but the deck has one thing going for it at the moment, which is the rise of Mage. Zoo Warlock fares well against Miracle Mage, since it’s usually able to take over the board and push lethal damage before the Mage can stabilize or swing the game with Sea Giants.

Recently, we’ve seen a rise in the popularity of Mech Zoo builds, but the only thing these builds have done is lower Zoo Warlock’s win rate. The Magic Carpet build alongside Rafaam is the best approach for the archetype on ladder, and it’s not even close. We haven’t seen a single alternative take that made us interested. Unfortunately for the class, the current iteration of Zoo is probably the best it has to offer.

Data Reaper Report - Paladin

Most players are not playing Paladin right now and neither should you.

Mech Paladin is now barely on the meta radar but its performance has been steadily declining over the last few weeks to the point where we honestly can’t even recommend the deck. If you want to play some cool mechs and/or take advantage of sick magnetizing goodness, then you should be playing Hunter or Dr. Boom. The list we have featured below is still decent against the field if you need to finish a Paladin quest, but it likely will not be what helps you climb. The meta has transitioned in a direction that is the opposite of what Paladin wants to see.

Holy-Wrath Paladin is occasionally popping up with players mostly experimenting with the deck at legend ranks, but it is still pretty unimpressive and has yet to experience a breakthrough.

Things do not look good for Paladin. Even if balance changes arrive, they need to be very dramatic to move the meta in a favorable direction for Uther. Until then, he will be taking a break from Hearthstone. It might be as long as the one he took during Mean Streets of Gadgetzan.

Data Reaper Report - Meta Breaker

This meta has been soundly broken by the rise of Miracle Mage, a deck that’s still in the process of refinement, with many card choices that are currently up in the air. It should take a week or two until we get the answers regarding the final slots in this build, but this deck is already strong. It soundly beats the slower Conjurer Mage in the direct mirror and exhibits a higher ceiling at the top level.

Perhaps, the key to whether Miracle Mage can become a truly dominant deck is how it ends up faring against Warrior and Rogue. We think it has the potential to match up well enough against either deck, but there’s certainly an issue regarding Miracle Mage’s ability to perform well enough against both classes with the same list of 30 cards. This is why refining Miracle Mage has been so difficult, and why many top-level players are still constantly juggling cards around.

What is certain is that both Mana Cyclone and Conjurer’s Calling are absurdly good cards, and now that they have found homes within the same deck, watch out for Mage to potentially make a giant impact on the meta. A 4 giants’ worth of impact.

Miracle Mage

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  1. Don’t nerf ANYTHING!!!! for F sakes some of us have lives and aren’t rich, I ALWAYS end up crafting a deck that gets gutted and lose out on THOUSANDS of gold, and dust every damn expansion, just play the game as is.

  2. Agree with the balance change decision targets. My suggestions are slightly different, but same idea:

    Waggle Pick down to 3 attack to mess up the Dread Corsair package.
    Scavenging Hyena: +1/+1
    Unleash the Hounds: Change Charge to Rush
    EVC: +2/+1
    Dr. Boom, MG: Give all the Mechs in your deck Rush.

    Great report, as usual.

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