Welcome to the 133rd edition of the Data Reaper Report!
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Class Frequency Discussion
While Hunter has slightly declined, it is still the most popular class in the game by a large margin. Only at legend do we see a more diverse 5-way battle at the top. Bomb Hunter is the most popular deck in the climb to legend. Midrange Hunter has taken a step back since the Rise of the Mech patch.
Warrior has significantly risen in popularity, especially at higher levels of play. This is an unsurprising turn of events considering how well both Control Warrior and Bomb Warrior have been performing on ladder. While Rogue has been nerfed, other aggressive decks have emerged to maintain a very favorable field for Dr. Boom.
Mage has also risen in play, especially at legend, where Cyclone Mage has become the most popular deck. This is likely the result of Mage’s success in Vegas, where it was the best performing class with 5 players in the top 8, including Dog’s tournament-winning Freeze Mage.
Rogue has declined, an expected development considering the rise of Warrior and Rogue’s underachievement. Most Rogue players are still building their decks around Spirit of the Shark and Pogo-Hoppers, so we can’t expect them to do that well anyway, can we?
Murloc Shaman is still more popular than Aggro Shaman on the climb to legend, but at legend, Aggro Shaman has overtaken it. There is more hype surrounding Aggro Shaman recently, but this is slightly contradictory: considering the rise of Warrior at legend, shouldn’t we expect Murloc Shaman to be more successful? It will be interesting to see what this week’s win rates tell us.
Paladin is losing steam. A 1-mana Crystology might be busted, but not busted enough to sustain continued interest in the class. Both Mech Paladin and Holy-Wrath Paladin are declining in play.
Token Druid is maintaining steady numbers, hinting that it may have solidified its niche in the meta. Zoo Warlock, not so much. The aggressive Warlock archetype is slowly fading away, failing to attract interest from the player base. This indifference is so dramatic that the Warlock class is now seeing less play than Priest. At least Priest has some good memes.
Priest is Priest. Strategically fractured and full of experimentation. Don’t expect any Priest decks to exhibit meta breaking capabilities. The best Anduin can hope for is a serviceable deck that’s playable.
vS Meta Score
vS Power Rankings Discussion
The power levels of decks are remarkably close to what they were last week. Warrior is still the best class to play from rank 4 onwards. Bomb Warrior is closing the gap on Control Warrior due to the increased prevalence of the mirror matchup. The irony is that rather than promoting new Warrior counters, which is what some players may have expected, the Rise of the Mech patch has only helped Warrior by promoting a new aggressive deck that falls prey to it in Aggro Shaman.
While Warrior has a couple of natural counters, there are so many decks in the current meta that simply cannot sustain enough pressure against it. To beat Warrior, you usually have to “greed up” your deck to the point where its effectiveness against the rest of the field drops. This is something most decks struggle to do well on ladder. However, some are more comfortable (and more successful) doing it in a tournament environment.
We do need to keep in mind that Warrior is still not the most popular class in the game at any rank bracket, and isn’t being heavily targeted yet. There is still time for the meta to adjust once targeting Warrior becomes truly rewarding across several strategies. The question is, will Warrior ever be a common enough opponent to reach that point?
While most of the attention in the Hunter class is given to Bomb and Midrange Hunter, we can’t ignore how well Secret Hunter is performing at higher levels of play thanks to its matchups against Cyclone Mages and Rogues. The Mage matchup is usually a bloodbath. The most likely reasons why Secret Hunter is being ignored is its Warrior matchups: it’s another deck that doesn’t sustain enough pressure against Dr. Boom.
Our initial response to Aggro Shaman’s rise in popularity over Murloc Shaman has been a raised eyebrow for a good reason. With Warrior trending upwards, it is Aggro Shaman that falls from Tier 1. While Murloc Shaman doesn’t beat Warriors either, it stands a much better chance of doing so and suffers a lower penalty in their increased presence.
The best ways to play Rogue still involve Captain Hooktusk or Raiding Party. Both of these archetypes sit at Tier 2, though Hooktusk is being choked out at legend by the Warrior matchups. Party Rogue has a better chance to adjust to a Warrior meta with a tech or two, but Hooktusk has a tougher time doing that.
With that being said, we still think that Shark Rogue is a better deck than the stats indicate. By cutting Spirit of the Shark and Novice Engineer (a bad card in the deck that Spirit of the Shark baits you to play), Sharkless Rogue would likely be sitting at Tier 2. Rogue is in an overall decent spot.
Pogo Rogue has significantly improved in its performance, which is indicative of a productive refinement phase that’s still ongoing. The problem is that it still has a deep win rate hole to climb out of. We estimate that an optimally built Pogo Rogue belongs in Tier 3, but we’re not sure it can do much better than that.
Cyclone Mage continues to build on its early-patch improvements. It’s a stronger deck than before the buff patch for a couple of reasons. It got a direct buff from Luna’s Pocket Galaxy, which is a huge deal in the Warrior matchup while not taxing you in the faster matchups (Galaxy on 5 can often win you games against aggressive decks). Cyclone Mage has also seen some of its more difficult matchups, such as Midrange Hunter, decline in play.
While enthusiasm for Freeze Mage has increased, the deck doesn’t perform as well on ladder. The Warrior count isn’t quite high enough, while Bomb Hunter and aggressive Shaman decks are much more popular than they are in tournaments. In a field that was filled with Bomb Warriors, Cyclone Mages, and Shark Rogues, Freeze Mage lined up very well.
Mech Paladin’s win rate holds up. After all, Warriors are rising, so it’s reasonable to predict that Paladin’s stock should rise. However, we do need to keep in mind that its Mage matchups are horrible. Polarizing decks usually struggle to become elite since they’re so vulnerable to the smallest meta shift. Mech Paladin is either Tier 1 or Tier 4, depending on what you happened to run into.
While Token Druid is stabilizing in its play rate, its win rate indicates that this might be a false dawn. We’ve seen before that Token Druid tends to overperform in an early meta and then proceeds to fall back to earth once things settle down and the janky decks fade away. This process could be happening now.
This process is also happening to Zoo Warlock, but unlike Druid, it doesn’t have much of a cushion to fall onto. At the moment, Zoo looks inferior to pretty much any aggressive deck out there, which is bad news for its chances to stay relevant.
Mech Priest is Tier 3. Praise the light, for Priest is not complete garbage. It’s just a little garbage. Garbage-y. In a cute way.
Class Analysis & Decklists
Bomb Hunter continues to perform well against most of the field. The rise of Warrior should benefit Bomb Hunter’s standing in the meta. The optimal list has been pretty much figured out. We’re seeing an increase in the popularity of Harvest Golem, but we’re not very impressed with the card and do not think it makes the cut. Players often cut Boommaster Flark, but he’s an exceptionally good card against Warrior. You can do without him (if you want to save on dust) and you won’t feel his absence often, but he’s in our featured build on merit, not flavor.
Midrange Hunter also boasts one of the tightest lists in the game. The only major consideration is whether to run Headhunter’s Hatchet in order to perform better in faster matchups, or stick with two copies of Deadly Shot and Marked Shot due to their importance against Mages and Rogues. Midrange Hunter is not as strong as it was before the buff patch, and its stock has certainly fallen. Further refinement of Rogue could spell trouble for Midrange Hunter, a deck that’s currently enjoying Rogue’s obsession with being slow and clumsy.
- Hunter Class Radar
- Bomb Hunter
- Midrange Hunter
- Secret Hunter
The Warrior class is dictating the meta at higher levels of play, both on ladder and in tournaments. Both Bomb Warrior and Control Warrior are very strong decks that can find a lot of success in the current meta. Bomb Warrior is harder to counter due to having its own inevitable clock, which makes it a staple in the tournament scene. Control Warrior, on the other hand, is stronger on the climb to legend due to the prevalence of aggressive decks. Theo hit #1 legend with the featured Control Warrior build.
SN1P-SN4P has been a tremendous addition to both Warrior decks. We can’t overstate this, the card is simply bonkers in Warrior and you should absolutely play it due to its versatility. It provides damage/pressure through magnetic buffs, a wide and sticky board through its echo ability, or a Volcano-like board clear after Mad Genius has been played.
Mage has had a terrific week in Vegas, where it was the most successful class in the field by a very large margin. Dog won the tournament with a Freeze Mage deck built to beat Bomb Warrior, while Cyclone Mage occupied 4 of the top 8 slots at the end of the Swiss round.
Cyclone Mage has a had a real turnaround in its fortunes as a result of the buff patch. Specifically, Luna’s Pocket Galaxy has improved its Warrior matchup by a significant margin, estimated to be around 10% (keep in mind that not all ladder builds have adopted Galaxy). This swings the matchup from one in which Mage has previously struggled to close out, to one where Mage feels much more comfortable with.
Freeze Mage would be a very strong ladder deck if not for the very different field it faces compared to tournaments. It performs better against Warriors than Cyclone Mage, and it also holds a small edge in the mirror. However, the strong ladder presence of aggressive Shaman decks as well as Bomb Hunters, compared to their modest presence in tournaments, keeps its ladder win rate down.
In terms of ladder builds, not much has changed. You could run Astromancers in Cyclone Mage in order to improve the Warrior matchup further, but 2 copies of Astromancers don’t even do half the work of a single Galaxy, and this comes at a significant cost in faster matchups. Freeze Mage can improve faster matchups by running Arcane Keysmiths instead of greedier cards (Astromancer, Jepetto), but if you constantly run into your counter matchups, you might be more inclined to switch decks.
Compared to the success we’ve discussed, Specters Mage has been left behind. It’s a serviceable deck with a strong Warrior matchup, but it doesn’t do enough against the rest of the field to put it at a strong spot.
- Mage Class Radar
- Cyclone Mage
- Freeze Mage
- Specters Mage
This week’s analysis has mostly confirmed what we’ve strongly suspected last week, and gave us a couple of new insights. Instead of completely repeating ourselves, we’ll highlight the key takes about current Rogue archetypes.
Party Rogue is the best performing Rogue archetype at the moment. Its matchup spread is quite impressive and resembles that of Aggro Shaman. The only real problem for the deck is the Warrior class. Thankfully, in the presence of an overbearing number of Warriors, it can make the Nomi adjustment and stand a much better chance of competing against Dr. Boom.
Hooktusk Rogue is also strong, tends to perform better than Party Rogue in faster matchups (less “dead” cards against aggressive decks), but hits a bigger wall against Warrior. It cannot adjust in the same manner as Party Rogue since the Hooktusk build clashes with Myra’s Unstable Element in several ways.
Pogo Rogue is getting better and should continue to rise in its win rate, but its ceiling might not be high enough to be particularly impressive. We do think the Cycle build we’ve featured last week is very close to being optimal. Togwaggle is an interesting idea that’s been experimented with, and the card has the potential to be strong in the deck, but it’s far too inconsistent without Cable Rats. To utilize Togwaggle, Cable Rats have to be added, replacing some of the cycle.
Spirit of the Shark is still bad, but Sharkless Lackey Rogue with the Vendetta package rivals Party Rogue in its effectiveness. The build we’ve featured last week performs exceptionally well against everything but Warriors. Much like Party Rogue, we’re suggesting the MUE/Nomi adjustment in case you’re running into a wall of Warriors. It performs much better than Spirit of the Shark in this matchup, even in the absence of Preparation. There’s a misconception that Shark is a genuinely strong card against Warrior, but this isn’t actually true. It’s a very unreliable win condition in the matchup, since it’s so dependent on EVIL Miscreant and Ethereal Lackey RNG (both for generating Ethereals and for discovering spells) going your way in order to produce the necessary damage and resources to finish the game.
- Rogue Class Radar
- Party Rogue
- Hooktusk Rogue
- “Shark” Rogue
- Pogo Rogue
Enthusiasm for Aggro Shaman grows as it’s become the most popular Shaman deck at higher levels of play. Other Shaman archetypes are in decline, though Murloc Shaman is still very successful.
Aggro Shaman’s matchup spread is very impressive. It performs well against every class in the game save for Warrior, which is a pretty hard counter. Warrior’s rise in play is concerning for Aggro Shaman, especially Control Warrior, since Weapons Project is a nightmare for a deck that runs Doomhammer. Nevertheless, the rest of the field still keeps Aggro Shaman as one of the stronger decks in the game.
In terms of build, cutting Electra appears to be fully vindicated. She can give you moments to remember her by, but often proves to be unworthy of the investment. We are also not enamored with Totemic Smash, which interferes with your chances of drawing Earth Shock off Spirit of the Frog. It’s very important to draw Earth Shock in the current meta due to the prevalence of mechs, and the importance of eliminating taunts that get in the way of your Doomhammer. Totemic Smash is usually just a Holy Smite.
Murloc Shaman remains in a good spot, regardless of its decline in popularity. Its matchup spread is more checkered, showing vulnerabilities in faster matchups. However, it doesn’t perform nearly as poorly as Aggro Shaman in the Warrior matchups, which are very winnable.
- Shaman Class Radar
- Murloc Shaman
- Aggro Shaman
- Mutate Shaman
- Control Shaman
Paladin is falling back to earth this week. After the initial boost in its overall play rate in response to the buff patch, the player base is receding.
Mech Paladin is the best competitive option for the class, and while its performance has been promising, it is likely that players avoid the deck due to its polarizing matchup spread. Unlike Quest Rogue of the past, Mech Paladin has little agency in its bad matchups to a very frustrating degree. The Mage class, which has grown in popularity due to its tournament success, simply rolls over Paladin with little effort. Ray of Frost is a hell of a card. In turn, Mech Paladin’s dominant Warrior matchups are the main pull of the deck.
Perhaps another reason why Mech Paladin fails to attract attention is redundancy, a result of the presence of a more successful mech deck in Bomb Hunter. Bomb Hunter holds an edge against Warriors, but unlike Paladin, doesn’t have any terrible matchups, making it more consistent all-around.
Holy-Wrath Paladin is fading, which is true for its tournament prospects as well. The deck simply cannot find much success in a meta that is dominated and dictated by Warriors. Bomb Warrior, in particular, is a miserable matchup due to the Paladin’s reliance on drawing its entire deck to execute its win condition while eating up every bomb that was shuffled in.
Token Druid will likely stay as a consistent ladder climber due to its balanced matchup spread, but you won’t see much of other Druid decks until the next expansion, at least.
We’ve found a bit of a breakthrough in Token Druid builds. The mech list we posted last week has proven to be extremely promising. Due to its ability to get on the board and contest opponents faster, it outperforms the more standard builds against nearly every class. We’re talking about a significant improvement in your performance against Mages, Rogues, Hunters and Shamans in particular.
The only weakness the mech build has exhibited is its Warrior matchups, but that is relatively easy to improve. We cut Zilliax and Floop, which are somewhat luxury cards, in order to bring back The Forest’s Aid for its late-game longevity. We think that based on its performance, Soul of the Forest is overrated as a core card in Token Druid. It’s quite weak in faster matchups and it isn’t as strong against Warriors as it’s perceived to be. It’s nice with Wispering Woods, but you know what’s better with Wispering Woods? Sea Giants.
The Priest class is in its normal early cycle funk. We haven’t seen any new deck this week that suggests an Anduin renaissance. For now, it seems that Inner Fire is the most reliable win condition available to Priest, even after the loss of Shadow Visions. Priest sorely lacks good finishers: cards or combos that spell the end of the game for the opponent. Without the ability to close games consistently, Priest just isn’t threatening enough. The slower your win condition is, the less likely you are to be successful, since you will run into decks that have a faster clock than you. In addition, Priest’s early game isn’t particularly strong either. Northshire Cleric and Extra Arms offer a pretty solid foundation, but in order to beat down opponents consistently, Anduin needs more than that.
Warlock has declined in play and is in danger of completely disappearing from the meta. Zoo Warlock is not a terrible deck, but is suffering the results of being completely outclassed by a better option.
When we look at Zoo Warlock and Aggro Shaman, they have strikingly similar matchup spreads despite their very different playstyles. Zoo Warlock feels fine to queue into most matchups in the game but gets hard countered by Warrior, much like Aggro Shaman. Adding Rafaam helps the Warrior matchup, but it remains unfavored.
The only problem is that Aggro Shaman’s matchup spread is strictly better. If you’re not running into many Warriors, there is almost never a reason to play Warlock over Shaman. The only matchup in which Zoo significantly outperforms Aggro Shaman is against the niche Secret Hunter. This means that Zoo Warlock doesn’t have an actual role in the meta: players will rarely decide to play Zoo Warlock for a competitive reason because there is no competitive reason.
A deck that has no real reason to be played will very quickly disappear even if its overall win rate isn’t terrible. We’ve seen this many times before, and this is why we’re so pessimistic about Warlock. With an early game that’s outclassed and a late game that doesn’t exist, the class’ development looks dead. It needs a new expansion.
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