Welcome to the 138th edition of the Data Reaper Report!
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Number of Games
Class Frequency Discussion
Mage is rising at all levels of play, with Highlander Mage taking over the class and establishing itself as the most popular deck in the game. Both Big-Spell Mage and Cyclone Mage are declining. Big-Spell Mage has been made obsolete while Cyclone Mage hasn’t been able to match its previous heights in Rise of Shadows.
Highlander Hunter has also seen a big spike in play following its ladder and tournament success. We’ve tipped this deck to be a potential meta breaker last week due to its strong matchups into Mage/Warrior/Priest, and this potential has not gone unnoticed. The only other Hunter deck that seems to be holding its own is Mech Hunter.
While Warrior’s popularity is slowly rising at lower ranks, it seems to have hit a plateau at higher levels. Control and Aggro Warrior have declined at legend while Bomb Warrior’s numbers have slightly increased.
True to a meta breaker, Combo Priest has exploded into the scene, doubling its numbers at legend and nearly tripling its numbers at ranks 4-1 over the past week. At higher levels of play, it is the second most popular deck after Highlander Mage. Other Priest decks have failed to make an impact, and are nearly non-existent at legend.
Aggro Rogue has substantially risen in play, and it’s likely thanks to its strong matchup against Highlander Mage. Many players are looking to counter Mages, and for that purpose, there is no better choice. As Aggro Rogue’s stock rises, Quest Rogue’s stock falls. The archetype hasn’t made an impact on the current meta, and it’s being abandoned.
Quest Shaman is the only quest deck that isn’t being rapidly abandoned, as players continue to try and make it work. Aggro Shaman has declined and is currently trying to figure out its best variant (Token vs. Doomhammer). Murloc Shaman has seen a small uptick in play.
Paladin is fairly popular outside of legend. Quest Paladin has even increased in play, likely due to its dominating matchup against Control Warrior. At legend though, Paladin has fallen off pretty hard, with Murloc Paladin significantly declining in play.
Druid and Warlock have collapsed, with their play rates slashed by around 50% each. Quest Druid has been struggling to find its place in the format, while Zoo Warlock has looked above average in an early, janky meta, which is usually not too promising for an aggressive deck.
vS Meta Score
vS Power Rankings Discussion
The Highlander decks are taking over and causing big shifts to occur in the power levels of many decks in the Uldum meta. While Control Warrior has a terrific matchup spread, the spike in popularity of both Highlander Mage and Highlander Hunter, two of its worst matchups, is suppressing its win rate to such an extent that it’s kicked out of Tier 1.
Meanwhile, faster Warrior decks are eclipsing Control Warrior’s performance, suggesting that the solution to overcome the hostility directed at the class is to become more aggressive. Bomb Warrior fares better against Highlander decks because it’s able to pressure them while occasionally shutting off their strongest cards. Aggro Warrior could end up a big winner if its biggest counter declines.
Highlander Mage’s success and popularity is no accident. Only Hunter and Rogue seem to possess the means to counter it consistently. It is looking superior to other options within its class, including the missing Cyclone Mage. This archetype is failing to rise in popularity because, based on its low sample, it is barely holding on to a 50% win rate in a much more competitive field.
Highlander Hunter might be the strongest deck in the current meta, at least at higher levels of play, due to its strong matchups against the top meta decks. It has edged out Combo Priest and Highlander Mage to claim the #1 spot at legend this week, though the difference is very small.
Combo Priest’s matchup spread is so well-rounded that it is very resistant to meta changes. Its win rate has declined due to the fall of bad decks, which usually provide it with free wins, but not many established decks hold a significant edge against it either. This is why it’s unlikely to follow in the footsteps of Control Warrior, with its Tier 1 spot looking more secure.
Aggro Rogue has made big gains this week due to its performance against highlander decks, rising to Tier 1 at legend due to the increasing popularity of its biggest prey. Valeera is also licking her lips at the prospects of Control Warrior’s decline, though it may not have as big of an impact as you’d expect should Warrior simply transition from Control to Aggro & Bomb.
It was expected that Murloc Paladin’s win rate would decline this week as the meta became more refined and less vulnerable to aggression. However, Murloc Paladin’s win rate has collapsed at higher levels of play, to an extent that suggests a bigger issue. We’ve seen decks improve their performance against Murloc Paladin over time, but many of its matchups become worse as you climb the ranks too. This hints at a low skill ceiling that may explain why the deck is quite uncommon once you reach legend. The title of the premier aggressive deck of the format seems to have been taken by Rogue.
Quest Paladin is facing bad news as well. Current meta trends spell doom for the archetype, with Control Warrior wavering as Combo Priest and Highlander Mage rise. The deck has crashed out to Tier 4 at legend, and may find itself with no place in the meta.
Mech Hunter should be able to stick around due to its strong performance against Highlander decks, but it shouldn’t be as strong as it was during Rise of Shadows due to its newfound struggles against Warrior.
Quest Shaman can’t seem to make a big breakthrough, though there’s still a chance it makes improvements in its win rate should it find the right build. Aggressive Shaman decks continue to perform better at the moment. Murloc Shaman looks like a serviceable, though not outstanding, ladder choice. Aggro Shaman can bring a lot of pain to Mages should they choose to equip a Doomhammer, and we estimate it still sits around Tier 2.
Quest Druid may have found the right build with the Combo Nomi version, and it could climb to Tier 3 should this variant take over the archetype. This is unlikely to be enough to make it a relevant competitive choice on ladder right now, but balance changes could quickly turn things around for Malfurion. The potential of quest decks is there if Mage, Warrior, and Priest get hit with nerfs.
As Zoo Warlock’s win rate falls, the class looks to be in big trouble. Quest Warlock has disappeared at the depths of Tier 5, while the only viable archetype for the class looks mediocre on its best day. We don’t expect to see much of this class until the next patch.
Class Analysis & Decklists
Mage is riding on its success from Seoul, establishing itself as the most popular class in both ladder and tournaments. Highlander Mage remains the standout performer within the class, confirming our suspicion that it is a superior deck to Cyclone Mage. Meanwhile, Big-Spell Mage has been made obsolete and we expect it to fade away.
Both Reno and Zephrys have proven to be game-changers, often enabling the board swings that Mage needs because it tends to fall behind in the early game.
After another week of card evaluation, we were somewhat surprised to see that the Highlander Mage build we featured last week requires no updates. Nohandsgamer took the list to #5 legend this week, and there are a few insights we’ve gathered about Highlander Mage that are worth mentioning:
- It’s quite common to see Ancient Mysteries being cut by players since the secret package can feel like it’s denying space to include more compelling cards. This feeling is misleading, at least from what we see on ladder. Ancient Mysteries is one of the strongest cards in the deck and a key to stabilizing in the early game. There is an option to swap Ice Barrier for Counterspell, but whatever secrets you choose to run, the package is very much worth it.
- Messenger Raven and Vulpera Scoundrel are pretty comparable. SN1P-SN4P is also an option on turn 3. The difference between these cards isn’t significant. Raven is generally more proactive than Scoundrel.
- Tutors are very strong. With both Witchwood Piper and Sandbinder, you almost always find Zephrys by the mid-game. We know Highlander Mage is the best Mage deck thanks to Reno and Zephrys, so increasing the likelihood of drawing Zephrys cannot be underestimated.
- Despite the rise of Priests, Polymorph is still a fairly underwhelming card in the deck due to its clunkiness in other matchups. It’s a pretty good tech card against Priest and feels very good against Amet, but we wouldn’t go out of our way to include it unless you meet a horde of Priests at high legend ladder.
- It’s easy to understand why King Phaoris is good against Warrior, but it’s not intuitive to consider its strength against Hunter. While it’s easy to fixate on Mage surviving Hunter’s initial aggression as the key to winning the matchup, Mage often gets withered down in the late game. Therefore, it cannot afford to sit back forever. King Phaoris provides an overwhelming board swing that the Hunter often cannot answer, which is what Mage usually needs to win.
- Mage Class Radar
- Highlander Mage
- Big-Spell Mage
- Cyclone Mage
Highlander Hunter had a great showing in Seoul, where it was the second best performing deck behind Combo Priest. With good matchups into Warrior, Mage, and Priest, it’s not surprising to see it perform well in tournaments. Unless you run into an abnormal number of Paladins, this deck should be one of the strongest ladder climbers in the game, if not the strongest.
Mech Hunter is a fairly reliable ladder climber, thanks to its great matchup against Highlander Mage. The biggest counters to Highlander Mage tend to be fast decks that pressure its life total and do not give the Mage any time to cash in on a Luna’s Pocket Galaxy. Mech Hunter tends to struggle in aggressive mirrors and will find the Warrior matchup a lot more challenging than in Rise of Shadows due to the taunt package.
Other Hunter decks are falling off. Secret Hunter has become obsolete due to the success of Highlander Hunter, while Midrange Hunter is struggling to beat anything in the current meta. The aggressive decks of the format are an absolute nightmare to deal with for Midrange Hunter, and it can’t find an edge in slower matchups to offset that.
- Hunter Class Radar
- Highlander Hunter
- Secret Hunter
- Mech Hunter
- Midrange Hunter
While Warrior remains a pillar of the format, the meta’s increasing hostility, with most of the top meta decks built to challenge Dr. Boom, is beginning to take its toll. After all, if you’re not an aggressive deck, and you can’t beat the Mad Genius in the late game, you have no right to exist in the format. Warrior is cleaning up the field, and only its worthy opponents are gaining strength.
Control Warrior remains the primary archetype of the class, and its biggest counters on ladder (besides a small presence of Quest Paladin) are Highlander Mage and Highlander Hunter. Much of what we’ve said about the deck last week is still relevant. Dyn-o-matic is far weaker in this expansion than the last. Plague of Wrath is currently very strong due to the prevalence of Mage and Priest.
Bomb Warrior might be the response the class needs for the Highlander decks, and this week brings an interesting development to the archetype. Thanks to Deaddraw’s sideboard plan in Seoul, we’ve seen more Bomb Warriors incorporating the Taunt package on ladder. It turns out that the Taunt package works well alongside the Bomb package since both can enable aggressive lines of play. By speeding up the deck and cutting reactive cards, we aim to kill opponents early and use Tomb Wardens as the final push for damage.
Aggro Warrior remains well situated against basically everything except Control Warrior, and while it no longer surprises opponents on ladder, its performance hasn’t suffered. Underestimate this deck at your peril.
- Warrior Class Radar
- Control Warrior
- Bomb Warrior
- Aggro Warrior
After its breakout performance on ladder last week, Combo Priest’s popularity has erupted. It is one of the most popular decks in the game, especially at higher levels of play where it is only second to Highlander Mage.
But Combo Priest might not just be the strongest ladder deck. Its terrific showing in Seoul indicates it could be the best deck in tournaments too, despite some skepticism about its ability to sideboard effectively in Specialist.
During its rise in popularity, we’ve seen a couple of cards widely tested in Combo Priest. Silence’s power level is comparable to Mass Dispel, and its strength mostly lies in the mirror matchup. Topsy Turvy’s performance suggests it’s a tech against Mages, since it can answer Doomsayers (much like Silence) while serving as a pseudo-Inner Fire. We still like the featured build as it’s generally more well-rounded against a diverse field of opponents, but if you’re interested in teching for a specific opponent, Holy Ripples and Mass Dispel are usually the cards that make way. Holy Ripple is one of your stronger tools in faster matchups, so keep that in mind.
Rogue has found its biggest role in the meta: kill Mages. Aggro Rogue is the strongest counter in the game to Highlander Mage thanks to its lightning-fast damage potential as well as burst and reach from hand, which perfectly bypasses most of the Mage’s defensive tools. Besides killing Mages, Aggro Rogue has a very strong matchup spread with one big problem: Warriors. Quest Rogue will wait for balance changes for a chance at finding a better position in the meta.
Aggro Rogue is beginning to settle on a single, optimal build. Faerie Dragon is losing favor while Hench-Clan Thug is becoming more popular. Both are strong cards against Mage, but Faerie Dragon falls off in other matchups while Thug is a more well-rounded threat. With so many 3-drops requiring combo activation, Thug balances the Rogue’s curve, especially when it doesn’t have the coin.
Shaman is trying to find its way around the top meta classes and making the adjustments required to give it a better chance for success.
Zalae hit top 10 legend with Quest Shaman after cutting Mutate alongside Former Champ. In slower matchups, the tempo swing of Mutate isn’t as impactful, so we can definitely understand the merits of this change. A card we’ve found to be quite impactful in Quest Shaman recently is Plague of Murlocs, which is strong against both Mages and Priests. The list we’re featuring is a modified Zalae build, cutting one Earth Shock and Tinkmaster Overspark for two copies of Plague of Murlocs.
Aggro Shaman is exhibiting signs of a shift from the new Token Vessina/Bloodlust builds back to the old Doomhammer builds. The logic behind the shift is the Mage matchup. Mage is quite effective at stalling the board and denying a Bloodlust turn from the Shaman, while having more difficulty denying the burst available from a Doomhammer. As a result, Doomhammer builds seem to be more effective in the current meta, so expect to see more of them in the future.
- Shaman Class Radar
- Quest Shaman
- Aggro Shaman
- Murloc Shaman
Paladin is seeing a decent amount of play on ladder, but its play rate declines at legend, where both of its main archetypes seem to be less appealing choices.
Quest Paladin is notoriously polarizing, and success with it is highly dependent on finding specific matchups, most notably Control Warrior. Combo Priest’s rise in play, as well as Highlander Mage’s ongoing success, have been bad news for the deck, and it’s becoming less likely that Quest Paladin will find a competitive niche in the current meta.
Murloc Paladin is far stronger and more competitive, though it may run into a ceiling when faced against other top meta decks such as Control Warrior and Highlander Mage, both of which can answer a turn 5 Tip the Scales relatively consistently. What makes Murloc Paladin so strong are its numerous paths to victory at different stages of the game. It can beat you simply through curving out minions and snowballing its tribal synergy. It can blow you out with an unanswered Tip the Scales. It can finish you off through Zephrys or Nomi. To beat Murloc Paladin, you either have to outlast all stages in this game plan or push it off the board decisively.
Players are losing faith in Druid, as it doesn’t seem capable of matching up to the best classes in the format. After another week’s worth of data though, we could establish with confidence what the superior variant of Quest Druid is.
Nomi is just better than Malygos, due to the clunkiness of the latter’s win condition, the near-infinite value potential of the former, and the option to pull the trigger faster with Phaoris. Abar’s high legend build runs Claws over Swipes, and we’ve found Claw to be a good card in the deck for the reasons we thought it would be good before the expansion’s launch: it’s cheap, early game removal that allows Druid to fend off aggression while still floating the mana required to complete the quest.
Is this the beginning of another end to Warlock? The class has dramatically declined in play this week, and Zoo Warlock is struggling to find relevance in the current meta, much like during Rise of Shadows. The elephants in the room are Zoo’s matchups into Mage, Warrior and Priest. Without the capability of contesting the top meta decks, it’s hard to find an argument for Warlock to ever be a strong choice on ladder.
We’ve seen some promise in Zoo builds cutting the Thrasher/Vulture package in order to focus on cheaper board flooding with Sea Giants. The main issue with Sea Giant is that it’s a dead card in the Warrior matchup, where you’re almost never allowed to keep your board, so don’t expect miracles when facing Garrosh.
Highlander Hunter is not just arguably the strongest ladder deck in the game, it is also the top meta deck that’s least likely to be hit with balance changes. With so much talk about Mage, Warrior and now even Priest, Hunter is quietly beating the best decks without drawing heat.
Beating most top-performing decks without being held accountable by the meta? That sounds like a Meta Breaker to us.
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