Welcome to the 139th edition of the Data Reaper Report! This is the first report following the balance changes.
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Number of Games
Class Frequency Discussion
The balance changes have certainly altered the landscape of Uldum. There are a few classes that have dramatically risen in play, and there is one class that has collapsed. The biggest story is that quest decks, most notably Druid and Shaman, have been given a second chance. The space created by what looks like the destruction of Mage, has opened an opportunity for these decks to have meaningful power spikes in the mid-game without the threat of being blown out by Galaxy on 5 (or 4).
When was the last time Shaman led the pack as the most common class at legend, or at any rank bracket? Quest Shaman has surged to become the most popular deck in the format. The aggressive Shaman decks (Aggro, Murloc) are also noticeable, but in smaller numbers.
Quest Druid exhibits a similar spike in popularity, and it’s second in play rate at legend behind Quest Shaman. Unlike Quest Shaman though, Quest Druid’s current structure and win conditions are more varied, meaning that it’s at an earlier refinement stage. We can also see Token Druid hanging around.
Highlander Hunter has been the go-to deck for many players after the balance changes, making Hunter the most popular class in the game outside of legend. As the strongest pre-patch deck that wasn’t hit by nerfs, it makes sense to see it remain very popular. Mech Hunter is the second most noticeable Hunter deck, followed by the stagnant Secret and Midrange archetypes.
Warrior has experienced quite a big internal shift following the nerf to Dr. Boom. Control and Bomb Warrior have declined, while Aggro Warrior has risen in popularity and edges them in popularity at legend. This transition was expected considering that Control Warrior is the hardest counter to Aggro Warrior. Any decline in the former was always going to spark growth in the latter.
Note that aggressive Highlander Warrior decks are merged with Aggro Warrior. The reason is that separating them creates a recognition bias, with the biggest symptom being inflation in the win rate of the Highlander deck. This phenomenon occurs in Warlock as well, so Zoo and Highlander Zoo are also merged to prevent a misleading comparison between the two. Since the average length of games of these decks is short, and their card overlap is significant, it’s difficult to consistently differentiate them without relying on the appearance of Zephrys, which is partly responsible for the bias.
Paladin is the third class to see a significant spike in play. Murloc and Quest Paladin are the most common archetypes, followed by Holy-Wrath Paladin. HW Paladin received quite a bit of hype initially but is in the process of fading away.
Combo Priest’s popularity was knocked down due to the nerf to Extra Arms, and we’ve seen Resurrect Priest rise in response. Combo Priest is relatively unrefined and likely needs more time to adjust to the balance changes in order to show how good it can be in the new meta.
Rogue has declined, which makes sense considering the decline of Mage, a class that served as the main prey for Aggro Rogue in the previous meta. In addition, Quest Rogue hasn’t been experimented with to the same extent and enthusiasm as other quest decks.
Zoo Warlock has seen a fair amount of play, trying to take advantage of a meta in which Control Warrior isn’t as prominent. It remains the only common meta deck within the class, since Quest Warlock’s play rate is still quite low.
Straight from the top, Mage crashes to the bottom of the meta. Things are worse than they look considering that the class is continuing to decline every day, and might be close to extinction next week. Highlander Mage looks like the only deck that’s putting up a fight to stay alive.
vS Meta Score
vS Power Rankings Discussion
Murloc Paladin is the frontrunner of this patch, and is the best deck to use for the climb to legend for most players. This isn’t too surprising, but there are a few important things to note:
Initially, the meta has become more favorable for Murloc Paladin, as most of the decks that provided the greatest resistance to it were nerfed and/or dropped in popularity. This could change in the future, with some of the nerfed decks possibly coming back to prominence.
Relatedly, the deck is taking advantage of a relatively unrefined meta. Currently, it displays nearly no bad matchups, but this should gradually change. Other top meta decks are improving their performance against Murloc Paladin every day since they’re still settling into their optimal post-patch builds.
Murloc Paladin has exhibited a low skill ceiling before the patch, and it’s already exhibiting signs of it today, with multiple matchups that show an accelerating decline in its performance at higher ranks. Over time, we expect the deck’s win rate to be curbed, especially at legend.
The deck that we believe is shaping up to be the best in the format is none other than Combo Priest. As we’ve said earlier, Combo Priest’s potential in the post-patch meta has yet to be fully materialized, and it’s better than it looks. At legend, it’s already hit the #1 spot, and many of its seemingly “unfavored” matchups become neutral or positive at higher levels of play. Once players re-learn the deck in its new iteration, and adopt the best performing build, we can’t think of a more obvious Meta Breaker. Its second breakout in Uldum is inevitable.
Warrior is still very good. Aggro Warrior is one of the best ladder decks in the game thanks to favorable outcomes from the balance changes and an immensely strong matchup spread. We also believe that Control Warrior is underplayed. While Dr. Boom was weakened by a hit to its cost, the field has become very welcoming to the archetype, with several aggressive decks rising in play only to become easy prey to the Mad Genius.
Bomb Warrior looks weaker than Control Warrior at the moment, but we don’t see the full picture here. Some of the common builds on ladder don’t reflect Bomb Warrior’s potential, as it needs to forgo removal for aggression in order to perform at its best. Should Control Warrior rise in popularity, suppress the presence of aggressive decks and attract hostility, Bomb Warrior will become a more compelling choice again. We think it’s already strong right now.
While Highlander Hunter’s win rate is still very good at lower ranks, it’s not as well-positioned as it used to be once it hits rank 4 and runs into the most popular post-patch decks. The faster meta is making things a bit more challenging for the archetype, but should Control Warrior and Combo Priest make their expected comebacks, Highlander Hunter’s standing is likely to improve.
The faster meta is giving Mech Hunter bigger problems, with Aggro Warrior’s rising presence proving to be particularly crippling. The deck was much more reliant on Mage’s presence to succeed and losing this matchup hurts.
Let’s talk about quest decks since some of them display promising win rates that suggest they’re here to stay.
Quest Shaman looks quite strong at the moment, but current meta trends are not going in its favor. It doesn’t perform particularly well against most of the decks we expect to see at the top of the meta in the near future, so its win rate could begin to gravitate towards the average. We think it might be a little overvalued considering it’s the most popular deck in the format at the moment.
Quest Druid is showing the most potential since it isn’t as “figured out” as Quest Shaman, and its scope for improvement and flexibility is greater. We wouldn’t be surprised if Quest Druid ended up hitting Tier 1 eventually, depending on how meta trends involving Control Warrior and Combo Priest transpire.
Quest Paladin doesn’t show enough promise to suggest it will be significantly better than before the patch after things settle down. The Priest matchup is still extremely problematic and cancels out the strong Control Warrior matchup. The deck just seems to be too polarizing and one dimensional to be a top meta deck.
Quest Rogue still looks pretty bad and the same can be said for Resurrect Priest (which normally runs the quest). We’re also confident Quest Warlock is still knee-deep in Tier 5. Other quest decks don’t see enough play to confidently evaluate.
Things don’t look too good for Aggro Rogue. While its current win rate is positive, it dips to Tier 3 at legend, suggesting a bleak future in which it crumbles under the weight of Quest Druid and the likely rise of Warrior. Alongside the fall of its best matchup (Mage), Rogue might only get worse, not better.
Zoo Warlock looks stronger than it did before the balance changes, but the big question is, will it be enough to thrive in a more ruthless meta? The deck is notorious for starting strong and falling off. Much like other board flooding decks of its kind (Murloc Shaman is in a similar spot), it will be wishing for the failure of Control Warrior and the success of Quest Druid.
Mage might be done. The nerf to Luna’s Pocket Galaxy and Conjurer’s Calling has exposed a class that didn’t have a particularly deep set of cards and was mostly reliant on those two to do the heavy lifting. Highlander Mage may not look completely terrible right now, but considering that the meta is only going to become more competitive from this point forward, it doesn’t look very promising. It either figures out a different approach from what it’s doing now, or it disappears. As for Cyclone Mage, it’s in a much worse spot. The nerf to Conjurer’s Calling hit it even harder, and it looks very bad statistically.
Class Analysis & Decklists
The balance changes have turned around Quest Shaman’s fortunes. From a fringe deck that could not really compete with its rivals, it has now become the most popular deck in the game, boasting a positive win rate for the first time.
There have been multiple high legend success stories over the past week, and Quest Shaman’s optimal build in the post-patch meta is very close to being found. The most important insight we’ve gathered is that Giggling Inventors are very important, and they should be prioritized over Former Champs. Both minions work well with Mutate and Shudderwock, but Giggling Inventor provides invaluable protection and stalling in the late game. Former Champ doesn’t really fit the deck’s most common burn plan, and is mostly good against Druid.
Generally, we’re quite confident about 29 cards in the build, with the 30th being Former Champ. It could be Zilliax, Siamat, Defender of Argus, Earth Shock or any other tech card you could think of.
While showing signs of being competitively viable, Aggro Shaman and Murloc Shaman haven’t received much attention after the balance changes. They may not be inferior decks to Quest Shaman, so we can’t write them off.
- Shaman Class Radar
- Quest Shaman
- Aggro Shaman
- Murloc Shaman
Highlander Hunter has emerged unscathed from the balance changes and remains one of the strongest decks on ladder. But, the initial faster meta that has resulted from the balance changes has slightly suppressed its win rate.
The faster meta is also the reason why we’ve made a couple of changes to the build this week. Savannah Highmane and Hunter’s Pack have previously been included to battle Control Warriors. With their numbers dropping, we’ve replaced them with Springpaw and Houndmaster. Springpaw helps us fight for early board control against aggressive decks, while Houndmaster can both help us stabilize in the mid-game, and apply immediate pressure against a deck such as Quest Druid. It’s particularly strong as a follow up to Desert Spear, a weapon that’s criminally underplayed on ladder.
The other noticeable Hunter deck, Mech Hunter, has been significantly hurt by the balance changes. The destruction of Mage and the rise of Aggro Warrior and Murloc Paladin puts it in a less favorable spot than it used to be. Mech Hunter has no answer to a turn 5 Tip the Scales, and Warrior can consistently push it off the board, denying the Hunter its magnetized targets.
While Dr. Boom was weakened due to the increase in its cost, it hasn’t stopped the Mad Genius from winning. Warrior’s position in the current meta is very strong, and all of its archetypes continue to flourish.
Initially, we thought Control Warrior was possibly going to take a step back after the patch due to the potential increase of counters to its game plan. But so far, the opposite has occurred. The rise of several aggressive decks has demonstrated that maximizing removal is still a very good plan. In fact, Control Warrior’s win rate hasn’t been drastically hurt by the patch, with the meta becoming more favorable to the archetype, offsetting the nerf to some degree.
Bomb Warrior has fallen to the wayside after the balance changes, but we think this setback is temporary and not reflective of the deck’s potential. The archetype is being held back by builds that are too fixated on removal. Proactive Taunt builds still perform very well, and we suspect that Bomb Warrior will eventually overtake Control Warrior’s performance, especially once the latter grows in popularity and receives a bit more hostility from the field.
Aggro Warrior might be the biggest winner within the class. It was untouched by balance changes but saw the popularity of Control Warrior decline. The Warrior mirror is still a miserable affair, but every other matchup is fair game for Aggro Warrior. We’ve seen different Aggro Warrior builds being tested: Wounded Warrior with Injured Blademaster/Tolvir, and Highlander builds. We estimate they’re inferior to the featured list.
- Warrior Class Radar
- Control Warrior
- Bomb Warrior
- Aggro Warrior
Was it the dream patch for Quest Druid? Yes, it was. Quest Druid has seen the landscape change massively in its favor, becoming one of the strongest archetypes in the format after previously lingering in the gutter. While it still has some notable counters (Paladin, Priest, Warlock), it doesn’t come close to the pre-patch frustration of Galaxy on 5 and Extra Arms on 2. Malfurion is back.
Much experimentation has been done with Quest Druid, and we’ve landed on two slightly different concepts you could choose from, and they differ by 3 flex slots.
The first variant runs Phaoris and Power of the Wild, looking to play faster and pressure opponents earlier, while falling back to Nomi in case it couldn’t end the game with its initial onslaught. This approach is currently the best performing one on ladder since it’s better positioned against faster decks.
The second variant runs Elise and Zephrys, and focuses on the Nomi win condition. This gives Quest Druid a better matchup into slower decks, especially Control Warrior. We think Nomi is pretty important on ladder already, and it should get stronger over time provided current meta trends continue on their trajectory.
For specific card choices, Thalnos is an underrated card that should probably see more play. It can be pretty game-changing alongside Swipe and Starfall, enabling a big board clear against aggressive decks. Meanwhile, Bees are massively overrated. They’re not as helpful against faster decks as you would expect, and are often awkwardly stuck in hand in slower matchups.
We maintain that Nomi is the best win condition available to the archetype. Malygos cannot compare whatsoever, and the same can be said of the Gloop/Bees/Pounce infinite combo.
- Druid Class Radar
- Quest Druid
- Token Druid
As expected, Murloc Paladin benefitted from the patch, and has once again established itself as the premier aggressive deck in the format. Yes, it might be benefitting from the early post-patch meta. At the moment, not a single top meta deck has been able to develop a significant edge against it. We estimate that Warrior, Shaman, and Priest should be able to do so eventually. Nevertheless, Murloc Paladin is still extremely powerful and a reliable ladder climber thanks to its strong matchups against Highlander Hunter and Quest Druid.
Quest Paladin has also benefitted from the balance changes initially, but once again, it’s hard to predict where it will go from here. It continues to perform extremely well against Control Warriors, Quest Druids, and Highlander Hunters, but its performance against Priests and Shamans remains horrendous.
Holy-Wrath Paladin got quite a bit of hype in the first couple of days of the patch, but enthusiasm has died out since. The deck still has an issue in too many matchups, and it’s unlikely to become consistently successful on ladder. After looking into its builds, we think Subdue is a core card and doesn’t see as much play as it should.
- Paladin Class Radar
- Murloc Paladin
- Quest Paladin
- Holy-Wrath Paladin
Combo Priest has been able to shrug off the nerf to Extra Arms and adapt. Although its early game isn’t as explosive anymore, its performance against quest decks put it in a pretty strong position going forward. We expect Combo Priest’s win rate to increase as its post-patch refinement process is still ongoing and quite dramatic.
The main takeway when it comes to card choices is that Extra Arms isn’t worth it. The card is still quite common within the archetype, but its performance has declined to the point where it might even be a liability. Beaming Sidekick has been the most promising replacement. Its buff effect makes it useful at all stages of the game: It helps the Priest snowball early, enables Amet in the mid-game, and increase the reach of Divine Spirit in the late game.
The most surprising development has been the discovery of Bwonsamdi, with which Hunterace hit #1 legend. It’s a very strong draw engine that reinforces the inclusion of both Beaming Sidekick and Lightwarden. With the amount of draw power available, it makes some sense to run two Silences rather than Mass Dispel. Topsy Turvy is also common, but its impact is often overestimated. A 1-1 split between Silence and Topsy is viable.
Resurrect Priest, with the large majority of them including the quest, has raised its head following the balance changes. However, whatever success it had initially, did not last. The archetype is still vulnerable to a wide variety of opponents, making its position in the meta untenable.
Rogue has run into its worst-case scenario following the balance changes. Warrior has remained a pillar of the meta, and whether its Control or Aggro, it’s an extremely painful affair for the Rogue. Mage has completely collapsed, which means Aggro Rogue has lost its most important matchup. Finally, Quest Druid has become a powerhouse, providing yet another crippling matchup that’s nearly as difficult as the matchup against Control Warrior.
Meanwhile, Quest Rogue has failed to show any indication that it can join the post-patch quest renaissance. It didn’t carry the promising matchup spread that Quest Druid and Quest Shaman have exhibited before the balance changes, as both were mostly limited by Mage and Priest.
Indeed, nothing is going Rogue’s way, and it’s expected to nosedive in popularity to the bottom of the meta. Aggro Rogue is still serviceable and competitive on ladder, but it will likely be overshadowed in the presence of better options. Valeera could be entering one of her darker ages.
The balance changes have presented an opportunity for Zoo Warlock to claim a more prominent spot in the meta. Initially, it has looked better than before the patch, but we think question marks remain regarding its ability to maintain its performance level.
Zoo Warlock’s main niche seems to be its strong matchup into Quest Druid. However, it doesn’t perform particularly well against other top meta decks, and should Control Warrior rise again, the situation might take a turn for the worse.
In terms of builds, there are two main approaches to Zoo. The most common variant runs the Thrasher/Vulture package, sometimes alongside other self-damaging effects such as Spirit Bomb and Crystallizer. This variant is mostly focused on beating Quest Druid. The less common variant is the one that maximizes the Lackey package, alongside Tekhan. This variant is much better at utilizing EVIL Recruiters, and has a more balanced matchup spread. We’re featuring the latter, as it’s estimated to be stronger overall (and still good against Quest Druid). Highlander variants, so far, have proven to be inferior to normal Zoo.
Slower Warlock decks, including Quest Warlock, still look dead in the water. Don’t expect to see any of them become relevant until the next expansion.
At least on the surface, Mage looks dead. The class has completely collapsed as a result of the balance changes and is not showing real signs of competitiveness. Turns out that the class was carried by a couple of cards, and the moment they got nerfed, there was nothing left.
This is particularly true for both Cyclone Mage and Big-Spell Mage, which look like dumpster fires right now. There is little chance we will see them come back in the current meta, considering that their estimated win rates are in deep Tier 5 territory.
However, we think Highlander Mage may have a chance of not being terrible. The archetype’s current problem is that nearly everyone is still playing the pre-patch builds, including Luna’s Pocket Galaxy and a clunky late-game curve. This isn’t working out very well. A build that drops the greedy Big-Spell package, and tries to have a more balanced curve, may have more success in the current meta. We’re featuring the build we’ve theorycrafted in our article about the balance changes, and we wonder how it would perform in a larger sample. But still… don’t hold your breath.
How dare Team 5 nerf the first viable Priest deck in months?!
Well, if Combo Priest still had Extra Arms at 2 mana, the deck would likely be absurdly broken right now, so we might have dodged a bullet. Even without Extra Arms, we expect Combo Priest to become the deck to beat over the next week, especially at higher levels of play, where its high skill ceiling is already beginning to show again.
The new iteration of Combo Priest feels slightly different than before. The early game isn’t as explosive. Beaming Sidekick fulfills a similar role to Extra Arms in snowballing early leads, but doesn’t provide damage unless utilized with Inner Fire. Bwonsamdi has been a terrific discovery, one that fits Beaming Sidekick into the deck and keeps Lightwarden around despite the loss of Arms. Playing Bwonsamdi can set up a disgusting Amet turn that’s very difficult to answer, for example.
There are other card choices that could prove to be worthwhile to consider, usually replacing either a Silence and/or an Acolyte of Pain. Holy Ripple boosts aggressive matchups, and can always be slotted in if you’re looking to improve there. Potion Vendor is a card that has yet to see widespread play, but further fuels the Bwonsamdi package and has great synergy with the rest of the deck. So there’s still some room to explore, but this is the blueprint of success.
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