vS Data Reaper Report #146

A weekly Hearthstone Meta Report based on data from 25,000 games.

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Welcome to the 146th edition of the Data Reaper Report!

Our Data Reaper Project, including the Data Reaper Live has 3,500 active contributors and we thank them wholeheartedly. Contributing to the Data Reaper project through Track-o-Bot or Hearthstone Deck Tracker (recommended) allows us to perform our analyses and to issue the weekly reports. Without the community’s contribution, there would be no project. Contributing data is very easy and takes a few simple steps, after which no other action is required. If you enjoy our content and would like to make sure it remains consistent and free- Sign Up!

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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

Number of Games

Overall 25,000
Legend 6,000
Ranks 1-4 9,000
Ranks 5-9 8,000
Ranks 10-14 2,000

Class/Archetype Distribution

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Class Frequency

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A Wild Data Reaper is scheduled for November 10th!

Class Frequency Discussion

The rise of Shamans has finally stopped, and it sits between 30% and 35% from rank 4 to legend. At the rank 4-1 bracket, Quest Shaman makes up over 20% of the field. At legend, Aggro Shaman becomes relatively more common, narrowing the gap on Quest Shaman. We’ve also noticed that Aggro Shaman is going through significant experimentation, even at this stage of the expansion, which is in stark contrast to the “solved” Quest Shaman.

Rogue has jumped over Priest to become the 2nd most popular class in the format. Last week’s meta breaker, Tempo Rogue, has risen at all levels of play. It is now the 4th most popular deck at higher levels, following the Shaman duo and Quest Druid. Deathrattle Rogue is in decline, since as we’ve said last week, it’s a pretty bad deck.

Both Priest archetypes have fallen in play, suggesting more difficult times for the class in the aftermath of Rogue’s rise. Combo Priest suffers greatly against Tempo Rogue, and despite initially looking very promising as an answer to Quest Shaman, the Rogue matchup seems to be swaying players away from the deck.

The transition in Quest Druid continues: players are moving away from the Malygos build, in favor of either the Nomi build or the Banker build. Both have proven to perform better in the current meta. We’ll see how this affects the archetype’s win rate later.

There is a small decline in Paladins, perhaps another trend caused by the rise of Tempo Rogue, a deck that performs well against both Highlander Paladin and Holy-Wrath Paladin.

Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve seen very few attempts to shake up the Hunter class. It boasts one deck that’s pretty strong (Highlander Hunter), but there’s not much else around.

The Big-Spell variant of Highlander Mage has risen in play to compete with N’Zoth, but Mage isn’t showing any signs of a real breakthrough. The same can be said for Warrior, which is looking very stagnant.

Warlock is seeing slightly more play this week as a result of players experimenting with a new Quest Warlock build that runs the Highkeeper Ra combo (Glinda/Mogu Cultists). Could this be the deck that elevates Warlock to a competitive spot? Only in your dreams.

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vS Meta Score

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vS Power Rankings Discussion

The concerns we’ve had last week have proven to be concrete. Tempo Rogue has dealt a big blow to Combo Priest, but despite its overall strength against the field, it is failing to gain an edge in the Shaman matchups. Rogue’s issue is that it has zero counterplay to Hare/Evolve, so even though it can win “fair” games against Shaman, Shaman “cheats” too often by getting this combo off early.

This is causing meta paralysis in which the Shaman decks have become clearly better than the competition at higher levels of play, and there is nothing that truly keeps them in check. At legend, they are the only Tier 1 decks. In addition, Aggro Shaman is now telling us that it hasn’t even reached its final form. Fruitful refinement has improved many of its matchups, and its global win rate keeps climbing. It seems to be establishing itself as the “1A”, the slightly superior deck, to Quest Shaman’s “1B”. It performs better than Quest Shaman against Combo Priest, Tempo Rogue, and Quest Druid. Those matchups matter more than the existence of its one hard counter in Control Warrior, a deck that’s relatively uncommon on ladder, and isn’t doing too great either.

A deck that’s capitalizing on what’s happening in the current meta is Quest Druid. The transition away from Malygos Druid is one factor that’s causing the archetype’s win rate to rise, but another factor is Rogue’s suppression of Priest. Combo Priest is Quest Druid’s biggest nemesis, while it can handle Tempo Rogue fairly well. It’s the perfect scenario for the deck.

When you evaluate the other decks ranging at Tier 2 and Tier 3 from rank 4 onwards, Shaman’s effect on the meta becomes easy to explain and interesting to expand upon.

Quest Shaman’s powerful and near-infinite resource generation is forcing the meta to get aggressive and try to prevent it from reaching its late game. Quest Druid has a similarly powerful late game that demands the same kind of aggression. You don’t want these decks to ever stabilize because they’re so difficult to outlast. These are your “meta defining” late game strategies.

Combo Priest, Aggro Rogue, Aggro Warrior, Highlander Paladin, Highlander Hunter and Murloc Shaman are good examples of decks that can pressure Quest Shaman effectively, but only Combo Priest can do that consistently because its snowball potential is far more ridiculous. The other decks find the Quest Shaman matchup to be coin flippy. Most importantly, they’re never “in control”.

The reason is that since all of these decks are initiative-focused (need to develop minions, and don’t have good AOE/stalling/removal), they don’t have any counterplay to Hare/Fleshshaper/Evolve. They have to play right into it and pray. This makes them even more susceptible to Aggro Shaman, which has superior early game removal compared to the more passive Quest Shaman, and draws its Evolve combo more consistently thanks to an extra card in the mulligan and Spirit of the Frog. It’s the anti-aggro, Aggro deck.

So the way to succeed in the current meta without playing Shaman, is to pressure Shaman and pray they don’t draw into their Evolve swing turn. A deck that attempts to play more defensively will usually find itself in Tier 3 because it cannot handle Quest Shaman’s late game and, if it plays N’Zoth, gets destroyed by Mind Control Tech (Highlander Mage, Resurrect Priest, Control Warrior).

We will note that in the case of Control Warrior, the older Taunt build which does not run N’Zoth fares better on ladder in general (and against Shamans specifically), and is likely a Tier 2 deck.

Zoo Warlock’s win rate has increased for another week and, jokes aside, it doesn’t look that bad anymore. However, there is little chance it will see more play in the future, because its role in the meta is non-existent. It’s an aggressive deck that hard loses to Quest Shaman, which keeps it completely irrelevant.

Class Analysis & Decklists

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

Data Reaper Report - Shaman

Shaman’s presence on ladder is extremely overbearing, though thankfully the class has finally reached saturation and isn’t growing further. Both Quest Shaman and Aggro Shaman are the two most dominant decks in the game, thanks in large part to Evolve and its notorious combo with Desert Hare.

Aggro Shaman has seen interesting development this week, with Mr.Yagut (as well as others who followed) taking a Doomhammer build into top legend ranks. Rather than prioritizing board flooding in order to finish opponents off with Bloodlust, this variant attempts to abuse Spirit of the Frog in order to tap into direct damage burst combos. From our early impressions of the deck, this approach looks very strong and certainly merits play. It vastly improves matchups against slower, defensive decks such as Control Warrior, Quest Druid and Highlander Mage. It does come with a sacrifice in faster matchups, including the mirror, since we aren’t as focused on the board.

Meanwhile, BoarControl hit #1 legend by running the standard Bloodlust variant with double Lightning Storm. Storm is mostly a mirror tech, which is extremely common at high legend ranks, but it’s not a mandatory card for most of ladder. Consider it interchangeable with Haunting Visions.

Data Reaper Report - Rogue

Rogue has risen in popularity further, becoming one of the standout classes in the current meta. Tempo Rogue has proven to be worthy of its Meta Breaker label, seeing widespread success at higher levels of play, both on ladder and in tournaments.

While Tempo Rogue does not reliably beat Shamans, it is capable of succeeding in its presence. We’re very confident that last week’s featured build is the best take on the archetype. Questing Adventurers are incredibly valuable against both Quest Druid and Quest Shaman. Specifically, Tempo Rogue has undergone remarkable improvement in its performance against Quest Druid thanks to the rising popularity of QA’s, and we now consider this matchup to be only slightly unfavored.

Aggro Rogue has also improved in its performance this week, mostly because it does well in the mirror against Tempo Rogue. Rogue mirrors are usually very volatile, which gives the edge to the faster, burn-centric deck. However, Tempo Rogue still looks like a stronger deck throughout most of ladder, which makes Aggro Rogue difficult to justify despite its good win rate.

Data Reaper Report - Druid

Quest Druid is benefiting from recent meta trends that have seen Tempo Rogue rise. While the matchup against Rogue has become more difficult lately, it’s still Druid favored. When you add Rogue’s role in suppressing Combo Priest and Highlander Paladin, two of Quest Druid’s worst matchups, it becomes clear that things couldn’t turn out better for Malfurion.

The featured build is what we generally recommend for ladder, with the Baleful Banker tech offering a strong alternative to Nomi. With Baleful Banker, Quest Druid becomes a pure fatigue deck, which is an enticing proposition against decks such as Control Warrior, Highlander Mage and Resurrect Priest. In contrast, Nomi and Cenarius provide the deck with immediate win buttons, which is more valuable against Hunters, Shamans and other Druids.

Data Reaper Report - Priest

Valeera might be one of Anduin’s most loyal allies in lore, but when they take a break from world affairs to play some Hearthstone, she gives him a very hard time.

Combo Priest has been struck hard by Tempo Rogue’s popularity, and it no longer exhibits the kind of dominance we’re used to seeing from the deck since Saviors of Uldum’s launch. With several reliable counters available, including its notable struggles against Aggro Shaman, Combo Priest’s matchup spread just isn’t as enticing as it used to be.

Resurrect Priest will continue to be just barely okay. The Hakkar/Elysiana build has recently gained more traction on ladder and is worth considering over the older, Sylvanas/Rag build. The main benefit of running Hakkar is its inevitability in slow matchups: it is very effective against Quest Druids (since they usually try to draw their whole deck), Control Warriors (even if they run Elysiana themselves) and other Resurrect Priests. Just don’t expect this build to do any better against Quest Shamans, as those are still annoying to contend with regardless of what your late-game plan is.

Data Reaper Report - Paladin

Highlander Paladin is another victim of Tempo Rogue’s success. Highlander decks are generally perceived to be flexible and able to adjust to specific matchups with certain tech choices, but there’s no real answer to Rogue. The problem in this matchup is that Rogue is so much more effective at seizing the board, and from that point, it’s very difficult for the Paladin to ever come back. Highlander Paladin punishes passivity (example: Quest Druid), but faces a hard time when the opponent is able to aggressively contest its development of the board. It also doesn’t help that Paladin’s late-game threats are easily answered by Sap, putting it further behind on initiative.

Holy-Wrath Paladin has a small edge against both Shaman decks. However, it’s a terribly polarizing deck that completely rolls over to Quest Druid and also struggles against the rising Tempo Rogue. It’s a very questionable ladder choice unless Shamans makes up well over 50% of your opponents.

Data Reaper Report - Mage

Mage’s steady improvement over the last couple of weeks seems to have been halted. Some players anticipated Highlander Mage to become a stronger force in the current meta thanks to the newly emerging Big-Spell build, but this doesn’t appear to be the case, as it’s about as strong as the N’Zoth build on ladder.

There are some differences between them, so we think they’re important to note. Big-Spell Highlander Mage maximizes performance in the Shaman matchups. The deck is built to finish games early against Quest Shaman, before it’s overwhelmed by the opponent’s generation of resources, by passing over the board through the Naga/Pyroblast finish. This is also why Luna’s Pocket Galaxy is more important to the deck. Despite not being as dense with threats, the deck heavily relies on blowout turns to finish games because its late game is actually quite weak.

N’Zoth Highlander Mage is a more grindy deck, and can afford to take things slow, which is why it performs better against Quest Druid, Highlander Hunter and Control Warrior. It is built for a war of attrition in which it slowly bleeds out the opponent, but as we’ve repeatedly said before, N’Zoth is not very effective in an attrition war against Quest Shaman because of Mind Control Tech.

Data Reaper Report - Hunter

Highlander Hunter is the only deck that’s keeping the Hunter class relevant in the current meta, but recent meta trends have weakened it. While it is successful across all levels of play, it does have a more difficult time at the top end of ladder since it doesn’t reliably beat most of the best meta decks, including the rising Tempo Rogue. This makes the deck a little difficult to justify, as its positive win rate is mostly a product of beating the “lesser” decks.

There are also signs of its skill ceiling being relatively limiting: it is gradually getting worse in several matchups over time, and it’s exhibiting a negative matchup disparity across different levels of play.

Data Reaper Report - Warrior

Warrior remains a competitive class but one that’s not close to the level exhibited by the best decks. Both Aggro Warrior and Control Warrior have flaws that prevent them from being exceedingly successful on ladder.

Aggro Warrior is the best deck within the class, since it can contend with Shamans, Druids, Rogues and Combo Priests quite well. It has a few matchups that are problematic, but it’s not hard countered by any top tier deck.

Control Warrior is a very polarizing deck, but it may never show what it’s truly capable of doing in the current meta due to the leakage of N’Zoth builds from tournament play into ladder. As we’ve said last week, these builds are just not suitable for a Quest Shaman meta whatsoever, and are basically a dumpster fire. We estimate that the old Taunt Control Warrior sits at around the 50% win rate mark, is perfectly viable, and has decent matchups into both Shaman decks (close vs. Quest, heavily favored vs. Aggro). The option is also there to tech harder against big boards through Whirlwind and two Plagues of Wrath.

Data Reaper Report - Warlock

Gul’dan’s decks have become so offensive that other classes have opened an impeachment inquiry against him. Gul’dan’s crimes involve betraying the interests of his own class for memes. But, to his credit, he’s actually smart and competent in his role.

He also wouldn’t get booed in a baseball game.

Data Reaper Report - Meta Breaker

Last week, we’ve decided to ban Shaman from this section. Therefore, we will not recommend you to play Aggro Shaman, which looks like the best deck on ladder right now. We will also not tell you that either variant of Aggro Shaman is strong, because they both play Desert Hare, Mogu Fleshshaper, Spirit of the Frog and Evolve.

So seriously, do not play Aggro Shaman.

Our actual Meta Breaker section is dedicated to Blizzcon, which is starting tomorrow. While an announcement of the next expansion is expected, as long-time players and content creators for the game, we’re hoping to hear about more than just new cards. The game needs a new breath of life, as it may face its biggest challenge yet in 2020.

See you tomorrow.

Our Data Reaper Project, including the Data Reaper Live has 3,500 active contributors. Without them, this project would not be possible, so we’d like to thank all of our contributors for their help.

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