vS Data Reaper Report #152

A weekly Hearthstone Meta Report based on data from 45,000 games.

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Welcome to the 152nd 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

Number of Games

Overall 45,000
Legend 12,000
Ranks 1-4 15,000
Ranks 5-9 15,000
Ranks 10-14 3,000

Class/Archetype Distribution

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Class Frequency

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Class Frequency Discussion

Galakrond’s Awakening is underway and we’ll be discussing the weekly meta of every chapter, starting with the first that was released on January 21st. Be aware that this report does not include data from chapter 2, which came out just a couple of days ago on the 28th. Our intention is to have a clean analysis of every chapter, which would provide you with the best picture of what has occurred as a result of every card release.

Chapter 1 started with a bang. A massive meta shift has transpired as a result of Embiggen Druid’s rise, with a new build that incorporates Winged Guardian. The archetype has transformed from a barely visible and mediocre player in the meta, into the most popular strategy in the format. Token Druid remains moderately popular. Beast Druid builds have popped up, utilizing Winged Guardian alongside other big beasts and Witching Hour. Quest Druid’s presence is fringe.

While Rogue remains very popular, it has significantly declined in chapter 1. The split between Highlander and Galakrond Rogue is also very noticeable. Galakrond Rogue is much more popular at higher levels of play, while Highlander’s play rate is stable across rank brackets.

Hunter has established itself as the 3rd most popular class in the format. Highlander Hunter has risen to become the most popular archetype, while Face Hunter has declined. Though still uncommon, Quest Hunter is beginning to appear more frequently, with its play rate exceeding 2% at legend.

Warrior has fallen pretty hard. Pirate Warrior is now barely visible while Galakrond Warrior has dropped to a modest presence. Highlander Warrior, which started to appear before Chapter 1, can be seen running defensive Control builds.

The three Warlock archetypes are still around, and none of them has displayed any changes this week. Zoo and Handlock are more common outside of legend, while Control Warlock is the most popular deck at legend.

There is no movement in Mage, as the class is still centered on its Highlander archetype. Paladin hasn’t seen any changes either, with Mech Paladin being the most noticeable archetype in a sea of jank.

Shaman has sunk into the bottom of the meta, with its play rate at legend dropping under 2%. After suffering from multiple balance changes, the class looks kinda dead.

Matchup Win Rates Header

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Power Rankings Header

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vS Meta Score

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vS Power Rankings Discussion

Embiggen Druid has unseated Galakrond Rogue from its position as the top meta deck, which is an impressive accomplishment. Embiggen Druid has emerged as the most difficult matchup yet for Galakrond Rogue, which is the key to its own success as well as the decline in Rogue’s performance. While we expect to see Rogue adjust to the new threat and gain some percentages against Druid, it is clear that Embiggen Druid has successfully broken the meta and established a new standard.

While Galakrond Rogue is still a top tier deck, we can’t say the same for Highlander Rogue. Its matchup spread looks good at first glance, but it is unfavored against both Embiggen Druid and Galakrond Rogue. Those two decks make up such a big portion of the meta that it’s hard for Highlander Rogue to make up for the deficits they inflict.

Token Druid is a very powerful deck at lower ranks. It has a good matchup against Embiggen Druid because it can get to the board faster, snowball and punish Embiggen’s lack of AOE. The deck tapers off at higher levels because its Rogue matchups become more difficult.

Highlander Hunter sits at Tier 1 in every rank bracket, looking like one of the strongest decks in the game. It is noticeably vulnerable to aggressive decks (and the unique Resurrect Priest), but unless you overwhelm the Hunter in the early game, you’re going to have a challenge. The deck’s matchup spread is simply very good, going toe to toe with both Embiggen Druid and Galakrond Rogue.

Face Hunter is a victim of Embiggen Druid’s success. This matchup is surprisingly tough, as the Druid has a multitude of taunts that can stop the Hunter in its tracks. Quest Hunter has finally popped into the Power Rankings, and it looks very good. It is the strongest counter to Galakrond Rogue besides Embiggen Druid, while its matchup against the Druid is close. How many times are we going to mention that Quest Hunter is underrated and underplayed? It’s becoming a weekly thing.

Warlock might be the best counter class for Embiggen Druid, as all of its archetypes display a positive win rate against it at the moment, with Zoo Warlock offering the hardest counter. Handlock is suffering from poor Hunter/Rogue matchups that drop it to Tier 3, but both of the Galakrond decks still look quite good.

Warrior is another casualty of Embiggen Druid, as all of its archetypes struggle against it. But unlike Rogue, Warrior didn’t have an initially lofty position that cushioned the blow. While Pirate Warrior’s win rate is currently higher, it’s still falling as this article is being written. Meanwhile, Galakrond Warrior can stabilize in Tier 2 if it makes some improvements in its most common builds (Hey guys, can you drop Battle Rage already? Thanks). We’re not too impressed with Highlander Warrior either.

So what’s the hardest counter to Embiggen Druid? Turns out that Resurrect Priest has a new role in the meta in beating the new meta tyrant. The problem is that Rogue is still too common for comfort, which means Resurrect Priest’s win rate cannot be significantly better than the average, and it stays lower than the average at higher levels of play. Combo Priest remains an underplayed Tier 2 deck.

Highlander Mage is not enjoying the current meta. As long as Rogue and Hunter are as popular as they are, it’s unlikely that you’ll see this deck rise from the bottom of Tier 3. It’s hard to be a control deck with limited life gain when you’re facing these matchups regularly.

Mech Paladin looks quite strong this week, and we think it deserves more attention after this week’s meta shift. It benefits from good matchups against the two rising decks of the current meta (Embiggen Druid, Highlander Hunter) and the decline in the Rogue population. Paladin might be a forgotten class, but it has a competitive ladder option.

Shaman went from 100 to 0 really quickly. Not only did it lose one of the most dominant ladder decks, it doesn’t seem to even possess a competitive ladder deck. Galakrond Shaman looks dead, and Aggro Shaman disappeared. Is this it for the class or will the adventure cards save the day?

Class Analysis & Decklists

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

Data Reaper Report - Rogue

Rogue remains one of the strongest and most popular classes in the game, but its reign at the top of the meta has been put under serious threat by the meteoric rise of Embiggen Druid.

Embiggen Druid presents the most difficult matchup yet for Galakrond Rogue. Druid can exert significant pressure on the Rogue, and many of its minions cannot be targeted by Rogue’s removal spells. With this in mind, we’ve seen a shift in the success of the flex slots in the deck. Faceless Corruptor has become more valuable due to its ability to fight for the board and offer minion-based removal against Embiggen Druid’s onslaught. Meanwhile, Lifedrinkers are not as useful in the current meta.

Highlander Rogue remains a noticeably weaker deck, and it also faces the same issue as Galakrond Rogue with Embiggen Druid’s rise. Zephrys offers unique ways to escape Druid’s attack, but the deck doesn’t have great ways to adjust to this matchup. We wouldn’t change anything about the build from its pre-adventure days.

Malygos Rogue is a meme that shouldn’t be utilized for serious competitive play. Other than making Resurrect Priests suffer, it has no useful traits.

Data Reaper Report - Druid

Druid is responsible for one of the most dramatic meta shifts we’ve ever seen. Chapter 1 of Galakrond’s Awakening has sparked an incredible Embiggen Druid takeover, and the deck has become the most popular strategy in the game.

This rise was born from Winged Guardian’s release, but was this card solely responsible for Embiggen Druid’s vastly improved performance? Our internal analysis suggests that while it is a good card in the deck, it cannot be the only reason for the deck’s newfound success. What Winged Guardian did was inspire a new build of Embiggen Druid that runs Strength in Numbers alongside a multitude of strong summon targets such as Injured Tol’vir and Evasive Feywing.

Strength in Numbers has proven to be an incredible performer in the new build, and can be grouped with Embiggen, Breath of Dreams and Frizz Kindleroost as the best cards in the deck. These are also the only cards you care about having in your opening hand (nearly always true), so be greedy in your mulligan and find at least one of them. We’re aware that many builds do not run Frizz, but they clearly should.

Token Druid feels left behind, but it’s still a viable alternative with a good matchup against Embiggen Druid. It noticeably declines at higher levels, but it rules the format from rank 5 down.

Data Reaper Report - Hunter

Hunter continues to build on its good standing in the meta. It boasts three competitive archetypes with different strengths and weaknesses.

Highlander Hunter has eclipsed Face Hunter to become the most popular Hunter deck thanks to its well-rounded matchup spread. The Dragon build remains very successful in the first week of Galakrond’s awakening and gives Embiggen Druid a good run for its money.

Face Hunter doesn’t perform particularly well against Druid, so its stock has somewhat fallen over the last week. Decent matchups against Rogue keep it relevant in the meta, but remember that these matchups become more difficult at higher levels of play.

Quest Hunter has risen in play, but its numbers are still quite low when you consider its power level. It is the best performing Hunter deck against both Galakrond Rogue and Embiggen Druid, so it has meta breaking potential. We’ve seen Boommaster Flark rise in popularity and displace Shu’ma from the deck, while Licensed Adventurer is a new addition that offers a strong turn 2 play alongside Questing Explorer. Sea Giants have declined in play due to the pre-adventure success of Furyhunter running the Flark/Menace variant, but giants have only grown in strength as a result of Embiggen Druid’s rise. They perform exceptionally well in this matchup.

Data Reaper Report - Warrior

The Druid domination has negatively affected Warrior’s standing in the meta. Embiggen Druid is a difficult matchup for all Warrior archetypes since the class struggles to deal with bloated minions, especially ones with taunt such as Winged Guardian.

Galakrond Warrior is certainly not as good as it used to be before the balance changes and the rise of Druid. One positive addition to the deck is Bomb Wrangler, which offers a very strong turn 3 play for the deck. We’re also impressed with Frothing Berserker, a card we’ve recommended in the last report and has become even stronger since, as it performs incredibly well against Druid. We haven’t seen any builds that run both Wrangler and Frothing, but that’s exactly what we suggest doing.

Pirate Warrior has fallen off the map since the adventure’s launch. It still looks like a serviceable deck, but its complete disappearance at higher levels of play does not bode well for its future.

Highlander Warrior has emerged before the adventure’s release and continued to grow in popularity since. However, the deck’s matchup spread isn’t very promising. It struggles against other Highlander decks, while its strong matchups have become less relevant  (Control Warlock, Face Hunter, Resurrect Priest).

Data Reaper Report - Warlock

Warlock may have declined in popularity, but the class is still in a decent spot and all three of its archetypes have survived the meta shift. It helps that all of them perform pretty well against Embiggen Druid.

Control Warlock enjoys decent matchups against Rogue and dominates board-centric flood decks that fall prey to its powerful AOE effects. The deck’s weakness is prolonged late-game matchups where it’s susceptible to being fatigued. Nothing has changed about its optimal build, which was figured out shortly after the archetype’s emergence.

Zoo Warlock performs best against Embiggen Druid, as it is usually able to outpace it and take over the board. Zoo has been fairly neglected in the last couple of weeks. It doesn’t have outstanding qualities, but it also doesn’t have glaring weaknesses.

Handlock might be the weakest of the three since it has the most difficult time against Rogue and Hunter, two of the most popular classes in the format.

Data Reaper Report - Mage

Mage remains in a pretty bad spot. Highlander Mage is the only remotely competitive deck for the class, and it hasn’t had a good week. While the matchup against Embiggen Druid is right down the middle, it cannot escape the fact that it can’t beat Rogues with any consistency, and it performs horribly against Hunters.

Those issues also explain why the featured build is the best one to take to ladder. You have to focus on survival and get those two classes off your face, so taunts are very important.

We’ve been following attempts to revive Cyclone Mage by running an elemental build with Animated Avalanche, but the archetype still looks atrocious. It’s not even a worthwhile meme to include in the report. We draw the line at Tier 7.

Data Reaper Report - Priest

From being a one-trick pony that was mostly around to beat down Face Hunters, Resurrect Priest’s role in the meta has grown. It is the strongest counter available to Embiggen Druid, performs well against Highlander Hunter and continues to frustrate Galakrond Warrior. The matchup spread certainly looks a little better for Priest.

Of course, the massive Rogue problem is still there, so Resurrect Priest is a deck that most players at higher levels of play will not favor. But outside of legend, where Hunters and Druids are more prevalent, Resurrect Priest becomes quite a decent option to climb ladder with.

Other Priest decks are still hardly noticeable. Combo Priest is more suitable to the meta at legend because of its higher skill cap and better matchup into Rogue. It’s not a meta breaker by any means, but it’s certainly a little underrated.

Data Reaper Report - Paladin

Paladin is in a very weird spot. Mech Paladin looks like a very strong ladder deck that merits more play, but the player base cares little for it. While there are signs it’s not as strong at the top end of ladder, it still looks better than Face Hunter, for example. Perhaps, it just doesn’t display the same SMOrcy charm.

Meanwhile, every other Paladin archetype looks far away from being a viable deck, and the class has completely stagnated. Air Raid is a decent card but it’s not a miracle worker, and a miracle worker is kind of what Paladin needs to discover other viable decks.

Data Reaper Report - Shaman

Shaman is in very bad shape. It is now the least popular class in the game, and its “plethora” of strategies look even worse than what Paladin has at its disposal. Indeed, the balance changes may have gutted Galakrond Shaman to the point of no return, while Aggro Shaman looks underwhelming.

Thrall has caused plenty of chaos throughout the month of December, but he has reached the end of the line and now returns to familiar timelines of Shaman irrelevance. The Fist of Ra-Den needs to have an explosive effect on Shaman’s fortunes, or else.

Data Reaper Report - Meta Breaker

Embiggen Druid shattered the Rogue-dominant meta into pieces, and there’s now a trio of classes that shape the current landscape. At the higher end of ladder, the top 3 have settled into Embiggen Druid, Highlander Hunter, and Galakrond Rogue.

If we had to pick a deck that could add itself to this equation, it would probably be Quest Hunter. It has an excellent matchup against Galakrond Rogue, and close matchups against the other two. There is only one deck that gives it serious problems, and it’s a deck that’s currently on the decline (Face Hunter).

We’ve been saying for quite a while now that Quest Hunter isn’t getting enough attention, so what would finally drive up this deck’s play rate? It might not be popular because it runs some niche legendaries you wouldn’t normally want to craft, but none of them are essential to the deck.

Perhaps the release of Sky Gen’ral Kragg next week, following the addition of Licensed Adventurer last week, is what’s going to blow the deck up by pushing out these niche cards and making the deck more affordable.

Our Data Reaper Project, including the Data Reaper Live has 3,000 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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  1. Murloc Shaman has legs against Druid but still struggles with Rogue. It’s a nice choice if you want to farm fast games againt Druid and it also works well vs warlock and priest. They can’t out heal it and it gets running from turn 1 so they don’t have the time to develop their late-game plan.

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