Welcome to the 159th edition of the Data Reaper Report! This is the first report for Ashes of Outland and reflects the meta after the quick balance changes to Demon Hunter on April 8th.
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Number of Games
|Diamond 4 to 1||30,000|
|Diamond 10 to 5||31,000|
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Class Frequency Discussion
Demon Hunter entered the meta with a bang. The biggest bang. Before the quick balance changes that arrived only a day after the launch of Ashes of Outland, the class’ popularity ranged between 50% and 60% across all leagues (!!!). We’ve never seen anything like it. It was the combination of the player base’s excitement in trying out the new class, and the class’ power level being completely broken. After the nerfs, Demon Hunter declined to a more ‘modest’ play rate of around 30%, which is typical of the normally oppressive and overpowered classes we’ve seen throughout Hearthstone’s history. Just another day at the office.
Aggro Demon Hunter is the most popular archetype in the format, and it is adjusting to the balance changes and shifting its builds from the Antaen/Priestess theorycrafted list we’ve featured on this website (that ended up completely taking over the game and destroying everyone), to a faster build that utilizes Warglaives of Azzinoth. We also see Combo Demon Hunter, running the Kael’thas/Inner Demon finisher, which is more popular at legend. Highlander Demon Hunter was hyped after the theorycrafting streams, so it was also a fairly noticeable deck during the first week of AoO. Token Demon Hunter exists because it’s f2p btw.
Warlock has established itself as the second most popular class in the game thanks to Control Warlock’s ability to challenge Aggro Demon Hunter’s dominance. It was quickly perceived to be a good matchup largely thanks to Sacrifical Pact, a card that has had a massive impact on the current meta. Zoo Warlock is still around, experimenting with Imprisoned Scrap Imp builds, but its play rate is quite low throughout ladder.
Druid sits in third place with two primary archetypes. Spell Druid has made a lot of noise with a core of Fungal Fortunes/Glowfly Swarm/Kael’thas. Big Druid has emerged in place of Embiggen Druid, essentially shedding the 0-mana build-around spell and upping its curve for Overgrowth instead.
In Rogue, dedicated Secret and Stealth decks have quickly fallen to the wayside. The previously established archetypes, Galakrond and Highlander, are the ones seeing play. Both are experimenting with the stealth and secret packages, and neither archetype has figured out which approach is best.
Priest is also coalescing into two primary archetypes. We’ve got the old Resurrect Priest with some new additions, but the deck is mostly playing out the same way as it did before. Highlander Priest is less popular and more experimental, with players attempting to figure out a way for the class to stay relevant.
Spell Mage is fairly popular at lower leagues, but its presence diminishes as you continue to climb ladder, which is usually a sign that it’s not very successful. Highlander is the more established deck, attempting to solidify a new build. Once again, we have a class that’s mostly looking to get carried by Zephrys and Dragonqueen Alexstrasza to stay relevant.
Hunter has drastically dropped in play after the expansion’s launch. The class exhibits quite a bit of diversity in its deck choices. We see the familiar Dragon and Highlander archetypes. Face Hunter is attempting to make a comeback, and it’s currently the most popular Hunter deck. Various Beast and Quest builds are also around in very low numbers.
Shaman is trying out various things. There are three different archetypes that are attempting to utilize Galakrond, so we avoided calling one of them by this name, as it was becoming very confusing. There are Control Galakrond Shamans, Quest Galakrond Shamans and Evolve Galakrond Shamans. Another distinct archetype is Totem Shaman, which started popping up very recently to take advantage of Totemic Reflection.
Paladin has quickly sunk to the bottom of the meta. We’ve seen attempts to experiment with both Pure and Control Paladins that utilize the Libram package, but they have quickly fizzled out. There are also Murloc Paladins lurking, but the class failed to establish a single archetype in the current meta, at least for now.
Warrior is fractured into many archetypes, but much like Paladin, nothing has gained significant traction yet. The most noticeable deck that has recently increased in popularity at legend is Enrage Warrior, running a Bloodsworn Mercenary package with Serpent Eggs and Teron Gorefiend.
vS Meta Score
vS Power Rankings Discussion
Despite the first set of balance changes, Aggro Demon Hunter is still broken as hell. It displays both a win rate and a play rate of an oppressive archetype at historical levels. It’s up there with Jade Druid in KFT, Midrange Shaman in ONiK, Even Paladin in WW and Galakrond Shaman in DoD. We could argue that it is stronger than all of these decks, considering it is continuing to refine and improve even further.
Demon Hunter is simply crushing the meta, and this report’s Meta Score is a fantastic example of what happens when things go wrong. Aggro DH has the maximum Meta Score at every league, and it’s so far ahead of every other deck that it is pushing the rest of the field deep into the bottom left corner of the Meta Score graph, symbolizing its complete and utter dominance. Basically, Illidan is flexing on these fools.
In Aggro Demon Hunter’s matchup spread, the green color is everywhere. The deck basically beats everything, except for one noticeable deck that also happens to be the second best deck in the game and the only other Tier 1 performer at or beyond Diamond 4. Control Warlock is the only common opponent that seems capable of mounting an effective resistance to the tyranny of Illidan. Of course, this positive matchup is largely responsible for the archetype’s success in the current meta.
Spell Druid seems to have established itself as the third best deck in the game. While it cannot match up against the relentless assault of Aggro Demon Hunter, its matchup spread against the rest of the field is exceptionally good, and it also beats Control Warlock. If Demon Hunter gets nerfed and Kael’thas is somehow left untouched by balance changes (which is quite unlikely, to be fair), we think Spell Druid could become the next big thing.
There are other decks that manage to somehow survive in the current climate, displaying decent win rates that make them competitive Tier 2 contenders. They are the established archetypes of Rogue and Hunter, which were well positioned coming into Ashes of Outland, and we expected them to do well.
Both Galakrond and Highlander Rogue carry a lot of promise, and we suspect that Valeera has a great chance to reclaim her spot at the top of meta should Illidan undergo some significant nerfs. We can identify great potential for improvement of these archetypes, since neither one has finalized its refinement phase with the new cards.
Both Dragon and Highlander Hunter are currently held back by the top three decks in the current meta. It can be very easily noticed in their matchup spreads. This means Hunter also has a great chance of reclaiming top tier positions after possible balance changes that will likely hit all of these decks to some degree.
There is one other thriving deck that has only recently emerged into the scene, which is why it cannot be shown in the Power Rankings or the matchup tables due to its low sample size. It also happens to be the biggest counter to Aggro Demon Hunter (yes, a more reliable counter than the Sac Pact wielding Control Warlock). It is Enrage Warrior. This archetype looks very good, and would be on its way to a surefire Tier 1 status and a Meta Breaker title, if not for an imminent patch that will likely hit its biggest prey before it gets there. Still, if you’re interested in stopping one of the strongest decks in Hearthstone’s history, there is a way. It is the way of the Egg.
Highlander Mage is one deck that actually managed to keep its head above the waters, relatively speaking. While it does struggle against Aggro Demon Hunter, it also struggled against the real Hunters, and they’ve been on a vacation recently. Mage players will be hoping that the balance changes will not encourage their return. If Demon Hunters drop in play, and Hunters do not rise to replace them, we can see Highlander Mage becoming a serious top tier contender. We recognize that this is a big “if”, but it’s worth noting. After all, our job is not just to discuss the current meta, but to give you some future guidance and pay attention to a possible opportunity if it appears.
Other classes seem to be faltering, unable to keep up with the oppressive forces that define this Armageddon-esque metagame. Shaman and Paladin look to be in a dire position, but both of these classes have a sleeper deck that could awaken thanks to balance changes.
Totem Shaman is a great example of a deck that finds it hard to succeed in the current climate. It’s a deck that demolishes passive strategies, such as those found in Druid and Priest. It just can’t stick a board against Demon Hunters and Rogues, so it will be hoping that these classes drop in their combined popularity. If they do, we could be looking at one of the most surprising success stories in this expansion. Don’t be fooled by its current position in the meta, look at its matchup spread and identify the potential in a post-DH nerfs meta.
Murloc Paladin is hardly played at all, because its matchup against Demon Hunter is utterly miserable. But it performs well against many other decks in the current meta. So, even though Paladin looks pretty bad right now, we can still see a scenario in which it finds a way to enter the competitive range.
The class that could have the most bleak future is actually Priest. Resurrect Priest seems to be holding up now, and it’s even receiving complaints from the community as somehow being too powerful. But it’s a deck that may suffer from Demon Hunter changes. In fact, its position in the meta will likely worsen since Demon Hunter keeps many of its hardest counters down (and it has some of the most miserable counters). Highlander Priest does not seem to be the class’ savior either. We see room for growth in other classes, and they could end up crashing in disappointment, sure. However, when we evaluate and simulate Priest’s potential prospects, we can’t help but settle into negativity. Priest will likely need to find another deck that we’re not seeing right now.
Class Analysis & Decklists
The first day or two of Ashes of Outland showcased one of the most broken classes of all time. The Demon Hunter build we’ve featured in our theorycrafting article was simply absurd and spread like wildfire. The synergy of Imprisoned Antaen and Priestess of Fury proved to be backbreaking. Skull of Gul’dan was as busted as everyone thought it would be. Aldrachi Warblades and Eye Beam prevented any aggressive strategy from ever racing the Demon Hunter. It was an unstoppable deck that had no weaknesses whatsoever.
But even though Demon Hunter cards looked very powerful before launch, we still carried the belief that it was probably playtested. It was indeed thoroughly playtested…in the Open Beta that was launched on April 7th!
After the balance changes, Demon Hunter needed to adjust, and it’s done that quite efficiently. Aggro Demon Hunter is continuing a successful phase of refinement during which it is only getting stronger. The nerf to Imprisoned Antaen and the rise in popularity of Sacrifcial Pact moved players away from Priestess of Fury. The nerf to Skull of Gul’dan incentivized a lower curve that made it more likely we’d be able to immediately play the cards we’ve drawn from Skull. The nerf to Aldrachi Warblades and Eye Beam meant that Demon Hunter has less comeback potential in the mirror, similarly incentivizing aggression and a lower curve, while opening up ‘design space’ for other weapons to be used instead of the Warblades.
All of these factors led to the emergence of an alternative finisher in Warglaives of Azzinoth. The featured build optimizes Aggro Demon Hunter’s performance against Control Warlock, its biggest ‘counter’, by maximizing card draw and reach. An alternative take, featured in the tech choice slots, cuts into some of them (Chaos Strike/Glaivebound Adept) in order to bolster our early game pressure. This is highly effective in the Druid matchup, in which King Mukla is a star performer.
Combo Demon Hunter, utilizing the Kael’thas/Inner Demon finisher which we’ve also highlighted before the expansion, was similarly a very successful archetype at the launch of the expansion. Alas, the quick balance changes severely crippled its performance compared to the aggressive archetype. It was much more reliant on the previous power level of Aldrachi Warblades and Skull of Gul’dan to succeed. The deck is showing signs of recovery through refinement as well as a noticeable skill cap, so it is better than its current performance on ladder suggests.
However, even at its peak theoretical performance, it is not a very good ladder deck for most ranks and it is nowhere near as good as Aggro Demon Hunter. It can perform well in a very narrow meta often observed at top legend, since it has a close matchup with Aggro DH while it beats Control Warlock. It is much worse in a broader meta, with difficult matchups into Druids, Mages, Priests and Warriors, so we can’t recommend it for most players. We’re featuring the most common build, with which Orange hit #1 legend. We wonder whether Zephrys is actually worthwhile to include, or whether it might be better to run a Blade Dance for early survivability instead. It is tough to determine at this stage.
- Demon Hunter Class Radar
- Aggro Demon Hunter
- Combo Demon Hunter
Warlock has been immediately thrown into a dominant position due to Control Warlock’s strong matchup into Aggro Demon Hunter. The river dam has broken, and Control Warlock has stuck its finger into the hole to stop the surge. That finger is Sacrificial Pact. Indeed, Warlock’s top tier standing is largely thanks to this one card of questionable design, which was printed in the early stages of Hearthstone to mostly use on Warlock’s own demons, only for it to find a new role in demolishing the key demon tribe of a new class.
Considering that the matchup is not even that highly favored, we doubt Warlock would be able to stop Demon Hunter without the availability of the 0 mana cheese. In fact, Sacrifical Pact is the 2nd best card in Control Warlock in the current meta. The only card that is more important than Pact is Galakrond.
In terms of builds, most Control Warlocks run a similar shell. The 3-drop slot can either be filled by Bad Luck Albatross or Overconfident Orc. Albatross is stronger in slower matchups, while Orc performs better against aggressive decks.
Zoo Warlock has not really been able to land a solid place in the meta so far. Its most common ladder builds utilize Imprisoned Scrap Imp and a horde of 1-drops that give off a Quest Rogue vibe with Stonetusk Boar making an appearance. We noticed that Soulfires are slightly overrated in this deck, and it’s more beneficial to expand your 1-drop pool alongside Magic Carpet. Maiev Shadowsong performs particularly well in Zoo since using her on your own Scrap Imp is actually a viable plan in some scenarios. The main issue of this build is that it’s highly reliant on playing Scrap Imp on-curve, making it feel very “high-rolly”. Without it, it’s quite difficult to win Hearthstone games.
Druid is another class that’s doing pretty well under the enormous weight of the Demon Hunter class. Its most successful archetype has proven to be Spell Druid, centered on Fungal Fortunes, Glowfly Swarm and Kael’thas Sunstrider. Its ability to ramp with overgrowth and immediately set up a blow out turn forces opponents to pressure it early or risk being decimated.
The most common builds of Spell Druid utilize Exotic Mountseller, but we think it’s actually possible that the card is being overvalued as a win condition. It doesn’t create a board by itself, it requires extensive support of enablers in hand, and it can be very clunky. It also forces us to run Moonfire, which isn’t a very versatile card compared to Wrath or Crystal Power. We’ve seen builds that exclude Mountseller, and they show a lot of potential that’s worth exploring. We can’t determine that they are better with certainty, but it looks that way right now.
The featured build takes in the ideas exhibited by the alternative approach. The Forest’s Aid is a singular card that can generate two boards by itself without needing enablers in hand. It can also be cheated out by Kael’thas. Meanwhile, Savage Roar is severely underrated in the archetype, and we think it’s actually a core 2-of in the deck, especially when it’s so much easier for us to generate wide boards with single cards. Soul of the Forest is particularly valuable in the Warlock matchup, but is also a game winner against other classes that don’t have the means to answer a Swarm/Soul play. This build obliterates Warlocks, but doesn’t seem to make any sacrifices in faster matchups to do so.
The other common archetype is Big Druid, though it is struggling to find good matchups in the current meta. Big Druid is an Embiggen Druid that dropped Embiggen in order to up its curve and maximize the potential of Overgrowth in playing big threats early. The archetype also utilizes Bogbeam and Ironbark which become 0-mana cards post-Overgrowth. Big Druid is another archetype that utilizes Mountseller, and in this deck, the card truly looks like a trap. You’ll be surprised to hear that Marsh Hydra (a magnet for 1’s in card previews everywhere) is actually nuts in the deck, and should be included instead at the 7-mana slot.
Rogue is in a deceptively good spot in the meta, and it’s probably a bit underrated. Its established archetypes haven’t been fleshed out and it isn’t clear what the best approach for each is. The standalone stealth and secret packages haven’t birthed new archetypes, which might be why Rogue is currently not rated too highly by players.
Galakrond Rogue is experimenting with both secret and stealth packages and after observing results from both approaches, we still believe that the stealth package is superior, though it is still possible that neither one will eventually make the cut. Secret builds are quite common, but show some immediate flaws: when the secret package is full, the deck suffers from inconsistencies and high investments for low payoffs. When the package only runs a couple of secrets, the addition of Blackjack Stunners becomes very questionable.
Adding the stealth package becomes a decision of whether we want to run Greyheart Sage and Skyvateers. Spymistress is an auto-include in every Rogue deck anyway, while Akama is a very solid card we don’t mind running by itself either. Sage seems to perform well even if we run only five stealth minions, so Escaped Manasabers aren’t necessary. Since we’re running excellent card draw as well as card generation, expensive minions become harder to fit because they risk our hands being clogged. The build is now all about hitting its Togwaggle/Galakrond power spikes as soon as possible, and it’s important to have cheap cards that are easy to dump efficiently, so Eviscerate and Shadowstep are better fits than Faceless Corruptors.
Highlander Rogue is closer to being figured out. Since the secret package centers on Shadowjewler Hanar, a legendary payoff, a Highlander build is an excellent fit for it. We can run 3 secrets, one Stunner and Hanar without compromising our consistency. This package works very well in Highlander Rogue, and Hanar is one of the deck’s best performing cards.
However, that does not mean we can’t fit a stealth package in too. We’ve found that Greyheart Sage performs well in this deck without too much support, and we’re happy to run all four featured stealth minions anyway (Manasaber is great in Highlander Rogue). What we omit instead is the Vendetta package. Hench-Clan Burglar is an underwhelming minion while Underbelly Fence is usually too slow to answer a Battlefiend (SI:7 Agent is better for this purpose). Even Vendetta, which is still a good card, is not amazing in the current meta. We only keep Dragon’s Hoard due to its standalone utility.
Before you ask us “why bother running Sage?” We’ll answer. The additional card draw from both Dirty Tricks and Greyheart Sage increases Highlander Rogue’s consistency in finding its power plays by a noticeable margin, and when a Highlander deck becomes consistent, it also becomes very scary.
Our evaluation of Mage is almost contrarian to community sentiment. Many players believed Highlander Mage was a top tier deck in DoD, but we didn’t agree when it came for ladder. Many players believe today that Mage isn’t worth the trouble, but we think it’s better now than it was in DoD!
The reason is simple. How many Hunters have you seen recently? Certainly not as many as you’ve seen during DoD, which means Highlander Mage benefits from seeing less of its most horrendous matchup. It’s true that Aggro Demon Hunters are also a pain, but there are better ways to tech against them. In addition, Mage performs pretty well against Warlocks. It doesn’t have any other terrible matchups. This puts Highlander Mage in a decent spot.
In addition, it has the potential to be better. Remember Imprisoned Observer? What many players thought was the worst dormant card, including us? This card turned out to be INSANE. It’s so insanely good for Highlander Mage in the current meta that its performance can be compared with Zephrys, Reno and Alexstrasza. We’re not kidding! The 2-damage AOE is game winning against Demon Hunters, since most of their minions have 2 health and they have no board wide buffs. You play Observer on 3 and there’s no good way for them to play around it. The card is currently not popular at all, but we highly recommend you shove it in your decks and you will likely feel an immediate improvement.
Other new cards we’re impressed with: Starscryer (strong cycle card), Scalerider (2 damage early game removal is worth its weight in gold now), Overconfident Orc (made for Highlander Mage) and Ruststeed Raider (stabilizes aggression, strong against Glaivebound Adepts and Shield of Galakrond).
Spell Mage actually had a decent start in Outland, but is quickly losing ground and we don’t expect it to last much longer as a competitive option. The archetype has found the most success running The Amazing Reno. Ice Barrier has been more valuable than Netherwind Portal because of Demon Hunter’s onslaught of damage while Fireballs help you finish off games since your threat density is low. Font of Power and Apexis Blast look like very good cards: the archetype probably just needs another push.
Is it business as usual for Priest? Performing well enough at low ranks to induce rage and demands of nerfs while lingering in mediocrity at the upper end of ladder? Perhaps, lingering in mediocrity is not the right phrase. Priest’s situation looks grim when we consider likely future developments in the meta and possible balance changes. Its matchup spread against many decks that would benefit from Demon Hunter nerfs is not good. The class could be completely destroyed if Valeera takes back her spot in the meta.
Resurrect Priest is hanging in there, but it doesn’t really have much to offer. No, it doesn’t counter Aggro Demon Hunters. It doesn’t beat Warlocks. It still loses to Mage. We’re not sure it can even beat Spell Druid if Druid shifts into the build we’ve suggested in this report. Resurrect Priest will be hoping for a dramatic development, such as a rise in Enrage Warrior, to have that 70-30 stomp to carry it into a competitive spot in the meta.
The archetype was pretty easy to refine, since the question is always “how do we beat Demon Hunter?” You want your 2-damage AOE’s. You want your high health taunts. Soul Mirror is very strong, forget about the anti-synergy with resurrection. There’s a way to change five cards and experiment with the quest variant. We’re not sure it’s better or worse at this stage, because most Quest builds we’ve seen are very sub-optimal. Reliquary of Souls is actually just garbage for Resurrect Priest because we have no card draw. Just don’t bother with it.
Highlander Priest is the easiest attempt to make a weak class look playable. Zephrys and Alex can definitely carry some games, but this archetype has only gotten worse over time as the meta continues to optimize and become more efficient, exposing Priest’s lack of… everything.
Yes, this section basically tried to reverse jinx Priest into becoming good by badmouthing the class super hard. We’ll see if it works.
- Priest Class Radar
- Resurrect Priest
- Highlander Priest
Hunter’s play rate has completely collapsed with the launch of the expansion, as cooler Hunters appeared on the Hearthstone landscape, ones that hunt demons.
But Hunter’s play rate is hardly an indication of its power level. The class is actually doing fairly well and is one of the strongest ones outside of the obviously busted newcomer. Both Highlander and Dragon Hunter are looking solid, while experiments are also done to revive Face Hunter.
Highlander Hunter’s most popular build actually came directly from our theorycrafting article, and it looks very good. We’re a little unsure about a couple of cards but need more time and data to reach any significant conclusions, but the deck should perform surprisingly well in the current meta. Minimizing the beast package in order to aggressively tutor for Zixor with Ingenuity and Gryphon works nicely.
We’ve seen Dragon Hunter also experiment with a Zixor/Ingenuity package but we’re a little more iffy on this one. We think a more standard list is likely better, since Dragon Hunter is a lot faster than Highlander. It needs to pressure hard and early, which means it usually cannot afford to stall the game until it draws Zixor prime. It also cannot afford to drop Phase Stalkers, which means Ingenuity isn’t a hard tutor for Zixor in the archetype. As for secrets, we want two Explosive Traps and nothing more. Pack Tactics is terrible in this deck and we only care about a 2 damage AOE to blockade Demon Hunters.
Is it yet another expansion where Face Hunter gets hyped up until we figure out it’s the worst Hunter deck? It definitely looks that way from here. The main thing going for Face Hunter is that it beats Warlock, so it found its way into a popular tournament line up that targets Warlocks, and multiple players found success with it.
But it doesn’t beat much else, other than the hapless Mages that already couldn’t deal with it before. We will say that we think Face Hunter is not very refined. Porcupine/Ingenuity/Mok’nathal is a solid package that seems to fit in well, but for some reason, someone forgot Dragonbane is one of the best cards in Face Hunter and everyone proceeded to netdeck off of him. In addition, the only correct package of secrets on ladder is two Explosive Traps, for the same reason Dragon Hunter should only be running that (Pack Tactics is only good in theory in this deck).
- Hunter Class Radar
- Highlander Hunter
- Dragon Hunter
- Face Hunter
Warrior did not start Ashes of Outland well. All of its archetypes bombed. Control Warrior couldn’t even keep up with Demon Hunter because of its insane card draw and threats. There were a couple of days where it looked like Warrior was on its way to being a completely dead class. Bomb Warrior, Taunt Warrior, Highlander Warrior and Galakrond Warrior ranged in their performances from “kinda dumpster” to “serious dumpster”. The loss of Eternium Rover, Town Crier and Dr. Boom were truly felt. We knew how good these cards were but it really jumped at us.
But then, one deck emerged, and it’s the only deck that’s worth even talking about in this section. Enrage Egg Warrior is the only deck in the game, outside of Control Warlock, that has a positive win rate against Aggro Demon Hunter and it doesn’t need Sacrifical Pact to do so. It abuses Corsair Cache alongside the powerful package of Ancharrr and Livewire Lance. It utilizes Bloodsworn Mercenary and Bomb Wrangler, who left Galakrond to rot by itself. It runs Serpent Egg alongside Teron Gorefiend, and it includes Rampage alongside Inner Rage. The potential of Bloodboil Brute is enabled by Risky Skipper.
Needless to say, this is an aggressive deck with defensive capabilities (Armorsmith) that give Demon Hunters fits. One card we’re surprised to see perform so well is Imprisoned Vilefiend. Dormant minions in this set were really underrated by everyone. Vilefiend is extremely powerful early, while obviously scaling poorly in the late game, but the card is overall worth the slot in the current meta. In contrast, we’ve seen Injured Tol’vir utilizied as a 2-drop for the archetype and didn’t like it at all. The featured build looks very refined, with one suggestion if the meta slows down: running Greenskin over one Vilefiend.
Shaman has done what we expected it to do: throw stuff at the wall and hope that something sticks. Anything involving Control Shaman did not, and the most fleshed out archetype we’ve seen in the first few days of Ashes of Outland was a Galakrond Evolve Shaman deck that tries to unify two win conditions into one deck, to make up for the loss of Shudderwock. The deck initially looked okay but we fear it will quickly falter as the more powerful archetypes continue to improve.
The most promising avenue for Shaman was discovered fairly late in the week, with none other than Totem Shaman making noise. This archetype is carried by Totemic Reflection to surprisingly good results. Totem Shaman’s game plan is to snowball off its totems and spin out of control, which is why a card like Lava Burst looks core to the deck despite it also running Bloodlust and Vessina. What we’ve found about Totem Shaman is that it needs to possess the capability to finish games quickly, punishing the opponent when it leaves anything up. The amount of direct damage alongside its board-centric focus is a weird combination that actually works well. The reason we’re a bit cautious about the deck’s future is its very polarizing matchup spread. It feasts on passive decks that don’t contest the board, but when you’re facing an opponent that gains early board control, your totems do very little. Demon Hunters laugh at this deck. Druids and Priests fear it.
We had such high hopes for Paladin and they all crashed down this week. Libram Paladin decks look unplayable, but it’s important to note the reasons why, because they are actually interesting.
When we evaluate both Pure Paladin and Control Paladin decks, the Libram package clearly performs exceptionally well. This suggests that Librams are indeed very powerful, but the class that surrounds them is so weak that even we underestimated what was needed to revive it. We recognized its Year of the Dragon sets were awful, but the extent of how poorly Paladin stood next to the other classes was miscalculated.
But for Paladin players who like the Libram package, there is genuine hope. Druid received an all-star set in Savior of Uldum, but Quest Druid only came to real prominence after balance changes arrived to tone down its big counters: Highlander Mage and Combo Priest. It happened again for Druid, when Breath of Dreams, Strength in Numbers and Embiggen only made a big impact on the meta after Galakrond mechanics were nerfed. Perhaps, this is what Paladin also needs.
However, the big difference between Druid in SoU and Paladin in AoO is card draw. Paladin doesn’t have good card draw to consistently utilize the Libram package. We’re certain that if Paladin just had good card draw options, it would be competitive. Until significant balance changes arrive that curb the power level of Demon Hunter and Warlock (two particularly horrid matchups for Paladin) or a new set arrives that gives Paladin what it’s currently missing, its late game plan will be lacking.
In contrast, Murloc Paladin is looking competitive, and its matchup spread is promising in a world in which Demon Hunter is expected to receive more nerfs. Underlight Angling Rod and Imprisoned Sungill are amazing performers for the deck. Add Sungill to the list of dormant minions that were underestimated. We’ve seen several Murloc Paladin builds on ladder, but we’re not convinced they’re better than the one we’ve theorycrafted before launch that carries more cycling power (the love for Hench-Clan Hogsteed is not justified). The only change we’ve made is add Blessing of Kings, which has proven to be a good performer.
We’re aware that balance changes are likely imminent. They’ll probably be announced shortly after this report is published! Until this patch arrives, there is actually a more reliable way to beat Aggro Demon Hunters than playing Control Warlock, and it’s by running Enrage Warrior. We think this deck would have likely broken out by next week and become a Tier 1 contender if this meta was left alone. Abuse it while you can.
With that being said, we want to provide an update on our next Data Reaper Report. If a patch happens to arrive tomorrow (Friday), it’s actually difficult to say whether we can issue a new Data Report Report, which will discuss the post-patch meta, by next Thursday. It entirely depends on the pace of our data collection. If the patch arrives early next week (Tuesday), then a report will certainly be delayed to the week after.
If you’d like us to be quicker in publishing reports after balance patches, consider joining our data contributors to help make this happen. You can install our Hearthstone Deck Tracker plugin, or just use the Firestone application.
Many of our past active contributors have not yet installed the new HDT plugin we released last week, so if you haven’t seen our various reminders, pay attention to this: if you did not install the new plugin (version 22.214.171.124), you’re not currently contributing data to vS.
Also, we heard some of your feedback, and it’s not falling on deaf ears. We’re thinking of ways to collect data from Mac and Android devices in the future, and not just PC. It’s unfortunate that Track-o-bot’s lost functionality meant that we lost these options. It will take time to get them back, but we’re on the case.
Now go hunt some Demon Hunters.
Our Data Reaper Project has 2,500 active contributors. Without them, this project would not be possible, so we’d like to thank all of our contributors for their help.
Preparing our weekly article requires a significant amount of time and effort from many individuals. We would like to wholeheartedly thank our current Patreons, whose generous donations help us fund computing and server costs.
vS Gold is a new membership plan aimed to support our efforts towards improving our content and data analysis while receiving some bonuses and extra features.
Tier 3+ Patrons
Special thanks to Leo G, Aaron B, Jed M, Drew M, Alan J, Zolstar, Sean H, Steve F, Andrew N, NObdy, Alonso P, James Y, PinkMageDiaries, Je-ho, Ziqiao Y, Stephen H, William H, Patrick L, 1RiceBowl1, and Alex S, and Kaushal A for supporting us for the month of April.
Here are all the people that participated in bringing you this edition of the vS Data Reaper Report: