Welcome to the 169th edition of the Data Reaper Report! This is the first report following the balance changes of July 14th, and it’s also the last report for Ashes of Outland.
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Number of Games
|Diamond 4 to 1||22,000|
|Diamond 10 to 5||27,000|
Class Frequency Discussion
The balance changes have resulted in a collapse of Demon Hunter’s population. Aggro Demon Hunter is no longer overwhelmingly popular, though it is important to note that its play rate peaks at legend, where it is one of the more common decks you meet. The archetype is currently very unrefined as players seek to adjust its build after the nerfs to Warglaives, Metamorphosis and Kayn.
Hunter has skyrocketed in play and seems to have taken Demon Hunter’s place in the meta. Highlander Hunters are crawling all over ladder. Above Diamond 4, Highlander Hunter alone is more popular than any other class. Dragon Hunter is also quite noticeable, while Face Hunter sees a little bit of play.
Warrior has also taken a big hit in play, and it’s one of the least common classes on ladder, though it’s significantly more popular at legend where it is only 2nd to Hunter. The class is mostly split between Enrage Warrior and Bomb-Control Warrior, with Pirate Warrior severely declining.
Rogue is another class that has declined in response to the balance changes but remains fairly common at legend. Galakrond Rogue remains the primary archetype of the class, with Highlander Rogue looking like the more negatively affected deck.
Warlock has seen a rise in play, and the class has become exceedingly popular at legend. Quest Warlock is now a prominent feature of the meta, while interest in previously dead archetypes (Zoo Warlock, Control Warlock) has reignited.
Priest has risen in play at lower ranks, but the class has actually declined at legend. This is another example of the currently large disparity in the meta between different leagues. A balance patch usually creates a “gap” in knowledge between higher and lower ranks, but since this patch affected almost every deck in the game, the gap is even more profound and dramatic than usual. Knowledge of what’s good and what isn’t good usually trickles down faster once we publish a report.
Mage has slightly risen in play due to renewed interest in Spell Mage, but the deck becomes less popular as you climb ladder. Highlander Mage’s presence is more stable through different ranks.
Druid’s play rate has fallen pretty dramatically. Spell Druid’s numbers above Diamond 4 have been cut in half, while other archetypes of the class haven’t gained much traction either.
Both Paladin and Shaman have made big comebacks to the meta. Murloc and Pure Paladin are common opponents on the climb to legend. Galakrond Shaman has re-emerged in the form of an evolve build running Desert Hare and Boggspine Knuckles, while Totem Shaman can also be found in smaller numbers. Both classes dropped in play at legend, where they’re still the least common classes, which might be a cause for concern on paper. We’ll have to see how they actually perform in order to gauge their chances of sticking.
vS Meta Score
vS Power Rankings Discussion
The biggest message we can send you is that the current meta is quite chaotic and far from figured out. It’s unlikely that this meta will be solved in the last couple of weeks that are left until Scholomance Academy launches. Since this is the final report of an expansion (we have to commit our time and resources into the production of our pre-expansion content, which takes a lot of work), we’re putting a greater emphasis on not just what’s performing well now, but also on what is likely to perform well after taking future meta trends into consideration.
Highlander Hunter looks like the strongest deck in the format. Its matchup spread is very good, with a slight vulnerability to some aggressive decks. While Highlander Hunter has been notorious this expansion for starting well and then declining, things should be different this time. Its popularity is justified.
Other Hunter decks are also performing at a high level, though it might be difficult to justify playing them over Highlander Hunter, which is why they don’t see too much play. Dragon Hunter exhibits a similarly strong, yet inferior, matchup spread to Highlander Hunter, while Face Hunter is the one Hunter deck that performs well against Aggro Demon Hunter.
Did balance changes finally drop Aggro Demon Hunter to an average power level? Don’t count your chickens yet. As we said earlier, the archetype is unrefined and requires significant adjustments to deal with the nerfs it took, so the changes certainly made an impact. But, we’ve already identified what these adjustments need to be, and the featured build in this report should propel Aggro Demon Hunter back to Tier 1 and re-establish the deck as one of the strongest in the format. We’re not kidding.
Paladin is real. Murloc Paladin is performing exceptionally well in the post-patch meta, but understanding why it succeeds keeps us reserved in our assessment of it. Its matchup spread shows clear weaknesses to several top meta decks that are trending upwards in their play rate and win rate. It punishes decks that are currently struggling and should decline in play, so we expect to see the field become more hostile to Murloc Paladin over time. The deck should eventually settle at Tier 2 at higher levels, which is still a great improvement to its pre-patch days.
Pure Paladin is also showing great results, even though it does drop off in its performance at higher levels of play. It’s a genuinely strong deck on the climb to legend, and can no longer be considered a meme.
Shaman has also gotten out of the dumpster, though we’re a bit less enthusiastic about its lasting impact. Totem Shaman feasts on some of the struggling classes of the current meta (Druid, Priest), and much like Murloc Paladin, it will not enjoy a return of Aggro Demon Hunter. It’s incredible Tier 1 position on the climb to legend should worsen, and its performance at higher levels of play could easily turn sour soon.
Galakrond Shaman looks a bit like a false dawn, and we don’t expect it to be a prominent force in the meta. It has some scope for improvements that could lift it from its current position, but it’s unlikely to be better than Tier 3. It’s one of the decks in the post-patch meta that sees more play than it should.
Enrage Warrior is struggling in remarkable fashion outside of legend, but is rapidly improving at legend. Players at higher levels of play have been quicker to adjust to the balance changes and we anticipate that the archetype will return to form over the next couple of weeks, especially when Aggro Demon Hunter rises further in play. One important finding regarding Enrage Warrior is that the Egg build is the only correct variant to take to ladder after the patch, displaying Tier 1 potential at legend, while the non-Egg build currently weighs down the archetype’s overall win rate and should eventually disappear.
Bomb-Control Warrior should also improve over time, as it is in the midst of its own post-patch refinement phase, though its improvement should be less dramatic.
Warlock could become a big player in the current meta. After seeing all of its main rivals nerfed, Quest Warlock’s matchup spread looks very good. We anticipate that the deck will only get better since it performs exceptionally well against most of the top meta decks and we expect Hunter’s numbers to relax once it gets targeted more seriously by Aggro Demon Hunter.
Zoo Warlock, like other aggressive decks you rarely heard about before the patch, is getting a chance to shine while Demon Hunter and Warrior aren’t rampant. But, since we think the DH/Warrior dynamic will become more prevalent over time, Zoo Warlock should become weaker. The good news is that Zoo could offset an increase in meta hostility by internal optimization. There is certainly one Zoo Warlock build that we really like.
Galakrond Rogue has managed to survive in admirable fashion, though we see very little scope for improvement within the class. It might become exposed by the increase in efficiency of other classes, which could end up dropping it to Tier 3. Its Demon Hunter matchup is one important factor in determining its future, and we’ll have to see whether it maintains an advantage against its “optimal build”.
Spell Mage got better in the context of a weakened field, but its improvement isn’t enough to make us believers. It gets destroyed by Hunters, and Hunters are just too popular. Highlander Mage shares similar struggles against Hunters, but has a fantastic matchup spread against other classes to make up for it. The only other deck that gives Highlander Mage a bit of trouble is Bomb-Control Warrior.
Galakrond Priest’s standing is not what many expected. It’s pretty remarkable that balance changes saw nerfs to so many classes and yet the end result is that Priest somehow got worse for it, but the meta just isn’t favorable for the deck. Highlander Hunters are a huge problem, and Priest needs to meet more Warriors to make up for it.
Druid could very well end up being the new “worst class”. Spell Druid has been absolutely gutted by the nerf to Fungal Fortunes. Not only did this change worsen many of its matchups, it now gets rolled over by the return of Paladins and Shamans. Ouch. It’s okay though, we’ve got two more weeks until we can play Lightning Bloom and Nature Studies. That softens the blow.
Class Analysis & Decklists
Hunter was the biggest winner of the balance changes, launching itself to the top of the meta, and displaying strong win rates across three different archetypes.
Highlander Hunter has not been significantly impacted by the nerf to Dragonqueen Alexstrasza, since most top meta decks were hit harder. It also found a way to adjust to the nerf and re-enable Alexstrasza by running Frizz Kindleroost. Furthermore, Transfer Student is a very good addition to this deck.
Dragon Hunter has also risen in play and performs at a promising level. There are several builds of the archetype on ladder, but we’re most intrigued by an emerging “Enrage” build which takes a page out of Demon Hunter’s book and runs Bonechewer Brawler and Amani Berserker alongside Guardian Augmerchant. The featured build tweaks common ladder lists by adding Beaming Sidekick, a proven performer alongside this package in Aggro Demon Hunter.
Face Hunter has benefited from the decline in Warrior and looks like a pretty strong ladder deck these days. It performs quite well against both Highlander Hunter and Aggro Demon Hunter after the patch. We haven’t found a reason to change the featured build, which looks fairly optimal.
- Hunter Class Radar
- Highlander Hunter
- Dragon Hunter
- Face Hunter
Five sets of balance changes later, and we still anticipate that Aggro Demon Hunter will close out Ashes of Outlands as one of the strongest decks in the game. The latest balance changes have certainly hurt the pre-patch build, and some adjustments are required to bring the archetype back to its peak performance, which would comfortably place it at Tier 1.
Initially, we saw promise in running Escaped Manasaber in order to adjust to the new cost of Warglaives of Azzinoth, but recent builds that drop the weapon altogether have proven to be far superior. What might be the most important addition to the new build is Cobalt Spellkin. It offers Demon Hunter something to do on turn 5, and provides the deck with spells that are useful in closing out games now that its late game damage potential has weakened. It’s also a surprisingly strong enabler of Altruis.
We were deliberating on the final two slots in the build, and opted for Vulpera Scoundrel. Chaos Strike is a weaker card in a deck that doesn’t run Warglaives, and we weren’t impressed with History Buff either. With Skull of Gul’dan acting as our only source of card draw, card generation becomes more valuable. Much like Spellkin, Scoundrel can help us find ways to close out games late, in the absence of Metamorphosis and Warglaives.
Warrior has weakened by the balance changes, both as a result of a direct nerf to one of its cornerstone cards (Corsair Cache) and unfavorable changes in the meta. We do expect the class to become stronger in the last couple of weeks of AoO should Demon Hunter become more prevalent.
Enrage Warrior hasn’t really changed as a result of the patch. Corsair Cache is likely still too important to cut. The Teron/Egg build is stronger against Hunters, which is why it is performs significantly better after the patch compared to the non-Egg build. It’s now the clear way to go.
Bomb-Control Warrior has added a new trick, which is running Galakrond and Kronx without any invokes. Galakrond is surprisingly powerful as a standalone card since it offers you chip damage to close out the game alongside bombs. The most difficult decision is how to make way for these cards, and we’ve opted not to run Greenskin or Pillager (their role is essentially replaced by Galakrond). Sword & Board and Shield Blocks are just too valuable in the current meta, and it’s hard enough to settle for just 3 copies of these cards.
Pirate Warrior has been hit hardest by the nerf to Corsair Cache, since it relied mostly on the extra damage it provided. It’s currently in the process of fading away.
Rogue has not been dealt the death blow that some of us may have expected after the nerf to Galakrond the Nightmare. But while the class has started out this patch in a pretty strong manner (including the recent Masters Tour last weekend), it’s been declining in its performance since.
Galakrond Rogue is now significantly weaker in slower matchups. The most important finding of the new Galakrond Rogue is that fully invoking Galakrond isn’t as high of a priority, so Devoted Maniac has fallen out of favor.
We’ve replaced Devoted Maniac with Akama in the Stealth variant, a card that we know is an excellent performer against Hunter. The Secret variant is stronger in slower matchups such as Warlock, Priest and Mage but performs worse against Hunter, Demon Hunter and Warrior, so we still generally favor the Stealth build.
Meanwhile, after suffering both a nerf to Galakrond as well as Dragonqueen Alexstrasza, the already underwhelming Highlander Rogue now looks done.
Warlock is a big winner of the balance changes. From a fringe class reduced to one viable deck, it has diversified its options and looks like a real top tier threat.
Quest Warlock looks very strong and well rounded against the field, and could establish itself as one of the best decks in the post-patch meta. It is only weak to Bomb-Control Warrior and Hunter, but the Highlander Hunter matchup is only slightly unfavorable. The deck also has an option to swap Abyssal Summoners for Khartut Defenders, and add Sky General Kragg to make the Hunter matchup even closer.
In addition, there are promising experiments with other Warlock archetypes that have long disappeared. Zoo Warlock is displaying nice results, benefiting from the decline in Demon Hunter and Warrior, and its most promising variant could be the Tekhan-Lackey build. This deck has a stable game plan that isn’t as reliant on drawing Imprisoned Scrap Imp (though that’s always nice).
Galakrond Control Warlock has also made a return, and it performs quite well against faster decks thanks to its excellent removal options. It might have some issues in slower matchups, which is why we like running two Abyssal Summoners to increase the deck’s density of threats.
- Warlock Class Radar
- Quest Warlock
- Control Warlock
- Zoo Warlock
The entire meta got nerfed, yet the untouched Galakrond Priest ended up getting worse. The success of Highlander Hunter, Dragon Hunter and Quest Warlock has crippled Anduin’s standing in the field, and left him yearning for a return to the Demon Hunter/Warrior centric meta of before.
Pre-patch developments have also fallen to the wayside, with dormant minions and the “cube build” not looking as useful after Demon Hunter’s decline in popularity. You’re best off running the standard Thief build that runs the maximum amount of removal and value.
Though Hunters certainly pose a problem for Highlander Mage, the deck has managed to stay in relatively good standing against the other top meta decks despite seeing two of its most important cards nerfed. The deck is capable of making a few adjustments that go a long way in the post-patch meta.
Transfer Student is an excellent card in the deck, and there is no way you should be playing Acidic Swamp Ooze over it. The decline in Demon Hunter means that we should cut the secret package and only keep Ice Barrier for Hunters. The extra slots are used to improve the Hunter matchup further (Overconfident Orc) and increase our threat potential against slower decks (Conjurer’s Calling).
Spell Mage has improved, but hasn’t really delivered with the rise in play it has seen after the balance changes. The deck similarly struggles against Hunters, but unlike Highlander Mage, it doesn’t have outstanding matchups against other decks to make up for it.
The biggest loser of the balance changes is clearly Druid. Spell Druid has been utterly crippled by the change to Fungal Fortunes and has no way to reasonably adjust to the nerf. You’re now forced to run Breath of Dreams in order to have a chance at a strong opening, but you’re better off not opening with Druid at all.
Other Druid archetypes haven’t shown any promising signs, so it’s very likely that Druid will end Ashes of Outland as the worst class in the game, falling into the dumpster from which Paladin and Shaman seem to have come out of. Spectacular!
Paladin is back. The class is finally displaying strong win rates with two of its archetypes thanks to the balance changes, which have weakened many of its sworn enemies.
Murloc Paladin is heavily benefiting from the decline of both Demon Hunter and Warrior. Murloc Paladin demolishes many of the underperforming decks that are expected to fade away over the next week. You could say that its current position is a reflection of an aggressive deck punishing an unrefined meta, but even if its performance declines as things settle down, it should still be very competitive.
Pure Paladin’s matchup spread is quite promising since it performs well against Hunter, Demon Hunter and Warrior. Its issues continue to be slower matchups where its inability to proactively close games is exposed, but the deck has never been stronger than it is now.
The balance changes have breathed new life into Shaman, and it’s finally looking like a legitimate ladder option.
Galakrond Shaman has seen the most play after the patch, with an Evolve/Totem build emerging thanks to Jambre’s ladder success. We’ve identified that the totem package in this deck isn’t really pulling its weight, and we’re probably better off cutting it for stronger standalone cards. Sludge Slurper is a must-include card, while Hoard Pillager and Novice Engineer provide the deck with greater longevity.
Totem Shaman looks like the superior Shaman deck at the moment, though its polarizing matchup spread could prove to be problematic since its best matchups will likely decline in popularity. One card that doesn’t see as much play as it should is Serpentshrine Portal, which is far superior to Lava Burst or Magic Carpet.
The balance changes have certainly made a big impact and pressed a refresh button on the meta, but reports of Demon Hunter’s death have been greatly exaggerated.
We estimate that Aggro Demon Hunter is still one of the strongest decks in the game, despite being the target of balance changes five times (!) during Ashes of Outland. It’s one of the only counters to Highlander Hunter, which has established itself as the current dominant deck of the format. The featured build is dramatically better than lists running Warglaives, and is a surefire Tier 1 performer in the current field.
The meta should significantly change until the launch of Scholomance Academy, but this process might be slowed down due to lack of interest and players’ anticipation of the next set.
But it’s important to close the history books on Ashes of Outland with its opening statement. Demon Hunter was introduced less than 4 months ago and proceeded to dominate most of this expansion’s timeline. It was repeatedly nerfed until there was almost nothing left to nerf. Aggro Demon Hunter’s “optimal” build now runs 16 neutral cards and 14 class cards. 10 of the 14 class cards were already nerfed!
This raises an interesting question: can a new set push Aggro Demon Hunter out of the meta, or are we witnessing the strongest and most stubborn Genn Greymane deck we’ve ever seen? One that can carry arena cards to Tier 1? We’ll have to wait and see.
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