vS Data Reaper Report #172

A weekly Hearthstone Meta Report based on data from 250,000 games.

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Welcome to the 172nd 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 250,000
Top 1K Legend 8,000
Legend (Excluding Top 1k) 54,000
Diamond 4 to 1 42,000
Diamond 10 to 5 41,000
Platinum 31,000
Bronze/Silver/Gold 74,000

Class/Archetype Distribution

Class Frequency

Class Frequency Discussion

Is Aggro Rogue losing momentum? The archetype has declined at all levels of play. Its most drastic drop in play is observed at top legend, where its numbers were reduced by a third. It is also continuing to go through experimentation, and yet another new variant has entered the fray in significant numbers to join the Dancer and Hyper variants. Meanwhile, Miracle Rogue is gaining momentum, and has seen a significant rise in play at top legend.

Druid has risen in play, and much like most meta developments, the drastic spike in its popularity is seen most at top legend. Within Guardian Druid, we can also observe a reversion of trends from last week. Malygos Druid is now in decline, while a new Survival build emerged and has been gaining traction.

Mage has seen a small uptick in play. Cyclone Mage has become very prevalent at top legend, where it continues to be refined. Highlander Mage is stagnating. Turtle Mage is seeing a little bit more play, and has become somewhat noticeable at legend.

As players fail to settle on consistent builds, Priest has suffered a noticeable decline in play at top legend, mostly attributed to Highlander Priest. The emergence of Control Priest builds that completely omit Galakrond has driven us to rename the archetype, which now includes a few builds that carry varying sizes of Galakrond packages. Since some of the common Priest builds only run Disciple of Galakrond (a very high win rate marker), splitting these decks apart is problematic.

Warrior has declined. The meta seems to have successfully answered Bomb Warrior, relegating it from a dominant meta deck to a competitive one, so it’s become less prevalent as a result. The deck is even less common at lower ranks due to the popularity of Rogue, Paladin and Hunter. Big Warrior looks very niche and completely disappears at higher levels.

Demon Hunter is undergoing a drastic change, as Soul Demon Hunter is becoming more popular than the declining Aggro Demon Hunter. At top legend, the menace from Ashes of Outland only sees sporadic play.

The Meta Breaking Face Hunter has surged in popularity, becoming one of the most dominant decks on the climb to legend and fairly common at top legend too, where it is now more popular than Highlander Priest. Highlander Hunter has become an afterthought. Even though it’s been displaying good results, face seems to be the place.

Is Warlock making a comeback? Zoo Warlock has seen a surge in play that is completely exclusive to the top legend meta at the end of August. New builds running Pen Flingers have emerged with strong individual results, so it might be an indication that the archetype has found a new level or two. Unfortunately, other Warlock decks don’t look so lucky.

Paladin looks extremely dominant on the climb to legend, but shows a drastic decline in play at higher levels. It is the 2nd most popular class at Diamond, 7th at legend, and drops to 9th at top legend.

Shaman doesn’t have this problem, as it is very uncommon throughout ladder. At top legend, you’re about twice more likely to meet a Turtle Mage than any kind of Shaman. Just for perspective.

Matchup Win Rates Header

Power Rankings Header

vS Meta Score

vS Power Rankings Discussion

Ladies and gentlemen, buckle up! The Scholomance Academy meta might be remembered as one of the most balanced and diverse metas of all time! The field at higher levels of play, where competitors are extremely well versed in counterplay options, doesn’t have a single dominant deck with a win rate that would place it at Tier 1. The closest deck to 52% (Face Hunter) is seeing its win rate trending down, so the call of no Tier 1 decks should stand the margin for error.

  • At Tier 2, we have ten deck archetypes from eight different classes. In fact, the ninth class (Priest) is definitely good enough to be there, and would have been there if it was properly optimized.
  • There is such little difference amongst this highly competitive pack, that it’s quite meaningless to figure out what the best deck is today, as there are wild swings that could drop whatever is best today, to no longer be the best tomorrow. So, it’s time to zoom into every class again and figure out what’s behind these Thanos-esque numbers.

Rogue:

  • Remember when there were calls last week to nerf Aggro Rogue? Well, the meta seems to have effectively responded to its prevalence. We expected multiple decks to improve their performance against it. They did, and it required no “silver bullets” or narrow techs, just good cards. Aggro Rogue is a good deck, but it’s not an oppressive one, and it’s also seeing some interesting internal developments in response to being targeted, which you can read about in the Rogue section.
  • Miracle Rogue is looking very strong after seeing its win rate significantly rise at all levels of play. The reason for the rise in its win rate is the increased popularity of a build that doesn’t run Dragon’s Hoard, Cult Neophyte or Vendetta. It’s as simple as that. We’ve already said a couple of times now that this package of cards appears to do more harm than good. Out of every deck in the current meta, Miracle Rogue is the most likely to hit Tier 1 at top legend if it made that simple transition.

Druid:

  • Guardian Druid is experiencing some internal improvements, with a new Survival of the Fittest build that looks very promising. In fact, it currently looks like the superior option to the Malygos variant once again. While Druid is certainly going through a successful phase of refinement, the meta is answering the class pretty harshly, and keeping it at a very reasonable win rate. We don’t expect Scholomance Academy to let Druid perform at an elite level on ladder when it’s so popular, and therefore, it is rewarding to counter.

Mage

  • Cyclone Mage looks as good as any deck in the game considering that it still has some scope for improvement, even though its established build is already strong. It possesses an extremely balanced matchup spread, only looking somewhat vulnerable to burn decks.
  • Turtle Mage makes its debut in the Power Rankings at around Tier 3, but it’s not done. Old builds are still polluting its performance, and we expect it to climb to the 50% mark, with its ceiling firmly in the Tier 2 range. Where it ends up landing when the dust settles remains to be seen, as there might still be room to improve its primary build. Turtle Mage is tougher than it looks, underestimate it at your peril.
  • Highlander Mage is actually the worst Mage deck of the three, as it displays no room for growth and has a major issue dealing with burn decks.

Priest:

  • Highlander Priest is paying the price for its reactive nature, as it is very difficult to establish a consistent build that’s good against a variety of decks. It is very tempting to tech for an opponent you happened to run into a few times, and this individual experience is leading to the deck’s erratic behavior. This is a general issue in Hearthstone, but it’s particularly common for “top legend” Priest decks from some day in the week to be ill-equipped to face the meta on a different rank and a different day, especially during Scholomance. We’ve attempted to build a Highlander Priest deck that could be the benchmark for any player, with strong all-around cards, and this approach seems to have worked well.
  • Control Priest is cleaning up very rapidly, but still has a way to go. An increase of 3-4% in its win rate over a week is pretty spectacular and indicative of how poorly Galakrond Priest decks were built in the early days of the expansion. We estimate that new Control Priest builds could be superior to Highlander Priest, which puts them well within the diverse pack of competitive decks at the top half of the table.

Warrior

  • Bomb Warrior has been knocked down, and is another victim of the highly competitive SA meta. It’s not a great ladder-climbing choice, where Paladin and Hunter are very common. It remains a strong deck at higher levels due to its effectiveness against Miracle Rogue, Cyclone Mage, and Priest. Another viable, but not an oppressive force.

Demon Hunter:

  • Soul Demon Hunter is definitely strong, but the rise of Druid has halted some of its momentum, as the matchup remains quite difficult. As a Soul DH player, you only fear Druids and Paladins, while other common meta decks offer very winnable matchups. Whenever these two classes decline, Soul Demon Hunter becomes a terrific option. Even the Bomb Warrior matchup, which was considered to be poor, is better without Polkelt.
  • Aggro Demon Hunter is somewhat struggling. As other decks improve and continue to refine, this deck is stuck in place with little room to grow, so it’s losing significant ground. Its win rate has fallen at all levels of play by 1-1.5%, which is fairly brutal. Some of it has to do with the meta’s focus on countering Aggro Rogue, with Aggro Demon Hunter suffering from collateral damage.

Hunter:

  • Face Hunter looks extremely powerful throughout ladder, but even this deck wasn’t good enough to break away from the rest of the pack at higher levels of play. It’s strong, efficient and here to stay as a very effective answer to Aggro Rogues, Mages, and Warriors. It’s also surprisingly versatile, with the ability to adjust to different matchups through its choices of secrets.
  • Highlander Hunter has been forgotten due to the success of Face Hunter, but it still performs well. There’s certainly a redundancy element of “why should I play this deck when Face Hunter just looks better?”.

Warlock:

  • Warlock looked a little out of place last week, but it’s made a big return with a sharp rise in Zoo Warlock’s win rate. This is partly due to the disappearance of poorly performing builds, recent meta shifts, as well as the emergence of new builds that we discuss in the Warlock section. Zoo is a bit polarizing in its nature. Whenever the meta slows down, it gets stronger, so we expect its win rate to twist and turn further.
  • Other Warlock decks are just not around. Galakrond Warlock hasn’t been able to successfully adjust to the current meta, and it’s fading away into obscurity. Our attempt to increase the consistency of its healing through Nether Breath doesn’t look like a winner either.

Paladin:

  • The class looks extremely dominant throughout ladder, but falls to the “competitive” tier at top legend. It’s a bit funny how much Paladin’s play rate falls at top legend, where it is almost entirely disregarded. You’d think it was Tier 4 at top legend. Yes, Pure Paladin has a low skill ceiling and some of its matchups get worse at higher levels of play, but it’s still more than fine. Perhaps advanced players find it a little boring. If you’re a beginner or intermediate Hearthstone player, sitting at a rank in which the class feels overtuned, remember that Paladin is very beatable as long as you learn how to exploit its weaknesses.

Shaman

  • Totem Shaman looks like a dying archetype. Its win rate is underwhelming and continues to slowly decline. Other Shaman decks are nowhere near good enough. There are nine viable and competitive classes in the current meta, which would have been the dream meta at every other time in Hearthstone’s history. Shaman was the sacrifice to make it happen.

Class Analysis & Decklists

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

 


Data Reaper Report - Rogue

Aggro Rogue has been relentlessly countered by the emerging meta, a testament to Scholomance Academy’s balancing counterplay options. It is no longer the dominant deck of the format, and might need to adjust to the newfound hostility.

The archetype’s ability to adjust is certainly there, with a new build that omits both the Burn package and the Steeldancer package, instead opting for value cards such as EVIL Miscreant, Wand Thief, and Shadowstep. The thinking behind these changes is that other decks have found ways to exploit Aggro Rogue’s fixation on burn by outlasting it or racing it. Instead of focusing on speed, Rogue’s response is to shift the build to become more versatile and more resilient by being less likely to run out of resources. Weapon tech also becomes completely useless against this variant.

A popular choice in this deck is Questing Adventurer, imitating Miracle Rogue’s success with the card, but it’s not a very good performer in this deck. You’re better off still running Burrowing Scorpid, which you can think of as an evolution of SI:7 Agent.

The Hyper Aggro build is still quite strong. We’ve added back the 2nd Sap (instead of Akama), an effect that is becoming more valuable again. The Steeldancer build looks worse than either of the variants, so we’ve omitted it.

As the meta is shifting away from Aggro Rogue, Miracle Rogue is getting stronger. Last week, we talked about the importance of an additional 1-drop alongside Pharaoh Cat, suggesting Spymistress as a promising addition. While the card has proven to be very serviceable, there has also been a spike in Intrepid Initiate’s usage over the last week, and it performs even better.

Data Reaper Report - Druid

The battle for supremacy between Survival of the Fittest and Malygos continues. Survival took a hit from the nerf to Kael’thas, and there was a point in time last week where we thought that Malygos would now take over Guardian Druid.

However, WiRer came up with a new build that cuts the entire Kael’thas support package. Instead, it runs Breath of Dreams alongside Emerald Explorer, as well as more survivability through Anubisath Defender, Crystal Power, and Animated Broomstick (which is an insane card in this deck). At the top end, King Phaoris is introduced as a late-game win condition.

We’re extremely impressed with this build, which seems to have a very well-rounded matchup spread and may become the best Druid deck going forward. Until the new invention is found, at least!

Data Reaper Report - Mage

Mage looks firmly in the thick of things, seriously competing for the top of the meta through two very different archetypes.

Cyclone Mage is fairly solidified and last week’s featured build is very successful. There are some new developments within the archetype, with Orange running a generation package including Arcane Breath, Wandmaker, and Cobalt Spellkin while cutting Firebrand, Arcane Intellect and Devolving Missiles. Wandmaker and Cobalt Spellkin look decent upon initial glance, though we’re unsure about Arcane Breath being superior to Devolving Missiles when considering the likelihood of the former being active and the importance of the latter against all forms of Rogue and Druid. We will revisit Cyclone Mage’s build next week after we get more data on it and see whether we can improve it further.

We’ve had a deeper look into Turtle Mage, and have built a theorycrafted list that could be an improvement on common ladder builds. We’ve found that Violet Spellwing and Frozen Shadoweaver perform extremely well in the deck. Spellwing helps us activate Wand Thief and Firebrand, while Shadoweaver offers another form of stalling. Meanwhile, Doomsayer is not actually pulling his weight in this deck at all stages of the game, and it’s very possible the card is included as a result of inertia: the assumption it’s strong in any defensive Mage deck that runs Frost Nova. We would like to see how this deck performs without the card and then re-evaluate whether it’s actually needed, or whether it’s the Dragonqueen Alex sitting in Highlander Priest.

Data Reaper Report - Priest

Priest might never show its real potential through ladder stats during Scholomance Academy since it seems to be doomed to run a horde of bad cards and tech choices. It might be that Priest’s reactive playstyle is encouraging players to “react” to meta developments, but these reactions are often knee jerk and don’t see much success once they propagate in large samples.

The featured Highlander Priest build, which we’ve settled on last week, is very good. The deck possesses multiple ways of clearing the board while also responding to single, big threats. It doesn’t carry any silver bullets to counter a single deck, but strong standalone cards that are useful in many situations. It goes close to 50-50 in most matchups and its “real” meta standing is Tier 2. Dragonqueen Alexstrasza isn’t missed (!).

We’ve decided to re-label non-HL Priest decks as Control Priest. Some of the common ladder builds have dropped Galakrond completely, though we think it’s worth running just so that we can keep running Disciple of Galakrond and have a strong, Pharaoh Cat-esque 1-drop. The build we’ve featured last week has also proven to be strong, though there is potential for improvement, especially in the Priest mirror.

We suggest taking Priest into a bold, new direction, and running the full Cabal package. By running Cabal Shadow Priest and Lazul’s Scheme, we maximize our “Yoink” potential and increase the consistency of the best card in the deck (Cabal Acolyte). Cabal Shadow Priest is an extremely powerful card in the mirror since it can negate an opponent’s Wave/Acolyte play. It’s also potentially game-winning against Druid, and becomes even more powerful if players move into Survival builds again.

The cards that make way are Sethekk Veilweaver and Shadow Word: Death. Both feel like crutch cards, but they often don’t contribute to your game plan. Using SW:D on one dragon off a Ysera portal is often delaying the inevitable loss, but stealing that dragon is a game-winning line. The same is true for the mirror, where resource generation is so high that 1-for-1 removal is far less effective.

We will re-evaluate the Yoink build next week, and see whether it can be improved further. We’re intentionally going full yoink to test the limits of this package, and then proceed to reduce it if it shows up to be overkill. If we had to flex to out the full Yoink package today, we’d run Veilweaver/Smite instead of Shadow Priest/Scheme. That’s the most proven selection of 30 Control Priest cards you could take to ladder right now.

Data Reaper Report - Warrior

It’s an uneventful week for Warrior, as it observes the meta frenzy from the sidelines. Bomb Warrior is the strongest and most prevalent Warrior deck on ladder, but it certainly has not been as dominant as it was when it first entered the format. Poor matchups against Pure Paladin, Face Hunter, and Aggro Rogue make it a questionable choice on the climb to legend. It’s better off being played at top legend, where these decks aren’t as popular.

The recommended build hasn’t changed. If you’re paranoid, you could run two Hoard Pillagers, but weapon tech has been declining and we expect it to continue to decline, making double Upgrade stronger. We’ve seen experimentation of adding the Ancharrr package alongside Galakrond, and while running Skipper/Armorsmith improves two of your worst matchups (Aggro Rogue, Face Hunter), you’d have to cut many important cards to fit them in, and the sacrifice in your other matchups is too great.

Demon Hunter’s standing in the current meta is a good reflection of the entire meta. It is a powerful class, but not to an overwhelming degree, with two distinct playstyles that are very competitive in the current field.

There hasn’t been much news regarding deck refinement within Demon Hunter. We can report that the Soul Demon Hunter build we’ve featured last week, which includes Spectral Sight, is performing very well. The Druid and Paladin matchups are certainly difficult, but the rest of the matchup spread looks very good.

Aggro Demon Hunter was successfully refined early and hasn’t seen any changes since. It’s a very balanced deck, both in its matchup spread and overall win rate, a stark contrast to its Ashes of Outland iteration.

Data Reaper Report - Hunter

Face Hunter has been tearing up ladder over the past week, proving worthy of its Meta Breaker label. It has been one of the most important factors leading to Aggro Rogue’s decline.

Discussion of Face Hunter’s build is fairly interesting. One card that seems to be underwhelming once again is Toxic Reinforcements, which could be a victim of its own success, as it is terrible in the increasingly popular mirror.  There are plenty of situations where it’s correct to throw away Toxic Reinforcements in the mulligan and prioritize the board in the early game, which could be an argument to not running the sidequest at all, and many ladder builds have succeeded without it. For now, we’ve reduced the number of copies to 1, as it is better used as a finisher in the current meta rather than a turn 1 play.

With the meta changing rapidly every day, so can the strength of Explosive Trap, Freezing Trap, and Pressure Plate. It could be correct to diversify this package in order to keep your opponent guessing. Pay attention to what you’re running into and potentially adjust these slots accordingly. If you’re running into a lot of aggressive decks, Explosive Trap is very effective. If you’re facing many Druids, you would rather run the other two. Face Hunter isn’t as easy to pilot and optimize as it’s perceived to be!

Data Reaper Report - Warlock

The shifting meta has provided an opportunity for Zoo Warlock to throw its weight around. Whenever Priests and Druids rise in popularity, this deck offers an extremely effective answer to them, and we’ve seen several players finish at top legend ranks at the end of August thanks to these matchups. We think Zoo Warlock is slightly worse off at lower ranks due to the popularity of Aggro Rogue and Face Hunter, which are very difficult matchups that punish the Warlock’s masochistic nature.

Success at top legend usually leads to new developments, and Pen Flinger might be the most impactful new addition to the deck, leading to a promising direction for the archetype that involves focusing on self-punishment. The thinking behind Pen Flinger is that we want to get Flesh Giants down extremely early with the help of Darkglare. Pen Flinger is a great combo card alongside Raise Dead to help us achieve that.

Data Reaper Report - Paladin

Pure Paladin has completely settled down. It is one of the strongest decks to climb to legend with, and its performance declines at higher levels of play where it is almost frowned upon (though it’s still fine).

It’s a bit unfortunate that other archetypes for the class haven’t gained any traction. “Impure” Paladins running Pen Flingers and Wild Pyromancers have seen experimentation, but they don’t seem to be very powerful at the moment. We wouldn’t write them off yet.

Data Reaper Report - Shaman

Press F to pay respects.


Data Reaper Report - Meta Breaker

Scholomance Academy could become a golden age in Hearthstone, with a meta that rapidly changes every week due to the availability of counterplay and absence of a dominant deck that beats all challengers.

If you had to push us to suggest one deck amongst the competitive pack of options, we have to give this week’s Meta Breaker label to Miracle Rogue. As Aggro Rogue declines in power, Miracle Rogue is getting stronger and has seen a significant rise in its win rate.

We think this deck is the most likely to break the Tier 1 barrier at higher levels of play, since all it needs to do is cut some underperforming cards that have been strangely persistent in their presence. Then again, the meta could change by next week and stop Miracle Rogue from getting there.

When it comes to Scholomance Academy, we’re really trying to master the unexpected.


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Contributors

Here are all the people that participated in bringing you this edition of the vS Data Reaper Report:

EndofDayswwloscheesee-hunterspacemonkey-paladin TzachilookitzjoeNaramoSentenza

5 Comments

  1. I think Consume Magic has to be better than Mana Burn in Aggro DH. Knocks out an Edwin and/or a Questing. Gives you a fighting chance in the later turns against Pally.

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