vS Data Reaper Report #173

A weekly Hearthstone Meta Report based on data from 210,000 games.

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Welcome to the 173rd 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 210,000
Top 1K Legend 8,000
Legend (Excluding Top 1k) 29,000
Diamond 4 to 1 35,000
Diamond 10 to 5 49,000
Platinum 30,000
Bronze/Silver/Gold 59,000

Class/Archetype Distribution

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Class Frequency

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Class Frequency Discussion

Mage has been the most popular class at legend in the aftermath of the balance changes. Cyclone Mage becomes increasingly popular at top legend, where even Turtle Mage is now very noticeable. Highlander Mage continues to be played at lower ranks but fades away at the top.

Druid is another class that becomes more popular as you climb the ranks, peaking at top legend. Different approaches are being experimented with in Guardian Druid, which we detail in the Druid section. The latest trend is a further decline in Malygos, and Survival’s rise in interest.

There is a noticeable uptick in Soul Demon Hunter, once again, peaking at top legend where the archetype is widely popular. While the deck struggles against Druid, its favorable matchups against many of the other common meta decks have caused its stock to rise.

Bomb Warrior is exhibiting a very similar play pattern to Soul DH. Both decks are almost conjoined at the hip, and are extremely influential at higher levels of play. Their focus on off-the-board damage is creating some surprising dynamics that even the best players have yet to catch on to.

Rogue has dramatically declined following the patch. Both Aggro Rogue and Miracle Rogue are now modestly popular throughout ladder, a big change from Aggro Rogue’s sheer domination of ladder earlier in the expansion. At top legend, these decks flip roles, and Miracle is the more popular choice.

Face Hunter is finally getting the recognition it deserves for its ladder success, becoming very popular at top legend, where it was previously frowned upon. The deck is still extremely popular on the climb to legend, of course. Highlander Hunter is declining, seemingly failing to find its own role in the meta.

Just as it was beginning to stabilize around more consistent builds, Priest was thrown into chaos following the Cabal Acolyte nerf. Both Control Priest and Highlander Priest are wildly experimenting, chopping and changing. Here we go again.

Pure Paladin’s play rate patterns haven’t changed. It’s very popular on the climb to legend, declines at legend, and is hilariously absent at top legend. Interestingly, Impure Libroom Paladins have emerged following FunkiMonki’s success with a specific build, and this deck has become more popular than Pure Paladin at top legend.

Warlock seems to have collapsed. All of its archetypes are either severely declining, or completely disappearing as you climb ladder. Zoo Warlock is the last stronghold of the class, but the Darkglare nerf has sparked a significant exodus of players that is quite concerning and noticeable at every level of play.

The Totem Goliath buff has slightly elevated Totem Shaman’s play rate, but both the deck and its class are still very uncommon. Players are largely uninterested in testing Shaman after its previous failures, not believing the Goliath buff has made a big enough impact. We can’t blame them.

Matchup Win Rates Header

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vS Meta Score

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vS Power Rankings Discussion

There’s a pretty big discrepancy between what’s assumed to perform well and what actually performs well, which is typical of a post-patch meta that hasn’t had a chance to settle down yet. Most of these discrepancies can be easily explained, which is what we’re about to do.

  • Mage:
    • Cyclone Mage is a deck that many players enjoy playing and it’s certainly powerful. The ability to generate so many resources also supports the impression it can always pull a win out of the hat. However, regardless of this perception, bad matchups are bad matchups. Players have become extremely focused on beating Cyclone Mage with their deck choices, especially at top legend where Druid, Warrior and Demon Hunter are highly prevalent. Cyclone Mage isn’t unbeatable and has issues in multiple popular matchups, which is why it currently doesn’t perform as well as it’s expected to. The current meta is very hostile to the deck, which is paying the price for its popularity.
    • Turtle Mage was on its way to stardom but has suffered a setback in the early patch days due to the player base’s obsession with countering the deck at higher levels, even though it was never that popular. This includes running Living Dragonbreath, which makes Kobold Stickyfinger look like a sensible ladder choice in comparison. Furthermore, Turtle Mage has yet to clean up its sub-optimal card choices, so it will take more time to reach its win rate ceiling, which could be very high if one specific build path ends up breaking out (Read the Mage section for what it is).
    • While the burn meta is troublesome for Cyclone Mage, it is completely debilitating for Highlander Mage, a deck that simply has no answer to seeing its life total pressured so aggressively. The deck is currently dumpstering out of the format.
  • Druid:
    • The class is blessed with good options and versatility, and now that Zoo Warlock has been severely weakened (which we will get to later), Druid is often left uncontested, especially at top legend where players seem to be allergic to Paladin. The Druid section walks you through the popular variants of Guardian Druid that are currently performing well, and the small differences in their matchup spreads. They’re all good, and there’s very little that separates them. You can’t really go wrong with this class.
  • Demon Hunter:
    • Soul Demon Hunter is just so strong. It has two obvious weaknesses but performs exceptionally well against the rest of the field. It certainly helps that players at higher levels just completely ignore Paladin’s existence, which is its worst matchup. The Druid matchup is tough, but not bad enough to take the wind out of Soul DH’s sails.
    • Aggro Demon Hunter is alright. The clear choice within the class is Soul DH, but that doesn’t mean Aggro DH can’t get the job done. It’s reasonably strong in a very competitive meta.
  • Warrior:
    • Bomb Warrior is having a very good time. Whenever an aggressive deck declines in play, it’s usually good news for this deck. Considering how dramatically Aggro Rogue has fallen, it’s not hard to figure out why Bomb Warrior’s win rate increased.
    • The meta is so desperate to see players counter Bomb Warrior and Soul Demon Hunter that even Big Warrior looks like a not-terrible option in this field. With Priest going through some decline alongside aggressive decks, Big Warrior is quite playable at legend.
  • Rogue:
    • Aggro Rogue’s decline in win rate this week is pretty brutal. So, was the nerf to Secret Passage that impactful? Not really. If you remember what was happening before the patch, the meta was already in the process of answering Aggro Rogue very effectively, so its current win rate is a reflection of a continuation of that process. The archetype has simply been ruthlessly countered and exposed as the rest of the field got stronger and more efficient.
    • Miracle Rogue’s decline in win rate is even more brutal, but the future prospects for the deck are more optimistic. It seems that the patch has initially demanded some adjustments from Miracle Rogue players, who are quickly adapting and improving their performance with the deck on a daily basis. It is one of the most skill-testing decks in the format, so we’re not surprised to see this occur after the nerf to Secret Passage. We’re also witnessing more players finally shedding Dragon’s Hoard and Vendetta, and this is helping the deck perform better in many matchups.
  • Hunter
    • Face Hunter continues to top the win rate charts at legend. Keep sleeping on this deck, and it will keep winning! The deck’s matchup spread is just very well-rounded, with its biggest counter being Soul Demon Hunter. Its role in the current meta is very important, as it’s the main force that’s preventing Bomb Warrior from spinning out of control. With Aggro Rogue’s decline and the meta slowing down, we’re seeing some classes justifiably shed some anti-aggro tools, which helps Face Hunter’s standing against them (a good example is Druid).
  • Priest:
    • As it is the story of this expansion. Priest is better than it looks. The Cabal Acolyte nerf has sparked knee-jerk reactions that have contributed to the propagation of highly ineffective Control Priest builds in the early days of the patch. The surprising conclusion of the nerf is that the card is not just good enough to be played, but the correct adjustment is to support its usage even more than before! The ceiling for Control Priest post-refinement is estimated to be Tier 2. The way to get there is detailed in the Priest section.
    • While Control Priest may have misread the Cabal Acolyte nerf, Highlander Priest seems to misread everything. The archetype is the epitome of netdecking gone wrong. The secret to Priest’s consistent success on ladder is not to add narrow tech cards that are good in one or two matchups just because someone hit top 10 legend or had a good run in a tournament with it. Identify the cards that perform well against the entire field and you will be rewarded for it.
  • Paladin:
    • Paladin is absurdly underplayed at legend. We recognize that Pure Paladin isn’t some galaxy brain deck, but that doesn’t mean its play rate at top legend should be 1.3%. The meta is practically begging for a deck that does well against Druid, Warrior, Hunter and Demon Hunter, which is exactly where Paladin fits. Mage presents its worst matchups, which might explain why Paladin isn’t valued (players are currently highly fixated on not losing to Mage), but the class is currently under a lot of pressure from other forces. We think Pure Paladin is a pretty good choice right now because it punishes burn decks that don’t prioritize the board, and this trait is as valued at higher levels of play as it is pretty much everywhere else.
    • Perhaps, the way for Paladin to re-enter the hearts of the player base is through Libroom Paladin, which has a more flexible game plan. Based on our low sample estimates, this archetype currently sits at Tier 2, and might even be stronger if it could find a breakthrough in its refinement, which isn’t that unlikely. Its matchup spread is exceptionally good, with a weakness to Mage and Priest preventing it from becoming a surefire Meta Breaker. It’s strong against everything else.
  • Warlock:
    • When we looked at the data for Zoo Warlock, we really had to double-check that nothing in our system broke to present such a drastically low win rate for the archetype. After all, we saw the deck hit #1 legend this week, so surely it can’t be that bad? Turns out, our system is perfectly fine and Zoo Warlock is indeed struggling at an alarming level. If it doesn’t improve quickly, it’s going to disappear.
    • Other Warlock decks haven’t looked very promising. We estimate that Galakrond Warlock is scraping the bottom of Tier 3, which doesn’t sound great. The Darkglare nerf may have been a necessary change for Wild, but it’s doing a number on Warlock in Standard.
  • Shaman:
    • Totem Shaman looks okay, which is usually the case before it fades away as time goes on and the meta settles down. However, we can definitely notice that the buff to Totem Goliath did “something” for the deck, and it might be a case of re-evaluating how to build Totem Shaman for it to succeed. So, the Shaman section this week is an actual class section, with a novel decklist for you to try!

Class Analysis & Decklists

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


Data Reaper Report - Mage

Cyclone Mage performs decently in the post-patch meta, but has a few problematic matchups that prevent it from being a top-tier ladder option rather than just a good one. It generally doesn’t do well against Druid, and has similar difficulties running into Bomb Warrior and Soul Demon Hunter.

There are two Cyclone Mage variants that we find to be similarly strong. The Dragon variant pioneered by Orange carries serious reload potential through Cobalt Spellkins. Arcane Breath performs surprisingly well in this deck, despite the lack of activators. Jandice Barov is a bit hard to fit due to the crowded 5 mana slot.

The Vanilla variant is a bit more flexible with its card choices. We like running one Firebrand as it’s a strong tempo card in the mid-game. While it’s very powerful in faster matchups, it’s quite underrated in slower matchups too, where it’s nowhere near a liability. Devolving Missiles is very powerful against Rogue, Druid, Paladin and Hunter. Arcane Intellect adds a bit more consistency to your card draw. Conjurer’s Calling is more of a tech card for your bad matchups. If you’re running into many Warriors and Demon Hunters, you could consider cutting Devolving Missiles (a bad card in these matchups) for it.

Turtle Mage has great potential, though it is littered with sub-optimal card choices. We can tell you that Acidic Swamp Ooze and Doomsayer are generally a waste of time. Contrary to common perception, Turtle Mage is not a stalling combo deck. It’s a midrange deck with a late-game combo, so you’re better off aggressively fighting for the board rather than passively react to your opponent. The build we’ve featured a couple of weeks ago works great. Frozen Shadoweavers allow you to shut down Bomb Warrior and Soul Demon Hunter in the late game while being reasonably useful in other matchups.

An alternative package cuts Blizzard and Sunreaver Warmage for Ice Barrier and Cloud Prince. This change helps you gain more percentages against burn decks (Warrior, Demon Hunter), and other matchups where Blizzard may not be as useful. We don’t have enough data to compare the two choices, so we’d like to float this alternative and see how it fares. You can call it a data-driven hunch.

Data Reaper Report - Druid

Although Druid is firmly dependent on Guardian Animals to be a competitive class in Scholomance Academy, it carries a lot of different flavors that can all be very successful.

Malygos Druid can benefit from becoming greedier in the current meta, so we favor the Jepetto build. The Crystal Power/Anubish Defender variant was mostly developed to perform better against Aggro Rogue, a deck that has significantly declined over the last couple of weeks. Beyond Aggro Rogue and Face Hunter, it doesn’t have much merit. The featured build is the best Druid choice against Bomb Warrior and Turtle Mage, and generally shines in slower matchups.

Phaoris Druid is well-rounded. It has the threat density to perform well in slower matchups, while still carrying strong tools to deal with faster decks. It can be considered the jack-of-all-trades variant. We’ve found that the deck benefits from running 6 beasts and maximizing Guardian Animals so that the 2nd copy can still be fully active in the late game. This has to do with the fact we’re running two copies of Survival of the Fittest and can often pull game-winning stats with the 2nd GA. To make space for six beasts, we cut one Crystal Power, a card that has lost value after the decline of Aggro Rogue.

Exotic Druid is a relatively new build that brings back Exotic Mountseller as a 7-mana threat alongside Guardian Animals. This build excels in faster matchups where it can blow out opponents more consistently once it reaches 7 mana. It is the best performing variant in the mirror and even has a close matchup against Paladin, which is usually a bad matchup for Druid. However, Exotic Druid performs far worse in slower matchups compared to the previous two builds as it doesn’t have burst or a high density of threats. You will feel that against Warriors and Priests.

Soul Demon Hunter possesses an incredible matchup spread that is balanced out by its two poor matchups against Paladin and Druid. Over the last week, we’ve seen a rise in the popularity of Wandmaker. While we strongly disagree with cutting Battlefiend for it, we can get behind the idea of running both together and cutting Spectral Sight.

The general rule of thumb is that running Wandmaker slightly improves your bad matchups, but cutting Spectral Sights weakens your better matchups since we’re losing some of the consistency in our game plan. Wandmaker is decent against Druid and Paladin because it’s an early body that can often find Mana Burn and Consume Magic. It also helps deal some chip damage to Bomb Warrior.

Data Reaper Report - Warrior

Bomb Warrior is an easy deck to understand. If you give it time to execute its game plan, it will do a lot of damage. If you pressure it early and deny its freedom, it can easily fold. Thankfully for Bomb Warrior players, aggressive decks are not highly prevalent after Aggro Rogue significantly declined.

You can already tell that based on our last statement, the Galakrond Bomb Warrior build that doesn’t run Risky Skipper/Armorsmith is the correct choice for ladder, and it’s not a close call. Double Brawl has become highly valuable in the current meta, so we wouldn’t change a single card in the deck. There’s always the option to run two Hoard Pillagers if you’re very paranoid about Ooze, but you shouldn’t be. Ooze sucks.

Big Warrior has fallen off hard since the early days of the expansion, but we did find a new direction for the archetype that could be superior in the slowed-down meta. It involves cutting Corsair Cache and Reaper’s Scythe, opting for more late-game threats and Livewire Lance. It seems to be working pretty well, so if you’re a fan of this deck, you’ve got something new and promising to try.

Data Reaper Report - Rogue

Rogue has declined in its standing in the meta after the balance changes. Some may pin the blame on the Secret Passage nerf, but the class’ decline was mostly a result of meta changes that were already occurring rather than the power level of Secret Passage.

Miracle Rogue is suffering from the increasing popularity of Bomb Warrior and Soul Demon Hunter. Its matchup against Cyclone Mage has also worsened after Mage’s refinement, while Druids are becoming more difficult to beat. It doesn’t help that Hoard/Vendetta builds are still far too common, but we’re beginning to see more players move away from them.

There isn’t much to adjust in the deck. You could run Cult Neophyte instead of Intrepid Initiate, but this change is only beneficial for the Druid/Cyclone Mage matchups. Flik Skyshiv is a nod to Turtle Mages, but they’re not particularly common at the moment.

Aggro Rogue has fallen pretty dramatically over the last few weeks, as other decks simply got stronger and more efficient. The rise of Face Hunter is also proving to be a massive problem. We continue to recommend the two builds we’ve settled on before the patch, while the Steeldancer variant is noticeably inferior. The Lackey build is better against Paladin and Hunter. The Hyper build is better against Warrior and Priest.

Data Reaper Report - Hunter

Even though Aggro Rogue has declined in popularity, Face Hunter still looks incredibly strong as it was never reliant on one matchup to flourish. It can handle some of the strongest decks in the format, and it’s only truly vulnerable to classes with excessive life gain options such as Paladin and Demon Hunter.

Not much has changed in how we would build the deck, though we’ve noticed a rise in Pack Tactics’ usage as a 4th secret, and we don’t hate it over Toxic Reinforcement. We do think that Toxic Reinforcements is mis-utilized in the current meta, where it’s decent as a mid-game finisher but questionable as a turn 1 play.

A current popular choice is running Animal Companion over Imprisoned Felmaw, and this is a strange decision. Not only is Felmaw stronger than Companion at all stages of the game, running Animal Companion makes your Polkelt significantly worse as it is less likely to draw your finishers. Animal Companion has a 66% chance of not going face, and for a 3-mana card in a Voracious Reader deck, that’s not good enough.

Highlander Hunter has fallen off in popularity as it is difficult to justify playing over Face Hunter. The deck is competitive but seems redundant.

Data Reaper Report - Priest

Priest is suffering from its usual case of severe Jankinitis. It seems like every possible bad tech card is propagating to its builds due to the relentless netdecking of tournament builds that target a couple of specific matchups, while ignoring the rest of the possible decks in the meta, most of which you will encounter on ladder.

We were surprised to find that following the Cabal Acolyte nerf, the best direction for Control Priest to go into is full yoink! The explanation is that Acolyte is still a strong enough card in the deck, but now it needs its enablers more than ever. We estimate that Full Yoink Control Priest is currently the best Priest deck to run on ladder. That’s worthy of an Anduin wow.

One tip to going full yoink: you don’t need Lazul’s Scheme to be massively upgraded, so the card shouldn’t be blindly kept in your opening hand. This is being done far too often by players, much like it was done with Togwaggle’s Scheme. Most relevant minions in the current meta have 5 or less attack, so there is no need to set up the perfect yoink. For high attack minions, we have Wave of Apathy already. Treat Lazul’s Scheme as a Shrinkmeister with upside, and you’ll use it better than others.

Highlander Priest on ladder can succeed by focusing on running well-rounded cards, which we’ve already done with our previous pre-patch list. However, we can kick things up a notch by cutting Illucia and Kronx. Illucia is hardly that useful even in the matchups she’s supposed to be useful in (Most Druids don’t even run Malygos), while Kronx can be somewhat slow without the invokes to back it up. We like adding back Shadow Madness as it’s a fairly good answer to Astromancer Solarian and allows us to answer early board states more consistently. Plague of Death is a strong board clear against Druid and is very good in the mirror. It is less conditional than Kronx while exhibiting similar uptime (it’s rare that you get to Kronx-clear before turn 9 anyway, and you don’t need Kronx as a threat).

Data Reaper Report - Paladin

Paladin has finally seen significant developments, with the emergence of the Impure Libroom Paladin pioneered by FunkiMonki. This archetype is more flexible than the curve-reliant Pure Paladin. It possesses a very strong draw engine through Salhet’s Pride and Loot Hoarders, making its late game Libram plan far more consistent. Animated Broomstick provides it with comeback potential, and it can excel at removing an opponent’s threats very efficiently.

Libroom Paladin’s main weaknesses are its Mage and Priest matchups. We’ve thoroughly looked into FunkiMonki’s original build, and we found it difficult to improve with available data. We would encourage players to explore this deck and find ways to boost these matchups. If we could find ways to upgrade some of these slots with lethality and help us close games more aggressively, we could be looking at a Meta Breaking deck.

Data Reaper Report - Warlock

The nerf to Darkglare looks brutal for Zoo Warlock’s ladder prospect. The archetype has been performing extremely poorly over the last week, save for the heroics of Norwis hitting #1 legend with the build featured below. Strangely, this success doesn’t seem to be replicated anywhere else on ladder or at top legend.

Data Reaper Report - Shaman

The Totem Goliath buff may actually improve Totem Shaman’s chance of remaining competitive in this meta. We’ve noticed that the card has become significantly stronger than before, and the deck has benefitted as a result. However, what we really want to do is try to milk the buff for all its worth, and build around it more aggressively.

This is where HeatShock’s build comes into play. The Mage class expert of the report also dabbles with Shaman, and he’s had success at high legend with a list that runs Lorekeeper Polkelt! Polkelt’s purpose is to increase our chances of drawing Goliath, while also serving us the deck’s finisher (Bloodlust) and the highly impactful Splitting Axe.

The build has a low curve resembling that of Face Hunter, complemented by the draw engine of Voracious Reader and the comeback mechanics of Animated Broomstick. We would like to see more data on this build, and assess whether it leverages the Goliath buff in a more successful manner than current Totem Shaman iterations.

Data Reaper Report - Meta Breaker

Paladin is generally underrated by the player base. While it has consistently been a good performer throughout ladder, recent meta trends have put it at an even stronger position at higher levels of play, where it can respond to the rise in prevalence of Demon Hunter, Druid, Hunter and Warrior. Pure Paladin is pretty strong against the field, and while its poor standing against Mage is an issue, the rest of the field is favorable enough to negate it.

Perhaps, the way for Paladin to become more popular at higher levels is the continuing development of Libroom Paladin, the neutral wielding archetype that offers an alternative style. FunkiMonki’s build deserves more attention and more exploration from the player base on how to improve it. It’s not Tier 1 at the moment, but it might be a case of missing something that could be available out there.

This deck’s draw engine is pretty good, so we wonder if it can find an effective finisher that can help it close games in its worst matchups (Priest, Mage).

For now, get the brooms out. The meta needs some serious sweeping.

Libroom Paladin

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