vS Data Reaper Report #174

A weekly Hearthstone Meta Report based on data from 165,000 games.

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Welcome to the 174th edition of the Data Reaper Report!

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Quick Links

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 165,000
Top 1K Legend 7,000
Legend (Excluding Top 1k) 32,000
Diamond 4 to 1 32,000
Diamond 10 to 5 33,000
Platinum 23,000
Bronze/Silver/Gold 38,000

Class/Archetype Distribution

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Class Frequency

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Class Frequency Discussion

Druid is seeing a rise in play at all rank brackets, and the class is becoming extremely prevalent at top legend where it feels relatively uncontested. While Druid’s performance has yet to suggest it’s the strongest class, the fact that it’s difficult to target compared to other classes (such as Warrior and Mage) has contributed to its gravitational pull.

Mage has risen in play at lower ranks, but seems to have reached a plateau at legend, where its performance has noticeably dropped last week. Cyclone Mage has been struggling to deal with the meta’s fixation on beating it, with several popular matchups that put it at a disadvantage. Turtle Mage has stabilized with a modest play rate. Highlander Mage continues to be a rare sight at top legend.

Soul Demon Hunter continues its ascension. It has risen in play throughout ladder, and eclipsed Cyclone Mage in its play rate at top legend. Most builds at higher levels look to improve the increasingly popular and difficult Druid matchup, and we talk about them in the Demon Hunter section. Aggro DH sees very fringe play at legend.

Bomb Warrior has surprisingly declined, and this might be a result of a growing preference amongst the player base for Soul Demon Hunter. Both decks are somewhat similar in their playstyle, but Demon Hunter is far stronger against aggressive decks, while Warrior’s inevitability shines in the slower matchups.

Face Hunter’s numbers look very stable. It’s a very popular choice throughout ladder, but looks most dominant on the climb to legend. Highlander Hunter’s numbers continue to be modest in comparison, but the archetype is finally seeing a drastic change in its builds. A new and aggressive “Face” version of the archetype is beginning to take shape, and it might be worthy of consideration.

Rogue’s fall continues, as both Aggro and Miracle Rogue are dwindling in their numbers following a decline in their performance over the last few weeks. Miracle Rogue’s refinement is a slow process in which Eviscerate replaces Vendetta. Aggro Rogue is going through a Steeldancer revival, with the fringe variant beginning to see more play once again.

Priest is going through a refinement phase in which players at higher levels are beginning to recognize the limitation of the Highlander archetype. Control Priest is now the preferred choice, with builds stabilizing around the nerfed Cabal Acolyte and different levels of support for it.

Paladin’s numbers are growing, and most importantly, this is true for top legend as well. Libroom Paladin, last week’s tentative Meta Breaker, is beginning to receive more attention from players who were previously not receptive to the class.

Warlock is fading away, and the class is now nearly non-existent at top legend. Zoo Warlock’s failures have driven people away, while other Warlock decks have not attracted any players in return. It looks grim for Gul’dan.

Shaman is now more popular than Warlock, though that isn’t saying much. Totem Shaman is seeing more experimentation with the Polkelt build we’ve showcased last week, and it’s time to see whether the propagation of that list had a positive impact on the archetype’s performance.

Matchup Win Rates Header

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vS Meta Score

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vS Power Rankings Discussion

The Scholomance Academy meta at top legend has once again achieved a balanced field of win rates. While the play rate is a bit skewed towards Druid, other classes are more than capable of challenging it and finding success themselves. There are nine classes that look viable on ladder. Outside of top legend, Face Hunter and Pure Paladin are the clear favorites and the strongest choices for your climb to legend at this stage of the month.

  • Druid
    • You may wonder why Druid is so popular at higher levels if its win rate is this reasonable, and the answer may lie in its matchup spread. When you look at the common decks in the meta, they all carry a very reliable answer, a “nemesis” that can beat them consistently. Scholomance Academy has achieved balance partly because of this remarkable counter-ability. Out of the entire field, Guardian Druid might be the most resilient archetype and the most difficult one to target. One of its best counters, Pure Paladin, is also non-existent at higher levels. Therefore, playing Druid is not necessarily the best choice at any given time, but the safest choice.
    • There are three variants of Guardian Druid that we continue to feature in the report. Malygos Druid is currently slightly weaker than the other two. Phaoris Druid is the most well-rounded variant that typifies Druid in the current meta: tough to beat and tough to counter.
  • Mage
    • Much of what we said about Cyclone Mage in the previous report is also true today. Similar to Guardian Druid, it’s very popular, but the other most popular decks in the current meta all carry an edge against it. The field at legend rank is very hostile to Cyclone Mage, with Demon Hunter, Druid, Hunter, and Warrior keeping its weighted win rate under 50% at higher levels.
    • Turtle Mage is gaining ground with a productive refinement phase that sees sub-optimal cards slowly fade away. In addition, the Barrier build we discussed last week is quite promising and diversifies Turtle Mage’s ability to respond to different matchups. It has a decent chance of breaking the 50% barrier at legend in the near future.
    • Highlander Mage may look like a dead deck, but we have identified a way it can survive in Scholomance Academy. It involves utilizing an entirely different build that’s taking a page from Cyclone Mage’s book. It’s featured and discussed in the Mage section.
  • Demon Hunter
    • While Soul Demon Hunter can improve the Druid matchup with several card choices, there is a sacrifice in other matchups that cannot be ignored. This is why a rise in Druid’s popularity is always bad news for this deck, leading to a decline in its win rate. The deck is still good though!
    • It’s clear that Aggro Demon Hunter is a strong choice on the climb to legend, but falls off at legend to the point it’s clearly inferior to Soul Demon Hunter. Its disappearance from the field at top legend makes sense.
  • Warrior
    • Bomb Warrior continues to perform very well at top legend, but isn’t as strong at lower ranks. The reason isn’t its high skill cap (compared to other decks in the meta, it’s relatively simple), but the meta’s composition. Bomb Warrior is weak to aggression and shines in slower matchups where it’s given time to execute its game plan. The meta at higher levels tends to be slower, and with weapon tech declining (for a good reason), Bomb Warrior is performing quite well. Bomb Warrior might be the weakest and most vulnerable “best deck” we’ve ever seen in the history of Hearthstone.
  • Hunter
    • While Face Hunter needs no further introduction, with its power level clear to see, what’s going on with Highlander Hunter? The archetype has dramatically risen in its win rate over the past week, looking nearly equally strong to Face Hunter at top legend. The cause is the emergence of the Highlander Face Hunter build we talk about in the Hunter section, which could offer a very promising alternative to currently available options within the class.
  • Rogue
    • Miracle Rogue is recovering from the hangover of the Secret Passage nerf and the hostile meta shifts we’ve seen in the last couple of weeks. As long as you play the good cards and play the deck well, you will experience close matchups against all of the top meta decks. That’s not good enough to put it in a strong place in the meta, but good enough to be competitive and successful.
    • Aggro Rogue is in a worse spot, where it doesn’t seem to match up well enough against the top meta decks. Gone are the days when it looked invincible. One interesting development within the archetype is the return of Steeldancer, which no longer looks inferior to other options. However, we question this variant’s ability to change Aggro Rogue’s prospects considering its poor standing against Druid.
  • Priest
    • The refinement in Control Priest is helping boost its performance to a more reasonable level, but it’s unlikely that the deck will ever show a positive win rate in the near future. It’s strong enough to be successful, but the bad habits remain an issue. To consistently succeed with Priest on ladder at the moment, you need to worry about your own game plan rather than worry about the opponent.
    • This brings us to Highlander Priest, the archetype that seems to be completely obsessed with worrying about its opponents. It’s sunk deep into Tier 4. Don’t be a Highlander Priest. Focus on self-improvement.
  • Paladin
    • Last week’s Meta Breaker, Libroom Paladin, debuts on the Power Ranking table and looks quite impressive. Its performance at top legend is indicative of a deck that’s just waiting to break out, considering that it could still potentially improve. Its weakness to Priest and Mage is clear to see, and the question is, can it improve these matchups? If it does, it could become the very best deck in the game. We suggest a solution in the Paladin section, but it’s not a guarantee.
  • Shaman
    • Totem Shaman could very well become a competitive Hearthstone deck, even if it doesn’t establish itself as a particularly strong one. The Totem Goliath buff has provided a sizeable boost to its power, while the latest Polkelt build is showing promise in leveraging this buff.
  • Warlock
    • Gul’dan is the latest imposter of Scholomance Academy, and everyone already saw him fake tasks and use the vent on round 1. Zoo Warlock isn’t showing the slightest hint of making any progress and sits deep in the dumpster after getting demolished by the Darkglare nerf. Galakrond Warlock is fringe playable, but not very good. Warlock is the new Shaman.

Class Analysis & Decklists

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


Data Reaper Report - Druid

While Mage can certainly be punished for its popularity, Druid is relatively unchecked. Based on its popularity and the scarcity of its poor matchups, we think that Druid is the strongest class in the format, even though the meta is generally very balanced and there isn’t truly a standout deck. The Darkglare nerf gave Malfurion a lot of freedom to do whatever he wants without worrying about Zoo Warlocks chasing him around.

We’re very impressed with the three builds we’ve featured last week for Guardian Druid. All three are relatively close in power level, though recent meta trends have slightly weakened Malygos Druid compared to the other two. If you’d like to understand which variant you want to run on ladder and why, last week’s Druid section does a good job of explaining their merits.

Data Reaper Report - Mage

Cyclone Mage continues to be a very popular deck in a hostile environment geared to beat it. It exhibits two main variants, which we’ve discussed last week. The Dragon build focuses on reload potential and hoarding resources through Cobalt Spellkin and Arcane Breath. The Vanilla build runs a few singular cards that are meant to target certain matchups. Conjurer’s Calling is fairly popular in this variant, due to its importance in the unfavored Bomb Warrior/Soul DH matchups, even though it doesn’t particularly perform well in general.

Considering the power level of Firebrand and Devolving Missiles, which we don’t want to cut, it’s possible that Arcane Intellect should be the card to make way. AI’s performance is borderline good enough, but the card is a luxury that the deck may not need. Based on our observation, smart usage of Cram Session could be enough to ensure that Arcane Intellect is not missed, much like it isn’t missed in the Dragon variant.

Last week, we suggested a new build path in Turtle Mage, in which we cut Blizzards and Sunreaver Warmage for Ice Barrier and Cloud Prince in order to improve our performance against burn decks. We can now clearly see the merit in this change and how it affects certain matchups.

Barrier/Prince is much stronger against Soul Demon Hunter, completely turning that matchup around into becoming Mage favored. We can also observe a dramatic improvement against Face Hunter, turning it into just slightly unfavored. The change improves the Warrior matchup, for the same reason it improves the DH matchup, but on a smaller scale.

However, this does come at a cost. The loss of Blizzard significantly hurts your Druid, Mage and Paladin matchups. Barrier is better against Aggro Rogue, but worse against Miracle Rogue. With 3 cards changing so many matchups, we see great value in Turtle Mage as a tournament deck fitting different lineups. When it comes to ladder, the choice isn’t obvious, and depends on what you’re running into.

Highlander Mage has struggled to compete in Scholomance Academy, but may have found a solution to its ladder woes: just copy whatever Cyclone Mage is doing! A Highlander Cyclone Mage build has risen in popularity on ladder, and looks quite impressive, eclipsing the old Dragon build by a wide margin. Just don’t forget about Imprisoned Observer!

With Druid’s standing in the field growing, there is a sentiment amongst high level players to build Soul Demon Hunter into performing better against Druid. Luckily for this build path, many of the cards that look to target Druid are even more effective against Paladin. So, the “Anti-Druid” sentiment can also be relevant at lower levels of play where Paladin is very popular.

The cards you’d look to run against Druid are Magtheridon and Wandmaker. Mag’s strength against Druid doesn’t require much explanation, while Wandmaker can generate several cards that are very strong in the matchup. Consume Magic is strong against the Exotic Mountseller variant of Guardian Druid (which runs Ironbark), but shines more against Miracle Rogue and Paladin.

This leads us to the featured “Anti-Druid” build, which is forced to cut Battlefiend and Spectral Sight. How does it compare to the Spectral build we’ve featured for the last few weeks?

Essentially, the new build flattens your matchup spread by improving your bad matchups and sacrificing your stronger matchups. You gain significant percentages against Druid and Paladin (around 10% for each) but become worse against Hunter, Mage, Warrior and other Demon Hunters. It’s possible that the less polarizing matchup spread has led to a better ladder experience and the increasing popularity of going Anti-Druid, but there isn’t a strictly better choice at the moment. It entirely depends on the composition of your opponents.

Data Reaper Report - Warrior

Warrior’s week has been uneventful, though that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Bomb Warrior continues to look very powerful, with a matchup spread that doesn’t leave much else to think about. The deck is extremely effective in slow matchups, where its inevitable game plan is very irritating to deal with. The most effective way to beat it is by pressuring it out of the game, so aggressive decks, such as Face Hunter, do well against it.

There’s not much else to talk about. Big Warrior is the only other deck with noticeable ladder presence. The Cacheless build with Livewire Lance is the way to go. It has some decent matchups against Druid, Soul DH, and Bomb Warrior, making it strangely playable, but it has severe issues against other decks, keeping most players uninterested.

Data Reaper Report - Hunter

Face Hunter has settled down as one of the strongest decks on ladder at all levels of play. Builds continue to tinker between secret choices, with double Freezing Trap becoming stronger due to the rise and success of Druid, while Explosive Trap is losing value. The option is still there to cut one secret and run Toxic Reinforments as another finisher alongside Dragonbane and Polkelt.

Highlander Hunter is attempting to emulate Face Hunter’s success by running a faster curve, essentially turning into a Face Hunter deck that happens to run Zephrys and Dinotamer Brann. We’re featuring a list that is curated from existing builds, and the results are quite promising. This new “Facey” Highlander Hunter is vastly superior to the slower dragon build, and could be just as powerful as Face Hunter. If you like playing Highlander Hunter but find it hard to justify over Face Hunter, give this one a spin.

Data Reaper Report - Rogue

Rogue is attempting to recover from the drop in its power and popularity following a few difficult weeks. The good news is that Rogue is still competitive and there are some encouraging developments that indicate it should stick around.

Miracle Rogue is okay. It doesn’t carry advantages against the top meta decks, but it can hang in there with close matchups against all of them as long as you play the deck well. One difficult choice on ladder is between Intrepid Initiate and Cult Neophyte. The latter is very tempting because of its strength against Guardian Druid and Cyclone Mage, but the card is so useless in most other matchups that it’s definitely not a strictly better choice than the more well-rounded Initiate.

Steeldancer could be making its return to Aggro Rogue. We’ve noticed a decline in weapon tech over the last week, while meta trends are also leading to a more favorable environment for the Dancer variant.  It now looks to be on par with the Hyper Aggro build, while the Lackey variant has fallen off.

Data Reaper Report - Priest

Priest’s position in the meta isn’t the best, but it’s certainly a competitive ladder choice. We continue to be impressed with the full Yoink Control Priest build, though the option is there to reduce the package by running Sethekk Veilweaver and either Holy Smite or Shadow Word: Death. The Full Yoink build particularly shines in Priest mirrors, and can be devasting against Paladins too. Running Holy Smite leans towards beating Hunters, while Shadow Word: Death is best used against Miracle Rogues and Soul Demon Hunters.

Highlander Priest is strictly inferior to Control Priest, and its poor optimization on ladder makes it look even worse. We’re beginning to doubt whether it has real merits considering that even its best build’s ceiling is some way off Control Priest.

Data Reaper Report - Paladin

The last week hasn’t taught us anything we didn’t already know about Paladin, but there is one suggestion to potentially improve Libroom Paladin that we can share.

As we’ve said last week, Libroom Paladin’s biggest weaknesses are its Priest and Mage matchups. The freezes, stalling, and swing turns from Mage, as well as the removal available to Priest, make these matchups very difficult since Paladin is extremely reliant on the board in order to win games.

This is why some burst damage from hand could help Paladin finish off games, which is where Avenging Wrath comes in. There was a time when AW was an important card in a top meta Paladin deck: Even Paladin in Witchwood ran into a similar issue of dominating board while lacking burst, and found Avenging Wrath to be an effective finisher.

Obviously, Libroom Paladin is a different deck, but based on very (very) preliminary results, it’s worth a shot. The cards that would make way for Avenging Wrath are Lightforged Blessing (strong card in your already good matchups, but a useless card in your bad matchups) and a single Loot Hoarder.

Data Reaper Report - Shaman

The last week has given us encouragement that while Totem Shaman is unlikely to be a strong meta deck, it could be a playable one. Certainly, a strong enough deck for Shaman players to queue into ladder without feeling extremely gimped. Its good matchups against Druid, Priest, and Warrior could even make it a fringe consideration in tournaments, though we might be pushing it here!

After looking into data of last week’s Polkelt build, we think it has the potential to be the best direction for the archetype with a couple of tweaks. We’ve found that the deck lacks strong standalone 1-drops that are easily playable and therefore synergize with Voracious Reader.

Meanwhile, some of the more situational 1-drops aren’t performing well (Beaming Sidekick, Animated Broomstick). We’ve cut them for Surging Tempest and Sludge Slurper, proven performers in fast Shaman decks, past and present. This will likely lead to a boost in the deck’s early game (and win rate).

Data Reaper Report - Warlock

The balance changes may have swapped Shaman and Warlock around. Shaman now looks like the class that could potentially have some competitive implications, while Warlock has sunk into a deep dumpster it cannot seem to climb out of.

Zoo Warlock has suffered a crippling fall in its win rate following the nerf to Darkglare, while Galakrond Warlock remains underwhelmingly weak with very little scope for improvement. It could be vacation time for Gul’dan until the next balance changes, where he might be hoping for a buff that would revitalize his options. Archwitch Willow ain’t it, chief.

Data Reaper Report - Meta Breaker

Even though we expect to see further developments to the meta, battle lines appear to be drawn as classes are presenting their defined strengths and weaknesses. The meta appears to be very healthy from a power level perspective, and there doesn’t seem to be a deck that’s clearly stronger than others at the highest level.

One deck that could break the current landscape is Libroom Paladin, and it’s all about whether it can find a missing piece to its puzzle. It may never happen in this expansion, or it could happen next week. Our point is that this deck is on the edge of changing the format, and we’re extremely curious whether the missing piece to the puzzle is available in the card pool.

It’s the most worthy deck to be labeled as a Meta Breaker, for the 2nd week in a row.

And hey, if Avenging Wrath isn’t the answer, at least it has pretty animation!

Libroom Paladin

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