vS Data Reaper Report #176

A weekly Hearthstone Meta Report based on data from 150,000 games.

Data Reaper Report Logo

Welcome to the 176th edition of the Data Reaper Report!

Contributing to the Data Reaper project through Hearthstone Deck Tracker or Firestone allows us to perform our analyses and to issue the weekly reports, so we want to wholeheartedly thank our contributors. Without the community’s contributions, there would be no project. Contributing data is very easy, so if you enjoy our content and would like to make sure it remains consistent and free – Sign up!

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 150,000
Top 1K Legend 7,000
Legend (Excluding Top 1k) 8,000
Diamond 4 to 1 24,000
Diamond 10 to 5 33,000
Platinum 24,000
Bronze/Silver/Gold 54,000

Class/Archetype Distribution

[TABS_PRO id=43493]

Class Frequency

[TABS_PRO id=43494]

Class Frequency Discussion

This week has seen a further uptick in Cyclone Mage with the deck generally enjoying a better time on ladder since the nerf to Druid. It’s now the most popular deck in the format at legend, with its numbers eclipsing 20% at top legend, mimicking Soul Demon Hunter’s accomplishment last week.

Demon Hunter is the most popular class at Diamond ranks, and is now deputizing Mage at legend. Soul Demon Hunter has seen new developments this week in its builds, which are interesting and worth talking about (Hey, loser!). Aggro Demon Hunter is very niche and is non-existent at top legend.

Rogue is both rising in play and shifting its identity. While Miracle Rogue has seen a small uptick in play, it’s fairly settled in its builds. Aggro Rogue’s popularity is modest, and it’s now largely dominated by one variant (Dancer).  Galakrond Rogue provides the biggest story, spiking in popularity across ladder, but is particularly prevalent at top legend where it is now a common opponent at 6% of the field.

Warrior’s diversification process seems to be exclusive to top legend, where Enrage Warrior has made its return and Control Warrior is also quite noticeable. These decks still don’t exhibit a critical mass of play at lower rank brackets, where they are even less common than Big Warrior.

Priest looks settled at higher levels, while players at lower brackets are slowly imitating the process that has already occurred at the top of the ladder. Control Priest is the deck of choice at high levels, exhibiting a fairly flexible build, while Highlander Priest is more common at lower ranks where it has stagnated in its refinement.

A small downtick in Paladin is observed throughout ladder, which is likely a reaction to the decline of Demon Hunter and the rise of Mage. Pure and Libroom Paladin’s play rate characteristics are well known. Libroom is the deck of choice at top legend, while Pure is far more common elsewhere and is extremely prevalent on the legend climb.

A similar downtick is seen in Hunter, but there’s a major shift in the popularity of its two primary archetypes. It seems that Highlander Hunter is becoming more prominent in comparison to Face Hunter, and the former has eclipsed the latter at top legend. Both of these archetypes look settled in their builds, and it’ll be interesting to see whether Highlander’s momentum is further backed by its performance.

While Druid’s decline has continued this week following Guardian Animals’ devastating nerf, it’s important to note that Guardian Druid seems to have stopped the bleeding in its play rate at top legend, where it even increased in play compared to last week. We can also say that Guardian Druid builds are different there. So, did top players find a solution to Druid’s woes? Will the class be able to recover into a more competitive spot in the meta?

It’s more likely that a Mage player at top legend will play 2 Solarian Primes during a single game than he will queue into a Shaman or a Warlock.

Matchup Win Rates Header

[TABS_PRO id=43495]

Power Rankings Header

[TABS_PRO id=43496]

vS Meta Score

[TABS_PRO id=43497]

vS Power Rankings Discussion

  • Paladin
    • Perhaps, the most surprising result this week is the spike in Libroom Paladin’s win rate despite the meta trends we’ve observed earlier. You’d think that the deck would have a tougher time with more Mages and fewer Demon Hunters around. However, Libroom Paladin’s dramatic internal improvement through refinement (more cycle), as well as optimization of play (the deck has much more depth to it than Pure Paladin), has seen its win rate surge.
    • It is now the best performing deck at top legend, and for the first time, looks clearly superior to Pure Paladin from Diamond 4 onwards. Considering that Libroom Paladin has also been a top performer in the tournament scene recently, leads us to conclude that it is underrated amongst high-level players. Perhaps its weaker (but improving) matchups to Mage and Priest are turning off players, but it is so dominant against the rest of the field that it makes up for it.
  • Demon Hunter
    • Soul Demon Hunter hasn’t suffered a significant decline in its win rate to go along with its decline in play at top legend. Some of it has to do with the deck entering a promising refinement phase which could see it overcome increasing meta hostility. Pen Flingers are not just doing work in Paladin, but are looking extremely promising in this deck as well. In the Demon Hunter section, we discuss a possible way to maximize their use.
  • Mage
    • Cyclone Mage is clearly a strong deck, and it’s stronger than it was before the balance changes when it got bullied a little by the DH/Druid/Warrior trifecta. Counters to the deck remain available to keep it in check and it seems that Scholomance Academy is making it hard for decks to display both a high play rate and a high win rate. Notice that the two best performing decks at legend aren’t receiving much attention, and they thrive off being the underdog.
  • Rogue
    • Miracle Rogue is pretty good and has mostly gotten stronger over the last week, though the deck drops off at top legend where the meta is more ruthless to it. Aggro Rogue is also getting stronger due to the shift towards the Dancer build. Both sit at competitive spots, trailing the more dominant decks of the format.
    • Galakrond Rogue still doesn’t impress statistically, but after looking into the archetype another week, we can say it might have the greatest potential out of the three Rogue archetypes. Refinement in the second half of an expansion is usually slower and clumsy, but if it does successfully occur, we can see Galakrond Rogue jumping to the top half of the table. It’s simply a case where an archetype is highly varied in its card choices, and the best choices lead to a dramatically better performance than others.
  • Warrior
    • Bomb Warrior is still doing work, and it serves an important role in the meta in keeping Cyclone Mage in check. It’s a bit unfortunate that both Enrage and Control Warrior still seem to be exclusive to the top legend meta, but we have a decent estimate to where they currently sit, performance-wise.
    • Control Warrior has slightly suffered from the rise of Cyclone Mage and the decline of Soul Demon Hunter. That still puts it around Tier 2. We suspect that players aren’t quick to pick up on this deck because they refuse to put themselves through the Priest matchup. Or it happened once and they told themselves “never again!”.
    • Enrage Warrior’s statistical performance isn’t impressive, and it sits around Tier 3. But, there are developments within the archetype that tell us not to dare write it off. In the Warrior section, we discuss a build that could be drastically better than current common builds on ladder. If you’re a fan of this deck, which usually means you’re a high-level player, you should give it a look. It could elevate the deck to a strong spot, or even turn it into a new Meta Breaker.
  • Priest
    • Control Priest looks good. Highlander Priest doesn’t look good. Nothing new there. Control Priest seems to have recovered from jankinitis, and players usually run good cards in its builds these days. The archetype has plenty of good options too, and that translates to a decent ladder win rate.
  • Hunter
    • A passing of the torch is occurring, with Highlander Hunter clearly eclipsing Face Hunter’s performance at legend. Highlander Hunter seems to have the higher ceiling and one key matchup where it performs dramatically better. Soul Demon Hunter, a deck that was previously known for demolishing the Hunter class, has completely lost its edge against the Highlander deck over the past week! With Highlander Hunter already displaying decent matchups against Cyclone Mage, Bomb Warrior, Miracle Rogue, and Control Priest, this has massive ramifications. Indeed, Highlander Hunter was a worthy Meta Breaker choice last week.
  • Druid
    • Guardian Druid’s win rate still looks pretty atrocious throughout ladder, but there are signs of recovery at top legend, lining up with its rising play rate there. The Druid section features new findings that may help the class continue to improve its performance against the field, though it’s unlikely to return to its past glories.
  • Shaman and Warlock
    • Totem Shaman actually looks surprisingly okay. Its reasonable win rate is due to strong matchups into Priest and Warrior and a competitive matchup with Cyclone Mage. It’s also enjoying the transition of Hunter from Face into Highlander (much better matchup). The classes that torch Shaman are Demon Hunter, Paladin and Rogue.
    • In a recent interview, Iksar alluded to Shaman buffs. We think Totem Shaman is not far away from being very competitive, so we’re looking forward to changes that can push it a little more. Warlock needs more work in that department, as all of its decks are much further away from being competitive.

Class Analysis & Decklists

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


We’ve had a chance to look into a card that’s currently rising in popularity in Soul Demon Hunter after previously establishing itself as a core card in Libroom Paladin: Pen Flinger.

We’re thoroughly impressed with the results, and think Pen Flinger is worth including as no less than two copies. Pen Flinger is a late-game engine that allows you squeeze more damage out of your cards in order to finish off opponents and clean up boards defensively. It can be game-changing in slow matchups, where a couple of Pen Flingers can deal over 10 damage to the face.

We often see Pen Flingers combo’d with Altruis due to their outcast synergy, but we think this inclusion isn’t necessary to make them effective. A Pen Flinger’s best friend is Wandmaker, which leads us to our next suggestion.

Glaivebound Adept is a popular omission from lists due to it being a clunky source of damage, and we do agree that it might be the most vulnerable card in the deck after we’ve cut Consume Magic and Hoard Pillager in order to make space for Pen Flingers. But what if the best way to build a Pen Flinger list involves running Cobalt Spellkin, a card that’s already a proven success in Mage and Priest? Having more 1-mana spells in the late game can be worth so much damage with Pen Flingers, making you extremely difficult to outlast.

Most 1-mana spells in the Demon Hunter pool are strong, so we don’t mind more of them. Twin Slice, Mana Burn, Consume Magic, and Demon Companion are very good. Double Jump helps you find Skull of Gul’dan, which can be huge. The only questionable spell is Felosophy, a card that’s admittedly dead without a Jailer in hand. But when taking Flingers into consideration and the upside of bouncing them, the average outcome should be good enough.

So, we’re featuring a Flinger list with 28 cards and your choice of either Adept or Spellkin. We want to see data on the latter and how it affects Pen Flingers, and we’ll evaluate which of these 5-drops ends up the superior choice next week.

Data Reaper Report - Mage

Mage remains one of the most prominent classes in the format, with Cyclone Mage establishing itself as one of the decks you have to worry about most when queuing ladder.

The Dragon variant remains slightly stronger than the Vanilla variant, and we continue to recommend it. It’s about 1% better throughout ladder, with a small edge in the mirror being the biggest factor for its superiority. The higher you climb ladder, the more important Jandice becomes due to the rising prevalence of Soul Demon Hunter.

Highlander Mage has seen some development in its Cyclone variant. Rase had success with a build that includes a small dragon package with Malygos and Lorekeeper Polkelt. Polkelt looks like a strong inclusion in the deck as it’s powerful on curve, allowing you to drop Reno on 6 more consistently. The deck is superior to the old Highlander Mage build with Dragoncaster and big spells, but is worse than the normal Cyclone Mage.

Data Reaper Report - Rogue

Rogue is fairly popular on ladder, which isn’t because it exhibits a dominant deck, but due to the multiple options available to it.

Miracle Rogue seems to have solidified its builds around two variants. You either run the Vendetta build or the Eviscerate build, both exhibiting similar matchup spreads with neither deck looking clearly better. If you’re running into a ton of Mages and Priests, you might consider running Cult Neophytes.

The previously diverse Aggro Rogue is now settling on one superior variant, which is the Stealth Dancer build. Ironically, this variant looked the weakest before the balance changes, but the decline of Druid alongside the rise of Demon Hunter and Mage has completely flipped its standing against the field in comparison to the other variants. Sustained, off-the-board damage has become more important than speed.

Galakrond Rogue is showing signs of a permanent return, and while its current stats aren’t too impressive, it will likely get better once it finishes its refinement phase. The best direction remains the one we identified last week, which is just playing good cards without any packages. After looking into the performance and consistency of the Galakrond package, we’re now curious about the possibility of bringing back Devoted Maniacs in order to ensure that Polkelt puts a fully upgraded Galakrond at the top of our deck.

Data Reaper Report - Warrior

While Control Warrior and Enrage Warrior haven’t gained too much traction on ladder this week, their performance suggests that the class is definitely more than just Bomb Warrior and scraps.

Control Warrior is a proven counter to Soul Demon Hunter and every other burn deck in the meta. Its issue is its polarized matchup spread, with a poor matchup against Cyclone Mage and a Priest matchup that is particularly horrid.

Enrage Warrior’s matchup spread is far more balanced, with a lot of close matchups against the top meta decks. Its most profound strength is the Hunter matchup, where it usually obliterates the opponent. It’s weakest to Paladins due to their tall development of the board and defensive tools.

The featured build is inspired by Monsanto’s experimentation with a Reaper’s Scythe/Cutting Class package. The goal is to power cycle to your burst combo with greater draw consistency. The original build runs Athletic Studies in order to activate Scythe’s cleave ability more easily, but it doesn’t seem to be necessary. Scythe’s main purpose is to serve as a 4 attack weapon that gets pulled by Cache, turns Cutting Class into a 1 mana card and sometimes smacks a Mage or a Demon Hunter in the face for 12. We’re unsure which of Bomb Wrangler or EVIL Quartermaster is the better 3-drop, and the number of Kor’kron Elite copies we should run. Our tentative answer is QM and 1, respectively.

Data Reaper Report - Priest

Control Priest is a pretty strong and versatile deck these days that can provide ample resistance to both Soul Demon Hunter and Cyclone Mage.

The Full Yoink build is making its return, and seems to be very competitive with other builds of the archetype. There is a philosophical difference in playstyles between focusing on removal and value generation through Veilweaver, or focusing on minion stealing through Cabal Shadow Priest and Cabal Acolyte.

Going “Full Removal” helps you deplete resources from your opponent and win the late game. You’re less likely to finish games earlier but you’re better equipped to outlast the opponent’s pressure.

Going “Full Yoink” helps you steal initiative in the mid-game and pressure your opponent into a defensive position. You’re more vulnerable if you’ve fallen too far behind on the board, but your game plan is generally more proactive.

Data Reaper Report - Hunter

Hunter is a pretty successful class on ladder these days. Both Face Hunter and Highlander Hunter are strong ladder decks that are fighting for class superiority. There isn’t much news when it comes to their builds, since both archetypes seem to have figured things out.

Highlander Hunter seems to be edging Face Hunter at higher levels of play recently due to its superior matchup against Soul Demon Hunter. The addition of Toxic Reinforcements is another boost to this matchup, making it just slightly under 50%. Highlander Hunter just looks like the deck that’s more difficult to counter, with only Paladin proving to be a truly problematic opponent to deal with. It has close and decent matchups against the rest of the field.

Data Reaper Report - Paladin

Looking into the Paladin class this week has mostly confirmed our suspicions about the best directions for each of its archetypes.

Pure Paladin certainly wants to run two copies of Blessing of Authority alongside two Argent Braggarts. This puts the deck in the best position to abuse its Demon Hunter and Warrior matchups while not sacrificing much in its early game.

Libroom Paladin does not need Wild Pyromancers. Moreover, the extra cycle from Novice Engineers alongside the consistent late-game damage coming from two Pen Flingers makes its worst matchups more winnable (Cyclone Mage, Control Priest). Considering that Libroom Paladin’s matchup spread is outrageously strong outside of these matchups, the featured Cycle build looks like a winner.

Data Reaper Report - Druid

Druid is attempting to recover from the nerf to its cornerstone card. After carefully looking into this week’s data, we’ve found some insights that might help the class return to “playability”, though we still doubt it will ever be better than that during this expansion.

There is one thing Guardian Druid can do to alleviate the Guardian Animals nerf, which is increasing GA’s uptime to offset the rise in its cost.

In simple terms, we want to try and increase the window in which it is playable by maximizing our ramp and our ability to potentially discount it. We’ve noticed that Wild Growth’s value has risen after the balance changes, and it might be correct to run two copies of it since even a turn 6 WG can be very relevant now. Nature Studies is a must-include, as it allows us to discount our ramp in the early game, while also potentially discounting GA to its original cost by playing Studies on turn 6.

The only question left is how we approach the late game, and we’ve identified two ways to do it. The first is to run Exotic Mountseller in order to fill the gap at 7 mana left open by the GA nerf. The Exotic variant is stronger in faster matchups due to its ability to pressure relatively early. The second is to run Kael’thas alongside two copies of Survival of the Fittest, which boosts our late-game matchups by making it difficult for removal-focused decks to outlast us. Notice that there is no room for Speaker Gidra in the Exotic build. The card has slightly dropped off in its power due to the loss of its most powerful combo at 10 mana, when followed up by a GA.

Merging Shaman and Warlock together is mostly a result of not having any news to share about these classes. They have largely been abandoned by the player base, which means it’s difficult to find new discoveries. We will say that Shaman is nowhere near as bad as it’s implied. Yes, it’s generally outclassed by other decks, but Totem Shaman doesn’t need much to become a more prominent feature in the meta.

Warlock is the true dumpster class, where nothing seems to be working. Unfortunately, Gul’dan might need more than a couple of buffs to get back in business.


Data Reaper Report - Meta Breaker

In Scholomance Academy, it’s nice to be out of the spotlight. Like socially awkward protagonists, Paladin and Hunter sit in the back of the class, next to a window. They stare into the sky while Mage and Priest generate 30 cards during lunch time to show off.

Paladin and Hunter don’t care. They’re getting the W’s, everywhere on ladder. Keep sleeping on them, it only makes them stronger.

Preparing our weekly article requires a significant amount of time and effort from many individuals. We would like to wholeheartedly thank our current Patreons, whose generous donations help us fund computing and server costs.

vS Gold is a new membership plan aimed to support our efforts towards improving our content and data analysis while receiving some bonuses and extra features.

Tier 3+ Patrons

Special thanks to Leo GAaron B, Jed M, Drew M, Alan J, Zolstar, Sean H, Steve F, Andrew N, NObdy, Alonso P, James Y, Je-ho, Ziqiao Y, Stephen H, William H, Patrick L, 1RiceBowl1, Alex S, PeejTreon, Josh G, Matthew H, Bruno B, Amir, Matthew P, nmbrthry, amenbrotep, Karhu, Fisherington, Christopher N, Eric F, and Eric L for supporting us this month.


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

EndofDayswwloscheesee-hunterspacemonkey-paladin TzachilookitzjoeSentenza