Welcome to the 177th edition of the Data Reaper Report!
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Data Reaper Upcoming Schedule
- With the balance changes and ‘Fall Announcements’ hitting today (Thursday), our schedule over the next couple of weeks will be slightly altered.
- Tuesday, October 27th: Data Reaper Podcast #20. We will discuss the early days of the post-patch meta, and the new content that will be announced today (Expansion, Game Mode, Progression System).
- Sunday, November 1st: Data Reaper Report #178. This will likely be the last report for Scholomance Academy, analyzing the meta following the balance changes.
- More content will be announced on Report #178.
Number of Games
|Top 1K Legend||6,000|
|Legend (Excluding Top 1k)||14,000|
|Diamond 4 to 1||24,000|
|Diamond 10 to 5||27,000|
Class Frequency Discussion
This report is a bit unique, as the class sections will mostly focus on trying to predict how the Mage nerfs will affect specific archetypes, and provide some information on which card choices could become more relevant in the post-patch meta.
Mage’s numbers have stabilized this week, with Cyclone Mage reaching the point of saturation at around a 20% play rate at top legend. It’s very likely that Mage will drastically decline following the balance changes, opening up space for other decks to emerge.
Demon Hunter has also mostly sat in place, though internal changes are noticeable, with Pen Flinger builds rising in prevalence within the Soul Demon Hunter cluster.
Rogue is one of the more diverse classes in the format. Miracle Rogue is split between Vendetta and Eviscerate builds. Galakrond Rogue is still not making much progress in its refinement. Aggro Rogue is largely focused on the Stealth Dancer variant.
Bomb Warrior remains the dominant archetype of its class, with Control and Enrage Warrior only really noticeable at top legend. Big Warrior is a fringe choice throughout ladder.
Highlander Priest is seeing a bit more play again. Players are very quick to jump on this archetype the moment someone posts a good result with it, though Control Priest remains more common at legend and has clearly been more successful in recent weeks.
Libroom Paladin has seen a jump in play at top legend, with players at higher levels finally warming up to the deck. Pure Paladin remains far more popular outside of top legend.
There is a slow transition from Face Hunter to Highlander Hunter throughout ladder. Much like in Paladin, we have one deck that’s more popular at top legend, where it has already proven to be the better performer, while the other deck is more common outside of this rank bracket.
Druid has seen a few changes this week, but the most noticeable trend is Guardian Druid’s decline at top legend, which might be indicative of the deck hitting a wall. Quest Druid has never impressed since being re-introduced, and maintains a low play rate.
The higher you climb ladder, the more rare it is to meet a Shaman or a Warlock. These classes are fractured into poorly performing decks, with Totem Shaman looking the most competitive. At top legend, Shaman and Warlock are pretty much gone.
vS Meta Score
vS Power Rankings Discussion
- It’s certainly obvious that the Mage nerfs, as other nerfs during this expansion, were not implemented for balance reasons since the meta was able to keep it in check much like it previously kept Druid in check. The nerfs are meant to reduce Cyclone Mage’s population and improve the experience of playing against it by addressing its most offensive early-game and late-game blow-out cards.
- It remains to be seen how impactful the nerfs are going to be, and whether Cyclone Mage can survive them. The meta is generally very balanced, so every hit can push a deck out of the more competitive range, as we’ve seen in Druid.
- If you think Libroom Paladin is doing well now, what’s going to happen when Mage is nerfed? We know that the player base is currently largely fixated on beating Mage. This means that many players are wary of running Paladin, especially at higher levels of play, even though it performs exceptionally well at top legend in spite of this matchup.
- Take Mage out of the equation, and Libroom Paladin’s matchup spread becomes utterly ridiculous. Not only could its win rate rise even more, but the psychological impact on the player base (“Mage is gone!”) might be the biggest factor that leads to its popularity finally exploding.
- Should Libroom Paladin rise, Control Priest will follow. It becomes the only serious counter to Libroom Paladin that’s available, and we suspect that it will become wildly prevalent at top legend if Mage ends up heavily declining.
- We don’t have big hopes for Highlander Priest. The latest builds propagating on ladder show no indication of being anywhere near Control Priest’s level.
- Demon Hunter
- Soul Demon Hunter is getting stronger across ladder due to the increasing popularity of Pen Flinger builds. The card looks absolutely core to this deck at this stage, and the only question that is left about its build are the final two cards. It’s possible that Demon Hunter will be forced to adjust to the difficult Paladin matchup if it becomes more popular.
- Even if the unlikely happens and Soul Demon Hunter crashes under the weight of Libroom Paladin, the class should still survive, because Soul DH’s failure will likely lead to Aggro DH’s success. The infamous archetype from Ashes of Outland will be waiting for it.
- Miracle Rogue has finally reached a positive win rate at top legend, signaling a return to good times, and it’s very possible that its standing in the field improves further after the patch. A scenario in which Paladin pushes Demon Hunter and Warrior away, while encouraging Priest to rise and counter it, is one where Miracle Rogue becomes one of the strongest decks in the format.
- Aggro Rogue is also showing improvement in its win rate, as it becomes increasingly purified of non-Dancer builds. The Stealth Dancer variant may also be the best choice to queue into the post-patch meta.
- It’s a bit unfortunate that the flow of information and refinement slows down at this stage of the expansion, leading to Galakrond Rogue not cleaning up as much as it should. The featured build in this report looks very strong, and the balance changes could make it even stronger.
- Bomb Warrior continues to show great strengths on ladder, especially at top legend where it effectively targets Cyclone Mage. This brings its post-patch role into question, when it could suffer from the upcoming changes in the meta.
- Most Warrior decks won’t be happy to see a Paladin/Priest dual rise. Big Warrior and Control Warrior utterly crumble to Priest, while Enrage Warrior suffers in both matchups. The bottom line is that outside of Mage, Warrior could end up being the biggest loser of this patch.
- Highlander Hunter has proven to be the stronger deck at higher levels of play, eclipsing Face Hunter over the last couple of weeks, but the Mage nerfs could see them re-ignite the competition. Face Hunter performs better against Libroom Paladin and worse against Soul Demon Hunter. If the former rises to counter the latter, it can change the dynamic within the Hunter class.
- Druid sits on the fringes of the meta, looking somewhat competitive but generally outclassed by better options. Its scope for improvement after the patch seems limited, and we don’t anticipate it becoming much stronger than it is now.
- Shaman and Warlock
- These classes are gone and we don’t think the Mage nerfs are going to bring them back. Hopefully, today’s stream will give us a preview of some new cards that can bring them back in a few weeks.
Class Analysis & Decklists
Mage faces a period of uncertainty. Astromancer Solarian and Evocation are two of Cyclone Mage’s most powerful cards, and both nerfs are quite significant. The nerf to Solarian Prime weakens Mage’s late game prowess, while the nerf to Evocation weakens the deck’s power level throughout the game, but especially its early game blowout potential alongside Sorcerer’s Apprentice and Mana Giant.
It’s difficult to say, however, where Mage would place in the post-patch meta. It’s possible that the nerfs will lower its power to a degree where it lags behind the competitive field. It’s also possible that the nerfs will elevate Paladin’s popularity and as a result, produce a more favorable field for Cyclone Mage, which would partly offset its lower power level in a vacuum.
Therefore, the outcome is quite hard to predict. It’s very likely that Astromancer Solarian will still be auto-included in the deck due to its strong initial body and synergy with Cram Session. Evocation is more at risk of being cut, since it should be quite weak without Apprentice, but may remain necessary due to its synergy with Mana Giant.
Libroom Paladin has already been performing exceptionally well on ladder over the last few weeks, earning the title of a Meta Breaker. This has been achieved in spite of Cyclone Mage’s prevalence, a deck that’s well known for its strong matchup against Paladin.
You don’t need a lengthy explanation to understand why Paladin could become even stronger with this patch. Should Mage become significantly weaker and less prevalent, Paladin has a nearly clear path to dominate the field. Libroom Paladin’s matchup spread is absurd, outside of two classes.
Of course, should Libroom Paladin finally surge in play at higher levels in the absence of Mage, it’s very likely that Priest will become the class of choice to counter it. But, even if Control Priest fully replaces Cyclone Mage’s role in the meta, Paladin should still benefit from the outcome. It’s far easier to answer Priest alone, than it is to answer both Priest and Mage.
Pure Paladin could also benefit from the Mage nerf in theory, but we think it will remain mostly dominant at lower levels of play. Its Priest matchup is worse compared to Libroom Paladin, and it also exhibits a very poor mirror matchup, that’s even worse than its Cyclone Mage matchup (!). So, if Libroom Paladin rises in play, Pure Paladin will have a difficult time dealing with it.
Players who have been clamouring to see Mage nerfed, may regret their words if Priest ends up surging in popularity as a result. With Paladin expected to rise in prominence and power, Priest will be the only reliable counter left standing if Mage ends up being severely weakened. Control Priest may establish itself as a cornerstone meta deck, rather than a good deck amongst many.
Its build choices in the aftermath of the balance changes could also be very interesting. It’s hard to say which of the variants we feature will be better, since they are closely matched and it depends on the fabric of strategies that will form in the aftermath. We’re leaning towards going Full Yoink since it’s stronger in the mirror and carries specific importance in the Libroom Paladin matchup.
We don’t think Highlander Priest will become better to the point where it’s competitive with Control Priest. It’s unlikely that we see an internal shift in Highlander’s favor, an archetype that probably should have been gone from the format at this point, but keeps clinging on due to the occasional story of individual success.
- Priest Class Radar
- Control Priest
- Highlander Priest
Soul Demon Hunter should not be happy with the Mage nerfs. The deck’s success in the current meta can be partly attributed to its strong Mage matchup, and Cyclone Mage keeps Soul Demon Hunter’s biggest counter at bay (Paladin). A Mage collapse could produce a surge in Paladin, which would be quite problematic for Demon Hunter.
After looking into Pen Flinger builds, it seems that Glaivebound Adept is still better than our experimental suggestion of Cobalt Spellkin as the 5-drop of choice. But, both could be omitted from builds should the meta gravitate towards Paladin.
If Libroom Paladin truly becomes the new overlord following the balance changes, Consume Magic should present an outstanding choice, at least as a single copy. We weren’t high on Altruis in the Pen Flinger build last week, but one thing we can say about the card is that it’s pretty good against Paladin and Priest specifically. Since we expect to see more of these classes, it might become the correct choice against the emerging field. Keep that in the back of your mind as you navigate the early days of the patch.
Aggro Demon Hunter wants nothing more than to see its rival archetype drop in popularity, as Soul Demon Hunter is its stronger counter and most responsible for keeping it on the fringes (Aggro DH’s matchup spread is otherwise fairly balanced). Basically, the worse it gets for Soul DH, the more likely it is that Aggro DH finds a stronger standing in the meta.
- Demon Hunter Class Radar
- Soul Demon Hunter
- Aggro Demon Hunter
Rogue could be one of the biggest winners of the balance changes, with all of its archetypes potentially benefitting from the meta shifts that could follow the patch.
Miracle Rogue would love to see more Paladins. Though it doesn’t beat Libroom Paladin (matchup is even), Paladin dominates two of the deck’s most painful opponents: Soul Demon Hunter and Bomb Warrior. In addition, Miracle Rogue is very comfortable facing Priest (the other Paladin counter outside of Mage), with the Vendetta build specifically excelling in this matchup.
Aggro Rogue directly benefits from the nerf to Cyclone Mage, as this matchup has always been a painful experience, but we may want to temper expectations. Libroom Paladins are an even tougher opponent, while Priest is also quite resistant to the Rogue’s aggression. We recommend running the Dancer build for its performance against Priest.
Galakrond Rogue could become dramatically stronger. It has a poor matchup against Mage, but an outstanding matchup against Priest. It would love nothing more than to see the former replaced by the latter. While Libroom Paladin are no pushovers, Galakrond Rogue will rather face them in order to see less Bomb Warriors. In theory, the Mage nerfs are ideal for this archetype.
- Rogue Class Radar
- Miracle Rogue
- Aggro Rogue
- Galakrond Rogue
Warrior should not be happy about the balance changes, as it has generally thrived under the current meta and enjoyed Mage’s presence.
Bomb Warrior has been consistently strong due to its favorable Cyclone Mage matchup. While it tends to perform well against Control Priest, it should absolutely dread a rise in Paladin, leading us to believe that the deck should initially suffer a drop in its performance. Bomb Warrior will be hoping for slower Rogue decks to find success in order to maintain a good matchup spread.
While it’s true that Cyclone Mage is a bad matchup for Control Warrior, it’s nowhere near as bad as its matchup against Control Priest. Indeed, should Priest become a more prominent feature in the meta, we just can’t see Control Warrior’s standing looking better than it is now. Due to its similar struggles against Priest, Big Warrior is unlikely to see better days.
Enrage Warrior might be the Warrior deck that is dreading the balance changes the most. While its Mage matchup is fairly neutral, it tends to struggle against both Paladins and Priests. A rise in popularity of both of these classes is pretty much the last thing it wants to see.
- Warrior Class Radar
- Bomb Warrior
- Control Warrior
- Enrage Warrior
- Big Warrior
Hunter’s matchup spread is generally very balanced, though there are some interesting dynamics to keep track of as the meta develops.
Highlander Hunter’s worst matchup is Libroom Paladin, which is bad news at initial glance considering that this opponent will likely become more common. The good news is that Highlander Hunter performs well against Control Priest, so if Paladin becomes very popular, this poor matchup should be offset to some degree by a decent matchup against its primary counter. Furthermore, Highlander Hunter doesn’t gain much from a decline in Mage or even Demon Hunter, since it was already built to force a close matchup with the latter.
Face Hunter has more to gain by seeing less Demon Hunters, and also performs better against Libroom Paladin since it more consistently takes over the board in the early game. It likely remains the stronger deck at lower rank brackets, and could end up becoming the better choice at higher levels should Mage collapse and Paladin surge.
Guardian Druid has recently been recovering in its performance, and seems to be sitting at a more playable spot compared to its initial performance immediately after the patch. But, the Mage nerfs are not really what it wants to see. Cyclone Mage is one of Druid’s more reasonable matchups, while it also fares well against Soul Demon Hunter.
A potential rise in Paladin and Priest bodes ill for a Druid comeback, so while it may continue to improve its efficiency through post-patch refinment, Guardian Druid may find the post-patch meta to be more hostile than before.
Furthermore, picking the best variant for the new environment could be tricky. For Paladins, you really want to run Mountsellers as they allow you to take initiative and snowball the board. But against Priest, you want to run a heavier Kael’thas build with two copies of Survival of the Fittest, to make it harder for them to run you out of resources.
We don’t anticipate Shaman or Warlock making their return following the Mage nerfs. There are multiple decks in multiple classes that exhibit a significantly higher power level, so nerfing one class is probably not enough to get them competing. Shaman and Warlock require buffs to their own synergies, and they’ll be looking to find them in the new expansion.
- Shaman Class Radar
- Totem Shaman
- Warlock Class Radar
- Zoo Warlock
If you think the Mage nerfs will cause a decline in ladder griefing, think again. The BM meta should be alive and well. A horde of Pen Flingers calling you a loser, and Priest becoming a regular ladder opponent, should ensure that friend requests will remain a common feature of your Hearthstone experience.
There are different scenarios that could transpire from the Mage nerfs, but the most likely immediate reaction will be the rise of an already powerful deck seeing its biggest counter weakened, and the rise of the only other counter that can reliably stop it.
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