Welcome to the 178th edition of the Data Reaper Report! This is the last report for Scholomance Academy.
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Data Reaper Podcast #21 will feature a special guest:
Alec Dawson, Senior Game Designer!
- This Podcast will be published on Saturday, November 7th.
- Alec Dawson was previously a host of the Golden Wisp podcast, which ran for three years and 156 episodes, before being accepted into a position at Team 5 at the end of 2017.
- This Podcast will not contain much fluff and casual chatter. Expect an analytical discussion about game balance and game design, typical of proper Vicious Syndicate content and unlike anything you’ve seen from past interviews of game developers.
- No stone will be left unturned, so you don’t want to miss it!
Number of Games
|Top 1K Legend||6,000|
|Legend (Excluding Top 1k)||21,000|
|Diamond 4 to 1||27,000|
|Diamond 10 to 5||30,000|
Class Frequency Discussion
The Mage nerfs had a huge impact on Cyclone Mage, which has become drastically less popular. The deck’s prevalence still peaks at top legend, where it is still fairly common at 10% of the field (it was over 20% before the patch). An important thing to note is that following the immediate crash in Mage’s numbers after the patch, there is a gradual decline that’s still ongoing.
Soul Demon Hunter seems to replace Cyclone Mage as most players’ deck of choice. It is now the most popular deck at nearly every level of play. It peaks at top legend, where it closes in on a 20% play rate.
Warrior is seeing some new developments with players eager to experiment with a Control Warrior build running an “OTK” involving Soulbound Ashtongue, Shield Slam, and the recently released Silas Darkmoon. This build is now significantly more popular than the Control Warrior build we’re familiar with from before the patch (separating the two, unfortunately, causes recognition issues).
Rogue has seen an uptick in play, with the class perceived to be benefitting from the Mage nerfs. Galakrond Rogue’s numbers have grown to the point that it’s actually more popular than Miracle Rogue everywhere except top legend. The majority of Aggro Rogue players utilize the Dancer variant, so it’ll be tough to say at this stage anything about other variants.
Control Priest has mostly risen in play at top legend, likely due to its terrific performance in the last Masters Tour, as well as the growing awareness of Libroom Paladin at higher levels of play. Highlander Priest seems unaffected.
Paladin has spiked at all levels of play, which is the expected response to seeing Mage (its biggest counter) severely decline. Libroom Paladin has finally become very popular at top legend, gaining the respect it’s deserved for quite some time, which was further boosted by its strong performance at the Masters Tour. Pure Paladin is far more popular than Libroom throughout ladder, but is nearly non-existent at top legend.
Hunter exhibits nearly identical play rate patterns to its pre-patch numbers. Face Hunter is far more popular outside of legend. Highlander Hunter closes in at legend, and eclipses its Face counterpart at top legend.
Druid has settled into its fringe presence and isn’t showing signs of awakening as a result of the Mage nerfs. Guardian Druid’s builds are fairly solidified and refined at this stage.
Shaman has awakened! Control Shaman is seeing a surprising surge in play that is noticeable throughout ladder, with multiple builds going through experimentation. Is it possible that at least one of them is a winner? This report should provide the answer.
Gul’dan’s gone fishing.
vS Meta Score
vS Power Rankings Discussion
- The nerfs were so brutal to Cyclone Mage that its performance has fallen off all the way down to Tier 4 (!). While we anticipate a recovery in its win rate to some degree, it’s unlikely to ever be stronger than a deck that has suffered a similar fate, Guardian Druid.
- This means that Cyclone Mage is very likely to continue to fall off in its popularity at all levels of play, and become a fringe choice for those that insist on playing the deck, or its class. It’s simply far weaker than the top meta decks.
- Demon Hunter
- Soul Demon Hunter looks extremely strong in the aftermath of the patch. It enjoys beating the hapless Cyclone Mage even harder these days, but the most important factor in its ability to sustain excellence post-patch is its improving Libroom Paladin matchup. It seems that players have been able to adapt to the rise of Libroom Paladin, and there’s a specific card choice that can dramatically improve the Demon Hunter’s chances. We talk about it in the Demon Hunter section.
- The decline in Mage and the rise of Paladin should have resulted in a drop in Bomb Warrior’s performance in theory. But the rise and success of slower Rogue decks has proven to be a compensating factor, keeping Warrior in a strong spot.
- The Silas OTK variant of Control Warrior has tanked the archetype’s performance, but those who persist with the original pre-patch Control Warrior build will find it to be much stronger than the stats or matchup spread suggest. Its true strength is around the Tier 2 mark.
- Rogue might be the most diversely successful class in the format, with all of its archetypes enjoying the fall of Cyclone Mage.
- The Soul DH/Bomb Warrior duo is mostly what’s stopping Miracle Rogue from becoming a Tier 1 deck, as the rest of its matchups look quite good. It used to slightly lag behind the most competitive field after the nerf to Secret Passage but feels much more comfortable now.
- Galakrond Rogue is a late-game menace that demolishes defensive decks that look to play things slowly. Its win rate has finally climbed to a spot more indicative of its potential. Priest players hate this deck!
- Aggro Rogue has directly benefitted from Cyclone Mage’s nerf. It has issues at Diamond ranks due to the high prevalence of Hunter and Paladin, and finds the Legend meta to be more favorable.
- Control Priest hasn’t risen to the heights it was expected to reach due to Rogue’s popularity on ladder. It has a tough time dealing with both Miracle and Galakrond Rogue, which have also indirectly kept Bomb Warriors around. This is why its strength against Paladin hasn’t benefitted it as much as it should have.
- It’s no great surprise to see Libroom Paladin continuing to flourish. While there are a few decks offering soft answers to it, it’s feeling very comfortable with Cyclone Mage down. A Tier 1 performer at all levels of play.
- Pure Paladin is ridiculously strong outside of legend. It also boasts the better matchup into Soul Demon Hunter. But, at higher levels of play, it’s outclassed by Libroom Paladin, which just carries more player agency. Note that it still performs very well at legend thanks to its very strong Soul DH matchup.
- Both Hunter’s play rates and win rates seem mostly unaffected by the fall of Mage. The same story repeats itself for Highlander and Face Hunter. Face Hunter has consistently performed better outside of legend, but Highlander Hunter continues to perform better at legend.
- Guardian Druid is once again looking down on Cyclone Mage, but this time, it’s from the lofty heights of Tier 3 at legend. Don’t expect any miracles here until the new expansion launches. Druid is playable, but not much better than that.
- Control Shaman’s win rate is disappointing on the surface, but with archetypes deep in an experimental phase, it’s all about what their best performing build can do. You can get a hint of it at top legend, but Control Shaman has the potential to be a solid deck in the current meta. It might not be better than Tier 3, but for a class that’s starved for success, that’s still something. We really like the featured list in the report, and think it could offer a strong shell in the future for a more powerful win condition…. Such as an Old God?
Class Analysis & Decklists
Soul Demon Hunter is still very successful after the balance changes, looking like one of the strongest decks in the format. While the rise of Paladin is a cause for concern, it should be noted that Libroom Paladin isn’t as difficult of an opponent as Pure Paladin, and there is a way in which the Demon Hunter can improve this matchup to be close to 50-50.
Consume Magic is an incredible card against Paladin, as it can completely shut down their game plan. With the rise in this class’ popularity, a strong case could be made to run two copies of the silence. Consume Magic is also fairly useful against Rogue and Priest (Edwin/QA, Apotheosis), so it’s not a narrow card in the new meta.
Adept and Altruis offer mid-to-late game damage options, but Soul Demon Hunter doesn’t really lack damage in their absence, especially when you’re running two Pen Flingers, which you should be.
Soul DH’s continued success dooms Aggro Demon Hunter into a fringe place in the meta. This matchup is pretty unfair.
- Demon Hunter Class Radar
- Soul Demon Hunter
- Aggro Demon Hunter
Rogue was indeed a big winner of the balance changes. It now exhibits three archetypes with strong win rates across the board following favorable meta trends resulting from Cyclone Mage’s decline.
Miracle Rogue may have an issue with Soul Demon Hunter, but it performs quite well into Paladin, and has been performing extremely well against Priest thanks to the rise in popularity of the Vendetta build running Underbelly Fence.
Galakrond Rogue has dramatically risen in popularity after the patch and fully established itself as a strong deck in the current meta. It is also Priest’s best counter. Interestingly, it performs better than Miracle Rogue in the Soul Demon Hunter matchup, but isn’t as comfortable dealing with Paladins.
Aggro Rogue enjoys the fall of Cyclone Mage, but isn’t too happy seeing it replaced by more Paladins. With Soul DH remaining very prevalent, the Dancer build is still widely popular.
- Rogue Class Radar
- Miracle Rogue
- Galakrond Rogue
- Aggro Rogue
Cyclone Mage’s decline has left Libroom Paladin almost completely uncontested. A few decks look capable of resisting it, but they’re not enough to dampen such a dominant matchup spread.
The cycle build is just extremely consistent and forces most opponents to pressure the Paladin or get whittled down in the late game. Once Paladin assembles the damage engine of Pen Flingers fueled by Liadrin-generated Libram of Wisdom, it’s very hard to stop.
Pure Paladin remains very successful at lower rank brackets but continues to run into a wall at higher levels of play. Unlike the fairly complex Libroom Paladin, which has a lot of depth in its game plan, Pure Paladin’s skill ceiling is low and many of its matchups get worse at higher ranks. It’s still more than fine at higher ranks, but is noticeably weaker than Libroom Paladin.
Bomb Warrior is still in a fine spot, but unlike Soul Demon Hunter, it doesn’t have a good way to adjust to the difficult Libroom Paladin matchup. It thrived off of the Cyclone Mage matchup, which is now in decline, and hasn’t seen Control Priest rise enough in popularity to compensate for it.
Players have been experimenting with a combo finisher in Control Warrior, enabled by Silas Darkmoon. The combo is to play Soulbound Ashtongue, handing it to your opponent with Silas and killing it with Shield Slam. If you’ve previously stacked armor using Skipper/Armorsmith/Mercenary, this combo can do well over 20 damage. Unfortunately, all Silas OTK builds have been performing poorly, dragging down the win rate for the entire archetype. The featured Control Warrior build is still performing fine.
Enrage Warrior and Big Warrior remain very fringe, and it’s unlikely that they’ll gain any traction considering their poor matchup against Paladin.
- Warrior Class Radar
- Bomb Warrior
- Control Warrior
- Enrage Warrior
- Big Warrior
The Mage nerfs have been fairly neutral to Hunter’s position in the meta, though things might have gotten slightly more difficult following Paladin’s rise.
Both Face Hunter and Highlander Hunter have been fully refined and there aren’t any new card choices that would drastically change its matchups. Highlander is generally stronger at legend and seems to possess the higher ceiling.
Priest was expected to rise in prominence considering the expected success of Paladin in the post-patch meta, but Anduin’s plans of domination have been met with swift rejection by Valeera. Rogue has been thriving in the new field, and both Miracle and Galakrond Rogue have emerged as fairly strong counters to Control Priest.
This keeps Control Priest in a good spot, but not better than where it was before the patch. What we can say about the archetype is that the Full Yoink build looks stronger at the moment due to its strength in the Libroom Paladin matchup. Priest often beats Paladin by stealing their Wisdom-buffed minions, stopping the Pen Flinging chain, and thereby stopping Paladin’s damage. Running two Cabal Shadow Priests alongside two copies of Scheme makes this line incredibly consistent and difficult to play around.
Highlander Priest continues to suffer from Jankinitis. It’s always been better than the stats suggested due to the prevalence of sub-optimal card choices in the archetype, but even at its best, it’s significantly weaker than Control Priest. There’s no great reason to play it.
- Priest Class Radar
- Control Priest
- Highlander Priest
Cyclone Mage has suffered a big blow to its performance with the nerfs to Evocation and Solarian Prime, with the impact comparable to Guardian Druid’s fall following the Guardian Animals nerfs. Mage is still fairly popular, but we anticipate it will continue to decline in the next couple of weeks and become a fringe ladder deck.
Both the Evocation nerf and the decline of mirrors seems to have weakened the Dragon build and it’s now similar in power to the Vanilla build. But as we’ve just said, neither variant possesses the power level of a successful ladder deck. It might be time for Mage to take a break until Darkmoon Faire rolls in.
- Mage Class Radar
- Cyclone Mage
- Highlander Mage
Guardian Druid is pretty much where it was before the Mage’s nerfs and after the Guardian Animals nerf. It’s a fringe ladder deck that can occasionally display a good individual result, but is generally outclassed by the stronger decks in the format. Nothing about the current meta trends suggests that things will get better. It doesn’t perform very well against Libroom Paladin, while the declining Cyclone Mage was one of its more convenient matchups. Both of these cornerstone Scholomance Academy decks can now hold hands in the corner.
Life can be spotted in Shaman, and it comes from an unexpected source. Control Shaman has been showing promising results after the patch, and while its aggregated win rate is fairly underwhelming, it’s a result of a diverse set of builds that have a wide range of win rates and cannot be reliably separated. We can estimate that the Galakrond/Elysiana build which focuses entirely on removal and healing looks fairly playable (albeit, inferior to the more established decks) and can be a decent option for those who sorely miss this playstyle.
One thing that becomes clear from looking into this deck is that Devolving Missiles should be run as two copies, over the popular current split of one Devolving Missiles and one Plague of Murlocs. DM is just too good.
This build is very effective at beating Soul Demon Hunter, since you have a ton of life gain as well as Invocation of Frost to potentially delay a big damage turn from your opponent. For a similar reason, it does a decent job against Hunter. It dominates Priest, as it has far more removal than the threats the Priest can generate, and Elysiana allows you to simply fatigue them. Its multiple transform effects are also fairly effective against Libroom Paladin by disrupting their Flinger/Wisdom engine.
The previous paragraphs make Control Shaman look like a Meta Breaking deck, but it has its faults. Control Shaman struggles against sustained pressure. Bomb Warrior’s game plan lines up awkwardly into some of your life gain options (they don’t have minions for you to get value off Tidal Wave and Walking Fountain). Rogue is the king of sustained pressure and near-infinite value, and Pure Paladin usually carries more threats than you can deal with too.
Warlock now sits alone in the dumpster. While it can be argued that three other classes look quite fringe as well (Mage, Druid, Shaman), Warlock takes its dumpster diving to a whole new level.
Zoo Warlock has never been able to recover from the nerf to Darkglare, and this is the second expansion in a row where it relied on an early game high-roll, saw it nerfed for its gameplay toxicity (Imprisoned Scrap Imp), and struggled afterwards. It will be hoping to find new synergies in the next expansion that rely on incremental gains that are less likely to be targeted for gameplay polarity.
Slower Warlock strategies just couldn’t keep up with the burn-centric meta. Their best life gain option (Artificer/Breath) struggled with consistency issues due to the absence of strong dragon minions that fit its builds. For these Warlock decks to find success in the next expansion, they either need more reliable forms of on-demand healing, see Soul Demon Hunter and Bomb Warrior decline in their presence, or a combination of both.
Soul Demon Hunter looks extremely strong right now, with a matchup spread that only shows vulnerability to the more fringe decks in the meta. Its ability to adjust to the Libroom Paladin matchup establishes it as one of the strongest choices at higher levels of play, if not the strongest. Its high play rate isn’t a coincidence.
And so, Scholomance Academy will soon come to an end. You can look forward to our usual expansion content as Darkmoon Faire draws near, and a must-listen Podcast episode on the 7th.
We’ll see you then!
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