vS Data Reaper Report #187

A weekly Hearthstone Meta Report based on data from 370,000 games.

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Welcome to the 187th 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 370,000
Top 1K Legend 15,000
Legend (Excluding Top 1k) 25,000
Diamond 4 to 1 48,000
Diamond 10 to 5 66,000
Platinum 52,000
Bronze/Silver/Gold 164,000

Class/Archetype Distribution

Class Frequency

Class Frequency Discussion

Aggro Rogue’s story is quite interesting. The mini-set frontrunner failed to dominate the format and proceeded to decline in the week that followed. However, it’s now transitioning into a faster build and gaining traction again. It remains one of the most important decks to beat on your ladder climb. Whirlkick Rogue has risen in play at top legend after exhibiting a superior win rate and matchup spread to Aggro Rogue in the last couple of weeks.

Paladin has surged in play following the rise of the degenerate Cheese Paladin. The deck is now popular throughout ladder after displaying an absurd win rate upon its emergence. Libroom Paladin remains mostly common at top legend, while Pure Paladin deputizes Cheese outside of legend.

As promised, we’ve split the Gibberling and Treant variants of Token Druid apart, following their increasing divergence from each other. Gibberling is the most popular Druid deck, with a lightning pace game plan that looks to match up better against Aggro Rogue and Cheese Paladin. Treant Druid leans into slower matchups, which could be why it’s relatively more common at legend.

Warrior hasn’t seen many changes. Enrage and Control Warrior are still trying to figure out the best way to approach the meta. Bomb Warrior has risen in play at top legend, perhaps looking to take advantage of the slowed-down meta.

Demon Hunter is all about its OTK deck, with Lifesteal Demon Hunter remaining very popular at top legend. Aggro and Soul DH see fringe play while Fel DH is disappearing after failing to make an impact. In the last report, we’ve talked about the surprisingly underwhelming performance of Lifesteal DH despite all the hype that has surrounded it following the introduction of Illidari Studies. We’ll have to see whether it has improved in its performance, which “high skill cap” decks tend to do over time.

Priest, much like Warrior, isn’t too common until you reach top legend. This is where the class serves a more relevant role in the meta, where Highlander Priest has proven to be quite serviceable. Illucia Priest has also emerged, which is a deck running Illucia, C’Thun, and 28 spells for the purpose of tutoring Illucia with Insight and ruining a Demon Hunter’s day. Resurrect Priest is picking up more interest following its tournament success. Only Control Priest, running Rally and the Bloodweaver/Veilweaver combo, is in serious decline.

Mage is in the process of a complete transformation, as the class has begun to dramatically change just over the last few days. As the hype surrounding Mozaki (Fireworks) and Cyclone Mage is dying out, different Spell-Damage Mage builds are emerging with promise. At the moment, they’re mostly seen at top legend, and since the archetype is very new and unrefined, aggregated win rate data is not very relevant. We will discuss this archetype and its potential later in the report.

Quite a few Warlock decks see play, but they pretty much disappear at top legend, leaving Zoo Warlock alone as the main representative. Considering how poorly we’ve seen Control, Galakrond, and Quest Warlock perform in the last report, it’s hard to envision such a dramatic turnaround to change their fortunes. At least Zoo Warlock is a good deck.

There is very little interest in Hunter and Shaman. Hunter is comprised of the same two decks we’ve seen get played throughout the year. We know they perform well enough, but there’s nothing new about them. Shaman displayed a few competitive decks in the last report, but none of them have gained traction since.

Matchup Win Rates Header

Power Rankings Header

vS Meta Score

vS Power Rankings Discussion

  • Rogue
    • Whirlkick Rogue is still one of the best decks in the game, with a very balanced matchup spread and few opponents it truly fears. It has proven to be very resilient to meta trends as a result. We can also see that its build is beginning to change, with more players running Nitroboost Poison, a card we can now say is pretty good in the deck.
    • Aggro Rogue’s win rate has been on a continuing decline, but the momentum has shifted, as seen in the deck holding steady at top legend (win rates normally decline as the meta optimizes, so you can read that as the deck gaining strength at higher levels of play). The archetype’s transition into a faster build could be the change it needed to become a top meta contender.
    • Secret Rogue is stuck in refinement hell. There’s a clear build that is very promising and is worthy of a Tier 2 placement at the very least, but most players are not running it.
  • Paladin
    • Cheese Paladin looks stupidly broken throughout ladder and only seems to “regress” towards being a top meta deck at legend. It seems that the current meta is saved not by the field successfully targeting Cheese Paladin, but by the fact that it’s awkward to craft so close to rotation, and perhaps by its non-engaging playstyle. This is preventing Cheese Paladin from becoming 15-20% of the field, which would make the meta unbearable at the levels of Evolve Shaman from just a few weeks ago.
    • Libroom Paladin is certainly one of the best decks in the game, and its performance at higher levels matches its increased play rate. It is perfectly positioned against the Warrior class, perhaps better than any other deck in the format. We also think it’s fairly unrefined, and some of its weaker matchups are not actually that weak once you run its optimal build.
    • Pure Paladin is watching in jealousy as Cheese Paladin takes over the format. The deck is still very good on the climb to legend, but is largely overshadowed within its own class, and has a pretty bad matchup against both Cheese and Libroom. Unlikely to see further development.
  • Druid
    • Gibberling Druid is one of the strongest ladder decks, but takes a huge dive in its performance at higher levels. This isn’t a skill issue, but a matchup issue. The top legend meta is filled with Warrior, Priest, Whirlkick Rogue, and Lifesteal Demon Hunter. Those are the matchups the deck doesn’t want to see, as efficient removal is its worst enemy. There is a way you can hedge for these matchups, but it’s not a great way.
    • Treant Druid is slightly stronger at higher levels, while being largely unimpressive outside of legend. Its game plan is far more patient and resilient to removal, so it has its place, but its inability to deal with aggressive decks is a problem.
  • Warrior
    • We’re not surprised to see Enrage Warrior looking so strong at top legend, as we’re very much used to this by now. The deck is unrivaled in its ability to utterly demolish Rogues of all kinds. Just the best anti-aggro deck in the format.
    • Control Warrior feels like a watered-down Enrage Warrior. Good anti-aggro deck, though not as ruthless. Its expanded removal package makes it better against Paladins, but not to the extent where it’s a worthwhile tradeoff. Seems like the success of Enrage Warrior is certainly preventing it from seeing more play.
    • If Nitroboost Poison weren’t introduced, Wrenchcaliburs might have been the card to take its place. Aggro Rogue is gatekeeping Bomb Warrior from entering Tier 1 at top legend, alongside the smaller population of Libroom Paladin. They’re the GME stockholders, holding the line, and Bomb Warriors are the short-selling hedge funds.
  • Demon Hunter
    • Lifesteal Demon Hunter’s win rate is still sub 50% everywhere on ladder, including top legend. The deck is also performing similarly in tournaments. While the deck does show some improvement in its matchups at higher levels, this is offset by the fact it’s highly targeted. Lifesteal DH is simply overplayed at top legend and heavily punished for it, as can be seen by the rise of Illucia Priest, a deck that exists strictly to make sure that it loses games. The perceived power level of Lifesteal DH is only reinforcing its current predicament.
  • Priest
    • Highlander Priest’s win rate matches its play rate. It’s a pretty strong deck at top legend, matching up well against Aggro Rogue and Druid, but most importantly, it’s effective against the increasingly common Enrage Warrior and Lifesteal Demon Hunter. The deck isn’t as hot against Paladin and Whirlkick Rogues, but most common matchups are still very winnable. Priest tends to get demolished by “weird decks” that don’t see play at higher levels (Tickatus Warlocks), so it’s not as good outside of legend. The archetype might be the strongest it’s ever been.
    • Illucia Priest has a very specific matchup spread it needs to see in order to find success. Therefore, it’s very sensitive to changes in the meta due to its extremely polarizing matchup spread. We think its use is highly situational and it’s generally not very good.
    • Resurrect Priest’s new iterations that have found their way to ladder through tournament publicity seem to be quite alright. The archetype’s dominant matchup against Enrage Warrior keeps it competitive at higher levels, but it’s still quite polarizing and sensitive to changes in the meta. It’s also very bad in Priest mirrors, which is why we think Highlander is just the best choice for what Priest wants to do on ladder.
  • Mage
    • Secret Mage is truly a mystery. This deck has been a consistently strong performer since the mini-set’s launch. Unlike many other decks that normally drop off, its strong performance persists, even at top legend. Its strength against Druids and Priests is worth noting, and though its matchup spread is polarizing, that cannot be the reason why it’s ignored. It’s simply getting no fanfare or exposure, and that’s the most important factor for a deck to see play.
    • Highlander Mage is also fairly underrated, with a very balanced matchup spread that shows few hard counters. It almost feels like there are too many good decks available and not enough players to play them!
    • We all know about the dominant performance of Mozaki Mage, but how about Spell-Damage Mage? Based on its preliminary results and the state of its refinement, it is either a strong Tier 2 deck or a Tier 1 deck. We thoroughly discuss it in the Mage section.
  • Warlock
    • Zoo Warlock is still a good deck, but the meta’s optimization has drastically nuked its win rate. The high presence of Rogue and Paladin is certainly a problem, and it initially benefitted from the early meta jankiness. Doesn’t seem to line up well against the very best in the field.
    • Zoo should survive, but other Warlock decks are some of the worst choices you can take to ladder. There is no saving them.
  • Shaman & Hunter
    • Both of these classes look fine, with decks that exhibit competitive win rates. Their play rate isn’t a fair reflection of how good they can be, but for several different reasons, their decks simply can’t compel players to run them.

Class Analysis & Decklists

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

 


Data Reaper Report - Rogue

Aggro Rogue remains a highly popular deck with results that aren’t too impressive at the moment, but a breakthrough in its refinement could take it to the next level.

The direction that may elevate Aggro Rogue into Tier 1 status is a hyper-aggressive one, in which we cut the mid-game cards of the Self-Sharpening Sword build. Steeldancer, Jandice, Krastinov, and Dread Corsair are omitted. We also cut Backstab, for the simple reason that it doesn’t go face!

Instead, we focus on more damage and draw options. Preparation/Swindle are added, alongside Sinister Strike, Pen Flinger and Prize Plunderer. Pen Flinger helps us squeeze more damage out of our deck, while Plunderer is a cheap removal tool that can create a big tempo swing. The featured build is so relentless in its onslaught of damage that even strong defensive decks can be caught off guard by it.

Whirlkick Rogue has started to experiment with running Nitroboost Poison, and results suggest it’s a strong card in the deck that could displace Brain Freeze. The additional damage is particularly valuable in slower matchups, and it isn’t a liability in any matchup. One mana, deal 6 damage is good.

Secret Rogue is not refined and might be stuck that way as most players are still fixated on the Questing Adventurer path. The featured build running Sparkjoy Cheat alongside a bigger secret package is dramatically stronger.

Data Reaper Report - Paladin

Cheese Paladin is an utterly dominant deck throughout ladder, and becomes “only” one of the best decks at legend. Some players underestimate this deck’s power, writing it off as a “dumb highroll deck”. Well, this dumb highroll deck just walked into your game and slapped you on the ass. What do you do?

The meta has taken a sharp turn, heading into a different direction from where it was a week ago, which leads us to change course on the deck’s best build. The Barov/Broom package looks weaker, while more importance is placed on threat density, which is why Carousel Gryphon is added. Armor Vendors are strong and going to become more important because of the newly emerging build of Aggro Rogue. Sphere of Sapience is still a fine card, but not mandatory. Once again, we’ll reiterate that Circus Amalgam should not be in this deck.

Libroom Paladin’s best build looks like the Crabrider variant, and we highly recommend it. Crabrider’s synergy with the featured build is quite impressive and reminds us of Speaker Gidra. We’re not enamored by the Rally builds that run Loot Hoarders.

Data Reaper Report - Druid

Gibberling Druid has proven to be the superior Token Druid deck over the last couple of weeks, but the deck seems to be hitting a wall at higher levels of play, caused by the rise in prevalence of its poor matchups. Lifesteal Demon Hunter, Enrage Warrior, Highlander Priest, and Whirlkick Rogue all become more popular at top legend, and all provide more difficult matchups to Gibberling Druid due to the strength of their removal kit.

This is why it’s a bit hard to come up with the best Gibberling Druid list for all levels of play. For general ladder play, we like to maximize focus on tempo, as presented in the featured build. At top legend, you could consider adding the slower Solar Eclipse and Soul of the Forest in order to perform better in your worst matchups.

One card we’ve generally been impressed with is Guess the Weight. The additional draw helps Gibberling Druid’s overall consistency and makes you less reliant on finding Fungal Fortunes.

Treant Druid is a different story, as it’s a deck that primarily shines in slower matchups, making it far less effective than Gibberling Druid at most rank brackets with the exception of top legend.

Data Reaper Report - Warrior

Enrage Warrior is shining very brightly at higher levels of play, where it is arguably the best deck in the game. Its development has taken a sharp turn as a result of an increase in weapon tech. The ongoing trend is that many players are trying to target Aggro Rogue with tech, and this weapon tech is hurting Nitroboost Poison’s performance in Warrior. Since the class doesn’t always have access to a weapon, Nitro is becoming a dead card more often.

In the current climate, it’s likely best to go back to the more “classic” build of Enrage Warrior, and several players have already done so with great results at top legend.

Though it seems to be strictly inferior as an anti-aggro deck, Control Warrior is still quite good with the option to either run the ETC combo or the Silas OTK. The Silas OTK build has recently become more popular due to its prevalence and success in the tournament scene.

Lifesteal Demon Hunter players have started to run Throw Glaive in order to answer Druid boards more consistently. The card seems quite impressive in chopping down trees, but is also very effective against Zoo Warlocks and Paladins. We think it comfortably makes the cut and we were even tempted to run two copies of it.

Aggro Demon Hunter is transitioning to yet another new iteration. Felfire Deadeye seems to be replacing Bonechewer Brawler, and Illidari Studies is added alongside Mana Burn. Studies is surprisingly strong in Aggro DH despite looking fairly underwhelming in Soul DH, while Mana Burn is huge against Cheese Paladin.

Data Reaper Report - Priest

Priest mostly sees success at higher levels of play due to the different field that forms there. It’s a good choice if you want to target Enrage Warrior, while Illucia offers you an effective answer against Lifesteal Demon Hunter.

Highlander Priest is the best Priest deck on ladder and has been for a while. While there is some divergence in popular ladder builds, the featured one is a good benchmark that is clean of any tech cards (that are situational in their strength).

Illucia Priest is a deck that was popularized by Monsanto, who hit #1 legend with it. It runs C’Thun, as well as Illucia as its only minion alongside Insight. The purpose is to consistently beat Lifesteal Demon Hunter by always drawing Illucia on time, and it seems to be doing that 80% of the time. It is an extremely polarizing deck with a unique matchup spread that requires it to run into a very specific field to see success, which happens to be the field Monsanto encountered at top legend at the time. But, this is not the field that most players will encounter throughout ladder today, which makes the deck a highly questionable choice.

Resurrect Priest has seen increased interest on ladder as a result of its recent success in tournaments, with builds that cut the Idol/Blood top end for a more defensive shell that isn’t as greedy. In a conquest Bo3 format, it is a popular choice to target Enrage Warrior and ban Priest. It’s an extremely hard counter to Enrage Warrior, but has major issues with some matchups on ladder that prevent it from seeing the same kind of success as it does in tournaments.

Data Reaper Report - Mage

Mage might have seen the most interesting developments this week, with a very recent rise in Spell-Damage Mage. This archetype was initially popularized by Boc4life, but is currently wildly unrefined and has gone in many different directions.

One of the most promising builds was made by ZachO, who used the Data Reaper’s lab to construct a unique and unconventional list that attempts to cover for the archetype’s initial glaring weaknesses as they emerged.

The first issue is Socerer’s Apprentice and Firebrand. Apprentice is very popular due to the power she exhibits in Cyclone Mage. However, in this archetype, she is difficult to abuse and often turns into a slightly better Bloodfen Raptor. Firebrand is okay, until you realize that Arcane Explosion is absurdly good in the deck (very often a 2-mana Flamestrike), to the extent that Firebrand is almost redundant as a result of its presence. It doesn’t contribute much to the deck’s burn plan since it doesn’t target face and has awkward synergy with Arcane Missiles (Explosion helps you direct your missiles to face).

Spell-Damage Mage is desperate for card draw, yet Arcane Intellect is quite underwhelming. Elemental Allies is the best choice alongside Cram Session. Builds running Allies look clearly superior, but both of these draw engines would like more activators. This is where Mana Reservoir comes in, a card that is surprisingly decent in the deck due to its multiple synergies and stickiness to the board.

At the top end, Mask of C’Thun dramatically increases the deck’s damage potential, which makes a big difference in slower matchups such as Control Warrior, Highlander Priest and Lifesteal Demon Hunter. Spell-Damage Mage can struggle against decks with a high amount of life gain and removal, and Mask of C’Thun punishes decks that stack removal while ignoring the board. It makes it much more difficult to stay out of the Mage’s reach. It is also a pseudo-board clear that helps you win lethal races in faster matchups (surprisingly good against Rogue).

The most questionable original card choice in this deck was Astromancer Solarian over Jandice Barov. Jandice has almost always been a strong card in Mage decks, so it’s reasonable to assume that she should be included, but we’ll have to wait another week to find out for sure.

Other Mage decks are making small tweaks to their builds. Mozaki Mage should be running Arcane Explosion and Primordial Studies in order to answer Druids and Rogues, while Highlander Mage is producing promising results with a Dragon build that cuts the Old Gods and runs weapon tech (this might be the only deck in the game today that should primarily run weapon tech).

Data Reaper Report - Warlock

Warlock has a simple story to tell. Zoo Warlock is a powerful aggressive deck with a fleshed out build that doesn’t have much room for improvement. It has a fairly balanced matchup spread with a few bad matchups that prevent it from standing at the top of the meta.

Slower Warlock strategies are quite weak. We can certainly see a world in which Tickatus becomes one of the strongest win conditions post-rotation, but the current meta is too aggressive and burn heavy to see these kinds of strategies thrive. Even the current combo decks in the format are just too fast for Tickatus to be able to effectively answer them.

Data Reaper Report - Shaman

Data Reaper Report - Hunter

Shaman and Hunter don’t suffer from a power level issue, but a perception issue. Players do not care to play them, which causes them to stagnate and fall to the wayside. As seen in the Power Rankings, Shaman and Hunter can definitely still perform at a very competitive level if given a chance. But, when classes attract no interest, there’s nothing else to say about them.

 


Data Reaper Report - Meta Breaker

The Meta Breaker label might be pushing it, but there’s nothing more intriguing about watching a meta develop than seeing a relatively late bloomer emerge. Spell-Damage Mage is seeing many different approaches, and the archetype is in its diapers.

The featured build is very different from common ladder builds, and preliminary results suggest these choices make sense (though we will likely have the best answers regarding how to build this deck next week). We’ll have to see how this deck ends up fleshing out, but considering that there’s a possibility it could become a Tier 1 deck post-refinement, it’s worth exploring.

Note that the mulligan phase of this deck is very complicated, and correct usage of Imprisoned Phoenix at all stages of the game is critical since it requires planning ahead of time.

Mozaki?

We build our own Mozaki.


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Contributors

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

EndofDayswwloscheesee-hunterspacemonkey-paladin TzachilookitzjoeSentenza

5 Comments

  1. I have exactly the same thing to say. Massively improved my hearthstone games and skills through you guys.
    However, for this specific report, I am not sure. There are many decks that don’t work for me and many builts seem under exploration since they don’t have solid data yet.
    Most of all, this Aggro Rogue looks really bad in many ways. Feels like ZachO is trying to make Weapon Rogue look worse (I am pointing at your bias 🙂 )

  2. The fact that shaman and hunter are not heavily played should not be a reason to discuss them so little. If they have viable or even powerful archetypes not talking about them even lowers the willingness of people to try them.

  3. To anyone and everyone at VS reading this, thank you. You guys are the reason I’ve stayed sane during quarantine. love the report, love the podcasts. keep it up, thank you again

  4. Hello Nice report. I am wondering what exactly you mean when you say high legend? Like what legend ranks? Do you mean top 1000?

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