vS Data Reaper Report #188

A weekly Hearthstone Meta Report based on data from 205,000 games.

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Welcome to the 188th 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!

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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 205,000
Top 1K Legend 10,000
Legend (Excluding Top 1k) 23,000
Diamond 4 to 1 36,000
Diamond 10 to 5 43,000
Platinum 30,000
Bronze/Silver/Gold 63,000

Class/Archetype Distribution

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Class Frequency

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The next Podcast episode will be released on Monday, Feb 22nd

We’ve decided to push it back by a couple of days so we can discuss the upcoming announcements at BlizzConline.

Class Frequency Discussion

Rogue is gaining momentum at higher levels of play, where we see both Aggro and Whirlkick Rogue rising in popularity. Aggro Rogue is still transitioning into the faster, Pen Flinger build, and this build is more common at legend than it is throughout ladder. Secret Rogue is disappearing.

The story of the week has to be the meteoric rise of Spell-Damage Mage. Barely a blip in the radar last week, it has exploded throughout ladder and has become one of the most popular decks at top legend. Is this deck truly meta-breaking, or are people just happy to try something new? We’ll have the answers here, but what is certain is its rise from nowhere should have an effect on the rest of the format.

Does the Cheese have holes in it? For the first time, we see Cheese Paladin declining in play throughout ladder. At top legend, it has been surpassed by Libroom Paladin, an archetype that is gaining steam following some strong individual results.

There’s not much movement within the Warrior class. Enrage Warrior is slowly going back to its “classic” build. Control Warrior is almost entirely comprised of the Silas OTK variant at this point.

Priest players are gradually realizing that Highlander Priest is where it’s at. The deck has proven to be well-positioned against many of the top meta decks that see more play at high legend, so we’re not surprised to see it grow in numbers. The class is still fairly weak throughout ladder, where the meta is far less friendly.

Gibberling Druid is rapidly declining in play, a result of a possible increase in the meta’s hostility following Mage’s rise. Its numbers at top legend are also reflective of its sharp decline in performance when faced with an increasing number of bad matchups, as we’ve seen last week. Treant Druid also seems to be falling off, with Druid players at top legend beginning to gravitate to slower alternatives such as Clown Druid and even Highlander Druid yet again.

Lifesteal DH is finally declining in play following its underwhelming ladder performance which has failed to match its popularity. Other archetypes of the class see fringe play.

Zoo is also losing steam, likely due to its drastic drop in performance last week and the expectation that it would continue to decline. People still love playing Tickatus Warlock decks (Control, Galakrond, Quest), and they’re very popular at lower ranks, but no one touches them at top legend.

Finally, a sign of new developments in Shaman? Jambre hit #1 legend with a new Midrange Shaman deck, sparking a small presence of the archetype at legend. The data is still very scarce for it, so it won’t be in the Power Rankings, but we’ll talk about it.

Hunter is still essentially dead in terms of developments, stuck on the same decks that everyone is bored with.

Matchup Win Rates Header

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Power Rankings Header

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vS Meta Score

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vS Power Rankings Discussion

  • Rogue
    • There was a point at which Aggro Rogue looked like it was on its way to a certain Tier 1 status thanks to the development of the relentless Pen Flinger build. But all of that changed when Spell-Damage Mage burst into the scene, representing a new and difficult matchup to overcome. Still, Aggro Rogue’s internal improvement is an ongoing process and it’s more advanced in its development at higher levels of play, where it manages to climb in its performance despite an increase in the meta’s hostility. We’re seeing the deck improve in many key matchups at higher levels of play, and its improvement against the Warrior class is particularly eye opening.
    • The rise of SD Mage keeps Whirlkick Rogue in a superior position, and it remains one of the best decks in the format. Enrage Warrior is the strongest counter available. Through other means, WK Rogue is very tough to reliably beat.
  • Mage
    • Spell-Damage Mage isn’t delivering an impressive win rate to match its play rate, and its popularity was certainly influenced by players seeking a fresh and different deck to try, as well as its early promise. But, it’s very likely that SD Mage will improve in its performance over time, as it is still early in its refinement process. The question is how brutal will the meta’s response to it be. It has several bad matchups, but the Warrior class represents the biggest problem going forward.
  • Paladin
    • One of the matchups that is dramatically changing is Cheese Paladin vs Aggro Rogue. The Flinger build is just too fast for the Paladin, and we’re seeing the box trending red at higher levels as a result. In fact, this matchup might be the biggest culprit in Cheese Paladin’s fall from Tier 1 at top legend.
    • Libroom Paladin is rising into the #1 spot at top legend, a product of favorable meta trends and internal refinement. It has a good matchup against SD Mage, a very good matchup against the Warrior decks that stomp SD Mage, and it’s also enjoying the decline in Druid. This is offsetting the inconvenience caused by the rise of Rogue, leading us to believe that its future is very bright. The archetype is also flexible enough to adjust to matchups with a small shift in its build.
  • Warrior
    • You’d think Enrage Warrior would be dominating the field considering the rise of Rogue and SD Mage, but its matchup against Aggro Rogue has worsened while the rise of Libroom Paladin keeps it in check as one of the best decks rather than the very best deck. We’re also seeing the rise of other decks that hard counter Enrage Warrior (Clown Druid, Highlander Priest). Enrage Warrior is a very strong deck, but it does have some very bad matchups that just roll it over.
    • Control Warrior is essentially a watered-down Enrage Warrior when you look at its matchup spread. It performs far worse against aggressive decks (and it even started losing to Aggro Rogue!), but doesn’t get hard countered as easily and performs far better against Paladin. It also destroys Enrage Warrior in the mirror. It seems to be carving out its own niche, though it’s still generally worse than Enrage.
    • Bomb Warrior is kept in check by two meta components: Paladins and Aggro Rogue. As long as they’re strong and popular, Bomb Warrior’s ceiling is Tier 2.
  • Priest
    • Highlander Priest is another deck that SD Mage seems to have disrupted, but should the Mage hype die down, it’s still possible for Highlander Priest to reach Tier 1 at top legend. There might be a need to adjust to the Libroom Paladin matchup, which is extremely build-dependent on both sides of the matchup. Paladins are currently ahead in the arms race, as discussed in both of the classes’ sections.
  • Druid
    • Gibberling Druid is in a similar position to last week, though generally worse across the board due to the rise of SD Mage (Arcane Explosion is very painful). The field is very hostile at top legend, where the class is incentivized to slow down and play a more patient game (as Treant Druid tends to do).
    • But if you want to go even slower, Clown Druid is one of the most improved decks in the format, exhibiting a positive win rate at top legend. The deck is still very polarizing and wildly matchup dependent, but it’s not a meme.
  • Demon Hunter
    • Lifesteal Demon Hunter is strangely incapable of exhibiting a positive win rate anywhere on ladder as well as in the tournament scene, and it’s now finally declining in play. Perhaps, it’s not the best deck in the game and doesn’t need to be nerfed after all.
  • Warlock
    • Good news for Zoo Warlock players. Your SD Mage matchup is good, which is the primary cause for the archetype’s recovery in win rate. Add a decline in Cheese Paladin’s numbers, and things are suddenly looking up. Of course, it’s possible that the meta will shift in a more hostile direction again, but Zoo’s matchup spread is good enough to survive through it. Zoo Warlock is a very good deck, it just can’t be “the” deck.
  • Shaman
    • How does the new Midrange Shaman fare based on its preliminary results? It’s not looking particularly impressive, and it’s most likely worse than a deck that has already been around and simply gets ignored. Totem Shaman is sneakily strong at the moment since it dominates greedy matchups and destroys the emerging SD Mage.

Class Analysis & Decklists

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


Data Reaper Report - Rogue

Aggro Rogue’s momentum following the development of the Pen Flinger build has been halted thanks to the rise of Spell-Damage Mage. However, the deck is largely responsible for the fall of Cheese Paladin from Tier 1 at top legend, as this matchup becomes dramatically better when the Rogue goes the Flinger route. It is also responsible for preventing Bomb Warrior from becoming one of the best decks in the game. It may not be the hero you want, but it’s the hero you need.

We continue to highly recommend the build we’ve featured last week. We’ve noticed there seems to be a debate between Southsea Deckhand and Prize Plunderer. The argument for Deckhand is that it works well with Nitroboost Poison and enables easier access to the opponent’s face, but Plunderer’s utility is so strong that it often allows your other cards to go face. Our advice is to not cut Plunderer.

Whirlkick Rogue is one of the best decks in the game, and regardless of minor tweaks to its build, it should be very successful throughout ladder. One interesting change that’s beginning to gain traction and success is the addition of Flik Skyshiv, usually replacing Edwin (!). Flik was initially a tech card that was mostly meant to target Druid, but the slowing down of the meta, especially at higher levels of play, has increased its utility. It’s useful against the Warrior/Priest/DH trifecta. The choice is to run Edwin, Flik, or run both while cutting one Nitroboost Poison.

Secret Rogue has faded away, through no fault of its own. Its best build was pretty good, but the fixation on the QA build prevented it from seeing play.

Data Reaper Report - Mage

Spell-Damage Mage’s popularity has exploded over the last week. Its performance isn’t quite justifying the hype, though its scope for improvement is still fairly high. The archetype’s biggest problem is dealing with Warriors.

What we’ve said last week about the deck remains very relevant. We think Sorcerer’s Apprentice is overvalued and only strong in a very specific late-game scenario alongside Phoenix that doesn’t make up for its weakness at other stages of the game. Too many things need to go well for Apprentice to be worthwhile, and at that point, we might be winning the game already.

The difficulty against Warrior reinforces our advocacy for Mask of C’Thun, as it gains significant % against the class, but after looking into the data, we’ve found that running two copies of the card might be an issue. It hurts drawing Mask off Elemental Allies, and our card draw means that one copy should be enough to give us the reach we’re missing in slower matchups. Therefore, both Solarian and Jandice are included.

Finally, Mana Reservoir looks like a decent card in the deck, and its presence boosts the consistency of both Elemental Allies and Cram Session. The problem is that Reservoir is grossly overkept in the mulligan to the point of absurdity. There is only one scenario in which keeping Reservoir is correct, and that’s when you have Elemental Allies and another elemental (that isn’t Confection Cyclone) in your hand already. Reservoir on turn 2 is almost never the correct play in this deck.

Data Reaper Report - Paladin

Cheese Paladin’s greatest enemy on ladder is the Pen Flinging Aggro Rogue, which is why Armor Vendors are mandatory. As we’ve said last week, it’s quite important for Cheese Paladin to maintain high threat density in order to perform well enough in slower matchups, which is why Carousel Gryphons are included over Barov/Broom.

Libroom Paladin is exceptionally strong at higher levels of play, and has proven to be quite versatile too. If you’re looking for a well-rounded build, the Crabrider variant has proven to be very reliable.

If you’re looking to target slower matchups (Warrior, Priest, Demon Hunter), then the Judgment build popularized by Meati becomes a viable alternative. Libram of Judgment provides you with more damage to close games, but it won’t be corrupted very consistently in this list, which means its performance in faster matchups will be questionable. We’re still not fans of the Rally/Loot package, but it was difficult to tinker with the build utilizing the available data.

Data Reaper Report - Warrior

Warrior is one of the strongest and most versatile classes in the game. Enrage Warrior is the strongest deck within the class, with impressive matchups against some of the top meta decks (including the newly established SD Mage). Paladin and Priest are the adversaries responsible for keeping it under some control.

Control Warrior is also a pretty good deck, but doesn’t seem to excel on ladder at the level of Enrage Warrior. It is also beginning to struggle against Aggro Rogue, since the Pen Flinging build is far more difficult to outlast through strictly defensive measures. The one thing it has going for it is a dominant matchup against Enrage Warrior, which makes it an elite choice in tournaments. Silas OTK is the way.

Bomb Warrior is a very volatile deck in the current meta, as it gets utterly destroyed by Aggro Rogue as well as the weapon tech its popularity encourages. The fact it’s still able to produce fairly good results in the current meta is indicative of how absurd it might have been if Nitroboost Poison wasn’t around.

Data Reaper Report - Priest

The rise of Spell-Damage Mage may have temporarily stalled Highlander Priest’s rise to Tier 1 spot at top legend, but the archetype is still very well positioned against the best decks in the format. Highlander Priest tends to lose to “weird decks that aren’t very good” (Translation: Tickatus Warlocks), but since these decks disappear at top legend, it finds a more favorable field.

Highlander Priest is quite good against Rogues, Druids, and Demon Hunters. It also demolishes both Enrage and Control Warrior. It seems to be developing an issue against Libroom Paladins running Libram of Judgment in order to bonk them in the head. This is pushing us to include weapon tech in the deck, as it’s becoming effective against a wider range of opponents.

We don’t really like other Priest decks on ladder. Resurrect Priest is decent at higher levels due to the prevalence of Enrage Warriors, but it’s utterly miserable in Priest mirrors so we’re not sure queuing it on ladder is good for your mental health. It’s more of a tournament deck.

Data Reaper Report - Druid

Not much can be said about Druid that we haven’t said already. You will find Gibberling Druid to be one of the strongest decks on the climb to legend, but once you reach higher levels of play, the deck falls off against a field that is packed with efficient removal. Teching for these slower matchups can help (Solar Eclipse, Soul of the Forest), but won’t dramatically change the deck’s standing.

Treant Druid becomes stronger than Gibberling at top legend, but the deck is then very vulnerable to faster opponents. Clown Druid runs into the same issue.

This puts Druid in a pretty good position in the meta, but lagging behind the very best decks.

Illidan is having an uneventful time at the Darkmoon Races. While still somehow lauded as the strongest in the format by some experts who have never been wrong about anything before, reality is seeping in and he’s coming to the realization that none of his decks are truly broken. What has happened to this world, in which Demon Hunter decks are no longer oppressively strong and unmatched?

Development within the class has been slow. All of the class’ decks appear to be solved, and most of them don’t attract interest from players.

Perhaps, we’ve reached Demon Hunter fatigue.

Data Reaper Report - Warlock

Just as Zoo Warlock seemed to be declining in power, the rise of Mage has helped it find a more favorable field. The deck is usually capable of cheating out Flesh Giant and overwhelm the Mage before it can burn the Warlock out, and the draw power it possesses means it usually doesn’t get blown out by the first Arcane Explosion it meets. Zoo still has some tough matchups that prevent it from being one of the best ladder decks, but it’s still a very good one.

No major news on other Warlock decks. Yes, they’re all weak. Yes, we’re looking at every build we can find and they’re all still weak.

Data Reaper Report - Shaman Data Reaper Report - Hunter

Shaman has seen a bit of a revival following Jambre hitting #1 legend with a Midrange Shaman deck running a shell that is similar to Aggro Shaman but cuts most of the burst tools for value. Based on our estimates, it looks like a playable deck that is hovering around the 50% win rate mark, but it’s not a deck we can see gaining significant traction. Shaman already had several playable decks that are just as good as the new Midrange Shaman, but lacked the publicity. Since the class isn’t popular, the number of players reporting success with it will be low, which becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Hunter players might be concerned with the current state of the class, but what they should be most worried about is the future of the class post-rotation. The class has arguably had the worst sets during the year of the Phoenix, and it needs the combination of a good core set and a strong expansion set to successfully compete in the spring.


Data Reaper Report - Meta Breaker

Hey, loser! Want to become a winner? How about you hop on the Libroom train?

Several meta developments that were caused by the initial rise of Spell-Damage Mage have resulted in an increasingly favorable field for the libram-wielding, pen-flinging, light-following Paladins.

The archetype also seems to be split into two variants that lean into different matchups. The reliable Crabrider build has the more well-rounded matchup spread, while the Judgment build looks to target slower matchups by bonking them in the face with a 5/3 weapon.

Libroom Paladin

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