Welcome to the 194th edition of the Data Reaper Report!
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Number of Games
|Top 1K Legend||13,000|
|Legend (Excluding Top 1k)||74,000|
|Diamond 4 to 1||53,000|
|Diamond 10 to 5||53,000|
Class Frequency Discussion
There seem to be no brakes on the Paladin train. The class is rising at all levels of play and accelerating in its development. While Secret Paladin is the most popular deck through most levels of play, Aggro Paladin has taken over at top legend, where it’s seeing a lot of experimentation and attention. Libram Paladin is still visible but takes a backseat to the aggressive duo.
Spell Mage is recovering in its popularity. It is fairly common at lower ranks, drops off at the upper Diamond bracket where hostility towards the deck is high, but peaks again at top legend where we saw it perform best against a slower field. We also see some Spell-Damage Mage emerging, running Fireball and Spring Water over Kazakus.
Rogue’s presence at higher levels continues to vastly exceed its popularity at lower ranks. We have Miracle Rogue figuring itself out after the Pen Flinger change, Secret Rogue slowly continuing its refinement, and Poison Rogue remaining a niche top legend specialty.
Priest is another class that is vastly more popular at top legend, mostly because the smaller presence of Warlocks gives it some breathing room. Control Priest builds remain highly diverse and most of them are still extremely greedy. You don’t see much of Miracle Priest these days.
Rush Warrior has only slightly grown in popularity while trickling down through the rest of ladder after news of its success has spread. The deck seems fairly stagnant when it comes to its development, which is in stark contrast to what’s happening in Paladin.
Hunter has significantly declined throughout ladder, once again correlating with the rise of Paladin and to a lesser extent, Warrior. We’ve noticed last week that Face Hunter could be dealing with a more hostile meta, and players seem to be moving away from the deck as a result. Other Hunter archetypes are not gaining traction.
Demon Hunter has been on a slow, yet consistent decline, which isn’t surprising when looking at how dominant Paladin seems to be. Inquisitor Demon Hunter should have probably disappeared faster off the map considering how poorly positioned it is, but it’s taking more time. At top legend, Lifesteal Demon Hunter is most of what you see from the class.
Warlock is declining in play, but the extent of its decline is not where you’d expect a deck of its power level to be. The process is very slow and, at some ranks, is at a complete standstill. It’s still highly prevalent throughout most of ladder, only dropping under a 10% play rate at top legend. A poorly positioned deck that remains this widely popular is a phenomenon we struggle to remember from the past.
Malfurion looks sound asleep, as there isn’t much happening within the Druid class. Gibberling Druid sees modest play, with some bits of Clown Druid popping up here and there. New Druid decks have never taken off.
Shaman looks dead and buried. Not resembling a real class whatsoever.
vS Meta Score
vS Power Rankings Discussion
- Last week, we’ve identified ways to answer the class and saw matchups shift in the opposition’s favor, only to see an unexpected reversion this week and an effective Paladin response to the attempts of countering it. Turns out that both Aggro and Secret Paladin have yet to reach their final forms, and when it comes to discovering new powerful things in this report, they mostly involve these two decks.
- Aggro Paladin is flipping the Rush Warrior matchup around. The deck that was supposed to beat it, is now witnessing the development of Nerubian Eggs alongside a bigger buff package that blockade its ability to effectively push the Paladin off the board with its rush minions.
- This has yet to reflect in the data, but Secret Paladin could begin to do the same through the introduction of Eggs and Blessing of Authority. The matchup should still end up stabilizing slightly in the Warrior’s favor, but it’s no longer going to be the harder counter the meta needed to shake things up.
- Priest is too occupied with other matchups as well as some poor card choices to develop a consistent and significant edge against Paladin (this can be more than a 60% favored matchup for the Priest if it tries). Another problem is the persistent popularity of Warlock that keeps the Priest population depressed.
- There is just one very effective counter to Paladin that seems to handle these new developments, which is Secret Rogue. Blackjack Stunner is a hell of card against what Paladin’s game plan is shaping up to be, proving to be a hard answer into all of the class’s current strategies.
- If there isn’t another dramatic new discovery that can answer Paladins, we might be stuck in their perpetual domination through most of ladder until more balance changes are introduced. We’re looking forward to seeing the effect of the upcoming Master Tour’s Ogrimmar on ladder, as top players could be hiding certain answers for this tournament.
- The main difference between the two Paladin archetypes is that Secret Paladin is stronger into Mage while Aggro Paladin is strongest into Warrior. That seems to give Secret Paladin the slight edge at top legend despite being far less popular, but the difference isn’t too great. They’re both very strong and their surprising scope for improvement is unnerving.
- And if you need any further confirmation on how powerful Paladin still is, you can also see that Libram Paladin, a deck that is barely talked about, is still one of the best decks in the game.
- We don’t see much changes in the Mage class. Spell Mage is fine at legend, but struggles on the climb due to the popularity of aggression. Though the decline of Hunter is making things slightly more tolerable, it’s still not recommended.
- Spell-Damage is not looking very good, whether it runs Fireball/Spring Water or whether it runs Kazakus.
- Secret Rogue looks like the most promising deck in the format considering it’s developing into the best counter to Paladin. The trajectory of its improvement suggests it could end up at Tier 1 eventually. There are some holes in its matchup spread, mostly against hyper-aggressive decks such as Gibberling Druid and Face Hunter, but it’s generally well rounded.
- Miracle Rogue is having a more difficult time. It has no answers to Troublemakers, so it finds the Warrior matchup to be challenging. It struggles against Priest, and if it tries adjusting to this matchup, it finds itself lacking early game pressure against Mages and Demon Hunters. It performs better into hyper-aggressive decks compared to Secret Rogue, but is far less effective against Paladin. The archetype isn’t very refined, so it probably belongs in Tier 2 more than Tier 3, but it looks inferior to Secret Rogue.
- Poison Rogue is quite scary. It’s an extremely polarizing deck that is finding more and more success at top legend. Despite its terrible Paladin matchup and its general inability to deal with aggression, it is very effective against a larger portion of the field, which makes up for it when the meta is slow enough. This is a Kingbane Rogue-type of deck that’s going to cause issues if it ever gets popular enough.
- The class is stuck due to the player base’s refusal to let Warlock go. Outside of top legend, where Warlock significantly declines in play, Priest is pretty much unplayable. You simply cannot make up for this oppressive matchup with gains against other decks when Warlock makes up over 10% of the field and sets you so far behind.
- The other problem at top legend is the popularity of Spell Mage. This matchup is winnable compared to Warlock, but is still quite difficult. Add the random Poison Rogues and the Tickatus population, and Priest struggles to break a 50% win rate. Control Priest is in a strange place where it’s not looking super powerful on ladder, and yet players are very eager to counter it. They must hate losing to it that much.
- Rush Warrior is clearly a strong deck with a very good matchup spread, but its development has stagnated and it’s unlikely to move the needle on the power level of other decks at this point, unless new discoveries are made within the archetype. From pushing out Paladin, it now seems to deputize it.
- Hunter is hanging in there. It seems to be losing ground against most of the popular top meta decks but a couple of matchups keep it relevant. Throughout ladder, we can observe its decline in win rate as a result of Paladin’s rise, but since the Warlock population is still high, there are plenty of games to be won. It’s also a deck that traditionally performs better at lower ranks.
- At top legend, it still exhibits a positive win rate due to its dominant Spell Mage matchup. In essence, Hunter is the bizarro-Priest. The same matchups that cripple Priests, are the ones that give Hunters life and competitive relevance.
- Demon Hunter
- Demon Hunter simply cannot succeed in a meta that’s dominated by Paladins to this degree. Just look at the class’ matchup spread against Paladin. It’s dreadful, and it’s crippling every Demon Hunter strategy out there. Even Lifesteal Demon Hunter at top legend can’t seem to handle it.
- The more we think about it, the more it seems inevitable that Tickatus will be nerfed. Any other deck displaying the kind of performance level of Control Warlock would sink without a trace. This was a reasonable assumption to make, but the perception and “fun aspect” surrounding this deck might be too strong to break, and its inflated play rate is still affecting the meta in an arguably negative way. Control Warlock is the worst deck we’ve ever seen “define” a format.
- Gibberling Druid’s decline in win rate is expected, but the deck is still competitive, and very recent trends that are hard to detect in the exhibited data suggest it could get stronger over the next week. Paladin’s development may put it on a stronger standing with most of the field, but one matchup it’s quickly losing percentages in is the Gibberling Druid matchup. The greedy path Paladin is walking on could end up completely flipping the matchup around in favor of the Druid. This is something that might be worth paying close attention to since Gibberling Druid is a deck that very few players have on their radar.
- Clown Druid has the Demon Hunter problem where it gets obliterated by Paladin so it can’t see consistent success. Its strong matchups into any deck that gives it time to ramp up are promising, and another worthwhile thing to keep note of if Paladin gets nerfed once again.
- Shaman is gone from the Power Rankings since all of its decks are disappearing. They’re disappearing because they’re bad, and since they don’t run Tickatus, they’re not enticing to play despite being bad. Thrall is already sitting in the miniset waiting room.
Class Analysis & Decklists
Paladin has exceeded our expectations in its resilience to meta trends, staying the strongest class in the game. Just when we think its archetypes have solved themselves, new developments indicate that the class has further room to grow and improve its efficiency. Indeed, it seems inevitable that balance changes will target the class again in order to reduce its power.
Aggro Paladin’s emergence has proven that the class’ power doesn’t just rest in its secret package, and its ability to significantly improve the Warrior matchup over the last week has been most impressive. New findings have answered some of the questions we raised last week, and we’re closing in on what might be the archetype’s most optimal build.
The Cariel/Samuro/Kings build is clearly stronger than Kazakus, but Blessing of Kings has not boosted the power level of Argent Braggart to an acceptable level. This brings us to Nerubian Eggs, which are very common in the most developed builds of the archetype, but seem to desire more activation options to make them more intimidating in the early game and better draws later in the game.
In comes a card that just started popping up in the deck: Teron Gorefiend! Preliminary results suggest that Teron strongly boosts the consistency of Nerubian Egg, while working well with other early game minions such as Crabrider, Murgur Murgurgle, and Righteous Protector. It makes our deck far more sticky, and makes it more difficult for opponents to deny us from connecting buffs. It also gives us the incentive to bring back Taelan alongside Alexstrasza, since Taelan is very strong with Murgur/Alex, and in some situations can act as a Teron target as well.
Other mid/late game cards that see play in the archetype don’t impress us. We’re very underwhelmed by Cairne, Moonfang, and Tirion. You could run them instead of Teron Gorefiend since Teron is still in its exploratory phase, but our educated guess is that it’s going to outclass them.
It turns out that Secret Paladin can also run eggs, and early indications are that their synergy with Avenge makes them a strong inclusion in this archetype. Much like in Aggro Paladin, we’re very curious about Teron’s potential over the generic Mankrik, since it provides you with a very strong opening gambit other than Sword on 2.
Libram Paladin is chilling in the shadows of the two more popular Paladin archetypes, but the deck is still quite effective. Perhaps, its worsening matchup with Control Warlock following the Pen Flinger nerf has dissuaded players from running it, as there is no greater shame than losing to Warlock on ladder.
- Paladin Class Radar
- Secret Paladin
- Aggro Paladin
- Libram Paladin
Spell Mage still faces difficulties dealing with Secret Paladins and Face Hunters on the climb to legend, but enjoys a more favorable field at higher levels of play where the more manageable Aggro Paladin has become more popular than its Secret counterpart.
We still recommend the same build from last week, since Flamestrike is very important in stabilizing vs Paladins and activating your Mask of C’Thun more effectively in other matchups.
Experimentation has accelerated in Spell-Damage Mage builds. Casie popularized the featured build that drops Kazakus for Fireballs and Refreshing Spring Water. Spring Water is proving to be a very strong card in the deck, but the archetype is still missing something to put it at the same level of Spell Mage.
Rogue is in a pretty good position in the meta, since it offers effective answers to many of the powerful strategies that currently see play.
Secret Rogue is the strongest and most consistent option available thanks to its great matchups into all Paladin decks. It is the only deck in the format that’s guaranteed to have an edge against Paladin thanks to Blackjack Stunner, which also helps in the difficult Warrior matchup. The featured build performs extremely well and is highly recommended. The moment the archetype dropped Field Contact for Sparkjoy Cheat is the moment its win rate spiked upwards.
Miracle Rogue seems worse overall. It performs better against Gibberling Druid and Face Hunter compared to Secret Rogue, which can be vulnerable to these highly aggressive strategies. Miracle Rogue loses ground against Warrior, Priest, and Paladin. It can perform better in the Mage matchup if you’re running Foxy Frauds/Vanessa for early game pressure alongside Cult Neophytes. The alternative is to run Scorpids/Broom. Scorpid is stronger in slower matchups such as Priest and Warlock, but dropping Foxy Fraud means tempo-focused matchups become more difficult. It’s an even trade-off at the moment, so the choice is meta-dependent.
Poison Rogue is quite unplayable throughout most of ladder, but become strong at top legend due to a more favorable field. The deck is strong into Mage, Priest, Warrior, and other Rogues, which offsets its near unwinnable matchups into Paladin, Hunter, and Druid. Those bad matchups are just not as popular at top legend. The featured build we’ve refined last week is perfect. Disgustingly perfect.
- Rogue Class Radar
- Miracle Rogue
- Secret Rogue
- Poison Rogue
Rush Warrior’s meteoric rise has been stopped in its tracks following Paladin’s development. Initially looking like an effective answer to the meta tyrant, Aggro Paladin is in the process of flipping the matchup around on Warrior, proving it has yet to reach its final form. Secret Paladin could also be making gains to reduce its unfavorability.
From worrying about its weaknesses against removal-focused late-game strategies such as Control Priest, Warrior now has to worry about not losing the early game control against the class it was supposed to beat. Increasing card draw, an idea we suggested last week, has not panned out as the draw options available come with too big of a cost in faster matchups such as Paladin.
This has resulted in us reverting to the more standard build which includes the Playmaker/ETC package as well as Shield of Honor. These are still the weakest cards in the deck, especially Shield of Honor, so we’ve explored other options that could compete for these final slots.
Venomous Scorpid is a value option that doesn’t come with a significant loss of tempo, and having another 3-drop to fill our turn 5 Conditioning play can be nice. Tent Trasher helps us fight for the board and makes Whatley a little better in faster matchups now that drawing Alex on 9 isn’t as crucial. Rattlegore is an intriguing threat in slower matchups that shows quite a bit of promise but doesn’t see much play.
Control Warrior is still bad and the archetype’s obsession with C’Thun is only making things worse. One nice development in the deck is the emergence of a Saurfang Package running Stonemaul Anchorman and Gold Road Grunt. It looks pretty strong. Bulwark of Azzinoth has become better thanks to Paladin becoming more top-heavy. The Rattlegore/Faceless/Teron win condition might be weaker than C’Thun against Priest, but it’s far stronger against Warlock and doesn’t shove bad cards that ruin other matchups into your deck. Keep in mind that this kind of Control Warrior build consistently beats the “Control Killer”, Mr. Tickatus himself. What’s holding back Control Warrior from being competitive is not the Warlock matchup.
Players really don’t like losing to Priest, and whenever it finds a favorable field for a short period of time, it gets immediately countered. Beyond its pretty unplayable status throughout ladder due to the popularity of Warlock, the top legend meta has also grown more hostile with Spell Mage becoming increasingly popular. This has stopped Control Priest’s rise and success at higher levels of play, and its strength against aggression has been somewhat negated.
The Golden build of Control Priest remains the best approach for ladder since it is an effective counter to Paladin, though we’ve found the Kazakus build featured last week to be surprisingly close in power.
Greeding up the deck with more value may help you in Priest mirrors, but you will find yourself losing significant percentages against Paladin and other faster matchups to the point it isn’t worth it, certainly not for general ladder play.
Face Hunter is thankful that people are still playing Control Warlocks throughout ladder, and is also appreciative of the rise in Spell Mage at top legend which has kept its head above the water there. The problem is that many of its popular matchups are trending red, and Hunter has responded with one way to adjust that has become fairly common though not necessarily better.
It involves cutting burn (Piercing Shot, Arcane Shot, Knife Vendor) for a value/tempo package with Tame Beast, Scavenger’s Ingenuity, and Zixor. This gives the Hunter some comeback mechanics and better board control tools that can be useful in faster matchups such as Paladin, though cutting burn will worsen the deck’s better matchups into Warlock and Mage. Keep that in mind.
For those wondering about a Leoroxx OTK Hunter deck, it looks pretty bad. There’s a good reason it’s not gaining much traction and that’s because it does not perform.
Demon Hunter is pretty much waiting for more Paladin nerfs. The class is just extremely limited by how oppressive its matchups are against the strongest class in the format.
Lifesteal Demon Hunter has some build flexibility that allows it to adjust to matchups to a degree, but there is no way out of how poorly both the combo variant and the hybrid variant perform against Paladin.
Inquisitor Demon Hunter has overstayed its welcome and has no real business sticking around in the meta because it’s terrible into every aggressive matchup. It seems that bad decks are taking longer to disappear if they got hyped hard enough on the first day of the patch.
Deathrattle Demon Hunter is actually stronger than the Kazakus iteration, and we’ve curated a build for it that runs a heavy top-end and Trueaim Crescent. Crescent allows you to get immediate tempo off your deathrattle minions while also serving as a cheap enabler for Inquisitor in the late game.
- Demon Hunter Class Radar
- Lifesteal Demon Hunter
- Inquisitor Demon Hunter
- Deathrattle Demon Hunter
We can’t remember a deck that was as weak as Control Warlock yet remained this popular. The persistence of the player base is indicative of two things: 1. It’s perceived to be far more powerful than it actually is 2. It’s enjoyed by many players.
The irony is that the fact it’s enjoyed by many players who are willing to lose with it, makes it likely to eventually be nerfed due to how much Tickatus is disliked by opponents who don’t appreciate seeing their cards burnt. This kind of strategy wasn’t intended to be popular by Team 5, and yet they currently see it “define” the format across many rank brackets despite being objectively terrible.
There are some ways to adjust Control Warlock to current meta trends. We like Void Drinkers as an alternative to Ogremancer in some of the faster matchups where Ogremancer is very weak in (such as Warrior). Siphon Souls have once again become important since Paladin is going tall with buffs, and the Warlock cannot afford to take any damage from a minion blessed with authority. It also helps that Siphon Soul corrupts your Cascading Disaster for follow-up removal and enables a great combo with Tamsin Roame. Siphon Soul is also a decent answer to Troublemaker.
Mill Warlock has seen an uptick in play, with some swearing that the archetype is playable and competitive. It’s not, but it’s a pretty funny deck.
Druid’s story is uneventful. Gibberling Druid is a pretty good deck that’s competitive with most of the field but falls a little short of the most powerful decks. It mostly faces challenges in dealing with Paladins, Warriors, and Priests. It’s currently benefitting from Paladin becoming greedier, which shaves off some of the disadvantages Druid faces when going up against it.
Clown Druid’s use is a bit more narrow. It’s unbearably weak to Paladin and other aggressive decks, only finding success in slower matchups that give it time to develop its game plan. The good news for the deck is that it seems to handle Warrior and Rogue fairly well, so if Paladin is nerfed, it might become genuinely powerful since only the true hyper-aggressive strategies give it serious problems.
Shaman is unfortunately dead. We do like the Elemental Shaman build we’ve featured last week and we made one adjustment (swapping off Mankrik for the 2nd Gyreworm, that card is pretty good). It’s just missing card draw, a real win condition, and some healing. Not too much to ask from the upcoming mini set!
Balance changes are unlikely to make Shaman relevant, since it has too many holes in its game plan, and turns out that Flex Tape™ just can’t cover all of them.
The first set of balance changes for Forged in the Barrens were a step in the right direction, but Paladin may prove to be far more versatile than anyone initially thought, and the class is now in the process of taking control of the format while further perfecting its strategies.
While Priest can counter Paladin if it tries hard enough, it’s too occupied getting demolished by Warlocks. Gibberling Druid may end up punishing the greedy new Paladin decks as they develop and propagate, but the clearest counter to Paladin that’s currently available today and is on the path of becoming a Tier 1 ladder deck is Secret Rogue.
Paladin is trying to overwhelm opponents through buffs and sticky minions. What better way to disrupt this game plan than a 1 mana minion that sends them back to their owner’s hand. Blackjack Stunner can be abused in this matchup through Shadowsteps in order to repeatedly answer buffs that the Paladin wants to develop, essentially silencing effects such as Blessing of Kings or Blessing of Authority. With Rogue’s other strong tempo tools, it can consistently keep Paladin off the board, and off its own face.
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