vS Data Reaper Report #20
Welcome to the 20th edition of the Data Reaper report!
NOTE: This article was finalized before the announced balance changes. We decided to keep it as it was written, since some of the analysis may shed light on Blizzard’s decisions. It appears that the Meta was spinning out of control and someone had to step in.
NEW FEATURES: This week we are launching a new section on the website called the Deck Library. We’re aware that the way we’ve been presenting deck lists could be improved upon. We are now taking the first step. The Deck Library will contain all of the updated deck lists of the common archetypes we’re tracking. Each archetype will now have a dedicated archetype page for easier and more convenient navigation. Each archetype page has information about each deck’s strategy, helping introduce it to new players. We also have tips on how to replace expensive legendaries in case of budget constraints. We’re planning to provide additional content on these pages in the future, including some data driven metrics we’re mulling over, as we continue to expand the information we present to the community and hope you find it useful.
The deck library also contains card usage radar maps. These maps show the inner metagame within every class, as well as every archetype. The purpose of these maps is to show you exactly which cards are being used by every archetype, and how common certain builds are. These maps will also help the community understand how we observe and identify changes in the Meta, and the emergence of new decks, as well as assess the build variance of every deck. Much like our win rates charts, these radars will be updated on a weekly basis. For more explanation on how the radar works, click here.
Our Data Reaper Project, including the Data Reaper Live (Beta) has over 2,400 contributors. Without them, this project would not be possible, so we’d like to thank all of our contributors for their help.
More contributors mean more accurate win rate information. With the new adventure completely out, we need as many contributors as possible to quickly identify new archetypes, and better evaluate their power levels. If you have not done so already, please sign up with your Track-O-Bot information here:
Preparing our weekly article requires a significant amount of time and effort from many individuals. We would like to wholeheartedly thank our current Patreons, whose generous donations help us fund computing and server costs. If you’d like to help support our initiative to provide high-quality data-driven content to the community for free, you can join our team by supporting us on Patreon:
We begin with our deck frequency charts for games recorded between September 21 and September 27. The first chart shows all ranks, and the second can be switched between different ranks. For the entire week, we’ve compiled 53,000 games overall. We recorded about 8k games at legend ranks, 35k games at ranks 1-10, and 8k games at ranks 11-15.
A Note: Recently Track-O-Bot stopped identifying games at Legend rank. Currently, we are able to reasonably estimate the Legend meta for the remaining days in September. However, this will likely stop when the season resets. We have talked to the developer, and while the issue may be fixed soon, he encouraged us to seek updates independently, because he is quite busy these days. Therefore, we are seeking help from the community. If you love Hearthstone, programming and our content, please let us know if you are interested in helping the developer to maintain the open source code of Track-O-Bot (written in C++). Please PM us and we can try and devise a way to reintroduce to Track-O-Bot some lost functionalities.
‘By Rank’ Games
Class Frequency by Weeks
Next is a graph displaying the popularity of classes during the last 20 weeks, since the Data Reaper Project launched.
- The number of Shamans on ladder is quite concerning. While we notice a possible plateau on the horizon, the Meta is in an unhealthy state. This is true particularly at the legend ranks, where Shamans comprise 30% of ladder opponents! This is extremely oppressive and a sign that the class may simply be impossible to counter.
- Hunter is spiking in its popularity on the back of Secret Hunter’s emergence. At legend ranks, its numbers have even surpassed those of Mid-Range Hunter. We’ve been monitoring this archetype closely and have previously said that it has great potential. It appears that this potential is being materialized.
- Control Warrior is establishing itself as the most dominant Warrior archetype, while the rest of the Warrior spectrum is fading away. Being one of the only decks that are able to consistently fend off the Shaman class, and the last hope of control decks on ladder, players are seeking shelter from the Metagame tyrant by stacking armor.
- Meanwhile, Yogg Druid is showing chinks in its armor. The archetype’s popularity has dropped, especially at legend ranks. While Yogg Druid is very powerful and has received a lot of hype in the pro scene, it cannot solve the Shaman puzzle consistently enough to beat it off its throne.
- Miracle Rogue is keeping its head above the water and maintaining a significant presence at legend ranks, likely due to its tournament presence and some individual success in recent weeks. However, due to the Meta shifting into some pretty hard counters for the class, this perception of resurgence might be a bubble that will pop sooner or later.
- Mage numbers are dropping. Warlock numbers are dropping. Paladin numbers are dropping. Priest numbers are dropping. The Meta is becoming less diverse with every passing week, as more players sell their soul in order to win more Hearthstone games as the month is coming to a close, by playing Shaman and Hunter.
We now present the updated “vS Power Rankings” table for week # 20. The numbers we report are the expected win rates of each archetype based on their matchups against the field, factoring in the frequency of all potential opponents on ladder at different rank groups over the past week.
In general, the Data Reaper tries its best to stay positive about the state of the game and provide players with as much information as it can in order to counter the current Meta. However, we’d like to address a couple of points that will hopefully be read by the developers.
- When there’s a deck that the entire Metagame is built around to beat, and it still displays a win rate of 54%, we might have a problem. Mid-Range Shaman might just be too strong, and alarm bells are ringing when it does even better at legend ranks, despite it running into mirror matches very often. Legend rank is the place where players are supposed to be most effective at countering a strategy, yet Mid-Range Shaman is inching closer to Undertaker Hunter levels of power there. Another point is that when Warriors were dominant before Karazhan, they displayed a lot of diversity. There were about five Warrior archetypes with a significant difference in their playstyle, and none of them were particularly oppressive in their power levels or their numbers. The Shaman class is mainly comprised of two decks with very similar shells: one kills you quickly, and the other kills you very quickly. This leads us to our next point.
- In order for the Meta to be corrected, we might need Blizzard’s intervention. However, Blizzard may not just need to address Shamans, but Hunters as well. The reason for that is that the Hunter class is mainly kept in check by Shamans, but it also displays an inherent level of power that may become just as oppressive as soon as the frequency of Shamans drops. This is a case where the “Broken” is being suppressed by the “Very Broken”. At the moment, people are focused on the silliness of the array of tools Shaman possesses, but eventually, the penny will drop on how Meta defining Call of the Wild is. On ladder, Hunter’s oppressive effect on control decks, or any deck that doesn’t aim to kill their opponent before turn 8, is hurting playstyle diversity and is part of the reason the Meta is heavily focused on early game tempo advantage.
We got that out of the way, and we apologize if it sounded negative, but let’s continue:
- Secret Hunter is the current star of the Metagame, and has now jumped to Tier 1. We believe this archetype is on the brink of taking over the Hunter class. This is due to its superiority over Mid-Range Hunter at legend ranks which stem from some key differences in the way these two decks line up against the field. Secret Hunter’s main weakness is its reduced minion density compared to Mid-Range Hunter, meaning it is less efficient at beating control decks. However, it is far superior to Mid-Range Hunter against tempo focused archetypes, which are much more present on ladder. Tempo Mage and Miracle Rogue are two archetypes that are heavy on spells and low on minions, which makes them a lot more susceptible to Secret Hunter’s disruption tools such as Freezing Trap, Snipe and Cat Trick. Miracle Rogue in particular, gets completely annihilated by Secret Hunter. Another key factor is that Secret Hunter can beat Mid-Range Hunter. For this very reason, Mid-Range Shaman took over Aggro Shaman in the past few weeks. Could this inner shift within the class happen to Hunter as well? It’s very possible.
- While Miracle Rogue is receiving quite a bit of hype, the reality for the archetype on ladder looks grim. The increase in Shamans is making it more and more difficult for Valeera to pick up wins, and if Secret Hunter continues to rise, it’s only going to get worse. The deck might be only suitable for specialists who can overcome the significant disadvantage the archetype has against the field, or needs to be heavily teched with the Shaman matchup in mind. Think of the vS Power Rankings score as the top point of a bell curve. The more it moves below 50, the lower is the number of players who are succeeding with the deck. Miracle Rogue just isn’t picking up enough wins, and it’s not a skill cap issue (it does worse at legend).
Another predictable week of HCT as all of the participants at the European Championship included Shaman in their lineups. The most dominant archetypes at the moment are Mid-Range and Aggro Shaman, and the split in choice between the eight participants was five to three in favor of Aggro.
Both archetypes are very strong and can be played in the core lineup. The decision to bring either deck is quite complicated because on paper both are pretty favorable across the board and can take wins out of any deck in the current Meta. Based on this event however, since the format is five decks and one ban, Aggro Shaman might have been a better choice, as the 5th deck would often be Freeze Mage, Rogue or Hunter, all which are punished more heavily by the Aggro archetype. Mid-Range Shaman has its benefits in certain lineups as well, since it has a favorable matchup against Aggro Shaman and Dragon Warrior, the latter being a deck that Aggro Shaman is very susceptible to.
StrifeCro piloted a Mid-Range Shaman build in a dominant fashion this week, winning the ONOG Democracy Invitational. His build is similar to Xixo’s Totem Shaman build, cutting Totemic Might/Witchdoctor/Bloodlust for Argent Squire/Fire Elemental/Al’Akir, in order to fare better against Control Warrior.
On ladder, Ant is continuing to maintain a top 10 legend rank with his old school Aggro Shaman build, while DerpyTroller is also sitting at top 10 with a hybrid list utilizing Spirit Claws and Azure Drakes.
- Shaman Class Radar
- HotMewoth’s Standard Aggro Shaman
- Ant’s Old School Aggro Shaman
- DerpyTroller’s Hybrid Aggro Shaman
- StrifeCro’s Totem Mid-Range Shaman
- DrHippi’s Mid-Range Shaman
- Loyan’s Mid-Range Shaman
- Rooftrellen’s Concede (Control) Shaman
The biggest shift in the Meta this week comes from the Hunter class. Secret Hunter is rising to compete with the established and dominant Mid-Range Hunter. Their numbers appear to be converging and at legend ranks, there’s as many Secret Hunters as Mid-Range ones. Secret Hunter is beginning to prove itself as a competitively viable archetype, and its spot at the current Meta appears to be quite strong.
Torpedo’s BoarControl peaked at #4 legend on EU this week with a solid Secret Hunter list that is Mid-Range oriented. StrifeCro won the ONOG Democracy Invitational with VLPS’s Curator Secret Hunter being a star performer. This list is the original build that has elevated Secret Hunter to its current prominence. Jab’s take on Secret Hunter is also interesting. While it’s similar to the other two variants, it features the infamous Yogg-Saron. There is certainly a case for the inclusion of the card since the build’s high amount of secrets means that the Old God should be adequately fueled by turn 10.
At the European Championship last week, Dizdemon and Likeabawse both brought a similar version to Fr0zen’s Mid-Range Hunter. Ikealyou brought his own traditional style build of the archetype, and GeorgeC brought a faster version of Mid-Range Hunter that runs two Knife Jugglers and two Unleash the Hounds, which is a strong tech against aggressive decks.
Another important tech choice to note is Deadly Shot. Both Ikealyou and GeorgeC decided to include two copies of the spell. This tech is meant to improve matchups against Druid and Dragon Warrior mostly. Deadly Shot can halt the Druid from ramping up a big minion such as Ancient of War, and it is often a clean removal tool against Dragon Warrior, which curves out big minions one after the other that can be quite difficult to answer for the Hunter. The card is obviously much weaker against aggressive decks that flood the board, and the balance between Unleash the Hounds and Deadly Shot is often determined by the opponents you’re expecting to face.
- Hunter Class Radar
- Fr0zen’s Fast Mid-Range Hunter
- Ikealyou’s Classic Mid-Range Hunter
- GeorgeC’s Juggler Mid-Range Hunter
- VLPS’s Curator Secret Hunter
- BoarControl’s Secret Hunter
- Jab’s Yogg Secret Hunter
Looking to play Warrior on ladder? You may be having a hard time. Dragon Warrior has fallen to the wayside due to the fact that the class it previously countered, Shaman, has picked up a game-changing tool in Spirit Claws. Worgen OTK, with its currently terrible matchup spread, seems like a thing of the past as well. Although Control Warrior boasts one of the highest win rates against Midrange Shaman, it is still just a little more than a 50/50, and the deck gets demolished by any form of Hunter on ladder. However, Control Warrior is certainly the strongest Warrior archetype at the moment, and can find success if you’re mindful of the opponents you’re facing.
However, if you are looking to play Warrior in tournaments, this Meta is certainly right for you. It is an ever present class due to its decent matchups against the two most common classes in every tournament format: Druid and Shaman.
At the European Summer Championship, all players save for the Champion, Dr. Hippi, brought some form of Control Warrior in their line-up (Viper brought a Dragon Control deck you should delete from your memory). Dr. Hippi opted to go for Dragon Warrior, and it was arguably the worst performing deck in his line-up. The build opts to run two Drakonid Crushers instead of Deathwing, which is a popular late game choice, such as in Fr0zen’s build.
GeorgeC took second place with a Soggoth Control Warrior build. This list is an unusual take on Control Warrior, featuring a singleton Doomsayer, Bloodhoof Braves, Elise, and the aforementioned Soggoth. Soggoth is great in the late game against Midrange Shaman and Malygos Druid, as it is impossible to remove with the extremely efficient removal spells both classes play. It’s also a soft counter to Yogg-Saron, since the old god cannot target it with its spells. Meanwhile, Rage recently won ESL’s King of the Hill with his Blood Warrior deck mentioned in previous reports.
- Warrior Class Radar
- Rosty/Cipher’s Yogg Control Warrior
- GeorgeC’s Soggoth Control Warrior
- Disdemon’s N’Zoth Control Warrior
- Fr0zen’s Dragon Warrior
- DrHippi’s Dragon Warrior
- Sjow’s C’Thun Warrior
- Rage’s Blood Warrior
Most competitive players would agree that Druid is one of the top 3 most well rounded classes, along with Shaman and Warrior. All eight players at the Europe Summer Championships brought some version of Druid. Considering that Yogg Druid is so flexible and powerful against the field, it’s very hard to argue against it.
Yogg Druid continues to be one of the most popular decks at the legend ranks with the most common build being Xixo’s Miracle Malygos version, which we have been featuring for the past few weeks. Many players have had success with the list on both ladder and tournament play and it is considered to be one of the best decks in the game.
There are other Malygos variants that are also doing well. Fr0zen used his Token/Malygos hybrid build to qualify for WESG. The list isn’t as focused on the token synergy as before but still includes a copy of Violet Teacher and Power of the Wild. This particular list is slightly teched for tournament play with Harrison Jones, but might still be fine to run on ladder due to the popularity of Shaman, Warrior and Hunter. If you don’t have Harrison Jones, it can be replaced by cards like Violet Teacher, Mire Keeper, Feral Rage, Mulch, or Power of the Wild.
Another Malygos build that had some success this week was Tyler’s Medivh variant which he used to get rank 3 legend. Medivh synergizes with some of Druid’s higher cost spells, like Nourish and Moonglade Portal. This build performs better against control decks and might be worth a try if you are facing a horde of Control Warriors, which can often armor themselves out of the reach of standard Malygos Druid builds.
Classic Yogg Token Druid is also continuing to see play at the highest levels. The two finalists of the European Championships, DrHippi and GeorgeC, brought two very similar lists to the tournament. While Token builds have died down in popularity recently due to rise of Malygos builds, they are still viable options to consider.
After the initial hype, and the following collapse of enthusiasm, Beast Druid has had a slight resurgence on ladder. This is on the back of Muzzy continuing to have success with his latest version of the build, which he even took to #1 legend this week.
- Druid Class Radar
- Xixo’s Miracle Malygos Druid
- Fr0zen’s Token Malygos Druid
- Tyler’s Medivh Malygos Druid
- DrHippi’s Token War Druid
- Muzzy’s Beast Druid
At the European Championships, we saw considerably less Mages than in the Americas, with only three of the eight players bringing the class to the tournament. However, unlike the Americas Championship, where neither of the finalists had Mage in their line-up, in this tournament both finalists had Mage.
GeorgeC brought a Kobold Freeze Mage, placing in the 4 mana 2/2 to help OTK Malygos Druid, rather than being forced to rely on the Druid not having life gain at the right time. On ladder, however, with Control Warrior increasing in popularity, the prospects of Freeze Mage look grim. While having the Kobold does allow the Freeze Mage much more burst in one turn, it’s still simply not enough to surpass the insurmountable armor gain of Control Warrior.
Dr. Hippi brought the value centric Tempo Mage build to the tournament, opting to also include Arcane Explosion and Fireland’s Portal in his list, in exchange for Mirror Images and Flamestrike. Arcane Explosion offers an early board clear against aggressive decks, and can be quite potent in Tempo Mage since it has many spell power minions. Fireland’s Portal is focused on winning against Druids, since the increased amount of direct damage is meant to try to beat the class before its threats can get out of control.
- Mage Class Radar
- DrHippi’s Value Tempo Mage
- Ginge’s Burn Tempo Mage
- Standard Freeze Mage
- Kobold Freeze Mage
- Gallon’s Reno Mage
Warlock continues to have limited presence on ladder, since both Shaman and Warrior prey on Zoo so well. However, that doesn’t mean the deck cannot have any success on ladder. Sjow hit #1 legend on AM this week with a pretty standard post-Karazhan Zoo list. It seems that the only Discard mechanic minions that are worth including are Malchezaar’s Imp, Silverware Golem and Darkshire Librarian, in addition to the already powerful Doomguard and Soulfire. Muzzy’s list, which HotMEWOTH used to win the America’s Championship, and Tarei’s pre-Kharazhan Token build which helped him reach the finals, are still relevant as well. Zoo’s presence at the European Championship was unimpressive, with only two players bringing it to the tournament and going out in the first round. In other tournaments, Zalae won the U.S WESG qualifier with a discard Zoo build in similar veins to Sjow’s list.
Meanwhile, Control Warlock archetypes are becoming extinct. While they still maintain some ladder presence, their viability is highly suspect. Approach with caution.
- Warlock Class Radar
- Sjow’s Discard Zoo Warlock
- HotMEOWTH’s (Muzzy) Zoo Warlock
- Tarei’s Token Zoo Warlock
- Thijs’ Malygos Warlock
- Eversiction’s Reno Warlock
- Dog’s Dragon Reno Warlock
With the European Championship bringing some publicity to the Rogue class (4 participants included it in their line-ups) as well as some individual success on ladder in recent weeks, Valeera appears to be trying to make a comeback. While dealing with Mid-Range Shamans is not easy, it’s the lesser of the two evils for Miracle Rogue, and the deck can be built to give Druids and Warriors a hard time as well.
As far as Miracle Rogue goes, there are two main variants that are currently seeing play on ladder: Questing Adventurer and Malygos, as Peddler focused lists have been on the decline. The Questing Adventurer build can be very aggressive, capable of dealing massive amounts of damage in the early turns of the game, while the Malygos version is about stalling and cycling to construct the perfect hand to kill your opponent on turn 9 or 10, similarly to Freeze Mage.
If we look at the four European Championships participants that included Miracle Rogue in their lineups, all of them opted for faster combo builds rather than the Malygos variant. Dr.Hippi’s version is the most classic one, opting to play the standard Miracle Rogue with double SI7 Agents and Leeroy + Cold Bloods as the sole win condition.
Questing Adventurer allows you to often flip the switch and become the aggressor, which might be more suitable for ladder play. Since the Rogue has no way to properly defend himself against the onslaught of an aggressive deck, turning the match up into race with a big Edwin or a snowballing Adventurer might be the best course of action.
- Rogue Class Radar
- ShtanUdachi/SilveName’s Malygos Rogue
- DrHippi’s Classic Miracle Rogue
- Ikealyou’s Questing Miracle Rogue
Anyfin Paladin remains the king Paladin archetype on ladder, followed by the Dragon and Control variants. The persistent presence of Shaman and Hunter in the Meta makes it difficult for Paladin to find a place on ladder. Neviilz and Jambre were able to peak at high ranks with Anyfin and Secret Paladin, but these occurrences seem to be the exception rather than the norm. Paladin only made a single lineup appearance at the European Summer Championship this weekend with GrayJ bringing an Anyfin list.
- Paladin Class Radar
- Neviilz’s Anyfin Paladin
- Rooftrellen’s N’Zoth Paladin
- Hotform’s Dragon Paladin
- Jambre’s Secret Paladin
“Until Blizzard decides to nerf Priest don’t bother playing PvP. The frustration is unbearable and unavoidable as he is everywhere and nearly impossible to beat. I say nearly because there is luck and player error their part but that’s the only way you’ll win. He’s just too OP, his spell’s low mana costs compared to the power they have combined with the minions he has just makes a guy who can use only 5 mana to make a 20/20 minion. No other class compares without having extremely well developed deck that takes time and/or money to make; EVEN THEN it is no guarantee because even his basic deck can go head to head with that. Please nerf him Blizzard he’s cancer and is ruining the game.”
-Erchyll IPhone App Review Sep 18, 2016
The way Blizzard talks about making the game accessible to everyone and “deceptively simple”, one can deduce that Erchyll here might be their target audience.
There really hasn’t been too much innovation this week for a class desperately waiting to be innovated in some way. It remains the least powerful and least played of all classes in Hearthstone. The negative air around it might also be halting its growth as no one is truly trying to build an appropriately strong version. The Dragon Priest archetype especially, is just waiting for a player to tap its potential. VLPS constructed a pretty strong list utilizing the underrated Brann Bronzebeard/Netherspite Historian combo, but there just has to be a combination of cards that can make this deck stronger.
Zetalot is currently piloting a top heavy control variant with cards like Ysera, Baron Geddon, and Ragnaros the Firelord. Once the Priest has completely stabilized, it is often difficult for them to lose, and the added control elements can be pretty strong against the rise of Control Warrior we are observing, but it might not be doing enough against the tempo-centric decks that are still flooding ladder.
We challenge to the community to really look into the class this week and try to build their own variant of the class. Remember, there are players out there like Erchyll who truly fear the power of Anduin. The class also displays a 100% win rate against Malygos Druid decks piloted by Chakki, one of the best players in the world, at rank 25. Considering that the sample size of one game is quite adequate, we can conclude Priest might have tremendous potential.
- Priest Class Radar
- Zetalot’s Resurrect Control Priest
- Ham-Shirou’s N’Zoth Control Priest
- VLPS’s Dragon Priest
- Michal2278’s Dreamhack Champion slaying Priest (Estimate)
We really like VLPS’ Secret Hunter deck, and it’s a great example of a masterpiece in deck building. The one weakness Secret Hunter builds used to have during its experimentation phase is card draw. Since Cloaked Huntress encourages you to empty your hand, you’re often left running out of steam more often in the late game. Your minion density is smaller and you find yourself top decking spells that don’t immediately pressure your opponent. The Curator/Azure Drake package alleviates that problem, and the build is tuned so that The Curator will almost always draw you a Highmane and an Azure Drake, which makes it extremely powerful. The list also maximizes the potential of Barnes, with a high likelihood of a powerful roll.
Why could Secret Hunter be better than Mid-Range Hunter? Its potential swing turns with Cloaked Huntress give it the potential to blow out decks that rely on having the tempo advantage (translation: almost every deck on ladder right now). It’s also a deck that rewards decision making: trap sequencing and management is very important, and you need to use your traps optimally in anticipation of your opponent’s next play. This increases the potential skill cap Secret Hunter has compared to the very straight forward playstyle of Mid-Range Hunter. Overall, Secret Hunter started making noise in our power rankings the second VLPS’ build emerged on our radar, and so we highly recommend it. You’re probably still going to struggle against Shamans, but that’s pretty much true for almost every deck in the game.
Tier 3 Patrons
Special thanks to Leo G. for supporting us for the month of September.
Here are all the people that participated in bringing you this edition of the vS Data Reaper Report: