Welcome to the 203rd edition of the Data Reaper Report! This is the final report of Forged in the Barrens.
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Number of Games
|Top 1K Legend||6,000|
|Legend (Excluding Top 1k)||15.000|
|Diamond 4 to 1||20,000|
|Diamond 10 to 5||23,000|
The Next Data Reaper Podcast Will Feature Returning Guest: Alec Dawson
We will have another chat with Hearthstone’s lead designer on the final design team. Topics of discussion? Balance decisions during Forged in the Barrens, United in Stormwind set design philosophy and more. It will be out this weekend, so check it out!
Update: the interview has been delayed.
Class Frequency Discussion
The Druid class has experienced the biggest transformation resulting from the balance changes. Token Druid has become an afterthought, and instead, we can see a massive spike in other Druid decks. Jambre’s Owl Druid was tipped to become a more prominent contender following the nerfs to Control Priest and Token Druid. But a different Jambre deck, utilizing Lady Anacondra, has been picking up the pace at higher levels of play. Their highly overlapping builds meant they had to be merged for this report under the name “Jambre Druid”. Meanwhile, Clown Druid has also risen in play throughout ladder.
Demon Hunter has seen a small rise in play. Deathrattle DH was expected to get stronger with the nerf to its hardest counter (Token Druid), while Lifesteal DH is seeing more play at top legend, with players expecting to meet fewer Mindrender Illucias.
Miracle Rogue is another deck that was licking its lips at Priest nerfs, so it’s not surprising to see players flock to the deck, especially at top legend where it’s always been a favorite. Its numbers have nearly doubled there compared to pre-patch.
Add Warrior to the list of classes that were looking forward to Priest nerfs. Rush Warrior’s matchup spread was mostly blemished by its Priest matchup, so its presence was somewhat modest at top legend. The deck hasn’t moved much outside of this rank bracket, where it has grown by 50%. What’s more, Control Warrior has also arrived and exhibits a noticeable presence throughout ladder!
Priest numbers are significantly down across the board. From 20% of the top legend field, Control Priest has shrunk to around 10%, and its decline at lower ranks has been even more severe. Further, the archetype is changing, especially at higher levels of play. The N’Zoth lists are making way for leaner healing builds, including those with a Devouring Plague/Flesh Giants package.
For most of ladder, it seems like business as usual for Shaman, but the class has drastically dropped off at top legend. Previously utilized as a Priest counter, its role is now under question, and its numbers there have been cut by a half. Another Priest counter, Spell Mage, has seen a smaller decline.
Fewer Priests mean more Face Hunters too. You get the gist. Nerfing Priest has made decks that lose to Priest rise in popularity, while its counters declined, especially at top legend where Anduin was heavily shaping the field.
Control Warlock will be permanently popular at lower ranks thanks to Tickatus, but there is little desire to play the deck competitively. Paladin is also generally ignored.
vS Meta Score
vS Power Rankings Discussion
- There are some surprising results here. For specific thoughts on decks, read the class sections. We’re going to list a few headlines that are the most important to note:
- Priest got… buffed???
- Obviously not, but we did lead you to this point earlier. Priest got weaker in a vacuum but got massive compensation for it in the form of a more favorable field at top legend. Decks that lose to Priest spiked in popularity, while Shaman and Mage have declined. This means that high-level Priest players who properly adjusted to the balance changes have ended up doing better than before the patch, essentially buying Priest stocks when they were on sale.
- The underline is on high-level players. Everywhere else, Control Priest has completely dumpstered into unplayability since players did not know how to adjust to the nerfs or change their builds. Add the high skill ceiling of the deck, and the Priest situation at different rank brackets is like night and day. This is a good time to remind people that class win rates referencing all of ladder are useless, and quoting them 24 hours after a patch is out in order to prove a point that “Priest is dead” is going to make you look… well, stupid.
- The balance changes did their job, which is to curb the Priest population without killing the class. Control Priest’s win rate at top legend may not have fallen, but the deck cannot get away with being overly popular, since it’s now easier to target whenever it gets too greedy. The N’Zoth build can be heavily punished now.
- Jambre’s final form?
- Jambre Druid isn’t looking too impressive, and its popularity at top legend is part of the reason why Priest stayed so strong, but digging into the data shows there is greater potential in the Anacondra variant compared to the Owl variant. Should it take over play, Jambre Druid would sit at around the 50% win rate mark.
- You may want to consider a different Druid deck entirely. Clown Druid has never been stronger. Its matchup spread looks great with the exception of the Face Hunter matchup. The death of Token Druid, which looks pretty clear cut based on its fall in both play rate and win rate, is great news for the horde of clowns.
- Control Warrior is back?
- The nerfs to Priest did not just keep Priest alive, they gave space for Control Warrior to look the strongest it’s been for a while. While it’s still a highly polarizing deck, the field at top legend has become so favorable that it’s been exhibiting strong results over the last week. And if you want to have better results? Take. Off. C’Thun. It makes even less sense to run it now.
Class Analysis & Decklists
Jambre’s Owl Druid received quite a bit of hype in the lead-up to the balance changes, since two of its hardest counters got nerfed (Control Priest, Token Druid). The deck hasn’t impressed so far and looks pretty mediocre.
However, Jambre has come up with a new iteration that includes Lady Anacondra and Germination. Elefanti proceeded to cut Umbral Owls for Glowfly Swarm, and a stronger Jambre Druid deck was born.
The goal of this deck is to set up a blowout turn that abuses the interaction of Lady Anacondra, Solar Eclipse, and Germination. This allows you to draw and play a ton of cards for free with three ladies on the board. Many decks are incapable of answering this play, though getting to that point can be a challenge, and decks that carry strong removal options are obviously difficult to beat as well. Jambrecondra Druid isn’t the best deck around, but it’s hilariously fun and thought-provoking, so give it a shot if you’re a bit bored of the format.
The nerf to Gibberling hit Token Druid very hard and it’s looking fairly weak now, but this has been great news for Clown Druid, which now looks like one of the stronger decks in the format. We continue to highly recommend Cenarion Ward.
- Druid Class Radar
- Jambre Druid
- Clown Druid
- Token Druid
- Celestial Druid
Deathrattle Demon Hunter is obviously very happy to see Token Druid fall. Other Druid decks still present tough matchups, so the deck hasn’t taken off as much as what might have been expected. We can also note a worsening matchup against Rush Warrior, as Watch Posts are very painful to deal with for the Demon Hunter.
There are no changes in our recommended builds. Far Watch Post isn’t a common inclusion but looks impressive whenever we see it.
Lifesteal Demon Hunter hasn’t capitalized on the nerfs to Priest. The transformation of the Druid class has been very problematic to the archetype. It doesn’t handle Clown or Jambre Druid very well, while Token Druid was a reasonable matchup to run into.
- Demon Hunter Class Radar
- Deathrattle Demon Hunter
- Lifesteal Demon Hunter
Miracle Rogue looks in a decent spot. The nerfs to Priest were very welcomed, but the resulting rise of Warrior may not be a worthwhile tradeoff. There is also some concern regarding the newfound success of Control Warrior at higher levels of play. Miracle Rogue seems to have good matchups against the entire field, but Warrior presents the dark red boxes it wants to avoid.
Other Rogue decks don’t see much play, but we did notice that Poison Rogue’s standing in the meta has improved at higher levels, sitting close to the 50% win rate mark based on our low sample estimate.
- Rogue Class Radar
- Miracle Rogue
- Secret Rogue
- Poison Rogue
The nerfs to Priest were fantastic for Rush Warrior, which now exhibits a nearly perfect matchup spread. The rise of slower Druid decks is partly a response to this deck’s success in the new meta. Both the Vanilla and the Watcher builds look great, and you really can’t go wrong with the archetype at the moment, though we do expect hostility for Rush Warrior to increase in the next week, and some of it is coming from within the class.
Yes, Control Warrior looks like a real thing at higher levels of play. The nerfs to Priest gave this previously-dead archetype some breathing room for success. It’s a great answer to Miracle Rogue, Face Hunter, and Jambre Druid (thanks to Brawl). It’s one of the more effective counters to Rush Warrior as well. It does have a very polarizing matchup spread and there are certain decks it never wants to run into (Deathrattle Demon Hunter), but the field at top legend is quite inviting at the moment.
The Saurfang build is the version that currently performs best. You’re much better off not running C’Thun. The Silas combo isn’t mandatory, but Silas is a pretty good card by itself, so there isn’t a great deckbuilding cost to include it. We’re not fond of Corsair Cache or Stage Dive, but we prefer the latter since it adds some consistency in finding our Anchorman for Saurfang, on top of its utility with Kargath. Cache on turn 2 is bait.
- Warrior Class Radar
- Rush Warrior
- Control Warrior
Where Control Priest wasn’t good before (outside of top legend), it’s looking pretty terrible now. In contrast, at higher levels of play, Priest is showing signs of adjusting well to the balance changes. It does help that the field has become far more forgiving to Control Priest, and it enjoys an easier time running into more favorable matchups these days.
With the short window we had, we couldn’t fully evaluate everything that has been going on in the class, but one striking trend is cutting the N’Zoth package, going back to a leaner build. This makes sense considering the decline of mirrors, and Priest’s need to utilize other defensive tools following the nerf to Apotheosis.
Desperate Prayer is now a much-needed enabler for Xyrella, and an alternative source of healing. The Plague/Giants package looks strong once again too and keeps Apotheosis as a stabilizing threat. Cleric of An’she has become a common inclusion, with multiple ways of activating it and a lessened reluctance of including draw effects.
Priest should continue to develop until the end of the expansion. The Cabal Acolyte package may still have a role to play (and carries synergy with Desperate Prayer), while the N’Zoth variant could grow stronger again should Control Priest rise back in popularity, due to its strength in the mirror.
Elemental Shaman continues to excel throughout ladder, but it lost much of its strength at higher levels of play due to the reduced incentive to counter Priest. Plus, many of the faster decks in the format have been punishing it for its Doomhammer wielding habits.
The rule of thumb is still the same as before: If you’re not playing at top legend, the Whack build is the superior choice by far. It is only worth running Doomhammer when the meta is slow enough, and this isn’t the case throughout most of ladder.
- Shaman Class Radar
- Elemental Shaman
- Doom Shaman
Face Hunter is looking great, which is expected considering that Control Priest was one of its strongest counters. Beyond its dominant performance across most of ladder, the archetype now has free reign at higher levels of play, where it still exhibits one of the best win rates in the format.
The archetype hasn’t had any developments for a while, but we did notice that Arcane Shot has gotten stronger after the balance changes, perhaps because burn has become more effective following the decline of Priest. Scavenger’s Ingenuity can also offer a fine alternative to Trueaim Crescent.
Other Hunter decks? You’ll have to wait for Stormwind.
If the only reason we played Spell Mage before the patch was to counter Priest, this role has become even more questionable than before. One positive is that the sudden success of Control Warrior at top legend is keeping Mage somewhat relevant there, but elsewhere on ladder, Spell Mage looks pretty dreadful.
Oh, what is this? Control Warlock escapes Tier 4 at top legend this week and looks sort of playable? And this is happening in spite of Priest’s decline? Hilariously, the archetype happens to counter Jambre Druid and Control Warrior too, and both decks got quite a bit of traction recently.
We don’t expect this reprieve to last, as the deck is still horrid into so many of the popular meta decks. Thankfully, judging by what’s coming in Stormwind, Warlock could make a triumphant return to the format soon enough. Every Warlock card revealed so far has looked very strong.
Nothing good happened in Paladin when it comes to the balance changes. The class is still somewhat struggling, perhaps even more so than before. Players are reluctant to touch the class they grew tired of after the first half of Barrens. The Paladin set in Stormwind needs to revive the class. Perhaps, it can get some draw options akin to Primal Dungeoneer and go through its own renaissance.
Less than two weeks before the new expansion, the late Barrens meta is wide open. The nerfs to Control Priest and Token Druid opened up space for other strategies to make their mark. Druid is seeing a revival in other archetypes, which shows that perhaps Gibberling was a poison pill that kept its own class permanently one-dimensional. Clown Druid looks strong. Control Warrior is no longer a meme. There’s enough to explore before United in Stormwind comes along.
The Barrens meta won’t be remembered as one that presented many possibilities. There was certainly a sense of limitation, perhaps a result of a card pool that was the smallest it’s ever going to be, so an expansion is well due.
At an initial glance, the United in Stormwind set looks to carry more firepower, which is certain to shake up the format.
Tune in to our 3rd podcast interview with Alec Dawson this weekend, in which we discuss the events of Forged in the Barrens as well as the upcoming United in Stormwind set. Next week, we’ll be working on our pre-expansion content. There will be a card preview. There will be a theorycrafting article. Don’t miss them, shortly before United in Stormwind’s launch.
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