Welcome to the 205th edition of the Data Reaper Report!
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Number of Games
|Top 1K Legend||11,000|
|Legend (Excluding Top 1k)||60,000|
|Diamond 4 to 1||43,000|
|Diamond 10 to 5||43,000|
Class Frequency Discussion
Warlock was the frontrunner of the post-patch meta, with the eruption of Stealer Warlock (also known as D6 Warlock for the commonly-ran package of six demons as its only minions). This deck has drawn the ire of many players, while being hailed as the best deck in the format, ‘not even close’ apparently, with the same breath. Stealer Warlock has peaked at a 20% play rate at top legend 48 hours into the patch, and has been in a continuous decline across the board since. It’s headed towards a more moderate play rate of 10% at the top legend bracket, and 5-6% through the rest of ladder.
But Stealer Warlock isn’t the only Warlock deck in the format. The Flesh Giant/Soul Rend build, which looked like the best Warlock deck before the patch, has not been slowed down by the nerf to Flesh Giant and Battlemaster. It is rising in play and closing in on the popularity of Stealer Warlock. Zoo might be the main casualty of the balance changes. Though it is still noticeable on ladder, it has completely disappeared at higher levels of play.
Quest Shaman has fulfilled the expectations of its rise following the nerf to Incanter’s Flow. It has become one of the most prominent and influential decks in the format. Elemental Shaman remains prevalent, though continues to display a lower play rate at top legend.
Shadow Priest has completely taken over the class, with the highly aggressive archetype peaking in play at top legend. Expect its popularity to trickle down through the rest of ladder, with the deck developing further in its refinement. New discoveries have been made and are worth discussing. Other archetypes of the class have not gained traction.
Face Hunter hasn’t lost a step, and even grew in popularity following the balance changes, likely as a response to Warlocks. A small, stubborn presence of Quest Hunter remains.
Demon Hunter has completely transformed. Quest Lifesteal Demon Hunter is gone following the nerf to Il’gynoth, at least for now. From its remains, two other archetypes have risen in play. Quest Demon Hunter is centered on Lion’s Frenzy as its primary win condition, while Fel Demon Hunter utilizes the Lifesteal package in a controlling shell with Jace and Il’gynoth as its late-game finishers. Deathrattle Demon Hunter is still around, too. Both Fel and Quest Demon Hunter are very young in their development: their more advanced and refined builds are mostly circulating at top legend and have yet to trickle down.
Druid is also showing different options. Celestial Druid has popped up at higher levels of play as a specific counter to some strategies. Anacondra Druid has begun using Celestial Alignment as a tech card. Quest Druid has lost all of its early expansion momentum. Aggro Taunt Druid is beginning to pop up with new builds, hoping to improve on its initial lukewarm results.
Rogue is losing steam. Quest Rogue has drastically fallen in play after the patch. Poison Rogue has largely settled down as a niche counter deck. Some Field Contact Rogue decks are being experimented with, either running a Garrote/Ethereal build or a Barrens’ style. We changed the Auctioneer/Garrote Rogue deck’s name to Gadget Rogue to avoid confusion.
Quest Mage predictably fell in play by a significant margin, but it’s somehow still the most popular deck on ladder. Players at lower ranks have particularly shown their love for this deck since its inception. It remains fairly popular up until top legend, where it takes the most drastic step back.
Paladin has also fallen in play, but there’s some disconnect going on with the class. Throughout ladder, it’s still very visible with two primary archetypes: Handbuff and Secret. At top legend, it’s almost non-existent. We know that high-level players are very quick to drop Paladin whenever they have a chance to, but are they right to ignore it? How hard did the nerfs hit this class? Do they know something the rest of ladder doesn’t?
Warrior is down and out. Some players are enjoying their Quest Warrior decks, but there’s nothing else going on. Rush Warrior has been completely abandoned. Big Warrior is a bit of a meme. Dead class?
vS Meta Score
vS Power Rankings Discussion
- Stealer Warlock
- Initial impression of Stealer Warlock is that its main upside are strong matchups into Handlock and Quest Shaman, which are two of the most influential decks in the format. Besides that, Stealer Warlock’s matchup spread is still very vulnerable to pretty much any deck that pressures its life total. It seems more of a counter deck than a well-rounded deck.
- The deck does have a high skill ceiling, as exhibited by data that shows it’s pretty much unplayable outside of top legend, and gets noticeably better and more viable at higher levels of play. But even at top legend, it’s not particularly impressive to support its mythical status. Plus, it’s arguably been a liability in the tournament scene as well, so far.
- When we go outside of top legend, this deck is genuine bait. At a likely play rate settling at 5-6% with a win rate south of 47%, this deck is a non-issue for most ladder players. Not recommended.
- We do think that the deck will likely improve in its performance as its play rate declines and there’s less of an incentive to counter it. Decks with high skill ceilings tend to independently improve over time as well, since players gather experience playing them. We probably won’t have that time though, since it’s very likely getting nerfed next week for its play patterns.
- Finally, we have some findings regarding Stealer Warlock’s build. It’s possible (not certain) that players are just rolling the wrong dice, and a few adjustments could sort out some of this deck’s most glaring weaknesses and bring it up to par. More info in the Warlock section.
- This looks like the real ‘oppressive’ Warlock deck. Dominant matchup spread and very few reliable counters, one of them being Stealer Warlock, which ironically helps tone down the class’ own power level. Handlock cannot be reliably countered by aggressive decks, as its removal and life gain options are exceptionally strong, its comeback mechanics are immense, and it also has some flexibility in its build to perform even better against aggression. Powerhouse of a deck, and likely the best one at higher levels of play, despite Stealer Warlock’s presence.
- Quest Shaman’s dominant matchup spread might even be more impressive than Handlock’s. The only reason it isn’t at the top of Tier 1 is the high presence of Warlock. If Warlock gets nerfed again, Quest Shaman may have to be touched as well because it would be near-unbeatable. Its matchup against any deck that develops a board is ridiculous. Only Quest Mage hard counters it, because it does the exact opposite (and interestingly, Quest Hunter). One of the strongest anti-aggro decks we’ve seen.
- Elemental Shaman continues to look strong while falling off a little at higher levels, which is its normal behavior.
- Shadow Priest is the real deal. This deck continues to grow through refinement, becoming more efficient and ruthless every day. It certainly has its counters, and some of them are the best performing decks in the format. This suggests that it’s unlikely to get out of control as there are plenty of good answers to keep it in check.
- No signs of life from Control Priest decks. Attrition is dead, for now.
- Face Hunter hasn’t missed a beat, even though the deck is weaker in a vacuum. It has quickly become a highly successful deck in the post-patch meta thanks to a dominant matchup against Stealer Warlock. It has a few, very hard counters that it can feel hopeless against, but they don’t shave enough power from its matchup spread at any level of play.
- Quest Hunter is a little closer to competitive viability and starts to look a little more than a simple meme. There’s something here that will eventually transpire into a competitive deck at some point in the future.
- Demon Hunter
- The most promising Demon Hunter deck is certainly Fel DH. As we’ve said earlier, it’s only beginning to refine at top legend, and its builds throughout ladder are outdated garbage. So, based on its potential, we see Fel DH becoming one of the stronger decks in the format. It heavily punishes aggressive strategies with unrivaled defensive tools. The question is whether it can exhibit a strong enough late game. It has some issues there.
- Quest Demon Hunter is also mostly developing at higher levels of play, where it can see success in the heavy Warlock meta. But, this deck gives off the impression of a worse Poison Rogue. Strong when given time to execute its game plan, but rolls over to any sort of pressure coming from the board. It might develop some ladder or tournament niche, but its polarizing matchup spread makes us doubt whether it can be a more well-rounded contender.
- Deathrattle Demon Hunter is fine. Jace is likely bait, and if the deck actually goes through proper refinement, which it seems to refuse to do at the moment, it should continue to do well.
- There’s a new Tier 1 deck in the scene. Taunt Druid’s win rate has skyrocketed with new builds largely outperforming its early expansion iterations. This deck is not going to shatter the meta, as it still loses to Quest Shaman and Handlock thanks to Perpetual Flame and Soul Rend, but it looks very dominant against the rest of the field, and specializing in aggressive mirrors. If you have no way to deny their board development, you have no way to escape a challenging Taunt Druid matchup.
- Celestial Druid’s success is as situational as its polarizing matchups spread. Hit the right matchups, and the deck feels unbeatable. Hit the wrong matchups, and the deck is miserable. Sadly, (or happily) you’re far more likely to hit the wrong matchups.
- Anacondra Druid is a more tempered and well-rounded Celestial Druid. Still doesn’t feel great against aggressive decks, but its win condition is far quicker to execute, allowing you to outpace and blow out many decks in the format.
- Quest Rogue has fallen off in its performance, which lines up with the lack of enthusiasm in playing the deck after the patch. However, we do see a way for it to recover, it just needs to make some adjustments and change its approach from what it was early in the expansion.
- Poison Rogue is another polarizing deck that leads to a polarizing experience in a fairly polarizing meta. It can occasionally produce great results, but it largely depends on the wind blowing your way. Find an opportunity and it will deliver, but a well-rounded deck, it isn’t.
- Not much can be said about Garrote Rogue iterations, but we haven’t been impressed with what we’ve seen so far from either Gadget or Contact builds.
- Quest Mage is hurting, ironically due to the rise of Stealer Warlock. This deck is attracting a lot of counters targeting its life total, and Mage is caught in the crossfire, not allowed to thrive off its strong Handlock and Quest Shaman matchups. Still, it’s encouraging to see that the nerf to Incanter’s Flow did not dumpster the class, and it has a reasonable way back to the format. Of course, since the archetype is loved by many players, they’re willing to sacrifice their win rate to keep playing it. We don’t see that changing.
- Are we back to “Underrated Paladin”? It seems to be the case, as this class is still imposing itself on the format in an impressive fashion. Secret Paladin is straight-up dominant throughout ladder, exhibiting the highest win rate everywhere but top legend. At higher levels of play, it drastically falls off to “only” become one of the stronger decks in the format. Certainly not something that should barely see any play at that level, and it hasn’t even made any post-nerf adjustments. Just plowing through with the same build!
- Handbuff Paladin is also still very strong, and though it seems worse than Secret Paladin, its scope for improvement is relatively high. There are quite a few things it may want to do to adjust after the balance changes, but since the deck isn’t played much at higher levels (where refinement mostly occurs), this process is at a standstill. We’ll try to get things up and running in this report.
- Quest Warrior might look pretty bad, and other Warrior decks exhibit a play rate that’s too low for us to reliably evaluate, but we can tell you that Rush Warrior is still a deck that you can play and have success with. We estimate its win rate rate hovers around the 50% mark. It’s not dead, just carries little interest. We refuse to give Warrior the “dead class” label as a result.
Class Analysis & Decklists
Handlock is one of the most dominant decks in the format and is likely the strongest deck at higher levels of play. The Flesh Giant nerf hardly made an impact on its performance, and the decline of Mage arguably led to the deck being better after the patch.
The same pre-patch build is still doing incredible work, though the nerf to Battlermaster means that you should probably only run one copy of the card. One of the most successful approaches involves running Cult Neophytes. Neophytes tend to be strong against some of the deck’s worst matchups, so adding them basically helps you hedge against rising counters that may look to prey on Handlock as it gets more popular. Unstable Shadow Blast would be the 2nd card to make way. We really don’t like cutting Bloodmage Thalnos, as it is way too strong at enabling your removal toolkit.
Another tech card that works pretty well is Spice Bread Baker. It is very strong against any deck that looks to burn you down unless they have infinite damage (Mage). We’ve been less impressed with other tech cards such as Entitled Customer and Altar of Fire, as their usefulness is limited to a more narrow range of opponents. But, this deck is so flexible that its last couple of slots will likely continue to see experimentations, and it’s hard to go very wrong with this deck anyway.
Stealer Warlock entered the post-patch meta with claims of domination, but we’re not seeing any justification for the kind of hype it was receiving, even though it does perform better at top legend compared to the rest of ladder. The deck is currently going through a pretty sharp decline at all levels of play as a result.
We did identify a promising new approach to the archetype, with a variant that runs Dark Alley Pact and Man’ari Mosher. This package provides the Warlock with both a proactive play to pressure the opponent, as well as a huge lifestealing threat that makes it more difficult for opponents to burn the Warlock down, and we all know that most Stealer Warlock counters look to do just that.
We found that this variant performs significantly better than the standard variant throughout ladder, even though it drops Darkglare, taking away a lot of its OTK combo potential. Basically, this version depolarizes the deck. Considering that some builds already run Mosher as a 7th demon, and it does not seem to have an adverse effect on Free Admission, we’re very curious about the possibility of simply rolling a difference dice: D8!
This would mean we cut either Unstable Shadow Blast (not as mandatory as you’d think) or Soul Shear. The featured build is novel and untested, but if we can fit the Pact/Mosher package without taking away Darkglare, we might be able to have our cake and eat it too.
Zoo Warlock was hit hardest by the balance changes, and the deck is now in the process of fading away from the format as a result. It was far more reliant on a 2-mana Darkglare to execute its game plan.
- Warlock Class Radar
- Hand Warlock
- Stealer Warlock
- Zoo Warlock
Quest Shaman might have become one of the strongest decks we’ve seen in recent memory if Warlock was nerfed harder this patch. With Quest Mage being the only other counter and falling in play after the nerf to Incanter’s Flow, it’s the prevalence of Warlock that keeps Quest Shaman from rising to become the best deck in the format. Its dominance over any board-centric deck is astounding and a lot of it has to do with Perpetual Flame.
Some post-patch adjustments of the deck: Primordial Studies and Marshspawn are cut. They don’t provide a reliable way of progressing the quest, and we’ve found that Primal Dungeoneer gets stronger if it’s guaranteed to find a Canal Slogger. Wandmaker is a better generator than Marshspawn since it offers a solid and unconditional turn 2 play, and you’re pretty happy with most 1-mana spells. Overdraft is becoming a more common inclusion and the upside of it compared to Studies is that you can trade it away. It also offers direct damage, which can be helpful against Warlocks and Mages.
Elemental Shaman sees no changes to its Whack build, but we did notice that the Doom variant got worse. This is a bit unintuitive, as you’d expect Doomhammer to do well against Warlocks at top legend. That was indeed the case early on in the patch, but the rise of several other counters to Stealer Warlock (most notably Shadow Priest) have put Doom Elemental Shaman in a more difficult position, and it currently struggles to find justification at any level of play. This could always change again, but that’s the current situation.
Shadow Priest has surged after the patch to become one of the best decks in the game. Its development has taken an interesting turn with the rise of the “Cute” Shadow Priest variant utilizing Gandling alongside Murloc Tinyfin and Desk Imp. This build cuts the slower burn cards to prioritize domination of early game board control in order to leverage Attendant as best as possible. Guardian Augmerchant is an exceptional card that started seeing more play after the patch and allows you to snowball an Attendant even harder than Kul Tiran Chaplain.
The vomiting nature of this variant improves the performance of Traveling Merchant, a card we weren’t impressed with before, since you’re faster to get on the board. This approach also allows Voracious Reader to become a legitimate draw engine for the deck due to its lower curve.
Mindrender Illucia has always been a card that was heavily scrutinized, but while her power in Control Priest was somewhat situational and matchup dependent, her power borders on absurdity in Shadow Priest. Her usage in a deck that vomits its hand is essentially akin to Time Warp, leaving your opponent completely stranded with no ability to react to your play, and likely setting up lethal damage the next turn.
Face Hunter has brushed off the nerf to Kolkar Pack Runner and continues to perform exceptionally well on ladder. The most successful approach swaps Runner for Neophyte, a card that’s pretty good against a variety of decks at the moment. This does mean that Face Hunter isn’t as strong at controlling the early game board, but its damage potential is still there, and its strength against Warlock has become very important in the post-patch meta.
Quest Hunter is still not quite there, but its position in the meta has improved and there’s some room for refinement. Scorpid/Swarm is a nice combo against Flesh Giants. Mankrik is still very strong in any deck that runs Kodobane. We don’t expect Quest Hunter to be a good ladder deck in the current meta but further balance changes (and newer cards) could end up pushing it to competitive viability.
Demon Hunter is seeing plenty of experimentation, making it the least refined class in the format with the greatest room to grow. The nerf to Il’gynoth seems to have opened up space for alternative strategies to see play, including one that still utilizes the card quite effectively.
Deathrattle Demon Hunter should probably not be running the Fel spell package with Jace. These builds consistently underperform compared to the standard one featured below. Kurtus can be replaced by a Fishy Flyer if you happen to not have him. The impetus is still on getting Inquisitors down early with the help of Felscreamers.
Quest Demon Hunter builds running Lion’s Frenzy and Glide have popped up in an attempt to counter Warlocks. The archetype does carry some promise in countering slower strategies but runs into an issue that’s not too different from the one exhibited by Poison Rogue, where it gets destroyed by any sort of board development. When it comes to its build, Far Watch Post looks insane in the deck, thanks to its very powerful combo with Glide. We’re torn between Chaos Strike and Fury for the final two slots. We wanted to fit both in but couldn’t find space. There’s not much of a difference between them, though Fury has the slightest edge.
Fel Demon Hunter emerged from the ashes of Lifesteal Demon Hunter thanks to Shaxy’s innovation and is likely to be the best deck within the class. While this deck does carry Il’gynoth as well as the Artificer/Arcanist package, you’re not looking to OTK opponents nearly as often. The life gain potential of this deck is insane, which makes it very dominant against aggressive decks, while Jace offers a damage-based finisher in the late game. This deck is very young in its development and just beginning to pop up, so we didn’t have the best data to refine it further.
We’re mostly looking at Eye Beam as a card that might be a little redundant alongside Chaos Leech, and perhaps make room for more damage and cycling power (Sigil of Alacrity or another Spectral Sight are possibilities). We’re also tempted by Metamorphosis. The card isn’t very good, but the deck can be quite desperate for damage in order to finish games. We’ll know better next report.
- Demon Hunter Class Radar
- Deathrattle Demon Hunter
- Quest Demon Hunter
- Fel Demon Hunter
Druid is also a fairly diverse class that is relatively underdeveloped compared to others.
Celestial Druid is generally not recommended for ladder. It is a very narrow counter to very specific strategies and if it doesn’t match up with exactly what it wants to see, it will fail to produce results. We do like Best in Shell, as it gives you ‘some’ game against aggressive decks.
Anacondra Druid is a more stable and well-rounded deck that produces better results throughout ladder. The major development within the archetype is the utilization of Celestial Alignment as a tech card against slower strategies, choking them out from executing their win condition. The problem is that Alignment often replaces Best in Shell, which makes the deck more vulnerable to aggressive strategies. Our suggestion: why not both? There is room to fit both copies of Shell and Alignment by cutting one copy of Innervate, a card that loses usefulness post-alignment.
Taunt Druid might be the most promising archetype within its class, exhibiting a huge spike in its win rate after the patch thanks to meta changes as well as its continuing refinement. Far Watch Post is great. Greybough/Teacher’s Pet can make for very strong mid-game plays. Peasant is surprisingly effective. We don’t think Roame is worth it: it’s too slow and our reload potential through Composting is good enough.
- Druid Class Radar
- Celestial Druid
- Anacondra Druid
- Taunt Druid
- Quest Druid
Rogue might be in for a difficult period, as the balance changes have led to a meta that’s not too friendly for Valeera.
Quest Rogue has been severely hit by the nerf to Battlegrounds Battlemaster. It forces the archetype away from the full SI:7 build, and into what was previously the weaker alternative in the Stealth build. The Stealth build does have more merit after the patch since its early game allows you to contest rising aggressive decks better, and since you don’t have the same damage potential in the late game, you might as well try to pressure Warlocks faster.
Poison Rogue looked like one of the best decks in the format in the first couple days of the post-patch meta, but since then, Stealer Warlock has been continuously declining while its aggressive counters have risen. These counters also happen to demolish Poison Rogue, so its win rate has been spiraling down, but this deck is so polarizing that it could be the best and the worst deck within the same day. The featured build further hones Poison Rogue’s strong matchups by: 1. Not playing any minions besides Guild Trader, making removal useless 2. Running 4 weapons to make sure you have one on turn 3.
Quest Mage is having trouble adjusting to the Incanter’s Flow nerf while also dealing with increased aggression meant to target Warlocks. The current meta is dooming Mage to be one of the weakest classes of the format, though the Flow nerf did not kill the deck off and we can see a way for its win rate to recover in the future, depending on other meta developments.
The post-patch meta has further encouraged Quest Mage to cut Apexis Blast, and while the card wasn’t great before the patch either, there is serious upside in dropping it now since it’s become too slow against the hyper-aggression we’re currently seeing rise in play.
We’ve explored other options available to the class that could help its current predicament, and we might have found one. Remember how good Shooting Star was during Barrens? This might be the time to bring this card back as an answer to early aggressive boards, but also as an incredible swing card post-quest completion. Very often, your opponent tries to set up as much power on the board as possible before you drop Varden in order to push you into defending yourself rather than executing your win condition. Shooting Star is a 1-mana Flamestrike you can play alongside Varden to immediately erase your opponent’s threats. Of course, as a 1-mana spell, it’s also a cheap way to progress your questline throughout the game. Try it out and we’ll see how this card performs with a larger sample.
Paladin has been hit, but it’s nowhere near out of the picture. The class still performs extremely well throughout ladder.
Secret Paladin is the stronger Paladin deck, and already looked this way just before the balance changes arrived. It also doesn’t seem to be desperate for any adjustments to its build, with its pre-patch iteration utilizing Conviction/Battlemaster doing work. It’s not out of the question that it can get better with some card changes if players actually start paying attention to it again.
Handbuff Paladin seems to have been hit harder, and there’s a greater incentive in changing its build. Conviction is so weak at 2-mana in this deck that we advocate to cut it completely (!), and only run one Knight of Anointment to go alongside our Hands of A’dal. The rise of Warlock and Shaman is making Divine Shield minions better, as they escape their damage-based removal. We’re also incentivized to run a beefier mid-game. Just forget about that Cornelius Roame guy…
- Paladin Class Radar
- Secret Paladin
- Handbuff Paladin
Warrior is the forgotten class of Stormwind. While Quest Warrior might have been a failure so far, the class isn’t actually dead. There is just a complete refusal among the player base to revisit Rush Warrior, an archetype that seems to perform well enough to stay competitive according to our low sample estimate, and it’s not even refined.
Will players ever again look at Rush Warrior’s way? It might need a fancy new card to get everyone to buy in.
Handlock is the most dominant deck in the game and is becoming increasingly more powerful as some of the hype surrounding Stealer Warlock, one of its only counters, is fading.
This is your public enemy one. An extremely versatile removal package that forces the most aggressive and ruthless decks in the format to challenging affairs. A package of threats that is impossible to ignore and can enable massive swings that completely overwhelm you in one turn. An inevitability clock that forces you into an uncomfortable beatdown role if it ever gets late enough for Demon Seed to matter (it usually doesn’t).
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