vS Data Reaper Report #206

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

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Welcome to the 206th edition of the Data Reaper Report!

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Class/Archetype Distribution | Class Frequency | Matchup Winrates | vS Power Rankings | vS Meta Score | Class Analysis & Decklists | Meta Breaker of the Week | How to Contribute | Credits


Number of Games

Overall 205,000
Top 1K Legend 7,000
Legend (Excluding Top 1k) 7,000
Diamond 4 to 1 22,000
Diamond 10 to 5 32,000
Platinum 29,000
Bronze/Silver/Gold 108,000

Class/Archetype Distribution

Class Frequency

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Class Frequency Discussion

The balance changes have resulted in the expected deletion of Stealer Warlock, an archetype that is dwindling into oblivion, leaving Handlock as the primary representative of the class. Handlock may have been weakened by another Flesh Giant nerf, but it has only risen in play following the patch. It is the now most popular deck at top legend. Fatigue Warlock builds have begun to pop up. Overall, though, we note that Warlock’s population has significantly declined.

Quest Shaman has mostly stayed in place, likely kept in check by the combined presence of Warlocks and Mages. There are some interesting developments within the archetype that are worth discussing later. Elemental Shaman has declined.

Contact Rogue is ladder’s newest sensation. We chose not to call it Garrote Rogue, as we want to distinguish it from the Auctioneer/Garrote deck (which we started labeling as ‘Gadget Rogue’, and, therefore, the two archetypes are not merged in our deck recognition system). Plus, Garrote is a commonly used card in Poison Rogue as well. What makes this deck unique compared to the other Garrote archetypes is the presence of Field Contact, and this deck is built around it to the most extreme extent. Following its success at last week’s Master Tours, Contact Rogue has picked up play and emerged as one of the most popular decks at top legend. A small presence of Quest and Poison Rogue remains.

Demon Hunter is another class that is transitioning quite heavily. Quest DH has risen in play to become a prominent feature of the meta following further refinement. Fel DH also seems to be experimenting with new cards, most notably Zai the Incredible. Deathrattle DH is around but attracts no interest at top legend, where most of the focus is on Quest and Fel.

Shadow Priest has declined in play, likely a result of players seeing less value in the deck following the disappearance of Stealer Warlock, and concerns over its matchup with Handlock. There’s a funny, new Quest Priest build gaining a little bit of traction as well.

Taunt Druid is gaining more momentum, getting recognized for its recent strong results on ladder. It is now the most popular Druid deck, closely followed by Celestial Druid, which is going through a massive overhaul in its build as well. Anacondra Druid looks very fringe. Quest Druid is barely seen.

Quest Mage has expectedly risen in play, with strong expectations that it will do better post-patch as it hard counters both Handlock and Quest Shaman and there might be less of an incentive to run aggressive decks with Stealer gone.

Face Hunter has risen in play throughout most of ladder, but declined at top legend (again, likely the “Stealer effect” in play). Quest Hunter maintains a small, dedicated presence. Contrary to the Hunter class we know from past expansions, both of these decks are still seeing further experimentations and changes in their builds.

Paladin remains noticeable throughout ladder, with the usual drop-off at top legend. Secret and Handbuff Paladin exhibit similar play rates.

Some people play Quest Warrior for fun at lower ranks. Those who are more focused on winning do not. Other Warrior decks see very little play, so we can’t even tell if Rush Warrior is good anymore.

Matchup Win Rates Header

Power Rankings Header

vS Meta Score

vS Power Rankings Discussion

  • Warlock
    • So, Handlock is still very strong. This gives the impression that the 2nd nerf to Flesh Giant did nothing, or did very little, but it isn’t really the case. When looking into Handlock’s matchup spread, many of the matchups got worse, especially those against the hyper-aggressive decks: Face Hunter and Shadow Priest. The loss of Flesh Giant as a reliable swing card is giving more time for opponents to pressure the Warlock before it’s able to stabilize. This effect has objectively made Handlock weaker in a vacuum.
    • But one very important event also occurred with the balance changes, which is the elimination of Stealer Warlock, one of the hardest counters to Handlock. So, Handlock got weaker, but the meta became more favorable to it. The good news is that there are now ways to soft target the deck, a goal that was far more difficult to achieve before the patch. Despite their decline in play, Priest and Hunter’s stocks remain high, and they are now able to frustrate Handlock. Shadow Priest used to be slightly unfavored against Handlock, and now it seems to be favored. We’ll see whether Handlock players are able to adjust.
    • Not a lot of data on Fatigue Warlock yet, but it’s currently estimated to sit under the 50% mark at Tier 3. It’s a bit underdeveloped, so it could get better if it gains further traction.
  • Shaman
    • As we’ve discussed in previous reports, nerfing Handlock harder would have likely resulted in a meta dominated by Quest Shaman. The presence of Handlocks, alongside a clearly overplayed Quest Mage deck, based on its performance, is keeping Quest Shaman off Tier 1 at legend. But, Quest Shaman is extremely influential at dictating the meta, just as much as Warlock.
    • We’ve actually identified a way to make Quest Shaman beat Mage and Warlock. Thankfully, it comes at a steep price of its other matchups, but it’s something worth checking out in the class’ section. Anyone up to break the format?
    • Elemental Shaman seems to be living in Quest Shaman’s shadow. It’s a decent deck, but it’s tough for it to really stand out.
  • Contact Rogue
    • Before you draw any conclusions regarding the performance of Contact Rogue, there are a few important things to keep in mind.
    • Its skill ceiling could possibly eclipse what we’ve seen from both Stealer Warlock and Lifesteal Demon Hunter in the recent past. We need more time to look into this, of course.
    • Many players are completely misunderstanding this deck at a macro level (not knowing what the game plan is supposed to be, at all). We can identify this in the data: it seems to have a very high barrier of entry.
    • This deck will likely remain a poor performer in the hands of inexperienced players, but we want to keep track of whether it will improve at top legend over the next couple of weeks, which is a likely occurrence for these kinds of decks. We can already identify several matchups just over the last few days in which the needle is moving in the Rogue’s direction (both Handlock and Quest Shaman are very notable and important examples).
    • The question is whether the meta can respond to its popularity as well, which it certainly can. If it can curb Rogue effectively, we will have a “Lifesteal Demon Hunter circa Darkmoon Races/Barrens”. A decent, competitive deck with an unremarkable win rate that tends to get overhyped. If Contact Rogue continues to improve its matchups and develops serious meta resilience, it could end up behaving similarly to Control Priest during Barrens: a highly influential deck at top-level play that’s tough to crack.
    • As we’ve said, there is no merit for dramatic statements in either direction, as we need more information that takes time to collect. We’ll study the behavior and evaluate its performance over time. We’re open to everything and have no predetermined assessment. It’s an interesting case study.
  • Other Rogue decks
    • Quest Rogue would exhibit a Tier 2 win rate if it was optimized. It doesn’t get optimized because very few content creators are actively playing it.
    • Poison Rogue is looking good at top legend for the same reason Quest DH looks better there: less pressure through the board coming from this field.
  • Demon Hunter
    • Quest DH’s development is a step in the right direction. A new build is elevating this archetype’s win rate and it’s now cracked 50% at top legend, where the meta is admittedly more favorable to it. A rise in aggression could stunt this progress, and we still don’t recommend it if you’re facing many decks that can effectively pressure you (and that’s not hard to do considering the deck’s lack of defensive tools beyond Brute).
    • Fel DH seems to be struggling, but it’s not the deck’s fault. This is a case of regression in refinement. Unfortunately, new builds are dropping Il’gynoth and as it turns out, Il’gynoth is still an extremely important card in the deck. We suggest ways to potentially move forward in the deck’s development. If Fel DH reversed its current predicament, it would be safely in Tier 2 and look pretty strong.
    • No news regarding Deathrattle DH. It’s okay. It’s a Barrens deck. Much like other Barrens decks, it won’t get much attention.
  • Priest
    • Shadow Priest is nuts. As we’ve said earlier, it doesn’t seem to mind running into Handlocks anymore. It’s very strong against Hunter, so it gains priority when the incentive is to run an aggressive deck. Quest Shaman is grounded by its counters. Taunt Druid has yet to explode. Fel DH has gone backwards in its development. Things are looking pretty good for Shanduin.
    • Another, very interesting finding regarding Shadow Priest. It’s one of the more skill-testing decks in the format. Its performance actually improves at higher levels, which is why its win rate at top legend remains so high. Deck’s just good and arguably underplayed.
  • Druid
    • Taunt Druid is quietly doing very good work, and every week it seems to find a new card that makes it better. We can see why it’s underplayed relative to its performance though: It’s unfavored against Warlock, Shaman, AND Mage. Imagine being unfavored against those three classes and somehow still produce this kind of win rate on ladder? It’s sort of crazy, but it destroys some of the other popular decks in the format. Really makes them cry. Probably not going to be a deck that is regularly brought to tournaments because of those aforementioned matchups.
    • Celestial Druid is getting better. You’ll never guess why. It’s probably not going to be a great deck for ladder, but there’s some interesting stuff happening that could land it in a more respectable spot.
    • Anacondra Druid is probably the deck you want to ladder with over Celestial, especially at higher levels of play. It’s being slept on very hard at the moment. If Contact Rogue gains further momentum, Ana Druid is one of its strongest and most reliable counters. People need to pay more attention to the snake lady.
  • Mage
    • Quest Mage is clearly overplayed. It will likely always be overplayed because of how many players enjoy it regardless of its performance, but when it comes to its competitive upside, there’s a big price to pay for its ability to counter Handlock and Quest Shaman. The deck falls on its face when it runs into most other opponents.
  • Hunter
    • Face Hunter is a slightly worse Shadow Priest. That puts it in the slightly unbelievable position of feeling a bit redundant in the face of a superior face deck that comes from Priest. With that being said, it’s less punishing to play and looks Tier 1 across nearly all of ladder. It’s not a bad problem to have.
    • Quest Hunter continues to be close, but no cigar. It’s improving at a steady pace, but we can’t help but feel that it just needs new cards to shoot up in power.
  • Paladin
    • Paladin being underrated, more news at 11. We think Paladin’s domination of lower ranks, and the way it dramatically drops off at higher levels is part of the reason why it doesn’t get much respect. Both Secret and Handbuff Paladin are fairly linear in their game plan and have two of the lowest skill ceilings in the format. But, that doesn’t mean they’re bad at top legend. They still currently produce better results than Contact Rogue!
    • With Handbuff Paladin, we also see some negligence in its development. Since it’s neglected, it doesn’t get optimized post-balance changes, and there is a very clear way to improve it that has yet to be fully embraced.
  • Warrior
    • We’ve got nothing. Sorry! Barrens Rush Warrior is still probably good, but we can’t tell.

Class Analysis & Decklists

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

 


Data Reaper Report - Warlock

Though weaker in a vacuum, Handlock remains one of the strongest decks in the format thanks to the deletion of Stealer Warlock as well as the influence of Quest Shaman.

The standard pre-patch build is still very successful, but a new build has emerged that looks significantly stronger and may become the new standard. This variant runs Runed Mithril Rod and Manafeeder Panthara in order to accelerate the secondary win condition of the deck, which is fatigue, through greater drawing power. The build drops Tamsin Roame and Anetheron since they have anti-synergy with Mithril Rod, though we do wonder whether Anetheron is still worth running over Thalnos considering how powerful it is in the older build.

An alternative archetype has also begun to pop up which completely drops the Flesh Giant win condition and focuses solely on fatigue. The most successful build of Fatigue Warlock runs the Matron/Hand package. Tamsin Roame is included due to her OTK potential with Hand of Gul’dan, while Armor Vendor is a cheap defensive card you can easily dump from hand, allowing you to continue drawing cards aggressively (they also delay the opponent’s Flesh Giants). This deck currently looks inferior to Handlock since Flesh Giants are still very powerful in combination with Goldshire Gnolls and Barrens Scavengers, and this pressure package is very valuable. The Demon Seed win condition remains secondary.

Data Reaper Report - Shaman

Quest Shaman is kept in check by the dominating presence of Warlocks, as well as the arguably overplayed Mage. Its strength against the rest of the field remains borderline absurd.

The pre-patch build looks perfect, but an alternative take is going through development and we think is worth testing. Doomhammer Quest Shaman offers incredible off-board burst damage thanks to post-quest Rockbiter/Stormstrikes. This build is far stronger against Warlocks and Mages, and we estimate these matchups become slightly favorable for the Shaman!

However, this comes at a huge cost to Quest Shaman’s dominant matchups against aggressive decks. Basically, the Doomhammer variant is completely de-polarized, exhibiting close matchups against most of the field rather than what we’re used to.

This variant is currently inferior to the standard build, but there are some tweaks that could be made to improve it. One of the wildest findings is that Charged Call should very likely be cut from this deck, as it clashes with the Doomhammer game plan and carries diminishing returns: there’s no need to summon big threats when what we’re looking to do is burst opponents down immediately after completing the quest. Another card to make way is Lightning Bolt, as it seems redundant in the presence of burst damage spells that work better with Doomhammer. It’s a luxury we can’t afford unless we’d rather cut Notetaker.

It’s more important to keep Zapper and Feral Spirit, as they contest early board and offer better quest progression plays. We’ll see how Doomhammer Quest Shaman matches up to the standard build after these changes.

Data Reaper Report - Rogue

Garrote Contact Rogue is a very interesting new deck that has emerged following the success of players such as Orange and Fr0zen at last week’s Master Tour. It has proceeded to exhibit anecdotal success from several individuals at top legend. While its current win rate isn’t great, it would be premature to draw any conclusions from its current performance, and it’s worth waiting to see how it further develops as players learn to play the deck.

This is a case where the deck is completely misunderstood by many players. Contact Rogue is nothing like Barrens Miracle Rogue. This is an OTK deck that looks to aggressively draw into fatigue (or close to it) and ideally play Garrotes on the turn it can draw all of the bleeds, in combination with spell power from Ethereal Augmerchants and Shadowsteps. In faster matchups, where the execution of the OTK is irrelevant, it behaves more in line with its Barrens counterpart by fighting for board more proactively.

This means that proper utilization of Field Contact and Octobot can be very different from their usage during Barrens. It makes the deck more complicated, with many unintuitive turns, and Miracle Rogue during Barrens wasn’t exactly easy either.

The build popularized by Orange looks nearly perfect. We would suggest trying out Pen Flinger instead of Foxy Fraud, as it makes Field Contact chains less resource-intensive.

Quest Rogue is performing decently well considering how utterly messy this archetype is. The Stealth variant has been the superior choice since the first set of balance changes. We’ve noticed Battlemaster seeing more play in this variant and looking like a stronger finisher compared to Wicked Stabs, and we have a strong suspicion that Scabbs Cutterbutter is still a good card in the deck.

Poison Rogue is the same ol’ deck, though there is a greater incentive to run Prize Plunderers in order to deal with board pressure, and you can afford to run 3 weapons since Warlocks aren’t as overwhelmingly popular as they were before.

Demon Hunter seems to be constantly changing, for better and worse.

Quest Demon Hunter has taken a leap in its refinement thanks to the introduction of Soul Shear. This card helps the deck deal with minions, something it normally struggles to do, while still synergizing very well with the deck’s primary game plan. We’re also seeing Royal Librarians replacing Kayn, and they look stronger since they fulfill a similar role of allowing you to bypass taunts in the late game with your Lion’s Frenzy, but they’re not dead draws early in the game thanks to their tradeable tag.

Stacking Tradeables helps your Lion Frenzy quite a bit in the late game. As you near fatigue, you can keep trading and redrawing tradeables. You’re basically given the option to trade 1 mana for 1 damage, equal to a Pyroblast in damage efficiency. That’s not a bad option in combination with your other, free damage engines post-quest.

Fel Demon Hunter has seen a regression in its refinement thanks to the introduction of Zai, the Incredible. While Zai isn’t a bad card in the deck, it’s the card that made way for it in new builds which caused a dramatic fall in the archetype’s performance. Il’gynoth should be considered untouchable and is nowhere near interchangeable with Zai. It’s nearly as important to the deck as Jace.

Should we want to run Zai, the card to make way would either be Metamorphosis or Thalnos. Meta is a pretty weak damage option that’s been included out of necessity, but its damage may not be required with the availability of Zai. If we want all of the late-game damage without any compromises, then Thalnos is the most sensible cut, but we will warn you that things can get very awkward when the deck running Skull of Gul’dan has too many expensive cards.

Data Reaper Report - Priest

Shadow Priest is now the top-performing deck at the higher ends of ladder. The cute variant is remarkably powerful, and one of its most impressive attributes is a high skill ceiling. Aggro decks are stigmatized for being easy to play, but this hyper-aggressive deck is fairly complicated to navigate. It is stronger at higher levels of play compared to lower ranks, though it’s excellent across all of ladder.

Quest Priest may not be a big joke anymore. We’re intrigued by an Alura build running both Far and Crossroads Watch Posts. With no spells in the deck other than Elekk Mount (and Mankrik’s Wife), Alura can either be a powerful play in the mid-game, or just a game-ender post-quest completion.

Data Reaper Report - Druid

Taunt Druid is one of the stronger performers in the format. Players have begun cutting Sow the Soil for a stickier early game. The thinking is that we have to connect Arbor Up in order to win games, and we’re better off increasing that likelihood than rely on Sow the Soils, which isn’t a great finisher.

Guardian Augmerchant is just a great card in the deck, so running two copies is an easy decision. Annoy-o-Tron is superior to Toad of the Wilds, especially when we’re cutting Sow. We’re even slightly tempted to run two Argent Squires over two Vibrant Squirrels (Squirrel is generally not that great).

A new build of Celestial Druid has arrived, one that drops the C’Thun wincon for Survival of the Fittest in combination with Goldshire Gnolls and Umbral Owls. Turns out that when you cut C’Thun, you make a better deck! We don’t think this version puts the archetype in a much better spot on ladder to the point you’re eager to play it, but it is noticeably stronger.

You’re better off playing Anacondra Druid on ladder. It can utilize Celestial Alignment as a tech card in slower matchups, but its matchup spread is much better overall.

Data Reaper Report - Mage

Quest Mage is a very specific counter to Warlock and Shaman that struggles in most other matchups, so while its dominance over two of the most influential decks in the format is very tempting, its flawed game plan against almost every other strategy makes it a weak ladder choice overall. Its popularity is highly driven by how much it is liked by a section of the players, who continue to play it regardless of its win rate, and those tempting counter matchups.

With the rise of Handlock, Quest Shaman, and Quest DH, we’ve noticed that Cone of Cold, a previously fringe card in the deck, has become a better choice. We remain big fans of Hot Streak and its quest progression utility. Alternatively, you could cut Cone of Cold and one Streak for Apexis Blast and the ‘standard’ look, while another viable option is Shooting Star. We’re impressed with its performance in aggressive matchups, but it’s also quite good against the rising Contact Rogue.

Data Reaper Report - Hunter

Developments are occurring in Face Hunter, as it is facing an increasingly popular Shadow Priest matchup. How far have we come that a Priest deck hits face more effectively and outclasses the most infamous face archetype in the history of the game?

Not to say that Face Hunter is struggling by any means, but a new/old package looks to improve Face Hunter’s performance against Priest by getting to the board faster in the absence of the now nerfed Pack runner. The Bonechewer/Augmerchant package has returned and looks good. The presence of this package highly encourages running Wriggling Horror over the slower Imprisoned Felmaw, but Wriggling Horror’s poor performance in the deck’s worst matchups (Shaman, Priest) makes us wary of this switch. We don’t want to give up Neophyte either.

Explosive Trap has grown in popularity and proven to be quite good in Quest Hunter. We’re looking at the Scorpid/Swarm package as something to potentially upgrade. We’re curious about Loot Hoarders, though we can’t confirm they’re good as they don’t see enough play. It also allows us to run Mankrik, which is a stronger 3-drop compared to Scorpid in the absence of Devouring Swarm. Worth trying.

Data Reaper Report - Paladin

Paladin is still quietly very strong. We’re not going to see a lot of developments in its builds since the class is ignored at higher levels, where decks are usually refined, but we did get one important answer regarding Handbuff Paladin. Cutting Conviction is absolutely correct, and the sooner you do that, the better (it’s still good in Secret Paladin).

Data Reaper Report - Warrior

There is little to say about Warrior. Quest Warrior looks pretty bad and requires an injection of cards to its supporting shell. If it gets that, it can be competitively viable, as the Wild version of the deck is doing great work thanks to the strong pirate shell available in that format.

Rush Warrior has been experimenting with an anti-spell shell. It’s not very good. You’re better off sticking with the Barrens build. We know. It’s boring. You don’t care.


Shadow Priest is currently destroying a format that’s likely not respecting it as much as it should. It is the best performing deck at top legend by some distance, and if it weren’t surprisingly difficult to play, it would probably dominate the rest of ladder as well.

We do expect some curbing of its power to occur, especially if Fel DH cleans up its act and Taunt Druid gets a bit more respect, but make no mistake, Shadow Priest is a dominant pillar of the format and it cannot be underestimated. Much is said about Warlock and Shaman, but Priest is firmly in that conversation as well.

And another important thing to mark down: Illucia has never been closer to getting nerfed (for the 2nd time). The clock is ticking.

Shadow Priest


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Contributors

Here are all the people that participated in bringing you this edition of the vS Data Reaper Report:

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7 Comments

  1. Rodlock is top cheap deck. Those without the epic scavenger can replace with Demonic Assault for 3 dmg up front. No neeophyte? Far post is good too.

  2. I’ve been experimenting with Quest Rogue a little bit and right now I’m running your stealth version except I traded 1 Prize Plunderer and 1 Spymistress for 2 Wicked Stabs. Quest Rogue NEEDS to have some kind of burst damage, because in the late game you aren’t going to get a minion to stick for long enough to do any serious damage. Also, I feel like Spymistress is ridiculously overrated. There’s a reason no one ever played Worgen Infiltrator, and that 1 extra point of damage ain’t it, chief.

  3. I’m sorry, what do you mean by Shadow Priest has a high skill ceiling? They usually win by turn 4, I wouldn’t call that a skilled game.

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