vS Data Reaper Report #208

A weekly Hearthstone Meta Report based on data from 170,000 games.

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Welcome to the 208th edition of the Data Reaper Report! This is the first report following the nerfs to Warlock, Shaman, Priest, and Demon Hunter as well as buffs to Warrior, Mage, and Hunter.

Contributing to the Data Reaper project through Hearthstone Deck Tracker or Firestone allows us to perform our analyses and to issue the weekly reports, so we want to wholeheartedly thank our contributors. Without the community’s contributions, there would be no project. Contributing data is very easy, so if you enjoy our content and would like to make sure it remains consistent and free – Sign up!


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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 170,000
Top 1K Legend 9,000
Legend (Excluding Top 1k) 42,000
Diamond 4 to 1 29,000
Diamond 10 to 5 31,000
Platinum 21,000
Bronze/Silver/Gold 38,000

Class/Archetype Distribution

Class Frequency

Class Frequency Discussion

Give players a reason to play Quest Mage, and they will do it without hesitation. The power vacuum perceived to be created by the balance changes has been partially filled by a spike in the Mage population. Quest Mage is popular throughout ladder, though it seems to dip at top legend. A significant number of Wildfire Mages have appeared, experimenting with the new buffs to Wildfire and Mordresh, but they tend to fade as you climb ladder.

Warrior is back. Quest Warrior has seen a massive surge of play, with players eager to try out the new buffs to the pirate shell. There is a clear split in styles, with Aggro-Quest and Control-Quest builds seeing play. The Aggro archetype looks cleaner and more advanced in its refinement. There’s also an awakening of Big Warrior, completing a trifecta of Warrior decks with significant visibility (there’s a tiny bit of Rush and Control Warrior too, but not much to evaluate).

Taunt Druid is a big player in the meta after the patch, and it’s started to get more respect at higher levels too. Anacondra and Celestial Druid make up most of what’s left within the class. Ana Druid is more popular at top legend.

Hunter is finally looking like it has a legitimate 2nd option, with Quest Hunter seeing play rates that are closer to those of Face Hunter. There are some Beast Hunters trying to figure out what to do with their new buffs, but not much traction there.

Paladin had a bit of a facelift, with Libram Paladin rising to become the most popular Paladin deck at legend, eclipsing both Secret and Handbuff Paladin. High-level players don’t seem repulsed by the prospect of playing this particular Paladin deck.

There are many changes in Demon Hunter. Quest Demon Hunter running Lion’s Frenzy is almost entirely gone. Lifesteal Demon Hunter still sees quite a bit of play at top legend, but is in the process of cutting the nerfed Irebound Brute from its build. Fel DH is experimenting with new cards and builds, while Deathrattle DH is largely unchanged.

Typical for Rogue, the class is very quiet throughout most of ladder but rises to the #1 spot in play rate at top legend, where Contact-Garrote Rogue is the most popular deck. Poison Rogue barely sees play outside of top legend, while Quest Rogue’s presence is modest across ladder.

The expected fall in Quest Shaman has occurred following the nerfs, and Elemental Shaman is now the more popular deck. But, Evolve Shaman is beginning to creep up too.

Warlock has seen the most drastic fall in play, with players quick to write it off in the first couple of days of the patch. But, Warlock is slowly rising in play, mostly at top legend, where updated builds of Handlock are gaining traction. There are also some experiments with Zoo Quest builds running around, as well as really janky Control Warlock decks. So how good or bad is Warlock these days, really?

Priest looks abandoned. Many Shadow Priest players haven’t even bothered to update their builds. The rest of the class looks like a wasteland.

Matchup Win Rates Header

Power Rankings Header

vS Meta Score

vS Power Rankings Discussion

  • Warlock
    • Some may be surprised by these results, but Handlock could very well be the best performing deck in the format. You can notice that the deck doesn’t seem to perform well throughout ladder, but then spikes hard at top legend. The biggest reason for it is that high level players have mostly dropped the Mithril Rod variant for the Anetheron variant, and this older variant is doing remarkable work. It helps that there are fewer Mages around too, but we expect that Handlock’s win rate will pick up everywhere else once players fully drop the Mithril Rod build.
    • So did the balance changes do nothing to tone down Warlock? What we’re seeing is a common phenomenon in nerfed decks: The “disrespect syndrome”. A deck gets nerfed, and it drastically drop in play with players feeling that it’s not good anymore. Then, decks that it beats rise in popularity. The field becomes more favorable to it, which compensates for its loss of power in a vacuum. Can Handlock maintain a 53% win rate at top legend with a play rate of 15%? That would be a different story but remains to be seen. For now, Handlock is simply a strong deck that’s not being accounted for, which makes it easier for it to perform. It doesn’t need much help to excel.
    • Other Warlock decks don’t show much promise. Based on its low sample size, Zoo Quest Warlock is Tier 4 territory.
  • Mage
    • Quest Mage’s win rate looks much better than it did before the patch, and that should be a concern for those interested in seeing it decline in play and free up some late-game strategies. We will note that its win rate declines as you climb ladder and it’s barely at the 50% mark at top legend. Some of its matchups are getting worse over time too and some of the “free food” matchups are in decline. Seeing that, we initially expected it to quickly drop to Tier 3.
    • But, Quest Mage performs well against some of the best decks in the format that could further rise in play (Quest Mage beats the five best performing decks at top legend). This is why it’s hard to say where it lands. But unless we see a drastic drop in its win rate, it’s going to stay very popular, because Quest Mage tends to be overplayed even when it doesn’t win much.
    • Wildfire Mage is one of the decks that is currently gifting free wins to the Quest Mages. It looks pretty bad and is likely to disappear. Wildfire and Mordresh look strong, but the supporting shell isn’t there yet.
  • Warrior
    • Aggro-Quest Warrior seems to perform well on ladder, but we’re noticing a sharp dive in its performance at higher levels, signaling a limited skill ceiling. We do think there are some improvements that can be done in the build, but we suspect that some of the hype surrounding this deck will fade over time, as the meta becomes more refined, efficient, and win rates of all decks decline across the board.
    • Control-Quest Warrior looks worse, though we’ve identified a promising direction for it that could make it comparable in power to Aggro-Quest. Although it’s still early, this deck seems to be difficult to figure out.
    • Big Warrior looks like the best Warrior deck. Its performance against Contact Rogue is what makes it relatively stronger at top legend, which is also where Quest Mage (a hugely oppressive matchup) declines in play. A likely rise of Handlock could be problematic, but Big Warrior should stick around even in the presence of Handlocks. Commencement is now meta.
  • Druid
    • Taunt Druid is really good everywhere on ladder and seems to have finally broken through a perception barrier after the patch. There are definitely ways to answer it and the deck is not unbeatable, but it’s currently enjoying a very favorable field and has room to grow further if players are willing. The easiest way to climb ladder at the moment. Just powerful.
    • Anacondra Druid is the biggest counter to Quest Mage besides Poison Rogue. It’s polarizing, though not as hopeless in some matchups as Celestial Druid tends to be.
  • Hunter
    • Face Hunter is good. No surprises there. With Shadow Priest gone and Quest Mage being this popular, there are plenty of wins to pick up with the deck, though some strong counters do exist that keep the deck from being the best. Taunt Druid is a big problem.
    • But how about Quest Hunter? The deck is finally looking strong, and it has to thank the decline of Warlocks for it. Yes, Handlock will likely come back and Quest Hunter is vulnerable to several other strategies, but its good matchups against Quest Mage and Taunt Druid carry some value. We expect it to decline, but it could survive at a reasonable win rate.
  • Paladin
    • Libram Paladin is very good. It’s quite remarkable how well it performs, even at top legend, despite clear issues running into Mages and Rogues. The answer is in its other matchups. The deck is amazing against the rest of the field, we would even say dominant. It does not seem to lose to Handlocks anymore either, following the balance changes. So, should Warlock come back, it will have no negative effect on Libram Paladin. If Libram Paladin could improve the Mage and Rogue matchups, it would break the format. A tall task, admittedly.
    • Secret and Handbuff Paladin are fine. There’s nothing remarkably different about them. They’re still very dominant at lower ranks. They still drop off in power at top legend to a significant degree. They’re still very competitive and successful there.
  • Demon Hunter
    • Lifesteal Demon Hunter data is kind of irrelevant at the moment. It’s hilariously terrible outside of top legend because the Brute-less build does not see play. The pre-patch Brute build is simply unplayable. The non-Brute build sees more play at top legend, but the win rate at top legend isn’t reflective of the archetype’s power either because it isn’t completely curated. We can see LSDH coming close to the 50% mark, possibly surpassing it at top legend once the best performing build takes over. It’s too early to say, considering the many other variables in the meta, but LSDH looks promising and capable of adjusting to the loss of Brute.
    • Fel Demon Hunter is having the same issue. There’s some early patch garbage that’s killing its win rate outside of top legend, where it is more curated and refined. It’s definitely a good deck, comfortably Tier 2 post-refinement. The Handlock matchup has gotten better, so it can survive its rise. The main issues for the deck are Big Warrior and Libram Paladin.
    • Deathrattle Demon Hunter is the cleanest DH deck, and performs very well across ladder as a result. It’s clearly concerned with the success of Taunt Druid and Libram Paladin, but the nerf to Perpetual Flame was huge.
  • Rogue
    • Contact Rogue is now genuinely a strong deck at top legend, exhibiting a good win rate alongside its high play rate. The balance changes and the subsequent meta have been very favorable to the deck. If Lifesteal DH cleans up its act, Big Warrior gains prominence and Mage drops off, the field could become more hostile to the deck again, but it’s doing very well right now.
    • Quest Rogue seems very underrated. It’s the 3rd Tier 1 deck at top legend following Handlock and Taunt Druid, which is very good company. Its matchup spread is a bit complicated when it comes to predicting its performance in the near future. It comes down to the popularity of Mage. For example, if Mage and its counters decline, leading to a rise in Paladin and Warrior, the field becomes more favorable to Quest Rogue. This is kind of what we’re seeing at top legend and why the deck is so successful there. We’ll also have to see how the matchup against Handlock shapes up in the coming week.
    • Poison Rogue sees very little play on ladder outside of top legend, which is why it’s currently not in the Power Rankings, but we estimate it’s close to Tier 1 at top legend. Its matchup against Quest Mage is over 90% in its favor. Heh.
  • Shaman
    • Shaman seems generally inoffensive. Elemental Shaman is competitive and strong. Quest Shaman is still very competitive. The nerfs did not kill the deck. There’s still a way to perform against Quest Mage if you’re frustrated by this matchup, and it could also be a way to adjust when Handlock returns (Doomhammer). There’s not much development here though.
    • The low sample of Evolve Shaman suggests there’s a good deck brewing here that’s being held back by a greedy and unnecessary package of cards (Bolner/Y’Shaarj). Will the gentlemen’s agreement be broken and see this archetype rise again? Time will tell, but early data suggests that Evolve Shaman is the strongest it’s been since the nerf to Boggspine Knuckles and is easily Tier 2.
  • Priest
    • The Illucia nerf hurt Shadow Priest a lot, which was expected considering how many wins this card single-handedly earned this deck. But, we will say that Shadow Priest is better than it looks because it hasn’t seen as much post-patch refinement as it could. There is some neglect here, but it’s hard to tell how good it is at peak performance and whether it’s enough to lift it to a good win rate. We may never know considering the lack of enthusiasm for this deck at the moment.
    • Other Priest decks will have to wait.

Class Analysis & Decklists

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

 


Data Reaper Report - Mage

Quest Mage has benefitted from the post-patch meta, which saw an increase in decks that it performs well against. This could change in the near future, but for now, its tendency to see an inflated play rate combined with what is now a decent win rate means it should remain a highly prevalent competitor.

There are two main ways to build the deck. You could run Apexis Blast. We’ve noticed the card has gotten stronger after the patch. You could drop Apexis Blasts for either two Wand Thiefs, or a single Wand Thief and a 2nd Hot Streak. Wand Thief is another card that got stronger post-patch, but we’re still a little wary of running two copies of it.

Wildfire Mage looks weak, simply put. The buffs were nice and definitely made the archetype better, but the supporting shell is not at a competitive level yet. A future where this deck becomes viable doesn’t seem that distant though.

Data Reaper Report - Warrior

Warrior has finally come back, with interest in Quest Warrior rising following the multiple buffs it has received. There are two main archetypes that utilize Raid the Docks.

Aggro-Quest Warrior was generally easier to build, and therefore hit the ground running. The main issue we’ve identified in the deck is Nitroboost Poison. The card doesn’t seem to belong, so we’ve opted to run Rokara and Stage Dive instead. The deck tends to flood the board, so Rokara is likely to get value, while Stage Dive is a decent draw option to find later in the game in order to fish either Rokara or an Anchorman for quest progression. We’re also a little suspicious of Coerce, but we haven’t found a better card for now.

Control-Quest Warrior looks underwhelming, but was the more difficult deck to build. The promising addition that could lift its win rate to a more competitive range is Saurfang. The Stage Dive/Anchorman package makes it very consistent. And yes, it’s worth running Kresh even though its deathrattle clashes with the deck.

There are some experiments with Control Warriors not running the quest, but they’ve yet to be fruitful.

Quest hype aside, Big Warrior looks like the strongest Warrior deck. We’re very intrigued by the addition of Scrapyard Colossus over Mo’arg Forgefield. It looks like a clear upgrade. A more mainstream approach is to only run Troublemaker and Rattlegore as threats so that Commencement and Cowardly Grunt hit them more consistently. The issue is that Grunt is very often pulled with Commencement, which isn’t great, so we’re still interested in running 5 threats.

Data Reaper Report - Druid

Taunt Druid looks very powerful after the patch, performing exceptionally well at all levels of play. To beat this deck, you need to have the tools to consistently push it off the board in the early game, because once Razormane Battleguard and Oracle of Elune come down, you have to be able to answer them. This is why aggressive decks tend to get dominated in this matchup, while slower decks carrying removal fare better.

No need for changes in the pre-patch build, but a Kazakus variant is picking up in popularity and looks comparable to the main featured list. Kazakus is a little better than Park Panther in some of the deck’s more difficult matchups while making a sacrifice in the faster matchups since Panther is so strong at taking over the board if you’ve ever fallen behind. Wriggling Horror is another lean into these slower matchups that’s present in the Kazakus build.

Anacondra and Celestial Druid are in similar positions to where they were before the patch. Play Ana Druid if you want to hard target Mage while hoping to dodge aggressive decks. It has two main weaknesses: AOE that can clear its Anacondra/Germination blowout turn (Brawl), and hyper-aggressive decks that don’t let it get to that point.

Data Reaper Report - Hunter

Face Hunter has stepped out of Priest’s shadow, and the changing meta has also led to a reversion in its development. The Bonechewer package was mostly included as an answer to Priest, and now that Shadow Priest is mostly gone, there is less of an incentive to include it. Hunter is now mostly concerned with killing Mages as quickly as possible, and the featured build reflects that.

But that’s not all, Quest Hunter finally looks strong thanks to the balance changes, though the likelihood of Warlock’s return means this archetype is likely to drop in its performance to some degree over time. No need to make any changes to the pre-patch build: Explosive Trap is still very good.

Data Reaper Report - Paladin

Libram Paladin might be one of the biggest winners of the patch. Despite the prevalence of Quest Mage, its biggest counter, it is thriving against the rest of the field.

We’ve found many cards that outperform Panderen Importer after the patch. One option is Far Watch Post, but we’re surprised by how good Noble Mount looks as well. There’s also the option to run Mutanus and Naralex to lean into the slower matchups.

No changes in Secret or Handbuff Paladin. They look just as strong and underrated as they did before the patch.

Demon Hunter has multiple competitive options. Lifesteal Demon Hunter can’t be properly judged in this report because of one crucial adjustment that’s required in its build, and that’s dropping Irebound Brute. It makes a huge difference to cut Brute, run Talented Arcanists and simply focus on your post-quest win condition. You can still run a single Felosophy for Artificer redundancy, but two is one too many. The featured build is very likely to be effective at higher levels of play, and we’ll see how the archetype’s win rate improves once it is curated.

Fel Demon Hunter is another strong deck that’s mired by sub-optimal builds. There’s a quest variant of this deck that’s just butchering the archetype’s win rate. Stick to the pre-patch build, but there is one new card that looks impressive in the deck: Magtheridon! It looks stronger than either Metamorphosis or Zai. Swap out Chaos Leeches for Eye Beams and you’ve got yourself a faster, secondary win condition.

Deathrattle Demon Hunter is fairly cleaned up and refined, so it performs well statistically. You want to run Felrattlers post-patch because Taunt Druids are a pain, but this deck is pretty well-positioned against the emerging field. Inquisitors have gotten stronger.

Data Reaper Report - Rogue

Rogue has received a big boost in power following the patch. Contact Rogue now looks genuinely strong at top legend following the nerfs of some of its more difficult matchups, and it very much enjoys running into more Mages. No reason to make any changes to the build.

But Quest Rogue looks even stronger, and might be the biggest sleeper of the current meta, hugely benefitting from the rise in Warrior. It is perfectly positioned into all of this class’ archetypes. Wicked Stabs work great with Battlemaster, while Prize Plunderer doesn’t look like an important card in the deck, something we’ve suspected before the patch.

Of course, if you want to kill Mages around 90% of the time, Poison Rogue has your back. The deck doesn’t see much play on ladder outside of top legend, where it particularly shines.

Data Reaper Report - Shaman

Shaman is doing fine. The nerf to Perpetual Flame certainly affected Quest Shaman’s dominance over board-centric decks, but the archetype still enjoys queuing into these matchups. Considering Mage’s popularity, Quest Shaman is showing resilience, and though Warlock’s return should be a concern, you could still run the Doomhammer variant in order to do far better against the standard variant’s counters.

Elemental Shaman is quietly performing with the same build it has utilized for a while, but what could be bubbling under the surface is Evolve Shaman’s return.

Currently, Evolve Shaman is wasting some of its deck slots on a janky Bolner/Y’Shaarj win condition and still performs quite well. We strongly suspect that Evolve Shaman is very comfortably a Tier 2 deck, at the very least, with some adjustments shown in the featured build. We were limited by what we could do since there’s not much data and there are several cards we are very curious about but couldn’t evaluate.

Considering how Meeting Stone fits into the deck, we think there is strong merit to test out Peasants. We’re mostly looking for upgrades on Wandmaker, and considering how well it performs in other decks, Peasant could be it.

Data Reaper Report - Warlock

News of Warlock’s demise have been greatly exaggerated and once the dust settles, it’s very likely that Handlock will be sitting pretty amongst the best decks in the game, if not the best. The balance changes have crippled the Mithril Rod variant and deleted Fatigue Warlock from existence, but the Flesh Giant/Anetheron/Scavenger game plan is still very successful.

We’ve noticed that Unstable Shadow Blast has become more important as a quest progression tool since it’s more difficult now to complete the questline phases without it. Spice Bread Baker is a fairly popular inclusion but we don’t think it’s particularly important. There aren’t many matchups where it is consistently relevant. It’s mostly strong against Hunter and Priest, and Priest is currently MIA.

If we ever decided to run one Shadow Blast, it might be to accommodate a 2nd Battlemaster. Battlemaster is another card that got stronger after the patch, and having a delayed Tamsin win condition could be offset by the more consistent primary win condition of leveraging your threats.

Experiments with Quest Zoo Warlock are not producing results that are in any way comparable to Handlock. Unless a dramatic breakthrough occurs, we don’t expect them to gain further traction.

Data Reaper Report - Priest

We actually think Shadow Priest is more competitive than it looks. The problem is that for some bizarre reason, players have continued to run Illucia in the deck instead of sending her to the dust bin. The new iteration of Illucia is absolutely useless in this deck, and running her is essentially running another Baku in your deck.

We’ll keep saying it, but Peasant is a very underrated card that should see more play and is a strong performer in Priest. We’ve yet to see an aggressive deck that decides to run Peasant and regrets it.


There are many potential meta breakers in the current format, so we’ll really only know where the meta is truly headed after another week of developments. Remember that discoveries are still likely to happen, which would tilt matchups in ways that are hard for us to predict.

The clear safe choice on ladder is Taunt Druid. It’s so strong at the moment and the truly punishing matchups are just not prevalent enough. The field is currently encouraging you to play Druid and force opponents to run more AOE and removal.

The other big talking point will be Handlock. How will this deck perform once it takes a bigger share of the meta and forces opponents to respect it again? We’ve noticed multiple decks that do better against the nerfed Handlock and are likely to deal with its increased presence more effectively (like Libram Paladin), but time will tell. Handlock has not yet reached its final form in this format.


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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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