Welcome to the 215th edition of the Data Reaper Report! This is the first report of Fractured in Alterac Valley.
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Number of Games
|Top 1K Legend||15,000|
|Legend (Excluding Top 1k)||27,000|
|Diamond 4 to 1||44,000|
|Diamond 10 to 5||64,000|
Reminder About Our Graphs
- The screenshots added to this report do not make up all of the available data. You can click on each graph to take you to the original tableau file which contains more filtering options. You can also navigate to these graphs through the website’s toolbar as shown below:
Class Frequency Discussion
The launch of Fractured in Alterac Valley was huge. Enormous. Gigantic. Almost as humongous as an owl. Almost, because Humongous Owl is so gargantuan that it has taken over the launch of the expansion. Owl Warlock has become the most popular Warlock deck, followed by a plethora of alternatives. Handlock, Fatigue, Zoo and even the famous meta tyrant, Tickatus, can be found!
Shaman looks like a different class filled to the brim with options. Freeze Shaman has emerged to become a contender, boosted by a very powerful class set that filled its every need. Bolner/Bloom/Y’Shaarj is an OTK finally utilized by a Shaman deck, and Bolner Shaman looks to challenge Freeze Shaman for Alterac supremacy. Then, you’ve got the Elemental and Quest Shamans, adding several icy tools to their kit (Burn Shaman appeared too late for this report).
The Thief package in Rogue has been extensively explored and the archetype is full of different builds and several approaches, with players attempting to find a perfect balance for the first aspiring competitive deck to utilize Maestra in its core strategy. But as you climb to the higher ends of ladder, you see more of the familiar faces. Garrote Rogue is rising at top legend. Quest Rogue is lurking. A little bit of Poison Rogue too. These three decks have mostly added Shadowcrafter Scabbs and called it a day.
Paladin started out the expansion great, as usual. The most popular class outside of legend ranks, Libram Paladin has been leading the charge, followed by Buff Paladin, which seems to have displaced Handbuff Paladin’s position in the meta. Not a single Paladin deck is skipping Lightforged Cariel, by the way.
Druid is experimenting in many directions, but the more competitive ladder gets, the more Celestial Druids you see. Have things aligned for this deck to shine brighter or is it simply punishing slow and bad decks? There will be an answer later. Taunt Druid is around in small numbers. A dedicated Drek’Thar deck can also be found, and some players are trying to make Frostsaber Matriarch work in Beast Druid decks.
Another expansion of Face Hunter or bust? The early signs aren’t very good when it comes to class diversity. Face Hunter pretty much takes over as the primary option for the class from around Diamond 4. Big-Beast Hunter is seeing experimentations with Mountain Bear and various packages. Quest Hunter seems to be fading.
Demon Hunter looks quite diverse, as players are trying to utilize one of the most intriguing class sets in various archetypes. Big Demon Hunter was expected to see some play. Deathrattle DH is trying to find upgrades in both its early and its late game. Token DH strategies are present, as well as more defensive Fel DH decks trying to utilize the class’ new hero card. The same old Lifesteal DH is beginning to raise its head at top legend, though.
Several Mage archetypes are seeing play, but most of them disappear where the meta is more advanced and competitive. At top legend, only Mozaki Mage remains a serious competitor, as players realize that Quest Mage, Big-Spell Mage and Wildfire Mage… aren’t very good. Are they?
A similar development is seen in Warrior, where Quest Warrior makes up a large presence in the format, but the class severely declines at legend ranks. Control Warrior decks are barely getting a second look. Current Warrior is very similiar to Warrior post-Deadmines.
Players have been eager to play Priest again this expansion. Big and Quest Priest are very noticeable throughout ladder, but they decline into near non-existence at top legend. That’s not a good sign for their prospects. Interestingly, Miracle Priest pops up a bit over there, with players realizing that Irondeep Trogg might have been the 1-drop the deck was missing.
vS Meta Score
vS Power Rankings Discussion
First report of an expansion. Remember what we always say about it. It’s not just about the current win rates. It’s about the scope for improvement for every deck, and where they are headed, so let’s dig in.
- Owl Warlock is a legitimately strong deck with superb matchups into most board-based strategies unless they run a lot of divine shields or huge buffs that circumvent its damage-based removal kit (Buff Paladin). Its primary weaknesses are Rustrot Viper and off-board win conditions. It struggles to get going without discount ticks off its weapon, and it cannot outpace combo win conditions present in strategies such Garrote Rogue, Mozaki Mage, Celestial Druid, and Lifesteal Demon Hunter.
- Since there are options available to counter Owl Warlock reliably, and they are rising in play, the win rate and the play rate of the deck is in decline. However, Owl Warlock’s presence does promote what some players call a “Solitaire Meta”, where decks focus on their hand, try to ignore the board as much as they’re allowed to, and do their own thing. In a way, the current meta is skewing in that direction more than Stormwind ever did.
- Nerfing the Owl combo alone, for example, will just bring back Fatigue Warlock. The deck carries very similar weaknesses to Owl Warlock but loses the Mithril Rod mirror. Nerf Owl Warlock and this deck will come back and sit in the exact same spot Owlock is currently in. It’s not the Humongous Owl, folks. Leave the bird alone.
- And then, we can’t ignore the strongest Warlock deck in the format. Handlock is extremely well positioned and underplayed relative to its current power level and flexibility. It’s a tough nut to crack and doesn’t even care about your Vipers.
- We’re not done. Tickatus Warlock may look horrible in the data, but there’s a big discrepancy in the performance of its builds. We estimate that one variant is worthy to sit as high as Tier 3. The deck doesn’t do very well in Warlock mirrors but is an excellent counter to Paladin.
- Freeze Shaman is flirting with Tier 1. The deck is clearly strong and since it’s new and unrefined, there is significant scope for improvement. It could well establish itself as a top performer, but it does have one problem. If the format skews towards off-board strategies, many of its tools lose their power. It also has a serious Handlock/Garrote problem, and those decks are only likely to grow in popularity. There’s a way to deal with Owl Warlock, and possibly Garrote Rogue, but Handlock is a different story.
- Bolner Shaman is real! It has a similar scope for improvement to Freeze Shaman, so there’s a good chance it will stick around the Tier 2 range. But since this deck carries similar tools, it has similar weaknesses. The OTK may allow it to win off board, but the win condition is still slower than other combos and therefore it does not appreciate a meta dictated by Warlock and its ‘solitaire counters’.
- Elemental Shaman is arguably underrated. Much like in Stormwind, it has two different variants meant to target different matchups. Doomhammer is still a strong card at higher levels of play.
- Quest Shaman is okay but might be weaker than other options within the class. There’s a danger it could disappear even though it’s competitive, just because of redundancy.
- Garrote Rogue is once again the king of top legend ladder. Even after its nerf, this deck remains very hard to consistently beat. Only a couple of reliable counters in Celestial Druid and Lifesteal DH at higher levels of play. Garrote pretty much defined the lineups for the World Championship this weekend. Shadowcrafter Scabbs is nuts in this deck.
- If you’re looking for a Paladin counter, look at Quest Rogue. A very powerful deck that gets eclipsed by Garrote at higher levels of play but remains a very strong deck throughout ladder. Difficulties in the Warlock matchups seem to prevent it from sitting at the very top. Shadowcrafter Scabbs is nuts in this deck too.
- Thief Rogue isn’t quite figured out. It’s likely that the deck is simply not at the level of other Rogue decks, but there is a promising direction that should move this deck out of Tier 4 at the very least. The archetype is a jumbled mess, so its current win rate isn’t flattering.
- Players fear running Poison Rogue in a ‘Viper meta’, but you might be surprised to hear that this deck is quite strong now, nevertheless.
- Paladin looks super dominant outside of legend ranks, where it’s reduced to “just” being one of the strongest classes in the format. Libram Paladin’s matchup spread is quite ridiculous. It can pressure with Troggs very effectively. It’s built like a tank thanks to Lightforged Cariel. It has greater draw consistency. It looks like a perfect Hearthstone deck with great versatility. It has some weaknesses that can be exploited, and its scope for further improvement is low, but expect it to remain at the top of the meta, or very close to it. This is the best deck choice for a climb to legend.
- Buff Paladin might be the only board-based deck that makes an Owl Warlock sweat buckets, but despite its dominant performance, it seems to be sitting in Libram Paladin’s shadow. Indications of a low ceiling to its development are also noticeable, we can see this deck relaxing its performance at higher levels further but remaining a powerhouse at lower ranks. Handbuff Paladin seems redundant. A worse version of Buff Paladin that doesn’t seem to have its own niche.
- Celestial Druid has never been stronger than it is now, at least at higher levels of play. Solitaire meta? This deck is the king of a Solitaire meta. Play off board and this deck will destroy you. It’s the one deck that beats all off-board combo strategies, and the price of losing in aggressive matchups seems worth it for the moment. Again, an injection of Troggs can change all of this, but for now, it’s having quite a bit of joy at an admittedly very narrow portion of ladder. But the tournament scene? Worlds? Where Garrote Rogue and Lifesteal Demon Hunter are common choices? Meta defining.
- Is Taunt Druid weak? Not really. This deck has been brutalized by the omission of Razormane Battleguard from its most popular post-expansion build. This has obliterated its win rate. Yes, somehow dropping Battleguard was thought to be a good idea. A refined, Trogg-utilizing Taunt Druid is a top competitor, make no mistake.
- Drek’Thar Druid is not a good deck. Players traumatized by Barnes can breathe out in relief.
- Face Hunter is strong and there’s even room to improve it further through better card choices, so we expect the archetype to remain very relevant and important going forward in punishing some of the greedier decks in the format. Its matchup spread isn’t as strong as it looked during Stormwind, since the new set has introduced a lot of powerful defensive tools that are very effective against Face Hunter. But decks can’t stack too many defensive tools without being punished by the ‘Solitaire Five’. This cycle ensures Face Hunter’s place.
- Shocking news. Big-Beast Hunter is not complete garbage. In fact, there’s one build path that looks… competitive? We haven’t seen such a greedy Hunter archetype get out of the low 40’s in its win rate for a long time, so a win rate of around 48% looks like a dream. Those who crave a different Hunter deck may get their wish… or waste their dust on many niche legendary minions. Remember that the meta is only going to become more ruthless over time, so this deck needs to get better. It can, but the extent is unclear.
- Demon Hunter
- Big DH is in a similar position to Big-Beast Hunter. There’s one specific build path that looks potentially promising, but the extent of its improvement may not be enough once the meta becomes more ruthless and potentially punish ‘clumsy’ decks. We can’t write off new archetypes just yet. They may look worse than the established decks, but their scope for improvement is significantly higher.
- Deathrattle DH is the most solidified DH archetype, which is why it’s performing well, but its scope for improvement is low, and its drastically worse performance in a more refined, high-level meta indicates some limitations.
- The biggest story does not appear in the table. Lifesteal DH is very likely to come back as a prominent force at top legend to try and stop Garrote Rogue. We estimate it’s the strongest DH deck at that level. Fel DH is another deck we expect to see more of in the coming weeks, potentially utilizing new cards.
- It’s Mozaki or bust for Mage. Big-Spell Mage is the worst deck in the format, with a win rate that’s in a different zip code. Mozaki Mage isn’t even that good. It’s highly polarizing but strong matchups into Warlocks and Shamans keep it relevant. Things are generally not looking great for this class.
- Warrior’s got nothing besides Quest Warrior, which is a powerful deck but doesn’t bring anything new to the table. Control Warrior is almost as bad as Big-Spell Mage. It simply has little chance against the dominant late-game strategies out there. To an extent, Quest Warrior is taking advantage of the early janky meta to pick up free wins. Its scope for improvement is relatively low. We expect it to remain dominant outside of legend, but it will likely hit some wall at higher levels (it already does, to an extent).
- Priest’s story is similar to that of Control Warrior. Players might be more excited to play Big & Quest Priest but they’re not winning too many games with these decks either. There’s not much you can do to improve decks that mostly look to grind out opponents when some strategies can deal infinite damage to you without too much effort before we even hit 10 mana crystals.
- Miracle Priest seems to be the way to compete, at least at higher levels, due to the deck’s notable skill ceiling. The deck just needs to fully believe in Troggs, and it could become a top legend option. Not the best deck or anything, but something respectable.
Class Analysis & Decklists
Owl Warlock has taken the meta by storm in the early few days of the expansion, with its fantastic survival tools as well as its ability to deal up to 112 damage with its Phylactery combo. However, an extreme reliance on Mithril Rod as well as poor matchups into other combo strategies has left it vulnerable to answers that are growing in popularity, and the deck is trending down in its play rate and win rate. Even so, Owl Warlock should be strong enough to maintain a very relevant place in the meta.
The build we’ve theorycrafted last week ended up looking perfect! There’s an option to run Rustrot Viper to tech for the mirror, replacing either Mortal Coil or Full-Blown Evil.
Handlock is quietly looking like the strongest Warlock deck out there, and it’s flexible in its ability to contest different matchups. You’d normally want a build identical to the one we theorycrafted last week, running Dreadlich Tamsin (now proven to be a great card in the deck) and Full-Blown Evil. At higher levels of play, Altar of Fire and Cult Neophyte could potentially help against increasingly popular OTK decks, replacing some of the removal package.
Fatigue Warlock is around but struggling to replicate its success towards the end of Stormwind. The targeting that Owl Warlock is receiving is affecting Fatigue’s performance as well, since both decks rely on Mithril Rod and struggle against faster combo strategies. But there’s the added pain of Fatigue Warlock having an unfavorable matchup against Owl Warlock too.
Tickatus Warlock has returned and looks atrocious in aggregated stats, but one of its builds looks remotely competitive. The Soul Fragment variant running Malicia and Y’Shaarj is the one we identify to be decent. The more popular variant goes hard on Dark Portal and Felosophy, and that’s the one that carries a win rate in the 30’s.
- Warlock Class Radar
- Owl Warlock
- Hand Warlock
- Fatigue Warlock
- Tickatus Warlock
Shaman’s Alterac Valley has completely revitalized the class, and it’s now exhibiting incredible strategic diversity.
Freeze Shaman is no longer a fading meme from Knights of the Frozen Throne, but a legitimate contender that sits amongst the best decks in the format. There is significant potential for improvement as well, with refinements of the new deck still in progress, but we have identified the best build for the archetype moving forward.
Lightning Bloom is core to the deck due to the absurdity of Wildpaw Caverns. Cagematch Custodian is unnecessary as you’re not that desperate to tutor Gavel. Mutanus is one of the deck’s very best cards and is essential at fighting off combo strategies, with disgustingly strong synergy with Bolner and Macaw. Battlemaster can just cheese board-centric matchups with Snowfall Guardian and Brilliant Macaw. There is no shame in running two Rustrot Vipers in the current meta, especially when Owl Warlock is normally one of this deck’s worst matchups. The featured build goes nearly 50/50 against it, an improvement of over 15% compared to a build missing Mutanus/Vipers! That’s very much worth it.
But Freeze Shaman isn’t the only meme that turned into a powerful meta deck. The Bolner//Bloom/Y’Shaarj OTK, which was repeatedly attempted over the last year, has finally found a worthy home. Bolner Shaman is a more defensive deck compared to Freeze Shaman and relies on near-infinite Dunk Tanks and Circus Medic to finish off opponents.
Once again, there is no shame in running two Vipers in the current meta to make sure Mithril Rod never goes off and buy enough time for you to execute your own thing. We’ll be the first to tell you when a tech card is bait, and right now it isn’t.
Furthermore, Armor Vendors are great in this deck as well as Primal Dungeoneer. Dungeoneer can find your combo pieces (Lightning Bloom, Dunk Tank) alongside Snowfall Guardian, which is an amazing outcome considering how good Guardian is. The weaker outcome is that it finds you Wildpaw Caverns on curve, or a Windchill. Not bad either.
Instructor Fireheart is a little overrated. She’s borderline good enough in Freeze Shaman, but generally performs better in faster strategies where she serves as fuel. The Lurker Below’s ability to corrupt Tanks/Medics while providing reliable defense seems noticeably stronger.
Elemental Shaman is also doing quite well. The Freeze package build is most effective against faster opponents. We did tweak it compared to the theorycrafted list from last week. Snowfall Guardian and Bru’kan are just too good, even in a more aggressive deck, while Wildpaw Caverns isn’t quite strong enough without Lightning Bloom.
The Doom variant is a strong alternative to punish the more passive, off-board decks, but it did get a boost in its ability to survive and stall against aggression thanks to Snowfall Guardian. We recommend running this build at top legend.
Quest Shaman is another benefactor of Windchill and Sleetbreaker. The featured list is the same one that was theorycrafted last week. Yes, Sleetbreaker is better than Notetaker and it’s not particularly close. Multicaster becomes absurd in this deck. You’re pretty much never running out of cards as a Quest Shaman anymore.
A Burn Shaman archetype has only started to pop up in noticeable numbers after this report’s database closed. We’ll discuss it in the next report if it becomes more visible, as we just don’t have the data to work on it just yet.
- Shaman Class Radar
- Freeze Shaman
- Bolner Shaman
- Elemental Shaman
- Quest Shaman
Rogue’s Alterac Valley set may not have been stellar, but Shadowcrafter Scabbs has more than made up for it, pushing every established strategy from Stormwind into greater heights. The message is, put the hero card into your Rogue decks and all will be well.
Garrote Rogue has exploited an early unrefined meta to become a dominant top legend performer. Cult Neophyte has emerged as a popular card to help in late game combo matchups, but Wand Thief and/or another copy of Preparation are also perfectly fine. Rustrot Viper is an option to alleviate the difficulties in facing Lightforged Cariel and Immovable Object
Quest Rogue is a great answer to Paladins thanks to its brutally efficient single-target removal, much like it was during Stormwind. The Mr.Smite/Tenwu package has become more viable thanks to Shadowcrafter Scabbs.
Poison Rogue doesn’t see much play but carries quite a bit of promise with its low sample size. This may sound surprising considering the rise of Rustrot Viper, but the Warlock matchup is very dominant. Still, we don’t expect to see this deck become more than a situationally good performer.
Thief Rogue is the new archetype born from this set, and as a new deck, it’s been far more difficult to figure out. The most promising direction we’ve identified so far is the Secret variant. Blackjack Stunners are game-changers against Paladin, while Hanar helps fuel your Contraband Stash alongside Wand Thiefs and the deceptively strong Reconnaissance. But don’t forget about Sparkjoy Cheat. The card is very powerful in a secret build but tends to be underestimated. It looks absolutely core with an expanded secret package.
What’s not so hot? Swashburglar isn’t particularly great with Gnoll or Stash. You’d very much rather have Cutlass to trade on turn 1. Vanessa can have her moments that oversell her power, but in a deck lacking Foxy Fraud, she has consistently been underwhelming since her release.
This certainly isn’t the finalized list, and we might see something emerge with non-secret builds, but this is currently the clear winning build.
- Rogue Class Radar
- Garrote Rogue
- Quest Rogue
- Poison Rogue
- Thief Rogue
Paladin is doing its usual Paladin thing of utterly dominating the format at the beginning of a new expansion. While other classes should be able to catch up to some degree, don’t expect Paladin to significantly fall out of favor.
Libram Paladin has been the strongest performer in the format through most of ladder. There are 27 absolutely core cards in the deck, including the absurdly powerful Lightforged Cariel, a card that continues to be extremely influential despite the popularity of Vipers. Irondeep Trogg is the perfect 1-drop to include alongside Aldor Attendant, giving the deck threatening lines of play through all stages of the game. Stonehearth Vindicator has pushed the power and consistency of Devout Pupil by another notch.
The question has been what to do with the final 3 slots, and it seems most correct to settle for Barov and Animated Broomsticks. Broomsticks give you comeback potential, which is very important in every board-based matchup. Barov gives you a board wipe option in the absence of Libram of Justice (which you happily cut to accommodate your shiny new hero card).
Buff Paladin has emerged as the most effective, board-based counter to Owl Warlock. The tall development of threats and abundance of divine shields makes it very difficult for the Warlock to successfully utilize its damage-based removal kit. We recommend running Varian as a top-end draw engine, though we’re open to seeing further potential improvements. Nerubian Eggs don’t look worthwhile.
Handbuff Paladin looks somewhat obsolete next to Buff Paladin. The field is demanding faster and more ruthless threat development from the Paladin, and the incremental value of Prismatic Jewel doesn’t quite perform as well as the spell-based buffs the class can stack a deck with.
- Paladin Class Radar
- Libram Paladin
- Buff Paladin
- Handbuff Paladin
With combo decks looking like they’ll be quite prevalent in Alterac Valley, Celestial Druid looks to be in a decent position to compete better than it did during Stormwind. Should a top legend meta devolve into ‘Solitaire decks’, this is the one to rule them all. It beats Garrote Rogue, Owl Warlock, Mozaki Mage, and Lifesteal Demon Hunter very convincingly.
The featured build was popularized by the Alignment Master himself, Feno. We’re quite interested in the possibility of swapping Goldshire Gnoll with Germination. We think there is serious merit to exploring Germination considering its game-winning synergy with Lady Anacondra as well as Mr. Smite, while its defensive utility is also very relevant.
Taunt Druid may not be looking too hot according to the data, but sometimes, the statistics can lie. Such is the case when a very early build of the archetype was wildly propagated, with the little problem of cutting Razormane Battleguard. Yeah… please don’t cut the best card in the deck. Our Trogg build from last week’s theorycrafting article looks very strong and we expect Taunt Druid to recover its performance.
Drek’Thar Druid is an experiment meant to abuse what might be the card from this set that’s most likely to break the format at some point down the road. The strategy revolves around running Drek’Thar in a spell-heavy shell that tops out at 3 mana, and then a small minion package containing 3-mana Guff Runetotem and either Injured Blademaster or Irondeep Trogg (Trogg is better!).
Mulligan hard for Drek’Thar or Capture Coldtooth Mine (which always finds Drek’Thar) and proceed to blow your opponent out with Drek’Thar and a flurry of spells that fuel Guff to buff your minions out of any removal’s reach. This strategy has proven to be gimmicky and not quite good enough to stick. For now.
A Beast Druid deck has been experimented with and we wouldn’t write it off just yet. Success is most likely to come from a build that cuts the taunt package completely and goes all-in on beasts to maximize Frostsaber Matriarch, but we need more data to figure it out.
- Druid Class Radar
- Celestial Druid
- Drek’Thar Druid
- Taunt Druid
Face Hunter has encountered a similar situation to Taunt Druid. The temptation to fit Bloodseeker into this deck has led to players cutting Rinling’s Rifle from the deck. The legendary weapon is arguably the best card in the deck, so the move is highly egregious, though not as punishing in terms of performance as the Battleguard omission.
Meanwhile, Irondeep Trogg is as strong as we speculated it could be in a deck running Doggie Biscuit, Adorable Infestation, and Ramming Mount. It may have surpassed Rinling’s Rifle and become the very best card in the deck. The featured build from last week’s article looks great, with Face Hunter now having three 1-drops that can snowball and take over a game. The one big decision may involve Cult Neophyte. It is a very tempting inclusion, especially at higher levels of play where spell-centric combo decks are more common. We would advise you to switch out a Piercing Shot and a single Arcane Anomaly to accommodate Neophytes if you choose to do so.
Other Hunter decks once again look underwhelming, but maybe…. Just maybe there’s something playable in Big-Beast Hunter, with early promising results of a Vanndar/Guardian Animals variant doing some work. No, we’re not kidding.
The main issue of this build is the lack of early-to-mid game proactive plays and based on some data, we can see Petting Zoo filling such a gap. We’re also a bit unsure about the deck’s late game. It’s likely that Jewel of N’Zoth is a superior card to the diluted Revive Pet but talks of Maxima Blastenheimer aren’t out of the question either. We’re still not kidding.
This deck may look like a meme, but it’s surprisingly close to being competitive. Whether there’s enough scope for improvement, time will tell. Wing Commander Ichman is nuts (!) in this deck, but don’t go out and craft him just yet. We’re not responsible for any grief that might be caused by such an action.
There is a lot of exploring to do with Demon Hunter. At the center of it is Kurtrus, Demon Render, an absurdly powerful hero card that highly encourages Demon Hunter decks to try and utilize him alongside Expendable Performers and Felfire Deadeye for a huge burst damage combo.
Therefore, Big Demon Hunter’s strongest direction is likely to be one that runs this package, as featured below. Sigil of Reckoning is an extremely powerful card, but it can’t completely carry a deck with Faceless Manipulator when surrounded by removal alone. It helps to have a finishing combo in case your threats are dealt with, as well as a more proactive early game to fight for board. Caria Felsoul looks okay. Not mandatory but better than we expected.
Magehunter carries strong utility in the current meta thanks to its ability to cleanly answer Irondeep Troggs. Demon Hunter normally struggles to deal with a buffed Trogg, and Magehunter turns the table on the opponent.
Deathrattle Demon Hunter looks like the archetype best equipped to utilize Ur’zul Giants effectively. It seems strictly superior to a dedicated Token deck, or a hybrid between the two. Piggyback Imp is a stronger 3-drop in this deck compared to Devouring Ectoplasm as it applies a lot more pressure on a passive opponent. Flanking Maneuver is serviceable. Korrak is disappointing.
Another potential way to utilize our new hero card is in a Fel Demon Hunter deck. Though we would like to collect more data on this direction, we’re seeing signs that such a defensive shell can successfully house the Expendable/Deadeye combo. Inject some draw (always run Sigil of Alacrity) and this could be a consistent way of winning games.
And then, there’s the same old Lifesteal Demon Hunter. Considering how well Garrote Rogue is performing at top legend, and how likely it is to spike in play over the next couple of weeks, we fully expect LSDH to emerge once again as its strongest and most reliable counter. It’s already good enough to be Tier 2 at higher levels, based on our estimate.
- Demon Hunter Class Radar
- Big Demon Hunter
- Deathrattle Demon Hunter
- Lifesteal Demon Hunter
- Fel Demon Hunter
This is where we start delving into the classes that aren’t displaying diverse styles of play. Big-Spell Mage is as bad as people feared it to be and turned out to be a big dud. Nothing about this deck works, and it looks so bad that we gave up trying to refine it.
Mozaki Mage is the sole, competitive representative of the class. It’s a strong counter to several common strategies in Warlock and Shaman but remains highly situational in its ability to consistently win against a more diverse field of opponents. Siphon Mana has been a fantastic addition. If you’re facing a lot of Irondeep Troggs, you could consider swapping Flurry for Devolving Missiles. Quest Mage is gone. This is the way.
Slower Warrior strategies have failed to look remotely playable on the first week of Alterac Valley. There’s just no way Warrior can outlast the lethality and inevitability that’s present in the format, and while its win conditions can work when given time, they are far too slow compared to classes that carry unconditional mana discount engines.
Having said that, Warrior is not in a terrible spot to be considering how strong Quest Warrior looks. It’s just that the deck runs no new cards and feels a little stale. We also wonder how it performs in the future in a settled, more refined meta, especially at higher levels of play given its dramatically low skill ceiling.
We did discover something funny about this deck. The absence of hyper-aggressive decks has made Man the Cannons and Lord Barov exceedingly useless. In fact, any card that doesn’t directly progress the quest looks like a liability that can lose you a game of Hearthstone, except for Shiver Their Timbers.
The only conclusion is to run Raid the Docks, 1 Whetstone Hatchet, 2 Shiver Their Timbers, 25 playable pirates (including Circus Amalgam!), and a tradeable card that is occasionally useful. The reason is that a 1-mana cycle is stronger than any other card we’ve seen that doesn’t progress the quest. Viper will help against Warlocks but especially Paladins (Immovable Object is a backbreaker in the matchup).
Circus Amalgam is a theorized suggestion based purely on how dependent this deck is on completing the quest as quickly as possible. If it dings the quest, it’s probably better than most other options you can think of!
The fate of attrition-focused Priest decks isn’t different from those of Warrior decks. Grinding out opponents simply doesn’t work against this field, which makes strategies such as Big Priest and Quest Priest look highly questionable. Their only redeeming finding is that Shard of the Naaru is strong at answering Troggs, so if you want to lose fewer games with these decks, you should probably put two copies in. We tried to make the Quest Priest curve as consistent as possible while reducing the greed in Big Priest by cutting N’Zoth.
The one competitive Priest deck in this format could be Miracle Priest. We see promise in this deck if you run… you guessed it: Irondeep Trogg. It’s the perfect 1-drop to potentially resummon with Rally later in the game but gives Miracle Priest that intimidating opening gambit it normally doesn’t have. A follow-up Bless or Power Word: Feast could be devastating.
However, if we do run Trogg in a build that already includes Drek’Thar, Insight becomes increasingly questionable. Your mulligan priority is to either find an early Trogg or find Drek’Thar, and we’re not quite sure keeping an Insight and casting it on 2 is a good enough plan. We’ll have to collect more data, but one copy is likely the most we would run. Alternatively, we could cut Insight completely and run a card that’s been impressive in other Priest decks: Shard of the Naaru.
- Priest Class Radar
- Big Priest
- Quest Priest
- Miracle Priest
Libram Paladin is currently performing so well that it must be our choice for those looking for the easiest and smoothest ladder climb. Handlock is extremely underplayed, mostly because it’s hiding behind a humongous bird that seems to be attracting all the attention. Garrote Rogue is as ruthless as ever, and with Shadowcrafter Scabbs, it’s arguably more powerful than it was before it received a nerf to its win condition late in Stormwind.
We are early in the meta and at this stage, we shouldn’t overreact when it comes to these results, but we’re getting a good impression of where we might be headed. Plenty of developments are likely to occur with numerous archetypes that we highlighted, and there might be new decks popping up that we haven’t even been able to discuss in this report. Balance changes are also likely arrive next week and add another twist to the tale.
In conclusion, Hero cards are good. Play them.
Unless it’s Varden.
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