vS Data Reaper Report #220

Data Reaper Report Logo

Welcome to the 220th edition of the Data Reaper Report!

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!


Quick Links

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 180,000
Top 1K Legend 12,000
Legend (Excluding Top 1k) 38,000
Diamond 4 to 1 26,000
Diamond 10 to 5 28,000
Platinum 22,000
Bronze/Silver/Gold 54,000

Class/Archetype Distribution

Class Frequency

Class Frequency Discussion

Standard format has completely changed following the balance changes. It starts with Druid rising to become the most popular class in the game. Ramp Druid was hyped up a lot before the patch and becomes increasingly more popular as you climb ladder. The faster Druid decks in Beast and Taunt are around in smaller numbers, followed by a fraction of other strategies.

Shaman looks completely revitalized with the nerf to Rogue, and it’s a class we expected to do much better. Bolner and Quest Shaman are the most popular decks at legend, but Burn Shaman is starting to pick up play at top legend. Elemental Shaman is more common at Diamond and below.

Warlock is another class greatly encouraged by the nerfs to Mozaki Mage and Poison Rogue. Handlock has risen to become one of the most popular decks in the field. An interesting development involves Fatigue and Owl Warlock creeping up at higher levels of play, after completely disappearing following the nerf to Runed Mithril Rod. Owl Warlock continues to run Rod with a very similar build, but Fatigue Warlock has begun to experiment in several other directions.

Rogue has severely declined to the point none of its decks are noticeable on ladder up to top legend, where there is more interest in the class and Poison Rogue seems to maintain some presence. It’s also experimenting with moving away from the Maestra build. Thief and Quest Rogue don’t show much change.

Face Hunter is highly popular throughout ladder, but reaches its peak at top legend, where it’s likely utilized as an answer to Handlock. Not much is seen from other Hunter decks.

Priest is back. Beyond the popularity of Quest Priest, a deck that has already proven to see more play than it should before the patch (and one that disappears at higher levels), there’s an awakening of both Shadow and Miracle Priest. Shadow Priest is enjoying a format without many Wildpaw Gnolls, while Miracle Priest heavily benefits from the nerf to Shadowcrafter Scabbs. Together, they represent two revitalized strategies that are attracting interest. Miracle Priest is almost exclusively running the Malygos variant.

The popularity of Wildfire Mage is indicative of its playstyle and design resonating with players. It is the most popular deck in the format outside of legend. Wildfire severely fades away at top legend, which tells us it’s not suddenly become one of the strongest decks in the format, but it’s probably a lot better than it used to be. At higher levels, the Mozaki Mage cockroach is still around with a 4-mana Flow, but it’s less common.

Demon Hunter is underutilized on ladder, and none of its decks gain significant traction up until top legend where both Fel and Lifesteal DH exhibit a more noticeable presence. Yes, Lifesteal DH is attempting a comeback.

Quest Warrior has declined, which was expected considering the nerf to its 2nd phase. It’s still common at lower ranks but starts to fade in the high diamond bracket before barely seeing play at legend. This is also where Control Warrior is seeing increased interest with a wide variety of approaches.

Not much is happening in the Paladin class. Libram Paladin continues to be a popular ladder climber, but it significantly declines at legend.

Matchup Win Rates Header

Power Rankings Header

vS Meta Score

vS Power Rankings Discussion

Unless a deck finds another level through refinement and beats the rest of the field into submission, the current meta is shaping up to be a very balanced one with a diverse set of options and viable strategies available in every class. We’re a bit concerned with some of the ‘solitaire’ decks potentially making a return, but if they don’t become overly prevalent, the current meta should be more forgiving than the last.

  • Druid
    • Ramp Druid isn’t a garbage deck, but it’s not particularly good either and is arguably overplayed relative to its performance. It seems very easy to counter, while its stronger matchups aren’t popular enough. This could change, as some of the decks that lose to Ramp Druid are very promising and could end up rising in play, but we do sense a general reluctance to play decks that lose to it. If it maintains its current play rate, Ramp Druid will hover around the 50% win rate barrier at most.
    • Beast and Taunt Druid, on the other hand, are two of the stronger decks in the format. They don’t accomplish this by having a particularly well-rounded matchup spread, but by mostly taking advantage of Ramp Druid’s inflated play rate. Both decks dominate Ramp Druid and that makes up for their general weakness against AOE and stalling effects. Taunt Druid is better against aggressive decks since it’s faster to get on the board, while Beast Druid possesses the better mid-to-late game.
    • Clown Druid doesn’t see much play, but we have strong indications it performs better than Ramp Druid and sits in the Tier 2 range.
  • Shaman
    • Quest Shaman looks very strong throughout most of ladder. It is the king of board control, and strategies that rely on board pressure will struggle to find consistent success against it. Handlock is the exception, as it carries such massive swing turns that even Quest Shaman cannot handle. The other way to beat the deck is through off-board damage, which is why Quest Shaman falls into Tier 2 at top legend, where you see more Handlocks and more of these decks.
    • Bolner Shaman is another decent Shaman deck, though it has a tougher time against Ramp Druid and we expect its matchup against Handlock to get progressively worse unless it adapts.
    • Burn Shaman’s rising play rate is backed up by results. This is Thrall’s answer to Warlocks, at the price of a worse matchup against Ramp Druids. But unlike Quest and Bolner Shaman, we see significant scope for improvement in Burn Shaman. It has yet to reach its final form and we expect it to become more efficient. The rest depends on the changing field.
    • Elemental Shaman is a pretty good deck, but the Doomhammer is particularly strong at punishing some decks at higher levels of play. The archetype doesn’t see much play because it’s old, but it does decent work.
  • Warlock
    • Handlock is arguably the strongest deck in the format, but if it takes this title, it does it very narrowly and without looking overly offensive. Many of Handlock’s counters rise in play at top legend, which is why its win rate is relatively lower there. But beyond the Mozaki Mage/Poison Rogue duo and Face Hunter, other strategies that seem to answer it effectively are brewing (Burn Shaman, Fel DH, ‘one build’ of Control Warrior). Handlock benefits from the inflated play rate of Ramp Druid, which ‘protects’ it from some of these answers.
    • Owl Warlock is legitimately back. We estimate it sits in the wide open and competitive Tier 2 range. Its matchup spread is more polarizing than Handlock’s, so it’s not as stable and consistent of a ladder climber.
    • Fatigue Warlock looks worse than Owl Warlock, but with some refinement, it might be able to challenge the 50% barrier based on our estimates. It is the most polarizing deck of the three, so we don’t expect it to become overly common.
  • Rogue
    • Things aren’t looking too great for Rogue after the nerfs. Thief Rogue looks dead and buried. Quest Rogue is certainly good enough but might have stagnated a bit. Poison Rogue is back to being a niche performer at top legend while crumbling elsewhere on ladder. It seems to be the only Rogue deck with a clear way to adjust to the nerfs. It should remain relevant in the competitive scene going forward.
  • Hunter
    • Face Hunter is clearly good, but it strangely performs worse where it is most popular. The explanation is easy: This is also where the meta is most advanced in its development, and where several decks are rising after the balance changes to pose serious problems for Face Hunter. Fel DH, Control Warrior and Shadow Priest are going to become roadblocks going forward. The deck is an important component in the format to keep Handlock in check, but it’s got clear weaknesses
  • Priest
    • Shadow Priest is looking good. Much like Taunt Druid, it heavily benefits from the inflated Ramp Druid play rate and the high presence of Face Hunters. This helps make up for its troubles running into opponents packed with removal, stalling, and life gain.
    • The goose is cooking. Miracle Priest has always displayed a high skill ceiling and its peak performance at top legend isn’t too bad at all. Workable. Good enough for Jambre.
  • Mage
    • Wildfire Mage isn’t a joke. It’s a decent deck through the large majority of ladder, where it is quite popular. It seems to suffer from a low skill ceiling. Combined with a more hostile meta, it causes its play rate and win rate to nosedive at top legend, so we question its competitive usefulness. But this is a good deck to have in the format, with a streamlined and inoffensive gameplan that doesn’t seem to attract much negativity. The dream bathroom-break replacement for Quest Warrior?
    • If you were ever confused by our stated desire to pre-emptively nerf the ‘Tier 3’ Mozaki Mage in the last patch, you get your answer now. The expected nerfs were always going to create a much more favorable field for this deck, which would have elevated it to a surefire Tier 1 standing without another nerf to Incanter’s Flow. As of this moment, Mozaki Mage sits comfortably in Tier 2 at top legend, preying on Warlocks and Shamans with great effectiveness.
  • Demon Hunter
    • Fel DH is a bit of a sleeper in the format. The reason for its low play rate seems to be the reluctance of players to queue into a near-hopeless Ramp Druid matchup. The fact the deck produces these impressive results despite Ramp Druid’s popularity is indicative of how back-breaking dominant it is in other matchups. Fel DH obliterates aggressive decks and performs quite well against Shamans and Warlocks too. It’s a bit too easy to counter to become overly popular on ladder, but it should be a strong consideration in tournaments.
    • Deathrattle DH is a stable performer in the aftermath of the nerfs to Rogue, and Lifesteal DH is now attempting another comeback with signs of success at higher levels. We’re not sure how its performance will translate at a higher play rate.
  • Warrior
    • Spread the word. Control Warrior is back! This archetype is extremely messy, but one variant is showing great potential in the format, and we suspect the cluster will drastically improve its win rate once it takes over. You start seeing it at top legend, where Control Warrior is inching closer to a very competitive win rate. The ceiling of improvement is high. More details in the class section.
    • Quest Warrior’s reign of terror at low MMR ladder is over and it’s not a very good deck from Platinum and above. To beat Quest Warrior consistently, you no longer need to git very gud.
  • Paladin
    • We expect Libram Paladin to continue to perform very well outside of legend, where it competes for the top spot, but success with the class at higher levels might be limited by the presence of Shamans. Should Fel DH, Burn Shaman, and Control Warrior rise in play, things might get easier for Paladin, but we can’t remember the last time Paladin got better after a meta’s refinement phase. It is the most stagnant class in the format, by far.

Class Analysis & Decklists

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

 


Data Reaper Report - Druid

Ramp Druid has become one of the most popular decks in the format, but its results don’t really align with its play rate and its matchup spread is unimpressive. Its perceived power level seems to be high due to the way it can blow out opponents with the perfect draw, but it’s extremely reliant on drawing Wildheart Guff and Overgrowth to perform at a reasonable level. It’s a relatively new deck with a satisfying playstyle, so it could continue to stay popular despite its performance. At the end of the day, it isn’t a terrible deck.

The archetype is solidified in its build. We’ve seen some cards being experimented with. Spammy Arcanist is utilized as a desperate measure to fend off aggression, and Wing Commander Mulverick performs a similar role while specializing at answering Irondeep Troggs. Mutanus is a lean into slower matchups. The list is tight and none of these cards move the needle much. What moves the needle is your ability to find ramp in the mulligan. Nothing else truly matters.

Beast Druid is finally developing beyond its initial build, and the meta changing into a more aggressive one with the nerf to Wildpaw Gnolls is a big contributor. Squirrel over Peasant and Mulverick over Kazakus are two appropriate adjustments. We’re also impressed with Jerry Rig Carpenter. It looks like a significantly better draw engine compared to Living Seed or Capture Coldtooth Mine. The featured build is inspired by Boc4Life’s refinement of the deck.

Taunt Druid is delivering strong results, though much like Beast Druid, it heavily benefits from the inflated play rate of Ramp Druid. The deck is quite vulnerable to AOE wielding strategies, so its performance is a result of the popularity of Druid and other aggressive opponents, such as Face Hunter.

If you’re still interested in ramping but want better results compared to Ramp Druid, Clown Druid is showing strong signs of being a superior option. Its low play rate is likely a factor of the absence of novelty.

Data Reaper Report - Shaman

The balance changes did Shaman good. It has a variety of good options available to it, and all popular Shaman decks display nice results.

Quest Shaman might be the most impressive one. Its matchup spread is incredible, only struggling to off-board ‘solitaire’ strategies as well as Handlock, which are more common at higher levels of play. It’s very hard to beat Quest Shaman on the board, and only the biggest swings that can dodge Perpetual Flame give it serious problems. The featured build is the perfect 30, and it’s become even clearer after the balance changes. Do not cut Canal Slogger if you want to do well, and this is true pretty much everywhere on ladder.

Bolner Shaman might be the worst Shaman deck, funnily enough, though it’s still a decent deck. We’re now big advocates of running Spammy Arcanist, and there might even be justification to run two copies of it. It’s just an absolute game-changer in aggressive matchups. Another very interesting flex choice is Big Game Hunter, which WiRer has come up with. It is strong against Druids, Warlocks, and other Shamans running Snowfall Guardian. With Handlock starting to run Showstopper, killing Flesh Giants might be a better option compared to freezing them, and Big Game Hunter works with Brilliant Macaw if needed.

Burn Shaman is coming back and is the class’ best answer to Handlock, an opponent Thrall normally struggles with. We highly recommend running Zapper/Landslide against the current aggressive field, but Wildpaw Caverns and Bru’kan remain two of the deck’s very best cards. BruTo hit #1 legend with the featured build, which we have landed on independently. Surprisingly, Windchill doesn’t make the cut (Caverns is better and we’d rather keep Primal Dungeoneer).

Elemental Shaman is quite good in the current meta. The decline of Wildpaw Gnolls was a major boon to the archetype. The Doom variant is an excellent top legend performer. The Freeze variant becomes stronger outside of legend.

Data Reaper Report - Warlock

Handlock is a deck we expected to do better after the patch with both Mozaki Mage and Poison Rogue being nerfed.  Although these decks still exist in competitive capacity, the field is certainly much more favorable than it used to be for the class. Things are so much better that Warlocks decks that previously looked obsolete are now attempting a comeback.

To start things off, Handlock is a very flexible deck in the current format, but one tech card we’re extremely impressed with is Showstopper. It is a game changer in the Shaman matchup but isn’t a liability in other matchups. Sometimes it’s the only way you can beat an Ivus.

The final two slots in the deck face stiff competition, but we’re leaning towards Mortal Coils as generally the best choice, and even advocate running two. We strongly suspect that Mortal Coil is underestimated due to its seemingly low impact, but it’s incredibly strong in faster matchups and helps you get to your Scavenger/Bristleback power spike in slower matchups as well. Don’t sleep on Coil.

Cult Neophyte has gotten weaker this patch. It’s not as strong against Ramp Druid as you’d think and is mostly good against Handlock’s less prevalent counters (Mozaki/Poison/Fel).

Unstable Shadow Blast is a pretty good card in the mirror. It can accelerate your quest completion and allows the Warlock to deal with big, late-game minions more effectively, or answer an early buffed one.

Altar of Fire is a bit more niche. It’s a stronger Scavenger/Bristleback accelerator than Mortal Coil but is horrendous in the mirror and isn’t as good against aggressive decks. This one’s disruption usefulness is more niche.

Fatigue Warlock appears to be coming back, but the archetype is very messy, and it’s generally been difficult to figure out its best approach. The most promising direction we’ve found may come as a surprise in a Multicaster build. In the absence of Runed Mithril Rod, the most challenging aspect of this deck is hand management. Don’t hold on to your cards if spending them allows you to draw and further your ultimate game plan of reaching fatigue. If you can manage that, the opponent dies very quickly after Tamsin is played.

Owl Warlock is showing greater promise. Its build is very similar to the one it utilized before it was nerfed, but it could be wise to add combo redundancy to the deck. Running two Owls and two Wicked Shipment might seem like an overkill, but unlike Fatigue Warlock, we don’t need to hit fatigue to kill opponents. If we can find our pieces faster and execute our win condition earlier, the deck is likely to pick up more wins. It’s also nice to be resistant to Mutanus.

Data Reaper Report - Rogue

Rogue is paying a steep price for destroying the format over the last month. The nerfs have proven to be brutal to its existing strategies.

Thief Rogue looks gone. From a deck that dominated the early game while presenting an extremely powerful late game, it does neither thing well now. Wildpaw Gnoll is nowhere near as powerful, and Shadowcrafter Scabbs is now surprisingly underwhelming at 8 mana.

Poison Rogue has gone back to its fringe status as a deck that mostly sees success at top legend where aggressive decks aren’t as prevalent and there are more Warlocks and Shamans to punish. Its best build now drops the Maestra disguise and goes back to utilizing Sinister Strikes.

Quest Rogue might be the most stable Rogue deck now. It’s okay, but nothing exceptional, and it’s feeling the Scabbs nerf quite hard. Better options aren’t easy to find.

Data Reaper Report - Hunter

Face Hunter is expectedly strong and offers a great answer to Handlock, but the deck does find itself countered more effectively at higher levels of play with the rise of decks such as Shadow Priest, Fel DH, and even Control Warrior.

The best build remains the same as the one pre-patch. Tavish isn’t as strong as he was before the patch, but still good enough to be included.

Other Hunter decks tend to fade as you climb ladder, but we don’t think they’re hopeless. Big-Beast Hunter and Quest Hunter likely deserve more attention than they’re getting, but this is the result of staying in Face Hunter’s shadow.

Data Reaper Report - Priest

Shadow Priest has returned to the format and looks quite strong thanks to good matchups against Ramp Druid and Face Hunter, but the deck’s matchup spread still shows vulnerabilities to defensively sound decks, so we wouldn’t say it compares to its glory days in Stormwind with Illucia.  Najak and Serena have proven to be very strong cards in the deck (Serena might be less important). Much like before, Shadow Priest is all about early game snowballing through Voidtouched Attendant. Its burn options aren’t very efficient, but it will take anything it can get, including Mr. Smite.

Miracle Priest is very thankful to the nerf to Scabbs. The Malygos variant has taken over the archetype, but we still suspect the Rally build could be quite good if given a chance. We will note that Bless is so strong against the current field that running two copies of the card isn’t a bad idea. Elekk Mount is a bit slow these days so cutting it is legal.

Quest Priest mostly sucks. It’s nice to cut Vipers and fill some gaps in the build, but don’t expect to do well with this deck if you run into any amount of Handlocks and/or Quest Shamans. Those matchups are brutal. Find Ramp Druids and you’ll have a good time.

Data Reaper Report - Mage

Mozaki Mage is still very competitive at higher levels and would have been completely broken if Incanter’s Flow was left alone. Thankfully, the deck was pre-emptively addressed, and the player base dodged a bullet here. The deck has mostly stayed the same and 4-mana Incanter’s Flow is still your greatest mulligan priority. Hard to believe this card used to cost 2 mana.

Wildfire Mage looks quite playable now. Both the Multicaster variant and the Big-Spell variant display decent results. The rune version is generally stronger in slower matchups.

Fel DH is a strong yet polarizing deck in the current meta. It would be much stronger if Ramp Druid saw less play, as it is extremely effective against aggressive decks such as Face Hunter and Shadow Priest, while remaining well positioned against Shamans and Handlocks.

Speaking of positioning well against Shamans and Warlocks, Magtheridon is an incredible card against both classes, so it now goes into the core list over Viper. It doesn’t help the Druid matchup because Abominable Lieutenant can quickly turn Mag against you, so be careful about that specific play.

Lifesteal DH is showing signs of returning to the format, at least at higher ends of ladder. Deathrattle DH is decent enough and hugely benefited from the Wildpaw Gnoll nerf, but players aren’t interested.

Data Reaper Report - Warrior

Within the usual garbage we can see in the Control Warrior cluster, we have finally found promise of a seriously competitive deck. The key is the addition of a real win condition in Captain Galvangar, Faceless Manipulators, Battlegrounds Battlemaster and ‘To the Front!’. It might seem hard to believe the finisher we’ve theorycrafted before the expansion launched can work, despite running so many expensive pieces, but it does! The buff to Rokara has also helped, and she’s been performing very well since.

It helps that Battlemaster and Faceless work well with Rattlegore, which provides an alternative win condition to Galvangar, and Cutting Class gives the deck some draw consistency.

Furthermore, we suspect Vanndar Stormpike could be worthwhile to include over Lord Barov. We want to see more data on that front to compare because we’re not sure. This deck lives and dies by those finishing pieces, and anything that helps them activate earlier is worth experimenting with. The featured build is very preliminary but could be at least Tier 2 (!) in the current meta.

Quest Warrior is pretty much done. The deck still wins a lot of games at Bronze but is no longer a particularly good ladder climber or a toilet break performer.

Data Reaper Report - Paladin

Paladin looks quite stagnant and might be the only class that hasn’t changed after the balance changes at all, to the point there was little work to be done with the class in this report.

Libram Paladin displays the same behavior of performing well throughout ladder and then hitting a wall at legend, significantly dropping in its power. There’s not much else within the class beyond the small presence of Buff Paladin, which is kind of a worse Libram Paladin.


Early signs are pointing to a healthy format. There are a lot of different strategies showing competitive viability and all classes are in the picture. Let’s hope it stays that way. There are a lot of discoveries in the process of being propagated, and this report should help accelerate them into play and shake up the performance of many decks and the dynamics of many matchups.

Within that cloud, there is one stable performer that seems to do well everywhere on ladder, and that’s Handlock. Flexibility and versatility are key in a diverse and unpredictable field, which is why it is our top choice for the week, but it’s all very close.

The meta is wide open.


Preparing our weekly article requires a significant amount of time and effort from many individuals. We would like to wholeheartedly thank our current Patreons, whose generous donations help us fund computing and server costs.

vS Gold is our membership plan aimed to support our efforts towards improving our content and data analysis while receiving some bonuses and extra features.

Tier 3+ Patrons

Special thanks to Leo GAaron B, Jed M, Drew M, Alan J, Zolstar, Sean H, Steve F, Andrew N, Alonso P, James Y, Je-ho, Ziqiao Y, Stephen H, William H, 1RiceBowl1,  Alex S, PeejTreon, Josh G, Matthew H, Bruno B, Amir, Matthew P, amenbrotep, Karhu, Fisherington, Christopher N, Eric F, Eric L, BraveLittleStove, Lime, Fireproofflame, Kaushal, David, Joshua B, Jeff C, Pi, Reharl, Turd F, Scott L, Jeff P, Mark P, Keith C, The Big Dawg, Stephen K, nburst, Alex S, Jess M, Peter, Lepton, Bob L, Gary W, Philthy, and Charlah R for supporting us this month.

Contributors

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

EndofDayswwloscheesee-hunterspacemonkey-paladin TzachilookitzjoeSentenza