vS Data Reaper Report #229

Data Reaper Report Logo

Welcome to the 229th 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 500,000
Top 1K Legend 14,000
Legend (Excluding Top 1k) 64,000
Diamond 4 to 1 53,000
Diamond 10 to 5 66,000
Platinum 66,000
Bronze/Silver/Gold 237,000

Class/Archetype Distribution

Class Frequency

Class Frequency Discussion

The post-patch meta is being taken over by Demon Hunter. Aggro DH is spiking in popularity across ladder. Its near 30% peak at top legend is quickly trickling down, and we suspect the high Diamond bracket will be breaching that number by next week.

Quest Warrior has declined across ladder following the 2nd nerf to Raid the Docks, while Control Warrior has risen in play following the decline of Druid and the rise of Demon Hunter. Control Warrior is the most established counter to the most popular deck in the format, and its numbers peak where DH peaks. 30% Aggro DH and 20% Control Warrior is half of the pie at top legend.

Druid’s play rate has fallen after the patch, though the class is still popular. Ramp Druid is messy, and is in the process of figuring out what it wants to do. There are Ramp Druids that cut Kazakusan, Ramp Druids that keep Kazakusan and Celestial Alignment variants, mostly with Kazakusan, which are more popular at top legend. The percentage of games in which the Druid dies before showing what they are is quite high, especially against DH, so reliable recognition of these variants is not possible from the opponent’s side. We’ll verbally discuss the variants and their pros/cons, but with incomplete information it’s impossible to measure their performance separately in a reliable fashion. Any attempt to do so will cause misleading biases.

Quest Hunter is the only survivor within its class. Face Hunter has faded away, while Big-Beast was already gone. Quest Hunter is a popular choice at all levels of play, sitting at around a 10% play rate in every bracket.

Mage still has its two decks. Mech Mage is more popular throughout ladder only to disappear at top legend, where Naga Mage peaks. The Wildfire variant of Naga Mage has become increasingly popular.

Boar Priest is the only deck that seems to have gained traction on ladder, and this is occurring exclusively at top legend, where many players are hyping the skill-testing deck to be the real deal. We’ll have to evaluate how Boar Priest performs, but its numbers are growing rapidly at this bracket. Everywhere else, the class feels kind of dead.

Holy and Mech Paladin have been joined by Dragon Paladin, attempting to capitalize on Kazakusan’s new condition. There are also some new Handbuff Paladin builds, with a small package of Mechs, attracting interest.

Things are looking particularly bleak for Rogue, Shaman, and Warlock. All these classes completely disappear at higher levels of play, and that’s usually a very bad sign for a class’ prospects since innovation almost exclusively begins there. Bits of Pirate Rogue, Burn Shaman and Curse Warlock are mostly what’s left.

Matchup Win Rates Header

Power Rankings Header

vS Meta Score

vS Power Rankings Discussion

Grim. This is the only way we can describe the current meta and where things are headed. Aggro DH is out of control, and once the deck takes over ladder in play rate as much as it already has at top legend, other decks are going to crash in their performance very hard. Much like they already have at higher levels of play. Two Tier 1 decks. The tyrant and its only reliable counter, followed by a legion of Tier 3/4 decks trying to scrape by. There’s some stuff we can salvage from the debris, which we will mention, but DH is generally far more powerful than any other option on ladder.

  • Demon Hunter
    • Team 5 decided not to nerf Demon Hunter in the last patch under the reasonable thinking that it can be countered by several decks that were being held back by Ramp Druid. The problem is that Demon Hunter refinement has taken off in response to these counters. Aggro DH has successfully flipped the Quest Hunter matchup to become favored, when previously it struggled against it. It has narrowed the advantage of Control Paladin decks, and even gained percentages against Control Warrior. While Warrior is still a reliable counter, it doesn’t offset how dominant Demon Hunter is against the rest of the field. Even against a 20% Control Warrior population, Aggro DH is the best deck at top legend, and it’s even better as you go down the rank brackets, where players aren’t as quick to respond to it since it isn’t as popular (yet).
    • Drek’Thar is the most offensive component of the deck and a clear power outlier. It wins a lot of games by itself and is very likely to be discussed as the next nerf target. Something feels wrong when a neutral card with such a ‘significant’ deck building restriction outclasses the build-around class-specific legendary that’s meant to be put into the same deck. Jace doesn’t hold a candle to Drek’Thar, as can be observed in Fel Demon Hunter’s performance.
  • Warrior
    • Control Warrior is the only thing preventing Aggro DH from becoming the only deck worth playing on ladder. But in a situation where Aggro DH and Control Warrior are the only decks that seem to perform, narrow counters are going to start beating up on Warrior (because they certainly can’t counter DH!), which can push it off its current play rate and standing. There doesn’t seem to be a naturally evolving solution to Demon Hunter’s dominance, unless a deck can perform well against both.
    • Quest Warrior has gotten worse. It’s once again unplayable at top legend (it was headed there without a single nerf anyway), but its performance has relaxed at lower ranks of ladder where its win rate became a concern.
  • Druid
    • We think Druid is likely to become the third major component of the format once it’s fully refined. It can reliably act as the Paper to Warrior’s Rock and Demon Hunter’s Scissors. It may do so at a lower power level than it did before the patch, but it could end up a Tier 2 deck. We see the most promise with the Kazakusan build, which performs best across all of ladder. The Celestial Alignment variant has some narrow application at top legend that could make sense if Boar Priest continues to skyrocket in its playrate, but its matchup spread isn’t as well rounded. It is very situational and has generally been performing terribly on ladder and in the tournament scene.
    • Quest Druid sucks. Beast Druid isn’t having a good time trying to deal with both Aggro DH and Control Warrior.
  • Hunter
    • Quest Hunter is looking like a very strong deck throughout ladder, it’s beginning to crumble where Demon Hunter is most prevalent. The tables have turned, and Hunter now struggles in this matchup. Although the deck sits at a 50%-win rate at higher levels, this number is collapsing. With Ramp Druid potentially making a recovery, we think Quest Hunter will drop off further. Its scope for improvement through refinement is low.
    • Face Hunter is done. Aggressive decks cannot survive through the board control tools possessed by both Demon Hunter and Warrior. These two are eliminating any ability of another class to develop early game initiative.
  • Mage
    • Mage is one of the other classes we have a bit of hope for. We think Naga Mage is slightly better than it looks considering that the Wildfire variant is looking clearly superior to the Ignite build, which is weighing down the aggregated win rate of the archetype. We’re not sure Naga Mage cracks Tier 2 post-refinement, but it’s one of the better Tier 3 decks, for sure.
    • Mech Mage, like most tribal decks, is performing well enough at Diamond and below, but starts to struggle at higher brackets of ladder. Part of it is a low skill ceiling, but the large presence of Demon Hunter at top legend is killing its win rate further. Perhaps this is a sign of things to come once Aggro DH’s high presence trickles down to other rank brackets. It’s a miserable matchup you don’t want to queue into.
  • Priest
    • Boar Priest is a very interesting story. This deck looks utter and complete trash throughout ladder, yet spikes in its performance at top legend in impressive fashion. Part of it is the rise of its best matchup in Control Warrior, but much of it has to do with a remarkable skill ceiling that’s very evident already. Now, even at top legend, its win rate still doesn’t get out of Tier 4, and its performance in the tournament scene hasn’t been impressive either, but some high-level players swear it is the bee’s knees.
    • Our experience tells us that decks with such a high skill ceiling improve their performance over time, as players learn how to pilot them better, so we should wait and see how Boar Priest behaves over the next couple of weeks before we draw conclusions about its ‘peak’ power level.
    • We will note that Boar Priest’s rising popularity is attracting Alignment variants of Ramp Druid. This matchup is around 5-95, almost unwinnable for the Priest, so it’s difficult to see Boar Priest become a popular component of the format without being severely punished for it. It’s a bit too easy and tempting to hard counter. If it gains percentages in the Demon Hunter matchup over the next couple of weeks, the hype could start to make sense.
  • Paladin
    • Holy Paladin looks quite good initially, but in a more advanced field, it appears to be a worse Control Warrior. It doesn’t beat Demon Hunter as consistently, and it also loses to the direct matchup to Control Warrior. There are some ways it can adjust to improve the Warrior matchup, but its role in the meta still feels a bit redundant.
    • Dragon Paladin is in a similar spot, though it’s better than it looks since the deck isn’t as refined as Holy Paladin. Still, don’t expect miracles here.
    • Mech Paladin is strong at lower brackets, and it’s theoretically a good answer to Control Warrior at top legend, but the deck just falls off hard. This is the same story we see with Mech Mage. It has an even lower skill ceiling, and it gets destroyed by Demon Hunter. Some solutions to stop the bleeding are available but not to an extent it can change anything in the format.
    • Handbuff Paladin is showing some initial promise, albeit with a low sample size. It seems to be hovering between Tier 2 or Tier 3, which is a pretty good spot for a non-Warrior/DH deck. There’s plenty of work to be done here. We’ll get a better picture of it next week.
  • Rogue
    • It looks very bad for Rogue. Pirate Rogue just can’t handle the Demon Hunter matchup, and any attempt from the deck to counter Control Warrior makes it even more hapless against Illidan’s vengeance. Thief Rogue is the worst deck in the game because it’s fooling around with Tess Greymane and Contraband Stash. The class looks dead on ladder.
  • Shaman
    • Burn Shaman might be able to crack Tier 3 with some adjustments, but not much more than that. It will be hoping to see its worst matchup in Quest Hunter decline, and perhaps enter that space. Basically, trying to pick up crumbs to survive.
  • Warlock
    • Warlock is in a Tier of its own. The most unplayable class of all unplayable classes. Looking into the class’ data is depressing. It’s truly… cursed.

Class Analysis & Decklists

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

 


Aggro Demon Hunter looks insanely overpowered in the current format. It has been able to adjust to its worst matchups before the patch, to the point it has become very difficult to counter. Only Control Warrior looks like a reliable counter, and even that matchup is quite winnable.

The key in Aggro DH’s development is the rise of the Control Warrior matchup. This has elevated the Need for Greed variant above the 1-drop build that looked to prey on Druid before the patch. The Need for Greed build has greater longevity to sustain pressure into the later stages of the game, and goes all in on Drek’Thar, making the card even more absurdly powerful than it normally is. The list stacks 3-drops such as Mankrik and Lady S’theno for that purpose. S’theno is also a lot better when we run Need for Greed.

One issue with the NFG variant before the patch is its omission of Bone Glaive. You want at least one copy of the weapon in the deck, if not two. The damage it provides can be essential to closing out games against defensive decks as well as Quest Hunter. Bone Glaive is partly responsible for the Quest Hunter matchup flipping in favor of the Demon Hunter.

So, there are 29 core cards in the deck, and then there’s a choice between the 2nd Bone Glaive and numerous other flex/tech cards. They all work well, and it honestly doesn’t matter what you pick. The deck is just busted.

There’s no good reason to play Fel Demon Hunter. We’ve curated a post-patch list that doesn’t work too badly, but Jace just can’t compare to Drek’Thar.

Data Reaper Report - Warrior

Control Warrior is the only roadblock to Aggro DH’s complete domination. The Kazakusan build performs best, with some adjustments made to accommodate Kazakusan’s new condition. At least one Amalgam of the Deep is required alongside Onyxian Drake and Raid Boss Onyxia.

Competition for slots is brutal, to the extent that many players have begun cutting Rancor to either one copy or none. We’re not sure this is the correct approach considering it is one of the best performing cards against Demon Hunter, and not running Rancor seems to hurt that matchup quite significantly. However, high-level Demon Hunters may have begun holding Vanguard in hand and never playing it in the matchup, in which case cutting Rancor could make sense. We’ll see what happens there over time.

Our recommendation is a bit of a spectrum. In a DH heavy meta, running two Rancors looks best for now. You could drop Rancor for a 2nd Amalgam for added late game consistency and greater resistance to Mutanus. In a greedy meta, cutting Rancor completely and adding Gorloc Ravager is a good idea, as we’re quite impressed by Ravager. We were strongly considering cutting Brawl, but one Brawl is important at keeping opponents honest. It’s a pretty good card in some of the deck’s worst matchups.

There are no changes to Quest Warrior. The questline nerf hasn’t affected what it wants to do, it just does it a little slower, making it a weaker deck, though one that’s still quite strong at lower ranks of ladder.

Data Reaper Report - Druid

The Kazakusan rework has forced Druid to make tougher choices in the current format, and though Ramp Druid might still end up a good deck, it can no longer be dominant.

There are three main variants appearing on ladder now.

The first cuts Kazakusan and relies on a Brann/Alexstrasza/Zola finisher to close out games. This build looks weak and not worthwhile considering it’s inferior to the next. We expect it to disappear.

The second keeps Kazakusan and runs Amalgams of the Deep. The extra slots required as well as the difficult Aggro DH matchup force us to make tough choices. Druid of the Reef and Spammy Arcanists are meant to stop the bleeding against DH and make this matchup more tolerable. Kelpkeepers, 2nd Oracle and Battlemaster improves most other matchups, especially against slower decks, but without the defensive utility of Reef/Arcanist, our matchup against DH becomes oppressively poor.

The third runs Celestial Alignment. This is an extreme approach that only works well when you queue into very specific matchups, most notably Boar Priest, which this deck beats around 95% of the time (!). It also holds an advantage in the mirror. We can see this approach being successful at the extremely narrow top legend meta where Control Warrior runs rampant to counter DH, and then Boar Priest arrives to counter Warrior.

The problem? You die to any form of aggression. Running Spammy Arcanist helps a bit against Demon Hunter, but this matchup is generally a nightmare. You could just sack this matchup completely and run other options, but don’t expect to beat DH more than 20% of the time without Arcanists. We don’t recommend playing this variant unless you can find a lot of free wins from Boar Priest.

Quest Druid has re-appeared and looks bad, once again. We do like a specific build, created by Nails, running Samuro and Mark of the Wild. Mark of the Wild allows you to create an infinite chain of Guffs to perform better in slower matchups such as Control Warrior and Holy Paladin. Brann/Zola/Wild on Zola/Spikeshell on Zola/Zola on Zola is a 13-mana combo that leaves you with two Branns and two Zolas in hand, which means you can have an endless supply of Guffs with Brann/Guff/Zola/Zola. Again, probably not a good deck, but a pretty good meme.

Data Reaper Report - Hunter

Quest Hunter looks like the only strong and competitive deck in the class, as Face Hunter has been wrecked by the post-patch format developments while Big-Beast Hunter has long been declared dead.

Quest Hunter wants to run Treasure Guard in the current meta, much more than it did before the patch, as it makes Drek’Thar a stronger play in several popular matchups such as Aggro DH and Control Warrior. To make way, we must give up one Candleshot and either one copy of Explosive Trap or Marked Shot. The rest of the deck is clean and solidified. Beaststalker Tavish is one of the strongest cards in the deck due to its massive impact against Warrior, Demon Hunter, Druid and Paladin.

Data Reaper Report - Mage

Following the discussion from the first report, it’s now clear that Wildfire provides the strongest direction for Naga Mage. It was already stronger before the patch hit, but now that Control Warrior makes up a significant portion of ladder, it’s not even close. The Wildfire package alongside Magister Dawngrasp flips the Warrior matchup completely and makes Mage significantly favored. The off-board damage also makes the deck’s game plan more consistent overall. There’s no upside to Ignite in comparison.

The featured build strikes the proper balance between Nagas and spells. Treasure Guards are very, very good. Crushclaw Enforcer increases the consistency of our game plan but can be considered more of a luxury. We could cut one Enforcer for a 2nd Flurry, or alternatively swap Enforcers for Amplified Snowflurry. Snowflurry is a good tech card against Demon Hunters (and Boar Priests), making the matchup against Aggro DH almost even. Obviously, this comes at the consistency of other matchups, but if you’re encountering a very high percentage of DH, it makes sense. Brann and Zola are too situational and didn’t make it.

Not many developments are coming from Mech Mage. We suspect that Peasant might be the best 1-drop available to the deck since Troggs have fallen in value.

Data Reaper Report - Priest

Priest looks dead throughout most of ladder except for Boar Priest, which appears to perform much better at higher levels of play, though whether it makes enough of an improvement is an open question. Its main strength is its utilization as a Control Warrior counter.

In some matchups, you need to be able to equip a 2nd sword. Xyrella the Devout seems to fit better than Zola for that purpose. We’re featuring xBlyze’s #1 legend build. We like Holy Smite’s strength against Demon Hunter. If Boar Priest can improve that matchup, things will look a lot better for the deck. Lightbomb is no longer mandatory due to the fall in Ramp Druid’s popularity, and the fact you’re not beating Alignment Druids anyway.

Shellfish Priest sits in the same niche as Boar Priest but is just a strictly worse deck at higher levels of play. Therefore, there’s no great reason to play it. It also doesn’t display the same skill ceiling. It’s Boar Priest at home.

Data Reaper Report - Paladin

Paladin can survive in the current format. Holy Paladin holds a slight advantage against Demon Hunter and has a balanced matchups spread. The current meta is encouraging the deck to drop some cycle for disruption and value. Azshara, Mutanus and Okani have gotten better. Samuro is also pretty good even without direct buffs. Many players cut one Immortalized in Stone, but the card performs too well against Demon Hunter for us to get behind the idea for now.

Dragon Paladin has popped up following the Kazakusan rework. Initially, the dragon heavy builds looked inferior to the ones just sprinkling Bronze Explorer on a Control Paladin shell, but that was because not enough dragons were played! There’s a critical mass in which Kazakusan can activate on curve often, at which point the build starts to look better. We’re still doubtful whether this is a stronger deck than Holy Paladin, but it’s playable.

Mech Paladin has a few tweaks. We’ve brought back Alliance Bannermen and one Vindicator to help our reload against Control Warrior, and we’ve dropped Mothership because it’s very slow. Samuro helps you swing back against Demon Hunter. Mr. Smite misses out as the 31st card, but you could just drop a Righteous Protector for it.

Handbuff Paladin started to pop up and though it’s not anywhere near refined, it’s showing quite a bit of promise. It’s potentially stronger than Mech Paladin. We’re featuring a prototype build that we’ve found on ladder, but added Fin Twins and Pack Mules, which are very likely to be nuts in this deck.

Data Reaper Report - Rogue

Pirate Rogue is in a major problem. On one hand, it wants to start running Hooktusk and greedier cards to perform better in slower matchups against strong defensive decks such as Control Warrior, but on the other hand it’s getting absolutely murdered by Demon Hunter.

We’ve tried to curate the best build in those circumstances. Cutlass and Extortion help you fend off Demon Hunter’s early game minions. We like Trawler for Vessel consistency, and it’s still a playable body in the early game. You can’t afford to run stuff like Shadowstep and Shroud. These cards are too dead, too often.

Data Reaper Report - Shaman

Burn Shaman doesn’t seem to be in a good place, though we did identify some solutions to its current problems. Mutanus is quite useful in the current meta, and Shaman utilizes it best. Blademaster Okani is a very strong card in Shaman that doesn’t see as much play as it should. Chain Lightning could be an upgrade over Maelstrom Portal and worth trying to be able to deal with Demon Hunter’s threats more effectively.

But the biggest finding is Cookie the Cook. The card is legitimately insane. It is so good against both Demon Hunter and Quest Hunter that you’re going to feel the difference immediately in these matchups. Trust the Cook and maybe Shaman makes it to Tier 3. We take the small victories.

Data Reaper Report - Warlock

Warlock looks unplayable. There are some discoveries, like Goldshire Gnoll being a good card in Curse Warlock and Azshara boosting our damage potential in Phylactery Warlock running Naval Mine, but this doesn’t move the needle to the point where you can take a Warlock deck to ladder and consistently do well. We’ll keep monitoring for changes, but for now, you can forget about this class. It’s the worst in the game, by far.


Aggro DH is clearly a very powerful deck, but one that is flavorful and fits the class’ theme perfectly. That all stops when Drekky T enters the board and eliminates all semblance of a real Hearthstone game. Combined with the deck’s relentless early board control, as well as insane off-board reach, it’s just too hard to stop.

The only way to stop DH reliably is tanking up to gain huge effective life totals while boasting a consistent removal package that can push the Demon Hunter off the board. Only Warrior possesses these qualities, but it’s not the perfect and well-rounded Hearthstone deck. There will be opponents that can easily tear apart your game plan. Your success is reliant on players running the best deck.


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, 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, Scott L, Jeff P, Mark P, Keith C, The Big Dawg, nburst, Alex S, Jess M, Peter, Lepton, Bob L, Gary W, Charlah R, Chocobo, Tim B, Chad K, and Hayden S 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

4 Comments

  1. I am not sure about your calculations about warlock, maybe there is not enough data. But I have a 74% winrate with Murlock (31-11) and even reached legend in april with murlocs. Its a super aggro deck if curved well, and chum buckets use vs control matchups is insane. If u can manage to buff 5 or 6 murlocs, after some turns they cannot clear everything. In my opinion Murlock is much underestimated in this meta. 🙂

  2. “The third runs Celestial Alignment. This is an extreme approach that only works well when you queue into very specific matchups, most notably Boar Priest, which this deck beats around 95% of the time (!). It also holds an advantage in the mirror. We can see this approach being successful at the extremely narrow top legend meta where Control Warrior runs rampant to counter DH, and then Boar Priest arrives to counter Warrior.

    The problem? You die to any form of aggression. Running Spammy Arcanist helps a bit against Demon Hunter, but this matchup is generally a nightmare. You could just sack this matchup completely and run other options, but don’t expect to beat DH more than

    20% of the time without Arcanists. We don’t recommend playing this variant unless you can find a lot of free wins from Boar Priest.”

    You must be joking. Every Druid plays this variant and alignment is just 8 mana game over card.

  3. Love your work. But those articles are impossible to read on mobile bc of the ads: constant reload; crash; etc. Please fix it 😉

    • It’s always been a nightmare on PC as well. Memory leaks taking up 4-6+Gb RAM take place quickly unless you close the tab immediately after reading.

Comments are closed.