Welcome to the 230th edition of the Data Reaper Report!
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Number of Games
|Top 1K Legend||15,000|
|Legend (Excluding Top 1k)||20,000|
|Diamond 4 to 1||57,000|
|Diamond 10 to 5||81,000|
Class Frequency Discussion
The format is degenerating due to the dominance of Aggro Demon Hunter. The deck is rising at all levels of play and exceeds a 30% play rate at top legend. At lower ends of ladder, Demon Hunter is extremely underplayed, which gives the false notion of a deck that’s not entirely overbearing. But the higher you climb ladder, the narrower the meta gets and the more obvious the problem becomes.
Control Warrior is the only consistent counter to Aggro DH, and yet it’s not rising in popularity. In fact, the deck has declined at top legend, where Demon Hunter is most prevalent. The cause might be psychological. There are multiple counters that are pretty difficult for Warrior to deal with, making the deck ‘feel’ worse since you’re very reliant on hitting the popular matchup to get results. Meanwhile, Quest Warrior is declining across the board.
Ramp Druid development is trickling down ladder, but the deck has hit its plateau at higher levels of play where it is the 3rd most popular deck. Ramp Druid acts as the primary counter to Control Warrior. The Celestial Alignment build is more popular at top legend since it wins Druid mirrors and farms Boar Priests.
Naga Mage is picking up more play with the Wildfire variant becoming the dominant choice at all levels of play. Mech Mage is stagnating, with a small decline in play.
While Quest Hunter continues to be very popular throughout ladder, we’re noticing a sharp decline in its numbers at top legend, caused by the increasingly difficult matchup with Demon Hunter and the higher prevalence of Druid.
Paladin is picking up some steam, with both Mech and Handbuff Paladin rising in prominence. On the other hand, Holy and Dragon Paladin are experiencing a decline after failing to become compelling ladder choices due to the greater success of Control Warrior.
The rise of Boar Priest at top legend has been quickly brought to a halt. At some point, Boar Priest’s play rate was on a trajectory to hit 10% at this bracket, yet things quickly fizzled out and the deck has now settled on a 5% play rate. There’s nothing else remotely interesting happening with this class. Quest Priest is an ongoing coping mechanism.
Warlock is a class transformed. Following Monsanto’s success and Meati’s #1 legend peak, a new Curse of Agony Warlock has emerged. To avoid confusion with Abyssal Curse Warlock, which is an entirely different curse deck, we’ve called them “Agony Warlock” and “Abyssal Warlock”.
Interest in Shaman and Rogue continues to be very low.
vS Meta Score
vS Power Rankings Discussion
Things look a little better compared to last week, with a few decks from different classes making some improvements in their performance through refinement, but the bottom line is that Aggro DH is still much stronger than any other option in the format, and there is no sign of the meta being able to self-correct. Expect continued Demon Hunter dominance until outside intervention is made.
The problem is that only Control Warrior can answer Aggro DH. Nothing else is quite as effective, and there are too many strong Warrior counters for the deck to become popular enough to put a real dent on DH’s win rate. Control Warrior’s decline at top legend this week is purely psychological, as its win rate has not fallen at all, but it’s not a deck that can hit a 20% play rate without being severely punished. It cannot realistically stop Demon Hunter in the current environment.
Ramp Druid has hit Tier 2 in some rank brackets, which is something we expected to see based on its refinement. It’s still very strong in the late game where it can consistently frustrate Control Warriors, but the Aggro DH matchup ranges from terrible to bad depending on your build.
Naga Mage is another deck that’s clearly getting better, and we think has a bright future, but is it a great deck in the current format? Not yet. Not when Demon Hunters are so prevalent and oppressive. We will note that its matchup spread in the event of a Drek’Thar nerf is very promising since it mostly struggles to Aggro DH and Quest Hunter, both of which are big Drek abusers. Naga Mage is also the deck with the 2nd highest skill ceiling in the format, following Boar Priest. Outside of top legend, Mech Mage performs better.
Quest Hunter continues to shine where the meta isn’t very developed but starts to struggle once you climb further on ladder and hit a larger percentage of Demon Hunters and Druids. There’s a clear regression in the deck’s performance across the board but also big disparity in its standing at different rank brackets. It is a Tier 1 deck at Diamond 5 and below, but Tier 3 at top legend. This isn’t as dramatic as the Quest Warrior situation but something to keep in mind when it comes to Questlines helping players at lower ranks screw up less.
Paladin is once again wearing an underrated robe. Mech Paladin is looking pretty good even at higher levels of play thanks to its good matchups against Warrior and Druid. Unfortunately, these is no way to fix the Demon Hunter matchup here. What’s interesting is that Handbuff Paladin may prove to be the better deck post-refinement. It’s less polarizing, performs better against Demon Hunter and is generally more well-rounded. It just needs to figure out the perfect 30 list. Holy and Dragon Paladin are declining in their performance, which correlates with their declines in play.
Boar Priest hasn’t made a striking improvement in its performance at top level play just yet, but we’re noticing a turnaround that should become clearer next week. The 3rd week following the emergence of a ‘high skill cap’ deck is when you usually see the biggest win rate swing, based on our studies of Garrote Rogue and similar decks in the past. It will likely break into Tier 3 next week, but whether it can accomplish more than that is uncertain. A 50% win rate is possible. Clearly, any discussion of it being “the best deck” looks like hyperbole, but it might be alright.
Agony Warlock is the best deck within its class. Congratulations to Gul’dan, but that’s not saying much. The deck is still sitting deep in Tier 4. The good news is that it seems to possess a slight advantage against Aggro DH! The bad news is that this advantage may not last as we’re noticing that Aggro DH players are getting better in this matchup after familiarizing themselves with this new deck and its defensive tools. This could be happening in other matchups as well, which leads us to believe that Agony Warlock is a flavor of the week deck that will not last.
Shaman is a bit underrated in the sense that its play rate suggests it is a dead class, but its win rate shows that it is one of those “playable” options in the format. Its best build outperforms Naga Mage’s best build, for example, yet it doesn’t receive anywhere near the same attention. Its win rate is also weighed down by garbage builds at lower ranks. Its play rate does make some sense as Burn Shaman is a bit of an old deck while Naga Mage is far more exciting and fresh, but Shaman can definitely hang in there and produce respectable results, especially if you believe in Cookie the Cook.
Rogue is now the worst class in the game. We’re pretty sure this has never happened in Hearthstone’s history. Pirate Rogue gets completely destroyed by Demon Hunter without mercy. We think the class could recover in the event of balance changes, but while Rogue’s Sunken City set was powerful, it only gave the class one direction. And once this direction led to a dead end, there was almost nothing else left to explore.
Class Analysis & Decklists
No changes to the Aggro Demon Hunter build from last week. Some players have begun experimenting with Naralex as the 30th card due to its synergy with S’theno by generating a nightmare. It’s not great, but not terrible either. It doesn’t matter. Life is pain.
- Demon Hunter Class Radar
- Aggro Demon Hunter
- Fel Demon Hunter
Control Warrior is leaning more towards cutting Rancor this week and running 2nd Amalgam alongside Gorloc Ravager. Some players drop a Shield Slam for Rancor to diversify removal and keep Demon Hunters honest. Others opt to cut a Shield Slam for a Viper. Shield Slam is still a very good card in the deck, so you probably need a very good reason to flex it out for a tech card.
A new variant runs a massive weapon package alongside Lady Ashvane. This Warrior deck keeps a strong defensive package, but instead of utilizing Kazakusan as its closer, it smacks the opponent in the face with endless weapon charges. Azsharan Trident is a very powerful card in the deck as you can consistently find Sunken Trident with either From the Depths, Obsidiansmith or Sir Finley.
Blacksmithing Hammer can deal a lot of damage and enables Forged in Flames extremely well. Mr. Smite, Nellie and Galvangar give you reach to burst opponents down after the weapon swings wear them down. This build’s matchup against Demon Hunter is much worse (barely favored) but it performs better in some of the matchups that Control Warrior normally struggles with. We don’t think it’s better than the Kazakusan variant, but it is better than the Galvangar OTK build.
- Warrior Class Radar
- Control Warrior
- Quest Warrior
The Celestial Alignment variant of Ramp Druid is beginning to experiment with cutting Naga Giants for more defensive stabilizers such as Lokholar and Colaque. However, we’re not sure whether it’s the correct move to drop Naga Giants. We might be better off dropping Spammy Arcanists instead, writing off the already horrible DH matchup. There are 32 cards that looks quite good here and we need to pick 30.
The normal Kazakusan variant looks great. Adding the 2nd Oracle/Battlemaster makes slower matchups much better, at the price of sacking the Demon Hunter matchup. Pick your poison.
- Druid Class Radar
- Ramp Druid
- Quest Druid
- Beast Druid
Not much development in the Mage class. Wildfire continues to outperform Ignite in Naga Mage at all levels of play, leaving us with no choice but to feature the variant that clearly performs better. What else would we do?
Not much to say about Hunter either. Quest Hunter was simple enough to build and easy to figure out outside of a couple of cards which are a bit meta dependent. This deck climbs very effectively from lower ranks but eventually hits some wall. You’ll feel it when the Druids start showing up and the Demon Hunter numbers get silly.
Paladin is producing good results. The Mech Paladin list we tweaked last week looks perfect. Handbuff Paladin is looking strong as well. We’ve updated the build after receiving more data on the archetype. We like Fin Twin a lot. Pack Mule is likely better than Amalgam of the Deep as well. However, Battlemaster has been surprisingly disappointing. We’ve swapped Annoy-o-Trons back to Noble Mounts and re-added Catacomb Guards to give us a better chance against Demon Hunters, though we wish we had a more effective card for the matchup.
- Paladin Class Radar
- Holy Paladin
- Dragon Paladin
- Mech Paladin
- Handbuff Paladin
No changes to Boar Priest, as we think Holy Smites are essential if we want this deck to perform its best against Aggro DH. The ability to answer Vicious Slitherspear or Pufferfist so efficiently is huge.
Agony Warlock might be the best Warlock deck and the only one worth featuring in this report, but it’s still looking pretty bad. What’s worse is that we’re seeing signs of its performance falling off a cliff. Falling off a cliff when you’re already deep in the abyss isn’t a good sign. This deck is living off hype fumes.
It’s a bit of a shame that players have given up on Shaman, when it’s honestly not bad at all if you build it well. The key is building it well. There are a lot of really bad builds weighing down Shaman’s win rate, but its best build is pretty respectable for a class that’s not dark green. Have we already mentioned how good Captain Cookie is?
Remember these days, ladies and gentlemen. Where were you when Valeera became a sad existence in Hearthstone’s standard format? A brutal rotation followed by a powerful, yet one-dimensional set has led the class to its doom. Too many eggs were placed in the pirate basket. A nerf to Demon Hunter should help, but what Rogue is desperate for is new cards: individually good cards that fit multiple strategies rather than being package-dependent.
There is no way to correct this format through natural means. Aggro DH is too good, and its sole counter is too vulnerable to other strategies to become overly dominant.
But, let’s pretend Control Warrior did manage to dominate and keep Aggro DH in check. Would things be better off for anyone other than Control Warrior players? Balance issues are hiding another relevant problem in the format: there just aren’t enough viable strategies around. This is not unusual for a 4-set format with less cards, but when 4 classes are irrelevant, or near-irrelevant for the large majority of players, you have a problem that isn’t so easily solved by nerfs alone.
But let’s start with nerfing Drek’Thar. That would be great. Whenever you’re ready, Blizzard.
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