Welcome to the 231st edition of the Data Reaper Report!
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Number of Games
|Top 1K Legend||19,000|
|Legend (Excluding Top 1k)||78,000|
|Diamond 4 to 1||61,000|
|Diamond 10 to 5||69,000|
Class Frequency Discussion
The balance changes have completely transformed the format. The reversion of Wildpaw Gnoll as well as the buff to Tooth of Nefarian have revived Thief Rogue, and the archetype is now the most popular in Standard! Its play rate peaks at top legend, where it has eclipsed 20%. Thief Rogue builds are quite diverse, with a noticeable percentage of Stash/Tess builds at lower ranks, while at higher levels of play we mostly see the Mr. Smite variant we’re familiar with from Alterac Valley. Pirate Rogue can be found in small numbers. Mine Rogue has yet to emerge in this database.
Control Warrior is another deck that grows increasingly popular the higher you climb ladder. The archetype is changing post-patch, with the Galvangar OTK variant gaining major traction at top legend but not being nearly as noticeable elsewhere. Quest Warrior is fairly common outside of legend ranks, takes a huge dive at legend, and completely disappears at the top.
Priest is another class going through major changes. The buff to Serpent Wig has elevated Naga Priest into a major component of the format, and the deck is even more popular than Boar Priest at top legend. Quest Priest continues to be a common ladder opponent at lower ranks but doesn’t seem to be relevant at the most competitive level.
The buffs in this balance patch have been extremely impactful, and no class feels it more than Warlock. Two dud archetypes at the launch of Sunken City are now seeing significant play. Abyssal (Curse) Warlock is a very popular archetype throughout ladder, while Murloc Warlock is also a common opponent. They do take a noticeable dip at top legend, which is something to keep track of. The other ‘curse’ deck, Agony Warlock, has been relegated to a fringe spot in the format.
Druid can be found throughout ladder, but peaks at top legend, where the Celestial Alignment variant is mostly utilized to counter specific matchups that become more common there (Control Warrior, Boar Priest). At other rank brackets, the vanilla Kazakusan build is more popular.
Paladin is popular throughout ladder, with the usual exception at higher levels where it takes a step back. The class is mostly comprised of Mech and Handbuff Paladin, with Holy Paladin seeing a little play too. The Demon Hunter nerfs were huge for this class.
Mage is another class that seems to have raised its head after the Demon Hunter nerfs. The play rate patterns of Naga and Mech Mage haven’t changed. Naga Mage grows in popularity as you climb, while Mech Mage takes a huge dip in play at legend ranks.
Hunter is unrecognizable. For the first time in what feels like forever, neither Face nor Quest Hunter appear to be competitively relevant decks. Instead, Big-Beast Hunter has emerged to become the most dominant archetype within the class and one of the most popular decks in the format thanks to the buffs to Harpoon Gun and Azsharan Saber.
Shaman hasn’t received any buffs and appears to carry as much interest as it did before the patch. Some players are experimenting with Control Shaman, but this archetype fades away, leaving Burn Shaman as the sole visible representative at top legend.
Demon Hunter looks to be in major trouble, struggling to find a footing after the nerfs to Drek’Thar and Multi-Strike. Experimentation with Jace hasn’t gained traction, and interest in Aggro DH wanes as you climb ladder, leaving the class in an existential crisis.
vS Meta Score
vS Power Rankings Discussion
We’re looking at a very different format compared to the dominant days of Demon Hunter, but it’s also a format that’s far from solved. Lots of moving parts and refinement developments that serve as important context to the win rates displayed.
- Thief Rogue looks like a strong, competitive deck, but it would probably look stronger if it weren’t for the prevalent Stash/Tess Greymane builds that weigh down on the archetype’s aggregated win rate. This is a major reason why Thief Rogue performs better at top legend, where you don’t see much of those builds and the archetype is more curated. However, we don’t expect Thief Rogue to settle down as a top-tier deck in the format. In fact, we believe it might become overplayed relative to its power, as it struggles in two matchups that are likely to become more popular going forward: Control Warrior and Holy Paladin.
- Pirate Rogue just doesn’t seem to be strong enough to compete. It barely scrapes Tier 3 at top legend, where the meta is slower and the field is more favorable. We will note that Hybrid Pirate Rogues running a Gnoll/Maestra package don’t appear to be delivering good results, and they make up a significant portion of the archetype. We’re likely better off running the normal version of the deck.
- Control Warrior looks very strong at top legend, while quite mediocre elsewhere. A more favorable field with less Mech/Handbuff Paladins and more Thief Rogues at higher levels of play is a major factor, but another reason for the performance disparity is the popularity of the Galvangar OTK variant compared to the Kazakusan build. The new format has completely flipped how these variants perform, and now the Galvangar variant looks clearly superior. This is driven by the fall of Demon Hunter and matchups such as Wildfire Naga Mage, Ramp Druid, Abyssal Curse Warlock, and Boar Priest, where the Warrior is incentivized to have earlier kill pressure. We suspect that if the Galvangar build fully took over, Control Warrior would look even better.
- There’s nothing we haven’t seen before from Quest Warrior. A very powerful deck at Platinum and below, competitive at Diamond and Legend, and significantly weaker at top legend.
- Naga Priest looks impressive. This is another deck that grows significantly stronger at higher rank brackets, and peaks to a Tier 1 position at top legend despite the rise of Thief Rogue, one of its more difficult matchups. As a new archetype, Naga Priest is tough to figure out and refine, and it displays a significant scope for improvement. We can clearly identify that the most advanced builds are much stronger, and we expect the deck to get better at other rank brackets once the ‘perfect 30’ build trickles down. The biggest message: forget about Lyra, Azshara, Brann, and Zola. Value bait central.
- Boar Priest was on its way to finally breaking the 50% win rate barrier at top legend before Naga Priest emerged. This matchup seems to be quite difficult for the Boar Priest. In addition, the transition to Galvangar in Control Warrior should make that matchup less of a gimme. Boar Priest’s hope would be a decline in Druid, which is largely responsible for keeping its win rate down. In fact, an imaginary Druid ban would elevate Boar Priest to a Tier 1 win rate at top legend. It explains why Boar Priest seems quite successful in the tournament scene at the moment.
- Abyssal Curse Warlock finally looks like a good deck, but while it does perform well enough throughout most of ladder, it seems to be dropping off quite a bit at higher levels. This is driven by other decks becoming more refined and efficient (Thief Rogue/Control Warrior), as well as a pretty low skill ceiling for the emerging Warlock deck. Aggro decks often get labeled as easier to play, but this is an overly generalized view that often doesn’t line up with reality. Some control decks can have very limited decision making too. Tickatus Warlock is a very good past example, and this is what we’re seeing here as well. Worsening matchups across the board and signs that Abyssal Warlock may not hold up at the highest competitive level once the meta settles down.
- Murloc Warlock has become one of the strongest ladder choices for the climb to legend. The buffs to Scavenger and Vilefin were a huge deal. It is a Tier 1 deck at every rank bracket from Diamond and below. However, much like other tribal decks, Murlock displays a low skill ceiling and starts falling off at legend. We’ve been saying this, and we’re going to say this about a lot of decks in Voyage to the Sunken City, but this expansion has birthed one of the least skill-intensive formats we’ve seen in a very long time. Note that this isn’t a purely critical statement, but an observation. Low complexity decks are attractive to new players, who are more likely to pick up Hearthstone in the first expansion of a year. Having decks that build themselves and to some extent, play themselves by presenting obvious gameplay targets, can be a sensible design goal. They just seem to make up a very high percentage of the field.
- Druid doesn’t look great. It mostly functions as a counter to Boar Priest and Control Warrior at top legend, where it appears to be more playable, but transitions of these classes to Serpent Wig and Galvangar do not bode well for Druid going forward. The Celestial Alignment variant is extremely polarizing and its applications are very narrow. It is not a well-rounded ladder deck, while the vanilla Kazakusan variant looks superior but not that much better. Druid is definitely overplayed.
- Paladin looks very strong right now. Mech and Handbuff Paladin are the two best decks at every rank bracket with the exception of top legend. Mech Paladin remains a top 3 performer at top legend thanks to its strong Control Warrior matchup. You’re rewarded for countering Warrior harder at higher levels, which is why the power gap to Handbuff, the deck with the softer matchup spread, is bigger there. Both of these decks exhibit low skill ceilings, but Paladin is so powerful and well-positioned that it doesn’t matter.
- But that’s not all. Holy Paladin might be the biggest sleeper in the format, with an absurd win rate at higher levels of play despite seeing very little play. We don’t expect it to continue to display this kind of performance if it becomes more popular, but Holy Paladin has finally found a niche that sets it apart from Control Warrior, something it struggled to accomplish before the balance changes. Not only is it just as effective against Thief Rogue, it performs much better against Naga Priest, Big-Beast Hunter, Druids, and Paladins compared to Warrior. Its main weakness is that it loses to Control Warrior, but it handles the Galvangar variant better. Keep an eye out for this one.
- At the beginning of the patch, the world was Naga Mage’s oyster. It looked primed to become a Tier 1 performer at higher levels of play, but Control Warrior’s transition to the Galvangar variant has created a new problem for the archetype. Wildfire provides effective inevitability against Kazakusan, but the kill pressure from Galvangar, Nellie, and Mr. Smite has proven to be oppressive, while Holy Paladin’s promise and Boar Priest’s refusal to go away are additional obstacles. Ironically, the increasingly hostile environment at top legend has made Naga Mage perform worse where it is most popular, compared to a positive win rate elsewhere on ladder, something you normally don’t see from a deck with an above-average skill ceiling.
- Naga Mage is the exception to tribal decks, Mech Mage follows the performance trend in Quest-Warrior fashion. Very strong similarities between the two.
- Big-Beast Hunter is another one. One of the best decks outside of legend ranks and highly recommended for climbing out of lower ranks, but hits a noticeable wall at legend, and drops off to Tier 3 at top legend. We can identify a significant scope for improvement in its build, as the archetype is quite messy and filled with sub-optimal lists. That’s a bit scary when you think of how good the deck already is at lower ranks of ladder, but it might be worthy of a Tier 2 placement at higher levels post-refinement.
- Quest Hunter looks dead and buried following the nerfs to Drek’Thar and Dragonbane Shot.
- Burn Shaman is incredibly underrated. The deck is very strong throughout ladder, and only seems to lose to highly defensive decks such as Control Warrior and Abyssal Warlock. The Control Warrior matchup is difficult but not as tough as it used to be pre-rotation (just 40-60 now). The Holy Paladin matchup is Viper-dependent. Every other matchup ranges from close to comfortable to even dominant. One notable matchup is Naga Priest, which gets completely obliterated by Shaman due to its dependence on the board to deal damage and the Shaman’s freeze package.
- Demon Hunter
- Demon Hunter is struggling to adapt to the balance changes. We do think there might be a Jace build of Fel Demon Hunter that could be competitive, but the class’s prospects look very bleak in comparison to the lively development we’re seeing in other classes. We can’t see the class boasting a deck that’s stronger than Tier 3 until new cards arrive.
Class Analysis & Decklists
Thief Rogue has reawakened. Wildpaw Gnolls once again look like meta-defining cards in the format, carrying the archetype to great results. If you’re interested in winning, forget about Contraband Stash, Tess Greymane, and other janky nonsense like Faelin and Azshara. Mr. Smite is your friend.
The best Thief Rogue build is fairly solidified, but we do suggest dropping the 2nd Shadowstep for a 2nd SI:7 Extortion. Tradeables are very valuable Gnoll activators in the early game, especially when Secret Passage is gone. Shadowstep’s performance is very underwhelming. It doesn’t have a lot of great applications in the deck and is often a dead draw. There doesn’t seem to be a matchup in which Shadowstep delivers great results either. The card tends to feel better than it actually is.
Pirate Rogue isn’t great. Experiments with Maestra/Gnolls aren’t delivering. The perfect 30 aren’t hard to figure out from there.
Control Warrior is looking impressive, but the biggest turnaround is how much better the Galvangar variant looks compared to pre-patch, while the Kazakusan variant is not delivering the same results. The Demon Hunter meta demanded the best defensive package that Warrior could muster. It was a format that encouraged survival above all, and grinding out other late-game strategies worked well. The current meta demands kill threat from the Warrior, as it cannot survive forever against an increasing number of decks with stronger inevitability. The ability to finish off opponents with either Galvangar or Mr. Smite/Nellie is proving to be extremely valuable as a result, and we generally recommend this approach to players at Diamond and above.
When it comes to the Galvangar build, we really like running two Forged in Flames alongside Blacksmithing Hammer. This draw package seems to elevate the consistency of the deck across the board. A common tech card we’ve found is Smothering Starfish, but it doesn’t seem to be worthwhile. It doesn’t even help you in the mirror!
The Kazakusan build isn’t groundbreaking. No reason to run Rancor in the current meta, so Ravager takes priority.
- Warrior Class Radar
- Control Warrior
- Quest Warrior
Naga Priest looks very promising, and there’s quite a bit of work to be done before it reaches peak performance. The less we see of slow value cards, the better Naga Priest’s win rate will be. Lyra sucks. Azshara sucks. Brann sucks. Zola sucks. Our game plan doesn’t align with these cards at all.
Our game plan is to abuse Serpent Wig as much as possible. This card has become monumentally powerful, so our goal is to get the most out of it. A cheap and consistent curve of Naga minions is what you want in order to keep the Wig chain going. Queensguard is a card we analyzed a lot, but it ultimately makes Serpent Wig better. Stormpike Aid Station doesn’t compare. One card that is an absolute star in the deck is Najak Hexxen. Absolute game-changer and the moment it was introduced to the archetype, its win rate shot up.
No major changes to Boar Priest. With Demon Hunter gone, you want to cut one Holy Smite for another Shard.
Abyssal Curse Warlock is finally competitive, but the deck does seem to hit a wall eventually. It’s not too difficult to build and figure out following the patch. Mithril Rod is a major trap that should be avoided. We really don’t understand why it keeps getting played. Goldshire Gnolls are core. You have a choice of two between Viper, Starfish, and the 2nd Baker. There aren’t as many opponents that pressure your life total aggressively now that Demon Hunter is gone, so you can get away with one Baker and having stronger techs against Warrior and Paladin. It doesn’t make a huge difference, either way.
Murloc Warlock got a big boost with buffs to Scavenger and Vilefin, but that didn’t really change how it wants to be built. Our featured build was another simple one to figure out.
- Warlock Class Radar
- Abyssal Warlock
- Agony Warlock
- Murloc Warlock
Ramp Druid is in an awkward spot in the format. It can counter certain strategies harder only to completely roll over to others with Celestial Alignment, or settle for a softer and ultimately stronger matchup spread but one that doesn’t inspire confidence, with the normal Kazakusan build. At the end of the day, Druid can’t get better than Tier 3 in the current format.
The vanilla Kazakusan build wants to drop its Demon Hunter techs, which means no Spammy Arcanist or Druid of the Reef. Go back to Kelpkeeper, 2nd Oracle, and Battlemaster.
The Celestial Alignment build started dropping Naga Giants for Park Panthers. This seems to be driven by Rogue’s popularity and Double Agents (as well as the pirates from Azsharan Vessel sometimes).
Paladin has three very good decks. Mech Paladin is the strongest deck through the majority of ladder, with a great matchup into Control Warrior that makes it a strong choice for top legend as well. The key adjustment for this format is getting a little greedier. Mr. Smite and Battlemaster are both mandatory, and we squeeze a Mothership as the 30th card as well. Alliance Bannerman is surprisingly underwhelming.
Handbuff Paladin is another excellent deck, though seems to perform slightly worse than Mech Paladin overall. Its matchup spread is a bit softer and less polarizing, so it feels more ‘stable’. In this deck, post-patch changes are far more dramatic, and some of the cards we considered trash before look a lot better now that Demon Hunter is gone.
For example, Fin Twin and Pack Mule were good stabilizing cards for the Demon Hunter matchup that don’t produce the same results now. For the first time ever, Cornelius Roame looks like a decent card in a competitive constructed deck, and the answer why is simple: It’s an exceptionally good card against Warrior. Highlord Fordragon is another card that looks a lot better in a slower format.
But when looking at the list, one might consider the best card in the deck to be none other than the credit card!
Holy Paladin is extremely underplayed considering the results it’s producing. Its best approach is nothing fancy. Just run the good cards, with no techs required for now. The fall of Demon Hunter means that there’s no need to run more than one Immortalized in Stone.
- Paladin Class Radar
- Mech Paladin
- Handbuff Paladin
- Holy Paladin
Naga Mage has looked so good early in this patch, but the top legend meta, where players tend to play this deck most often, is producing some annoyance. There’s no great way to adjust to the newly emerging Warrior matchup. We generally recommend running two copies of Flurry in the current format. The card is game-changing in many matchups, which leaves you to fill up the last three slots with any combination of Treasure Guard and Crushclaw Enforcer. Outside chance of Viper making sense if Holy Paladin surges in play. Definitely not now.
Big-Beast Hunter is finally a good deck in the format, and it’s definitely got some room to grow. We can’t say it’s anywhere near refined, and we’ve identified two approaches that look the most promising for now.
The first is centered on none other than the Vanndar. Yes, this list doesn’t even care about the Azsharan Saber buff. Just the early game Bunker/Secret package, with as many playable beasts that cost 5 or more. Emergency Maneuvers can be pretty backbreaking in this build.
The second runs a Naga package. We think this build may have the higher ceiling eventually since it’s more proactive and flexible. It has the ability to pressure through buffs and Naga’s Pride in the early game, and then bridge into the big beasts coming online later. Just make sure you’re running two Azsharan Sabers. Somehow, running one Saber is a thing that players do.
- Hunter Class Radar
- Big-Beast Hunter
- Quest Hunter
Burn Shaman is very underrated. Lack of enthusiasm surrounding the class and the deck has led to its low play rate, but the results are impressive. You still want to run Cookie the Cook, even though the card is not as insane as it was before the patch. Chain Lightning still seems stronger than Maelstrom Portal. For the possibly rising Holy Paladin matchup, a Viper tech could be good by replacing Okani. Doesn’t seem to be needed for now.
Demon Hunter is struggling. We’ve carefully looked at the class’s data, and curated a Fel Demon Hunter build that might be okay but doesn’t inspire confidence. In retrospect, the Drek’Thar nerf might have been enough to temper the power of Aggro DH, and the additional nerf to Multi-Strike has weakened the class to the point it can’t get a foothold, but it’s very hard to say. We will note that the class is poorly optimized, so it’s not that far away from the rest of the pack. Xhilag is very strong now.
Mech Paladin looks extremely powerful throughout ladder and is recommended as the best choice for the climb to legend. It’s very good at legend as well thanks to a favorable field and a strong Warrior matchup.
Control Warrior looks to transition into the Galvangar/Mr.Smite OTK build in order to have earlier kill pressure against some opponents who have risen following the patch. This might end up as the strongest list of 30 cards in the format at higher levels of play.
Holy Paladin is the sleeper of the format, quietly producing great results while seeing very little play. It will likely spike in play following the report.
Ever wanted a control meta? You got one.
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