Welcome to the 239th edition of the Data Reaper Report!
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Number of Games
|Top 1K Legend||33,000|
|Legend (Excluding Top 1k)||181,000|
|Diamond 4 to 1||149,000|
|Diamond 10 to 5||168,000|
Class Frequency Discussion
The most notable effect of the balance patch is the rise of a new iteration of Miracle Rogue, centered on the newly buffed 3-mana Edwin as its draw engine. We’ll call it Edwin Rogue to differentiate it from the Loan Shark Miracle Rogue deck that popped up earlier this expansion and still sees some play (their data is separate). Edwin Rogue has pretty much taken over ladder at higher levels of play, immediately becoming the most popular deck at top legend. Though the deck was already showing up on ladder before the patch thanks to tournament exposure, the buff took it to another level. It has also significantly changed over the last week through refinement.
Druid was already popular before the patch, but the nerf to Shaman caused Druid’s numbers to spike further. While Celestial Druid now sees very little play, Ramp Druid took off and becomes increasingly popular the higher you climb ladder, rivaling Edwin Rogue at top legend. Another deck that’s rapidly growing in numbers is Aggro Druid. The deck has already shown some promise before the patch, but now it has finally gained traction as an answer to Ramp Druid. Though its numbers for this report’s database don’t seem that high, it’s on pace to hit a 10% play rate at the Diamond and Platinum rank brackets next week. It’s quickly establishing itself as the premier aggressive deck in the format following Imp Warlock’s decline.
Mage is another class that was already popular yet is showing significant growth following the Shaman nerf. It’s the most played class outside of legend ranks, with Spooky Mage the most played deck. The majority of Spooky Mage builds run Renathal. Big-Spell Mage can also be found in moderate numbers. The growth of the Mage/Druid duo is concerning if you care about a diverse ladder experience. They are on pace to combine for 45% of opponents in Platinum and lower Diamond ranks next week, while hitting a near 50% play rate at upper Diamond. If you’re climbing to legend, be prepared for what feels like an endless number of them.
Priest is establishing itself as the format’s answer to Rogue, with Quest Priest looking like the most popular option. Bless Priest is a deck that was specifically developed to answer Rogue. It is centered on a Radiant Elemental/Power Word: Fortitude/Boon of the Ascended blowout package. Naga Priest, as usual, sees little play. It is meant to be an answer to Ramp Druid rather than an answer to Rogue, but players seem to have found a better option with Aggro Druid.
Imp Warlock’s play rate has significantly fallen after the nerf to Vile Library. Though the deck is still quite popular, it declines to modest numbers once you reach higher ranks. Builds are split between the Sea Giant variant, the Denathrius variant and the Curse variant.
Control Shaman has fallen hard. Its play rate is now stable at around 5-6% throughout ladder. At top legend it was on its way to fade further before it had a slight recovery with players experimenting with lists cutting Snowfall Guardian and Primal Dungeoneer.
Hunter seems to be rapidly losing interest after the patch. Face and Beast Hunter are dropping like a rock, with only Quest Hunter looking like a deck that could stabilize at a noticeable play rate. The class is particularly absent at top legend, where it has declined to near-Warrior levels. This also means that experimentation with new builds is relatively low.
Demon Hunter picked up a lot of interest after the Relic buffs, and there are all sorts of decks running around. There are Relic/Deathrattle builds, Relic/Fel builds, Vanndar Big DH decks utilizing Abyssal Depths and even Quest Demon Hunters. However, these decks are being rapidly abandoned. Is anything out of these decks not complete garbage? Find out in a minute.
Warrior saw an uptick with players more willing to experiment with Enrage Warrior, though the deck hasn’t gained much traction and there’s no sign of a real awakening in the class. In fact, it’s in decline again. Paladin is in a very similar situation, perhaps worse since any enthusiasm over its buffs has died out within a couple of days.
vS Meta Score
vS Power Rankings Discussion
We can’t say that post-patch developments have been ideal and there are several concerning trends. If we can summarize the aftermath in a single paragraph, we would say this: The fall of Control Shaman has de-stabilized the format. Edwin Rogue is nearly out of control at higher levels of play, causing an intensification of matchup polarity. Ramp Druid is having a similar effect throughout ladder, where it forces extreme aggression in order to be stopped. The meta appears to be more extreme in general, caused by the heightened popularity of decks that were already popular, which is narrowing viable options as well as deeming some strategies redundant. What we can also say is that the good decks are getting better, while the weaker decks are getting weaker. This means that both the frequency graphs and the Power Ranking table in this report are looking kinder and more forgiving compared to what’s likely coming next week. Now, let’s look at the details.
- Edwin Rogue’s matchup spread is quite ridiculous. This isn’t Garrote Rogue, as it is still quite strong at lower ranks of ladder, but the deck has a relatively high skill ceiling. At the highest level, it is incredibly dominant and difficult to counter. It seems to beat or at least go 50-50 with nearly every relevant deck in the format.
- Your hard counter option is Priest, and the popularity of Priest at top legend is the only thing that prevents Edwin Rogue from exhibiting a completely broken win rate. The issue is that while both Quest and Bless Priest dominate Rogue with a 70%+ win rate, they are not well rounded decks and are extremely easy to counter themselves. Quest Priest gets destroyed by both Mage and Ramp Druid, which further reinforces their popularity and causes the meta to become increasingly narrow.
- Bomb Rogue is the only non-Priest deck that seems capable of reliably beating Edwin Rogue while boasting a competitive win rate, but it’s a much worse deck overall. We highly doubt that the field will become more welcoming to it over time considering it loses to Aggro Druid.
- Rogue, Druid, Mage and Priest currently make up over 75% of ladder opponents at top legend right now. This number could pass 80% next week if things don’t change.
- Think this is only a “top legend” problem and doesn’t affect most players so it doesn’t matter? The narrowing of the format is happening everywhere, and while Edwin isn’t as dominant and influential outside of top legend, Ramp Druid certainly is. In a theoretical meta in which the Edwin buff is reverted, Ramp Druid becomes the new Edwin Rogue. Its matchup spread is almost as absurd. The only reliable way to counter Ramp Druid outside of Edwin Rogue is unrelenting aggression. Any deck that allows Druid to reach the late game can only hope to be slightly unfavored against it. Control Shaman used to be able to match Druid in the late game and keep it somewhat in check. Not anymore. Want some more bad news? Ramp Druid is one of the least refined decks in the field, so its likelihood of getting even better is high.
- So what’s the answer? Only a hard counter, of course. Aggro Druid looks like the strongest performer in the format simply because it destroys Ramp Druid like no other deck (around 75-25) and doesn’t get rolled over by Edwin Rogue (which is the case with Imp Warlock). It is also benefitting from opponents having a difficult time in the mulligan phase since Aggro and Ramp Druid are such polar opposites in terms of playstyle and the kind of cards you want to have against them. With Aggro Druid looking this strong, it is likely going to skyrocket in its popularity. What beats Aggro Druid? Mage and Quest Priest. So, Aggro Druid is reinforcing the popularity of Mage, and the ‘Rock, Paper, Scissors’ game that is forced upon the format still exists outside of top legend, but with slightly different players.
- Spooky Mage may not have the highest win rate, but its rise in play is extremely influential in reinforcing a narrowing and polarizing meta. Whether it’s Edwin Rogue at top legend or Ramp Druid throughout ladder, Mage ends up countering the best answer to the top meta deck. It helps both Druid and Rogue stay on top. A common perception is that Mage is a counter to Edwin Rogue, but this isn’t exactly accurate and we think it is born out of the sheer desperation that exists to counter Rogue. Renathal Spooky Mage is slightly favored against Edwin Rogue, but it is even worse against Ramp Druid. So all it could potentially do is slightly tone down Rogue while empowering the next most well rounded deck.
- Big-Spell Mage generally has the higher win rate throughout ladder, though the deck appears to display a low skill ceiling, with worsening matchups against Ramp Druid, Spooky Mage and Edwin Rogue at higher levels of play. It is also a deck that was refined early and other decks have been catching up to it following their own development. It is a fantastic choice on the climb to legend, and still looks like a good deck at top legend. It is better against Ramp Druid compared to Spooky Mage, while being worse against Edwin Rogue.
- Quest Priest has hit a new record in its power level. While it hovers around 50% win rate throughout most of ladder, it skyrockets into a Tier 1 placement at top legend due to the Rogue matchup. Quest Priest might be the worst Tier 1 deck we’ve ever seen, if that makes sense. Its matchup spread looks horrendous, and the deck is currently completely carried by its Rogue matchup. This means fluctuations in its power could be very erratic, and personal experience with the deck should be very inconsistent . However, one other relevant matchup Quest Priest seems to excel at is Aggro Druid, and considering that Aggro Druid is rising in play, that should reflect well on Quest Priest’s future in the format. Whether that’s a good thing for the format itself is another thing entirely, since it is a significant reinforcer of Ramp Druid/Mage and a big culprit of the meta’s intensifying matchup polarity.
- Though it is a completely different deck in its playstyle, Bless Priest serves a very similar role to Quest Priest in countering Rogue, and therefore it performs much better at top legend (it is also quite skill intensive). This is another deck that’s very polarizing and inconsistent, but one thing it has over Quest Priest is that it is much better against Ramp Druid (50-50 matchup if you know what you’re doing) and we believe it can significantly improve the Mage matchup through a specific card choice.
- Naga Priest has never been a deck that many players enjoy piloting, so the fact Aggro Druid does such a good job at countering Ramp Druid makes Naga Priest a fairly redundant deck choice. It might feel better against Mage, but the Rogue matchup is pretty bad. This deck has always hated facing Wildpaw Gnolls.
- The nerf to Vile Library has slowed down Imp Warlock. While the nerf to Shaman seemed to have been a positive change for Warlock in theory, the emergence of Rogue has taught Warlock players a lesson: Snowfall Guardian might be hard to deal with, but a game of Hearthstone can still be played. It’s much harder to play against Wildpaw Gnolls when you vie for early board, while Edwin needs no Brilliant Macaws to end games on the spot.
- This means that Imp Warlock, while still looking decently strong throughout ladder, is in a precarious position when it comes to competitive relevance. Aggro Druid counters Druid better and doesn’t get demolished by Rogues, so why play Warlock? As Imp Warlock seeks a new niche in the format, it seems to be slowing down and gearing itself to boast a stronger late game. This can differentiate it enough from Aggro Druid, and help it perform better in the Mage and Priest matchups, which Aggro Druid struggles against.
- Control Shaman has gotten significantly weaker. Its performance suggests it is still viable and competitive, but we think the numbers are misleading. When you evaluate Control Shaman in matchups against the ‘good decks’, it looks alarmingly weak. A deck that previously had a lot of close 50-50 matchups against the top meta decks seems to be crumbling as a result of the Snowfall Guardian nerf. It now loses to both Ramp Druid and Spooky Mage. It doesn’t beat Edwin Rogue or Quest Priest. It appears to be losing its advantage against Imp Warlock as well. Contrary to popular perception surrounding Snowfall Guardian’s supposed dominance against board-centric decks, Control Shaman didn’t even beat Aggro Druid before the patch, and it certainly doesn’t do it after the patch. The only decent meta decks it still beats are Naga & Bless Priest thanks to Primordial Wave.
- So basically, Control Shaman doesn’t beat good decks. Why does it still display positive win rates throughout most of ladder? Because it does well against Demon Hunter, Paladin and Warrior, classes that look like complete garbage yet saw increased play this week because of the hype surrounding their buffs. If the bad decks start disappearing from the format, and they’re largely expected to, Control Shaman is going to get worse and look more like it does at top legend currently, where players were quicker to abandon the failed experiments. Unless a discovery is found to make up for the Snowfall Guardian nerf, Control Shaman’s days as a serious meta contender on ladder are over.
- Hunter suffers from a similar problem to Shaman. Both Face & Beast Hunter exhibit decent win rates on paper, caused by the surge of terrible decks into the format that they easily punish. They don’t actually beat good decks that are competitively relevant, which is why they are quickly disappearing, especially at higher ranks of ladder.
- Quest Hunter is more likely to stick around in some capacity. It is a very good performer on the climb to legend because of the popularity of Mage. It is an effective counter to Spooky Mage, Big-Spell Mage and Quest Priest. The problem is that Ramp Druid is just as effective in these matchups, while completely destroying Quest Hunter in the direct matchup. So why would you play Quest Hunter? The prevalence of aggressive decks on the climb to legend is the reason why Quest Hunter performs better than Ramp Druid there. It has relatively closer matchups against both Imp Warlock and Aggro Druid, but when these decks aren’t super popular, Ramp Druid becomes miles better. Quest Hunter is particularly weak at top legend because of the high prevalence of Ramp Druid and Rogue.
- This is where last week’s balance changes are making future changes more complicated. Quest Hunter may seem harmless now, but in the event Edwin Rogue and Ramp Druid are both nerfed, Quest Hunter could rise and become a “new problem”.
Demon Hunter, Warrior and Paladin
- Demon Hunter decks are not good. Contrary to popular perception that they are somehow competitive, they range from bad to very, very bad. Deathrattle DH is the closest thing the class possesses to something that works, with a nice Tier 3 win rate outside of legend that’s likely going to decline next week. If you want to compete in the emerging format, this isn’t it.
- We’ll give Enrage Warrior some credit. It got a lot better thanks to the buffs, it was just so far away from being remotely playable that even adding 8% in its overall win rate leaves it deep in Tier 4. There is one specific build that could be better than current aggregated stats suggest and we feature it in this report. Don’t expect miracles, but Enrage Warrior could be… ‘slightly’ playable.
- Paladin got buffed and yet it somehow got worse. While DH and Warrior made some progress away from being gutter trash, Paladin jumped head first into the dumpster. Many of the buffed cards seemed to be a trap. Players have been hoodwinked, bamboozled, led astray, run amok and flat out deceived. This is now the worst class in the game and it’s not even close.
Class Analysis & Decklists
Edwin Rogue looks extremely powerful at higher levels of play and seems to be very difficult to counter unless you’re playing Priest. Its mid-game blow outs are very frustrating to deal with, while its ability to churn through its deck means it is difficult to outlast its over the top direct damage even if you manage to clear out all its board-related threats.
While the deck was beginning to show before the balance changes, its refinement wasn’t completed, and it didn’t exhibit anywhere near the power level it currently shows. The key is to abuse Shroud of Concealment as much as possible, by having it tutor your most important minions: Edwin, Gnoll and Draka. This means Crabatoa is cut, while 4-mana Scabbs should be nowhere near this decklist.
Furthermore, we want to ensure Edwin generates the biggest blow out turn possible, so the deck’s curve needs to be very cheap so that we keep chaining cards. Shadowcrafter Scabbs no longer makes sense when Edwin is so powerful and is drawn so consistently, since games should already be determined by turn 8 (average game length for this deck is ~6.5 turns).
Finally, we advocate for Sinister Strikes. It makes it difficult for opponents to outlast the Rogue since it possesses so much direct damage. It’s part of the reason why Mage struggles to counter this deck reliably even when it’s running Renathal, Solid Alibi and tons of freeze effects. It can still just die to Draka and burst. The 30th card seems to be Backstab, though we’ve seen other options that aren’t terrible (Silverleaf Poison, Yoink).
Ramp Druid is continuing to go through a fairly complicated refinement phase. It was about to enter major greed mode before Aggro Druid has emerged and forced it into a defensive stance again. The featured build looks to combat the rise in this matchup’s popularity, with Spammy Arcanist offering a board clear helped by Druid of the Reef. Oracle of Elune has risen in play since the last report and looks good alongside Naga Giants.
Aggro Druid looks like the best performer in the format, as it’s the strongest counter to Ramp Druid while maintaining a reasonable matchup into Rogue. The established build for the deck looks very clean and incredibly cheap. No legendary or epics. 1560 dust. Now that’s value!
Spooky Mage is greatly encouraged to run Renathal in the post-patch meta due to the rise of Rogue. The extra health is very important since freeze effects are not enough; you must outlast their off-board damage. The Renathal build is stronger defensively, being able to fit more survivability options such as Blizzard and Solid Alibi, which are crucial in this matchup as well as others (such as Aggro Druid).
The featured build looks like the strongest and most well-rounded list you can take to ladder. The Evoker/Parrot/Rune package appears to be very worthwhile in the new format. Parrot is huge in the mirror because of how stupid Deathborne is in this matchup, but Parrot is also very important against Druids. It’s become an obvious choice.
We’re making a small tweak to Big-Spell Mage by cutting Brann for Spammy Arcanist. Arcanist is becoming increasingly important due to the rise of Aggro Druid.
Priest seems to be doing well after the patch since two of its emerging strategies specialize at countering Edwin Rogue. However, all Priest decks display extremely polarizing matchup spreads, which means they are not particularly consistent. You need to hit your good matchups, or you will suffer.
Quest Priest destroys Edwin Rogue because of its vast healing and mass removal options. It has “blind” removal that can clear a ghost in stealth, and it can outlast all the Rogue’s direct damage capabilities.
Shadow Word: Ruin is the star of this matchup, so we’re a bit confused why common builds only run one copy. Running two copies also means it is less important to run ‘The Light! It Burns!’. With Amulet of Undying looking a bit underwhelming, we notice a need to run additional shadow spells to help Lightmaw Netherdrake activate more consistently. This is particularly important against Aggro Druid.
We’ve found two good options here. Identity Theft shows promise in late game matchups, while Devouring Plague is stronger in faster matchups but is more situational on-curve.
Bless Priest destroys Edwin Rogue because it follows the principle of scamming before it gets scammed. The Rogue has no ability to deal with a huge power turn from the Priest, and the Priest is faster to get off the ground and snowball. The moment Boon of the Ascended is played to produce a massive taunt, the Rogue is locked out of the game.
We do notice that while this deck can be very inconsistent due to its erratic matchup spread, running Focused Will may be a huge help against Mage. You can easily make space for it by cutting Desperate Prayer, which is useless in this deck and accomplishes nothing that furthers its game plan.
No changes in Naga Priest. School Teachers are indeed good.
- Priest Class Radar
- Quest Priest
- Naga Priest
- Bless Priest
As a result of the Library nerf as well as changes in the meta, Imp Warlock is changing course. The Sea Giant build is no longer good enough, as Warlock needs to establish a solid late game plan and not only rely on early game snowballing. The mirror is also far less popular, so there’s no need to prioritize flooding the board as quickly as possible.
The Denathrius build continues to be a strong direction for the deck. We’ve started to see Grimoire of Sacrifice make its way to the deck and it looks good, just as it does in every Imp Warlock we’ve seen so far. It should become better as Aggro Druid rises in popularity too. We’ve dropped Bloodbound Imp for it. This build is the strongest overall and the best choice for countering Ramp Druid.
The Curse build has gotten better compared to before the patch, and we think it’s a solid alternative. It is stronger against Mage and Priest, at the cost of being weaker against Ramp Druid and Rogue. There are two pathways for this deck. The first is to run Voidwalkers and Shady Bartenders. This helps you apply more pressure through the board. The other avenue is running Brann, Tamsin and Touch of the Nathrezim. This pushes the deck further into a slower direction in which it tries to maximize Curse generation. Curse Imp Warlock is generally worse but less polarizing, so we think it is popular because it ‘feels better’ to play in a polarizing format.
Control Shaman has suffered a brutal nerf to Snowfall Guardian which has firmly kicked it off the leading meta contenders. It is currently suffering an identity crisis, in which it doesn’t look terrible, yet has no reason to see play as it matches up poorly against the stronger decks in the format. Unless new discoveries are found, the meta should only become more hostile to the deck and see it drop further in power.
Innovation in the archetype is scarce, but what’s clear is that Snowfall Guardian is barely good enough to see play. However, experimentation with cutting Guardian and Dungeoneer doesn’t seem to exhibit great results so far. We’re featuring Meati’s take, which adds Wildpaw Caverns and Crud Caretaker in their place. These cards are okay, but this build doesn’t solve Shaman’s issues in the popular matchups. It beats almost nothing important.
Hunter hasn’t seen much development. Face and Beast Hunter are sticking with their established builds. Quest Hunter is less incentivized to expand the Wildseed package following the Stag nerf. The class is quite strong on the climb to legend but falls off hard after. Nothing we haven’t seen before, and we’ve already explained why.
- Hunter Class Radar
- Quest Hunter
- Face Hunter
- Beast Hunter
There’s a lot of coping going around in Demon Hunter. Some players are convinced this class is competitive. It isn’t. All decks within the class look very underwhelming. The closest deck to competitive viability is Deathrattle DH, and yet it still feels so far when it cracks like a twig against Rogue and beats no real meta deck in the format besides Quest Priest. It’s semi-playable at lower ranks of ladder and that’s it.
As for the rest of the Demon Hunter decks, the Power Ranking table doesn’t lie. Unplayable.
Enrage Warrior looks like a better deck. It’s easy to say that when it used to have a 36%-win rate, but even after the buffs it’s likely not good enough. The most promising direction comes from FunkiMonki. Beaming Sidekick and Dredger Staff contribute to early game snowballing, while Barrens Blacksmith offers another board buff payoff along with Imbued Axe. Rokara is better than Remornia at the 7-mana slot.
Paladin is now the worst class in the game. The buffs it received were a rabbit hole leading nowhere. Silver Hand Recruit synergies look like a waste of time. The Countess buff didn’t matter. It’s time to think about whether we want Paladin to forever be the dumb class that just vomits stuff on board and expects to win serious Hearthstone games. This only works when the number of stats it can produce is insane, and even then, it feels like almost nobody cares.
Paladin is in tribal hell. It needs a compelling win condition. We’d rather build a full neutral deck than a Pure Paladin deck. At least that means we can run Renathal, Brann, Kael’thas, Devourer and Denathrius. What does Paladin offer? A good time to take a nap.
We’ve been in this song and dance before. Ramp Druid is rising in play, getting stronger and heavily warping the format, leaving little room to counter it besides running a strategy that floods the board in the most extreme fashion. Meanwhile, Edwin Rogue is preventing Imp Warlock from answering Druid as effectively as it could.
Thankfully, Aggro Druid is the cheapest top tier deck we’ve seen in years. Costs less than a legendary and gets the job done. Happy hunting.
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