Welcome to the 249th edition of the Data Reaper Report! This is the first report for March of the Lich King and discusses data following the nerfs to Denathrius and Shockspitter on December 9th.
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Number of Games
|Top 1K Legend||27,000|
|Legend (Excluding Top 1k)||82,000|
|Diamond 4 to 1||138,000|
|Diamond 10 to 5||172,000|
Class Frequency Discussion
The launch of the Death Knight class started with enthusiasm, but those initial cheers have been quickly transforming into whimpers. The higher you climb ladder, the less of the class you see, and it’s been on a drastic decline trajectory since the expansion’s release. Still, the class remains popular as players try to make it work. Blood-Control has been the most popular strategy, with Frost-Control and Unholy-Aggro builds looking fringe in comparison.
Rogue has been moving in the opposite direction, with a drastic and ongoing spike in its play rate as well as an exceptionally large presence at higher levels of play. Deathrattle Rogue running Infectious Ghoul is the fastest-growing deck in the format. Miracle Rogue is more popular at top legend. Thief Rogue is also around in smaller numbers.
Quest Demon Hunter is the fastest-rising deck at top legend, absolutely skyrocketing in its presence since its recent discovery, on pace to hit a 20% play rate by itself. Felic Demon Hunter running the spell package is more popular outside of legend.
Ramp Druid started strong, targeting the Death Knight class very effectively, but it has been on a gradual decline since the Denathrius nerf. Aggro Druid maintains similar play rates to those before the expansion, preying on Ramp Druid and surprising opponents expecting to meet the slower and passive deck.
Plague Priest, an attrition Control Priest focused on repeatedly transforming the opponent’s minions in hand into Plaguespreaders, has been gaining the most traction within the class. Quest Priest is found in small numbers, while Bless Priest raises its head once again at top legend.
Pure Paladin is making a return behind a more aggressive shell acquired in this set. Jailer Control Paladin is being rivaled by Kazakusan Dragon Paladin as a late-game strategy.
The rest of the classes are severely underdeveloped. Warlock is mostly ignoring the new set and running imps, with a little bit of Phylactery. Big-Spell Mage is the only Mage deck seeing consistent play, and it’s low. Evolve Shaman hasn’t gained traction either, with Control and Zombie Shaman barely visible. Spitter Hunter has fallen off following the Shockspitter nerf, with Beast Hunter pretending the expansion never happened. Warrior is gone. It’s not looking like the start of an expansion for these classes.
vS Meta Score
vS Power Rankings Discussion
- Death Knight kinda sucks. Frost-Control is the archetype that shows the most promise, especially in the event of a Ramp Druid decline, which is a terrible matchup for it. But even then, we’re not big fans of the deck. Blood Death Knight is consistently crummy everywhere on ladder, losing to most decks that have a good enough late-game plan. Unholy is straight-up unplayable. Nothing is remotely close there. There is no competitive reason to play the class.
- Deathrattle Rogue is absolutely insane outside of legend ranks. The deck is incredibly strong and exceedingly difficult to beat. Decks that beat Deathrattle Rogue tend to naturally run silence or transform effects (Shaman or Priest). Having said that, it doesn’t seem to be as scary at higher levels of play, though a further rise in Quest DH might give it another push.
- Miracle Rogue outperforms Deathrattle Rogue at top legend, though we can see this changing due to the influence of Quest DH. Miracle Rogue is only unfavored against decks that are consistently capable of clearing Ghosts from Stealth. If you can’t do that, expect a challenging matchup against an experienced player.
- Thief Rogue is solid if you build it well. The secret package outperforms concoctions due to the importance of disruption in the current meta.
- Quest DH looks busted at higher levels of play. Take into consideration that much of the sample includes suboptimal builds running a single Silvermoon Arcanist, and the deck’s win rate has shot up following the correction. Take into consideration that this deck exhibits an extremely high skill ceiling, leading to further growth in its win rate over time. Unless the meta finds a way to effectively target it, it will dominate. Bless Priest and the floundering Ramp Druid are the only reliable answers.
- Fel DH looks more reasonable and seems to taper off at top legend because it loses the DH mirror and struggles vs Miracle Rogue, Deathrattle Rogue, and Bless Priest. If all these decks see some nerfs, which is quite likely, it might become immensely powerful.
- Ramp Druid isn’t great. It rolls over to aggressive decks. It gets demolished by Rogues. It was carried by an extremely high play rate of Death Knights handing it free wins. Those Death Knights are slowly declining, making the field more hostile to the deck. The nerf to Denathrius has obviously negatively affected it too. We can’t see Ramp Druid being better than Tier 3 in the emerging environment, even taking into consideration its strong matchup into Demon Hunters.
- Aggro Druid is taking advantage of Ramp Druid’s popularity, as usual. It hard counters Ramp Druid and it also benefits from players mulling wrong against it, leading it to have respectable win rates against Rogue and DH, which would look surprising without context. This is leading to its superb performance at top legend, specifically. Elsewhere on ladder, it’s quite a good deck. Since it isn’t new, its modest play rate is not surprising.
- Bless Priest is the best deck at top legend. It’s a new expansion and yet here we are. While it does have its usual hard counters, decks with mass removal options, it’s supremely powerful against decks not carrying these options. Its good matchup against Demon Hunter should keep it relevant going forward as well. Bless Priest is not going anywhere unless it’s nerfed.
- Quest Priest is particularly good at higher levels of play too, once again rising up to answer Rogue’s domination and influence over the format, much like during Nathria. It’s an effective answer to both Miracle and Deathrattle Rogue, with its obvious flaws against Druid and Demon Hunter.
- Plague Priest is the next step in the Control Priest evolution. Carrying the same removal tools as Quest Priest, it’s a great answer to Rogue. However, its disruption game plan makes it better vs Druid and Demon Hunter too, turning those matchups into far closer affairs. This makes Plague Priest a more well-rounded deck, and we strongly suspect it only looks inferior to Quest Priest because it’s a new deck still deep in refinement. It has Tier 1 potential and could be better than Quest Priest once it reaches a more optimal form. Watch out for this one.
- Pure Paladin is back to its old ways, looking extremely powerful on the climb to legend before dropping off at higher levels of play due to a more hostile meta environment (Bless Priest, Rogues) and limited player agency.
- Control Paladin and Dragon Paladin are not looking particularly impressive. Dragon Paladin might look worse because it’s not as “clean” as Control, experimenting with more janky builds. Either way, these Paladin decks face key issues dealing with Demon Hunters, Druids and the rising Plague Priest, the latter tends to mess up everything they want to do. The Rogue matchups aren’t as good as they used to be either.
- Imp Warlock is a strong deck on the climb to legend but becomes nearly unplayable at top legend. Not foreign territory for the deck that falls over to Rogues and Bless Priests, but Quest Demon Hunter is the imps’ new nemesis. Curse Imp Warlock tends to be worse than non-Curse Imp because it loses percentages against Rogue, DH, and Druid.
- Phylactery Warlock might be okay at top legend, but we’ll have to see more of it to establish whether it’s a real contender at this rank.
- Big-Spell Mage looks strong throughout ladder, though it starts to show cracks as the presence of Quest Demon Hunter and Miracle Rogue grows. There’s not much else we can say about the class, but there is one new and aggressive Mage deck that shows enough promise to merit a chance.
- Evolve Shaman looks very good, though most players don’t seem to care much for it. Primordial Wave helps against Deathrattle Rogue. It does well into Priest, and its matchup spread is quite balanced.
- Other Shaman decks don’t see much play, but they might be okay. Control Shaman should be a decent option with several updates, and the aggressive Zombie Shaman could also benefit from adjustments. The problem is that the players willing to pick up Shaman might not be there.
- Beast Hunter is hilariously doing well at a low play rate and running no new cards, even though it should be able to find upgrades in the new set. Again, the issue here is interest rather than raw power.
- Spitter Hunter looks done after the nerf, though there is one build path that could make it playable.
- Based on its low sample, Enrage Warrior is another “decent” deck that no one cares to play. Other strategies within the class look horrendous. Control Warrior’s got no chance.
Class Analysis & Decklists
Rogue’s power and influence on the format is obvious. Deathrattle Rogue dominates the climb to legend, while Miracle Rogue is one of the strongest decks at higher levels of play.
Deathrattle Rogue’s primary build is fairly settled, centering on Infectious Ghoul, and generating unkillable boards that demand silence and/or mass removal. One thing we did notice is how shaky Invincible is as a card. It’s strong at the later stages of the game but can be game-losing if drawn first by a Scourge Illusionist found by Sketchy Information. Some players have cut Invincible, and we noticed it makes Sketchy Information better, but at a significant cost to the deck’s matchups against Druid and Demon Hunter. Considering that Demon Hunter’s presence is spiking, we can’t recommend cutting Invincible at this point.
An alternative build from Jambre is also showing promise, running Masked Reveler alongside Crabatoa and Neptulon. This gives the deck comeback mechanics, as a Reveler transforming into one of these Colossal minions allows you to devastate an opponent’s board. This list also runs Sinstone Graveyard. The ghosts aren’t as big as they are in Miracle Rogue, but they’re very good landing spots for Invincible since they’re undead.
Miracle Rogue is split into two main approaches. The first incorporates a large Concoction package, which improves its late-game longevity. Astalor performs extremely well here since the deck isn’t in a hurry to close out games early. However, running 12 minions means Shroud of Concealment becomes mulligan bait and a very underwhelming performer overall. It’s beneficial to cut Shroud completely from this variant.
The second approach ignores most of the Concoction package, only running Potion Belt and the classic 8 minion package we’re familiar with from Nathria. Shroud is better in this deck since it’s more likely to find Draka. Backstab and Door of Shadows compete for the final two slots. This variant has a weaker late game, but bigger early blowout turns. It’s stronger in matchups that encourage the fastest and biggest Draka turns you can execute. We can even see a further reduction in the minion package to around ~5 just to abuse Draka more.
Thief Rogue performs well. The Secret package outperforms the Concoction package due to the importance of disruption in the current format, which Ghastly Gravedigger and Perjury are particularly good at. Astalor and Shadow of Demise are the important additions here, and we dropped the nerfed Denathrius and Theotar to make way for them. Denathrius has fallen off hard after the nerf.
- Rogue Class Radar
- Deathrattle Rogue
- Miracle Rogue
- Thief Rogue
Fel Demon Hunter is looking like a strong and well-rounded deck, but Quest Demon Hunter could become an oppressive force at higher levels of play.
Unleash Fel has been a massive addition for Quest Demon Hunter, allowing it to blow out faster decks in combination with spell damage, or set up strong Fel Barrage burst turns against slower decks. Quest Demon Hunter can occasionally OTK opponents as early as turn 5-6, without even playing its quest reward thanks to Relic of Dimensions and the discounts given by completing the first two phases of the questline. Its late-game damage is also absurd, capable of bursting through the life of a Blood Death Knight very easily thanks to playing a discounted Jace alongside Silvermoon Arcanist and Guild Trader. It eerily resembles Lifesteal Demon Hunter from the days of 4 mana Il’gynoth and Felscream Blast.
Card choices in the archetypes are not complicated. The moment players started running a 2nd Silvermoon Arcanist, the deck’s win rate shot up. We highly recommend running two copies of Need for Greed as well. It is far too good both pre- and post-quest completion. If you can’t give up the Rustrot Viper for the Miracle Rogue matchup, we suggest cutting one Mark of Scorn instead.
The spell package has been a highly successful addition to Fel Demon Hunter. The build we suggested in our theorycrafting article looks like the clear best performer, with the Relic package proving to be extremely valuable. Silvermoon Arcanist is stronger than S’theno as the 3rd minion. Artificer Xy’mox is strong and there are no indications you should be cutting it from the deck. The legends are true.
- Demon Hunter Class Radar
- Quest Demon Hunter
- Fel Demon Hunter
Ramp Druid has been in a downward spiral accelerated by the nerf to Denathrius, while Aggro Druid has benefitted from Ramp Druid’s popularity to keep doing what it’s been doing throughout Nathria.
Before the quick nerf to Denathrius, Ramp Druid’s best build was our theorycrafted Astalor variant. The Brann/Anub/Astalor combo has proven to be highly effective. After Denathrius’ nerf, we noticed a significant drop off in its performance, which has also negatively impacted Topior. As a result, we wonder if an alternative Theron/Jailer approach could be better, which we’ve highlighted as an option in the featured build.
The Celestial Alignment variant is far less popular, but Denathrius hasn’t dropped off as hard there, and the deck is naturally inclined to run Jailer, which is the best card in the deck.
Aggro Druid is performing well with very minor changes to the deck. Lingering Zombie is the only new card, and we’ll pretend the rest of the undead package never happened.
Bless Priest is still looking like the best deck at top legend despite the release of an entirely new expansion. Control Priest decks are creeping up in power, threatening to plague ladder.
Quest Priest is looking great with Far Watch Post and Astalor. Astalor is an incredible performer in the deck since it makes quest completion more consistent. Plaguespreader is a good turn 4 play but building further around it through Bonecaller and Amulet of Undying is unnecessary. This isn’t part of Quest Priest’s game plan and holds the deck back.
On the other hand, it’s certainly a part of Plague Priest’s plan, and this deck looks very promising. The disruption offered by Plaguespreader helps this deck perform much better in late-game matchups, where a typical Control Priest deck would get slaughtered.
The featured build attempts to maximize Plaguespreader’s resurrection consistency, by not running Spirit Guide or Foul Egg. These undead minions don’t provide a significant benefit that offsets their anti-synergy with Plaguespreader. Sister Svalna does since she ensures the deck wins late-game matchups by grinding out opponents with her infinite value potential.
Plague Priest is a fatigue deck, so mass removal is king. Shadow Word: Ruin, Clean the Scene, Lightbomb, and Whirlpool are core to its strategy. Basaleph is good enough even if you only resurrect one Plaguespreader. You can hit your own Plaguespreader with the ‘The Light! It Burns!’ and play Basaleph. It can be important against Demon Hunter since you don’t have much time in the matchup. Astalor doesn’t see play in the deck, but is our instinctive recommendation since we haven’t seen a deck whose goal is to survive to the late game and not want to run it.
Bless Priest has added Animate Dead to its build. It’s a decent card in the deck. The Sunwell gives you some scam potential in case your first pop-off board was cleared. Nothing else has changed here.
- Priest Class Radar
- Plague Priest
- Quest Priest
- Bless Priest
Death Knight is looking quite weak as a class, tempering the excitement of its launch.
Blood-Ctrl Death Knight is the most popular strategy but falls prey to many popular and powerful decks. Disruption effects are highly valuable in the current format, including Far Watch Post, which offers the deck a needed turn 2 play. Smothering Starfish is becoming mandatory due to the meteoric rise of Deathrattle Rogue. Famished Fool isn’t great, but we’ve found that the deck struggles without enough card draw. Stacking more discover effects doesn’t do enough to cover for that weakness. Denathrius isn’t great anymore and becomes progressively weaker as you climb ladder.
Frost-Ctrl Death Knight is showing a bit more promise, especially in the event of a further Ramp Druid decline, which is an extremely problematic matchup. Bonelord Frostwhisper doesn’t see much play in the archetype but looks quite promising in enabling the deck’s burst-finishing turns.
Unholy looks like the worst of the bunch, playing a Hearthstone game that is too fair. No deck from this rune looks competitive. Unholy-Aggro Death Knight got a little bit of traction but is a Tier 4 deck everywhere on ladder.
- Death Knight Class Radar
- Blood-Ctrl Death Knight
- Frost-Ctrl Death Knight
Pure Paladin has been tearing up ladder on the climb to legend, while Control Paladin decks are trying to stay competitive in the face of a faster format.
Pure Paladin has been successful in utilizing an aggressive curve and Seal of Blood, pivoting to The Countess through Order in the Court. Blood Crusader helps cheat out The Countess earlier with more stats, giving us time to play the invitations while we’re ahead on the board. We’re featuring Hunterace’s build, swapping a Battle Vicar for Blood Matriarch Liadrin, which performs well in aggressive Paladins builds.
Control Paladin sticks with the Jailer game plan. Denathrius is still good enough for this deck since it’s a big lifesteal body that becomes exceedingly difficult to deal with once it acquires Jailer immunity. Anachronos is a particularly good addition for the Order in the Court curve. We add Astalor because it is powerful in late-game strategies. Flight of the Bronze is strong regardless of dragons.
Dragon Paladin utilizing Kazakusan looks inferior to Jailer Control, but it might be due to lack of refinement. There are bad builds weighing down the performance of the archetype. We’ve tweaked our theorycrafted build to include Brann, Astalor, School Teachers, and Theotar. This is the strongest direction that could be on par with Jailer Control.
- Paladin Class Radar
- Pure Paladin
- Control Paladin
- Dragon Paladin
Warlock has stuck to the tried-and-true Imp Warlock shell, and only Phylactery Warlock looks to be potentially competitive.
Non-curse Imp Warlock is usually better than Curse-Imp Warlock on ladder. It is stronger against Druid, Demon Hunter, and Rogue, offsetting inferiority against Blood Death Knights and Plague Priests. Denathrius is unplayable after the nerf, so we’ve replaced it with Sylvanas to help against the bad Miracle Rogue/Bless Priest matchups. The Curse-Imp build doesn’t change.
Phylactery Warlock looks okay at higher levels of play. The featured build looks perfect. Mortal Coil or Mistress of Mixture is the choice for the last two slots.
- Warlock Class Radar
- Imp Warlock
- Curse-Imp Warlock
- Phylactery Warlock
Mage has been quiet but does have competitive options. Big-Spell Mage looks great with Astalor and Arcane Defenders. An aggressive Frost Mage deck is also showing great promise, popularized by Alutemu.
This new Mage deck centers on Frozen Touch and the frost spell package. Arcane Wyrm and Arcsplitter provide more damage, while Aegwynn enables late-game burst that finishes off opponents we’ve softened up earlier. The original build runs Nerubian Vizier, Nightcloak Sanctum, and Varden Dawngrasp, but those cards clearly look like poor fits for an aggressive deck. We’ve replaced them with cheap discover cards in Suspicious Alchemist and Prismatic Elemental, which can find us more damage, as well as Astalor, because it’s Astalor.
Evolve Shaman is looking quite strong behind Jambre’s Prescience build. This deck has multiple ways to develop boards through spells, which means we can tutor Goldshire Gnolls consistently with Prescience. We don’t particularly like Sea Giants, which complete the 5-card minion package alongside Glugg. A minion we’re quite confident should be insane in this deck is Rotgill, as it has consistently looked insane in every Shaman deck we’ve checked. Try it out with Queen Azshara, which should be quite easy to activate since the deck is full of spells.
Control Shaman sees little play but does have new tools to replace Denathrius and Theotar. Rotgill, Theron, and Astalor are natural fits.
Zombie Shaman could also be competitive with adjustments. It turns out that Bloodlust is a must-have in the deck, in two copies. The featured build looks like the strongest approach, by far. Don’t bother trying to incorporate the early neutral undead curve into this deck. Arms Dealer and Banshee are terrible cards, and these iterations are killing the archetype’s overall win rate.
- Shaman Class Radar
- Evolve Shaman
- Control Shaman
- Zombie Shaman
Beast Hunter has been the sole competitive option for the class following the annihilation of Spitter Hunter. Beast Hunter hasn’t been running any new cards, which is more a testament that no one has cared to update it for the new expansion.
Denathrius is no longer a viable option. Insatiable Devourers seem a bit too slow for the format as well. Add Astalor, Theron, and Collateral Damage for a better late game.
Is Spitter Hunter dead? Mostly, though a Renathal build does show signs of life. Slap Astalor on top of it, and we’re quite sure it will be better, especially when we’re already running Brann and Zola. It’s a no brainer.
Have we already mentioned that Astalor is good? It’s good!
Warrior is the class that players are least excited to play, and it’s not a surprise. Control Warrior is utter trash. Enrage Warrior is okay but there are better aggressive decks out there. Our ability to refine Enrage Warrior is limited due to its low sample size.
Mini-set waiting room already?
Deathrattle Rogue looks like the strongest deck on the climb to legend. Its ability to generate unkillable boards is unmatched. It’s got pressure in spades on top of obscene swing turns. We recommend abusing it while you can.
Quest DH is likely to become the supreme deck at top-level play. It’s exceedingly difficult to target, with a fast and furious win condition and strong defensive tools against decks that look to flood the board. It can OTK an opponent incredibly early or set up a late-game finishing play that can easily deal over 50 damage.
Bless Priest is one of the only Quest DH counters, and as long as it can develop an obscene number of stats on turn 5, it will beat a wide variety of decks that can’t deal with it. Bow down to the scam king.
We don’t think this format is going to last long, so we’ll see you on the other side. Hopefully, with a stronger Death Knight class, and other classes getting a bit more time in the spotlight and forming new identities.
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