vS Data Reaper Report #250

Data Reaper Report Logo

Welcome to the 250th 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 1,325,000
Top 1K Legend 46,000
Legend (Excluding Top 1k) 258,000
Diamond 4 to 1 206,000
Diamond 10 to 5 223,000
Platinum 196,000
Bronze/Silver/Gold 396,000

Class/Archetype Distribution

Class Frequency

Class Frequency Discussion

The balance changes have made a significant impact on the format. The previously struggling Death Knight class has received a second wind, and players have returned to experiment with its archetypes. Unholy-Aggro is popular at lower ranks, but heavily declines at Platinum and above. Blood-Ctrl holds up until top legend, where it falls to fringe status. Frost Death Knight is the one strategy that seems to be widely played at all levels, with the Renathal nerf reshaping it to become a faster burn-centric deck.

It wouldn’t seem like Rogue has suffered massive nerfs in the patch, as the class is still very popular, and its 30% play rate at top legend is astounding. Deathrattle and Miracle Rogue have drastically declined, but Thief Rogue has spiked instead, adopting a 30-card build that has rapidly gained traction all across ladder. We will note that despite Miracle Rogue’s initial absence following the patch, it’s now making a dramatic recovery in its play rate at top legend. Over the last three days, its play rate is over 10%, with the deck widely adopting a Maestra/Gnoll/Concoction build.

Changes in the Demon Hunter class have been slower compared to Rogue. Many players still utilize the Relic builds of both Fel DH and Quest DH, but recent trends are pushing these archetypes into Sinful Brand builds that completely cut the relic package. The Sinful Brand build of Fel DH was inferior to the Relic build before the patch, but the nerf to Renathal (encouraging burn), as well as the nerf to Relic of Dimensions, has encouraged players to give it another shot.

Druid is another class strongly affected by the nerf to Renathal. Though Renathal builds of Ramp Druid are still quite popular, there are attempts to perfect a 30-card Ramp Druid build. Aggro Druid has declined, likely discouraged by the rising popularity of Death Knight.

Mage is a very diverse class. Aggro Frost Mage was already looking promising before the patch, and the deck has picked up further traction with the nerf to Renathal due to its burn-centric win condition. Big-Spell Mage is around, quite solidified in its build. Wildfire Mage, which we’ve renamed back from Spooky Mage since Frost Mage runs more skeletons at this point, is utilizing several different builds, most of them sticking with Renathal. There are the Renathal builds popularized by Bunnyhoppor and DeadDraw following their World Championship success, there are Rommath Casino hybrid builds, and there are the standard 30-card builds. Very messy archetype.

Warlock is a very different class at opposite ends of ladder. Imp Warlock is more popular outside of legend. Phylactery Warlock becomes the primary strategy at top legend, where Imps nearly disappear. With many nerfs to its primary counters, there is a strong sentiment that this combo deck is very competitive now.

Paladin has coalesced into Pure Paladin, with Control and Dragon Paladin suffering declines as a result of the Renathal nerf.

Hunter has looked relatively quiet, but interest in Spitter Hunter is picking up again. Beast Hunter is exclusively running Renathal, still.

Priest has fallen hard. Plague, Quest, and Bless Priest have significantly declined after nerfs to Renathal, Valishj, and Boon of the Ascended.

Evolve Shaman is the sole serious representative of its class, and the deck loses quite a bit of interest at higher levels of play,

Warrior looks almost entirely inactive.

Matchup Win Rates Header

Power Rankings Header

vS Meta Score

vS Power Rankings Discussion

There are two very different fields in the current format. Most of ladder exhibits a reasonably diverse field, albeit on the faster side, with board-centric and burn decks receiving most of the spotlight. The top legend meta is developing in a very different direction, with Miracle Rogue and Quest Demon Hunter looking extremely dominant, drastically outclassing the rest of the field. This will likely create a very narrow environment in the near future. Based on our estimates, Quest Demon Hunter is rapidly catching up to Miracle Rogue and may soon exhibit a win rate north of 54%. Next week, you should expect a dramatically different frequency graph for this rank bracket.

Rogue

  • Miracle Rogue… got buffed? Though it was nerfed in a vacuum, the field has become more favorable to the deck, and it is stronger than before! Ignore its performance at lower rank brackets, as it represents the old iterations of the archetype. The build that took over at top legend, propagated by JAlex, is extremely well-rounded. It no longer utilizes Draka, and Sinstone Graveyard plays a more supportive role. This means the early blowouts are rare, but the deck now possesses an extremely powerful late game. Add Gnolls to deal with early pressure, and it’s got everything it needs to dominate a wide variety of matchups. Blood Death Knight, for example, can’t deal with it anymore. Burn looks like a key component to beat it, with Frost Death Knight, Frost Mage, and Quest Demon Hunter having the best tools to compete against it in the emerging format.
  • Thief Rogue has been much more popular in the early days of this patch, but the disparity should change after this report. Thief Rogue is certainly a decent deck with some upsides, but its win rate is barely above 50%, while Miracle is almost at 55%. An expected spike in Quest Demon Hunter is only going to make things worse for Thief.
  • Deathrattle Rogue has not been able to overcome its crippling nerfs. It’s dead.

Demon Hunter

  • Quest Demon Hunter looks extremely scary at top legend due to the Sinful Brand build. It has an advantage in the mirror matchup against the non-Quest iteration, so in an expected field that consists of a high Demon Hunter play rate, it takes over. At lower rank brackets where Demon Hunter still isn’t very popular, Fel Demon Hunter looks like the better performer. What’s important to remember about both of these decks is that they haven’t reached their potential. Once they’re fully refined, which means a full abandonment of the Relic package in favor of Sinful Brand, they will look statistically better. Quest DH is on pace to hit a 55% win rate at top legend and could even eclipse Miracle Rogue for the #1 spot.

Death Knight

  • Frost-Burn Death Knight looks like a strong deck these days, and we expect it to continue to do well throughout most of ladder. However, we anticipate an upcoming struggle at top legend. Despite its current favorability, its matchup with Miracle Rogue is trending towards the 50% mark, while a matchup with a fully refined Quest Demon Hunter is trending deep red. It needs to find a way to adapt to these tyrants, or find itself cast aside.
  • Blood-Ctrl looks pretty bad everywhere on ladder, but it particularly struggles against the rise of high lethality decks at the upper-rank brackets. It doesn’t even have a favorable matchup against burn decks, as its sustain is not enough to beat them consistently.
  • Unholy-Aggro is unplayable. Nothing has changed there.

Druid

  • Ramp Druid is surprisingly holding up well enough. Its armor package answers burn strategies quite effectively, leading to a favorable matchup against both Frost DK and Quest DH. The minion swarm from Mage is still a bit difficult to deal with, and Ramp Druid gets wrecked by Miracle Rogue. Still, some refinement work may keep it competitive in the emerging format, especially if it perfects a non-Renathal build. It’s going to lose to aggressive decks no matter what, so don’t expect it to do well on the climb to legend.
  • Aggro Druid is having it rough. Frost Death Knights are a problem, and Wildpaw Gnolls should become a problem as well. This deck is not expected to thrive.

Mage

  • Frost Mage looks like one of the best decks on the climb to legend, and its matchup spread suggests it should survive the top legend environment since it has competitive matchups with Rogues and Demon Hunters. It’s going to be a hard sell to play anything other than Miracle Rogue or Quest Demon Hunter over there, but it might establish itself as the next best thing.
  • Big-Spell Mage is another powerful deck throughout most of ladder, with the obvious exception being the hell that is developing at high MMR’s.
  • Wildfire Mage’s win rate reflects how unplayable Renathal builds are, but the good news is that the 30-card build is very competitive, and we estimate it to be a Tier 2 deck. Just let Renathal go. It’s over. Secret Mage also looks okay post-refinement, though we doubt enough players will give it a chance since it’s the 4th best Mage deck.

Warlock

  • Curse-Imp now looks better than Imp Warlock. Both of these variants should continue to do well, but the top legend meta is something they shouldn’t be able to survive because of the new Quest Demon Hunter.
  • Phylactery Warlock’s ability to compete is also questionable. It currently enjoys a temporary boost in performance, but since it gets destroyed by both Miracle Rogue and Quest Demon Hunter, the future doesn’t look bright.

Paladin

  • Pure Paladin is another deck we have questions for in the upcoming format. It clearly struggles against burn decks, as its strategy involves dealing damage to itself, while freeze effects counter its game plan pretty hard too. This means that its matchup against Quest Demon Hunter is expected to get worse with Sinful Brand. Add its poor matchup against Miracle Rogue, and you’ve got a deck that should fall off hard at legend over the next week. Likely going to still perform well outside of legend, which is true to its history.
  • Control and Dragon Paladin are done.

Hunter

  • Spitter Hunter is a bit scary and is the most likely candidate to take over ladder outside of legend ranks. Its win rate is currently spiking hard, but it has further room to grow, with some tweaks that should improve its performance further. We think its optimal form is the best deck to climb to legend with. If Quest Demon Hunter and Miracle Rogue (which Spitter Hunter is poorly positioned against) end up terrorizing high-level players, Spitter Hunter may feast at the ranks most Hearthstone players sit at. Watch out for this one.
  • Beast Hunter also looks very good, and it is the only deck still thriving by utilizing Renathal. It was the first deck that successfully incorporated the card at the end of Sunken City, when Renathal was pre-released, and it might become the last one too.

Shaman

  • Evolve Shaman is a top 3 performer up until the point in which Rogue is so prevalent and refined that it gets choked out. The choking is going to intensify at top legend, so don’t expect this deck to look playable there for long. Evolve Shaman beats nerfed Miracle Rogue, but loses to refined Miracle Rogue very convincingly.

Priest

  • Plague and Quest Priest are done. Bless Priest doesn’t appear in the table due to a low sample size, but early indications are that this cockroach of a deck is going to be the one Priest deck that may survive this patch, though it no longer has a great matchup against Miracle Rogue or Quest Demon Hunter. Sinful Brand gives the Demon Hunter another path to victory.

Warrior

  • Enrage Warrior is poorly optimized for this format. It’s viable and competitive if given a chance, but we doubt there are enough players that care. Control Warrior is not competitive. We know about the recent developments of Control Warrior, but the hype doesn’t line up with reality so far. You can force relatively close matchups with Quest Demon Hunter and Miracle Rogue, but the rest of the matchup spread is grim. We can see why a low sample from a couple of individuals can give the impression that it’s competitive, but this ain’t it, chief.

Class Analysis & Decklists

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

 


Data Reaper Report - Rogue

Rogue has successfully adapted to the balance changes and might be more powerful than it was before.

Thief Rogue has cut Renathal and moved to run a pure 30 build, dropping most of the secret package. The featured build comes from XiaoT, who has hit #1 legend on two servers with it shortly after the nerfs. It looks like the perfect 30, with Sketchy Stranger looking quite impressive even in the absence of other secret synergy cards. Just don’t get baited into keeping it in the mulligan, as in most matchups you should be searching for your more powerful plays (Gnoll, Azshara, Jackpot, Recon, Cutlass).

There is an option to cut Sketchy Stranger and Shadowsteps for burn cards: Wicked Stab and Tooth of Nefarian. This does make you a little bit better against Demon Hunter and Paladin (~3%), while significantly helping you race Hunters (~8%). But it worsens the mirror (~3%) and other late-game matchups, while dramatically curbing Astalor’s potential in the deck. This substitution can be considered a sidegrade.

Miracle Rogue looks insane if you move away from pre-patch iterations that focus on Draka, and into concoction builds with ‘good stuff’ and Astalor. Sinstone Graveyard becomes a supportive threat at three mana rather than the focus on your deck.

Jesse Alexander’s Maestra build is the gold standard for the archetype, and its popularity is the reason for Miracle Rogue’s resurgence at top legend. Wildpaw Gnolls are extremely important in the current meta. Crabatoa is insanely good. Wicked Stab and Tooth of Nefarian look like the ‘weakest’ cards, but we can’t consider them to be liabilities as they offer us reach against Demon Hunters, and should Demon Hunter spike in play, it’s likely that Stabs/Tooth become more valuable. Door of Shadows, Gone Fishin’, and Scribbling Stenographer are the possible alternatives.

Much like Rogue, Demon Hunter is quickly adapting to the nerfs it took, finding ways to become more powerful than it was before.

The key to success with the class in the current meta is to move away from Relics and into Sinful Brand builds. The non-Relic Brand build of Fel Demon Hunter used to be clearly inferior to the Relic build at the beginning of the expansion, but things have completely flipped. The nerf to Renathal has made burn more valuable, while the Relic package is clearly weaker now following the nerf to Dimensions. The featured build looks perfect.

At top legend, Quest Demon Hunter is taking over the format utilizing a similar Sinful Brand concept popularized by MadThanos. Quest DH’s advantage vs the non-Quest builds in the direct matchup becomes important here. An alternative build cuts Kurtrus and Aldrachi Warblades for Predation. This maximizes the burst damage the deck can deal through S’theno, which can be very valuable in the mirror matchup as well as against opponents that try to sustain through the Demon Hunter’s damage.

In an expected narrow format of Rogues and Demon Hunters, we think Kurtrus is cuttable. It’s harder for us to get behind cutting Aldrachi Warblades, as it’s extremely valuable in both the mirror and burn matchups such as Frost Death Knight and Frost Mage. We suggest cutting one copy of Feast of Souls or even Need for Greed if you intend to go that route.

Death Knight is looking strong in the aftermath of the balance changes, with Frost-Burn Death Knight heavily benefitting from the rise of burn following the Renathal nerf.

There is room to improve the deck, especially with respect to the absence of 1-drops in its most popular build coming from Thijs. We’ve found that 1-drops are extremely valuable for the archetype, as they allow you to deal early chip damage making it easier to put your opponent in lethal range later. Vicious Slitherspear looks like the most consistent 1-drop available, so we highly recommend running it while cutting Bloodmage Thalnos and Rimefang Sword, two very underwhelming cards.

It’s also possible that pairing Slitherspear with another 1-drop to get a more consistent early game is just correct, but these builds currently don’t exist. We see two options: Irondeep Trogg or Ymirjar Frostbreaker. Trogg is a strong card that performs well against Demon Hunter and Rogue. Frostbreaker can be very explosive, with a higher damage ceiling. It can easily be a 1 mana 4/2 in this deck.

The card you’d cut to make way for another 1-drop is School Teacher. It’s just very slow in the current format. If you’re running Frostbreaker, dropping Nerubian Vizier for Remorseless Winter is a good call to increase the spell density in the deck.

Blood-Ctrl Death Knight can stick with its Renathal build, simply swapping out the Deathrattle Rogue techs of Smothering Starfish, but we suspect there is a developing advantage to cutting Renathal. If you’re playing Blood DK, you will likely be taking the L, but it might be better to take the smaller L. No matter what, make sure you’re still running Far Watch Post. It is crucial.

Data Reaper Report - Druid

Ramp Druid has managed to stay afloat despite suffering some hard-hitting nerfs. You can stick with the Renathal build from before the patch, but we strongly suspect, based on the data available, that going 30 has a higher ceiling.

Specifically, going 30 means that Naga Giants become very good again, giving you some counterpressure potential. Builds that fixate on tutoring Anub’Rekhan with Taelan or Capture Coldtooth Mine look terrible. Since the combo requires additional pieces, finding Anub’Rekhan as early as possible isn’t too rewarding. Just play the Ramp Druid game, and you’ll find the Astalor combo eventually.

Aggro Druid has gotten worse. Renathal was never an issue for this deck. It was always about the opponent finding board clears, and they find those very consistently these days.

Data Reaper Report - Mage

Frost Mage looks very powerful in the current format, as its win condition has been boosted by the fall of Renathal. We would stick with the build featured in the previous report but make one change. Nightcloak Sanctum has previously looked terrible in this deck, but the faster format has dramatically changed its performance, so we advocate putting it back in while cutting Crooked Cook. Thalnos and Sivara are on the chopping block if we can find better cards. Nerubian Vizier is bad (and very overrated based on its general popularity). School Teacher is a bit too slow for the format.

Statistically, Wildfire Mage looks terrible. But the reason is the Renathal builds that are still popular. The 30-card build looks very competitive. Run Astalor because it’s Astalor. Run Finley because you need to find Magister Dawngrasp as quickly as possible, and you should do fine. A refined Secret Mage is also not nearly as terrible as it looks.

Big-Spell Mage hasn’t changed. Stick with the established list, and you’ll have one of the best decks in the game up until top legend.

Data Reaper Report - Warlock

No grand changes in the Warlock class. Imp Warlock is fine, with the Curse variant now looking superior again. Phylactery Warlock has gotten better and looks strong at top legend due to many of its counters getting nerfed. We’re leaning toward swapping Goldshire Gnolls for Mortal Coils. Gnoll is a complete liability against Demon Hunters since it only gives them a juicy Sinful Brand target. You’d rather have no minions on the board.

Data Reaper Report - Paladin

Pure Paladin is looking good, but is having a difficult time against burn decks, which we’re trying to correct in the featured build. Sermon is too slow for the current format, so we’re cutting all spells that aren’t Seal of Blood and Order in the Court. To make up the numbers, we’re adding the Azsharan Mooncatcher/Seafloor Savior package. Do not keep these cards in the mulligan. They’re not your primary game plan! They strictly act as serviceable plays if you have nothing better to do. We are quite curious that almost no one is trying Elitist Snob, so we’re floating this idea.

The big change is cutting Blood Crusader. We’ve found that you often just can’t play the card alongside Countess since it ends up killing yourself. Frost Death Knight, Frost Mage, and Quest Demon Hunters running Sinful Brand are too giddy to see it played.

Data Reaper Report - Hunter

Spitter Hunter is on a trajectory to reach busted status throughout most of ladder if its strongest build completely takes over. NoHandsGamer has come close to that with his iteration, and we’re making the small adjustment of swapping Kodobane for a 2nd Battle Ram.

This deck is very powerful because it’s not just a Shockspitter deck. It can deal oppressive damage through Shockspitter that presents an intimidating clock on the opponent, but it’s also capable of dropping Hydralodon on turn 5 very consistently in faster matchups. Astalor as an alternative win condition helps too.

Beast Hunter is the only deck that runs Renathal and seems to succeed. Collateral Damage has proven to be an amazing card in the deck, so we advocate running two now. Theron is far too slow, so it’s the one to make way.

Data Reaper Report - Shaman

Evolve Shaman is doing well in the current meta and is now the only serious representative of the class. We’ve been wondering about the minion package in the previous report, and now that we’ve seen Vol’jin and Neptulon in action, we like them as the final two slots. Having some scam potential is important in the current meta.

Data Reaper Report - Priest

Priest is almost completely dead, but based on its low sample, Bless Priest is still good at top legend (Tier 2). All Control Priest archetypes have collapsed after the nerf to Renathal.

Data Reaper Report - Warrior

Enrage Warrior is a decent deck that needs some refinement work. We’ve updated the build to speed things up with Foul Egg and Beaming Sidekick to complement Rancher. You need to snowball fast in the current format. Whirlwind Combatant and Weapons Expert are slow.

The only card that’s slow yet strong in the current format is Astalor. Turns out it’s good in Enrage Warrior too.


We’re not going to lie. Top legend players, you’re going to have a rough time over the next couple of weeks in any attempts to temper the dominance of Quest Demon Hunter and Miracle Rogue. Despite eating nerfs, they have successfully adjusted and look levels above the rest of the field. We struggle to find a good reason to play anything else for now.

Ladder elsewhere should be more pleasant and diverse, though it’s clear that the Renathal nerf has skewed strategies to the aggressive end of the spectrum. If you asked us what’s the best deck to climb to legend with, our answer would be Spitter Hunter. Its ceiling is the highest, and it might become the #1 deck at Platinum and Diamond very soon. The featured build is very versatile since a turn 5 Hydralodon offers you a strong win condition against decks that try to pressure you before you can scale your Shockspitters to deal game-ending damage.

It’s a rough time for Renathal fans, and a good time for Burn enjoyers.


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 G, Jed M, Drew M, Alan J, Zolstar, Sean H, Steve F, Andrew N, Alonso P, Je-ho, William H, 1RiceBowl1,  Alex S, PeejTreon, Josh G, Matthew H, Bruno B, Amir, Matthew P, amenbrotep, Karhu, Christopher N, Eric F, Eric L, BraveLittleStove, Lime, Kaushal, David, Joshua B, Jeff C, Reharl, Scott L, Mark P, The Big Dawg, nburst, Alex S, Jess M, Peter, Lepton, Bob L, Charlah R, Chocobo, Tim B, Chad K, Alex W, Ashton F, Ethan G, Potato, Swift, Gryffon, Logan, Leo, Fisherington, Michael H, WorldEight, YouCanAllMeAl, and Jacob M for supporting us this month.

Contributors

Here are all the people that participated in bringing you this edition of the vS Data Reaper Report:

EndofDaysTzachilookitzjoe