Welcome to the 259th edition of the Data Reaper Report!
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We got our very first exclusive card reveals!
That’s a nice surprise. Thanks Blizzard. We’ll start with that. After all, most of you are probably here for the new cards, not some extensive and detailed data analysis about the Hearthstone meta which gives you a greater understanding of the format and the tools to become a better player. Pfff… who needs to read that, right?
Another Death Knight Location with no rune requirement! This card is a corpse spender that allows us to grant Reborn to any of our minions, even those that aren’t Undead minions. The class does have an affinity for snowballing threats, but it’s definitely a card that requires a sizeable package of targets to make use of in the early-to-mid game. High value deathrattles, rush minions or threats with static abilities could be a good fit.
Now this is a card that could become meta defining in its usage! Death Growl should be extremely powerful in a deathrattle-focused, swarm deck. It would instantly become a powerhouse in current Unholy-Aggro DK, considering its potential utilization with Foul Egg. We would add Nerubian Egg to the mix for further redundancy, and even Chillfallen Baron could become a serious consideration due to its reload utility. A slower deck that runs bigger deathrattles is also possible, though we have to remember that Death Growl requires us to be ahead on the board to leverage it optimally. This card opens up a lot of space for creativity and the possibilities are vast.
Boneshredder is a very similar card to Defense Attorney Nathanos. It has the same stats and is one mana cheaper, but it doesn’t get to choose the desired deathrattle and costs a significant number of corpses to activate. We could slap this at the top of an aggressive deathrattle deck since Foul or Nerubian Eggs are big enough deathrattles to make this card fairly strong for its cost, but Boneshredder might be more ideal in a slower deck that runs very specific and powerful deathrattles that are guaranteed to be activated. It must be so enticing that you could build a deck around it and Boneshredders. Wonder if Death Knight got something in this set that could fit what we’re describing?
Well then. That certainly should be the most powerful deathrattle effect in the format! The problem, of course, is that Cage Head costs 8 mana and has a terrible initial body, so it’s very reliant on synergies. But it could be quite scary alongside the tools we’ve revealed in this set. We can give it Reborn with Mosh Pit on the turn it’s played. We can cast Death Growl on it to develop three Blight Boar deathrattles into our board. We can activate it on curve with Construct Quarter too. The most curious idea we’ve thought of is to run this as the only deathrattle minion in the deck and then finish off the opponent with Boneshredders. Since Cage Head only requires us to invest in two Unholy runes, we could slap a different third rune for survivability (Blood) or card draw (Frost) in such a shell.
Charge seems to be back with a vengeance in this expansion. The oink of a boar could be louder… and sound more horrifying than ever.
On to the report…
Number of Games
|Top 1K Legend
|Legend (Excluding Top 1k)
|Diamond 4 to 1
|Diamond 10 to 5
Class Frequency Discussion
A further rise of Rogue at higher levels of play has now established it as the most popular class at top legend, by a significant margin. Both Thief and Miracle Rogue are growing in numbers. Miracle Rogue has risen due to its success as the best-performing deck at the top rank bracket. Thief Rogue has risen due to the release of E.T.C. Shortly after the launch of the patch, a Thief Rogue build hit #1 legend containing the card, and players immediately flocked to the deck to try it out.
Undead Priest has been brought to a halt. The deck declined over the last week across all rank brackets. It’s possible that meta trends have created a more hostile environment for the deck, but it’s also possible that E.T.C is the root cause. Since E.T.C is not a card that makes sense to run in aggressive decks, we’re seeing a decline in the play rate of all aggressive decks. Players are interested in trying out the new thing.
Very little changes can be observed in the Death Knight class. Blood-Ctrl is one of the most popular decks that is heavily experimenting with E.T.C, but this hasn’t driven its play rate upwards. This is possibly because the deck is well known to be kind of garbage.
We sensed it coming last week with a promising trajectory, but the release of E.T.C might have pushed things further along. Quest Druid is gaining further traction and is becoming a serious player at higher levels of play. Many Quest Druid builds are experimenting with E.T.C, which likely contributed to its increased popularity, but the decline of aggressive decks is another major factor that may have improved the deck’s standing.
We often pair Fel DH together with Quest Druid in our discussion since they sit on the same niche of late game powerhouses. The issue for Demon Hunter is that the Druid matchup is rough. This means that a rise in Quest Druid discourages Fel DH’s play rate. We’re seeing Fel DH’s decline very clearly, especially at top legend where Druid is most popular. This is occurring despite the fact Demon Hunter is a major E.T.C experimenter.
The rise of Quest Druid is also affecting Frost Mage. Frost Mage is a great counter to Rogue, so it should rise in play in theory, but the psychological impact of the Druid matchup seems to have a greater effect. Players have never liked losing to Guff.
Imp Warlock and Pure Paladin, two of the major counters to Quest Druid, have declined. We’ve explained that this likely a result of E.T.C’s release rather than a decline in their performance, since their main prey has grown more popular. It’s quite interesting to see the meta affected by the release of a card in such a way. Not because of its functionality, but its psychological impact on deck choices.
Hunter, Warrior and Shaman are very quiet. There’s a new build of Big-Beast Hunter that has gotten some traction over the last week and might be worth discussing. Warrior seems messy and lost. Shaman looks dead.
vS Meta Score
vS Power Rankings Discussion
- The rise in power and prominence of Quest Druid is the major development of the week and a testament to how scary the deck is. This is occurring despite the fact that its utilization of E.T.C has proven to be a liability! Indeed, if Quest Druid players all opted not to run the pre-release legendary, the deck would look even more powerful.
- The reason this is happening is that the meta has taken the foot off the gas pedal. Aggressive decks have declined as a result of players wanting to experiment with E.T.C in slower decks. This has loosened the safety valve keeping Quest Druid in check, which has immediately caused it to spike to Tier 1 at nearly every rank bracket. The number of major counters for Quest Druid is so small that anything that negatively affects their play rate can shake the format. Those Pure Paladin and Imp Warlock players make the format better for us all. Have a moment to think about their heroic efforts.
- Miracle Rogue is the other major counter to Quest Druid and the one most attractive to high level players. This means that despite its position as the best deck at this rank bracket last week, which would normally cause it to attract some level of heat from the field, it has only gotten stronger since one of its best matchups has risen in play. If Miracle Rogue was not as good of a deck as it currently is, Quest Druid would have completely taken over top legend. A deck that only gets countered by aggression tends to be perpetually better at high MMR’s, just because many high MMR players are reluctant to play aggressive decks.
- Thief Rogue’s rise in play does not match its fall in performance. The E.T.C utilization in the archetype so far has been nothing short of a disaster. It may have negatively impacted Quest Druid to some degree, but band member choices have actively sabotaged Thief Rogue’s win rate. It performs worse than Chad Warlock! That’s coming from the most popular deck at the most competitive rank bracket.
- Can Thief Rogue be salvaged? Absolutely. It isn’t a great deck, but it shouldn’t be this bad. We don’t even think E.T.C is necessarily a bad card in the deck, but it’s clearly being utilized poorly. This report provides an extensive discussion on the kind of members you want in your E.T.C band.
- Undead Priest has gotten a little worse at legend. While Quest Druid is a decent matchup, we’ve noticed that Priest has lost a bit of its edge there and it’s quite close to 50-50 at top legend. Add the decline of Pure Paladin, a further rise in Miracle Rogue and the field has become a bit more difficult. Small troubles for a Tier 1 deck with barely any unfavorable matchups.
- Control Priest is playable at high MMR’s. It looks quite good outside of the Fel DH and Quest Druid matchups, which are the major factors preventing it from ever exhibiting a positive win rate. Quest Priest is the simpler deck with similar issues.
- Svalna Priest has dropped off to Tier 3 at top legend. E.T.C is the culprit. There’s a non-trivial percentage of Svalna Priest players that decided to run E.T.C in the deck and the result isn’t pretty.
- Bless Priest has also become worse. You can chalk it up to the rise in Rogue. Bless Priest hates facing those concoctions.
- Aggressive Death Knights look good. Unholy and Frost are equally strong at this point at top legend. Frost is much better outside of legend since it handles the internal DK matchups better. Unholy is unfavored into both Frost and Blood, so it’s not as good when Death Knight is very popular as a class.
- Blood sucks. It gets worse and worse as you climb ladder. E.T.C’s addition has had no impact on its performance.
- Despite the intimidating matchup into Quest Druid, Fel DH is doing more than fine. A Tier 1 deck across most rank brackets that only drops at top legend to a win rate close to 50%, since Quest Druid becomes a bit unbearable over there. Spell DH looks more limited in terms of player agency, which affects its performance as it climbs higher on ladder.
- Frost Mage hasn’t been hurt by the Quest Druid matchup. This deck’s success is entirely dependent on the Rogue/Undead Priest population. Undead Priest may have declined, but Rogue has risen. It is the best counter to both Miracle Rogue and Undead Priest. The rest of its matchup spread doesn’t look impressive, but it gets the job done in those key matchups.
- Big-Spell Mage is at business as usual, though the changes in the format are impacting some of its card choices.
- It’s no great surprise that Pure Paladin got better this week. A 75% win rate against Quest Druid is going to have an impact. The improvement in its performance has even brought it back to a positive win rate at top legend.
- Pure-Control struggles against Quest Druid, so the deck has been in the process of fading away. Pure-Dude is simply a sub-optimal version of Pure Paladin. It’s good enough at lower rank brackets because of the ‘Pure’ word, not the ‘Dude’ one.
- Imp Warlock similarly got better, though it’s not as ruthless of a counter to Quest Druid as Pure Paladin. If you run the Abyssal Curse package, you don’t even beat Quest Druid. Chad Warlock is enjoying a decline of Undead Priests and looks playable. Phylactery might be able to contest Quest Druid’s late game, but suffers from the rise of Miracle Rogue. That matchup has been a bit of a nightmare for a while.
- Quest Hunter dropped in play to the point we’re not confident about its tier placement, but it’s still likely around the Tier 2 range at most ladder brackets. Players are just bored of it. Spitter Hunter is the best Hunter deck and continues to look perfectly viable. Big-Beast Hunter could get stronger with more refinement since one of its builds looks a cut above the rest, so it’s shaping up to be an effective choice on the climb to legend. It’s more limited at legend.
Warrior & Shaman
- Warrior is okay if you play a specific build of Enrage Warrior, but otherwise it looks dire for the class. Control Warrior is the worst deck in the game. Thrall is out of here.
Class Analysis & Decklists
There’s no greater threat to an archetype’s win rate than a player hitting #1 legend with a suboptimal build, hours into a patch. This is what happened to Thief Rogue, which was taken over by an E.T.C list that included Crabatoa, Theotar and Putricide as members of the band. This did not turn out well.
Over the next week, there have been many experimentations with E.T.C. Most of them failed to make the pre-release legendary look like a card you’d want in the deck. The core issue is that good cards should be in the deck, rather than in the band. Bad cards shouldn’t be in the deck but aren’t any good in the band either.
After much work specifically on E.T.C (we spent hours here), we may have reached a breakthrough on how to properly leverage the band and make E.T.C a decent inclusion in the deck.
There are several important things we’ve noted about ideal band members:
- The best discover options tend to be cheap. Expensive cards being put behind a 4 mana 4/4 are often harder to use. A bad expensive card that you wouldn’t want in your deck is drastically worse in a band.
- The discover options are stronger when they further or adjust a deck’s game plan rather than respond to an opponent. Tech cards are overrated. We wouldn’t put more than one of them in the band and the other two options should be more well-rounded.
- Good band members tend to offer something the deck normally doesn’t have access to but wouldn’t spend a full deck slot for.
Thief Rogue is a deck that acts as the beatdown or control in different matchups, so you want options that fit these polarizing game plans accordingly. We’ve found the best performing band members to be Wicked Stab and Sunfury Clergy. Stab gives you additional lethality in matchups or scenarios in which you become the aggressor. Clergy gives you access to healing when you’re trying to stabilize against aggression and burn, especially with Shadowstep.
This gives Thief Rogue two very straightforward options that are strong in a wide variety of matchups and scenarios. This also allows the 3rd option to be a more niche card. Once you have two stable choices, there’s more leeway to go for a card that has a smaller pick rate but big impact in a specific matchup. If you want a 3rd option that’s generally well rounded, Vanessa VanCleef can be clutch in late game situations. The combination of being cheap but also very useful in the late game is what you’re looking for in a band member. In contrast, cards like Theotar and The Sunwell look like traps.
Miracle Rogue has also experimented with E.T.C. Though the deck plays very differently from Thief Rogue, ideal band choices might be very similar. Once again, Miracle Rogue can play beatdown or control depending on the matchup and the scenario, so you want a good general choice for either game plan. This is why we’ve landed on Wicked Stab and Sunfury Clergy here too. Stab offers reach in the matchups you’re looking to be the aggressor. Clergy can be huge against Frost-Aggro DK or Frost Mage, which Miracle Rogue struggles to stabilize against, but is also good against Undead Priest and other aggressive decks.
The 3rd option can be more niche. We like Shadowcrafter Scabbs as a late game ‘wildcard’ that can reset the board in a difficult spot (and offsets ETC potentially putting you slightly behind).
Most other classes have failed to make E.T.C look like a good card, but if you’re looking to fit it into your deck, think about what makes it a decent enough choice in Rogue and try to emulate the same impact elsewhere. Rather than acting as a swiss army knife of niche tech cards, E.T.C works best as a macro game plan tuner.
- Rogue Class Radar
- Thief Rogue
- Miracle Rogue
- Deathrattle Rogue
The only decks where E.T.C has seen significant play is Control & Quest Priest.
Unlike Rogue, Control Priest is much less flexible in its macro game plan and is rarely forced into the beatdown role. When it does, it’s usually in a very bad matchup and there are no band members that can drastically flip the scenario into a favorable one. This makes the correct utilization of E.T.C more difficult here, as it ends up being the swiss army knife of tech cards that doesn’t really help the deck in a significant way, from what we’ve seen.
Popular choices at higher levels of play are Svalna (mirror, slow matchups), Theotar (desperate disruption) and Ooze (Draka). We’d drop one copy of Cannibalize to make way for it in the featured build. If you can think of a card that can help Control Priest flip a matchup that forces it to play the beatdown role, it could be what you’re looking for the most, but it might not be possible.
Quest Priest is a little different, as E.T.C can offer you quest progression utility. Rather than the obvious choice of having a 5-drop as a discover option, it’s highly preferable that E.T.C gives you both a 2-cost and a 3-cost option. You very often miss one of these in the early game, so E.T.C on 4 sets you up to complete the first phase of the quest on turn 5. The key for good band members here is a strong turn 5 setup.
Condemn is very strong since it upgrades exactly on turn 5 into a significant board clear. Viper can be replaced by any useful 3-cost card. Devouring Plague is a removal/heal option in this slot. If you’re looking for an out of the box idea, we are curious about Crystal Broker as a proactive 3-drop that offers a nice turn 5 play.
The 3rd choice is Flash Heal, but make no mistake, it might be the best member of the band. It helps you set up a turn 5 Xyrella in case you haven’t found your other cheap heals and is a good emergency button if you need to stabilize and already progressed through phase 1 of the quest.
- Priest Class Radar
- Undead Priest
- Bless Priest
- Control Priest
- Quest Priest
- Svalna Priest
Unholy-Aggro Death Knight is starting to cut Construct Quarter and this move isn’t as insane as it looks. The card has become much slower after the nerf and Unholy is the fastest DK deck to get on the board, which means you often don’t have anything to rush into with your 4/5’s. Amalgam of the Deep is the popular replacement.
Blood-Ctrl Death Knight has expectedly experimented with E.T.C and it doesn’t look great, though band member choices tend to be terrible (A Theotar and Rivendare pairing is very common). We’ve looked at many options and we recommend Obliterate, Zola and Corrupted Ashbringer. Obliterate is a cheap emergency removal. Zola is a late game card, but one that is far cheaper and faster to use than Rivendare. Ashbringer can be clutch when you need more healing vs a burn deck, or more damage when you’re looking to finish off an opponent through Mograine.
As a highly defensive deck in nature, we think Blood Death Knight might benefit from an option that dramatically helps it in matchups it’s forced to become an aggressor. It should be able to do that better than Control Priest at least. Ashbringer is a small lean in that direction. Can you think of anything else?
- Death Knight Class Radar
- Frost-Aggro Death Knight
- Unholy-Aggro Death Knight
- Blood-Ctrl Death Knight
E.T.C is a common choice in Quest Druid, but the card has proven to be terrible in the deck. Quest Druid’s rise in power and play is happening despite E.T.C’s inclusion.
While it’s possible that band member choices are to blame (the bizarre Theotar/Rivendare obsession here is widespread), Quest Druid’s game plan doesn’t leave much room for macro adjustments. The deck is hyper focused on its late game win condition and any sort of deviation from it is unlikely to be successful.
You want to be ramping, progressing the quest and finding your win condition as soon as possible. E.T.C does not seem to help you with any of that.
- Druid Class Radar
- Quest Druid
- Ramp Druid
- Aggro Druid
Much like Quest Druid, Fel DH is hyper focused on accelerating to its Relic late game win condition, which makes E.T.C a poor fit with its current popular utilization as a tech card hub. There are some cuter options we would like to see more data on, such as running Eye Beam, Chaos Nova and Xhilag. These options offer you similar benefits to the ideal band members in Rogue, giving you tools for matchups in which you’re the beatdown or control.
If that ends up a good utilization of E.T.C, the last copy of Chaos Strike would be the card to make way. Otherwise, Demon Hunter will stick to its established build and not care to use the sideboard.
- Demon Hunter Class Radar
- Fel Demon Hunter
- Spell Demon Hunter
Frost Mage is very competitive and strong, just a level below the best decks.
The rise of Quest Druid is making Arcane Defenders an extremely relevant choice in Big-Spell Mage. The performance gap between the 8-mana spell and School Teacher is very small at this point.
- Mage Class Radar
- Frost Mage
- Big-Spell Mage
- Wildfire Mage
Not much is happening in Paladin, but Pure Paladin is getting its performance boosted throughout ladder by the rise of Quest Druid. As one of its strongest counters, the deck has an important role to play.
- Paladin Class Radar
- Pure Paladin
- Pure-Control Paladin
Chad Warlock is getting greedier and less focused on aggressive matchups. The deck’s position in the format has gotten better too since Undead Priest has declined. Still not one of the better decks to play, but it’s playable if you really like it.
- Warlock Class Radar
- Imp Warlock
- Curse-Imp Warlock
- Phylactery Warlock
- Chad Warlock
We’ve had more data coming in on a Vanndar Secret build of Big-Beast Hunter. It looks quite impressive, significantly superior to the old build. Should it take over the archetype, expect Big-Beast Hunter’s win rate to rise across the board, putting it comfortably at Tier 2, and maybe even Tier 1 at some of the lower rank brackets. Don’t expect it to perform as well at the highest MMR’s though.
One very clear adjustment to the popular build that we immediately noticed: run two copies of Faithful Companions. That’s the 2nd best card in the deck (after Tavish).
- Hunter Class Radar
- Quest Hunter
- Spitter Hunter
- Big-Beast Hunter
We do like the Fire build of Enrage Warrior and think it’s competitive enough to take to ladder and not get embarrassed, but Warrior is suffering from a lack of interest. Festival of Legends needs to give it a big boost.
Shaman died, insect.
E.T.C sang a lullaby and the meta has fallen asleep, letting Wildheart Guff break through with a thunderous last dance. We hope this report will help players learn how to utilize E.T.C better in the future and also remember that decks that hit you hard in the face are important in any format.
Speaking of hitting face hard, that Blight Boar sure does that… We’re looking forward to theorycrafting around that card.
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