Welcome to the 263rd edition of the Data Reaper Report!
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Number of Games
|Top 1K Legend||45,000|
|Legend (Excluding Top 1k)||39,000|
|Diamond 4 to 1||167,000|
|Diamond 10 to 5||251,000|
Class Frequency Discussion
Blue out. Green in. The transition in the Death Knight class is quite evident. Frost-Aggro DK is in decline throughout ladder, while Unholy-Aggro DK is spiking in play. This development is most advanced at top legend, where there’s barely any Frost left. What hasn’t changed is the popularity of Blood-Ctrl DK, which is one of Unholy-Aggro DK’s main counters.
Spell DH has risen in play throughout most of ladder, but its top legend play rate hasn’t increased further compared to last week. Big DH is now the most popular Demon Hunter deck outside of legend. Both Relic and Outcast DH are in decline, the latter somewhat surprisingly so.
Zok Druid is showing no signs of slowing down and remains popular even at rank brackets we’ve seen it struggle last week. Top legend is where it performs best, becoming the most popular deck there. Big Druid has lost interest.
There’s a noticeable rise in Control Priest, especially at higher MMR brackets. We suspect the cause is its strong matchup against Unholy-Aggro DK. Undead Priest has stayed put.
Miracle Rogue has declined, while other archetypes within the class remain irrelevant.
Naga Mage is disappearing. We’ve split the two main variants of Spooky Mage. The Control variant running Rommath and Kel’Thuzad retains the name. The Frozen Touch/Aegwynn variant has been renamed to Burn Mage. Most players are running the Rommath builds. Burn Mage sees little play.
No major changes in Paladin. Pure Paladin makes up a large majority of Paladin decks, while Mech Paladin doesn’t see much play.
We’ve renamed Face Hunter to Naga Hunter, as the deck has become increasingly late game focused, with recent builds trying to take one step further. There’s a small uptick in the deck compared to last week.
Interest in Warrior has fallen off, as players have abandoned the floundering Control Warrior, while Enrage/Menagerie carry little interest.
Totem Shaman, like every aggressive deck in the format that’s not Unholy-Aggro DK, has declined. Warlock is being phased out of the format entirely.
vS Meta Score
vS Power Rankings Discussion
Since the second balance patch should arrive soon (either late next week, or early the week after), we will discuss the current performance of decks, try to guess which decks are likely to be hit with the nerf bat and give our own thoughts. Team 5 will have to choose between making a few targeted nerfs, or more widespread changes.
- Unholy-Aggro DK is taking over the format. It is now the most powerful deck at every rank bracket, completely running away with the #1 spot at top legend, where it is the sole Tier 1 performer. The format has not been able to answer the deck. Two reliable counters do exist for Unholy (Blood-Ctrl DK and Control Priest), but their presence hasn’t reached the point the deck has felt enough pressure. The refined build from last week’s report has also been responsible for lifting the archetype to another level. It is exceeding our expectations.
- What’s most dramatic about the rise of Unholy-Aggro DK is the collapse of other aggressive decks. Though Blood-Ctrl is more often labeled as an anti-aggro deck, Unholy-Aggro dominates these matchups with far greater brutality. Its early game board dominance makes it extremely difficult for other initiative-focused decks to be able to contest it. It is far too good at seizing the board and denying the opponent from being able to make a comeback. No other aggressive deck is Tier 1 at legend. No other aggressive deck even has a positive win rate at top legend! This is where the pressure of both Unholy-Aggro DK and Spell DH reaches a critical mass that makes it extremely difficult for these decks to find success despite the popularity of Zok Druid.
- The balance changes did a good job of toning down Blood-Ctrl DK. It is a Tier 2 deck at Platinum and above. It is no longer dominating lower ranks of ladder. What keeps it above water at top legend are its strong matchups into both Spell DH and Unholy-Aggro DK. It is the only deck in the format that beats both of them, which is an extremely valuable trait. Still, its vulnerability to Zok Druid and other decks that carry stronger late game inevitability means it cannot be too good.
- Frost-Aggro DK is still strong at lower ranks, where the meta is not too developed, but its decline in power is becoming more noticeable outside of top legend, since Spell DH is trickling down. What’s most interesting is that after evaluating the data for the refined build of Unholy-Aggro DK, we can no longer consider Frost-Aggro to be its counter. The matchup looks 50-50, right down the middle.
- The most pressing issue that Team 5 could address in their next balance patch is Unholy’s board dominance. The defensive counters are there, but something needs to be done about its meta defining early game. The performance of Battlefield Necromancer and Blightfang may result in some buffer’s remorse.
- Spell DH’s matchup spread is also extremely powerful, but the meta has shown greater resistance to it. Players are quick to pick up Zok Druid to counter it, while Blood-Ctrl DK remains very popular. Another important factor is that Unholy-DK has been killing its prey. Spell DH tends to dominate most aggressive decks, but finds the Unholy matchup a deadlock 50-50. It is very likely that Spell DH will be hit with nerfs as its presence is a major limiting factor to the format’s diversity and a nerf to Unholy makes it even better. We think Sinful Brand is on borrowed time.
- Outcast DH remains very strong, despite its oppressively poor matchup into Spell DH. The story of Outcast DH is that it is very good against nine classes, but it is mostly held back by Death Knight and other Demon Hunter decks.
- Big DH is also proving to be very resilient in the current format, only displaying slightly unfavored matchups against some of the most prominent decks in the meta. Relic is the only DH deck that is currently struggling.
- Taking Spell DH’s dominance against other DH decks into consideration, it’s possible that Demon Hunter will be hit by general class nerfs since the cascading effects from nerfing Spell DH could make other DH decks too good, especially Big and Outcast. Forcing Demon Hunter to adapt to a loss of Lady S’theno could be something that Team 5 chooses to do.
- Zok Druid continues to look like a polarizing deck that only becomes good at top legend, where its strong matchups into both Spell DH and Blood-Ctrl DK come online. While it is true that the deck falters to Unholy-Aggro DK, the meta tyrant is also killing off other aggressive decks, which counter Zok Druid just as effectively, if not more. Therefore, Unholy’s increasing presence isn’t too big of a hindrance to Zok Druid’s competitive viability.
- Big Druid’s novelty seems to be wearing off. It is struggling to deal with Spell DH’s presence and loses to Zok Druid in the internal class matchup. Unholy-Aggro DK’s increasing influence on the format is also a problem.
- Zok Druid’s polarizing matchup spread, late game dominance, the Anub’Rekhan/Zok play experience and the reluctance of the player base to play some of its best counters could make it a nerf candidate, especially if widespread nerfs end up hitting many of its popular counters. This is tricky, because nerfing the cornerstone card of the deck (Anub’Rekhan) could lead to the class’ erasure from the format, unless Big Druid is able to pick up the slack. A more gentle nudge to Zok Druid would be to nerf Tony, curbing its late game dominance by making it difficult or impossible for the Druid to delete their opponent’s deck. This is mostly relevant against Blood-Ctrl DK and Control Priest, while not hurting its performance in the faster matchups, where Zok Druid already struggles.
- Control Priest is the 2nd major counter to Unholy-Aggro DK, so its stock in rising. However, there’s a limit to how good it can be in a format with highly prevalent Druid and Demon Hunter decks. Control Priest might be the major deterrence to nerfing these classes too hard. If late game inevitability significantly drops off, it could become very powerful, especially if it’s allowed to dedicate more card slots towards survivability.
- Undead Priest’s decline in performance has been massive over the last week. The combined pressure of Unholy-Aggro DK and Spell DH is giving it a hard time. This is a constant pattern you’re going to see from every aggressive deck in the format, so we’ll try to avoid repeating ourselves going forward. Undead Priest is knocked out from Tier 1 above Diamond 5, falling to Tier 3 at top legend.
- Miracle Rogue is just about average, mostly held back by the rise of the dominant duo of Spell DH and Unholy-Aggro DK. It has a difficult time optimizing its build against both opponents, since they require different tools. Though looking harmless at the moment, significant nerfs to its competition could lead to Miracle Rogue’s return to the top of the meta. Much like Zok Druid, nerfing Miracle Rogue yet again is a tricky decision, especially when the class is not displaying any other promising alternative, risking deleting the class and reducing strategic diversity. A 3rd nerf to Sinstone Graveyard may kill the deck. A gentle nudge to Scribbling Stenographer could be an alternative path.
- Spooky Mage is not very good, but the far less popular Burn Mage variant is looking very solid, hovering around the 50% win rate. The Rommath/Kel’Thuzad builds are just not as effective at closing out games, giving too much time for opponents to execute their own game plans. Frozen Touch is a good card and the class should be using it more.
- Paladin is an aggressive class, so it’s not having a good time seeing Unholy-Aggro DK thrive. Mech Paladin, in particular, gets completely obliterated in the matchup (close to 20-80), so its fall over the last week is understandable. We will say that Pure Paladin can do more to offset the massive losses in its performance across the field, which are the result of other decks catching up to it through refinement. Pure Paladin has its own scope for improvement through refinement, but since high level players don’t stream the deck, nor do they create content about it, players at lower ranks persist with the initial, outdated iterations of the deck.
- Naga Hunter, despite its recent focus on a stronger late game, is still an aggressive deck at heart. It needs the board to be effective and Unholy-Aggro DK is not letting it have the board. This matchup is much worse than we thought it’d end up being, We had an expectation of the matchup settling at around 35-65, but it’s trending towards a 25-75 matchup at high MMR’s. A 10% swing within days. This is absolutely killing Hunter’s performance at top legend and all of the promise we saw from it last week has evaporated.
- Enrage Warrior seems fine. The main issue of the archetype is its lack of refinement leading it to look worse in aggregated stats. It is mired by suboptimal builds. Going for a low curve delivers good results that put it in the Tier 2 range throughout most of ladder, and likely Tier 3 at top legend. When optimized, its performance against Unholy-Aggro DK is admirable for an aggressive deck. It puts up a decent fight in the matchup.
- Menagerie Warrior looks dead, because most of its builds are, but we are not throwing the towel! Once again, a new build has appeared that delivers greater promise than the last, fixing issues of older iterations. In fact, Menagerie Warrior’s refinement ceiling seems to be higher than Enrage Warrior’s.
- Control Warrior cannot be competitive in this format. We estimate that our build from last week manages to hit a win rate that’s several percentages higher than the average Control Warrior list, but not enough to get it out of Tier 4. We understand what it’s missing and hopefully it gets it in the next balance patch or the mini-set.
- Totem Shaman is an aggressive decks that’s extremely board-dependent, so you can guess what the evolving format is doing to it.
- It’s not Warrior. It’s definitely not Mage. The worst class in the game is Warlock. Imp Warlock is getting obliterated by current meta trends. Chad Warlock never had a chance.
Class Analysis & Decklists
The Unholy-Aggro Death Knight build we’ve refined last week looks very powerful. These are the strongest 30 cards you can run on ladder. The only possible tweak to the deck would be to run a 2nd Famished Fool over a Vrykul Necrolyte. This could be an appropriate adjustment to Blood-Ctrl DK and Control Priest, which are the deck’s main counters. Fool isn’t very good in most other matchups, so we’d only make this change if there was a high number of these counters on ladder.
Frost-Aggro Death Knight likely wants to run two copies of Might of Menethil at this stage. It is a good card against Demon Hunters. The 30th card becomes a choice between Astalor and Harbinger of Winter.
No changes to Blood-Ctrl Death Knight. What we’ve said last week still applies.
- Death Knight Class Radar
- Blood-Ctrl Death Knight
- Frost-Aggro Death Knight
- Unholy-Aggro Death Knight
Spell Demon Hunter is encountering a more challenging field that looks to target it very aggressively. We’ve found that swapping Felerin for Abusive Sergeant is becoming a preferable option to make the deck more difficult to outlast. Dropping Feast of Souls is proving to be correct, as the deck performs better without it. There is no undesired side effect to dropping Feast in any important matchup. It is also a terrible card in the mirror.
Big Demon Hunter is branching out. Over the last week, we’ve collected more data on the Enforcer variant. Our suspicions were confirmed, as the problem was running Immolation Aura. The swap to Chaos Strike puts this variant on equal footing with the S’theno variant. It’s extremely close between the variants, so it may come down to player preference. Just remember to be greedy in the mulligan phase. Do not settle for mediocre cards. You want to find Evoker and you want to activate it as soon as possible. Evoker/Enforcer are top priorities, followed by Illidari Studies and Taste of Chaos, which are the best Evoker activators.
- Demon Hunter Class Radar
- Spell Demon Hunter
- Outcast Demon Hunter
- Relic Demon Hunter
- Big Demon Hunter
We’re content with the Zok Druid builds we’ve established last week. In general, it’s hard for us to recommend the deck to those who are not playing at top legend, as Zok Druid tends to be farmed by aggression no matter the variant. At top legend, the correct choice is the Plating build, as it is best positioned against Spell DH.
Big Druid has seen some development, with players starting to experiment with Rhythm & Roots. Considering that the deck is already incentivized to run two Drum Circles, as we’ve discussed last week, the legendary spell looks quite good. However, it’s important to note that the Tambourine/Rhythm/Drum Circle plan is nowhere near as powerful as the Hedge Maze/Whomper plan. Do not prioritize it in the mulligan phase. It is a backup plan in case you don’t find Whomper, as it gives you something else to do.
- Druid Class Radar
- Zok Druid
- Big Druid
Undead Priest’s build is settled. The main choice is between Amalgam of the Deep and Bone Flinger. There’s no card that’s clearly better here. Pozzik can also be included instead of one Amalgam/Flinger copy, though it is not as powerful in Undead Priest as it is in Death Knight.
Control Priest is making some adjustments to the difficult Spell DH matchup. Armor Vendor replaces Fan Club. Dispossessed Soul is consequently dropped for a desperate ETC that looks to target Zok Druid and Spell DH. Considering that Spell Demon Hunters are starting to run Abusive Sergeant, we’re more forgiving of the Steamcleaner angle.
Miracle Rogue’s build is well-established at this point. The only decision is whether we run Fan of Knives or Cult Neophyte. FoK’s stock has risen over the last week due to the spike of Unholy DK’s. Cult Neophyte is a Demon Hunter tech.
Burn Mage is a solid deck in the current meta, but it’s the only seriously competitive path for the class, as the control variant of Spooky Mage looks underpowered. Frozen Touch is a much better win condition than whatever this deck is trying to do.
- Mage Class Radar
- Burn Mage
- Spooky Mage
- Mech Mage
We’re very happy with the Garden’s Grace build of Pure Paladin. It looks significantly better throughout ladder than previous iterations and stands a much better chance at higher MMR brackets, where players are far more likely to exploit the Paladin’s reliance on board control.
Mech Paladin has taken a step back due to the rise of Unholy-Aggro DK. Paladin generally doesn’t enjoy this matchup, but Mech Paladin suffers even more than Pure.
Our search for the perfect 30th card of Naga Hunter has continued this week. It seems like the answer is Ara’lon. Despite concerns over it potentially clashing with Hope of Qual’thalas, it looks very strong.
Another interesting development in Hunter is the emergence of an alternative late game package. You can drop School Teacher, Queen Azshara and Collateral Damage for a Faithful Companion package of Mukla/Krush/Heart that gives the deck more late game inevitability. It looks surprisingly effective. We’d like to see more data on it, as it is currently utilized in a build that runs some questionable cards (like an E.T.C that has Theron and Denathrius as band members…).
Menagerie Warrior’s most promising build may have arrived. Within the pile of disappointments, we’ve found a Rancher list that looks quite strong and the vS discord community has continued to iterate on it (we’ve highlighted the modifications). Rancher encourages the deck to run more 1-drops, which also synergizes with Roaring Applause.
Furthermore, Nellie is starting to see more play and it looks like one of the best cards in the archetype. It gives you reload, works incredibly well with Voone, and has a high likelihood of finding a One-Amalgam Band. This means you’re not forced into a Gorloc Ravager package for the reasons we’ve discussed last week. Since discovering One-Amalgam Band is extremely valuable, we run Razorfen Rockstar and Stereo Totem to act as cheap and reliable Amalgam of the Deep discover targets. This deck is all about finding more copies of the menagerie legendary. Razorfen Rockstar and Stereo Totem replace Rowdy Fan and Glacial Shard, which look a bit weak.
Finally, we suggest running Imbued Axe over Sword Eater, as it can function as a legitimate board-based win condition and infuses quite easily in this deck. We’d like to see more data on Axe to evaluate how it compares with Sword Eater, as the latter performs okay, but not at the level of an uncuttable card.
We’re content with the Control Warrior list from last week, but this is as good as it can get for the archetype; not good enough.
- Warrior Class Radar
- Enrage Warrior
- Menagerie Warrior
- Control Warrior
No changes in Totem Shaman. Some players are trying to make a Big Shaman deck work with Rivendare, Flesh Behemoth and From De Other Side. It doesn’t work. Shaman’s late game is just very bad.
Warlock’s got no chance in this format. The rise of Spell DH and Unholy-Aggro DK has destroyed its competitive aspirations. It’s waiting for balance changes, a mini-set or both.
Unholy-Aggro DK is turning out to be a monster, an early game powerhouse that’s almost impossible to keep off the board. Only two decks are capable of stopping it, by repeatedly clearing its board, over and over until it runs out of gas. If you want to try and take advantage of another Unholy-Aggro DK spike that should occur after this report is out, it might be time to bust out the hardest of hard control. Remember that Control Priest is favored into Blood-Ctrl DK, so it might be the better pick if everyone is trying to counter Unholy, but Blood-Ctrl DK is a much better deck to play into Spell DH.
Or you can be a dick and play Zok Druid. We’re not here to judge.
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