Welcome to the 267th 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!
Number of Games
|Top 1K Legend||25,000|
|Legend (Excluding Top 1k)||121,000|
|Diamond 4 to 1||119,000|
|Diamond 10 to 5||138,000|
Class Frequency Discussion
The emergence of Outcast DH’s new build has taken the top legend meta by storm, but as we suspected, this deck isn’t gaining much traction at other rank brackets. Relic DH has seen some growth, but neither deck is looking overbearingly popular. Big DH sees little play. Spell DH is beginning to re-emerge at top legend, with a build that cuts the S’theno combo completely.
There is a decline in Blood-Ctrl DK, but it’s very minor. This is a deck that’s going to be perpetually popular as long as it’s remotely viable. Not much movement in the aggressive DK archetypes.
Priest is in a frozen state. There are no changes in Control Priest, which has a strained relationship with the rest of the field, that’s normally very eager to counter it. Undead Priest sees modest play and declines further as you reach legend.
Chad Druid has declined but maintains a significant presence, especially at legend.
It seems that no matter how good Enrage Warrior is, there is a hard ceiling on its popularity. It has not grown in response to Demon Hunter. In fact, it’s even declined a bit at lower ranks of ladder.
Spooky Mage is a more extreme version of Blood-Ctrl DK in its play rate pattern. This is a deck that looks absolutely trash, far worse than Blood-Ctrl DK, but still sees significant play. There has been a small decline this week, but the infatuation with this archetype is remarkable. It can be considered a big design win. Burn and Secret Mage are superior performers, but don’t attract the same attention.
Through most of ladder, there aren’t any noticeable changes, but Pure Paladin has declined in response to the rise of Outcast DH at top legend, which makes a lot of sense. This is a matchup that Paladin massively struggles with. Add the Chad Druid decline, and the field does appear to be more hostile to Paladin there.
Hound Hunter has risen in play, as more players recognize it is the best choice for the climb to legend. It is now the most popular deck at Platinum and Diamond ranks.
A small subset of Miracle Rogue players at top legend seems to be the only relevant presence of the class on ladder. Secret Rogue is also there, but the archetype has declined, likely discouraged by its poor Demon Hunter matchups.
Shaman has picked up play through most of ladder but has declined at top legend. The class has two very board-centric strategies, which tend to get picked apart by Outcast DH. You’ll notice this general trend: a decline in initiative-focused decks at higher levels of play due to the emergence of Outcast DH, a strategy that’s very effective at denying the opponent’s initiative and taking over the board.
Warlock is irrelevant. The class is mostly concentrated at lower rank brackets because climbing with it is hard.
vS Meta Score
vS Power Rankings Discussion
The format looks as balanced as a format could reasonably be, though there are some new developments that could produce another shakeup. These developments are mostly situated at top legend, while the rest of ladder is likely to stay in its current state.
- Outcast DH looks strong at top legend, but for a “best deck”, it’s highly inoffensive and probably an ideal deck to sit in that position. Despite its well-rounded matchup spread that carries few counters, it is not overwhelmingly strong. It doesn’t have crazy burst damage, it doesn’t OTK you, it doesn’t blow you out early in the game with a single card, and it is very reliant on having control of the board to win. It is quite inaccessible for players at lower ranks of ladder because of its high barrier of entry, so it’s never going to be extremely popular.
- Relic DH has relaxed in its performance, mostly because of a decline in its prey. Weak decks with inflated popularity, such as Blood-Ctrl DK and Spooky Mage, have been largely responsible for its success. Now that they’re declining in their play rates a bit, Relic DH looks very reasonable. This deck serves an important meta role in keeping Control Priest in check. Deleting Relic DH from the format guarantees Control Priest’s seat at the tyrant’s throne.
- Big DH is falling off. Hound Hunter is responsible for curbing its power on the climb to legend, while Outcast DH is giving it problems at top legend.
- Spell DH’s emergence at top legend has not yet produced a comfortable sample size for us to calculate an accurate enough expected win rate, but the archetype is making yet another comeback. The good news is that this deck has dropped the S’theno combo and no longer produces the unpleasant OTK’s it was known for. Spell DH is turning into a mass removal deck that closes out games with sustained damage.
- As it currently stands, Spell DH is trending to be the best deck at top legend (!), but this comes with a caveat. It is an extremely polarizing deck. This deck destroys both Outcast and Relic DH, as well as board-centric decks that are vulnerable to AOE effects. Spell DH goes 80-20 against both Relic and Outcast DH. The Pure Paladin matchup, as another example, is also around 80-20. This dominance against the two other Demon Hunter decks has led to its current high-performance level.
- On the other hand, Spell DH gets rolled over by decks that can produce more resilient boards (Enrage Warrior, Hound Hunter, Chad Druid) or those carrying a lot of life gain (Blood-Ctrl DK, Spooky Mage). We suspect this deck will not be very popular outside of top legend. Should it spike in play at top legend, it will likely lead to a decline in other Demon Hunter decks, while encouraging its counters to respond to it. It isn’t ideal to have such a polarizing deck emerge at its power level, but we’re hoping that its various counters prevent it from becoming too popular.
- Blood-Ctrl DK is getting better at higher levels of play because it’s the strongest counter to Outcast DH. Its patchy matchup spread still exists, so it’s not a well-rounded deck.
- Frost-Aggro DK shows cracks at the upper end of ladder. While it’s still a strong deck at Diamond 5 and below, its limited skill ceiling and limited scope for improvement through refinement usually leads to a declined performance on the second week of a patch. Specifically, it has a tough time dealing with Enrage Warrior and Hound Hunter.
- Unholy-Aggro DK looks like a superior choice to Frost. The Hound Hunter matchup is much stronger, while Enrage Warrior is far less painful. It’s just a better deck with a better spread. It’s also getting stronger through refinement as Yodeler builds decline in play. This offsets the general trend observed in the format’s aggressive decks.
- Control Priest has slightly declined due to the rise of Relic DH, its main counter. However, all other efforts to counter this deck are not gaining traction. Should Spell DH rise to curb Relic DH, it’s very likely that Control Priest will begin to gain ground, especially when its learning curve should lead to a gradual improvement in its performance. We could be one nerf away from Control Priest becoming a Tier 1 deck with a 20%+ play rate. The deck’s current place in the meta is reasonable enough. Let’s keep it that way.
- As we’ve said earlier, aggressive decks that strongly rely on board control are declining in their performance due to the rise of Outcast DH, as well as the field becoming more resilient through refinement. Undead Priest is one example of the general trend.
- Chad Druid is getting worse at most levels of play as the format becomes more refined to punish it, but it’s getting better at top legend because of the rise in Relic DH. It also counters Spell DH, so there is an expectation it will remain a solid performer at all levels of play. Out of all decks in the format, it is the one with the most polarizing play patterns, so it is the most likely deck to be nerfed in a future patch because of play experience.
- Enrage Warrior is a strong deck, but if we had to guess why it isn’t more popular, we’d bet on the identity of its main counters. Chad Druid and Control Priest are likely to trigger the most negative reactions when they win, so despite having a great matchup spread overall, Enrage Warrior is unfavored against the two decks that players are most eager to counter.
- Menagerie Warrior is better than stats suggest if you play its best build for the current format (the Rancher build). As more players gravitate to it, the archetype’s overall performance improves. We don’t expect Menagerie Warrior to be a serious player in the meta, but it’s competitive enough if you enjoy the deck.
- It is quite striking to see just how badly Spooky Mage performs. Here we have a deck that does worse than Warlock decks yet exhibits a play rate of a serious meta contender. We suspect that some Spooky Mage players share a burning vendetta against Control Priest. Alternatively, it’s just so fun to play that players don’t care to lose that much. More power to them.
- Neither of the faster Mage decks is great, but we do think that optimized forms of Burn and Secret Mage do better than their aggregated performance suggests. However, these decks just don’t attract a big enough player base. Decks with low play rates tend to be very slow to refine.
- Pure Paladin is one of the best ladder climbers in the format, until the population of Outcast DH starts to carry its weight. That matchup is a nightmare, as is the matchup against Spell DH, so we expect Paladin to return to its top legend purgatory.
- Hound Hunter continues to look like the best choice to climb to legend, on top of showing resilience at higher levels of play. Its Demon Hunter matchups are generally good, so current meta developments are not hurting it.
- Arcane Hunter is fading, which is unfortunate, but this archetype might get there if the new expansion gives it some additional support.
- There’s Miracle Rogue at top legend doing fine, but that’s it. The Rogue class is teetering on the brink. Secret Rogue’s horrendous standing against the Demon Hunter class does not bode well for its near future in the format.
- Shaman is a very good class at most levels of play, with both Totem and Evolve Shaman available. But both decks are very bad into Outcast DH, so they’re having a bit of the Paladin syndrome at top legend.
- Don’t do this to yourself.
Class Analysis & Decklists
We’re very happy with the Outcast Demon Hunter build we’ve landed on last week. Shambling Chow has proven to be a top 3 card in the deck, while Murlocula is also looking like a good fit. This build has been tearing ladder apart over the last week, establishing Outcast DH as the best deck in the game at higher levels of play, for now. Relic Demon Hunter also doesn’t seem to require changes.
However, there is a looming threat to the established DH decks. Spell Demon Hunter is not done and has transformed into yet another form! A new build has emerged that cuts the S’theno/Abusive combo. It focuses on a plethora of removal and AOE effects, while presenting enough damage to finish off opponents that don’t carry a significant amount of life gain.
This is still a build in its diapers, so there’s not a lot of data to assess. Our initial impression is that Metamorphosis is worth trying out, while Chaos Strike might be cuttable. We’re not too confident about any of the card choices yet.
- Demon Hunter Class Radar
- Relic Demon Hunter
- Big Demon Hunter
- Outcast Demon Hunter
- Spell Demon Hunter
No changes to any of the Death Knight decks, as we’re content with how they’re built. The rise of Outcast DH means Hardcore Cultist becomes more valuable in Frost-Aggro Death Knight. So does Blightfang in Unholy-Aggro Death Knight. Blood-Ctrl Death Knight is already well-equipped to deal with that matchup. It’s a shame about all the other matchups.
- Death Knight Class Radar
- Blood-Ctrl Death Knight
- Frost-Aggro Death Knight
- Unholy-Aggro Death Knight
Shadow Word: Ruin is proving to be valuable in Control Priest, as it significantly helps the Relic DH matchup. The final two card choices come down to Hipster or Dirty Rat. Hipster is solid across the board. Dirty Rat is more situational, and the current meta doesn’t have a lot of decks that Rat is effective against. Rat’s best matchup used to be Zok Druid earlier in the expansion. From the common matchups around, you’re mostly looking at Spooky Mage where it’s genuinely strong, while it is serviceable against Death Knights. It’s worth noting that less experienced players poorly utilize Rat. We do take that into account.
Chad Druid’s best build is firmly established, with the final two cards being a choice between Chitinous Plating and Doomkin. The rise of Outcast DH, as well as the potential rise of Spell DH at top legend, is currently pushing Plating above Doomkin.
Enrage Warrior’s final three slots have proven to be tricky. The popularity of Control Priest boosts the performance of Grommash Hellscream and Roaring Applause, while Chad Druid asks for the utilization of Crazed Wretch. There is no clear-cut best choice; it depends on what you’re facing. You can run any combination of these cards.
Menagerie Warrior only has one correct build at the current meta, which is the Rancher build. Going slower means death against faster decks.
- Warrior Class Radar
- Enrage Warrior
- Menagerie Warrior
Mage isn’t in a great spot since none of its decks are looking great. Spooky Mage is one of the worst decks that we’ve seen continue to be played. It does well into Control Priest and Pure Paladin. It beats Outcast DH and counters Spell DH too. The rest is a sea of red matchups.
Star Power continues to be severely underplayed in Burn Mage. Not running the card seems like a blind spot.
Secret Mage is a messy archetype, but its best build might be the best Mage deck you can play on ladder.
- Mage Class Radar
- Spooky Mage
- Burn Mage
- Secret Mage
Pure Paladin is going to stay very strong throughout most of ladder, but top legend may once again become unbearable with Outcast DH becoming very popular and Spell DH trying to follow suit. There are no great adjustments for these matchups.
Renathal builds of Hound Hunter have consistently looked worse than 30-card builds over the last few weeks. Though the margin didn’t mean Renathal builds were terrible, it was a significant difference. This margin appears to have closed, possibly due to the increased pace of the format, the nerfs to Hope of Quel’Thalas/Pozzik, and some refinement. The matchup spreads are nearly identical, but 30 cards tend to perform a little better in slow matchups (since it’s more likely to find its key win conditions), while 40 cards tend to do a little better against faster decks.
The featured Renathal build is nearly identical to Feno’s. We really like the Zombees/Vizier pairing. Mister Mukla is another card that seems to perform well in Renathal builds.
When it comes to the 30-build, Theron and double Faithful Companion appear to be correct. Cutting a Vicious Slitherspear does not hurt the early-game consistency of the deck. This was a small point of concern, but the deck has enough mulligan targets.
- Hunter Class Radar
- Hound Hunter
- Arcane Hunter
Secret Rogue is trying out different things to improve its late game. The addition of Breakdance seems to be something worth exploring, as it works well with both Astalor and Gravedigger.
We’ve found that this archetype is extremely reliant on finding its key minions, so an idea we’re floating is to run Elven Minstrel. Minstrel isn’t played, so this is not a data-driven suggestion, but the original Breakdance build runs the underwhelming Deafen. There might be another card that’s better. These slots look free for experimentation.
Totem Shaman’s thirst for good card draw is peaking, with Magatha now looking quite strong in the archetype again. In the recent past, we’ve suggested cutting Bloodlust and Schooling in a Magatha list, but things have changed. Schooling is a bit too good against both Demon Hunters and Enrage Warrior, while Bloodlust is too important in the current format, considering the popularity of attrition decks.
Cutting Ancestral Knowledge means we have space to fit in Backstage Bouncers. It’s a bit surprising that Bouncers aren’t very strong. They barely make the list, even though they seem ideal on paper.
Warlock is bad. Imp Warlock is the only deck that looks mildly playable, but we just can’t recommend it. Gul’dan needs titanic help.
- Warlock Class Radar
- Chad Warlock
- Curse Warlock
- Imp Warlock
We fully anticipated that Relic DH and Outcast DH would do better after the S’theno nerf. Sometimes, you make decks better by forcing players to drop a bad card in their deck that they think helps them.
But this? This wasn’t in our bingo card. Spell DH has successfully moved away from S’theno. Is it a better deck in a vacuum without S’theno? We’re not sure, but being better in a vacuum doesn’t matter. What matters is that Spell DH, in its current iteration, completely obliterates both Relic and Outcast DH, taking advantage of their popularity at higher levels of play.
Its extremely polarizing matchup spread means its future trajectory is a bit unpredictable. How quickly will players slap it down with counters? Could Spell DH enable Control Priest by curbing its primary counter in Relic DH? For the record, the Spell DH/Control Priest matchup is close to 50-50, so a transition from Relic back to Spell could hugely benefit Anduin.
Whatever happens next is likely not going to be something that most players on ladder will experience. For 99% of players, Hound Hunter is the best deck in a diverse and reasonably balanced field that should make the last month of Festival of Legends a relatively pleasant time.
As for the top legend tryhards, a Spell DH/Control Priest dual threat could become your biggest problem to solve. Once Spooky Mage rises in play despite its atrocious win rate, that’s when we’ll know you’re getting desperate.
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, 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, Amir, Matthew P, amenbrotep, Karhu, Christopher N, Lime, Kaushal, Joshua B, Jeff C, Scott L, Mark P, The Big Dawg, nburst, Jess M, Peter, Lepton, Bob L, Charlah R, Chocobo, Chad K, Alex W, Ashton F, Ethan G, Swift, Logan, Fisherington, WorldEight, Jacob M, Joseph G, Kristopher S, Timothy M, Dylan X, Darren J, Wyatt P, Kevin, Dillan M, Michael N, detcarter, and Noah E for supporting us this month.
Here are all the people that participated in bringing you this edition of the vS Data Reaper Report: