Welcome to the 273rd edition of the Data Reaper Report!
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Number of Games
|Top 1K Legend||32,000|
|Legend (Excluding Top 1k)||49,000|
|Diamond 4 to 1||118,000|
|Diamond 10 to 5||169,000|
Class Frequency Discussion
The most dramatic change in the format following the second wave of nerfs to Hunter is the rise of Warlock. It has quickly become the most popular class outside of legend ranks, split into four different archetypes. Joining the established Curse & Chad is Control Warlock, which we’ve marked down as a potential meta breaker in last week’s report. It is already more popular than Curse and Chad at top legend. Imp Warlock is the relatively forgotten archetype in the class, still seeing little play.
Control Warrior has taken a small hit in its play rate, possibly influenced by the rise of Warlock, but it remains the most popular deck throughout ladder. Odyn is many players’ favorite card, it seems.
Mage exhibits a middling play rate across most rank brackets, with Rainbow Mage remaining the primary choice. At top legend, things drastically change with Mage spiking to become the most popular class thanks to the emergence of Naga Mage, which rivals Rainbow’s popularity.
Rogue is another class with a middling play rate that spikes at top legend behind the power of Mech Rogue. Miracle and Secret Rogue have faded away.
Priest seems to be creeping up a little, perhaps encouraged by the decline in Hunter. Control Priest maintains a constant presence throughout ladder.
Signs of life are seen in Shaman, with Nature Shaman beginning to reappear at higher levels of play. Perhaps, this development is caused by the decline in Hunter and rise in Warlock, creating a much more favorable meta for Nature Shaman on paper. But is it enough to overcome the nerf to Bioluminescence? Answers later.
Hunter did not avoid major consequences from the balance changes this time. The fall in the class’ play rate has been quite drastic. Arcane Hunter (Secret Hunter renamed) seems to be holding up and maintains a noticeable presence throughout ladder, but Hound Hunter is not taking things well. The archetype is on pace to fade away completely above Diamond 5, struggling to keep a hold on the format.
Druid looks relatively unchanged. Drum Druid is the class’ main choice, but Moonbeam Druid has also attracted a niche population of players.
Demon Hunter continues to be very unpopular, especially outside of legend ranks. Its two competitive archetypes, Relic and Outcast, are quite old and therefore don’t attract a lot of players.
Pure Paladin is a modestly popular ladder climber. The class dips in its play rate at top legend due to the archetype’s limited skill ceiling. The Impure Aggro Paladin variant has picked up a bit of play and seen some further experimentation, but the process has been very slow as the deck isn’t too different from Pure Paladin.
Death Knight is the zombie class of the format. It’s quite popular across ladder, as players are very insistent on Blood-Ctrl and Plague, but these archetypes have looked competitively dead for a long time. We’ll be surprised if anything changes because of the patch. Unholy-Aggro DK looked like the strongest deck within the class last week but only sees little play.
vS Meta Score
vS Power Rankings Discussion
- Warlock looks like a very successful class on ladder, with some of its archetypes topping the win rate charts at multiple rank brackets. What’s interesting is that all these decks lose percentages in key matchups at higher levels of play, making them less intimidating at top legend. It’s often thought that aggressive decks are the ones destined to display a limited skill ceiling, but this is not necessarily true. Many ‘control’ decks can have these characteristics, with Blood-Ctrl Death Knight a very recent example of a deck that gets exploited by top level players.
- Control Warlock is the best performer within its class. Its most important trait is a strong matchup into Control Warrior, but the rest of its matchup spread is hardly one of a dominant deck. It can be targeted very easily in case it rises further in play.
- Chad Warlock is the more extreme version of Control. It hard counters Control Warrior, more than any other deck in the format, but at the cost of an extremely polarizing matchup spread. The deck declines in its performance at top legend due to the spike in Mage and Rogue, which present very difficult matchups.
- Curse Warlock has the most balanced matchup spread of the three, but it doesn’t beat Warrior, while its skill ceiling is the most limited. Its decline in performance at higher levels of play is comparable to Pure Paladin and Hound Hunter.
- Imp Warlock is perfectly competitive throughout ladder, but its oppressive matchup against Mech Rogue causes it to sink to Tier 3 at top legend.
- Control Warrior is a strong deck throughout ladder, but gets even better at top legend, where its performance rises to a Tier 1 level. This is not a result of a high skill ceiling, as Warrior is just about average in that regard. This is entirely related to the field at higher levels of play, with an increased presence of Rainbow Mage and Mech Rogue, two of Warrior’s best matchups.
- Rainbow Mage looks more comfortable after the patch, significantly helped by the rise of Warlock, as well as the decline of Hunter (and to a lesser extent, Warrior). You’ll see throughout the report that the balance changes have led to an increase in the competitive viability of several archetypes. Warlock has replaced Hunter in its role of keeping Warrior in check, but its presence is far more accommodating to other strategies than Hunter’s.
- Naga Mage is a very competitive deck at higher levels of play. Considering its extremely high skill ceiling, you’d expect its performance to improve over time as the meta settles down. However, the deck is currently trending down in its performance. It doesn’t seem to have much room for improvement through refinement either. It’s currently more likely to drop under 50% than get close to 52%.
- Mech Rogue continues to perform exceptionally well, with its performance holding up at higher levels of play. It has three main counters: Control Warrior, Control Priest, and Pure Paladin. In any other matchup, Mech Rogue feels quite comfortable. It doesn’t mind the rise of Warlock either.
- Control Priest generally looks more playable throughout ladder because of the decline in Hound Hunter. It’s no longer a deck that only seems capable of breathing easier at top legend, though at no rank bracket is it particularly strong. It’s comfortable facing Control Warrior and Control Warlock. It’s the matchups against decks with higher late game lethality that give it problems (Mage, Shaman, Demon Hunter).
- Undead Priest has also gotten better, strictly because Warrior declined in play. That matchup is the deck’s biggest problem.
- Nature Shaman is back! The archetype has massively benefited from the fall of its oppressive Hound Hunter counter. Instead, it’s facing the accommodating Warlock strategies, which don’t pressure particularly well and are very vulnerable to over-the-top burst damage. Its performance trends currently suggest that Nature Shaman is unlikely to get stronger over time, so there’s not a great threat of it hitting Tier 1 and taking over the format.
- Totem Shaman is basically a worse version of Pure Paladin, one that is much more vulnerable to removal. The rise of Control Warlock is the deck’s biggest problem in the emerging format.
- Arcane Hunter is holding up fine, despite the nerf to its best card. The deck no longer looks like a power outlier, with its matchup spread softening up and showing a few more vulnerabilities, especially against defensive minded decks. However, it’s still a very good performer throughout ladder, including top legend. The balance changes seem to have fulfilled their intent.
- Hound Hunter is not holding up. The deck has collapsed in its performance, resembling Blood-Ctrl Death Knight in looking mediocre at lower ranks and unplayable at higher ranks. As it currently stands, it has no real future in the format.
- The nerf to Faithful Companions has not obliterated Hound Hunter’s late game strength but softened it to the point these matchups are “fairer”. The problem is that Hound Hunter’s performance in faster matchups has taken too big of a hit, making it roll over to some of the more aggressive decks.
- We can’t help but think that the nerf to Faithful Companions was the correct decision, but nerfing Hollow Hound and Fox Spirit were unnecessary. It was Hound Hunter’s late game that needed to be curbed and nerfing Companions accomplished that. It would have likely been enough to balance the deck to a reasonable play rate and win rate, without nuking its survivability tools. Hound Hunter’s fall has helped diversify the format, but this might have been possible without outright killing the deck’s competitive viability.
- Drum Druid is a strong, but polarizing deck that does well throughout ladder but can feel inconsistent if you don’t hit the right opponents over a small sample of games. This likely contributes to its low play rate, along with the fact that it spends the least amount of time basking in a win (Drum Circle = opponent concedes very often right after).
- We can see why Moonbeam Druid can make some players think it’s good, considering it does have some strong matchups into slow decks. The problem is that it dies to minions, owing to its complete lack of defensive tools. There are too many decks in the format that totally obliterate it. It’s hard to have a competitive win rate when you roll over 20-80 or 10-90 to so many opponents.
- Demon Hunter looks perfectly fine. Relic DH is a strong late game strategy with a well-rounded matchup spread that doesn’t show many weaknesses. It’s a good counter to Control Priest and Control Warlock. It doesn’t dominate a lot of matchups, but it doesn’t roll over to opponents either. It’s generally a really good choice for players that enjoy closely contested affairs. Or those that hate Priests.
- Outcast DH is also a very strong deck, especially at higher levels of play. Nothing changed here. Not the performance, nor the desire to play it.
- Pure Paladin may be one of the only decks in the format that seems to suffer from the decline of Hunter and the rise of Warlock. In the previous meta, it offered a strong counter to Hound Hunter. Instead, it’s facing more Control and Curse Warlocks, which carry a removal plethora that is capable of consistently pushing the Paladin off the board. Pure Paladin is still a fine deck, but it has gotten worse after the patch.
- Aggro Paladin is showing promise with a new build that floods the board faster and carries more reload when facing removal-heavy decks. Its play rate is still low, but its refined form might be superior to Pure Paladin.
- Death Knight looks like the worst class in the game. Blood-Ctrl and Plague Death Knight are hot garbage. Unholy-Aggro DK is competitive but suffers a bit from the rise of Defile. Take off ‘Death Knight’ from the nameplate and swap it with Paladin or Shaman, and the class’ play rate is likely lower than 2%.
Class Analysis & Decklists
Doomkin is showing great promise in Control Warlock. Ignis will have to make do with Watcher of the Sun, as Mechagnome Guide doesn’t perform well enough in this archetype. Prison of Yogg is another card that looks quite bad, so we’ve replaced it with Finley.
- Warlock Class Radar
- Chad Warlock
- Curse Warlock
- Control Warlock
- Imp Warlock
The Control Warrior build we’ve landed on last week looks great. An alternative path that also looks good cuts Steam Guardian and Shield Slam for From the Depths and Finley/Prison. Finley and Prison improve in their performance when paired with From the Depths.
With the decline of Warrior and the fall of Hound Hunter, we’ve noticed a significant improvement in the performance of Norgannon in Rainbow Mage, so we’ve included the TITAN. Solid Alibi still doesn’t look good. This can only change if Nature Shaman sees a massive spike in play.
We keep searching for ways to upgrade on Illusionist/Mothership in Mech Rogue, but we can’t really find convincing alternatives.
- Rogue Class Radar
- Mech Rogue
- Secret Rogue
- Miracle Rogue
The featured build of Control Priest is as good as it gets. Audio Amplifier is a very good card against the rising Warlocks. Ignis is a superb card in the deck once you run 4 forge cards.
Nature Shaman is back! The important adjustment to the Bioluminescence nerf is running Jazz Bass over Carving Chisel. This helps the deck execute its combo more easily. We do not like Altered Chord in the deck. Turn the Tides seems quite important.
- Shaman Class Radar
- Nature Shaman
- Totem Shaman
- Evolve Shaman
There doesn’t seem to be any reason to change the builds for either Arcane or Hound Hunter. Halduron is still one of the best cards in Arcane Hunter and a comfortable mulligan keep, even at 4 mana. Faithful Companions remains an important finisher for Hound Hunter. The deck’s problem is that it got hit with too many nerfs.
With Drum Druid build selection, the choice is quite simple. The Nature build with Topior is better against Control Warrior and Control Priest, while the Zombie build is better against everything else.
Moonbeam Druid looks like a terrible deck. There’s no refinement that gets it out of Tier 4, but we did notice a couple of things. Nourish is bait. Funnel Cake is very good. Cutting Nourish means you do not need to forge Embrace of Nature and it’s certainly not a card you’re searching for in the early game. It’s just a soft tutor for a couple of combo pieces.
No changes in Demon Hunter. Disruption cards in Relic DH are not currently worth it, but this could change if Shaman returns in significant numbers. Warrior and Warlock are the matchups you need to be concerned with. They encourage the Demon Hunter to be greedy.
- Demon Hunter Class Radar
- Relic Demon Hunter
- Outcast Demon Hunter
There have been some interesting experimentations with WuLing’s Aggro Paladin deck. Players are cutting some of the slower cards, for faster board flooding cards in Snowflipper Penguin, Victorious Vrykul and Pozzik. This is working out extremely well since the new iteration leverages Crusader Aura better. Penguin is strong with Liadrin and Rancher too. To make up for the lower curve and higher likelihood to run out of resources, we run Famished Fool.
The new build could be superior to Pure Paladin.
Death Knight is in stasis. There’s nothing going on with the class, which is exhibiting a much higher play rate than it should because it’s still considered the “new class”. When it comes to its performance, it’s hard to argue against it being the worst class in the format.
- Death Knight Class Radar
- Blood-Ctrl Death Knight
- Plague Death Knight
- Unholy-Aggro Death Knight
Standard is in a good place right now, offering a variety of playstyles and absent of any oppressive decks.
Many players have been disappointed by the disappearance of Nature Shaman after the nerf to Bioluminescence, but declaring the deck’s demise was premature. The issue was that Hound Hunter was not properly toned down in the same patch, leading to Shaman’s biggest counter remaining extremely prevalent. Take Hound Hunter out of the equation, and Nature Shaman looks competitive again. A Nature Shaman deck running a 3-mana Bioluminescence would have been insanely broken today.
Nature Shaman is unlikely to be a threat to the meta’s current balance, but it’s the deck most likely to rise in play this week, causing another shift in the field, especially at top legend.
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