Welcome to the 279th edition of the Data Reaper Report! This is the first report for Showdown in the Badlands and reflects the format after the hotfix to The Azerite Snake.
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Number of Games
|Top 1K Legend
|Legend (Excluding Top 1k)
|Diamond 4 to 1
|Diamond 10 to 5
Reminder: The graphs in the report are screenshots. You can see all the data, hover over graphs for more information, and select additional bracket filters, in the original tableau files on the website. Clicking on the screenshots in the report, or navigating through the website toolbar, gets you there.
Class Frequency Discussion
The days following the emergency nerf to The Azerite Snake have been characterized by a massive spike in Paladins, with the class appearing to take over the format above Diamond 5. The “Pure Paladin” archetype and its two variants from Titans have evolved. The Garden’s Grace Holy Buff variant has hybridized with a small Dude package. Dude Paladin has become slightly Impure, adding Sea Giants to its top end alongside the Showdown/Prismatic Beam combo, while keeping Countess as its secondary win condition. Most Reno Paladin builds are Pure, with Reno as the only neutral; but we’re also seeing some neutral heavy builds.
It’s quite difficult to split apart the Buff and Dude variants reliably, especially after the hybridization of the Buff variant with a sizeable Dude package. You can be more confident you’ve ran into a Showdown Paladin after seeing your opponent play Showdown, Beam or Sea Giant. These cards’ appearance has a high correlation with winning, risking recognition bias (A Dude Paladin opponent that draws poorly might seem like a different Paladin deck). We’ll work to split these two variants for the next report, should their development allow, but there is also a chance that newer builds further blur the lines between them.
Naga Demon Hunter has gone through several iterations before exploding with a Sightless Magistrate/Magnifying Glaive build that’s taking over the top legend field. The power of Blindeye Sharpshooter has proven to be meta defining, with the deck receiving a lot of attention and criticism due to its play patterns.
Mage has diversified. Alongside Rainbow Mage, which is trying to figure out how to best incorporate several potential upgrades in its build, Rommath Mage and Secret Mage are trying to find a place for themselves. Both archetypes run the Excavate package. We’ve also started to see some Rainbow Mages experiment with this package, but it occurred very late in the database for this report.
Druid started this expansion as the second most popular class after Warlock, but after the Snake hotfix, the class began to decline. This is likely because of the rise of Paladins. Both Reno and Dragon Druid can be found across ladder. Neither archetype has fully settled on its best build.
Most of the focus in the Warrior class has been on Control Warrior. But rather than playing the clean 30-card Odyn build, players have mostly experimented with a Renathal build full of disruption that’s focused on Boomboss Tho’grun. These experiments die out at high MMR’s, which is also where Enrage Warrior is beginning to pop up again, barely running new cards. Taunt and Blackrock Warrior disappeared before the Snake hotfix.
Plague Death Knight running the Excavate package has been the most popular strategy in its class, looking to target the increasing number of Reno decks after the Snake hotfix. The other notable deck here is Reno Death Knight, which is basically an evolved form of Blood-Ctrl DK. We’ll ignore the Unholy bots that have been around for months.
Shaman initially looked like the deadest class in the game, but Reno Shaman has been slowly picking up traction since the Snake hotfix and establishing a noticeable presence. The deck’s growth at higher levels of play is continuing.
Hound Hunter has transformed into Reno Hunter, as we’ve expected before the expansion’s launch. A new Cleave Hunter archetype has emerged, finally taking full advantage of the synergy between ‘Always a Bigger Jormungar’ and Hollow Hound/Stonebound Gargon. This is currently the most popular and talked about Hunter deck. Arcane Hunter has gone through no changes and sees little play.
Rogue has had a messy launch, experimenting with the Excavate package in different archetypes. Some more Thief-heavy. Others Miracle-like. Ogre Rogue is also seeing some play, as well as the unchanged Mech Rogue. The class appears to be on a downward trend.
Priest is another very messy class. The number of different Reno Priest builds that players have experimented with is very high, relative to the archetype’s play rate. Control Priest is also trying out different stuff. Faster Priest decks, beyond Undead Priest, haven’t gotten far.
Warlock has gone through a dramatic collapse in play after the Snake hotfix. The class was topping popularity charts throughout ladder in the first couple of days of the expansion. Snake Warlock is still a common opponent at lower rank brackets, but its decline in play is ongoing, while it’s almost completely disappeared at top legend.
vS Meta Score
vS Power Rankings Discussion
Remember that win rates, especially in the first week of the expansion, don’t tell the whole story. Different decks are at different stages of discovery. It’s important to put these win rates in context. Some decks are very likely to improve through refinement, while others have already peaked. Don’t write off what currently seems to be underperforming at first glance.
- Pure Paladin looks very powerful across ladder, sitting at Tier 1 at every rank bracket, reaching absurd win rates at lower MMR’s. At Bronze through Gold, its win rate easily eclipses 60%. Counters to the deck exist, as it’s not unbeatable. We do suspect that some of its dominance is related to it beating up on poorly refined decks early in the expansion, but we don’t expect the class to have a huge drop off. Based on win rate trends, even at higher levels of play, it’s got some staying power.
- When it comes to its two variants, Dude and Buff are equally powerful at most ladder brackets. In most matchups, they don’t differ by more than ~5% since their shells are generally similar. The big exceptions are the mirror matchup and the Naga DH matchup, where Dude Paladin drastically outperforms Buff Paladin. This has led to Dude Paladin looking like the significantly superior variant at top legend, where these matchups become very popular. For top level players, we highly recommend the Showdown build. It’s crazy good.
- Reno Paladin isn’t as strong, but it’s very serviceable and has a good matchup against the faster Paladin decks. The Pure build has looked like the most successful approach, but alternatives are still being figured out.
- Naga Demon Hunter looks quite intimidating at higher levels of play, where it has become the most influential deck in the format, alongside Paladin. We can’t see this deck staying untouched after the first major patch of the expansion, considering how strong it is and how likely it is to get even better. Note that the archetype is still not fully refined, and is also carrying a significant learning curve.
- Rainbow Mage has managed to hold its own and keep a competitive spot in the format. The deck’s matchup spread is quite balanced, showing some vulnerability to early game snowballing strategies. We’re not sure it has further scope for improvement, at its established builds have mostly peaked.
- Secret Mage doesn’t look great, but has a higher scope for improvement, with recent builds showing more promise. We don’t think this deck is amazing, but it’s likely competitive running the Excavate package.
- Rommath Mage doesn’t look very promising. It seems like a very clunky Renathal deck. There are some card choices that can be improved on, but whether that fixes its biggest flaws is another story.
- Druid looked strong early on, but the Snake nerf has been hard to take for both Reno and Dragon Druid. They were very well positioned to counter Snake Warlock in the first couple of days of the expansion, but now they’re facing an increasing number of Paladins. All Paladin decks represent crippling matchups for Druid, leading to Dragon and Reno Druid to tank in their performance quite spectacularly. They still look fine at lower rank brackets, where the meta is less developed, but things start to sour around Diamond 4. At top legend, they’ve fallen all the way down to Tier 4!
- Enrage Warrior is probably the biggest sleeper in the format, which isn’t surprising considering the deck’s history and the fact it barely runs new cards. And yet, the deck looks extremely dominant. Strong matchups against both Pure Paladin and Naga Demon Hunter position it to thrive going forward, especially when Druid is expected to collapse in play. The only thing holding the deck back is the desire to play it.
- Control Warrior’s win rate mostly reflects how bad the Renathal builds are. The archetype is just very poorly refined. The 30-card Odyn build, likely with a small excavate package, looks very competitive.
- Plague Death Knight looks quite good against Reno decks, while looking quite bad against non-Reno decks. Not a shocking revelation. The rise of Reno decks after the Snake nerf has improved its position in the format, sitting close to the 50% mark past Diamond 4. At lower ranks, it’s obviously better, as it has always tended to be. We don’t see a lot of potential for the deck to improve through internal adjustments. It will be mostly hoping that Reno decks gain more traction. This is likely going to be what makes or breaks Plague DK as a competitive option going forward.
- Reno Death Knight has room for growth, as the combination of Reno and Renathal has encouraged players to try some of the worst cards you can imagine in a Hearthstone deck. Still, we can’t see this archetype becoming better than Tier 3, considering its late game limitations.
- The fight to have the best Reno deck had its twists and turns. First it was Hunter. Then it was Druid. Then it was Paladin. But after looking quite tame in the first days of the expansion, a breakthrough in its refinement has made Reno Shaman come out of nowhere and take the title. The deck now performs at a high level across ladder, only sitting behind the DH/Paladin/Warrior trio at top legend.
- Doctor Holli’dae has proven to be a powerful payoff, but it needed the right mix of additional win conditions that could help the archetype in the late game, while running Framester for Reno matchups. The Snake nerf also helped quite a bit here.
- Other Shaman decks are not looking good. Totem Shaman is stagnant. Elemental Shaman looks like a dud. Nature Shaman barely sees play.
- Cleave Hunter has proven to be a very powerful ladder climber. It is the second-best performer, after Pure Paladin, outside legend ranks. Its game plan heavily punishes the opponent’s board development, in a Sinful Brand fashion. But it falls off hard at top legend. The rise of Paladin, a painful counter, is one reason. But players at higher levels seem to be quickly adjusting to the deck, denying its ABJ combos by not giving it targets. This is also easier to do while playing defensive decks that aren’t board-centric. Those tend to be more popular at higher MMR’s.
- Reno Hunter looks quite strong through most of ladder. At Diamond 5 and below, it is the best performing Reno deck. However, it seems to possess a limited skill ceiling reminiscent of Hound Hunter, causing it to decline in its performance at higher levels of play. Much like Cleave Hunter, it struggles against Paladins.
- Arcane Hunter has stagnated, needing to compete with more powerful strategies than what it encountered during Titans.
- The excavate package in Rogue looks terrible, destroying the win rate of every archetype that has tried to incorporate it to its build. Wishing Well has also sadly flopped. Building around the Ogre package looks weak. Every single direction that the set has given the class looks highly questionable.
- We will note that Miracle Rogue might be able to compete with a Draka-focused build and Greedy Partner. Within the garbage, we did identify something that looks playable.
- Mech Rogue also looks decent, unchanged from its Thunderbringer build. Things might look grim for the class now, but there’s a chance it will have two viable decks after the dust settles.
- Priest is another class that is just very messy, so its performance does not fully represent its potential. Both Reno and Control Priest have a lot of room for improvement. Once the reactive tools are refined to target the main influential decks of the meta, it’s likely that these two archetypes will look much better. Reno Priest has tried a lot of different builds, with a big difference in the performance across them.
- We’re less optimistic about faster Priest decks. Undead Priest looks very stagnant and has no room for growth, while Overheal Priest decks have looked very weak.
- Warlock is the only class that might be a bit hopeless after the Snake nerf. Without the Snake, it’s hard for the class to be able to compete in the late game. Snake Warlock remains surprisingly strong at low MMR brackets (Bronze through Plat) because it’s a very easy deck to play that also tells players how to play correctly, but it’s competitively dead past Diamond 5.
- Even before the hotfix, the meta at higher levels of play was adjusting to the point Warlock no longer looked like a power outlier, but the deck still obliterated low ranked players. The deck reminds us of Quest Warrior in its behavior.
Class Analysis & Decklists
Pure Paladin has two very powerful variants with their own win conditions. They remain very similar in their shells, carrying a lot of overlap, but are distinct in how they close out games.
The Buff variant only adds one new card from Badlands, which is Hi Ho Silverwing. The 2-drop dragon isn’t even included in the variant’s most popular build, but it likely should be. ‘For Quel’Thalas!’ is the weakest Holy spell in the deck, so it looks very cuttable. The hybrid Dude package with Muster, Biggun and Crusader Aura seems to perform better than additional Holy spell support cards such as Hammer of Wrath or Holy Cowboy. This deck is about developing a big threat with The Garden’s Grace.
The best performing Dude variant build ended up being the list we made in our theorycrafting article. This deck is currently making big waves at top legend thanks to its superior Demon Hunter matchup. The goal of this deck is to find Showdown, then play Order in the Court and assemble a Showdown/Giant/Beam combo. The Countess, much like in the Buff variant, is a fall-back option in case our primary game plan failed. Amitus is quite strong. We ended up swapping Warhorse Trainer, which isn’t doing much, for Horn of the Windlord.
Reno Paladin is seeing a few different approaches. The best performing variant currently is our Impure Paladin list that only runs Reno as a neutral. The Purator is a very awkward card in the deck, while Muscle-o-Tron similarly underperforms. We’ve replaced them with Lawful Longarm and Flight of the Bronze.
It’s entirely possible that the Pure variant of Reno Paladin currently performs best because neutral iterations are less refined. We’re very open to alternative builds, waiting to see if there’s a breakthrough in that direction.
- Paladin Class Radar
- Pure Paladin
- Reno Paladin
Naga Demon Hunter has gone through multiple iterations, but the breakthrough build is centered around Sightless Magistrate and Magnifying Glaive, running a very curated build of spells and Nagas.
This aggressive version is less all-in on the Sharpshooter combo, which makes its game plan more diversified. Make no mistake though, the deck is still extremely reliant on finding Sharpshooter. It is the best card in the deck, by some distance.
We had two difficult decisions in terms of card choices here. One was Parched Desperado vs Oasis Outlaws. Desperado might be more of a hinderance to draw off Sharpshooter than Outlaws, but the discover pool of Outlaws isn’t very consistent. The other decision is Miracle Salesman vs. Shambling Chow, with Salesman looking slightly better. We like Frequency Oscillator and how much it helps Sharpshooter by discounting Mistake.
Miracle Salesman was a nice upgrade for Rainbow Mage, giving it an easier time setting up a Sif combo. What we’ve noticed is that Lady Naz’jar fell off hard due to being made redundant. You no longer need her discount ability to close out games.
One tweak we’ve made to our theorycrafted build was cutting one Tram Mechanic for the second Elemental Inspiration. The first Tram Mechanic is very nice, but the second one is quite bad.
The final card becomes a choice between Stargazing and Volume Up. Both cards perform well as a single copy. Volume Up is nice for Cosmic Keyboard on turn 4, but Stargazing is very strong with Wisdom of Norgannon.
Secret Mage accommodates an Excavate package relatively well. Inquisitive Creation helps Blastmage Miner connect face more often, so a small Rainbow-ish package alongside Cosmic Keyboard makes sense.
Rommath Mage can also accommodate the Excavate package. The archetype is moderately popular but doesn’t perform great. Its late game is slower, so it often gets outpaced by decks with a faster win condition.
Note that very recent Excavate builds have appeared around Tuesday/Wednesday, not running Rommath/Renathal or a Secret package. We can only talk about them in detail in the next report.
- Mage Class Radar
- Rainbow Mage
- Secret Mage
- Rommath Mage
Dragon Druid is proving to be reliant on a critical mass of dragons and threats. Innverate, for example, looks like a bit of a trap for the archetype. Azsharan Gardens helps us buff Dragon Golems for a cheaper cost than a Lor’themar Theron. Malygos is a nice 4th tutor target for Summer Flowerchild instead.
Time-Lost Protodrake is very strong in the deck, much better than Dragon Tales, which looks quite bad. Surprisingly, the buffs from Azsharan Gardens and Snapdragon don’t make Azerite Chain Gang a good card in the deck.
Starlight Whelp is a recent addition that looks serviceable, but we’re open to other options, such as Amalgam of the Deep. Dragons that can find us other dragons tend to perform well enough.
One thing to note about the mulligan. Don’t settle for Peaceful Piper or Snapdragon, as tempting as they seem to be. You want Splish-Splash Whelp, Cactus Construct and Desert Nestmatron, in that order of priority.
Reno Druid needs to be far greedier than we estimated before the expansion’s launch. You need more threats and late game bombs. Drum Circle is core to the deck as an Embrace of Nature target, even if it means cutting Lifebinder’s Gift and Topior. We focused on adding more playable dragons to the featured build. Otherwise, Dragon Golem becomes weak.
An Excavate package fits okay in Plague Death Knight, but we don’t like the secondary payoffs. Pile of Bones is mulligan bait. Harrowing Ox is hard to fit and utilize. We ended up adding Hardcore Cultist, because this card will save your behind against Paladins.
Burrow Buster is a card we often frown upon when evaluating excavating decks. It’s very mediocre, but alternatives like School Teacher don’t perform better.
Blood-Ctrl has evolved into Reno Death Knight. The most glaring thing we noticed about this archetype’s build is the absence of Theron and Sylvanas. That doesn’t seem right to us. Fun fact: ETC’s performance in this deck is the strongest the card has displayed since its release. This is what happens when you’re storing Vampiric Blood and Soulstealer.
- Death Knight Class Radar
- Plague Death Knight
- Reno Death Knight
Enrage Warrior looks nuts with barely any new cards. We’re quite impressed by the addition of Gold Panner to the deck. Miracle Salesman is starting to see play over Foul Egg, but we’re not convinced this is an upgrade. We do wonder if Acolyte of Pain has become a bit redundant thanks to the card draw from Panner.
Control Warrior is more than fine if you don’t get baited into an elaborate Renathal build with a bunch of tech cards that just make you draw Odyn less often. The partial Excavate package with Badlands Brawler works very well, looking like a superior alternative to the pre-expansion From the Depths build. Do not run more than one Badlands Brawler though.
Reno Shaman has been on a steady climb in its performance since the expansion’s launch thanks to productive refinement by WiRer. Framester does a lot of work in the current meta. We’d cut Primordial Wave if Paladins weren’t blowing up on ladder.
Other Shaman decks don’t seem to gain traction. Nature Shaman sees very little play, Totem Shaman runs no new cards. Elemental Shaman looks terrible.
- Shaman Class Radar
- Reno Shaman
- Nature Shaman
- Totem Shaman
Turns out that it took one more expansion for Cleave Hunter to fulfill the dreaded ABJ prophecy. This deck uses your own minions to nuke your face with ABJ combos through either Hollow Hound or Stonebound Gargon.
Nearly everyone on ladder runs the same build, which makes it difficult for us to find upgrades to certain card slots. We will note that Barrel of Monkeys looks out of place. It’s very likely that there’s a better card to slot in there. We do not like Tracking, as it messes up with your Trinket Tracker finding your best cards. Perhaps, Castle Kennels is worth a shot.
Hound Hunter’s transition into Reno Hunter looks clean. We’re quite content with the build from our theorycrafting article, swapping out Frenzied Fangs for Miracle Salesman.
Arcane Hunter continues to utilize the Secret package. Starshooter did not gain traction here.
- Hunter Class Radar
- Cleave Hunter
- Reno Hunter
- Arcane Hunter
Mech Rogue is the class’ best performing deck, with the same Thunderbringer build from before the expansion.
Though many of the class’ potential strategies have flopped, we see some promise in a Draka Miracle Rogue. The key is running Fan of Knives, which is crucial against Paladin.
Ogre Rogue looks best when utilizing the Thunderbringer package too, but the deck doesn’t perform like one that can stick in the current format.
- Rogue Class Radar
- Mech Rogue
- Miracle Rogue
- Ogre Rogue
Reno Priest has been a complicated deck to build, but what’s struck us is that card draw is very valuable. Even Switcheroo looks like a serviceable addition to the deck, while Handmaiden looks quite important. The rest of the build focuses on survivability, not looking to leverage Elise into a better card. The result is that Elise isn’t that strong but trying to make her stronger by curating the minion pool leads to the deck becoming worse overall.
Control Priest is very unrefined and seems to have potential to be very competitive. Holy Springwater is the only new card that moves us here. No changes to Undead Priest from pre-expansion.
- Priest Class Radar
- Reno Priest
- Control Priest
- Undead Priest
Snake Warlock looked like a menace in the first day of the expansion before getting instantly hotfixed by day 3 due to play pattern concerns. The deck is quite weak now past Diamond 5. The increased cost of Snake and the disappearance of the mirror matchup has led us to drop Zola and Doomkins. Mortal Eradication is important against Paladins.
To be fair, we feel that refining this deck is a bit futile, as it’s getting nerfed next patch to the point building around Snake with Brewmasters is unlikely to be worthwhile. Other Warlock strategies have not gained any traction, leaving the class at the bottom of the meta after its strong start.
The first week of Badlands has been quite eventful, but a trio of aggressive decks seem to be setting the tone early.
Paladin looks like a powerhouse throughout ladder, with its Showdown variant making waves at higher levels of play, where the class is usually frowned upon.
Naga Demon Hunter’s lightning-fast playstyle has been electrifying, with the deck figuring out its strongest build and becoming more versatile.
Enrage is quietly countering both Paladin and Demon Hunter, tempting some players to let go of the new cards and go back to dominating through the power of Imbued Axe and Thori’belore.
Reno Shaman has a good chance of becoming an extremely attractive and well-rounded option, finally giving Shaman the spotlight. Believe in the nine frogs and bonk your opponent in the head.
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