Welcome to the 280th edition of the Data Reaper Report!
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Number of Games
|Top 1K Legend
|Legend (Excluding Top 1k)
|Diamond 4 to 1
|Diamond 10 to 5
Class Frequency Discussion
While the initial nerf to Order in the Court caused a notable reduction in Paladin’s play rate, the second set of balance changes targeting Mage and Warrior has reversed the trend, with Paladin once again spiking in popularity, even surpassing its numbers on the first couple of weeks of the expansion. Pure Paladin has fully hybridized, with new builds including both the Showdown/Beam combo, as well as a sizeable Garden’s Grace package. Reno and Earthen Paladin have carved out a more modest presence in the format. Reno Paladin’s neutral Renathal builds have gained more traction, providing an alternative to the 30-card builds running Order in the Court and Reno as the only neutral card. Earthen Paladin is finally looking like a serious meta competitor too.
Druid has gained a lot of momentum after the first set of nerfs, but Paladin’s spike in popularity this week has halted Druid’s growth. Paladin is a well established counter to all of Druid’s strategies, so it doesn’t come as a surprise. Both Dragon and Reno Druid continue to go through a lot of experimentations. Dragon Druid tends to be more popular outside of legend ranks, while Reno Druid is more common at high MMR’s. Varied builds of Treant Druid have appeared too. The increased interest in a Pyrotechnician Fire Druid has been mostly recorded after the database for this report closed. We’ll comment on its performance too, for those curious.
Rainbow Mage has taken a hit in its play rate after the nerf to Inquisitive Creation, but it continues to be one of the more popular decks in the format, as it’s proving to be one of the most attractive designs that the Hearthstone team has produced over the last year. As long as its win rate doesn’t get nuked outside a competitive range, players will be eager to pilot one of the only late game synergy decks in the format, one that does not rely on Reno. The nerf to Creation seems to have had a more negative effect on Rommath Mage, an archetype that exhibited a questionable performance level even before the nerf.
Plague Death Knight is known to be a Reno counter, but one that doesn’t perform well against non-Reno decks that possess a faster clock. As more of these non-Reno decks get nerfed and see reduced play, such as Enrage Warrior and Rainbow Mage, Plague DK’s status rises. For the first time, its play rate no longer significantly declines at top legend. Blood-Ctrl Death Knight, which has become a Reno deck at the expansion’s launch, is also seeing more play, potentially benefitting from the reduced play rate of Mage too.
Reno Shaman, much like Druid, has seen some of its momentum slow down. The rise of Paladin is not what bothers Reno Shaman. It’s the increased prevalence of Plague DK, its most painful counter, that may explain the recent negative trend. Another noteworthy development is the increased popularity of Rustrot Viper, which happens to be a strong tech against Shaman, but is also meant to target Ignis. At top legend, Nature Shaman has reappeared.
Enrage Warrior has fallen off hard. This is a deck that was already not super attractive and did not display a high play rate despite a dominant performance level, so the heavy handed nerfs it has received have unsurprisingly relegated it to a fringe presence. Control Warrior maintains a middling presence.
Naga Demon Hunter has become a top legend specialty since the health nerf to Sharpshooter, but the deck doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon at high MMR’s. Some recovery in its play rate can be observed, indicating that the archetype isn’t done. Experimentation with a different build approach can also be found.
The buffs to the Excavate package have inspired some more experimentation in Rogue, but nothing has gained serious traction. The only fleshed out deck within the class is Mech Rogue.
Priest is similar to Rogue in its messiness and absence of established decks. Players have lost faith in Reno Priest. Recently, attempts have been made to revive Naga Priest.
Interest in Hunter is very low. Reno Hunter is its most established archetype, split into Renothal Thunderbringer builds and 30-card Messenger Buzzard builds. Arcane Hunter has stagnated in the absence of new cards. Cleave Hunter has been sidelined after the nerf to ABJ.
Warlock looks like a dead carcass of a class. Reno Warlock is the most popular deck here, which reeks of desperation to find anything that works.
vS Meta Score
vS Power Rankings Discussion
- Pure Paladin is absolutely, utterly broken. This is one of the strongest displays of dominance we’ve seen in recent years. The deck is so far ahead of the field, with reliable counter options looking scarce. Below Diamond 4, Pure Paladin’s win rate exceeds 60%, which is a number dominant decks usually hit at Bronze through Gold. At top legend, Pure Paladin’s win rate is still above 55%, which is completely ridiculous, with no other Tier 1 decks allowed to exist. There is no indication that the meta is capable of adjusting to this monster, with recent data trends suggesting that the deck is only getting better! This is a Tier S deck that looks unstoppable, and should completely choke out the format in the next few days.
- While the Order in the Court nerf was initially impactful, Pure Paladin quickly figured out how to merge the best elements of its two variants, creating the ultimate hybrid deck. The nerfs to Mage and Warrior, two classes that were capable of contesting the Paladin’s advance, were also major contributors to Paladin’s explosion.
- Earthen Paladin is another strong deck within the class, but it’s overshadowed by the absurdity of Pure Paladin. The major difference here are some of the Reno matchups. Earthen Paladin isn’t as fast at applying pressure, so Reno decks have more time to find their Reno, which is a back breaking answer to Earthen Paladin’s board development. There are some ways we can help Earthen Paladin perform better in these matchups, but there is little reason to play Earthens at the moment, unless you really enjoy them.
- Reno Paladin is weaker than the other two Paladin deck, but there’s some room for refinement. Neutral Renothal builds have gotten closer in power to the established Impure build, but there are still suboptimal card choices hurting its performance. A refined Reno Paladin sits close to the 50% win rate mark.
- Dragon Druid is a powerful deck that’s getting obliterated by Pure Paladin. The current format is extremely warped around one deck, so it’s harder to appreciate the secondary layer that could get exposed once you peel the first one. In the event of significant Paladin nerfs, which seem inevitable next week, Dragon Druid might become the next big thing. The archetype already looked very strong last week, before the second set of balance changes that triggered the Paladin explosion, so it’s likely that something will be done to prevent one tyrant being replaced by another. Reno Druid is also quite strong and well-rounded in a format that isn’t dominated by Pure Paladin.
- Though it may not show currently, Treant Druid has a lot of potential for improvement. There’s one specific build that looks particularly promising, good enough to be a Tier 2 deck in the current meta, despite the Paladin dominance.
- Fire Druid currently looks quite awful. It’s a new deck that might be difficult to play because it’s APM intensive, so we’ll see if it evolves into something more. As it stands, it’s not it. If we get a chance to, we’ll work on it, but we couldn’t do it in this report.
- Rainbow Mage’s performance across many matchups has declined, including the key Pure Paladin matchup, due to the nerf to Inquisitive Creation. The archetype has managed to stay close to the 50% win rate mark above Diamond 5, which is a solid spot to be in, thanks to the field becoming more accommodating over the last week. The rise in Death Knight and decline in Druid/Enrage Warrior has partially mitigated Mage’s power falling in a vacuum, keeping it competitive.
- Other Mage decks don’t seem very relevant. Rommath Mage isn’t good enough, while Secret Mage is unappealing and underwhelming.
- Plague Death Knight is now one of the strongest decks in the format, keeping up a high performance level at top legend, where it usually falls off due to its extremely limited skill ceiling. The balance changes have predictably helped the archetype and turned it into a competitive threat across all of ladder.
- One thing to note about the current format is that it’s far lower in player agency than other formats we’ve evaluated over the past few years. Most decks in the game don’t exhibit big skill differentials from Diamond ranks to top level play. Skill is a tricky metric that can only be judged relatively to other decks in an existing format, but we’ve noticed that many archetypes that normally fell off at higher levels during Titans, don’t exhibit a similar fall in performance during Badlands. Plague Death Knight is normally a big outlier in negative skill differential. It might be the easiest deck to play in the game, and tends to get exposed by high level players. Not anymore, since most other decks in the format are also relatively low in player agency. Very few decks exhibit “outplay” potential in the current meta. There isn’t a single Reno deck that currently displays a positive skill differential, even though Highlander decks don’t have to behave this way (Raza Priest was very skill intensive back in the KFT/K&C era, for example).
- Blood-Ctrl Death Knight looks more competitive, though still a sitting duck for some strategies. It’s one of the only decks that might be able to develop into a soft Pure Paladin counter, so it’s got that going for it.
- Reno Shaman looks solid and capable of surviving under an oppressive Pure Paladin tyrant. Reno Shaman’s main concern is the rise in Plague DK, which shuts off Doctor Holli’dae, one of the most powerful cards in the current meta.
- Nature Shaman is a very competitive deck at top level play, exhibiting a Tier 2 performance level and a matchup spread that suggests this deck could become quite dangerous in the event of big Pure Paladin nerfs. It’s also the most skill intensive deck in the format, significantly improving its performance at higher levels.
- Control Warrior’s performance has been ruined by the increased experimentation of the Excavate package and other nonsense. A refined Control Warrior deck is closer to a 50% win rate than a 47% win rate, but this archetype perpetually attracts bad builds, which hurts our ability to evaluate it properly.
- The nerfs to Enrage Warrior have been quite brutal, with the deck barely looking competitive anymore.
- There has been a lot of discussion regarding the nerf to Sharpshooter, with Naga Demon Hunter initially dropping off in its performance on the first week of the nerf. However, the archetype has been showing signs of recovery that began last week. Players have adjusted to the new Sharpshooter, even with a new build that tries to leverage the card’s pop off turns more. Naga DH is also the second most skill intensive deck in the format, only sitting behind Nature Shaman in its skill differential, so we can see its performance improving over time as players relearn the deck. It is currently the best performing non-Paladin deck at top legend, with trends that suggest a further rise in its power is likely, which might turn it into a Tier 1 contender. Balance changes to other decks certainly threaten to bring Naga DH back into a dominant position. We suspect we haven’t seen the end of this story.
- Rogue sucks, unless you play Mech Rogue, which is alright. We haven’t found anything particularly promising amongst the garbage being tested in the class. A breakthrough may still be found, but it’s clear that the class needs some help.
- Priest sucks, but based on its low sample, Naga Priest might be a very competitive deck. It has never been the most attractive deck for players, so we’re not sure it will gain much traction, but the signs are promising. Currently, its win rate is comfortably positive.
- Reno Hunter is a fine deck that’s currently being obliterated by Pure Paladin, which scares many players away. In the event of Pure Paladin nerfs, we think it’s likely that it establishes a strong position in the meta. The 40-card build is good. The 30-card build might be good if you let the duplicate idea go.
- Other Hunter decks are worse and just as terrified by Pure Paladin. Cleave Hunter still looks playable after the ABJ nerf, so we think the class will generally look a lot more attractive once the meta tyrant is addressed.
- Warlock needs help. A refined Reno Warlock may not be as horrible as the stats suggest, but the class should not be relying on Reno to bail it out. The Excavate package got nerfed to the point it cannot be built around, while the Sludge package has failed. Some compensation is needed to bring the class back to relevance.
Class Analysis & Decklists
Pure Paladin has completely taken over the format with a new build that merges the best elements from a Dude Showdown build and a Buff Garden’s Grace build. Jitterbug provides card draw in the absence of Order in the Court, which is no longer a competitive card after its nerf.
Tyr is a popular inclusion in this deck, but it looks very weak and slow, while Horn of the Windlord is also not great. We opted to run second copies of Hammer of Wrath and Deputization Aura, both of which look like powerful cards that help us accelerate into The Garden’s Grace.
Earthen Paladin is the strongest it’s ever been, looking like an elite choice in the current format, but happens to be overshadowed by Pure Paladin. Showdown is not a great card in this deck, so we’ve added Astalor and Ignis to diversify the deck’s late game. Adding off-board damage helps us stress defensive opponents.
Neutral Renathal Reno Paladin is developing into a serious alternative to the Impure 30-card build, a result of the nerf to Order in the Court. The featured build makes some tweaks to the most popular list. Glacial Shard seems outdated. Tyr is overrated. Dirty Rat is particularly awful in Paladin. We’ve also cut Feast and Famine, though this was a more difficult decision, keeping Great Hall for the Pure Paladin matchup. We’ve replaced these cards with proven performers in Reno decks: Greedy Partner, Gold Panner, Yogg-Saron and the recently buffed Flint Firearm.
- Paladin Class Radar
- Pure Paladin
- Reno Paladin
- Earthen Paladin
Dragon Druid is having greater success cutting the Piper/Snapdragon package. These cards are mulligan baits that don’t perform well at any stage of the game. Instead, the archetype is counting on Splish-Splash Whelp to carry its early game, while bolstering its late game. Alexstrasza looks like a strong 5th dragon to tutor through Summer Flowerchild. Amalgam of the Deep looks stronger than Starlight Whelp. Innervates are still quite weak in this deck, but we’ve kept them this time to help Malygos.
It’s been very fashionable to run two copies of Splish-Splash Whelp and Nourish in Reno Druid. The thinking behind it is to prioritize ramping consistency at the cost of delaying the Highlander payoffs, with an understanding that some of our tutoring power will lessen this penalty. However, we’ve seen absolutely no indication that running a couple of duplicates in Reno Druid is beneficial to its performance.
We suspect that since the performance isn’t drastically hurt by duplicates (it’s a small difference hovering around 1%), it has led to the idea becoming such a near-consensus. Running duplicates leads to a more polarizing experience, where you’ve very reliant on finding those dupes early. The highs of drawing ramp cards early in a duplicate list stick to a player’s memory more than a game losing scenario of an inactive Reno in hand, where the player might brush off the situation as just being “unlucky”.
Surprisingly, even to us, the initial Reno Druid build we’ve settled on three weeks ago still performs well. We haven’t found any way to upgrade it. We’ll still feature a duplicate list alongside it, just because we had a lot of data on this approach and we can’t ignore it, but it’s not better in any way.
With all the attention placed on the two popular archetypes in the class, Treant Druid is quietly performing well when refined. A new Infuse-focused build running Plot of Sin and Life from Death looks strong.
- Druid Class Radar
- Dragon Druid
- Reno Druid
- Treant Druid
Rainbow Mage is split between two variants that perform very similarly: Keyboard and Excavate. They should differ by around eight cards.
Cold Case is not very strong if you don’t run Keyboard, so it’s not included in the Excavate build. We think Stargazing should be given a chance in the Excavate build, considering it’s done well in the Keyboard build, and there should be no difference in its tutoring functionality.
We recommend running Reverberation in both variants, as the card is currently important in the Paladin matchup. But in the event of big Paladin nerfs that significantly reduce the class’ presence, we’re quite open to cutting the card, as surprising as that sounds.
No big changes to Rommath Mage, but we’ve noticed that the nerf to Inquisitive Creation has pushed a Rainbow package out of Secret Mage.
- Mage Class Radar
- Rainbow Mage
- Rommath Mage
- Secret Mage
In Plague Death Knight, Hardcore Cultists aren’t as effective against current Pure Paladins since the Muster/Biggun/Crusader Aura package is commonly cut. We’ve replaced them with Thassarian and Prison of Yogg-Saron. We’re not too happy with Prison, as it’s clearly the worst card in the deck, but haven’t found better alternatives. Pozzik could be okay. Finley looks terrible. Burrow Buster has gotten slightly better after its health buff, keeping it ahead of School Teacher.
Blood-Ctrl Death Knight has pivoted to the most defensive builds, focusing on survival, outlasting the opponent. We noticed Flint Firearm has become better after the patch. Gold Panner is also a good card in Renothal decks that doesn’t see as much play it should.
- Death Knight Class Radar
- Plague Death Knight
- Blood-Ctrl Death Knight
In Reno Shaman, Pozzik looks like a great card that helps us pressure the opponent before setting up Doctor Holli’dae. We’re unconvinced by ETC’s utilization. It seems forced and doesn’t contribute in meaningful ways to the deck, in contrast to its usefulness in Paladin or Death Knight. We would rather main deck Viper in the current format.
The format is also becoming quite greedy with Reno decks, so we like Cold Storage over Glacial Shard.
Nature Shaman has become a competitive option, especially at higher levels. Inzah and Radiance are positive additions to the deck. It seems that ease of late game execution is the most important aspect when refining the deck for the current format.
Enrage Warrior is now a much weaker deck after the nerfs to Thori’belore and Battleworn Faceless. There haven’t been any notable attempts to adjust to the nerfs.
Control Warrior’s best build continues to be the partial excavate variant. Renathal and Reno variants look bad.
Following the health nerf to Sharpshooter, Naga Demon Hunter is split into two variants that are six cards apart. The Sightless variant is the same one that dominated the format before the Sharpshooter nerf. Nothing changed in its build. The alternative variant cuts Bibliomite/Magistrate/Glaive for Oasis Outlaws/Parched Desperado, Greedy Partner, and Sigil of Time.
The alternative build trades frontloaded pressure for backloaded Sharpshooter off-board plays. As a result, it is significantly harder to play. Outside of top legend, the Sightless build is stronger. At top legend, where players are more proficient at setting up Sharpshooter blow outs, the gap in power closes and both builds look equally viable.
Mech Rogue looks like the only competitive Rogue deck. Any attempts to leverage the excavate buffs in this class have fallen flat. We haven’t found a single non-Mech Rogue deck that performs at a level above Tier 4.
Reno Priest still looks bad. We’ve made some adjustments for the current meta, such as adding Deafen (Paladin) and Viper (Ignis/Shaman), but the deck’s matchup holes are glaring.
Naga Priest has reappeared, pioneered by our own D0nkey. The deck looks very promising. We made a few tweaks to his list, adding more Nagas to boost up Serpent Wig further.
- Priest Class Radar
- Reno Priest
- Undead Priest
- Naga Priest
Reno Hunter has heavily experimented with 30-card builds over the last few weeks, many of them running Messenger Buzzard as a sole duplicate. Much like in Druid, the thinking was to hard mull for Buzzard as the glue card for the deck and enjoy its benefits alongside the highlander payoffs.
But in this case, the outcome was atrocious. Running duplicate Messenger Buzzards in Hunter causes a severe drop in the deck’s performance, much higher than a Reno Druid running two copies of both Whelp and Nourish. The most important reasons are:
- Messenger Buzzard is nowhere near as strong as Splish Splash Whelp.
- Theldurin is a faster payoff compared to Rheastrasza, one that can win you the game as early as turn 4. Its window of opportunity is bigger, so shutting it off until you draw a duplicate affects its window much more.
- Druid has more card draw and tutoring power than Hunter.
30-card Buzzard builds might be a viable alternative to the Thunderbringer Renothal build if you let go of the dupe idea.
Castle Kennels looks like a decent card in Cleave Hunter. The deck now needs to run Tracking to make use of Trinket Tracker better, since ABJ cannot be drawn by it anymore.
Arcane Hunter is desperate for burst damage in slow matchups, so it’s started to run Krakenbane again.
- Hunter Class Radar
- Reno Hunter
- Cleave Hunter
- Arcane Hunter
Warlock is in very bad shape. Reno Warlock is the most competitive option the class has, but it’s not particularly good. It’s been all downhill since the first couple of days of the expansion, when The Azerite Snake set the tone for the format.
Pure Paladin is giga busted. The deck will be addressed next week, but the next patch requires other tough decisions, with pre-emptive nerfs to other strategies likely to happen to prevent them from becoming the next big bad.
The new Pure Paladin build is basically the Garden’s Grace variant deciding that the Showdown/Beam combo is just too good. The nerf to Order in the Court made the Sea Giant plan non-viable anyway, while there is plenty of card draw to make sure you can find your power plays despite the supposed loss of consistency. What stands out in the new Pure Paladin is its strong comeback mechanics through both Keeper’s Strength and Prismatic Beam. Normally, aggressive Paladins that lose the board, tend to lose the game. But current Pure Paladin is never down and out, able to perform swing turns that win the game from the brink of defeat.
This deck is so much better than any other deck that the next few days should be all about either playing it or countering it… somehow.
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