Welcome to the 281st 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
The major pre-Christmas patch has created two different competitive formats. One exists on the climb to legend, while the other exists at top legend. They’re currently different in an extreme way in terms of play rates. The meta across ladder is quite diverse. Top legend, not so much.
Excavate Rogue, following the changes to Velarok and The Azerite Scorpion, has completely exploded at top legend, hitting an absurd 30% play rate. This is the kind of play rate that only historically-broken decks hit, so it’ll be interesting to see whether the deck is that good. Beyond Excavate Rogue centered on Scourge Illusionist, there’s a little bit of Wishing Well Rogue too, trying to break out.
Treant Druid has overtaken Reno and Dragon Druid to become the most popular Druid deck, following strong indications of its remarkable performance level. Overall, Druid decks seem more comfortable in the current format, rising in play thanks to the decline in Paladin. There’s very little of Chad Druid.
Warlock is experiencing a revival, following the buffs to its Sludge package. Two archetypes have emerged this week. Chad Warlock running an OTK/Sludge package, a very different deck from its iteration that focused on undead. Then we have an aggressive Sludge Warlock deck, with a beatdown playstyle complemented by Forge of Wills and Waste Remover.
Death Knight is unchanged. Plague and Blood-Ctrl (Reno) Death Knight are the main decks to play. Rainbow Death Knight has been attempted but hasn’t caught on.
Rainbow Mage has declined quite substantially. The archetype continues to be split between Keyboard and Excavate variants, though Keyboard may be getting more traction recently.
Naga Demon Hunter is rearing its head again, mostly at top legend, following balance changes that were very favorable to it on paper. Nothing else is going on. Reno DH still looks dead.
Control Warrior is going through changes, with a Renathal iteration that finally seems capable of competing as a viable alternative to the 30-card build. This iteration is still fully centered on Odyn in terms of late game finishing, but adds a full excavate package alongside two Brawlers, with extra reactive tools to play a more defensive minded game plan.
Priest is trying all sorts of stuff, but none of its decks see much play. You’ve got Reno Priest, with some builds running the buffed Elise, while other builds ignore her. There are some Control Priests, Naga Priests and even Automaton Priests.
Paladin has seen a drastic decline in play across ladder, though the class is still very visible and remains a core part of the format. Pure, Reno and Earthen Paladin haven’t changed their builds in response to the patch. It seems widely accepted that Prismatic Beam and Keeper’s Strength are still important cards to these decks.
The Shaman population has collapsed, with Reno Shaman barely seeing play anymore. Nature Shaman sees very little play too, even at top legend.
Hunter sees modest play across ladder, before disappearing at top legend. Reno, Cleave and Arcane Hunter attract little competitive interest.
vS Meta Score
vS Power Rankings Discussion
- Is Excavate Rogue broken? Not really. The deck seems good, but it’s remarkable that it displays such an absurdly high play rate at top legend. We do have some good explanations on why it’s popular, and why there’s a little bit more to its power than is initially perceived.
- Excavate Rogue is basically the spiritual successor of Thief Rogue. Both decks try to “open the box” and devise a win condition from whatever they generate. This kind of deck has historically been very attractive for Hearthstone players. The style has always been ‘overplayed’ relative to how good it is. It provides a flavor and feel that many players simply enjoy. Arguably, that’s an indication of a successful design.
- Excavate Rogue’s power is a significant contributor to its popularity too. It may not have the highest win rate, but top legend players tend to underplay Aggro decks, and Excavate Rogue looks like the strongest non-Aggro deck at top legend.
- While the deck isn’t dominant, it’s extremely well rounded and difficult to counter. Some decks do display an edge against it, but this edge is very small (55-45 at most). You can queue Excavate Rogue and feel that every game is winnable. In that sense, Excavate Rogue is a very ‘safe’ deck to queue onto ladder, because it has no hard counters and no unpleasant encounters.
- We believe that all these factors combine into the perfect storm of Excavate Rogue looking like a top legend monster, with many players convinced it’s the “best deck”, despite not displaying an extremely high win rate. There is some strong logic supporting this phenomenon.
- The data strongly suggests that Wishing Rogue is a competitive option for the class too. This archetype is far less refined than Excavate Rogue, with most players not currently running its best version. It might also be a little bit more difficult to play than Excavate Rogue. We’ll have to see how it develops over the next week to fully judge.
- Mech Rogue is gonna Mech Rogue. Strong deck that players care little about because it was always going to have a short shelf life in terms of holding players’ interest.
- The real best performing deck is Treant Druid, which looks nuts across ladder, displaying a very high win rate at some rank brackets. It is comfortably the best deck on the climb to legend and remains a top 2 performer at high MMR’s. What’s quite striking about its matchup spread is that having strong AOE effects is no guarantee of having a good matchup against Treant Druid, as it’s extremely effective at getting under opponents. The reload potential, thanks to its abundance of draw, is very high. Cultivation also means that damage-based AOE is often not enough to get a full clear on their threats. It’s a very, very strong deck. Very cheap too.
- Dragon Druid is extremely underrated. The decline of Paladin means its meta standing had grown, despite suffering significant nerfs with Whelp and Nestmatron. We suspect the nerfs have distracted from this, leading to its low play rate.
- What’s interesting is that its performance currently does not drop off at top legend, where it contests Treant Druid as the format’s best performer. The cause here is its decent matchup into Rogue. When Excavate Rogue is so popular, decks rise and fall, based on how they perform against it.
- Reno Druid is also enjoying this format much more than the Paladin-dominated field before it. It’s a soft counter to Excavate Rogue, so it feels comfortable across ladder. Ironically, the nerf to Splish-Splash Whelp may have helped the archetype, since it made players stop running duplicates in its build!
- Sludge Warlock is real and should be comfortably Tier 2 post-refinement. The buffs to the Sludge package have successfully put the class back on the map. The deck’s scope for improvement is high, so its win rate hovering around 50% at its current state is an encouraging sign.
- There have been a lot of concerns over Thaddius decks taking over the format in the first few days of the patch. Thankfully, Chad Warlock doesn’t seem to be too powerful. There are a lot of ways to pressure it effectively. The deck is currently in decline.
- Reno Warlock is a competitive option, but since other compelling strategies have emerged in the class, it doesn’t receive much attention.
- Plague Death Knight continues to be a Tier 1 performer outside of legend ranks but falls off at higher levels. This is the most limited deck in the format in terms of player agency and ability to outplay opponents, so it tends to lose percentages at higher levels in almost every matchup, including decks with known limited ceilings such as Dragon Druid. Based on current trends, it might fall off to Tier 4 at top legend by next week.
- Blood-Ctrl Death Knight shares a lot of similarities with Plague DK, but on a softer scale. It’s a good example of a defensively robust deck that cannot consistently beat Treant Druid.
- Rainbow Death Knight ain’t it.
- Rainbow Mage’s performance has declined this patch, not enjoying the increased role of Druid in the current meta. Its matchups against Treant and Dragon Druid are particularly crippling, so its top legend standing would be a lot worse if people were more willing to play these decks. As it stands, it’s doing alright.
- Naga Demon Hunter is back to looking quite powerful again at higher MMR’s, with the archetype continuing to iterate on its build, further optimizing its performance. Its matchup spread is quite scary, only held back by Warriors and Rogues.
- Control Warrior is good. The new Renathal build is genuinely stronger than the 30-card build thanks to its superior performance into Treant Druid (that matchup still isn’t easy) and Excavate Rogue (Warrior is slightly favored going 40). With Rainbow Mage falling off, there is more space for Warrior to grow.
- Reno Priest is more competitive than before. Unfortunately, this is no thanks to the Elise buff, but favorable meta trends, especially the fall of Rainbow Mage, which has long been a poor matchup. The field is kinder now, with the Excavate Rogue matchup looking quite comfortable. Reno Priest is also a decent performer into Druid. Control Priest without Reno seems drastically inferior.
- Naga Priest is strong across ladder, though suffers a bit at top legend due to the popularity of Rogue. It might be the best anti-Druid deck in the game.
- Automaton Priest is quite effective at lower ranks and looks like a genuine option for a late legend climb, but the deck exhibits a Plague DK-esque skill ceiling at higher levels of play that causes it to fall off hard.
- Paladin seems like a challenging class to balance across ladder. Even after the nerfs, both Pure and Earthen Paladin look very strong below Diamond 4. Only Treant Druid outperforms them at lower rank brackets. And yet, both decks are borderline unplayable at higher MMR’s, with their win rate in the process of nosediving. The current freeze frame picture puts them at Tier 3, but we wouldn’t be surprised to see them at Tier 4 next week. A spike in Dragon/Treant Druid may be the only thing that can save them from disappearing at the higher end of ladder.
- This has long been an issue for the class. If it’s competitive at higher ranks, it’s broken at Platinum. If it’s balanced at Platinum, it’s unplayable at top legend. The class sits in a niche of simple strategies to help new players learn the game, which is both a blessing (it gets away with things, power level wise, that other classes wouldn’t) and a curse (it’s very unattractive for advanced players and its strategies have a short shelf life unless they’re continuously pushed in power).
- Hold up. Reno Shaman is far from dead. The nerf to Doctor Holli’dae has been impactful at reducing its power level, but Reno Shaman still performs well across ladder, even competing with Reno Druid for the title of the best Reno deck. A deck deletion, this was not. If you like the deck, you can still do well with it. As a major bonus, its matchup with Excavate Rogue is quite good.
- Nature Shaman hasn’t been able to kick on, despite the balance changes being quite good for it on paper. The unexpected emergence of Treant Druid and Warlock decks have disrupted its rise in power. It looked very, very good 2-3 days into the patch. Not so much now.
- Much like Paladin, Hunter suffers from being difficult to balance across different skill brackets due to how “simple” its decks are. Reno Hunter is strong and competitive throughout most of ladder but hits a big wall at top legend that may see it fall to Tier 4 next week. Cleave and Arcane Hunter don’t see much play past Diamond 5, which is why they’re not included in the table, but they exhibit the same problem. Good at lower ranks. Unplayable past a certain point.
Class Analysis & Decklists
There are a few cards that clearly aren’t pulling their weight in Excavate Rogue. Breakdance isn’t worth it. Its combo with Scorpion is underwhelming, while its best utilization relies on finding Velarok. Gear Shift is popular due to its utility in shuffling Drilly back to the deck, but Finley does a better job in this role. Queen Azshara isn’t terrible but doesn’t look as important as she’s been for Miracle Rogue decks.
There are also a few underplayed cards in the archetype. Crabatoa has historically been disrespected in the class but looks very good. Flint is a very effective Velarok activator, one that’s drastically stronger than Stick Up. Stick Up is the worst card in the featured build, but we kept it to make sure Velarok has enough activators. Dropping one copy for Azshara is feasible.
Wishing Rogue shows competitive potential, looking more difficult to refine. The Excavate package seems inferior to the Concoction package. Much like in Excavate Rogue, Crabatoa and Flint look strong and should see more play.
Tess Greymane doesn’t perform particularly well, but she could replace a copy of Stick Up.
- Rogue Class Radar
- Excavate Rogue
- Wishing Rogue
- Mech Rogue
The established build of Treant Druid looks insane. We wouldn’t change a thing about it. Some players cut Witchwood Apple for Gold Panner. We can’t get behind that. Note that this deck is very cheap to craft.
Dragon Druid’s best build has also been figured out. We can very decisively say that the Piper/Snapdragon package is bait. You’ll win significantly more games by cutting it.
Before the most recent patch, Reno Druid has consistently looked better by not running duplicates, though the difference was small (~1%). The nerf to Splish-Splash Whelp has made the power difference more dramatic. Running dupes is a clearer liability now (2-3%), which has led to more players abandoning this path. Ironically, nerfing Whelp has improved Reno Druid’s performance across multiple matchups because it made players stop running duplicate lists.
Chad Druid has been seeking alternative win conditions after the quick ban on Pyrotechnician. There are two popular paths: Rivendare and Ignis. The Ignis build looks drastically better. This deck is extremely difficult to play, exhibiting a win rate in the mid 30’s across most of ladder. At top legend, its win rate rises by nearly 10% (!), which still places it at Tier 4. Perhaps, dropping Rivendare will help push its win rate closer to 50% and establish it at Tier 3. It might genuinely be too inaccessible to see much play.
- Druid Class Radar
- Treant Druid
- Dragon Druid
- Reno Druid
- Chad Druid
Sludge Warlock benefits from playing aggressively, running the Fatigue Imp package. Disciple of Sargeras isn’t an amazing card, but it’s surprisingly playable thanks to its ability to discard Barrels and Furnace Fuel. Imp King Rafaam isn’t as strong in this deck since we don’t run a lot of Imps, but it works nicely with Crazed Conductor.
Chad Warlock has transformed into a Sludge combo deck, built entirely by odd cost cards so that none of them cost mana once you cheat out Thaddius with Amorphous Slime and Chaotic Consumption. Hellfire and Plague Eruption are important since they help clear the board and funnel the Barrel damage face.
The game plan of this deck is to find Slime/Consumption/Thaddius and cheat out Thaddius when it discounts odd-cost cards. At that point, you can play every card in your deck for free. Look to clear the opponent’s board while utilizing Sludge on Wheels to fill your hand with Barrels, then play Silvermoon Arcanists and all the Barrels you’ve managed to generate to nuke your opponent.
- Warlock Class Radar
- Sludge Warlock
- Chad Warlock
- Reno Warlock
The main adjustment from Plague Death Knight is to run Hardcore Cultist again. The card is extremely important against Treant Druid, which is an oppressive matchup without it.
We like the Blood-Ctrl Death Knight list we settled on before the patch. Rainbow Death Knight has gotten better, but ultimately, it’s still not competitive.
- Death Knight Class Radar
- Plague Death Knight
- Blood-Ctrl Death Knight
No changes in Mage decks. Tram Mechanic is still a good card in Rainbow Mage after the rework of Barrel of Sludge, especially in the Keyboard build because it makes for a nice early game curve with Keyboard now (Tram/Keyboard/Barrel).
The Keyboard variant is currently superior to the Excavate variant. This is true at all levels of play.
- Mage Class Radar
- Rainbow Mage
- Rommath Mage
- Secret Mage
The Greedy Partner variant of Naga Demon Hunter is further evolving to maximize the consistency in which it finds Sharpshooter, cutting Oasis Outlaws for Spectral Sight. The buff to Going Down Swinging, meant to improve the performance of Reno DH, has ended up being a strong card in this variant too thanks to Dispose of Evidence. Miracle Salesman is being cut, as it’s more of a pressure card worthy of the Sightless build.
These minor improvements seem to be pushing the Greedy variant to be superior at higher levels of play. Another card that’s being experimented with is Argus, but its performance isn’t great. It usually replaces a copy of Illidari Studies.
Note that card performance in Naga DH is extremely skewed by Sharpshooter’s draw targets, so drawn win rate alone isn’t enough to tell whether a card is worth running. Every Naga or spell has an inflated performance, making cards that can’t be drawn by Sharpshooter look “bad”. We do another layer of analysis that takes that into account, by cancelling the noise that Sharpshooter creates. Not something you can easily do.
Control Warrior builds running Renathal to accommodate a full excavate package alongside Odyn and the armor package look very promising. 40-card is better at outlasting opponents (Excavate Rogue, Dragon Druid, Treant Druid, Sludge Warlock), while 30-card is better into late game strategies that possess strong inevitability (Rainbow Mage, Reno Druid, Control Warrior mirror), making us more reliant on finding Odyn to close out the game.
The 40-card build is currently superior, as its good matchups have become more popular after the patch. The featured build is a cleaned-up version of the deck, omitting several flashy cards that don’t perform too well, so the deck may do better without them (ETC, Prison, Khaz’goroth, Viper).
- Warrior Class Radar
- Control Warrior
- Enrage Warrior
While we initially saw Elise getting stronger after her buff, we soon found out that Reno Priest is better off not running her at all. The current meta puts a great focus on survival, while late game power has become less of a priority. This means that Reno Priest simply wants to maximize removal and defensive tools. This is not a permanent conclusion, as we can see things changing depending on trends.
Pelagos and Valishj are overrated in Naga Priest. We’d rather play School Teachers in those slots. Automaton Priest should be running Pip.
- Priest Class Radar
- Reno Priest
- Naga Priest
- Automaton Priest
- Undead Priest
Both Prismatic Beam and Keeper’s Strength are still important cards in Paladin that shouldn’t be cut from any archetype, especially when Treant Druid is this strong, making AOE effects extremely valuable.
One thing we did notice is that the Beam nerf caused Showdown to become more important in Earthen Paladin, since Beam is more reliant on Showdown to enable it.
- Paladin Class Radar
- Pure Paladin
- Reno Paladin
- Earthen Paladin
Reno Shaman may have been abandoned by players, but the deck is still good. One adjustment that the deck can make is add Doomhammer. This provides us with more damage to close out the game, something we lost with the nerf to the Staff of the Nine Frogs. An ETC running Turn the Tides makes Doomhammer/Horn a consistent burst damage threat in the late game.
Hunter has been very quiet, but the class is competitive and there are some new developments. A new-ish build of Cleave Hunter cuts Tracking/Trinket Tracker/Azerite Chain Gang for a package of board-based threats. Twisted Netherwing and Spurfang alongside Yelling Yodeler and Nathanos can pack a lot of pressure, making the deck less reliant on killing the opponent with an ABJ combo.
A small tweak to the Thunderbringer Reno Hunter build cuts Tram Mechanic and re-adds Frenzied Fangs. We’ve noticed immediately that after the Barrel of Sludge change, Tram Mechanic is no longer a good card in this deck, contrary to Rainbow Mage where it has added value in the spell school count.
As more people dropped the 2nd copy of Messenger Buzzard from the 30-card Reno Hunter build, we’ve noticed that this variant is very close in power to the 40-card build. The earth is round, and you shouldn’t run duplicates in your Reno deck.
- Hunter Class Radar
- Reno Hunter
- Cleave Hunter
- Arcane Hunter
Excavate Rogue may be public enemy number 1, due to its popularity at the ranks where Hearthstone is most visible through streamers and content creators, but the best performing deck in the game is none other than “under 2000 dust” Treant Druid.
This deck is fast to get to the board and snowball, while capable of developing boards through cultivation that circumvent AOE effects such as Inquisitive Creation and Sanitize, getting under opponents in a surprisingly effective way.
In appropriate fashion, the best deck during Christmas is a Tree deck.
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