Welcome to the 31st edition of the Data Reaper Report!
As our final report for 2016 we’d like to take a moment to give a special thank you to Track-o-bot for a great lightweight Hearthstone tracker which has enabled us to provide you our weekly report in its current form. You can contribute to Track-o-bot here and give a shoutout to the creator here.
Our Data Reaper Project, including the Data Reaper Live (Beta) has over 2,100 active contributors. Without them, this project would not be possible, so we’d like to thank all of our contributors for their help.
Number of Games
Class Frequency by Day (Since MSoG Launch)
Class Frequency by Week
The Meta is far from being settled and we’re in the process of a significant internal shift in the Shaman class that is going to impact the strength of every deck in the game relatively to the field. Aggro Shaman numbers have fallen while Midrange variants of the class are seeing more play, with players having success with different iterations of Midrange, both Jade and non-Jade. This is the result of the Meta becoming more hostile to Aggro Shaman. With Reno Mage gunning for the tyrant and Jade Druids slowly fading away, free wins are not available as often as last week to the Aggro Shaman archetype.
The Warrior class is an island of tranquility amidst the chaos. Both Pirate Warrior and Dragon Warrior numbers have remained steady, with Dragon Warrior slightly rising as a response to Aggro Shaman’s domination. Control Warrior retains a small presence on ladder, trying to find aggressive decks to abuse with its defensive toolkit.
Reno Warlock is in decline, and we’re not surprised. After its early success when the Meta was just being figured out, decks are now primed to challenge it. Rogues are a constant strain on its performance, and it doesn’t reliably beat aggressive decks such as Aggro Shaman and Pirate Warrior in any way, shape or form. The internal shift in the Shaman class, however, should help its future prospects, since Midrange Shaman variants are weaker to the Warlock’s arsenal of AOE.
The number of Rogues has not moved an inch, and Miracle Rogue is now a very popular choice at all levels of play. With the decline of Aggro Shaman and Reno Warlock, it has pulled ahead as the most popular deck in the game at legend. While the decline of Warlock does not bode well for Rogue, it likely isn’t going to go away anytime soon.
As we’ve predicted a couple of weeks ago, Reno Mage was a ticking time bomb and its grand entrance into the scene was inevitable. Players figured out that this archetype is extremely well positioned in the Meta, capable of beating aggressive decks consistently, while not giving up an inch to other popular Meta decks, such as Reno Warlock and Miracle Rogue. Its biggest counters, Jade Druid and Dragon Priest, were two of the most hyped up archetypes before MSoG’s release, but have been on a gradual decline for a while. Reno Mage has become a very popular choice particularly at higher levels of play, where it simply cannot be ignored as a threat.
The Priest bleeding has been brought to a halt, and while the class isn’t as strong as predicted, it’s still very relevant. Dragon Priest is a powerful archetype, and the shift in the Meta towards Midrange Shaman builds and Reno Mage means it will likely do very well in the future. Reno Priest has been going under much experimentation, with the prime question being, can it solve the Reno Warlock/Miracle Rogue problem?
Druid is continuing its decline on the back of Jade Druid’s struggles against any deck that doesn’t give it time to generate 1 mana 10/10’s somewhere on turn 15. Jade Druid is one of the most polarizing decks in the game, having really good matchups against some control decks, and really bad matchups against some aggro and midrange decks. The bottom line does not seem worth it for most players, and so they are moving away from it.
Paladin and Hunter used to be classes in Hearthstone.
Aggro Shaman is still strong, but are we anywhere close to having an unstoppable monster that causes Meta stagnation like Midrange Shaman after Karazhan? No, we are nowhere near that. We can clearly see that Aggro Shaman is actually being suppressed at the highest levels of play, where its win rate is still top tier, but not game breaking. Hearthstone is very close to having a Meta without any deck being a clear cut front runner, with multiple archetypes from 8 classes hovering around the 50% mark depending on which direction the Meta swings towards next. Remember, the “Tiers” are somewhat arbitrary forms of separation for win rate groups, and you can consider any deck that has a win rate that is slightly below 50% to be perfectly viable and even stronger in certain situations. Even Paladin manages to crack into Tier 3 with the Anyfin combo deck, which gives hopes for a class that was written off by many. It may yet serve a purpose in the future.
The experiments being done with Midrange Shaman variants appear to be bearing fruit, and the Jade package seems to be particularly strong at legend rank. Midrange Shamans are more flexible and aren’t as prone to being countered by a specific deck, so the internal shift and increased diversity in the class makes sense to us. It’s hard to go wrong with a class that has so many great tools available to it.
The changes in Shaman are greatly affecting the Warrior class. Dragon Warrior does well against Aggro Shaman, but it can struggle against the Midrange variants, so it is the biggest victim of the Meta shift which was caused, ironically, by its own rise in play. Dragon Warrior’s power ranking score has taken a nose dive from last week, and Pirate Warrior now looks like a more appealing choice for ladder play!
Miracle Rogue has taken a hit, primarily as a result of Reno Warlock’s decline in numbers. With less Warlocks and Druids to farm, the ladder Meta is becoming more difficult for Rogue to navigate. Notice the pattern: every deck that thrives a bit too much, gets accounted for relatively quickly.
Poor Reno Warlock can’t break the 50% barrier. Many players believe it is one of the best decks in the game, but in the context of the current Meta, the evidence suggests otherwise. It simply has losing records against the other 3 most popular decks: Aggro Shaman, Pirate Warrior and Miracle Rogue. This is true at ALL levels of play. However, there is room for optimism when it comes to the archetype. The rise of Midrange Shaman variants is already having a positive effect on its performance at legend and bodes well for its future. In addition, its matchup spread is very balanced. If you bring it to a tournament format with the plan of banning Rogue, it becomes much more difficult to target and punish.
After much refinement over the past couple of weeks, Reno Mage is the real deal. The archetype has surged in its performance across all levels and, at least for the moment, is looking like one of the strongest ladder decks in the game. Unlike Reno Warlock, it is able to consistently beat both Aggro Shaman and Pirate Warrior, and it doesn’t roll over and die at the sight of Rogue. Until there is a better reason to play Jade Druid, which is a matchup that is hard to stomach for the Mage, the archetype is likely going to stick around.
Dragon Priest is an inherently strong deck, but gets weaker as you climb up the ranks and meet a more unforgiving Meta. However, the recent trends are working in its favor. It deals with Midrange Shamans and Reno Mage extremely well, while some of its worse matchups are declining. Don’t sleep on it; it may have break-out potential in the future.
There are several decks we’re watching closely. Reno Priest and Control Warrior are being refined at high levels and are showing some potential of becoming stronger in the Meta. If Jade Druid continues to decline, the scene might be favorable enough for them to make a real impact.
Class Analysis & Decklists
Thrall is still sitting pretty at the top of the Meta now that the dust from Mean Streets of Gadgetzan’s entrance has settled.
Aggro Shaman continues to dominate ladder play in both its presence as well its performance. The pirate package has provided it with even more consistency in the early game and the new Jade cards fit the archetype perfectly. Jade Aggro Shaman, which was popularized by Spo, continues to be the most common build on ladder, with flex spots cards being Aya Blackpaw, 2nd Flamewreathed Faceless, Azure Drake, Argent Horserider and Leeroy Jenkins. Demigod’s build is also a very strong option for control matchups and Rogue, retaining the Doomhammer package that gives the deck incredible reach.
Midrange Shaman has been seeing some amount of success recently as well, in many different forms, the prime difference being the presence of the Jade package, which appears to be extremely useful in the current Meta even if you don’t opt for the whole available package.
Mid-Jade Shamans are becoming leaner and more early game oriented. Bearnugget hit #2 legend with a list utilizing both Jade and Pirate cards. The build only includes Small Time Buccaneers to trigger Patches, and a smaller Jade package that helps the deck with both its late game longevity and its mid-game snowball potential. RayC also hit #2 legend with a similar list that forgoes the Pirate early game, adding consistency in other areas, such as AOE.
Classic Midrange Shamans are still present and very successful, often running Bloodlust in order to deal with matchups that require reach, such as Renolock. Some players have begun to add an interesting package to the Midrange core: The Dopplegangster/Evolve combo. This build is seeing success at high levels of play, with multiple players hitting top 100 with it. It’s still relatively rare on ladder, but may not stay that way for long.
The Jade package hasn’t neglected Control Shaman builds either. CrumbledCake built an N’Zoth/Jade list that packs quite a menacing late game with Jade Chieftain often closing out games. With Control Shaman’s potential to deal with aggressive decks very well, it may be an archetype to consider in a tournament format.
- Shaman Class Radar
- Spo’s Spirit/Jade Aggro Shaman
- Demigod’s Doom/Jade Aggro Shaman
- Bearnugget’s Mid-Jade Shaman
- RayC’s Mid-Jade Shaman
- Killingallday’s Midrange Shaman
- CrumpledPauper’s Evolve Midrange Shaman
- CrumbleCake’s Jade Control Shaman
- wiRer’s Control Shaman
The Warrior class is maintaining its characteristics post-MSG, with Pirate and Dragon Warriors being the most common and successful, while Control Warrior retains a modest presence with an even more modest performance level.
Even though the builds of aggressive Warrior decks have remained steady, there’s still experimentation being done with both archetypes. Sjow has hit top 10 legend with a Pirate Warrior build that has more of a mid-game presence through Southsea Captain and Naga Corsair. Mortal Strike is a card that is often put into question. It provides reach through taunts that the Pirate Warrior would otherwise not possess, which is very important; but, with opponents knowing how to play around it as well as the card being poor in aggressive mirrors, there’s definitely a case to cut it as well. This debate likely does not have a clear cut answer.
While Dragon Warrior’s shell will always be similar, there are two main approaches to the archetype at the moment. The first is the Curator-centric builds, which are the classic midrange decks that Dragon Warrior has been known for before the expansion’s release, with only the early game five Pirate package added in. In these builds, there are a few flex spots that can be filled according to the Meta, such as the Arcanite Reaper in Inderen’s build. Powder recently piloted his Dragon Warrior variant to rank 4 Legend, featuring a single Bloodsail Cultist, a card that often finds its way into Dragon Warrior due to its synergy with N’Zoth’s First Mate. Other popular flex cards are Ooze, Ghoul, 2nd Blood to Ichor and Execute.
The 2nd take is a Hybrid Dragon/Pirate Warrior, popularized by C4mlann and TwoBiers. This approach is much more aggressive in nature, combining the weapon package that is common in Pirate builds with the core 12 Dragon synergy cards. This makes the deck almost as fast as Pirate Warrior, but tries to take advantage of the strong mid-game that the Dragon package offers with Drakonid Crusher. The Blackwing Technician is the flex card in the deck, and can be switched to Ooze or the 2nd Arcanite Reaper.
Control Warrior continues to very gradually creep back into the Meta, with VLPS managing to hit top 20 with his list. Dirty Rat is the most interesting inclusion, and one that has begun to appear in other Control Warrior builds earlier in the month. Its main purpose is to give the Warrior a chance to disrupt the game plan of a Reno deck, which is packed with powerful battlecries and combo pieces. Pulling out Kazakus, for example, can be game changing and allow the Warrior to steal games it has no business winning otherwise. The added utility of Dirty Rat in aggressive matchups, or in the matchup against Rogue, is also quite significant.
However, the likely rise of Midrange Shaman builds does not bode well for Control Warrior, with the Jade mechanic being particularly crippling for the archetype. At the moment, Control Warrior seems to be more suited for tournaments, where one is able to ban out a bad matchup and focus on countering aggressive decks such as Pirate Warrior and Aggro Shaman.
- Warrior Class Radar
- Sintolol’s Pirate Warrior
- Sjow’s Pirate Warrior
- Inderen’s Dragon Warrior
- Powder’s Dragon Warrior
- C4mlann/TwoBiers Hybrid Dragon Warrior
- VLPS’ Control Warrior
- Fibonacci’s Control Warrior
Reno Warlock is facing a ladder Meta built to beat it, which is causing the archetype not to perform as well as it did earlier in the expansion. The good news for Reno Warlock is the potential rise of Midrange Shamans, a matchup in which the Warlock generally does well, with its plethora of board clears. Amnesiac was able to pilot his version of Renolock to top 20 legend this week. Reno Warlock is at a very refined stage, with just a few flex slots that vary between builds.
Zoo Warlock has yet to recover from its winter hibernation, and for the first time in Hearthstone’s history, appears to have completely gone away. Although the Zoo archetype has received some new toys this expansion, they do not compete well against Patches decks and Reno decks. Weapon based aggressive decks are able to beat Zoo off the board, while the huge surge in AOE spells post-MSoG means the Zookeeper cannot consistently establish a board against control decks. With its huge reliance on damage through board control, Zoo has simply withered away.
Miracle Rogue continues to be at the forefront of the Meta, despite the large presence of aggressive decks on ladder. The Pirate package has helped Rogue incredibly, as it provides the archetype with a proactive early game that it has lacked since its inception. MrYagut’s version with one Violet Teacher is one of the more popular builds, although Xzirez’ build that substitutes Violet Teacher for one copy of Conceal is quite common as well.
Questing Adventurer builds are also seeing some amount of play, with their biggest advantage being better matchups against some of the slower decks of the Meta, at the cost of consistency due to having a higher occurrence rate of awkward draws. Malygos builds are rare and have mostly disappeared from ladder play, due to the win condition being slower and the lack of Cold Blood meaning the deck’s ability to race in aggressive matchups is limited.
As the Meta becomes less forgiving, other Rogue archetypes are fading away and there is less experimentation being done with them. Aggro Rogue has made a re-appearance on the back of SilentStorm’s journey to top 20 legend with a new build that retains Miracle Rogue’s strong mid-game shell. His build is very minion-heavy, focuses on board control and synergy between the cheap early game pirates and Southsea Captain.
Jade Rogue appears to have died out due to the same problem Malygos Rogue is facing. Its win condition is too slow and Rogue does not have the toolkit that allows it to outlast an aggressive deck’s assault into the late game. Other than experimentations very early in the expansion, the archetype has not seen the light of day and we’re uncomfortable featuring builds that are outdated and not very suited for the current Meta. Time will tell whether a build comes up that can alleviate the archetype’s prime weakness.
- Rogue Class Radar
- Mr.Yagut’s Miracle Rogue
- Casie/YouKnowWP’s Questing Miracle Rogue
- SilentStorm’s Aggro Pirate Rogue
It’s always interesting to analyze new decks after the release of sets. Often it feels like the decks that we predict are going to be strong are so critiqued and talked about pre-expansion, that we somewhat burn ourselves out on them before they are even playable! That or we are often wrong about the decks that are supposed to be “overpowered”.
Priest post-MSoG is somewhere in the middle. It is definitely a capable class, but the shiny new toys we were so giddy about distracted us from a lot of the other really strong tools being added to other classes. The Druids are fading as more people realize the Jade variant is too cumbersome in this Meta, so in theory, Priest should be one of the go-to decks for late legend climbers. Trump saw this logic and piloted a Reno Dragon list to Top 100 legend.
While Renolock has a pretty set-in-stone skeleton that you build upon, both Reno Priest and Mage are still in their infancy of build structures, as there are a lot of choices you can make and no real strong consensus on what works best.
You should often be looking at the Data Reaper Live charts and thinking about what you should be countering with your specific builds. Priest has always been great, even in its worst days, at punishing a pocket Meta.
Dragon Priest is different, in that its base skeleton has for the most part been discovered and settled on. Different variants like the WirER Inner Fire build can surprise some of the greedier classes not expecting burst. Or you just have the basic “curve it to victory” method of the Ant version. All of these decks have pretty solid win rates in their own right, being observant of your spot in the Meta is the key to success with Priest, as always.
- Priest Class Radar
- wiRer’s Dragon Priest
- Ant’s Dragon Priest
- Trump’s Dragon Reno Priest
- Zetalot’s Velen Reno Priest
Druid is on the decline. It doesn’t perform well against many popular decks on ladder. Miracle Rogue toys with Druid, and Shamans have multiple strong archetypes that just destroy it. Indeed, Druid is quite far away from the dominant position it used to have for most of 2016, with Patches-based decks being the bane of its existence. However, if Reno Mage becomes more popular, Druid can find a place in the Meta as a counter to the deck. Basically, Druid is worth playing in a Meta where Reno decks are extremely dominant. This hasn’t happened just yet.
Jade Druid remains the most popular Druid archetype. The deck has had some success with players reaching top 100 legend, with the build not changing much from its early iterations. It has a few flex spots, so you should tech according to what you’re facing at your particular rank.
Other Druid archetypes haven’t really caught on, with some individuals standing out with strong ladder achievements. Astrogation peaked at top 10 legend using TicTac’s Malygos Kun Druid, while Feno is continuing to place top 100 legend with his Murloc/Zoo/Menagerie Druid – however you’d like to call it!
- Druid Class Radar
- JustSayian’s Jade Druid
- Orange’s Jade Druid
- Tictac’s Malygos Druid
- Feno’s C’Thun Druid
- Feno’s Zoo Druid
The Mage class is on the upswing, with Reno Mage becoming a prominent feature of the Meta. When queuing up into a Mage, especially at higher levels of play, it is safe to assume it is Reno Mage and you should mulligan accordingly. Reno Mage is an excellent choice when facing aggressive and combo oriented decks, with Ice Block being an effective tool against them, and possessing tremendous synergy with Reno Jackson. The Mage’s toolkit also has many other answers to these archetypes, with multiple forms of AOE and single target removal.
Reno Mage lists are slowly becoming more refined, though there are very different and successful approaches on how to build them. Several players reached top 10 legend with Reno Mage over the past week.
Sidoh hit #1 legend with a build similar to the standard Reno Mage lists that has been present earlier in the month. This list is very reactive in nature, focused on removal and exhausting your opponent’s resources as its prime win condition.
Lifecoach hit top 10 legend with a minion-focused build which is much more proactive in nature. It is heavily teched against aggressive decks, and utilizes Medivh as its late game win condition to out-value other control decks.
Rage hit #2 legend with the most unconventional build out there. This list relinquishes the mid-game, instead focusing heavily on cycling into its late game. The build’s late game packs tremendous value and damage potential, with Rhonin/Antonidas being present as well as the Inkmaster/Pyroblast combo. This gives Reno Mage the characteristics of a combo deck, with its win condition often being an aggressive Alex into follow up burst, much like the way Freeze Mage operates.
While Reno Mage is thriving, other Mage archetypes are being left behind. Tempo Mage is facing many struggles on ladder, with aggressive decks being able to bully it off the board from turn 1, while midrange decks such as Dragon Warrior, Shaman and Dragon Priest also matchup very well against it. Freeze Mage remains a fringe deck saved for a select few, while Secret Mage never caught on due to the poor value Mage secrets gain in an aggressive Meta, full of low cost minions.
- Mage Class Radar
- Sidoh’s Reno Mage
- Lifecoach’s Reno Mage
- Rage’s Reno Mage
- Apxvoid’s Tempo Mage
- Standard Freeze Mage
We wrote last week about the deficiencies of the Handbuff Paladin archetype (whether Aggro or Midrange variant), which is the only archetype that has received legitimate support from this expansion. Players continue to search for the fabled unicorn, but nothing has shown up yet to justify these efforts. There’s a difficulty in justifying playing Paladin over other decks in the Meta. Reno decks outshine Control Paladin archetypes with their flexibility, and Pirate decks are faster, more consistent, and require just a solid curve rather than a solid curve and a slow set up period preceding it.
Anyfin continues to be the only deck that actually sees an adequate amount of play in order to be considered even remotely Meta, and it’s quite telling when a rather gimmicky 10 mana spell that will soon cycle out of standard seems to be the only way the class is even relevant. It seems that Paladin is still being punished for being good a year ago. Perhaps the design team is afraid to give Paladin strong minions before Mysterious Challenger is gone, or else its on-curve playstyle may become too effective once again?
The only thing Paladin enthusiasts can do is continue to wait and experiment. Handbuffing is an inconsistent and slow mechanic that forces a deck to relinquish potential comeback mechanics. Aggressive Paladin builds are not rewarding enough for the amount of set up they require to get going. Control decks are comprised of mostly neutral cards, which is a good sign that the class is weak. If there is a unicorn Paladin deck out there, it is not nestled within a core of the MSG cards, and it might just not exist.
- Paladin Class Radar
- apDrop’s Anyfin Paladin
- J4ACKIECHAN’s Anyfin Paladin
- Dog’s Aggro Paladin
- Firebat’s Murloc Paladin
- Orange’s Murloc Paladin
It’s hard to remember the Hunter class these days, with the only reminder to its existence being the hero power wielded by Shamans and Warriors after playing Finley. Blizzard was cautious of giving Hunter a way to effectively use Pirates with an early game weapon, which likely would have significantly changed things for the class. Instead, Hunters were given a worse Keeper of the Grove and a three mana Haunted Creeper, which might be better if your opponent passes the first few turns to give you a head start and try to randomly buff them. Hunter has no way to consistently beat either side of the Reno vs. Pirates Meta. Pirate openings are brutal to deal with for a class that significantly lacks defensive tools, and Reno decks are often able to outlast the class’ threats. Don’t play Hunter if you enjoy winning.
If you do insist on playing Hunter, then Spark’s Handbuff Hunter and NickChipper’s Secret Hunter remain the only two real options. Spark’s Hunter includes Scavenging Hyena, a common choice these days to steal wins alongside the Alleycats, Rat Packs, and Unleash. NickChipper, who is basically the Zetalot of Hunters, has altered his Secret Hunter build to be more aggressive, including Leeroy Jenkings. Remarkably, this deck contains no new cards from Gadgetzan, showing just how bad the expansion was for the Hunter class.
We like the direction of the current Meta where a deck’s strength is so dependent on its opponents. There is no clear cut best way to play Hearthstone at the moment, which is miles better than what we’ve had before MSoG. Currently, we have to recommend an archetype we’ve tipped to be a sleeper Meta Breaker just a couple of weeks ago.
Reno Mage is a perfect anti-Meta deck, capable of punishing Shamans and Warriors while boasting healthy win rates against Rogue and Warlock. In many ways, it has already broken the Meta, and slowed it down significantly at higher levels of play. We like Lifecoach’s list because of its ability to initiate a proactive game plan. Sidoh’s list is very strong, tried and true. Rage’s list is probably the most difficult to grasp and play correctly.
Just watch out for the slightly off Meta classes. Druid and Priest pose your biggest challenges.
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