Welcome to the 33rd edition of the Data Reaper Report!
Our Data Reaper Project, including the Data Reaper Live (Beta) has over 2,300 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
Class Frequency by Week
It’s just been a month and we’ve reached a point where it’s quite difficult to find insights and trends in the frequency charts. The reason is that the Meta seems to have frozen over the past week, locked into a few archetypes that are considered the best with not much variety within classes. Although there is class diversity, and better distribution of power levels between them, you could argue there isn’t much strategic diversity. While the legend sample is very small this early in the month, it’s quite telling. There are five decks that are considered to be the “best”, and you meet them more and more often as you rank up. While there might be under-the-radar strategies waiting to be discovered, the fact that the player base perception is so “locked-in”, is still something to take note of.
Shaman and Warrior see a decline in numbers, but that has to do with the beginning of the new season more than anything else. Players will flock towards these classes again when the games carry more importance, and they need to win, just like they did last month.
The number of Rogues is impressive, especially at legend. Miracle Rogue is a powerful deck against most of the Meta except the top two archetypes, Pirate Warrior and Aggro Shaman. It’s also an incredibly fun deck to play for many, so we’re not surprised to see it being played so often, but it’ll be interesting to see whether these numbers hold up at the end of the season. Last month, the deck failed pretty miserably against the onslaught of aggression induced by the chase for HCT points, with Aggro Shaman and Pirate Warrior beating it down mercilessly. While the deck is trying to make adjustments, it’s likely not enough to cover for its core weaknesses.
The three Patches classes are followed by the three Kazakus classes. While Mage and Warlock stay strong as we go up the ranks, Priest falters. Reno Priest is experimented with heavily, but hasn’t been figured out yet. It lacks the reliable win conditions Reno Warlock can carry, and the sheer resilience of Reno Mage. Finding a strong Reno Priest build can heavily impact the Meta, especially in tournaments, so this is one area we can pinpoint as a potential shake-up from the staleness we’re observing. In addition, the class has Dragon Priest to fall back to, a very strong archetype backed by one of the strongest cards ever printed in the Drakonid Operative.
There are other classes in Hearthstone, and their lack of presence is a result of not being able to utilize the Meta defining tools given in MSoG. Paladin and Hunter joined the wrong gang, and Warrior has long defected from the Grimy Goons and swore allegiance to Patches. Druids are still trying to make some Jade Golems work, but they work better when you combine them with Pirates in the Shaman class.
Pirate Warrior is back to Tier 1. The archetype had an early explosive beginning of the expansion, followed by the Meta trying its best to counter it. However, the deck has adjusted to its new surroundings and is beginning to reassert its domination. The main culprit is the large presence of Miracle Rogues, especially at higher levels of play, which greatly enhances the performance of Pirate Warrior.
Shaman is still doing Shaman things. Three archetypes with win rates of over 50% at most levels of play. However, midrange variants of Shaman are suffering from the redundancy effect. Despite their good performance against the field, it’s hard to justify playing them over Aggro Shaman in the current Meta climate, so they remain relatively fringe until their advantages in some matchups carry more weight.
Let’s talk about Control Warrior. The archetype looks extremely good at higher levels of play. It is, by far, the biggest counter to Aggro Shaman and Pirate Warrior. It dominates both of these decks in an extraordinary fashion, which carries a lot of weight when the Meta becomes less diverse as you climb the ranks. The problem? It has some utterly dreadful matchups. Queuing up with Control Warrior has to feel like playing slot machines. “Did I get a Patches deck? Did I not get a Patches deck?” Nevertheless, this deck can’t be ignored and provides a really good choice for players who understand how to play to their outs in the bad matchups, and who knows, perhaps the right build or tech choice is discovered that makes the difference. Control Warrior is a strong Meta Breaking candidate, as an increase in its numbers may cause a huge shift in the power levels of all archetypes (For example, it may cause a shift from Aggro Shaman to Midrange Shaman).
Let’s talk about Control Shaman. Similarly to Control Warrior, it is an archetype that is capable of consistently beating the two Meta tyrants. Its power level is less impressive at higher levels because unlike Control Warrior, it doesn’t handle Miracle Rogue very well and also suffers more at the hands of Reno Warlock. However, it is an archetype that is mostly unexplored, which makes us think that it has potential to improve should it receive more refinements. Together with Reno Mage and Control Warrior, Control Shaman forms an incredibly strong conquest line up that can severely punish the triple Patches line ups. We’re potentially one deck away from changing the tournament scene in a significant fashion.
As we climb the ranks, “the big five” of Aggro Shaman, Pirate Warrior, Miracle Rogue, Reno Warlock and Reno Mage become more prevalent. As they face each other more often, something’s got to give. You can’t have 60% of the Meta boasting positive win rates in a competitive ladder environment, and it is apparent that the bleeding occurs with Miracle Rogue and Reno Warlock, as they are mostly on the losing end of these “big five” matchups. This is why the Power Rankings appear harsh. They do not care for a popularity contest or how strong decks are perceived to be: a deck is always measured by its opponents, not in a theoretical vacuum that is often meaningless in a ladder environment. Another interesting thing to note, Miracle Rogue performs worse at legend in all of these matchups at the moment (!).
Class Analysis & Decklists
Very little has changed since last week for Thrall. Shaman is a top pick not only for laddering, but for the open tournament season as well.
Aggro Shaman continues to be one of the most prevalent and strongest decks on the ladder. Spo’s concept, which incorporates both a Jade and a Pirate package, is the most common version of the deck. Some players, such as Zalae, have been flexing in Doomhammer into the build in order to make it stronger against Rogues and Priests in a tournament setting.
Mid-Jade Shamans, while not as widespread as its more aggressive cousin, is very much a viable choice. Combining AOE spells with the scaling effect of Jade Golems give the archetype a chance against most of the Meta decks. Most Mid-Jade Shamans boast a light Pirate package that simulates Aggro Shaman’s proactive early game, similar to Bearnugget’s list. Pathra hit #4 legend with a build utilizing Bloodlust, a card often seen in midrange variants in order to give the deck what it lacks otherwise: burst and reach.
Classic Midrange Shaman decks eschew Jade cards and retain the classic Thunder Bluff Vailant win condition. Killingallday’s list appears well equipped to handle the aggressive decks in the Meta. Multiple taunt sources, AOE spells, and 2 reliable sources of healing in Jinyu Waterspeaker give the deck the ability to outlast faster opponents.
Control Shaman may have more to say in the current Hearthstone Meta. The archetype does extremely well against aggressive decks due to its strong sustainability and AOE. VLPS built a Jade Control Shaman that cuts some of the greedier cards, such as Jade Spirit and Jade Chieftains, for earlier defensive tools in Spirit Claws and Thing From Below. This deck was part of an anti-Aggro line-up with which he won the first HCT open cup on AM, but should still do well in a ladder environment made up of Aggro Shamans and Pirate Warriors. The build is flexible, and some of the slower cards omitted, such as Brann and Jade Chieftain, are strong considerations if you’re facing less of Patches and more of Kazakus.
- Shaman Class Radar
- Amnesiac’s Aggro Shaman
- Bearnugget’s Mid-Jade Shaman
- Pathra’s Mid-Jade Shaman
- Killingallday’s Midrange Shaman
- VLPS’ Jade Control Shaman
Warrior maintains its strong presence on the ladder backed by its two main archetypes. Pirate Warrior continues to impress at all ranks as well as in tournament play. The archetype is currently moving towards minion focused Southsea Captain builds, with a variety of cards, from Southsea Deckhand to Mortal Strike being cut from the original build to make room. Naga Corsair also appears regularly, with either one or two copies. Many players are opting for a build similar to Sjow’s, with Leeroy sometimes included over a Naga Corsair.
As Pirate Warrior moves towards heavier builds Dragon Warrior seems to be meeting it in the middle as more aggressive versions are refined. The latest is Zalae’s build, used by him in a lineup that won two consecutive open cups. This build is very similar to the C4mlann/TwoBiers hybrid deck we’ve been featuring in the last couple of weeks, with the difference being the inclusion of Netherspite Historians as a way to generate more value in slow matchups while not giving up on much early game board presence.
With Blizzard-sanctioned open cups beginning this week it was a chance for Control Warrior to prove its credentials as a tournament deck, and on the whole it seems to have stepped up to the plate. VLPS won the first open cup on AM with a lineup that included his own Control Warrior list as part of an anti-Aggro line up, and French player Dizdemon won an open cup on EU playing the same deck in a similar lineup. On ladder, NaviOOT hit top 10 legend with a double Gorehowl Control Warrior build. The deck continues to have mixed results on ladder, and generally performs better at the higher levels, but the prediction that it would fare better as a tournament deck seems to uphold.
- Warrior Class Radar
- Sintolol’s Pirate Warrior
- Sjow’s Pirate Warrior
- Xzirez’ Pirate Warrior
- Bearnugget’s Dragon Warrior
- Powder’s Dragon Warrior
- Zalae’s Dragon Warrior
- VLPS’ Control Warrior
- Casie’s Control Warrior
- NaviOOT’s Control Warrior
Miracle Rogue retains a strong presence on ladder, despite the popularity of Aggro Shaman, Pirate Warrior and the new Control Warrior becoming more frequent. Players are adapting their builds to be able to survive in this Meta.
Questing Miracle Rogue is becoming more popular on the back of its strength against Control decks, as well as its capability of blowing out aggressive decks early on with an all-in play. Feno took his Questing build to #1 legend this week. The build includes 2 Conceals, and omits 1 Sap and Bloodmage Thalnos for a Shadowstrike and a second copy of Counterfeit Coin. Two Counterfeit Coins is becoming more standard since it allows you to ramp up against aggressive decks and enables blow out Van Cleef/Questing openings. Bloodmage Thalnos is losing favor due to the card often being too slow for these aggressive matchups. The Shadowstrike vs. Sap debate is an individual call based on the frequency of good targets for each card in the Meta. There doesn’t seem to be a right answer at the moment.
Shaku, the Collector, a card famously included into the Lifecoach/SuperJJ build, has really made a splash over the last couple of weeks. SuperJJ won a tournament at the Zagreb Gaming Arena with the deck, and multiple players have achieved ladder success with several iterations of it as well. Some players have even started experimenting with Shaku in Questing builds.
As we mentioned last week, Shaku seems to be a good fit for Miracle Rogue at the moment as it’s a solid stealth minion that can generate value, provide a safe Cold Blood target, and allow the Rogue to have a proactive on curve play on turn 3.
- Rogue Class Radar
- Feno’s Questing Miracle Rogue
- Xzirez’ Miracle Rogue
- Lifecoach/SuperJJ’s Shaku Miracle Rogue
It’s nice to see that all the negative talk on the forums and Twitter isn’t about the state of Priest for once. Again, Priest is by no means the juggernaut some predicted, but damn, if it’s not worlds better than it was at any point in 2016.
Reno Priest, while not particularly weak, doesn’t really fit into a Meta dominated by Patches. These are winnable matchups, but the class lacks some of the protection that Reno Mage has in a card like Ice Block. This is keeping Reno Priest far behind the playrate of both Reno Warlock and Reno Mage. Thijs was experimenting with a pretty nice Dragon Reno Variant on his climb. The Dragon Reno variant seems to be the one performing the most consistently so far, as we still try and find the absolute best win condition options for Reno Priest builds.
In Dragon Priest news, Hotform hit legend this month with a build featuring Museum Curator. The list also includes double Dragonfire Potion on top of Chillmaw for some added AOE. The Curator works very similarly to Historian as that its synergy with Brann can be game changing in Control Matchups while still having a serviceable body on turn two. In contrast, Shoop’s and VLPS’ builds are more focused on fighting for early board control.
Zetalot keeps doing Zetalot things taking a Resurrect Control Priest and having success with it early in the January season. He is continuing to test Priest builds daily, so his streams remain quite intriguing. Lots of players are opting for Priest in tournaments as the open season launch, with the class being a strong option in a ban format. Keep your eyes on the Matchup Chart and choose your ban correctly if you are one of the many playing opens daily!
- Priest Class Radar
- Shoop’s Dragon Priest
- VLPS’ Dragon Priest
- Hotform’s Dragon Priest
- Thijs’ Dragon Reno Priest
- Zetalot’s Velen Dragon Reno Priest
- Zetalot’s Control Resurrect Priest
Renolock is still the only Warlock deck being played on ladder to any significant degree, with Zoo being completely absent since the release of the expansion. With the current prominence of Miracle Rogue, Aggro Shaman and Pirate Warrior, we don’t expect Reno Warlock to become a top tier ladder deck anytime soon, though it’s still proving itself to be a relatively strong deck. Warlock is no Paladin or Hunter, and it remains a good choice for tournaments as well. Muzzy was able to win a 512-man Strivewire open cup using Renolock in his lineup. His list breaks the recent trend in Renolock by utilizing both the Leeroy Jenkins/Faceless Manipulator combo and Jaraxxus.
What makes Reno Warlock a favorite for many players is its flexibility. You can aggressively tech it against a particular Meta and have a better chance of holding up. An example of it is StanCifka’s build, which cuts a lot of the situational, slower cards long considered to be staples (Sylvanas, Shadowflame) in order to deal with aggressive decks better.
- Warlock Class Radar
- StanCifka’s Reno Warlock
- Th3Rat’s Reno Warlock
- Fr0zen’s Reno Warlock
- Muzzy’s Reno Warlock
With the Meta settling down somewhat, so is Reno Mage. The archetype is very dominant on ladder while also being a strong choice for many tournament players looking to counter the popular aggressive lineups. There haven’t been significant changes to builds over the past week, with the two main approaches to Reno Mage remaining popular: Minion heavy or Cycle heavy. We’re featuring two good representative lists for each approach. VLPS and TerrenceM are good examples of minion heavy lists. Rage is the innovator of the cycle heavy build, while Thijs has also experimented with a similar build inspired from it. Each approach has strengths and weaknesses. Finally, we also feature a different approach from Steelo, who hit #1 legend earlier in the month with a build that retains the full burn potential of the Mage, including the Solia/Pyroblast combo, but doesn’t run the cycle package.
While both variants do very well against aggressive decks, Minion heavy lists tend to fare better in the mirror matchup due to the game often going into fatigue, making the extra cycle a liability. The cycle/burn plan also often falters in the mirror due to the presence of Ice Block and Reno Jackson. For the same reason, the minion approach works better against Control Warrior, since you’re packing more value and are less likely to be exhausted of resources. Cycle/burn heavy lists will do better against decks that are vulnerable to burst damage, making it a superior choice against Reno Warlock, since you’re more likely to draw your burn to finish them off before being overwhelmed by Jaraxxus. The cycle lists also fare better against Dragon Priest and Miracle Rogue. Since Dragon Priest very rarely runs out of resources, the Reno Mage has to actively try and kill it, and the extra cycle and burn potential promotes the likelihood of this line of play being available (aggressive Alex into burn). The Miracle Rogue matchup is all about having answers to the Rogue’s assault, and Rogue has no defense against Reno Mage’s burst damage. Both of these factors are supported by card draw.
- Mage Class Radar
- VLPS’ Reno Mage
- TerrenceM’s Reno Mage
- Rage’s Cycle Reno Mage
- Thijs’ Cycle Reno Mage
- Steelo’s Solia/Pyro Reno Mage
- Standard Freeze Mage
The number of Druids remains small due to the class having few good matchups on ladder. On the bright side, the class is still playable, unlike Hunter and Paladin. It is unlikely things will change for the class anytime soon because the control decks against which Druid is favored will never become too popular on ladder due to the fact it is more efficient to ladder with aggressive decks. However, with opens starting up again, Druid is worth a shot if you are trying to counter players who are trying to counter aggressive decks, if that makes any sense.
Jade Druid remains the most popular archetype. The deck list has pretty much remained the same since the expansion’s release. It continues to struggle against aggressive decks making it a poor choice for ladder. If you want try something new and experimental but unproven, there is Kremepuff’s Jade Kun list. It uses the Avianna/Kun combo in conjunction with Gadgetzan Auctioneer and Jade Idol to allow heavy cycling in the late game while developing a big board.
The Malygos Kun archetype is still seeing some play but not as much as Jade Druid. Most players have given up on the deck so there hasn’t really been much innovation. Earlier this season TicTac had some success with a list that uses Burgly Bully but with a small sample size. Things aren’t looking great for Druid right now, but the class has been top tier in almost every expansion so this was bound to happen eventually.
- Druid Class Radar
- JustSayian’s Jade Druid
- Orange’s Jade Druid
- Kremepuff’s Jade Druid
- Tictac’s Malygos Druid
- Barnes Malygos Druid
- Feno’s C’Thun Druid
Things are bleaker than ever for Paladin. The class is barely seeing any play on ladder, and at higher levels of play it’s almost non-existent.
There are players trying to make fetch happen, notably continuing the quest for the fabled Midrange Handbuff archetype. However none of these experiments are proving fruitful enough to warrant widespread adoption, so they are tough to evaluate. It should be noted that Kolento did make it to Legend this week using both Midrange Handbuff and Dragon Handbuff lists that we’ve included below, and might be worth trying out.
Anyfin Paladin continues to be the only actual Paladin deck that seems to be winning Hearthstone games with some consistency. Senfglas hit #10 legend with his latest take, cutting Loot Hoarders for Mistress of Mixtures and adding a second Ivory Knight in lieu of Wickerflame Burnbristle. The Mistresses seem to be a smart choice for the current Meta, being able to contest the early game of Patches decks while also being useful later in the game by providing the deck with a modest heal.
- Paladin Class Radar
- Senfglas’ Anyfin Paladin
- apDrop’s Anyfin Paladin
- Kolento’s Midrange Paladin
- Kolento’s Dragon Paladin
- Dog’s Aggro Paladin
Hunter remains nearly extinct on ladder, groveling at the bottom with its Grimy Paladin brethren. The only victory Hunter can realistically achieve in this Meta is passing Paladin and becoming the eighth most played deck, but even that seems far off. At least Paladin has a diverse set of bad decks while Hunter has only a couple of very similar archetypes.
With the new season starting, players had time to freely experiment, and that is exactly what HotMeowth did, by playing with Tansuko’s Aggro Secret Hunter list. The major innovation is the double Flame Juggler, which allows the Hunter to better contest pirate openings with a more resilient body alongside the ping effect. One other usage of the Flame Juggler is to combo with Hunter’s Mark, which provides the Hunter an efficient answer to a turn 4 7/7, as well as taking down Van Cleef. This deck performs better against Aggro, but pirates are so strong that even with these new additions, you still end up unfavored against most of the field.
The current Meta appears to be “locked” into perceptions, but there are answers available that can give you an edge over the competition. Dragon Priest, for example, is a really good deck if you want to climb to rank 5, as the top Meta decks aren’t as common, giving the archetype better opportunities to display its inherently powerful mechanics. The bottleneck to legend is hyper aggressive and Shaman infested, so Reno Mage is a great choice to break the barrier. At legend rank itself, the Meta is so unforgiving to some of its counters that Control Warrior suddenly sneaks up into the upper tier. Even a small increase in Control Warriors may cause a wild shift in the Meta we’re witnessing.
Is the Meta a bit Rock/Paper/Scissors? Yes, but at least we don’t have Rock beating everything, and this might mean that tournaments will display more diversity in strategies than before. Shout out to VLPS for identifying the anti-aggro line up we were mulling over internally.
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