Welcome to the 66th edition of the Data Reaper Report!
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Number of Games
Class Frequency Discussion
The biggest story of the week in terms of class representation is the rise of Druid. We’ve already ‘warned’ you last week that the class was in the midst of a massive spike in popularity. This has translated to Druid closing the gap on Priest at the bottleneck to legend, and overtaking its numbers at legend, where it now sits only behind Rogue. Jade Druid’s recent success, on the back of more proactive builds centered on Mark of the Lotus, has trickled down to all levels of play. At legend, we can also observe Big Druid establishing a noticeable presence. These two archetypes, along with Aggro-Token Druid, make the class one of the most versatile in the game.
Interestingly, Priest is now the most popular class overall, slightly surpassing Rogue’s numbers. However, this is mostly due to the class’ popularity at lower skill levels, where it’s a favorite for many players. Once you reach rank 5 and beyond, Rogue is clearly the most prevalent class. In fact, Priest is showing signs of declining in numbers when it comes to higher skill levels. This correlates directly with the rise of its biggest nemesis: Druid.
The big 3 classes make up a large portion of the meta, making it feel a bit repetitive. Together, the big 3 represent over 60% of opponents at ranks 1-5, and over 70% (!) of opponents at legend. The meta at the highest levels of play is extremely narrow, which could result in some very strange trends. Remember that when a meta is narrow and predictable, it can be exploited if you manage to stay one step ahead of it. As long as the most popular decks are not oppressive in their power levels, some strange decks could suddenly become strong due to just a couple of really good matchups.
Warlock and Mage are the two middle-of-the-road classes in the current meta. Over the past week, they have risen at all levels of play, especially at the bottleneck to legend. Mage features three distinct archetypes that see similar amounts of play. Secret is most popular overall, while Exodia becomes more popular at legend. The bulk of the Warlock class is comprised of Zoo decks, while Control Warlock builds significantly drop in popularity as you climb the ranks.
The other four classes are very much at the bottom when it comes to their representation, falling massively behind the other 5 classes. Hunter and Shaman are fairly popular at low skill levels, but drastically decline at higher levels of play, where they are just as uncommon as Warrior and Paladin. Warrior continues to sit at the very bottom of the meta, with the player base uninterested in exploring the class after the change to Fiery War Axe.
vS Power Rankings Discussion
We might be well into the 3rd month of the KFT timeline, but we are witnessing some very interesting shifts in the power levels of decks, to the point where the meta could still change in a dramatic fashion. We always do a lot of internal research to provide you with insights regarding the root causes of changes in win rates, but when it comes to this week, it’s particularly true. Tempo Rogue, Jade Druid and Razakus Priest are very strong decks, but they’re not too strong to the point where it’s impossible to succeed with anything else. In fact, the meta is locked into the perceived power of these decks too much, to the point where their popularity opens up room for exploitation, something that educated players can take advantage of. This is true both on ladder and in the tournament scene.
The most significant trend that’s altering the meta involves the rise in Jade Druid’s popularity, its internal changes, and the effect it has on the performance of Razakus Priest. Razakus Priest’s win rate has declined under the pressure of the “larger and larger man menace”, an archetype that has become much more aggressive and much more effective at exploiting a board lead. Druid has gained a few percentage points over Priest in the matchup for the last couple of weeks, especially at higher levels of play. Together with the rest of the meta focusing its hate on Razakus Priest, it has collapsed under the 50% win rate mark. This is true at all levels of play. While we do note that Razakus Priest performs better at the highest levels in multiple matchups (one example is Token Shaman), this is offset by the more hostile meta it encounters at legend. Players at legend are running decks such as Exodia Mage and Big Druid solely for the purpose of making Priest’s life miserable. Make no mistake; Razakus Priest is not a top performing ladder deck anymore. It has been ruthlessly and relentlessly countered.
There is more to Priest than Raza, Kazakus and Anduin. We’ve said numerous times that Big Priest’s standing in the current meta is quite strong due to its favorability against Razakus Priest and the decline of decks that counter it (such as Midrange Hunter). In addition, there are two more very promising Priest decks on our radar. Dragon Priest has shown recent improvements in its power level, and does quite well in a meta dominated by the big 3. Its current win rate might not be indicative of its potential, since it’s an archetype that’s very unrefined. It has recently enjoyed success at top legend ranks and we think it merits more exploration. In addition, Silence Priest continues to be barely played but remains extremely promising due to great matchups against Raza and Jades. It’s a sleeper hit deck projected to be Tier 2 at legend, and considering that it’s receiving no attention or development, makes it even stronger in theory. Priest may look like a one trick pony, but it has the potential to display versatility that rivals Warrior’s during Whispers of the Old Gods.
Meanwhile. Valeera is laughing off the Shadowreaper’s struggles. Tempo Rogue seems to be much more difficult to counter and it appears that the Golakka Crawlers running rampant at legend ranks are not enough to make Valeera bleed. In fact, the struggles of Razakus Priest, one of the only decks with a positive win rate against Tempo Rogue, only help establish Rogue’s dominance of the meta. Jade Druid is certainly catching up, but for now, there is a queen sitting on the Frozen Throne, and she sits alone.
Murloc Paladin is definitely the most underrated deck in the game. While there is a drop off in its performance at higher levels of play, it’s not enough to prevent it from being one of the strongest performing archetypes at legend. What we’ve also noticed, is that its win rate is currently spiking specifically at the top level, so we wouldn’t be surprised if it ended up surpassing 52% at all levels of play. Its only really bad matchup is Tempo Rogue, and it does reasonably well against Raza Priest and Jade Druid, as well as many decks that try to heavily counter these two specific matchups. You may have dusted off your Warleaders too soon.
Case in point is the HCT Summer Championship. Surrender did not win the tournament just because he played well (which he did), but also because he was a step ahead of the competition with his and his team’s (Planet Odd) read of the meta. He banned the actual strongest deck in the game (Tempo Rogue) rather than the perceived ones (Jade, Razakus), which enabled his 4th deck, Murloc Paladin, to be very successful. In addition to that, his Murloc Paladin was built specifically to do better in the matchups against Druid and Priest, and he was the only player to bring the Mark of the Lotus Jade Druid variant to the tournament (non-Surrender Jade Druids went 7-13).
The narrow meta, especially at the highest levels of play, is benefitting some archetypes that are currently flying under the radar. Secret Mage struggles against Tempo Rogue, but its decent matchups against Razakus and Jade propel it to the top half of the table. For the same reason, Big Druid makes its debut in the table as one of the stronger choices on ladder. Big Druid has seen a sharp rise in its win rate over the past week, to the point where we had to reset its data to account for its improvement. New iterations of the archetype seem quite promising. It doesn’t do very well against any kind of aggression, but a narrow meta that’s stuck on Raza & Jade is where it thrives.
Aggro-Token Druid and Pirate Warrior round up the 50%+ club at legend. Meta trends are heavily favoring Aggro Druid to improve going forward, since a potential decline in Razakus Priest in addition to the rise in Jade Druid is quite beneficial to the aggressive archetype. One deck that loses its 50%+ status and takes a dramatic decline in win rate at higher levels of play is Zoo Warlock. It is one of the most dominant decks in the game at lower skill levels, but displays a low ceiling at the top of the ladder, where the three most popular decks dominate representation.
Shaman and Hunter appear underwhelming. Their best (and only) decks cannot cross the 50% barrier at all levels of play. However, they’re not too far off that mark, which makes them viable for ladder, even if they might be inferior choices relatively to other options. While the classes’ representation charts, especially at legend, suggests the near death of 4 classes, the power ranking table shows it’s not the case. The win rates displayed are quite flat at the highest levels, and there is still room for innovation. You can do well enough with every class, even if your choices with some of these classes can be quite limited.
Class Analysis & Decklists
Tempo Rogue is beginning to show signs of stabilization in terms of its builds. Cairne has established itself as a staple card that works very well with the deck’s game plan, and the Top 4 of the HCT Summer Championships all included it in their lists. The Scalebane variants are more popular on ladder than the Hydra variants, but the latter are just as deadly. As we’ve noted last week, Tempo Rogue’s 4 mana slot is the weakest one and last week, our lists featured the best options (Barnes with Scalebane, and Valanar with Hydra). However, these cards are so underwhelming that it might just be correct to drop them altogether and run two Cold Bloods instead, while treating 1 drop + SI:7 Agent as your only “real” 4 drop and prioritizing saving the coin for your Hydra/Scalebane.
The Corpsetaker Tempo Rogue variant is the 3rd most prevalent build approach, and it’s very different from the first two. Multiple players have had top legend success with Corpsetaker Rogue, and it’s clear that this variant is a legitimate and competitive build path. StanCifka’s first iteration runs one Argent Squire and one Stormwatcher. Stormwatcher is a pretty weak card that you almost never want to draw, so running one falls in line with what we’ve learned from Corpsetaker Murloc Paladin. Argent Squire is a solid 1-drop that synergizes with Cold Blood, and provides the deck with a third divine shield minion. Divine Shield is the most important ability to give Corpsetaker in this deck, so increasing its consistency makes sense. Interestingly, StanCifka runs Vicious Fledgling over SI Agents, the former being stronger against Priests and Druids. Another card that often sees play in Corpsetaker lists is Saronite Chain Gang, which adds a 3rd Taunt minion as well as synergy with Keleseth.
Other Rogue archetypes remain on the fringes, with little reason to turn to Miracle Rogue while Tempo Rogue’s dominance continues.
- Rogue Class Radar
- Scalebane Tempo Rogue
- Hydra Tempo Rogue
- StanCifka’s Corpsetaker Tempo Rogue
- RB8647’s Vanish Miracle Rogue
- Casie’s Miracle Rogue
- Yangbongkun’s Quest Rogue
Things continue to look up for Jade Druid, taking the second spot in popularity at legend rank, just behind Tempo Rogue. Jade Druid has a very good matchup spread, carrying very few weaknesses, and it is a very enticing option due to its good performance against Razakus Priest. As covered last week, Mark of the Lotus is now a staple card in top performing builds due to its incredible utility in most match-ups. In combination with Spreading Plague, it is a game closer against aggressive decks, and it can apply incredible amounts of pressure against Priests and other Jade Druids. Medivh is also a popular choice that’s deadly in slower matchups. Other decent flex cards include Mind Control Tech, Golakka Crawler and Spellbreaker. Doomsayer has fallen off, and other passive cards such as Tar Creeper and Primordial Drake are not recommended for the current meta, which encourages proactivity from the Jade Druid.
Following the success of a few players running Big Druid this month, AlwaysLucky climbed to top 50 legend with the archetype, running the Barnes/Anaconda package as well as an abundance of threats that are hard to deal with for popular powerhouses, Jade Druid and Razakus Priest. This archetype has potential to be successful on ladder, especially at higher levels of play where the meta is extremely narrow and light on aggressive decks. Big Druid is also a candidate to perform well in tournaments as part of a line-up that looks to target Jade and Razakus, since it has good matchups against them.
Aggro-Token Druid is slightly overshadowed by the prevalence of Jade Druid, but is still one of the top performing archetypes in the game. Considering the popularity of Jade Druid and Razakus Priest, we think that Bittertide Hydra is important in order to apply enough pressure on these decks in the mid-game. NeutralMilk’s fairly standard list has stood the test of time and is probably the most reliable ladder choice. However, we’ve noticed an increase in builds that run Snowflipper Penguin, a pseudo-alternative to Innervate which makes the deck more explosive in the early game. We think the card mertis more exploration since it’s performing quite well.
- Druid Class Radar
- Surrender’s Medivh Jade Druid
- Senfglas’ MCT Jade Druid
- NeutralMilk’s Aggro-Token Druid
- Penguin Aggro-Token Druid
- Pinilikute’s Big Druid
- AlwaysLucky’s Big Druid
Razakus Priest is beginning to feel the heat. Jade Druid’s rise in popularity is making it more and more difficult to perform well with the archetype at higher levels of play. While older Jade Druid builds running passive cards such as Doomsayer are not as dangerous, the tune changes when it comes to Medivh and Mark of the Lotus lists. These builds are extremely dangerous to Priest because they are capable of putting on an incredible amount of pressure. There are two primary ways to beat Razakus Priest with Jade Druid: The first is killing them before they get their combo, and the second is the Justicar route through Malfurion the Pestilent (gaining enough armor to stay out of reach of Velen burst). Medivh and MotL contribute greatly to the first path to victory.
In terms of builds, not much has changed from last week and our featured lists remain the same. We’ve noticed Auctioneer is gaining slightly more traction over Lyra at higher levels of play, perhaps a result of the intimidating clock Jade Druid can now put on the Priest, incentivizing getting the combo as quickly as possible before being overrun. Lyra is still a very strong card and a viable alternative. If you’re stuck in a meta heavily centered on the three most popular decks (where Rogue is the only aggressive deck running rampant), we encourage you to drop Doomsayer for Golakka Crawler.
Big Priest remains an extremely powerful option going forward as well. It does well against Razakus Priest, and has manageable matchups against Jade Druid and Tempo Rogue. While it is often deemed a high roll archetype, proper mulligan and good utilization of Shadow Visions are often the difference in the key matchups you will be encountering on ladder.
Both Dragon Priest and Silence Priest have potential to be competitive, in both ladder play as well as tournament play. Strawberry hit #3 legend with a Dragon Priest list that targets the Big 3. It runs the full Inner Fire package, Acolytes of Pain as well as Golakka Crawlers. Similarly to Big Priest, the pressure these archetypes can put on Razakus Priest makes it a good matchup for them, and they are quite intimidating to Jade Druid with their high health minions and strong mid-game.
This truly is the best time to be a Priest player as the class is strong, and the decks are exciting and different. There are plenty of different ways to play Priest, and even though Razakus dominates in popularity, other Priest archetypes definitely have their place in the meta.
- Priest Class Radar
- Lyra Razakus Priest
- Auctioneer Razakus Priest
- Standard Big Priest
- Strawberrry’s Dragon Priest
- SirVilgaudas’s Dragon Priest
- Standard Silence Priest
Zoo continues to be the best Warlock deck to play, though it remains somewhat of an underdog to Tempo Rogue. With that being said, we haven’t seen a ton of viable innovations this week and lists have mostly settled down. Southsea Captains are being preferred over Bloodsail Corsairs in a slower meta that is Priest/Druid heavy. The biggest difference comes with the inclusion of a bigger demon package consisting of Blood Imps, Bloodfury Potion and Crystalweavers.
Control Warlock has seen some high level play in the past week, though it still performs quite poorly compared to other decks in the meta. Kuronti hit #47 legend on the Asia server with a heavily teched version that includes Medivh. Twisting Nether synergizes with Medivh but is also important in the Jade Druid matchup, while Dirty Rat is a nod to the Priest matchup.
- Warlock Class Radar
- Standard Zoo Warlock
- Zanananan’s Demon & Pirate Zoo Warlock
- Kuronti’s Control Warlock
Mage has not seen many changes this week. It is the 4th most popular class at legend, but there’s a big gap between Mage and the top 3. Its popularity is backed by three different archetypes, which gives it an edge over classes that mostly sport one archetype. Secret Mage is most popular at lower levels of play, while Exodia Mage becomes the most prevalent archetype at legend with players looking to snipe Priests in particular.
Cantelope piloted a Secret Mage build to top 10 legend utilizing Golakka Crawler and Cobalt Scalebanes. The crab helps against Tempo Rogue, which is a very difficult matchup that’s heavily suppressing Secret Mage’s win rate. Scalebane, as we all know by now, is a common tech against Priest.
In the HCT summer championship, only two players brought Mage decks and neither of them made top 4. Nalguidan brought an Arcane Giants Control Mage, while Tom60299 brought Highlander Mage with Inkmaster Solia. It can be difficult to fit Mage in a tournament line up, but that is also true for ladder play. Mage is a moderately strong class, but not an amazing one, and requires specific situations to take advantage of.
- Mage Class Radar
- Standard Secret Mage
- Eloise’s Hydra Secret Mage
- Cantelope’s Scalebane Secret Mage
- Standard Control Mage
- Standard Exodia Mage
Another uneventful week for Shaman as it continues to see play rates that dwindle as you go up the ladder. Token Shaman was a fairly popular 4th class in lineups at the HCT Summer Championship, but didn’t perform too well at the event. Orange’s list cuts one copy of Bloodlust for a Sea Giant, and swaps the Saronite Chain Gang at the 4 slot for Barnes. Purple took things a step further by cutting one Primalfin Totem for Cairne, attempting to improve the Priest matchup, which is a huge problem for Token Shaman, especially at higher levels of play.
Other Shaman archetypes remain dead. We’re hoping to see different Shaman archetypes receive strong tools in the next expansion, as the class has been mostly stuck on one playstyle for the best part of 6 months.
Murloc Paladin continues to not see play that’s proportional to its win rate. Surrender won the HCT Summer Champs this week utilizing a Curator Murloc Paladin list that has a heavier Murloc package with Grimscale Chums and Coldlight Seers. His line-up is meant to ban Rogue while focusing on performing well against Priest and Jade Druid, and Murloc Paladin fits that strategy quite well.
StanCifka has developed an interesting take on Handbuff Paladin, utilizing several buff mechanics to maximize the value of cards such as Meanstreet Marshal, Saronite Chain Gang and Doppelgangster. The list has the complete Corpsetaker package with Grook Fu Master taking the Windfury spot while Wickerflame takes up Lifesteal. In general, this archetype is strictly worse than Murloc Paladin, but can be successful and is a fun change of pace.
Control Paladin saw Takuocan hitting #23 legend by incorporating the Beardo OTK finish and including Mindbreaker as a tech card against Priest. Uther of the Ebon Blade has potential to be a very powerful win condition with further support, since its hero power completely circumvents card and board advantage. However, lack of strong card draw makes this win condition difficult to reach.
- Paladin Class Radar
- Corpsetaker Murloc Paladin
- Curator Murloc Paladin
- Surrender’s Curator Murloc Paladin
- StanCifka Handbuff Paladin
- Kibler’s Handbuff Paladin
- Takuchan’s Control Paladin
- Gcttirth’s Aggro Paladin
The lone Hunter in HCT wielded by OmegaZero went 1-5, indicative of Hunter’s weakness as a class. Even in a format where Tempo Rogue, one of its worst matchups, could be banned out, Hunter still struggled to deal with the larger amount of options that other classes can put out. As all other classes have received better early game and greater AoE throughout the expansions, Hunter’s once threatening aggression is much more easily thwarted, forcing it to play on the back foot. With Unleash the Hounds being much worse against a meta where the board flood decks decline in play (other than Zoo) only Deadly Shot, Golakka Crawler and Eaglehorn Bow really have the power to swing the early game back towards Hunter, and all of these cards can be played around to various degrees of success. It’s another SAD expansion for the class, perhaps worsened by its deceptive success during the early days of the post-balance patch meta. Rexxar was the bearer of FAKE NEWS.
There’s no change for Warrior for another week, with Pirate Warrior remaining the only real viable deck on ladder. It still matches up well against Razakus Priest and Jade Druid, but not well enough to get a serious edge by playing the deck, and not enough to justify it over the more consistent Tempo Rogue. Three players brought Warrior to the Summer Championships: 2 N’Zoth and 1 Taunt. It actually didn’t look that bad in the format, where it’s possible to ban the terrorizing Jade Druid, but the class’ win rate was still sub 50%.
This week’s Meta Breaker section is dedicated to decks that are currently flying under the radar but are performing quite well based on their relatively low sample size. If you’re a bit worn out and bored of the current meta, here are two suggestions to spice up your Hearthstone experience and make some meta slaves suffer, especially those that play Raza and Jades.
Tempo Rogue cannot be stopped and current meta trends favor it to continue doing well going forward, so if you want to be the meta slave and dodge incoming memes, that’s your best choice. The deck is surprisingly hard to cheese even with the availability of Golakka Crawler and has proven to be the most resilient to meta shifts, though Jade Druid is catching up.
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