Welcome to the 75th edition of the Data Reaper Report!
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Number of Games
Class Frequency Discussion
We can observe a decline in Priests at all levels of play. This stems from the decline of Razakus Priest, whose numbers at legend were cut by nearly a quarter. There were strong indications that the archetype’s numbers have reached saturation last week, so we’re not surprised that it has taken a step back in its prevalence.
Control Warlock is another archetype that has fallen in its popularity at all levels of play. Last week, we discussed the obstacles it has been facing on ladder, putting it in a more unfavorable spot. It seems that the drop in its win rate has subsequently led to a drop in its play rate. Zoo’s numbers remain steady, but its presence remains significantly smaller than Control’s.
Tempo Rogue’s popularity has skyrocketed over the past week, increasing by over 50% at legend, overtaking Razakus Priest and Control Warlock to make it the most popular archetype. While the increase at legend was the highest, all levels of play saw Rogue’s numbers climb. Tempo Rogue was the biggest winner from the recent meta shifts resulting from Paladin’s rise in play.
Paladin is seeing contrasting trends. At lower skill levels, its rise in play has continued. However, at legend, where Tempo Rogue was beginning to top prevalence, Paladin’s progress has been halted. One noticeable exception is Murloc Paladin, which has been taking a back seat to Aggro Paladin since the beginning of the expansion, but has slightly risen in play at all skill levels over the past week. There seems to be more interest in experimenting with the tribal archetype recently.
Druid continues its spike upwards, with Jade Druid leading the charge. The green men climbed to the 5th spot in popularity at legend, and it’s clear that they’re back to hold a significant weight in the meta game. Aggro Druid is also seen more often, but it remains relatively niche in comparison. Other Druid archetypes, including Big Druid, which was a big player in the KFT metagame, have faded away.
Mage’s predicted fall, as a result of Rogue’s and Paladin’s popularity, continues. Secret Mage does not appreciate the increase in aggression as well as the decline of some of its better matchups. Other archetypes of the class do not appear to be gaining any traction either.
Hunter’s story looks like a carbon copy of the one it told after the KFT balance changes. A big spike in popularity together with many new promises, followed by the class falling flat within a couple of weeks. This week marks another decline at all levels of play for the class. Secret-based archetypes are almost gone from legend ladder, so if you do queue into the class you should mostly be expecting aggressive Hunter decks with the beast/pirate early game.
Warrior and Shaman continue to look like dead classes. Pirate Warrior is the only archetype at the moment that looks like a Hearthstone deck. We’re in a very similar situation to last year’s Mean Streets of Gadgetzan, with Warrior and Shaman taking on the roles of Paladin and Hunter.
vS Meta Score
vS Power Rankings Discussion
There are some very interesting developments this week, with surprising results. Careful evaluation of many different factors will lead us to the conclusions we’re searching.
Let’s start with Tempo Rogue. The archetype’s rise at legend ranks has seen its win rate reduced by nearly 1%. This is definitely something we expect to see since the legend meta tends to react more quickly to the rise of strategies. However, Tempo Rogue’s win rate is still very dominant, and with its increased prevalence, it is approaching a perfect meta score of 100. It’s looking like the best positioned archetype in the current meta, and has significantly benefitted from both Warlock’s and Priest’s declines. However, in the top end of the win rate charts, it’s meeting some unexpected acquaintances who have climbed to meet it.
Zoo Warlock? Aggro Druid? Really? Let’s go back to last week, when we discussed the rise in these archetypes’ win rates, as it was beginning to appear in the table. Both decks are benefitting from their low popularity as well as the popularity of slower decks from their own class. Everyone is gearing their mulligan to beat Control Warlock and Jade Druid when they meet a Warlock and Druid on ladder. Rogues are throwing away their Backstab. Warlocks are tossing their Hellfire. Nobody expects the less popular, and lightning fast strategy, and this is a big factor leading to their success. There is more to that, however. The rise in Jade Druid has naturally led to an increased importance in the performance of other strategies against it. Both Zoo and Aggro Druid completely destroy Jade Druid, especially when most of its current ladder builds are geared to beat Priests and Control Warlocks to the point where they’re cutting cards like Wrath. When looking at the Meta Score, one can expect that a future increase in prevalence of these two strategies should lead to a decrease in their win rates, similarly to what occurred with Paladin recently (up/left movement). This is a case of fairly strong decks looking even better due to unique ladder circumstances.
The rise of Rogues is making Paladins feel the heat, and both Aggro Paladin and Murloc Paladin have taken big hits in their win rates at all levels of play. Based on these results, we believe that the class should remain a fairly strong contender in the meta, but as long as Rogue looks this strong, it’s unlikely to return to the top spot. Tempo Rogue looks much more difficult to reliably counter and has adjusted really well to the current meta. Its matchup spread is very similar to the one it had during KFT, where it had very few noticeable weaknesses, if at all.
The Priest class continues to look very strong. While Razakus Priest has fallen in its play rate, its performance remains around the 50% mark. The meta has managed to prevent Razakus from truly spinning out of control, but not more than that. Big Priest seems to have been forgotten a bit, but it is still a strong deck even in the larger presence of Rogues and Paladins. Dragon Priest boasts the highest win rate out of the three. It’s unfortunate that the archetype is made up of two different variants (Spiteful and Combo). Splitting them apart causes recognition biases that influences their performance measurement, which is why they are un-intuitively merged. Most of the Dragon archetype and its success throughout ladder can be attributed to the Spiteful Dragon builds. They generally perform better. However, at higher levels of play, there is a lot of success with the Inner Fire combo variant due to the efforts of players such as Windello and Asmodai.
Control Warlock continues to suffer in its ladder performance, and its win rate has taken another dive at higher levels of play. The meta has fully adjusted to the archetype’s presence, and players have been very sharp at picking apart its weaknesses. It is also continuing to suffer from the same problems it was facing last week, which is dealing with Razakus Priest and aggressive decks at the same time. It cannot perform optimally against both ends of the spectrum, so it’s left to choose and hope the meta pendulum swings in its favor. Just to provide an example on how hard Warlock is being countered, Tempo Rogue and Aggro Paladin have improved their performance in the matchup against Control Warlock by over 10 percentage points (!!!) from the early days of K&C. This is an incredible result that even took us by surprise, and indicates that Control Warlock’s high prevalence is severely hindering its chance of success on ladder. It needs to either drop in popularity so that the red mark painted on its forehead fades, or it needs a solution to the meta’s relentless pursuit.
While Jade Druid has grown in popularity, it does have some growing pains when it comes to adjusting to a diverse field of opponents. Similarly to Control Warlock, it has to juggle between aggressive matchups and slower matchups in order to perform optimally. However, it’s still very much in a refinement stage. Unlike Warlock, Jade Druid has yet to settle on a consistent ladder build and many experiments have been done over the past couple of weeks. We think it’s likely to get there, and Sjow’s list is a good step forward.
Other noticeable trends include: the decline of Secret Mage, an archetype that’s moving further and further away from the meta peak; Pirate Warrior and Aggro Hunter take turns being over and under 50%, but considering that there are stronger aggressive options available, it will be a tough task to turn around their declines in popularity even though they are by no means weak decks.
And then, there’s Shaman, the saddest class of them all, in its own special tier once again, but a very different one from the glory days of Tunnel Trogg. Freeze Shaman Tier 1 by next December, anyone? No? Okay.
Class Analysis & Decklists
Priest remains the most prevalent class in the game. All of its archetypes continue to be in good standing in the meta and have shown the capability of withstanding pressure.
Dragon Priest boasts the highest win rate, with two different approaches that utilize the core Dragon shell. Both sub-archetypes pressure slower decks, but generally run into more problems when encountering faster opponents. The popular approach runs the Spiteful Summoner package, curving out efficient minions at every turn. Within this approach there are two variants: Prince & Pirates package adds a raw tempo punch, while running a 2-drop package makes the deck curve out more consistently with Netherspite Historians also offering longevity.
The second approach increases in its popularity at higher levels of play, and initially looks to curve out its dragon shell before triggering a combo win condition to burst down its opponent with Divine Spirit and Inner Fire. The standard build was taken to top legend ranks by both Windello and Asmodai last month. Silence is an optional tech to get through taunts, but does reduce the consistency of your Shadow Visions. Note that Windello has already stormed to legend this month with two special techs: The first is Psychic Scream instead of Circle to enable a strong comeback against aggressive decks while cleaning up taunt walls often built by Warlocks. The second is Stormwind Knight instead of Silence to enable an easier OTK from hand.
Razakus Priest’s standard build has been pretty much established, with just a few flex options. Gadgetzan Auctioneer is the mirror matchup’s choice, since cycling through your deck as quickly as possible is very important. In matchups against aggressive decks, as well as Jade Druid, Lyra has more value since she’s a potentially game ending threat that also fuels your hero power. Seiko’s #1 legend build runs Golakka Crawler instead of Loot Hoarder, which is a nod to the increased prevalence of Rogues and Paladins. One other flex slot is the 3 drop spot which is usually filled by either Kabal Talonpriest or Tar Creeper (Glimmerroot and Acolyte are core).
- Priest Class Radar
- Razakus Priest
- Big Priest
- Dragon Priest
Control Warlock is seeing a decline in representation at all levels in play. The strengths of the archetype are clear at this point and the deck is generally a good choice in aggro-heavy metas. However, Aggro Paladin and Secret Mage both defy this trend, thanks to deck refinement, significant amounts of burst, and just enough proactive disruption to keep Warlock from effectively stabilizing. Priests of all kinds continue to cause problems as well and those matchups don’t seem to be improving much. The Cube variant continues to be the standard build as it gives you the best chance to perform well in a Priest meta. Findan took the exact same list Posesi used a couple of weeks ago to hit # legend on EU. 29 cards are pretty much settled, with 1 flex spot going to Umbra, Spellbreaker or N’Zoth (latter is least common).
Zoo Warlock has enjoyed most of the attention being focused on beating Control Warlock, giving it an edge in the mulligan phase on ladder. Builds remain focused on either Keleseth or more Demon synergy, with the Keleseth variants generally performing better against the field. Xixo’s list can cut Glacial Shard for Spellbreaker in case you’re running into the bigger Warlock brother.
- Warlock Class Radar
- Control Warlock
- Zoo Warlock
Rogue has risen in its representation, becoming the 2nd most popular class at legend. Tempo Rogue was unsurprisingly the main reason for this rise in popularity, with the archetype being very well positioned to deal with strategies from both ends of the meta spectrum.
Meati reached #1 legend, bringing back The Lich King to the build, while dropping Cobalt Scalebanes. You can consider 27 cards to be core in the standard list. Scalebanes/Lich King (Priest), Spellbreakers (Warlock) and the 2nd Saronite Chain Gang (Aggro) usually fill the flex spots according to what you’re facing.
Interestingly, Quest Rogue is showing promise in certain micro-metas where Priest and Warlock are prevalent. The deck might also prove to be useful in the tournament scene as a result. Ryvius’s build, which took him to #1 legend before, is the standard and most solid all-around list. Igneous Elementals are not considered to be good cards in the current meta due to the prevalence of Spellbreaker, while Valeera the Hollow is not relevant in most matchups since the game is often decided much earlier than turn 9. Coldlight Oracle is an option, but seems to be redundant with Elven Minstel available to the deck, and it worsens your aggressive matchups.
- Rogue Class Radar
- Tempo Rogue
- Kingsbane Rogue
- Miracle Rogue
- Ryvius’ Quest Rogue
Paladin houses 2 archetypes near the top of the meta – Aggro and Murloc Paladin. Both utilize Divine Favor to punish slower decks and Call to Arms to generate insane amounts of tempo. Both of these decks get spanked by Tempo Rogue, so be wary of those ladder.
Murloc Paladin is more susceptible to Control Warlock, since it relies on having vulnerable creatures stick to the board in order to leverage its tribal synergy, and doesn’t have burst from hand. Blessing of Kings, Spellbreaker and Leeroy are all very good cards against Warlock and they are usually missing in Murloc lists. Where Murloc Paladin shines is the Jade Druid matchup, since its board development is stronger against Spreading Plague and Swipe.
Aggro Paladin seems to be solved, but the archetype could yet provide more surprises further down the road since it is quite flexible. It’s a relentless deck that can reload the board and its hand through Call to Arms/Divine Favor, and is quite capable of overcoming multiple board clears to push for victory. It’s only held in check by decks that can get on the board faster and push it off consistently, with the prime cases being Tempo Rogue and Aggro Druid. Val’anyr’s merits in the deck are currently questionable. It’s a slow card that can be difficult to get value off, and the prevalence of Spellbreaker is also an issue. However, it is capable of enabling a significant amount of burst damage, stealing games from Priests.
Rage has produced a second iteration of his Exodia Control Paladin, geared to do better in the matchups against Warlock and Priest. This build carries a ton of draw in order to reach its win condition as soon as possible. Fenom finished top 200 legend with this build for the month of December.
- Paladin Class Radar
- Aggro Paladin
- Murloc Paladin
- Control Paladin
Aggro Druid has risen in its performance against the field. The archetype is benefitting from the rise in Paladins and the small decline in Warlocks, since it shines in early board battles with its ability to get on to the board very quickly and overwhelm the opponent. In a slower meta dominated by Warlock and Priest, it struggles much more.
Jade Druid has undergone more changes in its approach, with Sjow reaching top 10 legend with the archetype. Armor stacking builds have proven to be targetting a field that’s too narrow, with Feral Rage and Earthen Scales not being useful enough in scenarios outside of the Razakus Priest matchup. Sjow’s Oaken Summons build runs a middle approach, with enough armor gain to threaten Priest’s win condition to some degree but better all around cards. Spellbreaker is included despite the anti-synergy with Oaken Summons since it’s a highly valued tech card at the moment.
- Druid Class Radar
- Jade Druid
- Big Druid
- Aggro Druid
With the rise in popularity of Aggro Paladins followed by Tempo Rogue, Secret Mage has suffered a heavy blow to its performance against the field. Add the fact that other Mage archetypes are nearly non-existent, and the class is shaping up for another phase of mediocrity.
There are some ways in which Secret Mage can improve in the matchups against Paladin and Rogue. One way is to run Golakka Crawlers instead of greedy cards such as Pyroblast, to have a better chance of contesting the early board. Another is to run a pirate package, which makes your own curve more consistent. Even with these changes though, it’s not recommeneded to play the deck if you’re constantly running into these matchups. Secret Mage’s success picks up when Warlocks and Priests are prevalent and aggression is low.
Other Mage archetypes are having a miserable time on ladder. While we do see the potential of Frost Lich Jaina as a late game win condition once rotation occurs in April, Mage’s late game tools are currently outclassed by Warlock, Priest and Druid, and there is too much healing and armor gain to allow Freeze Mage a spot in the meta.
- Mage Class Radar
- Secret Mage
- Exodia Mage
- Big Spell Mage
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Once again, Hunter finds itself sinking down the performance chart as the meta all around it gets stronger. Aggro Hunter is certainly not a weak deck, just relatively underwhelming compared to other aggressive options. Spell Hunter has been reduced to a fading meme after its initial promise. Secret Hunter is the least figured out archetype, and we do like the potential of a Secret Hunter deck that utilizes Kathrena, but a scenario in which Hunter finds innovation later in the expansion seems unlikely. There have been almost no developments in Hunter, bar two. Rage and Senfglas started the monthly climb strong with two Aggro Hunter builds. Rage’s build runs the classic Wolfriders, and Senfglas opts for Tundra Rhino and Bitteride Hydra. When all else fails, hit face and hit it hard. It’s the Hunter way.
- Hunter Class Radar
- Aggro Hunter
- Secret Hunter
- Spell Hunter
Warrior begins 2018 in deep trouble. Only the non-existent Shaman is less popular and it seems unlikely that any of this will change soon. Pirate Warrior’s best list is still the one developed early on based around Spiteful Summoner. Its biggest problem preventing it from growing in popularity is its inferiority to other aggressive decks. Garrosh’s New Year’s resolution will no doubt be to get back to some degree of relevance. These are dark times.
Unless things change soon, Shaman in K&C might shape up to be one of the worst classes in the history of Hearthstone. Its fast archetypes, Token Shaman and Aggro Shaman, are completely outclassed by other early game decks that simply do more powerful things. Control Shaman decks are non-existent, as they have virtually no chance of competing against the dominant late game strategies. Shaman’s last two sets in KFT and K&C have been horrendous, adding very little to the class’ viable kit. Unlike other classes that do have some hope going into rotation in April, Shaman actually looks even worse, and stands to lose some of its best cards: Jade Claws/Lightning, Maelstrom Portal, Thing From Below, Doppelgangster and Evolve are all significant casualties. It looks grim.
A new expansion launches, new strategies form and when the dust settles, Valeera remains unimpressed with the competition. Tempo Rogue has solved the meta, for now, and its formula of success is to keep aggression in check while keeping enough game to threaten control. It’s very difficult to consistently beat Tempo Rogue, even for Warlock these days, since Rogue becomes a frustrating matchup with Spellbreaker tech.
As Tempo Rogue sets the tone for the early game meta, Razakus Priest sets the tone for the late game meta. Two decks with very few new cards are currently shaping K&C’s landscape.
Saves us buying packs, I guess!
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