vS Data Reaper Report #77

A weekly Hearthstone Meta Report based on data from over 75,000 games.

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Welcome to the 77th edition of the Data Reaper Report!

Our Data Reaper Project, including the Data Reaper Live has 3,900 active contributors. Without them, this project would not be possible, so we’d like to thank all of our contributors for their help.


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Class/Archetype Distribution | Class Frequency | Matchup Winrates | vS Power Rankings | vS Meta Score | Class Analysis & Decklists | Meta Breaker of the Week | How to Contribute | Credits


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Number of Games

Overall 75,000
Legend 5,000
Ranks 1-5 23,000
Ranks 6-10 23,000
Ranks 11-15 19,000

Class/Archetype Distribution

Class Frequency

Class Frequency Discussion

The popularity trends show a pretty significant discrepancy between the early month legend meta and the rest of the field. Below legend, the numbers of Razakus Priests appear to have reached saturation. They even decline ranks 1-5. However, this archetype is extremely prevalent at legend where it is nearing 25% representation. In contrast, other Priest archetypes significantly shrink when they reach higher levels of play.

Both Warlock and Rogue have spiked in their popularity at all levels of play and their numbers increase at legend, though not nearly to the extent of Razakus Priest’s. Both Zoo and Control Warlock contribute to the Warlock’s rise in popularity. Control Warlock is seeing an internal shift towards more defensive builds, which we’ve discussed last week, prioritizing the improvement of other matchups besides Razakus Priest.

At legend, we can notice a growing number of off-meta Rogue archetypes. Miracle, Quest and Kingsbane Rogue all present some promise when it comes to beating Priests, so players are attempting to refine these archetypes in order to find a solution to the threat imposed by Raza and Anduin.

While Druid appears to have mostly stayed put, its numbers have actually declined at higher levels of play. Jade Druid is the only hard, consistent counter to Razakus Priest, and while it is the 4th most popular archetype at legend ranks, its numbers are dwarfed by the top 3 classes. Aggro Druid is also seeing declines at higher levels of play, which isn’t surprising considering the abundance of its worst matchups.

The Paladin population has crashed hard this week, and its representation is very low at legend. Last week, we saw Aggro Paladin’s significant drop in win rate, so it makes sense that it would be followed by a drop in popularity. Murloc Paladin is proving to be more resilient, but neither of the aggressive Paladin archetypes appreciates the increased prevalence of Rogues and Warlocks at higher levels of play.

Interestingly, after constantly declining over the past few weeks, things have turned around for Mage. The class is seeing a rise in its representation at all levels of play, but its rise from rank 5 to legend is the most significant one. Secret Mage, the most popular Mage archetype, thrives in environments where there is an abundance of Priests and Warlocks, yet crumbles against aggression. Recent trends can certainly hint towards a more favorable field for the archetype, which is why the bleeding seems to have stopped.

Hunter finds itself disillusioned after what appears to have been another false dawn. Last week, we saw that despite an increase in popularity as a result of innovations involving Aggro Hunter, the archetype was still displaying a decent, yet mediocre performance level. The enthusiasm seems to have quickly died out, and the class finds itself diving in its representation once again, at all levels of play.

Warrior and Shaman are a fading memory. Over the past few weeks, Shaman has gradually moved further away from actual Hearthstone decks and more towards memes. Warrior’s situation might be even more depressing, as it’s not even trying to meme. Pirate Warrior is a playable Hearthstone deck, but nobody cares enough to play it.

Matchup Win Rates Header

Power Rankings Header

vS Meta Score

vS Power Rankings Discussion

Over the past couple of weeks, we saw signs of the meta stabilizing. Win rates flattened as no archetype appeared to display an oppressive performance level that was out of control. This was true at every level of play, including the legend meta last month. However, this week’s Power Rankings paints a concerning picture: Razakus Priest is spinning out of control at higher levels of play. That Meta Score chart is not a pretty sight. We have a problem.

What are the causes of this? There is no doubt that Razakus Priest is a deck that performs better at higher levels of play, we’ve seen evidence of this in our data for a long time. However, with its improved performance levels also came an improved understanding of how to exploit its weaknesses by utilizing strategies that match up well enough against it. This kept Razakus Priest somewhat in check when it came to its win rate. The meta was geared to perform as well as it could against it, and prevent it from rising in popularity any further.

This has changed. The current high level meta is losing its ability to put the brakes on Priest. The increase in Warlocks and the shift towards defensive builds that just ‘hope not to queue’ into Razakus Priest is creating a more favorable field for the highlander deck. In addition, while Tempo Rogue is a powerful archetype with a very strong matchup spread, it mostly excels against the rest of the field, and is not the deck that is capable of suppressing Priest since it isn’t a great matchup for the Rogue. Instead, Rogue and Warlock are suppressing strategies that perform better than them against Priest, such as Murloc Paladin and Jade Druid.

Control Warlock is certainly showing an improvement in its performance against the field at all levels of play, and it has developed a better identity of what it’s supposed to do. However, as long as Razakus Priest is this dominant at legend, it is unlikely to break through and display more than a decent win rate. The high presence of Priests, force it to become more proactive and drop some of its defensive tools, which sacrifices its performance in other matchups. There is no magic formula at the moment to solve the issue with one list of 30 cards on ladder, but you can certainly do very well with Warlock provided you have the correct read of the meta you encounter.

Jade Druid, enemy of the meta at the launch of KFT, could ironically be the source of salvation during the 2nd month of K&C. However, its performance level against many other decks besides Razakus Priest is preventing it from gaining further traction. Much like Warlock, it has yet to figure out how to build itself to perform optimally on ladder, with different forces pushing it into different directions. Jade Druid needs to find a way to keep its good win rate against Priest without crumbling to faster decks and Warlocks. If it successfully does that, it could significantly change the landscape of the current meta. Until then, it is forced into difficult, meta-dependent sacrifices that reward a correct read.

Between the two aggressive Paladin archetypes, Murloc Paladin looks to be the clearly superior choice and is the only archetype besides Razakus Priest that’s displaying a T1 win rate at legend. While it is weaker to Warlock, Murloc Paladin performs significantly better against Jade Druid as well as aggressive decks due to its ability to snowball board leads harder.

With Raza Priest’s dominance at legend becoming overbearing, power levels of other archetypes are also significantly shifting. Aggro Druid is crashing under the weight of 10,000 AOE’s. Big Priest’s dreams are blown away by Psychic Screams. Tempo Rogue meets its only two unfavored matchups too often. In contrast, archetypes that were previously struggling due to the prevalence of aggression are either unaffected or find new life. Aggro Hunter and Secret Mage perform significantly better under the dominance of Priest, while Big Druid has miraculously reappeared and looks somewhat playable at the top end of ladder just because of one important match up.

Is all hope lost, vS? Am I doomed to play 1,000 Razakus Priest mirrors in order to reach a top legend rank? Is there any other reliable option that can punish the endless stream of Priests I see before me?

There is. Quest Rogue. We’re not kidding. Quest Rogue has been performing very well against Priests from what we’ve seen so far. We think Quest Rogue is going to be a strong deck at top legend ranks this month, but it’s not very good outside of that specific pocket, so that’s our pro tip. There might be other off meta decks that find a way to thrive in this situation, but Quest Rogue is numero uno.

Class Analysis & Decklists

Druid | Hunter | Mage | Paladin | Priest | Rogue | Shaman | Warlock | Warrior


Data Reaper Report - Priest

Remember when we were all asking for Priest to get help? Priest is proof that Blizzard truly does listen, takes it to heart and then turns it up to 11. Are all of you excited for “Shamanstone 2: The Revenge of the Totem” this time next year?

Razakus Priest keeps pace as the most seen deck on ladder, at just about every level of play. The build is solid, refined, and known by all at this point. The only real flex spots are the decision between Lyra (Jade Druid, Aggro) vs. Auctioneer (Mirror) as well as Talonpriest (Control) vs. Tar Creeper (Aggro) at the 3 slot. Razakus Priest is great for climbing, since it only has one headache of a matchup, which is Jade Druid, and the green men have yet to figure out how to perform at their best against the entire field of opponents.

Spiteful Dragon Priest remains another very powerful choice for the legend climb, with many players having success with the deck. Patches is, once again, proving to be too strong to not include, as the Keleseth variant refined by JAB and Tictac is showing up as the superior build. Meanwhile, Combo Dragon Priest’s numbers have been falling off lately. This deck’s success has always been more situational, so we’re not surprised that it is losing favor with the meta becoming more and more competitive.

Big Priest has almost completely fallen off in popularity. The archetype looked extremely powerful early on, but seems to have been refined at an earlier stage in the expansion, and has been caught up by the rest of the field since. While it does perform well against Warlock and Druid, it suffers in aggressive matchups and has lost its edge against Razakus Priest since the introduction of Psychic Scream.

Data Reaper Report - Warlock

Warlock’s representation on ladder is second only to Priest at most levels of play, though it does fall short to Rogue at legend, where the Priest population is particularly high. Where Warlock truly shines, however, is in tournaments, where its ability to effectively specialize in particular matchups makes it a staple in the format.

Control Warlock is in the same boat as it was last week. If you’re running into Raza Priests, your best option is to play the Giant Cube version, since it is able to pressure opponents and looks to actively end the game. The best way to prevent the Raza/Anduin combo from going online is to kill the Priest before it happens. Playing 8/8’s while cheating out Doomguards helps achieve that goal.

If you’re running into everything but Raza Priest, the defensive builds become very enticing, and players continue to take advantage of certain pocket meta’s to hit top legend with these variants.  Dalesom and Rookie took Control Warlock to #1 legend over the past week by running Gnomeferatu instead of Rin as a cheaper form of deck destruction that accelerates fatigue. Dirty Rat is a must include card at this point, since it’s one of the only ways you can interact with Razakus Priest’s win condition.

Zoo Warlock remains one of the unsung heroes of this meta and has a stable presence on ladder with a pretty well rounded matchup spread. Of course, there are some decks you’d rather not see – particularly Tempo Rogue – but even then, the matchup is hardly lopsided. Zoo doesn’t have a single matchup that is significantly unfavored, and it can go toe to toe with pretty much every popular meta deck in the game.

Data Reaper Report - Rogue

Tempo Rogue has steadily risen in popularity at higher levels of play. It will also be highly represented in Amsterdam for the Hearthstone World Championships, with 12 of the 16 players bringing Tempo Rogue in their lineups, the only Rogue choice at the tournament.

BoarControl took a slightly modified standard variant to top legend ranks, running Lich King instead of Cobalt Scalebane. The Lich King is a strong card against Priest, while also being good in other, slow matchups. If the meta is slow enough, it’s certainly possible to fit The Lich King and both Cobalt Scalebanes in order to maximize the amount of threats against Priest, but be aware that these cards worsen your aggressive matchups. Spellbreaker is only a good tech if Warlocks are very prevalent. Do not consider it to be core.

Rage took a different variant of Tempo Rogue to #1 legend, cutting the mid-late game threats for two Counterfeit Coins and Sonya Shadowdancer. Coins make your early game more explosive, so you can get ahead on the board in faster matchups more consistently. However, the lack of threats and tendency to run out of steam makes your matchup against Priest weaker.

Quest Rogue has recently been getting more attention as well, as an effective counter to Razakus Priest, Control Warlock and other slower decks. Ryvius’ build, which has been the standard list for a while, began to see modifications and development. Initially, Feno cut Fire Flies for Bluegill Warriors, to give the deck extra burst, immediate impact on the board as well as another charger to synergize with Sonya to complete the quest. Fenom then proceeded to cut Elven Minstrel for Coldlight Oracle for a faster source of card draw that can also potentially mill your opponent. This build helped him reach to the 2nd stage of the Copa America qualifier. Rookie then took the Murloc build to #1 legend on the Asia server.

Gy0ng, a Korean player known for his Rogue play, also hit #1 legend piloting a Miracle Rogue build. This list is similar to ones we’ve featured in previous weeks, but cuts Shadowstep in order to run two Elven Minstrels.

Kingsbane Rogue builds continue to perform very poorly on ladder, but players continue to experiment with the legendary weapon, with Kolento being one of the notable experimenters. We’re featuring his latest build, but play it at your own risk!

Data Reaper Report - Druid

Druid is middle-of-the-pack this week both in play rates and win rates.

Aggro Druid is hurt quite a bit by the rise of Warlock and Priest at higher levels of play. The archetype thrives in early game battles but struggles to stick a board against the AOE wielding classes. Bittertide Hydra and Living Mana are quite essential in order to beat slower decks, while Spellbreaker is an optional tech against Warlock.

Jade Druid is in an interesting spot and has yet to finish adjusting to the meta. As the only consistent and reliable counter to Razakus Priest, the archetype has tremendous potential in changing the Hearthstone landscape. However, the matchup against Warlocks is proving to be very difficult. Skulking Geist heavily cripples the Oaken Summons build while the pressure coming from builds running Mountain Giants and Doomguards is also difficult to deal with for a class that has no hard removal.

The Oaken Summons build is very defensive, and is geared to perform better against aggressive decks while having enough armor gain to outlast Razakus Priest. The build’s lack of threats is an issue in control matchups, since your Jade generation is not as consistent. As a result, players are beginning to shift back into running more threats. By running Jade Spirits and Medivh, you’re able to overpower slower decks even if they possess Geist. Feral Rage replaces Oaken Summons as an armor generator against Priest. While Feral Rage is a weaker card, cutting Oaken Summons allows you to fit in a Spellbreaker more easily without disrupting synergies, improving your Warlock matchup further. The drawback of this build is, of course, its weakness in aggressive matchups, but both featured builds carry the tools necessary to do well against Razakus Priest.

Data Reaper Report - Paladin

Everything old is new again. Murloc Paladin is not just the best Paladin deck once again; it is one of the strongest in the game. The archetype only fails to get off the ground consistently against Control Warlock, Big-Spell Mage, and Tempo Rogue while doing quite well against the rest of the field. Builds have remained divided around the 3 drops, with the Patches builds being significantly more popular and both approaches performing very well. Some players are also experimenting with putting Finja back in the deck, since it’s a powerful comeback mechanic in aggressive matchups. Others are including a single Spikeridged Steed to help close the game in those matchups as well, but in general, Murloc Paladin is seeing more success with a low-curve, Divine Favor fueled deck rather than a midrange deck running Bonemares.

Asmodai tweaked Rage’s Exodia Paladin to hit Top 100 legend last week. The most significant change is the removal of Coldlight Oracles and adding Blessing of Wisdom to serve as cheap card draw as well as a Beardo activator.

Data Reaper Report - Mage

Mage is making an appearance in the Hearthstone World Championship, with both Fr0zen and Sintolol bringing variants of Big-Spell Mage, or Control Mage, to the tournament. On ladder, Secret Mage is still the most popular and successful Mage archetype, but much like Big-Spell Mage, it is valued differently in the tournament scene.

The availability of a ban and the narrow meta that is common in tournaments gives Big-Spell Mage more freedom to specialize. Warlock is a very problematic matchup and it can be banned out, while Priest is more manageable with Dirty Rats and Ice Blocks. In addition, since Razakus Priest is so popular in tournaments, Spiteful Dragon Priest is nearly non-existent, another nightmare matchup for Big-Spell Mage that it can avoid. In contrast, Secret Mage does not fit popular line ups that look to either ban Warlock or Priest. Secret Mage requires leaving both of these classes up while banning an aggressive deck (a significantly less popular route).

Big-Spell Mage aims to grind out opponents with its massive amounts of removal. Dirty Rat has proven to be important in the Razakus Priest matchup. Some lists, such as Sintolol’s, keep Ice Blocks since they prevent the Priest from executing his OTK without worrying about counter healing. With Geist and mass removal, you’re able to exhaust defensive Jade Druid builds quite consistently. In aggressive matchups, you’re looking to swing the game through Dragon’s Fury and then stabilize with Frost Lich Jaina and Arcane Artificer.

Secret Mage has mostly stuck to its core builds. We maintain that there is value in running the Pirate package, since it allows you to fight for the board better against aggressive decks in the early game while providing damage from hand post-Aluneth. EndBoss’ build runs Potion of Polymorph as a tech against Warlocks, which can completely disrupt their Possessed Lackey turn.

Data Reaper Report - Hunter

Aggro Hunter lists have mostly converged to the Senfglas build, and with innovations drying up once more, it seems that Hunter will continue its pattern of a slow decline and the higher prevalence at lower levels of play. Popular modifications in the Senfglas build involve cutting Tundra Rhino for Golakka Crawlers in order to fight better for early game board control against faster decks, with Dire Wolf Alpha also being a strong consideration due to the help it provides in making efficient trades. Orange’s World Championship Aggro Hunter is a good example of a Rhino-less build, and it is equally suitable for ladder play.

Perhaps Orange will be able to inspire a new wave of Hunter experimentation should he do well as the sole Hunter representative at the world championship, but the class might just have to wait for more significant changes in the meta to see any change to its current fate as a decent yet lukewarm class.


Thrall and Garrosh were sitting in a patio of a retirement home. It was a peaceful place, and the sun was setting. The battle ridden orcs glanced at the horizon with weary eyes. Memories of their battles against each other fresh in their minds. Thrall could still hear the loud cries of war.

“Troggs Rule!” echoed in his mind, followed by a loud groan that only a Totem Golem could muster. A tear began to trickle down his cheek, and Garrosh turned to him, noticing his old enemy’s pain.

“You’re thinking about Tunnel Troggs, again, aren’t you?”

Thrall did not answer, and kept looking ahead, into what seemed to be a far-away place.

“I’ve slain many of those with my trusty War Axe. Heh.”

Garrosh turned back his glance to the setting sun. He swallowed, remembering what happened to that War Axe since then. Garrosh tried to hide his own anger as best he could.

“We’ll be back, old friend.” He continued “That pigskin was far weaker than us a year ago. Now he’s gone all emo. The light has betrayed him, boo hoo. Pathetic. Heh”

Garrosh began cursing under his breath in Orc tongue.

“It will probably take at least 8 months for us to be strong again, Garrosh” Thrall finally uttered, and he lowered his head in resignation.

Suddenly, the sound of a cell phone ringing broke out. Garrosh looked at Thrall, who took out the ringing device from his pocket. As he glanced at the screen, Thrall’s expression turned into one of annoyance. He quickly clicked on the phone to shut it down, not answering the call.

“Who was it?” Garrosh asked with genuine curiosity.

“It was Moorabi” Thrall answered, and then shook his head.

“I still don’t know what I’m supposed to do with him.”

 

 


Data Reaper Report - Meta Breaker

Things have quickly turned grim. Just as the meta was beginning to display some form of a cyclic balancing act, it lost its grip on the ticking time bomb that is Razakus Priest. We glanced away from it for a second, and now the light has betrayed us all.

It remains to be seen whether the top level meta will once again gear its attention to Priest in order to reduce its win rate, and whether it is even capable of doing it effectively anymore considering many of these trends are irreversible. Jade Druid has the best chance of breaking the current meta, but it’s not there yet. Its performance isn’t strong enough against the rest of the field to effectively climb in popularity, but we think it’s worth more attention. A solution to a possible Priest oppression could be found in the larger and larger men.


Our Data Reaper Project, including the Data Reaper Live has 3,900 active contributors. Without them, this project would not be possible, so we’d like to thank all of our contributors for their help.

Preparing our weekly article requires a significant amount of time and effort from many individuals. We would like to wholeheartedly thank our current Patreons, whose generous donations help us fund computing and server costs.

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Special thanks to Leo GChungfr, Kognar, Aaron B, Jed M, Drew M, Alan J, lalasong, Eric L, Steve F, Batz, Jeffee83, Zolstar, Pink Mage Diaries, Dekkster Gaming, Connor L, Eric H, Lim E, Stefan D, Audun K, Sean H, asHram, and Andrew N for supporting us for the month of January.

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Contributors

Here are all the people that participated in bringing you this edition of the vS Data Reaper Report:

EndofDayswwlosrenzcheesee-hunter pdeegz-warriorspacemonkey-paladinTzachilookitzjoeNaramoSentenza

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