vS Data Reaper Report #78

A weekly Hearthstone Meta Report based on data from over 70,000 games.

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Welcome to the 78th edition of the Data Reaper Report!

Our Data Reaper Project, including the Data Reaper Live has 3,800 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 70,000
Legend 10,000
Ranks 1-5 26,000
Ranks 6-10 18,000
Ranks 11-15 12,000

Class/Archetype Distribution

Class Frequency

Class Frequency Discussion

Let’s start with some good news. After careful and patient analysis, we’ve managed to split the Dragon Priest archetype into the Spiteful and Combo variants successfully. We’ve mentioned before that doing so carried problems; recognition biases that resulted in skewed matchup data for these archetypes. With the meta slowly refining and “cleaning up” much of its noise (also has to do with dragon variants of Razakus Priest), Priest’s card usage map now allows us to perform the split without creating these issues. Our recognition algorithm is routinely tested in order to ensure its accuracy. When its accuracy is not up to our standards, we prefer to be transparent about it rather than present misleading data. In the case of Control Warlock, for example, the overlap between the Cube/Giant variant and the N’Zoth/Control variant is still far too great to reliably split at the moment. Cube Warlock’s unique cards carry significant selection bias (they are high win rate cards when played), which causes an inflation in the deck’s win rate when the variants are split.

Priest dominates prevalence at all levels of play and we don’t think this will change anytime soon. At legend, there is a slight decline of Razakus Priest, but the archetype’s popularity remains over 20% of the field and it is the most common strategy by a significant margin. In contrast to Razakus Priest, Spiteful Dragon Priest is very popular at lower skill levels but declines in play as you climb the ranks. Combo Dragon Priest is relatively niche, but has a stronger presence at legend where it continues to see individual success in the slower meta that usually exists up there. Big Priest is the rarest of the Priest archetypes these days; don’t expect to run into Barnes on 4 too often.

Warlock hasn’t seen too many changes. The most significant one is the increase in Zoo Warlock’s numbers at legend. We’ve talked in previous reports about Zoo’s potential in the current meta, as it’s been performing very well according to our metrics for quite a while. We’re not surprised to see this growth and expect that to continue further. Another important trend is an internal shift back to Cube Warlock variants that perform better against Razakus Priest. With the top meta deck looking so strong, strategies that line up poorly against it fade away, and the field begins to prioritize beating it more than anything else.

While Rogue’s numbers have remained quite steady overall, we can observe a noticeable decline in Tempo Rogue’s numbers at legend. With the dominance of Razakus Priest at the highest levels as well as the prevalence of Warlocks, players are moving away from Tempo Rogue and into strategies that match up better against these classes. Some of these strategies are found within the class, and we can notice an uptick in the play rate of Miracle Rogue as a result.

Jade Druid and Aggro Druid display contrasting trends. Jade Druid seems to have plateaued at legend. While it is slightly more popular at higher skill levels where Razakus Priest is extremely popular, it hasn’t been able to gain any traction over the past week. Aggro Druid, which has been struggling in recent times as a result of the Priest/Warlock matchups, is showing new signs of life with a sizeable spike in popularity at legend. Other Druid archetypes barely see any play, but we can observe the emergence of a new Druid archetype: Spiteful (Summoner) Druid.

Mage has seen an increase in play at all levels, and most of it is the result of Big-Spell Mage’s spike in popularity. With the archetype having a great showing at the Hearthstone World Championship, curiosity within the player base peaked to try it out. Whether this rise is a temporary fad or something more remains to be seen.

Paladin has seen another decline in play over the past week, though its numbers at legend have remained steady. Murloc Paladin is the more common opponent at legend, while Aggro Paladin has remained relatively niche in comparison. What we observe lines up with recent trends that resulted in the fall of Aggro Paladin’s win rate in the past few weeks.

Another week of Hunter depression, as the class continues to dive deeper and deeper into obscurity. The only Hunter archetype that essentially exists at the moment is Aggro Hunter, and it has declined at all levels of play. The player base is just not interested in piloting the class, a recurring issue from previous expansions as well.

Shaman and Warrior are dead classes in terms of development. There is nothing worthwhile to say about them, try as we might. They are just barren plaguelands of sadness.

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vS Meta Score

vS Power Rankings Discussion

The meta was given a stark reminder last week on what happens when you ignore Razakus Priest and let it run wild: bad things happen. This week, Razakus remains the highest win rate archetype at legend, but its score was slightly curbed. As the month draws to a close, expect the player base to further gear its strategies to defeat public enemy #1, but we don’t think the meta is capable of pushing down Razakus Priest’s win rate to the extent it did during KFT. Big Druid is gone and Jade Druid is a shadow of its former self. The reliable counters just aren’t there.

Other Priest archetypes aren’t so lucky. While we have already observed hints towards Spiteful Dragon Priest’s low skill ceiling in previous weeks, the evidence is quite glaring this week. The archetype has really fallen off in its win rate at higher levels of play over the past couple of weeks, which is likely the result of its predictable game plan, making it harder for it to perform against an acclimatized field. Combo Dragon Priest has always been an inferior performer in general, but one that improves in its win rate at higher levels of play.

This has been a good week for the Warlock class. With its newfound focus on beating Raza Priest, Control Warlock has increased in its performance at all levels of play. It has also benefitted from the attention given to beat Priest by the rest of the field. Compared to the tech hate it has suffered through during the first few weeks of the expansion, Warlock is enjoying a much more relaxed environment.  Meanwhile, Zoo Warlock has surged in its win rate even further after receiving more attention/refinement from the player base, and is looking like one of the strongest ladder decks in the game. Zoo’s matchup spread is extremely consistent, and there isn’t a single opponent it truly fears. It can trade punches with anyone.

Tempo Rogue continues to dictate the early game meta, but it’s losing ground to other early game decks as a result of its matchup with Razakus Priest and Control Warlock. These are its only unfavored matchups, but at legend, these matchups matter most. Tempo Rogue’s decline at legend is indicative of this issue, and we don’t think the archetype can increase in play under these conditions. Its days of farming Paladins have come and gone.

Speaking of Paladin, while the class is fairly modest in its representation, both Murloc Paladin and Aggro Paladin are still doing very well at all levels of play. Aggro Paladin seems to have recovered this week in its performance, which has to do with its decent matchup with Control Warlock and the decline in Tempo Rogues at legend. Don’t count out Paladin; it is still a very strong class that picks up wins at a reliable pace.

Druid is perhaps the most interesting class to discuss this week. First, Jade Druid seems to be a false promise, crashing in its win rate this week in spectacular fashion at legend. The archetype is just too susceptible to the abuse of certain strategies, especially Control Warlock, which steals its lunch money on a daily basis. Jade Druid’s plateau appears to be thoroughly justified. Aggro Druid, on the other hand, looks far more promising this week and it has Warlock to thank for this. With Control Warlock focusing on greed and threats in order to beat Priests, Aggro Druid’s matchup with the Void Daddy has seen significant improvement.

But this doesn’t end our conversation about Druids, as the newly emerging archetype, Spiteful Druid, might end up being the strongest option available to the class. Considering that it is fairly young in development and still very much unrefined, its win rate is quite impressive, especially at legend, which is a result of its great matchup against the top meta deck, Razakus Priest. Of course, these are very preliminary results and the deck could still end up being a bust, but watch out for this joyous bundle of neutrals to potentially hit a ladder queue near you.

Surprisingly, Aggro Hunter sees a pretty sizeable increase in its win rate this week despite its continuous decline in prevalence, with the arms race between Priest and Warlock being exactly what it wants to take advantage of, in addition to the decline in Rogues. Furthermore, we’ve noticed that Golakka Crawlers have seen increased play in Aggro Hunters, and this has had a positive impact on its performance against other aggressive decks. Unlike Shaman and Warrior, Hunter looks competitive, and we will have to see whether this lasts and can the bleeding in its prevalence stop.

The increase in Big-Spell Mages on ladder appears to be a fad driven by its recent tournament exposure. The ladder environment is just much harsher for the archetype, with Warlocks being so difficult to overcome in the late game. Secret Mage is not doing well this week either. This archetype has proven to be extremely inconsistent and volatile, and much like its strategy of throwing Fireballs and Frostbolts at people’s faces, it tends to blow hot and cold.

Class Analysis & Decklists

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


Data Reaper Report - Priest

Priest rules the K&C meta with a plethora of options available to it.

Razakus Priest is the most prevalent archetype in the game and has long been refined. One interesting development lately is an increased usage of The Darkness as a tech choice for the mirror. Probably not worth it outside of very narrow scenarios, but shows how much impact the archetype has had on the meta. Run Auctioneer for the mirror, Lyra for Jade Druid/Aggro and replace Talonpriest with Tar Creeper for aggressive decks.

Big Priest has also long been refined, but to its detriment. Since its initial strong showing in the early days of K&C, it has fallen off significantly behind other archetypes. It’s still a strong enough deck to do well with, but it’s not one of the top performing ones on ladder. Once it lost its advantage against Razakus Priest, people did not see merit in piloting Big Priest on ladder, and its niche was taken over by other strategies.

Spiteful Dragon Priest benefits from great matchups against Control Warlocks and Jade Druids, but can hit a wall at higher levels of play. The Keleseth variant has generally been performing better in recent weeks in a slower meta, but the Netherspite variant is still very effective for a ladder climb if you’re tight on dust. Netherspite has stronger applications in aggressive matchups since it’s able to discover Duskbreaker, which is your best comeback card.

Combo Dragon Priest has always been the more niche Dragon archetype, and its success is dependent on a slower meta that gives it time to draw its key pieces. This is usually more common at top legend ranks, which is why the deck has enjoyed plenty of success at higher levels of play. Windello has been the most consistent performer with the deck, and we’re featuring his latest two builds which took him to top 20 legend on two servers. The Temporus version is geared to punish Razakus Priest, while the Golakka version looks to improve one of the deck’s most difficult matchups in Tempo Rogue. Note that since Skulking Geist has risen in popularity, there is now merit to include Crazed Alchemist to act as a replacement finisher for Inner Fire. Consider running Silence or Mass Dispel over Circle of Healing if you’re running into many Warlocks.

Data Reaper Report - Warlock

Warlock maintains its hold as the second most played class on ladder and continues to perform at all levels of the game.

Cube Warlock is recommended if you’re seeing a lot of Razakus Priests, as the threats and pressure you can mount makes it a close matchup. It is the most consistent ladder variant and should perform best at higher levels of play under a potentially massive Priest population.

Defensive Control Warlock builds are only recommended in scenarios where Razakus Priest is not prevalent, which allows the archetype to shine in aggressive matchups and against other late game decks that do not carry burst, such as Jade Druid and Big-Spell Mage.

Zoo Warlock is one of the most underrated ladder decks in the game. It benefits from its low prevalence due to its mulligan advantage against opponents that anticipate a slower deck, but it’s still very strong on its own and shouldn’t be underestimated. It has one of the most balanced matchup spreads, with not a single deeply unfavored matchup.

Ender took a list inspired by the previous innovations of Xixo to #3 legend by running Glacial Shards over Fire Flies and cutting Gul’dan, whose merit has come into question recently. Ace103 took Ender’s build to #1 legend; further showing that Zoo can perform extremely well at all levels of play.

Data Reaper Report - Rogue

Rogue maintains its record of being in every Hearthstone World Championship winning lineup thanks to Tom60229’s Tempo Rogue, which is a fairly standard list, cutting one Elven Minstrel in order to include two Cobalt Scalebanes as well as The Lich King.

Tempo Rogue remains a very solid deck for ladder. However, it does fall short in the matchups against the two most popular archetypes in the game, Razakus Priest and Control Warlock.

Rogue fans looking to climb with a deck that has better matchups against Razkus Priest and Control Warlock don’t have to go very far. Miracle Rogue has been a popular alternative to challenge Warlocks and Priests at top legend ranks. Bunnyhoppor reached top 15 legend with Gyong’s list. One card change that’s the subject of debate is cutting Bloodmage Thalnos for Shadowstep. Thalnos synergizes well with your spell removal package, while Shadowstep offers utility and burst.

Another alternative in the Rogue arsenal is Quest Rogue, a more ruthless counter to control decks, but one that suffers heavily at the hands of aggressive decks. Suldabe reached #20 legend utilizing the Fenom/Rookie build that’s geared harder to beat the dominant slow classes of this meta.

Data Reaper Report - Druid

Druid seems to have settled into its current role in the meta, failing to match the power level of Priest but faring well enough to be a consideration at all levels of play.

Aggro Druid has been struggling lately against the large number of Warlocks and Priests on ladder but things seem to have turned around slightly in its favor. The archetype’s struggle was also evident at the Hearthstone World Championship, where the deck did not perform very well in a field that was very hostile towards it. Aggro Druid thrives in early game minion battles, but cannot establish a resilient board consistently against any deck that has multiple forms of AOE.

Jade Druid hasn’t seen much development over the past week, with Oaken Summons variants remaining the most popular approach for the archetype. Jade Spirits, as well as greedier cards such as Medivh, remain an option if you encounter a slower, Geist-wielding meta. Jade Druid is a solid answer to Razakus Priest and sees play commensurate to Priest saturation on ladder, which is generally high these days, but Jade Druid’s terrible matchup against Control Warlock is a big hindrance to its ladder success.

Big Druid has been mostly absent in the K&C meta, but has seen a bit of a revival as a result of Dog’s efforts, taking a Wrath-less Drakkari Enchanter build to top 50 legend. The list also runs two copies of Bright-Eyed Scout, going all-in on high-roll potential. Big Druid still does well against Razakus Priest, and finds other slow matchups also reasonable. Its main issue is aggressive matchups, where it falls behind into unrecoverable states too often.

A new development for Druid comes in the form of Spiteful Summoner Druid. Multiple players have seen success with builds incorporating your favorite neutral cards, in addition to a Spiteful Summoner/Grand Archivist/UI package. Early signs show this archetype to be performing very well, and it might be a sleeper hit deck once it gets fully refined. We’re featuring a recommended list based on our early analysis.

Data Reaper Report - Mage

This week, Big-Spell Mage has gone up in popularity, likely due to the successful showing it’s had in the Hearthstone World Championship. However, players have quickly found out that Warlock bans heavily enable its viability in tournaments, while ladder is a different and much more difficult story for the archetype. Control Warlock and Spiteful Dragon Priest are nightmare matchups, while Aggro Druid, one of its best matchups, is not nearly as prevalent to farm.

Secret Mage remains a good choice in a meta dominated by Priests and Warlocks. Aluneth is an incredibly strong card in these matchups, making the Mage extremely difficult to outlast once the weapon is equipped even when taking all of the Warlock’s healing into account. The archetype is not recommended if you’re running into other aggressive decks, especially Paladins and Rogues. Asmodai hit #8 legend last week piloting a build that includes one Golakka Crawler, a nod to the deck’s worst matchups.

Data Reaper Report - Paladin

Paladin is a very strong class for ladder play, as long as you’re playing an aggressive archetype.

Murloc Paladin is slightly more resilient against the current ladder meta than non-murloc Aggro Paladin. One of the only common poor matchups for this deck is Control Warlock, so teching a Spellbreaker to power through Voidlords or turn off early Lackeys is not a terrible idea for ladder if you’re running into this matchup often.

Aggro Paladin performs far better against Control Warlock at the cost of worse matchups against Tempo Rogue and Jade Druid. The better aggressive Paladin deck might change depending on the kind of meta you’re encountering, so keep those matchups in mind to make the best decision.

Data Reaper Report - Hunter

Hunter did alright at the Hearthstone World Championships last weekend, going 2-1 in its three games. In the open tournament scene, Hunter is very rare, with only one of the 32 Copa America qualifiers running Hunter in his lineup. The class is certainly struggling to find a spot in line ups due to stronger, more specialized options available.

On ladder, Hunter play rates have continued their slow decline. At top level play, Hunter is becoming nearly non-existent, with prevalence approaching the ones displayed by Warrior and Shaman. However, Hunter is showing a far better performance level than these two classes. Aggro Hunter is certainly competitive, but it doesn’t appear to be a compelling deck to play, while Secret-based builds have long faded away.



We return to a peaceful retirement home where Garrosh and Thrall are seated together on the patio. Garrosh is surfing the web on his tablet, as he suddenly finds something that makes him stop and break a smile.

“Look at this, Thrall” he turns the tablet towards his former enemy “Spiteful Summoner is dating Malfurion. They have pictures from their last rendezvous on her instagram. Ha ha ha! Choke on that, Anduin!”

Thrall’s eyes widen in surprise, before breaking into laughter “Wait until Tyrande hears about this!” he uttered through his giggles.

“She’s so cheap!” Garrosh continues. “Spiteful Summoner will go through everyone by this time next year.”

“She moved on from you pretty fast a month ago” Thrall teases. Garrosh’s expression turns sour and he growls at his companion, not appreciating the sudden jab.

“I don’t need her.” Garrosh replies “I don’t need Patches either!”

“Now that squid’s the biggest player!” Thrall interrupts.

“Anyway,” Garrosh continues “all I need is my most trusted general, Fibonacci!”

Thrall looks confused hearing Garrosh’s words “Didn’t Fibonacci uninstall Hearthstone a while ago?” he asks.

“Well, it didn’t last long. Heh.” Garrosh answers with a tone of satisfaction “He hit legend this month with a Big Warrior deck! It’s on his Twitter, look”. Garrosh points at the tablet, which prompts Thrall to lean forward and take a closer look.

“You can always count on Fibonacci, Garrosh” he says with a smile, leaning back in his chair.

Garrosh nods in approval and relaxes back in his seat. Memories of the past few weeks envelop him. He remembers how everyone walked away from him, Pirates and Armorsmiths alike, leaving him all alone. He remembers how Ben Brode did not invite him to the Hearthstone World Championship, citing that he’s not one of the “cool kids” anymore. Only one person has stayed by Garrosh’s side.

“He’s never let me down.” Garrosh spoke, his voice slightly breaking as emotions began to overtake him. He glanced once again at his tablet, gently touching the screen with his index finger.

“Th… thank you…. Fibonacci”

 


Data Reaper Report - Meta Breaker

Zoo Warlock has had the most impressive climb in its win rate over the past week. While most of the attention is given to Control Warlock decks, the faster archetype continues to perform very well against the field and takes advantage of the meta’s complacency in anticipating it. Zoo Warlock is currently in the strongest spot it’s been for a very long time, and definitely merits a shout out in this section.

Flame Imps in 2018 are no laughing matter.


Our Data Reaper Project, including the Data Reaper Live has 3,800 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.

vS Gold is a new membership plan aimed to support our efforts towards improving our content and data analysis while receiving some bonuses and extra features.

Tier 3+ Patrons

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.

A HUGE thank you to our Tier 5 Patron(s): ByteCookie, and Curt S!

Contributors

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

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