Welcome to the 79th edition of the Data Reaper Report!
Our Data Reaper Project, including the Data Reaper Live has 3,700 active contributors. Without them, this project would not be possible, so we’d like to thank all of our contributors for their help.
Number of Games
Class Frequency Discussion
With the news of upcoming balance changes, this week’s report will mostly focus on each class’ prospects going into the patch. Remember that on the week the patch goes live, the Data Reaper report will take a break. All data is rebooted and new archetype recognition analysis is performed in order to adjust to all the changes in card usage that will surely occur.
The last week of January brought about a rise in Warlocks at all levels of play, which is mostly attributed to Zoo Warlock. Zoo has been performing well according to our metrics for quite a while. Last week, it made another breakthrough in its win rate against the field, and we expected it to begin spiking in play as a result. The spike has certainly occurred, especially at higher levels of play, where Zoo’s numbers nearly doubled.
Priest has sat completely still this week. Razakus continues to dominate representation at legend, while other Priest archetypes are quite niche in comparison. Combo Priest is the other Priest deck that has larger representation at legend, which aligns with our previous observation of it performing better at higher levels of play.
Rogue has taken a small hit in its representation at legend. Niche archetypes such as Miracle and Kingsbane Rogue are fading away while Quest Rogue maintains a small, but noticeable presence at legend. This class will likely go through major shifts in character when the balance patch goes live.
Other classes are also pretty stagnant. Druid has seen a small rise in popularity as a result of the emergence of Spiteful Druid while Jade Druid is declining at all levels of play. The enthusiasm over Big-Spell Mage has waned, and all Mage archetypes are currently in decline. Paladin has stayed where it was. Hunter continues to decline in play while stabilizing at legend. Shaman is dead.
The one exception is Warrior. Mitsuhide’s efforts sparked players to pick up Pirate Warrior once again, and the archetype has established a noticeable presence at legend. Other archetypes of the class, however, are pretty much dead.
vS Meta Score
vS Power Rankings Discussion
Zoo Warlock continues to impress with a very strong win rate at all levels of play, and it’s now taken the top spot at legend. Razakus Priest sets the tone for the meta and is the most dominant deck in the game considering both win rate and prevalence. The meta has been attempting to counter the archetype as well as it can, and this has resulted in a decline in its win rate over the past couple of weeks, but not to an extent that could result in a meta shift. The only thing that’s going to successfully bring down Raza is the patch.
How about other Priest decks? They’re doing alright. Spiteful Priest continues to look less impressive as we reach higher skill levels, while Combo Priest remains niche but a competitive archetype that has the added benefit of being a solid counter to Razakus Priest. Its value at top legend, as a result, is considerably higher. Big Priest has climbed in its win rate due to the rise in Warlocks. It relishes the Warlock matchups more than any other deck in the game.
Zoo’s bigger brother, Control Warlock, maintains a pretty strong win rate against the field. Gul’dan is licking his lips at the upcoming balance changes which could propel the Void Daddy into a very dominant spot in the field. Without Razakus Priest around, the leash on late game Warlock strategies could break, which is a concern many players share. We think the concerns are understandable, but there are many factors that could result in Warlock being kept in check, and it depends on what strategies rise as a result of Raza’s fall.
We’ve said in previous reports that while Razakus Priest sets the tone for late game strategies, Tempo Rogue sets the tone for early game strategies. Much like Razakus, Tempo Rogue could be crippled by the changes to some of its key cards. Patches is one of the most broken cards ever printed in Hearthstone, and an early game in which he’s not in charge opens up many new possibilities.
Murloc Paladin still looks quite strong and the fact it’s not reliant on pirate synergy is quite important. Aggro Paladin, on the other hand, looks far more inconsistent. We’re also looking forward to the possibility that Control Paladin stops being a meme on ladder. We can always dream.
Druid probably has the most surprising result this week, with Jade Druid collapsing into a remarkably poor win rate at legend. The reason is simple: its matchup against Warlock archetypes is atrocious, and with Zoo rising in play, things look even grimmer for the green men. Having a 30-35% win rate against a class you meet every 5th game will have a crippling effect on your performance. One interesting development at top legend has been running Naturalize to help deal with Warlock’s threats, which is a pretty good adjustment for this specific matchup.
Other Druid archetypes are doing better; Aggro Druid remains above 50% at all levels of play. Spiteful Druid has climbed in its win rate at lower skill levels, while dropping in its win rate at legend. We think it’s a fairly decent deck, but not an amazing one. It’s strong in slower matchups but quite weak to aggressive decks. P.S Don’t play the C’Thun package in it.
Aggro Hunter has declined in its win rate but still looks like a competitive ladder deck. The same goes for Pirate Warrior, which has seen a rise in its win rate to accompany its rise in prevalence this week. The issue with these classes is a lack of diversity. They offer nothing other than an aggressive, one-dimensional play style at the moment, which is true of other classes as well. There are just not enough interesting ways to play Hearthstone, and that’s mostly because too often this year, one late game strategy completely nullified most other late game options (Quest Rogue, Jade Druid and Razakus Priest).
Class Analysis & Decklists
As Priest fans pour some out for Raza the Chained, we look forward to a new meta. Razakus Priest is very likely dead in standard, since the change to Raza neuters its burst combo and weakens its ability to control the board after finding its win condition. The class may have to find other ways to play the game.
Spiteful Priest would be a surefire alternative to take over the Raza void, if not for the timely nerf of some of its tools in Creeper and Bonemare. As a deck that’s heavily reliant on an efficient curve, losing these tools definitely hurts (Spiteful Summoner into Bonemare was a particularly oppressive follow up). However, since it does mostly struggle against aggressive decks, it may find the trade-off to be manageable. In addition, losing Patches doesn’t hurt the archetype too badly since it can opt for the Netherspite variant. Finally, Spiteful Priest performs well against Control Warlock. Any strategy that ticks this box has a potential place in the new meta.
In contrast, Combo Dragon Priest loses absolutely nothing to the balance changes. However, its main selling point was a strong matchup against Razakus Priest, while Warlocks presented a more difficult challenge. It will likely have to slightly change its techs in the new meta, prioritizing silence effects.
The clear winner within the class is none other than Big Priest. The archetype remains untouched by the balance changes, but sees a weakened field before it. Aggressive decks slowing down means it is given more time to cheat out threats and stabilize, and it is the best performing archetype against the Warlock class. It also welcomes the disappearance of Razakus Priest, the deck it used to counter before the introduction of Psychic Scream. We certainly expect to see more Barnes on 4 after the patch goes live.
- Priest Class Radar
- Razakus Priest
- Spiteful Priest
- Combo Priest
- Big Priest
Warlock is in good spirits with this week’s announcements of nerfs, and is primed to become public enemy #1 after we see these changes go into effect. Razakus Priest was the biggest stumbling block for Warlocks on ladder, especially for defensive Control Warlock builds that had very little game against it. With aggressive decks slowing down after the loss of key tempo cards (Corridor Creeper in particular was very powerful against Warlock), Cube Warlock’s matchup against them should significantly improve as well. It’s hard to see late game Warlock strategies not displaying some level of dominance, and the question becomes to what extent could the meta keep them in check, and could new strategies emerge to beat them.
The future could also be bright for Zoo Warlock. While Zoo does lose some powerful cards, so does every other early game deck and Warlock is not nearly as reliant on them. An early game no longer dominated by Patches is good news to decks that carry other powerful openings, such as playing Flame Imps on turn 1. Furthermore, Zoo should have an easier time finding strong replacements to these cards than other decks since it has a very deep pool of cards that are waiting to slot into the build. One interesting question is whether Zoo Warlock keeps playing Keleseth, or does the nerf to Patches entice players to opt for a heavier demon package with Vulgar Homunculus and Demonfire/Bloodfury Potion instead?
- Warlock Class Radar
- Control Warlock
- Zoo Warlock
Rogue is headed for an uncertain future when looking at the upcoming balance changes. Tempo Rogue is losing three very powerful cards in Patches, Corridor Creeper and Bonemare. While all other early game decks are losing the same tools, Tempo Rogue was the deck capable of abusing these cards in the most efficient manner. Keleseth, Shadowstep and Southsea Captain enabled some of the most explosive openings possible in the game, and without Patches being in charge, the prince’s impact on the board is slower. Tempo Rogue’s strong early game removal also enabled bigger and more consistent swings with Corridor Creeper, while Bonemare was an important closer that rewarded the Rogue for controlling the board, something it exceled at. While Rogue should still possess one of the best early game kits in the game and other terrific tools, such as Vilespine Slayer, it definitely gets hit hard. It will be interesting to see how Tempo Rogue evolves in a meta potentially dominated by Warlock. Will it get faster and run Cold Bloods again? Could we see a return to old school aggro variants running Coldlight Oracles and Saps? Time will tell.
Quest Rogue is, funnily enough, also hurt by the Patches nerf, since it’s a very powerful card in combination with Southsea Deckhand post-quest completion, enabling a significant amount of burst damage. However, Quest Rogue’s worst matchups are against aggressive decks, so should they slow down a turn or two, it may find more time to reach its win condition.
The one Rogue deck that should benefit from the balance changes is Miracle Rogue. Miracle Rogue is always happy to see aggressive decks become weaker, and Patches is not an important card in its build. In addition, Sap is a natural fit for the archetype and is fantastic against Warlocks specifically, so Miracle Rogue could become a natural counter to the most prevalent strategy in the game while not being as weak to aggressive strategies. Similarly, Kingsbane Rogue could also benefit from the balance changes and find a window of viability, since it’s another archetype that carries a natural advantage against Control Warlocks.
- Rogue Class Radar
- Tempo Rogue
- Quest Rogue
- Miracle Rogue
- Kingsbane Rogue
At least on the surface, things do not line up too well for current Druid archetypes to shine in the post-patch meta. One of the class’ biggest problems on ladder is dealing with Warlocks, which are expected to be very strong going forward. Jade Druid in particular suffers in matchups against any kinds of Warlocks, while it loses one of its better matchups in Razakus Priest. Indeed, for Jade Druid to be relevant in its last months of standard ladder, it will have to reinvent itself. Perhaps, a sign of that is already seen now, with RayC’s build helping multiple players reach top legend ranks by running Naturalize, a strong answer to Mountain Giants and Doomguards before they get Cubed. Jade Druid could also take advantage of aggressive decks slowing down by cutting the Oaken Summons package in order to run Jade Spirits and Medivh.
Aggro Druid could suffer greatly as a result of the patch. While it does appreciate the potential disappearance of Razakus Priest, it loses some of its most important tools. Aggro Druid was one of the decks that abused Patches best due to its strategy of flooding the board and buffing it. Corridor Creeper was equally important in recovering after board clears. Without these cards, the deck gets slower and its comeback mechanisms grow weaker.
Spiteful Druid, which has only begun to gain traction recently and has seen top legend success by players such as Zarathustra, stands to lose some of its core cards. Other late game Druid archetypes could emerge as a result of the nerf to aggressive decks, but much like other niche archetypes in the current meta, it’s difficult to predict how they could turn out.
- Druid Class Radar
- Jade Druid
- Aggro Druid
- Spiteful Druid
- Big Druid
Secret Mage may be one of the biggest winners of the balance changes. Mage was one of the biggest victims of the Patches-dominated early game, while Corridor Creeper was a crippling card to deal with in many of its worst matchups. While it often used these cards, Secret Mage was forced to do so to keep up, and didn’t utilize them as well as other decks. With pirate early game growing weaker, Mana Wyrms become stronger. In addition, the potential rise of Control Warlock lines up favorably for Secret Mage, one of the only archetypes in the current meta capable of beating it consistently. The potential drop in Tempo Rogue is also a boon for Secret Mage’s prospects, though Paladins, another difficult matchup, equally benefit from this outcome.
Big-Spell Mage can be hurt significantly by the changes. Mage just cannot keep up with Warlocks in the late game, and in any potential meta dominated by Warlocks, it’s hard to see Control Mage decks doing well.
Finally, much like any other combo deck, Exodia Mage stands to gain from the pace slowing down as a result of Patches being nerfed. Exodia Mage can do well against Warlocks and other control decks rising from Raza’s ashes, so it will likely still keep its small niche, though we don’t think its status will change much from where it currently is.
- Mage Class Radar
- Secret Mage
- Exodia Mage
- Big Spell Mage
Overall, Paladin is one of the classes least affected by the Patches/Bonemare nerfs. Murloc Paladin possesses one of the most powerful non-pirate openings in the game and Bonemare hasn’t been used by the class throughout most of K&C. In addition, the only archetype that preys on both aggressive Paladin variants, Tempo Rogue, is being heavily weakened (if not gutted). This is a big boon to Paladin’s early game prospects on ladder. With the meta potentially slowing down overall, and players gravitating to control strategies as a result of the Raza nerf, Divine Favor also gains more value.
However, losing Corridor Creeper hurts Paladin’s matchup against Warlock, since it is one of the strongest tools available to recover from a board clear. Considering Warlock is likely to be very prevalent, this does present a challenge to the class. Should the meta slow down, it might give Paladin enough leeway to tech more aggressively against Warlock, but this matchup will likely make or break Paladin’s standing in the meta.
- Paladin Class Radar
- Aggro Paladin
- Murloc Paladin
- Control Paladin
Hunter may swing back in the direction of midrange packages. With Patches nerfed, Candleshot and pirates will also likely be leaving the deck, returning to an early game consisting of Alleycats and Dire Moles, with the potential of Fire Fly tech. The Corridor Creeper change is a devastating blow to Hunter, as they lose access to their easiest Houndmaster target and fastest source of damage. To make up for the missing pressure, Hunter decks could be forced to slow down and include Highmanes again. Subsequently, the Corridor Creeper nerf severely hurts Tundra Rhino, which is likely too slow to include anymore. Expect Hunters to fully embrace Bittertide Hydras as the only 5 drop.
In terms of wider meta changes, Hunter could benefit, as many of its worst matchups were aggressive decks which abused Patches harder than Hunter did. With a slower early game for other classes, Hunter might be able to leverage its early board better, with Crackling Razormaw connecting on turn 2 more often. It’s hard to evaluate the impact of the Raza change on Hunter. On one hand, a slower meta in which decks become greedier is good news for the class. Hunter generally does well against Cube Warlocks, for example. However, the disappearance of Raza Priest could bring out more defensive control decks, which generally have a negative impact on Hunter’s prospects.
- Hunter Class Radar
- Aggro Hunter
- Secret Hunter
- Spell Hunter
The new balance changes coming up provide a slight glimmer of hope to Warrior, especially slow Warrior decks such as Fatigue Warrior and Big Warrior. The nerfs to Patches the Pirate and Bonemare reduce early game pressure as well as make it less dangerous to leave minions on the board, while the total obliteration of Corridor Creeper makes it impossible for aggressive decks to cheat out big threats before a slower Warrior deck has a chance to amass enough removal cards.
The nerf to Raza, meanwhile, invalidates the traditional Prophet Velen burst combo that was so good against slower decks, and essentially nullifies Razakus Priest as a threat to Warrior. As a result, late game Warrior strategies could have a better chance of establishing a place in the meta, provided they find a way to deal with the Warlock threat (definitely not an easy task).
Pirate Warrior loses some of its most crucial tools, with Patches’ charge effect being very important to combat other aggressive decks very early in the game. Should Pirate Warrior continue to exist, it might be one of the only decks that keep Patches around. All this remains to be seen, however – Warrior is definitely not the first word on anyone’s lips after seeing the changes. Since the class is so underdeveloped in the current meta, its prospects in the new meta remain largely a mystery.
- Warrior Class Radar
- Pirate Warrior
- Fibonacci’s Big Warrior
Change is good for a class that’s currently deep in the dumpster, but it’s hard to say that the upcoming balance changes will significantly alter Shaman’s current standing in the meta. The likely disappearance of Razakus Priest, one of the most crippling matchups for all Shaman archetypes, is a huge blessing. However, Warlock will still carry their powerful AOE tools to repeatedly wipe the Shaman’s board, and Shaman will lose Corridor Creeper, a universally strong card against Warlock.
Perhaps in the absence of Raza, Shaman can afford to sacrifice some of its early game, including Patches, for a slower curve that’s more value oriented. Hex is one of the best answers in the game to a Voidlord, and Devolve is pretty strong against Doomguards/Cubes as well. A viable grindy Control Shaman deck that utilizes these tools could emerge in the new meta.
However, much like the Warrior class, so much is underdeveloped when it comes to Shaman that it’s hard to evaluate its potential. Shaman’s power level is so far behind the rest of the field at the moment, that something special needs to happen for it to close the gap.
Can Warlock be stopped? This is the key question when it comes to the post-patch meta. Any strategy that can beat Warlock’s late game has meta breaking potential. If none can challenge Warlock, expect to see Bloodreaver Gul’dan sitting on Shadowreaper Anduin’s vacated throne
Better start practicing.
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