Welcome to the 82nd edition of the Data Reaper Report!
Our Data Reaper Project, including the Data Reaper Live has 3,500 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
As the meta closes in on its third month since the expansion’s launch and settles down from the balance changes, shifts and innovations are slowing down. Warlock has remained the most popular class at all levels of play, with a small edge over Priest and Paladin. We do notice that Zoo Warlock is in the process of “cleaning up”, while Control Warlock is still as diverse as ever.
Priest is the 2nd most popular class at legend, and is the most diverse class in the current meta, boasting 4 archetypes that play very differently from each other (despite 3 of them being built around a Dragon shell). At legend ranks, Combo Priest has surged in popularity at the expense of other archetypes, making it noticeably more popular at that bracket. Spiteful Priest falls off the hardest in prevalence as we climb the ranks. Interestingly, Control Priest is now the 2nd most popular Priest archetype at higher levels of play.
Paladin is in an interesting spot. Dude Paladin has trickled down to all levels of play and has significantly closed the gap on Murloc Paladin in terms of prevalence. However, at legend ranks, Dude Paladin has stopped growing and is showing the first signs of decline, while Murloc Paladin is the archetype that’s spiking in prevalence. This is likely caused by the Warlock population at higher levels of play. While Warlock does well against both archetypes, Murloc Paladin fares much better against the Void Daddy while Dude Paladin’s matchup against Warlock is so demoralizing that it may put off players from piloting the deck.
Mage is the last of the Big 4 classes, with Secret Mage making up most of its numbers. While the archetype has declined recently, this trend has ceased at legend ranks, where the population has now stabilized. We’re also noticing experimentations with Freeze Mage builds; some of them carrying a classic burn win condition while others utilize non-quest Exodia combo with Leyline Manipulator. This cluster is quite a mess and will likely fade away soon as quickly as it appeared. Other Mage decks haven’t been relevant in the current meta and we don’t see that changing.
Hunter’s growth has halted and it’s now taken a small step back. The class is mostly dominated by Spell Hunter, which is the most successful Hunter archetype in recent times. Other Hunter decks are more popular at lower skill levels but fade away at legend ranks.
Despite struggling to perform well, Rogue still holds a fair share of the meta at legend ranks with archetypes that look to counter control decks: Kingsbane, Miracle and Quest. The window is closing on Tempo Rogue, which looks incapable of making a comeback.
We’re struggling to remember a time when Druids were this rare a sight. Jade Druid is the only Druid deck that has a noticeable presence, but even the green men fall off at higher levels of play. The class is strangely diverse with many different (and mostly bad) decks displaying a microscopic presence.
And then there’s Shaman and Warrior. We’ve noticed a bit of interest in playing DMH Control Warrior due to the efforts of Fibonacci and Dog, while similar attempts to build actual Hearthstone decks are also present in Shaman, but we think it’s a long shot that any of these attempts materialize into consistent, competitive viability.
vS Meta Score
vS Power Rankings Discussion
Murloc Paladin has taken the crown away from Dude Paladin at legend ranks, which lines up with what we’ve discussed earlier about their frequency. Dude Paladin has truly an amazing matchup spread with one big drawback: Defile and Voidlords. At higher levels of play, this matters a lot, because that one terrible matchup is extremely popular, and this has caused Murloc’s stock to rise at Dude’s expense. We’ve also noticed that Murloc Paladin has made some improvements in several key matchups (including Control Warlock), which results in its win rate spike at legend. It’s currently the go-to aggro deck at the top level.
The K&C meta might as well be called the “turn 4 meta”. Call to Arms. Barnes. Duskbreaker. Duskbreaker currently has three Priest decks boasting a win rate that exceeds 50% at legend. Control Priest has expectedly spiked in its win rate as a result of its continuing refinement process. We’re big fans of this archetype since it is capable of consistently beating Murloc Paladin while also performing fairly well against Warlocks. No other deck in the meta does this (!).
Meanwhile, this wasn’t a great week for Barnes, as both Big Priest and Spell Hunter have seen declines in their win rates. Big Priest has seen a similar fall in its win rate once the meta settled before the balance changes. It tends to figure itself out quickly and then fade away once the field becomes more optimized. Spell Hunter is hitting a ceiling due to the prevalence of Warlocks; you can only go so far when your worst matchup is against the most popular meta deck.
Control Warlock is certainly dealing with a lot of hostility. Most of the meta is gunning for it, including niche meme decks being played solely for the purpose of beating it down. It’s dealing with the adversity better than Razakus Priest did throughout most of KFT. We will say that Cube Warlock is much more difficult to effectively counter than the more defensive Control builds, since the threat of lethality that comes with charging Doomguards is a handful for any deck in the game.
Zoo is showing signs of a comeback, and it’s the most improved archetype at legend ranks over the past week. Demon builds have been heavily experimented with, but it’s the Keleseth variants that are displaying the best results. We think the Prince still has great value even in the absence of Patches and the heavy focus on Vulgar Homunculus and Demonfire could be slightly misguided.
Secret Mage is not enjoying the rise of Paladins, but still does well enough to maintain a strong win rate. It also performs well against Warlocks at all levels of play, contrary to what some suggest. It may not be a huge edge, and it’s not a hard counter, but there is a significant advantage in the matchup which keeps the archetype relevant at higher levels of play.
At the bottom half of the table we can finally see the other 4 classes. Remember that Tier 3 decks in the vS Power Rankings are very much competitively viable and can find a significant amount of success, but it definitely feels like the 5 classes sitting at the top end of the table are the truly relevant ones. Jade Druid and Miracle Rogue do well enough at legend ranks to deserve some credit. Miracle Rogue is a skill intensive deck that improves at higher levels of play to the point where it’s not terrible, but it is still some ways away from the top meta decks. Jade Druid mostly suffers from the Warlock matchup, the primary reason why players turn away from it.
While Druid and Rogue are on the outskirts of competitiveness, Shaman and Warrior are far away from that. Neither Token nor Jade Shaman presents signs of being anything but niche options mostly reserved for people who enjoy suffering. Control Warrior has climbed from its previous Tier 5 spot into the respectable Tier 4 position. This is the result of renewed interest in piloting DMH variants, making the archetype more refined and ready to take over the meta. Or not.
Class Analysis & Decklists
The rise of Dude Paladin was good news for Warlock but bad news for ladder diversity. We’re at a point now where you are likely to face a Control Warlock one out of every five games at most ranks, and that number grows as we reach higher legend ranks. This does not mean that Warlock is unbeatable, but it’s the only reliable and consistent counter to Paladin.
Doomsayers continue to be a popular addition in all variants of Control Warlock due to their importance against Secret Mage and Paladin. Acidic Swamp Ooze is a popular tech choice in control variants in order to improve the matchup against Cube, but also has applications against Mage and Paladin. Mage hit #6 legend by dropping Beetles for Rats while adding Ooze over Stonehill Defender. Plated Beetle is a strong card against aggressive decks, but is weaker in slower matchups since it dilutes your N’Zoth pool. Dirty Rat can be strong in the mirror, where it should be played towards the late game in order to fish out N’Zoth or a Faceless/Cube (playing it early can severely backfire). The Cube build has mostly been agreed on with most lists differing in one flex spot that’s usually reserved for either Umbra, Spellbreaker or the 2nd Faceless Manipulator.
As far as Zoo Warlock goes, we’ve had a few moments of hope led by Fr0zen hitting #37 legend by including Unlicensed Apothecary in his demon heavy list, a very all-in minion that can apply massive amounts of pressure in the early game. Success with Zoo has been relatively scarce; though the archetype is showing recovery in its win rate as poorly performing builds are fading away, while Keleseth variants, such as Skywalker’s #9 legend Elemental build, are gaining more traction.
- Warlock Class Radar
- Control Warlock
- Zoo Warlock
Priest isn’t the best class in the game, but it’s sure close enough that it will be a thorn in your side during your ladder climb. It currently boasts so many different playstyles that it’s quite a headache to formulate an optimal game plan upon meeting them. You have to be very alert at every single card played in order to immediately understand what you’re facing, and you should always be able to do so by turn 5 based on their patterns of play.
The biggest developments this week come from Combo and Control Priests. Stancifka built a new Control Priest shell that includes Primordial Drakes, Tar Creepers and Greater Healing Potions. This is a very versatile list that can clean up Paladins, outlast Mages while still giving massive headaches to Warlocks due to Cabal Shadow Priests stealing their demons and denying their Gul’dan/N’Zoth blow out turns. Multiple players picked up this build and tweaked it with great success, including Amnesiac who hit #3 legend with his take on the archetype. Consider running Harrison Jones if you’re facing many Cube Warlocks in order to deny their Skulls.
Combo Priest is one of the most interesting archetypes to currently discuss and we will explain its numerous different card choices by looking at two example builds, one from Meati and the other from Orange. Tar Creeper is a popular 3 drop that’s strong in aggressive matchups while also synergizing with your combo due to its high health, while Shadow Ascendants are decent cards against Warlock since they allow you to curve out and pressure in the early game. One Cabal Shadow Priest or Book Wyrm is often included. The Shadow Priest inclusion takes a page out of Control Priest’s notebook by stealing a valuable minion with Twilight Acolyte. Book Wyrm is a strong removal minion that’s another dragon, which improves the consistency of your Duskbreaker and Drakonid Operative. For Silence effects, Mass Dispel is the most popular choice since it negates Voidlord walls, while Silence is a cheaper, more flexible card that’s stronger in faster matchups. Finally, Crazed Alchemist is the most debated card. It allows you to preserve an OTK condition against Geist decks, but it’s very weak outside of that particular situation. Many advocate for cutting it completely, especially since Geist has fallen in play in recent times, while others prefer keeping it in order to maintain flexibility in the Geist matchups.
- Priest Class Radar
- Combo Priest
- Control Priest
- Big Priest
- Spiteful Priest
Paladin plays host to the two best decks in the meta: Murloc and Dude Paladin. Both decks struggle against Warlock, though Murloc Paladin does significantly better in this matchup which could explain the preference for this archetype at legend ranks.
Two Coldlight Seers are becoming core in Murloc Paladin. It’s a very strong card against Warlock since it can buff your board out of AOE range and help you snowball your early board before a Voidlord can come online. Another card that’s often included in Murloc lists due to its strength against Warlock is Blessing of Kings. The rest of the build, however, is pretty much locked.
Dude Paladin’s ability to tech against Warlocks is much more limited, since the deck at its core is very weak to Warlock’s removal kit. In the absence of Warlocks, Dude Paladin is quite dominant against the rest of the field. Cocosasa hit high legend ranks by cutting Stewards for Level Up! and Consecration, the latter being a nod to the mirror and other aggressive matchups.
- Paladin Class Radar
- Murloc Paladin
- Dude Paladin
- Aggro Paladin
- Control Paladin
Secret Mage is still part of the meta cycle. It holds decent matchups against Warlocks and Priests while struggling against Paladins and Hunters. The standard build has mostly been agreed upon though the weakest card in the list, which is the 2nd Fireland’s Portal, is often flexed out. A second Arcane Intellect improves the deck’s draw consistency, though it’s dead post-Aluneth. Other Secrets, such as Potion of Polymorph (Warlock tech) and even Mana Bind have seen success recently at higher levels of play. Pyroblast is a pretty important card against Warlocks and often finishes the game through Warlock’s sustain and taunt walls. Aluneth is the shining gem of the deck. Once equipped, the opponent is drawn into a race where it either has to kill the Mage quickly or outlast its onslaught of damage.
Secret Mage is the only truly relevant archetype the class possesses, as other Mage decks are simply not at a power level that’s adequate for them to be anything but niche. Experiments with Freeze Mage builds have quickly proven to be weak, while Big-Spell Mage continues to face the same problems it’s had since the beginning of the expansion. Bloodreaver Gul’dan is a direct counter to Frost Lich Jaina.
- Mage Class Radar
- Secret Mage
- Big Spell Mage
- Exodia Mage
Hunter’s numbers are slightly down this week, driven by a drop in the number of Spell Hunters at high ranks while other Hunter decks decline at low ranks. The major change in Spell Hunter lists this week is the inclusion of Arcane Shots over Flanking Strikes. Arcane Shot is a faster removal card that can also hit face. Kyouma piloted a new variant of Bragi’s build to #4 legend. It includes Arcane Shots as well as On the Hunt.
One other tech that players are experimenting with is Grievous Bite, which helps improve the Paladin matchup. Garifar took a build replacing one Candleshot with Grievous Bite, along with the Arcane Shots, to #33 legend.
In regards to the other types of Hunters, experimentation is beginning to rapidly fade on these decks, with most top Hunter players focused on maximizing the efficiency of Spell Hunter. However, we still maintain that high-curve Secret Hunter builds that utilize Kathrena, are performing quite well on ladder.
- Hunter Class Radar
- Spell Hunter
- Aggro Hunter
- Secret Hunter
Rogue is severely struggling in the post-patch meta. With Tempo Rogue being non-existent, all that’s left for the class to explore are archetypes that are extremely weak to the popular aggressive decks. Kingsbane is the most popular Rogue deck, with Miracle placing 2nd.
Raena iterated on the Counterfeit Coins that we saw Gallon include in Kingsbane Rogue last week. Raena reached #45 legend by cutting Backstabs in order to bring back Squidfaces, while also running Vilespine Slayer and Acidic Swamp Ooze. The purpose of these changes is to ignore the bad matchups while improving percentages against Warlock and Priest, the primary classes you’re interested in queuing into.
Quest Rogue is mostly relevant in the tournament scene since it’s a powerful deck in anti-control line ups, but that’s likely where most of its success will be.
- Rogue Class Radar
- Miracle Rogue
- Kingsbane Rogue
- Quest Rogue
- Tempo Rogue
Malfurion appears to be drifting closer and closer to Thrall and Garrosh with each passing week. Jade Druid is the leading archetype for the class, but seems incapable of any further improvements. Jade Druid builds are set around the Oaken Summons package to beat aggressive decks while hoping to avoid Warlocks at all costs. Techs such as Naturalize and Harrison Jones can help against Warlocks, but you might as well play a different deck if you’re running into the top class often. For the first time in what seems like forever, Druid has been relegated to a niche spot in the meta.
Spiteful Druid might be a decent performer in the current meta and is definitely competitively viable, but there has been little interest in playing or innovating with it as it’s deemed an inferior choice to Spiteful Priest. All other Druid archetypes have not only failed to see any development but have also failed to produce even mediocre results on ladder. Indeed, it seems like the golden age of Malfurion has ended with the rise of Bloodreaver Gul’dan, and Druid enthusiasts may need to look to the next expansion for any chance of things changing.
- Druid Class Radar
- Jade Druid
- Aggro Druid
- Spiteful Druid
- Big Druid
To no one’s surprise, Shaman remains stagnant and largely ignored. Shaman isn’t alone when it comes to waiting until the next expansion. Since the patch, it’s had a few more friends to chat with on the sidelines.
Jade Shaman has eclipsed Token Shaman as the most popular Shaman deck you see on ladder, but despite the bit of interest it has received, it hasn’t translated to any consistent success. Early game Shaman decks are heavily suppressed by the AOE available to Warlocks and Priests, while Shaman’s late game is outclassed by better options.
- Shaman Class Radar
- Token Shaman
- Jade Shaman
“I need answers, Ben! Look at this spreadsheet. All of my decks suck because you kept giving me bad cards to play with!”
The tall, bulky figure of Garrosh, wearing the massive Tusks of Mannoroth on his shoulders, was sitting on an office chair barely capable of holding his weight. Hearthstone’s Game Director was wearing his famous flannel shirt and leaning towards him at his own director’s chair, staring at a sheet of paper with checkered boxes of green and red colors that lay on the table in front of them.
“Why did you nerf Fiery War Axe? It was all I had to combat all of these minions that keep hitting me in the face!” the Orc continued “You should have at least waited until you could compensate for my Axe’s loss!”
“Yes, but you used that Axe to hit people in the face yourself, Garrosh” Brode responded, his eyebrow raised and his tone similar to a parent questioning his child’s antics.
“Well, you know, that was, eh” Garrosh looked away from Brode, stammering for a while before letting silence take over.
“Patches made me do it”.
“That’s no excuse, Garrosh!” Brode quickly replied, sounding slightly irritated, though his tone transitioned into an apologetic one as he continued “Anyway, you have to realize that there are nine classes in the game and one of them always ends up being the worst class. A meta will always have its flaws, you know?”
Garrosh now sat in silence, staring blankly at the sheet “How long can this go on, Ben?” he shrugged “Anduin keeps laughing at me”.
“Don’t worry, we have great plans in the next expansion” Brode’s face lit up, trying to encourage the sad Orc next to him “Warrior is going to make a comeback!”
Garrosh turned to Brode “So are you finally making Shield Slam hit face like I wrote in that letter I sent you a while ago?”
“Ummmm, we can’t do that, but” Brode continued “you’ll have to see what happens in the expansion’s announcement, it’s gonna be great. We’re moving Ice Block to the Hall of Fame, as well as Molten Giant and Coldlight Oracle…”
“Wait, what?” Garrosh interrupted “You’re rotating out Coldlight Oracle?!”
“OH COME ON!” Garrosh got up from his chair and started pacing around the table, groaning audibly and beginning to rant.
“How am I going to mill people now? That was the only thing I had fun doing, Ben! Argh! I’m sick of it. Hearthstone is a waste of time!”
“But Garrosh, wait a mi….”
“No!” Garrosh spat back “I’ve had enough, I’m not going to be smooth talked into accepting this! Coldlight Oracle? Really?”
“Anyway” Garrosh continued “I also need to, ummm” he paused for a moment, scratching his head “go talk to the Overwatch team, so we’re done here.”
Brode looked confused and somewhat curious “Why do you need to talk to the Overwatch team?”
“Why?” After a small break in his rant, Garrosh’s anger seems to have risen up another level as his breath grew deeper “Why, do you ask? I’ll tell you why, because they suck at balancing even more than you do!”
“THEY NERFED MERCY!” Garrosh screamed before Brode had a chance to finish a word. The Orc was shaking and grunting, pacing back and forth, stopping next to a wall, and punching it in frustration, creating an audible thud.
“Wait a minute…” Brode wondered “You’re a Mercy main, Garrosh?”
“Of course, she’s the best!” Garrosh responded “Mercy is the only human I could ever admire. Her angelic grace, her lovely German accent, and the fact she can be played at a competent level by someone with huge fingers like me” Garrosh proceeded to present his huge palms to Brode, who tried his best to hide his newfound amusement.
“Anyway, I’m going now!” he continued “I’m gonna make them buff Mercy or I will physically fight Jeff until he gives up and agrees to my demands!”
Garrosh looked determined, and he started walking towards the door. Brode was shocked in his seat at the latest discoveries, before he seems to have picked up on Garrosh’s last few words, and his expression turned into one of concern. He quickly got up from his seat, chasing after Garrosh.
“Wait, Garrosh. This isn’t a good idea. Nobody has been able to fight Jeff and come out of it…”
“Enough!” Garrosh turned back to Brode “I will not listen to anything you say anymore! Victory or Death!” The Orc opened the door to the office, and slammed it shut behind him, leaving Brode alone in room.
The Game Director shook his head, shrugged to himself and burst into laughter.
“Wrestle with Jeff, prepare for death! HA HA HA!”
It’s unlikely (though still possible) that new decks will emerge to significantly change the current landscape. However, there will always be small twists and turns that you can exploit to your advantage. One of these twists involves Control Priest, which is in a unique spot where it’s able to deal with most of the top meta decks fairly well, and recent trends have translated to a more favorable field for the archetype. New builds running Primordial Drake also perform better against Dude Paladin, which is one of the more difficult, popular matchups due to the endless reload potential it possesses. Control Priest is susceptible to niche strategies that counter slower decks in general, such as Miracle/Kingsbane Rogue, or decks that have fallen out of favor at higher levels of play (Spiteful Priest). This means that if you’re mostly facing eager net-deckers that follow the trends, you should be able to exploit that with Control Priest.
The K&C meta certainly has its faults, but at least “Control” is no longer a dirty word. If you still pine for the Raza days, Cabal Shadow Priest might be able to change your mind. Stealing Voidlords is quite satisfying.
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