Welcome to the 83rd 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
Due to the ladder rework that has been implemented at the beginning of the month, we’ve reworked our rank brackets. Since legend players are now (supposed to be) reset to rank 4 at the beginning of the month, in addition to the rank floors that were already set in place, we felt it would be more appropriate to group rank 1-4 together. So, instead of rank brackets at legend, 1-5, 6-10 and 11-15, we have brackets of legend, 1-4, 5-9 and 10-14. These new brackets will be used in both frequency calculations as well as matchup/win rate calculations going forward.
Hearthstone has been in a bit of mess over the past week. We’ve had ranked ladder disabled for a significant period of time, which was followed up by the discovery of a matchmaking bug at legend that greatly discouraged players from queuing up at this rank. Add the Wild Tavern Brawl and we can observe a significant reduction in ladder activity over the past week, and less recorded games. Thankfully, these issues have been resolved so things should return to normal next week. Remember that contributing your data for these reports is incredibly easy and can be set up with a few simple steps. Every little helps! Also, if you are already contributing, please check that your tracker/plug-in is enabled.
Warlock has lost its status as the most popular class in the game. Both Paladin and Priest usurp it at different rank brackets. Paladin is the most popular class at the competitive bottleneck to legend, while Priest takes over at legend. These three classes make up around 70% of ladder opponents at higher levels of play, leaving the rest of the field quite far behind.
Paladin is still largely represented by Dude and Murloc Paladin. Both archetypes boast similar numbers at most levels of play, except legend rank, where Murloc Paladin’s numbers nearly triple Dude’s. As we’ve discussed last week, this is the result of Control Warlock’s increasing prevalence and the reluctance of Dude Paladin players to queue into this demoralizing matchup.
While the meta is not very diverse in terms of classes, Priest maintains its own internal diversity. Combo Priest continues to be the Priest deck of choice at higher levels of play. Last week’s Meta Breaker, Control Priest, has seen a rise in play this week following up its recent success and identified potential. Big Priest and Spiteful Priest are in decline after a relatively long period of time in which the archetypes have not seen new developments.
Mage has pretty much stayed in place, with perhaps a very small uptick in Secret Mages, but not one that is indicative of a greater shift. Other Mage archetypes continue to display a very niche presence. Similar stagnation is observed in the Hunter class, with Spell Hunter being the only noticeable archetype at higher levels of play.
After the top 3 classes, and the mid 2 classes, we have the bottom 4. Current Rogue archetypes only come out to play in order to queue into their specific prey, while hiding at the first sight of aggression. Druid is suffocating in Warlock’s presence, with only a small number of players remaining faithful to the church of green men. Shaman and Warrior are in truly horrid states. Feels bad, man.
vS Meta Score
vS Power Rankings Discussion
While the frequency charts indicate stagnation, the Power Rankings suggest some significant meta shifts could still occur, and they mostly center on the relationship between the most popular classes: Paladin, Priest and Warlock.
Paladin continues to top the win rate charts at every level of play, with Dude Paladin taking back the #1 spot from Murloc after last week’s brief legend coup. Even though the Control Warlock matchup is poor and demoralizing for Dude, its advantage over Murloc in other matchups has become a worthwhile trade off in most scenarios. Most importantly, Dude Paladin performs significantly better against both Combo and Control Priest, and these two Priest archetypes are the rising stars of K&C’s post-patch meta.
Many think Warlock is the best class in the game. We think it’s obviously very strong, but it’s the 3rd best performing class in the current meta. Along with Paladin, Priest is also displaying better results. The emergence of Priest is also hurting Warlock’s standing in the field since all of its archetypes pose problems for Gul’dan. Raza might be gone, but Anduin has once again risen to stop the Void Daddy in its tracks, while utilizing different strategies to do so.
Control Priest has gained more traction and increased its win rate further as its refinement is still in progress. The archetype matches up well with Paladins, Mages and Warlocks. If that’s not a meta breaker, what else could it be? Control Priest’s terrific matchup spread and standing against the best decks has elevated it to a Tier 1 spot at higher levels of play. Combo Priest is also performing very well. While it isn’t as consistent as Control Priest against aggressive decks, our metrics indicate a tremendous skill cap for the archetype, one that is only rivaled by Control Priest.
While Control Warlock’s win rate is trending down, Zoo Warlock’s stock has slightly risen at legend. One interesting development in Zoo is the discrepancy in its builds between different skill levels. At legend, more players have picked up the Keleseth variants that include Dragonslayers to give Priest a harder time, and with the significant prevalence of Combo Priest at higher levels of play, this translates into a stronger performance for Zoo.
Other notable archetypes heavily affected by the best performing decks are Secret Mage and Spiteful Priest. Secret Mage and Spiteful Priest have a more difficult time dealing with the onslaught of Paladins during the climb to legend, but at legend they perform much better since their ruthless counter, Dude Paladin, is far less popular. It’s interesting to note that Secret Mage maintains its good win rate against Warlock at all levels of play, but falls off in the matchups against Combo and Control Priest.
Spell Hunter keeps holding on to its positive win rate thanks to a strong enough matchup spread that mostly suffers from a poor performance against Control Warlock, but the archetype is certainly competitive enough to hold its own. The bad news is that Hunter is the last class that seems to have maintained its relevance in the current meta. The bottom 4 classes fail to show any promise of changing their fortunes. Jade Druid is competitive, yet mediocre, and holds little interest amongst the player base. Miracle Rogue is on the fringes of viability. Shaman is a meme. Warrior is a very sad meme.
Class Analysis & Decklists
Dude Paladin has seen new developments towards the end of last season with the addition of a new tech taking the field by storm, pioneered by J4YOU: Dark Conviction. The 2 mana spell with the effect of Keeper of Uldaman is a versatile card that is a strong follow up on your turn 1 play. It is also a pseudo removal tool, especially on turn 5 along with Rallying Blade, which clears any big threat in your way. In board centric matchups it helps keep the board state favorable. Players continue to experiment with varying numbers of Steward of Darkshire, Level Up!, Crystal Lion, and Divine Favor.
Murloc Paladin hasn’t seen many changes and continues to vary mostly through its few flex slots. In order to improve the matchup against Warlock, players increase the numbers of Spellbreakers and Blessing of Kings in their lists at the expense of utility cards such as Hydrologist, exhibited in Dog’s build which took him to top 10 legend.
- Paladin Class Radar
- Murloc Paladin
- Dude Paladin
- Aggro Paladin
- Control Paladin
Warlock maintains its significant representation as the only consistent answer to aggressive Paladin strategies, while having a more difficult time dealing with all varieties of Priest.
Cube Warlock has established itself as the most prevalent variant when it comes to late game Warlock strategies. Unlike fatigue-based strategies centered on Rin, Cube is much more difficult to effectively counter since its lethality does not give opponents time to consistently disrupt its game plan. The sacrifice in percentages against some aggressive matchups (mostly Paladin) is worth the gain against the entire field. The standard list remains the same as last week. Some lists cut Umbra, but we strongly disagree with her exclusion. Our observations suggest the card is a straight up game winning piece in many situations, and is comparable to Fandral.
While Cube is the dominant strategy, pure Control Warlock is very much a competitive choice that can see great success on ladder. This strain is very diverse, but the most successful builds are ones that can deal with Cube Warlock more effectively, and we highly recommend Mage’s build as a result. Contrary to what may seem more intuitive, Dirty Rat is a more impactful card in the mirror matchup than Gnomeferatu, and the latter makes even less sense if you’re running Rin already. Ooze is also an essential tech choice since Skull of the Man’ari is a primary win condition for Cube builds, and it also helps against Secret Mages and Paladin.
Meanwhile, Zoo Warlock has recovered from its post-patch struggles and is performing better on the back of an increase in Keleseth variants. Heavy tech seems to be the way to go for the archetype, with Dragonslayer becoming a more prevalent choice at the 3 slot as a reasonably-statted minion that carries huge upside against the large amount of Priests on ladder. Hungry Crab could replace Fire Fly if you’re running into a lot of Murloc Paladins.
- Warlock Class Radar
- Control Warlock
- Zoo Warlock
The Priest golden age continues long after the nerf to Raza.
Combo Priest is the most skill-testing deck in the game at the moment. Builds have mostly solidified with a few flex spots that can be observed in the builds of Tyler and Meati. Book Wyrm has recently gained more popularity as a solid removal card that increases the consistency of your dragon synergy and it’s become a 2-of in some lists at the expense of Twilight Drake. Crazed Alchemist is only recommended if you’re encountering a lot of Geist decks.
Control Priest is another impressive archetype that boasts good win rates against some of the most popular archetypes in the game: Control Warlock, Murloc Paladin and Secret Mage. The fact it’s capable of handling both Warlocks and Paladins fairly well makes it an extremely good option for ladder play. Zalae had great success on high legend ladder towards the end of last month with a build further iterating on StanCifka and Amnesiac. It cuts Greater Healing Potions for Priests of the Feast, an alternative source of healing, while Twilight Drakes are added instead of Primordial Drakes. This build looks to play much more proactively and fight for the board rather than strictly playing the removal game.
Spiteful Priest and Big Priest are also powerful options for ladder. Spiteful Priest has a very strong matchup spread save for one major weakness which is dealing with Paladin decks. Big Priest’s blow-out potential is well documented though it does suffer from inconsistencies. Both of these archetypes have been fully refined early on after the patch and have not changed much since.
- Priest Class Radar
- Combo Priest
- Control Priest
- Big Priest
- Spiteful Priest
The Mage class seems to be frozen in place. Secret Mage is the only relevant deck that has had consistent success on ladder over the last few weeks, and its optimal build has long been figured out save for a few optional tech cards, such as Potion of Polymorph. Secret Mage does fairly well against Warlock, struggles against Paladin and goes back and forth with Priest, putting it in a relatively decent spot in the meta.
Other Mage decks are poorly positioned and this is unlikely to change until the Year of the Raven begins.
- Mage Class Radar
- Secret Mage
- Big Spell Mage
- Exodia Mage
Players have been focusing on the top 3 classes when it comes to trying to reach top ladder finishes, which largely overshadowed Hunter’s presence. That’s not to say that Hunter can’t get top finishes, however, as Sintolol finished top 10 legend using the more recent Spell Hunter build from Bragi/Kyouma.
This build utilizes Arcane Shot and On the Hunt rather than the older, standard version running Flanking Strike and Deadly Shot. Since the list’s removal package is cheaper, it performs better against Paladins while the extra reach should also serve you well against Warlocks. The sacrifice is made against Priest, where your removal package doesn’t line up well against its minions, and the deck tends to run out of steam faster.
As for Aggro Hunter and Secret Hunter, there were no notable developments regarding these archetypes, as the top players were all utilizing more proven decks to try and secure HCT points.
- Hunter Class Radar
- Spell Hunter
- Aggro Hunter
- Secret Hunter
Rogue representation has remained stable, and low. Miracle Rogue has been the best performing Rogue archetype for ladder with Gyong’s build becoming the standard choice.
While Kingsbane Rogue continues to perform poorly against the field, it has been able to exploit some pockets in the meta. Gallon finished the February Season in the top 100 with the archetype. He used two different variants to get there, with a faster build running Cold Bloods, Tar Creepers and Hungry Crabs to perform better against Murloc Paladins, along with the more standard list which we have seen from him before that runs Coins.
While ladder is Miracle’s field, when it comes to tournaments, Quest Rogue is the archetype that shines the brightest. Muzzy, Killinallday, Firebat and Tarei all found success in Copa America qualifiers with Quest Rogue in their lineups. Quest Rogue builds are quite similar. Flex choices include Fire Fly, Wax Elemental, Bluegill Warrior, Saps and Valeera the Hollow.
Finally, Tempo Rogue has seen some developments in the form of Rase’s build, which took him to legend this month. The list utilizes the Elemental package after the loss of Bonemare and Corridor Creeper, and also includes Shadowcaster to synergize with the various, powerful battlecry minions in the deck.
- Rogue Class Radar
- Miracle Rogue
- Kingsbane Rogue
- Quest Rogue
- Tempo Rogue
Druid is one of the weaker classes on ladder. Let that sink in. Malfurion has his sights set on April, where an influx of new cards could bring his class some much needed attention. Although Spiteful and Jade Druid continue to put up decent enough win rates on ladder, the class has seen almost no innovations and is outclassed by its rivals. It is simply unable to make up for its crippling weaknesses against Warlock.
- Druid Class Radar
- Jade Druid
- Aggro Druid
- Spiteful Druid
- Big Druid
Do you enjoy playing Rogue and Druid and feel out of luck? Try being a Shaman player. Thrall has long been waiting for the new expansion to spark some life into his tool kit, which is extremely underpowered compared to the toys that are in the hands of his competitors.
The only high level player who’s insistent on playing Shaman is Crane, who has finished top 100 legend last month with Token Shaman. His build runs two Evolves and two Unstable Evolutions while omitting Saronite Chain Gang. The most popular Shaman archetype is actually Jade Shaman, but its builds have also been performing very poorly since it emerged on ladder.
- Shaman Class Radar
- Token Shaman
- Jade Shaman
“Okay, we’ve gathered here since Hearthstone is in a state of emergency. Give me a status report on the latest developments!”
Ben Brode was sitting in a conference room at the head of a long table. Sitting on both sides of the table were many representatives of Team 5. The room was filled with the sound of whispered chatter and audible typing noises emanating from the laptops of the participants, furiously clicking on their keyboards.
“Ranked mode is still disabled on all servers” one of the people sitting closer to Brode’s end of the table spoke up from the right hand side “we have reports of the ladder reset not allocating the appropriate number of stars for each player.”
“Not good” Brode responded before turning to his left “Mike, how is Reddit doing?”. Mike Donais was sitting right next Brode and began humming as he was staring at his laptop’s screen, deep in thought.
“Reddit is growing impatient, Ben.” He replied “they are beginning to meme about us being a small indie company again”.
“Not again!” Brode leaned back into his chair and sighed. He took off his glasses and began to rub his weary eyes “and we don’t even know what the problem is.”
“Our intel also suggests that Shadowverse activity is rising.” Another person chimed in from the back.
“Those weebs are so fickle!” Brode responded in frustration “We’re going to have to give some sort of compensation to players so that they’ll come back. What do you think, Mike?”
Mike nodded “Considering the downtime, we should definitely give the Americas region 3 free packs while increasing pack prices for the European region next month”.
“Agreed!” Brode quickly responded while slamming his hand in approval on the table “Get it done, guys.” the sound of whispers intensified in response.
Suddenly, a knock was heard and the door to the conference room opened. Dean Ayala entered the room, and all eyes in the room turned to him.
“Ben, we found the problem!” he was breathing heavily, implying that he was running to the meeting “someone spilt milk on the main server. We’re wiping it clean now, and it should work after we unplug it and plug it back in.”
“Thank God” Ben sighed in relief “But who drank milk in the main server room? I’m going to need an answer.” he gazed at the table, which prompted the frantic whispering to intensify once again.
It was a bright sunny day in Irvine, California. Outside of Blizzard HQ, a tall, bulky figure was standing. He glanced at the building with the sun’s rays shining on his brown back. A large bandage was covering his left arm and his right hand was holding a bottle. Numerous bruises were visible on his body, the result of what seemed to be a grueling fight that left him battered.
He raised the bottle and drank eagerly with loud gulps. Some of the cold, white liquid spilled from the corners of his mouth. He finished what was left of the refreshing drink and sighed loudly in satisfaction. The figure stared at the empty milk bottle with a smile before throwing it away.
“That’s for Fiery War Axe, and Mercy” he whispered, before walking away.
Priest is largely responsible for the decay in Warlock’s stock, proving that while the Void Daddy is still a strong threat, it can be beaten. Both of Priest’s best performing decks are archetypes that have risen from the ashes of Raza. Combo Priest was a niche archetype that had a very narrow purpose before the balance changes, but has now skyrocketed in its popularity and become the absolute favorite for many at the higher echelon of Hearthstone’s competitive scene due to its challenging playstyle. Control Priest is an archetype that had no chance of existing in the Raza Priest meta, but can now shine thanks to its extremely versatile toolkit that can pick apart both early and late game strategies.
Rotation may look bleak for Priest, as it’s losing some of the strongest cards that enable these decks, but for another month at least, the class should remain a dominant force in the meta.
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.
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