Welcome to the 90th edition of the Data Reaper Report!
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Number of Games
Class Frequency Discussion
We’re nearly one month into The Witchwood expansion. Due to the timing of the report and the dataset being comprised of the first week of the month, the sample related to the legend meta is still a bit too small for us to present. We will mostly focus on the rank 4-1 meta and the performance of decks at this bracket. We will hint towards some differences we can see at the early legend meta (*cough* Quest Rogue), but at the beginning of the month, the rank 4-1 bracket is actually more competitively meaningful.
The monthly reset generally diversifies the meta at lower levels of play. “Weaker” classes tend to be played more, while the “strong” classes see less play. However, at the more competitive bottleneck to legend, we don’t see this occurring. Paladin and Warlock dominate representation and this becomes more profound the closer you are to hit legend.
Even Paladin is quickly rising in popularity at higher levels of play, and it is now the most popular deck in the game at most rank brackets, after surpassing Cube Warlock. The archetype is in the midst of another refinement stage, which we will thoroughly discuss later. Murloc Paladin has maintained a modest share of the meta, while Odd Paladin continues to fade away into obscurity. It’s a deck you mostly meet at lower skill levels, where its share of the meta is actually quite significant.
Cube Warlock has stayed put, unaffected by whatever changes surround it. Control Warlock, on the other hand, is continuing to increase in play and is closing the gap on Cube’s prevalence at higher levels. Zoo Warlock is displaying a prevalence pattern of a dying deck. There is no innovation or interest in playing the archetype.
Druid has spiked in popularity early in the month, but has been on a constant decline since. Spiteful Druid is the most common opponent you’ll meet on ladder, while Taunt Druid has a smaller representation. We can also observe experimentations with Midrange Druid decks, such as Muzzy’s. These decks are still barely noticeable on ladder.
Mage is in a very similar spot to Druid, where it has an initative focused archetype making up most of its numbers, and a control deck displaying a more modest representation. Predictably, the Elemental Mage experiments are dying out. At the rank 4-1 bracket, there has been quite a big increase in Tempo Mages compared to last week, a delayed follow up to trends we’ve already observed at the end of last month at legend ranks.
The biggest decline this week comes from the Rogue class. Its numbers have been hit pretty hard overall, but its two primary archetypes are behaving differently. Quest Rogue is unchanged from last week and its numbers continue to be abnormally higher at the early legend meta. Odd Rogue, on the other hand, has seen its numbers drop by around 30%, and it’s an archetype that declines further the higher you climb.
Last week’s Meta Breaker, Control Priest, has seen a big rise in play, doubling its numbers at the ranks 4-1 bracket. The call seems to have been heard, and word of the archetype’s good standing in a Warlock/Paladin field is quickly trickling down from higher levels of play.
Warrior continues to look fractured in terms of strategies. Players are trying many different things, hoping to find a breakthrough. Odd-Control Warrior is the most stable archetype of the class, while Dead Man’s Hand Warrior is the latest archetype to appear in noticeable numbers. We can also see other kinds of jank in microscopic numbers, but we are not holding our breath for anything solid forming out of these attempts.
As players abandon Face Hunter, new experiments are being done with slower, Midrange Hunter builds. Most of them are on the hybrid side, running a secret package and the strongest minions available. The most popular Hunter deck at higher levels of play, however, is the somewhat underrated Spell Hunter.
Shaman continues to sit at the bottom of the barrel and we do not see that changing until the upcoming balance changes arrive. Not because Shaman is completely unplayable, but because the player base has lost interest in whatever potential the class may have, and a big shake up is needed to re-ignite that interest.
vS Meta Score
vS Power Rankings Discussion
Last week, we maintained optimism that the game may reach a fairly balanced metagame in which the top meta decks do not become too oppressive. After looking at this week’s data, this optimism has taken a hit. There are several trends that have resulted in a rather bleak picture: Cube Warlock and Even Paladin have taken over the game, leaving the rest of the field in the dust. The announcement of balance changes coming at the end of this month was very timely.
So, what’s happening? Think about a common trope in which a hero and a villain battle, the hero looks like he’s about to win and then the villain, on his seemingly last legs, begins to laugh before declaring “This isn’t even my final form!”. Even Paladin is that classic villain. Recent builds, which can be originally traced to Narra, have cut Drygulch Jailors and Lightfused Stegodons in order to reduce the deck’s reliance on board against some of its primary counters by adding more damage from hand. As it turns out, the Jailor/Stegodon package was a handicap for Even Paladin; it’s been playing with a hand tied behind its back all along. Make no mistake, based on the prevalence/win rate trajectory of the deck, it is reaching “broken” status.
One question you may ask is why are we saying this while on the surface, Even Paladin’s win rate has dropped at ranks 4-1? If you look at the whole table, you’ll see that there is an overall deflation in the win rates of most decks. This is the result of the disappearance of poorly performing archetypes. The honeymoon period has ended and the meta is becoming more refined and more competitive. Wins are harder to pick-up, and Even Paladin is handling the change better than most. The rest of the field is collapsing, so much so that only 5 archetypes currently boast a win rate that exceeds 50% from rank 4 onwards. This is why despite a small knock in its win rate, Even Paladin is opening a gap in power. If you carefully look at the Meta Score chart, and evaluate each deck’s growing distance from the peak, you’ll immediately understand what we’re talking about.
Even Paladin is not alone in its oppression; it has a partner in crime called Cube Warlock. Similarly to Even Paladin, Cube Warlock is moving away from lukewarm builds that drop Prince Taldaram, one of the best cards in the deck, for seemingly “safe” yet mediocre 3-drops such as Stonehill Defender, Tar Creeper and Voodoo Doll. Cube Warlock has been the most relentlessly focused and teched against deck in the entire meta, yet as the dust is settling, it’s coming out on top and its win rate at the very highest levels of play is actually on the rise at the moment. Looking at its matchup spread, Cube Warlock does not have a reliable counter in the current meta. You can aggressively tech against it and have success, but you cannot make it go away. It’s too versatile and too strong to be truly stopped.
Let’s talk about the survivors who are still displaying positive win rates from rank 4 onwards. Control Priest is the best non-Paladin/Warlock deck out there due to its standing against the top two classes, but it’s beginning to have a more difficult time lately. Cube Warlock is making strides in the direct matchup, and Control Priest’s issues with Quest Rogue and the Druid class are also well documented. Definitely still a good deck, but not a perfect one.
Murloc Paladin would probably see a lot more play if Even Paladin wasn’t such a powerful deck, since the latter is more consistent overall. The redundancy effect is very much there, and we wonder what will happen to the Paladin class once Call to Arms is nerfed. Surely, it’s getting nerfed, right?
Spiteful Druid is showing signs of crumbling. Early in the expansion’s life, we had suspicions that the deck’s linear playstyle would eventually lead to its fall in a refined meta and this might turn out to be the case. The archetype’s win rate is rapidly declining at the highest levels, and we wouldn’t be surprised if it sinks to T3 next week at legend.
At Tier 3, we have a perfect mix of balanced and diverse strategies that are competitive yet largely inferior to Even Paladin and Cube Warlock. Each has their strengths but also some glaring flaws. Control Warlock is a good example. Its climb in prevalence has now seen its win rate collapse as a result of the meta shifting against it. The increasing amount of Control Priests and Tempo Mages is taking its toll, while easy prey such as Odd Rogue is fading away. We definitely think Control Warlock has its merits, but unlike its Cube brother, it has hard counters. If you’re going into ladder blind, Cube Warlock has a better overall matchup spread and beats it in the direct matchup.
The mix we’re seeing at the 47%-50% range may provide hope to the meta should balance changes tone down the power levels of Warlock and Paladin. Several archetypes have made strides in their win rates despite the increased meta hostility. Big-Spell Mage has climbed thanks to Gaara’s efforts. Miracle Rogue climbed thanks to the efforts of its die hard pilots. Even Even Shaman is proving to be a decent enough deck. Spell Hunter is a surprisingly good performer despite its low play rate. Many of these decks are severely limited by one of the top two classes (or Quest Rogue) and there is a good reason to believe other strategies that do not currently exist could rise as a result of balance changes. Until then, if you really want to win, play Paladin or Warlock.
Class Analysis & Decklists
As one of the two meta defining classes of WW, Warlock seems able to survive through any change in the meta due to the powerful tools it has received in K&C.
Cube Warlock continues to perform very well despite the meta’s hostility and attempts to beat it. Though several decks have improved their matchup against it as lists tightened up, it is very difficult to effectively and consistently counter Cube Warlock. Its worst common matchups are 45-55 affairs, which means it is an extremely reliable deck to climb with and very resilient to meta shifts.
In terms of build, we remain steadfast that running Prince Taldaram is the strongest way to build Cubelock. It is quietly one of the best cards in the deck and it very often enables big blowouts and swing turns. In the list featured, consider the single Mortal Coil as the flex slot in the deck which can be replaced with any card you may want for a specific matchup, such as Spellbreaker, Ooze or even a Plated Beetle.
Control Warlock has seen a large popularity jump recently to target Even Paladin as much as possible. While initially successful, Control Warlock is much more vulnerable to being countered by decks such as Quest Rogue and Taunt Druid. Quest Rogue in particular sees much more play at the highest levels which can provide a significant stumbling block. Control Warlock is a polarized deck best suited to minion-heavy aggro metagames. If you want to beat Paladin consistently at the cost of other matchups, Control Warlock fits the bill.
Not much has changed in the standard list, but it has many variations. Flex options include Siphon Soul or a 2nd Voodoo Doll, which can help in the Spiteful Druid matchup. Some players include a Faceless Manipulator to snowball a cheated out Voidlord. Recent experiments include a Shroom Brewer in order to provide assisstance against Tempo Mages and Control Priests. Gluttonous Ooze and Spellbreaker are alternative silence/weapon techs. Finally, Gnomeferatus are an option if you’re interested in hard targeting the mirror matchup, replacing either Plated Beetles or Doomsayers.
Zoo Warlock is unfortunately a little more than a blip on the radar. We are continuing to monitor the archetype’s development, but right now there is a complete lack of interest in it by the player base, and its play rate has fallen off hard since the earlier WW days.
- Warlock Class Radar
- Cube Warlock
- Control Warlock
- Zoo Warlock
Even Paladin has unseated Cubelock as the most popular deck on ladder and shows no signs of stopping. It is an extremely consistent deck due to the nature of its curve, and is very difficult to fight off the board in the early game. The only weaknesses Even Paladin really has are Control Warlocks, Control Priests, and Big Spell Mages – basically any deck with a particularly powerful set of AOE spells.
In terms of builds, further developments have reinforced our assessment that the best approach to Even Paladin on ladder carries the Argent Commander/Chain Gang/Val’anyr package, which has improved the archetype’s performance in several key matchups. This build, originally developed by Narra, helps Even Paladin in some of its worst matchups due to the additional burst and reach from hand. For the same reason, this build also bulldozes over Quest Rogue. Xixo took Narra’s Even Paladin list to #1 legend this week, while Orange cut Dire Wolf Alpha’s for Plated Beetles to hit top 10. Other than this one variation, and Argent Commander still being evaluated, we think the rest of the list is the way to go right now.
Murloc Paladin is overshadowed by Even Paladin, but this archetype is nearly as powerful against the field. One key difference between them is how they play out. Murloc Paladin’s early game tends to be more explosive and snowbally, but less consistent. The nature of its curve, especially with a lack of good 1-drops, can blow very hot and cold. This also lends to Murloc Paladin having a much more polarizing matchup spread. Considering it struggles against the Warlock class more, we’re not surprised most players favor Even Paladin, despite the archetypes’ similar win rates overall.
Odd Paladin continues to flounder, as both its winrate and playrate plummet for another week. It doesn’t do anything better than either of its Paladin brethren and has many more glaring weaknesses. This deck can still blow out several matchups and might play the fastest games of all three decks, but that is pretty much all that can be said for it at this point.
- Paladin Class Radar
- Even Paladin
- Odd Paladin
- Murloc Paladin
Druid is still seeing some innovation in the form of small archetypes trying to break through and establish themselves in the meta, but it remains mostly centered on Spiteful Druid and Taunt Druid.
Spiteful Druid is the most popular Druid archetype. It is a strong all-around deck with no poor matchups other than Paladin. Builds have mostly stabilized and usually vary at the 5 slot (Scalebane vs. Druid of the Claw). There are also some additional options at the 3, with Vicious Fledgling and Tar Creeper also seeing play.
Taunt Druid has more profound weaknesses and strengths. It is very powerful against late game strategies such as Control Warlock and Control Priest, but gets hard countered by Quest Rogue and Paladins. The matchup against Cube Warlock, on the other hand, is very close, and build-dependent on both sides. Taunt Druid builds vary between anti-aggro lists that run Wraths, and greedier lists that look to beat Warlocks by running Dragonhatcher.
Muzzy piloted a Midrange Druid deck to #2 legend early in the month. The build includes the Oaken Summons package featuring Injured Blademaster. The goal of the deck is to follow your early mana curve, snowball an early lead and close games through Savage Roar or Branching Paths, similarly to the Combo Druid decks of old.
- Druid Class Radar
- Taunt Druid
- Spiteful Druid
- Muzzy’s Midrange Druid
Mage continue to sit just below the top meta classes in terms of prevalence while displaying decent, yet not groundbreaking win rates.
Tempo Mage is the primary archetype for the class. The standard list runs a burn package focused on dealing as much face damage as possible while utilizing Aluneth as a draw engine to find that damage. One surprisingly solid card in the list is Amani Berserker. It’s a strong early game minion that can be quite threatening against decks that usually do not challenge early board control, such as Cube/Control Warlock.
Tempo Mage is generally strong against passive decks that give it time to develop its board and provide minion pressure, as it’s very important for the Mage to find damage through minions before it’s able to successfully close out the game with burn. It loses to decks that contest early board control, such as Spiteful Druid and Paladins.
Big-Spell Mage is producing solid results though the deck has to be mindful of the presence of Quest Rogue, as it is one of the worst performing decks against it. Gaara hit legend with a very high win rate running a list that focuses on life gain through Plated Beetle and Rotten Applebaum. Dragoncaller Alanna continues to be absent from our featured lists for a good reason: its power only truly comes online in the super-late game, and most matchups are decided far earlier than the point in which Alanna is a strong draw.
- Mage Class Radar
- Tempo Mage
- Big-Spell Mage
Odd Rogue, one of the early darlings of the expansion, has a problem. Well, two problems: Paladin and Warlock. In another meta, this would not be enough to cause concern, but in this meta, it’s obviously a glaring issue. With the refinement of Even Paladin and the rise of Control Warlock, Odd Rogue finds itself limited by two of the most popular decks in the game. We’ve seen a significant drop in the archetype’s popularity over the last week which is likely a result of the aforementioned counters. There’s no sign for when that trend will reverse itself.
Quest Rogue, on the other hand, is harder to pin down. The deck is very common at higher levels of play, and its extreme matchup spread means players very quickly fall back to it whenever they see a glimpse of a control meta. Quest Rogue will likely continue to shape the high legend landscape and be a very popular counter queue deck.
- Rogue Class Radar
- Quest Rogue
- Odd Rogue
- Miracle Rogue
- Tempo Rogue
Control Priest continues to see a rise in play for a second consecutive week. This isn’t too surprising, since the ladder meta, dominated by Paladins and Warlocks, has been quite favorable for the archetype. Psychic Scream has proven to be an extremely powerful card and one of the primary reasons why Even Paladin struggles so much in this matchup. The amount of board clears available to Priest is quite absurd and cripples board flooding strategies. In addition, the burst damage available through Mind Blast and Shadowreaper Anduin, often enabled by the ever reliable Shadow Visions, makes the matchup against Warlocks competitive.
Many players continue to have success with Control Priest at the highest levels. The featured list is unchanged from last week and is well teched for the current meta. One interesting direction the build could go for is running Twilight Acolytes alongside a Cabal Shadowpriest in order to improve the Druid matchups. This also removes the need for a Shadow Word: Death at the cost of cutting other cards, such as Acolyte of Pain and Scaleworm. Finally, if you’re wondering whether Squashling is a good card in Control Priest, the answer is… no.
- Priest Class Radar
- Control Priest
- Spiteful Priest
- Combo Priest
All is not quite yet lost for Warrior. Although none of its archetypes are particularly strong, there are a few decent Warrior decks to play. We mostly recommend Odd-Control Warrior and Taunt Warrior, as they have been producing the strongest results for the class in recent days. Experimentation continues with the recent rise of DMH Warrior builds, such as Odemian’s list, but we don’t have too much faith in these attempts being consistently successful on ladder. A reasonable number of people brought Warrior to the HCT European Playoffs, primarily Odd-Control Warrior, showing the class has worthwhile tournament applications. However, the lack of interest in playing the class on ladder is noticeable, since it’s generally outclassed by stronger late game strategies.
- Warrior Class Radar
- Odd-Control Warrior
- Taunt Warrior
- Odd-Taunt Warrior
- Rush Warrior
- Odemian’s DMH Warrior
While Face Hunter continues to rapidly decline in play rate, we’ve seen increases in the play rate and success of Midrange Hunter variants. Players have been testing out what Hunter can do without the odd mana cost restriction, with more success than current Face Hunter builds.
The most common form is showcased by NickChipper’s Hybrid Secret Hunter. The deck eschews Highmanes and all but the most powerful early game minions in favor of a robust secret package. Considering that Emerald Spellstone is one of the best cards available to the class, it makes sense to build around it whenever it’s possible.
- Hunter Class Radar
- Spell Hunter
- Face Hunter
- Midrange Hunter
Shaman is back in its niche form on ladder, with the Shudderwock Combo deck vanishing into thin air. The archetype is practically non-existent at higher levels of play.
Some players, however, are not giving up on Shudderwock itself. Instead of utilizing Shudderwock as a combo piece, they slot him in a Midrange Shaman value deck. Featuring a modest Elemental package, Prince Keleseth, and all the juicy Battlecry minions, this deck aims to grind out your opponent. Thijs created an initial list, which Asmodai modified to hit legend with. While this may not be overly impressive, it is a glimmer of hope for the class moving forward.
- Shaman Class Radar
- Even Shaman
- Midrange Shaman
- Shudderwock Shaman
The Witchwood expansion might be called Kobolds & Catacombs, part II. The meta is still heavily defined by Call to Arms, one of the most powerful cards ever printed, and the synergistic, demon cheating kit Warlock has received 5 months ago. Recent observations indicate that it might get worse before it gets better, since the player base is quickly figuring how to break these classes further. The current featured lists are the reason.
So buckle up and farm some noobs with Tier S decks. You know you want to…
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