Welcome to the 98th edition of the Data Reaper Report!
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Number of Games
Class Frequency Discussion
Three months into the Witchwood expansion, one month away from Boomsday, and the Hearthstone meta has been shattered to pieces. One week after Druid looked like it was going to continue to dominate the field, it lost its grip. Warlock has taken over the game as a result of the rise in Zoo Warlock. It has to be said: the rise in Zoo over the past week is one of the most incredible shifts in the meta we’ve ever seen since launching the Data Reaper project. An archetype that was less than 1% of the field rose to become the most popular deck in the game seemingly overnight, in a meta that was labeled “solved” by many players. Not only that, but Zoo has risen to become more prevalent than any deck we’ve seen since the WW balance patch. From being a fairly strong, yet underplayed deck, Zoo now threatens the delicate balance for which the post-patch WW meta has become famous.
When a deck rises in such dramatic fashion, something’s got to give, and Druid has taken the hardest fall (as a class) on the back of a monumental collapse in Taunt Druid. Last week, we’ve talked about how Taunt Druid was overplayed in an increasingly hostile meta, and its tools were ill-suited for the upcoming trends. The rise in Zoo has now dropped the archetype on its back. Over 50% of Taunt Druids at legend have disappeared.
Token Druid’s numbers have also declined, but the “new age” Druids are on the rise. Both Malygos and Big Druid have become more prevalent, especially at higher levels of play. These decks have proven to be far more suitable to deal with the challenges that lie ahead. The Witching Hour has passed.
Rogue is becoming more aggressive. Miracle Rogue is declining at all levels of play, while Odd Rogue is on the rise. As we will continue to see throughout this report, Zoo Warlock caused an earthquake, and the field is being reshaped based on its performance against the new threat. Miracle Rogue does poorly against Zoo, while Odd Rogue fairs well in the matchup.
Shaman is one of the classes least affected by these dramatic changes. The one noticeable shift in the class is observed at legend, where Even Shaman is fading away while Shudderwock Shaman is gaining. Shudderwock is the 2nd most popular archetype at most levels of play, sitting behind Zoo.
Not only are we seeing big changes in current decks, we’re also seeing the emergence of new decks. Cube Hunter has appeared, branching out from the collapsing Kathrena Hunter. With a lower curve and stickier minions, such as Devilsaur Egg, Cube Hunter looks to perform better in aggressive matchups. We’re also seeing a rise in Spell Hunters, which is likely yet another response to Zoo.
Big-Spell Mage has risen in play, while aggressive Mage decks have declined, as the Murloc Mage fad seems to have faded away. Once again, the rise in Big-Spell Mage is easily explained by its good matchup against Zoo. Players are frantically looking for solutions.
Remember Odd Paladin being the most popular deck in the game just last week? Good night, sweet prince. No single deck has crashed harder than Odd Paladin over the past week. 60% of its meta share at legend has disappeared. From being one of the most dominant and prevalent strategies out there, it is now almost an afterthought.
One fact remains consistent, and that’s Priest and Warrior sitting at the bottom of the play rates. Most Warrior numbers continue to come from Taunt Warrior, while Control Priest has a slightly more noticeable presence than other archetypes of its class at legend.
vS Meta Score
vS Power Rankings Discussion
Druidstone? Gul’dan would like to have a word. Warlock is making good arguments for being the “best class” today. The new Healing Zoo Warlock is no joke. This deck is extremely powerful, shooting up to Tier 1 at all levels of play and daring the meta to counter it or fall to the wayside. On one hand, there are several decks that reliably beat Zoo, so there are reasons to believe that the meta will respond well to the rise of Zoo, especially when its prevalence is so absurdly high that countering it pays off. On the other hand, we don’t even think Zoo is being built optimally at the moment, so the deck may improve further.
Another problem that we see in the potential response of the meta is that the best answer to Zoo Warlock is Even Warlock. If you’re looking to climb to legend, no deck does it more consistently than Even Warlock. Not only is Zoo a great matchup for Even, the collapse in Taunt Druid is creating an even more favorable field for the deck. So, Warlocks are breeding more Warlocks, further fueling a class diversity killing cycle, and creating a bigger headache for opponents in the mulligan phase. Finally, in case we forgot, Cube Warlock is still one of the strongest decks in the game. It’s a pretty good time to release Mecha-Jaraxxus: at least he will help portrait diversity.
Can anyone save us from Gul’dan? Once again Valeera may be the one to step in. Miracle Rogue’s performance has fallen off since its matchup against Zoo is quite poor and it’s losing a great matchup in Taunt Druid. Odd Rogue, on the other hand, is the only deck in the game that performs well against all Warlock archetypes. In addition to the burst and pressure it can put on slower Warlock decks, its upgraded dagger is extremely effective at fending off Zoo’s initial board onslaught. This means that current meta trends are very favorable for Odd Rogue, launching it to Tier 1 status. If you’re sick of facing Warlocks, there is no better deck to queue into them.
While Warlock is dominating the meta outside of legend, there is still one stronger deck at legend: Malygos Druid. Every week, we continue to be impressed by what this deck can do in capable hands. It is extremely powerful at higher levels of play, which also lines up with what this archetype has recently been doing in the tournament scene (killing it).
Other Druid decks have mostly declined in their performance. Token Druid is dreading the further potential rise in Warlocks; Big Druid has also taken a step back, while Taunt Druid has become old news. Don’t be fooled by excuses, Taunt Druid is a genuinely mediocre deck both on ladder and in the tournament scene at the moment.
It might seem unintuitive that Big-Spell Mage’s win rate has declined, but the rise of a good matchup in Zoo was offset by the decline in Taunt Druid as well as several less noticeable changes that add up (such as the overall decline in Rogues).
There is a positive effect resulting from Zoo Warlock’s rise, and that’s the competitive viability of Priest and Warrior. Both Taunt Warrior and Control Priest have very good matchups against Zoo, and both benefit from the decline in Taunt Druid. Control Priest’s climb in win rate is particularly impressive, and there is newfound interest in the archetype at higher levels of play. At legend, every class now has a 50%+ win rate archetype.
Shudderwock and Even Shaman hover around the 50% mark depending on where the wind blows. Even Shaman does well against Zoo, but the counters to Zoo also happen to counter Even Shaman. Shudderwock performs slightly better at higher levels of play, putting it at the bottom of Tier 2 at legend. Even so, the deck doesn’t look too impressive at any level of play, and its performance in tournaments has also been below average recently.
The new Hunter on the block is also the best Hunter deck at all levels of play and the only deck maintaining a positive win rate at all levels of play. If you’re looking to play Hunter, Cube Hunter seems to be the best approach at the moment. That doesn’t mean that other Hunter decks are poor choices: Spell Hunter displays a decent rise in its win rate since it benefits quite a bit from the drastic shifts we’re currently witnessing.
The big boot of Zoo Warlock has stomped a mudhole in Odd Paladin’s back. The once dangerously powerful deck has seen its win rate collapse at all levels of play, putting it firmly within the diverse field of competitive strategies. Witchwood is great, isn’t it? We all get to complain about a different class every week!
What has happened to Combo Priest? How did it fall so hard? Is it complete garbage? Our answer is no. It isn’t great, but it isn’t actually this bad. The reason for its fall in win rate is the player base taking a very, very wrong approach to building the archetype. We’ve said before that running a dragon package is the way to go because Duskbreaker is too good, but the dragon package is declining in play. You aren’t listening and playing terrible Blademaster/Steambot lists instead. Tisk tisk.
Class Analysis & Decklists
We discussed Zoo Warlock making its debut last week, and boy did it ever – the deck has increased by several orders of magnitude in popularity and it is now the most popular deck in the game. While the meta is sure to adapt to its presence, Zoo is still extremely potent against many of the popular meta decks. After evaluating the most popular builds, it comes with a bit of a surprise that Doomguards are actually quite underwhelming in the deck, and Leeroy is a stronger card in most matchups. It is less of a surprise that Tar Creepers are the worst cards in the deck. We recommend experimenting with other 3 drops that apply more immediate pressure. One interesting idea we’d like to see more data on is running Injured Blademaster. The two tech cards, Spellbreaker and Void Ripper, are also quite weak, though they serve a specific purpose. We do think that The Black Knight might be a stronger tech in either of these slots.
Even Warlock might have been surpassed in prevalence, but it has benefited greatly from Zoo’s rise and the subsequent reduced popularity of late game Druids and Miracle Rogue. The strategy has seen little innovation, though it’s important to note that with the fall of Taunt Druid, Skulking Geist becomes a much weaker card and we recommend cutting it for either Siphon Soul or the 2nd Dread Infernal. Grantz hit #1 legend running Theo’s original Gastropod build, while MarkYang hit #1 with a single Doomsayer build.
Finally, Cube Warlock has seen a small uptick in representation and is quietly performing at a high level. Though it’s not a hard counter to Zoo, it wins the matchup more often than you might think. LastHope shaved a Faceless to fit in two Shroom Brewers into his build en route to top 10 legend on Asia, giving the deck a proactive 4 drop and some reactive healing to stay out of range of opposing burst.
- Warlock Class Radar
- Zoo Warlock
- Even Warlock
- Cube Warlock
Druid has seen a dip in popularity this week with the emergence of Zoo Warlock. Taunt Druid’s stock has drastically dropped as players shift to decks with better defensive tools to deal with the rising threat.
Not many developments have been observed with Druid, as most of its archetypes are settled down in terms of card usage. The one debate comes from Big Druid. Perna hit #20 legend with a near identical list to Feno’s, with the exception of removing Tyrantus for Deathwing. The debate between the two cards is interesting: Tyrantus is a stronger draw in slow matchups since it’s difficult to remove. Deathwing increases the dragon pool, but this may come as a hindrance rather than a benefit since it can be quite important to have Dragonhatcher pull taunts. What Deathwing offers is a comeback mechanic in faster matchups when the board is lost, since Tyrantus is very slow and has no immediate impact on the board.
- Druid Class Radar
- Taunt Druid
- Token Druid
- Malygos Druid
- Big Druid
- Togwaggle Druid
Zoo Warlock’s meteoric rise has not been good for Miracle Rogue. The deck has fallen hard in its representation. Mossy Horror has become more popular in the Sprint based Miracle Rogue lists, but we’re not too impressed with the card especially considering Paladin’s decline. It seems like Miracle Rogue might be shadowstepping its way out of the ladder meta for now.
Odd Rogue has seen more development this week, with the rise of Zalae’s new Odd Rogue build. The main takeaway is the inclusion of Deathspeaker and Void Ripper. Void Ripper has grown in popularity as a strong tech card against Spreading Plague with other applications, while Deathspeaker allows you to fight for the board better and snowball a tempo lead, which can be important in the Zoo Warlock matchup, for example.
- Rogue Class Radar
- Miracle Rogue
- Odd Rogue
- Kingsbane Rogue
It’s very quiet on the Shaman front. Shudderwock Shaman saw a slight uptick in usage on ladder with lists remaining more or less the same. The main difference between lists comes down to Hemet vs. Sandbinder and The Black Knight vs. Earth Shock.
Even Shaman is still around but is seeing surprisingly very little play. Even Shaman has a good matchup against Zoo Warlock, but poor matchups against popular answers to Zoo, so the latest meta trends act as a double-edged sword to Even Shaman’s ladder prospects.
- Shaman Class Radar
- Shudderwock Shaman
- Even Shaman
Hunter is in a strange spot right now, as the sudden infestation of Warlocks has led the class to explore different and new directions, as well as in some cases, return to the older ways.
Kathrena Hunter has a major Warlock problem. Zoo and Even Warlock are both poor matchups and that’s nearly enough to keep the deck from performing by itself. But when you add the other board-centric strategies to the equation, combined with weakness against nearly all varieties of Druid, it seems as though there may no longer be significant room for it in the current meta.
From Kathrena Hunter, a new branch of Hunter emerged with a lower curve. Originally taken to high legend by Dog, it runs Devilsaur Eggs, Carnivorous Cubes, Terrorscale Stalkers and Play Deads, so we call it Cube Hunter. While Dog’s original build ran a Spellstone package, we’ve found that Keleseth was a stronger direction for the archetype. StanCifka hybridized Cube Hunter with a Kathrena package that includes Highmanes. This build is likely the best approach for the archetype. Once again, our suggestion for improvement centers on cutting those all-too-present Tar Creepers for the 2nd copies of Defender of Argus and Saronite Chain Gang.
Spell Hunter benefits from facing Zoo, as the anti-aggro tools line up well against the threats Warlock is likely to have. Unfortunately, there’s still the massive Even Warlock problem and a Shudderwock problem, while Miracle Rogue is working on its disappearing act. Overall though, the deck has gotten stronger since it was one of the biggest victims of Druid’s recent dominance.
Midrange Hunter with a secret package can be powerful against aggressive strategies while being able to apply pressure of its own. Zeh climbed up to high legend with Gyong’s Hybrid list, cutting one Freezing Trap for Venomstrike Trap.
- Hunter Class Radar
- Kathrena Hunter
- Cube Hunter
- Spell Hunter
- Midrange Hunter
- Face Hunter
Navi00t swapped out Alanna for an Acolyte of Pain to hit #7 legend with Big-Spell Mage. Cutting Alanna sparks an interesting debate. While the card is slow, it’s both powerful in late game matchups, and helps close games in faster matchups when Frost Lich Jaina isn’t drawn (which is why Acolyte of Pain is a sensible inclusion instead). We don’t think cutting Alanna is clearly correct, and Riku agreed on his way to #1 legend with the standard featured build.
Molossus took more drastic measures to hit legend with a Big-Spell Mage variant that runs Prince Keleseth and Arcane Tyrants. This deck is much more proactive than the standard build and looks to tempo out aggressive decks. Tyrants enable a swing turn in combination with AOE, which hurts the opponent’s ability to retake the board through reload, something Zoo Warlocks often do.
Aluneth Mage may be somewhat scarce on ladder, and its position in the meta isn’t too great either, but it’s still strong enough to find success. Apxvoid hit #1 legend piloting a fairly standard list that runs one Arcane Keysmith. The upside of Arcane Keysmith is it can disrupt some of the most powerful turns in the current meta, causing your opponent to play inefficient turns instead.
- Mage Class Radar
- Big-Spell Mage
- Aluneth Mage
- Murloc Mage
Odd Paladin’s win rate is beginning to fall as the deck is one of the biggest victims of Zoo Warlock’s rise. With the ability to contest early board well, Happy Ghoul as a swing card and Despicable Dreadlord, Zoo is well equipped to beat Odd Paladin. That is not to say that Paladin is now a weak choice on ladder, but it’s definitely not the dominant force it used to be just a couple of weeks ago.
In Odd Paladin lists, Void Ripper has become far more popular as a utility tech. An interesting direction for the archetype comes from Gyong, who hit #1 legend with a list that cuts all 3-drops other than Void Ripper and adds another 1-drop in Dire Mole. Considering the overall weakness of 3-drop options such as Stonehill Defender and Raid Leader, this approach makes a lot of sense. On turns 3 and 4, we want to press hero power rather than playing a 3 mana minion anyway, so having more 1-drops in order to fill the curve adds consistency to the deck. In addition, having cheaper minions makes it easier to dump our hand so that Divine Favor becomes a stronger draw.
- Paladin Class Radar
- Odd Paladin
- Murloc Paladin
- Jtamonda’s Even Paladin
Control Priest is the current star of the downtrodden class, and the only archetype with a significant presence on ladder. Priest is not even that bad, but it’s simply forgettable when compared to the strengths of the rest of the field. Every class has a true stalwart, deck archetype, except for Priest. This is a very diverse meta, with lots of playable options across the board, and Priest is simply the odd class out right now.
Control Priest has gotten stronger as a result of the rise of Zoo, but it’s a deck that needs to make constant adjustments to perform optimally against the field. With the fall of Taunt Druid, Geist suddenly becomes a liability, and the rise of Zoo encourages a lower curve with Ooze becoming a better weapon tech choice than Harrison. Zanananan hit #1 legend rotating between Shudderwock Shaman and his list of Control Priest, which we currently recommend for ladder.
- Priest Class Radar
- Control Priest
- Combo Priest
- Quest Priest
Another week goes by where almost nothing changes for Warrior. Taunt Warrior remains one of the better performing decks, but its play rates remain modest, mostly because the player base finds the deck to be boring and its polarizing matchup spread can be frustrating. We think the current list remains optimal, with 29 cards being locked in. The DK is definitely worth it for the current ladder enviornment due to the rise of Zoo, and we think adding Reckless Flurry makes one of your better matchups, even better.
A few players have experimented with Big Warrior lists, with Fr0zen hitting #1 legend with the archetype. Big Warrior is a playable alternative to Taunt Warrior, though its performance against the field is strictly worse and not particularly impressive.
In every meta, one class always has to be the least popular. Warrior doesn’t lack competitive viability, but it lacks compelling gameplay. Taunt Warrior is a year old concept, and the fact it’s the best late game direction the class has, is a testament to the tools Warrior has received over the last year when it comes to trying to win a game of Hearthstone in a proactive fashion.
If you’re interested in the easiest climb to legend possible, play Warlock. Both Zoo and Even Warlock are very powerful choices that you can’t go wrong with. Zoo has shaken the meta to its core and defined new standards. Even Warlock is the best counter to Zoo while still performing very well in other common matchups.
If you’re a competitive player looking to reach high legend or practice for tournaments, learn Malygos Druid. This deck is very challenging and very rewarding. The players who have picked it up early, dominated with it in both competitive formats. Its performance at HCT Italy was astounding, and this will likely mean that you’re going to see a lot more of it.
If you’re getting frustrated with queuing into Warlocks, playing Odd Rogue guarantees some edge against them. It’s the only deck that beats them all: Zoo, Even and Cube.
Boomsday may only come in a month, but Gul’dan’s doomsay is already here.
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