Welcome to another edition of the Standard Meta Report, this time covering the week between March 22nd and 29th, 2020. As always, the Report is based on an analysis of statistics from HSReplay, along with personal game experience at high ranks. 


The Overview

Strangest of all metas is the pocket meta. We’ve entered the uncanny parallel universe in which nerfs are reverted and perennial favorites from the Basic set are sent to Wild. From now until Ashes of Outland, the eerie logic of this strange new world holds sway. Join us for a tour. 

At long last, our Lord and Savior Leeroy Jenkins has been relegated to the Hall of Fame. So too have Mountain Giant, Acolyte of Pain, Mind Control Tech and Spellbreaker, along with a host of Priest’s Basic set. 

We’ve also seen a number of notable nerfs reverted, including Raiding Party, Sludge Slurper and (most terrifying of all) Dr. Boom, Mad Genius

Things have certainly changed.

Losing both Leeroy and Acolyte, Galakrond Warrior is, without a doubt, the Hall of Fame rotation’s most prominent casualty. Interest in the archetype has dropped precipitously, leaving new breathing room for a host of archetypes once suppressed by Garrosh, including Highlander Mage, Mech Paladin and Control Galakrond Warlock.  

But Rogue has also lost a potent win condition in the form of Mr. Jenkins. Has the playerbase noticed yet? It doesn’t seem like it; Galakrond Rogue is still at the top of the heap, the most popular archetype at Legend and lower on the ladder. Pirate Rogue is rapidly gaining steam at the highest ranks, but we have serious questions about the deck’s matchups. 

Things are not looking up for Malfurion. Quest Druid and Embiggen Druid have both lost a superlative matchup in the decline of Galakrond Warrior, even as a fierce competitor, Highlander Mage, gains in strength. Interest in both archetypes is on the wane. Token Druid has seen a modest uptick in play, but the archetype’s matchup spread leaves much to be desired. 

The second most popular archetype at lower ranks, Dragon Hunter remains as strong as ever, leveraging an exceptional matchup against a rising Highlander Mage. Leeroy was not essential; he will barely be missed. Inspired by a modest rise in Control Warrior (which gave birth to rumors that we’re returning to the meta of Saviors of Uldum), Dragon Highlander Hunter saw growth at Legend. Face Hunter and Quest Hunter have all but disappeared. 

At Legend, renewed interest in Aggro Overload Shaman brought a smile to Thrall’s weather-beaten face. Sludge Slurper is back at 2/1 and it makes a big difference. The archetype is for real, with strong results against both Dragon Hunter and Mage. 

The continued relevance of Highlander Mage and Galakrond Rogue sends shivers up Anduin’s spine. Despite whispers of a resurgence, Quest Resurrect Priest failed to draw much interest this week. Experimentation with Highlander Galakrond lists continues, led by Priest expert Zetalot. 

In the absence of Leeroy Jenkins, Warlock has been given a new lease on life, though the playerbase has yet to notice. Galakrond Warrior’s decline is a boon to both Control Galakrond Warlock and Galakrond Zoo Warlock, while Valeera’s weakened burst potential should greatly improve the Rogue matchup for Control.

That’s all very interesting, but who are we kidding? Ashes of Outland can’t come soon enough. 


Druid

With the decline of Warrior, Embiggen Druid has lost one of its best matchups. Worse yet, Warrior’s fall has opened more room for Highlander Mage, an archetype against which Druid struggles. Unsurprisingly, Embiggen Druid has experienced a substantial decrease in play since the Hall of Fame inductions went live, falling to a representation of 5.5% between ranks five and Legend. The archetype’s popularity at Legend, where Embiggen Druid now accounts for only 3% of the meta, has been cut in half.  

Token Druid has seen marked growth over the past three days, doubling in playrate to reach a mark over 4% between ranks five and Legend, though we’re at pains to explain why. Embiggen Druid, a positive matchup, is on the decline, while Dragon Hunter, Highlander Mage and Galakrond Rogue, all poor matchups, remain prominent. Perhaps Druid players expected Galakrond Rogue to fall in popularity after Leeroy’s relegation to the Hall of Fame, but that hasn’t been the case. We’d say the time is not yet ripe for Token’s triumphant return. 

Despite substantial success against Galakrond Rogue, the abysmal Dragon Hunter matchup continues to suppress Quest Druid’s numbers. The archetype suffers from the same problem as Embiggen Druid - good against a declining Galakrond Warrior, poor against a rising Highlander Mage. That’s not a recipe for success in today’s meta. 

In Wild, Kael’thas Sunstrider opens extraordinarily broken options for Malfurion. He’s been used to less-stunning effects in Standard, usually slotted into Quest Druid to discount Nourish or Starfall. We hazard to guess that this not (absolutely not) the strongest version of Quest Druid, but for fun, we’re featuring a Kael’thas list built by streamer and Grandmaster Thijs:


Hunter

The loss of Leeroy Jenkins should be a minor inconvenience for Dragon Hunter, which remains the second most popular archetype between ranks five and one, but has experienced a somewhat stark decline over the past three days at lower ranks. At Legend, Dragon Hunter falls behind Highlander Mage in popularity, while continuing to maintain a healthy playrate nearing 7%. Providing a necessary burst of heal in the mirror, Lifedrinker should slot nicely into the place left by Leeroy. 

Leeroy was never core to Dragon Hunter’s goals, so the archetype should perform well in his absence, especially now that Galakrond Warrior, a major thorn in Rexxar’s side, has fallen on hard times. Highlander Mage continues to provide an excellent matchup, which is especially important at higher ranks, while the archetype’s outstanding winrate against Embiggen Druid recommends play elsewhere on the ladder. A resurgent Control Warrior, empowered by the return of Dr. Boom, Mad Genius to 7-mana, could prove problematic, but it’s too early to gauge the matchup, which was roughly even before the nerf reversion. 

The recent return of Control Warrior has spurred a burst of renewed interest in Dragon Highlander Hunter, though there are already signs that the surge may be coming to an end. The archetype is being dropped especially quickly at lower ranks, but maintains a substantial presence at Legend, where its representation stands today at nearly 6%. 

Dragon Highlander Hunter maintains a winning matchup spread, but the consistent beatdown of Dragon Hunter is a problem for Rexxar’s singleton list; over a sample of 6,700 games between five and Legend, Dragon Hunter has managed to win nearly 55%. Another emerging problem comes in the form of Token Druid, the playrate of which has doubled over the past three days; Hunter has always been vulnerable to wide-board strategies. 

While Galakrond Warrior’s demise would seem a boon to Quest Hunter, the archetype has officially fallen off a cliff, dropping to a playrate below 0.5% between ranks five and Legend. The same cannot be said for Face Hunter, another deck that struggled against Garrosh. Rexxar’s SMOrc deck saw a modest bump in play at lower ranks, rising to a representation of nearly 3%. 


Mage

While many of the meta’s most prominent archetypes, including Galakrond Rogue and Galakrond Warrior, have lost major pieces, Highlander Mage has emerged from the Hall of Fame changes unscathed. Mountain Giant’s absence may be a problem for a fraction of players, but the card had already fallen out of widespread usage in most lists.

Immediately following the Hall of Fame changes, Highlander Mage’s popularity spiked by two percentage points, rising to a representation of nearly 10% between five and Legend. Most of this growth has already leveled off; the archetype is now on a downward trend, returning to its pre-patch playrates across all ranks. Even so, the recent declines in Dragon Hunter have given Jaina ample room to breathe, and she could well be an excellent pick for the last minute climb.

Outside of Hunter, Highlander Mage’s matchup spread at lower ranks looks excellent. Strong against both Galakrond Rogue and Embiggen Druid, Jaina looks to be in for smooth sailing. And the situation’s improved all the more by Galakrond Warrior’s negative growth this week, as Warrior players transition to a control strategy headlined by Dr. Boom, Mad Genius. This is a great development for Mage; while competitive against Galakrond Warrior, Highlander Mage absolutely crushes Control Warrior. 

We’ll leave you this week with a new Mage archetype exploiting Kael’thas Sunstrider’s mana reduction. No word yet on whether the list is any good, at least from a statistical standpoint. Give it a try and see for yourself. 


Paladin

Garrosh’s loss is Uther’s gain. Though struggles against Galakrond Rogue are sure to hold the archetype back, Mech Paladin has been given much-needed room to breathe. The precipitous decline of Galakrond Warrior is a big deal for Uther; this was a terrible matchup, one in which Mech Paladin lost almost 64% of the time (over a sample of 3,400 games between five and Legend). Unfortunately, Control Warrior appears to be equally unfavorable, but, for now, Dr. Boom hasn’t risen to a playrate sufficient to ruffle Uther’s feathers. 

With Galakrond Warrior in freefall, Mech Paladin should be able to rely on excellent matchups against Dragon Hunter and Embiggen Druid, along with a competitive tilt against Highlander Mage. And the rumored surge of Resurrect Priest has failed to materialize. If not for the Rogue matchup, no archetype looks better poised to profit from Galakrond Warrior’s downfall than Mech Paladin (other than, perhaps, Control Galakrond Warlock). That could all change in the coming week, if we see Control Warrior rise to fill the space vacated by Galakrond Warrior, but at this moment, Mech Paladin looks strong. 

We’ve also observed a modest increase in Pure Paladin’s playrate, which is most notable at lower ranks. The archetype now commands upwards of 2% of the meta between ranks five and one. At Legend, Pure Paladin is still a no-show, accounting only for 0.39% of the format. 

Pure Paladin is exceedingly hard to evaluate because the sample sizes are so low. The archetype looks very good against Embiggen Druid and Dragon Hunter, but seems to fall flat in the face of Highlander Mage and Galakrond Rogue. Galakrond Warrior’s fall from grace is good news for Uther across the board, as Pure Paladin, much like Mech Paladin, appeared to be terrible against the archetype, but weaknesses to Mage and Rogue are a bad sign, especially for the archetype’s chances at higher ranks. An even worse sign? Pure Paladin’s winrate has dropped as its playrate has increased. That’s not the kind of effect you want to see.  


Priest

Though many predicted a rise in Resurrect Priest’s playrate following the Hall of Fame changes, we have not observed a substantial increase in the archetype’s numbers. Resurrect Priest maintains a stable playrate around 4% between ranks five and one, with a Legend representation of 2%. We suspect these numbers could fall lower, if present trends continue. 

Despite the loss of Leeroy Jenkins, Galakrond Rogue, the primary thorn in Anduin’s side, hasn’t lost steam. Rogue wins this matchup, in most cases, by outvaluing Priest’s control tools; surprise Leeroy burst combos were certainly possible, but not the main route to victory, no more or less important than a generated Togwaggle’s Scheme. So we don’t see things changing much in this matchup; it’s going to remain a stinker for Anduin moving forward.

 

Highlander Mage is another problem, a perennial one for Resurrect Priest; over a sample of 4,900 games between five and Legend, Mage has secured victory in over 57% of cases. Jaina lost nothing to the Hall of Fame; in fact, she’s only been emboldened by the sharp decline in Galakrond Warrior, growing in population across all ranks. This is not a good sign for Priest.   

And speaking of Garrosh, Galakrond Warrior served as one of Priest’s best matchups; now, that source of victories has dried up almost overnight. The return of an Uldum-style Control Warrior only makes matters worse, though, to be fair, it may be balanced out by a modest rise in Highlander Hunter. In any event, we see the path forward for Resurrect Priest as a rocky one. 

In other news, Priest expert Zetalot has cobbled together a new Highlander Galakrond Priest to take advantage of some of the class’ newly-buffed cards, chief among them a 2-mana Shadow Word: Death. Natalie Seline also makes an appearance, as does Shadow Word: Ruin, characterizing an archetype that shifts from control to tempo in the blink of an eye. It’s a lot of fun and we suggest you try it out. 


Rogue

Despite the loss of Leeroy Jenkins, Galakrond Rogue is still a top-tier deck, perhaps the strongest in the game. The archetype hasn’t really skipped a beat since the Hall of Fame changes, maintaining a playrate of 17.5% between ranks five and Legend. 

Of course, Leeroy’s absence cannot be overstated, and we’ve observed a slight decrease in Galakrond Rogue’s playrate over the past three days. The drop off in play was more noticeable at Legend than at lower ranks, but Galakrond Rogue already seems to be returning to the heights of its pre-patch glory. Don’t count Valeera out; she’ll be just fine.  

Leeroy’s absence is a major change. You may be mourning. You may be distraught. We understand. We feel your pain. Galakrond Rogue has lost a win condition and immense burst from hand, but we believe the archetype retains more than it has forfeited. 

Galakrond, the Nightmare is still win condition enough for this deck. Kronx Dragonhoof isn’t half-bad, either. Shadowstep remains core. And Edwin VanCleef, miraculously, managed to evade the Hall of Fame for another year. 

Galakrond Rogue still packs plenty of power swings, but it’s also true that poor matchups are about to get worse. In the absence of Leeroy’s burst, Highlander Mage and Quest Druid, in particular, now have far more time to find their healing options against Valeera. And Galakrond Control Warlock, while customarily positive for Rogue, should also get a boost in the matchup; a Shadowsteeped Leeroy was once the bane of Gul’dan’s existence. 

We believe Lifedrinker would be an appropriate substitute for Leeroy, both as burst damage with Shadowstep and needed healing in the Dragon Hunter matchup. Alternatively, you could add in a second Sap (if you took one out) or a Boompistol Bully. Generally tech to your surroundings and you should be fine. 

In a potential sign that we are, indeed, returning to the Uldum meta, Pirate Rogue is back! More importantly, Raiding Party is back at 3-mana, and it’s still ridiculous reload, fueling Valeera’s onslaught until Myra’s Unstable Element seals the deal. With Bloodsail Flybooter added to the list, you’ll never run out of cheap Combo activators. 

Frenzied Felwing and Dread Corsair provide numerous opportunities to cheat bodies onto the board, while also empowering Edwin. The last time SMOrc was this fun, Preparation was still worth a damn. 

Pirate Rogue has been tested most extensively at Legend, where play is fast and furious. At higher ranks, the deck performs fairly well, in large part because it smashes Mage, but we aren’t too optimistic about the archetype’s matchup spread. Galakrond Rogue’s value (to say nothing of the deck’s Taunts) has proven difficult to overcome. Embiggen Druid is a scheduled loss, as is Control Warrior. And there’s still a fair bit of healing in the meta, at least until Zilliax rotates. At least Galakrond Warrior is on the decline; we’d expect that matchup to have been exceedingly hard. 

Leading Rogue expert J_Alexander has experimented with including a Raiding Party package in Galakrond Rogue, but it looks inferior to the pure Galakrond list we’ve been featuring for months. 

After a surge of interest three weeks ago, Highlander Galakrond Rogue has fallen back to earth, dropping to a playrate under 1% between ranks five and Legend. Interest at Legend has all but dried up, no doubt a reflection of losing matchups against Galakrond Rogue, Highlander Mage and Dragon Hunter. 


Shaman

How much is a 2/1 Sludge Slurper worth? A bit, as it turns out. Though Shaman still isn’t seeing much play, a growing minority of Legend players have become re-enamored of Aggro Overload Shaman, which has surged to become what we would consider a modest presence at higher ranks. These aren’t world-beating numbers, but at Legend, Aggro Overload Shaman now commands nearly 4% of the format, a far cry from the sub-1% representation we saw before the Sludge Slurper nerf was reverted. 

For Shaman, which has languished in the dumpster for months, the reemergence of a viable ladder option is something of a sea-change. And viable it is. Aggro Overload Shaman has seen competitive results against Galakrond Rogue (49.6% over a sample of 3,100 games at Legend), while stomping Highlander Mage (60.9%) and Dragon Hunter (58.2%). Embiggen Druid, which has declined over the past week, is a challenge, but not an insurmountable one. 

Things only look brighter for Shaman in the wake of the Hall of Fame inductions. Galakrond Warrior, a serious stumbling block, is disappearing from the meta, while Mage, a strong matchup, is on the rise. Aggro Shaman is also catching on at lower ranks, albeit at a slower pace. These are positive developments for Thrall. At this point, positive is good enough. 


Warlock

It’s Christmas time for Gul’dan. The Hall of Fame has (finally) claimed Leeroy Jenkins, once the bane of Warlock’s existence. Rogue has lost a powerful option in the matchup against Control Galakrond Warlock; with Valeera’s burst potential weakened, Gul’dan has far more time to search out valuable healing in the form of Nether Breath and Sacrificial Pact, which should improve this already-competitive matchup. 

Even more important, however, is the all-but-total implosion of Galakrond Warrior. Before the Hall of Fame changes, Garrosh almost single-handedly dumpstered both Control Galakrond Warlock and Galakrond Zoo Warlock, beating either archetype in almost 70% of cases. Galakrond Warrior’s demise is of enormous benefit to Warlock. While Highlander Mage remains a constant struggle for both archetypes, Gul’dan finally has space to breathe in the meta. 

Galakrond Warrior’s decline is of the utmost importance for Control Galakrond Warlock, an archetype that, until recently, was falling into oblivion. In the absence of Garrosh, the deck can now rely on competitive matchups against Galakrond Rogue and Dragon Hunter, the format’s most popular strategies. Better yet, the playerbase seems to be losing faith in Embiggen Druid, leaving Highlander Mage as the sole problem. Ironically, however, it may be Galakrond Zoo Warlock, which unlike Control Galakrond Warlock, is competitive against Embiggen Druid (and also happens to be better against Mage), that now has a better matchup spread. 

We’ve observed modest increases in playrate for both Galakrond Zoo Warlock and Control Galakrond Warlock over the past three days, but that’s not saying much. Gul’dan is historically unpopular right now. Ashes of Outland should change that, though. Sac Pact is going to be sweet.


Warrior

In one sense, it’s an exciting time for Garrosh. While Galakrond Warrior has lost a win condition to the Hall of Fame, Control Warrior has regained what may well be its most powerful tool. Dr. Boom, Mad Genius has been reverted to 7-mana, providing Control Warrior with the infinite value engine necessary to reach fatigue. Remember Archivist Elysiana? She’s back. Get ready for 30-minute matches, everybody. 

Control Warrior’s playrate remains modest, but the archetype saw a substantial increase in popularity following the Hall of Fame changes. Once a total rarity, Control Warrior now accounts for over 2% of the meta between ranks five and Legend. Dr. Boom on 7 is a big deal for this deck; the nerf reversion has already resulted in a massive increase in the archetype’s winrate. 

With the return of Dr. Boom, Rogue’s mortal enemy has resurfaced, but the good Doctor is returning to a very different meta, one ruled now by a very different Valeera, characterized by the insane value generation of Galakrond Rogue. Whether Boom’s effects can keep pace with Rogue is an open question, especially in light of Galakrond Rogue’s newfound lack of burst. 

We’re hesitant, at this point, to analyze Control Warrior’s matchup spread for lack of dependable data. The picture should be clearer next week.

In losing both Acolyte of Pain and Leeroy Jenkins, no archetype suffered more from the Hall of Fame changes than Galakrond Warrior. To no one’s surprise, the player base has already cooled on the archetype; over the past three days, Galakrond Warrior’s playrate between ranks five and Legend fell from a recent peak of 7.06% to a low of 2.72%. 

Like Galakrond Rogue, Galakrond Warrior loses a core win condition in the absence of Leeroy Jenkins, but also gone is the powerful and synergistic draw engine of Acolyte, which once allowed Garrosh to locate Galakrond, the Unbreakable and Invoke cards at lightning speed. Kor’kron Elite seems a natural choice to replace the burst of Leeroy, but the forfeit of Acolyte may prove the most consequential alteration in the end, as the archetype becomes ever more reliant on the inconsistent Battle Rage

The apparent demise of Galakrond Warrior is a particular boon to Dragon Hunter and Galakrond Control Warlock, which were both held back in recent weeks by Garrosh’s return to the ladder. On the flipside, it’s a significant loss for Embiggen Druid and Resurrect Priest. 


Welcome, everyone, to the pocket meta. Excited to relive your Control Warrior glory days? Ready to SMOrc with Pirate Rogue? What are you gonna play in the week or so before Ashes of Outland drops? Too excited for Illidan's arrival to think about anything else? Let us know in the comments!