Welcome to another edition of the Standard Meta Report, this time covering the week between April 5th and April 12th. As always, the Report is based on an analysis of statistics from HSReplay, most gathered after the Demon Hunter nerfs, along with personal game experience at high ranks.
I came. I saw. I conquered. Those were the words of Julius Caesar (apocryphal, perhaps), but they may as well have been said by Illidan Stormrage. Illidan came to Hearthstone on April 7, 2020. He left no survivors.
Demon Hunter was released broken, but we all know that already. The proper question now is what has been left in the wake of the nerfs.
Well, Illidan is still conquering the wastes, but he’s been joined in the pursuit of glory (or infamy, depending on your perspective) by his archnemesis, Gul’dan. Control Galakrond Warlock, the second most popular deck at higher ranks, has risen to the top of the heap, leveraging an outstanding matchup against Midrange Demon Hunter to reach Tier 1.
Valeera is up there, too, a key contender for the top spot in Tier 2, as a new Secret-driven variant of Highlander Galakrond Rogue wins growing popularity. Spell Druid, a bizarre and thrilling new entrant to the fray, is quickly gaining ground across the upper meta.
Alongside Demon Hunter, Galakrond and Zephrys the Great continue to rule the day. Highlander Hunter is joined by Highlander Mage at the top of Tier 2, both archetypes having absorbed key new cards from Ashes of Outland, including their respective Legendary Primes, Zixor, Apex Predator and Astromancer Solarian.
Much as we hate to admit it, Resurrect Priest has recovered from the loss of Mass Hysteria and come out the other side with an exceptional new toy: Soul Mirror.
Shaman is in an awkward place, but Galakrond Evolve Shaman shows some promise. Though Bomb Warrior has seen success on the tournament circuit, Garrosh is in the dumpster. But no one is more unlucky than Uther. Libram Paladin, whether Pure or not, appears to be a dud. Guess it's Murlocs again.
Well, that happened. It’s fitting that we should begin our first pre-expansion Meta Report with Demon Hunter, the class that, for a brief day, destroyed the meta.
Illidan arrived in a hurricane of fury. Or, more accurately, vengeance! Demon Hunter was OP, almost irredeemably broken, so powerful that, over the first two days of Ashes of Outland, Midrange Demon Hunter’s winrate was almost 10 percentage points higher than the second best archetype. It was a bloodbath. At the time, Demon Hunter’s worst matchup was against itself: the 50/50 mirror. So much for balance.
We all know the story. Demon Hunter was broken, and as usually happens when something is broken, everyone played it. Archetypes quickly proliferated: Midrange, OTK, Big, Token. More than 50% of players opted to slam Demon Hunter on the first day. There was no room for other classes to breathe. Legend ladder was particularly unbearable. You could play 30 games in a row without seeing an opponent other than Illidan.
So Blizzard dropped the nerf hammer, quickly, altering four key cards: Skull of Gul’dan, Imprisoned Antaen, Eye Beam and Aldrachi Warblades. Demon Hunter was chastened. Overnight, Midrange Demon Hunter, the class’ strongest archetype, dropped to Tier 2, allowing Control Galakrond Warlock to rise to supremacy.
The efficiency of Eye Beam’s Outcast effect has been decreased dramatically. Skull of Gul’dan is not so obvious a keep in the mulligan (though it’s still an incredibly powerful card, well worth running). Aldrachi Warblades no longer curves cleanly into Glaivebound Adept, and no longer heals for 6 off the bat. And despite its obvious power level, Imprisoned Antaen is almost too slow at 6-mana.
At this point, we’re all probably painfully familiar with Midrange Demon Hunter, an archetype that effortlessly controls the board early, secures chip damage, then finishes off its opponent with Antaen, Priestess of Fury and Metamorphosis (or all three, depending on how the Skull rolls). It looks like this:
If you need any more indication of Demon Hunter’s innate power level, notice that our featured build includes only one Neutral card, Maiev Shadowsong. This list is still very good, though our numbers are skewed because they include data from before the nerfs. The best we can tell, Midrange Demon Hunter has only one bad matchup, Spell Druid, but again, we’ll have to wait for further data to truly evaluate the impact of the nerfs. Control Galakrond Warlock and Big Druid can be a struggle, but they are far from insurmountable.
But Midrange Demon Hunter is in a state of flux. Even now, a new list, perhaps more powerful, is gaining ground. We’re calling it Tempo Demon Hunter. Tempo Demon Hunter drops the heavy late-game package of Antaen and Fury in place of more beef in the early-to-mid game. The wickedly synergistic combo of Satyr Overseer and Warglaives of Azzinoth makes an appearance, as does the neutral Frozen Shadoweaver, a card that initially saw play in Highlander Demon Hunter and is especially good in the mirror to freeze face at an opportune moment.
The damage output in this deck is truly insane. Far more nimble than Midrange Demon Hunter, Tempo Demon Hunter features enhanced card draw in the form of Spectral Sight to keep the ball rolling. Sightless Watcher, a card on which we’re not yet sold, allows you to maximize Outcast draws for peak efficiency. There are so many ways to build Demon Hunter right now, but we think this approach is especially promising; over a sample of 41,000 games between Diamond and Legend, our featured build has managed a winrate of 62.6%. As a side note, we’re not yet ready to weigh in on the wisdom of Questing Adventurer, though he has popped up as a threat in some aggressive lists.
Midrange and Tempo Demon Hunters are a resounding success, but what of the class’ other archetypes? Unfortunately for Illidan, none of his alternative strategies have thus far panned out. In the aggregate, Highlander Demon Hunter, Token Demon Hunter and OTK Demon Hunter all find themselves in Tier 4. Big Demon Hunter doesn’t even make it onto the Tier List.
Highlander’s meager results could perhaps be attributed to a myriad of sub-optimal lists, but in reality, the playerbase has largely converged around a single standard build, one pioneered early by Firebat. Extremely popular on the first day of the expansion, Highlander Demon Hunter saw its playrate fall considerably after Midrange DH reached a sufficient stage of refinement.
Our featured build differs from the most popular build by one card, Battlefiend, for which we removed Spectral Sight. Illidan’s consistency in the early game is one of Demon Hunter’s greatest strengths; we can’t miss out on the class’ biggest opportunity to snowball.
OTK Demon Hunter once accounted for nearly 10% of the meta between Diamond and Legend. Taking a dip after the nerfs, the archetype’s playrate is again on the ascendant, but its winrate has yet to recover. The change to Aldrachi Warblades is particularly brutal for OTK, as the Lifesteal weapon served as the deck’s main form of sustain in the mid-game.
As you might expect, OTK Demon Hunter shows evidence of a high skill cap, with improving performance at Legend. The archetype occupies an intriguing position in the meta. Though weak to Druid, Midrange Demon Hunter and Mage (pitiful, really), OTK crushes Control Galakrond Warlock, quite possibly the most powerful deck in the game. Rogue also presents an opportunity for easy wins.
Token Demon Hunter has disappointed; the archetype is languishing in the middle of Tier 3. Wrathscale Naga has proven awkward to play, dead on board unless comboed with Command the Illidari and Coordinated Strike. If only Naga only went face. Instead, he often preemptively kills off the board into you’re attempting to trade, dulling his own effect and leaving your opponent a measly host of tokens to dispose of. The playerbase has already given up on this archetype; playrates at higher ranks are below 0.3%.
If Token Demon Hunter is bad, Big Demon Hunter is even worse. A lot worse.
As is true of every class, the past few days have seen rapid and exciting experimentation for Druid, most of it premised on the powerful new ramp tool of Overgrowth.
The introduction of an inarguably-broken Demon Hunter immediately led to the rise of Big Druid, an offshoot of last year’s Embiggen Druid (without, it must be noted, Embiggen itself) that seeks to cheat out huge minions like Winged Guardian and Scrapyard Colossus through Malfurion’s enviable ramp options and Strength in Numbers. Initially, Big Druid proved impressive against lesser forms of Demon Hunter, primarily the OTK and Highlander variants, but garnered mediocre results against Midrange Demon Hunter, which quickly became the norm on ladder.
Big Druid’s most notable innovation may well be the inclusion of Exotic Mountseller, a card that, in combination with ramp, synergizes effortlessly with two new additions from Ashes of Outland: Bogbeam and Ironbark. With these resources alone, plus an Innervate or two, Mountseller can single-handedly generate a large board at 7 mana (turn 5 with Overgrowth), leaving the opponent struggling to catch up.
Best of all, the 3-mana Beast pool is actually pretty good right now, especially with the introduction of Zixor, Apex Predator for the Hunter class. Mountseller often generates at least one Taunt (Silverback Patriarch!), along with high-pressure minions like Jungle Panther and King Mukkla. If nothing else, it’s a pretty good turn, and using Ironbark on Mountseller herself to create a 6/11 Taunt, nearly ensures she’ll stick around for a second bite at the apple.
Despite some promise, we believe Big Druid will ultimately be overshadowed by other Druid builds. While the archetype can still be a headache for Demon Hunter with a perfect draw, Big Druid is too reliant on finding ramp at the right times. Whereas Demon Hunter, the most popular class in the game, is nimble and adaptable, Big Druid feels stiff and inflexible.
A losing, though competitive, matchup against Control Galakrond Warlock, is another unsettling sign. As a true counter to Demon Hunter, Warlock is set to stick around for a while.
More impressive than Big Druid is the wild experiment of Spell Druid, a new combo archetype merging Druid’s unparalleled token generation with the mana-cheating ability of Kael’thas Sunstrider. Pioneered by former Grandmaster Fenomeno, Spell Druid leverages Overgrowth for ramp to reach massive Kael’thas-empowered swing turns.
With a plethora of 0-mana spells, Kael’thas’ mana-cheating ability is easy to proc multiple times in a single turn, allowing you to cast a token generator (like Glowfly Swarm or, in Feno’s earliest list, The Forest’s Aid) and Soul of the Forest simultaneously, creating a board virtually-unanswerable outside of Plague of Death. Overflow is featured for stunning draw, locating more 0-cost spells to continue to Kael’thas madness. Gift of the Wild, a newer Classic card once considered unplayable at 8 mana, now becomes the nail in your opponent’s coffin.
Exotic Mountseller comes to full fruition in Spell Druid, because she is, at her core, a token generator. With Bogbeam, Ironbark, Innervate and Moonfire available, it’s not hard to generate a full board of 3-mana Beasts on turn 5, all anchored by a 6/11 (or 7/13 if you’re lucky) Mountseller with Taunt. Followed up by Kael’thas into Gift of the Wild or one of your many board buffs, the pressure is unbeatable.
Spell Druid is just as reliant on finding ramp as Big Druid, but features remarkable draw for increased consistency. Rising Winds finds a natural home, doubling as draw and token generation. Fungal Fortunes is a powerhouse, though games in which you discard your Kael’thas or Mountseller are a major bummer.
Spell Druid has already overtaken Big Druid as the dominant archetype in Malfurion’s arsenal. The deck now commands nearly 10% of the field at Legend, while Big Druid’s playrate has fallen under 5%. Big Druid is more popular further down on the ladder, reaching a representation of 7% at Diamond 5, but we expect Spell Druid to gain in popularity there, as well, after impressive results at the highest ranks.
Last expansion’s powerhouse, Embiggen Druid, has seen little play in the early days of Outland, but continues to show some promise. Archspore Msshi’fn slots in well as an early tempo play with late-game upside, as, somewhat surprisingly, does Overconfident Orc. Scrapyard Colossus is a serviceable, if unremarkable, late-game threat that improves dramatically as a pull from Strength in Numbers.
Terrible against Midrange Demon Hunter, Quest Druid has fallen off the map. Double Battlefiend is brutal.
Only six days from the expansion launch and Hunter seems to be in a rough spot. For one thing, the class isn’t being played. At all. Highlander Hunter now stands as Rexxar’s most popular archetype, at only 1% of the upper meta. Illidan has stolen Rexxar’s aggressive thunder.
To make matters worse, all of Hunter’s new archetypes have failed to make an impact.
In spite of Blizzard’s clear direction for the class, Beast and Deathrattle synergies have a long way to go before they can inspire the playerbase. On paper, Augmented Porcupine and Mok’nathal Lion represent a powerful on-curve combo, but the new Beast Hunter’s performance to date has been dismal.
Demon Hunter, with a plethora of early-game removal, has been difficult to beat. Warlock possesses far too much healing for Rexxar to seal the deal. Hunter closes in on lethal, but Gul’dan’s comeback mechanics always seem to find a way. The most popular Beast Hunter list between Diamond and Legend currently has a winrate of 25.4%. Embarrassing. Our featured build has not fared so poorly, but don’t get your hopes up too high; you will struggle.
Handbuffs have never really worked in Hearthstone, and Beast Hunter feels distinctly underpowered in the current meta. The archetype wants to play aggressive, but handbuffing, even when empowered by tempo plays like Helboar, is always anti-tempo at its core. Scavenger’s Ingenuity, a very good card in its own right, is a perfect example of this principle. Even Zixor Prime, the class’ vaunted Legendary, feels underpowered, at least when unbuffed. Four 4/4’s just isn’t that good with cards like Altruis the Outcast and Soul Mirror running around.
Face Hunter’s outlook is far more promising than the Beast variant, however, due to strong matchups against Control Galakrond Warlock, Mage and Rogue.
The archetype quickly adopted Teron Gorefiend, which combos to disgusting effect with Leper Gnome and Kobold Sandtrooper. Tutored by Scavenger’s Ingenuity, Mok’nathal Lion has been slotted in to serve as the deck’s very low top end.
Nagrand Slam has seen sporadic experimentation in combination with Kael’thas Sunstrider, but Hunter, as always, lacks the draw and control tools to reliably combo.
Struck hard by the loss of Leeroy Jenkins, Quest Hunter has looked to Beastmaster Leoroxx for a replacement finisher. While the archetype has thus far performed well against Control Galakrond Warrior, other matchups have proven challenging. Duplicating King Krush with Ramhaken Wildtamer is indeed powerful, but so far, terrible performance against Midrange Demon Hunter has led to lackluster results.
Our featured build seems most promising, but has yet to crack a positive winrate between Diamond and Legend.
Hunter’s recent struggles wouldn’t be so bad (it’s still early after all) if the class were seeing a lot of experimentation, but the playerbase seems to have already abandoned Rexxar. Again, Highlander Hunter is the most popular Hunter archetype, but only commands 1% of the upper meta. Beast Hunter’s playrate is lower than 1% at Legend, and even lower further down the ladder. Much the same can be said for Face Hunter, which only commands a bit more than 1% of the ladder between Diamond 5 and 1.
Despite low representation, Highlander is far and away Hunter’s most powerful strategy at the moment. In fact, the archetype’s matchup spread, outside of a poor contest against Midrange Demon Hunter, looks exceptional. Highlander Hunter is excellent against Druid, strong against Mage, terrific against Priest and (I’m running out of superlatives) boffo against Warlock. The archetype remains committed to the Dragon package, but has slotted in key cards from the new expansion, including Zixor, Nagrand Slam and Scavenger’s Ingenuity.
Hunter now stands among the game’s least-popular classes, a far cry from the heights of Dragon Hunter’s popularity last month. From the looks of it now, Rexxar’s new archetypes are unable to compete in the meta, leaving Dragon Hunter and Highlander Hunter as the class’ standard bearers.
With the introduction of Font of Power, Apexis Blast, Incanter’s Flow and Deep Freeze, Blizzard pushed hard for a Spell Mage, or No Minion Mage, this expansion. While early variations on the theme featured greedy inclusions like Puzzle Box of Yogg-Saron, the more promising builds have opted instead for a burn package headlined by Frostbolt, Fireball and Apexis Blast.
During Demon Hunter’s short-lived reign of terror, Frostbolt and Deep Freeze proved momentarily devastating, as a well-timed freeze to the face could shut down an OTK Demon Hunter on his or her combo turn. Yet poor results against Midrange Demon Hunter, which has risen to become the most popular DH variant, have held the archetype back. Mage’s lack of healing is particularly egregious in a meta dominated by the aggression of DH.
Despite ample opportunities to create board presence, we fear Spell Mage, in its current incarnation, still lacks the meat to compete against most board-based decks. While slower Druid decks have struggled against Spell Mage’s onslaught, the archetype underperforms against Midrange Demon Hunter and Control Galakrond Warlock, the two most popular decks at higher ranks. Without Incanter’s Flow, the deck’s curve can be awkward, leaving the archetype’s success largely dependent on draw. Cards like Deep Freeze and Power of Creation feel insufficient as power spikes in today’s meta.
While Water Elementals can be annoying, they are rarely enough to secure victory. As seems to be the norm for the class in general, Spell Mage is more often at the mercy of RNG; Evocation, the powerful new Legendary spell for Mage, is usually used to find lethal in this variant. Font of Power provides strong card generation, but good luck putting the pieces together with Mage minions.
Spell Mage now accounts for around 4% of the Legend meta. The archetype’s playrate diminishes considerably on the cusp of Legend, but rebounds at lower ranks, peaking at nearly 5% at Diamond 5, where Control Galakrond Warlock and Midrange Demon Hunter aren’t as popular. We expect Spell Mage to remain a minimal presence at the highest ranks.
Highlander Mage is undergoing yet another period of refinement, as players search for the best possible options from the new set. Most have adopted a small Taunt package to complement Khartut Defender. Overconfident Orc has made its way into almost every new list, but Ruststeed Raider, which makes an appearance in our featured build, the creation of Mage expert Apxvoid, also seems to be worth the inclusion, offering a stronger tempo play at the 5-mana slot.
One thing everyone can agree on? Astromancer Solarian is a good card. Not astounding on average, but capable of eking out a victory under the right circumstances. A free Pyroblast to the face never hurt anyone, except for your opponent. Crippling against Demon Hunter, Deep Freeze is a natural inclusion as another power play off Dragoncaster, but doesn’t perform very well in the deck overall (though the card’s role as a defensive play may depress its drawn winrate somewhat). Rolling Fireball is a key tech against Spell Druid’s token boards.
Khadgar may be the most interesting choice in our featured build, but the inclusion makes a lot of sense. With Deep Freeze added to the list, Highlander Mage now includes four major spells (including both Conjurer’s Callings) that summon minions on the board. In combination with Khadgar, any one of these spells can be game-winning.
From early testing, our featured Highlander Mage has performed admirably against both Spell Druid and Galakrond Warlock, besting the latter archetype in almost 60% of cases over an admittedly-small sample of 180 games. The archetype is competitive, though slightly negative, against Midrange Demon Hunter, a matchup made significantly better by the inclusion of Water Elemental. Highlander Mage now commands almost 3.5% of the Legend meta, while averaging a representation of 3% from Diamond 5 to 1.
Oh, sweet Paladin. Years without a consistent direction. Years of murlocs and mechs and handbuffs and god knows what else. Years of frustration, years of regret. It couldn’t get any worse. Then came Ashes of Outland. For Uther, a breath of fresh air. For the first time in years, he’d been given a clear direction: Librams. Librams would be the answer, a powerful new category of spell with a built-in mana-cheating mechanic. Paladin mains across the world held their breath for the big launch, eagerly anticipating the new incarnation of their class.
Turns out it could get worse. Much worse. Libram Paladin, as currently constructed, is a bust. Over a sample of 25,000 games between Diamond 10 and Legend, the archetype has managed to muster a winrate of only 39%. The highest-performing list, which we’ve featured below, averages just over 43%. Libram Paladin is particularly terrible against Midrange Demon Hunter and Control Galakrond Warlock, the two most popular archetypes at higher ranks. That’s certainly not a recipe for success.
Of course, one major question, prior to the expansion launch, was whether to build Libram Paladin on the bones of Pure Paladin, or jettison the Pure archetype altogether. Wild Pyromancer, for one, is an enticing option in combination with Libram of Justice and Subdue, but that would force us to abandon the Pure dream.
Thankfully, we now have a small game sample from high level play. It seems today that the Pure variant of Libram Paladin is slightly better than the non-Pure version. That doesn’t mean it’s good, just slightly better, and we emphasize “slight;” Libram Paladin in any incarnation remains consistently underwhelming. The Pure variant averages an aggregate winrate at Legend of only 38%. That number rises to 41.45% between Diamond 10 and Legend. Needless to say, these preliminary statistics incorporate the performance of varying lists, but it’s not a good sign for the future. As in the case of Libram Paladin, Pure Libram Paladin is atrocious against both Control Galakrond Warlock and Midrange Demon Hunter.
Perhaps the perfect build of Libram Paladin has yet to be found. Perhaps the ideal balance of control and tempo is simply waiting to be discovered, but we’re not particularly hopeful. This is, for one thing, a class that lacks a proper one-drop outside of Brazen Zealot, a 1-health minion that enters the battlefield with a target on its back. Without a one-drop, the deck lacks a natural target for Hand of A’dal (which happens to be a very powerful card, but could probably find better use in a different class). From there, the problems only mount.
Libram Paladin, whether Pure or not, is pretty bad from behind and pretty bad at getting ahead. Libram of Hope has some come-back potential, but with a significant amount of hard removal in the meta, a single Taunt is cold comfort. This is a win-more deck, one that wins very infrequently. At the end of the day, everyone else is doing something more powerful. So it looks as though, until some brilliant experiment comes along and rights the Libram ship, Uther may well have to fall back on his old stalwart: Murlocs.
We’re a bit embarrassed to say it, but Murloc Paladin is currently Uther’s most promising archetype. Again, that’s not saying much, as the deck’s playrate is too low to appear on HSReplay’s Tier List, but it’s something (we’d estimate mid-Tier 3).
Despite the loss of Prismatic Lens, Murloc Paladin received four (arguably five) key pieces in Ashes of Outland: Underlight Angling Rod, Murgur Murgurgul, Imprisoned Sungill and the neutral buffer Felfin Navigator. Alongside Hand of A’dal, these cards have brought renewed depth to the Murloc package. Murgur, in particular, provides a late-game opportunity to retake the board after control has been lost, something the deck sorely needs.
For now, Resurrect Priest remains Anduin’s strongest build, much to the chagrin of the playerbase. To be fair, the archetype is somewhat malpositioned in the current meta, weak to both Midrange Demon Hunter and Control Galakrond Warlock, along with Rogue and Mage, but as Priest’s most powerful option, it’ll have to do for now.
Most players have opted to supplement the traditional build with a handful of new cards, both from Ashes of Outland and Priest’s revised Classic set. Holy Nova and Shadow Word: Ruin make an appearance, as do Renew and Skeletal Dragon. Yet a growing number of players have gone further, adopting Outland’s Legendary spell Soul Mirror.
We’ll get this out of the way right now: if you’re not playing Soul Mirror, you’ve made a mistake. Soul Mirror is bonkers, a game-winning board clear (or board augmentation, in the event of any sticky Deathrattle minions or high-health, low-attack targets), one that has become absolutely necessary in the absence of Mass Hysteria.
In the highest-performing Resurrect Priest list, Soul Mirror is the best card, a full percentage point higher in drawn winrate than the second best option, Holy Nova. That’s reason enough to try the card out. Reliquary of Souls, on the other hand, is not worth it; he performs very poorly when run, the worst card by drawn winrate wherever he appears.
Resurrect Priest is a Tier 3 deck at the moment, but we believe it has potential to rise into Tier 2, should players adopt our featured build, which has earned a winrate of 56.4% over 9,100 games between Diamond 5 and Legend. Quest Resurrect Priest is an inferior option, as it’s always been, but remains a minimal fixture at lower ranks.
Most experimentation in the class has involved Highlander Priest. In the main, players have abandoned any notion of playing a Galakrond “package,” choosing instead to run Galakrond, the Unspeakable as single-target removal, without the benefit of any Invoke cards. Shadow Word: Ruin and Soul Mirror serve as mid-game removal tools, while Holy Nova and Penance clear early boards. Renew is surprisingly good, both statistically and anecdotally.
Natalie Seline has performed surprisingly well, but again, Soul Mirror is the star of the show, easily the archetype’s best card behind only Zephrys. Apotheosis is also excellent and flexible, providing late-game stabilization when applied to a large minion or early-game board control. Skeletal Dragon is inconsistent, but a necessary evil due to the list’s understandable insistence on a Dragon package. Chronobreaker, too, is a necessary evil.
Sethekk Veilweaver is a terrific build-around card waiting for a home. We don't have statistics on this list yet, but try it for yourself. It's a blast.
No viable form of Tempo Priest has yet arrived to the meta.
Valeera is doing fine. Galakrond made sure of that.
Zephrys the Great and Dragonqueen Alexstrasza are strong as ever. Yet the introduction of a powerful Secret package headlined by Shadowjeweler Hanar has opened new space for Highlander Galakrond Rogue, which has also readily absorbed key elements from the Stealth package in Spymistress and Akama.
Thus strengthened, Highlander Galakrond Secret Rogue stands alongside Midrange Demon Hunter at the top of Tier 2. Incomparably strong against the meta’s surfeit of unrefined archetypes, HGSR also remains competitive, though negative, against major players in the format, including both Spell Druid (47.1% over 2,600 games) and Midrange Demon Hunter (48% over 9,000 games). Only Control Galakrond Warlock, the format’s most successful deck, has proven a significant hurdle thus far; over a sample of 4,900 games between Diamond 5 and Legend, Gul’dan has managed to win 54.5%. That’s but one small blemish on an otherwise-sterling record; over the past week, the newly-reinvigorated Highlander archetype has garnered strong results, averaging a winrate of 57% over 11,000 games played at Legend.
A non-Highlander variation on the Secret Galakrond theme has also cropped up, but the deck has not received as much attention as its singleton cousin. Be that as it may, the two archetypes seem roughly equivalent in performance, albeit over dissimilar sample sizes. Mirroring Highlander Galakrond Secret Rogue, Galakrond Secret Rogue has thus far secured a winrate of 57% over 2,300 games at Legend.
Though Highlander Galakrond Rogue’s new Secret package has enamored much of the playerbase, many stalwarts are still playing the standard Galakrond Rogue from Descent of Dragons. The deck continues to perform adequately, good enough for a spot in Tier 2, but struggles in matchups against Control Galakrond Warlock and Midrange Demon Hunter.
Experiments outside the Galakrond package have met with inconsistent results, but we believe Secret Stealth Rogue has a lot of potential. While Akama, the Prime Legendary, is probably less useful than he would seem, Blackjack Stunner, as many have noted, is an insane card, certainly overpowered at 1-mana; it’s the kind of card Blizzard would only print if they really, really wanted Secret Rogue to work. Ashtongue Slayer is more-than-serviceable in its role, allowing you to find extra damage or effect a clean value trade. Greyheart Sage is excellent draw in a deck that needs it.
Much the same can be said of Rogue’s new Secrets. Bamboozle can be game-winning with a little luck. Dirty Tricks serves as further draw in an archetype that tends to run out of gas. Ambush is probably the weakest of the lot, but can help push through a tricky Taunt if well-timed. The whole collection is topped off by Shadowjeweler Hanar, a real mind-bender of a card, one requiring true skill to play well. Hanar is best utilized with exquisite knowledge of your opponent’s tendencies, but he can win games on the spot, if only by frustrating the opponent to an early concession.
Secret Stealth Rogue is scrappy; it scrapes and claws its way to victory. Nothing in the deck, outside of Hanar, feels overtly powerful, which may be to the archetype’s detriment. In a meta of Galakrond, Demon Hunter and broken Kael’thas swing turns, Secret Stealth Rogue is certainly overshadowed by its flashier compatriots, but we wouldn’t count the deck out. It’s also likely the cheapest competitive option for Rogue aficionados strapped for dust.
There is, of course, a sense in which Demon Hunter does everything Rogue can do better. Superior early tempo tools, an emphasis on attacking, are balanced by the ample Lifesteal resources Valeera has always lacked. Demon Hunter even has a Lifesteal Taunt. The lack of an Eviscerate is made up for in spades by access to Metamorphosis. Just imagine how busted a card like Altruis the Outcast would be in Rogue. Turns out it’s pretty busted in Demon Hunter, too.
Shaman received a disparate assortment of tools in Ashes of Outland, including a half-assed gesture at Totem synergies. The Lurker Below and Torrent seem to advocate for a Control archetype, while Boggspine Knuckles and Bogstrock Clacker would naturally form the core of a new take on Evolve Shaman. Meanwhile, Marshspawn and Shattered Rumbler seek to move in the direction of a spell-heavy build, which exploits a chaining effect reminiscent of Elementals.
Shaman’s Prime Legendary, Lady Vashj can go in one of two directions. Either she acts as further support for a Control archetype, allowing large resources like Earthquake, Eye of the Storm and Hagatha’s Scheme to be played at a reduced cost, or she supports a burn strategy, which seeks to tutor spells like Lightning Bolt and Lava Burst for a lethal finisher.
Neither of these directions have yet borne fruit. Spell Shaman, as the archetype is being called, seems to be pretty terrible. Even the best of these lists, the Highlander variant we’ve featured, is unfit for a spot in Tier 5. Especially noxious, however, is the variant running a plethora of big spells alongside King Phaoris and Kael’thas Sunstrider. This list looks unredeemable, with winrates bottoming out near 33%.
Thrall has found most success from an unlikely source: incorporating the new Evolve package, along with Desert Hare, into a Galakrond Shaman shell. Turns out most of Shaman’s Invoke cards, including Corrupt Elementalist and Devoted Maniac are pretty good Evolve targets. Throw in a Dread Corsair to leverage Boggspine Knuckles and you have the bones of a deck that performs adequately (we’d say mid-Tier 3) at higher ranks. With terrible matchups against both Midrange Demon Hunter and Control Galakrond Warlock, there is, of course, no chance that this deck becomes a world-beater in the current meta, but it’s a lot of fun to play. That’s definitely worth something.
Reliquary Shaman is the meme of all memes. It’s a cool concept, in principle: equip The Fist of Ra-den and play 1-mana spells to your heart’s content. Since Reliquary of Souls, the new Priest Prime, is the only 1-cost Legendary in Standard, you’re guaranteed to summon a retinue of Reliquaries. Turns out this strategy will not win you many games. Reliquary Shaman is flirting with winrates as low as 30% at the top of the ladder.
If you can’t tell yet, Thrall’s decks this month have been abominations.
Gul’dan is feeling pretty good about himself right now.
The only class prepared for Illidan’s arrival, Warlock rose to early success in the pre-nerf meta, thanks in no small part to Sacrificial Pact, a card that not only destroys Imprisoned Antaen, Priestess of Fury and Battlefiend in one fell swoop, but also heals in the bargain. Add in Nether Breath and Galakrond, the Wretched as a finisher and Gul’dan’s plan seems fool-proof. The vastly improved Demon pool doesn’t hurt, either.
Control Galakrond Warlock is the most powerful archetype in the meta, the sole occupant of Tier 1. Behind only Midrange Demon Hunter, Gul’dan is the second most popular choice on the ladder, topping out at a representation of 21.5% at Diamond 1. The deck features an exceptional matchup spread; at the moment, only Spell Druid, of all the decks in Standard, maintains an edge against Warlock. No other deck comes close.
And Gul’dan is very good at what he does, which is destroy Demon Hunters. People literally concede after you Sac Pact a Battlefiend. Plus, he’s the only one who can do it. Even in the wake of the DH nerfs, Control Galakrond Warlock is the only archetype on ladder to reliably beat Midrange Demon Hunter, which currently averages a playrate over 25% between Diamond 5 and Legend. That makes Warlock the perfect choice for the climb at higher ranks.
Zoo has reached an interesting point in its development. Most players have abandoned the Galakrond-centric builds of last expansion to embrace a new variant pioneered by Grandmaster Gallon. The results are not yet spectacular, but continued refinement is promising.
Powered by the exciting new draw engine of Hand of Gul’dan, the deck seeks to land an early Imprisoned Scrap Imp, thus buffing a variety of 1-mana minions, from familiar standbys like Flame Imp and Beaming Sidekick to the newly-released Guardian Augmerchant.
With Magic Carpet on board, the buffed minions quickly convert to complete board control. Alongside a buffed Stonetusk Boar or two, Soulfire seals the deal, while also providing another layer of synergy for Hand of Gul’dan.
The latest development has seen Zephrys the Great added to the list, complementing Hand of Gul’dan’s insane draw potential.
Handlock is still kicking around, but hasn’t fared particularly well so far in the new meta. Grandmaster Viper’s list featuring The Dark Portal and Magtheridon has captured most of the attention and looks a little better than variants running Kanrethad Ebenlocke. The jury’s still out on Magtheridon; in some lists, the card performs at a middling rate, while in others, it seems terrible. We’ll need further data for proper evaluation.
Wow. We’re hesitant to voice this thought, the expansion being so new, but Warrior seems to be a dumpster class in Ashes of Outland. None of Garrosh’s six tracked archetypes bear a winrate over 50%. Most are closer to 40%. Taunt Warrior sits at an abysmal 33.7%.
Absolutely no one is playing this class. No one except Fibonacci. Highlander Control Warrior is Garrosh’s most popular deck, but that’s not saying much. The archetype’s playrate is below 0.2% between Diamond 1 and 5. It rises at Legend, but only to 0.72%. Lack of a sufficient sample makes evaluating the archetype difficult, but several builds heavily-teched against Demon Hunter have shown promising results, at least against Demon Hunter.
Mired at the bottom of the meta, Bomb Warrior is clinging to relevance with the inclusion of Corsair Cache. While Cache can be a brutal play in combination with Wrench Calibur, Garrosh is running into the surfeit of weapon destruction brought out by Demon Hunter. As it stands, Bomb Warrior doesn’t even make it onto HSReplay’s Tier List.
These are grim days for Garrosh. We’ll leave with you Control Warrior expert Fibonacci’s latest build, a deck he says can beat Demon Hunter, but probably nothing else.
So there we have it. This week has truly been a whirlwind. What do you think? Do you think the Demon Hunter nerfs were enough? What have you been most excited to play? Let us know in the comments!