Welcome to another edition of the Standard Meta Report, this time covering the week between April 19th and 26th, 2020. As always, the Report is based on an analysis of statistics from HSReplay, along with personal game experience at high ranks. 


The Overview

With a second round of nerfs in the rearview mirror, the upper meta is beginning to take shape. 

As was true in Descent of Dragons, Rogue is again seeing tons of play, led by a two-of Galakrond Secret Rogue list with an exceptional matchup spread, but Valeera has yet to overtake the format’s most popular archetype: Tempo Demon Hunter

Without a doubt, no class was punished by the nerfs more than Warlock. In the wake of the balance changes, Control Galakrond Warlock’s once-astronomical playrate has dropped to 2% between Diamond and Legend, leaving Zoo to pick up the pieces. Yet Resurrect Priest also suffered a similar loss in Bad Luck Albatross. Anduin’s winrate has plunged into the negative, and we have doubts that a revitalized Galakrond Priest can pick up the slack. 

Illidan, on the other hand, has emerged relatively unscathed. Tempo Demon Hunter continues to enjoy strong representation across all ranks, peaking at a playrate just south of 30% at Diamond 1. The archetype remains a top contender in Tier 1. Blizzard will have to try harder than that. 

Led by Dragon Hunter and Highlander Hunter, Rexxar’s popularity has grown substantially in the post-nerf meta, putting Highlander Mage in a tough spot. 

Following the nerf to Kael’thas Sunstrider, Druid has fallen away; Spell Druid’s playrate has been cut in half, dropping to an inconsequential 3.5% between Diamond and Legend. Without sufficient tools to counter Demon Hunter, Big Druid has all but disappeared. 

A solid Tier 2 deck, Murloc Paladin is the best option Uther’s got; the buff to Libram of Justice has done nothing for Libram Paladin’s winrate in the immediate. With Totem Shaman quickly falling in both playrate and winrate, Shaman is again a mess. 

In the form of Egg Warrior, Garrosh is master of the best deck that no one’s playing. 


Demon Hunter

It seems that even two rounds of major nerfs can’t keep Illidan down. Tempo Demon Hunter remains a top tier competitor in the meta, earning a vaunted spot in Tier 1 across all ranks. Today, DH stands behind only (surprise!) Highlander Hunter in power level, as Illidan leverages exceptional matchups against the entirety of the field. With Control Galakrond Warlock in swift decline throughout the upper meta, Illidan’s vengeful path to glory is again unhindered. 

Tempo Demon Hunter now accounts for 23% of the format between Diamond and Legend, peaking at a playrate of 31.81% at Diamond 1. The archetype commands 23.29% of the meta at Legend. Statistically, Tempo Demon Hunter has only one prominent counter: Egg Warrior, which sees reasonable (yet modest) play at Legend, but is almost unheard of at lower ranks. 

That’s not to say the nerfs don’t matter. With each round of nerfs, Tempo Demon Hunter is chastened, suffering a brief reduction in winrate. Yet these momentary lapses in proficiency last only moments, until the next-best refinement comes along to buoy the class once again. So the nerfs matter, but only insofar as they force the playerbase to re-optimize Tempo Demon Hunter, which isn’t particularly hard given the overall power level of Demon Hunter’s cards. All of which is to say that a nerfed Demon Hunter is still better than everything else. 

Even more important, of course, than any nerfs that hit Demon Hunter directly, were the balance changes to Warlock. With a blunted Sacrificial Pact and 4-mana Bad Luck Albatross, Control Galakrond Warlock’s playrate has plummeted. That’s the best present Illidan could have asked for. 

Of the most recent direct balance changes, the stat reduction to Frenzied Felwing was perhaps the most consequential, as it left Illidan vulnerable to a wider range of AOE. But the other balance changes have proven largely inconsequential. Battlefiend remains a potent 1-drop, capable of devastating scaling paired with Warglaives of Azzinoth. Altruis the Outcast is still ridiculous as ever, if a bit slower than usual. The change to Glaivebound Adept is barely worth mentioning. 

In the wake of the latest nerfs, we’ve seen a moderate shift back to the earliest builds of Tempo Demon Hunter. While Antaen is too slow, Priestess of Fury now makes the cut, augmented by the mana-reduction of Raging Felscreamer. Sightless Watcher and Felwing have been removed to make room. 

Our featured build is quickly becoming the standard for Tempo Demon Hunter at higher ranks. Emerging shortly after the second round of nerfs, the list has already surged to a playrate of 10.37% at Legend, as other variants fall away. We’ve teched in one Acidic Swamp Ooze, both for the mirror match and as a security blanket against Warrior. 

Inferior in every way to Tempo Demon Hunter, Highlander Demon Hunter has fallen on hard times, sinking to a playrate below 0.5% between Diamond and Legend. Yet we’ve also seen what may be a refinement in the archetype, a list piloted by Swagtrain123 to #30 Legend. 

Swagtrain’s build features a number of notable inclusions, including perennial Highlander favorites in Escaped Manasaber and Siamat. But what’s really caught our eye is Vulpera Scoundrel, an excellent choice given Demon Hunter’s limited pool of spells. Hulking Overfiend, in the place of Coilfang Warlorld (a mite overrated in earlier builds), has proven to be a life-saver against Rogue. 


Druid

Malfurion is in a rut. 

With the nerf to Kael’thas Sunstrider, Spell Druid’s already-declining playrate has cratered further, falling to a mere 2.96% between Diamond and Legend; it’s worth remembering that the archetype once commanded nearly 10% of the format. And with a meager representation under 2%, Big Druid seems a thing of the past. 

Spell Druid remains a Tier 2 deck at Legend, but thanks to unsatisfactory results against Tempo Demon Hunter, Galakrond Priest and Highlander Mage, has fallen into Tier 3 at Diamond. 

Yet all is not lost. Malfurion has at least one thing going for him, and it’s pretty major: the rapid increase in Rogue. Spell Druid features an exceptional matchup against Secret Galakrond Rogue, an archetype whose only answer to an early Glowfly Swarm is Flik Skyshiv; over a sample of 16,000 games between Diamond and Legend, Malfurion has managed to win nearly 61% against Valeera. That’s certainly impressive, but whether those victories can balance out the losses to Illidan is another question. 

Spell Druid has reached an intriguing point in its refinement, but we fear the list’s optimization is threatened by declining player interest. We believe the nerf to Kael’thas Sunstrider, which has introduced massive variance into the winrates of most lists, warrants an increase in threat-density, particularly token generators that don’t rely on Kael’thas for their strength. 

In our featured build, we’re taking a page out of Russian Grandmaster Silvername’s book by amping up the archetype’s Treant synergies, including Force of Nature and Anubisath Defender, along with Aeroponics (a fair swap for Rising Winds) for another shot of card draw. 

The Forest’s Aid is a natural choice, given the power of Twinspell, so we’ve cut one Exotic Mountseller, a key source of the archetype’s inconsistency. Moonfire has also been cut since we’re no longer relying solely on Kael’thas. 

Our featured build isn’t gaining in popularity, but it does seem to be gaining in strength. For one thing, it’s one of the only Spell Druid lists with a positive winrate (51% over 490 games between Diamond and Legend) against Tempo Demon Hunter. Plus, it’s the only Spell Druid variant to see its winrate increase (quite substantially) in the wake of the Kael’thas nerf.

With abysmal matchups against Tempo Demon Hunter, Highlander Hunter and Galakrond Secret Rogue, Big Druid looks pretty terrible for the upper meta. The archetype’s playrate has fallen to 1.58% between Diamond and Legend. 


Hunter

Ashes of Outland has been very kind to our old friend Rexxar. 

Highlander Hunter is the highest-performing deck in the upper meta, edging out Tempo Demon Hunter in aggregate winrate between Diamond and Legend. Enjoying rapid growth across all ranks, the archetype features a balanced matchup spread, securing victories against Rogue, Priest and Highlander Mage. Even so, we’d say Highlander is underplayed for its power level, despite rising to a playrate of 3.55% between Diamond and Legend over the past few days. 

Tempo Demon Hunter remains a problem for many Highlander Hunter lists, but our featured build has managed a positive winrate against Illidan (51.9%) over a substantial sample of 850 games. Imprisoned Felmaw, a card many of us overlooked before the expansion’s launch, turns out to be a powerhouse, boasting the deck’s fifth-highest drawn winrate. Much the same can be said for Scavenger’s Ingenuity, which continues to overperform. 

Our featured build also happens to excel against Galakrond Secret Rogue, earning a winrate of nearly 60% against Valeera in 450 games between Diamond and Legend. A positive tilt against Face Hunter, commonly a weakness for Highlander Hunter, is another benefit. 

Dragon Hunter and Face Hunter continue to vie for placement at the top of Tier 2. In terms of overall strength, Dragon Hunter currently holds the upper hand, but Face Hunter is more popular, especially at lower ranks. Despite the ease with which it’s countered, Face Hunter now commands upwards of 5.5% of the meta between Diamond 1 and 5. 

Highlander Hunter is a jack-of-all-trades, featuring positive matchups across the board. Face Hunter, on the other hand, is a specialist. Woeful against Priest, dismal against Egg Warrior, the archetype excels in beating up on Tempo Demon Hunter and Galakrond Secret Rogue, the two primary targets in today’s upper meta. Most players have gravitated towards a greedy variant that makes use of Teron Gorefiend, but we’re far more intrigued by the experimentation with Dragonbane, which seems to be nutty in this list. 

Dragon Hunter is in flux, absorbing new ideas from Ashes of Outland, including Imprisoned Felmaw, a card that continues to surprise us. We’re sufficiently pleased with preliminary results to recommend the small Beast package that has recently become vogue. Paired with Stonetusk Boar, Scavenger’s Ingenuity is a powerful tutor here, allowing us another option to secure lethal. Opening up synergies for Kill Command is an added bonus, but we hesitate to go all-in on the Boar; Scrap Shot still looks to be a terrible card, and we’d say the tempo loss isn’t worth the extra buff, especially if you’re cutting Blazing Battlemage, a strong tempo play, to make room. 

We’re less sold on the Boar package in Face Hunter (though it does seem to make Scrap Shot a passable card), but we’re continuing to monitor its results. 


Mage

Highlander Mage continues to command a substantial portion of the upper meta, but Jaina must be getting sick of her sole viable archetype. With poor matchups against both Tempo Demon Hunter and Galakrond Secret Rogue, Spell Mage continues to languish in Tier 4. 

A bit more popular at Legend than outside of it, Highlander Mage currently sits at the top of Tier 3 between Diamond and Legend. The third most popular deck at higher ranks, the archetype controls 6.59% of the format at Legend. 

As we said last week, Highlander Mage would look exceptional if not for Illidan. 

Jaina’s strong against almost everything out there, but she’s pitiful against Demon Hunter, losing out in 63% of her contests over a 41,000 game sample between Diamond and Legend. We’ve updated our featured build (removing Puzzle Box of Yogg-Saron) to make room for Imprisoned Observer, a game-winning play against Demon Hunter, but don’t expect the archetype’s aggregate winrate to improve much until Illidan’s share of the meta tapers off. 

This week, Mage actually has two problems on its hands. Alongside the continued prominence of Demon Hunter, Jaina’s old nemesis in Rexxar is also making strides at the highest ranks, where Highlander Hunter in particular is gaining steam. Mage has always struggled against Hunter, but if the class’ numbers continue to grow, Jaina’s goose is cooked. It’s no accident that Highlander Mage’s winrates started to fall after the nerfs, despite none of Jaina’s toys being touched - it’s Rexxar. Needless to say, some of the blame should also be attributed to the decline in Control Galakrond Warlock, which was a positive matchup for Highlander Mage. 


Paladin

In the absence of a viable Libram-based deck, Uther’s hopes rest squarely on Murlocs. And for what it’s worth, we’d say it’s working out pretty well. Murloc Paladin isn’t the most popular archetype in the meta (1.81% representation at Legend), but it’s overperforming based on its meager origins. Despite limited play, Murloc Paladin now sits at the top of Tier 2 at Legend, falling behind only Dragon Hunter for the same distinction between Diamond and Legend. 

Murloc Paladin destroys the meta’s weaker classes, including Shaman, Paladin and Priest, but let’s get this out of the way before we get any further: Uther’s pesky amphibians are pretty bad against Demon Hunter, especially Tempo Demon Hunter, the most popular archetype in the format. As for so many other classes, Illidan represents the ceiling of Murloc Pally’s growth, but otherwise, the matchup spread is largely favorable. Most importantly, Murloc Paladin is competitive (and positive!) against Galakrond Secret Rogue, the format’s second most popular strategy. It’s also excellent against Hunter, a rising force in the meta.

And the recent decline in Control Galakrond Warlock is another boon to Murloc Paladin. This was a difficult, though winnable, matchup before, but now Gul’dan has been all but swept away, leaving a gaping, control-sized hole in the meta. Outside of Demon Hunter, the true counter to Murloc Pally is now Egg Warrior, but that archetype hasn’t taken off as we’d expected. That’s especially true at lower ranks, where Egg Warrior remains niche at below 2% playrates. 

The buff to Libram of Justice, as we predicted, hasn’t done much for Libram Paladin. This archetype looks bad as ever, whether Pure or not. We will, however, take a moment to feature Ciba’s Quest Paladin, a devastatingly memey list that makes use of Librams. Even Lorewalker Cho makes an appearance to fill your opponent’s hand with crap (2-mana Libram of Wisdoms). 


Priest

The nerf to Bad Luck Albatross was sure to hit Priest hard (for one thing, it cut off the clean curve from Albatross to Psychopomp), but the reality has been worse than we’d at first feared. In the wake of the balance changes, most builds of Resurrect Priest experienced their first negative winrates in weeks, and the archetype has yet to recover. Over the past seven days, we’ve observed a gradual exodus from Resurrect Priest, as the archetype’s playrate fell from a recent high of 5.29% to 2.46% between Diamond and Legend. 

Things look bad for Anduin. Resurrect Priest is in shambles, and there’s no way to rely on an inconsistent Highlander Priest for easy victories. Yet even in the darkest of times, there is a ray of hope. Following on passable results at last week’s Grandmasters, Galakrond Priest has experienced modest growth, rising to a playrate of 5% between Diamond and Legend. 

In the aggregate, at an archetype-wide winrate of 47.61%, Galakrond Priest looks pretty terrible. And it probably is. There are three factors conspiring to disappoint Anduin in his next quest for glory. One is obvious: a poor matchup against Galakrond Secret Rogue, the second most popular archetype in the format, which does more than enough to balance out Priest’s questionable competitiveness against Tempo Demon Hunter. The second factor relates to Rexxar: Highlander Hunter is on the rise at Legend, and this is far and away Galakrond Priest’s worst matchup (26.9% over 1,000 games between Diamond and Legend). Oof, that’s bad. And if you thought things couldn’t get any worse, they do, because Galakrond Priest just lost a strong matchup in the form of Control Galakrond Warlock, an archetype in steep decline.

If this is what passes for a Control deck in Ashes of Outland, God help us. 


Rogue

Valeera has risen. After two weeks toying around with Highlander lists, the playerbase has settled on what is unquestionably Rogue’s most powerful build, Galakrond Secret Rogue. As we suggested last week, the two-of archetype has completely overtaken Highlander Galakrond Secret Rogue at higher ranks, rising to a playrate above 14% between Diamond and Legend. 

Our featured build is quickly becoming the standard on ladder, rising from a Diamond through Legend playrate under 2% last week to peak at nearly 8% today. 

Outside of Tempo Demon Hunter, Galakrond Secret Rogue features the most dominant matchup spread in the game. Valeera is weak to only four archetypes: Spell Druid (in steep decline), Zoo Warlock (minimal play across all ranks), Egg Warrior (more popular at Legend, but almost nonexistent lower on the ladder), and her old nemesis, Face Hunter. Yet even these negative matchups remain highly competitive; only Face Hunter, a deck fairly prevalent at lower ranks, presents a true hurdle, and while Face Hunter comprises about 5.25% of the meta between Diamond 1 and Diamond 5, the archetype’s playrate is cut in half at Legend. 

Valeera has the tools to beat anyone on the ladder, but her greatest distinction comes in the contest against Tempo Demon Hunter, which at some ranks commands nearly 30% of the format. It’s a tough matchup, one Illidan can easily win, but over a sample of 21,000 games between Diamond and Legend, Rogue has earned a winrate of 52.3% against Demon Hunter. 

At this point, most players have adopted the Secret package over the Stealth package; even Spymistress has fallen out of favor at the highest ranks to make room for extra Secrets. Though unquestionably powerful, Greyheart Sage fits more cleanly in the Highlander list, where the increased consistency of extra draw can make a huge difference. 

While the Stealth package has proven lackluster, the Secret package has overperformed within the Galakrond shell. Ambush, in particular, has proven far stronger statistically than anyone could have guessed before the expansion. Bamboozle is inconsistent, but occasionally game-winning, while Dirty Tricks finds use as a suitable one-of. And Shadowjeweler Hanar? Well, that card’s just nuts. 

Even as the class solidifies once again around a two-of Galakrond list, Highlander Galakrond Secret Rogue remains a competitive option in the current meta, thanks to a strong matchup against Galakrond Secret Rogue. In the best builds, the Burgle package has been abandoned to make room for additional Stealth synergies, namely Greyheart Sage, a card that massively increases the list’s consistency. 

Just be forewarned. While strong against many of the upper meta’s mainstays, including Highlander Mage and Galakrond Priest, Highlander loses points against Tempo Demon Hunter. For this all-important matchup, the two-of Galakrond Secret Rogue is better. 


Shaman

Totem Shaman was a fad. Spell Shaman is so bad it doesn’t appear on Tier Lists. Reliquary Shaman isn’t worth mentioning. Thrall’s gotta be grouchy. Galakrond Evolve Shaman is the best he’s got, but that’s not saying much. It’s losing players quicker than you can spit. 

Two weeks ago, Totem Shaman looked meta. Today, it looks plain bad, hanging out next to Galakrond Priest and Galakrond Shaman at the bottom of Tier 3. 

Totem Shaman was never very popular, but it gained a cult following sufficient for a 3% representation across the upper meta. Now, those players are looking elsewhere. Totem Shaman’s playrate has fallen below 1% between Diamond and Legend. The archetype is a virtual non-entity at Legend, where poor matchups against Galakrond Secret Rogue (38%), Tempo Demon Hunter (27.5%) and Highlander Hunter (40.3%) strongly discourage play. 

Nor have the recent balance changes improved the picture. Quite the opposite. Tempo Demon Hunter is as popular as ever, while Rogue and Hunter are on the rise. But most consequential is that Control Galakrond Warlock, a very strong matchup for Totem Shaman, has entered a steep decline. Meanwhile, Totem Shaman’s aggregate winrate is still declining, despite recent success from our featured build, which slots in Shieldbearer to protect those early totems. 

It’s still dismal against the best decks in the meta, but it’s the best you can do. 


Warlock

One week ago, Control Galakrond Warlock held the meta in a stranglehold, the second most popular archetype behind only Tempo Demon Hunter. Then Blizzard dropped the nerf hammer, altering two core staples in Warlock’s arsenal: Sacrificial Pact and Bad Luck Albatross. Illidan has already returned from the abyss. Gul’dan is a different story. 

After weeks in Tier 1, Control Galakrond Warlock is now a Tier 3 deck between Diamond and Legend. It’s mired at the bottom of Tier 2 at Legend. How the mighty have fallen. Needless to say, the playerbase has noticed; in just one week, Control Galakrond Warlock’s playrate sank from 11.3% to 2.71% between Diamond and Legend. 

Yet the nerfs are probably too recent to evaluate fully; Warlock’s winrate is experiencing extreme variance, slingshotting from negative to positive like a yo-yo across all builds of Control Galakrond Warlock. We’ll wait for the data to settle before making any firm pronouncements on the archetype, but we do have some thoughts on the immediate nerfs. 

Even though the card’s outsized power has been blunted, we believe Sacrificial Pact is still good enough to run; the deck made use of Sac Pact long before Demon Hunter came on the scene, and heal 5 for 0-mana is still pretty solid in a deck like this, one that often needs to dump cards to open handspace. Just don’t expect the Tempo Demon Hunter matchup to improve; Sac Pact single-handedly vaulted Gul’dan into competition against Illidan. 

In contrast, most players agree that Bad Luck Albatross has to go, though the card has yet to be dropped from the majority of lists. We’ve subbed in Overconfident Orc at the 3-mana slot to shore up aggressive matchups, which have become even more prevalent with the return of Rexxar. In any event, the gameplan is the same. Invoke to Galakrond, the Wretched, then Alexstrasza your opponent’s face for lethal. Gul’dan still has Nether Breath, after all.  

In a trend most apparent at Legend, many players (likely Warlock mains) have swapped over to Zoo, the playrate of which has risen to 2.31% between Diamond and Legend. Traditionally weak to Demon Hunter, Zoo continues to find favor thanks to strong matchups against Galakrond Secret Rogue and Highlander Hunter, both of which are rising in play at the highest ranks.

True to form, Zoo finds itself in an interesting place, in no small part because one of the archetype’s worst matchups, Control Galakrond Warlock, has fallen on hard times. To brighten the picture further, Egg Warrior, a major counter, has not yet gained widespread play. 

Whether Zoo can capitalize on these developments is another question. From our point of view, the archetype is in serious need of refinement, but we like the inclusion of Maiev Shadowsong, which gives us a second opportunity at activating an Imprisoned Scrap Imp. Zephrys the Great, we think, is a bit too pie in the sky. 


Warrior

Egg Warrior is the best deck that no one’s playing. Garrosh is confused. 

Over the past week, since being included as an archetype on HSReplay, Egg Warrior has quickly risen to join Highlander Hunter, Tempo Demon Hunter and Galakrond Secret Rogue as a member of Tier 1 at Legend. The archetype’s Tier 1 at lower ranks, too, earning an aggregate winrate of 53.73% (better than Galakrond Secret Rogue) when you include data from Diamond. But no one’s playing it. Well, close to no one. At Legend, where you’d expect the archetype’s playrate to be highest, Egg Warrior commands only 4% of the field. Between Diamond 5 and Diamond 1, it’s closer to a representation of 1%. Garrosh has found success, but not players. 

So what gives? We’ve said it before, but we’ll say it again: Egg Warrior is quite possibly the hardest deck to play optimally in the meta. We think its skill ceiling is holding it back from a wider market. But if you take the time to learn the archetype, it’ll pay dividends. 

Egg Warrior is tremendous against Tempo Demon Hunter, as it is against Galakrond Secret Rogue. And it’s strong against Highlander Hunter, too, a key competitor at Legend. Sure, it’s weak to Priest and Mage, but how many of those do you see on a regular basis? 

In our featured build, we’ve replaced Imprisoned Vilefiend with Warmaul Challenger, a wicked target for Inner Rage and Rampage. Grandmaster and Former World Champion Hunterace says Warmaul is the next card to get nerfed. Who are we to argue?

Bomb Warrior is clinging to a spot at the bottom of Tier 2 between Diamond and Legend. After weeks of underperformance, Control-minded variants have begun to fall away, as have heavy-handed Weapon synergies in the form of Dread Corsair. Like Egg Warrior, the highest-performing list leans heavily on Enrage mechanics.


Control Galakrond Warlock has fallen. Druid is in decline. Demon Hunter, Rogue and Hunter stand atop the meta, but what about you? Are you just waiting for a third round of Demon Hunter nerfs? Getting sick of hearing “Vengeance!”? Let us know in the comments.