A breath of fresh air!
Duels has just received some much-needed attention with the most recent patch. While we could all do without any evil bugs, it might be a small consolation to know they don't seem to affect every game out there being played. We also have new special quests coming that will take players to Duels, so diving into some fresh decks is certainly a good idea.
While it is true there are many concerns that have yet to be addressed for the mode, any improvement, even small, is welcomed with open arms. Especially for those of you who felt oppressed by Outlander Demon Hunters obliterating all that stood in their way in the early rounds (okay, sometimes later rounds as well), when health pools remain at their lowest. Many runs came to a swift end when met with double-digit attacks from the opposing hero.
That wasn't the only frustrating aspect out there, for Cannibalism which became a notorious frontrunner for many - and not just because of its synergy with From the Swamp. Classes like Druid and Mage got new toys that allowed for more deadly combinations. Now, it is not entirely gone - just moved to Pool 2 of treasures that you see after 5 games - but you won't encounter it together with the zombies anymore, nor be faced with it as early during your climb. It's going to compete against other strong choices as well.
Sandy Surprise has been completely removed. Hardly the biggest offender, but it allowed for some un-interactive board states. Now Mages can't hide their frosty tiny shards, Warriors won't keep Armorsmith out of harm's way, and Hunters' pesky little deathrattle minions will have to stay in the open. More importantly, with this and the above change, it should make it easier to find certain Passive Treasures after your first game - be it Recycling, Rocket Backpacks, Fireshaper, or other favorites.
Hopefully, there will be fewer explosive early turns that discourage players and make them feel like they never stood a chance. In case you would like to try your chances again (or never stopped fighting, but don't keep track of everything out there), let's review what has been working for each Duelist in the recent days, and what's likely to continue shaping the meta:
Frost Shards Mage
Turns out Mozaki doesn't have to rely on Mana Wyrms for the rest of her life. Enter an even more efficient ping: no conditions, no limits to conjuring endless Ice Shards. Pesky little buggers. Even before the nerf to Demon Hunter, Mage suddenly found herself in a much better spot against them and any other weapon/face-based attacks. It should be of no surprise how quickly it became the new flavor; Currently one of the most common and powerful sights in Duels. And while the hero power is essential, you have a lot of freedom in choosing your Signature Treasures. Most of them can do the job, leading to varied gameplay.
You still have your powerful package of spells and minions. If you don't own the likes of Ras Frostwhisper, don't worry - cheaper replacements can still do well!
You can find a number of successful Mage decks out there, the example below features one that TeamAmericaHS used to hit 12 wins. The rare prominent streamer still focusing on Duels, catch him on Twitch or find a selection of related videos on Youtube.
The old favorite. Or hated adversary, depending on where you stand. Yes, this hero power has actually received a small nerf in this patch - now you cannot choose which deathrattle you wish to trigger anymore, it's random and friendlies only - but this honestly doesn't change the strategy or the treasures you want to pick. Usually, you don't have more than 1-2 deathrattles on the board, and it's relatively easy to kill off your weaker ones when you want. If opponents don't do that for you. If you have more, it means you are already in a good position to win - or about to die due to being rushed down.
Bonecrusher has also received a nerf, quite a heavy one to its mana cost. It is now recognized as a proper (Bunny) Beast, but the tag is of little relevance at this point. You can still put it to solid use, it just won't be nearly as strong. And even before that, Deathstrider was already pulling ahead as a new favorite.
One take featured below is another 12 wins deck from TeamAmericaHS. Mind that bros Feugen and Stalagg aren't exactly necessary. You can still do fine with your Haunted Creeper and cheaper deathrattles instead. In the current meta Explosive Trap might fare better than either Freezing Trap or Cat Trick. Jdeg9142 from the community also offers a slightly different take with relevant commentary.
It's worth noting the other two hero powers for Omu still remain viable, they just require specific types of decks to work. You could use an old list and do alright. This new one, however, has become quite a menace. We know the story from Constructed - sticky small minions, going wide on board, a handful of strong buffs. Except there Druid never had a way to consistently generate treants with the hero power.
Several people went far with this list (or variations of) from nogood, a Japanese player. Cheap (no legendaries!), efficient, most likely annoying for your opponents as they frantically scramble for any board clears.
Or well, not really. Ever wondered how powerful Shaman might become if you could play your Overload cards at no penalty? Here comes the answer! And it is, unsurprisingly, extremely powerful. Should you stumble onto Plaguebringer as a bonus, then you can fully embrace the overpowered dream. Undeniably fun as well as very straightforward, enough to make people largely forget about the other two hero powers. Shaman is back at the top.
One featured build is from Andrea Persiani - you will find numerous such out there going all the way to 12 wins. Community member Jdeg9142 offers their own take along with a few notes. And if you would like some more down to earth personal commentary on the archetype, our own AbusingKel took a liking to it as well:
Remember that other overpowered class that used to hold Duels in their iron grip along with the Hunters? Still here and still strong, Willow just has to share the spotlight with more fellow Duelists than she is used to. Discard Lock with Dark Arts and Killmox, the Banished One remains as fine as ever, but there have been dozens of decks featuring that build to the point of utter boredom. It is somewhat refreshing to be able to experiment with different takes.
Soul Fragments makes for very imaginative mechanics, so to have an entire hero power based around cards that generate them is quite a novelty. An army of Flame Imps who behave and don't hurt your precious health upon summoning? Why yes, we will indeed take that!
Featured below is the build that nenko managed to take all the way up. C'Thun, the Shattered is not entirely necessary here if it's not your thing. You might as well go with the beloved "crowd favorite" that is Tickatus (just ask Avalon around these parts), or opt for cheaper tempo options.
Vile Concoction does not see much appreciation so far, and "Turtle Power" (otherwise known as Connections) has been badly nerfed a while ago, but many broken hearts have not healed. So it's sticking to the basics and smacking them in the face with the versatile Rogue-ish arsenal at your disposal. At least there are some new treasures to pick from.
Listed below is a deck from fumi, another Japanese player who managed to take it all the way to 12 wins. If you dusted your Edwin VanCleef for that sweet, sweet dust, let him rest in peace. You can use something as simple as Wandmaker instead, and forget the Defias dream. Yet another take on this build comes from proven Jdeg9142.
Sobbing Demon Hunter
Not that anyone might be particularly sad for one of the (former, presumably) tyrants of the Duels mode. As far as passive hero powers go, this one has been ruthlessly efficient. Now in its toned-down form, it should at least slow down the deadly offense, but that doesn't mean the class is suddenly dead and not capable of solid performances anymore. It merely has to play more fairly.
There is some room to experiment now by reviewing other hero powers and treasures - perhaps a new path opens up. Of course, the proven old way still remains as something to fall back on. Maybe you just go for a slightly higher curve and prepare to survive more turns while fighting for the board and chipping away at your opponent.
Since there isn't exactly any new data yet, one featured build from chrome (Japan seems pretty good at Duels) relies on what worked up to this point. Many cheap Demon Hunter cards are powerhouses anyway. You might want to replace Demon Companion with another weapon or anything else that suits your tastes. Jdeg9142 has decided to add a disclaimer to their own deck as well - as you can see from the early reports, the power level has definitely gone down.
Fair warning: going with the old trusted No Guts, No Glory might still be the best route for our dear Rattlegore. Especially in light of what the other classes have been doing. But, everyone has been rather stubborn about trying to get this new archetype to work. Clearly not yet enough trauma from drawing explosives in Constructed for the past couple of years. Admittedly I also have a love/hate relationship with the bomb concept. It can be a frustrating way to go out, but there is some smug satisfaction to be had in watching your opponents meet their inevitable end.
The main reason Bomb Warrior seems to cap at 6-8 wins on average is the reported lack of armor cards in the buckets you can pick up along the way. They happen, but not nearly as often as the support for Enrage and Weapon variants. People have been speculating whether Team 5 had properly updated them for the new additions.
Be aware of that and the fact that your opponents become less vulnerable to bombs at 40 health and with the decks consisting of well over 40 cards. You won't have an active hero power to help bail you out against aggression. Should stars align for you, madly cackling with glee at all the bombs going off could be excused.
Nope, you still won't be able to effectively kill people off with Mind Tether. The proven strategies with Shadow Mend remain just fine (as more or less standard Priest play, after all), but that's not what we'll be looking at here. The new flavor involves commanding countless parasitic Voidfiends.
Your job is simple: stay alive, stall, protect your fiends if you can as they relentlessly suck precious vital energy away from your opponents. Keep spawning more, buff where possible. Time works in your favor. It's something for the patient players out there, as the clock slowly keeps ticking towards the inevitable conclusion.
Shadow Word: Void was fixed to go off current and not base health of a minion (it could be even your own minion for a stylish finisher), but you still have the actual board limitations keeping it in check. While it does fit the deck thematically, nothing stops you from trying your luck with different Signature Treasures. We haven't seen many reports of such dominant Priest runs just yet, so the starting cards aren't exactly set in stone either.
Paladins didn't receive much love beyond a lower mana cost for Royal Greatsword, and you can still try your luck with the strategies that involve pulling a few strong curated Legendaries, Menagerie dreams, or go down the route of "dudes" (that is, Silver Hand Recruits with the hero power, treasure, and relevant buff cards. But the newest direction looks towards giving everyone the Dark Conviction treatment.
It's actually a pretty fun concept, naturally lending itself towards smaller, sticky minions. Your own hero power won't be able to generate any for you (which is a weird feeling for the class), so you need to make sure you won't run out of fuel. On the upside, you won't need to worry about any large threats from your opponents - simply bring them down to your level.
No one has taken it all the way yet (that we know of), and there might be more room to experiment with the strategy and the cards themselves.
That about sums it up for the time being. The current Duels meta is very fresh and hopefully remains a little slower and more balanced as we go, which means there might still be options left to discover. Perhaps you can figure out your own way for the less popular classes. It doesn't have to be something high like 7-12 wins, seeing as you can recoup your Tavern Ticket investment with just a few victories (worst-case scenario, you still get the pack with a bit of gold/dust).
If you have any insights, observations, and experiences of your own, do let us know below in the comments! A single person can only find out so much. And if you would like to share your own creations with the world or recreate anything you stumbled upon elsewhere, our Deckbuilder is at your service.