With a major round of nerfs on the way, it's anyone's guess what the meta will look like on Monday. Of course, we'll try to guess anyway. In our second Standard meta report, we take a look at the past week of movement from five to Legend, with a special focus on the archetypes that could see their prospects improve after the upcoming patch. As always, this report was created through experience at the top of the Americas ladder and data sourced from HSReplay.
Aggro Combo Priest is officially the top dog, beating out Control Warrior for the highest winrate between ranks five and one. Anduin’s doing fine at Legend, too; he’s feasting on the glut of Highlander Mages at the game’s highest ranks. But Priest’s main competition at Legend comes from an unlikely source. Sort of. It’s still Garrosh, of course, but this time, he’s beating your face in with Enrage minions and Arcanite Reaper instead of outvaluing you through Dr. Boom.
Crazy as it sounds, Highlander Warrior has vaulted its way to the peak of Tier 1 for just a few days. Even weirder is that Garrosh has a second successful, non-Control option; Aggro Warrior is sitting atop Tier 2 at Legend. Aggro Warrior is followed closely by Highlander Hunter and Secret Hunter, the only two decks that seem capable of keeping Aggro Combo Priest in check.
Highlander Mage is still the most popular deck at Legend, but its winrate has fallen over the past week. Jaina’s walking a thin tightrope, balancing between a favorable matchup against Control Warrior and an unfavorable (some would say deplorable) one against Aggro Combo Priest.
Outside of Legend, Highlander Mage and Control Warrior jockey for position as the most popular decks between ranks five and one. Combo Priest remains dramatically underplayed at lower ranks, but with the incoming nerf to Extra Arms, we don’t expect the situation to change. Quest Shaman, despite underwhelming results, holds true as the most popular deck at rank five.
Quest Druid continues to disappoint across all ranks. It’s floating at the bottom of Tier 3 at Legend, which isn’t a surprise, since the deck still sucks against the format’s power players, including Aggro Combo Priest, Highlander Hunter, Control Warrior and Highlander Mage. Unfortunately, Quest Druid’s also bad against aggressive decks, so it’s fallen out of favor at lower ranks, too, reaching its lowest playrate of the past three weeks. The player base is giving up on this archetype.
Elsewhere, things aren’t much better for Malfurion. Malygos Druid has fallen off the map, turning in poor performances between ranks five and Legend. The deck loses against everything good right now, and its popularity has taken a corresponding hit over the last week. The same holds true for Token Druid, a deck with a consistent losing record at higher ranks of play. Token Druid’s popularity has cratered over the past two weeks.
For devotees of Rexxar, Hunter continues to show strong results, no matter which flavor of the class you choose. Highlander and Secret Hunter are still excellent choices at higher ranks, thanks to outstanding matchups against Aggro Combo Priest, Highlander Mage and Control Warrior, the three most popular decks at Legend. These matchups will only improve when the nerfs go live, but it’s far from certain that either Highlander or Secret Hunter will be cemented as the format’s most powerful deck. Both Hunter archetypes suffer from unfavorable matchups against the format's aggressive options, which are likely to become more prevalent after Monday.
For now, Highlander and Secret Hunter remain consistent winners at Legend, coming in as the third and fourth most powerful decks respectively at the highest level of play. Highlander Hunter has proved remarkably consistent over time; both at Legend and between ranks five and one, the deck’s positive winrate has remained constant for the past two weeks.
In part due to this consistency of performance, Highlander lists now account for over 50% of Hunter decks at higher levels of play, only dropping below that mark when you include ranks ten through six in the analysis. Few refinements to the deck have been made in the past week, though it warrants mention that the list with Ursatron (to pull Zilliax) and Savannah Highmane appears to have become the standard.
Secret Hunter is even more stayed in its development, the only relevant deckbuilding choice being the Secret package. Most players seem to be prevaricating over the number of Snake Traps to include, so it’s worth noting that Snake Trap, besides Snipe, is the highest performing Secret in the deck by played winrate.
At lower ranks, Mech Hunter is making a serious comeback, at least in terms of winrate, if not popularity. Though the deck only comprises about 2% of the meta between five and Legend, Mech Hunter’s outperforming its brethren at several key ranks. At rank four, for example, Mech Hunter is currently the second strongest deck in the game, edging out Murloc Shaman at the top of Tier 2. Unfortunate for fans of novelty, Mech Hunter features no new cards from Saviors of Uldum; the deck relies solely on the winning combination of Mechs from The Boomsday Project.
Surprise surprise. Highlander Mage is no longer Jaina’s best performer at Legend. That honor goes to Control Mage, which sits comfortably in the middle of Tier 2. Not that Highlander Mage isn’t close behind; the two decks are only separated by half a percentage point in winrate.
But for now, Control Mage has surpassed Highlander Mage in winrate, both at Legend and lower ranks. It’s too bad because the nerf hammer is likely to hit Control Mage harder than Highlander, in part because the player base’s interest in the deck was already waning. The changes to Conjurer’s Calling and Luna’s Pocket Galaxy are probably the final nails in the coffin. Outside of finishers like King Phaoris and Alexstrasza, Calling and Pocket Galaxy served as Control Mage’s biggest power plays, with played winrates north of 65%.
We already know from experience that Pocket Galaxy is unplayable at seven mana. The same probably isn’t true for Conjurer’s Calling; we’d guess it’ll remain an extremely-powerful play at four. As a singleton deck, Highlander Mage can probably still afford to run Calling; the ability to effectively run two copies of the same card in a Highlander deck (thanks to the magic of Twinspell) cannot be understated. Now, Calling’s just a bit slower, but no one was playing it on turn 3 anyway. Pocket Galaxy is a bigger hit because it makes all of the deck’s power plays significantly weaker, which is to say that the likely effect of this particular nerf is uncertain.
One thing about Highlander Mage, however, is unquestionable: this deck is popular, extremely popular; it’s the most played deck at Legend, accounting for almost 60% of all Mage decks at higher ranks. Outside of Legend, Highlander Mage is likewise dominant in popularity, comprising between 10% and 13.5% of the meta depending on your rank between one and four. That’s all going to change when the nerfs go live on Monday, but Highlander Mage could still squeak out wins in the aftermath, because one of its worst matchups, Aggro Combo Priest, is also being nerfed.
Murlocs remain a semi-successful strategy for Uther at lower ranks; Murloc Paladin sits between Secret Hunter and Control Mage in the middle of Tier 2 for ranks five to one. The deck preys on slower builds (including its brother, Quest Paladin, the seventh most played deck at rank five), but enjoys the most success against the meta’s current glut of Hunters. Murloc Paladin is crushing Rexxar, sporting winrates above 60% against both Highlander and Secret lists. That’s especially important at ranks three and four, where Highlander Hunter is currently the third most popular deck.
Matchups against Hunter aside, the meta has become distinctly unfavorable for Murloc Paladin. Over the past two weeks, we’ve watched a “rock-paper-scissors” dynamic crystallize between ranks five and Legend, as Control Warrior, Highlander Mage and Aggro Combo Priest vie for supremacy as the most popular decks in the game. Murloc Paladin loses to all three with regularity. The polarization becomes ever more apparent as you move higher on the ladder, contributing to a steady decline in the deck’s playrate. At Legend, Murloc Paladin is the eighth most played deck, maintaining a winrate barely above 50%. As it stands, Uther’s fishy hordes are no match for Jaina, Anduin and Garrosh at higher ranks.
Needless to say, Murloc Paladin should enjoy a bump in success with the incoming nerfs, as its worst matchups get worse themselves. Perhaps more important, though, is the expected increase in Hunter, which Murloc Paladin stomps on the regular. If Hunter’s popularity explodes, Murloc Paladin should have a good time in the post-patch meta.
Quest Paladin may be suitable for play at low ranks (by which we mean ranks 20 to 5, where the deck’s winrate hovers near 53%), but the list craters once you reach rank five. No changes here from last week. Combo Priest and Highlander Mage are still big problems; those meta mainstays absolutely stomp Uther at higher levels of play. The matchup against Combo Priest is particularly atrocious; Anduin wins nearly 85% of these games (turns out Holy Ripple, when comboed with Wild Pyromancer, is a pretty efficient way to deal with Reborn minions).
As has always been the case, Quest Paladin folds in the face of aggressive lists; the deck has no chance against Murloc Shaman, Zoo Warlock and Aggro Warrior. The coming nerfs will likely lead to even greater polarization. The meta’s two major control archetypes, Control Warrior and Control Mage, are getting significantly worse, which should lead to an efflorescence of aggressive, board-based strategies, precisely the decks for which Quest Paladin has no answer. For Uther, the only bright spot is the nerf to Aggro Combo Priest, which will have a harder time setting up favorable value trades in the early game.
It was a good run while it lasted. For two brief weeks, Priest was the talk of the town. Now, Anduin gets one last hurrah before lapsing back into obscurity, a final day in which to dominate the meta. Or not. There’s an outside chance that Aggro Combo Priest remains competitive, but its winrate will surely suffer from the coming nerf to Extra Arms.
But let’s take a moment to remember the good times. Aggro Combo Priest is currently the second most played deck at Legend and the third most popular at ranks one and two. The winrate, though, is what you really need to consider. As it stands, Aggro Combo Priest is the sole occupant of Tier 1 between ranks two and four. At Legend, the deck’s jockeying for the top spot with a new entrant to the meta, Highlander Warrior. Whatever rank you play, Aggro Combo Priest was your best chance at moving up the ladder. So you have one last day to enjoy the exceptional matchups against Mage, the utter dominance over Quest Paladin...one last day to stomp Quest Shaman and eviscerate Quest Druid. We call ‘em salad days where I come from.
That’s all you get because the nerf to Extra Arms is gonna hurt. Real bad.
Extra Arms is the glue holding Aggro Combo Priest together. It’s a buff, facilitating value trades, and with an accompanying heal, it’s pseudo-removal. It cements board control and augments every Divine Spirit / Inner Fire combo. It’s what you want to do on turn two, period.
Extra Arms helps Anduin achieve every one of his goals. Now, all of those goals come a turn later, which is a hard pill to swallow for a deck that lives and dies by the tempo it generates in the early turns. Maintaining board control is part and parcel of Aggro Combo Priest’s success; this deck loses when it loses the board. So it’s gonna hurt because Extra Arms (outside of finishers like Inner Fire and Topsy Turvy) is the deck’s most powerful card.
Without a strong turn-2 buff, Aggro Combo Priest is no longer the nimble engine of suffering it once was. All those board-based battles are gonna get harder, and they were already shaky ground for Aggro Combo Priest. Control matchups are going to be tough, too, because there’s less of an opportunity to snowball your one-drops and frustrate early removal options.
This might get rough. Anduin, we barely knew ya.
It’s been a surprising comeback week for Rogue. At Legend, Tempo Rogue’s popularity has rebounded after a brief brush with irrelevance in early August. A similar trend can be observed between ranks five and one, with Valeera’s SMORC deck now comprising between 6% and 8% of the meta depending on where you play. Tempo Rogue’s riding high on the increasing popularity of Hunter, along with the continued popularity of Mage. These are good matchups for Valeera; Highlander Mage, in particular, has no answer for the early aggression.
It’s not that Tempo Rogue’s winrate is outstanding or anything; at Legend and rank one, the deck’s a moderate contender for the low end of Tier 2. It’s a better choice at ranks two and three, where it is vying with control archetypes and Aggro Warrior for the top of Tier 2. At lower ranks, the deck should perform well, with great matchups against Quest Shaman and Highlander Mage, the first and third most popular decks at rank five.
Looking ahead, Tempo Rogue may be one of the biggest winners from the coming round of nerfs. As we’ve long known, Dr. Boom, Mad Genius is a huge problem for Rogue; it comes down to provide Garrosh with a critical heal right when Valeera is looking to set up lethal. With Dr. Boom at nine mana, Tempo Rogue should have ample time to close out the game. That’s especially true now, because the deck relies so much on burst from hand, making Warrior’s waves of early- to mid-game removal less salient.
The nerfs may be a double-edged sword, though. If aggressive decks flourish in the post-patch meta, Tempo Rogue could have a difficult time separating itself from the pack, particularly if traditionally-poor matchups like Aggro Shaman and Murloc Paladin become more popular in the space left behind by the Mad Genius.
Quest Shaman remains extremely popular at lower ranks. At rank five, it’s still the most played deck in the game, before falling in representation as you move higher on the ladder. At higher ranks, Quest Shaman faces a slew of poor matchups, which makes its relative popularity at Legend kind of surprising. Despite losing out big time to Mage, Aggro Combo Priest, Control Warrior and Highlander Hunter, Quest Shaman’s still the sixth most popular deck at Legend, representing about 6% of the Legend meta.
So what happens when the nerfs drop? Outside of an unfavorable matchup against Tempo Rogue, Quest Shaman holds its ground against more aggressive strategies, including Murloc Shaman, Zoo Warlock and Murloc Paladin. It’s plausible that the deck becomes more powerful after the nerfs take effect since most of its worst matchups are getting hit by changes.
The nerf to Extra Arms is especially promising for the deck’s chances at higher ranks; currently, Quest Shaman loses almost 65% of its games against Aggro Combo Priest. At the same time, we expect Highlander Hunter’s playrate to increase, which would serve to dampen Thrall’s spirits considerably.
For Aggro Shaman, the nerfs are likely to prove a mixed bag. The deck already profits from a favorable matchup against Combo Priest but has difficulty handling Highlander Mage and Highlander Hunter. Any reduction in the playrate of Mage is good for Thrall, but it’s probably going to be balanced out by an increase in Hunters. The major change, of course, comes in the form of Dr. Boom, Mad Genius, a perennial thorn in Aggro Shaman’s side. With a slower Boom, Aggro Shaman should have an easier time setting up lethal, but Warrior will still possess a full suite of removal options to frustrate Thrall’s attempts to gain board.
Murloc Shaman continues to punch above its weight between ranks five and one, where it dominates Paladins, Priests and Hunters. Things are probably going to get a bit harder, though. If board-based strategies are emboldened by the nerfs to Control Warrior and Control Mage, Murloc Shaman’s poor matchups against Rogue, Zoo Warlock and Aggro Warrior look poised to become more prevalent.
Zoo didn’t have a good week. After peaking at the beginning of August, the deck’s winrate has fallen considerably, especially at Legend, where Zoo loses more than it wins. On a good day, Zoo sits at the bottom of a crowded Tier 2 between ranks five and one, but has no way to separate itself from the pack of aggressive options led by Tempo Rogue.
Unsurprisingly, Gul’dan is becoming a less and less common sight on the ladder; Zoo ranges between 3% and 4% representation from five to Legend. It’s too early to say whether the recently-developed Highlander Warlock is a safer bet; though the deck’s winrate is positive at lower ranks, the sample size is far too small to make a judgment on the list’s power.
While it may seem strange to sound a note of cautious optimism, the incoming nerfs could improve Zoo’s chances on the ladder. If anything, poor matchups against Highlander Mage, Aggro Combo Priest and Control Warrior are likely to become less prevalent, opening a space in which Zoo could flourish. At the same time, we see a future in which Highlander Hunter and Tempo Rogue become more popular, and those are good matchups for Zoo already.
Now back to the doldrums. Plot Twist Warlock has fallen out of the game entirely. Nothing more need be said.
This has been a big week for Garrosh. Over the last few days, we’ve witnessed the emergence of two powerful Warrior archetypes that quickly came to dominate the Legend ladder: Aggro Warrior and Highlander Warrior. Add to these accomplishments the impending nerf to Dr. Boom, Mad Genius and Garrosh finds himself in an exceedingly interesting place.
It seems likely that Warrior players will continue to explore tempo-based strategies, but don’t expect Control Warrior to go away anytime soon. The Mad Genius is still insane value, no matter how much you pay to play him out.
Highlander Warrior is currently the most powerful deck at Legend, riding an insane winrate and dominating every matchup except those against Highlander Hunter and Control Warrior. It’s outstanding against Highlander Mage and great against Aggro Combo Priest. The sample sizes are still too small to draw confident conclusions, but from the preliminary numbers, it appears that Highlander Warrior was custom-built to break the Legend meta.
Then again, that’s also what we thought about Aggro Warrior, a deck that’s favored against Aggro Combo Priest, Highlander Mage and Highlander Hunter. Don’t get us wrong; Aggro Warrior is still super strong at Legend (only losing out to Control and Bomb Warriors), but the deck’s winrate has been volatile, dipping in and out of Tier 1 over the last week. We can envision Aggro Warrior becoming extremely strong after the patch hits; its only true counter, Control Warrior, is going to see a reduction in power.
Now onto the big news. At long last, Dr. Boom’s mana cost is being made commensurate with his power. At least, that’s the hope. Control Warrior should still have sufficient removal options to reach turn nine, but the nerf gives aggressive opponents two crucial extra turns to set up a tricky boardstate. It’ll be harder now for Warriors to feel comfortable taking a turn off to set up the Mad Genius. Plus, he can no longer be paired with a hero power, unless you keep the coin in hand for that purpose.
Make no mistake about it - Dr. Boom’s Rush battlecry is still crazy, irrespective of mana cost; we expect the Mad Genius to continue ruling the late game like no other. Even so, aggro players can breathe a sigh of relief. Tempo Rogue could be the big winner here; two extra turns means everything when you have all the burn in the world.
So there you have it. Garrosh spread his wings and embraced aggression, Anduin enjoyed a brief stint in the sunshine and Jaina...well, Jaina won the popularity contest. But it's all gonna change. Everything. Tomorrow. What do you think? How will the meta look different when we wake up on Monday? Is aggro the new black? Will a new control archetype rise to challenge Dr. Boom's dominance? Is Tempo Rogue poised for sustained success? We've all got guesses, so share yours in the comment section!