Welcome back to another edition of the Standard Meta Report, this time covering the (somewhat truncated) week between September 2 and September 8, 2019. As always, the report features an analysis of statistics from HSReplay, along with personal game experience at high ranks. 


The Overview

Over the last week, Aggro Combo Priest has separated itself from the pack once again, taking over the top spot in Tier 1 between ranks five and one. Some of the deck's best matchups, including Quest Shaman and Quest Druid, also happen to be the format's most popular lists, ensuring a healthy matchup spread on the climb to Legend.

Following on the heels of Aggro Combo Priest comes a jam-packed field of viable contenders, with a total of 13 decks vying for supremacy in Tier 2, separated only by percentage points in winrate. Alongside Secret and Highlander Hunter, Control Warrior and Aggro Warrior jockey for position at the top of a volatile Tier 2, Control Warrior's continued success proving in no uncertain terms that the nerf to Dr. Boom, Mad Genius was no problem. 

Mage has fallen off the map, though Highlander variants have a chance of improving on their post-nerf matchups. Rogue struggles to break through a crowded field of tempo decks, losing out in the aggro race to Murloc Paladin and Murloc Shaman, both dependable choices for the climb. 


Druid

Quest Druid continues to make strides at Legend, maintaining a positive winrate above 51% at the game's highest ranks. It's far from the best deck, hanging out in the middle of Tier 2 between ranks five and one, but compared to its performance before the most recent patch, any improvement is progress.

Quest Druid's current success is due in no small part to the deck's favourable matchup against Quest Shaman, the format's most popular list. A favorable matchup against Highlander Hunter is also promising, but things could get hairy if Aggro Combo Priest continues to climb in representation; over a sample of 19,000 games between five and Legend, Malfurion loses out to Anduin over 60% of the time. 

Between five and Legend, players continue to experiment in search of the best finisher for Quest Druid. Most players seem to have opted for King Phaoris over Chef Nomi, but Nomi is performing well and should not be overlooked. 

Token Druid comprises a tiny portion of the meta, topping out at 1.2% of the format at rank five, but it's found moderate success against the field, with positive matchups against Highlander Hunter and Quest Druid. With that said, the deck will never truly succeed in the format until it can shore up its deplorable matchup against Quest Shaman. 


Hunter

Highlander Hunter is well-represented in the meta, both at lower ranks and at Legend. It's currently the second most popular deck in the game from ranks five to one, and the third most popular at the highest levels of play, falling behind only Quest Shaman and Quest Druid in representation at Legend. The deck continues to perform well on the climb to Legend, pulling a winrate above 52% between five and one. Strong matchups against Combo Priest, Quest Shaman and Control Warrior have us bullish on the deck's chances in the coming weeks. 

Highlander Hunter's outlook is less rosy at Legend, where the winrate falls to around 51%. Rexxar still has trouble dealing with Quest Druid, which becomes particularly prevalent at the highest ranks. More mid-game threats, including Savannah Highmane, may be warranted. 

But Secret Hunter is making an even stronger showing, especially between ranks five and one, where the deck has captured the top spot in Tier 2 over the past seven days, falling behind only Aggro Combo Priest in ladder dominance. This may be a natural result of the renewed interest in Aggro Combo Priest, which Secret Hunter frustrates quite effectively. Alongside favorable matchups against Control Warrior, Highlander Hunter and Quest Shaman, Secret Hunter should be a top pick for play at Legend as well. 

Quest Hunter excels against Quest Shaman but falls flat in the face of Aggro Combo Priest, a deck we expect to gain in popularity over the next week. That's in addition to poor matchups against Highlander Hunter and Quest Druid, lists that remain extremely prevalent at higher levels of play. With winrates hovering around 48% between five and Legend (over a sample of 41,700 games), we aren't optimistic about the deck's chances going forward. 


Mage

Highlander Mage isn't as bad as you think. That's not to say it's particularly good, either, but it's currently sitting in the middle of Tier 3 with a positive winrate over a sample of 708,000 games between ranks five and Legend.

Needless to say, the deck's popularity has cratered since the nerfs, with a playrate hovering around 1.5% between two and Legend, but we don't think the situation is completely hopeless. Highlander Mage continues to enjoy a healthy winrate against both Quest Shaman and Quest Druid. In combination with its dominance against Control Warrior (62% against Garrosh over 7,800 games at Legend), we're not surprised that the deck's winrate has improved over the past week.  

Firebat has been a vocal advocate for Highlander Mage, and we've featured his deck list from the last Grandmasters session: 

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Control Mage and Cyclone Mage have fallen out of the meta entirely. We don't expect these decks to make it back into the meta this expansion. 


Paladin

In the face of Aggro Combo Priest's renewed vigor, Murloc Paladin has fallen back over the past week, losing its spot in Tier 1 between ranks five and one. The deck remains a viable tempo choice for the climb but is now overshadowed by other board-based strategies, including Aggro Warrior. Even so, Murloc Paladin remains a pillar of the format, peaking at a representation near 9% at rank one. 

Murloc Paladin's weakness against Quest Shaman is becoming more apparent by the day, though positive matchups against Quest Druid and Highlander Hunter are a promising sign for the deck's chances at higher ranks. The pressure from a reinvigorated Aggro Combo Priest may well be a sticking point in the coming weeks; though Uther possesses tech options, including Shrink Ray, to handle High Priest Amet, the ideal solution isn't clear.

 

Quest Paladin isn't doing well, with a negative winrate between ranks five and Legend. Hope springs eternal, of course. The deck remains dominant against Highlander Hunter, Quest Druid and Control Warrior, but abysmal matchups against Combo Priest and Quest Shaman can't be overlooked on the climb to Legend. Overall, the playerbase seems to be cooling on the deck's potential, with a steady decline in playrate between ranks five and one over the past week.  


Priest

Aggro Combo Priest isn't back, because it was never gone. The deck's recent performance is truly outstanding, best in the game between ranks five and Legend. Reflecting the deck's relatively high skillcap, we've observed improved performance at the highest ranks; the most popular list is winning more than 55% of the time over 7,800 games at Legend.

We've noted a few small dips in performance over the last few days as the meta adjusts to the deck's renewed presence, but Aggro Combo Priest remains a particularly good choice for the climb between ranks five and Legend. It excels against Quest Druid and Quest Shaman, two of the format's most popular decks, winning over 60% of games against either deck in a sample of 124,000 matches between five and one. The matchup against Murloc Paladin is also positive, though not as impressive. Highlander Hunter is a true stumbling block, but its own playrate has declined over the last few days. If that trend continues, Aggro Combo Priest should be uniquely well-positioned for the meta. 

Between ranks five and one, the most popular lists continue to feature Extra Arms, a card we now believe is too slow to play. At 3 mana a piece, Extra Arms and More Arms! are often played over the course of two turns, a dramatic limitation in flexibility.

The minions in this deck aren't getting as big as quickly anymore. In losing Extra Arms, Aggro Combo Priest also loses much of its ability to play as a midrange deck. Instead, we're forced to rely on the power of our Divine Spirit / Inner Fire combos, for better or for worse. Though explosive openings are still possible through Lightwarden, it's become harder to beat down on our opponent from the outset.

Beaming Sidekick seems an appropriate replacement for Extra Arms. The card stands out in both the early- and mid-games, protecting our key minions, facilitating value trades (as Extra Arms once did) and amplifying High Priest Amet's powerful effect. Bwonsamdi, an inclusion pioneered by Hunterace, is excellent in this deck, improving the consistency of late-game draws and providing yet another high-health minion for our combos. 

Though Holy Ripple is an adequate pick for the faster game at lower ranks, Silence is also an excellent choice, allowing us to burst through our opponent's defenses with Divine Spirit and Inner Fire. Topsy Turvy is also a consideration, providing more opportunities to convert on our Divine Spirits. One Silence and one Topsy Turvy, as Amnesiac played on this week's Grandmasters, seems eminently sensible. Mass Dispel is an under-performer that should be cut from the list. 

Quest Priest remains mired at the bottom of Tier 3. The deck's matchup spread is truly terrible for the current meta; it loses against Quest Druid, Murloc Paladin, Combo Priest, Quest Shaman and Control Warrior. In this case, Anduin's sole hope is that Highlander Hunter, the only prominent metadeck against which he can find his footing, becomes even more popular. 


Rogue

The fate of Tempo Rogue remains to be seen, though we hesitate to echo the dour note sounded by some. But first, the bad news. As always, Valeera's matchups against Control and Aggro Warrior are shameful, a fact that dramatically limits her potential at higher levels of play. Quest Druid is just as bad; in the past week, Tempo Rogue's lost more than 60% of its games against Malfurion over a sample of 16,000 matches between five and Legend. And, as others have noted, Tempo Rogue lost a tremendous matchup in the decline of Mage across all ranks. 

But the outlook is rosier elsewhere. Tempo Rogue maintains a positive winrate against Quest Shaman and Highlander Hunter, two pillars of the meta, as well as the rising star in Aggro Combo Priest. If Anduin indeed becomes a more-prevalent sight on the ladder, Valeera will be given plenty of chances to feed. Though the deck's potential is intimately tied to the popularity of Warrior over the coming week, we wouldn't be surprised to see Tempo Rogue vault into Tier 2 between ranks five and one.

At this point, Quest Rogue is a veteran loser, hanging out at the bottom of Tier 4 with Cyclone Mage and Plot Twist Warlock. Given poor matchups against all of the meta's most popular decks, there's little hope for Valeera in this instance, though we haven't seen the dramatic dip in popularity characteristic of an unsuccessful formula.   


Shaman

Quest Shaman remains the big story in the wake of the nerfs, at least in terms of popularity. As was the case last week, Quest Shaman is the best-represented deck in the meta between five and Legend, comprising up to 15% of the format at ranks four through one.

Despite its popularity, Quest Shaman continues to be met by meager success; the deck is holding onto a position in Tier 2, but has yet to truly spread its wings thanks to poor matchups against Quest Druid, Highlander Hunter, Combo Priest and Control Warrior. At Legend, Quest Shaman manages a stronger return, evidence of a higher skill cap. 

At lower ranks, most players have opted for the standard Mutate / Former Champ package, which has edged out Giggling Inventor as the mid-game play of choice. As of this writing, Former Champ maintains a higher played winrate than Giggling Inventor, though Giggling remains a viable tech against aggro matchups at lower ranks. 

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Following on its dramatic success immediately after the patch, Murloc Shaman remains a strong choice for the climb from five to Legend. With a winrate above 52% over 109,000 games, the deck is firmly cemented in the middle of Tier 1 between ranks five and one, where its profiting from favorable matchups against Quest Druid, Aggro Combo Priest and Highlander Hunter. Given the deck's low cost, Murloc Shaman is likely the best pick in the game for budget players looking to climb, especially now that most players have dropped Hagatha the Witch


Warlock

Ah, Zoo, the little engine that could. From ranks five to one, Zoo's chugging along near the bottom of Tier 2, winning about 51% of its games over the past week with favorable matchups against Quest Druid, Highlander Hunter, Murloc Shaman and Murloc Paladin. As is so often the case, the deck is a comfortable choice at lower ranks, where it tends to dominate faster matchups, but fails hard to the Warriors that become more prevalent as you climb higher on the ladder. Aggro Combo Priest is another problem holding the deck back, especially at Legend.

From a thousand-foot view, Highlander Zoo has performed better than the standard list as of late, exploiting a slight edge in the matchups against Quest Druid and Highlander Hunter. The thing is, these are already good matchups for standard Zoo; Malfurion is a particularly welcome sight. Since the standard list is better in truly bad contests, including those against Control Warrior and Quest Shaman, we'd say it's a better overall choice for the climb. 

What can we say about Plot Twist Warlock that hasn't already been said? The deck's popularity has actually grown in the past few days, but it's still one of the format's least popular choices. Plot Twist is another deck that won't be pleased to see the return of Aggro Combo Priest. 


Warrior

Garrosh is living high on the hog this week, enjoying considerable success with two archetypes, Control Warrior and Aggro Warrior, at the highest levels of play.

Control Warrior is still a reliable choice at Legend, missing out narrowly to Aggro Combo Priest for the title of the best deck in the game. Thankfully, there's no longer any sense in which this deck is oppressive; it's kept in check by Highlander Hunter and Quest Druid. Nor is it the most popular archetype, as in days past, coming in as only the fourth most prevalent strategy between two and Legend. We think the deck is underplayed at lower ranks, where it could feast on the format's aggressive decks.  

Aggro Warrior is putting up solid numbers, having taken over the top spot in Tier 2 at Legend over the past week. It's not much worse at lower ranks, where it's the fourth most successful deck in the game over a sample of nearly 248,000 matches. Thanks to its prowess against Quest Shaman, Quest Druid and Highlander Hunter, players have flocked to the list; Aggro Warrior's playrate has enjoyed dependable increases since the beginning of August. 

The numbers on Rampage are misleading; the card isn't that great. We suggest a pair of Redband Wasp's to ensure board control in aggressive matchups further. 


So that's the week that was. What do you think of the developing meta? Are you happy that so many decks are viable? Tier 2 is bursting with powerful options, including improved performers in Quest Druid and Quest Shaman. Looking forward to the return of Aggro Combo Priest? Let us know in the comments!