Hello and welcome to the fifth edition of the Standard Meta Report, our weekly look at the Standard ladder. This time we’re covering the week between September 8 and September 15, a period divided by the release of Patch 15.2, which saw an oblique buff to Elise the Enlightened and dramatic changes to the Discover mechanic.
As always, the report is centered around an analysis of recent statistics from HSReplay, along with personal game experience at high ranks.
Quest Shaman, Quest Druid and Highlander Hunter continued their firm hold on the meta this week but were superseded in both popularity and winrate by Aggro Combo Priest, the best deck in the game. Aggro Warrior took firm strides between five and Legend, winning a spot in Tier 1 despite slight decreases in popularity.
Paladin is losing steam; Mage has lost it entirely. Zoo and Tempo Rogue remain competitive but are far from outstanding. Control Warrior has taken something of a dive in the wake of stealth nerfs to its powerful Discover effects.
Quest Druid’s performance at Legend has fallen over the past week. Though Quest Druid is still an adequate choice at the highest levels of play, the renewed dominance of Aggro Combo Priest, along with an unfavorable matchup against Aggro Warrior, is holding the deck back.
Malygos Quest Druid received a sizable buff with the announcement that Elise the Enlightened will now duplicate cards from left to right, ensuring that combo pieces receive priority during the duplication process. Despite some hype, this deck is mediocre to bad from a global perspective; it loses big time to Aggro Combo Priest, Highlander Hunter and Quest Druid, decks against which you need to succeed to survive. There’s hope in the Quest Shaman matchup, but if climbing is your aim, stick to the standard win conditions of King Phaoris and Chef Nomi, both of which should serve well depending on your place in the meta.
Highlander Hunter continues to perform well at high ranks, second only to Aggro Combo Priest in power level between five and one. It’s still an extremely common sight on the ladder despite a small decline in popularity over the past week. Strong matchups against less-experienced Quest Shaman and Aggro Combo Priest players make this a dependable choice for the climb.
At Legend, Highlander Hunter remains impressive, taking the top spot in Tier 2. But things are getting trickier. The matchup against Quest Shaman flips from positive to negative, which is a big deal considering that Thrall comprises almost 15% of the Legend meta. Malfurion is another problem, as Quest Druid continues to hold the edge against Rexxar’s singleton deck. Thankfully, Highlander continues to display a dominant matchup against Aggro Combo Priest, the most popular deck at the highest level of play. Still prevalent, Control Warrior is another welcome sight on the ladder.
The traditional Secret Hunter build is still competitive, but this week’s breakout star for Hunter devotees is surely Quest Hunter, a deck now proving its strength on the climb from five to Legend. The big takeaway? Quest Hunter performs admirably against Quest Shaman; it’s a matchup in which Hunter’s wealth of Rush minion tokens is sufficient to control the board.
Things get hairy against other pillars of the meta; Quest Hunter’s matchups against Highlander Hunter, Quest Druid and Aggro Combo Priest are all negatives between five and one. Even so, the deck’s winrate has climbed over the past two weeks to become positive for the first time.
Alas. The dark times continue for Jaina, whose most popular build, Highlander Mage, ranks in at a piddling 1.79% representation at Legend. Both Control and Highlander Mage are sitting atop Tier 3 between five and Legend, but their chances of seeing competitive play are disappearing.
We continue to believe that Mage has a strong core, but with so few players trying out the class, the work of optimization has stalled. As others have suggested, the current meta is far too aggressive for greedier Mage builds, which means we should work to improve the curve for faster tempo starts.
This week, we're featuring a decklist crafted by BoarControl for play on the Grandmasters circuit:
Paladin is in decline across all ranks, despite renewed interest in a close-to-Highlander Holy Wrath variant, a staple on the Grandmasters circuit, and slight increases in popularity for Highlander Paladin. Quest Paladin is a disaster, especially at high ranks, where it’s being trounced by Aggro Combo Priest and Quest Shaman, the two most popular decks at Legend.
Murloc Paladin’s representation in the meta has cratered. Over the past seven days, the deck’s playrate at rank one has fallen from 9% to under 4%. Murloc Paladin’s popularity now peaks at around 5% in rank four, where it’s fighting for relevance against other tempo strategies, most notably Aggro Warrior, Murloc Shaman and Tempo Rogue. The deck still performs adequately at lower ranks, but it’s by no means outstanding, and we suspect the player base’s interest in this high-roll strategy is waning for good.
At Legend, Holy Wrath Paladin has reached 5% representation, with competitive (though negative) matchups against meta pillars like Aggro Combo Priest and Quest Shaman. Holy Wrath Paladin stands a chance against a good slice of the meta, and we expect its playrate to show further increases at lower ranks.
Highlander Paladin displays a mixed matchup spread against the format's top meta decks, winning out over Quest Druid and Highlander Hunter, but losing consistently to Aggro Combo Priest and Quest Shaman (over a sample of 16,800 games between five and Legend. The deck has seen increased popularity over the past two weeks, with a concurrent bump in winrate.
We knew this would happen. The deck’s too powerful, with or without Extra Arms. Aggro Combo Priest is once again atop the leaderboard, sitting at the peak of Tier 1 above Highlander Hunter and Aggro Warrior between ranks five and one. The story is much the same at Legend, where Aggro Combo Priest has beaten out Highlander Hunter and Aggro Warrior for the title of the best deck over the past week.
At the highest ranks, Aggro Combo Priest is the most popular choice on the ladder, comprising up to 17% of the meta at rank one. It’s the second most-played deck between ranks two and four, but dwindles in popularity at rank five, where it should be more than capable of finding favorable matchups; Anduin still handles Quest Shaman and Quest Druid with ease.
Beaming Sidekick is working out nicely, as is Bwonsamdi, the Dead, a powerful draw engine that thins the deck in the late game. We remain optimistic about the version of the deck we featured last week, which slots in one Topsy Turvy and one Silence.
Quest-centered variants of Priest continue to fall flat, in part due to poor matchups against the omnipresent Quest Shaman. Quest Resurrect Priest is currently hanging out at the top of Tier 3, and though the deck’s popularity has held steady over the past two weeks, its winrate remains negative. There’s just no reason to play this deck in light of Aggro Combo Priest’s strength.
Valeera failed to move the needle over the past week. Her best representative, Tempo Rogue, is mired at the bottom of Tier 2 between ranks five and one, still overshadowed in player’s hearts by the underperforming Quest Rogue. Tempo Rogue is now the eighth most popular deck between five and Legend, but it has room to grow, with positive matchups against Quest Shaman, Highlander Hunter and Aggro Combo Priest. This deck isn’t bad, and it’s slated to get better if we continue to see a decline in Control Warrior’s playrate.
Quest Rogue features a powerful late-game thanks to Tess Greymane. With ample off-class card generation, no two games feel the same, but the inherent lack of consistency in Quest Rogue’s gameplan has prevented the deck from seeing success. Quest Rogue loses to every prominent meta deck; while the Quest rewards a powerful tempo tool, it doesn’t win games. The deck’s stuck in Tier 4 and shows few signs of development.
As we mentioned last week (and the week before), Quest Shaman isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Sure, Thrall’s still the most popular game in town between ranks five and one, but the deck still can’t surmount the trio of obstacles in Quest Druid, Aggro Combo Priest and Highlander Hunter. Despite attempts at optimization, Quest Shaman’s winrate has yet to budge over the past two weeks, stagnant around 51% over 1 million games between five and Legend.
Murloc Shaman has now completely superseded Murloc Paladin, featuring stronger matchups against Quest Druid and Aggro Combo Priest, plus a slight edge in the contest versus Quest Shaman. Despite a terrible matchup against Control Warrior, Murloc Shaman is the more powerful deck and remains one of the best choices for tempo-minded players looking to climb. Given the deck’s prowess against Holy Wrath Paladin, along with the recent decline in Control Warrior play, Murloc Shaman isn’t a bad pick at Legend, either. This news has not filtered its way through the playerbase yet, as Murloc Paladin is still more popular across the board.
Aggro Overload Shaman saw a small bump in play over the past seven days. The deck’s found a winning formula against Aggro Combo Priest but is sure to be held back by poor matchups against Quest Druid, Highlander Hunter and Quest Shaman.
Much like last week, Zoo is chugging along in the middle of Tier 2, losing out to Quest Shaman but proving competitive against the meta’s other pillars. There’re faster decks for your climb, but if you like Zoo, go for it; with Control Warrior weakened, the matchup spread just improved. Our featured decklist from last week is still the most competitive version:
When the stars align, Plot Twist Warlock feels insane, but the deck has no chance against the meta’s most powerful strategies. Plot Twist has only three positive matchups across the board, and one of them is Control Warrior, which is declining in play. Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.
Aggro Warrior is really good. It’s probably the format’s best aggressive / tempo option, edging out Tempo Rogue and Murloc Shaman in both winrate and popularity. Over the past week, Aggro Warrior has vaulted into Tier 1 between ranks five and Legend, despite a slight decrease in playrate over last week. In light of changes to the Discover mechanic, we've swapped Frightened Flunky out for Injured Tol'vir, making Rampage a strong consideration because we more often have a damaged minion in the early game.
In the wake of the stealth nerf to Frightened Flunky, Omega Assembly, Archivist Elysiana and Dr. Boom, Mad Genius’ Discover hero power, Control Warrior is in decline, both in popularity and winrate. Long the meta’s premier control archetype, Control Warrior has sustained a true blow in the form of Patch 15.2. Omega Assembly may not be worth it anymore, and we’re not too optimistic about Flunky, either.
At Legend, Control Warrior has fallen to the bottom of Tier 2, something that would have been inconceivable not two months ago. But Garrosh isn’t going away; he’s been chastened, not eliminated. Control Warrior is still the strongest choice for managing board-based strategies in the game, and the matchup spread remains mostly unchanged.
And there you have it. Aggro Combo Priest is back on top as the meta solidifies around the trinity of Quest Shaman, Highlander Hunter and Quest Druid. So what do you think of the meta? Several decks have fallen out of Tier 2, but they've been replaced by new standout performers, including Quest Hunter. Are you still excited to climb? Is Quest Shaman getting you down? Let us know in the comments!