Welcome to the 10th edition of the Standard Meta Report, this time covering the week between October 20 and 27, 2019. As always, the Meta Report is based on an analysis of statistics from HSReplay, along with personal game experience at high ranks.
Nearly three weeks on from the release of Doom in the Tomb, Shaman still runs the show, having now reached play levels far north of oppressive. At higher ranks, nearly 30% of the meta is comprised of Quest and Evolve Shaman, both of which maintain winrates around 53% due to their undoubtedly broken Evolve and Mutate combos.
The popularity of Tempo Rogue continues to grow, a trend especially prominent at Legend, where Tempo Rogue is now the third-most-popular deck in the game, and rank one. Though Evolve Shaman is a poor matchup, Valeera has the stuff to challenge Quest Shaman and Aggro Combo Priest in the game for early board control, a particularly valuable talent at higher ranks.
After a week of gains, Aggro Combo Priest has experienced a dip in popularity, thanks to the overwhelming levels of Evolve Shaman in the upper meta. Acting as a natural counter to the unquestionably strong Secret Highlander Paladin, Resurrect Priest remains most popular at lower ranks, holding its spot as the third most-played deck between ranks three and five.
With a healthy matchup spread against the field, Secret Highlander Hunter has managed a slight uptick in play at lower ranks, but we've observed a notable decline in play at Legend. No doubt Thrall has something to do with that; Evolve Shaman is a tricky matchup for Rexxar. Mage is basically a trash fire, but Highlander builds have found new life in J4ckie's Big Spell build. Warrior players are futzing around with N'Zoth and losing because of it.
Malfurion has many reasons to be optimistic this week. Quest Druid retains sufficient late-game power to challenge Quest Shaman; it's a competitive matchup, but one that remains slightly positive for Malfurion. That's all to the good because the popularity of Thrall's Quest deck shows no signs of abating. Thankfully, Quest Druid has the means to compete against the meta's most prominent strategy.
Indeed, there are other trends for which Druid fans should be thankful. After explosive growth immediately following the Doom in the Tomb patch, there are signs that Evolve Shaman, a severe liability for Quest Druid, is in decline at higher ranks. Moreover, the projected increase in Aggro Combo Priest, a dreaded matchup, has yet to materialize. Even more important, however, could be Valeera's return to the meta. Malfurion should be licking his chops; Hidden Oasis is a crippling play against Rogue, and over a sample of 3,900 games between five and Legend, Quest Druid sports a winrate north of 62% against Valeera.
Limited experimentation continues in the Druid class, though we're wary of the direction. In recent days, Khartut Defender has been cropping up in some Quest Druid decks, including a Highlander Quest list featuring the ubiquitous N'Zoth package. In non-singleton decks, most players appear to be dropping at least one Hidden Oasis to make room for Khartut, but this feels like a mistake. In many matchups, including the one against Tempo Rogue, Hidden Oasis is the reason to play Quest Druid. Drawing into Oasis is often the only route to a victory in faster matchups. Sacrificing the immediate heal offered by Oasis for a minion vulnerable to Sap doesn't feel like the best choice.
Adding the N'Zoth package to Quest Druid may be a hedge against the formidable late-game presence of other N'Zoth-centered decks, but in this case, one would be far better to switch to a Malygos Druid, rather than fiddling with the standard Quest Druid archetype. At the moment, Malygos Druid wins out against Resurrect Priest in about 55% of cases (over a sample of 4,000 games).
Secret Highlander Hunter is declining in play at higher ranks, especially Legend, where (as we all know) Quest Shaman has become oppressive. It's not an outright terrible matchup, but seeing as Quest Shaman now represents nearly 17% of the Legend meta, Rexxar's 47% winrate against the deck isn't feeling great. Outside of Legend, the continued popularity of Resurrect Priest has become a thorn in Hunter's side. Anduin has the ability to choke Secret Highlander Hunter out, placing innumerable healing taunts in the way of Rexxar's board-based damage sources.
Non-Secret Highlander builds have all but disappeared between ranks five and Legend. It's not hard to see why; the matchup against Evolve Shaman is terrible, and the one against Quest Shaman isn't far behind. Alongside the slight resurgence in Aggro Combo Priest at higher ranks, Secret Highlander Hunter has proven far more resilient than Beast- or Mech-driven builds. Secrets are key in disrupting Anduin's gameplan, with the most notable examples being Pressure Plate and Freezing Trap.
Though the deck skirts by with a positive winrate between five and Legend, Secret Hunter remains a minimal presence. The deck isn't a terrible choice for the current meta at Legend, where it boasts favorable matchups against both Evolve Shaman and Aggro Combo Priest, but the player base is far more interested in Highlander builds. Over the past week, the climate has become singularly unfavorable for Quest Hunter, which exhibits a negative winrate between five and Legend; poor matchups against Evolve Shaman, Tempo Rogue and all flavors of Priest, especially Aggro Combo Priest, are a real killer.
Flamewaker Cyclone Mage is an unmitigated disaster, losing out to every prominent meta deck in the game. Embarrassing matchups against Evolve and Quest Shaman mean this list should probably be abandoned in the current format. That's exactly what's happened at higher ranks, where Flamewaker Cyclone Mage has become a fringe relic, but players lower on the ladder are still trying to make the archetype work. At rank five, for example, the deck is now the fifth best-represented in the meta, despite terrible results against literally everything.
Though Highlander Mage maintains the fortitude to contest Quest Druid, the meta may finally be turning with its full force against Jaina's singleton list. Strong early results against Evolve Shaman are promising, but the recent rise in Tempo Rogue at higher ranks isn't a favorable development; Jaina loses this matchup in around 57% of cases (over a sample of 3,600 games). Given the continued presence of Aggro Combo Priest, it's hard to recommend Highlander Mage for play in the upper meta. Jaina tends to perform against powerful late-game strategies, which means it performs better at lower ranks, where Resurrect Priest is ubiquitous and N'Zoth Rogue remains fairly prominent.
This week, we'll feature J4ckie's #1 Legend Highlander build, which replaces the N'Zoth package with a combo of Naga Sand Witch and Pyroblast, giving Jaina some much-needed burn to go over the top against N'Zoth boards.
Following on its success last week, Secret Highlander Paladin remains the most-powerful deck by winrate between ranks five and Legend. Outside of the Resurrect Priest matchup, Uther smashes at lower ranks, where he's having a great time facing off against N'Zoth Rogue, Quest Druid and Secret Highlander Hunter. Legend represents a less-favorable matchup spread, due largely to the prominence of Evolve Shaman and Tempo Rogue, both of which are poor matchups.
In line with these trends, we've seen a pronounced decline in Secret Highlander Paladin's popularity at Legend, but a corollary increase in play between ranks two and four. The prevalence of Tempo Rogue is something to monitor going forward; despite his traps, Uther tends to lose to Valeera's exceptional early-game removal tools.
Elsewhere, Uther's grasp on the realm is slipping. Standard Secret Paladin represents about 2% of the upper meta, but the player base's interest in the build has dropped in the face of poor matchups against Shaman and Resurrect Priest.
In the aggregate, Holy Wrath Paladin is a net loser, but favorable matchups against both Quest and Evolve Shaman may be a reason to stick with the archetype in certain pockets of the meta. Murloc Paladin remains a strong strategy (especially at lower ranks, thanks to strong matchups against both Resurrect Priest and N'Zoth Rogue), but the deck's popularity has managed to reach a new low; today, Murloc Paladin has nearly disappeared from the meta entirely.
Aggro Combo Priest is again one of the strongest decks in the game, with the decline in Secret Highlander Hunter at higher levels of play a welcome sight. The continued prominence of Quest Shaman is a great reason to play Aggro Combo Priest right now, and since fewer players than expected have switched over to Evolve Shaman, the pressure from Thrall may be lessening.
Still, we haven't seen much growth in Aggro Combo Priest's playrate, a fact perhaps explained by the simultaneous rise of Tempo Rogue at Legend. Tempo Rogue is the most-consistent counter to Aggro Combo Priest, winning out in the matchup almost 62% of the time (over a sample of 3,800 games between five and Legend). If Valeera continues to grow in strength, it could be bad news for Anduin.
Resurrect Priest remains the most popular control option in the meta, but the deck's supremacy is being challenged at lower ranks by the surprising popularity of N'Zoth Rogue, a deck it loses to on a consistent basis (truth be told, it's an abysmal matchup; N'Zoth Rogue wins about 70% of the time). At higher ranks, Res Priest is being held back by a poor matchup into Quest Shaman. Mind Control Tech is a hard counter to N'Zoth boards. Anyway, Quest Shaman usually has the direct face damage to circumvent Anduin's walls.
Following on significant growth last week, Tempo Rogue has exploded onto the scene at the highest ranks; currently the third most popular deck at Legend, Valeera now accounts for upwards of 9.5% of the Legend meta. She's similarly prominent at lower ranks, representing the third best-represented list between ranks one and three and the fourth most-popular at four.
The vast majority of players have transitioned to a variant of J_Alexander's latest Miracle build, which replaces an all-out face damage plan for a Burgle package featuring Shaku the Collector and Questing Adventurer. Thus far, the list is performing admirably on a consistent basis, boasting a winrate north of 54% over a sample of 26,000 games between five and Legend. Tempo Rogue has finally stamped out a place in Tier 1.
Though it barely appears in the upper meta, N'Zoth Rogue has taken a firm hold on lower ranks, leaping over Resurrect Priest as the primary control option at rank five, where it currently accounts for 6.5% of the meta. N'Zoth Rogue is understandably excellent against other control strategies, with punishing winrates against Control Warrior, Resurrect Priest and Control Shaman, but struggles mightily against any deck that attempts to take the board early. Quest Shaman is a natural thorn in Valeera's side, beating N'Zoth Rogue in over 60% of cases (over a sample of 10,000 games). In the current meta, this deck is better left on the shelf, unless the levels of Resurrect Priest in your pocket meta have become unbearable.
What can we say about Shaman that hasn't already been said? Quest Shaman is a terror, accounting for an ungodly proportion of the meta at higher ranks. The deck comprises upwards of 25% of the format between ranks three and four, dropping mercifully to 17% at Legend. Whether or not we've reached peak-Shaman is, of course, unknown, but the trend line continues to point upwards between ranks five and one. Things could get worse before they get better. Aggro Combo Priest is a reliable counter; if you're facing an intolerable amount of Quest Shaman in your pocket meta, it may be time to give Anduin a spin.
Evolve Shaman exploded in popularity after the launch of Doom in the Tomb, quickly reaching representation near 10% of the five-Legend meta, but there are already signs that the deck is on the decline. At Legend, Evolve Shaman's playrate is dropping, as it is between ranks five and one, falling from a high near 16% two weeks ago to a more-realistic playrate around 12%.
That's an excellent development for Aggro Combo Priest and Tempo Rogue, and a good sign for Quest Shaman. It's also a boon to Highlander decks. Truth be told, it's good for almost everyone. Despite the decline in popularity, Evolve Shaman remains an excellent pick for the upper meta, dominating the vast majority of matchups.
Poor matchups against Aggro Combo Priest, Quest Shaman and Evolve Shaman are troubling, but Murloc Shaman continues to display an excellent winrate worthy of placement at the bottom of Tier 1. Murlocs feast on slow builds that lack plentiful early game removal, making for winning matchups against Quest Druid and Resurrect Priest.
Warlock this week is the beneficiary of a new archetype, Highkeeper Ra Warlock, popularized and refined by Dekkster. Highkeeper Ra Warlock relies on a Mogu Cultist / Glinda Crowskin combo that saw fringe play before the latest patch but has truly come into its own with the re-introduction of N'Zoth the Corrupter. It's far too early to say whether or not this deck is any good, but it's a lot of fun to play, so you should try it out.
The combo is fairly easy to understand but requires multiple turns. First, you'll have to complete the Warlock Quest (Supreme Archaeology) using Plot Twist and ample card draw, then reach the end of your deck with control tools like Hellfire, Twisting Nether and, of course, N'Zoth. Once you've reached fatigue, use a Baleful Banker to shuffle a copy of Glinda back into your deck, then draw a free copy using your upgraded hero power. On the next turn, play your 0-cost Glinda alongside six copies of Cultist. Next, Grim Rally your Glinda to make space for a seventh Mogu Cultist, summoning Highkeeper Ra, which deals 20 damage to all enemy characters at the end of your turn. You can also discount some of your combo pieces with Emperor Thaurissan, allowing you to summon two copies of Ra on the same turn to deal 40 to your opponent's face (just Banker your first Ra then draw a free copy with your hero power).
Zoo's long slow decline in popularity continues this week. Gul'dan just can't keep up with Evolve shenanigans.
Our advice from last week still stands. Control Warrior builds centered on N'Zoth the Corrupter are inferior to those running the traditional Taunt package. CW is still having trouble clearing multiple N'Zoth boards, making the N'Zoth Rogue matchup prevalent at lower ranks particularly infuriating. Suffice it to say, Control Warrior is no longer a dependable choice for rising out of five, now that N'Zoth Rogue has become the rank's second most popular deck.
Still, we've seen an uptick in popularity on several Control Warrior builds over the past week. This is a modest turn of events since Warrior's playrate dropped precipitously after the last patch. No doubt, players are now taking advantage of the favorable winrate into Evolve Shaman, but the problem is that most of the interest in Warrior is being channelled into the N'Zoth strategy. This is a mistake, at least if winning is your chief concern. Stick to the bread-and-butter.
Aggro Warrior isn't seeing much play at higher ranks lately. That's perfectly understandable, given poor matchups into Evolve Shaman, Tempo Rogue and Quest Druid, the current darlings of the Legend meta. While still effective against Quest Shaman, the rise in Tempo Rogue is stealing Garrosh's thunder.
So that's the week that was. Shaman is here to stay, but Tempo Rogue is making a strong push at higher ranks. Resurrect Priest remains the control option of choice, while Control Warrior players are still enamoured of N'Zoth. What did you think of the meta this week? Let us know in the comments!