Welcome back to another edition of Meta Breaker! I hope you all had a wonderful holiday. It’s my pleasure to start off the year 2020 with a Standard meta that’s actually fairly diverse, although it surely has a lot of high-power decks. In case you’re new to the column, here’s a brief overview of the things we generally cover:
- Analyzing the current meta and choosing what deck(s) we’d like to target.
- Assessing the strong and weak points of our target(s).
- Identifying cards and strategies that may prove effective against our target(s).
- Building an initial version of our deck and trying it out against the field.
- Continually refining the decklist using observations and statistics taken from test games.
The Wild West
The new meta kinda reminds me of a lawless wasteland- there’s no one boogeyman that everyone can focus on and tech against. Instead, we have a bunch of terrifying decks of similarly high power levels that prowl the landscape, crushing unrefined brews in their wake when they have even slightly slow draws.
HSReplay lists 5 decks at Tier 1: Pirate Warrior, Galakrond Zoolock, Quest Priest, Galakrond Warrior, and Highlander Hunter. Although there are a lot of other decks at Tier 2 and below that can be real threats, these are the strongest decks we’re likely to encounter often on the ladder. Of these five, four are various versions of aggressive decks that pressure your health quickly, and the last is a control deck that indexes heavily on healing (so it’s naturally stronger against the other four).
For the sake of narrowing our focus, let’s take a look at the highest-winrate aggro deck from the bunch, Pirate Warrior:
How does this deck win?
Although Patches the Pirate walked the plank a long time ago, Pirate Warrior’s new tools from DoD have the deck back in full force. Pirate Warrior is an aggro deck that packs a lot of raw face damage as well as an unusual amount of card draw. Weapons and Charge minions continue to pressure you through the mid-game, and all their card draw can make sure they have enough resources to finish you off. If you don’t manage to stabilize the board within the first few turns, that can quickly turn into a turn 6-7 loss even if you have AoE.
How does this deck lose?
Pirate Warrior is essentially a Burn strategy- they rely on having a critical mass of face damage to close out the game before the game gets to a point where their cards are just pound-for-pound weaker than yours. They have a ton of card draw, so they’re not going to be out-valued easily, however. Instead, the most common loss case is when they fall behind on board- that causes them to lose out on the potential face damage from their non-Charge minions.
A Winning Recipe
There are a couple different vulnerabilities in Pirate Warrior’s strategy- since they’re essentially a Burn strategy, you can load up on healing/armor and Taunts. This is a great strategy for maximizing your winrate against Warrior itself, but it’s not great against Priest and whatever other high-value late game decks are lurking in Tier 2. Instead, for this meta, what we want is a small quantity of powerful healing and a strategy that generally builds powerful boards that can contain their early plays.
One strategy that I think fits the bill really well is Treant Druid- Druid as a class has access to plenty of healing/armor, and Treants can take over the board against Pirates in the mid-game. Another reason I think Treant Druid should be really well-positioned in the current metagame is that they have lots of tools for going to fatigue even though they’re a generally aggressive strategy. In the current metagame, any deck needs to be successful against a wide variety of strategies in order to be competitive- which gives me a lot of confidence for Treants.
Tree-Planters and Tree-Huggers
- 2 Shrubadier - Best rate for Treants in the early game. We’d ideally have this on pretty much every turn 2, and if you’re lucky it can trade with 2 Pirates on turn 3.
- 2 Dendrologist - Dendro’s used less for an early play and more like a curve-filler in the mid-game. There are a lot of Druid spells that are useful in this deck but aren’t good enough to actually be included, so being able to Discover the right one for the situation is quite useful.
- 2 Landscaping - Efficient stats for the cost. Getting 2 bodies for one card is great.
- 2 Garden Gnome - SUPER efficient stats for the cost. The best Treant generator by far, and the opportunity cost of supporting it in this deck is actually fairly low.
- 2 Aeroponics - Efficient card draw- with even one Treant, it’s an Arcane Intellect, and with two or more it’s a busted card. It also triggers Garden Gnome if you’ve got no Treants yet.
- 2 Force of Nature - The card’s not quite powerful enough on its own, but it triggers Garden Gnome and also has a couple other synergies with other cards in the deck that makes it a worthwhile inclusion.
- 2 Tending Tauren - Super flexible and good in most situations- if you’ve got a board already, it’s a decently-efficient buff, and if you don’t: well, now you do!
- 2 The Forest's Aid - Triggers Garden Gnome. Also, gives you an immense amount of staying power vs. Control decks going into Fatigue. Smart play is required, though- make sure you’re only presenting just enough of a threat to require a board clear, and no more.
- 2 Mulchmuncher - We’ve got all these Treants running around already- and what better way to take advantage of them than to throw all their corpses in the chipper? We can get a massively discounted 8/8 rusher as early as turn 6-7, which should be very strong in pretty much all matchups.
Orienting as a Control Deck
- 1 Goru the Mightree - The effect of this guy seems relatively small, but it’s massive vs. control. With this guy’s Battlecry, any one of your Treant generators gains an extra mana or 2 of efficiency. It also happens to buff any Treants you’ve got in play, which is a nice touch.
- 1 Flobbidinous Floop - You thought one Goru Battlecry was good? Try two! It’s not that hard to pull this off in a medium-length game with a lot of trading for board control, and if you do you should easily win the fatigue game. In fact, it’s usually worth saving Floop to copy Goru if you can afford it, but if necessary he can be played on curve quite well with almost any minion in the deck.
- 1 Sathrovarr - This is the secret sauce that makes this deck smash control. If you hang onto a 0-1 mana Mulchmuncher, you can combine it with Sathrovarr for: 2 8/8 Rushers in play, another one for free in your hand, and yet another one waiting in your deck. That’s a power play that should absolutely crush any opponent if you pull it off on turn 9-10. There’s also a chance you can get Sathrovarr off on Goru (in which case that’s obviously nuts), or you can even chain Sathrovarrs with Floop if you’re extra-lucky.
- 2 Ferocious Howl - Building our strategy as more of a control deck is the way to go, since we can go toe-to-toe in fatigue with basically any other control strategy. We still need to not die to aggro, though. The early turns aren’t always going to curve out super well since we’ve got all these expensive spells, though, so it’s nice to have something that keeps us alive and keeps that early mana from going to waste. We also have a lot of cheap card draw, and using this as a curve-filler around turn 8 to gain like 7-8 armor is great against aggro.
- 2 Anubisath Defender - The other part of the “Don’t die to aggro” package. Gives you insane tempo on the board with Force of Nature (most Pirate Warriors auto-lose to that play). Can also attack well enough if you’re the aggressor.
Weird Flex but OK (Flex Slots)
- 1 Acidic Swamp Ooze - This is a tech choice against Warrior (and to a lesser extent, Hunter).
- 2 Power of the Wild, 1 Savage Roar - Although we’re mostly a Control deck (hence no Treenforcements and no Soul of the Forest), we want some sort of follow-up to mid-game boards that helps us close out games. We could certainly tech the deck to be more focused on going to fatigue, but I think it’s more efficient for the ladder climb to just win while you’re ahead.
- 1 SN1P-SN4P - I wanted another curve filler that could be played reasonably early in the game, and the Grabby Crabby has the added bonus of getting additional value in the late-game if you’ve got the time and mana.
Here’s the deck all put together:
Venturing into the Wasteland
Let’s see how the deck fared against the ladder:
As expected, there was a LOT of diversity in the decks I faced- the only repeat offender was Galakrond Shaman (Lul), which supports my hypothesis that a successful brew needs to be successful against a wide variety of strategy of strategies in the current meta.
I’ve played a lot of Treant Druid before, but the problem usually seemed to be that it was hard to take advantage of Goru in a strategy that’s usually built to be aggressive. I found that with the more controlling angle, it was much easier to get Goru out on time and have his effect make a real impact. In that sense I certainly liked the deck, although it may have turned out to be a little weaker in the early turns than I originally anticipated. It also had some trouble dealing with big Taunts, but that's historically been a weakness for Druid and I'm not overly concerned about it.
Moving forward, I actually think this deck’s positioned pretty well against most meta decks, but I’d make one of the following changes:
-1 The Forest's Aid, -1 Tending Tauren, +2 Treenforcements: Indexing more towards the early game. I didn’t encounter too many straight-up aggro decks, but when I did, I felt that the early game was a bit more of a weakness than I was expecting.
-1 SN1P-SN4P, -1 Acidic Swamp Ooze, +2 Belligerent Gnome: I think the Gnome is quite well-positioned in the current meta actually, what with all these little dudes running around, and he’s great to stick around and get buffed by Power of the Wild. This change helps a lot against Galakrond Warlock Zoo.
That’s all for this week of Meta Breaker, folks. Happy New Year! Let us know what you thought of today’s deck and how you’d change it in the comments.