Welcome to another edition of the Standard Meta Report, this time covering the week from January 19th to 26th, 2020. Galakrond's Awakening is upon us! As always, the Report is based on an analysis of statistics from HSReplay, along with personal game experience at high ranks. 


The Overview

Eliminate Rogue from the format and things look pretty diverse. Of course, we can’t eliminate Rogue; Galakrond Rogue alone controls 23% of the upper meta. Include Highlander Galakrond Rogue and the proportion rises to 30%. Sure, Shaman is gone (completely), but the meta remains dominated by a single class. It’s getting pretty boring, isn’t it? 

Hold on, though. There’s hope, because Malfurion has arrived, all thanks to the powerful new addition of Winged Guardian. Alongside the rise of a new archetype, Wall Druid, a refined variant of Embiggen Druid has taken the meta by force, rising to become the second most popular deck in the format (basically overnight) on the back of excellent matchups against Rogue. Alongside a superb matchup spread, Malfurion has enormous momentum.

Secret Highlander Hunter is steady as ever, and may have gained another positive matchup in the rise of Embiggen Druid. Face Hunter, on the other hand, continued to decline (the Embiggen Druid matchup, in particular, looks to be a struggle). A soft counter to Galakrond Rogue, Quest Hunter also saw its playrate cut in half. 

Highlander Mage’s popularity has decreased (only slightly) since the latest patch, but the archetype still appears to be well-positioned in the meta, thanks to positive winrates against both Galakrond Rogue and Highlander Galakrond Rogue. In early results, refined variants of the archetype also look to be strong against Embiggen Druid. 

Paladin isn’t doing well, but you probably already knew that. After seeing a slight bump in play two weeks ago, Mech Paladin may have already reached its unimpressive zenith. Though it seems to have the resources to deal with Malfurion, Holy Wrath Paladin is as terrible as ever, mired in an unfriendly, Rogue-dominated meta. In the aggregate, Pure Paladin loses to everything, but we’ve featured a new take on the archetype that’s off to a (somewhat) impressive start. 

With Face Hunter in decline, Quest Resurrect Priest looked to be in serious trouble, losing out on a primary food source in a meta infested by Rogue, a terrible matchup for Anduin. Things may be improving, however. From preliminary numbers, Embiggen Druid appears to be a strong matchup for Priest, and if Malfurion can help to take the wind out of Valeera’s sails, all the better. 

Galakrond Rogue has met a formidable challenger in the form of Embiggen Druid. For the second week in a row, Valeera remained dominant, commanding around 30% of the upper meta, but now, her weakness to over-statted mid-game threats is becoming apparent. If Embiggen Druid continues on its meteoric climb, Rogue may have a serious problem. 

Shaman has been relegated to the dumpster, and both Galakrond Shaman and Aggro Overload Shaman experienced severe decreases in popularity this week. 

Warlock has entered a pronounced period of decline. Featuring one of the best matchup spreads in the game, Control Galakrond Warlock has feasted in the Rogue meta, but the archetype’s playrate fell again this week (despite the recent drop in two of its worst matchups, Galakrond Warrior and Face Hunter). Not one to miss a party, Galakrond Zoo Warlock lost steam as well, but continues to boast excellent matchups against Rogue and Druid. 

Bomb Wrangler is a very good card, but she hasn’t been enough to drum up significant interest in Warrior. The slow decline of Galakrond Warrior continued this week, a trend especially prominent at lower ranks. Pirate Warrior has all but disappeared. 


Druid

Appearing today in 7.1% of decks, Winged Guardian has seen more experimentation than any other card released in the first week of Galakrond’s Awakening. The card has single-handedly injected new life into the class, giving rise to a brand new archetype in Wall Druid and empowering a fresh variant on Embiggen Druid that has skyrocketed in play across all ranks. 

Malfurion is very popular right now. Together, Wall Druid and Embiggen Druid now account for nearly 13% of the Legend meta. Embiggen Druid has also captured hearts and minds in lower ranks, commanding a playrate of 6.8% between ranks five and one. Wall Druid, on the other hand, only becomes a significant force at rank five, where the archetype has become the second most popular deck with a playrate above 6%.  

Only time will tell whether Wall Druid, an archetype that seeks to cheat out over-statted Beasts via Predatory Instincts (then resurrect them through Witching Hour), can weather the storm of optimization to become a truly powerful deck. 

One thing, however, is certain. Pioneered by Hearthstone Grandmaster Thijs, Wall Druid is the hot new archetype of the moment, capturing nearly 5% of the Legend meta. But don’t let novelty cloud you to the numbers. The preliminary results on Wall Druid aren’t promising. Facing down unfavorable matchups against everything outside of Face Hunter and Galakrond Warrior, the archetype’s most popular variant has yet to crack a winrate of 50%. In fact, the deck’s success rate over the past four days has only trended down, bottoming out at a meager 43.9%. 

Of course, these are early days, and there’s room for improvement. We suggest the inclusion of Oondasta, a marvelous power play with Beast synergy, by replacing an underwhelming Innervate. Our featured build is the only Wall Druid variant to thus far reach a winrate of 50%, though we can’t say we’re particularly sanguine about the archetype’s future. So long as Galakrond Rogue remains the top deck in the meta (and Galakrond Warrior continues to decline), Malfurion’s progress will be hampered. 

No matter the fate of Wall Druid, Embiggen Druid may prove to be the true home for Winged Guardian. To call the archetype’s recent rise in popularity “explosive” would be an understatement. From a measly playrate of 0.75% four days ago, the deck has skyrocketed to a popularity of 15.61% between ranks five and Legend. Embiggen Druid is now the second most popular deck across the upper meta, posing the first true challenge to Tempo Galakrond Rogue that we’ve seen over the past two weeks. 

Better yet, the deck is winning, a lot, and in matchups that matter. Our featured build has posted a winrate above 58% over 9,100 games between five and Legend, cleaning up against Rogue, stomping Hunter and dominating Warrior. The Galakrond Rogue matchup is now a point of pride for Embiggen Druid; over a sample of 1,600 games, our featured build has won nearly 64% of games against Valeera’s most powerful archetype. You can’t Sap Winged Guardian.

With the meteoric rise of Embiggen Druid, Token Druid is now Malfurion’s second best archetype. Galakrond Rogue remains a problem for the archetype overall, but in the long run, Embiggen Druid may prove to be the true hurdle; in preliminary play, refined variants of Embiggen Druid have shown the wherewithal to consistently beat Token Druid. 

For the moment, our featured build remains the best option, edging out the matchup against Galakrond Rogue and dominating Galakrond Warrior, while beating up on unrefined Embiggen Druid lists and trouncing Secret Highlander Hunter. 

After a brief brush with relevance, Quest Druid is falling back into obscurity. The archetype’s playrate has dropped sharply on the back of uninspired results against the majority of the meta. In a terrible sign for the future, Quest Druid is particularly bad against Embiggen Druid.


Hunter

Hunter is doing pretty well, all things considered. Secret Highlander Hunter remains the class’ most consistent deck, boasting an excellent matchup against Galakrond Rogue and positive, though competitive, winrates against Galakrond Warrior and Control Galakrond Warlock. 

The best news of all, however, comes in the rise of Embiggen Druid, an archetype against which Rexxar has proven resilient; over a sample of 2,100 games between five and Legend, Secret Highlander Hunter bests the matchup in almost 52% of cases. Our featured build, which includes Dragonbane as a mid-game power play, seems to improve the Embiggen Druid matchup even further, increasing the winrate to a healthy 57.1%, while maintaining consistent positive results against Valeera, Garrosh and Gul’dan. 

After a surge in interest last week, Quest Hunter is falling back to earth, declining from a peak five-to-Legend playrate of 4.15% to a low of 2% over the past four days. In the upper echelon of play, this trend is even more pronounced - at one time, Quest Hunter commanded nearly 8% of the Legend meta; now, it’s down to 2.49%. Even so, the archetype remains an excellent choice for the climb, boasting terrific matchups against Rogue, along with a healthy winrate against the new Embiggen Druid. Face Hunter remains a stumbling block, but that archetype, as we’ll soon see, is on the downswing. The continued decline of Galakrond Warrior is another blessing. 

Despite success against Rogue, Face Hunter saw a decline in popularity this week, falling to a playrate of 5.32% between ranks five and Legend. Quest Resurrect Priest continues to be a pain, but the emerging matchup against Embiggen Druid isn’t looking good, either; over a sample of 3,100 games, Face Hunter lost in 46.5% of cases to the resurgent archetype. 

With Embiggen Druid ascendant, we now see the wisdom in packing more heft during the mid-game, when chunky Taunt minions can impede your progress. As a result, we’ve chosen to feature an alternative build of Face Hunter that includes Dragonbane, as well as one copy of Ironbeak Owl, which allows us to break through Winged Guardian

The synergy between Toxic Reinforcements and Knife Juggler has also become more relevant, both in clearing wide boards of Lackeys and dealing additional face damage. Knife Juggler in turn advocates for the inclusion of Snake Trap.

Fresh Scent has seen limited play as an addition to several Beast-centric archetypes. So far, these decks have performed poorly, but most concerning of all, Fresh Scent is among the worst cards included by drawn winrate. Despite a dominant matchup against Galakrond Rogue, the card has also underperformed as a one-of in our featured build, a Dragon Highlander Hunter list. Again, Fresh Scent appears to be the worst card in the deck. 

Licensed Adventurer has seen limited play in a few builds of Quest Hunter, but it’s too early to evaluate its potential. For now, we can say the card looks okay, not the worst in the deck, but far from the best. 


Mage

Highlander Mage saw a minor drop in playrate between ranks five and one this week, but maintained a representation around 5% at Legend. Over the past month, Mage has proved one of the most consistent presences in the format, seemingly unresponsive to the whims of the meta. As things change, Jaina quietly techs her list, improving a matchup here, committing to a loss there, but never straying from the overall game play. 

Well, things may be getting considerably better for Mage. Refined versions of Highlander Mage were already strong in the Descent of Dragons meta, boasting winning matchups against Galakrond Rogue, Highlander Galakrond Rogue, Galakrond Warrior and Galakrond Control Warlock. Now, Embiggen Druid is ascendant, and early signs suggest that the best variants of Highlander Mage could be exceptional against Malfurion. 

It’s a small sample, but it’s promising. Over 210 games between five and Legend, our featured Highlander Mage build has won 59.3% of games against Embiggen Druid, the format’s rising juggernaut, while maintaining its strength in matchups against Rogue, Warrior and Warlock. Hunter is a major weakness, but no deck has a perfect matchup spread. 

Animated Avalanche has yet to make an impact. 


Paladin

Paladin still blows, at least by Descent of Dragons standards. 

Mech Paladin is Uther’s sole winning archetype, but interest in the deck is poised to fall. After a substantial increase in playrate about two weeks ago, Mech Paladin’s popularity between ranks five and Legend has stabilized around a total representation of 1.59%. 

None of which is terribly surprising. While the emerging Embiggen Druid matchup is positive (57% over 910 games between five and Legend), poor matchups against both Galakrond Rogue and Highlander Galakrond Rogue (along with Galakrond Warrior and Control Galakrond Warlock) continue to depress the archetype’s winrate. Until major meta shakeups, we don’t see this deck making another comeback anytime soon.

Holy Wrath Paladin sucks against the meta’s leading decks, but there are signs of hope: the newfound surge in Druid. Embiggen Druid may well prove a good matchup for Uther; over a sample of 770 games between five and Legend, Holy Wrath Paladin has managed to beat Malfurion in over 55% of cases. That’s great news, but it seems unlikely that Embiggen Druid alone is enough to support Holy Wrath. And while Holy Wrath also seems to excel against Wall Druid, that archetype’s playrate, after an initial flurry of interest, has already dropped sharply. 

As always, no matter the build, Pure Paladin is terrible against the majority of the meta, but hold on a moment. The archetype’s early results against Embiggen Druid have actually been favorable. Hope springs eternal. For obvious reasons, there’s little chance of this deck breaking through without either major support (which, since Shotbot is highly unlikely to move the needle, we know isn’t coming in Galakrond’s Awakening) or ingenious refinement. 

Our featured build is a new take on the archetype, with a curve topping out at Silver Sword, the deck’s potent finisher. Brazen Zealotshould always be included; it’s excellent in this archetype, earning top marks in drawn winrate whenever it sees play. Over a limited sample, our build has secured an overall winrate of 53.4% between ranks five and Legend, enough to make it the most promising variant on ladder.

Air Raid has seen a bit of experimentation across a smattering of archetypes, including as a one-of in Holy Wrath Paladin (where it seems to have performed surprisingly well, earning the deck’s eighth-highest drawn winrate over a sample of 780 games). More appropriate (or at least immediately obvious) is the card’s inclusion in faster tempo builds, where Air Raid serves as a killer follow-up to Brazen Zealot. Along these lines, Air Raid has turned up in a Secret-driven Pure Paladin build, along with a variant of Mech Paladin, but neither list has seen enough play to register statistically yet. 


Priest

Wait a second. Despite the continued decline of Face Hunter, Anduin’s favorite matchup, things could be looking up for Quest Resurrect Priest (an archetype that held steady this week at a playrate of 5% between ranks five and one, while falling to a blip at Legend). Galakrond Rogue remains a terrible matchup, but there’s a new board-based strategy on the rise, Embiggen Druid, one that hasn’t yet mustered the ability to exhaust Priest’s removal resources. 

Thus far, Quest Resurrect Priest has looked very good against Embiggen Druid, earning a winrate of 58.4% against the archetype over a sample of 2,600 games between five and Legend. Even the best Embiggen Druid list, the one nearing a global winrate of 60%, can’t compete, losing out to Quest Resurrect Priest in 54% of games. 

If Embiggen Druid continues to rise, Anduin may have found the new prey he so desperately needed. And just as important, the surge in Druid is likely to depress the playrate of Rogue, loosening Valeera’s stranglehold on the meta. That can only be good for Priest.

Aggro Combo Priest still has potential in this meta. At the least, it’s far better than Quest Resurrect Priest against Rogue, which is close to a superpower at this point. With a fast start, the Embiggen Druid matchup also seems winnable. 

Galakrond Priest still looks to be the worst deck in the game. The Highlander experiments we featured last week have failed to take off. Most players have opted for the Leeroy Jenkins / Grave RunesBADCARDNAME combo, but these builds have only met with failure. The winrates here are truly pitiful. Don’t hold your breath. 

Dark Prophecy has seen limited play in a very strange (and obviously sub-optimal) build of Combo Priest, but ranks as one of the worst cards in the deck by drawn winrate. 


Rogue

For the second week in a row, Galakrond Rogue is the most successful and consistent deck in the format, earning winrates north of 56% on the back of excellent matchups against most of the meta. Even Valeera’s “bad” matchups, including those against Hunter, are entirely manageable. 

The build we featured last week, Tempo Galakrond Rogue, has overtaken the archetype, with triple the playrate of the next most popular list (which varies by only one card, Lifedrinker). Tempo Galakrond Rogue’s weaknesses are few and far between; Valeera loses points (and they are mere points) only to Quest Hunter (46.9%), Quest Druid (49.3%) and Secret Highlander Hunter (49.2%). The Face Hunter matchup is now 50%, perfectly even. Valeera’s path is clear. 

Or so it seems. Change is in the wind, a change named Malfurion. 

As we’ve noted throughout this report, Embiggen Druid is surging, reaching a playrate of 7.3% between rank five and Legend. This is no accident. Druid is surging precisely because Rogue is so dominant. Embiggen Druid has become Galakrond Rogue’s weakest matchup; over a sample of 10,000 games, Embiggen Druid beats Rogue in over 58% of cases. You definitely can’t Sap a Winged Guardian. And so a new challenger has arrived, and he seems to have the momentum and the tools to unseat Valeera. 

Despite maintaining a healthy playrate near 6%, Highlander Galakrond Rogue has entered a second week of decline, as players transition to the more powerful (and consistent) Tempo Galakrond Rogue. Without a doubt, Highlander Galakrond Rogue is the weaker of Valeera’s two primary archetypes. It also happens to lose the all-important mirror against Galakrond Rogue. 

The analysis only changes when you look at the Embiggen Druid matchup; unlike Galakrond Rogue, a refined variant of Highlander Galakrond Rogue actually wins against Malfurion. Whether or not that fact becomes relevant in the coming weeks is anyone’s guess, but our featured build has earned a winrate near 52% against Embiggen Druid over a sample of 710 games between five and Legend. 

Malygos Rogue continues to fall in popularity, reaching a playrate below 2% between five and Legend. That’s only going to get lower; Embiggen Druid wins the matchup in over 62% of cases.

Shadow Sculptor has been tested in both Quest Rogue (an absolute failure) and Malygos Rogue (not as absolute a failure, but not good, either). 


Shaman

Shaman is the weakest class in the game, but two rounds of nerfs will do that to you. 

Galakrond Shaman has yet to recover, losing to every deck not helmed by Anduin. With a winrate of only 44%, Galakrond Rogue is a poor matchup, but Embiggen Druid has proved even worse; over a sample of 520 games between five and Legend, Galakrond Shaman has lost in over 60%. Outside of Priest, Wall Druid, Control Warrior and Quest Rogue are Thrall’s only good matchups. It may be time to finally close the book on this archetype. 

Like Galakrond Shaman, Aggro Overload Shaman has struggled to find victories over the past few days, thanks to poor winrates against Galakrond Rogue, Highlander Galakrond Rogue, Embiggen Druid and Galakrond Warrior (a particularly pitiful matchup). No surprise the archetype’s playrate has dwindled to a measly 0.41% between ranks five and Legend.

Eye of the Storm has raised interest in a new take on Big Spell Shaman, but has not yet seen sufficient play to evaluate. Maybe The Fist of Ra-den is the breath of fresh air Shaman needs. Or maybe you want to watch Thrall wallow for a bit. 


Warlock

After reaching a representation near 9% two weeks ago, Control Galakrond Warlock has entered a second period of decline, slipping to a playrate of 3.64% between ranks five and Legend. Not that the archetype’s matchup spread has deteriorated much; Gul’dan is still extremely strong against Rogue, while refined variants of the archetype maintain an edge against Secret Highlander Hunter and Highlander Mage. The recent declines in Face Hunter and Galakrond Warrior are a blessing; two of Gul’dan’s worst matchups are drying up.

All this is to say that Control Galakrond Warlock remains one of the best-positioned archetypes in the format. If anything, the archetype’s matchup spread has improved over the past week, but as we can clearly see, an excellent matchup spread hasn’t been enough to maintain the deck’s playrate. If anything, we think the novelty is beginning to wear off. Playing Sacrificial Pact as a two-of just isn’t exciting anymore.

Whether the archetype can make a comeback is hard to say. Embiggen Druid presents another strong matchup for Gul’dan, but if Malfurion’s rise leads to a corollary decrease in Rogue, Warlock could be trading a superb matchup for one that is merely good. 

Galakrond Zoo Warlock fell in popularity once again this week, but we could see the archetype making a comeback if current meta trends continue. Alongside strong matchups against Rogue, Zoolock maintains excellent winrates against Druid, including Embiggen Druid, the new deck to beat at the top of the ladder. Our featured build excels against both Valeera and Malfurion. 

With Control Galakrond Warlock and Face Hunter in decline, it may be the perfect time to dust off your Knife Jugglers and play some Zoo. 

Twisted Knowledge has seen a bit of play in Plot Twist Warlock, but hasn’t yet reached a playrate appropriate for evaluation. 


Warrior

Is it just me, or is Warrior a little boring right now? Going by the class’ declining playrate, it’s not just me. The playerbase is tiring of Garrosh. 

Galakrond Warrior remains a presence between ranks five and Legend, hovering around a playrate of 5.5%, but the archetype’s popularity at lower ranks has really waned over the past week. Fatigue has something to do with it, but it’s also performance-related. 

Garrosh has been chastened of late by an uneven matchup spread, winning against Galakrond Rogue and Face Hunter, but losing out to Highlander Galakrond Rogue and Secret Highlander Hunter. Winrates for the archetype have been falling for a while now, and things could get rocky going forward; the matchup against Embiggen Druid looks pitiful. At least Bomb Wrangler, a very good card, fits nicely into the deck.

Pirate Warrior is dead in the water. The archetype’s long slow decline continued this week, as Garrosh found himself nursing a paltry playrate of 0.83% between five and Legend. Don’t get us wrong: Pirate Warrior still performs well, but there are far more interesting decks to try out right now. Our featured build has no problem beating up on Rogue or Galakrond Warrior, though Embiggen Druid seems to be a struggle.

After a brief spike in playrate two weeks ago, Highlander Control Warrior failed to drum up interest this week, declining in popularity across all ranks. 


In the form of Winged Guardian, Galakrond's Awakening has already introduced new life into the meta. Embiggen Druid is on the rise, posing a true challenge to Valeera's dominance. What do you think will happen when the next week of the adventure releases? Will we see more meta shakeups? Which new card will change the format? Let us know in the comments!

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