Welcome to another edition of the Standard Meta Report, this time covering the period between January 26th and February 2nd, 2020, a week punctuated by the second wing of Galakrond's Awakening. As always, the Meta Report is based on an analysis of statistics from HSReplay, along with personal game experience at high ranks.
Embiggen Druid and Galakrond Rogue are locked in battle for control of the format, but at this moment, immediately after the season reset, Galakrond Rogue appears to be the best bet for ranking up. In fact, Galakrond Rogue has already seen so much early success that the archetype currently accounts for 42% of the nascent Legend meta. Galakrond Rogue has risen to the top once again, both literally and figuratively. Here’s why.
Over the past few days, a counter to Embiggen Druid has emerged in the form of Mech Paladin. Over a sample of 9,000 games between five and Legend, Malfurion has lost to Uther in 58% of cases. In response to these preliminary results, Mech Paladin has risen to command nearly 8% of the meta between ranks one and two, where the climb to Legend is most competitive, becoming the third most popular archetype at the highest ranks.
Embiggen Druid is having a hard time breaking through the bottleneck created by this influx of Mech Paladin, but Galakrond Rogue isn’t. Mech Paladin appears to be an excellent matchup for Valeera, and she’s had very little trouble in reaching Legend over the past two days. If Mech Paladin continues to soar as a response to Embiggen Druid, Galakrond Rogue may well rise to become the strongest archetype in the format once again.
Hunter stands as the third most popular class in the meta behind Druid and Rogue. Dragon Highlander Hunter has emerged as Rexxar’s strongest archetype, on the back of exceptional play against Galakrond Rogue and Embiggen Druid. Quest Hunter is in a good spot, but Embiggen Druid has proven to be a problem at lower ranks. A great choice for the climb from rank 5, Face Hunter may find a serious hurdle in Mech Paladin beginning at rank three.
Following strong results at Arlington, Highlander Mage continues to command about 5% of the upper meta. A strong matchup against Embiggen Druid, along with a competitive one into Galakrond Rogue, are sure to buoy Jaina’s spirits going forward.
Despite strong results against Embiggen Druid, Quest Resurrect Priest has experienced a decline in play, as Valeera has returned in force to the upper meta. We don’t expect things to change much for Anduin over the coming week. Aggro Combo Priest is busy stomping Embiggen Druid, but the archetype’s overall matchup spread is rocky at best.
Shaman has been pushed out of the meta entirely.
Control Galakrond Warlock remains well-positioned in the meta, enjoying positive matchups against both Galakrond Rogue and Embiggen Druid. Zoo is a strong, Tier 2 choice for the climb, competitive against Rogue and outstanding against Druid. Handlock is swiftly disappearing from the format.
Galakrond Warrior is bad against Rogue and even worse against Druid. No wonder the archetype’s winrate and playrate are heading south. Highlander Control Warrior is a fringe deck at best, but poor results against Valeera and Malfurion are sure to hold the archetype back. Pirate Warrior has all but disappeared.
Embiggen Druid remains the most played deck at lower ranks, but the archetype’s field of variation is narrowing. Over the past week, we’ve seen a rapid exodus from sub-optimal Embiggen Druid lists, as players transition to the refined variant featuring Frizz Kindleroost. Alongside the season reset, which has winnowed the number of players at high ranks, the trend of optimization has led to an aggregate decline in the archetype’s playrate, which fell (at rank 2) from a peak representation of 28.04% to 18.50% over the past three days.
In any event, Frizz Kindleroost has proven her stuff, faring far better than the underwhelming Witching Hour, which consistently ranks as one of the archetype’s worst cards (both by drawn and played winrate). Frizz, on the other hand, comes in among the deck’s best plays, in part because any tempo loss she may represent unbuffed is counterbalanced by an early Embiggen. Frizz is too good not to include.
Embiggen Druid variants featuring more heft (in the form of Witchwood Grizzly and Oondasta, usually empowered by Stampeding Roar) have underperformed their streamlined peers. These variants are now thinning out as players transition to the stronger build we’ve featured below, which is far better against aggressive decks, including Face Hunter and Token Druid, along with late-game power players such as Highlander Mage.
The “heavier” Embiggen Druid lists have displayed a significant weakness to Warlock, but our featured build has found consistent results against Gul’dan, earning a 54.2% winrate against Control Galakrond Warlock over a sample of 840 games between five and Legend. To top things off, our featured build excels against Aggro Combo Priest, which has been suggested on the tournament circuit as a potential counter to Embiggen Druid.
Embiggen Druid continues to post strong winrates against Rogue, but the recent rise of Mech Paladin could prove a significant hurdle to Malfurion’s quest for dominance. Over the past four days, Mech Paladin’s playrate between five and one has more than doubled. This is a poor matchup for Embiggen Druid, one in which Uther prevails nearly 58% of the time (over a sample of 9,000 games between five and Legend). Whether Mech Paladin’s playrate soars further, posing a true problem for Druid, remains to be seen.
Wall Druid isn’t doing well. Following a short burst of interest after the release of Winged Guardian, the archetype has nearly disappeared from the format, falling to a measly playrate of 0.95%. Embiggen Druid has proved far stronger against the meta.
Hounded by continued pressure from Galakrond Rogue, Token Druid’s playrate stabilized this week around a mark of 5.5% between ranks five and Legend. All things equal, and despite Token Druid’s prowess against Embiggen Druid, there are better choices for the climb. Mech Paladin, in particular, is an emerging problem for the archetype; over a sample of 1,600 games between five and Legend, Token Druid has lost out to Uther in nearly 57% of cases.
In line with the explosive rise of Embiggen Druid, Quest Druid saw a marked decline in popularity at the beginning of the week, before experiencing a modest rebound over the past few days. At Legend, players seem to be returning to the archetype; Quest Druid now accounts for about 5% of the Legend meta.
Rising Winds has made its way into several builds with mixed results. Accelerating the deck's draw to empower Ysera, Unleashed can be powerful to build pressure in the late game, especially against decks like Highlander Mage and Control Warrior.
Despite a poor matchup against Embiggen Druid, Quest Druid continues to beat up on Galakrond Rogue; over a sample of 1,200 games at Legend, Malfurion has managed to win 54.5% of his contests against Valeera. A strong matchup against Face Hunter, now the third most popular deck at Legend, is another benefit.
After asserting itself in the last two weeks as Rexxar’s strongest build, Secret Highlander Hunter declined substantially over the past week. It seems more and more players are being seduced by the archetype’s Dragon-led variant, which has proven more resilient in the matchup against Embiggen Druid. Overall, we think this is a good shift; Dragon Highlander Hunter appears to be the more competitive build in the current meta.
Though still underplayed, Dragon Highlander Hunter has experienced significant growth of late, especially at Legend. The archetype is experiencing a renaissance in large part because its matchup spread is excellent right now. While the deck loses consistently to Face Hunter, Quest Hunter and Token Druid, it wins against pretty much everything else. Despite a weakness to early aggression, Dragon Highlander Hunter is exceptional against any archetype with a powerful late game; the matchup against Galakrond Rogue is particularly impressive.
We expect Dragon Highlander Hunter’s popularity to gain ground at lower ranks, matching recent trends at Legend. Interest should peak next week with the release of Rotnest Drake, which looks to be an excellent addition for this rising archetype.
Embiggen Druid has proven a poor matchup for Quest Hunter, but we continue to believe the archetype’s position in the meta is excellent, certainly sufficient for a spot in Tier 1. Outside of Quest Resurrect Priest (frustrating) and Face Hunter (absolutely abysmal), the archetype has few losing matchups.
With Rogue once again on the rise at the highest ranks, Quest Hunter should have no trouble finding prey. The recent ascent of Mech Paladin is also a good sign; though the matchup is competitive, Quest Hunter tends to win the contest, edging out Uther in around 51% of cases.
Thanks to a competitive matchup against Embiggen Druid, along with excellent winrates at lower ranks against Galakrond Rogue, Face Hunter’s popularity grew between five and Legend over the past week. If nothing else, it's a fast climber. And despite an increasing weakness to Rogue at higher ranks, the archetype is best-represented near Legend; Face Hunter’s playrate declines consistently as you near the rank five floor, where Quest Resurrect Priest remains most prominent.
Aside from the relative prevalence of Priest at lower ranks, Face Hunter looks to be a good choice this month, at least for the early part of your climb. Given strong matchups against Highlander Mage, Control Galakrond Warlock and Token Druid, which together comprise about 15% of the lower meta, Face Hunter should have little trouble climbing from rank five to around rank three. Things could get rough, however, between ranks one and two, where Mech Paladin is making its strongest push for relevance. From preliminary numbers, this looks to be a terrible matchup for Face Hunter.
Despite a strong matchup against Embiggen Druid, Highlander Mage saw a pronounced decline in playrate over the past week, falling to a representation of 3.64% between five and Legend. Thankfully, the archetype has rebounded somewhat in the last few days (thanks in no small part to its outstanding performance at Arlington); once again, as was true two weeks ago, Highlander Mage accounts for around 5% of the upper meta.
On the surface, little has changed for Mage, and we continue to believe that the deck is well-positioned, leveraging an even matchup against Galakrond Rogue and a strong one against Embiggen Druid, even as Galakrond Warrior, a poor matchup, continues to decline.
The recent surge in Mech Paladin shouldn’t bother Jaina too much; the matchup appears to be even at this point, if a tad Paladin-favored. With Jaina’s prowess against Embiggen Druid, and her competitive matchup against Galakrond Rogue, Highlander Mage should remain a mid-Tier 2 deck over the coming week, sopping up wins against Token Druid and Control Galakrond Warlock.
Not that it’s all smooth sailing. Hunter remains a significant problem, especially now that, with the season reset, Face Hunter is returning in greater numbers to the ladder. Worse, however, is the change taking place in Highlander Hunter, as players transition from the Secret-led variant to the Dragon build. Mage performs terribly against Dragon Highlander Hunter; it appears, as a matchup, to be even worse than the one against Secret Highlander Hunter, which was pretty pitiful to begin with. At the moment, Dragon Highlander Hunter’s playrate is too low for this to matter much, but if that changes in the future, Jaina could have a rough time.
Highlander Mage remains Jaina’s sole competitive archetype. Cyclone Mage has fallen off the map, and even with the release of Animated Avalanche, a new variation on Elemental Mage has yet to find an audience. Arcane Amplifier appears to be a solid addition to Highlander builds.
In response to the rise of Embiggen Druid, Uther has made a triumphant return to the meta. Over the past two days, Mech Paladin has surged in popularity, soaring from a position of almost complete irrelevance to become the third most popular archetype between ranks one and two. Whether this is a temporary trend or a long-term development is still unknown, but from what we’ve seen, the Embiggen Druid matchup is a cinch; Uther’s beaten Malfurion in about 58% of cases over a sample of 9,400 games between five and Legend.
Outside of Quest Resurrect Priest, Mech Paladin is the format’s only true counter to Embiggen Druid, so interest in the archetype is not surprising. We suspect that Mech Paladin is a particularly viable option at lower ranks, where Embiggen Druid continues to command over 20% of the format, but the climb at higher ranks could become significantly harder. Uther has not yet developed a strategy for Valeera, who continues to control the format above rank three.
Despite the archetype’s weakness to Rogue, we expect Mech Paladin to increase in popularity at lower ranks over the coming week; the matchup against Embiggen Druid is too good to pass up. Indeed, the lower meta is an excellent opportunity for Uther to shine, since Mech Paladin also features strong matchups against Face Hunter and Highlander Mage.
Mech Paladin has yet to reach a sufficient state of optimization; the 29th and 30th slots are far from clear. Micro Mummy, however, is better than you think, a surefire two-of. The early dalliance with Blessing of Wisdom should be forgotten, the quicker the better.
While the sample size remains low, we’ve chosen to feature a build that’s found early success against Rogue, while maintaining a considerable edge in the matchup against Embiggen Druid.
Outside of Mech Paladin, the class is a ghost town. Pure Paladin has disappeared. Holy Wrath Paladin is good against Embiggen Druid, but loses to everything else.
With Rogue surging to Legend, Anduin’s found little room to breathe. Despite continued success against Embiggen Druid, Quest Resurrect Priest experienced a moderate decline in popularity over recent days, in no small part due to Valeera’s return at the highest ranks of play.
Where the climb to Legend is concerned, the season reset is certain to prove a mixed blessing for Anduin, as we’ve observed rising playrates for both Rogue (a very poor matchup) and Face Hunter (a very good matchup). Needless to say, Rogue will continue to outnumber Hunter on the climb, so Priest’s chances of ranking up quickly don’t look good.
When the dust settles, Anduin could well find himself in the same spot as last week.
Mech Paladin’s newfound popularity isn’t bad for Priest, but it’s not particularly good, either. To be sure, Mech Paladin seems to be a strong matchup, one Quest Resurrect Priest has won in 62% of cases so far. But if Mech Paladin depresses the playrate of Embiggen Druid, Priest will just be trading one good matchup for another. That means Rogue’s popularity will be the difference-maker, and we expect Rogue to remain very popular.
Many sources have suggested Aggro Combo Priest as a potential counter to Embiggen Druid, but we don’t expect this archetype to make a roaring return to the meta anytime soon. So long as Rogue commands the top of the meta, Anduin’s dreams of dominance will be frustrated.
Don’t get us wrong - Combo Priest does very well against Embiggen Druid; a new variant pioneered by TIZS for play at Arlington has already earned a 60.2% winrate against Malfurion (over a preliminary sample of 200 games between five and Legend).
That certainly explains the recent surge of interest we’ve observed at higher ranks, but we don’t think this archetype is a meta-breaker. Far from it (in no small part because Rogue, not Druid, currently makes up the lion's share of the upper meta). In reality, Aggro Combo Priest’s matchup spread isn’t pretty; Anduin takes severe losses against Rogue, and falls short against Highlander Mage, Control Galakrond Warlock, Galakrond Warrior and Mech Paladin, too. For the time being, look elsewhere.
Alongside a terrible Highlander list, Cleric of Scales may have found a good home in several chunkier off-meta Combo Priest builds. The card's already earning top marks in drawn winrate, a result no doubt of the power in finding Divine Spirit and Inner Fire more consistently.
Valeera has reasserted her dominance.
In spite of continued pressure from Embiggen Druid, Galakrond Rogue has experienced yet another surge of popularity. Much of Valeera’s recent growth is tied to the season reset; it seems that many, if not most, players opted to grind their way to Legend with Valeera over the last two days, which means Rogue is now disproportionately represented at the game’s highest rank, accounting for over 42% of the Legend meta. Embiggen Druid has yet to catch up.
Statistics from lower ranks tell a similar story. Once again, ranks four to one have become a happy hunting ground for Valeera, who (outside of the poor matchup against Embiggen Druid) enjoys an exceptional matchup spread against the field. At the moment, Galakrond Rogue accounts for around 20% of the meta between ranks five and one, reflecting the archetype’s strength against Warlock, Warrior, Mage, Paladin and Priest.
With the upper ranks currently thinned of Embiggen Druid, Valeera seems to be the best choice for the climb to Legend. And Valeera may yet add another weapon to her arsenal in the form of the rising Mech Paladin, which has become the third most popular archetype between ranks one and two. For now, the matchup looks outstanding; over a sample of 5,400 games, Galakrond Rogue has managed to beat Uther in 57% of cases.
Highlander Galakrond Rogue’s playrate continues to decline, dropping to a representation under 5% between five and Legend. We expect that trend to continue as players transition to the pure Tempo Galakrond Rogue build. Malygos Rogue is a sideshow not worthy of your attention.
Skyvateer has been attempted in Galakrond Rogue and Highlander Galakrond Rogue. Having a pro-active turn 2 play is nice, but the card looks weak, consistently ranking among the worst by drawn winrate.
Shaman is so totally dead. With Malfurion, Valeera and Rexxar leading the charge to Legend, no one can be bothered to play with Thrall. The Fist of Ra-den has cropped up in a few Highlander Galakrond lists, but none of these archetypes have managed to generate enough interest to properly evaluate. Explosive Evolution has seen little experimentation.
Sad times, indeed. Shaman is likely to remain a fringe player until the next set.
As an archetype, Control Galakrond Warlock is still beset by sub-optimal builds. In the aggregate, the deck looks to be in a bad spot, even flirting with negative winrates over the past week. But if you narrow your view and consider only refined variants, a very different picture emerges. In fact, Control Galakrond Warlock is strong against both Embiggen Druid (55.6%) and Galakrond Rogue (59.5%) - if that’s not a recipe for success in the current meta, we don’t know what is.
The recent rise in Mech Paladin is no trouble at all; Gul’dan seems to handle this matchup with aplomb, earning a 52.6% winrate against Uther over a sample of 1,200 games between five and Legend. No, the only hero that can hold Gul’dan back is Rexxar.
Control Galakrond Warrior is pretty terrible against Hunter, no matter the archetype. And unfortunately, recent changes in Hunter could make things even worse. Secret Highlander Hunter poses a winnable challenge for Gul’dan; Warlock tends to lose the matchup, but it’s competitive. Highlander Dragon Hunter is another story entirely. Control Galakrond Warlock appears to be pitiful in this growing matchup, having lost in almost 64% of cases over a sample of 360 games between five and Legend.
That’s still a small sample, but it’s not looking good. At least Quest Resurrect Priest, another terrible matchup, is on the decline. Galakrond Warrior’s drop in popularity is more good news. Despite its weakness to Hunter, we’d say Control Galakrond Warlock is still well-positioned at the bottom of Tier 1, given strong matchups into Galakrond Rogue, Embiggen Druid and Mech Paladin.
Galakrond Zoo Warlock remains a strong contender near the top of Tier 2, thanks to a strong matchup against Embiggen Druid, along with competitive results against Galakrond Rogue. Face Hunter’s recent rise in play at higher ranks is a problem, but Zoo should have no problem handling the ascent of Mech Paladin; over a sample of 780 games between five and Legend, Zoo has won the matchup in 57.3% of cases.
Fiendish Servant slots in nicely to our featured build, the creation of aggro master Pizza.
Following poor results against both Embiggen Druid and Galakrond Rogue, Handlock continues to hemorrhage players.
Things have gone from bad to worse for Garrosh.
Warrior’s flagship archetype, Galakrond Warrior, is struggling, experiencing steep declines in both winrate and playrate. In fact, over the past three days, the deck has flirted with negative winrates for the first time since the Scion of Ruin nerf. Things aren’t looking good.
No doubt Rogue and Druid have something to do with that. The Embiggen Druid matchup, in particular, is terrible; over a sample of 8,800 games, Garrosh has lost to Malfurion in 66.3% of cases. Warrior’s long-term fate in the meta may well hang on whether the rise of Mech Paladin can truly put a dent in Embiggen Druid’s playrate. We’ll just have to wait and see. For what it’s worth, Galakrond Warrior actually looks pretty good against Mech Paladin in preliminary results.
Pirate Warrior has nearly disappeared from the meta, falling to a playrate of just 0.38% between five and Legend. We don’t foresee the archetype making a comeback.
Highlander Control Warrior held steady this week, but remains a fringe player in the format with a representation of around 1.5% between ranks five and Legend. Again, as in the case of Galakrond Warrior, Garrosh is being held back by the prevalence of Rogue and Druid.
Mech Paladin is rising to challenge Embiggen Druid, even as Rogue maintains control over the Legend meta. What do you think of the meta right now? Happy with the release schedule of Galakrond's Awakening? Excited by the performance of any new cards? Let us know in the comments!