Welcome to another edition of the Standard Meta Report, this time covering the week between February 16th and 23rd, 2020. As always, the Report is based on an analysis of statistics from HSReplay, along with personal game experience at high ranks. 


The Overview

Alongside the meteoric rise of Dragon Hunter across all ranks, Galakrond Warrior’s resurgence at Legend is the big story this week. Thanks to the power of Risky Skipper and Bomb Wrangler, Garrosh has emerged from the ashes, surging to a playrate of nearly 12% at Legend. With Embiggen Druid in decline, Warrior’s matchup spread looks outstanding, including strong matchups against Galakrond Rogue and Dragon Hunter. 

Nearing an aggregate playrate of 18% on the cusp of Legend, Dragon Hunter is now the most popular deck between ranks three and one. An excellent choice for the climb, we expect the archetype’s representation to pick up near the rank five floor over the coming week. Quest Hunter never caught on, which is just as well, because, with the rise of Galakrond Warrior and Dragon Hunter, the archetype’s matchup profile has weakened in recent days. With the surge of interest in Dragon Hunter, Dragon Highlander Hunter has met its match. 

Though more prevalent at lower ranks, players in and around Legend have all but forgotten Embiggen Druid. Whether Galakrond Warrior’s return to the format can change things for Malfurion is an open question. Countering both Galakrond Warrior and Galakrond Rogue, Quest Druid remains a strong choice for play at the highest ranks, but has yet to catch on near the rank five floor, where poor matchups prevail. Token Druid’s position in the meta is admirable, but the resurgence in Galakrond Warrior is sure to test Malfurion’s patience.  

Highlander Mage fell off this week in the face of increased pressure from Hunter. 

Despite an excellent matchup against Dragon Hunter, Mech Paladin saw a decline in playrate across all ranks. At Legend, Uther’s chances remain hampered by the dominance of Galakrond Rogue, along with the recent resurgence of Galakrond Warrior. 

The Priest class has been overtaken by a new variation on Galakrond Resurrect Priest, which plays a minimal Galakrond package to devastating effect. In preliminary numbers, the archetype looks strong, boasting outstanding winrates against Hunter and Druid. Quest Resurrect Priest has entered decline, dropping to an aggregate playrate of 3% between ranks five and Legend. 

Surprising as it may seem, Galakrond Rogue has only grown in the past week. Valeera maintains her customary dominance at Legend, but has also taken strides at lower ranks, becoming the most popular archetype at ranks four and five in the wake of Embiggen Druid’s fall from grace. Unless you’ve inexplicably started playing the Quest, the deck is as good as ever. 

Thrall is sad. Very sad. 

Warlock has entered a period of extended decline. Control Galakrond Warlock is competitive against the field, but without a truly dominant matchup against one of the meta’s stronger decks, the archetype has struggled to attract players. Zoo is strong against both Galakrond Rogue and Dragon Hunter, making it a good choice for breaking through to Legend, but no one’s playing it. 


Druid

Hunter’s ascent is really hurting Druid. 

Embiggen Druid continues to decline at all ranks, falling to a playrate of 4.18% at Legend. The archetype’s popularity remains more robust at lower ranks, but has dropped in light of poor matchups against Dragon Hunter and Highlander Mage. With optimized lists averaging a winrate of 54.5%, Embiggen Druid still claims a firm spot in Tier 2, but given declining player interest, its future is in doubt. 

While Dragon Hunter’s prominence at higher ranks is a problem, Embiggen Druid shouldn’t struggle to find a consistent source of victories. Malfurion continues to dominate the contest against Galakrond Rogue, which is a major selling point at Legend. Also promising is the emerging matchup against a resurgent Galakrond Warrior; over a sample of 7,000 games between five and Legend, Druid has won in 65% of cases. At the moment, Warrior’s playrate isn’t sufficient to support Malfurion alone, but it could be a factor going forward. 

Quest Druid is a major player at Legend, where the archetype currently commands nearly 8% of the meta. That’s not surprising given the archetype’s exceptional matchups against Galakrond Rogue and Galakrond Warrior, which strongly recommend play at higher ranks. 

Quest Druid has yet to make serious waves at lower ranks. From ranks one to five, Quest Druid accounts for an average representation of only 4%. That’s not very surprising, either. With poor matchups against Dragon Hunter, Mech Paladin and Highlander Mage, and Embiggen Druid in decline, it’s no surprise the archetype is struggling to maintain a consistent winrate. 

Risky Skipper is a token-killer. Should Token Druid be scared by the resurgence of Galakrond Warrior? Yes, he should. 

Outside of Warrior, Token Druid is in a pretty good place. Despite poor preliminary results, the archetype has actually proved to be extremely competitive against Dragon Hunter, the meta’s new star, as it is against old stalwarts like Galakrond Rogue and Highlander Mage. Control Galakrond Warlock is no problem. Face Hunter is a breeze. Mech Paladin is a problem at lower ranks, but at least Quest Hunter never took off. Malfurion really dodged a bullet there. 


Hunter

Rexxar continued his meteoric rise to the top of the meta this week, represented by three powerful archetypes that have performed extremely well, and done so consistently. 

First off, Dragon Hunter is the real deal. Not only has the archetype exploded in popularity across all ranks, but it’s utterly crushing the competition, leveraging outstanding matchups against Mage, Rogue, Druid, Warrior and other Hunters. 

Dragon Hunter’s playrate soared over the past week, rising to a representation of 13.3% between ranks five and Legend. The archetype is less popular at Legend, where improved play has made the Galakrond Rogue matchup a negative (it’s roughly even at lower ranks). 

Dragon Hunter has benefited from a relatively short refinement period. The best build seems to have been found early, and picked up by most players. While we began by advocating for two copies of Snake Trap, in line with early proposals from Muzzy and Orange, Freezing Trap has proven devastating in some matchups, including Mech Paladin, which currently accounts for around 6% of the five to Legend meta. Having two distinct Secrets also allows Phase Stalkerto trigger on consecutive turns without the first Secret being activated. We’ve updated our featured build to account for this change in perspective. 

Quest Hunter never took off as we’d hoped, but that’s not a reflection of the archetype’s recent performance. Quest Hunter continues to perform at an exceptional level, outpacing Galakrond Rogue, Embiggen Druid, Highlander Mage and Mech Paladin. Despite these sterling results, we don’t expect Quest Hunter to soar in popularity anytime soon, in part because we’ve given the deck over a month to catch on, and, so far, it hasn’t. 

More to the point, Quest Hunter’s matchup spread weakened over the past week. Not only has Rexxar lost an easy source of victories in the decline of Embiggen Druid, but Galakrond Warrior, a competitive but negative matchup for Quest Hunter, has resurfaced. For what it’s worth, Dragon Hunter is also a poor matchup. Quest Hunter now represents around 2.5% of the meta between ranks five and Legend. We don’t see the archetype’s fortunes changing anytime soon. 

Dragon Highlander Hunter is an eternal stud, but we’re sensing some player fatigue with the strategy. The archetype’s playrate declined considerably over the past week, falling to a representation of 4.77% between ranks five and Legend. 

In the face of Dragon Hunter, the hot, new strategy on the ladder, Dragon Highlander Hunter has struggled lately to capture attention. It doesn’t help that, outside of Resurrect Priest and Mech Paladin, Dragon Hunter, a deck with surging popularity, happens to be one of Dragon Highlander Hunter’s worst matchups. But no need to worry; any weakness Highlander may have against Dragon Hunter is likely to be balanced out by the archetype’s strength against Galakrond Warrior, which is experiencing a major resurgence at higher ranks. 


Mage

After a week of explosive growth on the back of The Amazing Reno, Highlander Mage saw a steady decline in play this week, as players near and far came to understand that the deck, at least right now, isn’t very good. Even so, Jaina’s representation across the meta remains far healthier than it was two weeks ago. Today, Highlander Mage’s playrate stands at a robust 8% between ranks five and Legend, peaking at 9% at Legend. 

Things just aren’t great for Mage right now, especially at higher ranks. Sure, Galakrond Rogue and Mech Paladin are still competitive matchups, but the prevalence of Hunter has placed a massive roadblock in Jaina’s way. Together, Rexxar’s three main archetypes now command nearly 26% of the upper meta. Mage is terrible against all of them; Dragon Hunter is an especially pitiful matchup. To top things off, Galakrond Warrior is on the rise; over a sample of 2,700 games between five and Legend, Jaina has lost to Garrosh in 47% of cases. 

The bright spot in all this murk is that The Amazing Reno isn’t a terrible card. It’s not *amazing* either, but Reno’s performance, given the heavy-RNG angle of his hero power, has surprised us. In drawn winrate, The Amazing Reno tends to rank at the middle of the pack, but usually far higher than other defensive options, including Blizzard and Flamestrike. At the least, Reno’s not hurting the deck. Who knows? He may even be helping a little. 


Paladin

One step forward, one step back. While Paladin has emerged as a strong counter to Dragon Hunter, one of the game’s most popular archetypes, other meta developments, namely the glorious return of Galakrond Warrior, are conspiring to hold Uther back. 

Despite impressive results against the field, Uther’s strongest deck, Mech Paladin, has seen a considerable decline in play, falling from a peak representation of 7.06% to one of 4.64% between ranks five and Legend. At Legend, where the archetype now accounts for only 2.5% of the format, Mech Paladin has returned to its role as a fringe player. 

Mech Paladin’s spread against the field remains strong, including dominant matchups against Druid and (all-important in this day and age) Hunter, but things have definitely taken a turn for the worse. In the highest ranks, Mech Paladin faces two considerable challenges this week: the continued relevance of Galakrond Rogue and the resurgence in Galakrond Warrior. 

The return of Garrosh is not a welcome sight; over a sample of 4,900 games between five and Legend, Paladin has managed to beat Warrior in only 41% of cases. In the coming week, We expect Galakrond Warrior’s popularity to increase near the rank five floor; Uther better be ready. For now, be thankful that the popularity of Dragon Hunter, a matchup in which Mech Paladin excels, remains far higher than that of Galakrond Warrior. 

Pure Paladin still looks like a dud, with woeful winrates against Galakrond Rogue and Galakrond Warrior, but a strong matchup into Dragon Hunter (58% over 770 games between five and Legend) warrants further experimentation. We’ve featured the most promising build for fun, but the playrate is so low that proper analysis is difficult. 


Priest

Galakrond Resurrect Priest, which features a stripped-down Galakrond package (only two Invoke cards, both Time Rip, are included) has overtaken Quest Resurrect Priest as Anduin’s strongest, and most popular, option between ranks five and Legend. 

With strong matchups against Hunter and Galakrond Warrior, Galakrond Resurrect Priest has risen to a playrate of 4.2% between ranks five and Legend, surpassing the once-popular Quest Resurrect Priest. The deck looks exceptionally strong so far, dominating matchups against Druid, Hunter and Paladin, while remaining competitive against Warlock. Highlander Mage is a stumbling block to be sure, but Jaina’s playrate is decreasing, not increasing, at the moment. 

Needless to say, devotees of Anduin should have much reason to celebrate this week, but it’s not a perfect solution. Priest is still terrible against Galakrond Rogue, a fact that significantly hampers growth at Legend, where Galakrond Resurrect Priest has taken only modest strides, rising to a meager playrate of 3%. So it may be a difficult climb, one that becomes tougher as you rise higher in the ranks, but hey, annoying the hell out of Highlander decks is a lot of fun. 

Quest Resurrect Priest continued to decline this week, falling to a representation of 2.95% between ranks five and Legend. Though strong against Galakrond Warrior, we can’t recommend this archetype for your climb, given terrible matchups into Highlander Mage and Galakrond Rogue. A poor winrate against Dragon Hunter isn’t helping one bit. 

Aggro Combo Priest has dwindled to a nub. Nubbin? You get the point. No one’s playing it, and poor matchups against Galakrond Rogue and Dragon Hunter are going to keep it that way. 


Rogue

Galakrond Rogue saw another surge of interest this week. After weeks of dominating the top of the ladder, Valeera has taken major strides at lower ranks, too. As at Legend, where the archetype currently accounts for 22% of the format, Galakrond Rogue has reasserted itself near the rank five floor. Today, Galakrond Rogue is the most popular deck at ranks four and five, and a close second to Dragon Hunter between three and one. 

However you plan to climb, you need a strategy for Rogue, or risk weeks of frustration. Galakrond Rogue isn’t going anywhere; we don’t expect a major shift in Valeera’s representation until rotation hits. Despite the recent uptick in Galakrond Warrior, Rogue is as good as ever, a perennial pick in tournament play for its absolutely insane swing turns. Out of all the strategies currently represented in Standard, Galakrond Rogue feels the most broken. 

But Galakrond Rogue’s winrate has suffered over the past week due to interest in a counter-intuitive variant of Quest Rogue, one that never intends to finish the Quest. Instead, what has been called Quest Galakrond Rogue (or Questionable Rogue in other circles) hopes to make use of Quest synergy cards, including Questing Explorer, Sky Gen’ral KraggBADCARDNAME and Licensed Adventurer, for…profit? 

Far be it from us to dissuade experimentation, but this new variant appears to be terrible, single-handedly causing Galakrond Rogue’s winrate to fall several percentage points. Compared to our standard Tempo Galakrond Rogue build, Quest Galakrond Rogue sacrifices precious victories in almost every matchup. It’s particularly terrible against Hunter. Don’t get baited in playing this variant for novelty’s sake; Tempo Galakrond Rogue is far and away the superior deck. 

Highlander Galakrond Rogue’s playrate stabilized this week at a mark of 2.2% between ranks five and Legend. Despite impressive results against weaker decks, the archetype is completely out-classed by Galakrond Rogue, losing out in matchups against Hunter and Galakrond Warrior, as well as the all-important mirror.  


Shaman

Comprising only 4.1% of the meta, Shaman is an utter mess. None of it looks any good. 


Warlock

Warlock is having a tough time, losing both players and percentage points to the rise of Hunter and resurgence of Warrior. 

Control Galakrond Warlock hit its lowest representation in a month this week, dropping to an aggregate playrate of 2.45% between ranks five and Legend. The archetype is competitive, but far from exceptional, against the meta’s dominant strategies, including Galakrond Rogue, the most popular archetype at higher ranks. Thankfully,  Embiggen Druid has been driven from the meta, but where Malfurion once stood, Rexxar, Jaina and Garrosh now reign supreme. 

With a less-than-outstanding matchup spread, it’s been hard for Gul’dan to compete in the past week against the likes of Dragon Hunter and Galakrond Warrior, two archetypes currently tearing up the ladder. Warlock has sufficient removal tools to deal with Dragon Hunter, but Gul’dan is hopeless against Galakrond Warrior; over a sample of 2,300 games between five and Legend, Warlock has lost 64%.   

There’s no reason to play Zoo when stronger strategies are available, and stronger strategies are certainly available. Galakrond Zoo Warlock saw a slight increase in play this week, but remains a fringe player in the meta, stabilizing at a representation of 1.73%.

 

Outside of a pitiful matchup against Galakrond Warrior, one the Warlock loses in about 67% of cases, things aren’t so bad. Zoo remains positive against many stalwarts of the meta, including Galakrond Rogue, Dragon Hunter and Mech Paladin. In fact, a strong matchup against Dragon Hunter should recommend Zoo, at least to some players, for play at higher ranks. 


Warrior

Garrosh is back, and he’s the hottest hero at the highest ranks. 

As the Battle Rage debate (ahem) rages on, Galakrond Warrior experienced an explosion of new interest this week, rising between ranks five and Legend from a playrate of 1.92% to 6.66% over the span of ten days. The trend was most pronounced at Legend, where Galakrond Warrior now commands over 12% of the field. 

Embiggen Druid’s steady decline is surely at the root of this resurgence. With Embiggen Druid drained from the format, Galakrond Warrior faces a far more favorable matchup spread, winning out against the majority of well-represented meta decks, including Galakrond Rogue, Dragon Hunter, Highlander Mage and Mech Paladin. Warrior’s only weakness at the moment is Priest. 

On the subject of Battle Rage, we agree with our wonky compatriots: the card is pretty bad, despite the potential of drawing five or six cards with two mana. The statistics aren’t friendly to Battle Rage; by drawn winrate, the card is consistently awful, dragging down the deck’s winrate by on average 2%. Acolyte of Pain is a far better option for card draw in this faster meta; you don’t want cards hanging around in your hand, waiting to be activated (as Battle Rage is wont to do). We suggest replacing Battle Rage with Frothing Berserker, a soft taunt with blowout potential. Frothing can be especially insane with Risky Skipper, another card that, at the moment, appears to be very strong. 

Highlander Control Warrior also saw an increase in play, though far more modest than the surge experienced by Galakrond Warrior. Today, the archetype accounts for about 2.4% of the meta between five and Legend. While strong matchups against Dragon Hunter and Mech Paladin are promising, Highlander Control Warrior has fared poorly against Galakrond Rogue, Galakrond Warrior and Highlander Mage. There are more efficient (and faster) ways to climb. 


Galakrond Warrior has made a triumphant return to the meta, but does Battle Rage belong in the list. Galakrond Rogue remains dominant at Legend, but Dragon Hunter is taking over. What are you playing right now? Let us know in the comments!

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