Welcome to another edition of the Standard Meta Report, this time covering the week between March 1st and 8th, 2020. As always, the Report is based on an analysis of statistics from HSReplay, along with personal game experience at high ranks. 


The Overview

With the season reset one week behind us, the Standard meta is again falling into place. 

As has been true for over a month, Galakrond Rogue leads the pack at higher ranks, accounting for upwards of 30% of the format between ranks two and Legend. Commanding around 14.5% of the upper meta, Dragon Hunter also remains prominent, but has now been surpassed in popularity by Galakrond Warrior, which has cemented itself as a Tier 1 deck-to-beat in the wake of Galakrond’s Awakening and the game-changing introductions of Risky Skipper and Bomb Wrangler

Druid is in sharp decline; with Dragon Hunter a focal point of the meta, neither of Malfurion’s meta strategies (Embiggen Druid and Quest Druid) seem like a safe bet. Likewise, Mech Paladin has fallen off considerably, dropping to its lowest playrate in over a month. With Embiggen Druid in freefall and Rogue omnipresent, there’s little reason to take Uther out on the ladder. Due to Valeera’s continued relevance, Resurrect Priest is still something of a novelty.

Highlander Mage, on the other hand, maintains a robust presence, especially at Legend, where the archetype now controls over 11% of the meta. Competitive matchups against both Galakrond Rogue and Galakrond Warrior are sure to keep Jaina relevant over the coming weeks. 

Warlock is quickly being relegated to the dumpster, where Gul’dan will meet his old friend Thrall. 


Druid

Despite success against both Galakrond Warrior and Galakrond Rogue, Embiggen Druid finds itself this week on the back foot. The archetype’s playrate has been declining for several weeks, but this trend was nowhere more apparent than at the season reset, when Embiggen Druid’s popularity sank by 2 percentage points in a single day. Today, Embiggen Druid accounts for only 7% of the format between ranks five and Legend, a far cry from the archetype’s peak near 26%.

 

We suspect many players expected Resurrect Priest, which presents a unique challenge for Embiggen Druid, to be more of a presence this month. Truth be told, we were high on the archetype last week, as were many others, but Anduin has failed to stake out a foothold in the emerging post-reset meta. So has Uther, whose Mech Paladin archetype served as another hard counter to Embiggen Druid. Mech Paladin is now a fringe player in the meta, which should lift Malfurion’s spirits considerably. 

Unfortunately, these developments haven’t paved a clear path for Malfurion, whose winrate is being depressed by losing matchups against Dragon Hunter and Highlander Mage. Together, these two archetypes account for almost 25% of the upper meta; that may be just frustrating enough for players to abandon Embiggen Druid altogether. Even so, we expect Embiggen Druid’s playrate to increase as the season continues; the archetype’s success against Galakrond decks, which command between 40% and 50% of the meta at higher ranks, is too good to pass up. So long as Rogue and Warrior dominate the format, Embiggen Druid is fine. 

Quest Druid’s playrate is responding to the same market forces, but amplified. While Embiggen Druid fares poorly against Dragon Hunter and Highlander Mage, Quest Druid is pitiful in these matchups. The archetype is absolutely dreadful against Jaina; over a sample of 3,300 games between five and Legend, Quest Druid has managed to win only 33.9%. And Dragon Hunter isn’t much better. So while Quest Druid, like Embiggen, tends to dominate against Rogue and Warrior, the archetype’s recent decline in play isn’t particularly hard to explain. 

Quest Druid’s representation at Legend has been volatile, bouncing between playrates near 7% and lows around 3.5%. The archetype’s popularity has always been lower outside of Legend, andt that remains true today. Quest Druid now commands only 3% of the format between ranks five and one. We don’t expect a major change in the coming week; Hunter is too prominent for Malfurion to find consistent success. 

We’re continuing to feature Grandmaster Viper’s variant of Quest Druid, which packs BEEEES!!!! and Steel Beetle for a faster early game. While the loss of Swipe may seem heretical, Viper’s list dramatically improves the archetype’s performance against Dragon Hunter [from 36.8% to 46.1% (and over a larger sample size!)], which may well be Quest Druid’s biggest weakness right now. 


Hunter

Hunter emerged from the season reset stronger than ever, but is already showing signs of a  modest decline. That’s not surprising; the meta is tightening around Rexxar, who’s most popular archetype, Dragon Hunter, is losing strong matchups in exchange for weaker ones. 

Druid once offered Dragon Hunter a steady source of victories, but both Embiggen Druid and Quest Druid are in decline. The continued relevance of Highlander Mage is a potential boon for Rexxar, but other meta developments are less promising.  

From a peak of 16.19% between ranks five and Legend one week ago, Dragon Hunter’s playrate has now dropped to 12.88%. No doubt players are feeling the heat from the profusion of Galakrond decks wreaking havoc at the top of the ladder. 

Since the season reset, Galakrond Rogue and Galakrond Warrior have emerged as the meta’s most popular strategies, together accounting for between 40% and 50% of the upper format. These are both poor matchups for Hunter. Galakrond Warrior is a particular weakness; over a sample of 14,000 games between five and Legend, Garrosh has defeated Rexxar in over 58% of cases. While more favorable, Galakrond Rogue has also presented a stumbling block, given the archetype’s astronomical playrate at the highest ranks.  

But not all of Rexxar’s archetypes are pitiful against Galakrond. Though far from popular at lower ranks, Dragon Highlander Hunter has spiked at Legend in recent days, rising to a playrate of 9.26%. We’d say the meta is primed for this archetype’s triumphant return. 

Compared to Dragon Hunter, the archetype has excellent game against both Galakrond Rogue and Galakrond Warrior, while maintaining an edge over Druid and Highlander Mage. Dragon Hunter is the only prominent weakness; over a sample of 5,400 games between five and Legend, Dragon Highlander Hunter has lost to Dragon Hunter in about 58% of cases. 

Galakrond Warrior’s rise to power has been hell on Rexxar’s other archetypes. Thanks to poor winrates against Warrior and Dragon Hunter, Face Hunter’s representation is miniscule. And, while still very strong against Rogue, Quest Hunter isn’t doing much better, for the same reasons. Warrior and Dragon Hunter are constant impediments.


Mage

Highlander Mage has found a firm foothold in the meta, rising to an aggregate playrate above 9% between ranks five and Legend. Most popular at Legend, where she commands representation over 12%, Jaina has enjoyed competitive, though unfavored, matchups against Galakrond Rogue and Galakrond Warrior, the two best-represented archetypes in the game. 

Nothing about Mage is spectacular right now; the class is thoroughly average. Hunter, Rogue and Warrior dominate the meta, and we don’t expect this trio to change until rotation. Jaina isn’t particularly good against any of these classes, but she’s competitive in matchups against Galakrond Warrior and Galakrond Rogue, which should keep her afloat for the foreseeable future. Temper your expectations; don’t expect an outstanding winrate. 

But with Dragon Hunter entering something of a decline at higher ranks, Highlander Mage’s matchup spread has transitioned from pretty good to good. So we’re not surprised to see the archetype’s recent growth at Legend. While Jaina’s far from a world-beater, she’s solidly ensconced in Tier 2, beating up on the format’s weaker decks and dominating entire classes, including Priest, Paladin, Druid and Warlock. 

The decreasing popularity of Druid is certainly a trend to watch; Mage can’t afford to lose many positive matchups, because her winrates against Galakrond decks are razor-thin. 

Over the past weeks, we’ve observed a trend to cut Flamestrike in favor of Khartut Defender, which can help shore up the matchup against Dragon Hunter. We’ve reflected this change in our featured build. 


Paladin

An enviable counter to Embiggen Druid, Mech Paladin occupied an essential place in the meta before the season reset. With Embiggen Druid in dramatic decline, the archetype has essentially lost its reason for existence. While it’s still the fastest starting deck in the game, Mech Paladin has run into a wall: Galakrond. Both Galakrond Warrior and Galakrond Rogue pack sufficient removal to handle Mech Paladin’s threats, denying Magnetic targets and, in the case of Warrior, gaining enough armor to outlast Uther’s onslaught. 

With Galakrond Rogue and Galakrond Warrior atop the meta, Mech Paladin is in for a rough time. Not even the archetype’s outstanding winrate against Dragon Hunter can change that. And since the meta is in the process of turning against Dragon Hunter, it’s not even assured that Uther will be able to rely on that matchup for much longer. 

Things just got a lot worse for Pure Paladin, too. Both Galakrond Rogue and the rising Galakrond Warrior are terrible matchups. Embiggen Druid was once a brightspot, but that’s quickly fading from the meta. Not that anyone’s playing the archetype; Pure Paladin’s playrate fell to a measly 0.23% this week between ranks five and Legend. 


Priest

At higher ranks, Resurrect Priest is struggling to eke out wins in a hostile Rogue-dominated meta, but the archetype’s popularity held steady this week, stabilizing around a mark of 4.38% between ranks five and Legend. Priest has almost disappeared at Legend and rank one, where the prevalence of Galakrond Rogue is smothering, but maintains a minimal presence at lower ranks, peaking at a playrate of nearly 5% at rank four. 

Priest has been driven from the meta by three decks in particular. Of course, there’s the aforementioned Galakrond Rogue, but joining Valeera are Rexxar and Jaina, both of whom possess powerful strategies against which Anduin struggles. Dragon Hunter and Highlander Mage maintain high playrates, together comprising about 20% of the upper meta. Both archetypes trounce Priest to a considerable degree. Highlander Mage is absolutely awful for Anduin; over a sample of 2,300 games between five and Legend, Priest has lost over 64%. 

Within this context, the recent surge in Galakrond Warrior is a minor blessing for Anduin, who was running out of positive matchups with the loss of Embiggen Druid. Obviously, it’s not enough to support a healthy playrate; with the decline of Druid, Priest has lost as much as it’s gained in the past week, but it’s worth mentioning: Priest stomps Warrior. 

All in all, there are much better ways to spend your time on ladder. Unless you really like Priest, which we acknowledge is a possibility, however unsavory it may seem. 

Quest Resurrect Priest is a memory. The archetype’s playrate fell to 2.5% this week between five and Legend. In retrospect, we can say with certainty that the Quest is a bad card, one that was holding this archetype back. If you want to play Priest, play Resurrect. 


Rogue

One week since the season reset, Valeera has again rocketed her way to the top of the meta. Galakrond Rogue is the most popular deck in the game, commanding up to 30% of the format between Legend and rank two. Though less popular at lower ranks, Galakrond Rogue remains, all things considered, the best choice for your climb, in no small part because the archetype has game against everybody, including Dragon Hunter and Galakrond Warrior.  

Though slightly worse in the mirror, our optimized build has performed outstandingly over the past week, racking up positive winrates against strategies as diverse as Dragon Hunter (55.6%, 3,300 games) and Highlander Mage (53.5%, 2,000 games), Mech Paladin (61.7%, 950 games) and Galakrond Warrior (52.4%, 1,900 games). Shaman, Priest and Warlock are no problem. In any event, no one’s playing them. 

If Galakrond decks, like Galakrond Warrior or the mirror, are getting you down, tech in a Boompistol Bully to delay their power swings. If the problem is Dragon Hunter, try Dragonmaw Poacher instead. Sap is a flex spot. Neither addition is necessary, though; you should be fine without them. 

If anything, Galakrond Rogue’s matchup spread has only improved. Embiggen Druid arose, primarily, as a counter to Rogue, a function it performed quite well. Since Embiggen Druid is on the decline, Valeera once again finds her path to dominance unobstructed. As it stands, Face Hunter and Quest Hunter are the only blemishes on Rogue’s record, but these two archetypes have nearly disappeared from the meta. No one, not even Garrosh, can compete. 


Shaman

The dumpster fire continues. Is help on the way? Thanks to Dean “Iksar” Ayala, Hearthstone dev, we now know to expect that a handful of cards, including one from the Descent of Dragons set, will soon have their nerfs reverted. Could it be Sludge Slurper or Invocation of Frost, Dragon's Pack or Corrupt Elementalist? Would those changes even help? Let us know in the comments! 


Warlock

Warlock is in dire straights. The class has reached a crossroads, as the old, dependable archetypes, Control Galakrond Warlock and Zoo, falter in the face of memes. 

Control Galakrond Warlock faces an increasingly hostile meta, but the archetype’s winrate is being further depressed by the continued proliferation of sub-optimal builds. To be sure, the resurgence of Galakrond Warrior may have already sounded the archetype’s death knell; over a sample of 1,800 games between five and Legend, Gul’dan has come out victorious in only 34.5% of cases. Highlander Mage has also proved a struggle, but refined variants of Control Galakrond Warlock maintain strong winrates against both Dragon Hunter and Galakrond Rogue.

 

Whatever you do, don’t play Chaos Gazer. It’s a bad card, one that’s hurting the archetype in key matchups, including against Galakrond Rogue. Subbing in Bad Luck Albatross as a two-of correlates with a 5-percentage point increase in winrate. 

The decline of Embiggen Druid is a major loss for Galakrond Zoo Warlock. Zoo once excelled against Druid, but now, the tides are turning. As in the case of Control, Zoo can only bow at the altar of Garrosh. Galakrond Warrior absolutely stomps Galakrond Zoo Warlock; over a sample of 1,400 games between five and Legend, Zoo has only managed to win 31.4%. The matchups against Galakrond Rogue and Hunter are competitive, but not sufficient to recommend play. 

With Warlock joining Shaman in the dumpster, some players have transitioned to a new variant of Quest Warlock, one pioneered by Grandmaster Gallon, which seeks to exploit the synergy between Dark Pharaoh Tekahn and Grand Lackey Erkh

Popularized on stream by Zalae, this archetype has now surpassed Control Galakrond Warlock in playrate at Legend, but remains the fringest of the fringe at lower ranks. We’re all for experimentation, but from preliminary numbers, this new Lackey-focused variant of Quest Warlock looks to be pretty terrible. 


Warrior

From the ashes, Garrosh has risen. Following on the archetype’s success in the wake of Galakrond’s Awakening, Galakrond Warrior, currently the third most popular deck in the upper meta, has emerged from the season reset as a Tier 1 performer.

Coming in behind only Galakrond Rogue, Galakrond Warrior now comprises almost 14% of the Legend meta. With a peak representation of 16.21% at rank one, we believe the archetype is underplayed at lower ranks, where an excellent matchup against Dragon Hunter, along with competitive winrates against Galakrond Rogue and Highlander Mage, should distinguish the deck as a winner. Like Galakrond Rogue, Galakrond Warrior has game against everyone.

No archetype has more to gain from the decline of Embiggen Druid. Druid, a perennial problem for Warrior, remains a struggle; over a sample of 6,500 games between five and Legend, Garrosh has lost out in over 60% of cases. Quest Druid is even worse, so Malfurion’s declining playrate is a godsend for Warrior. Considering the fact that Galakrond Warrior has no other negative matchups outside of Resurrect Priest, the future looks bright.  

Highlander Control Warrior saw a modest decline in play this week and we can’t say the outlook is good. Galakrond Warrior, Galakrond Rogue and Highlander Mage are all weak matchups. 


As Druid continues to lose players, the Standard meta is coalescing around a quadrivium of powerful strategies in Galakrond Rogue, Galakrond Warrior, Dragon Hunter and, somewhat surprisingly, Highlander Mage. Are you still having fun? Do you wish balance changes (which we’ve been told aren’t coming) would shake things up? Let us know!