We are now approaching two weeks since the release of the latest small set of cards with Onyxia's Lair, and another month within the Alterac Valley is coming to an end. The snow ought to give way to the future spring arrivals before long, but for the moment we are stuck debating whether Kazakusan & his hoard of treasures should remain in its current iteration. It's a curious example of how something can work both for and against that mystical Control approach to deckbuilding.
The recent Masters Tour happening right on the heels of its namesake Mini-Set was the first larger indication of certain developments to come. Even though tournament and ladder metagames never fully overlap and there often might be stark differences for a reason, we could still notice some of the new takes inevitably spill over. It remains to be seen just what kind of influence the shortened Grandmasters season will have moving forward.
Hopefully you've all gone through a certified Duels Treasures crash course. The Standard ladder meta might have moved away from its widely increased diversity at this point in time, pushing us back towards the more familiar, polarized status quo. You know how it goes: if Wildheart Guff teams up with Kazakusan to win popularity contests, aggressive decks will then see that as an invitation to come out in force, which in turn is going to cause the likes of Control Warriors move around gleefully. Each of these approaches has its usual strengths and weaknesses to consider.
Kazakusan hype isn't all that widespread on average, if you consider classes that aren't Druid or Warrior. Some hopefuls are always going to try to make it work in Priest or Demon Hunter (for Warlock it might well be a pipe dream), yet without outstanding results so far. Perhaps the ramp cards themselves really are a problem.
HSReplay offered us their regular pick of top 5 winrate decks between Diamond and Legend across the past week: two types of Paladins, two types of Hunters, and your reliable Burn Shaman. Conspicuously, the Druids didn't make the cut. Vicious Syndicate released their own scheduled first report for Onyxia's Lair, as detailed as ever (do note that the podcast is usually even more up to date). If we look closely at the field, it's no surprise that most other deck archetypes still resemble (or are identical to) their own versions from the pre Mini-Set era.
More or less to be expected at the tail end of a metagame comprised of 6 expansions and a handful of smaller sets. It's also the end of February 2022 Season with Masters Tour invites at stake, so a lot of top Legend performers have been playing it safe. With the majority there just biding their time and not even queueing up for any games unless they have to.
A larger number of Onyxia's Lair cards might get their chance to shine in the near future, as we head towards the big rotation and the promised return to more board based gameplay. Meanwhile, let's have another look at where we are at with various decks:
Not faring so well. The known Fel Demon Hunter (no Final Showdown weirdness) list might still be the best option out there, with Magtheridon and Rustrot Viper as viable tech choices (cutting a copy of Felfire Deadeye, Chaos Leech, or even Expendable Performers to make room).
Or just straight up call upon the power of Irebound Brute. Try at your own risk!
Turns out Wildheart Guff is a fickle creature. Once the opportunity arose, he was quick to give up those questionable Old Gods loyalties and instead settle for a dragon's hoard. Kazakusan is arguably cooler than Y'Shaarj, the Defiler or even (forgive me for this blasphemy, o' powerful one) Yogg-Saron, Master of Fate. Or at least undeniably fresher.
It's worth noting there are also other takes on this list, cutting Capture Coldtooth Mine and Innervate to find room for Cenarion Ward and Raid Boss Onyxia (or even Malygos the Spellweaver). Perhaps we'll see more of this direction in the month to come.
And of course there is also the 'Spell Druid' variant with Glowfly Swarm:
On the other side of the same class coin, we have what might be the most versatile and reliable ladder performer - as long as Snowfall Guardian isn't "infinitely" chain freezing their boards - in Beast Druid. It took many people to cozy top spots.
Both Meati and Paraducks shared some mulligan/play tips on how to pilot their respective versions, if you follow the links for their associated Twitter comments. Wing Commander Mulverick is still a fine inclusion if you have the card, as you can see from Bequiet's example.
Everyone should be able to recite this typical choice of cards for Face Hunter even when suddenly woken up in the middle of the night, but just in case you have somehow managed to block the decklist from your memory (still top Legend contender):
As for the more interesting "pew pew" archetype that's really enjoyed the addition of new cards such as (in particular) Dragonbane Shot and Furious Howl, a good number of individuals have been reporting impressive results while giving credit to HattriK for the decklist and inspiration. Superior David did some serious climbing with it, while ErA even managed to hit Top 5 in Americas region.
Things have been rather stale for the class, with Wildfire variants sadly dropping off once again. If you enjoy playing it at lower ranks, it can still do the job there at least.
Mozaki, Master Duelist sort of remains as an option for its most faithful followers. Furyhunter & Co. still manage to use the deck efficiently, even for taking that coveted Rank 1 Legend (while also offering a few useful tips). It's only for a particular type of player and well positioned against specific types of decks, so not necessarily recommended for most of us. That said, if you haven't yet seen this round 6 game from Masters Tour Onyxia's Lair, you absolutely should witness these special moments of random magic.
But perhaps Grandmasters SuperFake and Fled are just the heroes we needed? They both brought what seemed like a crazy Mage deck for the first week of the competition, and... well, we won't spoil any results for you if you'd still like to watch and find out for yourself. It might not translate well to ladder, but it's impossible to fight the compulsion of including it here.
Not appreciated by many top players, that seems to be Paladin's story more often than not. But for the rest of us climbing ranks, Lightforged Cariel alone can pull its Hero card weight. There's been some changes, such as the Libram variant relying more on Mr. Smite than Lord Barov, and the Buff version (possibly stronger of the two in this meta) dropping Varian, King of Stormwind and Encumbered Pack Mule. Guess we're swinging back towards the direction of Cult Neophyte vs. the World.
Shadow Priest remains respectably strong. It's just the same list as before the Mini-Set that you can't go wrong with:
Weapon Rogue is just a constant presence, despite the nerfs. The decklists remain the same, as well. There are slower decks it just punishes greatly, and then there are decks that pressure it so much it just falls apart. Use at your own discretion.
SI:7 Rogue is where the class has put all of its hopes as of late. And it did deliver some results, as we saw players such as McBanterFace and iNS4NE use the deck to push even for #1 Legend spot (Americas Grandmaster listed a few tips in that tweet as well). Play it before SI:7 Smuggler inevitably gets nerfed/fixed?
There is also the more stealthy variation to consider.
Of course we would start with Burn Shaman, still one of the kings in the metagame. Although not without its own vulnerabilities (hint: not a big fan of any class stacking countless Armor). The decklists remain very much similar. There was a phase of cutting Windchill, now it's back to one Primal Dungeoneer at most. Rustrot Viper is a viable alternative against Bulwark of Azzinoth and Lightforged Cariel, but Instructor Fireheart can be tempting as well to make impossible possible at times.
Players like ClarkHELLSCREAM have certainly utilized it to its full potential while chasing that competitive dream.
Bolner OTK Shaman (which just as often isn't about killing people in one turn) stalwarts never seem to give up, even as it doesn't enjoy facing Burn variants in the class mirror. On the upside, it can certainly punish those greedy Druids and Warriors.
What is this, a Jambre's deck without Malygos the Spellweaver? Double Multicaster instead to carry on (plus a bit of advice from the man himself)! And then we have CJkaka with a more traditional approach (yet a 'secret' Revolve tech).
Wishing for something simpler yet just as sturdy? Usually forgotten and neglected by most everyone, the good ol' Elemental Shaman with a Freeze package still exists. And it's actually doing pretty well for itself - doesn't mind Druids, certainly a reliable pick for climbing.
There is the more midrange board based package (if you have and like Bearon Gla'shear, it does fit in), and there is the Doomhammer variant (with Rockbiter Weapon and Stormstrike), we know both of them pretty well. The latter option might be a tad riskier if people are keeping Rustrot Viper in their hidden pocket.
As Handlock seems to struggle more and more (who would've thought we might live to see the day where The Demon Seed isn't nearly as scary of a proposition), the Owls continue throwing a party. And nope, no juicy secret Kazakusan/Tickatus combos. Other than in some people's dreams.
Humongous Owl can fend off aggression and properly punish the likes of Control Warrior. Amazing it manages to stay relevant despite Runed Mithril Rod nerfs (remember how that card originally used to cost 3 mana?). Also Goldshire Gnoll seem to have become the more favored option over Full-Blown Evil.
And then there was a control fight over the dragon's hoard. Warriors seem to have moved on from Captain Galvangar package, welcoming the reign of Kazakusan with Raid Boss Onyxia instead. The deck certainly enjoys facing players who attempt this whole mysterious "board based gameplay". It does not like its fellow Kazakusan user that is Ramp Druid, however.
There are small variations between the included cards, but Lord Barov and Mutanus don't generally make the cut due to the above 'Duels Treasures' reasons. Ironically, Jengo wouldn't be sad to see Kazakusan "deleted".
That's pretty much where things are by the end of this February season, likely to continue into March in a similar fashion. We should see a lot of announcements for the coming month (Core set, rotation, new expansion, who knows what else), but none of them will really affect the current metagame. Perhaps there will be a final round of balance changes based on Onyxia's Lair impact?