I was recently playing Wild ranked, and noticed that despite facing a decent number of different decks, it was still a lot less enjoyable to play in than the pre-Stormwind meta. Digging deeper, I discovered that despite a large number of decks seeing play, there is one aspect of the meta that has become very low. Specifically, that is Archetype Diversity. Although there are different decks viable in the meta, they are overwhelmingly combo and aggro decks, and those two archetypes are the most played by far as well, with Control decks and Midrange decks close to nonexistent.
Why Archetype Diversity Matters
Why does Archetype Diversity matter? Although you do have different experiences fighting against different Aggro or Combo decks, it's generally pretty similar. You lose out on having a feeling of variety in your gameplay, which can make it get boring faster.
Specifically, when there are four main archetypes seeing common play, Aggro, Midrange, Control, and Combo, there are 10 different possibilities for matchups:
- Aggro v Aggro
- Aggro v Midrange
- Aggro v Control
- Aggro v Combo
- Midrange v Midrange
- Midrange v Control
- Midrange v Combo
- Control v Control
- Control v Combo
- Combo v Combo.
Right now, with the vast majority of the meta being only Aggro and Combo, there are only 3 possibilities that are not extremely rare:
- Aggro v Aggro
- Aggro v Combo
- Combo v Combo
Yes, it does feel different facing different types of Aggro and Combo decks, but the meta is missing the other types of gameplay that used to be common as recently as the Barrens meta and added more variety to the way your games can go. This is why despite there being a lot of viable decks, the disappearance of Midrange and Control is limiting the variety of gameplay you can encounter and thus potentially enjoyment of the game, at least to some players.
Can you as one person choose to play a Midrange or Control deck and do well with it? Yes, you can and I have done so. However, due to the overall meta where it's so much easier to succeed as an Aggro or Combo deck, you will still have way less variety in your matchups - you will, for example, only get Control v Aggro and Control v Combo in the vast majority of your games as a Control deck and miss out on Control v Midrange and Control v Control gameplay which can be quite different.
Quantifying The Issue
How can we quantify this? Other than my personal experience of having Control and Midrange be less than 5% of matches in Diamond 5 and Legend, I did some research.
Based on HSReplay stats, the top 30 most played decks in Wild Diamond 5 - 1 are all Combo and Aggro. The 31st deck is Control. The first Midrange deck comes in at number 43. This image shows the top 5 which are all Aggro and Combo. You can see the full stats here.
In the most recent Tempo Storm meta snapshot (which isn't perfect, but gives a good understanding of what decks are played enough to make it into a meta report) 22 decks are featured. Out of those, 8 are Aggro, 9 are Combo, 3 are Control, and 2 are Midrange. Furthermore, out of the tier 1 decks, three are Combo and one is Aggro, while two out of the 3 Control decks are in tier 4 as is one of the midrange decks. This image shows the top 5. You can see the entire Tempo Storm Wild Meta Report here.
Based on this, we can see that despite there being many viable decks, digging deeper and looking at Archetype Diversity there is a clear issue. The meta leans heavily towards Aggro and Combo decks with Midrange and Control both being less powerful and seeing a lot less play. As discussed earlier, this general meta will then lead to less variety in your games, even if you personally decide to play a Control or Midrange deck.
Causes of Low Archetype Diversity
How can this be fixed? As recently as 2 expansions ago, in the Barrens meta before Stormwind came out, all 4 archetypes were common in the meta. There was plenty of Aggro including Secret Mage, Pirate Warrior, Even Hunter, and many other decks. Midrange had Handbuff Paladin, Galakrond Shaman, and more. Combo had Mozaki Mage, Combo Druids, and others. Control had plenty of Reno decks and others like Odd Warrior. All of these archetypes, in addition to having multiple decks, could be found quite often in the meta.
Since the Wild meta had a good level of Archetype Diversity as recently as 2 expansions ago, it's not inevitable for Wild to have Combo and Aggro being so dominant.
Specifically, what are the key issues that bring Midrange and Control down compared to Barrens?
1. Pirate Warrior
The Juggernaut from the Pirate Warrior Questline introduced in Stormwind gives Pirate Warrior, which was already a tier 1 archetype in Wild, tempo and damage every turn and makes it a lot harder to run them out of value. It's possible, but stats show that Pirate Warrior now dominates most Control decks, while before many of them had Pirate Warrior as a good matchup.
2. Disruption Resistance
In the Barrens meta, Control could have a good chance to beat Combo decks using Dirty Rat and Mutanus the Devourer. Currently, many of the top combo decks have a high level of resistance to this and make it very hard for Control decks to compete. To give an example, Questline Hunter can complete its quest and play Tavish, Master Marksman on the same turn, thus avoiding the chance to have it disrupted, and then proceed to burst down the opponent with the hero power and spells. There are some niche techs that work against this specific deck, but unlike Dirty Rat they are too specific to this deck and not worth running as they make your other matchups a lot worse. As another example, Mecha'Thun Warlock is now impervious to Dirty Rat hitting Mecha'thun as it can later use Tamsin's Phylactery, a non-rattable spell, to give its board the Mecha'Thun Deathrattle. Inner Fire Priest can use spells to steal an opponent minion, silence all Taunts, and create lethal without having any board presence or needing any minions to do so, making Dirty Rat and Mutanus ineffective. There are other decks like this as well.
In general, aggro is faster than ever, and Midrange doesn't have the tools to compete. It gets crushed too early against most aggro decks, and is often too slow to beat combo. Control can beat most aggro, but has major issues with the Juggernaut from Pirate Warriors and Combo decks.
To increase Archetype Diversity and create a more enjoyable meta, Hearthstone can do two things:
1. Nerf the most egregious offenders among Aggro and Combo decks. This might mean nerfing The Juggernaut to come down later, or only be active for a certain number of turns (like 3).
2. Print new tools for Midrange and Control that allow Midrange to be better able to deal with Aggro and Control to be better at disrupting Combo. This could look like more disruption that works against spells - Loatheb as a Legendary card is not enough or drawn consistently enough against spell heavy decks.
There has to be a balance - if you go too far, you might get a Midrange and Control meta which would be just as bad for Archetype Diversity. The goal is to have a meta similar to Barrens where all four main archetypes see a good amount of play.
Overall, Archetype Diversity is a key part of having games feel less repetitive and to create a varied gameplay experience. Hopefully, Wild's lack of Archetype Diversity can be addressed in the next expansion. What do you think about Archetype Diversity in Wild? Would you like it to be higher, and if so what ideas do you have for increasing it? Let us know in the comments below!