With the annual rotation looming, many have hypothesized on the impact it will have on the standard meta. The Year of the Raven has been characterized by the strength of the cards released in previous years, with sets from this year generally having less of an impact relative to previous metas. As such, its anticipated that this year's rotation will have wide ranging and significant impact on the meta.

The following analysis looks at the Druid, Hunter and Mage cards which are defined by HSReplay.net's archetype identification algorithm as being core to its definition (Top 10). We then analyse which archetypes will be most affected, and which might see play next year. The following analysis is of archetypes that saw >1000 games in the period between 2019-01-01 and 2019-01-10.

Druid

This class has not been in a healthy position since the pre-holiday nerfs to Wild Growth and Nourish, however the class does still have a number of optimized archetypes, largely due to its power level in the pre-nerf meta.

  • Spiteful Druid, which was once strong enough to see a nerf and is currently Druids highest win-rate archetype, is gutted by the rotation. This deck will see 8/10 core cards removed, including Spiteful Summoner and Ultimate Infestation, making the archetypes big power-play unplayable.
  • Taunt Druid is much the same, with 9/10 leaving standard. However, the only core card not leaving is Witching Hour, so its possible this resurrection style deck may arise in a different form should Blizzard choose to support this play-style.
  • Malygos Druid has been around since classic, however it loses 3 core tools that commonly make modern lists. Spreading Plague is the biggest loss for the archetype, being one of the best defensive tools ever printed.
  • Token Druid, another meta mainstay, only loses Living Mana giving it some chance of a return to the top. Blizzard has shown a propensity to introduce treant synergies this year, so its likely we will see the archetype pushed further.
  • Mill and Quest Druid become unplayable due to the rotation of King Toggwagle and Jungle Giants respectively.
  • Odd Druid on loses Tar Creeper, making it a candidate for growth next year.

Druid has had its time in the sun, and looks to be in a pretty bad spot for the immediate future. It will likely rely heavily on its classic archetypes, Malygos and Token, unless strong odd cards or perhaps beasts that synergies with Witching Hour are printed.

Critical Losses: Spiteful Summoner, Ultimate Infestation, Crypt Lord, Vicious Fledgling, Grand Archivist, Dragonhatcher, Carnivorous Cube, Master Oakheart, Ironwood Golem, Hadronox, The Lich King, Spreading Plague, Twig of the World Tree, Arcane Tyrant, Living Mana, King Toggwagle, Jungle Giants.

Critical Keeps: Witching Hour, Malygos, Dreampetal Florist, Flobbidinous Floop, Wispering Woods, Landscaping, Force of Nature, Treespeaker, Mulchmuncher, Soul of the Forest, Power of the Wild, Baku the Mooneater, Gloom Stag.

Hunter

Hunters prevalence in the current meta has been a hot topic for community discussion. Hunter hasn't been top of the meta for a long time, and it will lose some key cards in the rotation.

  • Spell Hunter loses 4/10 core cards, two of which really form the identity of the archetype. Despite retaining much of its core, its hard to see players sacrificing having minions in their decks without the strong pay-off cards Rhok'delar and To My Side!, and enablers like Deathstalker Rexxar.
  • Secret Hunter on the other hand loses 2 of its most played traps and Lesser Emerald Spellstone, the later arguably being the reason to play the deck. Its hard to image spell-based Hunter decks being competitive without the Spellstone, but with much of their core intact, Blizzard could conceivably support this archetype in the new year.  
  • Midrange Hunter only loses Crackling Razormaw, and looks to be the least impacted Hunter archetype. In a similar fashion to Druid, it shouldn't be surprising that classic archetypes lose less during set rotations.
  • Deathrattle Hunter loses most of its best cards (Play Dead, Carnivorous Cube and Devilsaur Egg to name a few), and will likely not see play in the new meta.
  • Recruit Hunter, will certainly not be a viable archetype, with 9/10 core cards rotating to wild.
  • Odd Hunter loses 3 core 1-drops, which will need to be replaced if the archetype is to grow in popularity.

Hunter will certainly lose a lot with the rotation, particularly in its strongest archetypes. The loss of Lesser Emerald Spellstone will hit spell-based builds heavily however strong cards like Zul-jin and Subject 9 give them a small hope of survival in some form. Current minion based strategies don't appear to be viable apart from Midrange and Odd archetypes, which both rely heavily on classic and basic cards.

Critical Losses: Rhok'delar, To My Side!, Deathstalker Rexxar, Lesser Emerald Spellstone, Wandering Monster, Venomstrike Trap, Crackling Razormaw, Play Dead, Carnivorous Cube, Devilsaur Egg, Terrorscale Stalker, Kathrena Winterwisp, Seeping Oozeling, Stitched Tracker, Charged Devilsaur.

Critical Keeps: Zul-jin, Subject 9, Springpaw, Master's Call, Houndmaster Shaw, Dire Frenzy, Baku the Mooneater.

Mage

Mage is another class which has seen some adversity in recent times. The nerf to Mana Wyrm hurt the already struggling class, and pushed it toward a more controlling play-style. It was the least represented class in the recent HCT Europe Winter Playoffs, but how does it fare with the upcoming rotation?

  • Odd Mage got some great tools in Rastakhan's Rumble and loses just two core cards, the most impact-full being Dragon's Fury. However with Zola the Gorgon leaving Standard, you will only be able to summon one Ragnaros. BOOO!!!
  • Big Spell Mage on the other hand will lose 7/10 core cards, making it unlikely to see play after rotation.
  • Elemental Mage has seen significant support post-Un'Goro and actually retains many of its core elementals (Bonfire Elemental, Arcanosaur, Mountain Giant), but with 5/10 core cards rotating and its current lackluster winrate, the deck will see challenges moving forward.
  • Tempo Mage, which was the target of recent nerfs, actually retains 8/10 core cards but loses its strong draw engine, Aluneth.
  • Quest Mage and the Quest-less OTK Freeze Mage probably also won't be viable after rotation, as the OTKs are not consistent without enablers such as Simulacrum and Open the Waygate.

Post rotation, Odd Mage looks a candidate to fair well given it's not losing much and is currently quite strong. Tempo Mage also has a chance, especially if good aggressive cards are printed (which the nerf to Mana Wyrm has paved the way for). As with the last 2 classes, a combination of fairly long established, as well as Baku based strategies appear to be the most viable the the upcoming rotation.

Critical Losses: Frost Lich Jaina, Dragon's Fury, Zola the Gorgon, Meteor, Dragoncaller Alanna, The Lich King, Skulking Geist, Raven Familiar, Blazecaller, Tol'vir Stoneshaper, Pyros, Explosive Runes, Aluneth, Open the Waygate, Molten Reflection, Simulacrum, Leyline Manipulator.

Critical Keeps: Baku the Mooneater, Black Cat, Pyromaniac, Bonfire Elemental, Arcanosaur, Cosmic Anomaly, Shooting Star, Spellzerker, Cinderstorm.

Summing Up

Having reviewed the most and least impacted archetypes, the meta is certainly going to change significantly with the Standard rotation. Druid will lose all of its strongest archetypes, as will Hunter. Mage keeps its strongest archetype, however also loses many of its supporting acts. The following summarizes a likely state of the currently popular archetypes post-rotation.

Lost Core (unplayable): Spiteful Druid, Taunt Druid, Mill Druid, Quest Druid, Spell Hunter, Deathrattle Hunter, Recruit Hunter, Big Spell Mage, Quest Mage, Freeze (OTK) Mage.

Needs Support: Malygos Druid, Token Druid, Secret Hunter, Odd Hunter, Elemental Mage.

Well Positioned: Odd Druid, Midrange Hunter, Odd Mage, Tempo Mage.

Many of the unplayable archetypes either have been, or are currently tier-1 or high tier-2 decks. Many of these Druid archetypes have defined the meta for the past 12 months or so, and many of the Hunter archetypes are defining it now.

Given the impact the rotation will have, its hard to predict the upcoming meta and whether the well positioned archetypes will have a chance to shine. What's very apparent is that a) players should invest in filling out their classic collection and b) Baku the Mooneater is likely still a very safe craft.

That's it for now but stay tuned for part 2 with Paladin, Priest and Rogue!


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