Hi everyone, and welcome to this post patch analysis looking at the game a week after patch 24.0.3.
I don't like to be a negative person, and I generally always look for the bright side of what is happening in the game. Yet, it is hard to argue that barely anything has changed if we look at the power rankings for the 10 Hearthstone classes.
Paladin and Warrior could mostly complain about the several buffs they received which led to nothing notable in terms of competitive progression. It feels like these 2 classes are stuck in a dead end and will have to wait for yet another intervention from the developers team to be revisited by the player base.
On the other end of the spectrum, classes that were at the top of the standings before the patch and had nerfs didn't move too much either.
In the end, Rogue's dominance is the only real novelty that came out of the patch along with its counters: Quest and Naga Priest. Even the shift at the top of competitive rankings didn't impact the balance of the other classes, it seems.
As a result, the latest balance patch left the player base with a lot of questions rather than the awaited important answers. Luckily, I love a good question and will try to go over the most pressing ones, now that the smoke has cleared on patch 24.0.3.
Shaman and Warlock have been replaced with Rogue and Priest
Upon the official release of the nerfs, many thought that Celestial Alignment was the big impactful card on the list. In reality, if that archetype is buried for Druid, the class hasn't missed a step in terms of popularity over the last week.
Although Rogue is the most talked about class currently, Druid retains the title of the most played class in the legend rank, with Ramp Druid collecting 190,000 games and representing 16.5% of the total metagame. And Aggro Druid is not looking too bad at 51,000 games, more than 5 other classes' most popular deck.
At first, one could have thought that Rogue was a bad match-up, and the class being a bit more predictable would have a big impact on Druid. Yet, Rogue made Mage and Priest very popular classes, being the best counters to Miracle Rogue, and both of those are favorable for Druid.
A very similar assessment could be made for Mage, who was untouched in the patch and kept its spot as a top three class in the current metagame. Fueled by its good macth up against Rogue, Spooky Mage tallied 170,000 games in the Legend rank, making it the third most played deck.
The two classes who suffered a loss from the patch were Warlock and Shaman, which most claimed were not hit so hard in the nerf department.
Yet, if Control Shaman is slowly growing a new fan base as lists without the Snowfall Guardian are emerging (simply slotting in Crud Caretaker most of the time), it is difficult to imagine Warlock coming back.
Indeed, with Druid being the most popular class currently, Imp Warlock should be in a decent spot, at least as a counter deck. Unfortunately, below 40% matchups against both Spooky Mage and Miracle Rogue are gatekeeping Warlock from being able to prey on Druid, leading to the class slowly disappearing from competitive play.
Replacing Shaman and Warlock are Rogue and Priest, the most improved class with the patch, and the one benefiting from Rogue being so popular.
As expected, the buff to Edwin, Defias Kingpin has been instrumental in rising Rogue's stock in the competitive rankings. And considering the class is an all-time bad performer when it comes to posting a good score over a large sample of games, its current performances are even more impressive.
Currently, Miracle Rogue sits on the second step when it comes to popularity and third for overall win rate at the legend rank.
Completing the dominant quartet is Priest, playing a very similar role it had before the patch: countering.
With both Quest and Naga Priest posting above 70% win rate against Miracle Rogue, a lot of players call Anduin a saint right now, as he limits the damage Valeera is able to do immensely.
Through this shift in the power rankings, a new dominant order has formed around Mage, Druid, Priest, and Rogue. And apart from Shaman who is on the comeback trail lately, it seems hard to imagine any of the other 5 classes to be a major player in the current metagame.
Demon Hunter tried and failed
If you read last week's article, you probably noted that the community had several ideas on how to capitalize on the several buffs Demon Hunter receives. I'll admit it. I joined the hype train as well and spent the first days of the expansion playing mostly Demon Hunter. There was a lot to explore with both the relics archetypes and the faster, more aggressive ones.
Looking at the stats, it feels like most players had the same idea, as Relic Demon Hunter currently is the fourth most popular deck on the legend ladder. Unfortunately, its 44.5% win rate can't quite give the deck a similar ranking when it comes to power level.
An even worse piece of news: this is the best-performing deck for Illidan since patch 24.0.3.
Among the 6 classes that aren't part of the dominant ones, Demon Hunter clearly seems to dominate the popularity contest. As an example, the closest deck to Demon Hunter's relic archetype at 83,000 games is Imp Warlock at 45,000 (Control Shaman is at 44,000, sorry Thrall), which is almost half the games. Even If I added the 22,000 games from Curse Imp Warlock, Gul'dan still does not catch up to Illidan, while posting a much better win rate too.
One could wonder why is the deck so popular, since it obviously does not deserve such a play rate based on performances.
To me, the explanation is a need for change for most players who aren't looking to climb the ladder. Indeed, once in the legend rank, most people consider they have achieved their goal for the month. They will now focus on having fun or maybe use the ladder to prepare for tournaments and then play unrefined or underperforming decks.
Most people were eagerly awaiting the patch to go live to see how improved would Paladin, Warrior, and Demon Hunter be. Unfortunately, Paladin and Warrior have not progressed one bit, leaving Demon Hunter as the lonely class people could try to be creative with.
The class still got better, going from a below 40% winrate to something close to 45% now. It is obviously at least 5% off the mark to be a consideration for anyone with winning hopes, but it's still an improvement.
At the very least, the patch gave the developers team a nice direction as to what people enjoy playing with. This data can help with pinpointing what they should support in the upcoming patches, and help with the mini set.
Speaking of which, the mini set probably is the last hope for Paladin and Warrior.
Paladin and Warrior can't wait for the mini set
Warrior isn't in such bad shape, to be honest. In reality, the Enrage Warrior archetype is posting a better win rate than the Relic Demon Hunter (45.9% compared to 44.5%). The big difference though is the popularity, less than a third of what Demon Hunter reported.
If we added 60,000 games to the deck, though, I have a hard time thinking that its winrate would go up, and Warrior would probably dip below Demon Hunter's record.
Yet, Warrior can at least pride itself on saying the newly pushed Enrage archetype is both the most popular and best-performing deck for the class.
It obviously is in dire need of help in order to begin competing with the likes of Druid or Rogue, but a clear direction is set for the Warrior Class.
Paladin on the other end, looks completely helpless, with its most popular archetype being a 38% winrate, and recording less matches than most classes' third deck. As an example, Quest Demon Hunter and Control Warrior both have been played over a thousand times more than Silver Hand Paladin.
Another argument showing that Paladin's newly added archetypes are a complete disaster. Both best performing decks for the class are Holy Paladin and Mech Paladin, which are Sunken City archetypes.
So how do we help these non-performing classes?
It feels like Shaman, Warlock, and Hunter aren't necessarily in a bad spot, but they are standing on very sensitive footing.
Warlock mostly seems to be unable to exist with Mage and Rogue at the top of the rankings.
Hunter and Shaman are looking like they still need to figure out what they are best at but could close in on the rest quite quickly if they find a few matchups to abuse.
The major part of the work still remains to be done for Demon Hunter, Paladin, and Warrior though. So here are a few ideas I could come up with, or found online browsing, as to buff or cards that would be great in the mini set.
Demon Hunter :
The big problem I see with the class is how bad Renathal made it look. Demon Hunter is very explosive and can develop a lot of damage if given the opportunity. But it fared very poorly ever since we entered a 40 health metagame as its opponents aren't feeling under pressure like they used to.
In order to fix this, I feel like Demon Hunter's threats have to be a bit more resilient, as a way to be able to last long enough to regularly have a shot at dealing 40 health. It's not an issue of finding some win conditions, as the class does have enough, it's supported them in the new environment that Renathal created.
As for the Relics archetype specifically, I feel the deck needs a little help getting started. Demon Hunter has a ton of draw, but its comeback ability is limited once behind on the board.
Either cards that can help to play onto the board while helping the relic synergy would be great, or defensive ones that still participate in finding the core cards
For each of the following classes, I'd like to offer some ideas for buffs as well as some custom card ideas that could bring some freshness to these struggling classes.
Mini set ideas:
Limited to only 2 archetypes currently, Warrior feels like a class that could very well find its way back to being competitive with a bit of targeted help.
The Enrage archetype will very likely be the focus for the upcoming mini set and beyond. The Control archetype mostly suffers from the virtually infinite value of decks like Spooky Mage or Ramp Druid.
As such, if the class is looking for more tempo-oriented options for its most popular deck, they are going to need disruption for a defensive deck to have a competitive shot.
Overlord Saurfang: 7 Mana -> 6 Mana, now reads: Battlecry: Resurrect 2 friendly Frenzy minions that cost (5) or less. Deal 1 to all other minions.
Remornia, Living Blade: Now reads: Rush. After this attacks, equip it. Honorable kill: Heal this card back to 10.
Frothing Berserker: 2|4 -> 2|5
Clash of the Colossals: 3 Mana -> 2 Mana
Mini Set ideas :
Paladin is by far the worst class in my book right now. Not only does it currently have no competitive deck, but it also doesn't look to have an identity either.
Compared to Demon Hunter or Warrior, it is hard to pinpoint what Paladin is particularly good at and build on that strength. For quite some time now, Paladin's decks have been relying on general Hearthstone fundamentals like curving out, protecting your board with Divine Shield, and snowballing important units.
Yet, because these things can be very frustrating for the opponent, who sees the Paladin develops the board and smash it in their face. Most decks based on those concepts have suffered nerfs or have died out, for a lack of support as new expansions arrived.
Through buffs and the mini-set, I think the most pressing for Paladin is the get some sense of identity back, alongside reverting nerfs that have no reason to exist in today's Hearthstone.
Elitist Snob: 3|4 -> 4|4
Mini set Ideas :
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