After a week of play into patch 24.2.2, a lot of things are looking very different from what we could have expected on Friday when the balance changes were revealed.
The popular reaction back then was a collective “meh." The bigger part of the community believed the changes would not be enough to shake up the metagame.
I have to admit, outside of the change to the Mage location and Hunter's quest which I found to be pretty big, I was part of the skeptic group as well. Especially Edwin going back to a 4-cost card or Wildheart Guff granting an empty mana crystal from now on... I wasn't sure the nerfs would have much of an impact.
As for buffs, if Alliance Bannerman's change is completely anecdotal in my book, School Teacher gaining back the lost health point from her previous nerf was an interesting change. Indeed, the increase from 3 to 4 health probably is the most impactful one in today's game, considering how many cards won't be able to remove it now.
This change could mean a lot for Shaman, who abused the card back when it was a 5/4 or maybe Demon Hunter who also has some connections with the Naga tribe.
Yet, no matter if you believed the patch was on point, or if you thought the team went a little too soft on their changes, I did not see anyone thinking that Hunter would benefit from this patch, as the nerf to the quest was unequivocally a big one.
But here we are today, with Beast Hunter posting an above 55% win rate, and ranking second in the Legend rank, behind Naga Priest.
Druid and Mage both dip below 50% Win Rate.
Before we talk about the winners, there are two classes that we need to discuss who were previously in the top three classes before the patch.
Obviously, we are early in the patch and things can go in many directions in the future. But seeing Ramp Druid and Spooky Mage both in Tier 3 alongside the likes of Relic Demon Hunter and Enrage Warrior is something I didn't expect.
Two numbers can explain Druid's descent to Tier 3. First, the deck is listed as unfavorable to most of the current popular decks in the metagame. Relic Demon Hunter is a 45% match-up, Curse Imp Warlock is a 40% match up and Aggro Druid is a 20% match-up. Only Quest Priest is a favorable encounter amongst the current 5 most played decks in the legend rank.
The class isn't dead by a longshot though. Aggro Druid is posting good results and currently sitting atop Tier 2. Yet, seeing the Ramp archetype fall so much is a surprise that a lot of players have been waiting for the last year or so.
Focusing on Mage now, and why Spooky Mage suffered a similar path down the rankings. For the Volatile Skeleton deck, the big problem seems to be Ramp Druid and Control Shaman.
The Druid concern could fix itself in the future if Malfurion keeps on its trend of favoring the Aggro archetype as time passes. And Jaina could very well rise if Ramp Druid disappears, the match-up being a 33% win rate, the worst for the deck.
As for the battle against Shaman, this one probably is a match up Mage will have to learn how to deal with, as Shaman did see a boost from the patch. Indeed, with School Teacher getting stronger, and Smothering Starfish now being a 4 cost, Control Shaman made quite the comeback this weekend. Already at a 52.3% win rate overall, and getting noticed as Meati achieved rank 1 Legend with the deck. I expect the class to be on the rise until the mini-set arrives.
Similarly to Druid, Mage players might want to consider playing the class' second archetype, Big Spell Mage for now, at least until Ramp Druid lowers in popularity and open a better match up table for the Spooky deck.
Demon Hunter smashes the popularity contest
Already an anomaly in the previous metagame as the deck was a top 5 pick in terms of popularity while out of the top 10 when it came to results, Relic Demon Hunter has claimed the top spot after the patch. The deck is solidly anchored as the most popular pick in the Legend rank with 12.4% of total games, and the only pick above the 10% mark.
Amongst the previously dominant classes of Mage, Rogue, and Druid, only Malfurion seems to have retained some love from the player base. The other two classes are now both out of the top 5 when it comes to overall popularity.
Warlock, Shaman, and Priest have seen a significant rise in their stead. These three classes all have a deck around the 6 – 8% overall popularity, which makes sense considering they have a similar ranking in terms of win rate.
When comparing results and popularity, almost every class kind of makes sense. Ramp Druid is much more popular than its winrate would suggest, but considering it was the most played deck before the patch, it could be a case of players still looking for what to play instead.
Demon Hunter really is the enigma here. Relic Demon Hunter is still struggling to stay above the 50% winrate mark, yet it seems to be everyone's favorite deck. I will easily admit that the archetype is a blast to play and probably one of the most satisfying decks in today's meta. Yet, decks that aren't winning usually don't end up as the most popular ones.
And unlikes Druid, the deck wasn't stellar before the patch. It might be a case of people testing to see how improved it's been, but the current 49.7% win rate is promising at best, disappointing otherwise.
Hunter and Priest dominate the rankings
I'll let you decide what is most impressive between holding the top rank or having two separate archetypes at the second and third spot. No matter what you decide though, Priest and Hunter are both 2 to 3% better than the next best deck (Curse Imp Warlock at 52.8%) as I'm writing this.
Naga Priest has fought for the top spot in the past. We already discussed in the Master Tour: Murder at Castle Nathria piece that the deck was discreet but very solid. Hunter on the other hand, was a Tier 2 to 3 kind of class for the vast majority of the previous metagame. As a result, seeing a Hunter deck in Tier 1 already is a surprise. Seeing two is mind-boggling.
If I'm being honest, Face Hunter probably is having the usual edge aggressive decks have during the early days of a patch. The fact that the deck is heavily favored (67.7%) against Demon Hunter is also helping a lot. But if Shaman or Priest keep rising in popularity, the Face archetype should quickly fall closer to the 50% mark.
So that leaves us with Beast Hunter and its impressive 56% win rate in the Legend Rank. But even more impressive, it has one of the cleanest match-up tables I have seen in quite some time:
If you can't see the numbers clearly, the color should already tell you a lot of the story: it is a lot of green!
To mitigate a little those results, there is only one match-up above the 60% mark, Relic Demon Hunter. Every other deck is favorable, but none of them can be called one-sided.
Seeing a deck with apparently no bad matchup on the ladder is very rare and could indicate that its current tenth position in popularity could be changing very soon.
The early days of a new patch are to be taken with caution. Although they give some valuable information as to where the metagame could be headed, a slight change like a new deck or a few cards change in a popular deck can create a domino effect.
Nonetheless, this patch is having major impact on what was a stalled situation previously. Druid, Mage, and Rogue were unarguably the top three classes, dominating both the ladder and tournament play.
With two of these already losing a ton of popularity and Ramp Druid struggling to post a decent win rate so far, players have a lot of new puzzles to solve before figuring out exactly the structure of this new environment.
It's now perfect timing to wait for the mini-set, which we expect to drop around the end of September or early October at the latest.
Thanks for reading this piece! You can find me on Twitter at https://twitter.com/den_CCG.
Good Game Everyone!
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