As expected after the Masters Tour, the Hearthstone team proceeded to drop a balance patch on Thursday. What came as a bit of a surprise was how slim the list and changes themselves were.
Just like most of the community predicted, the largest part of these changes were directed at Beast Hunter, suffering 3 small nerfs, alongside Theotar now costing 5 mana.
The other prediction about this patch was that only changing Hunter wouldn't lead to anything good. Indeed, a lot of pros expressed that even if the deck was indeed the best in the game, it never took the metagame hostage, and nerfing it could open the door for more polarizing decks to rise. Anduin particularly, and his Bless or Naga archetypes, was expected to be unstoppable after the patch.
The reality is quite different, and the early gathered data is showing a very different picture than the anticipated Priest domination.
Naga Priest is doing great, posting its usual 53 to 55% win rate, and Bless Priest is still around the middle to bottom or Tier 2, held back by its complicated play-patterns. But those numbers aren't anything close to Anduin taking over as the new Hearthstone king.
Instead, the game appears to have a reigning class for these first days of play: Rogue. The class ranks first in both Legend and high Diamond ranks. Once in the lower Diamond and below, it's Gul'dan who appears to be the one to beat, Curse Imp Warlock posting an above 55% win rate at this level of play.
There's a lot to analyze then, as it appears the developers have once again managed to surprise the community with the outcome of a patch. In this piece, let's explore what happened to the strong classes before the patch, as well as how reliable the data is concerning these rising decks.
Hunter, Mage, and Druid are no more.
Beast Hunter was the clear best performing archetype before the patch, and outside of Bless Priest, Spooky Mage emerged as its most reliably counter.
As Mage's torturer, Ramp Druid also managed to be a popular deck at the time. This situation created the trio that ruled the ladder, each deck featuring a good and a bad match up against the other two.
Well, none of these decks seem to be performing too well so far. In the legend ranks, the best of the trio is Beast Hunter, posting a 51% win rate, a solid 4% lower than before the patch. This score manages to reach 53% looking at the diamond ranks, but never really competes with the likes of Curse Imp Warlock or Naga Priest.
As far as Spooky Mage and Ramp Druid are concerned, both decks are still the most popular in their class. Yet, both have dipped below the 50% winrate mark and look to slowly be replaced with Big Spell Mage and Aggro Druid over time as the new class dominant archetypes.
Mine Rogue's huge push at the top of ladder
Although this phenomenon only happened in the Top 1,000 legend filter of our data, Mine Rogue, and combo archetypes more globally, have made a big splash since the patch.
There is a simple reason to this surge in OTK strategies: it is easier to pilot in a new, uncertain environment.
While learning the intricacies of the deck itself can be difficult and very time-demanding, players with experience in such archetypes already have their work cut off for them.
Indeed, these kinds of decks have a very simple game plan in terms of where they are trying to go, and will push this agenda against almost every single opponent they encounter.
In the context of a new metagame, where you can face a bit of everything as most players are testing different strategies, knowing exactly where you are going makes it much easier.
As a result, fast combo decks tend to have very inflated numbers during this time, at least until they start being noticed and their counters emerge.
Is Paladin back for real this time?
Aggressive decks have shown to be a good counter to Mine Rogue, and the deck went from a 57% win rate on Saturday to a more reasonable 54% (see picture) on Sunday evening. So even if the deck was getting a hot start, it looks like it didn't manage to go wild for too long.
Anduin, on the other end, looks to be a different story. While neither of its decks have reached the same win rate Mine Rogue did for a couple of days, both Naga and Bless Priest have very solid numbers against aggressive archetype. This makes them much more resilient to a potential metagame shift, and requires another type of deck to counter them. Enter Control Paladins.
Both placed in Tier 2 with a 51 to 52.5% win rate for now, this Paladin archetype's removal package is a big selling point. Equality and Righteous Defense, mostly, are able to answer any sized unit and efficiently counter Priest's strategy of creating humongous minions to smash their opponent's with.
With Spooky Mage out of the picture for now, it seems like Paladin might very well be next in line to become the best control deck of the upcoming few weeks.
Curse Imp Warlock, ruler of the non-Legend ranks
If combo decks seem to be trending amongst seasoned players. Those still looking to collect some stars appear to trust proactive and aggressive strategies.
While other dominant decks can vary depending on the rank, with Enrage Warrior, Naga Priest, Beast Hunter, or Aggro Druid looking like other solid choices. The one constant outside the Legend rank is Curse Imp Warlock, ranked first at every other level of the game.
Similarly to Mine Rogue or Bless Priest, the success of the deck should be attributed to its easy-to-visualize plan, virtually applicable to any matchups.
The difference is that the lower ranks tend to be way less elastic when it comes to adapting to dominant decks.
I wouldn't be surprised to see Curse Imp Warlock rule the metagame outside of the legend ranks for the weeks to come. Its direct counters, like Bless or Naga Priest, are quite difficult to play for someone without several hours to spend learning the deck.
After just a few days, it seems like the metagame is following its natural course. Decks that offer a simple direction and are able to enforce it against a wide array of opponents appear to be the best so far, at all ranks of the ladder.
More flexible, reactive decks should come back as time passes, just like Paladin seems to have started doing. I wouldn't be surprised to see Shaman, Fel Demon Hunter, or other untouched midrange archetypes like Big Spell Mage make a comeback once more players manage to grasp the intricacies of their new matchups.
As for the fallen trio of Spooky Mage, Ramp Druid, and Beast Hunter, they aren't doing so bad, being just 1 or 2% off of solid Tier 2 picks.
Losing a great matchup that used to feed the win ratio, or suffering a nerf, is always difficult to overcome. Yet, all three decks have room to be flexible and enough supporters to make sure they will be thoroughly tested in the coming week.
We will make sure to report all these developments in our new articles and look to help you have the best possible experience on the ladder.
Until then, Good Game, Everyone!
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