On Monday, Blizzard hit us with every Hearthstone player's greatest wish for Christmas: a big balance patch. In this one, all four classes atop the competitive mountain suffered some form of setback, as Druid, Demon Hunter, Priest, and particularly Rogue saw one or several of their most powerful cards nerfed.
A few days have passed, and the data has started to come in regarding how every class has adapted to this new environment.
Overall, I think it is safe to say the situation is improved compared to the metagame at the time of the World Championship. Yet, it is no perfect world either, as the game still is very focused on certain mechanics that some classes still are struggling to abuse, leading to these being barely played.
Warrior, notably, does not have a deck representing even 1% of the current metagame. With Thief Rogue representing a staggering 24.5% of the playing field in the Top 1000 Legend ranks, you have a better guess at mulliganing for a Rogue rather than a Warrior when playing against Garrosh these days.
Still, there are some major changes that are worth noting, such as Priest being back to a Control class. Or Ramp Druid not representing more than 10% of the metagame for example, a first-ever since Prince Renathal joined the game during the summer.
Let's take a look at how every class is doing through the spectrum of each hero's best-performing deck and use those as a foundation to discuss the premises of this forming metagame.
Rogue, Still on Top of the Hearthstone World
Those sneaky Rogues would probably have won the poll of “which class would you want to see nerfed?” in the previous metagame, and, understandably, are the ones taking the biggest hit in the balance patch. Rogue still represents more than a quarter of the current environment with Thief Rogue carrying the class.
With Miracle Rogue and Deathrattle Rogue both below the 50% win rate mark, it's hard to argue against Patch 25.0.4 doing its part. The class is very versatile though and went right back to its previous dominant archetype based around Jackpot, another card that could be discussed as nerf-worthy.
For now, the deck doesn't seem particularly impressive, reporting a 51% win rate average across the Diamond and Legend Ranks. But its current popularity, around 15 to 20% depending on ranks, is probably the result of the deck being easy to figure out right after a big shake-up and offers a lot of versatility to its pilot.
It is, without a doubt, the deck to beat currently, and it heavily impacts the winrates of other decks, as its counters will often be the most popular deck in their class.
### Thief Rogue # Class: Rogue # Format: Standard # Year of the Gryphon # # 2x (0) Shadowstep # 1x (0) Shadow of Demise # 2x (0) Preparation # 2x (1) Blackwater Cutlass # 2x (2) Sketchy Stranger # 2x (2) Serrated Bone Spike # 2x (2) Reconnaissance # 1x (2) Potionmaster Putricide # 2x (2) Potion Belt # 1x (2) Maestra of the Masquerade # 2x (2) Jackpot! # 1x (2) Astalor Bloodsworn # 2x (4) Swiftscale Trickster # 2x (5) Wildpaw Gnoll # 1x (5) Queen Azshara # 2x (5) Contraband Stash # 1x (6) Crabatoa # 1x (7) Tess Greymane # 1x (8) Shadowcrafter Scabbs # AAECAaIHCKH5A/uKBNi2BNu5BMygBeigBYukBeKkBQu9gAT2nwT3nwS6pAT7pQTspwTVtgT13QSS3wT58QTfoAUA # To use this deck, copy it to your clipboard and create a new deck in Hearthstone # Find this deck on https://hsreplay.net/decks/vbjBsSxPA01In50wjBMrFh/
Death Knight Rises
The Blood Rune may have been the best one in the class before the balance patch as it has the best tools to deal with the dominant OTK decks. But now, the Frost Rune has taken over this week. The deck feels stronger against Thief Rogue and the return of board-based decks such as Pure Paladin, Evolve Shaman, and Curse Imp Warlock.
With a very solid 53% win rate in the legend rank (54% if we include Diamond ranks as well), Frost Death Knight is performing well in the new metagame where direct damage is still a key component of most of the dominant decks. But the deck isn't trying to assemble a specific combo the same way Miracle Rogue, Bless Priest, or Quest Demon Hunter did previously.
Here, we are looking at a more flexible way to spread our damage. Either hoarding it for a big turn using Bloodmage Thalnos or Guild Trader as support or burning the opponent through the whole game and using our freezing tools to buy enough time to get the win.
Also, it's important to note that the Discover mechanic was the bread and butter of the Blood Rune before the patch. Now it fills a secondary role with drawing from your deck being the priority. This also makes cards such as Chillfallen Baron or Harbinger of Winter very good early game cards.
### Frost Death Knight # Class: Death Knight # Format: Standard # Year of the Gryphon # # 2x (0) Horn of Winter # 2x (1) Icy Touch # 2x (1) Bone Breaker # 2x (2) Harbinger of Winter # 2x (2) Frost Strike # 2x (2) Deathchiller # 1x (2) Bloodmage Thalnos # 1x (2) Astalor Bloodsworn # 1x (3) Rimefang Sword # 2x (3) Nerubian Vizier # 2x (3) Howling Blast # 2x (3) Glacial Advance # 2x (3) Chillfallen Baron # 1x (4) Thassarian # 2x (4) School Teacher # 1x (4) Lady Deathwhisper # 1x (6) Overseer Frigidara # 2x (7) Frostwyrm's Fury # AAECAfHhBAaXoASJ9gTE9gTipAXLpQXMpQUMlrcE7eME9eME/uMEguQEk+QEueYEh/YEtIAFtYAFk4EFopkFAA== # To use this deck, copy it to your clipboard and create a new deck in Hearthstone # Find this deck on https://hsreplay.net/decks/9VrhiNXM49v2eQ2ztU2Xgc/
Shockspitter Hunter Makes a Comeback!
Beast Hunter could be considered as the dominant archetype in the class if we look at the data from Diamond and below. But once we take the Legend rank into account, Shockspitter Hunter becomes a clearly impressive deck.
This phenomenon is quite normal, as combo-oriented decks tend to perform well and be much more popular in the higher ranks.
So depending on where you are in your ladder experience, you could face either of these Hunter decks and be pretty intimidated.
Still, I think time will give Shockspitter the nod, considering the attention around the deck on social media ever since some players started sharing their success with the deck. Ronmexico was one of the first I saw, and recently, Nohandsgamer shared his top 10 accomplishment using his take on the deck. Since then, more players have started testing the deck, and some builds have passed the 60% win rate mark.
But why is this nerfed archetype back?
Simply enough, gameplay strategies have slowed down overall with the patch, which aligned with Hunter's new speed. Now that other classes received the same treatment, the bias surrounding Shockspitter Hunter was alleviated and players decided to give the deck another try.
### Shockspitter Hunter # Class: Hunter # Format: Standard # Year of the Gryphon # # 2x (0) Devouring Swarm # 2x (1) Tracking # 2x (1) Irondeep Trogg # 2x (1) Candleshot # 2x (1) Batty Guest # 2x (2) Spirit Poacher # 2x (2) Selective Breeder # 2x (2) Conjured Arrow # 2x (2) Bloodseeker # 1x (2) Astalor Bloodsworn # 2x (3) Wild Spirits # 2x (3) Shockspitter # 2x (3) Keeneye Spotter # 1x (3) Brann Bronzebeard # 1x (4) Stormpike Battle Ram # 1x (5) Barak Kodobane # 1x (6) Beaststalker Tavish # 1x (7) Hydralodon # AAECAR8G5e8D25EE2KME57kEmNQE4qQFDOrpA5T8A/aPBKmfBOGkBMHjBMzkBNDkBKeQBaiTBa6TBY+kBQA= # To use this deck, copy it to your clipboard and create a new deck in Hearthstone # Find this deck on https://hsreplay.net/decks/yTEmkr5395E6669nywGn9c/
What Exactly is Aggro Mage?
Every time I have an article to write for HSReplay, I naturally start by taking a look at all the stats that could be useful for my topic. And while I always have some of my opinion changed by what the website's data is telling me, I am rarely surprised to the point I have to do a second round of research on what I just discovered.
Well, Aggro Mage did this to me for this piece, as I was quite confident Ping Mage would be the dominant archetype for the class after the patch. The deck already was among the few non-OTK decks to make it to Worlds, and it is arguably the best not-nerfed deck of the previous metagame.
To my defense, Ping Mage is the most popular deck for the class, although Big Spell Mage surpasses it depending on the rank we look at. However, Aggro Mage is always the best-performing deck for the class, posting a win rate ranging from 54 to 57% depending on the rank.
So what is Aggro Mage? Apparently, it is a damage-based deck that uses the Arcane Bolt synergy instead of the Hero Power in order to burn the opponent's health. And it uses a lot of cheap units, such as Irondeep Trogg, Shivering Sorceress, or Crooked Cook for the early game. And Aegwynn, the Guardian or Commander Sivara ensures you get enough damage later on. The deck seems to be among the best of the current metagame.
### Aggro Mage # Class: Mage # Format: Standard # Year of the Gryphon # # 2x (0) Flurry (Rank 1) # 2x (1) Suspicious Alchemist # 2x (1) Shivering Sorceress # 2x (1) Irondeep Trogg # 2x (1) Arcane Wyrm # 2x (2) Prismatic Elemental # 2x (2) Frozen Touch # 2x (2) Crooked Cook # 1x (2) Bloodmage Thalnos # 1x (2) Astalor Bloodsworn # 2x (2) Amplified Snowflurry # 2x (3) Frostweave Dungeoneer # 2x (3) Arcsplitter # 1x (4) Commander Sivara # 2x (4) Cold Case # 1x (5) Aegwynn, the Guardian # 2x (6) Deathborne # AAECAf0EBIvnA5egBKneBOKkBQ3U6gPS7AOfkgShkgThpATa0ATb3gT67ATd7QSCkwXFkwWqmAWrmAUA # To use this deck, copy it to your clipboard and create a new deck in Hearthstone # Find this deck on https://hsreplay.net/decks/BwiXxHMAHG6BaCVcSbsrz/
Curse Imp Warlock is Back on the Menu
It is both sad and to be expected, but Warlock's most popular archetype before the expansion is still its strongest. Unable to perform before the balance changes as both Rogue and Priest were absolutely disastrous match-ups, Curse Imp Warlock seems to be a comfort pick for a lot of players. It currently sits at a popularity of about 3% of the playerbase.
Right now, the deck struggles a bit against Thief Rogue once you start closing in on the Legend Rank, limiting the class's ability to be a contender. Nevertheless, the deck is the best one below Diamond 5 ranks, just as it has been for most of the Nathria's metagame.
It really seems like the March of the Lich King expansion didn't bring much for Warlock players to be creative about. None of the new archetypes (Undead Warlock or Deathrattle Warlock) have managed to reach a decent win or popularity rate yet.
### Curse Imp Warlock # Class: Warlock # Format: Standard # Year of the Gryphon # # 2x (1) Wicked Shipment # 2x (1) Touch of the Nathrezim # 2x (1) Grimoire of Sacrifice # 2x (1) Flustered Librarian # 2x (1) Flame Imp # 2x (2) Vile Library # 2x (2) Impending Catastrophe # 1x (3) Tamsin Roame # 2x (3) Sira'kess Cultist # 2x (3) Fiendish Circle # 2x (3) Dragged Below # 1x (3) Brann Bronzebeard # 2x (4) Mischievous Imp # 1x (5) Za'qul # 1x (5) Lady Darkvein # 1x (6) Imp King Rafaam # 1x (6) Dreadlich Tamsin # 2x (6) Abyssal Wave # AAECAf0GBvLtA7CRBOa9BJjUBJvkBIfqBAzX7QOD+wPFgASEoATmoAT+tATcvQTivQT/2QSA2gSB2gSr6gQA # To use this deck, copy it to your clipboard and create a new deck in Hearthstone # Find this deck on https://hsreplay.net/decks/WguWm7zCXpBqI7xlWLMxi/
Is Ramp Druid Finally Just Another Deck?
It is quite customary for Ramp Druid to lose a few percentage points of winrate after a balance patch. The reason for it is that there usually are more board-based, aggressive strategies early on in a new metagame, and those tend to be a natural predator of Druid's evergreen archetype.
Currently, the deck is 1% below Aggro Druid, but largely ahead in popularity. And we should factor in the fact that Ramp Druid suffered a massive blow with Renathal only granting a bonus 5 health now. Compared to an Aggro Druid that did get impacted by the patch, it feels reasonable to believe Ramp Druid still is the best archetype for Malfurion, or will be soon enough.
If the metagame changes, though, and Thief Rogue or Frost Death Knight happen to lose some popularity, I could see the Aggro archetype becoming more relevant.
### Ramp Druid # Class: Druid # Format: Standard # Year of the Gryphon # # 2x (0) Innervate # 2x (0) Aquatic Form # 2x (1) Planted Evidence # 2x (2) Moonlit Guidance # 2x (2) Jerry Rig Carpenter # 2x (2) Earthen Scales # 2x (2) Chitinous Plating # 1x (2) Astalor Bloodsworn # 1x (3) Zola the Gorgon # 2x (3) Wild Growth # 1x (3) Prince Renathal # 1x (3) Brann Bronzebeard # 2x (4) Widowbloom Seedsman # 1x (5) Wildheart Guff # 2x (5) Nourish # 1x (6) Sylvanas, the Accused # 2x (7) Underking # 1x (7) Topior the Shrubbagazzor # 2x (7) Scale of Onyxia # 2x (8) Miracle Growth # 2x (8) Crypt Keeper # 1x (8) Anub'Rekhan # 2x (9) Insatiable Devourer # 1x (10) Sire Denathrius # 1x (10) Raid Boss Onyxia # AAECAZICComLBKWtBOnQBJbUBJjUBO/eBJfvBKTvBL6YBeKkBQ+vgASwgASJnwSunwTanwTPrAT/vQSuwATW3gTB3wTg7QS2mAW7mAW8mAXaoQUA # To use this deck, copy it to your clipboard and create a new deck in Hearthstone # Find this deck on https://hsreplay.net/decks/4Okiyw2w71JcrC1CLtj3Me/
Demon Hunter Replaces the Quest with Souleater's Scythe
The Quest archetype is still the class's most popular archetype by a solid margin compared to the Spell deck (around twice as many games). Yet, the results for both decks seem significant enough to believe the future of the class might be in the Spell Demon Hunter archetype.
From what I could test and see on streams, the change to Unleash Fel has left the class much weaker to damage-based strategies which are very popular right now. Thief Rogue is very unpredictable, and Ramp Druid is one of its worst matchups because of the amount of armor the deck generates. It is a tough time for Demon Hunter to rely on a pure combo deck.
As a result, the more tempo-oriented build is having much better results lately, especially the one built around Sinful Brand. It might be a case of the surprise element doing a lot for the deck, or the fact that board-based decks are more popular than they were before patch 25.0.4. But this deck is averaging a 59% win rate over around 1,000 games which is one of the better scores on our list.
### Spell Demon Hunter # Class: Demon Hunter # Format: Standard # Year of the Gryphon # # 2x (1) Unleash Fel # 2x (1) Sinful Brand # 2x (1) Sigil of Alacrity # 2x (1) Fury (Rank 1) # 2x (1) Feast of Souls # 2x (2) Mark of Scorn # 2x (2) Fel Barrage # 2x (2) Chaos Strike # 1x (3) Silvermoon Arcanist # 2x (3) Predation # 1x (3) Lady S'theno # 2x (3) Coordinated Strike # 1x (3) Aldrachi Warblades # 1x (4) Souleater's Scythe # 2x (4) Fel'dorei Warband # 2x (5) Deal with a Devil # 1x (6) Kurtrus, Demon-Render # 1x (8) Jace Darkweaver # AAECAea5AwaN9wOHiwSDnwT7vwSVkgWdpAUMwvEDifcDivcDgJ8Etp8E1p8EmLoEn+IEhpIFiZIFi5IFkJIFAA== # To use this deck, copy it to your clipboard and create a new deck in Hearthstone # Find this deck on https://hsreplay.net/decks/tOwKY7V3YbQmy4VGfJAtJh/
Pure Paladin, At Last!
It feels like it's been too long that the community has had to wait for a strong Pure Paladin deck to rise. The archetype seemingly existed for years, regularly receiving some cards to support it and grow our beliefs in the deck. But it has never managed to be a real thing in any metagame. Until now.
This time, it might be for real, as one of the few archetypes which made it into the World Championship that wasn't a Druid, Rogue, Demon Hunter, or Priest deck is the best deck of its class. And also, it's one of the best overall decks among all classes.
With its very solid 55.2% win rate in the Diamond through Legend ranks, Pure Paladin is one of the top 5 decks in Hearthstone currently. And even if that number lowers a bit as we look at the higher ranks, the deck still boasts a very respectable 53% in the Top 1.000 Legend ranks.
And for those who could think it is the surprise factor kicking in. Pure Paladin is largely the most popular deck of its class with more than 70% of the class's total matches, and a top 10 deck overall for popularity.
### Pure Paladin # Class: Paladin # Format: Standard # Year of the Gryphon # # 2x (1) Sinful Sous Chef # 2x (1) Sanguine Soldier # 2x (1) Righteous Protector # 2x (1) Knight of Anointment # 2x (2) Order in the Court # 1x (2) Kotori Lightblade # 1x (2) For Quel'Thalas! # 1x (2) Blood Matriarch Liadrin # 2x (2) Battle Vicar # 2x (3) Stonehearth Vindicator # 2x (3) Seal of Blood # 2x (3) Hold the Bridge # 2x (3) Alliance Bannerman # 1x (4) Cariel Roame # 2x (4) Buffet Biggun # 1x (6) Blood Crusader # 1x (7) The Countess # 2x (9) Lightray # AAECAZ8FBpHsA4biBKHiBKuTBYSWBbuXBQzM6wPw9gPJoAT0pAT5pATQrATi0wS/4gTA4gTM4gSBlgWDlgUA # To use this deck, copy it to your clipboard and create a new deck in Hearthstone # Find this deck on https://hsreplay.net/decks/bsB6qAYLqcqGPaaoW4XPG/
Priest Tumbles Down Into a Grave
Arguably one of the best classes before the balance patch, Priest took a completely different road than Rogue. If the Rogue class quickly found an archetype to fall back on and went all in on it, Priest is on the other end. Several archetypes have been tested so far, but none of them are convincing anyone.
Right Now, Priest is by far the worst statistical class in Hearthstone and the only one without a 50% win rate deck across all archetypes. Control decks always tend to suffer right after a balance patch, as it is close to impossible to know precisely what to counter yet.
Nevertheless, even if we are trying to excuse the class for its early struggles, it is undeniable the class is in a bit of a rebuilding phase currently.
### Plague Priest # Class: Priest # Format: Standard # Year of the Gryphon # # 2x (0) Desperate Prayer # 2x (1) The Light! It Burns! # 1x (1) Sir Finley, Sea Guide # 2x (1) Shard of the Naaru # 2x (1) Gift of the Naaru # 2x (2) Thrive in the Shadows # 2x (3) Venomous Scorpid # 1x (3) Rustrot Viper # 1x (3) Prince Renathal # 2x (3) Cathedral of Atonement # 2x (3) Amulet of Undying # 1x (4) Xyrella # 2x (4) Shadow Word: Ruin # 2x (4) Plaguespreader # 1x (4) Lightmaw Netherdrake # 2x (4) Bonecaller # 2x (5) Spirit Guide # 1x (5) Clean the Scene # 1x (6) Sister Svalna # 1x (6) Mi'da, Pure Light # 2x (6) Lightshower Elemental # 2x (6) Lightbomb # 1x (7) Blackwater Behemoth # 1x (8) Xyrella, the Devout # 2x (8) Whirlpool # AAECAa0GCtTtA9D5A+iLBNSsBNasBOWwBKi2BLrcBJfvBO+RBQ+W6AOZ6wOa6wOH9wOMgQStigTwnwSIowSKowShtgT52wSGgwWlkQX4lgWGpAUA # To use this deck, copy it to your clipboard and create a new deck in Hearthstone # Find this deck on https://hsreplay.net/decks/mlVaYyNgF8zNI5L7iRLpah/
Shaman Evolves by Going Back to Evolve
Shaman could be the most quiet class in the game currently just like it was before the patch. But even so, one of its archetypes is slowly gaining popularity in the Diamond ranks and is quite deserving if we look at its winrate. That archetype is of course Evolve Shaman.
Although the deck's performance changes depending on which part of the ladder we look at, Evolve Shaman never dips below 51% win rate. Yet, it still seems obvious that the more experienced the opposing player is, the worse the deck is. This sign might be alarming, as it could indicate the surprise effect is necessary for this archetype to perform. And lean towards thinking the deck's overall win rate should get worse as more people learn to recognize it.
### Evolve Shaman # Class: Shaman # Format: Standard # Year of the Gryphon # # 2x (1) Windchill # 2x (1) Schooling # 2x (1) Muck Pools # 2x (1) Convincing Disguise # 2x (2) Carving Chisel # 2x (3) Primordial Wave # 2x (3) Far Sight # 2x (4) Wildpaw Cavern # 2x (4) Prescience # 2x (5) Command of Neptulon # 2x (5) Bloodlust # 2x (6) Tiny Toys # 1x (7) Glugg the Gulper # 1x (8) Bru'kan of the Elements # 2x (10) Sea Giant # 2x (10) Goldshire Gnoll # AAECAaoIAsORBOm2BA7j9gPG+QPckgTblATgtQTGzgSF1ASi1ASq2QSv2QS12QS22QTy3QSGoQUA # To use this deck, copy it to your clipboard and create a new deck in Hearthstone # Find this deck on https://hsreplay.net/decks/rPl3ny5xvRtMKJe9bCZpcb/
Warrior's Playrate is Enraging
Although Enrage Warrior is posting a very decent 53% win rate (placing it in the top 15 decks currently) the popularity for the Warrior Class as a whole is just terrible. Even Priest, arguably the worst class currently, is seeing a lot more play.
Granted, Enrage Warrior's gameplay isn't so engaging among the other midrange and new gameplay strategies available currently. And even if the Fire package gives it a new twist, the deck can't really compete with more exotic archetypes. Yet, the lack of love for Warrior is concerning, and it feels like even if the class is able to perform, buffs are needed to put it back on everyone's radar.
### Enrage Warrior # Class: Warrior # Format: Standard # Year of the Gryphon # # 2x (1) Warsong Envoy # 2x (1) Sunfury Champion # 1x (1) Sir Finley Mrrgglton # 2x (1) Sanguine Depths # 2x (1) Irondeep Trogg # 2x (2) Embers of Strength # 2x (2) Cruel Taskmaster # 2x (2) Crazed Wretch # 2x (2) Anima Extractor # 2x (3) Weapons Expert # 1x (3) Rokara # 2x (3) Imbued Axe # 2x (3) Hawkstrider Rancher # 2x (4) Whirling Combatant # 2x (4) Light of the Phoenix # 1x (6) Decimator Olgra # 1x (7) Rokara, the Valorous # AAECAQcEle0DvIoEl9QEgdwEDY3tA5btA4ygBOGkBLzbBP/bBL7iBJzvBImDBc2SBY+VBZGjBYWqBQA= # To use this deck, copy it to your clipboard and create a new deck in Hearthstone # Find this deck on https://hsreplay.net/decks/3gXQdmhQ9Ambv04F18ywnc/
Apart from Thief Rogue being largely ahead in the popularity contest, there aren't that many decks looking like they could start the year as a dominant one. And if we are being honest, most people love those situations, where it's difficult to figure out exactly what is going on in the meta. Too much predictability creates a stale playing environment for many players
Of course, it can be frustrating to find a deck you are comfortable with, and that certainly is an explanation of why so many players defaulted to Rogue's Thief archetype even with an unimpressive winrate. But we can't argue with the fact that we asked for a big shake-up, and this is looking like a small one at the very least.
With Blizzard announcing that January's ladder will count towards 2023 competitive system, I'm sure the start of next month will tell us a lot about the best decks of the format.
We'll make sure to keep you updated on these. Until then, have a Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year! Good Game, Everyone!
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