IMPORTANT: The list was finished yesterday, before the nerfs were announced. Since the changes aren't out yet, the list is still relevant and we'll post it. Keep in mind that the meta might shake up a lot with the upcoming patch.
Knights of the Frozen Throne is out for almost a month already. Sadly, the meta has pretty much stabilized already and doesn't look very different from the one we had a week into the expansion. However, it doesn't mean that people aren't trying to be innovative - outside of the few established best decks, we still have a lot of contenders for the low Tier 2 to high Tier 3 spots, decks that don't work as well as let's say Jade Druid, but are still viable ladder choices.
The post will be divided in two parts. First part will be about the best decks - basically only the top meta decks, which multiple players have proven to be able to get high ranks with. The second part will be about the interesting decks - those decks are also somewhat viable (we WON'T write about the decks that weren't proven viable by their creator or some other player), but might not be a Tier 1 / high Legend material. However, they're more unique in the current meta and should be considered more "fun" by some players. Interesting decks are also experiments which might, or might not get a "best deck" tag later. If some new, unique deck will be created, we'll put it under "interesting" and see how it develops.
But without further introduction, let's open up with the recent standout lists.
Jade Druid is still the most dominating force in the meta. More than that - its already very high play rate seems to grow every week. Right now this single deck is played more than any other CLASS at any rank. Jade Druid has almost 20% representation in Legend, followed by Aggro Druid with ~15%. It's clearly a problem deck, because even after a month no one was able to find the right counter. Even the deck's worst matchups (like Exodia Mage or Murloc Paladin) are probably 45/55, maybe 40/60, so we can't really talk about a "counter".
When it comes to the lists, we still don't have one we can call "the best". I've featured the Mind Control Tech list, I think that it was originally created by Machamp (correct me if I'm wrong), because it seems to be the most popular one. But besides that, we have a Doomsayer list, a tech-heavy Zalae's deck that was very popular earlier into the expansion (with Spellbreaker, Big Game Hunter and The Black Knight) and of course a few Medivh, the Guardian lists. In the end, they all perform very similarly, the main difference is a few % in certain matchups.
After browsing the high Legend decks day after day, I can certainly say that Jade Druid is the most consistent high Legend deck, with multiple players hitting Top 5 ranks with its variants every day.
While Aggro Druid was contending to be the #1 deck of the meta earlier in the expansion, it seems that it won't be the case. While it's true that the deck is still very powerful, it has one problem - it's much easier to target with your techs. For example, Highlander Priest lists at Legend have been adding Pint-Size Potion + Shadow Word: Horror combo as the end of last season - Horror alone makes the matchup much better. The MCT tech in Druid is also good against Aggro, it can win the game on the spot if it hits something like a Crypt Lord.
Anyway, just like in case of Jade Druid, there is no single "best" list yet. There are multiple builds going around the ladder with the same core and a few different tech choices made. I've featured the most common, Dire Wolf Alpha + Crazed Alchemist list, but it's not the only one. There are builds running Crabs (Hungry Crab and Golakka Crawler) and even some end-heavy decks with Bonemare.
One of the best things about Aggro Druid are the fast games - it's one of the best decks to climb the ladder with, simply because most of the games are decided by Turn 6-7. Sometimes you'll be able to snatch a quick victory, other times you'll lose to a well-timed mid game board clear with no refill, but either way the games will end quickly and you can go and start another one.
According to Vicious Syndicate, Pirate Warrior has a highest win rate across the board. However, that can be somewhat connected to the deck's popularity, which isn't that high. With only 7-8% repersentation on the ladder, Pirate Warrior is simply not always worth to tech against. People focus on countering the Druids, which are much more common, and accept a worse matchup vs Pirates. Funnily, Pirate Warrior's win rate would drop quite heavily if it became more popular - let's say at 15% representation (similar to Druid decks), more people would start teching in Golakka Crawler and weapon destruction, making the deck worse. But as it is right now, Pirate Warrior remains one of the main forces in the meta.
When it comes to the builds, they didn't really change much. The deck has 28 staple cards and multiple options to fill the two flex slots. People play different cards like second Spellbreaker, Mortal Strike, Naga Corsair, Forge of Souls, Phantom Freebooter, Leeroy Jenkins or Captain Greenskin. Those two cards don't have a huge impact on the deck's overall performance and you could probably play two Wisps without affecing your win rate that much.
Murloc Paladin might no longer be the best deck in the meta, like it was for a long time in Un'Goro, but it's right behind the three decks I've listed above. The deck can still beat almost anyone when it draws nuts. Hell, no need to draw nuts, just a solid curve with Murloc Warleader on 3 OR Gentle Megasaur on 4 when opponent has no answer it enough to steal some early wins. The deck is very snowball-y and can punish any slow start, or no answers from the opponent.
Murloc Paladin builds are also very similar to each other. The main difference is in techs - Grimscale Chum makes for a more consistent faster openers, Consecration adds a counter to board floods, e.g. Aggro Druid, Corpsetaker is a great tech vs faster decks, like Stonehill Defender can add another huge threat when facing a slow deck. However, I'd say that the most innovative build is the Mitsuhide's one I've featured this time. It runs a Stormwatcher. I thought that it's a meme at first, but then I've tested it and it actually works. While the card itself is meh, added Windfury to Corpsetaker can make a big difference. If you follow it with a buff like Blessing of Kings, you can swing 7 damage into the opponent's face not once, but twice on the same turn. Stormwatcher itself is also a nightmare for Priest to deal with, as its outside of the range of both Shadow Words. Stormwatcher sticking for a turn, followed by one of the multiple buffs can easily close out the game. The deck's burst potential is so much higher with Windfury minions. And hell, playing with something that feels like a meme card is very fun.
From the first time I've played Highlander Priest, it felt like one of the most powerful decks from this expansion. And I think that stats don't really tell the whole truth about the deck. According to vS, it's "only" at 49% win rate in Legend. Which is surprisingly low, given how many people hit high Legend ranks with the deck. I think that the biggest reason for that is that it's much harder to play than the rest of the "top meta" pack. While I'm by no means expert, I had over 80% win rate in the mirror in Legend last season, I've lost mostly the games where they had an early Raza + Anduin combo and I had them much further into the deck. Other than that, most of them were playing not optimal builds or even misplaying time after time, like playing for the value instead of tempo and trying to rush me down.
Anyway, Highlander Priest is a deck with a lot of room for techs. Just like with the other ones, there is no single "best deck" established and many builds are going around the ladder. In case of Highlander Priest, the biggest difference is whether the build includes a Prophet Velen + Mind Blast + Holy Smite combo or not. This package improves some of the slow matchups by adding a secondary win condition. On the other hand, both Prophet Velen and Mind Blast are very weak vs Aggro, with Velen being too slow to really matter and Mind Blast is just a dead card unless you can heal for 3 with Priest of the Feast. Outside of that, the differences are in tech cards - Golakka Crawler, Doomsayer, Gluttonous Ooze, Kabal Songstealer or Skulking Geist are only some of the possible choices. You simply don't have enough slots to put all the techs, so you need to pick the few you feel like you need the most. It might not seem like a big difference, but the correct techs really make a huge difference in some matchups. For example, Geist is one of my favorite techs - it turns the Jade Druid matchup from bad to good, as you can go for a long game vs them and win it by running them out of resources. The build I've featured is the one StrifeCro was playing this season, but it's only an example - any early-game-cycle-focused list is viable, including the Mage's one, RDU's one and even the early Monsanto's build (although it's a bit outdated at this point).
I feel like the Highlander Priest's popularity and win rate will go up with time, as the builds become completely optimized and people learn how to play it in different matchups. For now, it's around the bottom of "top tier" decks, but it's still a great choice to ladder with. And, at least for me, it's the most fun deck in the meta.
Three Druids in top six decks? Well, yeah, that's how the current meta looks like. Slower Token Druid builds are much less popular than the other two, but are still contenders for the top meta spots. Those lists generally look much more like the old Token Druids, based around the Violet Teacher combos. Right now, not every build runs Violet Teacher, with the main win condition being flooding the board with Taunts and then buffing them. Strongshell Scavenger is a very powerful card if it hits 2 minions, it gets nuts if it hits 3 or more. The deck is more or less built around tempo swing turns. It's one of those decks that might deliberately fall behind on the board - ramp up, draw cards, etc. just to get a big comeback turn with Spreading Plague + Strongshell Scavenger. Similarly, Medivh, the Guardian sacrifices some tempo initially to swing it in the Druid's favor later with free extra minions. Even Violet Teacher combos can turn no board into a full board in just one turn.
And of course, Ultimate Infestation is a great fit into a deck like that. Slower Token Druid builds tend to be combo-oriented, most of the cards don't work very well by themselves, but are part of some powerful combos. It means that such a powerful draw engine is very appreciated. When you're in a topdeck mode, getting something like Violet Teacher or Strongshell Scavenger is less than optimal. However, having those with a full hand can lead to some crazy scenarios.
When it comes to the gameplay, I like the deck more than the other 2 popular Druid variants - both when it comes to how it plays, and its strength. I feel like the Druid class would be pretty balanced if all the decks were at this power level.
I know that some people will argue that Big Priest is among the "best decks", but I have to disagree. It felt like it was very powerful at first, when people still didn't understand how it works and how to play against it. Right now it feels like a solid Tier 2 deck, but it's definitely weaker than the other Priest archetype. Of course, it's still viable, especially if you feel lucky. Because of a very high curve, the deck is draw dependant and you can easily lose if you get all the expensive minions early instead of a perfect Barnes into Eternal Servitude curve.
And to be completely honest, I'm glad that the deck is not better. It's one of the most unfun decks to play against, if I could choose between facing Druids or Big Priest all the time, I'd go with Druids any day. But of course, that's just my opinion and I'll just get back to talking about the deck itself.
By now probably everyone knows how the deck works, but for those who aren't familiar with a deck... Big Priest is built around the early/mid game removal shell, with only big minions and multiple ways to summon/resummon them - Barnes, Shadow Essence, Eternal Servitude. The idea behind the deck is to survive the early game with removals, and then drop a big minion after big minion. Possibly even more than one per turn, thanks to Y'Shaarj, Rage Unbound. The deck can be very explosive, it might not play anything for the first few turns and then drop bomb after bomb. It can beat almost anyone with the perfect draws, however, it also suffers from the consistency issues, especially against faster decks, where not drawing the early removals or pulling out Obsidian Statue to revive can be deadly.
I know a lot of players who find Big Priest to be one of the most fun decks to play in the current meta, and well, if you like to win games in a flashy way, sometimes dominating your opponent so much that he can't do anything, then this deck is definitely your best bet in the current meta!
I didn't know whether should I call it Control Warrior or Midrange Warrior, because it shares some similarities with both. But I think that it's closer to a Midrange deck than to a Control one.
Slower Warrior decks are dead? Well, let's be honest, Jade Druid doesn't make it easy for Control Warriors, Taunt Warriors or even slower Midrange Warriors. But despite the popular opinion, the matchup is not auto-win for the Druid. Yes, Druid is a big favorite, but won't win every game. And funnily enough, most of the slow Warrior builds don't even bother running Skulking Geist. While it does improve the Jade Druid matchups, if you go for the Geist tactic, Druid will still most likely outtempo you (dump the hand -> refill -> dump the hand etc.). The best way to win this matchup is... N'Zoth, the Corruptor. Even though Druids can now Spreading Plague, they still can't clear a big board. And if you manage to get a good N'Zoth, especially an early one, before they start dropping 1 mana 10/10's, it might be enough to finish the game.
But anyway, the whole game is not only about Jade Druids. The deck has a solid matchup against the Aggro version of the deck, as well as other board-flood lists. That seems to be the aim of this build - countering the faster decks with multiple small removals like Blood To Ichor, Fiery War Axe, Slam, and Whirlwind effects like, well, Whirlwind and Blood Razor.
As it is right now, the best buff for Warrior would be a nerf to Druids. With Jade Druids gone, Control Warrior might be pretty viable deck. In the current state, it's mostly a niche, off-meta deck for Warrior fans. But it can work, it feels especially solid early in the season where Aggro decks are much more common to face than Jade Druids.
It's definitely the most interesting list from this post. I haven't played it myself, but I've seen some streamers trying it out (including Dog, whose Tweet I've linked above as the source). I've featured the version Thijs was playing later, which included Stonetusk Boar instead of Southsea Deckhand. The thing about Deckhand is that even though it's stronger, it requires weapon to work. And you can't dagger up after transforming into DK, making it very awkward when you simply have to use the last charge of the weapon or it gets destroyed (it happens). With Stonetusk Boar, even though the damage is a little reduced, those things won't happen.
So, this is basically a Combo Rogue deck. What's the combo? The basic one is Stonetusk Boar + 2x Cold Blood + Faceless Manipulator. Which is already a solid 18 damage. However, after you transform into Valeera the Hollow, you can add another copy of Cold Blood to the mix, increasing the damage to 26. You can Coin or Prep out an Eviscerate on top of that and it's a proper OTK.
In order to draw the combo consistently, the deck runs Coldlight Oracle with Shadowstep (and Vanish to a certain extent) - you can often replay the card so many times that you mill your opponent in the process. Not to mention that if you play against a deck that's quite heavy on the draws, like Quest Mage, you can quite easily burn their win condition or sometimes even fatigue them to death.
It's definitely an interesting deck, but at the same time it's very hard to play correctly (well, just like most of the Rogue decks) and, sadly, loses pretty hard to the face rush decks. Pirate Warrior or Aggro Druid just wreck you, your whole combo is quite useless and you don't want to give them draws, so playing Oracle is also hard. But the fact that Mill Rogue made sort of a comeback thanks to the Valeera DK is very interesting already.
After the initial hype, Control Warlock (or Handlock) decks don't seem to work that well. But some players are still playing them, and I have to say that Bloodreaver Gul'dan is a very scary card to play against (well, but it's a bit hard for Warlock to actually get there). There are multiple versions of the deck and it's hard to say which one is best. One thing that I can say with all certainty is that none of them is great, but they're definitely viable for the Legend climb. And so, Trump has climbed to Legend late in the last season with this build. I think it makes it worthy mentioning already, considering that it didn't take him THAT long to get it.
His version seem to combine some of the ideas from the early J4CKIECHAN's list with the more recent Handlock builds. For one, he runs Happy Ghouls, which are very uncommon in the new variants, but are still great tempo tools. He also runs both Twilight Drake and Mountain Giant, and two copies of Faceless Shambler - so the amount of big mid game threats the deck has is very high. The deck is rather light on the Demons, with only 6 of them in total (2 copies of Voidwalker, Despicable Dreadlord and Abyssal Enforcer), but that's pretty much standard right now. Going all-in on the Demon package is not a good idea, because there just aren't enough good Demons to put into your deck. The mid game is covered with the big drops - Giants and Drakes - while the late game should be good thanks to the Bloodreaver's Gul'dan crazy Hero Power. And it is indeed crazy, since it's mostly used to get yourself healthy and put pressure on your opponent, it's like a 6 health swing every turn.
If only Warlock got some powerful healing card, then the Handlock deck might be a solid contender for the top meta spots this expansion. But with its current power, we'll probably have to wait until another expansion for it to be really strong.
Frost Lich Jaina still struggles to find its place. While it's a undoubtedly a strong Control card, the problem is that the Mage didn't really get any great Control tools this expansion. People are mostly trying it in two kinds of decks - Freeze Mage, and Control Mage with few Elementals. This build by Den is pretty unique in a way that it goes heavier on the Elemental side of things. For one, it runs Blazecallers, which I haven't seen in any similar deck yet. 7 mana 6/6 that deals 5 damage is already good, but if you add 5 healing to the mix (and the body with Lifesteal), it's quite insane after you play the Jaina. It can be a good way to heal up a bit after losing the tempo from playing DK Jaina. Then, in order to activate those Blazecallers more consistenty, it also runs Fire Fly. Those 1-drops aren't only the Blazecaller activators, but also a small minion you can drop on T1 in faster matchups. It can trade into some 1-drops, or maybe even 2-drops with a ping.
However, in order to fit those minions, the deck had to drop quite a bit of the AoE clears - it runs only a single Blizzard and no Flamestrike. At the same time, it's quite heavy on burn, and from my experience with this kind of deck, the burn is one of your main win conditions, especially if you can't go for the value game if you don't draw Frostlich Jaina. Frostbolt, Medivh's Valet, Fireball, Blazecaller and Pyroblast make for a quite nice burn win condition.
I think that Control/Elemental Mage is stronger than the stats show, but the most optimal list haven't been found yet. It has been rising in win rate ever since the expansion got out, as new and new builds are being discovered and tested. While I don't think that it will catch up with the top meta decks, I think that it has a solid change to settle as a Tier 2 deck later into the expansion.
And last, I present you an Aggro Rogue list. The author hit Top 100 Legend with it, late into the last season, so it's not a "joke deck". First of all - Prince Keleseth is a really good addition into Rogue lists like that. Since playing Hero Power on Turn 2 is a pretty solid option, missing 2-drops is not that big of a deal. Sure, you also need to drop cards like Eviscerate or Sap, but having the upside of Prince Keleseth might be worth it. I'm not 100% sure, because I usually end up taking Keleseth out of my decks after I never draw him.
Aggro/Tempo Rogue were always my favorite aggressive decks, as they can rarely just flood the board and go face. They need to balance the amount of trading, face damage etc. perfectly in order to win, but have a few ways to swing the tempo really hard. Also, I'm not sure how much Shadowcaster fits a list like that, but it's been my favorite Rogue card ever since it was released. The amount of shenanigans available goes up through the roof after you add it to your deck.
Overall, it's a very cool deck and something you should definitely try out if you like this kind of play style.
A Hearthstone player and writer from Poland, Stonekeep has been in a love-hate relationship with Hearthstone since Closed Beta. He's achieved infinite Arena and multiple top 100 Legend climbs. You can follow him on Twitter @StonekeepHS.