Break out your giants everyone.

Examining the trends of the most recent professional Hearthstone tournament, the HTC Invitational, we noticed a large increase in the number of players running Handlock. Almost half of all Warlocks fell under this archetype and it's undoubtedly in large part due to the drastic increase of aggressive decks. Though meta changes are usually notoriously slow, with Blackrock Mountain now behind us, it still gently shifts as everyone figures out what is going to stay and what will fade from memory. (Sorry Dragon Paladin)

Handlock has an extremely favorable matchup against Grim Patron Warriors and Midrange Demon Zoo, both staples of the current meta. But it also has even odds against decks you'll very feasibly run into: Control Warrior, Midrange Druid, Mech Shaman, Mech Mage, Tempo Mage, and itself of course.

Its main weaknesses? Midrange Hunter, Face Hunter, and Midrange Paladin. The former two made up only a third of all Hunters played with the new Hybrid Hunter emerging. Sadly for fans of Handlock, Hybrid Hunter is a combination of Midrange and Face Hunter, taking strengths and eliminating weaknesses from both. It probably isn't something that Handlock will do well against. However, it appears as if Paladin has taken a back seat, at least for the moment, so there's that.

Let's take a look at some numbers from the Invitational:
  • Warlock: 13
  • Warrior: 11
  • Hunter: 9
  • Druid: 4
  • Mage: 4
  • Paladin: 2
  • Rogue: 2
  • Shaman: 2
Out of those 13 Warlocks, five were Midrange Demon Zoo and six were Handlock. In stark contrast to what we've been seeing recently, most chose to run the Giants package that includes Mountain Giant, Molten Giant, and Twilight Drake rather than the Demon varient that sports Voidcaller, Mal'Ganis, and Lord Jaraxxus. Either way, with the ability to run two Darkbombs and two Hellfires, the Grim Patrons don't stand a chance.

Emperor Thaurissan has only helped Handlock accelerate its game even more, something that's surely welcomed, but more importantly added another significant threat to the deck. With ten of the 30 cards now demanding your immediate attention, there's no easy way to deal with all that pressure. Maybe we'll see two Big Game Hunters become the standard again but regardless, Handlock is in a pretty good spot right now.

And while Grim Patron Warrior is obviously what got many thinking of bringing Handlock back, there are a plethora of other factors that help make this a reality. Given how strong Zoo has become with the addition of Imp Gang Boss, the Handlock can accept the early game damage and later make unassailable taunts. Zoolock simply can't deal with those kind of answers.

Grim Patron Warrior is still the most popular deck by a significant margin with eight participants ready to pile on. Because it lacks that crucial early game pressure, it's unable to punish Handlock in its weakest phase. Even if Handlock doesn't draw into its board clear or direct damage, the prospect of putting up 8/8 taunts certainly spells game over for the Warrior.

Hybrid Hunter sports enough early game pressure and large mid-game minions to give Handlock pause, at least on paper. It'll be interesting to see how Handlock fares against this new invention as it grows in popularity.

For the meantime though it's safe to say that Handlock has returned. Welcome back, giants.