Before we dig into the format and what you can expect in future meta reports, in keeping with the theory behind this report’s inception, we’re going to answer a simple question - why do you care about a meta report?
Meta reports are, at this point, not data-driven. No large-scale, organized, unbiased way to capture the information required to actually determine the frequency with which a given class, deck, or card is being run exists to date. They are an art, more than a science.
That said, they can still confer a number of benefits:
Relative frequency at a given rank range is fairly easy to identify. If any player plays 100 games, even though it’s not inherently statistically significant, it’s easy to discover what classes or archetypes are most popular. Moreover…
Where the meta is in its cycle is useful information to have. The relative prevalence of aggro, midrange, or control tells you a lot about what is - and will be - on the rise, versus on the decline.
Presuming that your goal is to improve your rank in constructed, meta reports help you make efficient use of your time - the only variable in Hearthstone that you have 100% control over. Knowing what decks have emerged or are popular, even if the meta can’t be 100% tracked or nailed down at a statistically significant level, can help you do more with whatever time you do have to play competitively.
To give you an idea of why your time is so important, here is a look at the number of games you will need based on your win rate to get from Rank 20 to Rank 5, or from Rank 5 to Legend. Spoiler: It's a lot.
Back to TopMidweek Meta Review #2 - Preliminary Winter Results
Welcome once again to the Hearthhead Midweek Meta Review (MMR)! We’ve got a few updates to the report for this week, including additional anti-meta decks and general class rankings.
In the future, we’re looking to keep to this general trend:
Five top meta decks, including explanations and guides.
At least one anti-meta deck.
An approximate class power ranking given the state of the meta.
Players continue to await the announcement of Standard’s introduction alongside the upcoming full-size card expansion, and the ladder and tournament scene have gotten fairly predictable. Without further ado…
The current meta is a Midrange Meta.
Decks that can effectively develop strong board presence at a moderate mana curve continue to dominate both the ranked play and tournament scenes. We arrived at our conclusions analyzing the same core factors as previously:
Frequency of appearance.
Ease of play.
Prevalence of (meaningful) counters.
Consistency in winning a variety of matchups.
Midrange remains strongest at present for several reasons:
Aggro decks lack the consistency and raw throughput to win games before Midrange decks arrive at their key turns. Many of the top Midrange decks (e.g. Secret Paladin or Zoo) have the potential to win games just as fast as pure Aggro decks, but without the drawbacks of lacking sustained pressure if games do go more than 5-6 turns.
Control decks cannot consistently survive the abundant pressure from Midrange decks, but have the tools necessary to counter many Aggro decks actively - including newer League of Explorers cards like Reno Jackson.
Midrange decks frequently rely heavily on some of the extraordinarily powerful, often sticky minions that are going to be removed when the new Standard format arrives, such as Piloted Shredder, Haunted Creeper, and Loatheb. Dominant mid-game minions and a lot of efficient Deathrattle minions are all on the chopping block in the upcoming rotation.
With a highly stable meta in play largely since the inception of the MMR, we did make some adjustments to both rankings and decklists this week based on the outcomes of the Hearthstone Championship Tour (HCT) Winter Preliminaries (Europe and America, respectively).
Midrange Druid tops our review this week on the basis of its outstanding performance in the HCT Winter Preliminary tournaments. Druid was the overwhelming MVP of the Americas Winter Preliminary, where it finished with a positive win ratio against all other classes tournament wide. While there are decks that punish Druid aggressively - Tempo Mage and Zoo Warlock, in particular - those matchups are still winnable, and the raw damage potential of the Druid combo makes it immensely successful against every Control deck or ‘stall’ deck in the game.
If you’re seeing Freeze Mage, Murloc Paladin, Priests, Reno Warlock, or Warriors, play Midrange Druid. Avoid it if you are seeing almost exclusively Zoo Warlock and Tempo Mage.
After months of dominance dating back to the introduction of TGT, Secret Paladin has yet to falter. It remains one of the strongest decks in the meta, often developing a massive board that nearly no class in the game can respond to, and winning games at aggro-like paces on early turns. While its matchups are less polarized than Druid - its win ratios are less massive in good matchups, but its weak matchups are less pronounced - Secret Paladin can struggle when the meta is actively teching against it.
This week’s Secret Paladin list trades the late game pressure of Ragnaros the Firelord for a second Keeper of Uldaman - either to help buff your own minions, or as soft removal by shrinking an opponent’s minion in a pinch. Play Secret Paladin if you are NOT seeing a lot of Freeze Mage.
Zoo constantly comes and goes from the meta as true aggro decks come and go. In a meta so focused on board control and damage throughput from minions, as well as with the limited multi-target removal of Druid, this Warlock archetype absolutely shines. It has the best possibility of beating Druids and trades quite evenly with everything else in the game, save for Freeze Mage.
The Zoo list has been updated to reflect common tech seen both on ladder and in the tournament scene due to the large number of board flood decks (including the mirror) in play. Sea Giants are excellent in these cases, but also prompt the inclusion of a Big Game Hunter. A Chinese style of Zoo that utilizes the Leeroy Jenkins, Power Overwhelming, Faceless Manipulator combo is also making the rounds, but does not perform as consistently. Tech choice recommendations in the guide reflect this possibility.
Patron Warrior has always thrived on abusing tokens and the board flood meta, and is equally well positioned to Zoo to punish classes with weak multi-target removal (such as Druid). Patron also has a positive matchup against Freeze Mage, but trades away some of the general strength against other non-Freeze Control decks (particularly Warrior) in exchange.
Patron will struggle to deal with classes with exceptional board wipes and healing/armor, so don’t play it if you expect to see a lot of Murloc Paladin, Priest, or Reno Warlock. It is also among the most challenging decks to play at a competitive level.
Love it or hate it, Freeze Mage is probably the single defining deck that is most responsible for the current meta. It vastly inflates the value of Midrange Druid (which beats not only Freeze Mage, but its only other major natural counter in Control Warrior), while also acting as a hard counter to many of the anti-Druid decks that would otherwise be dominant (Zoo Warlock, Tempo Mage). In the absence of Freeze Mage, Druid would likely not be anywhere near as popular as it is right now, and the meta would be substantially more reflective of Tempo Mage and Warrior decks.
If you are somehow able to see a majority of non-Druid decks and comfortable piloting this complex deck, you are massively favored against almost all non-Druid decks (save for the rare Control Warrior).
We continue to recommend Aggro Druid as an off-meta pick. Aggro Druid gives up some of the dominance that Midrange Druid can assert over decks like Freeze Mage or Murloc Paladin, as well as opens itself up to some vulnerability to Priest, in exchange for much closer matchups against Midrange’s classical weaknesses in Tempo Mage and Zoo Warlock. Aggro Druid also beats Midrange Druid on average.
With positive win ratios against the top three meta decks and no immensely weak matchups (arguably Priest), Aggro Druid can make a slow climb in the current meta.
While Priest can struggle against Midrange Druid, since they are often unable to do the necessary combination of clear the board, heal themselves, and put up Taunts to protect themselves all at the right time, Control Priest does have the tools to compete in the current meta. You will almost assuredly lose to all Murloc Paladins, since their ability to wait you out and build up an almost impossible to survive burst turn is better than your own, but Priest has good matchups against most other decks.
Reno Warlock can also pose problems, and Freeze Mage is not a favoured matchup (but is certainly winnable). In most other cases - particularly against popular Midrange decks like Secret Paladin, Tempo Mage, Zoo, or Patron - Priest has the answers to eke out victories in a majority of cases.
Based on your feedback, we’re adding a general ‘class ranking’ to indicate which classes (looking at their overall toolkits, archetype variants, and the meta as a whole) are better or worse off at this point. You can use this information when considering building your own decks, or simply to understand what you should expect to face when playing on the ladder!