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.
It’s time for another Midweek Meta Review here at Hearthhead! In a shocking twist of events, this week’s report is not the same as the past four! With the highly publicized success of a number of more control-oriented decks both by top ladder players (as highlighted by Blizzard themselves), as well as in the tournament environment during the regional Championships, we’ve seen some subtle shifts starting to occur - likely the last meaningful ones we’ll get to enjoy before Whispers of the Old Gods and Standard arrive in late April.
As always, we’re focusing on providing information on the following for our readers:
Five top meta decks, including explanations and guides.
At least one anti-meta suggestion.
Class ‘power rankings’, showing which classes are leading or lagging in the meta
While shifts towards certain styles of control are definitely the underpinning of what’s new in this week’s review, those shifts are predicated on trying to run draw-light midrange decks out of steam and/or surviving the initial burst potential of aggro decks. Midrange rules the roost and defines what is and is not succeeding - many players are simply choosing to respond with control.
Our evaluation looks at the following significant factors in determining top decks:
Frequency of appearance.
Ease of play.
Prevalence of (meaningful) counters.
Consistency in winning a variety of matchups.
Midrange remains our call for the ‘type’ of meta the game is currently in for several reasons:
Aggro decks have not proven consistent in top level play. Even refined versions of these decks have fallen short and been pushed out by midrange decks that play for the board and put out increasing threats per turn, rather than relying on burn.
Winning on the board remains the most successful strategy in the game, due to the strong prevalence of sticky minions and efficient ways to trade up with them. The upcoming removal of a lot of Deathrattle minions in Standard is among the only ways this is likely to change.
Decks that play truly pure control style - like some Warrior and Priest archetypes - are some of the only control styles that can survive the growing board presence threats from popular midrange decks. Unfortunately, the raw burst potential in things like Midrange Druid or the combo-driven Reno Warlock decks suppresses all but the most optimized Warrior decks, since even being at or near full health on a near-empty board often isn’t enough with how powerful these combos are.
Thankfully, countering the popularity of Druid and crowding out Freeze Mage have been high enough priorities on the ladder of late to move the needle - so our top meta decks this week are slightly different!
In consultation with pro players and community members, the unanimous feedback we heard this week was there’s a new kid in town - Zoo Warlock is the most prevalent, most successful deck out there right now. As Elise Control Warrior has severely diminished the presence of Freeze Mage on ladder, Zoo has no seriously poor matchups, and handily defeats the still-popular Druids that are still being run frequently at many different levels of ranked play.
Midrange Druid remains unchanged week to week, despite being unseated as the top deck. While Druid is still among the safest picks overall, without the Freeze Mages to enjoy easy victories over, the ever-present threat of combo doesn’t always come into play. Zoo Warlocks and Secret Paladins simply build boards that the Druid can’t remove too fast, and even the ‘new’ Control Warrior style often gets out of reach of Druid players (making the match slightly less favourable for the Druid). Mind Control Tech as a tech choice is a very strong option in the current meta.
Everyone’s favourite Mystifying Contender remains high on the list of decks to beat, simply because so few things can do so reliably. Freeze Mage being on the way out has made playing Paladin an even more natural choice, since it tends to beat Midrange Druid on the balance, and splits fairly evenly with most every other deck out there other than Freeze (suffering slightly at the hands of Aggro Shaman, if they get an explosive start).
New this week, Elise Control Warrior is a style that has been iterated upon after Eversiction brought a highly successful early variant of it to ONOG Open #2. The original list was modified from a Frost Giant OTK Warrior, and Eversiction cut it down to almost purely removal and added Elise Starseeker to give the game a late-game solution against Control decks. The refined version shown here focuses on strong taunts and removal to stall until aggro/midrange decks run out of threats, or until Elise can turn unused removal into threats against Control.
I know, we’re as surprised as you are! The ‘combo’ variant on Reno Warlock was highly recommended by several people as a top-tier ladder deck this week, and it has been performing very well in the highest levels of ranked play lately. This version of Renolock gives up the Control-defeating Lord Jaraxxus package for the Arcane Golem / Power Overwhelming / Faceless Manipulator combo, which has helped close out a lot of the more typical midrange games on the ladder lately.
We continue to recommend Aggro Druid as an off-meta pick for beating Midrange decks like Druid and Paladin. Those decks simply lack the removal to win the race against the aggressively statted minions present in Aggro Druid. Aggro Druid also has better matchups (albeit still unfavourable ones) against Tempo Mage or Zoo than Midrange Druid does.
New this week, we’re including an Aggro Shaman decklist from Team Archon’s Orange. Orange tweaked this list by introducing Piloted Shredder to give the deck a slightly better curve into the Midrange meta. The deck has no overwhelmingly strong matchups (it does do fairly well against Secret Paladin), but also has no instant losses. The addition of the Shredder makes for a good chance to extend into the mid-game and contest the board better than traditional Aggro Shaman; this list eschews the Lava Shocks and Ancestral Knowledges of the original list to play the Shredders and more efficient draw in the form of Loot Hoarder.
So ends Midweek Meta Review #4! We’re counting down the days until Old Gods and Standard, and we’re excited to bring you more coverage of all the awesome new things that will emerge in an all-new meta when they arrive. Stay tuned!