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Welcome to the prologue, as it were, for Hearthhead’s new meta report! We’re aiming to release an update every other week with a review of what you can expect to see on the ladder. More importantly - and unique to Hearthhead - we’re going to focus on why you’re seeing what you’re seeing, by trying to narrow in on the metagame’s rock-paper-scissors type cycles.

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.

If you’re running a deck that may fare poorly in the current metagame - due to archetype, being countered by something that is popular, missing key tech choices, or otherwise - your win ratio will be lower. The better your win ratio in the time that you have to play, the higher a rank you can realistically achieve.

There are several factors we’re analyzing to determine what decks are relevant in the meta at any given time, including:
  • Frequency of appearance.
  • Ease of play.
  • Prevalence of meaningful, non-tech-dependent counterplay.
  • Consistency in winning various matchups.
More importantly, the Hearthhead Meta Review will focus on where the editors - with advice from pros, streamers, etc. - feel the meta is in terms of the cycle between aggro, midrange, and control decks. That cycle is important to identifying major, overarching shifts in deck design and tech choices!

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Meta Report #0

This week’s meta report is the ‘zero-eth’ report, since we’re still in the process of developing the particulars. Pro players, commentators, and other high-ranking members of the Hearthstone community - if you’d like to weigh in on our reports, please get in touch! We’d love to get your input.

So, without further ado: The current meta is a Midrange Meta.

You can identify where we are in the meta cycle by looking at the relative turn length of games, value of board control and trade efficiency, and win conditions. In a more Control-oriented meta, you would see games decided by late-game attrition, as opposed to the moderately more aggressive minion play we’re seeing right now. In an Aggro-type meta, there would be less emphasis on trading and taking control of the board as the early turns progressed.

We’re in a Midrange meta for a number of reasons:
  • In a post-League of Explorers world, many standard Aggro archetypes (Face Hunter, etc.) have been held down by a combination of resurgent Control styles - bolstered, in particular, by Reno Jackson. The effective ‘reset’ that Reno brings to the game means that Aggro decks now run a substantial risk of having insufficient steam (due to lack of board presence, card draw, and/or burn left in hand) to close out a game that sees a major heal go off.
  • Aggro is typically the answer to Midrange, but modern Aggro decks lack some of the speed, value, and especially scaling that made older Aggro-type decks work. An obvious example is the absence of something as powerful as the pre-nerf Undertaker (which featured prominently in very aggressive Hunter decks). In general, the absence of any early-game utility for the faster classes (Hunter especially) has meant that Midrange decks rule the roost for now.
  • Many of the top tier Midrange decks on the ladder right now are highly optimized, and maintain enough early board development and removal to contest Aggro openers that aren’t flawless or totally overwhelming.
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Rankings

In the future, we’re hoping to provide a broader look at the current meta, based on observed trends, pro player insight, and other information as we’re able to obtain it. Exactly what format that may take - a ‘top 10’ archetypes list, for example - is still up in the air! If you have thoughts, please weigh in and let us know.

For now, here are our five picks for the current meta, and why they’re recommended right now:

1. Secret Paladin

It should come as no surprise to anyone who has been playing Hearthstone lately that Secret Paladin would come strongly recommended in today’s meta. Secret Paladin is an archetype that oozes value, playing some of the most powerful minions and spells in the game every turn. There are minor variations from one list to the next - choices between Aldor Peacekeeper or Keeper of Uldaman, and the periodic inclusion of a late-game Ragnaros the Firelord - but the core is a well-tested, high performance list. Bar for Freeze Mage and, to a lesser degree, Control Priest, Secret Paladin simply has no ‘bad’ matchups.

2. Midrange Druid

The immense power of Druid’s Force of Nature into Savage Roar combo - coupled with a meta in which it can thrive and feed off of the slowly receding volume of Control decks - continue to make Druid a popular choice. As one of the few decks that can contest Secret Paladin while maintaining strong matchups against decks that don’t flood the board with sticky minions or out-tempo the Druid, Midrange Druid isn’t going anywhere for the foreseeable future.

3. Zoo

Due to its reliance on minion combat, Zoo often overwhelms classes that can’t continuously clear the board and simultaneously develop their own - the value that the Warlock can get out of trading up is hard to battle back against. While Zoo typically has an inverse relationship with Freeze Mage on the ladder, it’s one of the better decks to take on Druids with (and splits fairly evenly with Secret Paladin!), so it remains relevant and popular despite Freeze’s growing presence.

4. Freeze Mage

Speaking of Freeze Mage, it’s hard to ignore how powerful and relevant this deck is right now. Despite almost assuredly losing to Midrange Druid, and all but auto-conceding against Control Warrior of any flavor, Freeze Mage has found a way back to the top of the meta among all of the Druids due to its impressive matchups against… well, everything else.

5. Patron Warrior

Our final pick for this report is a bit of an outside one, but Patron Warrior is surprisingly effective on the ladder right now. Removing Grim Patrons can be difficult for classes like Paladin and Druid (in the absence of particular tools/combinations to do so), and Patron tends to push damage fast enough to beat Freeze Mage on average. The impressive capacity the Patron player has to contest the board actually upsets against Zoo, as well. While Priests and other classes with big board wipes and sustain will beat Patron Warrior handily, the deck remains consistent - rarely seeing win or loss ratios that split worse than 60/40 in either direction.
That’s it for our introduction to Hearthhead’s angle on the meta! Please leave us your feedback and suggestions for this feature going forward.

Written by Kevin Hovdestad