It’s been almost three weeks since the release of Descent of Dragons. And although many of the Dragons themselves haven’t had the largest impact, the new set as a whole has unquestionably caused significant changes to the Wild format.
Today we’re going to be giving you our early impressions of Wild following the set’s release. This article will be covering the most noteworthy stories and trends, as well as highlighting critical insights that we have gleaned thus far. Opinions throughout the piece are based on daily play at legend, early statistical data and meta reports, and discussion with countless Wild players.
Now, without further ado, let’s get to it.
The Rise of Pirate Warrior
What a change one expansion can make! Right up until last month Pirate Warrior had been playing the same list from early-2017. Good things come to those who wait, right? Pirate Warrior is going through a complete resurgence, buoyed by new premium early game minions and resource generation. Prior to the expansion Warrior was the least popular class in the game. In the initial days of Descent of Dragons the class is now firmly placed among the top four classes in frequency and is performing very well overall.
Parachute Brigand being cheated into play is obviously a powerful tempo play, particularly when paired with Ship's Cannon. Pirate Warrior has finally resurfaced as one of the best decks at dominating early game board control and subsequently snowballing. Sky Raider and Ancharrr have also been key. The impact of these cards is quite reminiscent of the transformative effect Underbelly Angler had on Murloc Shaman. Pirate Warrior is finally able have a continued flood of threats, often comfortable after board clears that were previously disastrous.
It’s difficult to envision a deck being much better than Pirate Warrior in the early game, so its place among the top echelon of Wild decks seems quite safe. Welcome back Garrosh!
Big Rogue Trimming The Fat
Throughout the Descent of Dragons reveal season players were acutely aware of the potential Necrium Apothecary could have in Wild. Accusations were brandied about that perhaps Big Rogue enthusiast Dane had somehow taken creative control of the expansion! However, as playtesting has taken place there has been a dramatic shift in the deckbuilding around Apoethcary.
Big Rogue in its older form has failed to get off the ground. The list has shown itself to be overly greedy and far too weak against aggressive strategies. Newer approaches built around cheating out Deathwing, Dragonlord have had similar problems, in addition to being highly inconsistent. Instead, players (such as Hijo) in Wild have largely come to the same conclusions of many Standard players; Apothecary is best utilised in a lower-curved, tempo-oriented list.
‘Big Rogue’ builds have trimmed the excess and become far more streamlined. While many players are still using a smaller package involving Silver Vanguard and a slew of 8-cost minions, others have taken one step further and built solely around Mechanical Whelp. Necrium Apothecary summoning a 7/7 is still a ridiculous early game swing and reducing the total number of potentially ‘dead cards’ in hand significantly improves aggressive mirrors.
This change in approach has become quite popular at higher ranks, but we’ll have to keep an eye out to see how quickly it trickles down the rest of the ladder.
Reno Mage Changes
Throughout Saviors of Uldum Reno Mage was taken in a variety of directions. Players tried new aggressive, secret-based lists. Many borrowed from Standard, and used Luna's Pocket Galaxy alongside an abundance of threats. Others continued to try more traditional N'Zoth, The Corruptor builds – grindy and controlling.
And finally, we had the Quest Reno Mage approach. This list emerged fairly late in the expansion and mostly circulated among a small number of high-legend players. Descent of Dragons provided this archetype with a number of very powerful new tools that have made their way into this list from Hijo. Violet Spellwing and Cobalt Spellkin are able to greatly accelerate quest completion, while Mana Giant is a huge threat that can come down for cheap or more reliably open up OTKs post-quest. It now feels as though there has been a noticeable internal shift among Reno Mage players, with more and more opting to use the Quest-based approach.
While explosive openers from decks like Mech Paladin and Pirate Warrior can still provide problems for the Mage, the deck overall has a very non-polarized matchup spread, which makes it difficult to target and beat consistently. Reno Jackson and other defensive tools offer plenty of game against aggro, while Archmage Vargoth and Open the Waygate present an oppressive clock for slower lists.
A Plague of Warlocks
Warlock continues to show incredible resiliency and diversity. It is the most popular class at higher ranks and has numerous lists performing well.
Mecha’Thun Warlock burst onto the scene in the late life cycle of Savior of Uldum, and particularly thrived following the nerf to SN1P-SN4P Warlock. The archetype has continued to perform well and has undergone some testing. While Quest lists were the dominant approach prior to Descent of Dragons, many players have opted to forego the Quest in favour of even more defense and cycle. Dark Skies is particularly noteworthy, having looked very strong in Mecha’Thun Warlock and many other Warlock lists. It’s about time Gul’Dan got a strong, cheap board clear! Finally!
Players have been testing new variations of Cube Warlock using Bad Luck Albatross. The list takes a much more defensive approach, cutting more proactive cards like the Eggs and Doomguard. The list aims to dilute the opponent’s draws, filling their deck with garbage in more prolonged games. However, right now we would have to continue suggesting players use the Egg lists, which have consistently performed very well despite relatively low representation overall. Egg-based Cube Warlock could very well be the best Warlock list on ladder today.
While we aren’t able to cover every list today, Galakrond Warlock, Reno Warlock, and Even Warlock are other archetypes that are performing at a respectable level for what is arguably the strongest overall class in Wild.
It isn’t the hottest topic of discussion, but many of the best and most popular archetypes of Saviors of Uldum have yet to relinquish their hold on Wild.
There isn’t much to say about Secret Mage. It received zero cards from the most recent set, but remains one of the best decks. It is able to hold other aggressive decks at bay with high-tempo early game minions and board clears. On the other end of the spectrum, it is highly disruptive and able to burn out many slower lists.
Mech Paladin is in a similar situation. It received just one new toy, Sky Claw, which is fairly replaceable. It does give Mech Paladin a new angle, able to push slightly wider more often, but ultimately doesn’t move the needle in a meaningful way. Still, again we have another list doing incredibly well despite very little support.
The Baku decks have a little more to work with. Odd Paladin and Odd Rogue were given a pair of neutral tools to test, including the previously mentioned Bad Luck Albatross and the already-nerfed Faceless Corruptor.
Bad Luck Albatross is by its nature a difficult card to evaluate anecdotally. Often you never see your opponent’s draw and are unable to accurately evaluate its impact. However, early statistical measures seem somewhat promising. The card’s main purpose is in shutting down the Highlander mechanics. Denying a Reno on curve or a Zephrys the Great answer can be completely game winning.
The Decline of Shaman
It seems like an eternity ago, but as recently as late last month Shaman was only trailing Mage and Warlock for popularity, with plenty of testing going on and a handful of competitive archetypes. Suddenly it finds itself among the bottom dwellers of the format.
There has been very little support for already-established archetypes such as Murloc Shaman and Even Shaman, which has seen both their popularity and performance wane over time. The bulk of Shaman’s set from Descent of Dragons was based around Galakrond Shaman, a deck that did seem to have plenty of potential in Wild but was cut down by nerf before it ever a chance to make any real impact… or was it?
Although a nerf is a surefire way to reduce experimentation within an archetype, there is still a chance Galakrond Shaman can carve out a niche in Wild. The archetype has continued to perform very well in Standard post-nerfs and could very well be a sleeper in Wild. It likely maintains a strong matchup into Mech Paladin due to access to Devolve, while still being effective at fighting for board control using plenty of rush cards in other aggressive matchups.
Druid, Hunter, and Priest
Alongside Shaman, these three classes are at the bottom of the food chain. At higher ranks these four classes make up less than 20% of the field combined. That said, none of them are floundering completely without hope.
Jade and other slow Druid lists haven’t been given revolutionary new stuff for some time now, but are still quite playable. Meanwhile on the other of the spectrum, Embiggen Aggro Druid is a deck that has undergone small amounts of testing and has shown promise. However, where it falls flat is its heavy weakness to early game board clears, specifically those from Warlock and Mage.
Hunter was given good support for very weak deck, and weak support for decent decks. What this means is Hunter now has a number of decks that aren’t completely terrible, but are also far from truly competitive, such as Odd Hunter, Beast Midrange Hunter, and Even Hunter. Mech Hunter and Reno Hunter are the two most promising archetypes for Rexxar, but neither received anything close to a transformative set the way Pirate Warrior did, for example. Once again, Hunter continues to languish without being a total disaster.
And finally, Priest. Priest’s struggles can be summarised by three words: Galakrond Priest sucks. Priest really needed a good set to recover in Wild. Instead, it received the worst Galakrond package by far, which immediately made half of its set unplayable. For the class most associated with dragon-synergies, this should have been an abundance of riches and Duskbreaker’s great return. However, this simply hasn’t been the case. Although there are a number of Priest decks that are far from terrible, such as Mind Blast Priest, Inner Fire Priest, and the new not-just-a-meme Togwaggle Priest, none are showcasing anything close to top tier performance.
As showcased by Warrior, things can always change in a hurry though. New ideas can always emerge, new strategies can be discovered, and there are a whole lot of new cards coming soon.