It is a brave new world in Hearthstone after the release of the Throne of the Tides mini-set! To be fair, we had hardly seen all of the effects of the big buff patch before the mini-set was released, so the current meta is a combination of the two. There are decks that got big new cards from the mini-set and there are decks that are still riding the wave of the big buff patch.
Let’s dive right into it and see the winners and other changes brought about by the patches!
Curse Warlock Did Not Take Over the Meta
As mostly a control player myself, I was terrified of Immolate. How do I beat Curse Warlock if they can force me to spend all my cards and open up my hand for their curses? Turns out, that experience is definitely not shared throughout the ladder.
Yes, Immolate can do things against control decks. But it does not prevent the Warlock from dying to more aggressive decks or just your usual From the Depths swing turn. In fact, Immolate is the weakest card in the deck in the current meta, and should not be used at all.
Curse Warlock is playable, but not great. And the good version does not use any new cards from the mini-set.
The Winner of the Murloc Competition Is… Shaman?
Life has been better for Warlock. The other Warlock deck, Murloc Warlock, got powercrept by the mini-set. It is hanging in there at around a 50% win rate, but Curse Warlock looks like the best Warlock deck at the moment. Not that winning a medal at your high school’s competition does much good when you aspire to the national level, and Warlock is not getting there.
The better Murloc deck is Shaman thanks to the wonderful Clownfish and the amicable Tidelost Burrower that it received from the mini-set. Clownfish can provide such a big tempo swing early in the game that it just carries the deck to victory.
Murloc Shaman is no superstar, but it is a competent roughly 53% win rate deck. It has Murlocs. It also has Bloodlust. What more can you wish for, anyway?
Hunter Is Still Beasts, but They Are Pretty Good
It looks like Shellshot is not enough to revive Quest Hunter. I’m not too sad about it, we have already had plenty of time to play with Questline decks. The deck is still hovering at around a 49% win rate, so if you really insist, you can play it on the ladder and not feel miserable.
On the Face Hunter front, K9-0tron sucks. Not that it comes as a surprise to anyone. On the other hand, Ancient Krakenbane looks promising. We don’t have a good new Face Hunter list yet, and it remains uncertain whether the deck will be able to climb. It is nonetheless a dark horse that could become a thing with proper tuning.
That leaves us with Beast Hunter, and Beast Hunter is a good deck. It does not run any new cards, but it did get a lot of buffs in the buff patch.
One of the most fun things about the patch is that it has made the Sidisi-style Beast Hunter with Ambassador Faelin stronger. Because most Colossal minions are Beasts, Ambassador Faelin is all but guaranteed to give you some big Beasts to the bottom of your deck. Then you just Dredge them up with Harpoon Gun and rock on. That synergy always brings a smile to my face. Here’s a recent example of this style of Beast Hunter:
However, if winning is more of your thing, the Secret variant of Beast Hunter remains the superior deck. The difference between the two is smaller now than before the mini-set, so the price you pay for extra fun is minor, but it does exist. The Secret variant looks like this:
Paladin Is Great, Who Would Have Guessed
There really is no way to go wrong when you can put Lightforged Cariel into your deck. Mech Paladin still preys on control decks, Handbuff Paladin is a steady deck with limited weaknesses (Mech Paladin, unfortunately, being one of them), and Control Paladin is the second-best Control deck in the game behind Control Warrior.
Mechs, more mechs, a bit of Cariel, and boom with Battleground Battlemaster or Mr. Smite. That’s a proven recipe for success in Sunken City, and Throne of the Tides mini-set did not change that in any way. Mech Paladin remains a fine deck.
The mini-set did more for Control Paladin. Myrmidon does not look like it’s here to stay, to be honest, or maybe as just one copy. But Lightray is a fine addition to a control deck, as any card that can be discounted to zero rightfully should be.
Control Paladin only faces one existential question. If Control Warrior is the better deck overall, and Control Paladin loses to it in a direct confrontation, why should you play Control Paladin? On the other hand, that is a question for almost every deck that is not the best deck in the game. Control Paladin is a strong deck, and as the rumble for Warrior nerfs gets louder, it is waiting for its moment in the brightest spotlight.
Rogue Is Back, but No Jackpot
Jackpot! is a better card than I gave it credit for. It is one of the best-performing cards in Thief Rogue. That said, Thief Rogue as an archetype is thoroughly mediocre.
The real Rogue winner deck is Pirate Rogue that surfs on the high of the buffed Rogue cards: Tooth of Nefarian and the un-nerfed Wildpaw Gnoll. The best versions of the archetype nowadays include Shroud of Concealment to work their gnolling abilities to the fullest. Slow and stealy does not win games. Fast and gnolly does.
Not Your Father’s Naga Demon Hunter
Naga Demon Hunter found its way back to relevance shortly after getting nerfed thanks to Caria Felsoul and the buffed Xhilag of the Abyss (pronounced zill-ag by the way). Xhilag as the only Demon in the deck ensures that Caria will become a 6/6 Xhilag when played. As long as you don’t draw Xhilag, anyway.
The deck is even more midrange after the mini-set. Herald of Chaos is a potential defensive asset, but it does not appear to be needed in the current meta. Fossil Fanatic, on the other hand, is wonderful. The increased targeted drawing of Fel spells also enables the deck to run Jace Darkweaver successfully, something it struggled with before the mini-set.
Pufferfist looks obsolete, and that goes to show how much the deck has changed. I hesitate to call it an aggro deck anymore, so keep an open mind about it despite the traumatic experiences of the past. It is one of the best decks in the game, and Drek'Thar has nothing to do with it.
The Warrior Kings of Armor
Other classes play, Warrior kills. Blizzard gave Control Warrior all the armor in the world with the addition of Igneous Lavagorger and Tidal Revenant in the mini-set. This has changed the balance of competing Control Warrior archetypes again.
There are currently three types of Control Warrior decks on the ladder. Charge Warrior, a combo-control hybrid, is now the weakest of the three! The real fight is between a faster Alexstrasza the Life-Binder variant and a slower Kazakusan variant. Because Warrior has so much survivability now, this fight seems to be turning in favor of the Kazakusan list.
Warrior has so much time now that it can run the absolute minimum of just four Dragons with Kazakusan now.
The Unlikely Priest Hero
Well, that was unexpected. Who would have thought that Serpent Wig becomes the card that defines an archetype and even an entire class? Naga Priest is a real deck and it is one of the best decks in the game. It might even be the best deck in the entire game. Control Warrior is probably a little better overall, but Priest is favored in the matchup.
Oh, yeah, Priest got some cards in the mini-set too. They’re not important. Priest has evolved to a point where it can actually end games, so who cares about some slow cards.
Did You Forget a Class or Two?
What? There are more than eight classes in the game?
Mage is kind of dead. Mech Mage is not strong enough. Naga Mage is still trying, but not having much success. The new Mage cards are useless. Big Spell Mage looks more alive than it has for a while. It is kneeling now instead of lying on the ground. That’s a good sign!
Druid has a few decks people try to play. Herald of Nature is a good card trying to find a good deck, but Beast Druid is just not strong enough. Ramp Druid can always win a game here and another there, but its glory days are somewhere else. Celestial Alignment Druid sees play in high Legend to counter Warrior and lose to everything else.
Has the Mini-Set Changed the Meta?
It is hard to fully distinguish between the effects of the buff patch and the mini-set because they were released so close to each other that the buff patch meta was not stable yet. Some classes still live on the power of the buffs, such as Hunter, Priest, and Rogue. Others, like Demon Hunter, Warrior, Shaman, and Paladin put the new mini-set cards to good use.
Overall, this dual release of buffs and new cards has significantly revamped the Standard format meta, so if you’ve been away for a couple of weeks, a lot has changed. I expect more changes to come as people keep experimenting with all the new options, and perhaps there is even a Warrior nerf looming on the horizon to spur on the next round of meta changes.