The release of Voyage to the Sunken City, the arrival of a new Standard year and the shakeup of the available sets to draft from has brought us into a whole new world of Arena. The new set features quite a few ultra-impactful neutral cards that you must keep an eye on when drafting your decks, though some of the classes on the top of the charts may feel familiar to you.
Arena in May 2022: Rules and Strategies
Here’s what you need to know about the current format of the Arena: the old system of “buckets”, cards of roughly similar power levels offered against one another are gone, which means the drafting is once again based around card rarities. This means that many of the picks are straightforward as the power level difference between something like a Flamestrike and a Murloc Tinyfin is pretty easy to grasp.
As such, the quality of your draft becomes a bit more about the luck of the draw than it used to be, which is something worth keeping in mind when gauging the strengths of your opponents. It’s not all bad news though: at least the “Epic bug” is gone for now!
Also, microadjustments are not a thing right now! The system is broken, as it turns out: the developer responsible for operating the system, Tian Ding, has left Team 5, meaning the current people don’t have this lever to pull. This means that what you see is what you get for the time being, and we’re all waiting with bated breath for news of a wider shakeup in the format (supposedly hand-curated Arena card pools as suggested by Iksar).
Cards from the following sets can be drafted in the Arena right now:
- League of Explorers
- Whispers of the Old Gods
- The Grand Tournament
- United in Stormwind
- Fractured in Alterac Valley
- Voyage to the Sunken City
Notable Neutral Arena Cards in the Sunken City (23.0.3) Metagame
The Diver minions (Gangplank Diver, Slimescale Diver and Pelican Diver): Practically speaking, “Dormant for 1 turn” coupled with Rush is just a better version of summoning sickness, rendering the minions invulnerable until they gain initiative. Pelican Diver is the weakest of the three but is still a superior version of Worgen Infiltrator: the other two are broken removal tools, with Gangplank Diver guaranteeing at least a two-for-one. The best way to deal with it is to play one yourself.
Pufferfist: obviously, it only has an impact in classes that can attack with their Hero Powers, but in those cases, even the 3/3 version of the card is incredible in the Arena.
Reefwalker: from a pure stats and initiative perspective, this card is just a great neutral tool to have, similar to Ram Commander in many ways, helping you clear up problematic board states in the early game.
Mothership: perhaps the best way to look at this card is to compare it with Firelands Portal. For one mana less, you get better and synergistic bodies (as long as you don’t lowroll an Explosive Sheep, getting way too many stats and 5 damage’s worth of initiative on a Rare neutral.
Excavation Specialist and Tuskarrrr Trawler: the fact that there are only two neutral Dredge cards in the set serves to highlight that you won’t be able to reliably grab your Sunken cards in the Arena, making these minions especially valuable in your drafts.
The Colossal minions: though they are not Neutrals, there are enough ways to Discover or generate them that you should factor in potential blowouts. These cards are way too powerful for a limited deck to deal with, and their arrival is a lot like a natural disaster. This makes cards like Ambassador Faelin potentially game-winning should you be able to dredge up the goodies from the bottom of your deck.
Familiar faces from the previous sets also play an outsized role. Knight-Captain is still a brutal removal-slash-overstatted threat in the middle of the game that remains impactful later down the line as well, the nerf did nothing to diminish Pandaren Importer, and the pings provided by Ram Commander remains a flexible way to keep up on the board in the early turns – not to mention the potential blowouts provided by Corporal and Bunker Sergeant. Ysera the Dreamer and Raid Boss Onyxia still lurk at the end of the game, too, though there are a lot fewer ways to discover them.
Voyage to the Sunken City 23.0.3 Arena Class Tier List
The Good: Demon Hunter (53.9%), Druid (53.9%), Paladin (52.5%)
The top three classes in the current Arena metagame all have a similar playstyle: strong early tempo plays transitioning into class-specific value follow-ups. They can keep up the pace and the pressure throughout the entire game, leaving others few opportunities to take over the initiative.
There’s a reason why Demon Hunters have a leg up on the competition every time microadjustments aren’t around: having no cards from the earlier, comparatively underpowered Hearthstone sets, the power level of their card choices is not as diluted as their rivals’ are. (They are also much better at taking advantage of Inspire cards from TGT.) Glaiveshark, of course, is just stupidly good in this format and Bone Glaive is a great way to deliver damage to the dome, but the rest is really the same package as it’s been before.
Druids tell a similar story, one that remains intact even after the nerfs. Start with Azsharan Gardens, head into Raid Negotiator and Boomkin, keep control of the board with Flipper Friends and Scale of Onyxia, then reload and finish off the game with Miracle Growth. A strong Dredge card in the form of Aquatic Form also doesn’t hurt with consistency.
Then you’ve got Paladins, who still can rely on their past tempo plays (Alliance Bannerman, Bronze Explorer, Hold the Bridge and the like) coupled with nice new class Mechs (Seafloor Savior and Azsharan Mooncatcher), but with the insane value of Immortalized in Stone to stabilize heading into the late game. There’s also the magic of Murloc Knight into Gigafin for the highlight reels.
This triumvirate is quite far above the rest of the classes, and picking other classes guarantees a loss of expected value in the current metagame.
The Meh: Shaman (50.8%) and Rogue (50.1%)
These classes are… fine. They just don’t have much of note to work with that can keep up with the previous three. Shamans’ best bet still remains their Freeze package from the previous set, though Schooling and Scalding Geyser serve as great early-game removal tools to slightly bolster a slower gameplan. Flamewreathed Faceless is a lot less intimidating now than it used to be back in the day, but it still remains a serviceable card, and if a Piranha Poacher sticks on the board, you can immediately rely on the card advantage strategy. It’s all… fine. Nothing more.
Same goes for Rogues, who can still Discover their way out of any cul-de-sac but don’t have much else to build around. The class is just a little bit too brittle to handle the early aggression, and though Blood in the Water is an excellent card to stabilize, it really is just a slightly slower Knight-Captain. The fact that Reconnaissance and Tooth of Nefarian remain among the best Rogue classes in the new meta should tell you how little the class has gained (apart from Gone Fishin', one of the best Dredge cards to work with in the Arena).
The Bad: Mage (47.3%) and Warlock (45.4%)
We’ve entered the fanzone: the -EV winrate where only enthusiasts should touch these classes. Unfortunately, there’s not much for them to enjoy: the story is similar to Shaman’s, but with even lower power levels. The best strategies are still the same as they used to be in the previous rotation, but it’s a lot less likely that you can consistently draft them: Warlock’s best cards are still Spawn of Deathwing, Hollow Abomination and Demonic Assault. Their struggles in Standard show how little the new set brought to the table from an Arena perspective as well, with the exception of Gigafin, which is a Legendary. Mages are also expected to play the same grindy style as they used to with Drakefire Amulet as the finisher, but you’re much more likely to get run over than you used to be, especially because the current spell pool makes Rune of the Archmages much weaker than they once were.
The Oh-no-please-do-not-play these: Priest (39.8%), Hunter (38.0%), Warrior (37.2%)
These classes have no redeeming qualities whatsoever in the current metagame. Their card pool is weak and their options are limited. Selecting them is little more than a roll of the dice, except that it is weighted against you. The class cards available to Priest, Hunter and Warrior don’t offer enough quality to compete with the rest of the field, and the differences in power level are too high to even out with proper play. The only winning move is not to play (with these classes).