Now that the Madness of the Darkmoon Faire expansion has launched and Team 5 swung the nerf bat a few more times, the Duels environment is looking very different from what we’ve seen during the early access period. Some classes fell from grace and new ones rose to prominence thanks to a combination of powerful new hero powers and small gameplay adjustments, leading to a meta dominated by the two Ds: Discard and Deathrattle.
Other Duels Resources
- List of All Availalable Heroes, Hero Powers & Signature Treasures
- Best Duels Starter Decks For All Classes!
- Full List of Duels Deck Lists
- Duels Deck Builder
Star Students: Hunter and Warlock
You’ll immediately notice playing Duels that there are two new top dogs in the game mode with very distinct strategies. Warlocks can now successfully pull off a Discard deck and don’t have to rely on the Unlocked Potential highroll build (affectionately nicknamed “Inner Fire or retire). This is due to a combination of factors. A change to Discard buckets and the addition of Killmox, the Banished One greatly improved the shell of Warlock decks to begin with, but it was the new set which put the archetype over the top.
Unsurprisingly, a deck which constantly discards cards requires a bit of extra oomph in the long game, which C'thun, the Shattered easily takes care of by itself. The class’ survivability has also shot up thanks to the Demon shell of Midway Maniac, Man'ari Mosher and Fire Breather. Warlocks can now discard to their hearts’ content throughout the entire game, gaining early tempo edges followed by synergistic plays with two big payoffs in the form of Killmox and C’Thun.
Similarly, Hunters are also doing the same as before, except with greatly increased consistency. It’s just as well Professor Slate took some time off of the mushroom experiments to dabble with necromancy instead: Death Games enables any starter deck to fully lean into Deathrattle synergies, and even such unassuming cards as Nerubian Egg and Bloated Python can steamroll the opponents by default. Indeed, the archetype is so good it led to the removal of Lunar Band from the format and it is the second big contender alongside Warlocks for the top spot.
Promising Freshmen: Shaman, Mage, Rogue and Priest
In all honesty, most of the other classes (with the big exception at the end of the article) are also viable in the current Duels meta, a testament to the surprising balance in this new game mode. This means your playstyle preference and familiarity will have more to do with your overall winrates than the minute differences between these classes.
Shamans are back in the mix thanks to their strong cards from WotOG and the fact that Totemic Power all of a sudden good again thanks to Grand Totem Eys'or’s addition to the pool. Windfury builds with Pillage the Fallen are also viable but a lot less consistent to work with. Rogues no longer have to rely on all-out aggression thanks to Connections, though the trick of making the best use out of the steady stream on 1/1 turtles is to play on the offense nevertheless, leveraging the consistent tempo replacement and a chance to smooth out your curve over the course of the game. 12-win Rogue decks don’t have a lot of top-end so you can’t afford to go slow, no matter how tempting it may seem to mess around with fancy plays.
Mages and Priests are stuck with basically the same playstyle as in the early access period, an attrition game with strong removal tools, with the added benefit of using either C’Thun or Yogg as a curve topper and showstopper for longer games. It’s tough to make deep runs with these classes but they are consistent enough to get you through the early battles even if you’re a less experienced player, which is why they’re featured above the rest of the classes which sacrifice consistency for a larger highroll potential.
Passing Grades: Warrior, Demon Hunter and Druid
Much like Mages and Priests, Warriors are also stuck with their primary strategy of stalling until they can kill you with Grommash Hellscream, but they are very adversely affected by the rise of the new top classes. Deathrattle-based Hunter decks are in particular a nightmare to deal with, but the brutal tempo output of Discardlocks coupled with the Killmox heal will also inevitably throw a spanner in the works.
Demon Hunters finally had a chance to shed their “let’s highroll with Summoning Ritual” identity in favor of a brutally low-curve burn build. It still has its obvious limitations but at least the deck construction is much more streamlined and consistent. Certain opponents like Mages (and to some extent, even Hunters) just simply don’t have the tools to deal with a build based around pure face damage output, and the addition of Outlander and Mo'arg Outcast makes this a more effective setup for such strategies than Rogue’s previous weapon builds.
Druids are tricky. Though multiple streamers and high-level players posted 12-win runs with the class, it’s arguably the hardest one to play and woefully ill-suited to meet the early challenges of Warlocks and Hunters. If trying a combo deck with little to no margin for error and an almost guaranteed early loss or two until you find the right treasures is up your alley, you can do well with ramp builds. Why would you make the task so much more difficult for yourself though?
Normally, I wouldn’t hesitate to toss Druid in detention based on these performances, but there’s such a gap between them and the next class that it just wouldn’t be fair. You know the one I’m talking about: “LOSER” sticker on his back, crappy hero power options neatly arranged on his desk, shying away from the pitiful glances.
See Me After Class: Paladin
Press F for the grade F Turalyon’s getting this time around. Paladins are outclassed across the board and have nothing of note to offer in the current Duels meta. It’s the only class you won’t find a 12-win deck for since the end of early access. It goes without saying that their Deathrattle setups don’t even hold a candle to what Hunters can do. Their removal tools also struggle with this kind of deck, but unlike Warriors, they need to have an established board presence to buff if they want to counterpunch with a big minion to swing the game. There’s also the question of dealing with burn damage delivered by Rogues and Demon Hunters in a long game, and you just don’t have efficient enough heal tools or a fast (and consistent) enough strategy on your own to match them.
Unfortunately, none of Paladin’s new treasures nor their new hero power have any relevance in the game mode. Bigger 1/1s six turns into the game at best accomplishes nothing and whatever pathetic tempo edge Drocomurchanicas confers will be drowned out by your screams as you get mutilated by any other class.
Perhaps this choice of phrase was a bit too dark. Then again, when it comes to Paladins, the light at the end of the tunnel is definitely a train.