In one of the biggest balance patches in the history of Hearthstone, three cards were nerfed and 17 cards were buffed. That’s a massive number of changes, but how has it changed the meta?
It will take some time for the meta to stabilize after so many changes, but we can already spot several trends and upcoming new archetypes.
The Three Most Popular Decks After the Balance Patch
Rogue players have excitedly rejoined the game and Thief Rogue is currently the most popular deck in Standard. However, players who want to play with the newly-buffed Tess Greymane or with Pirate Admiral Hooktusk have already discovered that such slow cards are an awkward fit in Rogue. Shadowcrafter Scabbs is finding some success, but may also end up being cut in favor of just winning the games faster.
- 1Blackwater Cutlass2
- 1Gone Fishin’2
- 1SI:7 Extortion2
- 2Maestra of the Masquerade1
- 2Tooth of Nefarian2
- 2Vanessa VanCleef1
- 3Double Agent2
- 4Edwin, Defias Kingpin1
- 5Azsharan Vessel2
- 5Wildpaw Gnoll2
- 8Shadowcrafter Scabbs1
Another popular deck in the early days of the patch has been Curse Warlock. Despite the buffs, it remains a deck that loses to fast aggro decks, midrange decks that can apply consistent pressure, and control decks that can just keep their hand close to full and chill for 25 minutes. It does beat Naga Mage and Thief Rogue, though! I expect Curse Warlock’s re-exit from the scene to happen within days unless the archetype finds a lot of improvements over the current lists. Looking at stats, this seems to be the top list at the moment, but I do not expect it to have a long life:
The third-most-popular deck in the early days of the new patch is one of the biggest winners of the patch: Beast Hunter. With buffs to Harpoon Gun, Azsharan Saber, and Pet Collector, no other deck was buffed as heavily as Beast Hunter! In particular, the Secret variant of the deck has found a lot of success after the patch. A word of caution: the deck preys heavily on the new Thief Rogues and Curse Warlocks, and as their numbers will dwindle, the win rate of Beast Hunter may follow. Nonetheless, the archetype was at or above 50% already before the buffs and looks likely to stay viable.
What About Drek’Thar?
Drek'Thar was hit with a major nerf, and now it summons only one minion instead of two. This was a huge blow to both Aggro Demon Hunter and Quest Hunter, and neither archetype has yet figured out a way to effectively replace Drek'Thar. Indeed, the nerfed Drek'Thar remains one of the best cards in both decks, showcasing just how hard it was able to carry any deck that could fit its deck-building requirement!
Aggro Demon Hunter and Quest Hunter remain roughly 50% win rate decks in their nerfed state. They can no longer be recommended for climbing, but if you really enjoy playing them, you can do so despite the nerfs.
Oh, About That Quest Warrior
Lots of cards were changed, but do you know which card was not changed? Nellie, the Great Thresher!
I would like to officially welcome back to the meta the returning champion, the thrice-crowned destroyer of new players, Quest Warrior!
Hopefully (?), this visit back to the top of the meta will be short-lived. Quest Warrior preys hard on Curse Warlocks and other experimental decks that people have dusted off thanks to the patch, such as Quest Priest. It does remain a top choice against Control Warrior, and it is finally favored against Aggro Demon Hunter after the Drek'Thar nerf, so there is also a chance that Quest Warrior is back to stay.
The Real Winners, Coming Right Up!
In terms of win rate, the big winners in the early days have been Paladin decks. Mech Paladin is especially good at punishing slower decks that people have been experimenting with, and Handbuff Paladin is just rock steady. Mech Paladin has more weaknesses than the Handbuff variant, but it is quite favored in the Paladin mirror between the two, so it has been able to become the best deck in the game for the time being. This is the best-performing Mech Paladin deck at the moment:
And this is the best-performing Handbuff Paladin list:
I do not expect the dominance of Paladin decks to be long-lasting. They were good contenders already before the balance patch and they should remain good climbing decks in the foreseeable future, but both decks have enough weaknesses to keep them from dominating the meta the way Aggro Demon Hunter did.
If you are trying to get one step ahead and counter the Paladin meta, the best option to do so is with Mech Mage:
Nothing new here either. Mech Paladin, Handbuff Paladin, and Mech Mage are all old lists that were around already before the balance changes. They’re just stronger now than they were.
There is also one new contender who can take on Paladins, and that is Murloc Warlock:
Fine, Murloc Warlock is not super innovative. The deck almost builds itself, so it’s just a matter of changing a couple of cards here and there to tune it for the meta, and this list seems to do well right now. The new thing about Murloc Warlock is that it wins games! The archetype performs poorly against Thief Rogue and Curse Warlock, but as soon as their shine starts to fade, Murloc Warlock is ready to extend its fishy fins to take over the meta.
The Meta Is Saved?
Overall, nothing looks too dominant so far. Every deck in the game has its fair share of weak matchups. It’s not like the pre-patch days where Aggro Demon Hunter was only countered by Control Warrior, and the rest of the meta was shaped around the struggle between those two. Now, every deck has multiple counters.
Of course, the meta is still young and there is plenty of time to come up with brand new archetypes or refined versions of the current lists. With decks free to tech for something else than Demon Hunter and Warrior, there is room to refine every archetype.
Handbuff Paladin looks like the least polarized deck in the game: its worst matchup is against Mech Paladin, and even that is just a 40-60. Behind it, Murloc Warlock actually has a quite attractive matchup spread with no unwinnable matchups. Who would have guessed that making an aggro deck faster will also make it a lot more consistent? Luckily, it is inherently not as strong as Aggro Demon Hunter was, so even if it’s good, it is not too dominant.
The early numbers indicate that the meta may be a lot more healthy now. Then again, people are playing a lot of bad decks this early in a new patch, and that infects the data with a lot of noise so it can be difficult to see where we are going. Regardless, the early days of this patch are a good time to be playing Hearthstone!