Eight days, to be precise – that’s how long ago we’ve experienced something that Team 5 never did before. A nerf patch, which happened only two weeks after the expansion’s release, without a warning, which hit multiple cards that have played a major role in Year of the Raven’s meta. It’s still hard to say whether it was a good patch or not, but it has definitely made an impact.
In this article, I’ll list the best decks from the post-patch meta so far and talk a bit about them. Why are they so strong? What (if anything) has changed in them after the patch? What interesting cards they run? I’ll also sparkle a few gameplay tips here in there (both how to play those decks and against them).
The list is based on my own ladder experience (usually playing from Rank 4 to Legend and in Legend), early statistics from sources like HSReplay.net and Vicious Syndicate, as well as watching and talking with other high ranked players.
For anyone who’s been playing Hearthstone since Rastakhan’s Rumble launch, and more specifically since the last patch, it won’t be a big surprise, but I still have to say it. Hunter is the unquestionable king of this meta, and Spell Hunter is BY FAR the most popular deck in the game right now, peaking at over 15% at some ranks. Hunters in general make up for around 1/3 of the total meta, which is massive, but not unheard of. The class has been getting a lot of great cards over the last few expansions, and it wasn’t touched by the last wave of nerfs (or the previous one, or the one before that) so it’s been slowly, but steadily getting to the current point.
This Spell Hunter deck is almost the same as the one I’ve featured last time (-1 Tracking, +1 Baited Arrow). There is not much variance when it comes this archetype – there are some tech choices like whether to include Eaglehorn Bow or not, Flare or no Flare, maybe some Secret choices or Crushing Walls tech – but it’s mostly just that, tech choices. Spell Hunter was basically solved before Rastakhan’s Rumble, which added only two new cards (Baited Arrow and Zul'jin), and they were rather easy to fit.
Deathrattle Hunter has been one of the meta defining decks for a long time already, and the nerf patch didn’t change it. On the contrary, most of the stats put it on the top, as #1 Hunter deck (or even even #1 deck in general). Rastakhan’s Rumble didn’t change it much, adding only a single card. While some of the lists didn’t run Oondasta at first, right now it’s basically a staple, since it’s been working so well. Right now, the biggest differences between each deck list is 3-drops and Big Beasts choices. When it comes to 3-drops, Stitched Trackers became most popular, but Mind Control Tech and/or Gluttonous Ooze, which were commonly played before Rastakhan’s, also show up regularly. When it comes to Big Beasts, Charged Devilsaur is sometimes replaced with either Amani War Bear or Savannah Highmane (War Bear is better vs Aggro, while Highmane is better to play from your hand as opposed to pulling it out from your deck / summoning from hand).
I’ve decided to list the most standard deck list, as it’s been repeatedly tested out and it’s definitely working. However, if you feel like experimenting, I have an alternative deck list running Scarab Eggs instead of Prince Keleseth. By running more Eggs as well as Defender of Argus, it’s easier to make your boards more sticky. Play Dead and Terrorscale Stalker also have more targets – you rarely end up dropping Stalker as a 3 mana 3/3, which you do quite commonly in the regular list (since it’s better than skipping Turn 3 completely). It’s an interesting approach, and while I think that Keleseth is still better (because outside of Scarab Eggs, there still aren’t many 2-drops you want to add to the deck and hitting Keleseth on curve is amazing), it might be a cool option for players who either want to play the deck differently or don’t have Keleseth and don’t want to craft it right before the rotation.
While it has mostly failed before the nerf patch, after the meta has shifted a bit, it turned out that a full Beast build of Midrange Hunter is quite powerful. I’d say that it’s not as strong as the other Hunter lists, but it’s still a solid ladder choice. Multiple players have took it to high Legend, and I’d say that it’s even better at lower ranks. Games are pretty fast and you can usually tell whether you win or not after Turn 6-7 (unless, of course, you turn into Rexxar – then the game will be dragged out), which is quite important if you want to play a lot of matches quickly.
What this deck would really use is a solid 4-drop. Since it can only run Beasts, the options are very limited. Lifedrinker is “okay” in a more aggressive build like this one, but the 3/3 body is pretty insignificant in the end. Notably, NickChipper’s list does not run Flanking Strike, making it even more problematic. But even with Flanking Strike, it still suffers from the lack of a good 4-drop (as Flanking is often not a Turn 4 play, since it might not have a target).
One thing that’s worth mentioning is that it makes for an amazing budget option. It runs only a single Legendary – Deathstalker Rexxar – which most of the players have at this point anyway (and the deck can also be played without it, but be prepared to lose matchups like Odd Warrior way more often). Then, the only two Epics are 2x Master's Call, which is sadly necessary, but it still puts the deck’s total cost at just above 3k Arcane Dust (~1.5k Dust without Rexxar), making it rather accessible to new and F2P players.
Secret Hunter cemented its position as the least popular of the four Hunter archetypes, which is kind of odd given the fact that it’s the second strongest Hunter deck according to the stats, and is not that expensive (certainly less so than the massive Arcane Dust sink of Deathrattle Hunter). The deck’s pretty aggressive, and it heavily relies on early / mid game snowballing. There are many “win conditions” – a growing Secretkeeper, tempo swing from Masked Contender, Eaglehorn Bow constantly gaining extra durability, Greater Emerald Spellstone board flood, Subject 9 value and – obviously – the infinite Deathstalker Rexxar when everything else fails. If you curve out perfectly, it will be incredibly hard for your opponent to beat you. But from my experience, it’s one of those decks that loses more to its own draws than to the opponent. Getting flooded by Secrets without synergies, or drawing all the Secret synergies and no Secrets, having Rexxar stuck on the bottom of your deck in the matchups in which you really need it etc. Those things happen quite regularly and make this normally powerful deck a little bit inconsistent, which is probably its main flaw.
I’ve already mentioned it last time, but Odd Warrior (and Odd Quest Warrior too, but to a slightly lesser extent) was probably the biggest winner of the nerf patch. Togwaggle Druid, Kingsbane Rogue and Shudderwock Shaman were all bad (or even terrible) matchups for Odd Warrior and they were all nerfed. On the other hand, a bunch of other decks that Odd Warrior works well have become more popular against (such as Control Priest, Odd Rogue or Midrange Hunter). Of course, the meta is still far from perfect, with decks like Exodia Paladin or Deathrattle Hunter being quite popular, but Odd Warrior is in the best state it’s even been since early Boomsday.
Odd Warrior is probably one of my favorite archetypes right now, as it’s basically the only “oldschool” Control Deck. With all of the Death Knights, OTK combos and infinite value tools being played, decks that just want to outlast the opponent generally have a very hard time, but Odd Warrior is managing it somehow.
Not much has changed comparing to the deck compilation from last week. The only difference between deck lists is -1 Crowd Roaster and +1 Gluttonous Ooze. Roaster is a great card, but it’s sometimes too slow, and weapon destruction is very useful in the current meta. Between all the Hunters, mirror matches and Cube Warlocks that have been getting more popular lately, there’s a lot of stuff to hit with that card. And you can always play it as a 3/3 on Turn 3, which is often better than Hero Powering.
It’s exactly the same list I’ve featured last time, but it’s been the most popular Odd Quest Warrior deck ever since. With a decent amount of Control cards, as well as ways to finish the Quest relatively quickly (most of the time you get it done by Turn 8-9), it works quite well against the field.
Out of the two decks, I’d say that the Quest version is stronger. Thanks to the 4 Armor Hero Power, as well as multiple removals and Taunts, the deck is still good against most of the Aggro decks. But thanks to the Quest, it now has a solid win condition in slower matchups too. Instead of trying to outlast them, after you finish the Quest, you just try to kill them – 8 damage Hero Power is a lot. If just three of them land at your opponent’s face, you basically win the game assuming that some minion/weapon damage comes through (and they have no healing, of course). That’s an incredibly powerful win condition, even though you sacrifice your defensive capabilities.
The biggest flaw of this deck is RNG. Since you can’t choose your target, hitting face when you really want to kill a minion, or hitting one of the multiple small minions instead of face are common problems. It’s not like you can do anything about that, but keep in mind that a lot of the games will end up with frustration on either side – 50/50’s to win the game are common sight with this deck, so one of the players will always be on the receiving end of bad RNG.
One deck that I didn’t feature last time, but it has caught my attention lately is Control Priest. Ever since Highlander Priest got nerfed, Control Priest was a go-to deck for players who still wanted to utilize their Shadowreaper Anduin. The goal behind it is quite simple – you control the board throughout the early and mid game, then either win because you face Aggro and you survive their onslaught, or you turn into Shadowreaper Anduin and start Hero Powering your opponent to death. You can usually squeeze in 2-4 chip damage per turn, and then 16 damage finisher with two Mind Blasts (can obviously do more if you discover extra copies).
The archetype itself is nothing new – it was going in and out of the meta during an entire Year of the Raven. However, it has received some really interesting tools in Rastakhan’s Rumble, and obviously wasn’t affected by the nerf patch, making it a solid contender. When it comes to new additions, there are three main Rastakhan’s Rumble cards that see quite common play in Control Priest. The first, and probably the strongest one is Firetree Witchdoctor. It’s an amazing 2-drop, which this deck has lacked before. While Radiant Elemental is a great card in general, this build in particular could rarely take a massive advantage of it. Sure, comboing it with Power Word: Shield on Turn 2 was amazing, but that’s just about the only great thing you could do with it. Firetree Witchdoctor has weaker stats, but discovering a Spell is a very powerful effect. You can easily snatch something that might potentially win you a given matchup. Maybe a healing card vs burn decks, maybe an AoE clear vs board flood decks, maybe more card draw or burn against slower decks.
Firetree Witchdoctor is this deck’s staple already, but other two aren’t. They go in and out depending on the list, sometimes as two of, sometimes as one of. The cards I’m talking about are Mass Hysteria and Crowd Roaster. Mass Hysteria has turned out to be especially solid in the current Hunter-infested meta. It’s a great answer to a fully upgraded Spellstone, as well as Zul'jin. However, the same can’t be said against many other boards. It tends to be very inconsistent against decks running both small and bigger minions. The other card is Crowd Roaster – a solid late game Dragon choice. Between a solid body and 7 damage Battlecry, it nearly always gets 2 for 1 – you clear something and then your opponent needs to answer it, because he can’t afford to let it stay on the board. Both are great, but the deck is already packed, so it’s kind of hard to run all three.
The deck has pretty solid matchups across the board. It doesn’t really counter a lot of the decks, but it ends up with 50/50 or slightly positive matchup against most of the meta. The only massive outlier are Odd & Odd Quest Warriors. Since they can stack SO MUCH Armor, it becomes very hard to get through. It might still be fine if you’re getting a lot of chip damage with minions, or if you get a very early Shadowreaper Anduin, but if your minions don’t stick and/or Anduin is in the last 10 cards or so, the matchup is incredibly difficult.
Talking about the last deck, Control Priest is not the most accurate name, given that the deck ultimately wants to combo the opponent down. But if you want to unleash your inner Combo player even more, Clone (also called Resurrect) Priest will be a perfect deck for you. If you get lucky and don’t draw your key minions, but do draw Zerek's Cloning Gallery and Mind Blasts / Holy Smites, then you can make your dreams come true. Cloning Gallery summoning two Radiant Elementals, as well as Malygos and Prophet Velen, making your Mind Blasts 20 damage each and Holy Smites 14 damage each.
Of course, that’s a pipe dream – after playing dozens of games with the deck, it happened only two or three times. But that’s obviously not the deck’s main win condition, otherwise it would be one of the most inconsistent builds in the history of Hearthstone. Your usual game plan varies from game to game. It’s one of the most unique decks, because two matches are rarely the same. There’s a lot of randomness involved, but the deck is created in a way that most of the outcomes work in your favor, so even getting bad RNG once or twice doesn’t mean you’ve lost.
You can win the game through the combo I’ve mentioned above. You can also combo your opponent down by reviving Velen and/or Malygos with Eternal Servitude and/or Greater Diamond Spellstone and then blasting your opponent’s face. You can win games by simply reviving big bodies (The Lich King and Obsidian Statue are usually best) over and over again. You can win thanks to Lyra the Sunshard‘s value – the card is insane if you can get her out multiple times during a single game. Against Aggro, you can even with by reviving Malygos and playing Spirit Lash – that combo is usually a Reno Jackson, which clears the entire board for a good measure (and has +5 Spell Damage in case it sticks to the board). Between all of those different ways to approach each match, the deck is hard to master, but very rewarding and fun to play once you do so.
Rastakhan’s Rumble didn’t make a massive impact on the deck, but it does run Mass Hysteria. It’s mainly an anti-Hunter tool, letting you answer a fully upgraded Spellstone on curve, or Zul'jin later in the game (as well as some other boards – Hunter’s minions are usually of a similar size, meaning that the card is often a full board clear for 5 mana). It also works well in some other matchups, especially against the decks that want to rush you down. One of this deck’s biggest problems is being very slow – once you start rolling your revives, Lyra value, Velen/Maly combos etc. in the late game, it’s hard to stop. But you’re very vulnerable in the early and throughout most of the mid game. Mass Hysteria fixes that a bit, letting you survive until late game more consistently, even if not giving you a full clear.
Exodia Paladin is one of the most unlikely Combo decks that somehow is working. In order to set up the OTK, you first need to draw and play Uther of the Ebon Blade, then draw your Zola the Gorgon and Ancient Brewmasters, then start Hero Powering and bouncing back the 2/2’s. First one is guaranteed to be unique, but the second one is “only” 75% chance, while the third one is “only” 50% chance. It might not seem like a low chance, but it often delays your combo by a few turns. Of course, your reward for getting through all of that is worth it – you immediately win the game. However, it’s definitely one of the clunkiest combo decks that worked.
And it works mostly thanks to the new Rastakhan’s Rumble cards. The expansion was very generous for Paladin, slow Paladin decks in particular. Between High Priest Thekal, Flash of Light, Time Out! and Shirvallah, the Tiger it’s one of the decks that really feels refreshed by the latest set. While it was already solid before the nerf patch, its win rate has increased significantly after the patch. Druids, which were bad matchups, are now gone, while Odd & Odd Quest Warriors, which are amazing matchups, are now more popular. The increased popularity of Hunter didn’t affect the deck that much, since it has okay matchups against most of the class archetypes (besides Deathrattle Hunter, that one is pretty bad), so the only really bad news is Cube Warlock’s rise in popularity (although the deck is still less than 5% of the ladder, so it’s not that bad).
When it comes to alternative versions, the variance is really small. The deck has like 27-28 staple cards that don’t really get switched out, so most of the choices we end up with are not very relevant and mostly meta-dependant. 2nd Time Out!, 2nd Potion of Heroism, High Priest Thekal, Shrink Ray and Lynessa Sunsorrow are generally used to fill the last few slots, but the list I’ve linked (and Charon used to climb to #3 Legend) is the most popular one, and probably my favorite (I’m not a big fan of Shrink Ray, so the only change I consider is the second Time Out!). It’s working pretty well right now – I’d even dare to say that it’s low Tier 1 or high Tier 2, which is the highest this archetype has ever been.
Surprised? Well, you probably shouldn’t. Level Up! was certainly a significant part of the Odd Paladin’s strength, but it’s not like you could not win the games without it. Spreading Plague is out of the meta, so it’s harder to punish a board full of 1/1’s. Odd Paladin works well against Hunters, which still don’t have a great way to clear board over and over again. It also works well against Odd Rogue, which has been rising in popularity after the nerfs. It still has solid matchups across the board – most of them are close to 50/50 or positive for Paladin. The only really bad news is that Control Priest and Odd Warrior are also getting more popular lately, but while Control Priest is really difficult, Odd Warrior is not THAT hard to beat, especially the Quest version, which is close to 50/50.
The deck didn’t change much – nerfed Level Up was simply replaced with Frostwolf Warlord, which has a slightly similar mechanic, but goes tall instead of wide. Which is generally worse, but you can easily make it a 5 mana 8/8, and that’s not bad. If you already have some small minions on the board, your opponent might be stuck between a rock and a hard place. If he AoEs your small minions, you can punch him with the big guy. If he clears the big guy, you still have small minions to push damage. It’s usually a win-win situation for you. The biggest loss is probably burst potential. With Level Up, you could turn a board of 6 damage (6x 1/1) into 18 damage (6x 3/3), adding 12 damage out of nowhere. It was a common way to close out the games after equipping Vinecleaver in the late game and flooding the board with Recruits.
While it’s no longer as popular (both Exodia and Even Paladin seem to be more common), it’s what usually happens to nerfed decks. Even if it’s still viable, players tend to stay away from stuff that was just nerfed. But it’s definitely not the last time we’ve heard about the deck. Right now I wonder what will happen to it after the rotation. On the one hand, it loses some really great cards. On the other hand, the power of 2x 1/1 Hero Power is still there, so they might find some replacements eventually (for example, some of the cards can be replaced with Mechs & Mech synergies from Boomsday).
Like I’ve mentioned above, Even Paladin is now more popular than Odd Paladin, something that hasn’t happened ever since early Witchwood meta (before Call to Arms was nerfed, which affected the deck heavily). Players have started experimenting with the deck very early in Rastakhan’s Rumble. Multiple cards were tested out, but in the end, most of them were cut and replaced by the old stuff.
The only two cards that are still commonly seen in Even Paladin decks are Spirit of the Tiger and Mojomaster Zihi. This build plays only the first one, but Zihi is also played from time to time. Spirit of the Tiger is too slow vs Aggro, but it’s really good vs slower decks. Dropping it and then following up with Spikeridged Steed or Avenging Wrath puts your opponent in a difficult position. He wants to clear the 6/6 you’ve just summoned to not get punched in the face, but he also has to clear the 0/3 or else you will summon more of them. If he has no answer for your Spirit for some reason, it can snowball the game really hard. Even though you don’t run THAT many expensive spells, with four 4 mana ones and four 6 mana ones, it’s easy to summon a bunch of mid-sized minions. Zihi, on the other hand, is mostly used as a Combo decks counter. Most of the combos are expensive, so dropping opponent down to 6 mana before they can play it is quite useful. You can also stop bombs from your opponent, and while it also prevents you from dropping your 8 mana plays, with only two of them in your deck it’s not that big of a deal. To be perfectly honest, neither of the Rastakhan cards are necessary, and you could easily play the pre-Rastakhan build and it would do fine. But it’s always more fun to play around with the new cards, isn’t it?
In general, Odd Paladin’s Hero Power is still significantly better, even after losing the Level Up synergy. However, Even Paladin gets carried by the fact that most of the powerful plays in Paladin are Even. You can run Classic staples like Equality, Consecration, Blessing of Kings or Truesilver Champion. Spikeridged Steed and Sunkeeper Tarim are also very powerful cards. And of course, Even Paladin makes a great use of Corpsetaker – a buffed Corpsetaker is the deck’s best way to run away with the game. And unlike Odd Paladin, which can easily survive rotation just because of its Hero Power, Even Paladin will have a much harder time if it doesn’t get some great tools to fill the gaps created by Corspetaker, Steed or Tarim (which are some of the most common ways for Even Paladin to win the match).
Cube Warlock was a huge player in the late meta of Kobolds & Catacomb, as well as early in The Witchwood, so it didn’t surprise anyone when it got nerfed back then. Between increasing the mana cost of Possessed Lackey and healing from Dark Pact, the deck lost a big chunk of its power (your key turn was delayed, and it was harder to survive).
The nerfs, however, weren’t as severe to kill the deck completely. It has seen some play here and there, usually sitting on the edge between meta and off-meta decks, mostly pushed out by Even Warlock. Which was somewhat a surprise, given that it was still solid and showed good results. Like I’ve said before, players just don’t seem to like playing nerfed decks, especially after they’ve Dusted the nerfed cards (and while 2x Rare and 2x Common is not that hard to craft, it feels much worse to craft something that you just got rid of). But right now the deck seems to be coming back a bit – it’s still not played A LOT, but certainly more than it was during the few months before that. It has decent matchups against Hunter (positive against some archetypes and negative against others, but they average out at roughly 50/50) and good matchups vs Warrior, which seems to be enough to see play right now.
CubeLock is another deck that didn’t really receive anything in Rastakhan’s Rumble – the featured list runs no Rastakhan cards at all (and only a single card from Boomdsay Project and a single card from The Witchwood, while we’re at it). While Shriek seems like a decent card to put in, it’s mostly a tech against decks that flood board with small minions (e.g. Odd Paladin). Defile, Hellfire and Lord Godfrey are enough in the current meta, but I can totally see Shriek replacing Defile in slower Warlock decks after the rotation (although Cube Warlock in particular won’t really be a thing anymore then).
Even Shaman is in a similar state to some of the decks I’ve already described, with one difference – it was never nerfed. Statistics always put it pretty high, somewhere around Tier 2 or even low Tier 1, but the deck’s never really popular, always sitting at 3%, often 2% or even less popularity. But just like it did work in a few last metas, it also works right now. The ability to create Totems for 1 mana might not seem like a great deal, but Midrange Shaman decks were always about board control. In order to take the advantage of your tools, you want to stay ahead on the board, and a) always having a Turn 1 play and b) being able to flood board easier really helps with that. Totems might not seem like much, but a lot of them are annoying for the opponent. Taunt can protect a more important minion, Healing can keep the minions alive, 1/1 is just like the Paladin’s Silver Hand Recruit, and Spell Damage… well, often it’s the best one, but not necessarily in this deck, since it doesn’t play any spells (so it’s just a 0/2 most of the time).
Between Dire Wolf Alpha, Flametongue Totem and Earthen Might, the deck has some nice ways to take advantage of the totems as early as on Turn 2. Sometimes that’s all it takes to snowball the game from that point. Even if it doesn’t work, the deck excels at high tempo plays – minions that put a body on the board while dealing damage (and thus often removing something). Starting with Murkspark Eel, which is absolutely broken (at the price of not being able to play any Odd-costed cards, of course), through Fire Plume Phoenix (this build doesn’t run it, but others might) and Fire Elemental, Argent Commander and Al'Akir the Windlord up to Kalimos, Primal Lord. The deck has a lot of ways to deal damage while putting bodies on the board, and the best thing is that the damage can also be used to put pressure, not only clear minions. Eel here, Fire Elemental there, followed up by Argent Commander with Dire Wolf on the board and you’ve suddenly dealt 10 damage that your opponent couldn’t really prevent.
When it comes to new, Rastakhan cards, this build runs only a single one – Scarab Egg. It’s pretty experimental and I’m still not sure how I feel about the card, but it’s pretty good when you find a way to pop it (Dire Wolf or Flametongue), and it’s a solid AoE protection, but it feels like a dead card vs Aggro when you don’t find a way to trigger it. I don’t think that any other card from Rastakhan’s Rumble sees play in the deck, at least I haven’t seen it. Still, if you want to play Shaman, Even is probably the best way to go now that Shudderwock combo version was gutted thanks to the Saronite Chain Gang change.
And last, but not least, Odd Rogue, probably the most aggressive deck in the current meta. Odd Paladin was its nemesis – played a similar role and had a good matchup vs Rogue. Now that Odd Paladin is much less popular, Odd Rogue has gained some ground. The deck is your best choice when you simply want to smack the face and kill your opponents quickly. While some decks might still do it better (*cough* Odd Hunter *cough*), Odd Rogue’s Hero Power is amazing in a way that it can be used both to control the board (making it somewhat useful against aggressive opponents, as long as they don’t summon two minions with every press of their Hero Power) and to put pressure on the opponent (2 per turn is enough to make it a nice clock ON TOP of minion damage).
The deck’s biggest problem right now is the popularity of Odd and Odd Quest Warriors – normally, dealing 2 per turn is a nice way to seal the game after getting your opponent down low with minions even after your opponent somewhat stabilizes. But it doesn’t work against Warriors, who gain 4 Armor per turn, which means that instead of dealing damage, they gain +2 health per turn. Not the most optimal way to close out the game. On the other hand, Rogue works really well vs Cube Warlock, which tends to have really slow starts AND deals damage to himself for the first few turns. When it comes to Hunter matchups, it depends, but it’s okay on average. Deathrattle and Midrange Hunter are solid matchups, but Spell and Secret Hunter are pretty bad matchups (Odd Rogue has absolutely no way of dealing with a Turn 5 Spellstone, which makes Hunter come ahead most of the time). What’s going in Rogue’s favor is that it usually destroys those more clunky decks, like Topsy Turvy Priest, Mecha’thun builds etc. A lot of time they’re just free wins, because you just kill them before they can accomplish anything.
Compared to when the deck was most popular in Boomsday Project, it didn’t really change much. It’s the same old story – people have experimented with a few new cards, but quickly cut them. Right now basically no build runs any Rastakhan’s Rumble cards. Which is something that a lot of the decks on this list share, sadly. Even after the nerf patch, the overall impact of Rastakhan’s Rumble was rather low… sadly.