After being surprised by a very early patch, we’ve got another surprise in a form of a second nerf patch during a single expansion, something that hasn’t happened since the game’s release. This time, however, I’ve passed up on the early report, since the first shifts in the meta weren’t big (and, to be honest, I’ve been really busy with other things). I’ve decided that a week is enough time to give meta some time to settle, so I can come with a solid report of the decks that work best so far.
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.
Odd Paladin has been a Tier 1 or at least a high Tier 2 deck since… pretty much since Even Paladin was nerfed back in The Witchwood. So it’s no surprise that it’s one of the best meta decks yet again. Level Up! nerf did hurt, but Uther just gave his wounds a few licks, added Frostwolf Warlord in, and a week later Odd Paladin was at the top again.
Given that the nerfs didn’t really change the deck, there’s not much I can say about it. Summoning two 1/1’s with Hero Power is as strong is it ever was.
Alternatively, you can check out an Odd Mech Paladin deck. Some players had success with it, but all stats indicate that the regular version is significantly stronger. If you want something a bit different, try it out, but your mileage may vary.
Even Paladin, now that’s something we can actually talk about, since it used one of the cards that got nerfed – Equality. Alongside Wild Pyromancer, it was an Even Paladin staple, adding to the deck’s reactive game plan. While it can still come back against boards of small minions with Consecration, any bigger board is now much harder to deal with. It’s basically Sunkeeper Tarim or bust, and even Tarim can’t help if your opponent has a big advantage and you can’t play a few small minions alongside to turn them into 3/3’s. In other words, better not fall behind too much.
The 4 mana Equality could still technically be played in the deck. And while slow builds like Holy Wrath Paladin need to play it no matter what, it would simply be too slow in a Midrange deck like Even Paladin. There’s still no obvious way to fill the gap created by Pyro + Equality combo (Pyro is no longer a great card in this build without Equality), and different players have different approaches to that issue. Adding some more 2-drops is obvious – in this case, Loot Hoarders. While Pyro was mainly played as the part of Equality combo, you often dropped it on Turn 2 just because it was better than skipping it (disregarding his effect, 3/2 is much better tempo play than a 1/1). This specific build also added Mossy Horror to deal with those wider boards. Unlike Equality, it can’t be used to deal with big minions, but it still comes handy sometimes. On top of those two, RDee decided to use Dark Conviction as either a single target removal for opponent’s big minions or as a way to buff his own 1/1 when necessary (it’s not really a card that your opponents play around, so you can get a nice, surprise trade into cards like Northshire Cleric or Scavenging Hyena).
If you prefer, you can also do it more simply – add second copies of cards the deck already runs, such as Acidic Swamp Ooze or Argent Protector. Either way, it turns out that Equality wasn’t absolutely necessary to run Even Paladin. It still suffers from the fact that it got nerfed – very often the nerfed decks are heavily underplayed even if they are still good, we’ve seen that multiple times before. But it works.
And this one is a solid surprise. I haven’t seen a solid Secret Paladin build in Standard ever since Mysterious Challenger rotated out, but it turns out that The Witchwood’s Bellringer Sentry finally came handy. It’s not as high tempo as Mysterious Challenger, but still very good. You pay roughly 1 mana for its effect, which is – between Battlecry and Deathrattle – drawing and playing two 1 mana cards. That’s more than worth it. Sadly for Paladin, the only other synergy right now is Secretkeeper, but that’s okay – the card always worked best with Paladin Secrets, simply because they’re cheapest. Other than that, it’s a regular Aggro/Midrange Paladin build (given that it runs two copies of Divine Favor, I’m leaning more towards Aggro, but it is pretty Midrange-ish). Notably, it’s also the first common build that uses Knife Juggler + Call to Arms combo ever since CtA was nerfed up to 5 mana. If you get lucky and pull of Juggler first, it can be really potent combo – adding two extra pings for free can turn the board in your favor (or at least deal some free damage to the opponent).
There are two most popular Secret Paladin builds – one running Corpsetaker (you can find example deck here) and the other (this one) not. Given a relatively small sample size and similar win rates, it’s hard to say which build is better. On the one hand, Corpsetaker is amazing and it can snowball the game when buffed, but on the other hand, you need to run a Windfury minion to activate it, because without it, the card is rather underwhelming in an aggressive build like that (which also means that drawing that minion is pretty bad).
Now, that’s probably the biggest surprise of this meta. Wall Priest, which is sort of a mix between Combo Priest and Resurrect Priest, has taken ladder by the storm. Usually, an early popular deck like that falls off quickly and no one plays it a week later. But in this case, not only it’s still one of the most popular decks on the ladder, but also one of the stronger.
The idea behind this deck is to use a low attack, high health Taunt minion in combination with Divine Spirit and Inner Fire. Against Aggro decks, just pulling a big Taunt and then reviving it a few times might be enough to win the game. And then, again Control, sticking one of those big boys can be really deadly, given how any one of them can turn into 30+ damage burst.
It’s also the second time we see a common meta use of Master Oakheart (the first one was in Taunt & Big Druids). The card is absolutely insane in this build. It alone usually seals the game vs Aggro, and often even against Control. Playing a 5/5 that pulls out Tar Creeper, Mosh'ogg Enforcer and (usually) Witchwood Grizzly is insane. You end up with a 5/5, 3/5 (on your opponent’s turn) Taunt, 2/14 Taunt with Divine Shield and a 3/12 Taunt (alternatively, Zilliax, which isn’t too shabby either).
Between The Lich King, Eternal Servitude and Lesser Diamond Spellstone, the deck also packs some nice value. If you can’t go for combo, you might be able to win a game by reviving Lich King over and over again. Or at least using it to bait all of your opponent’s removals, because after that you might just drop another big Taunt, and if it sticks, kill your opponent with it. Mosh’Ogg Enforcer is especially deadly – 14 health and Divine Shield make it incredibly hard to kill. Just a single Divine Spirit + either Inner Fire or Topsy Turvy equals 28 damage, almost enough to kill a full health player. Throw in a Power Word: Shield, another Divine Spirit, and you might even be able to kill Odd Warrior. Just… be careful against other Priests. That 2/14 Taunt is by far the best Cabal Shadow Priest target in the current Standard meta.
And now back to the good, old stuff. Control Priest has also been performing quite well ever since the first Rastakhan’s Rumble nerf. The deck was solid to being with, wasn’t hit by the nerf bat, it was working relatively well against Hunters, that’s most of the story. It managed to dodge the nerfs once again, and now it’s one of the better builds in the meta.
Rastakhan’s Rumble itself has given Control Priest some good cards to being with, more Dragon synergies in particular. Dragon shell was carried by Duskbreaker (and, to lesser extent, Twilight Acolyte) ever since Drakonid Operative rotated out last year. Witchwood added Scaleworm, which is nice, but not amazing. We had to wait all the way until Rastakhan’s Rumble to finally get some new great synergies. In this case, it’s Firetree Witchdoctor and Crowd Roaster, both of which work really solid in the deck (Witchdoctor is a staple, and Roster is at least one of).
Other than that, not much has changed. While other Priest builds run Mass Hysteria, Control build doesn’t really have to do it thanks to Duskbreaker (and the fact that they usually have early-mid game plays, meaning that they don’t fall as much on the board).
To be perfectly honest, I thought that Resurrect (or Clone) Priest will be performing better. Don’t get me wrong – it’s not a bad deck at all, but other Priest decks seem to be outperforming it, and it looks like a mid-Tier 2 build. Similarly to Control Priest, nerfs didn’t really change it in any meaningful way. The game plan remains the same – a mix of a late game powerhouse and a burst combo. You can win games by reviving your big minions over and over again, or by simply summoning or reviving the right ones (Prophet Velen, Malygos) and Mind Blasting the opponent for 10, 20 or even 40.
Something I have to note about this build in particular is that 2x Witchwood Grizzly is rather uncommon. Most of the builds run either one or zero. Of course, it’s a great anti-Aggro card, so two copies might work great against decks like Odd Paladin or Aggro Odd Mage, but it really depends on the meta you face (I’ve trimmed one for a second PW:S).
Two decks that got a nice boost in win rate too are Odd Quest Warrior and Odd Warrior. It’s hard to say exactly why that is, but a huge hit to Combo Paladin decks definitely had something to do with it. While Quest version could still win the matchup (it wasn’t good at all, but an early Quest finish could have put enough pressure), the regular version had almost no chance. Even if they could stack enough Armor to play around Holy Wrath, the decks could just go for a slower, Uther of the Ebon Blade route and kill Warriors that way.
On top of those, decks like Aggro Odd Mage or Zoo Warlock got more popular too, and both of those are good matchups for slow Warrior decks. If we look at the deck list of Quest version, it’s basically the same we had pre-nerf. Some folks tech in Oondasta, which is quite a nice tempo swing if you’re holding a Witchwood Grizzly or Amani War Bear, but I’m not a huge fan of this approach. If you haven’t finished Quest yet, you’d often rather play those to get it done (summoning doesn’t +1 the Quest). And if you have, you most likely want to Hero Power every turn, and you can’t HP on the same turn you drop Oondsata. Yes, it comes handy sometimes, and the tempo swing is nice, but I don’t think it’s worth it.
I’ve mostly explained why Odd Warriors got better above (in general, the decks have similar matchups, but Quest version is better vs slow builds and regular version is better vs Aggro) so there’s no need to repeat that. In case of Odd Warrior, however, we have a new kind of build that is getting more popular. We still have the old Dragon synergy build, which didn’t change much ever since Rastakhan’s launch, but some pro players started running a Dragon-less version featuring Leeroy Jenkins. The idea behind that is to give Odd Warrior some sort of finisher. Leeroy + Faceless is 12 damage, and while it doesn’t sound like much, it’s still way better than the deck can normally pump out. On top of that, it also goes for a more fatigue approach, running two copies of Direhorn Hatchling, Elise the Trailblazer as well as one Carnivorous Cube. It should give you an edge over Dragon version in mirrors, because Dragons run 0-2 Direhorn Hatchlings and that’s it. With two Hatchlings and Elise, you’re already slightly ahead. Add Cube, you’re far ahead. Add Faceless, you’re MILES ahead when the game goes to fatigue. If you bait the Silence early (probably on one of the Hatchlings), you can then go for Hatchling + Cube play, and then possibly even Facless the Cube (although Facelessing Hatchling is often good enough too). And that’s big. If your opponent ends up 3 cards deeper in fatigue, that’s like dealing 40 or so damage to him (considering that the mirrors often get to 10+ fatigue ticks).
On the other hand, the Dragon version seems to be doing better in other matchups. Odd Paladin is one of them, for example. Dragonmaw Scorcher is big in that matchup. Emberscale Drake lets you put something on the board while not skipping Armor (crucial in lots of Aggro matchups), while Crowd Roaster is very useful against more Midrange builds. Overall, it heavily depends on the meta, but I feel like the Dragon version might be slightly better against your average ladder opponent.
Yeah, that one wasn’t hard to predict, was it? It used to be one of the strongest decks in the pre-nerf meta, and while it did get hit, upping Hunter's Mark to 2 mana is not that big of a deal. You can still play one copy if you face a lot of decks against which it’s good (obviously, the 1 mana extra hurts sometimes, but not often enough to drop in win rate significantly). The card still synergizes nicely with Candleshot as well as Springpaw, and it can still be used for an amazing late game swing. Or you can just cut it completely, since it was never an absolute necessity. You still have some ways to get through big minions (like Poisonous Adapt), and your goal is to snowball before your opponent drops those anyway.
When it comes to what players have been replacing Hunter’s Mark with – there are a few solid choices. Headhunter's Hatchet, Revenge of the Wild, Wing Blast or a second copy of Tundra Rhino are all solid contenders. Hatchet is good for the early game board control and late game reach, Revenge can create some really nice swings, Wing Blast is a high tempo removal in faster matchups while Rhino is amazing win condition against slow decks.
While it’s probably not AS good as it was before the nerfs, Midrange Hunter is still one of the best decks in the meta. And it’s still a very affordable option for anyone who doesn’t want to spend thousands of Dust just before the rotation.
When it comes to the nerfs impact, Deathrattle Hunter was somewhere in the middle. Losing Hunter’s Mark didn’t hurt as much as having Lesser Emerald Spellstone upped to 6 mana, but at the same time, the card was definitely more important here than it was in Midrange build. Deathrattle Hunter is slower, with much weaker early game (outside of perfect curve like Prince Keleseth into Devilsaur Egg into Terrorscale Stalker + Play Dead), Candleshot + Hunter’s mark were often the best way to deal with midrange minions.
Now, of course, you COULD still play Hunter’s Mark at 2 mana, but not in the same build as Prince Keleseth. Which means that you have to drop Keleseth, and while the card is not really THAT good in Deathrattle Hunter, honestly the other options aren’t thrilling either, not to mention that you would have to remodel a big part of your deck (you would need to add at least four 2-drops in the place of Keleseth if you want to draw them quite consistently on the curve).
Does it mean that Deathrattle Hunter is no longer good? Of course not! It’s still an amazing deck. And most importantly, it’s consistent. It has no auto-lose matchups, even the common ones that are considered “bad” are merely 40/60 or 45/55, which isn’t the end of the world. It’s a good way to slowly, but surely grind the ladder. You might not go on a huge win streaks (unless you face a lot of Odd Warriors, great matchup), but you won’t likely go on a lose streak because of bad matchmaking RNG.
Zoo is back once again? Stats seem to support that. While not very popular, the deck has a really solid win rate. It seems that the slight shift in the meta was enough to bring it back again. Or to be more precise, it never really disappeared – Zoo is always out there in the meta, even if not commonly seen.
When it comes to the builds, nothing really changed since Boomsday Project. And, to be more precise, not much has changed since The Witchwood, when Heal Zoo was first played. Early in Rastakhan, players have experimented with different builds, running cards like Grim Rally or Scarab Egg instead of Keleseth, but everyone quickly went back to the Heal Zoo, since it simply worked better.
The deck is still based on the same snowballing and tempo swings provided by Lightwarden and Happy Ghoul. Zoo player getting a good curve is very hard to beat by anything in the meta. As a Priest, it’s often Duskbreaker or bust. As a Warrior, you absolutely need an early Reckless Flurry or Brawl, or else they kill you through your Armor gain. And so on, and so on. Zoo can put up those “you AoE or you die” board states quite early compared to other decks, which is their strength. That, and the longevity – Life Tap, while slow, is a great way to stay relevant throughout the mid game.
And of course, another upside of Zoo being good is that – just like Midrange Hunter – players have access to cheap, but viable decks. Because even I was terrified looking at the Dust figures of some of the more popular decks lately. Control Priest, Resurrect Priest, Even Paladin, Odd Warrior, Odd Mage – all in the range of 12-14k Dust. Remember how a deck that approached 10k Dust was called super expensive back in the day? Now it’s probably close to average among competitive decks. Pretty crazy if you think about it.
Mage. The class never really got up after the Mana Wyrm nerf (technically, when the Wyrm was nerfed, Tempo Mage wasn’t even that popular or good anyway, but you know what I mean). Some experimented with Murloc Mage, thinking that it might make the class have a viable Aggro build again, but it didn’t work out in the long run. And here we are – after the second Rastakhan’s Rumble nerf, a new Aggro Mage deck has surfaced – Aggro Odd Mage (also known as Secret Odd Mage). It quickly became one of the more popular decks after the nerf patch. For a moment I thought that it’s going to be a new Tier 1 deck, but now I’m not THAT optimistic. The deck’s win rate is great at lower ranks, but it falls off when we go past R4 (so to the most competitive ranks). That said, even there it’s not a bad deck at all – I’d probably put it somewhere in Tier 2.
The idea behind this deck is to play something a bit similar to the Tempo Mage, but as an Odd deck. While it limits your options quite heavily, most notably doesn’t let you run your best removal/burn spells like Frostbolt and Fireball, the upgraded Hero Power really goes a long way. 2 damage instead of 1 makes the deck so much better against decks like Midrange Hunter or Zoo Warlock. Being able to just Hero Power those 2/2’s and 3/2’s is great, it’s much easier to control the board than with a regular Tempo Mage deck. Extra synergies are also nice – Black Cat is an amazing 3-drop if you play Odd deck (3/3 draw a card for 3 mana is insane already, and it’s even better if you add Spell Damage to the mix), Pyromaniac can be activated more easily, Clockwork Automaton is insane when it sticks, and you can actually run Jan'alai, the Dragonhawk and have it up on the curve most of the time.
I think that the deck could still use some optimization. There are some really, and I mean REALLY bad builds on the ladder, running cards that are weak or even don’t make much sense (like, I’ve seen builds with Flamestrike, seriously). But after it gets further optimized and the meta completely stabilizes, I suspect that it might end up somewhere in Tier 2. As long as Odd Warrior doesn’t start to dominate, because that’s a horrible matchup for you with all their Armor gain and removals.
And finally, the last deck of this roundup, a regular Odd Mage. Which is basically a Big Spell Mage played with only Odd cards. There are some advantages, as well as disadvantages of that approach, which is why some players still prefer the regular Big Spell Mage build. Once again, upgraded Hero Power is really great in some matchups. Decks who would normally run over you in the early game, before you can drop your Dragon's Fury, might be slowed down considerably. Just like in case of Aggro list, you have access to Black Cat, which is great. You can also activate Jan’alai and Pyromaniac quite easily.
Of course, it doesn’t come without any sacrifices. Having to drop cards like Doomsayer (or, alternatively, Prince Keleseth), Polymorph, Blizzard, Meteor and such is not great. But the deck can still manage with the amount of removal it has.
The build I’ve posted is the Orange’s “Hybrid” Odd Mage. I didn’t really know how to call it. It leans towards a more Midrange build with more Elemental synergies, more tempo thanks to Arcane Tyrant, as well as a more aggressive finisher in a form of Leeroy Jenkins. There are also slower Odd Mage builds, opting to run cards like Stonehill Defender, Baron Geddon, Alexstrasza and such. I’ll be honest that I’m partial to this Orange’s list, as I’ve been having a blast with it on the ladder, but I think that it’s still to early to tell which one is really better. But, between my personal experience and stats available so far, I can say that Odd Mage seems to outperform Big Spell Mage in general.