Rise of the Shadows is out for 3 days now, which is usually enough time for the first real meta to start forming. Of course, it’s safe to say that only a part of the potentially viable decks were tested and discovered so far. Some of the currently popular decks will fall off, while others will take their place.
Check out our Rise of Shadows Decks for Every Class!
I’ve spent most of the last 24 hours watching pro players and adding their decks to the site, so I have a quite good idea of what’s commonly played, which decks get to high Legend most often and what builds already look promising. Below, I’ll list some of the lists that already caught my attention. Just like every new expansion, remember that the early meta is very chaotic and it might look completely different in a few days. Decks are chosen based on my ladder experience, watching the steamers & pros, talking with other high ranked players and early statistics from sites like HSReplay.net or Vicious Syndicate.
Before we proceed to the new list, let’s do a quick comparison to the Day 1 one. Control Bomb Warrior, Tempo Rogue, Zoo Warlock and Deathrattle Mech Hunter were on the list and are still there.
Control Shaman was dropped from the list in favor of Murloc Shaman, which I feel performs better now. If anything, I would put Big Shaman as the 2nd best Shaman deck right now, but I want to keep this list a bit shorter (I will do a longer one a week after expansion).
Malygos Hunter was dropped in favor of Midrange Hunter. I find Malygos Hunter a really cute and cool deck, but once people have started playing better decks, and especially once faster, board flood decks like Token Druid became more popular, it didn’t stand a chance. It might change if those decks fall out of meta, but I doubt that will happen.
And finally, two decks that I think are still pretty good, but not amazing – Handlock and Resurrect Priest. Both are performing okay now, and if I made a longer list, they would probably be there. But since I wanted to keep it under 10 decks for now, they just didn’t make the cut.
On the other hand, I’ve added (on top of Murloc Shaman & Midrange Hunter I’ve mentioned above) a Token Druid deck, which was notably missing from the Day 1 list (I just wasn’t sure about it at the time, but it turned out to be better than I expected), a regular Control Warrior (it wasn’t as popular on Day 1, where Bomb version was dominating) and an extra deck – Dragon Mage (which I’m not sure about yet, that’s why I’ve labeled it as “extra”).
These decks are only example lists – meta is adjusting very quickly and more optimized builds might be out at the time you’re reading it!
Day 3 list has to start with a new contender to the title of best deck of early Rise of Shadows meta – a good, old Control Warrior. Which I would, at the same time, call the most problematic deck of the early Rise of Shadows meta. Not because it’s too strong, not because there are no ways of beating it, but because of Archivist Elysiana.
It’s a new anti-fatigue / late game value tool, and it’s crazy good at doing that. If you were playing lots of Odd Warrior mirrors, you probably remember that the deck that could shuffle more stuff into their library usually won the game in the end. If you faced a Carnivorous Cube version while not playing them, you were in for some bad time once fatigue hit and they were just copying their Direhorn Hatchlings while you were staring at an empty deck. But there was a limit on how many they could shuffle. Even the most greedy decks rarely shuffled more than 6-8 cards, and they needed to work hard for it (and it could always be somewhat countered with Silence). Now, Elysiana does a better job BY HERSELF, so it’s not difficult understand why she’s so powerful in matchups that go to fatigue (especially in mirrors). If one Warrior plays Elysiana and other doesn’t, it’s impossible for the latter to win through value / fatigue, so the only chance is pressure. And given that this game plan often fails (Control decks aren’t great at putting pressure, and if you face another Control deck, they are made to STOP that pressure).
That’s why some cheeky players have decided that if opposing Warrior is running one Elysiana… you could run multiple ones by playing cards like Baleful Banker and Youthful Brewmasters. Some champs even put 2x Banker and 2x Brewmaster into their builds, even though that’s way past a practical limit on how many cards you can shuffle. Remember that the game ends in a draw after 45 turns no matter what, so assuming that you don’t draw many cards, two Elysianas in total are enough to completely prevent fatigue until the game is over.
Now, it’s not a big problem on the ladder, because adding that package reduces your consistency in faster matchups… but remember that new tournaments are played in Specialist format. So dedicating one deck to beating other Warriors who are also stacking Elysianas is a common thing now. And you see, not only those matchups are incredibly long (a single game can last well well past 30-40 minutes), but also boring to watch. Especially since, in the end, if neither player misplays significantly, what the matchups boils down to is which player gets better picks from Elysiana. If you get a bunch of low cost/bad cards, and your opponent gets a deck full of late game Legendaries, then you’ve just lost to RNG. And it’s not like having a bad opening hand, where you can just concede after 3 minutes – you’ve spent 30+ minutes of your life in that matchups and ultimately it ends up with who gets better RNG. Or, even worse, it gets to the 45 turns limit and you ended up accomplishing exactly… nothing.
Players are already complaining about very long rounds in Open Tournaments (if I remember correctly, the average length of an entire tournament went up by over TWO HOURS). Even on the ladder, I’ve seen people running into Elysiana + Banker mirrors… and they’re painful to play. When testing decks for this compilation, I stumbled upon two Control Warrior mirrors as my 2 first games… with both ended up being 25-30 minutes long. Next Warrior mirror I had to immediately concede, because I would never test a deck like that.
I apologize for dedicating this entire deck description to complaining about Elysiana, but I really hard to do it somewhere, and I’m afraid that I don’t have enough time to write a whole separate article about that matter. But the card IS problematic and it has to be discussed IMO.
As for the deck itself, it’s good. Theo & Tyler both hit #1 Legend with it, and I’ve seen multiple others high Legend climbs. I actually enjoy it, because it plays a lot like the oldschool Control Warrior, which I have fond memories of. But I don’t think that I will end up playing it a lot, simply because Elysiana mirrors aren’t particularly fun, especially if you want to fit in more than 2 games in an hour.
I’ve already talked about the deck in my previous compilation, so I’ll keep things short. While it might seem like I link to the exactly same #1 Legend climb as before, it’s not entirely true, because posesi has actually hit #1 Legend AGAIN with the deck after losing it. Decks are very similar, but not the same. So yeah, the deck definitely still works.
Bomb Control Warrior is all about inevitability. You just play a Control style while shuffling Bombs into your opponent’s deck, and then, at one point… they will just die. Most of the decks can’t really do anything about it. Before the Bombs trigger, you also want to drop your 7/7 which summons six Boom Bots (because let’s be honest, that’s what it usually is) – Blastmaster Boom. The card is, obviously, absolutely busted and even if your opponent deals with it, they will probably have to use two cards and still take ~15 damage on the backswing from the Boom Bots.
Now, the main question is – which Warrior deck is better? Is it a regular Control Warrior or the Bomb version? I think that it’s still too early to answer it. Early stats put those decks dead even in win rate (and I’m not exaggerating – currently the highest win rate list from each version at Ranks 10-Legend, according to HSReplay.net, are within 0.1% win rate from each other). It might take some time to determine a better version, or might actually turn out that they’re both just as good. We’ll see.
Another deck that I’ve already talked about, so I’ll keep it short. Since Day 1, we had multiple more #1 Legend climbs with Tempo Rogue, so it clearly performs incredibly well, especially in high Legend. I’ve heard many voices that Heistbaron Togwaggle is the weakest card in the list and that it should be cut, but I really disagree with that. While it’s clunky at times, true, it can absolutely win some games by itself. Dropping Tog into Prep into Zarog’s Crown to summon two Legends is just game over unless your opponent has a board wipe. Even if you don’t high roll and end up with let’s say 2x Whizbang the Wonderful (or whatever), it’s still enough tempo to crush basically any deck (given that you also drop a 5/5 and PROBABLY you have some previous board). That said, I wouldn’t craft it just yet, because the card is definitely not NECESSARY to play the deck – there are successful builds that don’t run it. When looking at the top end of highest win rate lists from HSReplay, around 60% of them run Heistbaron, but the other 40% either run Chef Nomi instead, or they run nothing (ending the curve at 5 mana).
What I didn’t like at first, but grown fond of over the last 2 days is Waggle Pick. It felt a bit clunky and anti-synergistic with some of the cards (like, I couldn’t imagine actually cutting Hench-Clan Thug from Tempo Rogue), and it still feels weak to weapon removal, but when it works, it works wonders. If you destroy it on your own terms, it can just win you the game. The thing I like most is how much reach it gives you with Leeroy Jenkins. Leeroy + hit + Leeroy deals 16 damage in total, and it won me so many games. But even bouncing another Combo/Battlecry minions can give you extra value, tempo and such.
All in all, Tempo Rogue is incredibly powerful and I’m pretty sure that it will remain this way.
Token Druid is one of the decks I didn’t include in the 1st compilation. It would actually be the first deck I would add if I made the list longer, but I had to cut it somewhere, and Token Druid didn’t have high enough sample size at the time. However, after being very popular on Day 2 and 3 of the expansion, I can surely say that it works well.
But… what is the best list, exactly? That is something no one can answer yet. While some archetypes are pretty straightforward, there are LOTS and LOTS of ways to build Token Druid. Do you go for a more Aggro or Midrange build? Do you include Treant synergies, and if yes, which ones (Dendrologist / Treespeaker / Mulchmuncher). Do you play Archmage Vargoth or not? Do you play Mark of the Loa or not? And so on, and so on. Basically, every high Legend Token Druid list I look through is completely different. And that’s fun! It might take some time to figure out the best one (although less than it would in the past, thanks to the tools like HSReplay).
As for the deck’s play style… it’s actually the same old stuff. You want to flood the board, then make it stick (usually through Soul of the Forest or other buffs), and then kill your opponent with Savage Roar. The card I feel was severely underrated is The Forest's Aid – even faster builds play at least one copy. It’s basically a single card that forces your opponent to “waste” AoE twice, which is huge in this deck. Because if they don’t clear it, they probably lose the game to Savage Roar (which is 22 damage, and that doesn’t count any other buffs, Hero Power, Swipe etc.). And since face rush Aggro decks aren’t that popular, even faster versions can afford to play an 8 mana card.
I listed a Mech version of Zoo since I didn’t want to repeat exactly the same deck from last compilation. If you want a regular Zoo deck, check out this one instead.
Zoo is… just Zoo. I’ve talked about the regular version in the previous compilation, and it didn’t really change, so refer to that if you want to read about it.
I’ve decided to link Mech version, because it’s actually pretty interesting. I’ve seen many versions of Zoo (regular, Murloc, Demone etc.) but never really a Mech one. While Warlock doesn’t have any specific Mech synergies, the idea behind it is that both Zilliax and Wargear are really, and I mean REALLY good in Zoo if you can Magnetize them into something. You can immediately add that damage to the face if you’re putting pressure, or you can make some great trades by Magnetizing before attacking into something. So you play just enough Mechs to do it consistently.
Is it a better version than a regular one? Probably not. But it’s not as bad as it might look like – looking at the deck’s win rate, it places quite highly. It’s not the best Zoo list, but it’s better than many of them.
It was kind of obvious that Midrange Hunter will still be relevant after rotation. Even if it might not be the best deck around, Master's Call is still here and it’s still powerful. Same goes for Dire Frenzy – you can still combo those two together quite nicely. While the archetype has lost some important cards, most notably Deathstalker Rexxar, between cards that didn’t rotate out and new additions, we had just enough to build a fully functional Midrange Hunter again.
The deck’s play style is similar, with two exceptions – it’s less explosive (mostly because it loses Crackling Razormaw, which could often snowball the games out of control) and it has less late game potential (because you can no longer go for infinite value with DK Hero). Now it mostly focuses on its mid game potential (just like the name suggests) – it tries to get through the early game, then start dropping bombs while removing stuff (e.g. Scavenging Hyena + Unleash the Hounds is a really solid combo that lets you swing the game around vs faster decks), then, once it’s ahead on the board, capitalizes on that and goes face.
Which means that, in a way, we’re back to a more oldschool Midrange Hunter. But when looking at Rise of Shadows in general, the same thing could be said about lots of the decks. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Deathrattle Mech Hunter is another deck I’ve already analyzed last time, but this time I’m posting a slightly different list. Feno used it to climb to #15 Legend and it’s been my favorite version so far. It drops Necromechanics, which felt a bit like a win-more cards, as well as some Mech/Magnetize synergies, in favor of a more streamlined game plan with more Spells. I really, really like Sunreaver Warmage – I think that it’s still underplayed at this point, but it might become one of the more popular cards from the expansion after a while. You run 2x Unleash the Beast again, so all Feno had to add are two copies of Baited Arrow, which makes Warmages pretty consistent (especially since you can play the first part of Unleash the Beast and still have a second one as an activator). The deck also runs cards like Secret Plan, Animal Companion and Deadly Shot, all of which make Zul'jin much, much better.
Since Zul’jin is the only Hero card left for Hunter in Standard, I feel like the swing provided by it should make a difference. And while it was okay sometimes in Firebat’s version, this time it really does feel like a Hero card. It usually summons a pretty big board WHILE damaging random stuff too (so it has a chance to be used as a removal) + Deadly Shot, even a single one, makes a big difference. Now Zul’jin can be dropped as a response to a big minion for an even better swing.
Sacrificing Midrange Mechs, including some Magnetic synergies (e.g. Wargear) in favor of more spells has made the deck more reactive, but it’s not necessarily a bad thing. Given that most of your power comes from late game Oblivitron and Nine Lives (and, of course, Zul'jin), thanks to all of those reactive spells, you can now get there much more smoothly.
But just like with most of the decks, it will still take a while to figure out which one is better. Or if the deck will be good enough at all.
One of the reasons why Murloc Shaman didn’t get to last list might have been because I just couldn’t believe it. Because come on, Murloc Shaman was always a meme deck. I don’t remember a point in time at which, despite getting synergies, it worked well enough to be considered competitive (in Standard, at least). But here we are. I can’t deny that the power of new Murlocs is over the top. Both Underbelly Angler and Scargil are basically carrying the deck, and Soul of the Murloc finally gave it an anti-board clear tool, something that a board-based deck really wants to have.
But, most importantly, Murloc Shaman is a true Murloc deck at the core. Murloc decks are all about snowballing. The basic idea has always been that Murlocs are very weak alone, but incredibly powerful in numbers. Dropping Murloc Warleader or Coldlight Seer on a board with 3-4 Murlocs already present is amazing. Opening with Murloc Tidecaller that your opponent couldn’t answer and it quickly snowballing to 5-6 Attack is also amazing. And finally, playing Soul of the Murloc on a solid board, getting it cleared, and still winning the game with Bloodlust is also amazing. The deck can win almost any game if everything lines up your way. But on the other hand, despite having Soul of the Murloc, it’s still susceptible to AoE removals from slower decks and a high tempo early game start from a faster deck (if they get early board advantage, you’re often done for).
The deck has almost no comeback mechanics, with Hagatha the Witch being the only one. Of course, it’s very good in the late game, but I’m still not completely convinced that playing her is worth it. After all, you aim to close out your games around Turn 5-7, so you want to run cards that bolster this kind of playstyle. On the other hand, if you actually get to the late game, Hagatha can carry some games, especially if you drop Underbelly Angler and start a Murloc chain to get a hand full of spells. Still, I think that I’m against running her. A lot of people compare her to Rexxar, but it’s not really the same for a few reasons. First of all – mana cost. 6 vs 8 is a huge difference. Second of all, Battlecry. Hagatha clears your own board too, while Rexxar doesn’t. And finally – the decks themselves. Murloc Shaman is an Aggro, not a Midrange deck. You didn’t put Rexxar into Face Hunter, you put it into Midrange and slower builds. For those three reasons, I don’t think that those cards should be compared that way. Or, let me rephrase that, they absolutely CAN be compared, but saying “Hagatha is like Rexxar, you ran Rexxar in Midrange Hunter so you want to run Hagatha in Murloc Shaman” is just wrong, as it ignores everything I’ve mentioned above.
And finally, I have an extra deck. I wanted to aim at 8 deck lists per compilation for the first two (and add more in the one I’ll write after a week), but I found this build so interesting that I just had to add it. I’ve played it a bit and it feels like it has a lot of potential. I won’t call it a dark horse of this expansion just yet, but it has a chance to become one. I can easily say that as of this moment, it’s the best Mage deck. Tempo Mage or Freeze Mage report a significantly lower win rates than this one.
It’s another deck that uses Book of Specters – an incredibly powerful, but very restrictive card. Many decks attempted to play it before, but most of them turned out to be off-meta lists at best (like Kibler’s Elemental Mage or Murloc Mage). The restriction is that, obviously, you can’t run many spells. Of course, you CAN play it in a deck that is made of 15-20 spells, but then it would be so inconsistent to not even be worth considering. On average, you want it to draw 2 cards to be good. But given that you’re restricting yourself in the first place, I’d say that you want it to be as close to 3 cards as possible. That’s why decks running Book of Specters try to not run 6 spells in total (including 2 copies of Book) – and this is one of them. The only spells this deck runs are actually summon spells – Conjurer's Calling and Power of Creation. Both of them are incredibly potent with Khadgar, but they are much better as standalone cards than I’ve initially suspected.
Conjurer’s Calling in particular has turned out to be a solid card. While I’m not sure about running two copies, I found at least one to be a very solid addition to similar strategies. When you have Khadgar on the board, using it on basically anything is worth it, because you turn a single minion into 4 minions. Even though those 4 are random, unless you get a massive low-roll, it’s still crazy good. But even if you don’t have Khadgar, it can still be worth it. For example, you have Mountain Giant on the board. Now Conjurer’s Calling summons an extra copy of it for 3 mana – and it has Twinspell so you can use it twice! I won some games with a T5 Giant into 2x Conjurer’s Calling on T6 (you end up with 3 Giants in the end, a board almost no deck can answer so early). You can also use it to “replay” damaged minions. Let’s say that you trade your Twilight Drake into something and leave it as a 4/2. Now you can play Conjurer’s Calling to not transform it into something and get an extra copy. Even if it’s something like a 4/4 (pretty average outcome), having 4/4 is much better than having a 4/2, and you used only half of the card.
Power of Creation, while works best with Khadgar (summoning four 6-drops basically means that your opponent needs AoE or you win), but is good enough by itself too. You can even go for a huge tempo play in the late game with Kalecgos – if you aren’t afraid of running into AoE like Brawl, playing Kalecgos and then 0 mana Power of Creation gives you a huge board presence that your opponent has to deal with. While there are some 6 mana low-rolls, from my experience, at least one option is decent most of the time. You can run into a worst case scenario of getting a 3/3, 3/3 and a 3/4 to pick from, but those are incredibly rare. On the other hand, getting two Safeguards or two Cairne Bloodhoofs for 8 mana is a huge win, so it’s worth risking a small chance of a total low-roll.
Like I’ve already said, the deck has quite a lot of potential. While it has to rely on Neutral Dragon package a bit too much (because Mage doesn’t have many strong minions, and the ones it has are often spell-related), and removing all of the AoE spells hurts in matchups like Zoo Warlock or Murloc Shaman, I do think that it might stay as a Tier 2 deck after being optimized.