The Best Early Meta Decks in Showdown in the Badlands for All Classes!

One Snake to rule them all, and in the darkness bind them. You may have heard about The Azerite Snake at this point. Warlock’s life-sucking excavation reward is making headlines all over the place, and we already have it from Blizzard that they will nerf it through an emergency hotfix. Details are coming tomorrow (Friday), but the date for the nerf itself is still unknown.

Overpowered shenanigans aside, there are lots of decks to play in Badlands. In this article, I will take a look at what is hot and rising in the brand-new meta!

Death Knight

With Highlander decks gaining support in the new expansion, the logical response from Death Knight is to keep playing with Plagues. Plagues are a natural counter to Highlander decks, as they shuffle duplicates into the deck and disable any nasty Rheastrasza or Reno, Lone Ranger Battlecry effects.

The most successful new Death Knight deck combines Plagues and Excavation effects for a good bit of power:

This is the second generation of Excavate Plague Death Knight. The infinite value from Pile of Bones is gone. It may be infinite, but it is a trickle, and that is not good enough. Burrow Buster has also been shown the door. Burrow Buster is the weakest Excavate card, and Death Knight is not a combo deck. You don’t need your fourth reward as soon as possible. In fact, Death Knight’s fourth reward with its resurrection mechanic is only useful after you have played something expensive and powerful on the board. You can get there with fewer Excavate cards, no need to use bad ones.

Alternatively, you can play Unholy Death Knight and just win the games early. The deck even got a couple of nice minions from Badlands in the form of a 1-mana 2/2 Miracle Salesman and an additional resource generator Farm Hand.

Demon Hunter

There can be only one, but for Demon Hunter, it’s not the Highlander list. Sorry, that meme remains a dream. However, Demon Hunter’s new Naga Mage cosplay with Blindeye Sharpshooter is very much real. It does not look as scary as it did on the first day, but it is a deck that you can climb all the way to high Legend with. It is also a deck that you need practice with, so its numbers may improve as people get more comfortable with the cycle.


Druid is ramping up again in Badlands. The most powerful Druid deck is Dragon Druid with duplicates, even though Druid got Rheastrasza for their Highlander list in the expansion.

Dragon Druid has been experimented with a lot, and this is now the third generation of of the archetype:

The first generation used Lor'themar Theron and Snapdragons to buff up Dragon Golems and the other Dragons. The second generation ditched Lor’themar and added a pair of Azsharan Gardens with Malygos the Spellweaver to tutor the original and the generated Gardens from the deck. Now, Malygos has been cut as well, and the deck relies on Aquatic Form to find the missing pieces.

This is a typical refinement pattern. Big, slow cards end up being replaced by faster, cheaper, more multi-use cards. It takes a lot for an expensive card to justify its place in the deck, and the cards in Dragon Druid did not manage to do that as they were tested in battle.

However, there is a time and place for expensive cards, and it’s Highlander Druid. While not quite as strong as the more tempo-oriented Dragon Druid with duplicates, Highlander Druid is capable of winning games and has many more tricks up its sleeve. Rheastrasza is the most powerful infinite value generator in the game at the moment, surpassing even Sargeras. Reno, Lone Ranger is totally bonkers with its Battlecry and also its superior Hero Power. If you’re looking for a Highlander experience, Druid is a great place to start.


Hunter is struggling in Badlands. It is an arid landscape, and finding prey is difficult. Buffing your hand with limited tools can only get you so far. No buffs, no payoffs.

The best-performing Hunter deck is Highlander Hunter, and a Prince Renathal variant of that. With 40 different cards in the deck, you will never know what a game will look like! If there is a Reno, Lone Ranger in the cards, the game just may look good.


The best Mage deck in Badlands is Rainbow Mage. The new Neutral cards that add zero-damage spells (Miracle Salesman) or some toxic waste (Tram Mechanic) to your hand are a wonderful fit for a deck that wants to play cheap damage spells and amp them up to 9000 with Sif anyway.

The only other Mage archetype that sees play is Secret Mage. Secrets go well with the Excavate mechanic thanks to Reliquary Researcher, and this deck can disrupt all of your opponent’s plans when things go smoothly. The best-performing list of the archetype is my day one list, but I expect improvements to be found if the archetype receives some more attention. As the second-best archetype in a middle-tier class, that is not very likely though.

My inspiration for the deck was the mono-blue tempo deck in Magic. Just getting some threats out there and then frustrating all of the opponent’s attempts to do something about them.


Do you want to play the best Paladin deck, or do you want to play with new cards? Tough choice.

The Pure Paladin deck that goes tall with The Garden's Grace is the best Paladin deck in Badlands, and one of the best decks overall!

There have been some attempts to include new cards in the list, and it is almost guaranteed that Hi Ho Silverwing will find a place in the deck in the near future. Attempts to include the other new cards have failed to impress, and that makes all the new lists that attempt to use multiple new cards a bit weaker.

You can also go Reno in Paladin as well, and maybe even win more than half of your games. This ZachO’s list is as good as it gets so far for the archetype. Spirit of the Badlands is the weakest class-specific Highlander synergy card, and that keeps the deck far behind Highlander Druid and even a little behind Highlander Hunter. As always, Reno, Lone Ranger is by far the best card in the deck.


I cannot honestly recommend any Priest decks at this time. If you like Priest, I expect that you find Highlander Control Priest an attractive idea, but none of the lists have managed to reach a 50% win rate so far. If style matters more to you than results, you can try this one, it seems to be the least bad option so far:

The overall best Priest deck is TITANS Undead Priest, but many Priest mains are not accustomed to its more aggressive playstyle.


Rogue has not yet found itself in Badlands.

If you want to win with Rogue, you can. Just play the Big Mech Rogue from TITANS:

But if you want to play with new cards, then you will still want to play with the same big package, and just add Ogres and Concoctions instead of Mechs! The deck is better with Mechs, but this is the most promising compromise between winning and using some new Badlands cards in Rogue.


If you are a Shaman fan who missed the last couple of months, you have not missed much. Totem Shaman remains the premium Shaman archetype, and the list has not changed by a single card since early September.

There are some Highlander Shaman decks around, but they do not look good. At least Doctor Holli'dae is better than Spirit of the Badlands, but Highlander Shaman is still worse than Highlander Paladin because Paladin has better cards overall.


The Azerite Snake nerf is coming, so play it while you still can! We did not even get to see the good stuff yet.

There are multiple approaches you can take to Excavate Warlock. You can try to build it slow and control-style. Fun, but too weak. You want to suck that life out of your opponents instead of slowly controlling the game. You can try to build it as a pure combo deck. Quite strong, even if a bit one-dimensional, and can be disrupted. Many high-Legend players have started to combine the Snake with Barrels of Sludge. Seems OK, but still not ideal.

The best way to build the deck seems to be to build it mostly as a combo deck with just a hint of Sargeras, the Destroyer on top. Sargeras is still busted. This is the best-performing version of the archetype so far:

Note that we do not know how and when the deck will be nerfed. It could be as early as tomorrow. If you choose to craft something for this, you do so at your own risk, as any refunds of directly nerfed cards may not be enough to compensate for the cards you craft.


What good is armor if your life is sucked away from underneath it? The Azerite Snake does not care about armor, and consequently, Armor Warrior is gone. At least until the hotfix. The Badlands Warrior set was also underwhelming, and it does not look like Warrior will have much use for the new cards.

May I interest you in some last-season #1 Legend material? Enrage Warrior remains a strong deck and could reach #1 Legend in this expansion too, and without any new cards too.


Badlands is not a fair place. It is inhospitable and treats wanderers according to its whims. Some will find no refuge there, whereas others will thrive.

Excavate Warlock, Dragon Druid, and Rainbow Mage have enjoyed their time in the Badlands the most. They are the three best new decks. Naga Demon Hunter may be able to challenge them, but it seems difficult to play and may not be a ladder-wide success.

Four decks from TITANS remain competitive. Aggro Paladin and Enrage Warrior are some of the best decks on the ladder despite the newcomers. Totem Shaman just keeps chugging along, not as a top-tier deck, but always as a Legend-capable archetype. Big Mech Rogue is also doing well.

Rogue decks, Highlander Hunter, and Unholy Death Knight with or without Plagues join Totem Shaman in tier two.

Priest has no good decks. Undead Priest is the closest thing the class has to a viable deck.

That is the tale of the early days of Badlands. With a Warlock nerf looming on the horizon and lots of refinement still to come, there should be many changes coming soon. If I really wanted to craft cards right now, I would place my bets on Dragon Druid continuing to find success. But as always, crafting anything this early in an expansion is a risk.

Old Guardian

Ville "Old Guardian" Kilkku is a writer and video creator focused on analytic, educational Hearthstone, and building innovative Standard format decks. Youtube: Twitch:

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