Hello and welcome to the inaugural Standard Meta Report, covering the week of August 11 to August 18, 2019. Every week, we'll cover the current metagame in Standard, featuring both emerging archetypes and ladder mainstays. We'll talk decks and techs and statistics, highlighting the best lists for your climb and analyzing breakout performers that have a chance of becoming competitive. We'll also track refinements in meta pillars and analyze possible improvements.
The Overview: August 11, 2019 - August 18, 2019
Saviors of Uldum has reshaped the meta in profound ways.
We’ve seen a fairly fast tempo meta develop at lower ranks. The pace of play has been set by the mana-cheating prowess of Murloc Paladin, which currently boasts the highest win rate in the game. Alongside Uther and his squishy horde, a bevy of midrange board-based decks have flourished; Quest Rogue, Quest Druid and Quest Shaman jockey for position with modest success between ranks ten and five.
At higher levels of play, control comes to dominate, with both Control Warrior and Control Mage well-represented. Garrosh and Jaina maintain high win rates at Legend, but are kept in check across all ranks by Highlander Hunter. Despite his misfortunes in Rise of Shadows, Anduin is swiftly coming to prominence at the head of an aggressive heal-centric combo deck, which is likely to catch on in lower ranks after showing considerable promise higher on the ladder.
Druid has reached an interesting stage in its development. The quest list feels pretty standard at this point; it’s a deck Blizzard dictated from on high. I don’t think it’s doing very well, though. Losing out on tempo for four turns is a bad start by any metric, and while there’s considerable heal, fast decks can still run it down with ease. The matchup spread is abysmal when you account for any of the format’s most powerful decks; Quest Druid loses to Freeze Mage, Control Warrior, Highlander Hunter and Murloc Paladin.
But Malygos Druid is the deck of the moment at higher levels of play. Though statistics are scant at this point, the list feels powerful and flexible; it shines when you can't complete your combo. With the Druid quest complete, you're capable of strong tempo plays in the form of Oasis Surger and Anubisath Defender. Nourish provides outstanding card draw. Like many combo decks, Malygos Druid still has trouble fighting off aggro strategies, but Warrior's armor gain is no problem as you exploit the late-game doubling effect of Elise the Enlightened, multiplying Moonfire and Malygos for lethal. With Flobbidinous Floop in hand, the deck is capable of outrageous damage. We'll be interested to see how this deck fares against Mage over a large sample size; dealing with the crazy boards cheated out through Luna's Pocket Galaxy has proved difficult thus far.
Token Druid is sitting near the low end of tier two, but not many people are playing it. The archetype’s best performing (and most played) version features no cards from Saviors of Uldum, which is a shame because this is a cool set. At the moment, the deck is middling against the pack, with positive win rates against other tempo decks and negative win rates against the format’s control lists.
Hunter is likely the meta’s most successful class, all things considered. Highlander Hunter is really really good and Secret Hunter isn’t far behind. There’s still Mech Hunter, too, which is hanging around at a winrate just under 55% across all ranks.
The only deck not invited to the party is Quest Hunter, but that's not much of a surprise. Twenty minions is a lot; I'd say I completed the quest by turn nine on average, which is too bad, because this is a great little aggro deck. Halazzi, the Lynx really shines in the beast-oriented list, but there's also a Mech version kicking around that makes excellent use of Necromechanic. Either flavor you choose, Quest Hunter does all right at low ranks, but few players are taking it out on the ladder above rank five. No one’s playing it in Legend.
But here's the good news. Dinotamer Brann feels good. [Hearthstone Card (Zul’jin) Not Found] is still amazing, both as a tempo play and a value generator. Zephrys the Great is still built on pretty good AI. Highlander Hunter’s winrate is solid across the board. Though expensive, it’s a great choice for climbing from rank ten or five and remains a fun way to pull in some wins at Legend (read: police for Control Warrior). It outfoxes Quest Druid and outvalues Dr. Boom, beats up on Combo Priest and trounces Jaina. You’ll have a tough time against Tempo Rogue, but at least you can counter their Zephrys.
Control Warrior’s continued success is diametrically opposed to the status of Cyclone Mage, our other Rise of Shadows juggernaut. The old formula, which relied on Sorcerer's Apprentice and cheap spells to hoard value and fill the board, has been replaced by an insane Highlander deck with a big spell package featuring King Phaoris and Puzzle Box of Yogg-Saron. The list can be slow, even when you snag an early Luna's Pocket Galaxy, but the lethal outs are ridiculous. You won’t believe the board states you can create with this deck; games are unpredictable and mind-bending.
A powerful control archetype reliant on freeze effects has also emerged. Conjurer's Calling remains broken. The list boasts a winrate just under 52% at Legend, with King Phaoris and Naga Sand Witch at flex spots. As an added bonus, Bone Wraith and Khartut Defender, two new Saviors of Uldum reborn minions, slot into the deck nicely as sticky board-based plays you can drop relatively early.
Despite receiving a powerful new package in Saviors of Uldum, Secret Mage has failed to perform. Held back at Legend by a shameful matchup against Control Warrior, the deck isn't particularly successful against the field at lower ranks, either, having negative winrates against most of the tempo decks you'll see on your climb from rank five. The deck is definitely underpowered for the meta. How Secret Mage deals with Mountain Giant is anyone's guess. It doesn't really have a powerful way of killing the opponent; you rely on damage from minions to chip away, but there aren't many minions here. It'll be interesting to see whether we'll get more experimentation within this archetype. Maybe more burn.
Murloc Paladin is the flavor of the week for aggro players. It’s performing admirably at lower ranks and hovering near 51% at Legend. Though it costs a lot, the deck’s straightforward and should be a good starting point for beginners looking to climb. Like most successful tempo decks, Murloc Paladin performs well against other board-based strategies but folds to control, which makes it suited to play at lower ranks. It’s also a lot of fun; few things feel better than a Tip the Scales on five, especially when you get a buffed-up Bluegill Warrior to smash face.
Most people playing Paladin are exploiting Prismatic Lens and Tip the Scales, but there’s also experimentation with the new quest, Making Mummies. This deck is a work in progress, but has the power to dominate matchups in the lower ranks. It's outrageous against Control Warrior, joining Highlander Hunter as a check on Garrosh's power.
At its heart, Quest Paladin is still a middle-of-the-road midrange deck. The winrate’s positive, slightly, but poor matchups against Murloc Paladin, Control Mage, Combo Priest and Quest Shaman are holding it back. The requirement to play weak Reborn minions for early-game tempo is a killer. It’s plausible that with an influx of powerful new Reborn minions, the deck’s performance would improve, but since Team 5 didn’t bring Twinspell back for Saviors of Uldum, I wouldn’t hold my breath. Thing is, I kinda like it. It feels good to beat up on Warrior.
Quest Priest is a disappointing deck with an underwhelming balance of removal and high-impact minions. It can be fun, though; as annoying as it may be when your opponent resurrects Convincing Infiltrator for the fourth time, it’s awful satisfying to do. Thus far, the archetype’s performance is nothing to write home about. Between ranks five and Legend, the deck loses more than it wins, with a particularly terrible matchup against Murloc Paladin. In any event, no one's really playing it anymore, with a representation under 1% between ranks four and one.
Far more popular (and successful) is an Aggro Combo Priest running a robust heal package and exploiting the classic Divine Spirit / Inner Fire combo. Though its usage has exploded at Legend and Rank 1, I would say this deck is underplayed for its winrate at lower levels of play. Only around 3.5% of players at rank 5 have opted for this strategy, but the deck punches above its weight higher on the ladder. At Legend, Combo Priest is the most popular deck, and it’s winning over 55% of its games, thanks in large part to favorable matchups against Control and Highlander Mage.
For players at lower ranks, the deck should perform admirably. Despite a tough time against Control Warrior, it shines against other ladder mainstays, including Quest Shaman and Quest Druid, the first and third most popular decks at five. Combo Priest felt unbelievably strong for me against Quest Rogues and Quest Druids, as I rocketed from rank five to three over the course of ten games. This is one to watch and I’m excited for further refinements. Tip: play it like a combo deck. Draw is everything.
It appears that the player base has soured on Rogue, thanks in part to the poor performance of the class’ quest. While great for early and mid-game board control, it turns out that a 2-mana 3/2 weapon doesn’t cut it in the late game, which is when most players seem to be completing the quest.
Thankfully, a wicked new take on the classic tempo build is here to entertain Valeera in this dire time. Rogue is in a state of flux, but one thing players are convinced of is that Hooked Scimitar is strong. Paired with Waggle Pick and Captain Greenskin, Scimitar stands at the center of a weapon-heavy build that goes face as much as possible. This deck started out with a really fun Zephrys the Great / Myra's Unstable Element combo, but since those early days, many players have dropped Zephrys and gone straight tempo. The winrate's positive for now, but Warrior is still a major stumbling block.
If you don’t care about stuff like winning, Highlander Rogue may be your cup of tea. The deck isn’t particularly competitive, but it’s a lot of fun. And you get to use Zephrys. Twice.
Quest Shaman is a lot of fun. You can tell by the number of people playing it. In ranks four and five, Quest Shaman is everywhere, the second most popular deck behind Control Warrior. Spirit of the Shark for two is fun. Lackeys are really fun. The debate over control or tempo play styles is also fun. It's not particularly competitive, though. Thrall’s numbers crash as you move up the ladder; the deck’s terrible against Control Mage and even worse against Combo Priest, making it the perfect choice if you want to lose at Legend.
Don’t sleep on Murloc Shaman, though. It's not being played much, but the archetype shines against the field at higher ranks. It’s favored against Control Mage and Combo Priest, and heavily-favored against Quest Druid, making it a fair choice across the ladder. Control Warrior is a sore spot, beating Murloc Shaman about 60% of the time between rank five and Legend, but who doesn't have that problem?
Zoo received some powerful new pieces in Saviors of Uldum, including a new lackey generator, Sinister Deal, Dark Pharaoh Tekahn and EVIL Recruiter. Alongside EVIL Genius, these new additions to the lackey package ensure that Zoo can get off to a fast start, but the deck also has a great new mid-game combo in the form of Diseased Vulture and Neferset Thrasher. Now, Zoo can go toe to toe with both Quest Paladin and Quest Druid, while generating sufficient threats to out-tempo Murloc Paladin. That matchup is close, but favors the Warlock, which is all to say that Zoo is still a great choice if you’re facing a lot of tempo decks.
But what, you ask, of Plot Twist Warlock? The experiment continues! The deck’s definitely been given a boost through the addition of Supreme Archaeology, but if winning is your aim, look elsewhere. Quest Warlock is the bottom of the barrel. Literally. You will be steamrolled.
But the archetype’s performance is definitely being hurt by a number of sub-optimal builds on the ladder. Some of these lists seem absolutely terrible, but the sample sizes are still very low. It’s heartening that the list for which we have the largest dataset also performs the best; it favors removal (in the form of Impbalming and Hellfire) and uses Bone Wraith as its early to mid-game taunt of choice. But I’m missing the point. You don’t play Plot Twist Warlock to win; you play it for fun.
Nothing escapes the dour eye of the Mad Genius. As in metas past, Control Warrior is the name of the game if you want to rank up. The deck sports a win rate over 55% across all ranks, leveling out just under 53% at Legend. It's also the most popular deck in the game (though Mage is more played as a class). The more things change, the more they stay the same. You’ll see Garrosh everywhere on the ladder - and don’t worry, he has a Warpath in hand.
There's hope, though. An intriguing new form of Enrage Warrior is showing promising preliminary results across all ranks. Restless Mummy is an extremely powerful card, allowing you to play control against tempo decks. Bloodsworn Mercenary enables explosive burst lethals by abusing Leeroy Jenkins. The deck is fun, fast and shows no signs of slowing down. Duplicating a damaged Zilliax is pretty sick. Though the sample sizes are still small, we're cautiously optimistic about this one.
Most other tempo Warrior variants have failed to take hold. Quest Warrior isn't good and no one's really playing it. That makes sense, because if you want to repeatedly smash your opponent’s face in with a bladed weapon, you should be playing Rogue. Though dominant towards the latter end of Rise of Shadows, Bomb Warrior has largely been abandoned by the player-base. If you want to play Warrior, you play Control, especially with the addition of the powerful new Taunt package.
So that's the week that was. All in all, it's a diverse meta with lots of exciting choices for the climb. Let us know in the comments what you think. What's your favorite deck to climb with right now? What hasn't been working out for you? Have you spotted a metabreaker on the horizon yet?