Aleco

Hearthstone Meta Report #1 - The First Week of KFT

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We take a look back on the first week of the KFT metagame to share everything you can do to dominate the next one.

With the first week of Knights of the Frozen Throne behind us we are just now starting to glimpse what the upcoming meta has in store for us. It’s still far too early to claim that all the new decks and archetypes have been finely tuned, but we have learned a lot from our first week with the new cards in KFT.

The first change we encountered in the new meta was the dominance of the dedicated control deck. Towards the end of the Un’Goro metagame the most dominant decks were almost entirely aggressive or midrange in nature, yet nearly all of the most played decks from the first week of KFT have been controlling. Everybody was very excited to try the new Death Knight cards, and since these cards have high mana costs they tended to end up in naturally controlling or midrange decks.

Once it became obvious that nearly every deck on the ladder was big and greedy, the next few days became a battle to become even bigger and greedier. At one point while watching Dog’s stream I saw him put N'Zoth into his Control Mage deck with only two Deathrattle cards in the entire deck (Pyros and the Frozen Champions from Sindragosa) to get back from N’Zoth’s battlecry! Talk about greedy.

As fun as it was to have a Control-dominated meta for the first few days of KFT, this kind of greed wouldn’t go unpunished for very long. Thanks to a lack of Aggro decks, the overwhelming popularity of Jade Druid, and the new cards Simulacrum and Ghastly Conjurer, a more consistent Quest Mage deck emerged as a way to punish the slow meta. As players started to gear more and more towards beating slow decks, the pendulum began to swing back towards the aggro side of things. In the past few days the number of Pirate Warriors on ladder has greatly risen, and I haven’t spotted a single Frost Lich Jaina or Uther of the Ebon Blade in over 100 games.

Towards the end of the Un’Goro metagame no one class was vastly more dominant than the others, but the same is certainly not true for the early days of KFT. Druid has become the most popular by a wide margin. According to the current Reaper Live report a staggering 36% of the Legend meta is made up of Druid decks. Thanks in no small part to the new cards Ultimate Infestation and Spreading Plague, Druid now boasts highly competitive Midrange and Control decks to compliment the Aggro deck which was already top tier in Un’Goro.

A major reason why all three decks are so difficult to play against is how difficult it is to mulligan against a Druid. You can never know for sure if you should be keeping cards which are strong against Jade Druid or Aggro Druid, which surely plays a part in the success of both decks. Druid might be quite strong at the moment but it is certainly not unbeatable, and according to the Reaper Live report there are multiple decks which have a positive winrate against two of three Druid builds.

Meta Beaters

The perfect deck for this early meta will have the defensive tools to outclass Aggro decks such as Pirate Warrior and Aggro Druid in the early game while still being fast enough to kill Jade Druid and Kazakus Priest decks before they get the chance to dominate the late game. Aggro decks make up only 25% of the current meta, which means it’s still much more important to slant your deck towards the speedy end of things so that you can beat up on the slower decks which are still popular. All of these signs point towards an aggressively slanted Midrange deck as the best choice for the current meta, and the data from Reaper Live agrees. The deck with the best winrates across the board is not a Druid deck at all, but an aggressive Midrange Murloc Paladin deck.

Midrange Murloc Paladin

Shockingly, Midrange Paladin has positive matchups against every deck in the meta except for Token Shaman and Aggro Druid, but even these matchups sit at a very manageable 48%. The deck was already a strong choice in the Un’Goro meta but it picked up some exciting new toys in KFT to build upon its previous success. Defensive minions like Righteous Protector and Corpsetaker allow the deck stall aggressive decks into the midgame, where Midrange Paladin shines. A Bonemare or a Spikeridged Steed on a Skelemancer is commonly a game ending play, and all of the powerful legendary minions the deck had access to in the Un’Goro meta have gone nowhere.

Midrange Paladin also packs an impressive number of early Murlocs which are capable of applying tons of pressure. The dream 1-2-3-4 of Murloc Tidecaller into Rockpool Hunter into Murloc Warleader into Gentle Megasaur has to potential to kill as early as turn 4 against any opponent who doesn't pack interaction for the early game . With Murloc Paladin boasting such high win rates across the board, don’t be surprised if you see Hungry Crab start popping up as the tech card of choice in the near future.

Big Priest

In what I consider to be another big surprise, Big Priest is the only other deck with positive winrates against two of the three popular Druid decks . A brand new deck in KFT thanks to Eternal ServitudeShadow Essence, and Obsidian Statue, the deck boasts a dominant 71% winrate against Midrange Druid and a very respectable 53% against Token Druid. Its 45% win rate against Jade Druid isn’t embarrassing either, which means this deck still has some game against the most popular deck in the format.

Big Priest seems like a very luck-oriented deck on its surface as it features high-roll cards like Barnes and Shadow Essence to pull powerful minions from its deck at a discounted cost, yet in practice the deck is shockingly consistent. It doesn’t have any true misses off a Barnes, who himself is the only awkward card to hit off Shadow Essence. Even if it doesn’t hit one of these cards early, double Dragonfire Potion and double Pint-Size Potion plus Shadow Word: Horror allows the deck to draw out the game until they can play their huge minions naturally.

With all that said, the deck still has a tendency to defeat itself by drawing the wrong combination of cards. It gets absolutely run over by Pirate Warrior and Quest Mage and isn’t able to run tech cards like Golakka Crawler or Dirty Rat due to the nature of Barnes and Shadow Essence. Fortunately for fans of Big Priest, these two bad matchups make up just 10% of the meta while the positive matchups for Big Priest account for roughly 40% of the meta, making Big Priest an excellent choice for the early KFT metagame.

Tech of the Week

The one piece of technology which has remained consistently powerful throughout the first week of KFT is The Black Knight. Thanks to the extremely widespread play of Bonemare there are almost no decks in the metagame which lack a juicy target for The Black Knight to gobble up. This Aggro Druid list which hit #1 Legend not only runs Bonemare, but also runs The Black Knight to pave the way for its cheaper minions to sneak in those last few points of damage. It doesn’t really seem to matter if your Aggro, Midrange, or Control, The Black Knight is a game winning tech card in the current meta. 

Deck to Watch

The success of Midrange Paladin can be attributed to the fact that it is both fast enough to go underneath the current Control decks and defensive enough to go over the top of the current Aggro decks. Any other deck which is capable of accomplishing this same feat would also be very well positioned, which makes me believe that Nostam's Midrange Hunter is poised to take off.

This deck has all the tools it needs to blast its way through Jade Druid with the proper draw. Bearshark curves amazingly into Houndmaster, and Bonemare is like a Houndmaster on steroids. It runs a healthy curve of one and two drops to contest the board early, and pack all four crabs so it can steal some free wins off of Aggro decks. Deathstalker Rexxar seems at his absolute best in this style of deck, as he provides the deck with the card draw engine it needs to not run out of steam against controlling decks.

I still think the list has a bit of room to improve. Hunter is currently the least played class in the entire meta which also means it is the least tested. I’m not sure that double Tundra Rhino shines in this list without Deathstalker Rexxar already in play. The deck also might be in need one more tool to outvalue opposing Midrange decks in the mid to late game, as it doesn’t pack many tools to catch up once it’s fallen behind.

Conclusion

Our goal with this report was to get you up to speed on the current trends in the meta and to provide you with the analysis you’ll need to stay ahead of the competition. As this was our first meta report for Hearthstone we would love to hear your feedback on what you felt worked or what you thought might have been missing. Please feel free to tell us in the comments what you found to be helpful and if there if there is anything you’d like to see in the next meta report!

Until next time,
Aleco

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Just wanted to point out that in your Midrange Paladin description you mention combos with Skelemancer but it is not in included in the deck you provided. Outside of that your article is spot on as usual. 

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4 hours ago, KingMe said:

Just wanted to point out that in your Midrange Paladin description you mention combos with Skelemancer but it is not in included in the deck you provided. Outside of that your article is spot on as usual. 

Thanks! I actually couldn't find a version on Icy Veins which ran Skelemancer in it, but wanted to point out in this section how it was one of the many new cards which is currently being played in the deck. I actually agree with the decks we have up on Icy Veins that its a bit too greedy to run Skelemancer, but felt it was worth mentioning that he appears in roughly half of the Midrange Paladin decks I face on the ladder.

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i dont mind how powerful druid has become in this game of druidstone, its just the lack of variety anymore...

tired of queing up against druid after druid after druid, the game isn't fun anymore.

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5 hours ago, Aleco said:

Thanks! I actually couldn't find a version on Icy Veins which ran Skelemancer in it, but wanted to point out in this section how it was one of the many new cards which is currently being played in the deck. I actually agree with the decks we have up on Icy Veins that its a bit too greedy to run Skelemancer, but felt it was worth mentioning that he appears in roughly half of the Midrange Paladin decks I face on the ladder.

I agree that it is worth mentioning. I'm actually running one in mine right now and it feels good when I can hit it with Spikeridged Steed or Bonemare. At that point it's out of the frying pan and into the fire. It also forces them to hesitate with their AOE which gives you more time to develop and push more damage much like the eggs do/did. But I also agree that it is a bit greedy. 

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Tier 1 decks have become horribly expansive :(

Earlier on there existed tons of tier 1 decks that were quite cheap

(Grim Patron Warrior: 1 Legendary, 0 epic

Midrange Shaman: 1 Legendary, 0 epic

Pirate Warrior: depended on the deck, mostly 2 legendaries and 1-2 epics

Jade Shaman: 1 legendary, 0 epic)

(some used Expansion Legendaries, but since these are very easy to get I don't include them in my count)

 

Now take a look at the decks you present here:

5 legendaries + 8 epics (Paladin)

3 legendaries + 8 epics (Priest)

5 legendaries + 4 epcis (Jade Druid)

 

Way too much for me. ATM I use a Jade - Shaman Wild deck, but I play less and less games with him and probably won't reach Rank 5 this month (for the first time since quite a long time).

 

Easier to afford seems the Taunt Druid and the Aggro Druid. Unfortunatly I don't like to play aggro very much.

 

Well, I'll give it one more week, then I'll try to evaluate which decks (wild / standard) are the Tier 1 decks - and if I can effort one of it.

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I really feel like druidstone became more pay to win than it used to be after this expansion, mostly for all the reasons the poster above me stated. I Have a pretty decent collection, and even I can't afford to make a tier one deck at the moment.  f2p players can't compete with these 5 legendary 10 epic decks with the budget decks. If I hadn't gotten to rank ten before the expansion there is no way I'd get past fifteen right now. I have a tough time even beating mediocre shamans anymore.

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I myself am a semi free to play player, or in other words I'm dirt poor but tend to put what little spending money i can into this game. most of the time, however, I'm F2P like everyone else and i can attest to this being difficult for me. I got lucky and pulled Deathstalker in a free pack, but then had to go and dust a couple adventure legendaries i no longer use, plus a golden Pyros, all just to squeak out enough high dust cards for a mid-range Hunter, and god forbid the meta changes any time soon to make it totally invalid. Thankfully, I was able to hit rank 15 with this and a janky mid-range murloc pally, but only just. hopefully we will start seeing some more budget decks that can hit those bigger numbers, but until then I'll have to make do with what I have, and hope the Metagame doesn't do a complete 180 for some time to come.

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22 hours ago, Dustintime said:

I really feel like druidstone became more pay to win than it used to be after this expansion, mostly for all the reasons the poster above me stated.

I feel like those with limited money are also, unfortunately, somewhat punished at the same time as being helped by the rotation of expansions. If you put some of your money for the year into an early expansion, but then don't have any to spare for the next year, you suffer because it gets phased into Wild. At the same time, if you have time to play at one point but not at another, you might be playing at a time where you simply don't have enough cards to play. I suppose disenchanting Wild cards helps, but yeah.

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The issue with rotations is that the decks still require 30 cards to use, and basic cards are not getting any better. This results in the deck costs not going down, and actually going up due to adventures rotating out. And because the cards are rotating, people have to keep buying new packs to be able to play proper decks. The only upside of rotations I can think of is that if a deck you hate is relying on one card from non-basic/classic set (e.g. Reno Jackson), you won't see the deck again after 2 years go by, but that does not affect the problems with decks being expensive.

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55 minutes ago, positiv2 said:

The issue with rotations is that the decks still require 30 cards to use, and basic cards are not getting any better.

Exactly. I wonder if F2P players might benefit from a minimum number of basic cards either being revised or adventures adding new basic cards each time. A set number of cards for every class that are added for free. They wouldn't be the OP insane legendaries, but they'd be solid cards that can be added to a deck.

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26 minutes ago, Blainie said:

Exactly. I wonder if F2P players might benefit from a minimum number of basic cards either being revised or adventures adding new basic cards each time. A set number of cards for every class that are added for free. They wouldn't be the OP insane legendaries, but they'd be solid cards that can be added to a deck.

I'm afraid it might be too late to do that. Many cards are balanced for 30-card decks, but will not be for higher or lower amount of cards in a deck. Draw will be much less common, some cards such as Kazakus will be more common and stronger, while some archetypes as whole will be much stronger, mainly combo decks. Oh well, at least I have still 8k dust from Hall of Fame.

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F2P Players like me profited a lot from the Adventures:

2800 gold and we had a card couverage of 100% (of this specific adventure)

Now with Expansions instead of Adventures we invest 2800 gold and have a card coverage (legendaries + epics) of around 10%.

And unfortunatly, not all legendaries are good.

Around 1/3 are awesome and practically a must have for specific builds. Another third are good, but can be replaced without too much punishment. And another third are just useless junk that are never played.

And if you manage to get legendaries like I did (Moorabi + Uther of the Ebon Blade + Archbishop Benedictus + Arfus) out of 55 packs you can build a usefull deck from scratch. Because you got not a fucking useful card out of the new expansion.

It would be a tremendous help if the legendaries would be balanced.

 

And the icing on the cake is the arena-nerf, making it less profitable.

 

But well, I have to admit - as a F2P Player I am "useless" for the game. If I play or if I don't play doesn't add a thing. (That is not the case if you play an F2P MMO e.g. Because by populating the world, being avaiable for guilds / raids... you improve the play for everybody else. Even if you don't pay yourself you add something to the game, make the game better and that's why you have a value. And the developers should give you credit for that.)

That's why I obviously can't expect Blizzard to pay any attention to my needs / whishes whatsoever.

 

At least they brought back the singleplayer bosses, and they are very cool in the new expansion. That is nice and I liked playing against them a lot - and that for exactly 0 gold cost :)

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1 hour ago, WedgeAntilles said:

But well, I have to admit - as a F2P Player I am "useless" for the game. If I play or if I don't play doesn't add a thing. (That is not the case if you play an F2P MMO e.g. Because by populating the world, being avaiable for guilds / raids... you improve the play for everybody else. Even if you don't pay yourself you add something to the game, make the game better and that's why you have a value. And the developers should give you credit for that.)

While you do not give them money directly, you still help them make money indirectly. Having a ton of players is a good selling point. Having short queue times is important for games like Hearthstone, and you are helping with that.

You also contribute to fan sites (more specifically us :P, thanks), and those are important for Blizzard as they often help them promote their games, sales, new items and whatnot, which in turns boosts their sales. Fan sites also save Blizzard money by doing the support work for them (you can see Blizzard's support sending some users here), and as said previously, they don't need to spend as much money on marketing their products because we do that for them. None of this would be possible without a decent userbase and great users like yourself.

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21 hours ago, positiv2 said:

While you do not give them money directly, you still help them make money indirectly. Having a ton of players is a good selling point. Having short queue times is important for games like Hearthstone, and you are helping with that.

You also contribute to fan sites (more specifically us :P, thanks), and those are important for Blizzard as they often help them promote their games, sales, new items and whatnot, which in turns boosts their sales. Fan sites also save Blizzard money by doing the support work for them (you can see Blizzard's support sending some users here), and as said previously, they don't need to spend as much money on marketing their products because we do that for them. None of this would be possible without a decent userbase and great users like yourself.

Thank you :)

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On 8/22/2017 at 11:20 PM, positiv2 said:

While you do not give them money directly, you still help them make money indirectly. Having a ton of players is a good selling point. Having short queue times is important for games like Hearthstone, and you are helping with that.

You also contribute to fan sites (more specifically us :P, thanks), and those are important for Blizzard as they often help them promote their games, sales, new items and whatnot, which in turns boosts their sales. Fan sites also save Blizzard money by doing the support work for them (you can see Blizzard's support sending some users here), and as said previously, they don't need to spend as much money on marketing their products because we do that for them. None of this would be possible without a decent userbase and great users like yourself.

Don't forget that someone playing for a couple games a day is an amazing way of free QA-testing, as well. They help with bug-finding, testing, demographic testing, things like that. It's all data that Blizzard needs for improving the game.

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On 8/25/2017 at 0:49 AM, Dustintime said:

at least the druid cancer epidemic seems to becoming benign.

Just like nature, Druids will always creep back in if left alone :p

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