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Sottle's Weekly Hearthstone Meta Analysis for Week of 03/12/2015 - 10/12/2015

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Hearthstone Meta Analysis: 07/12/2014 - 14/12/2014

 

Hello again friends! Now that the GvG meta has had a little time to settle and normalise, I can return to these weekly articles where I discuss what's hot, what's not and how you should be building decks to fight back against the meta.

 

Common Decks and Cards.

 

Firstly, let's discuss the elephant in the room. Dr. Boom is almost ever present in the current meta, being played as a win condition in Aggro decks, as well as a Control tool, or potential finisher in late-game decks. The card is incredible versatile, functioning as a catch up or AoE tool for when you are behind on the board, a swing in your favour for boards that are even, and as a way to further dominate a board that is in your favour. Essentially, if you have 7 Mana, and Dr. Boom in your hand, it is pretty rare for Boom not to be a good play, this is pretty unique as far as Hearthstone cards go, and goes some way to explaining its power. If you don't have this card available to you, you should make it a very high crafting priority.

 

Secondly, let's address the effect that Boom's presence has had on the rest of the meta. Big Game Hunter is included in many decks currently, since even against Aggro decks it is unlikely to be a dead card due to the presence of Boom. Many of the greedier decks such as Handlock and Control Warrior are including two BGH in their builds due to the current power of the card.

 

Mind Control Tech is also making a comeback due to Dr. Boom. Since Boom immediately places 3 minions onto the board, the chances for Mind Control Tech to hit are dramatically increased. If you are able to combine Mind Control Tech and Big Game Hunter against an opponent's Boom, that is perhaps one of the only truly efficient methods of dealing with the problem Boom creates.

 

Another card having a big impact in the game currently is Zombie Chow. Since Goblins vs Gnomes has not resulted in the death of Undertaker decks, and has in fact introduced a whole new type of disgusting start through Mechwarper, Zombie Chow is pretty much essential in many decks to fight back against these aggressive starts.

 

Outside of these specific common cards, the meta is in a healthy place in terms of variety. The old ladder mainstays of Zoo and various breeds of Hunter are still common, but every class is represented to some extent, with most receiving new powerful options to improve their versatility.

 

Card and Deck Choices

 

As outlined above, cards like Big Game Hunter and Zombie Chow are almost essential to include in your deck right now. However, there is a way to respond to this and get ahead of the game a little. For example, when building a Control deck, you can choose to build it in a way that omits all BGH targets entirely. Filling your late-game instead with cards like Kel'Thuzad and Ysera, will leave your opponent with a BGH sitting dead in the their hand as they wait for your inevitable Dr. Boom that is never coming. 

 

Outside of specifics like this, when building a deck for ladder right now, you need to have a fine balance of early game stability and late-game power. Decks like Hunter and Zoo are still around to punish people for getting too greedy with their builds, but there is also a significant amount of late-game Control decks, that will simply outlast and dominate you in the late-game if you are not set to compete with them.

 

Class Power Rankings

 

Since the meta is still fairly new, and the classes are fairly balanced against each other, instead of the usual numerical rankings, I will simply discuss the classes in alphabetical order and talk about the common ways to play them right now. Remember, the classes are all fairly close in terms of power right now, so even a class I describe as weak is perfectly viable for ladder purposes if you build it correctly.

 

Druid

 

250px-Malfurion_Stormrage-f.png?version=

 

Druid is in a strong place right now. The common Fast Druid decks that were popular before GvG are still very strong, especially with the addition of new hard to remove cards like Piloted Sky Golem and Piloted Shredder. Ramp Druid has also come back with a vengeance in recent days as it is an excellent deck for fighting back against Aggro if built correctly, while also being a fantastic deck to build without including a Big Game Hunter target. The Black Knight is still fairly uncommon in ladder decks right now, meaning that high value Druid Taunt minions like Druid of the Claw and Ancient of War are more likely than ever to get full value. Mill Druid has also made a splash recently. For those of you unfamiliar with the concept of Mill, it aims to overdraw the opponent, burning cards that they are unable to hold in their hand and then eventually finishing the opponent with fatigue. Although this deck is a lot of fun, and is competitive on ladder up to a certain point, it's still a little way off being a top level deck. 

 

 

Hunter

 

250px-Rexxar-f.png?version=3f80009401aa5

 

Hunters are still around, terrorising the ladder as always. The two main variations you will see right now are the outright Facerush Hunter, which has not changed much, if at all, since the release of GvG, and the less all-in, but still aggressive Deathrattle Hunter. The latter has a few variations, following a curve all the way up to Dr. Boom in some cases. New Deathrattle cards like Piloted Shredder have extended the value of Undertaker beyond the opening turns and allowed Hunter to get value out of it in the mid-game. Some people, myself included have experimented with Control Hunter decks which look to use Feign Death to get huge value out of late-game Deathrattle minions, but for now, the class seems to be inferior to others as a Control choice. 

 

Mage

 

250px-Jaina_Proudmoore-f.png?version=8f6

 

Mage has emerged as a very versatile class since the release of GvG. It is now able to effectively play either an Aggro or Control game and compete against other decks effectively. Prior to the GvG release, Mage was in a difficult spot where any way you could build it was simply done better by another class. This is no longer the case, Mage is one of the best homes for the aggro Mech deck, due to the outstanding power of Goblin Blastmage, while Echo of Medivh has opened up even more possibilities for deck building by being able to refill your hand in an Aggro deck, or create extra copies of high value cards in a Control Deck.

 

Paladin

 

250px-Uther_Lightbringer-f.png?version=a

 

Paladin has also seen a vast improvement thanks to Goblins vs Gnomes. With cards like Shielded Minibot and Muster for Battle providing Paladin with one of the most oppressive early games of all the classes, Paladins can build their decks in a variety in ways, safe in the knowledge that they will secure the early game turns. Midrange Paladin is still being built in a vast variety of ways, from buff focused decks with cards like Dark Iron Dwarf and Blessing of Kings, to decks featuring cards like Bomb Lobber and Captain Greenskin to dominate the mid-game. Many Paladin players have even cut Equality from their deck completely, since their board presence is often so strong, they don't need access to the emergency board clears. Control Paladin has fallen away recently, with most people favouring the more midrange focused lists.

 

Priest

 

250px-Anduin_Wrynn-f.png?version=dcf2a67

 

 

Priest is one of the weaker classes currently, although it is extremely well equipped to deal with Aggro, it does suffer still when faced with other Control decks. Although Vol'jin has gone some way to increase the decks power against other late game decks, it is still left lagging behind, since so many of its cards are reactive and require specific situations to be good. Both Deathrattle and Control Priest decks are very viable options, and despite my assertion that Priest is one of the weaker classes currently, a friend of mine who goes by Pesty achieved Rank 1 Legend with Control Priest earlier this week. This goes to show that even the decks that are on the weaker side right now are still extremely competitive.

 

Rogue

 

250px-Valeera_Sanguinar-f.png?version=1f

 

Rogue is still in the process of finding its feet in the GvG Meta. Early experiments with Tempo based Mech Rogue didn't lead to too many spectacular results, although the deck is still strong enough to achieve Legend rank, while Miracle Rogue players have been trying to adjust to the Gadgetzan Auctioneer nerf. The primary solution that has been found to this is outright Control Rogue, which replaces Gadgetzan with Sprint, and plays more standard finishers like Ragnaros and Dr. Boom to seal the game. These decks have been effective so far, but are perhaps still missing one or two key ingredients that will push them over the edge to a top level deck.

 

Shaman

 

250px-Thrall-f.png?version=55cd557d01b07

 

Shaman is another of the weaker classes currently. Experiments from players have so far failed to create another particularly viable archetype other than the standard Midrange Shaman builds. Aggressive Mech based decks have been tried, but seem to fit better in Mage or Rogue for now, and extreme late-game grindy Shaman decks are outclassed my Mages, Druids, or Warriors doing the same thing. Neptulon was at first viewed as a very powerful card for Shaman, since it gave you the ability to refill your hand in the late-game, even if it was just with relatively low power Murlocs. However, due to how common Big Game Hunter is, Neptulon is a 10 Mana investment, Overload included, that simply dies to BGH.

 

Warlock

 

250px-Guldan-f.png?version=4bc860759dd1a

 

Warlock is strong as ever. Due to the strength of the Warlock Hero Power, the class will probably remain powerful no matter how many new cards get added. The reason for this is that any powerful neutral cards you add to the game, Warlock has access to them more often than any other class, because they draw more cards per game. With that said, the two classic Warlock decks are still out in force, namely Zoo and Handlock. Both have reacted to the nerf of Soulfire, with Handlock substituting in Darkbomb, and Zoo favouring Imp-losion. Handlocks have also benefited greatly from the addition of Antique Healbot, with the increased life gain potential leaving them favoured against even the dreaded Hunter matchup. Due to the ever presence of Big Game Hunter in the meta however, Handlock can struggle to dominate the board with their early giants. In terms of new developments, Demonlock decks, and Warlock decks that aim to stall the game with large amounts of removal into a one turn kill finish using Arcane Golem combos have both been making an appearance, but are yet to establish themselves as a dominant force.

 

Warrior

 

250px-Garrosh_Hellscream-f.png?version=a

 

Not much to say on Warrior. The class is still powerful, but still very one dimensional. The go-to way to play the class remains Control Warrior, with any experiments with Aggro decks, or Mech based Tempo decks proving unsuccessful.

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      Conversely, there are cards which are typically strong in opening hands but must be mulliganed away based on your opponent’s class or the expected matchup. These cards might line up poorly against the enemy’s Hero Power or common class cards. For example, minions with one Health are typically miserable against Mage, and early Deathrattle cards like Kindly Grandmother with 2 power or less can get blown out by Potion of Madness. The ability to recognize when it is correct to mulligan away cards that are typically strong is just as important as the ability to recognize when it is correct keep cards that are typically weak.
      50% Theory
      It is often correct to hold onto a card which might not be ideal but is just above the cut. In what I call “50% Theory”, I always try to stop and ask myself if there is a greater than 50% chance that the card I’m thinking about mulliganing away will turn into a worse one. I often find that my first instinct is to mulligan away a less than perfect card to try and find something better, but that when I apply 50% theory I realize that my odds of improving my hand actually decrease by shipping the card away.
      Curving Out
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      The Checklist
      To recap, here are a list of questions you should ask yourself about each hand while mulliganing:
      Based on my opponent’s class and the local metagame, which decks could my opponent be playing? Is this a line up theory matchup? Are there any narrow answers or threats in my hand? Do I have any cards which are very powerful against one of these decks? Am I increasing my overall win percentage by keeping these cards? Do I have any cards which are very weak against one of these decks? Am I decreasing my overall win percentage by keeping these cards? Does this hand curve out? Does it have a game plan? Do I have any expensive cards which I should mulligan away for something less expensive? If so, is there a greater than 50% chance that getting rid of one of these cards will yield a worse result? It’s important to note that the de facto “most important factor” of mulligans, the mana cost of the cards, is the second to last question when working down this checklist. This isn’t to say that the mana cost of the cards in your opening hand isn’t important, it's just that there are many other things you should be thinking about as well.
      Another thing of note is that I never stop to ask if I have cards in my hand which should be automatically kept. I believe that you can get yourself into trouble by thinking about cards as “automatic keeps”, and should instead start off by viewing each card through the lens of the specific matchups you’re anticipating. Granted, to this day I have still never mulliganed away the first copy of Flametongue Totem, but I’d like to think that’s because I have yet to encounter a matchup where it isn’t good in my opening hand and not because the card is an "automatic keep".
      Conclusion
      Line up theory can help us think about our boards, hands, and decks as distinct sets of limited tools. By lining up our tools against our opponent’s problems we can attempt to organize our game plan into the most effective and thorough plan possible. Some matchups are dictated entirely by line up theory, while in other matchups we can use the lessons we've learned from line up theory to gain small edges in efficiency.
      Mulligans are an often overlooked or misunderstood facet of the game, but they are sometimes the most important decision we make in the entire game. By taking the time to carefully consider all the reasons why we should or shouldn’t keep each card in our opener, we are adding one more edge to our game which will help propel us to the next stage of the ladder.
      For the fourth and final installment of Legend in the Making, I will discuss all of the subtle ways that game behavior can inform the exact content of player’s hands. By analyzing the ordering decisions and tiny mistakes our opponents make we can glean much more information about our their game plan than you might think. Please join me in part four as we make the final push towards our ultimate goal of reaching Legend.