After Hearthstone’s recent balance changes in Patch 9.1, the game’s meta has shifted drastically. Currently there is a deck from every class in tier 1-2. That’s right, every single class has a playable deck. This is the first time we’ve had a meta like this in years, if not ever. But, this being Hearthstone and me being me, the current metagame comes with its own issues. Every class may be represented, but every archetype certainly is not. And the representation is a bit weird.
Class Representation in the Current Hearthstone Meta
As I said, every single class has a deck in the top two tiers, according to TempoStorm’s Meta Snapshot. Looking at the data from Vicious Syndicate’s most recent Data Reaper, this is true. Every class has a deck that is either at or slightly below a 50% win rate. As I said, it has been an extremely long time since this has been the case. In fact, I don’t think I can remember a time when every class was viable–there were always one or two that fell behind.
What’s the issue? Well, the win rates for these decks might all be around 50%, but the class representation is extremely polarized. We often see one or two classes pull out ahead in popularity, but usually not without a driving archetype forcing them ahead. For example, Druid was over 30% of ladder before the nerfs, but that was because Druid decks had a ridiculously high win rate, and was blatantly the strongest class. Now the classes are much more even, and yet the class dispersion remains skewed in a massive way, particularly as you get closer to legend.
Many people would call Highlander Priest the strongest deck at the moment. It was strong before the nerf, and out of the tier one decks popular before Patch 9.1 went live, it was the only one that wasn’t significantly nerfed. Naturally, Highlander Priest came out on top, where it sits now. However, it has a strong competitor in Tempo Rogue. After the nerfs, a thousand aggro decks came out of the woodwork to climb the tier lists. Tempo Rogue seems to be the strongest of the bunch. The interesting fact here is that despite many people believing Priest to be stronger, Rogue is getting played more.
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Paladin and Warrior
Of course, there are no winners without losers. Despite having high win rates, Paladin and Warrior are the least represented class, each rocking a dismal 5% play rate. The high win rate tells us that Paladin and Warrior are competitive, but we’ve never seen viable archetypes remain underrepresented in a Hearthstone meta before.
Part of the reason that Paladin and Warrior have such low play rates is that they aren’t fresh. Pirate Warrior has been tier one for a full year, and Murloc Paladin definitely isn’t new. People are bored of them. Add on top of that the fact that both of them were nerfed recently, the decks aren’t as fun as they used to be. Playing a Murloc Warleader won’t be the same, and it’ll always remind us of when he was stronger. The nerfs were fine, in my opinion, but the enjoyability of the decks suffered.
On top of all of that, the horde of new decks that have popped up all fill the exact same role as Pirate Warrior and Murloc Paladin. Want to play a deck that fills the board like Murloc Paladin? Zoolock, Aggro Druid, or Token Shaman fit the bill. Want to play a fast deck that ends with direct damage like Pirate Warrior? Tempo Mage or Tempo Rogue can do that. It’s not surprising that players are tired of decks that haven’t changed in months. Until Blizzard introduces new archetypes for these classes, expect Pirate and Warrior to stay where they are.
Aggro Is King (Again)
Aggro decks absolutely dominate the Patch 9.1 Hearthstone meta. There’s only a handful of decks that are currently viable against aggro. There are ten decks in tier one, and out of those ten, two are control and one is midrange. The other seven are all aggressive.
It’s not surprising that Highlander Priest is the king of the current Hearthstone meta. With so many aggressive decks around, you require a board clear practically every turn. Priest is the only class that can achieve this while still maintaining a semblance of a win condition. Is Priest annoying to play against? Yes. Is it also your best bet against aggressive decks? Absolutely. The other two non-aggro decks that have survived are Jade Druid and Midrange Hunter. Jade Druid won’t disappear until Blizzard nerfs it into oblivion. Midrange Hunter has survived because, honestly, it’s an aggressive deck that relies on a few top heavy cards to get the job done.
Every other deck in the meta is all about no-holds-barred aggression. We have a bunch of flood and fast damage decks competing to see who is the best at smacking the other. (I don’t love aggro decks, in case you couldn’t tell.) With seven aggressive decks in tier one, none of them are that different from one another. The flood decks flood, the burn decks burn. Business as usual. Except for Tempo Rogue.
Tempo Rogue in Patch 9.1
Tempo Rogue’s current most popular decklist is one of the strangest I’ve ever seen. It combines a bunch of small synergies and overpowered cards and managing to fit them all in the same list. Oddly enough, this gives you some fairly diverse and unique gameplay options, since you’re not just playing a bunch of Pirates or a bunch of Elementals. Your deck is a buffet of options. Tempo Rogue uses the Pirate package, Edwin VanCleef, Vicious Fledgling, and, of course, Vilespine Slayer (the most overpowered card in the game). Tempo Rogue is fun to play, and gives you at least a dozen different ways to mess with your opponent before you land the finishing blow.
Is it any wonder that Tempo Rogue has pulled out ahead as the favourite deck? Aggro has always been king in Hearthstone. You play more games, you climb faster, win rate isn’t really that important. There are seven aggro decks viable, and Tempo Rogue is the only one that’s interesting or innovative. It’s also arguably the strongest of the bunch, and when you put all this together, it’s not surprising that Tempo Rogue has surged to the front.
Hearthstone’s Healthiest Meta?
Without a massive overhaul of mechanics, this is what Hearthstone is destined to look like. The tier lists will likely consist of one or two Control decks, one or two Midrange decks, and a sea of Aggro decks. The slow power creep from every set has pushed Hearthstone to a point where Aggro is the defacto king, even if it weren’t the most efficient to climb with. I’d love to see player health totals start at 40 to offset this, but until then, Aggro and Hearthstone are synonymous.
So is this the healthiest meta Hearthstone has had? No. Not even close. Is it the healthiest from this point onwards? Most likely. Every deck is aggro, but at least you can play all the classes, and there are a few innovative choices in a few decks.