It's not only the Quests that are making Journey to Un'Goro's metagame feel fast, it's everything. Will the expansion ever slow down?

Need for Speed: Hearthstone’s Fast and Furious Meta

Apr 24, 2017

Hearthstone has been feeling fast for a while now. When the Mean Streets of Gadgetzan expansion dropped, many players felt that games were suddenly over on turn five. In Pirates, Hearthstone’s meta picked up the pace again, and the breakneck speed meant that you usually wins and losses were mostly due to matchups or randomness–indeed, by the time you drew your opening hand, it was fairly obvious who was going to win.

Now, with the Journey to Un’Goro expansion, concerns about the speed of the game have temporarily taken the backseat. I’m going to make the reasonable assumption that this is because we’re still in Un’Goro’s honeymoon period. People are enjoying the new cards, and since they’re hogging the limelight, there’s no time to complain about the speed of the metagame. Based off of everything I’ve seen and read, it might be worth coming back to this issue of speed sooner rather than later, because the current meta is faster than it’s ever been. If you didn’t like the game feeling like it was over after a handful of turns, there’s a silver lining here: you might not even be alive by the time turn five rolls around.

Un’Goro’s Best Decks: Fast

The top decks at the moment are Pirate Warrior and Quest Rogue, and both of these archetypes can easily win by turn six. In many cases, you’ll finish your seventh turn and it’s obvious which player is going to win. Playing out the rest of the game is a mere formality in lots of these situations–in other words, it’s a waste of time. There are also the two new Murloc decks on the scene, making games incredibly fast. To round it off, Druid has gone from one of the slowest classes to one of the fastest, dropping Jade decks in favor of Token Aggro.

These decks work because of their speed, and their success and popularity plays a vital role in shaping the casual and professional metagame. In Journey to Un’Goro, the best decks will win or lose by turn seven–at the latest. This isn’t isolated to a few odd decks, mind you. Want to climb? Play fast, or play established decks with high win rates. Honestly, if you want to climb during Journey to Un’Goro, you should always play a fast deck. Unfortuantely, you’re not the only one who’s had the idea to do this, which means that ladder will be full of other fast decks. You can see what I’m getting at. Fast decks lead to more fast decks, and since everybody’s playing fast decks, the only way to win against them is to play fast decks.

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Polarizing Matchups

The other issue in Hearthstone’s current meta is an overabundance of imbalanced matchups. A year ago, classes with a 60% win rate in a particular matchup were almost unheard of, but we’re seeing more and more of these with every expansion. Take Taunt Warrior, for example. It is one of the most popular decks on ladder right now. According to Vicious Syndicate’s statistics, there are five matchups where Taunt Warrior is over 60% favoured, and another two where they are less than 40% favoured. If that’s balanced, then I don’t want you building a see-saw anytime soon.

Polarizing matchups heavily influence the perception of how fast the meta is. Even if games drag on for twenty turns, an imbalanced matchup cheapens the victory. You played twenty turns, but only two were relevant. It wasn’t neck and neck, you were just prolonging the inevitable. If the meta ever feels like that, it’s in a state where it feels incredibly fast because you don’t make meaningful decisions. You hit play, and see who won. It doesn’t get much faster than that!

Enough Doomsaying

I don’t have bright hopes for the future of Hearthstone. I could be wrong. I may even be wrong about this expansion. Maybe as lists become more optimized, win rates will get closer together. It’s a well-known fact that aggressive decks prey on unrefined decks. As the control decks are tweaked, there’s still time for the meta to slow down. With this flexibility in mind, perhaps we really are living in the golden age of Hearthstone. Journey to Un’Goro is more diverse than anything we’ve seen in a long time, and that’s a great first step.

I hope I’m wrong, I really do. I want Hearthstone to be great again. But I miss the old days where every turn and every decision mattered. I don’t think we’ll ever get that back, but maybe this meta will be close? I certainly hope so.

Taunt Warrior is a new Hearthstone deck archetype, and it makes full use of Journey to Un'Goro's new Quest for Warrior.Midrange Hunter, Miracle Rogue, and Aggro Druid are all very strong decks in the current Hearthstone meta.
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Stephen Draper
Stephen has a degree in English from Brock University. He grew up playing video games and card games, always having an affection for strategy. He picked up League of Legends in early Season One and has since achieved Diamond rank multiple times. He also picked up Hearthstone in Beta and has since achieved Legend consistently. When he isn’t reading, writing, or gaming, he’s probably watching other people game.
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