Like most card games, Hearthstone has an ever evolving meta.
That’s more true than ever since the introduction of the Standard set rotation. With multiple expansions rotating out out of that format every spring, the decks at the very top are almost guaranteed to change.
Certain decks defined 2017. This isn’t meant to be an exhaustive list of the strongest or most powerful decks. Instead, this is a collection of the most memorable decks. The ones that we most remember facing on ladder, and were most prominent in competitive play. Like Patron Warrior, or Zoo Warlock, or Combo Druid, some of these decks will live long in our memory.
When the rotation to the Year of the Mammoth happened, people were terrified of Jade Druid. The deck got to keep pretty much everything that had made it powerful in the previous meta while all the other decks suffered. That meant that while the meta was unsettled and new decks were still unrefined, Jade Druid would be able to cut through.
As it turned out, this was totally off the mark. As Pirate Warrior was able to stabilize very quickly and Quest Rogue proved to be incredibly powerful, Jade Druid didn’t see play. It was even squeezed out by Token Druid and Big Druid for a time.
But the deck rallied. By the summer, and the time Quest Rogue was nerfed, Jade Druid flourished. Without that incredibly aggressive deck dominating, the midrange value strategy of Jade Druid was able to dominate. At one point, over 30 percent of the ladder was Druid, according to Vicious Syndicate statistics. Apart from a slight dip in the Autumn, Druid has been one of the three most popular classes since the Quest Rogue nerf up until the release of Kobolds and Catacombs.
Before the Year of the Mammoth started, we were ruled by one deck—Aggro Shaman.
It was a simpler time for Shaman. It just had the best one-drop, the best two-drop, and the best four-drop in the game. It had early game Pirate aggression, and a midgame Jade package to help close out those few games that saw turns eight or nine.
Nerfs to Spirit Claws and Small-Time Buccaneer did slow it down but that version of the deck still stayed near the top of the charts until the set rotation.
Priest has always had a difficult history in Hearthstone. It has never dominated a meta, and often been just too slow to get any traction. That all changed with Razakus Priest, creating arguably the strongest Priest deck ever seen in the game.
When Reno Jackson rotated out, highlander decks fell entirely out of favor. Kazakus alone, with some class specific cards, were not enough to support that single card strategy. That was until the Death Knight Hero cards came along, and Anduin went into his emo phase.
The Priest Hero card refreshes the hero power every time you play a card—and if you have a highlander deck, Raza the Chained can make that hero power free. Kazakus is pretty good too, and the combination of those three cards saw the deck soar to the top of the meta. Even with the release of Kobolds and Catacombs, the deck is still among the strongest out there.
In Journey to Un’Goro, Murloc Paladin got two key new cards—Hydrologist and Gentle Megasaur.
Gentle Megasaur was an obvious boon. It lets you Adapt all your Murlocs, buffing them or making them harder to kill. That helps the Murlocs stick to the board in the midgame, and stand up to cards way bigger than them.
Hydrologist was more of a sleeper. It was pretty universally dismissed due to the low power level of Paladin Secrets—but that’s a mistake we all made before with Mysterious Challenger. Free Paladin Secrets are almost always good.
With awesome Murloc synergy, even the gimmicky looking Vilefin Inquisitor is playable and useful. The strength of Murlocs led to a nerf for Murloc Warleader, and the deck has fallen off a bit after that brief moment in the sun.
Pirate Warrior has probably had the strongest run of any deck this year.
It ran Aggro Druid as close as it could at the start of the year, before overtaking in when Shaman was hit by some nerfs. Because it had N’Zoth’s First Mate and Fiery War Axe, the Small Time Buccaneer nerf didn’t even slow it down. Even as the Standard rotation happened, and the deck lost some cards, it stayed on top.
Combinations of N’Zoth’s First Mate, Upgrade, Small Time Buccaneer, Southsea Deckhand, and Patches were all too common a sight on ladder.
That was until Fiery War Axe got nerfed. A move that had been talked about for years, Blizzard finally moved the game’s most ubiquitous weapon got moved from two mana to three. It brought it in line with where its power level should be—but without that insane value the deck plummeted. It’s been at the bottom of the meta ever since.
If ever a deck burned bright and fierce before fizzling out, it was Quest Rogue. Sometimes it was called Crystal Rogue, but no matter what you called it the deck was a pain.
When Journey to Un’Goro came out, it brought with it a Quest card for each class. Really only one caught on massively—the Rogue Quest the Caverns Below. The card turned all your minions into 5/5s once you had played four copies of the same minion. In Rogue that ended up being ridiculously easy. With Shadowstep, Youthful Brewmaster, Gadgetzan Ferryman, even Vanish, it was really quite simply to get it done.
That meant that by turn five, the deck would often have completed the Quest and be able to play the reward on curve. It was insanely frustrating to play against. Within a day of the expansion releasing, some players called for a nerf.
Blizzard recognised that frustration, and three months after being added the number of minions required to be played was upped to five. That brought the deck back down to near the bottom of the meta—although it wasn’t 100 percent necessary. By the time Blizzard got around to nerfing Quest Rogue, it had been overtaken by a number of decks as the meta adapted.