The Standard Meta of MSi EGLX
MSi EGLX marked the first tournament featuring the new Whispers of the Old Gods expansion and official competitive format- Standard. Players had two days to experiment and create decks to compete for a chance to win up to $4,000 and Hearthstone Championship Tournament (HCT) points. In this article, I want to analyze the following: the classes displayed, the different decks players used and how they did against different/similar match ups.
NOTE: Winrates and types of decks used are based on what I saw on broadcast ONLY. Unfortunately, I do not have the credentials necessary to ask for all the statistics of MSi EGLX. Nevertheless, I will follow the stats that I saw and develop my own opinions based on those facts.
Freeze Mage Win/Loss Record: 7-6
Overall Win/Loss: 7-6
Freeze Mage was the go-to decklist for Mage players. It should not be a surprise since Alexstrasza and Ice Block, the two cards that make Freeze Mage so powerful, did not get touched in Blizzard’s Classic Set changes. The gameplan for Freeze Mage remains unchanged: use card draw to develop a large hand, stall the game out with AOE and survivability, use Alexstrasza at the right moment to bring the opponent to 15 health, and finish him/her off with powerful damaging spells.
Freeze Mage saw a lot of success against Miracle Rogue, getting five wins against the deck. Current Miracle Rogue decks lack the heal it once had (sans Earthen Ring Farseer) and Freeze Mage can take care of stealthed minions thanks to its many AOE options with Doomsayer, Flamestrike, etc. A lot of the removal from Control decks are useless against Freeze Mage, and the longer the game goes on increases the possibility of winning.
A lot of Freeze Mage’s losses were due to lack of early AOE and removal against aggressive decks. Not getting Doomsayer or Ice Block in the mulligan allows Zoolock and Aggro Shaman to rack up damage and force the Freeze Mage to react poorly. These poor reactions resulted in Freeze Mages using their burn to kill minions instead of the opponent. Without the proper utility, Freeze Mage can easily get bursted down, get both Ice Blocks popped, and lose outright. However, I chalk these losses up to poor draw rather than not having the best options against aggressive decks. Plus, Aggro decks typically win when any opponent cannot deal with their threats optimally.
Based on this, I would say Freeze Mage is still within the top decks of competitive Hearthstone. I think it will come down to player preference when deciding on whether or not to bring it to a tournament. I do not think the loss of Mad Scientist hurt Freeze Mage that much; it just reduced the ability to cycle through the deck for secrets. In light of this, I would not be surprised if we start seeing players use less Ice Barriers to make room for more tech options.
Miracle Rogue Win/Loss Record: 12-8
Malygos Rogue Win/Loss Record: 1-4
Overall Win/Loss: 13-12
A majority of the Hearthstone community thought Rogue took a massive hit in viability since the nerf to Blade Flurry. However, with the lack of Iron Beak Owl and Big Game Hunter in the meta, Rogue has seen a lot more success using cards such as Edwin Van Cleef and Cold Blood. Early large Edwins and minions with Cold Blood allow Rogues to potentially steamroll opponents, combined with disruptive spells (Sap, Shadow Strike, Backstab, etc.) and incredible draw with Gadgetzan Auctioneer Rogue, which is still quite deadly. Rogue also has some really powerful mid game minions with Azure Drake, Tomb Pillager, and Violet Teacher to keep up the pressure. There is a lot of variance in finishing off opponents with either South Sea Deckhand, Leeroy Jenkins, or Malygos. I personally favor either of the charge minions as finishers because Malygos Rogue is generally a bit slower and, at times, has clunkier draws. The more charge oriented decks also give Rogue players more freedom to use Eviscerate to clear off minions as well. Miracle Rogue had a really dominant matchup against Zoolock, going 3-0 against the deck. Shadow Strike is a great answer to Darkshire Councilman and a lot of Zoolock’s minions are susceptible to Fan of Knives and Backstab. Sap has always been great against Control decks to keep tempo in favor of Rogue.
Miracle Rogue has turned into somewhat of a glass cannon deck. The loss of Antique Healbot and Sludge Belcher in Standard meta makes the Rogue quite vulnerable. Coupled with the potential to receive cards that do nothing, opponents can freely take over the board and ignore whatever the Rogue wants to do. I frequently saw players draw double Gadgetzan Auctioneer when they could not be played and just sat there for a while without anything to do. When players do not even draw Gadgetzan, they have a lot of trouble peeling through their deck searching for answers. Miracle’s lack of major board clear becomes prevalent against classes that slam the board with minions that have three or more health (Aggro Shaman, Patron Warrior, etc.). Taking all of these points into account, Miracle Rogue still is a powerful deck. No class has a draw engine quite as powerful, and still has the resources to pick up the slack when necessary.
Zoolock Win/Loss Record: 11-16
Renolock Win/Loss Record: 4-6
C’Thun Renolock Win/Loss Record: 1-2
Overall Record: 16-24
Warlock was the most used class alongisde Shaman and Warrior. The Hero Power is just so versatile that it opens up a lot of deck building options. The most popular deck was Zoolock, and it makes sense considering it got even more tools to use. Darkshire Councilman really stands out to me as such a powerful card for Zoolock. If players keep populating the board while this bad boy is on the field, then they are looking really good. The Councilman is especially really good alongside Imp Gang Boss, Forbidden Ritual, and Defender of Argus. The Zoolock can easily seal the deal with Leeroy Jenkins and Power Overwhelming. The best part is as the deck keeps playing minions, the Warlock can just hero power to keep applying pressure. However, there is a major problem with Zoolock at the moment: it does not have too much comeback potential, especially without a board. There were many times throughout the tournament where Zoolock’s minions kept getting dealt with and suddenly cards like Abusive Sergeant, Dire Wolf Alpha, Gormok the Impaler, and Defender of Argus were useless. A majority of Zoolock’s minions have two or less health and can easily be dealt with common AOE such as Whirlwind and Fan of Knives. The loss of Zoolock’s comeback potential is from the loss of Implosion and Nerubian Egg in Standard. These cards almost guaranteed a board for Zoolock to utilize. Without these tools, Zoolock falters frequently and that really shows in its record. While I still think Zoolock is a good deck, I think players should consider the other options for Warlock decks.
Renolock is interesting because it lost a few great options that made it quite powerful (besides Reno Jackson himself). Dark Bomb and Implosion were good clear options, Antique Healbot, Loatheb, and Sludge Belcher were good defensive options, and Mal’Ganis and Dr. Boom provided offensive pressure. Players were able to find suitable replacements with cards such as Shadow Bolt, Leeroy Jenkins, and Sen’Jin Shieldmasta. Frankly even in the Standard Meta, Renolock has the same strengths and weaknesses it always had. It is still able to whittle down the opponent’s resources and returning back to 30 health thanks to Reno Jackson. Renolock decks still have solid AOE with Demonwrath, Hellfire, Shadowflame, and Twisting Nether. Heals from Earthen Ring Farseer, Refreshment Vendor, and Cult Apothecary can help the Warlock survive (these heal for double with Brann Bronzebeard). Renolock also still has Mountain Giant and Lord Jaraxxus and we saw a return to the Faceless Manipulator and Leeroy Jenkins combo. With Emperor Thaurissan players can also add Power Overwhelming and kill opponents with 20 burst damage. The weaknesses of Renolock are once again still the same. Warlock’s survive much less without Reno Jackson in the hand. The other major downside is players only put in one copy of a card to make sure they can use Reno Jackson consistently. The missing copies of powerful spells and minions hold the Renolock back from being incredibly strong. Also, some of the cards Renolock uses are situational (Mind Control Tech) and end up being dead draws.
Another version of Renolock came up featuring C’Thun. It was really exciting to see the new legendary in competitive play, especially since I questioned C’Thun’s viability. Unfortunately, only one player on broadcast (Innate) brought it, so I was not able to get many thoughts on the deck. It really just seems like a Renolock deck with a copy of C’Thun and the cultists that buff him has the same strengths and weaknesses as classic Renolock, so there is not too much to say. Hopefully in DreamHack Austin and future events, I will get to see more C’Thun decks on broadcast.
Warlock has been one of the strongest classes since the release of the game, and that is not changing in this new meta. I do think we will see less of Zoolock due to its polarizing win/loss rate and switch to more Renolock variants.
Aggro Shaman Win/Loss Record: 13-13
Midrange Shaman Win/Loss Record: 2-2
Overall Record: 15-15
Man oh man is Shaman scary right now. It’s damage potential is insane at the moment with Tunnel Trogg, Flamewreathed Faceless, and Doomhammer. It is no surprise to see so many players opt to use Aggro Shaman because of this damage output. There were a couple of times during the tournament where players waited until turn seven to use Doomhammer and x2 Rockbiter Weapon to deal 16 damage to the opponent’s face, especially against decks with Acidic Swamp Ooze and Harrison Jones. Not too many classes can deal with a turn four Flamewreathed Faceless often, so Shaman can just secure wins so decisively. The big weakness of the deck is if opponents are able to get rid of Aggro Shaman’s board, then the Shaman has a tough time of coming back without the right draws. Cards like Flametongue Totem and Defender of Argus are useless without a board (similar to Zoolock), and you cannot forget that the Overload mechanic is still an issue and can set the Aggro Shaman back. Even with all these weaknesses, I wouldd still argue that Aggro Shaman is one of the strongest decks in the game. It is really tough to deal with the Aggro Shaman’s board since Tunnel Trogg, Totem Golem, Feral Spirit, and Flamewreated Faceless have so much health for low cost minions. This makes them incredibly difficult to deal with even with early AOE.
Unfortunately, I did not get to see a lot of Midrange Shaman in EGLX. This might have been a good option against the more Control Decks like Control Warrior and Renolock. However, it seems like players are still experimenting and refining Midrange deck lists with cards like Thing from Below and Master of Evolution. The difference between Aggro and Midrange Shaman is Midrange has a couple more tools to deal with the board efficiently, whereas Aggro Shaman is relegated to threatening. To be fair to the competitors, they only had two days to look at the new cards and create a lineup. Of course, Aggro Shaman not losing much of its original resources and the loss of major heal and defensive options make it look like a really strong deck. It will be interesting to see what direction Shaman decks go in the next couple of months. It does seem like Aggro and Midrange are the future.
Patron Warrior Win/Loss Record: 12-7
Control Warrior Win/Loss Record: 4-0
Dragon Warrior Win/Loss Record: 2-1
C’Thun Warrior Win/Loss Record: 2-0
Overall Record: 20-8
Warrior is the best class in the game at the moment. I do not think the numbers lie even if the sample size is not as large as I would like it to be. While the loss of Death’s Bite did hurt, it got so many awesome cards with the new expansion that I do not think the loss mattered. Blood to Ichor, Bloodhoof Brave, and Ravaging Ghoul have been excellent additions to Warrior’s card pool. Warrior just has so many viable deck options that players can really use it for any type of lineup. There are even decks that players are aware of, like Pirate Warrior and Tempo Warrior, that did not see play on broadcast, but have viability as competitive decks.
Let’s talk about Patron first because that deck was the most used one. What’s great about Patron at the moment is that it does not just need Patrons to succeed. Frothing Berserker combined with Bloodhoof Brave is a large threat in and of itself. Coupled with self damaging spells and minions, those two cards can create so much pressure and either free up space for Patrons to succeed, or just outright win. It helps that Battle Rage and Acolyte of Pain both push the card draw and keep the Patron going.
As strong as this deck is, it does have its fair share of weaknesses. Patron Warrior does not do well in Fatigue matchups since it typically runs out of steam as the game goes on. Since it is relatively a “combo” oriented deck, it needs that right combination of cards to get the job done. Not getting these combinations, or even getting the card draw to assemble a combo puts the Patron behind. Overall, I would still say Patron has favorable matchups, especially with Blade Flurry and Lightbomb out of Standard meta.
Fibonacci’s Dragon Warrior was really cool to see. He used Drakonid Crusher, which at first glance seemed risky. However, with Ironbeak Owl and Big Game Hunter seen less in decks, it actually was a decent addition. Drakonid Crusher was actually a pretty good finisher. Still without a large sample size, it is hard to justify whether or not this is the right direction for Warrior. I trust Fibonacci (who is a long time Warrior main and fanatic) enough to say that this deck looks like a suitable aggressive Midrange option. I think if the meta enters into more Control that players could opt for Dragon Warrior.
Control Warrior is one of the long standing decks of Hearthstone. It has survived the test of time and has been a strong deck since its inception. Prelude had a really good read predicting that the MSi EGLX meta would feature more aggressive/zoo decks. Control Warrior is still really difficult to break through with Justicar Truehart and its plethora of removal (Execute, Shield Slam, Revenge, Brawl, Fiery War Axe). Bloodhoof Brave provided early-mid game defense and prevented minions from chipping away the Warrior’s armor. Now it is easy to just say that this deck was great because of its win rate and how well it did against the popular decks. Compared to the other Control decks, N’Zoth Paladin and Renolock, I would say Control Warrior is weaker in terms of threat output. I think this deck was so successful because there were a lack of Midrange Decks to fight back the Control Warrior. It was able to survive without worrying about opponents constantly throwing down well rounded minions. I would like to make a decision about Control Warrior after I see more Midrange decks emerge from Shaman and Druid. However, I will say at the moment Control Warrior looks really good.
We also got to see Control Warrior C’Thun edition. I labeled Warrior as one of the classes that could make C’Thun competitive due to Ancient Shieldbearer. After experimenting with C’Thun myself and watching it in play, it is really easy to get C’Thun to 10 attack, which is the number needed to activate the bonus effects of strong C’Thun cards. Twin Emperor Vek’lor is such a pain in the neck to deal with that it might be much better than C’Thun itself. Warrior also has the survivability to make sure players get to play these really strong cards. This does fall in line with my opinion on C’Thun Renolock which just does not have much of a sample size to justify it as a competitive deck. I was overall impressed with what I saw, but I would like to see how the deck fairs as the meta stabilizes.
Control N’Zoth Paladin Win/Loss Record: 8-11
Paladin Overall Record: 8-11
Paladin generally stuck with the same build amongst all players on broadcast. Typically the deck included N’Zoth, Tirion Fordring, Sylvanas, x2 Corrupted Healbots, and Cairne Bloodhoof (some builds would add a couple other deathrattle minions like Polluted Hoarder, Twilight Summoner, and/or Infested Tauren based on preference). The rest of the cards were the usual suspects of Control Paladin: Equality, Consecrate, Wild Pyromancer, Doomsayer, Aldor Peacekeeper, Humility, Solemn Vigil, Lay on Hands, Truesilver Champion, Stampeding Kodo, Acolyte of Pain, and Ragnaros the Firelord. Forbidden Healing and Ragnaros, Lightlord proved to be excellent healing options for Control Paladin. The Paladin can last so long to ensure he gets maximum value from the deathrattle minions and ensure a powerful N’Zoth play to secure wins. When N’Zoth gets into play with all the revived deathrattle minions, it is essentially game over. I do have a few gripes about this deck. For one, Control Paladin does not feature any taunt, so if it does not get it’s proper removal and heal, then it is very susceptible to burst from Doomhammer. There were times when the Control Paladin had awkward hands and could not do anything properly with his resources. Overall though, I would say Control N’Zoth Paladin is a strong contender for best deck in the game. It has so much stall, heal, and powerful minions that makes it quite difficult to defeat. While I still think the deck is beatable (especially with Aggro Shaman) I do think we will see this deck be a staple in most competitive lineups.
THE REST OF THE HEROES- BASICALLY NONEXISTENT
The last three heroes did not see a lot of play. Druid and Hunter were not present live, and the only Priest deck featured on broadcast was Dragon Priest. It looked pretty fine, but in the game against Miracle Rogue, the Rogue did not have much draw to keep up with the Dragon Priest’s minions. Similar to the C’Thun decks it falls under the “does not have a large sample size” conundrum. To be fair, since the release of “The Grand Tournament” Dragon Priest has been a staple meta deck. Just because it has not seen much use for one tournament does not make it unviable. I do think there are decks out there that are just as good, if not better, than Dragon Priest which is why players chose not to bring it. I would like to think that Control Priest might have a spot still, especially with N’Zoth.
It was unfortunate we did not get to see a single game for Hunter and Druid. The classes were played, but according to the casters, Druid was spotted with a pretty bad win rate throughout the tournament. I am sure there is much experimentation to be done with the classes. Druid taking such a heavy loss with Force of Nature, Ancient of Lore, and Keeper of the Grove nerfs took away a lot of core strategies that have been around for a while. C’Thun Ramp Druid has been everywhere on ladder, so maybe a brave soul will bring that out. Someone could also try to make Beast Druid a thing with the new card Mark of Y’shaarj. I would also like to think that Midrange Hunter still has a chance to shine. It lost a lot of its good early game, but the deck can still deal tons of damage.
MSI EGLX definitely delivered and brought a lot of hype to competitive Hearthstone. If I had to choose five of the strongest decks at the moment based on this tournament, it would have to be the following: Miracle Rogue, Patron Warrior, Aggro Shaman, Control N’Zoth Paladin, and either Control Warrior or Freeze Mage. I am basing this not only on win rates, but how they achieved these wins as well. These decks convinced me the most as to how powerful they are. These decks should certainly be considered to add in lineups. As the meta progresses and moves forward, I would like to keep an eye on Control Warrior to see if it sticks around. I am also tracking the development of Druid, Priest, and Hunter since practically none of it was on display this tournament. I am looking forward to seeing this meta develop and await more awesome decks to analyze.
About the Author- I am a writer that follows competitive esports such as Hearthstone, League of Legends, and Super Smash Bros. Melee. Follow me @Kenny_Humiston on Twitter for content updates.