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The Standard Meta of MSi EGLX

An analysis of the first tournament to feature Whispers of the Old Gods expansion and Standard format

Image via Capcom

MSi EGLX marked the firsttournament featuring the new Whispers of the Old Gods expansion andofficial competitive format- Standard. Players had two days toexperiment and create decks to compete for a chance to win up to$4,000 and Hearthstone Championship Tournament (HCT) points. Inthis article, I want to analyze the following: the classesdisplayed, the different decks players used and how they didagainst different/similar match ups.

NOTE: Winrates and types ofdecks used are based on what I saw on broadcast ONLY.Unfortunately, I do not have the credentials necessary to ask forall the statistics of MSi EGLX. Nevertheless, I will follow thestats that I saw and develop my own opinions based on thosefacts.

 

Freeze Mage Win/Loss Record:7-6

Overall Win/Loss: 7-6

Freeze Mage was the go-todecklist for Mage players.  It should not be a surprise sinceAlexstrasza and Ice Block, the two cards that make Freeze Mage sopowerful, did not get touched in Blizzard’s Classic Setchanges.  The gameplan for Freeze Mage remains unchanged: usecard draw to develop a large hand, stall the game out with AOE andsurvivability, use Alexstrasza at the right moment to bring theopponent to 15 health, and finish him/her off with powerfuldamaging spells.

Freeze Mage saw a lot of successagainst Miracle Rogue, getting five wins against the deck. CurrentMiracle Rogue decks lack the heal it once had (sans Earthen RingFarseer) and Freeze Mage can take care of stealthed minions thanksto its many AOE options with Doomsayer, Flamestrike, etc. A lot ofthe removal from Control decks are useless against Freeze Mage, andthe longer the game goes on increases the possibility ofwinning.

A lot of Freeze Mage’slosses were due to lack of early AOE and removal against aggressivedecks. Not getting Doomsayer or Ice Block in the mulligan allowsZoolock and Aggro Shaman to rack up damage and force the FreezeMage to react poorly. These poor reactions resulted in Freeze Magesusing their burn to kill minions instead of the opponent. Withoutthe proper utility, Freeze Mage can easily get bursted down, getboth Ice Blocks popped, and lose outright. However, I chalk theselosses up to poor draw rather than not having the best optionsagainst aggressive decks. Plus, Aggro decks typically win when anyopponent cannot deal with their threats optimally.

Based on this, I would sayFreeze Mage is still within the top decks of competitiveHearthstone. I think it will come down to player preference whendeciding on whether or not to bring it to a tournament.  I donot think the loss of Mad Scientist hurt Freeze Mage that much; itjust reduced the ability to cycle through the deck for secrets. Inlight of this, I would not be surprised if we start seeing playersuse less Ice Barriers to make room for more techoptions.

Miracle Rogue Win/Loss Record:12-8

Malygos Rogue Win/Loss Record:1-4

Overall Win/Loss:13-12

A majority of the Hearthstonecommunity thought Rogue took a massive hit in viability since thenerf to Blade Flurry. However, with the lack of Iron Beak Owl andBig Game Hunter in the meta, Rogue has seen a lot more successusing cards such as Edwin Van Cleef and Cold Blood. Early largeEdwins and minions with Cold Blood allow Rogues to potentiallysteamroll opponents, combined with disruptive spells (Sap, ShadowStrike, Backstab, etc.) and incredible draw with GadgetzanAuctioneer Rogue, which is still quite deadly. Rogue also has somereally powerful mid game minions with Azure Drake, Tomb Pillager,and Violet Teacher to keep up the pressure. There is a lot ofvariance in finishing off opponents with either South Sea Deckhand,Leeroy Jenkins, or Malygos. I personally favor either of the chargeminions as finishers because Malygos Rogue is generally a bitslower and, at times, has clunkier draws. The more charge orienteddecks also give Rogue players more freedom to use Eviscerate toclear off minions as well. Miracle Rogue had a really dominantmatchup against Zoolock, going 3-0 against the deck. Shadow Strikeis a great answer to Darkshire Councilman and a lot ofZoolock’s minions are susceptible to Fan of Knives andBackstab. Sap has always been great against Control decks to keeptempo in favor of Rogue.

Miracle Rogue has turned intosomewhat of a glass cannon deck. The loss of Antique Healbot andSludge 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 theRogue wants to do. I frequently saw players draw double GadgetzanAuctioneer when they could not be played and just sat there for awhile without anything to do. When players do not even drawGadgetzan, they have a lot of trouble peeling through their decksearching for answers. Miracle’s lack of major board clearbecomes prevalent against classes that slam the board with minionsthat have three or more health (Aggro Shaman, Patron Warrior,etc.). Taking all of these points into account, Miracle Rogue stillis a powerful deck. No class has a draw engine quite as powerful,and still has the resources to pick up the slack whennecessary.

Zoolock Win/Loss Record:11-16

Renolock Win/Loss Record:4-6

C’Thun Renolock Win/LossRecord: 1-2

Overall Record: 16-24

Warlock was the most used classalongisde Shaman and Warrior. The Hero Power is just so versatilethat it opens up a lot of deck building options. The most populardeck was Zoolock, and it makes sense considering it got even moretools to use. Darkshire Councilman really stands out to me as sucha powerful card for Zoolock. If players keep populating the boardwhile this bad boy is on the field, then they are looking reallygood. The Councilman is especially really good alongside Imp GangBoss, Forbidden Ritual, and Defender of Argus. The Zoolock caneasily seal the deal with Leeroy Jenkins and Power Overwhelming.The best part is as the deck keeps playing minions, the Warlock canjust hero power to keep applying pressure. However, there is amajor problem with Zoolock at the moment: it does not have too muchcomeback potential, especially without a board. There were manytimes throughout the tournament where Zoolock’s minions keptgetting dealt with and suddenly cards like Abusive Sergeant, DireWolf Alpha, Gormok the Impaler, and Defender of Argus were useless.A majority of Zoolock’s minions have two or less health andcan easily be dealt with common AOE such as Whirlwind and Fan ofKnives. The loss of Zoolock’s comeback potential is from theloss of Implosion and Nerubian Egg in Standard. These cards almostguaranteed 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 shouldconsider the other options for Warlock decks.

Renolock is interesting becauseit lost a few great options that made it quite powerful (besidesReno Jackson himself). Dark Bomb and Implosion were good clearoptions, Antique Healbot, Loatheb, and Sludge Belcher were gooddefensive options, and Mal’Ganis and Dr. Boom providedoffensive pressure. Players were able to find suitable replacementswith cards such as Shadow Bolt, Leeroy Jenkins, and Sen’JinShieldmasta. Frankly even in the Standard Meta, Renolock has thesame strengths and weaknesses it always had. It is still able towhittle down the opponent’s resources and returning back to30 health thanks to Reno Jackson. Renolock decks still have solidAOE with Demonwrath, Hellfire, Shadowflame, and Twisting Nether.Heals from Earthen Ring Farseer, Refreshment Vendor, and CultApothecary can help the Warlock survive (these heal for double withBrann Bronzebeard). Renolock also still has Mountain Giant and LordJaraxxus and we saw a return to the Faceless Manipulator and LeeroyJenkins combo. With Emperor Thaurissan players can also add PowerOverwhelming and kill opponents with 20 burst damage. Theweaknesses 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 cardto make sure they can use Reno Jackson consistently. The missingcopies of powerful spells and minions hold the Renolock back frombeing incredibly strong. Also, some of the cards Renolock uses aresituational (Mind Control Tech) and end up being deaddraws.

Another version of Renolock cameup featuring C’Thun. It was really exciting to see the newlegendary in competitive play, especially since I questionedC’Thun’s viability. Unfortunately, only one player onbroadcast (Innate) brought it, so I was not able to get manythoughts on the deck.  It really just seems like a Renolockdeck with a copy of C’Thun and the cultists that buff him hasthe same strengths and weaknesses as classic Renolock, so there isnot too much to say. Hopefully in DreamHack Austin and futureevents, I will get to see more C’Thun decks onbroadcast.

Warlock has been one of thestrongest classes since the release of the game, and that is notchanging in this new meta. I do think we will see less of Zoolockdue to its polarizing win/loss rate and switch to more Renolockvariants.

Aggro Shaman Win/Loss Record:13-13

Midrange Shaman Win/Loss Record:2-2

Overall Record: 15-15

Man oh man is Shaman scary rightnow. It’s damage potential is insane at the moment withTunnel Trogg, Flamewreathed Faceless, and Doomhammer. It is nosurprise to see so many players opt to use Aggro Shaman because ofthis damage output. There were a couple of times during thetournament where players waited until turn seven to use Doomhammerand x2 Rockbiter Weapon to deal 16 damage to the opponent’sface, especially against decks with Acidic Swamp Ooze and HarrisonJones. Not too many classes can deal with a turn four FlamewreathedFaceless often, so Shaman can just secure wins so decisively. Thebig weakness of the deck is if opponents are able to get rid ofAggro Shaman’s board, then the Shaman has a tough time ofcoming back without the right draws. Cards like Flametongue Totemand Defender of Argus are useless without a board (similar toZoolock), and you cannot forget that the Overload mechanic is stillan issue and can set the Aggro Shaman back. Even with all theseweaknesses, I wouldd still argue that Aggro Shaman is one of thestrongest decks in the game. It is really tough to deal with theAggro Shaman’s board since Tunnel Trogg, Totem Golem, FeralSpirit, and Flamewreated Faceless have so much health for low costminions. This makes them incredibly difficult to deal with evenwith early AOE.

Unfortunately, I did not get tosee a lot of Midrange Shaman in EGLX. This might have been a goodoption against the more Control Decks like Control Warrior andRenolock. However, it seems like players are still experimentingand refining Midrange deck lists with cards like Thing from Belowand Master of Evolution. The difference between Aggro and MidrangeShaman is Midrange has a couple more tools to deal with the boardefficiently, whereas Aggro Shaman is relegated to threatening. Tobe fair to the competitors, they only had two days to look at thenew cards and create a lineup. Of course, Aggro Shaman not losingmuch of its original resources and the loss of major heal anddefensive options make it look like a really strong deck. It willbe interesting to see what direction Shaman decks go in the nextcouple of months. It does seem like Aggro and Midrange are thefuture.

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/LossRecord: 2-0

Overall Record: 20-8

Warrior is the best class in thegame at the moment.  I do not think the numbers lie even ifthe sample size is not as large as I would like it to be. While theloss of Death’s Bite did hurt, it got so many awesome cardswith the new expansion that I do not think the loss mattered. Bloodto Ichor, Bloodhoof Brave, and Ravaging Ghoul have been excellentadditions to Warrior’s card pool. Warrior just has so manyviable deck options that players can really use it for any type oflineup. There are even decks that players are aware of, like PirateWarrior and Tempo Warrior, that did not see play on broadcast, buthave viability as competitive decks.

Let’s talk about Patronfirst because that deck was the most used one. What’s greatabout Patron at the moment is that it does not just need Patrons tosucceed. Frothing Berserker combined with Bloodhoof Brave is alarge threat in and of itself. Coupled with self damaging spellsand minions, those two cards can create so much pressure and eitherfree up space for Patrons to succeed, or just outright win. Ithelps that Battle Rage and Acolyte of Pain both push the card drawand keep the Patron going.

As strong as this deck is, itdoes have its fair share of weaknesses. Patron Warrior does not dowell in Fatigue matchups since it typically runs out of steam asthe game goes on. Since it is relatively a “combo”oriented deck, it needs that right combination of cards to get thejob done. Not getting these combinations, or even getting the carddraw to assemble a combo puts the Patron behind. Overall, I wouldstill say Patron has favorable matchups, especially with BladeFlurry and Lightbomb out of Standard meta.

Fibonacci’s Dragon Warriorwas really cool to see. He used Drakonid Crusher, which at firstglance seemed risky. However, with Ironbeak Owl and Big Game Hunterseen less in decks, it actually was a decent addition. DrakonidCrusher was actually a pretty good finisher. Still without a largesample size, it is hard to justify whether or not this is the rightdirection for Warrior. I trust Fibonacci (who is a long timeWarrior main and fanatic) enough to say that this deck looks like asuitable aggressive Midrange option. I think if the meta entersinto more Control that players could opt for DragonWarrior.

Control Warrior is one of thelong standing decks of Hearthstone. It has survived the test oftime and has been a strong deck since its inception. Prelude had areally good read predicting that the MSi EGLX meta would featuremore aggressive/zoo decks. Control Warrior is still reallydifficult to break through with Justicar Truehart and its plethoraof removal (Execute, Shield Slam, Revenge, Brawl, Fiery War Axe).Bloodhoof Brave provided early-mid game defense and preventedminions from chipping away the Warrior’s armor. Now it iseasy to just say that this deck was great because of its win rateand how well it did against the popular decks. Compared to theother Control decks, N’Zoth Paladin and Renolock, I would sayControl Warrior is weaker in terms of threat output. I think thisdeck was so successful because there were a lack of Midrange Decksto fight back the Control Warrior. It was able to survive withoutworrying about opponents constantly throwing down well roundedminions. I would like to make a decision about Control Warriorafter I see more Midrange decks emerge from Shaman and Druid.However, I will say at the moment Control Warrior looks reallygood. 

We also got to see ControlWarrior C’Thun edition. I labeled Warrior as one of theclasses that could make C’Thun competitive due to AncientShieldbearer. After experimenting with C’Thun myself andwatching it in play, it is really easy to get C’Thun to 10attack, which is the number needed to activate the bonus effects ofstrong C’Thun cards. Twin Emperor Vek’lor is such apain in the neck to deal with that it might be much better thanC’Thun itself. Warrior also has the survivability to makesure players get to play these really strong cards. This does fallin line with my opinion on C’Thun Renolock which just doesnot 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 seehow the deck fairs as the meta stabilizes. 

Control N’Zoth PaladinWin/Loss Record: 8-11

Paladin Overall Record:8-11

Paladin generally stuck with thesame build amongst all players on broadcast. Typically the deckincluded N’Zoth, Tirion Fordring, Sylvanas, x2 CorruptedHealbots, and Cairne Bloodhoof (some builds would add a coupleother deathrattle minions like Polluted Hoarder, Twilight Summoner,and/or Infested Tauren based on preference). The rest of the cardswere the usual suspects of Control Paladin: Equality, Consecrate,Wild Pyromancer, Doomsayer, Aldor Peacekeeper, Humility, SolemnVigil, Lay on Hands, Truesilver Champion, Stampeding Kodo, Acolyteof Pain, and Ragnaros the Firelord. Forbidden Healing and Ragnaros,Lightlord proved to be excellent healing options for ControlPaladin. The Paladin can last so long to ensure he gets maximumvalue from the deathrattle minions and ensure a powerfulN’Zoth play to secure wins. When N’Zoth gets into playwith all the revived deathrattle minions, it is essentially gameover. I do have a few gripes about this deck. For one, ControlPaladin does not feature any taunt, so if it does not getit’s proper removal and heal, then it is very susceptible toburst from Doomhammer. There were times when the Control Paladinhad awkward hands and could not do anything properly with hisresources. Overall though, I would say Control N’Zoth Paladinis a strong contender for best deck in the game. It has so muchstall, heal, and powerful minions that makes it quite difficult todefeat. While I still think the deck is beatable (especially withAggro Shaman) I do think we will see this deck be a staple in mostcompetitive lineups.

THE REST OF THE HEROES- BASICALLYNONEXISTENT

The last three heroes did notsee a lot of play. Druid and Hunter were not present live, and theonly Priest deck featured on broadcast was Dragon Priest. It lookedpretty fine, but in the game against Miracle Rogue, the Rogue didnot have much draw to keep up with the Dragon Priest’sminions. Similar to the C’Thun decks it falls under the“does not have a large sample size” conundrum. To befair, since the release of “The Grand Tournament”Dragon Priest has been a staple meta deck. Just because it has notseen much use for one tournament does not make it unviable. I dothink there are decks out there that are just as good, if notbetter, than Dragon Priest which is why players chose not to bringit. I would like to think that Control Priest might have a spotstill, especially with N’Zoth.

It was unfortunate we did notget to see a single game for Hunter and Druid. The classes wereplayed, but according to the casters, Druid was spotted with apretty bad win rate throughout the tournament. I am sure there ismuch experimentation to be done with the classes. Druid taking sucha heavy loss with Force of Nature, Ancient of Lore, and Keeper ofthe Grove nerfs took away a lot of core strategies that have beenaround for a while. C’Thun Ramp Druid has been everywhere onladder, so maybe a brave soul will bring that out. Someone couldalso try to make Beast Druid a thing with the new card Mark ofY’shaarj. I would also like to think that Midrange Hunterstill has a chance to shine. It lost a lot of its good early game,but the deck can still deal tons of damage.

FINAL THOUGHTS

MSI EGLX definitely deliveredand brought a lot of hype to competitive Hearthstone. If I had tochoose five of the strongest decks at the moment based on thistournament, it would have to be the following: Miracle Rogue,Patron Warrior, Aggro Shaman, Control N’Zoth Paladin, andeither Control Warrior or Freeze Mage. I am basing this not only onwin rates, but how they achieved these wins as well. These decksconvinced me the most as to how powerful they are. These decksshould certainly be considered to add in lineups. As the metaprogresses and moves forward, I would like to keep an eye onControl Warrior to see if it sticks around. I am also tracking thedevelopment of Druid, Priest, and Hunter since practically none ofit was on display this tournament. I am looking forward to seeingthis meta develop and await more awesome decks toanalyze.

About the Author- I am a writerthat follows competitive esports such as Hearthstone, League ofLegends, and Super Smash Bros. Melee.  Follow [email protected]_Humiston on Twitter for content updates.