2 June 2014 - 04:07

Snapshot of the Meta Game

Dot Esports

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Hello everyone I’m Spark, Legend player from Hearthstone. Today I’m going to try and provide you an in-depth look at the current metagame.

This article will help you understand the state of the metagame and build your own decks to climb the ladder.

Netdecking has always been a controversial experience for the community. In my opinion, this is something healthy for the game as it allows the meta to stabilize and then forces players to adapt buy building new decks to counter those that are dominants, resulting in the meta shifting.

However, too many players are just copying entire lists without thinking deeply about the choices and the tech cards that they could use to make some variants of the initial decklist whereas this is the best opportunity that netdecking provides to the players : working on a solid basis to build powerful decks suited for your playstyle.

In this article, I’m going to present you the most popular decks that are currently used to climb the ladder with efficiency by providing you skeleton lists and possible card choices as well as explaining some thoughts around the decks.

Zoolock

Key Cards

2x Soulfire

2x Voidwalker

2x Flame Imp

2x Argent Squire

2x Young Priestess

2x Knife Juggler

2x Dire Wolf Alpha

2x Harvest Golem

2x Defender of Argus

2x Doomguard

Flame Imp

Playstyle

The deck aims to overwhelm the opponent with early drops and trade with the opponent’s minions to maintain board control while threatening their life. As the minions are often resilient or aggressive, it focuses on maintain a strong board presence and also plays with minions buff abilities to increase their utility.

Smart players will generally avoid the downside of discarding cards (this also relies on decent draws) by constantly dumping their hand and then will use Life Tap as a resource to keep pressuring the opponent.

The deck has no real counter and can beat anything with a good starting hand and strong draws, which is quite often the case thanks to many early drops and Life Tap.

Tempo Rogue, Shaman and Handlock are decent choices to try and counter them thanks to either strong early removals, board clear or resilient taunts but those match ups still revolve a lot around draws.

Rushdown decks such as Hunter or Mage are strong choices that will generally have too much burst for the Warlock to handle.

Shattered Sun Cleric

Cards Consideration

To complete this 20 cards list, you want to add some cards that will respect the overall idea of the deck while not messing up with the good mana curve.

Abusive Sergeantor Mortal Coilcan be used as cheap removals, one coming with a somewhat weak body and some more power and the other giving you a card draw.

Amani Berserkeris a strong choice to lower the impact of AoE spells and Dark Iron Dwarfwill generally improve your mid game power and also allow a weakened minion to trade with a bigger threat.

If you are planning to focus more on the buffing engine, Shieldbearerand Shattered Sun Clericare strong choices.

On the other hand, you can use some divine shield synergies by adding Scarlet Crusaderand Blood Knight.

Argent Commanderis the recommended choice to close the game but The Black Knightand King Muklacan also fit the deck pretty well. I don’t recommend using a combination of Leeroy Jenkinsand Power Overwhelmingas a finishing move because the risk of discarding them is too high and the deck already runs enough burst damage.

Handlock

Key Cards

2x Soulfire

2x Mortal Coil

2x Sunfury Protector

2x Ancient Watcher

1-2x Ironbeak Owl

2x Earthen Ring Farseer

2x Defender of Argus

2x Twilight Drake

1-2x Hellfire

1-2x Shadowflame

2x Siphon Soul

2x Mountain Giant

2x Molten Giant

Molten Giant

Playstyle

The overall goal of the deck is to throw down huge Giants and then give them taunt to prevent the opponent from finishing you.

It comes with strong removal tools and some mid game tempo cards such as Ancient Watcherthat can be activated in many ways.

Common lists generally plays 2x Hellfireand 1x Shadowflameas it allows you to manipulate your life and it is a really strong board clear against Zoo for example, but the opposite is also seeing some plays and some rare variants even run the full set of AoE spells.

You will generally Life Tap the first turns to throw down a big Twilight Drakeor Mountain Gianton turn 4 and then keep clearing the board while using your life as a ressource to get cards and enable a Molten Giantplay.

The deck has no real counter apart from decks that can ignore taunts for the finishing blow. It generally destroys aggro decks as they usually lacks hard removal to get rid of your big taunts.

Warrior Control can be pretty hard to handle if they draw all their removals, Rushdown Hunter is also very good when they can Hunter's Markthe Giants and Shaman can do decent against it if the draws go in their favor. Big Game Hunterand The Black Knightare highly recommanded tech cards to fight against a metagame full of Handlock

Leeroy Jenkins

Cards Consideration

The deck generally uses Leeroy Jenkinsand Power Overwhelmingfor the finishing burst and the possible synergies with Shadowflamewhen needed.

The combo also comes with Faceless Manipulatorfor a 20 damage burst at the cost of 10 mana crystals. The card is also wonderful when used on those big Giants or an ennemy Ragnaros the Firelord.

As the deck has the ability to go to late game while drawing many cards, this combo can be used very often.

Alexstraszaor Lord Jaraxxus(or even both of them) are generally used to regain life during the Late Game while giving a huge threat to play with.

The other possible tech cards are Bloodmage Thalnosfor better removal and Sylvanas Windrunnerto add a mid game threat and for the synergy with Shadowflameif you choose to run the 2 copies.

Shadow Boltis also seeing some uses but doesn't feel that necessary with a good management of AoE spells and Soulfire. Big Game Hunter is a wonderful choice to improve the mirror match up.

Shaman Midrange

Key Cards

2x Earth Shock

2x Rockbiter Weapon

2x Lightning Bolt

1x Bloodmage Thalnos

2x Flametongue Totem

2x Unbound Elemental

2x Feral Spirit

2x Lightning Storm

2x Hex

1-2x Defender of Argus

2x Azure Drake

2x Fire Elemental

Unbound Elemental

Playstyle

The deck tries to fight for board control throughout the game thanks to some efficient and cheap removals and some resilient minions. It uses a lot of the overload spells to try and take tempo advantage because of their efficiency compared to their initial cost.

Heavy use of the Shaman hero power will allow you to keep minions on the board for a Flametongue Totemor Defender of Argusplay and also reduces the RNG aspect of it for its next use. Every totem can find its utility and you may find yourself in situations where you really need one in particular.

All the match ups are pretty close as it relies mostly on which deck will draw the appropriate answers. It still remains somewhat weak to rushdown decks as the Shaman has no healing power and can also find difficulties to maintain a strong board presence against some control decks such as Warrior when they draw what they need.

Al'Akir the Windlord

Cards Consideration

The deck generally runs Al'Akir the Windlordas a finisher as it synergies pretty well with and Flametongue Totembut some lists also run Doomhammerfor this purpose.

Lava Burstis another spell that you should consider as it gives the deck some finishing potential that bypass taunts and can also be used as a strong removal.

Argent Commanderis a solid choice to complement the Fire Elementaland some decks even run the spell Windfuryto close the game with one of those.

Some variants try to make use of Violet Teacheralong with Bloodlustto burst the opponent down but it seems less reliable at the moment.

If you want to increase the drawing potential of the deck, Mana Tide Totemand Gadgetzan Auctioneerare the primary choices.

Common lists run Argent Squireto fight against aggro decks and help with the Shaman’s lack of early board presence, they synergies really well with Flametongue Totem.

Stormforged Axeand Wild Pyromancerare also some good alternatives to deal with aggro decks. Acidic Swamp Oozeis a good tech card in a meta loaded with weapons.

Miracle Rogue

Shiv

Key Cards

2x Backstab

2x Shadowstep

2x Preparation

2x Deadly Poison

1-2x Cold Blood

1x Conceal

1x Bloodmage Thalnos

1x Blade Flurry

2x Shiv

2x Eviscerate

2x Sap

2x SI:7 Agent

1-2x Earthen Ring Farseer

1x Edwin VanCleef

1x Fan of Knives

1x Leeroy Jenkins

2x Gadgetzan Auctioneer

1-2x Azure Drake

 

Gadgetzan Auctioneer

Playstyle

The overall goal of the deck is to stall the game until it can make use of Gadgetzan Auctioneerto draw a considerable amount of cards in order to find all the combo pieces for an insane Leeroy Jenkinsfinishing burst.

It uses many removal tools in order to make it through that point and some tempo minions that will force the opponent to deal with those. Concealis used to protect an early Gadgetzan Auctioneerand Sapallows you to ignore taunts when you are looking to finish the game.

The deck is pretty solid thanks to a powerful drawing potential and some solid tools that will allow you to make it to the point where you can unleash your deadly combos. It can still find some difficulties against Rushdown decks that will prevent the deck to goes slowly towards the combo, especially Hunters running Snipeand Deadly Shotto counter a Gadgetzan Auctioneerplay. Heavy taunts decks such as Handlock or Druid Ramp that will repetitively throw down huge taunts can also be a problem because you will eventually run out of Sapor lack some damage to close the game if you are forced to use it on those minions.

 

Assassin's Blade

Cards Consideration

Some versions run Assassin's Bladeas an alternative way to win the game, when combined with Deadly Poison, it’s a 20 damage weapon and it allows for some powerful Blade Flurry. You need to be careful about Acidic Swamp Oozeand Harrison Jonesif you make this choice.

More and more players are running Loot Hoarderto give the deck early plays as the opponent will waste some time dealing with it and it thins the deck thanks to the card draw. Also note that it can be a great combo starter.

Some variants of this deck run Malygosand Sinister Strikeinstead of the Leeroy Jenkinsbased combos. It can ignore taunts in a better way but in the end it is just slower than the standard version.

Mana Addicthas also seen some plays but it seems more cheesy and relies heavily on Concealto keep them on the board for the next turn. Even with that, AoE spells can ruin the plan and this variant is generally less consistent because it sacrifies some draw power or tempo minions to include them.

Control Warrior

Execute

Key Cards

2x Execute

2x Shield Slam

2x Whirlwind

2x Armorsmith

2x Cruel Taskmaster

2x Fiery War Axe

1-2x Slam

2x Acolyte of Pain

2x Shield Block

1x Faceless Manipulator

1x Cairne Bloodhoof

1x Gorehowl

1x Baron Geddon

1x Ragnaros the Firelord

1x Grommash Hellscream

1x Alexstrasza

Playstyle

The deck aims to control the board thanks to some powerful removal tools, gain as much armor as possible and throw down huge win conditions in the late game. The deck contains a lot of synergies around armor, global damage or simply finishing combos.

Armorsmithand Acolyte of Painwill benefit from being hit, and can be combined with many removals to deal with the opponent’s early threats. Cruel Taskmasteris insanely good on them and can also serve to activate an Executeor kill a small minion.

The match ups are more depending on the draws than anything else since the deck can deal with pretty much everything when drawing the good answers to the opponent’s plays. When playing against this deck, you need to threaten their life as much as possible, prevent them from gaining to much armor, as Shield Slamcan become really deadly, while not overextending too much because of a potential board clear. Having the possibility to destroy weapons is also a wonderful tech against Warrior.

Brawl

Cards Consideration

Frothing Berserkerhas a lot of natural synergy with the deck but new versions of the deck play with Kor'kron Eliteto act as a removal or to simply pressure the opponent.

You can play the deck with some more win conditions like Yseraor Sylvanas Windrunnerto increase your power against control decks.

If you are not planning on adding some late game threats, Azure Drakeis a solid mid game card that will keep your drawing potential up while throwing down a threat on the board.

Brawlseems to be played less since the new version appeared but the card remains a pretty strong board reset that you may want to have in case of emergency, most importantly against Handlock.

If you’re looking to increase your win rate against aggro decks, Wild Pyromancerand Cleaveare strong tech choices. Big Game Hunteris great against Handlock and Harrison Jonescan find some utility in the mirror match up or against other weapon based decks.

Druid (Ramp, Watcher, Token)

Key Cards

2x Innervate

2x Wrath

1x Big Game Hunter

2x Keeper of the Grove

2x Swipe

2x Druid of the Claw

1x The Black Knight

2x Ancient of Lore

 

Wild Growth

Druid Ramp

This deck is the slower version of Druid, it runs Wild Growthto ramp up and sometimes Nourish.

The goal is to get to late game and play big taunts like Sunwalkerand Ancient of Waror some win conditions such as Ragnaros the Firelord, Cenariusand Faceless Manipulator.

The deck also runs Mark of the Wildto buff minions and give them taunts if needed, it generally uses Sen'jin Shieldmastafor the mid game and sometimes Starfalland Healing Touchto help surviving against aggro decks.

Azure Drakeand Bloodmage Thalnosare also good considerations to improve the efficiency of your spells.

Druid Watcher

This variant is the mid range one, it runs Ancient Watcherto either play agressively or taunt them up with Sunfury Protectorand Defender of Argus.

Spellbreakerand Mark of the Wildare also seeing some plays to enable them.

It generally plays Harvest Golemand Chillwind Yetiduring the mid game and tries to close the game with a good Force of Nature/ Savage Roarcombo and sometimes uses Cenarius.

Azure Drakeand Bloodmage Thalnosare also good consideration to improve the efficiency of your spells.

Power of the Wild

Druid Token

This version is the more aggressive, it makes use of the great Violet Teacherand Power of the Wildsynergy to build up a strong board presence.

It generally runs 2 Savage Roarand 2 Force of Natureas well as Leeroy Jenkinsfor a crazy burst potential. It can also make use of Cenariusbut it is rarely played due to its slower nature.

The deck plays with Argent Squire, Loot Hoarder, Harvest Golemand sometimes Blood Knightor Imp Masterto establish board presence early in the game. Gadgetzan Auctioneeris also seeing some play to cycle through the deck, sometimes in combination with Claw.

Azure Drakeand Bloodmage Thalnosare also good consideration to improve the efficiency of your spells.

Rush Deck

Rush decks are great for laddering because of their fast nature that allows you to play many games in a given time. Moreover, those decks tend to do well against Handlock and Miracle Rogue that are kind of dominant currently. They also generally beat Zoolock because they are more focused toward aggression.

Hunter Aggro

Eaglehorn Bow

This deck is still seeing some plays as it does really well against Handlock, Shaman and Miracle Rogue, which are played a lot currently (due to the disappearance of Hunter Mid Range, ironically).

It uses Eaglehorn Bowand some traps (generally Explosive Trapand Misdirection) to constantly burn the opponent’s life while maintaining some form of control on the board.

Unleash the Houndsis still being played despite the nerf for its great synergy with Leeroy Jenkinsand Starving Buzzard. Running one Timber Wolfcan improve greatly the efficiency of those combos.

Kill Commandwill generally help finishing the game, Hunter's Markis used to get rid of big taunts and Trackingwill allow you to dig for the cards you need in a given situation.

The rest of the deck is composed with early agression and charge minions chosen from the following list : Leper Gnome, Abusive Sergeant, Stonetusk Boar, Argent Squire, Arcane Shot, Faerie Dragon, Loot Hoarder, Animal Companion, Wolfrider, Arcane Golem.

Mage Burn

Mana Wyrm

This deck has seen an increase in popularity recently for the same reasons and because of its ability to ignore taunts for the finishing burst thanks to Fireballand Frostboltinto Ice Lancecombo. It is generally powered up by Bloodmage Thalnosand lowered in cost by Sorcerer's Apprentice.

Its main early threats are Leper Gnome, Mana Wyrmand Knife Jugglerprotected by Mirror Imageand Arcane Missiles. The deck runs Loot Hoarder, Arcane Intellectand Azure Drakefor card draw so it doesn’t run out of steam.

Water Elementalis used for its nice body and and its ability to activate Ice Lance.

The rest of the deck is composed by some aggression or charge minions such as Abusive Sergeant, Wolfrideror Arcane Golemand some versions also play Leeroy Jenkins.

Paladin Aggro

Truesilver Champion

There is many variants for this deck but they all revolve around Divine Favorto refill your hand, it is especially great against Handlock and Miracle Rogue because they tend to have many cards in hand. Some lists even play with King Muklafor its synergy with the card.

Those decks generally run Truesilver Championfor its nice damage as well as Avenging Wrathand Consecrationgenerally combined with Equalityto wipe the board and potentially finish the game.

Some variants try to play a similar playstyle as Zoolock with Knife Jugglerprotected by Argent Protectorand Noble Sacrifice. It can also make use of Sword of Justiceand some synergies around divine shield with Argent Squire, Scarlet Crusaderand Blood Knight.

The most popular variants are more focused on charge minions and early agression like Hunter, using Blessing of Mightto increase the damage potential. Leeroy Jenkinsis generally used as a finisher.

Closing

All those decks have proven to be able to hit Legend and come with strengths and weaknesses that you should play around with. Off course, there are plenty of other viable decks (Mid Range Priest, Tempo Rogue, etc..) and innovation will often bring the element of surprise. I recommend to both netdeck and test your own ideas to improve and succeed at the game.

If you are tracking your stats, you will most likely identify the decks that you face the most and then choose the appropriate deck to beat them or tweak your beloved one to do better against them.

Specializing in one deck is a strenght for efficient laddering as you will be more and more comfortable with it and learn how the match ups work, resulting in a lower number of misplays. But you can also choose to use a set of decks if you are confident in your ability to play different archetypes without misplaying too much as it can allow you to adapt to the day’s meta easily.

For my part, I used my iterations of Tempo Rogue, Mid Range Shaman, Handlock and Rushdown Hunter to hit Legend this season.

I hope you enjoyed this article and that it will help climbing to Legend, don't hesitate to post a comment below if you have anything to ask or say about it.

You can find more of my work on Hearthpwn, deck guides and discussion threads, through the following link : http://www.hearthpwn.com/members/Sparkaz/decks.

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