Hey kids! After two seasons covering Legacy Series (formerly Ragnaros League), Lineup Trends is changing scenery a little bit and moving over to cover Hero Series (formerly Sylvanas League). I’m excited to be analyzing a new format with Lineup Trends, and I hope you all find these articles fun and useful.
Most Popular Classes
We are well into the Rastakhan Rumble meta, which launched 5 weeks ago, and we have also already endured a lightning-fast and without warning nerf, which happened a mere 2 weeks post-launch. Like the two previous expansions before it, Rastakhan’s Rumble has been an under-powered, low-impact expansion. That said, the nerfs blizzard pushed out nuked Druid to outer space, which gave classes like Hunter and Paladin a lot more breathing room. Even though Odd Paladin also got a nerf, Paladin as a class seems to be doing just fine, and even Odd Paladin itself has been making a resurgence. We haven’t had any major LHS tournaments to speak of since the new expansion, which makes it a bit more difficult to get a read on what the THL Hero Series meta will end up looking like. But we can use the ladder meta-game as a starting point. After consulting HSReplay, Vicious Syndicate and Metastats, here are the nine classes listed in order of most popular to least popular.
The ladder meta-game right now is pretty much Hunter, and then two classes that counter Hunter in Priest and Paladin. Warlock, Rogue and Mage each take up a similar stake in the middle of the pack, and then Warrior, Shaman and Druid bring up the rear with Druid and Shaman seeing abysmal play-rates after the nerfs. As an overall class, Hunter has the best win-rate on the ladder, but when looking at individual decks, Odd and Even Paladin have the two best win-rates (which makes sense, because both archetypes counter Hunter, which is way over-represented at nearly 30% of the meta). So what follows is a discussion of the five most popular classes on the ladder and how they might translate to Hero Series popularity.
Hunter has a lot going for it in Hero Series. It has five distinct archetypes (Secret, Spell, Cube, Mid-range and Hybrid). Archetype diversity is extremely important in THL to keep your opponent guessing, so I expect Hunter to lock down the #1 spot as the most popular class in the Hero Series meta-game. That said, there is some risk involved with bringing Hunter, because Paladin and Priest counter most of the archetypes, and there are several specific decks that match up well against several of the Hunter archetypes like Even Shaman and Odd Rogue. So, the Hunter class could find itself running into a hostile meta-game pretty easily in our format. Or, it might just end up being the most popular class banned.
It’s been awhile since Priest has had a legitimate, consistent set of Tier 1 decks, but after the nerfs Clone/Resurrect Priest and Control/Dragon Priest both look formidable, especially in a meta-game where Hunter is the most popular class. While Paladin and Rogue present some matchup issues for Priest, the class matches up reasonably well against the rest of the field, and has other archetypes like Combo, Spiteful and Mecha’Thun to keep THL opponents guessing. I expect Priest to be popular in Hero Series, especially when you can ban Paladin and/or Rogue to eliminate the bad match ups, but it may not lock down the 2nd spot, because of the class that follows.
After the nerfs, Paladin fell out of favor as many people wrote off Odd Paladin without Level Up. But people are slowly coming around to the fact that having a guaranteed way to spit out two 1/1s for 2 mana every turn is just flat-out good, and there are still several other tools available to take advantage of its board spreading ability outside of Level Up. And when you don’t have to fight through Druid and Spreading Plague, not having Level Up isn’t that big of a deal. And guess what, Even Paladin and OTK Paladin are suddenly viable decks too. Paladin has found itself with three viable archetypes that are completely different in how they play, which is very well suited to the THL format. I expect Paladin to be the 2nd most popular class after Hunter, even if it’s only the third most popular class on the ladder (and that might change if Hunter continues to see insane play rates). Paladin matches up well against Hunter and has viable answers for just about any class or archetype with Even Paladin (a more mid-range deck) and OTK Paladin (a late-game deck).
Warlock finds itself in a tough spot on the ladder, because Hunter can put a lot of pressure on just about any archetype Warlock wants to run, and there are several popular decks like Even Paladin, Odd Rogue, Even Shaman, and Control Priest that just beat any Warlock deck. That said, Warlock does have a lot of diversity in archetypes, which historically have given classes some play in THL. Warlock can go aggro with Zoo, mid-range with Even and late-game with Cube/Control/Mecha’Thun. So, if you bring the Warlock class, your opponent might have a hard time guessing what your deck is. Warlock is kind of a wild card class that fits the archetype diversity bill, but also doesn’t seem to have a very good match up spread, so we’ll see how it does!
Like Warlock, Rogue is in a rough spot on the ladder, because it doesn’t match up very well against Hunter or Paladin. But Odd Rogue has some good match ups against a few of the Hunter archetypes and will dominate most Priests and Warlocks. Rogue also has access to its own Deathrattle deck, and don’t forget about Quest Rogue, because it still exists and can beat several late game strategies. So, given the fact that you can make strategic bans, and the fact that Rogue has some archetype flexibility, it might find a place in the Hero Series meta-game.
Mage hasn’t been too successful on the ladder. This is mainly because it just loses to Hunter. But in a format where you can ban Hunter, Mage might find some usefulness. Big Spell Mage can match up well against many aggro strategies, and Tempo Mage is still a thing that can burn down any non-armor strategy with speed. So, in a format where you might want to have a hard counter as well as archetype flexibility, Mage can offer both.
Warrior is in a weird spot on the ladder due to its polarized match ups with its basically one viable archetype: Odd Warrior (quest or not). On the one hand, it can easily beat many board-spreading aggro strategies, like Odd Paladin, Mid-range Hunter, Spell Hunter, Odd Rogue and the like. But on the other hand, there are several late-game strategies like Cube/Deathrattle decks, OTK Paladin, Mecha’Thun decks and Quest Rogue where the games are basically unwinnable. While it hasn’t been a particularly popular ladder deck, it could find its way into the Hero Series format as a counter deck. But I worry about its viability due the lack of diversity associated with the Warrior class. Unless your opponent wants to mix it up with inferior deck archetypes like Mecha’Thun Warrior or Rush Warrior to surprise you and steal a game, the Warrior class may end up being a situational class.
Like Warrior, Shaman basically has one viable deck on the ladder: Even Shaman. On the one hand, Even Shaman has the least polarized and best match up spreads for the ladder outside of the Hunter class. So on the surface, that might make Shaman a decent bring in LHS, especially when you can ban it’s worst match up. On the other hand, the downside to Shaman is that there is only one viable archetype, and even the other variations (Elemental, Evolve and Aggro Overload) are all similar strategies. This makes the Shaman class pretty linear and easier to counter. But on the other, other hand, the worst match-ups Even Shaman has are still only 44%, so with great piloting and just a tiny bit of luck, Even Shaman can win in the bad match ups. It will be interesting to see where Shaman shakes out in the Hero Series meta-game.
Druid has dominated the THL meta for SO long, it’s kind of weird to see it down here at the bottom of the list. But that’s what happens when you institute a double-nerf to its mana-ramping identity. What is Druid left to do without ramping mana and cheating out high cost cards on turn 4? Well apparently, the answer is nothing. The overall win-rates of pretty much all Druid decks is below 50%, and even a Hunter ban won’t fix that. I would be surprised to see Druid take a larger share of the Hero Series meta, but perhaps a non-ramping archetype like Spiteful Druid or Miracle Druid could make some noise?
To sum up, I expect the popular ladder classes to also be the popular Hero Series classes with Hunter and Paladin leading the way. After that, it’s really anyone’s guess, but I would be shocked to see Druid take on more than a niche role. I will be very curious to see if Warrior (historically a very polarized class, which is typically good for the LHS format) is popular, because it is not in a good place given the current meta-game. Without giving away my own strategy (hey, I’ve got an opponent this week too!), the classes you choose each week are critical as they allow you to go one direction or another with your lineup. So good luck, have fun and I’ll be back after the Week 1 games are completed to report on the Hero Series lineup trends!
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