Altenberg gives you a prediction for the post-post-nerf Rastakhan’s Rumble meta-game by looking at all nine classes, and how the nerfs could impact each one.
What are we to make of the second round of nerfs Blizzard is making to the Rastakhan’s Rumble expansion? In my opinion the first round of nerfs were warranted, as it addressed the low impact of the Rastakhan’s Rumble expansion. Classes like Druid and Warlock (which had been dominant for over a year) continued to dominate the meta-game in the days following the expansion’s release, and they were very quick to address it. This latest nerf appears to be addressing, in some part, the over-saturation of Hunter in the wake of the first round of nerfs. The meta is warped around the Hunter class right now. That’s not to say that the game is unbalanced, because no deck is achieving an insane win-rate, but there does seem to be a lack of class diversity.
That said, personally I’ve found the meta-game to be balanced, competitive, fun and rewarding, especially after enduring over a year of Druid/Warlock dominance. Specifically, the nerf to Druid completely turned the meta-game on its head. We’ve seen brand new decks like Holy Wrath Paladin, Clone Priest, Odd Mage and Midrange Hunter put their mark on the ladder and tournament meta, none of which saw any play prior to the Rastakhan’s Rumble nerf. While some older decks are still around running some new tricks up their sleeve (looking at you Secret Hunter, Odd Paladin, Even Paladin and to some degree Odd Warrior), the meta-game looks very different today than it did back in October-December of last year. Some recent critiques I’ve been seeing in twitter and on various podcasts of the meta-game being “stale” and “repetitive” seem, frankly, out-dated, because that’s what we were saying BEFORE Rastakhan’s Rumble. The meta-game is anything but that right now.
So how will this latest round of nerfs, which I am dubbing “Post-Post Nerf Rastakhan,” affect THL? First off, I would expect the following decks to pretty much vanish or be significantly weakened: Holy Wrath/OTK Paladin, Even Shaman, Odd Rogue, Even Paladin and Secret/Spell Hunter. Tier 1 decks that remain untouched are Odd Paladin and Cube Hunter. Tier 2 decks that probably get a boost include: Control/Clone Priest, Odd Warrior, Aggro Odd Mage, Cube Warlock, Even Warlock and Deathrattle Paladin. Decks that don’t see much play now, but that could see increased usage are Secret Paladin, Murloc Paladin, Murloc Mage and Deathrattle Rogue. We will likely see some brand-new archetypes creep up as well, which could be a lot of fun to watch evolve.
Druid has been struggling to find relevance in Hero Series after the first round of Rastakhan nerfs severely hurt the class’s ability to ramp up and do broken things early. Nothing really changes for Druid, although a deck like Spiteful Druid could gain something as its hard counters like Odd Rogue, Even Shaman and Spell Hunter are all getting nerfed. While Odd Paladin will still be around (its only other hard counter), the deck has an even match-up spread against the rest of the meta. Cube and Midrange Hunter are slightly unfavored for Spiteful Druid, as is Control Priest, but it would perform very well against decks like Odd Aggro Mage, Even Warlock, Cube Warlock, and Odd Warrior. If Odd Paladin and Control/Clone Priest become the go-to decks in the new meta-game (which would be bad for Spiteful Druid), then expect Malygos Druid to rise up to counter it, because those are its best matchups. Miracle Druid could also still be a thing, and after mentioning three possible Druid archetypes, it makes me think that Druid could see some play in LHS.
The nerfs seem to be directly targeted to the Hunter class. That said, Cube Hunter and Midrange Hunter remain mostly unaffected. Yes, Hunter’s Mark is a little worse at 2-mana, but it will still fulfill the same role in these decks, and I expect both to continue to see play, especially if Priest (in the case of Midrange Hunter), Druid, and Warrior are popular (in the case of Cube Hunter). I don’t think the nerfs will kill off the Hunter class, but we should see its representation in the meta decrease a little bit. In other words, I don’t expect Hunter to maintain the 95% representation it had before the nerfs.
Mage was having a tough time establishing itself in LHS. Aggro/Secret Odd Mage was not very good against classes that can swarm the board (Odd Paladin), burst down an opponent quickly (Odd Rogue), or that have armor gain (Warrior). And Big Spell Mage struggled against Hunter, Paladin and Odd Rogue. There is a reason the Mage class had the lowest win-rate as a class in LHS…it pretty much struggles against all of the most popular decks and classes in the game. The nerfs will weaken Odd Rogue and Hunter, which should be good for the Mage class. Aggro Odd Mage matchups up very well against Clone Priest and Midrange Hunter, positioning it as a nice “Level 3” ladder deck if the meta becomes Clone Priest and its counter of Midrange Hunter. But it does struggle against Odd Paladin, which might keep it from over-taking the meta completely though. I’m not sure if Big Spell Mage or the more controlling version of Odd Mage will find a place in the meta or not, but the fact that Mage has two completely opposite archetypes that have some good matchups against the remaining non-nerfed decks, bodes very well for Mage going forward.
Late game Paladin decks like Holy Wrath Paladin and OTK Paladin will definitely suffer with the nerf to Equality. They will no longer be able to clear boards on turn 3 or 4 with Wild Pyromancer. While they can run Shrink Ray to reduce threats on turn 5, it doesn’t actually clear anything on its own. Paladin simply won’t be able to fully clear a board until turn 6 after the nerfs, making these late game options significantly worse. That said, Odd Paladin, currently one of the top decks in the game, remains untouched. I like Secret Paladin as a great counter to Hunter, Priest and Warlock while Deathrattle/Egg Paladin is a great counter to Warrior and Mage. Paladin will lose some flexibility and unpredictability as a class (which is usually bad for the THL format), but I still expect it to remain a popular, especially if Secret Paladin and Deathrattle/Egg Paladin see some play.
On paper, Priest is happy to see decks like Odd Rogue and Even Paladin get weaker, but other decks like Midrange Hunter, Secret Paladin and Aggro/Secret Odd Mage could become more popular to counter the class. Still, Priest matches up very well against Odd Paladin, Cube Hunter and Warlock, so it should remain viable going forward, possibly as a Top 4 class.
Will the nerf to Cold Blood be enough to single-handedly destroy Odd Rogue as an archetype? The answer to that question remains to be seen, but Leeroy’ing your opponent for 10 to the face won’t be possible, and the deck loses a lot of burst potential. It may not have enough juice to finish off those tight races for damage anymore. I will be very curious to see if other Rogue decks like Deathrattle Rogue or Tempo Rogue can make a name for themselves. Theoretically, Deathrattle Rogue matchups well against Cube Hunter, Aggro Odd Mage and Warrior, but it struggles against Paladin and Priest. Unless we think Quest Rogue can find a place in the meta, Rogue might find trouble remaining viable going forward.
Poor Shaman. The class only had one viable archetype, and it got nerfed. It barely had a place in the LHS meta, and now it might not even be used at all. Is there anything that can save Shaman before rotation? Murloc Shaman has some niche usage against decks like Cube Hunter, Priest and Warrior, but that 10% win rate against Odd Paladin, 30% win rate against Midrange Hunter, and 38% win rate against Clone Priest makes it awfully difficult to consider.
Warlock is untouched by the nerfs, which should be a good thing. But unfortunately, some of its worst matchups also remained untouched, like Priest and Cube Hunter. And to makes things worse, there are some potential newer decks that also matchup very well against Warlock like Secret Paladin and Deathrattle/Egg Paladin. I think Warlock could struggle to find relevance outside of Cube Warlock and maybe Zoo. While historically THL has valued flexibility and multiple archetypes, which Warlock has, its matchup spread, and lack of polarized options, might be too difficult to work with.
Warrior has one viable archetype, Odd Warrior, and its job at this point is to counter board spreading aggro decks. Unfortunately, most of its best matchups got nerfed like Odd Rogue, Even Paladin, Even Shaman and Spell Hunter. Also, some of its worst matchups like Cube Hunter, Cube Warlock and Clone Priest are still around. So, unless Odd Paladin completely takes over, it may not find a role to play in this meta-game. While Odd Warrior remains as one of the most polarizing decks in the game, if it has nothing to hard-counter, then it simply won’t have a role to play.
So, what do I expect the top classes to be going forward? Well, it’s anyone’s guess. Like I mentioned above, THL favors flexible classes with multiple archetypes and strategies due to its blind format. Mage is looking like it could be a big winner of these balance changes if Odd Aggro Mage can assert itself in the meta along with Big Spell Mage (and its Odd variant), which gives the class two polar opposite archetypes. Priest has Control and Clone archetypes while Hunter has Cube and Midrange archetypes. Paladin might be the class that falls in popularity, unless Deathrattle/Egg can give it something substantially different to do than Odd Paladin or Secret Paladin. Warlock has Control/Cube along with Zoo, and while it has flexibility, it’s also just a weak class right now. Rogue will probably lose a lot if it doesn’t have a viable Aggro/Tempo strategy after the nerf to Cold Blood, because Quest Rogue or Deathrattle/Maly Rogue will be too obvious. Shaman and Warrior were in a rough spot before the nerf, and both will be in a rough spot after. That leaves Druid, which is a complete unknown. Once upon a time Druid was the most popular class in THL, because it had multiple archetypes. While those archetypes are still around in much weaker forms, perhaps the nerfs will give it an opening, especially if we see a meta dominated by Priest and Paladin. With all that in mind, here is my prediction for the Hero Series meta for most popular classes to least popular:
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