If someone told me ten years ago that people playing video games would generate a bigger audience than the NBA, NHL, and MLB, I would have laughed.
More than a couple of weeks have passed since The Witchwood expansion hit Hearthstone, and it feels like the Kobolds and Catacombs meta all over again.
The meta is dominated by many of the same classes and archetypes: board-flooding Paladin decks are running rampant, followed by Cubelock and Spiteful decks (where Druid is now stronger than Priest).
Unfortunately, the new expansion has not succeeded in creating many fresh, successful archetypes. Taunt Druid is one example that springs to mind but has been declining in win rate the further into the expansion we get, despite starting off strong.
Sure, Baku the Mooneater and Genn Greymane have introduced a new wrinkle into deckbuilding, but the strongest decks that are utilising them aren’t anything innovative. Even and odd paladin play similarly to the old Silver Hand Paladin decks, with the added benefit of even more efficient ways to get on the board.
Odd Rogue, using the 2/2 dagger hero power, is interesting, but ultimately feels very similar to the popular Tempo Rogue decks from a couple months ago, despite playing more aggressively.
Spiteful Druid is both strong and popular but it – along with its companion, Spiteful Priest – remains one of the most linear decks in the game with a low skill ceiling.
Even Quest Rogue, a deck that terrorised the Un’goro scene so much that it got nerfed, has made a surprising return to relevance with its powerful late-game swing. This deck is a bit more difficult to play, but again, it’s another old archetype and uses few new cards or mechanics.
And of course, the whole meta often revolves around Cubelock, which Vicious Syndicate reports is the most played deck in the game from rank ten and up. Many lists don’t even use new cards from The Witchwood plugging along with the same lists that dominated the previous expansion (minus N’zoth and Mistress of Mixtures).
For most players, you’re either playing Cubelock yourself or playing a deck teched to beat it.
From the moment cards began to be revealed, there was a worry that the set looked weak and would fail to shake up the meta – and those worries appear to have been validated.
On the one hand, it makes sense, as this expansion is going to remain in Standard for the longest and therefore cannot be too powerful.
But one the other, playing against the same decks for months on end is starting to get stale. I’m heading into each game expecting to see Call to Arms, a Possessed Lackey or a Spiteful Summoner hitting the board. It’s not that the decks are oppressive or overpowered – they’re just not particularly fun to play with or against at this point.
Is all hope lost if you’re a player looking for a fresh deck? Maybe not. Innovation isn’t quite dead yet, as a few dedicated players are trying to resurrect the past few months’ two most downtrodden classes: Shaman and Warrior.
Shudderwock OTK Shaman was popular on day one but, as predicted, it fizzled out due to being ploddingly slow. Recently, however, a couple of new Shaman decks have been finding some success.
There is an elemental control style deck utilising Prince Keleseth, Shudderwock, Kalimos, Primal Lord and Hagatha the Witch from Redditor u/T3hJ3hu, as well as a midrange Even Shaman deck featuring Corpsetakers that looks like it has the tools to fight for the board in this meta.
As for Warrior, some fatigue-oriented control lists with Baku and potentially some Rush decks (like this one from Kibler) look like they have potential.
These two classes are in sore need of a return to relevance. Hopefully, the community, professionals and casuals alike, will continue to pick these newer decks up and experiment with and/or refine them in the coming weeks.
Win or lose, it will be refreshing to queue into a competitive match and see a face that does not belong to Uther, Gul’dan or Malfurion. Let’s try some new things, shall we?