By ecoutepasca, MegaHertz and Siveure
The second week of Hearthstone Masters Qualifiers is behind us, and we can now see which way the Specialist format metagame is trending in the late Rastakhan’s Rumble metagame. Midrange Hunter has solified its spot as the number one deck, and the different strategies that try to farm it are playing rock-paper-scissors with each other in Tier 2 & 3.
Looking at the meta overall, there is a lack of any viable hardcounter to Hunter. This has narrowed the field to Rexxar, and decks that boast of an even or close to even matchup against him. These decks are further narrowed by their matchups into each other – for example, Priest cannot exist in a metagame with Rogues. It has reached the point that Midrange Hunter can afford to tech for everything between three decks.
Fujitora’s Midrange Hunter (see below) is a great example. It has a primary deck for the mirror, a secondary deck with Vicious Fledgling and Ironbeak Owl for Cube decks and techs for multiple different decks simultaneously in the tertiary deck, with Golakka Crawlers for Myracle Rogue and Dire Frenzy for the slow Odd Warriors.
We cannot recommend anything as a counter to Midrange Hunter going forwards.
Aggressive Odd Mage, for example, would in theory be a counter, and probably is quite favoured in any series against Midrange Hunter. Unfortunately, it has a very weak matchup spread against all the other decks, and in an eleven round tournament you cannot expect to queue only Midrange Hunters. Currently, the counter matchup you gain against Midrange Hunter is not worth how starkly you are unfavoured when you face other decks, and that seems to be the case with every strategy that has been known to farm it.
Last week, we pointed out that Rogue was performig quite well and diserved a much bigger representation. The open cup participants seem to have also made that conclusion, because Rogue jumped from a 5,4% to a 8,1% representation. The consequences have been harsh for Priest, with a decline in it’s win rate from 49,1% to 48,0%. With Rogues going up and Priest loosing traction, Odd Paladin became a serious meta contender. But as seen in the first graph of this article, this all happens at a microscopic magnitude way under the umbrella of the 51,4% Hunter frequency.
In the tables above, the “Score” of each class is calculated by dividing the number of top 8 appearences by the popularity of the deck in the Swiss rounds. The “Points” is the sum of the “top 8”, “top 4”, “top 2” and “top 1” columns, whitch means that a deck that looses in the first match of playoffs is awarded 1 point, 2 points if it looses in the semi-final, 3 points for the runner-up and 4 points for a Las Vegas qualification.
Our rating of the best decks in the Standard Specialist format is as follows:
- Midrange Hunter
- Cube Hunter
- Myracle Rogue
- Odd Paladin
- Odd Warrior
- Mind Blast Priest
- Zoo Warlock
- Cube Warlock
- Malygos Druid
- Cube Rogue
- Even Paladin
- Inner Fire Priest
- Odd Mage
- Hybrid Hunter
For each archetype in the tier list, here is a version that we think is optimised for the current metagame. Most of them have earned their pilot a Las Vegas qualification this week. The links point to YAYtears.com, an independant website that we recommend for visualising Specialist decklists and getting deck codes.
There are people who do not think specialist is a good format to use for tournaments, and this test of the metagame would seem to support them. Midrange Hunter dominates the specialist metagame. We urge caution in this judgement, as there are several mitigating factors that could be applied. Firstly, we are late into the expansion cycle. Despite these qualifiers having only given us two weeks of the specialist meta, with some preliminary testing before this, we are about as deep into an expansion metagame as we could be – a new expansion has been announced. Historically. this has usually been a disliked and stale metagame for both ladder and other tournament formats. It is possible that a fresh expansion metagame, or even the middle of one, much better supports specialist format than the dying stages of an expansion’s lifecycle. Team 5 have let us know that they plan to design with specialist in mind, printing more tech cards to allow the natural balance to fall in place. Spellward Jeweler, one of the cards already teased, could be an example of this.
Secondly, to borrow conclusions from the Vicious Syndicate ladder report, Midrange Hunter exerts a strong level of dominance on the ladder metagame, exhibiting a tier 1 winrate despite being the most popular deck for some time. It’s resilience to counters does not seem to rely in gaining two side decks to tech for any potential counter. If a deck is too powerful for every competitive format, we cannot draw too many conclusions about the formats beyond how they handle overly powerful decks (not well, in this case).
We are not saying that the specialist format is great, our point is that this discussion should not take place before a month into the next expansion.