Team NoProsHere Specialist Meta Report #20

By NPH Pasca and WickedGood

Masters Tour Seoul was not the only Hearthstone tournament in the Specialist format this past weekend, there were also 15 Bucharest Qualifiers, where the metagame is far less conservative! Here’s all the stats from both Masters Tour and Masters Qualifiers this week.

Data summary from Offcurve:

Bucharest Qualifiers
Bucharest Qualifiers
Masters Tour Seoul
Bucharest Qualifiers
Masters Tour Seoul
Bucharest Qualifiers
Masters Tour Seoul
Bucharest Qualifiers
Bucharest Qualifiers

Tier List:

We said last week that we were wishing for some clarity around which mage archetype was best for Specialist, and apparently our wish is the new meta. While the weekend started off with Masters Tour Seoul players evenly split among Cyclone, Conjurer and Highlander, as that tournament wore on, Highlander proved to be the most successful archetype, and Bucharest qualifier players took notice. Highlander eclipsed the other mage archetypes by nearly 4:1, and it’s fair to say the deck is shaping the post-Uldum meta. As we discussed last week, the deck is extremely versatile and extremely hard to beat if it can play Luna’s Pocket Galaxy on curve. In a world where Warrior was the best deck, that became a natural choice.

That said, if Mage is the new terror of the meta, then the new counter appears to be Highlander Hunter, which was the best performing deck in qualifiers, and took RNGLys to the top 4 of Seoul. We noted the deck starting to emerge last week, but as the power of Mage became apparent, the combination of consistent face damage and secrets for disrupting Mage’s early turns proved powerful (not to mention a charging 8/8 on turn 7), and it turned out that there wasn’t as much of a tradeoff in terms of consistency when building around a Secret Hunter shell. While this is effective against Mage, it’s also favored against most of the other meta decks, particularly Combo Priest, since one Freezing Trap or early Rat Trap can ruin their entire game plan. This meta continues to evolve, so counters in terms of deck selection or secondary deck adjustments could bring Highlander Hunter down to Earth, but for now, Brann is where the action is.

We pointed out the power of Combo Priest in last week’s meta report, and the decline of Warrior has only helped it, resulting in an eye-popping 60% win rate at Masters Tour Seoul through Swiss. It’s not all sunshine and roses for Anduin, as Highlander Hunter is a worse matchup for Combo Priest than Control Warrior. The biggest thing holding Combo Priest back may well be the number of decision points required to navigate a game successfully, but players willing to put the time in to learn the deck may find themselves rewarded.

In terms of the next tier of decks, this is where we find Control Warrior after a fairly sudden fall from grace. The rise of Mage has not been kind to it, since Pocket Galaxy can generate a flurry of value all at once that Warrior can struggle to cope with. It could rebound with tweaks, but this week it was brought in nearly the same numbers as Highlander Mage but saw considerably fewer players qualify for Bucharest or even reach top 8 of qualifiers. (Note: Since last week we’ve consolidated Warriors running the Armagedillo package or not into one Control Warrior archetype, since there’s no significant difference between the two archetypes.)

Rogue has taken a step back as well. We’ve redefined the archetypes into Burgle and Tempo (the former runs Vendetta, the latter does not, and neither runs Bazaar Burglary, because that is captured as Quest Rogue). In qualifiers, Tempo had a higher win rate than Burgle in Swiss but lower in Top 8, and vice versa. It’s unclear which approach is better at the moment (though it’s worth noting that Tempo has better win rates against Highlander Mage and Highlander Hunter), but either is capable of winning a qualifier in the current meta.

It’s also worth mentioning that Aggro Shaman and Midrange Hunter are still around and are still taking the occasional qualifier. Both decks hover at around a 45% win rate in Swiss, but the players who reached top 8 had a fairly high rate of qualification, so players with a lot of practice on these archetypes could find success. Aggro Shaman in particular is worth watching because of its favorable matchup against Highlander Hunter, so that could be a sneaky deck selection should Highlander Hunter increase further in representation.

Zoo Warlock also took a surprise qualifier toward the end of the weekend, and could be a consideration if Control Warrior drops in representation, given its good matchups against Highlander Hunter and Combo Priest. Its poor matchup against Highlander Mage is currently a liability given the number of freezes available to the Mage, but if that deck comes down to Earth and players are scared off of Control Warrior, Zoo could become a reasonable pick to try to counter the meta.

Of the decks to reach top 8 but not qualify, most of what we discussed last week continues to hold. The one deck in that group worth taking notice of is Bomb Warrior, which Magoho piloted to top 4 of Masters Tour Seoul. Taking a more proactive approach may continue to be the way to go in Specialist (as opposed to Ladder, where Control Warrior was the better approach going back even before Saviors of Uldum), and there may be a new reason to play the deck given that shuffling multiple bombs into the opponent’s deck turns off Zephrys, Brann and Reno. Bombs also punish decks that want to draw heavily like Combo Priest. Bomb Warrior had slightly unfavorable win rates against both highlander decks this past week, but given that the deck has reasonable matchups against the field, there may be an opportunity to improve those matchups in sideboarding.

Meta Defining Decks:
Highlander Hunter (RNGLys | Staz)
Highlander Mage (Felkeine/Zhym)
Combo Priest (Sooni | SomiTequilla | Empanizado)

Qualifier Winners:
Midrange Hunter (CheeseHead)
Aggro Shaman (Silvors | 中壢邰智源)
Burgle Rogue (Un33d/Hypno)
Tempo Rogue (deads17 | 양봉꾼 | tolsimir | Jakaso27)
Zoo Warlock (zlofany)
Conjurer Mage (Lestos)
Control Warrior (Deaddraw | Soggun)
Cyclone Mage (Flix)

Top 8 Capable:
Bomb Hunter (mikolop)
Bomb Warrior (Magoho)
Murloc Paladin (Nova | SetKeirio231)
Murloc Shaman (Kevineter)
Token Shaman (Atome)

Masters Tour Seoul VOD matchups chart:

Highlander HunterHighlander MageCombo PriestAggro ShamanBurgle RogueTempo RogueCyclone MageBomb Warrior
Highlander HunterStaz vs Topopablo
Highlander MageZhym vs RNGLysZhym vs Felkeine
Hatul vs Tars
Combo PriestSooni vs RNGLys
WoT vs Staz
Sooni vs FelkeineSooni vs 물리왕
Burgle RogueUn33d vs Zhym
Tempo RogueDeads17 vs Staz
Deads17 vs RNGLys
양봉꾼vs 中壢邰智源
Conjurer MageStrifeCro vs Hatul
Control WarriorDeaddraw vs Zhym
Deaddraw vs Felkeine
GeneraL vs SooniDeaddraw vs Un33d
Cyclone MageGallon vs StazTGcaimiao vs Casie
js5 vs Tars
Bomb WarriorMagaho vs RNGLys
Magoho vs Staz
Magoho vs Felkeine
Magoho vs Zhym
Magoho vs Sooni
Magoho vs Empanizado
Magoho vs SilvorsMagoho vs 양봉꾼
Hybrid HunterStevenC vs Staz
Quest DruidEddie vs PikatwoEddie vs Deads17Eddie vs Bozzzton
Quest ShamanMaricochet vs WESparkling
Tempo WarriorRyokucha vs Gilgamesh
Holy Wrath PaladinHunterace vs HannibalzETC vs AKAWonder
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