I’m not a romantic for any class (although I do enjoy playing Hunter the most). If Mage works, I’ll play Mage. I throw this disclaimer out because I will be largely ignoring the bottom 4 classes (Warlock, Priest, Druid & Warrior). I do this because there is only so much time each meta before a shift happens, and it is between these shifts that you want to become really good at what works and sorting out how to beat it.
The Goal of this Report
This report will help you get the most out of your Arena runs up until the end of the current meta. You will reap the rewards of your preparation in the form of a higher win rate, while also perfecting your drafting and playing skills in regards to the current meta.
To give you some context, I’ll explain what I do at the start of every expansion to accelerate my learning process.
I start by testing the classes that I assume would perform well in the meta based upon what the set brings to the class, and I’ll draft them either really greedily or aggressively. It’s very hard to accurately predict which archetype will perform the best, and I find that drafting on the extreme end of the spectrum gives you more conclusive data.The bigger the shift in the meta, the harder it becomes to predict what will work (and Un’Goro was especially disruptive).
If you draft a very aggressive deck and it goes very well, you can try to replicate this success (since you will sometimes just get lucky). This will often reduce the number of runs you need to figure out “archetype x” can do really well. I’m almost reluctant to play well-balanced and high-quality decks because the feedback I’ll get is "good cards and good curves work," which is something we all know and not exactly something worth spending 2 hours on (or however long it takes you to get 12 wins). Instead, if your deck with two 2-drops and a ton of card draw is getting good results, you can try to repeat this drafting strategy. Suddenly, you’re drafting is much more focused on a particular archetype and play style you’re looking for.
Now, you can do this, or you can have some arena addict do it for you (or both!) and cut your learning time even further; yay!
Alright, let’s get started, shall we?
I’ll start by giving you the (limited) data of my arena runs so far.
Keep in mind that variance is a big aspect of Hearthstone (more so in the Arena because of drafting variance). That’s why I’ll accompany the results with my interpretation, which I think is something we should all do when looking at numbers.
Rogue: 9.75 wins/run (4 runs)
Mage: 8.29 wins/run (7 runs)
Hunter: 8.42 wins/run (12 runs)
Shaman: 7.86 wins/run (7 runs)
Paladin: 5.67 wins/run (3 runs)
The 4 other classes combined: 6.67/run (3 runs)
So, those are the numbers. Keep in mind that some of these decks were more experimental than others, some classes just got lucky drafts, and that it’s a small sample size.
If I were to rank the classes in a tier list, my current one would look like this:
I think there is a large gap between tier 3 and 4 because Paladin and Shaman do a decent job of countering Rogue and Mage (if drafted appropriately).
When using my Tier list, keep in mind that it’s tailored for an infinite player who drafts decks in the same manner that I would.
A couple notes:
1. All face jokes aside, Hunter is hard to play.
It requires you to draft and play very differently from all other classes in the arena. So, if you’re not used to this and want immediate results, you can knock Rexxar down to tier 3. Furthermore, the reason Hunter is just below Rogue and Mage is because it’s very good at countering them.
2. At the risk of you closing this document immediately and never reading any of my material again, I’ll also say that Mage is hard to play.
This is not a sentiment you might have expected. Everyone has experienced the opponent that pinged their own face on turn two, but still beats you after topdecking a third Flamestrike.
Here's the catch: I think Mage is difficult to optimally play, but the class is so forgiving that you can make a lot of mistakes and still do alright. There is so much unused potential and it usually goes to waste in the draft. I think most people don’t draft Mage to its fullest potential; I’ll do my best to explain how you can have an even higher win rate with Jaina.
3. Shaman feels strong, but only within the Control archetype. Volcano is an incredibly strong reactive card.
4. Paladin is a class that I still need to practice with more, but from what I’ve seen, it does a good job at pressuring Mage (especially with Vinecleaver).
How to Draft in the Journey to Un’Goro Meta
Non-class specific advice:
1.) This is going to be a recurring theme: draft fewer big minions. In patch 7.1, they were king because of all the AoE. The Kabal ruled the arena and introduced the Kabal Chemist roulette, which often led to the frustration of that Dragonfire Potion coming out on turn 6 (not to mention the drafted copies of both Dragonfire and Felfire Potion); and who could forget the Abyssal Enforcer?
Valeera is packing some serious single-target removal cards thanks to the latest expansion, with the addition of Envenom Weapon and Vilespine Slayer. I feel that drafting big minions is at its worst, dating back to LoE (when Uther happily turned your Force-Tank MAX into a Silvermoon Guardian with the help of a Keeper of Uldaman).
Although Jaina lost Flamelance and Polymorph: Boar, she’ll still happily Meteor/Polymorph your big guy.
On top of this, we can already see an increase of Hunter in the arena, another matchup where big minions are just bad. They’re not good at defending you and they are heavily susceptible to Deadly Shot and Freezing Trap.
So, if you’re not drafting as many big minions as before, should you just draft crazy Aggro decks? While that is certainly an option, your draft won’t lend itself to this nearly enough to be a consistent all-in strategy (an Aggro deck with a less than ideal curve and no reach is hardly an Aggro deck). Instead, I prefer to draft Discover and Draw cards to compensate for the loss of big minions.
2.) Silence has become a lot better with the additions of Tar Creeper, the Adapt keyword, and Spikeridged Steed.
3.) Doppelgangster has become a lot better. Unlike most 5-drops, you’re happy to play this into the Rogue’s turn five and delay their Envenom Weapon.
4.) The gist of how I approach each draft: I draft enough on-curve cards and survival tools to hold off Aggro, and I draft single-target removal and value engines to sustain my aggression versus slower decks.
Each class has a preferred archetype of course, which is why I’ll individually go over the five classes in the next segment.
Rogue is still underrepresented in the arena relative to how good it is, mainly because the class offers a ton of options, all of which lead to higher chances for the player to make a mistake. Therefore, the Rogue really only hits peak performance for experienced players. This is why you’ll generally see the Rogues appear at 5 wins and beyond.
I usually say that nearly all of my 12-win rogue decks have two Eviscerates in them, this one being no exception. Apart from the two Eviscerates, why did this deck work?
Much more than individual card quality, I’m a firm believer that the structure of your deck is the determining factor. Although there are a couple of low quality cards in this draft, the deck makes sense.
What I mean is that I can look at this deck and see the win condition versus decks that are going to try and rush us down and the decks that will aim to out card us.
We have a Deadly Poison, Betrayal, Jade Shuriken, 2x Eviscerate, and a reasonable curve to hold off aggression. Once we have stabilized on the board, we will land a single-target removal for a huge Tempo flip, and dominate the game from there.
Versus control, on the other hand, we have a good enough curve to pressure (good old Dagger Mastery on turn two usually works fine), 2x Envenom Weapon for the inevitable tempo swing on turn five, and a decent amount of reach to close out the game. Furthermore, beyond the reach drafted, we also have potential reach with the Lotus Agents and Hallucination.
Keep asking yourself these 2 questions throughout the draft and you’ll be amazed at how well your decks are working:
Do I need more defense versus the Aggro decks?
How am I beating Control (basically Mage)?
Note that these questions can be applied to all classes, not just Rogue
As mentioned earlier, we’re aiming to replace the big minions with Discover and Card Draw cards - or even more reach to be more aggressive.
But what about when stars don’t align and this doesn’t happen?
I’ve had drafts do reasonably with some big minions in them, so don’t go drafting Wisps over Sated Threshadons. Just calibrate your draft accordingly. If you were forced to take a couple big guys, cut down on the Discover cards and try to make the most of it. Otherwise, Rexxar is going to hit you in the face and all that value won’t save you.
I’ll also give you a more practical, distilled overview of how I like to draft. Keep in mind that this is subject to change based on what you have already drafted.
My strategies won’t fully account for the variance of drafting in Arena, knowing what the deck should look like, or your own common sense for what might be the better pick at the time.
Reach/Discover Cards/Card Draw > Single Target Removal > Good Early Curve cards/Early Game Control Tools (Backstab, Deadly Poison, etc.) > Late Game cards > Mid-game cards
Reach, Discover cards, and Card Draw all fall into the same category because they are your anti-Mage tools.
You may or may not need late game cards, depending upon how many Reach/Discover/Card Draw effects you have.
I don’t usually prioritize Mid-game because I don’t view it as an important priority for the structure of the deck. Beyond this, you’ll probably end up with a couple 4-and-5-drops because they were the best card in the pack (for example, don’t skip a Dark Iron Dwarf in lieu of a sixth 2-drop).
We all know that Mage is a good class, but as I mentioned earlier, I think that most people don’t get the most that they can out of their draft, so let’s get to it!
Here is a deck that went 12, but required some work.
While the quality of the draft is high, I think the deck’s structure carried it more than the quality, which is where we can bridge the gap between a novice player doing well with a crazy draft and the more experienced player who can tap out the extra value and still go the distance.
As Mage, your preferred draft will be a Control archetype. Aggro Mage is really strong, but requires you to have a good curve, removal, and reach to close out the game. So, unless you’re getting some good Aggro signals early on, go for a Control deck.
Similar to Rogue, you’re going to have to beat two kinds of decks: those that are trying to rush you down, and those that will try to out-card you. This principle is very simple, but nonetheless incredibly important.
The strategy to beat aggressive decks is largely the same as it was in previous metas: cheap removal spells and a decent early curve. Mage does have access to AoE, which facilitates the process of answering your opponent’s minions, but a common misconception is that ‘more AoE is better.’ AoE is generally useless in the Control mirror, so having more AoE than you need to hold off aggression really hurts your prospects in any mirror matches.
Keep track of your curve to monitor how much AoE makes sense. A deck with a curve like my example needs close to no AoE. We can see that I only drafted one copy, each, of Flamestrike, Twilight Flamecaller, and Arcane Explosion. This is perfectly fine because of our curve (if you don’t fall behind on the board, you won’t need tons of AoE to catch up).
Conversely, the parameters shift in the Control matchup. Any unnecessary defensive cards (AoE, curve minions, healing...) are going to hurt our chances to out-value our opponent, which brings me to my Mage drafting strategy.
Premium removal (Polymorph, Meteor, Fireball) > Value Cards (Card draw, Discover cards, and Premium Big Minions) > Early Curve and AoE (if you have a lot of AoE, you need less Curve, and vice versa) > Mid-game cards (Chillwind Yeti, Water Elemental).
This is my usual thought process during the draft: unless it’s a premium Value/Removal card, I’ll generally go with the more Curve oriented pick. I do this because you’re building up a skeleton that will allow you to pick really greedily later on in the draft and it keeps your options open. When most people take a look at my Control decks, they say I have too much early game to be a Control deck. This makes sense at first glance because small minions don’t get you that much Value. However, by drafting a little lighter than you usually would, you can establish a good defense. This allows you to draft some really greedy cards later on (consider how many times did you have had to skip that Cabalist Tome because your deck wouldn’t curve out).
I also heavily scale back on Mid-game cards, seeing as a 4-or-5-drop does little against the aggressive matchups, and because you’re not trying to out-tempo Control decks, they don’t really do much.
Cutting back on Mid-game cards results in an overall higher Value deck (because we can pick all the Draw and Discover Cards); you’ll also have an easier time against aggro because you’ll hit your turn two and three more often. You’ll even be able to consistently play two 2-drops on turn 4, which helps out a ton versus aggro.
God, I love Hunter. In the Arena, this class is so rewarding if you draft and play it properly. On the other hand, it feels terrible if you don’t. If Rexxar hasn’t been part of your go-to heroes, I’ll do my very best to initiate you to the ways of the face: SMOrc!
Once again, here’s another deck that was able to go the distance:
Hunter has the advantage of being the aggressor in the vast majority of the games, which allows you to draft with a much clearer goal: how am I going to push sufficient damage before my opponent takes control of the game in the later stages?
You’ll still have your aggro mirror matches, of course, which is where you’ll find yourself fighting for the board much later into the game. Aggro decks don’t usually have a way to flip the board, so once you’ve established board control, you can usually just leverage that to win the game a couple turns later.
This deck did lack one-to-two 2-drops, but the four 1-drops and premium 3-drops helped in establishing board control. Apart from the lack of 2-drops, this deck is exactly what you want to see: a strong early game, followed up by some powerful Mid-game cards, 3 single-target removals, and some reach to top it off.
When drafting with Hunter, keep in mind that the Curve is generally the most important part of your draft. Unlike Rogue, you can’t really get away with just using your Hero Power on turn two. If you’re not hitting your early curve, you won’t be able to push enough damage to win the game.
In the current meta, I would say that removal is more important than reach. With Tar Creeper, among a lot of other taunts being in the meta, you’ll need to keep control of the board longer. This means that removal, such as Hunter’s Mark and Deadly Shot, will allow you to stay on the board and eventually use your minions to get the face damage in (instead of the reach). A solid Hunter draft needs to have roughly two big guys to push through bigger damage (and Taunt minions, if necessary). Unlike Rogue and Mage, we can’t afford to slow down to draw some cards. Bittertide Hydra is great because it only costs 5-mana. So, if it gets removed, it’s not as big of a tempo swing. Further, because we’re not playing the long game, the damage on our own face (from the Bittertide Hydra) doesn’t really matter. Savannah Highmane is obviously also great because anything that’s a little resistant to removal is preferred.
Deadly Shot/Freezing Trap/Hunter’s Mark/ Spellbreaker > Weapons > Curve cards > Small Removal (Arcane Shot/On The Hunt) > Reach
Spellbreaker is specifically included here because I think it’s a strong tool in Hunter, allowing you to get through Tar Creepers (and other taunts in general) is great. But even further, silencing a Spikeridged Steed can absolutely be the difference between victory and almost certain defeat.
I say “Curve” instead of breaking it down because a good overall Curve is required for Hunter, which is why we only take a couple cards that are not Curve picks. My example deck, apart from needing one, maybe two additional 2-drops, has a great Curve, so you can base your decisions on that. Getting a couple of 5-drops and one-to-two good 6-drops is great to keep the pressure on your opponent.
Versus Rogues, you’d still rather split with 2-and-3-drops on turn five for Envenom Weapon.
I’ve been having a great time playing Shaman. The first time I played Volcano, I just couldn’t believe how good it was. People generally appreciate AoE, but this card is unique in that it will just clean up a board regardless of minion health (unless, of course, the total health of the board exceeds 15).
This is pretty much your ideal Shaman deck in the current meta.
I have yet to play a double or even triple Volcano deck, but I can only assume it will be great.
Every time I drew the card, it just did so much work.
Why did this deck work?
Once again, the deck makes sense - you can look at the draft and see its win condition (while also having some great quality).
Our curve is good enough to hold the line versus aggro decks. On top of that, we have 3 AoE effects, so you’re basically beating everything that doesn’t aim to out card you (because Thrall doesn’t have a 1-damage Hero Power like Jaina, a little extra AoE is nice to finish off low HP minions).
We have 2x Hex, which allows us to remove our opponent’s key threats. We have some great value cards (Flametongue Totem, Stonehill Defender, Lotus Agents, Master of Evolution, and Gruul). Stonehill Defender is particularly great in Shaman, being able to find you Al’akir, Earth Elemental, and White Eyes.
The tricky matchup is Mage. Our objective is not to run the Mage out of cards. Rather, it’s to apply pressure by continuing to develop threats and baiting removal with Midrange minions.
At some point, the Mage will try to flip the board and develop one of her own. If you have a Volcano, you don’t need to overreact. What I mean is that with the huge AoE, you can match her development with a couple of your low-value cards (cycling a Stonehill Defender is very nice on that turn) and then clean up with a Volcano the turn after. Another series of events is that, because Volcano is cheaply costed due to Overload, you can wipe your opponent’s board and then develop your own board on the same turn.
I’ll still need to draft more Shamans, but for now, it seems you can play a Control-style deck fairly consistently, thanks to the addition of Volcano.
Hex > AoE > Card Draw and Discover Cards > Jade Claws and Stormforged Axe > Small Removal > Curve cards
You can see that there is little emphasis on the curve, which makes the style quite hard to play because you’re going to have to strategize well versus aggro. Plan your swing turns and don’t be too greedy for value.
The main reason for the emphasis of Discover cards/Card Draw is to beat Mages.
If you’re lacking in the Discover cards/Card Draw department, you can partially make up for that by adding one or two Reach cards (Bloodlust and Doomhammer are great tools for winning the Control mirror match, generally versus Mage).
Seems like Uther is back to the good old game plan: have something stick on the board, and then buff it. While that may sound a little simplistic, it is our game plan--thanks to Spikeridged Steed. Giving a minion + 2/6 and Taunt for six mana is somewhat playable already; also having it spawn an additional 2/6 Taunt via Deathrattle is simply crazy (and doubles as the main reason of why Spellbreaker is of premium tier right now).
This is a list that went 7 (this could have gone further, but we had one crazy loss and a disconnect, but that’s Hearthstone!):
Spikeridged Steed > Weapons (I don’t like Sword of Justice as much as its tempo oriented counterparts) > Good Early Curve cards > Late Game cards/Value cards > Mid-game cards
As a Paladin in this meta, your main concern is being in control of the board on turn six to enable you to land a Spikeridged Steed buff. This is why early curve cards and weapons are rated very highly. If you can land control of the board early on, it’s ok to play a 2-and-3-drop on turn five because you’ll have such a good value and tempo turn on six with the Spikeridged Steed.
The Late Game/Value Cards act in a similar manner to the Spikeridged Steed, where if you have control of the board early and don’t get overrun, you can get by on turn 4-5 by playing smaller cards and/or using your Hero Power. The key here is that because you had initial control of the board, you can deny good trades for a little longer while not getting hit in the face.
Normally, you’d really need this Mid-game to transition versus Control (mostly Mages), but very powerful Late Game cards, such as Vinecleaver/Stonehill Defender (Tirion in a box) or Grimestreet Protector (also found via Stonehill Defender) allow you to stay in the game longer versus Mage, even after a board wipe. This is why I structure the importance as Early > Late > Mid in the draft prioritization.
This is Part 1 of the Journey to Un’Goro Meta, and I hope it is useful for you.
Part 2 will focus more on playing and countering the classes and less on drafting.
If there is enough time after that report, I’ll further discuss classes individually for a more in-depth approach.
I don’t have a tier list, but my friends ADWCTA and Merps (http://twitch.tv/grinninggoat/), over at The Lightforge, do. While I may not agree with every single rating on every single card, I think they do a great job, so if you’re not sure which card is better, regardless of the rest of your draft, consider consulting them: http://thelightforge.com/TierList
I'm Shadybunny, a Hearthstone Arena streamer. My favorite class is Hunter, face is the place and taunt is cheat!
On my stream, you'll usually find a co-op or coaching run. This allows the viewer better insight into the decision making since every play is verbalized. Until we meet, in the Arena.