Paladin and Midrange Hunter return: A statistical analysis of HLS Season 2 metagame

Hearthstone Radoslav “Nydra” Kolev


The (un)holy trinity

Show of hands, how many of you are shocked at the outcome? None, I see.

When players can only bring three decks to a tournament, they tend to stick with the three most tried and tested ones. For many weeks, those have been Warrior, Warlock and Hunter. The graphic below represents the percentage of each class found in players’ lineups. Eleven out of 16 players brought Warrior to the tournament and ten out of 16 had prepared a Warlock. Almost half of the participants brought both. As fun fact though, the HLS champion himself Christopher “Phonetap” Huynh brought neither and instead relied on a Druid/Hunter/Shaman line-up, including two class which the majority of the experts consider unreliable and inconsistent.

Hunter is the third most sought out class out of the trinity with nine out of 16 picks. Its position hasn’t changed since HouseCup #3 where it was lagging behind Warlock and Druid (because Warrior was usually banned). As we’ll see below, Hunter also maintained a healthy win rate of 53% percent, more than decent for a top three most popular class. 

Speaking of Hunter, let’s talk about the…

The return of the midrange Hunter

When HouseCup #3 was ongoing, nobody thought of playing Midrange Hunter. With the meta being quicker at the time with high numbers of Face and Hybrid Hunters, risking to end up in a bad mirror match-up pushed the slower Hunters out.

Things, though, have shifted and the HLS stats show a much different distribution in Hunter archetypes. Players like JAB and Purpledrank brought it back into fashion and reached the highest positions on the ladder and that trend translated to the HLS stats we see below. Five of the Hunter decks brought to HLS were midrange, with Face Hunter going almost extinct and Hybrid being nowhere near its popularity during HouseCup #3 or the HTC Invitational.

This alone is an example of Hearthstone’s cyclical metagame. Patron Warrior and Zoo have been on the rise recently, both due to decks’ strengths and the popularity of Druid in tournaments. As these two decks rise, Handlock resurfaces as counter to both. As Handlock resurfaces, along comes the Midrange Hunter with proven track record against it, as well as other strong builds like Freeze Mage, Control Warrior and Midrange Zoo.

Speaking of cyclical meta, the rising popularity of Midrange Hunter is usually counteracted by Face Hunter getting back into popularity, and that particular SMORC deck often loses to Control and Patron Warriors. Do you see the pattern?



Warrior, king of HLS

After being thoroughly hated on during the previous LAN tournament, Warrior was happy to be back to an event where class bans are not allowed. And he got back with a bang. Garrosh was the second most played class in the tournament and the highest winning one among all. With the silly 61,5% over 24-15 record, Warrior showed why he was getting scratched off during HouseCup #3. To paraphrase Andrey “Reynad” Yanyuk, if you play Patron badly and still win, it’s a sign to Blizzard it needs a nerf.

Indeed, for a class to break the 60% win-rate barrier is rare and the last such instance I can remember is the 65% Mage win-rate during Gfinity Spring II where Jaina pulled off a 17-9 record. Whether or not Patron is in need of a nerf is a topic for another article but we also can’t take anything away from the control Warrior players, who also had success this weekend. Piling on, it seems, is not all that Garrosh has to offer.

Paladin recovers as the meta slows down

Earlier in the article, I talked about the rise of Midrange Hunter (five out of nine decks) and Handlock (eight out of ten decks), which meant that Paladin got a chance to shine. The state of the HLS meta brings me back to the days of the Deck Wars Season 2 finals and the Blizzcon Europe Qualifier where classes like Paladin and Priest were extremely popular.

Nevertheless, few players believed in Uther: Trump, Demigod and Lifecoach. If you thought they’d be silly to do so, look at the brackets again. Lifecoach and Trump finished top eight, and Demigod placed top four. The Vicious Syndicate player in particular showed what Paladin can do when it faces another slow deck like control Warrior and is played patiently and meticulously. It will take ages to finish the game but victory is what matters in the end. Add a couple of more heal cards and suddenly you start winning against Hunters as well.  

Thus, Paladin went up from being the worst class in HouseCup #3 with 5-15 to being the third best in HLS with 7-5. Not a huge pool of games, granted, but for Uther even the smallest of wins are a triumph.



Rogue and Druid inconsistency

Finally, what pro players have long been advocating has come true – Druid’s inconsistency brought it to an abysmal win-rate. Malfurion was the third most played class this weekend but out of the 31 games he played, he only won 10. That puts Druid at 32%, making it the second worst class win-rate wise.

This is certainly unexpected. During HouseCup #3, Druid was in fact the highest winning class if we disregard the Priest anomaly with 57% win-rate. Since Blackrock Mountain was released, it’s the most winning class in worldwide as well, up at 53%. Hearthstone analysts have always said that this is due to Druid’s ability to win any match-up if it ramps up early and HLS is kind of the example of what happens when Malfurion has a bad day.

What might seem as more shocking, but really isn’t, is the decline of Rogue to the second least played and the absolute worst performing class of the weekend. Once a terror of the conquest format, Valeera has slowly been losing her popularity outshined by the Patrons and was already sliding towards the bottom of the table during HouseCup #3. Now, she hit it, and hit it hard. Even with Face Hunter and Freeze Mage not hugely popular in the tournament, Rogue still only won three of its ten games. The small number stems from the fact that only Koyuki and Ostkaka were brave enough to have it in their line-up. Everybody else seemingly agreed that if they’re going to play draw and removal spells while collecting a combo piece, they better do it with Warrior. 

Fore more class stats from various tournaments, visit our stats page here.

For detailed analysis of the Viagame HouseCup #3 metagame, this is where you need to go.

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