Doing Business On the Streets of Gadgetzan
by Jordan “TheJordude” Hong Tai
It's been just a month since the release of Hearthstone’s latest expansion, the Mean Streets of Gadgetzan (MSG) and we have already seen a huge impact in the meta on ladder and in tournaments from the new cards it has brought. Almost every class has enjoyed a new deck archetype and the older archetypes have either been rotated out of fashion, or have received strong support. In this two-part article, we will look over each class on how it was impacted from MSG and how strong it is in the meta with the current decklists. This week we will look at Druid, Warrior, Hunter, Mage, and Warlock. Next week we will look at Paladin, Shaman, Rogue, and Priest.
Druid, aside from Warrior, was one of the most popular classes to be played initially after the release of MSG. Popularized by streamers such as Dog, players were hyped to play the Jade Golem Miracle deck, which focused on ramping quickly and cycling through the deck with the help of Gadgetzan Auctioneer. The deck consistently finds ramp and when it starts chain summoning larger and larger jade golems, the deck seems unstoppable. However as time went on, many found that Jade Druid had problems dealing with both aggressive decks and Miracle Rogues, which are quite prevalent on ladder.
As a result, Druids have fallen out of the spotlight in the current meta. There is still hope for Druid fans though, as many have started to pick up the Kun Druid decks, which focuses on the combo of Aviana + Kun + Malygos Burst/C’thun. Similar to Jade Druid, Kun Druid ramps quickly and searches for its combo pieces for a huge swing turn, or an OTK which helps against the combo and Reno matchups.
Like Druid, Warrior was another one of the go-to classes after MSG’s release. Pirate Warrior was an obvious deck to try out with all the new pirate support in this expansion - it’s a very easy deck to build, and easy to play with its aggressive nature. The deck abused many players that were caught experimenting with cards and new deck ideas, and many found a fast climb up the ladder in the first week. Warrior has the best class cards for the Pirate archetype, having N’zoth’s First Mate and Bloodsail Cultist, in addition to it’s very powerful weapons being Fiery War Axe and Arcanite Reaper. These aggressive Warrior decks are just good at having an explosive start with early minions and weapons, and close games out early with pure early board control and burn damage. Although a lot of people are showing dissatisfaction on the power level of pirates, especially with the release of Patches the Pirate, it is nice to see one of the oldest archetypes of cards finally receiving competitive strength in the meta. Pirate Warrior and Dragon/Pirate Hybrid Warrior have seen the most success for the class, while Control Warrior variants have been phased out for now. With Miracle Rogue, Reno decks, and the occasional Jade Druid found on ladder, Control Warrior just hasn’t received much support other than Alley Armorsmith. It will be interesting to see if Control Warrior finds its way back into competitive play or if it will see a time of weakness like it has in the past - such as when the old Patron Warrior was the popular choice.
Hunter has been debatably the weakest class after the release of MSG. Before MSG, Hunter was gaining momentum with the strength of Cloaked Huntress, and I had expected Hunter to remain a stable class with powerful cards being printed such as Rat Pack and Dispatch Kodo. Although their support seemed strong on paper, in practice they have just underperformed against the other decks. Unfortunately, standard format Hunters no longer have Glaivezooka, their two-cost weapon which would allow them to support the whole Pirate archetype package. As Pirate decks consistently have a faster opening, Reno decks out value with heals and answers, and Control Warrior are phasing out, Hunter sees itself in an awkward position. Aggro Hunters are simply not as consistent and fast enough compared to Pirates, there are easy answers to the traps hunters set, and Midrange/Grimey Goons are just not impactful enough against the current meta. If the meta remains like this for the entire format, Hunter may remain a weak class, and what Hunter really needs in the next expansion is a one- or two-cost weapon so it can hop aboard the Pirate ship.
Mage has definitely been one of the less talked about classes in MSG. The set did not bring anything too exciting for the class, however we have been seeing a rise of Reno Mage, as the deck boasts a lot of utility to consistently control the game in both the aggro and control matchups. Reno Mage seemed to be the late boomer deck of the set and the deck is constantly evolving and changing as there is so cards to choose from based on the players preference. Freeze Mage expert Laughing insists that Freeze Mage is a top tier deck at the moment, however the deck is a lot trickier to play with how Pirate decks have such a fast start. This is probably a time where aggressive decks are the fastest it has been, and if you do not have a way to deal with early damage as a Freeze Mage, you just die before you can set anything up. Freeze Mage does have some upsides in this meta though, having very good matchups against Renolocks and Priests, and Control Warrior is almost nonexistent at the moment. Chongger and NaviOOT demonstrated this at the Malaysia Major where they took Freeze Mage to Top 8 and second place. Tempo Mage has also been a decent deck still, where APXVoid has been piloting the deck with a magnitude of success on ladder. Sjow also brought the deck to Seat Story Cup where he came in second with it. There aren’t any new cards, but adapting the deck to the meta with cards like Archmage Antonidas and Water Elementals has proven to be quite potent.
Before getting into the obvious, let’s talk about Zoo Warlock. The ever-so-popular archetype that has been around since the era of Reynad has appeared to have rotated out this format, receiving almost no support. This isn’t a new phenomenon, we have seen Zoo being a weak deck in the past around the same time that Control Warrior was weak, back when old Patron Warrior was around. Ironically, with all the new aggressive MSG cards, it is the control Renolock that has risen to power. The whole Reno Jackson archetype in general has gotten very powerful support with the release of Kazakus and niche minions such as Second-Rate Bruiser and Dirty Rat. Warlock in particular has benefitted the most, gaining more AoE clears in the form of Abyssal Enforcer and Felfire Potion. Warlock also has lifetap, which gives it the card draw it needs to find its one-of answers in the deck, an advantage that all other Reno classes lack. Although Renolock decklists will vary to some extent, a common factor is that most people have been playing the Leeroy-Jackson combo. This allows the Renolock to just play for controlling the board and building card advantage, and, when the time is right, go for a twenty-damage burst combo to end the game. At the moment Renolock just has so many tools and options that it can defeat any deck in the current meta as it has decent win rates across the board, and thus many players have hit #1 Legend with the deck like Asmodai and Reynad. Its biggest drawback at the moment is that it often needs to find an early Reno Jackson to be able to survive against the aggro decks, otherwise it will just die around turn 4-7.
Just going over these five classes, there is a lot to take in. Come back next week where we look over the remaining classes on this overview of the Mean Streets of Gadgetzan meta.
About the Author
Jordan Hong Tai, also known as "TheJordude", is a developing player for compLexity Gaming. For over a year he has enriched the coL.HS squad with his presence while becoming a fierce grinder on ladder and a threat in every collegiate competition. Apart from his business studies and the ladder grind, the youngster from Vancouver, Canada is a warrior in Open tournaments, a coach and the organizer and host of local tavern get-togethers. Monthly he delivers though-provoking pieces like for compLexity Gaming and other outlets. Follow him on:
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- Twitter: @coL_TheJordude