The Winter Playoffs are fast approaching and the meta has started to settle. The Monthly Master Cup was the last major competitive tournament to be played before playoffs. Let’s take a look at the January competitive meta and the decks most likely to show themselves in the next few weeks of playoffs.
14 of the 15 players in the Master Cup brought a Hunter decklist. Since the downfall of Druid, it has been a wide open field for Hunter to shine in competitive play. A lot of players have been experimenting with more aggressive versions of Hunter since there are a lot of aggressive decks to compete with in meta.
About half of the field was still rolling with the Deathrattle Hunter archetype. Some decks include no Rastakhan cards, while others have tried to make use of cards like Oondasta. Deathrattle Hunter is pretty consistent across most matchups, only sometimes struggling to beat out early aggression from some decks. Against control decks, it has a lot of staying power with its ability to create large boards and Deathrattle minions, as well as some large bursts of damage with Carnivorous Cube plus Play Dead combos.
Another popular archetype that was created thanks to Rastakhan Rumble cards was a Midrange Zul’Jin Hunter. It tries to utilize two forms of early game plans from Hunter. The first is using the minion based curve with one mana beasts and Crackling Razormaw, and the second is to play secrets and Lesser Emerald Spellstone. They then have to survive through the mid game or draw Deathstalker Rexxar, and try to finish off the game with the extremely powerful Battlecry from Zul’Jin.
The last popular Hunter decklist was a more minion oriented Midrange Hunter. They can take control off the board in the first few turns with Springpaw, Crackling Razormaw, and Candleshot. They can then hope to make a really big Scavenging Hyena or refill their hand with Master’s Call. Dire Frenzy is another way to create value with Master’s Call to draw cheap and large stat beasts.
The nerf to Odd Paladin didn’t necessarily affect the popularity of the Paladin class. Odd Paladin itself is still a popular and viable competitive deck. Players have found three major archetypes to use in competitive formats. It was the second most popular class in the Master Cup with 13 of 15 players bringing a list. One decklist used for aggression, one for midrange, and one for control.
Players have found Odd Paladin is still good at what it does, taking over the board in the first few turns. With the missing piece of Level Up!, its spot has been filled by Frostwolf Warlord. This card is a part of the basic set, but due to the number of units Odd Paladin can output, it is more often than not a very large threat on turn five.
The new go to deck for Paladin seems to be Even Paladin. Along with Odd Paladin, it doesn’t feature much in the way of Rastakhan cards, but it has powerful mid game plays. On turn four Corpsetaker is very powerful, into a turn six with the options of Sunkeeper Tarim, Spikeridged Steed, and sometimes Val’anyr. They can then look to finish off the game with value from The Lich King, Tirion Fordring, or an Equality plus Avenging Wrath turn.
The third Paladin that has been popularized thanks to the addition of Rastakhan cards is OTK Paladin. Cards like Time Out give Paladin extra turns to accumulate the Four Horsemen from Uther of the Ebon Blade. Crystalsmith Kangor and Shirvallah, the Tiger give the Paladin a lot of additional and cheap healing to outlast pressure from most decks.
The popularity of classes that were brought to Master Cup started to fall off after the first two. However, Rogue was still a clear third place with 10 of the 15 competitors bringing the class. Odd Rogue is a bit more limited in its options, with only two archetypes being represented here.
The first deck is the always popular Odd Rogue. Odd Rogue serves as one of the strongest aggressive decks across all classes. It’s Hero Power, combined with the great early game burst potential of Cold Bloods, Hench Clan Thugs, and Vicious Fledglings make it hard to beat.
It has room for tech inclusions like Voidripper and Captain Greenskin, and powerful mid game plays with Fungalmancer. When Odd Rogue starts to lose pressure it can destroy big targets with Vilespine Slayer, and dig deep for lethal combos with Myra’s Unstable Element.
The other deck we saw was Quest Rogue. Quest Rogue is not a very popular ladder deck, but certainly finds its way into the competitive meta. Despite being nerfed directly twice, and indirectly a third time, pros will swear by this deck. It performs amazingly well against control archetypes, but will struggle most of the time against aggro. It can get good draws to outlast aggressive matchups, and it’s hard to beat when it gets the Quest played.
The Rest of the Pack
Of the six remaining classes, only Warlock was brought by more than half of the field with 8 out of 15 players bringing the class. Most of the remaining classes definitely have viable competitive decks, but none of them are oppressively strong or fit certain archetype lineups.
In terms of control, players can bring classes like Priest, Druid, Warlock, and Warrior. Priest have two forms of control decks, a Dragon oriented one and Clone Priest. Dragon Control aims for the win with early clears, late board pressure and Mind Blast combos. Clone Priest will win the game with control until a late game burst. Druids mostly went for the Togwaggle Combo, and Warriors played the control game with Odd Warrior. Warlock of course has its Cubelock which is usually phased out by Evenlock.
For Midrange, Warlock and Shaman were there to fill in some gaps. Warlock has Evenlock, which can build really large threats in the mid game with Mountain Giants and Twilight Drakes. Shaman no longer has Shudderwock, so players looking to bring the class have switched over a Even Shaman. They can create large board states to compete with aggro decks and can win through value from Hagatha in the late game.
As for Mage, no players opted to bring a list for the Master Cup. It is the only class to not be represented there, but that’s not to say it doesn’t have some competitive viability. The decks it has to choose from are Big Spell Mage, Tempo Mage, and Odd Mage.
In the case of Odd and Big Spell Mage, if they can reach a point where they have Frost Lich Jaina online, they can easily win games. Mage tends to struggle in the early stages of games and can also just not find its way in certain matchups so it tends to be left out against much more consistent decks.
With Tempo Mage, there are just other aggressive decks that outclass the power of this deck. It has some highroll potential, but it’s just not a deck of choice for the pros.
Images courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment via the official Hearthstone website.