Control Warrior. Midrange Hunter. Tempo Rogue. Token Druid. Flood Zoo. The decks in the upcoming HCT worlds tournament give some déjà vu. These archetypes have been around since Vanilla Hearthstone. Now, though many of the cards are different, the overall strategies and skeletons remain. But why have we seen a return to these old-school strategies? And what does it tell us about the state of the meta?
The Return of Aggro
Aside from a smattering of Warriors, a handful of Shamans and a few wild card value decks, most of the Worlds lists are aggressive. This is especially unusual when considering that previous tournaments were dominated by greedy combo options. The likes of Token Druid, Tempo Rogue, Zoolock and Beast Hunter will make up more than half of all decks. So why the resurgence of aggression?
One reason is the lack of efficient lifegain for many classes. Without Baku, SMOrcing does well against Warriors, and Shamans lost their Healing Rain. Moreover, Druid no longer threatens to Branching Paths. Beyond this, we’ve just seen the rotation of some of the most potent anti-token cards ever printed.
Where’s the Combo?
Mirroring the rise of aggro is the fall of combo. There are no OTK decks, and only a couple of highly synergistic midrange options. The late-game decks on offer tend to want to survive rather than build to some game-ending card sequence. Even the relatively popular Mecha’thun Warrior is nowhere to be found. What gives?
Part of the reason is simply lack of necessity. Without Death Knights and their infinite value, grinding the opponent out of cards is an increasingly viable option. Moreover, the loss of efficient survival tools means clunking up your deck with specific combo pieces is far riskier than it was. And with more aggro about, this risk is extreme. The few combo-esque decks we see often focus on putting down big taunts and minions as soon as possible.
Control the Board
Control decks are also looking far more traditional. Warrior plays very differently to the Odd variants of last year. Without the ridiculous armorgain of Baku, there will be far more pressure to consistently clear the board, as chip damage can quickly add up.
Meanwhile, Shaman is returning to its roots, with a incremental value-based gameplan. With Shudderwock as a value engine rather than an OTK, expect to see a far more cautious playstyle that seeks to draw out games all the way to fatigue.
Tempo and Value
All this is looking for a very traditional-looking tournament. Expect tempo and value to be the order of the day, with numerous aggressive races and a few aggro versus control beatdowns. It looks to be worth checking out, if only to give us a taste of the Hearthstone of several years ago.
Images courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment via hearthstone.gamepedia.com.
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