Monday, April 25, 2016

Bidding Farewell to Naxxramas and GVG - The Effect on Decks

As of today, the patches for the new Hearthstone expansion (Whispers of the Old Gods) and the beginning of the Standard Format have gone live on many devices, which means we are but a few hours away from Naxxramas and Goblins vs. Gnomes rotating out of Standard Format on Tuesday. The Classic/Basic card nerfs are live (R.I.P. Combo Druid), and now we can begin focusing on the new competitive format.

As mentioned in my most recent post, I took a look at all of the 12 or 13 decks currently being played on my account, which also represent a good cross-section of the top ladder meta decks, to see which ones were losing the most from this rotation. Although my conclusion on the Classic/Basic card nerfs was that the impact would be minimal on these top decks, that is not the case with the powerful sets rotating out of Standard Format this week.

Plus this was a good excuse to take one final look at exactly what superstar cards will not be all over ladder games anymore (except in Wild Format).

Another goal is to see which decks stand as the most likely to continue in close to their present form in the new Standard Format. With a few weeks of experimentation and brewing coming on the ladder, it can be advantageous to play a reliable known deck at times to climb the ladder as well.

Let's take a look first at the numbers, ranked from least to most:
  • Aggressive Shaman - 0 cards from Naxx, 3 cards from GVG (3 total), most notable Crackle
  • Freeze Mage - 2 cards from Naxx, 2 cards from GVG (4 total), most notable Mad Scientist
  • Midrange Druid(*) - 1 cards from Naxx, 3 cards from GVG (4 total), most notable Piloted Shredder
  • Control Warrior - 4 cards from Naxx, 1 card from GVG (5 total), most notable Death's Bite
  • Dragon Hunter - 4 cards from Naxx, 2 cards from GVG (6 total), most notable Glaivezooka
  • Combo Priest - 5 cards from Naxx, 1 cards from GVG (6 total), most notable Deathlord and Zombie Chow
  • Patron Warrior - 5 cards from Naxx, 2 cards from GVG (7 total), most notable Death's Bite and Unstable Ghoul
  • Dragon Priest - 4 cards from Naxx, 3 cards from GVG (7 total), most notable Velen's Chosen and Piloted Shredder
  • Reno Warlock - 3 cards from Naxx, 5 cards from GVG (8 total), most notable Dr. Boom and Healbot
  • Zoo Warlock - 5 cards from Naxx, 4 cards from GVG (9 total), most notable Nerubian Egg and Imp-losion
  • Raptor Rogue - 6 cards from Naxx, 3 cards from GVG (9 total), most notable Nerubian Egg and Piloted Shredder
  • Secret Paladin - 5 cards from Naxx, 9 cards from GVG (14 total), most notable Shielded Minibot and Muster for Battle
  • Midrange Paladin - 4 cards from Naxx, 10 cards from GVG (14 total), most notable Muster for Battle and Sludge Belcher
(*) For Midrange Druid, this was the only deck decimated by the Classic/Basic card nerfs, as it ran 2 Ancient of Lore, 2 Force of Nature, and 2 Keeper of the Grove. This deck does not exist anymore in the Standard Format as it used to be, despite the low Naxx/GVG rotation totals.

There's certainly a wide range of effects, as the Paladin decks will be completely rebuilt from scratch and the Warlock decks will need to slot in new tools for their diverse strategies, while Aggressive Shaman and Freeze Mage basically go through unchanged.  What this means is that while some classes which have dominated ladder like Paladin and Druid will need to be far different to top the Standard Format, there's a baseline of (mostly Tier 2 currently) decks which will continue to be a solid base for the ladder meta.

I strongly recommend keeping Aggressive Shaman (and/or Face Hunter, not listed above) and Freeze Mage in your repertoire moving forward in view of the information above. You should also continue to expect plenty of Warlock decks and Warrior decks as well. Dragon-based decks are also largely unchanged and may actually get better thanks to the rotation and some new cards in Whispers.

At a minimum, we have a starting place for those who don't want to jump in and explore the totally new cards and decks available with Whispers. Although I find such deck brewing to be fun, it's not for everyone.

The other way to look at this information is based on the cards lost. Here's a list of the cards lost from each set that appeared in these decks, including the number of decks out of 13 they appeared in:

  • Sludge Belcher - 6 decks
  • Haunted Creeper - 4 decks
  • Zombie Chow - 4 decks
  • Loatheb - 3 decks
  • Nerubian Egg - 2 decks
  • Death's Bite - 2 decks
  • Deathlord - 1 deck
  • Avenge - 1 deck
  • Mad Scientist - 1 deck
  • Shade of Naxxramas - 1 deck
  • Dark Cultist - 1 deck
  • Unstable Ghoul - 1 deck
  • TOTAL - 12 cards
Goblins vs. Gnomes
  • Dr. Boom - 7 decks
  • Piloted Shredder - 7 decks
  • Antique Healbot - 3 decks
  • Shielded Minibot - 2 decks
  • Muster for Battle - 2 decks
  • Coghammer - 2 decks
  • Darkbomb - 2 decks
  • Imp-losion - 2 decks
  • Shieldmaiden - 1 deck
  • Crackle - 1 deck
  • Whirling Zap-O-Matic - 1 deck
  • Glaivezooka - 1 deck
  • Velen's Chosen - 1 deck
  • Lightbomb - 1 deck
  • Quartermaster - 1 deck
  • TOTAL - 15 cards
Obviously the power level of that first adventure Naxx was off the charts, with 12 out of 30 cards seeing regular play. The top tier of GVG was also pretty thick, although Dr. Boom and Piloted Shredder outpace the rest by a wide margin.

Adios to all these fun and powerful cards, except in Wild Format where everything lives on forever. I'm looking forward to finding admittedly lesser-powered replacements which hopefully promote good deck building skills and good play when trying to compete at the highest rungs of the ladder.

It's been a blast GVG and Naxx, but it's time for you to go. See you in Arena!

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