Metagame Churning and the Data Reaper Report
It's widely accepted in the community that Un'Goro has been one of the best expansions to date. Which generally translates to the metagame has been diverse and dynamic. Now while Blizzard certainly deserves credit for getting the balance right, Vicious Syndicate and their consistent data plays a big part in the churning and overall health of the metagame.
This discussion came up recently on a Magic podcast where they were debating whether or not metagame data helped or hurt a constructed environment. In MTG data is held back by the devs such that most resources can only report how the archetype's breakdown in the "winner's metagame". One of the hosts was arguing that, given more information on the format, everyone would realize what the best deck was and gravitate towards it. The other host argued in favor of more data and cited the Data Reaper Report as being healthy for the Hearthstone metagame.
Host two — reigning Pro Tour champion Gerry Thompson — claimed that the Data Reaper Report helped move the metagame by bringing decks which were quietly doing well to the forefront. On this point, and in Hearthstone especially, I agree.
The first supporting factor here is admittedly anecdotal. That said, if you ever want to play mirror matches play the Data Reaper's top deck on the day it is announced. The most dramatic example of this occurred early in Un'Goro's life cycle when Paladin was still considered to be a bottom tier class. That is, of course, until the Data Reaper Report dropped and showed that Murloc Paladin and Midrange Paladin were dominating most matchups. In the next report, Paladin had shot up in representation; but if you had laddered at all, you already knew that.
The major benefit brought by the Data Reaper Reports — beyond informing conversations — is that it keeps the metagame fresh between expansions. The increased access to information gives players a better idea of how to combat the meta and what to try next. Furthermore, the recommendations and Meta Breaker sections also stir the pot while encouraging innovation from players. In the absence of this resource, it is not impossible to imagine a world where nobody found Murloc Paladin because they remained convinced that Pirate Warrior was the best deck. For a significant metagame shift to happen, people need to know about it.
Tying into how the Data Reaper Reports propagates information is the fact that Hearthstone enables an accelerated metagame. Unlike Magic or other paper card games, Hearthstone players generally have the tools available to build multiple top decks. To briefly address any Magic players, while some players will have access to multiple decks it is less likely at the FNM-PPTQ level than it is say for a Hearthstone player around Rank 7. So in a world where the barrier to switch decks does not require trading physical cards, a metagame can be more dynamic and quickly adjust and readjust to new information and trends.
Finally though, and despite all of Vicious Syndicate's data, we do need to shout out Blizzard for making a home run of an expansion. After all, there would not be much metagame churning if the top deck every week was simply Shaman Tier.
Check here for the latest Data Reaper Report!