Rastakhan Rumbles On. What’s Changed?
Early on in Rastakhan’s Rumble many champions and their decks swaggered into the ring but most limped out again, defeated. Blizzard felt the need to step in so today we reflect on some of their decisions.
You can't really fault them for their choices as the same decks as the last few expansions had remained in power. HSReplay tells us that Odd Paladin stood at a colossal 60.57% win rate, composing nearly 40% of all Paladin decks as a whole.
The statistics weren’t too different to a month ago, at the close of The Boomsday Project. Spell Hunter, Even Shaman and Odd Rogue are all still popular and doing extremely well. Now that Blizzard has presented us their answer, however, we need to look at two decks that may have been misjudged.
Odd Paladin Isn’t Actually That Great
Is Odd Paladin winning so many games because the deck is too strong, or is it because the decks populating ladder right now are weak? It’s likely that the ease of playing Odd Paladin has a big impact. It is easy to win games when the plays you must make each turn are generally obvious. In 2015, Face Hunter benefitted from the same mechanism.
It’s quite rare for the strongest decks – defined as the decks that have the highest proportion of wins to losses – to also be the most challenging to pilot. Of course what a “challenging” deck actually is can be debated, but this trend remains a point of criticism among the community.
A sizable majority of Hearthstone’s players do not make it past Rank 10. Especially since Hearthstone was released on mobile, people like to play decks that win games quickly and with minimal effort. Winning is fun and it is a goal many players view as all-or-nothing.
In a world where time is scarce and gaming is increasingly condensed into bite-size sessions, simple, predictable decks are overrepresented both in win rates and popularity. Odd Paladin, with its relentless churn of tokens and a deck built around supporting these tokens, fits the “Super OP Netdeck You Need To Play Right Now” criteria.
I don’t believe the deck is actually overpowered. As I’ve explained, its popularity is inflated thanks to its ease of use (and relatively low Arcane Dust cost – I never dreamed I’d see the day that Stormwind Champion and Raid Leader both feature in a Legend deck!).
So was this deck unfairly nerfed? We may never know but it is possible that it was just in the wrong place at the wrong time with an inflated winrate.
Paladin may be an outlier at 60% win-rate (incidentally, the same percentage that the strongest deck of all time, Undertaker Hunter, was at before it was crushed by the nerf hammer) but the real deck innovation is taking place in Rexxar’s camp. Rexxar was only getting stronger before the nerfs and managed to lurk through untouched.
Secret, Spell, Deathrattle, even Recruit Hunter decks were all in the top ten best decks. Hunter is being played by an unprecedented number of people. You might have noticed that every other Hero you see is Rexxar.
One of my predictions has borne out into reality, at least. Revenge of the Wild is doing very well. The average win-rate of decks that include it is 54.5%. It doesn’t quite “illustrate how the third expansion of the year is usually the strongest”.
In the Year of the Raven, the gradual combination of Odd/Even decks with previous expansions has been producing all the power. Baku and Genn have taken inter-expansion synergy to new heights (or depths, depending on how many ranks Odd Paladin players have cost you).
Nevertheless, the chieftain of the Amani trolls and champion of the Halazzi’s Lynxes, Zul’Jin, has propelled Hunter to a great spot in the meta. The class is surely in its best spot for many years. The sheer diversity of decks you can play and win games with is pretty much unprecedented – it’s rare to have so many competitive decks for just one class.
Yes, Spell Hunter has barely changed with Rastakhan’s Rumble, and some might argue that most of Hunter’s power comes from their buffed Death Knight, Deathstalker Rexxar. The Loa, Spirit of the Lynx, is also a little on the weak side but it boosts lesser-used cards such as the Quest, The Marsh Queen. Carnassa is back, baby.
Zul’Jin is a Yogg-Saron that you can plan for. The card pretty much speaks for itself: it’s a game-winning turn 10 finisher. Perhaps more interestingly, it looks like Blizzard is planning to release a new Hero card for one lucky class every expansion. We had Hagatha the Witch in Witchwood, Dr. Boom, Mad Genius in Boomsday Project, and now Zul’Jin. Who’s next?