GvG Meta Changes
A More Sticky Board. This is the concept that will govern much of your advanced GvG play. The number of minions in a typical draft that require 2+ hits to remove from the board, or that removes a minion and stays on the board, has more than doubled. This means that a new consideration, once an afterthought in the Arena, has now come to dominate high-level thinking in the game: # of attacks per turn. If you have 2 minions on the board and one removal in your hand, you have 3 possible attacks for the next turn. If your opponent plays enough minions/removal to absorb/initiate 4 attacks, then you will no longer have full board control the next turn. That’s a Harvest Golem and a Piloted Shredder, a Bomb Lobber and an Annoy-o-Tron. Heck, that’s two Razorfen Hunters. Even wonder why Muster for Battle and Impo-losion are such great cards despite more or less being properly valued mana-wise? It’s because they guarantee board presence the next turn. Many considerations about how to play your cards in anticipation of your next turn changes with the necessity of more attacks to control the board (leads to intelligent “over”-extending, higher value for small removal and pings, etc). It also plays into how you play your own cards, so that you can play on your opponent’s need to anticipate your board, and so you can actually get away with anti-tempo turns to set up super-sticky boards on future turns by saving certain cards to be played together on the same turn. Attacks needed was rarely a relevant concept in the Arena pre-GvG, but incredibly important now, and it piggy-backs on tempo to allow for quicker lethal and give more consistency to buffs (a staple in up-tempo decks even pre-GvG). When combined with taunts, which redirects the limited attacks you do have, it’s a deadly combination.
Faster Starts, Stronger Finishes. Everything snowballs!!!!! Curves are better now!!! Whoever doesn’t curve out loses!!! The first two are true statements about GvG. The third one is a huge exaggeration. The game has not fundamentally changed. Missing a drop was always a huge disadvantage, and it is no moreso now than before… unless you do not have the proper answers with initiative. GvG allows for a quicker push for lethal with the same fast starts as in pre-GvG, but these pushes are just as vulnerable to initiative from the control game of an opponent. Now more than ever, that Frostbolt or Darkbomb is probably better than an actual 3-drop. With the drop in consistency of drafting removals, large minions played in the late game on even boards are more powerful than ever. Large minions played late game on advantageous boards are game-ending. So, while large minions are a bit more situational now than they used to be, their powers are actually magnified compared to pre-GvG from a combination of scarcity of big drops and scarcity of large removals. This is of course, doubly true for large taunts (which removes the situational element and can be effectively played even on disadvantageous boards). The biggest mistake you can make in the GvG meta is to push all for small minions. That was a winning strategy in week 1 of GvG. It is a highly inconsistent strategy now without the proper cards offered. GvG magnified the effectiveness of extreme strategies on both ends of the spectrum, while shifting the median slightly to the more aggro side. It did not by any means destroy the control game. As per pre-GvG, it is better to go with your draft, than to force things in a particular direction from pick #1. Take stock of your 10, 11, 12 win opponents. They are still less than 50% comprised of aggressive decks. And thus, we establish the RPS meta of GvG. With more diversity comes more completely unwinnable games. The 12-win rate of top players will drop, and most likely the average win rates as well (although, that has a higher chance to even out once the RPS effect is properly accounted for by raising the floor of bad decks as well).
Yeti = Win. We always had Flamestrike, Truesilver, Eviscerate, and Swipe. Now, we also have Bomb Lobber, Flamecannon, Tinker’s and dramatic increased appearances of Warlocks & Paladins. The two classes that were once able to handle 5 health minions with ease (Warrior and Druid) have both dropped in popularity. So, the 5-health minions have become the new win condition. About two thirds of your games as a mid-ranged deck will be determined by who has more 5-health minions + large removals, if both players curve out. Similarly, 4-attack minions are also on the rise due to 3-drops having 4 health now, and the rise of Priests’ popularity. Together, these two effects mean that Yetis are even more dominant in the meta than they used to be, despite no longer being the best neutral common.
Mage. At the end of the day, no class has the flexibility of the Mage. It may be harder now to create that perfect Mage deck, and 12-wins is a lot more elusive with this class than pre-GvG, but the consistency of reaching 8/9 wins is still here, and that’s frankly not something you can say about any other class. The Mage’s ceiling has come down a bit because of its reliance on two overpowered cards (Fireball and Flamestrike) feelings the effects of the offering rate drop. But Flamecannon and Snowchugger fill the gap well for the tempo side, and the hero power’s ability to ping without losing health has never been more important in the mid/late game. I honestly don’t see a way for Mage to lose this spot, even in future expansions. That hero power really withstands the test of time. Every Mage has an automatic late game, and the threat of Fireballs and Flamestrikes force your opponents to continuously make lower-EV decisions that they would otherwise. Want your opponent to slow down? Just attack the face if you have a board. He’ll be too scared to do anything but start trading. Or, ping down / remove some large minions. He’ll be too scared of Flamestrike to play to his full potential. Just as with Naxx, the gap of Mage dominance is narrowing…. but it’s still there.
Hunter. I’ve been on the Hunter bandwagon since the early days of GvG, after seeing the effects of the GvG meta. The ability to end the game is exponentially greater for the Hunter than any other class. As a class that’s always just needed one good turn to win the game, the added consistency of the early game and the ability to come back onto the board with sticky minions, and the propensity for opponents to overextend (in need of those extra attacks) all play perfectly into the Hunter’s trap (figuratively speaking, Rexxar’s actual traps still suck besides Freezing). The fact that all beasts are must-removes further solidifies the Hunter’s advantages in a meta that’s short on attacks. When people think of the Hunter, they often think of a mindless face-Hunter, but that’s only one way to play this flexible class. You can watch our triple-commentary 12-win mid-ranged low-value Hunter run from two nights back here: http://youtu.be/ZopLDIN8gGw?t=1h20m58s. A ton of decisions here, anticipation, and generally outplaying the opponent. As a Hunter, you hit your opponent where it hurts the most, his options. By limiting your opponent’s options, even skilled players have no room to move. I’ve been a part of more 12-win runs with Hunter in the GvG meta (after first week of release) than any other class, by a longshot. While the Mage has the flexibility with its hero power, the Hunter has flexibility with its draft. The aggro-Hunter bailout is one of the most powerful drafting options. Finally, Glaivezooka. It is the best common card released in GvG. We had it top tier since before the release, and it’s more than lived up to expectations. Not a huge surprise. Give a weapon-less class in need of early game consistency a top-tier-earlygame weapon, while doubling as reach in the class with the most reach… a gamechanger.
Paladin. Widely hailed as the new GvG top tier class, with some going so far as to say it tops Mage. As with the Hunter, Paladin has certainly gotten more stable with the increase in early game curve cards, and one of the best 2-drops as a 2-drop in the game in the mini-bot. A Paladin’s game is also always better with a board, with so many game-winning buffs and increasingly tricky secrets to play around. Remember what we said about the meta needing more attacks? Each Paladin secret is effectively paying 1 mana for an extra attack absorption, due to inefficiency in your opponent’s play. This makes Paladin secrets some of the best tempo-cards in the entire game. It also has the heals necessary to thwart aggressive decks, which is a handy bonus in the GvG meta. But, where the Mage and the Hunter have flexibility, the Paladin has none. It suffers from the same drop in top class cards as the Mage, without the hero power to back it up. A Mage’s hero power is an attack with or without the board. A Paladin’s hero power is usually only an attack-absorption with the board. Because it struggles to return to the board, and generally cannot generate enough card advantage to last to the late game, a Paladin’s flexibility (a valuable trait in the GvG meta) is one of the lowest in the entire game. This makes each Paladin draft a dice roll, and each game a fairly predictable RPS match. If your opponent (say, a Rogue or Druid) takes your board from you early/mid game to even things up, you’ll lose. This is a high-ceiling, mid-floor class in GvG. Certainly strong, but not dominant.
Priest. Welcome to the new Rogue. GvG has pushed the game to the board in such a sticky fashion, that with the help of Velen’s Chosen, Priest has become the new Rogue. What does this mean? This means that you can effectively win/lose games based purely on your opening hand and first few draws, almost regardless of what your opponent plays. The Priest has the highest ceiling in all of GvG. Its class cards are almost all up-tempo, and it wins games period if it stays on the board with its many minion health buffs and heals. But, it still needs to draft those cards. Without drafting/drawing the necessary cards, Priests are even more dead in the water than they used to be since your opponent is also much more likely to curve out well and dominate the early board to snowball out of control. The old control-style Priest is now more difficult to pull off, but hardly impossible to draft for, which gives the class enough flexibility in its drafts to match the Rogue’s Sprint play in archetype diversity. Ultimately, this is boom or bust, and you’ll usually have a good idea of how far your run will go before the first game is even played. Don’t worry though, you have a much better chance of drafting a functional deck versus a non-functional one.
Druid. There is nothing special about the Druid in the Arena. There never was, and I assume there never will be. Much like the Mage, the Druid is in a very similar position with regard to the hero power and the flexibility of its cards. Swipe has become even more valuable (if that’s possible) in the new meta, and between the choose ones of robo cub, power of the wild, and druid of the claw, and the Druid’s signature wall of taunts, there’s still plenty here to hold up this rather neutral class. You’ll value beasts slightly higher, you’ll actually use the choose ones for their “alternate” ability more often, you’ll want an Innervate in your deck regardless of whether you need it for ramp, but otherwise, this is a class that hasn’t changed much. It is no better or worse for the GvG meta, because inherent in the design of the class is balance and therefore flexibility. As GvG shifts the meta into a more RPS game, the Druid’s flexibility allows it to have a greater range to shine. This class had its ceiling lifted, although the value of the new cards and the additional scarcity of Swipes and the Epics has dropped its draft consistency a bit. Ultimately, the Druid will never drop from or rise out of the middle tier in the Arena.
Rogue. There’s an interesting role reversal at play here with the Priest. The Rogue’s claim to fame has always been that it can effectively remove any board you put down in the early/mid game while picking up more and more tempo, and then either winning on a Sprint’s card advantage or a Sap/Assassinate/Assassin’s Blade’s push for lethal. With the much more sticky board, this strategy is far less secure, in the same way the Priest’s strategy of staying on the board and buffing its minions is far more secure. Even worse, its two class commons push the Rouge to use her face even more than before in a facedmg heavy meta (it was already at a near-breaking point) and those same two class cards also often get in the way of the necessity for pings in the GvG meta. A weapon can only be one attack, no matter how much damage it deals. The only bright spot here for the Rogue is that the faster GvG meta suits the Rogue’s removal options and helps her close in on lethal even faster. Overall, she’s gotten a bit more on-dimensional, a bit more predictable, but also a bit more powerful. RPS is in full effect here, which limits the upside of this class (barring insane drafts) far more than before.
Shaman. What hasn’t been said about the Shaman already. This is a prime example of what a meta can do to a class. The Shaman got fairly good GvG class cards, but the increase in flexibility is the opposite of the treatment Hunter got. While Hunters got better around the center, Shamans got better at one extreme, the aggro-side that was non-existent pre-GvG. So, rather than having a truly flexible draft, Shamans are forced to pick one path or the other and hope the cards fall in the right places. Overload is so punishing in the early/mid game due to the anti-ramp effect, and Lightning Storm is now seen in 50% less Shaman decks. Further, the additional stickiness of the opponent’s board (usually with small minions) ruins totems and 3-damage in the early game is no longer as control-ing as it used to be. The class is still capable of extremely high value control decks and now extremely fast aggro decks, but the mid-range, and thus the consistency, has suffered.
Warlock. The Warlock suffers from the same problem Priests have, getting on the board (Voidcaller vs Velen’s). Warlocks are rather powerless without the board, and their incredibly powerful hero power becomes worthless without the board because it hurts the hero AND anti-tempos 2 mana. Even when the Warlock has the board, it has no ways of keeping the board, unlike the Priest or the Paladin. There are no buffs here, no weapons, no 1-side mass removals, and every use of the hero power is still as anti-tempo and anti-survivability as it ever was, in an increasingly tempo/life-focused meta. Every Warlock game is a prayer up to the RNG gods for a fast 1-drop start (consistency of under 50% with 4 1-drops and aggressive mulligans) or a Voidcaller combo (even lower consistency even on turn 4, with 3 large demons), because without one of the two, the game is dead in the water. Further, board control will eventually dissolve before your card advantage from hero power can have an actual effect in the sticky board (or flappable board) meta. This severely limits the upside of the Warlock in this meta that even one of the best common class cards in GvG, the Floating Watcher cannot cure. It is a class of contradictions now in the Arena, that needs to rely on raw power to overwhelm its opponents. In the same way the additional damage pushed Rogue’s position in the meta, the same thing is happening with the Warlock. Instead of a way to control yourself for over-tempoing, the hero power has shifted to use only for late game, which limits the Warlock’s old pre-GvG flexibility. As with the Shaman, there is upside here with a great synergetic draft, but the bottom is almost as harsh.
Warrior. The Warrior’s calling card has always been that everything had initiative. You can generally play a more card-efficient version of the tempo game that Rogues play, with longer lasting power due to the hero power, but also less efficient removal for larger minions. As such, the stickiness of the board is more of a problem for the Warrior than even the Rogue, as the Warrior has no ping. The utter lack of usable class commons in the expansion did not help things as draft consistency also dropped. On top of all that, the stickiness doesn’t even benefit the Warrior as much as other classes, as it is mostly small things that stick, while the Warrior needs larger things to trigger its damaged minions synergies in Battle Rage and Execute. The Warrior suffers from the downsides of both the Priest and the Rogue, making it the least consistent class in the entire game to draft and play. Even the upside is limited by the new more intense RPS meta.
For comparison, my pre-GvG Class Tier List would have looked like: Mage | Paladin, Shaman (-2) | Druid, Rogue, Warrior (-2) | Hunter (+2), Priest (+2) | Warlock (+1)
Hope you guys enjoy the read! Let me know if you have any questions/comments.