The best Hearthstone Rise of Shadows decks so far

Hearthstone is finally fun again. Even when Rise of Shadows' honeymoon period inevitably wears off, I think we’ll be left with a meta that’s much more palatable than the OTK-combo-Death-Knight fiesta we endured before the Standard format rotated earlier this month. Despite still playing a decent amount in 2018, I think it's fair to say that the Year of the Raven ultimately disappointed. Between the absurd strength of the Death Knights and the juiced up hero powers of Genn Greymane and Baku The Mooneater, it felt like no matter what new cards Blizzard released, nothing could break the oppressive meta.

Thankfully, most of the worst offending cards are now gone—banished to Wild where Barnes Priest’s reign of terror will last 1,000 years. Here in the sunny uplit lands of Standard, Hearthstone is as fresh as it's ever been. Forgotten old cards are finally being rediscovered and put to use, and the tools provided by Rise of Shadows have augmented the Witchwood, Boomsday Project, and Rastakhan's Rumble sets nicely. We also haven't even seen that depressing back-to-basics Classic set regression that sometimes follows a major shakeup. Here, with the help of data from the essential HSReplay, is a snapshot of where each of the nine classes stand now.

Druid: Tokens dominate, but don’t sleep on heal 

Token Druid deckcode: AAECAZICAtaZA8mcAw5A/QL3A+YFxAbX7wLf+wL6hgO0kQPDlAPFlAPOlAPKnAPTnAMA  

Blessing of the Ancients

People had expected this spell to be too expensive for the effect, but the ability to use the buff twice thanks to the Twinspell keyword has proved incredibly powerful.

If I had to choose one deck that's most likely to receive a good, old-fashioned swing of the nerf bat, my money is on Token Druid. The top list on HSReplay is sitting with a massive 58 percent winrate, with key cards like Whispering Woods boosting your chances up to 60 when drawn. The strategy isn't especially different from previous incarnations of Token Druid—your goal is to fill the board quickly with cheap minion-generating spells and buffs, then find lethal with the massive burst potential of Savage Roar. The difference now is that Druid has additional tools like Acornbearer, Dreamway Guardians, and Blessing of the Ancients to reach the tipping point far more efficiently. Seriously, it can often feel like Malfurion has endless reload. 

I've begun to see some counters on ladder. Mech Paladins and Mech Hunters in particular have started running Missile Launcher, one of the forgotten cards from The Boomsday Project, which deals one damage to each character at the end of every turn. It can devastate an on-curve Wispering Woods. On the whole though, we once again have a dominant Druid deck, just in a slightly different shape from before rotation. The more things change, the more things stay the same.

If you fancy something a little slower, take a look at Heal Druid, which thrives on cloning Lucentbark over and over again in order to create the most frustrating board possible. HSReplay shows limited win-percentage luck for the archetype, but Hearthstone icons like Dog still think the idea has potential.

Hunter: Rexxar gets a robotic new look 

Mech Hunter deckcode: AAECAR8GrgaY8AKA8wKggAObhQPxlgMMtQOXCO/1ArT2Arn4AqCFA6KKA7CLA+aWA/KWA/mWA7acAwA=


Initially dismissed as a meme, and a clunky one at that, Oblivitron's synergy with Mechanical Whelp is fearsome in the new robo-flavored version of Deathrattle Hunter.

The end of The Year of the Raven was defined by the re-emergence of Hunter, and Deathstalker Rexxar's beastly shop of horrors. Hunter had the most powerful Death Knight in the game, and a truly devastating Spellstone that was eventually neutered to six Mana. It seemed likely that after those cards rotated, we'd see some sort of regression for the class as a whole. So far, that hasn't been the case.

Hunter currently holds the second-highest winrate of any class in Hearthstone, per HSReplay. The offenders will be familiar: Midrange Hunter is still efficient, and the addition of the spell-generating Shimmerfly boosts the winrate to 61 percent when mulliganed for. (That's higher than any other card in the list!) Spell Hunter has reconfigured itself into a combo deck with the addition of Jepetto Joybuzz, Malygos, and Vereesa Windrunner. It's hard to win when you're opponent cranks out an additional seven spell damage. But my favorite deck is the resurgence of Mech Hunter, which throws in a bunch of old Boomsday cards alongside Ursatron, Nine Lives, and the new legendary Oblivitron (which was largely slept on) to create an endless mass of sticky, annoying Deathrattle Mechs.

You can also take an even more aggro route by adding Boomaster Flark and other bomb-generation cards for a toxic board that threatens massive burst damage. Currently Mech Hunter has a nearly 70 percent winrate against those plodding Warriors on ladder, so if you’re sick of seeing Garrosh you know what to do. 

Warrior: The Doctor is very much in 

Bomb Warrior deck code: AAECAQcGyAO67ALN7wKS+AKggAOblAMMS/sBsgid8AKb8wKD+wKe+wKz/AL1gAOXlAOalAOSnwMA 

Clockwork Goblin

Not only does Clockwork Goblin have one of the most triggering voice lines—"Somebody order a bomb?"—it also combines disgustingly with Augmented Elekk to shuffle multiple explosives into your opponent's deck.

A long time ago, there was a card called Dr. Boom; a 7-Mana 7/7 neutral legendary that spawned two 1/1 Boom Bots. It was oppressively powerful, and a bona fide auto-include in practically every deck from aggro to control. In 2019, Blizzard decided to empower Warriors with a new Dr. Boom that's capable of summoning six of those Boom Bots, and single-handedly created a brand new archetype: Bomb Warrior. 

The addition of Wrenchcalibur and Clockwork Goblin has given Bomb Warrior the potential to deliver damage that previous control variants never had, and the board swing provided by Blastmaster Boom can carry games. According to HSReplay, the Bomb Warriors on ladder report a 60 percent-plus winrate against every single class in Hearthstone except Hunter. 

If that isn't your style, pivot back to old-school Control Warrior, where the new anti-fatigue legendary Archivist Elysiana is ready to help you take games looooooooong. When Elysiana hits the board, you immediately have a brand new deck to play with, which can extend matches out into hallucinogenic extremes. The pure Control list is currently crushing Rogues to the tune of 70 percent. Something to bear in mind if you’re sick of being Waggle Picked in the face.

Oh, and if you’re looking for something really spicy, the Warrior god Fibonacci recently hit top 100 with a ‘Big’ version of Warrior that uses Dimensional Ripper, The Boomship and The Boomreaver to create wave after wave of giant threats. Here’s his list, but approach with caution. You may not be able to pilot Warrior quite as immaculately as Fib can.

Rogue: Valeera pushes the tempo like never before 

Tempo Rogue deck code: AAECAaIHCLICyAOvBIoH3Qi0kQOQlwOSlwMLtAHtAu4GiAeGCcf4AtWMA4+XA/uaA/6aA4mbAwA=

Heistbaron Togwaggle

So far, Rogue has made the best use of the new Lackey cards (more of which will be introduced as the year rolls on). Togwaggle is particularly fun to play, with all his treasures offering potentially insane value.

I really wish Thief Rogue worked consistently. Blizzard has dedicated so many resources to try and get some sort of value-oriented Rogue off the ground, and the idea of running an engine built solely around other class' cards seemed pretty awesome. Alas, it is not meant to be, and pretty much everyone on ladder barring the ultra Timmys has abandoned the thief dream for good old-fashioned Tempo Rogue, which it turns out is really good at winning. 

The Tempo lists you'll find don't look too different from what you remember during the Odd Rogue era. Devastating early-game swings like Backstab and SI:7 Agent still have their place, and Raiding Party has distinguished itself as one of the strongest cards from Rastakhan's Rumble thanks to the arrival of better pirates and a killer weapon in the form of Waggle Pick. The other big additions are Heistbaron Togwaggle, and his uber-powerful treasures, as well as an abbreviated Thief Rogue package with Underbelly Fence and Hench-Clan Burglar. Some decks even opt to run Chef Nomi and Myra's Unstable Element as a way to ditch your deck cleanly and finish your opponent with one of the scariest instant boards in the game. 

Somewhat depressingly, the most successful pro-approved versions of Tempo Rogue are now cutting both Nomi and Togwaggle to focus on more of the less flashy but super powerful cards that help control the early game and apply finishing damage. But where’s the fun in that? 

Regardless of the exact flavour, one thing’s for sure is that Valeera has got Anduin’s number. Right now, Tempo Rogue has a 70 percent win-rate against Priest, and is posting similar stats versus Hunter and Mage. Seriously though, will there ever be a moment in Hearthstone history where Rogues aren't beating up on Priests?

Shaman: Murlocs are strong, control shows potential 

Murloc Shaman deck code: AAECAaoIBOAGkwmn7gKcmwMNxQPbA/kD/gPQB6cI4okD9ooDjJQDtZgDxpkD9JkDx50DAA== 

Underbelly Angler

Combined with cards like Scargil, Murloc Warleader, and Murloc Tidecaller, the potential to 'go off' with Underbelly Angler is very much real.

So this is surprising. When Blizzard unveiled Swampqueen Hagatha, and her ridiculous ability to create a token that has two spells attached as battlecries, I thought for sure Shaman would ascend as the new control king. (I think I must have been relying on Garrosh blowing himself up with all those bombs.) Shortly before the release of the Rise of Shadows, Blizzard revealed Walking Fountain, which is essentially a non-Legendary version of Al'Akir that also generates massive healing, and it felt like the fix was in. But so far, Control Shaman has been just okay. The lists tested by the pros remain a work-in-progress, and it feels like the potential may not be fully tapped this expansion. Instead, the best Shaman deck on ladder takes advantage of the Shaman's other new Legendary: Scargil.

Yes, Murloc Shaman reigns supreme with a 59 percent winrate. Scargil, which discounts all Murlocs in your hand to 1-Mana, is undeniably sick—but he’s not even the most important ingredient. That would be Underbelly Angler, which adds a random Murloc to your hand every time you play a Murloc. When Underbelly Angler emerges from your deck, the winrate immediately jumps to 61 percent, per HSReplay. It's ridiculous, and it also gives you the most one-sided matchup in Hearthstone right now. Murloc Shamans are beating Mages 70 percent of the time. If you want to play Shaman in the next few months, it’s time to get fishy.

Warlock: Yet another visit to the Zoo 

Warlock Zoo deck code: AAECAf0GBPIBqwaPggOXlwMNMNMB9QXZB7EIwgj2/QL6/gLchgPEiQPsjAOInQO1nwMA 

Arch-Villain Rafaam

Running out of value against a control deck? Slam the Arch-Villain and turn all the weenies in your hand into sweet legendaries. (Or, more likely, Millhouse Manastorm.)

Let's keep this one short. There is currently only one viable Warlock deck on ladder, in the same way that there's always been at least one viable Warlock deck on ladder. That, eternally, is Zoo. It comes with the same piloting techniques that it had back in 2014, when Andrey "Reynad" Yanyuk first dreamt up the deck: Play your stuff, use Life Tap for card advantage, and try to win by turn eight. There are some new wrinkles with Magic Carpet, which give your one-cost minions some extra juice. But the most notable addition is Arch-Villain Rafaam, who turns all the minions in your hand and deck into Legendaries. It gives Zoo a chance to contend in the mana-swollen late game, which has consistently been the archetype's weakness. 

So far the pros aren’t entirely sold on the necessity of running Rafaam, so if you don’t want to splash the dust on him try this alternative list by Wabeka, which was created in secret for the forthcoming HCT world finals. Beyond that, it's Zoo! You've played Zoo before. Don't overthink it.

Paladin: Sssh, it's a secret 

Secret Mech Paladin deck code: AAECAZ8FBvoGwP0C2P4C8f4CoIADlJoDDIwB3AOvB63yArT2Avz8AuH+ApGAA8yBA76YA46aA5CaAwA=

Sunreaver Spy

In a meta where controlling the early game is super important, being able to play a 3/4 on turn two is pretty good. 

Alright, let’s not lie. We're far from the shallows now. Alongside the remaining two classes, (we'll get to them), Paladin has the third lowest winrate in the game. Currently, the most successful deck on HSReplay is a weird blend of vintage Boomsday Mech synergy and the new Secret cards. You have… Kangor's Endless Army, Mechano-Eggs, Commander Rhysa, Sunreaver Spies, and a smattering of Secrets. The gameplan is to control the early game, slap some Magnetic upgrades on your sticky Mechs, and then bring the fat ones back with Kangor's. Sometimes you draw Prismatic Lens, which lets you swap the 1-Mana cost of a comparatively useless Secret with a much more important minion. (I've been on the other side of this, and it's a big mood when it happens.) 

Somehow this grab-bag nets a 57 percent winrate, with net-negative matchups against Shaman and Rogue. But it does beat Warrior according to the data. In fact, Swedish pro RDee went 15-0 against Garrosh with his take on the archetype. Not bad! Overall though, expect Uther to be sitting on the sidelines for this expansion, which I think we're all okay with, after a year of Odd and Even Paladin deck PTSD. 

Mage: Greed is good? 

Conjurer Mage decklist: AAECAf0EBMUEkAeggAOWmgMNigHeBfsGigfhB40Izu8Ct/ECw/gC4vgC0okDg5YDoJsDAA==

Conjurer's Calling

There aren't many 12-Mana cards in Hearthstone, so when you cast Conjurer's Calling on Mountain Giant it will summon itself or the Priest card Grave Horror—which is a 7/8 with Taunt.

Though Mage experts like Apxvoid will doubtless eventually find a version of Tempo Mage that works, for now the class has gone back to its roots as a slow, plodding value deck thanks to the summoning powers of Khadgar, Astromancer, and the Power of Creation. Your goal is to stick a discounted Mountain Giant on the board, drop Khadgar, and then hit it with Conjurer's Calling, giving you four random 12-drops. The following turn you point those 12-drops to your opponent's face, and win the game.

All of that sounds great on paper, but right now you're looking at a winrate of around 53 percent. Conjurer Mage is a great idea, and it does punish Warrior, but it takes so long to get off the ground that by the time you can play your big cards, you're probably staring down a second Savage Roar. (The list currently has a 40 percent winrate against Druid, per HSReplay. It's never great to tank against one of the most rampant decks on ladder.) With a few more anti-aggro cards, maybe Khadgar will have his moment. Until then, avoid the trees. 

Priest: Pull up to my dumpster, baby 

Resurrection Priest deck code: AAECAa0GCtwB0wrXCr3zAtD+AqCAA4KUA4OUA9aZA5ObAwr4AuUE0QryDPLxAvv+ApeHA9iJA5ibA5mbAwA=

Mass Resurrection

Though clearly a powerful effect, without the likes of Shadow Visions, Shadow Essence and Professor Oakheart in Standard, Resurrection Priest is a shadow of itself. Good!

Welcome back to the Shit Tier, Priest mains! It's been a long journey since the halcyon days of Kobolds and Catacombs, and the Raza/Anduin machine gun combo, but right now Priest sits firmly in the basement with a 44.5 percent total winrate. That is… extremely low! Pro players have tried to take advantage of the new Silence synergies without much success, but there have been some signs of life with the Resurrect archetype

Essentially, you plug in the new Mass Resurrection spell to bring back three minions from the graveyard, which pairs reasonably well with Damaged Stegotrons, Mosh'Ogg Enforcers, and Witchwood Grizzlies. Unfortunately that is such a late-game strategy that Resurrect Priest suffers greatly against Hunter, Shaman, Rogue and Druid. In that sense, it has a lot in common with the weaknesses of Conjurer Mage. A few more anti-aggro tools, and we might have something. Until then, Priest gonna Priest.

However, if you do want to watch some heal-your-own-face action, tune into Zetalot's stream. That man refuses to let Anduin go, no matter what's happening in the meta. And if digital card games have taught us nothing else, it’s that one man’s suffering is Twitch chat’s gravy.

Breaking news: Might Chef Nomi Miracle Priest actually be a thing now? Call Brode and tell him we’ve finally found the unicorn.

Luke Winkie
Contributing Writer

Luke Winkie is a freelance journalist and contributor to many publications, including PC Gamer, The New York Times, Gawker, Slate, and Mel Magazine. In between bouts of writing about Hearthstone, World of Warcraft and Twitch culture here on PC Gamer, Luke also publishes the newsletter On Posting. As a self-described "chronic poster," Luke has "spent hours deep-scrolling through surreptitious Likes tabs to uncover the root of intra-publication beef and broken down quote-tweet animosity like it’s Super Bowl tape." When he graduated from journalism school, he had no idea how bad it was going to get.