There are three different stages to building a deck. The first of those stages is the opening, when you try to just put something together that makes sense and can (kinda) win games. The second phase is when your deck actually starts to come together, and the third is where it wins enough against enough decks to be legend caliber. I bring this up, because we are currently between the first and second phase. While the first iteration of this deck had a hot start, it began to slowly sputter out. That tends to happen with a lot when building a deck from scratch. And, instead of being hopelessly discouraged, I immediately went back to the drawing board.
When playing or building a new deck you have to be hyper aware of each game. That does mean you want to zone out when playing with something more refined, but it does mean you can be more relaxed. Building a deck is a long process. While the initial construction is quick, refining it is not easy. You need to look at every card you play and see how important it is. Does it help? How much? In what matchups? What role does it play and is it necessary? Could it be something else? Those are key questions you need to be constantly asking yourself during the early stages of the game. While the first version of this list seemed to have a lot of “must keep” cards, they weren’t performing anywhere close to as well as I wanted. This second try, which has helped me slowly move up the ladder, is a lot more refined. While its still not there yet, it serves as a good template, and will also act as a great learning tool for the days to come.
Where We Are Now
As I discussed last week, there are a lot of different choices and card options that could go into this deck. However, I underestimated just how many choices there were. I have been constantly tweaking the mechs in this deck, bouncing around from card to card trying to come up with the best balance. A lot of that has to with the abilities, but a lot of it also has to do with the curve as well. In the last episode I discussed the importance of being able to start strong, which is why Harvest Golem was one of the first cards that made it into the list. What I didn’t know was that starting strong wasn’t just important, it was absolutely essential.
Decks like this one, that steadily build off of their minions, need to have their minions to win. That may seem very self explanatory, but it actually much harder to see than you think. I found myself getting absolutely obliterated by decks like Druid, Paladin and Warlock when I wasn’t able to get a minion down before them. If I had the coin and a two drop I would often be fine, building my momentum to a place they just couldn’t handle. The problem was, without those tools I would suddenly be behind on board and I could never play off of my mech synergy because they would just kill everything that came down. If I could keep those early mechs I would win more often than not, but the ones I was playing were having a lot of trouble sticking around. I wanted to change that, and I think I have. This new list is focused on keeping mechs on board as much as possible, and it is slanted towards mech-synergy much more than the last iteration.
This section will help to explain why certain cards are in the list, what I think about them, and how they’ve performed so far.
Hello! Hello! Hello! This was one of my most recent additions to the deck, and I really should have seen it sooner. I am not sure why I ignored the tron for so long (I even mentioned it in my last writeup) but for whatever reason I thought it wasn’t going to be good enough to make the cut. Oh, how wrong I was. Going back to the idea of a strong curve, you need to have things that can stick around to make a deck like this work. Of course that is the point of Hearthstone, but so many different cards in this deck need mechs to trigger. For instance, playing a lone Upgraded Repair Bot is just playing a 5/5 for 5. Not only is that completely average, but it has zero impact on the board. Yet, when you get that extra four health bonus, the card is incredible.
Annoy-o-tron made the cut because of how sticky the divine shield makes it. Yes, your opponents have to go through this card in order to get to you (which means it is often going to die very early on), but that will usually take two turns, giving you ample time to use your mech buffs. The other reason this card is good is because of how strong it can be against for triggering both Velen’s Chosen and Tinkertown Technician. Each of those cards are essential three drops that are almost dead without something coming before them. Anything that trades and lives is strong in my book. Anything that does that but is also a mech fills that gap perfectly.
A card I mentioned last time, Tinkertown Technician is a very interesting card that builds off of the “mechs matter” idea. The other obvious inclusion it is currently battling with is Spider Tank. The tank is a very similar three drop, but one that happens to be a mech. While there are many reasons to run the tank, for now I like technician better. The reason is that there is currently a very large difference between four and three attack, especially in the early stages of the game. Three damage can deal with a lot of things, but the extra attack gives you better trades, enables you to start out faster and plays much more of a threat. Not to mention, it also gives you a spare part, which has come in handy more than a few times.
Like so many others minions in this list, this card has the downside of needing a mech to be played for it to have any effect. While a 3/3 on turn three is nowhere near as bad as as a 5/5 on five, it still feels very weak. However, the more I tweak the deck, the more I feel like I have enough early mechs. If the goal is to play mechs, then I am building the list in a way that sticks to that goal. Half measures don’t really work in Hearthstone (something I learned very well in last month’s Brewmaster), which means you need to pick something and stick to it. If your plan is to play Hobgoblin, then put in your one cost minions. If you want taunt Warrior, play taunts, don’t play control with a few extra cards. I want this deck to be a mech deck, and for right now that means it needs to operate on mechs. Tinkertown Technician may not be the best card in the game, but it fits my theme and plays a very pivotal role during the early turns.
Piloted Sky Golem
I said last week that Piloted Sky Golem was probably going to find its way into this list, and I was right. Clockwork Knight was a very strong card, but it made the deck a little too mech dependent. That is still a weakness I find myself grappling with, so I am trying to toe the line. I want to have the activators while also actively attempting to play mechs that don’t require triggers. That is where the sky golem comes in. Once upon a time this was the six drop powerhouse in the game. It overshadowed the once-great Cairne Bloodhoof and took a slot in midrange decks everywhere. A lot of time has passed since then, but this six damage mech still packs one heck of a punch, trades with just about anything, and also does a nice job of ruining the dreams of control players everywhere.
A big problem I realized early on was how much late game this deck lacked. Not having a ton of late cards is fine for most decks, and almost all midrange builds only have a finisher or two. However, those decks still need to be able to scale up. Drawing two drops early on is great, but topdecking them on turn twelve can straight up lead to losses. Even things like Zoo and Tempo Mage have their finishers as ways to offset their weaker curve. I chose to use the sky golem because it is a mech that comes down on turn six and instantly threatens most minions in the game. In addition, the ability is very nice and allows you to keep board presence against most slower decks. The four health does mean it is going to die a lot, but there are a lot of solid four drops that you would love to have down. It is all about keeping bodies on the board, and there is truly no mech that does it quite like this card.
Dr. Boom? But, Joseph, you might say, I already thought we had a finisher. While that is true (and trust me when I say that Sneed’s Old Shredder is not going anywhere) we needed a little extra power. Though I don’t want to make this list too top heavy, it did need some more threats. I have already discussed the possible “big mechs”, and doctor may very well be the strongest one around. While not a mech himself, the two Boom Bots he summons both are, and they are very sticky. Why? Because the turn after the doctor comes down your opponent is going to spend both time and resources killing him. That means the boom bots will often live until your next turn. While a lot more subtle than something like Annoy-o-Tron, the threat of the doctor makes it so you will often have a mech down the turn after he is killed. This gives you just an extra way to trigger your late game draws.
I will admit I do not like having a Big Game Hunter target in this deck. However, that is the price you pay when trying to search for a large finisher. Sneed’s is still probably better than the doctor for what this deck is attempting to do, but they both serve entirely different purposes. While the shredder is specifically in this list to handle control, the doctor is to help smooth out your curve and give your late game mechs some extra triggers. As always, you typically want to try and play the seven drop whenever possible. Though, that being said, there is a little bit more to him here because of the whole “mechs matter” thing. If you find yourself in the late game with a bunch of mechs that you need to trigger, try and save him for an empty or mostly-cleared board to get the most value out of the Boom Bots.
These are the four matchups that made up almost all of my games in my climb. I want to focus on how you need to adapt to the big decks you are seeing, so I’m not going to bother with fringe lists.
Uther has had a rough month. LOE has brought a lot of innovation to the game, and that innovation has largely put Secret Paladin on the back burner. It is still a strong and popular list, it is just nowhere near as common as it once was. My early inclination tells me that is good news because of how unpredictable this matchup is. Secret Paladin is usually a beat down in one way or another. If they get rolling you will never be able to comeback. Conversely, if you cement the early board the game is just about over. Paladin, just like this one, is a deck that thrives on having minions. If you clear out their board they often will not be able to effectively set up their buffs or secrets. For that reason, try to play as much tempo as you can here, clearing out their board while scaling up your threats.
The way you lose this matchup is by not respecting their secrets. You have to trigger them, but you get to control when and how. While Redemption can be annoying, the only one that actually matters is Avenge. Not only does it put a threat down onto the board, but often it buffs a Silver Hand Recruit which gives it four attack and makes it untouchable to any of your removal spells. The most common way to deal with Avenge is to either put it one of their large minions (Mysterious Challenger) and then use a removal spell, or make it trigger on a small minion and then trade. To make that easy, always assume the secret they have up is Avenge. That way, if it something less impactful, you can easily deal with it. You just don’t want to get caught off guard.
Face, midrange, hybrid. Take your pick. Hunter is easily the most random class in the game due to how many versions there are, and how many different cards can be played in those versions. I have seen Dr. Boom in face, Bear Trap in aggro and Leper Gnome in midrange. All that Hunter cares about is damage, and they don’t really have a set way to make that happen. To handle that versatility, you want to assume they are Face and then look for certain key cards that identify if they are something different. For instance, Piloted Shredder usually hints at midrange and Worgen Infiltrator hints at aggro. This will not allow you to take care of your health, but it will also enable you to know what secrets to play around.
Out of the three types of Hunter, Face is by far the most difficult. The inclusion of Annoy-o-Tron has really helped out a lot, but it is not always enough. Ironbeak Owl is a very popular card, and Hunter’s burst can just go above it. This is a match where you really need to get as much out of your hero power as possible. Most of Hunter’s damage is impossible to interact with, which means you need to keep your life total as high as possible. In addition, try to be aggressive when you can. Hunter is a deck that will slowly wear you down if you try and get reactive. Instead, once you get board, you need to go face and put some pressure on them. That does not mean you want to not clear their minion in favor of damage (always get rid of beasts) but it does mean that if you have an opportunity to hit them or push for lethal, you should.
Aggro Druid was extremely popular on ladder for a quick minute, but that push has largely shifted back to the midrange side of things. Druid is as popular as ever, and I have been getting comboed down with the rest of them. This is a match that falls greatly into your favor. Outside of an early Innervate, Druid has to play a fair game, trading minions for minions. Because of that, Malfurion has never been good at dealing with midrange decks. You simply have too many threats, which means they are most often going to be on the back foot. Druid is not a class that enjoys being behind, because they have to spend turns removing rather than adding to the board. It also means they will commonly be forced to use their combo to trade. Once they do that, they have a very hard time killing you.
The combo is the only real way Druid can beat you. To prevent that from happening you want to continuously clear their board and take care of your health. While you do not to be as active with your hero power as when facing Hunter, always stay above fourteen (or 15 if they played Emperor Thaurissan). As a Priest, the card you want to watch out the most for is Sylvanas Windrunner. You have no silences, and no real way to answer her without trading. If you can trade her with your board you should, and if you can’t, try and play as many small minions as possible. Though it is rare, you should always have Ancient of War (which is just about impossible to get through) on your mind. If you can, keep a Shadow Word: Death in your hand just in case the massive taunts joins the fight.
The deck I was going to cover right before it blew up. I knew Deathrattle Rogue was going to be strong, but I never thought it was going to be popular. Not only is it popular, it is one of my most common matchups these days. The bad news is, Rogue is very strong and has one of the best openings in the game. Almost all of their minions have to be killed twice, which means trading is very frustrating. They also have a good swath of removal spells to back up all of their cards, making them very effective at grabbing board once they have lost it. Now, what’s the good news? The good news is that this is probably your easiest matchup.
I am not sure how many Deathrattle Rogues I have lost to so far, but I am sure I could count the number on one hand. The reason is that we just have more powerful threats than they do. When you strip away all of their fancy abilities, these decks are very similar. However, we just have more 5/5’s and 6/4’s than they do. That means the longer the game goes the better chance you have of winning because you can slowly wear them down. Just like Midrange Druid, Deathrattle Rogue lacks AOE and cannot fight large hoards of monsters. They have more ways of getting board presence than Druid, but you will win this game by simply going over the top. The only card you need to watch out for is Sap, which can ruin a Velen’s Chosen if you aren’t careful.
Entering phase two is not a clean process. Deck building can be quite messy, and it is a process that takes a lot of refining. Even as I write this there are many cards still moving through my head. I am not sure what the more refined version of this list will look like next week, but I am sure it will be leaner and even more focused than it is now. Thing eventually click, sometimes it just takes a little longer than you would like. However, that’s for me to figure out. Thanks for tuning in, let me know what you think and, until next week, may you always curve out perfectly.