Hey guys, if you’re just tuning in for the first time you should check out the first two installments of this month’s Brewmaster to get caught up to speed on the series.
Time is a fickle thing. It is an ever-present entity. Something that constantly shifts and bends the world as it goes. And, it has a particularly large effect on Hearthstone. Not only does it constantly move decks in and out of the spotlight, but it also decides what’s popular, what’s good, and what controls the day. However, sometimes, if you try hard enough, you can stand outside of that constant shift. It is not easy, but if you create a solid deck that can fight against all the other decks you will face, you can be a constant. This is because you are able to react and play no matter which ways the sands shift. Very few decks have ever been able to become constants (Control Warrior and Face Hunter come to mind) but we are not here to discuss longevity, we are here to discuss a single season.
It is week three of The Brewmaster, which means there is only one episode left before Mech Priest comes to a close. However, in my brief time on the ladder this year (getting more and more muddled by the holidays) I think I have built a list that may well be a constant. I am not saying that I have created the next Miracle Rogue, but this game (and this column) is not about creating something you are going to play month after month. It is about creating something to get to legend. That drive to legend is most often, especially for creators, a one time task. While I failed at that task last month, the tides may be splashing in a new direction. Remember, while time is something that usually brings destruction, with enough patience, it can also create.
Where We Are Now
I honestly did not expect this list to perform as well as it has. Building a new deck is never an easy process, but it does feel nice when you manage to win games on your first try. As I have discussed in past articles, there are four main milestones on the hunt to legend. The first is getting to rank ten, the second rank five, then three and then, of course, the final push. When making a deck from scratch, there are certain places that your deck is going to be during each phase. Ten is when you start to figure yourself out, five is when the deck is real, three means you have a winner, and the final push is usually just a combination of skill and sheer will. Five has already happened, and that means this deck is just about ready to strive for orange. However, there are still two more milestones to get to before I can call this month a success.
As you will notice, there has been only one card change from the last deck to this one. That was the switch from Clockwork Knight to Sylvanas Windrunner. Clockwork Knight was a good card, and had a specific role, but as the deck evolved it became less and less necessary. Controlling the board, which is what the knight did, was not the problem, the problem was fighting through heavy control or decks with a constant string of large threats. In addition, I often found that I would lose to Priest. Enter the windrunner. Not only does she give control deck nightmares, but she gives Priest fits and combos really nicely with both Vol’jin (who can steal her health) and Shadow Word: Death.
Something you would do well to remember is, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. Anytime you go on a huge streak it usually means your deck is a good one. At the very least, it means it is something worth looking into. When I started winning with this list, I knew the core was solid. As such, I didn’t want to try and shake the tree. Rather, I just want to see how it continues to perform at the high ranks. There is a chance that I could hit a wall (as often happens once you get into the gold) but it is always better to cross that bridge when you come to it rather than planning for something that may not happen. Though this entire series is about brewing, you also don’t want to over-brew. That is a problem that can make people dismiss or overlook some of their better ideas. If something works, keep riding it out as long as you can.
Last week we covered some popular matchups, but I wanted to go over some others I have been seeing a lot of.
Warlock was dead and Grim Patron killed it. However, when the dwarf died, Gul’dan decided to rise from his long slumber. Zoo has become incredibly popular these days, and is something you want to know how to fight. In fact, anytime you face off against Warlock, assume they are going to hit you with the swarms.
Zoo was once an aggressive/tempo deck. While it is still tempo, Zoo now lives in a very strange space. It is a swarm deck that also has a large amount of big minions. While you are going to spend most of your resources battling their early aggression and board control, you have to be ready for their finishers, because that is where the game is won or lost. Doomguard is one of the scariest minions around, but a lot of decks these days also run Dr. Boom and Sea Giant. Those two are very large problems to deal with since they will often eat multiple minions before they go down. Always hold onto Shadow Word: Death and Vol’jin for those threats.
The plan here is the same that it has always been, don’t let them have minions. Zoo is a deck that needs minions to play tempo as well as to deal finishing damage. Doomguard is their only source of charge, and they will often falter with their final push if they have nothing to buff. For this reason, this is a game where your deathrattle minions really shine. Harvest Golem and Piloted Shredder both do an amazing job at locking down the early game, while Piloted Sky Golem and Sneed’s Old Shredder just crush any of their finishers. Get any of those cards down as soon as you can or if you have a window.
Maybe it is due to the huge influx of aggro, or maybe it is because of the new tools at their disposal, but Dragon Priest has come roaring back. At one point between rank six and seven I played eight Priests in a row, which is when I knew I needed to add Sylvanas to the deck. Remember, adaptation (even one card) can be the difference between moving up ranks and staying stagnant. Dragon Priest has always been a very good deck, and it is especially tricky for board-centric lists such as this one. A lot of their cards are extremely hard to remove. Not only that, but they have taunt, which means you also cannot simply ignore the board and go face if you fall behind. Twilight Guardian is by far the hardest minion to beat, and you really need to come out of the gates hard to be able to beat the four drop. For this reason, mulliganing for an early curve here is perhaps more important than any other match.
You are going to beat Priest in the middle turns of the game. Anduin is really good at taking out a minion or two, but he does not do well against a constant string of big threats. That gets even worse when those threats are shredders that resist AOE. Your plan here is to just keep asking questions until they run out of answers. Also note that they need to have Entomb to deal with Sylvanas Windrunner, otherwise they are going to lose their board. Vol’jin is a fantastic way to deal with their high health minions. However, though a great tempo play, you should save the troll for Ysera if the game is going long. When it comes to your finishers, Piloted Sky Golem usually locks down a board, and Sneed’s Old Shredder is incredibly strong. Just make sure their Sylvanas is gone before slamming it down.
I was wondering where the Aggro Druid’s were hiding. Turns out it was rank 5. I don’t know how many of these Druids I have faced, but it has been a lot. As you move up the ladder you want to expect a lot of aggro decks at ranks 5-3. Those die down after that, but you need to be ready for the initial push. What makes Aggro Druid odd is that it is not capable of a lot of hand damage. Yes, they have the Force/Roar combo, but that comes down on turn nine. That gives you a slight edge because if they cannot get board, they really have no way of winning (unlike Shaman and Hunter who both have a lot of burn at their disposal). You want to play this deck just like Zoo. Clear anything that comes down, and kill every minion to make sure they don’t have access to sudden Savage Roar damage. If you can do that, your hero power should be able to carry you through the later turns.
Turn five is a big shift in this game because it is where they can either Innervate into Dr. Boom or play Fel Reaver. You absolutely cannot afford to take a hit from either of those minions, which means you want to have a removal spell in hand or a strong board presence. If you don’t, the game is almost always lost, and if you do you will usually be in the driver’s seat. You can prepare for turn five by being as proactive as possible. Always play minions down whenever you can, even if you cannot get immediately value out of them. Skipping a turn is simply not an option against Aggro Druid due to the way they build off of board control.
I will forever curse Tempostorm’s name. There are countless reasons for that, but the latest reason is this deck. Is Aggro Shaman tier one? Absolutely not. However, it is good and it is very hard to deal with. There are three problem cards you have to watch out for here. Those are Feral Spirit, Totem Golem and Tunnel Trogg. Trogg and Golem are both very tricky because they are very hard to remove, can clear out your board and supply large amounts of damage when unchecked. Feral Spirit is strong because it puts down two hard-to-remove minions that supply four damage while also keeping their other minions safe. For all of these reasons, you never want to be afraid to clear. Shaman has a lot of burst, and you need to protect yourself. Even if you need to use Shadow Word: Death on a buffed Tunnel Trogg or Vol’jin on a 2/3 wolf, get their minions off of the board. Value is not as important as staying alive.
Once you move past turn five, you need to make the most out of your hero power. Unlike Aggro Druid, who makes most of its money from strong and sticky minions, Aggro Shaman is powerful due to their insane amount of burn. Lightning Bolt, Doomhammer, Lava Burst, Lava Shock and Crackle can all bring you to zero very quickly, regardless of what taunts you have. Healing is the only way to combat that. If you ever are getting close to death, or you feel yourself dipping low, always try to use your hero power as much as you can, even if that means playing a three drop and healing over a five drop.
Tempo Mage has greatly died in popularity over the past weeks, but it still shows up every now and then. Facing Jaina makes for a very interesting matchup because you are both trying to do the same thing, which is control the board. They do that with spells, you do that with minions. The flow of this game is fairly simple. You are going to throw out your minions and they are going to answer them. While that is mostly straightforward, the middle turns are much more interesting. Tempo Mage depends on their middle threats to really put the game away, but you can match them pound for pound. The four shredders all resist removal very well, and they don’t really have a good way to answer Dr. Boom, Sylvanas Windrunner or Sneed’s Old Shredder. Always try to trade when possible, and get the most out of Upgraded Repair Bot, which helps you take over the game better than anything else because of its surprise factor. Never forget how much burn Mage has, and, like Shaman, always try to use your hero power when you find yourself getting low on life.
Though I typically like to save the mulligan guide for the last week, I figured I would give an overview considering how close I feel this is to the final form.
This deck pilots a lot like the classic Midrange Paladin. That means there is no reason to get fancy when mulliganing. You want low drops, and then you want to use those low drops to slowly grow your board into bigger threats. Once upon a time I said that this deck needed minions or it would lose. While the threats have gotten bigger and more resilient, that is still just as true as it ever was. Starting off slow or missing a turn or two can set you back to the point where it is hard to climb back in. Because of that, you need your Northshire Clerics and your two drops like Annoy-o-Tron and Mechwarper. Tinkertown Technician and Harvest Golem are also great keeps with the coin or a good curve. You want to start fast. Anything that costs five or more should be thrown back. The only caveat to that is Holy Nova, which is a good keep against Paladin.
A big part of mulliganing with this deck is reacting to combos within your hand. For instance, Velen’s Chosen is not a card you should keep on its own. However if you have a two drop against a deck that can’t remove early cards like Paladin, it is an always keep. In the same vein, if you have coin/Harvest Golem, chosen should also be kept as your three drop since the golem will most likely live. I also do not normally keep Piloted Shredder, but if I am playing against a deck that has a hard time dealing with shredder (Zoo, Tempo Mage) then I will keep it with a solid opening curve even without the coin. That type of ahead thinking is very important when choosing which cards to keep. While you are always looking for your “must keeps”, never be afraid to take some chances or keep a four drop if you think it will have a large impact on the game.
Time to make the final push. Honestly, the “no win streak” levels are my least favorite in the game because winning does not feel as rewarding. However, I do love that slow creep (and final push) up to the orange diamond. While I do think this deck has what it takes, I am really busy with the holidays and am not sure if I can get there in the time that I have. However, I will try for you, dear viewers. Until then, may you have a great holiday and may you always draw on curve.
NOTE: This is the second to last episode of the month, which means if you have any ideas or wishes for next month’s Brewmaster let me know in the comments below. I want to move on from classes that I’ve already played, so that means no Shaman and no Priest. While I am not sure what I want to do next month, my initial thoughts are Control Hunter, Beast/Call Pet Hunter (the one I am leaning to the most), Taunt Warrior, Malygos Rogue or Silence Druid. All of those would be fun. However, if you have your own idea (or you like one of those) just let me know!