Season 3! We have made it through the first two iterations of The Brewmaster, grinding the ladder with both Control Shaman and Mech Priest. I loved both decks, and also really enjoyed getting a chance to break away from my usual comfort zone. However, I must also admit I feel strangely…unfulfilled. While this series is largely about innovation (something we have managed to achieve so far), it is also about success. There are many ways to measure that success in the different facets of life, but in Hearthstone the real prize is legend. While I have climbed to the orange diamond plenty of times, I have not yet done it on The Brewmaster. That is a monkey on my back that I am seeking to change this month. As a result, this next season is going to be a two-part of sorts. On one hand we are still going to discuss deck construction as well as the best ways to fight and mulligan, but we are also going to discuss what it takes to grind to legend. Many people take the push for granted (because it does happen quite a lot) but I really want to delve into the small differences in play and deck building that separate a rank 10-1 player from a legend.
So, the next obvious question is, where do we go from here? As always, I wanted to create a fun deck that no one (or very few people) had ever tried. Something out of the box, something strange that would really be a good test of both my play and deck-building abilities. The last two months have been really fun, but they haven’t gone far enough (in my opinion). Thinking forward, I wanted a crazy deck that I also thought had the potential to hit legend. That gave me a couple of options, all of which I have been mulling over in my head. The answer I landed on was Taunt Warrior. Ever since Bolster was first spoiled I wanted to take the taunt theme and build it around a Warrior deck. Not only that, but Warrior has a ton of interesting tools for a taunt style deck. Those two factors, combined with the fact that no one has really made a successful version yet, made me want to strap on my armor, grab my axe and fight for the horde.
Going into this month’s Brewmaster I was in kind of an odd spot. I am building a Warrior deck, which immediately made me want to play all of the usual Control Warrior cards like Shieldmaiden and Justicar Trueheart. However, Control Warrior has greatly died off in the current meta, and playing the stock Control Warrior build is not something I am interested in. While I do think this deck is a control deck, I think it runs much more similar to a midrange deck with a control end game rather than the standard “gain all the armor” style we are so used to. In fact, the only real armor cards are the two Bashes. I did initially flirt with the idea of running Justicar Trueheart (and I may go that route in the coming weeks) but I wanted to do something a little more daring to start off the season.
This deck has a pretty solid curve made up of taunts, and then tops off with a few minions that are made to go long. Taunt is a word synonymous with Control (unless you’re playing Druid), and that is exactly what I hope this deck is: Control. You play your heavy, on-curve taunts to dominate the board and force your opponent to make weak trades. Then, when they are tapped out, you take over the end with some giant finisher. Taunts are great because they force your opponent to react to them. A lot of the decks in Hearthstone right now depend on ignoring the board. However, if you force them to play to your minions instead of what they want they will eventually falter. At least, that’s the idea.
Before I get into the cards, I do want to discuss something about climbing the ladder (and hitting legend). A big part of strategically choosing a deck is how well you think it will do. Seem obvious, but how often do people actually think about the deck they are playing in scope of the whole ladder versus “this is good”? While this deck could be more midrange (or even aggressive) I feel like this is a very good meta for a control style deck. The reason is that there is a lot of burn or burst based aggro (which taunts and armor are great against) and a lot of slower decks like Renolock and Dragon Priest, which control can slowly grind out. Knowing that, I think going the slower (but different) control route will make this deck the more fun for me to play and give me the best chance to win as the days move forward.
One of the taunt kings, Sparring Partner is a card that makes (or will make) this deck work. At its base this card is just a 3/2 for two with taunt. Very weak in terms of power level, but also not a terrible play early in the game because your opponent cannot simply run their two drop around it. In addition, this card can also give another card taunt, which is why it is so important to the overall gameplan.
There are three primary functions of this card, and all of them are actually pretty relevant throughout the games. The first is (of course) the ability to taunt up your own minions. That can seem rather underwhelming because so many of your cards already have taunt, but there are a few targets. Not to mention this hits your bigger minions, creating two walls in the same way that Defender of Argus does. While you don’t get the 1/1 buff the cheaper mana cost gives you some more versatility. Beyond that, the second ability is to give one of your opponent’s minions taunt, which enables you to attack something hiding behind another taunt. The third ability is Sparring Partner’s ability to team up with The Black Knight to kill opposing minions. This is one of the coolest applications of the card, and allows you to put two threats down while removing anything your opponent has.
Let’s be real here, this deck would not even be able to exist if it wasn’t for this card. A 3/4 for three is a pretty good deal. Give it taunt and you have an auto-inclusion into this list. Fierce Monkey is one of those strange cards that doesn’t look all that special on its own, but in actuality is really quite good. While normally cards like this are first on my chopping block when making my week two cuts, I honestly think this may be one of the reasons this deck will work down the road. Hearthstone is in a meta where board presence is king. If you have no way to contest the early board, the game is almost always over. Not only does the monkey give you a way to contest that early board, but does so by giving you a very powerful, under-costed taunt card in the process.
Once upon a time, a 3/4 for three was unheard of. Now, it’s a staple across many different classes in many different decks. A lot of archetypes have very powerful turn three plays, and while this turn three is just as about as vanilla as they come, it (like every other card in this deck) cannot be ignored. In that way it works a lot like a Deathlord (which could very well replace the monkey if he under performs) as a three drop that really helps force some answers out of aggro. While the beast has nowhere near the health that Deathlord does, the three attack is very relevant in a world where Tunnel Trogg exists. This is also a card that will most often eat removal, meaning it will enable more room for your giant finishers.
I know what you’re thinking: “Joseph has finally lost his mind”. And while that may be true to a certain extent, this is no typo, I truly believe that Obsidian Destroyer is great for this deck. Yes, at first (and second and third) glance it is just a much worse Dr. Boom. However, it is a giant threat that naturally provides a minion every single turn. Not only that, but the minion it supplies has taunt. In that way, this card operates almost exactly like Hogger (something else I may consider), where you have to have an immediate answer or quickly fall behind. The reason I have yet to include Hogger is because almost every mid-game minion can deal with a 4/4. Destroying a 7/7 is much harder, especially when it’s pumping out a small taunt every single turn. While this card could easily not last, the potential is very high and I think at least worth a look.
The most important use of Obsidian Destroyer is attrition. A lot of your games are going to go long. Really long. In those cases you want to have cards that just generate value on their own turn after turn after turn. The destroyer may not be some ultra powerhouse, but it can generate an army on its own in the same way something like Kodo Rider does. If this goes unanswered for a turn or two the game is usually over. Not only because you will be hitting your opponent for seven damage a turn, but because the big body and small taunts enable you to stall turn after turn after turn. You should think of the scarabs like the frog that comes from Hex. There are many games where getting rid of that 0/1 takes away lethal or prevents you killing something you normally could. Use the beetles in the exact same way.
Minions! Servants! Soldiers of the cold dark! Obey the call of Kel’thuzad! When crafting this deck I knew that I needed some big finishers, as is the way of warrior. The only thing was I wasn’t sure which ones would fit best into this particular variation. Warrior has access to all sorts of different minions for their end game, and the current options are quite endless. I knew right away that the classic Alex/Gromm combo was out of the question (since I didn’t need the burst), and most of the classic Warrior cards (such as Ragnaros) felt very underwhelming. I wanted a card that went along with the theme of the deck that also served as a good way to win games. Kel’thuzad gives you that “must kill” finisher you want that can literally end the game immediately if it manages to live for an entire turn. Not only is the ability very powerful, but a 6/8 is extremely hard to get rid of. Especially when it hides behind taunts.
The lich king has always seen fringe play in a lot of different decks, ranging from strange control to slow ramp Druid. The reason is because, not only does he dodge BGH (huge plus!) but he also basically wins the game if your opponent doesn’t have an answer. This deck, like all warriors, has a lot of threats your opponent will use their hard removal on. As a result, you can slowly wear them out of cards and then hit them with the lich king when they least expect it. Kel’thuzad has always been fantastic with taunts, since it creates an almost infinite loop where your opponent can no longer attack. Not only that, but hiding Kel’thuzad means that your opponent has to have some type of spell to get rid of him or risk losing.
Oh yes. Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. I have waited so long to put Anduin’s father into a deck. While he is too slow for the current meta, I believe Varian has a definite spot in this list. And, just like all of my other strange choices, I feel like I should probably explain that. The reason that Varian Wrynn is weak is because he just doesn’t do enough for taking up your whole turn. While getting a 7/7 is nice, that 7/7 comes with a huge price as you cannot do anything else. That means you are depending on his ability to carry that turn. The card draw is ok, but you really want this card to hit minions. However, just getting out a few big minions also doesn’t stop aggro and usually isn’t enough to stay alive in the face of danger. That changes here, where Varian goes from a cute finisher to an absolute powerhouse. That is not to say you are going to want him in all games, but his power level is extremely high, especially in builds of warrior that are almost entirely comprised of minions.
The reason Varian is so powerful in this deck is because it is almost entirely made up of minions, and almost all of those minions have taunt. That means they are going to immediately impact the board when they come down. Not only does that give threats your opponent immediately has to fight through, but they also protect your giant 7/7. Even netting something like an Obsidian Destroyer can be really important, since a 1/1 with taunt can take away a big minion or weapon attack. This is not a card you just want to run out as soon as possible. There are two board states where you want to play the legend. Either out of desperation, where you just need to get taunts to survive, or where blanking on the taunts won’t immediately lose you the game. Slowly craft the board to your favor before dropping Varian so you can get the most value possible.
Despite the card and name change, you are still a Warrior deck. That means you have one ultimate goal: stay alive. That is an idea that works very well with taunt cards. As of right now I see this as a different style of Control Warrior, where you are using taunt minions to outlast your opponent rather than armor. Now, that may not be the way this deck ends up, but right now that is the direction I want to take this in. As aforementioned
The two cards I currently have on my mind are King’s Defender and Bolster. Both of these cards are largely considered bad, but both interact with taunt in new and interesting ways. King’s Defender is extremely underwhelming due to the fact that Fiery War Axe exists. Getting in an extra hit in is very good, but I am not sure if it is worth coming out one turn later. I look at the defender in the same way that Midrange Hunter looks at Eaglehorn Bow: a card aimed to repeatedly clear out or finish off annoying midrange cards. Now, that may not be useful, and I may just be pontification, but that extra charge sure has me intrigued.
On paper, Bolster is a very, very strong card. In fact, it is so strong I had to include two in my early testing. This is a taunt deck, running a lot of taunt minions. Being able to suddenly give two (or three?) taunt cards an extra 2/2 can solidify a board and allow you to completely take over the game. Now, I will say that this card could actually be very underwhelming as time goes on, but that power level is so high with a lot of taunts that it is just much too tempting to pass up.
The last idea I want to touch upon is the fact that there are a lot of taunt cards in Hearthstone. Much more than I had originally anticipated. Honestly, I cannoy believe how many cards have taunt. That being said, there are a lot of different options for this deck. Sunwalker is a card that could still easily make this list as some point down the line, as could Defender or Argus or even Abomination. I could also go the dragon route and try to include both Chillmaw and Twilight Guardian. There are several stages to building a deck. The first (where I am) is going with your gut and cards you think will be good for the style. The taunts in this list are the ones I think will have the most impact and fill the curve out the best. I could be wrong, but there is no telling what the future holds.
Well, there is my initial decklist. I am not sure where this is going to go (everything is currently wide open), but I am excited to see how it plays. We have hit a new year and there is no telling what the future holds. I hope you are all looking forward to the new year, and I hope things are well wherever you are in the world. Stay safe, stay warm and stay happy. And, until next week, Lok’tar Ogar!