If you are just tuning in, make sure to catch the first episode of this month’s Brewmaster to understand the deck.
We are back, and things are more fun than ever. Even though we are only in week two, this is by far the coolest deck I have put together for The Brewmaster (thanks to all who suggested it). While in my mind (and maybe a little on paper) the deck just doesn’t sound all that good. However, dedicated tweaking and strong will go a long way in this game. The initial list was really good, but this game is all about adaptation. You need to evolve to the ever-shifting ladder meta or you will get buried underneath its pressure. This deck does not have a lot of tweaks from the original list (in fact there is only one change) but that one change brings up a very important note that I will cover below. Every time you tweak your deck you need to have a reason for it. Never make changes just to make changes, and never try to tweak a deck just because you can. This deck has a solid core, and you should trust in a solid core when it comes around.
This deck is coming along really well, and a big part of that is that I am rapidly learning from early mistakes. There are always things you need to improve on when starting out a new deck. In this case, I felt like there were too many finishers and too many top end cards. Something that gets overlooked when deck building is noting how important certain cards are as the game goes on. This will help you understand which cards are essential, which cards aren’t, and why that is. Knowing that is the first part to understanding the deck as a whole. Below I will discuss that first step I made, and a very important alteration that brought the deck into the next step of building.
Where We Are Now
This time around I want to discuss one of the most important parts of any Hearthstone deck, the curve. This is an ancient term that goes way back to the early days of Magic the Gathering. It is the crux of a lot of decks, and is becoming more and more important as Hearthstone becomes more and more focused on the board. A good curve means that a deck can reliably play minions (or spells) turn after turn after turn. This deck was very strong when it hit its curve, but when it didn’t…Well, we all know how that goes. I was routinely getting crushed in games where I would just blank on turn two or three. While having something on turn two is apart of the game these days, I didn’t like how often I was blanking.
When blanks like that happen it is almost always because you do not have a reliable curve. While some heavy control builds can have a sporadic curve, this deck is midrange control, meaning that it is a deck that wants to go long, but does so with smaller minions rather than a slew of giant finishers. That means you want to hit your drops as they come. As such, I took out Arch-Thief Rafaam and Brawl for two Annoy-o-Tron[/card]s. A very small tweak, but the whole deck got a lot better because of it. This switch helped with my consistency in draws, which then allowed me to build out in the way that I wanted. While I am a little wary of cutting Brawl, I think minions are more important for the current version of this list.
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.
This change was the only real tweak I made, but in accordance with the above paragraphs, it really made the deck a lot better. There are several reasons for this, but two I really want to focus on. The first is just how important a two drop is in the current meta. While there is no doubt that Sparring Partner does a fine job on turn two, it really is a late game card. That just leaves you with Fiery War Axe or bust. I did not like being that “all in” and I really wanted something else to help set up games against the more aggressive decks. Annoy-o-Tron does that better than any other taunt card in the game. Even when you aren’t setting up a strong opening, this card is very powerful because of how well it can stall out a game. Remember, this deck is a control deck, which means going long is ok. If that plan starts early, that’s just fine with you.
The other reason that Annoy-o-Tron was so key to the list was because it lowered the overall curve of the deck. As you can see, Arch-Thief Rafaam is long gone. Many games I played I would notice that I had just one or two too many large finishers and not enough early action. Bringing the curve down really helped with this, and gave a lot more consistency to the deck. It might seem odd that changing just two cards can do that, but it makes a huge difference. I do think a lot of the high-end cards are completely necessary for this deck to work (such as Varian Wrynn and Kel’thuzad) but I may have gotten carried away. While these are much worse towards the end of the game, they are so good at the start that it is more than worth two slots.
Though I discussed Bolster, I wanted to explore it further this week. This card is something I was 99% sure I was going to cut moving forward. It is too situational, needs minions to trigger, and is a dead draw in a lot of situations. And yet…it is still here. Strange? Perhaps, but there is a very good reason. Bolster is an incredibly strong card that has iced me numerous games due to the sheer power of the card. A 2/2 buff is very bland, but a 2/2 buff across multiple minions gets very interesting. Not only does that give you some extra pressure (or even surprise lethal), but it enables you to trade extremely well. All three of those things are what this decks wants to do, and there are enough targets that two of this card can easily be included into the list.
One thing you do want to note about Bolster is knowing when and how to play it. Some games you are going to try and wait to hit two or three minions, while in others you want to use it as soon as you can. Something I have noticed about this card is that it is so strong that I often use it on one minion if that will enable more board presence. Turning a Sen’jin Shieldmasta into a 5/7 or a Fierce Monkey into a 5/6 can offer huge swings if done correctly. It can also force your opponent to use multiple resources to clear one minon, which helps you towards grind them down on resources. Yes, this card can be really bad, and yes, it is a horrible topdeck late in the game, but it has enough upside where it is most often going to do much more good than harm.
Though I did not discuss her last week, I think Elise Starseeker plays a very important role in this deck. She may even be pivotal. The reason for this is you have a lot of cards that are very situational. Bolster has a very set time period to be good, Annoy-o-Tron is very weak later on, and even your weapons lose steam on turn twenty or so. Elise gives you that extra push by turning all of those jank cards into legendaries. While some of those legendaries may be bad (or downright awful) they are almost always some sort of threat because a lot of them have very large bodies. As the game starts to turn into the twilight stages spells become less important than minions. This is because most removal has been used up and most of the important threats have been killed. Not only does this card suddenly allow you to get a bunch of mostly-large minions, but you also get a 6/6 with taunt on top of that. It is a form of recycling that a deck with so many niche cards really needs to add some late game punch.
Once you access both Elise and the map, you need to be know the best time to play the Golden Monkey when you draw it. You do this by calculating the cards you have left vs. your opponents deck in relation to the board state. For instance, if you are ahead on board and have an ok hand the monkey can be a great way of ending the game. It is also a good play if you and your opponent have an equal board and are about to head to fatigue. However, if you are playing against a Control deck and have a hand full or removal or if you are going up against Midrange and it is still early on, it is best to hold off on the monkey. Once you play this card there is no going back. If you still need your spells for any reason, hold off on it as long as you can.
Though familiar, I bring up the windrunner because she is taking up some really prime real estate in this list. The six slot, especially in a slow control deck like one, is very strong. The way I see it, Sylvanas is the best role here because, not only does she interact really well with Sparring Partner, but she also is a great way at stalling the game or stealing problem cards. However, there are some matchups where she is lacking as well. As such, there are three options that have been in the back of my mind. The first is Emperor Thaurissan. While he is not very exciting in a non-combo deck, he is a “must kill” minion that can really help out the high curve of this deck. I have never been a huge fan of running this simply as a value card, but he can do some real damage if played on the right turn. The second cards, to stick to the taunt theme, is Hogger. Obsidian Destroyer has vastly exceeded my expectations, locking down boards and keeping people off of lethal. Hogger is more of that, but I am very wary of the 4/4 body. The last card is Justicar Trueheart, who could be good if you want some extra armor or protection. I am honestly not sure if any of those cards are better than the windrunner, but they are definitely worth considering.
These are the five matchups that have made up almost all of my games so far 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.
This is a game of “who strikes first”. That is to say, this is a game where whoever gets their curve started first should be able to control the board. Now that Brawl has been cut, you really need to shut down Paladin through minion combat. The extra two drops help with that, but you also want to rely on your weapons to take over the first turns of the game. Stick to your curve here and do whatever you can to make sure you have something to do on turn two or three. Bash is a great way to start the game and you almost always want to keep Death’s Bite since it enables an easy way to deal with Muster for Battle. While you are a different build of control, the plan here is the same as it has always been: clear and then clear some more.
Plan ahead as much you can during this matchup. Secret Paladin only runs three large minions in Dr. Boom, Tirion Fordring and Mysterious Challenger. There are two ways to beat these cards. The one is with hard removal, which you should do your best to save for turn six and beyond. However, if you had to use it early (or if you do not have access to it) then you can also just stall the game as much as you can. Secret Paladin is a deck that usually only runs one Ironbeak Owl (if any), and their AOE is few and far between. They depend on minions to carry the game, which means they have a really tough time fighting through taunt after taunt after taunt. If you gum up the board until you can stick something like an Obsidian Destroyer or Kel’thuzad then you should be able to wear them down no problem. Just do your best to not fall behind early.
Zoo is a board control deck at heart, but it does have a very aggressive slant. Furthermore, it has a lot of small or weak minions. That is very important, because those minions have a hard time pushing through large taunts. Yes, they do have access to their buffs, but those buffs will eventually run out. Zoo is a deck that needs the board to win games, and they get that board through efficient trades that build into their giant finishers. If you can force them to use multiple resources on your cards you should be able to wear them down on cards. You want them to be in a place where they have to Lifetap each turn. Getting them there is not easy, but you want to gum up the board as best as you can, and then use that to intercept their different attack jumps from Abusive Sergeant and Power Overwhelming.
Zoo, especially the new version that relies on swarms of small creatures, can do just about nothing when they don’t have any minions on the board. Almost all of their burst is based on buffs, and they have very little out of the hand removal. This means the way to win is to simply clear (and continuing to clear) everything that comes down. This is not going to be an easy task, but it is what you want to focus on for most of the game. If you do get them down to just one minion, then your taunts or Obsidian Destroyer can just end this on the spot. Just be aware of their big minions and always save your Executes and Big Game Hunter for things like Dr. Boom and Sea Giant.
This is also a match where The Black Knight is very good due to Defender of Argus. Never run it out just to get a body unless you are under an enormous amount of pressure.
One of the newest decks to the game, Renolock is a very powerful that can grind with the best of them. This is a game where you need to be very careful with your resources, which includes both minions and removal spells. No matter what happens, know that this matchup is going to go very, very long. With that in mind, you really need to stretch out each card, saving removal for end game finishers like Molten Giant and Mal’ganis while also trying to bait out their spells on some of your smaller minions. You have a lot of solid midrange cards, but most of those cards pale to Renolock’s midgame. Because of this, you want the game to go to fatigue. Take your time here. Unless you can suddenly burst them down with a surprise Bolster, you never want to play too fast and risk using a key card too early on.
A big problem with fighting Renolock is their AOE. Most AOE doesn’t matter all that much, but they have a lot of it. Not only that, but Shadowflame has no ceiling and can be combined with Sylvanas Windrunner just in case you have a big minion on the board. That means board states with lock down cards like Kel’Thuzad or Obsidian Destroyer are not reliable in the slightest. The way you win this game is typically through the Golden Monkey. You want to drop Elise as soon as you can and then play the monkey sometime around turn twenty. This will suddenly let you outpace Warlock by creating more threats than they can handle. Their best way to beat that strategy is through Lord Jaraxxus. To combat him you want to get as many threats down as possible to invalidate the legendary demon.
No matter how you dress it or what cards you play, Druid is a combo deck. I don’t blame them for that, but that is a fact you need to understand when going up against Malfurion. Their primary goal is to kill you with burst damage, and your primary goal is to fill the board up with taunts. That bodes very well for you if you play the game right. That means playing this extremely safe. Without any extra armor you really need to get good use of your hero power to stay above fourteen life, but you also need to focus on clearing the board and keeping their combo in check. The good news of this matchup is that Druid has a lot of trouble with taunts. They only run two silences in Keeper of the Grove and direct removal in Swipe and sometimes Wrath. Those cards can be easily baited throughout the game, which will then set up your end game really well. Always remember that Druid has a lot of trouble with swarms, so don’t hesitate to get as many things on the board as you can.
Note: This is one of the only matchups where you really don’t need to combo The Black Knight with Sparring Partner. Druid has a ton of different taunts at their disposal, and you should be able to find a target as the game progresses.
This was a deck that has really taken me by surprise. I always knew LOE would help Priest, but I had no idea just how strong it would become. This is a matchup that falls into your favor on paper, but is really tricky in practice due to Entomb. Most of Priest’s removal will wear thin as the game progresses, but Entomb just makes them stronger. The two cards you absolutely don’t want to get Entombed are Kel’Thuzad (which is a game winner here) and Sylvanas Windrunner (which will crush Priest). Try your best to save both of those cards until Priest has already taken two other cards. If you need to bait one out, always get Sylvanas stolen before the lich king. Also remember that you need to save an Execute for Ysera. She is a very problematic minion that you need to kill right away or she will take over the game.
Just like when playing against Renolock, the Golden Monkey can really take over this game if played in the right time. Control Priest is strong because it is basically 66% removal spells and AOE. That is very hard to fight through, especially as a deck so reliant on minions. You can usually take out Lightbomb with a single Obsidian Destroyer in the same way that Dr. Boom does, but they have many more answers to come. Golden Monkey suddenly turns everything you have into an immediate threat and forces them to adapt to you rather than to you adapting to them. When in this mode you want to try to drop only one big thing a turn as to not play into their Lightbombs, which can really ruin your legendary end game.
Well, the climb is going quite splendid if I do say so myself. I like the feel of this deck so far, and I really appreciate the direction it is heading. That does not mean it is completely perfect, but I am seeing that a lot of the cards are serving a very important purpose. A lot of my initial inclinations seem to have been correct, which feels very good. I am not sure the tweaks that will come next week, but I am sure they will be some as we move forward. Until then, may you always Variann out three minions.