Competitive gaming is such a unique beast. At heart it’s still gaming, and the object is to have fun playing with a style that you find enjoyable. However, finding a winning strategy is also challenging and fun. How do you make these two sides of competitive gaming work together? The way I have always done it is to find what you enjoy playing the most, and just hammer away at it until you find something that works.
So who am I and why do you care what I have to say? I’m not one of the top streamers, I’m not a long time CCG player who’s making his way onto the Hearthstone scene, and I’m not a professional gamer. However, I’m like a lot of you: I have a serious passion for gaming, and I really like to inject my style into whatever I play. I’ve really enjoyed Hearthstone a lot, and I’ve found that certain play styles just don’t do it for me. I like primarily reactive gameplay with an almost impossible number of options for plays in the mid to late game.
Well, I finally put together a Paladin control list that accomplishes this, and it got me to legendary status last season. So, if you want to see what an amateur deck brewer has put together to help him get to the upper echelon of the Hearthstone ladder, then read on.
Why Does Control Paladin Suck?
First, let’s identify some of the problems I see with lots of Paladin control lists. First of all, card draw tends to be terribly lacking. If you want a solid control deck then, in my opinion, you need the best chance of having the right cards at the right time. The optimal way to do that is card draw. Only some of the cards I have in this deck are threats that are great to play on an empty board.
As such, making sure you never run out of cards isn’t enough. Your hand needs to be stacked. You can see a similar strategy with hand lock and warrior control, and with most CCG control decks I can remember. My sources of card draw in this deck include acolyte-of-pain, hammer-of-wrath, nat-pagle, and lay-on-hands.
Next, although I like a reactive play style, a lot of Paladin control lists are simply too reactive. You need to be able to apply pressure sometimes, and the hero power giving you a little bit of board presence isn’t enough. If you can’t take advantage of a situation where you have card advantage and an empty board in front of you, then you give your opponent a chance to come back and put you on the defensive again. Basically, you need to be able to capitalize on advantageous situations and close out games.
The other issue is that when you have such a small number of threats, your opponent can save their removal for the few fatties that matter and ignore the rest. The main card I have included in this deck to combat that problem is mountain-giant. Nothing fancy, just something big and fat that synergizes with all of the card draw potential.
Finally, I see a lot of lists trying to plug-in holes in early game removal with subpar choices like argent-squire[card] and harvest-golem[/card], diluting their game plan and turning their control deck into a mid-range deck. Don’t get me wrong, these are fantastic value cards, and there is certainly nothing wrong with a mid-range strategy, but you need to stay consistent. If your deck doesn’t revolve around a cohesive plan to win, then things are going to fall apart. My solution to this is to run two humility, and also to maximize my wild-pyromancer triggers.
There are some other issues I see with Paladin control lists in general, but these are some of the big ones I tried to eliminate with this deck.
What is the Game Plan?
Paladin control tends to win games through attrition, and the game plan with this deck isn’t terribly different. You have a ton of healing, a number of late game threats, and a few really swingy cards at your disposal. However, I feel like this deck is a bit better at getting aggressive in the mid game if that is the best way to win in a given situation. Nonetheless, most of the time you are going to spend the first few turns hero powering, sculpting your hand, and removing threats. The relative importance of these things depends on the matchup, and it also depends on whether or not you can afford to bait out more value from your board clears.
Eventually you will hit a point where they run out of cards, you are able to clear/neuter their board and play out a threat they must respond to, or you will be able to play a huge threat they have to expend a ton of resources dealing with. This is typically where you have the opportunity to take a more proactive, as opposed to reactive, role.
Synergy and Redundancy
Most great decks revolve around synergy that increases both power level and value of the cards in the deck. This deck is wrought with synergy. There are tons of two or three card combinations that generate card advantage, increase the efficiency of removal, or simply end games. Although you want to make sure that your deck isn’t helpless without drawing a very specific combo, you don’t want to be a slave to single card efficiency either, as you are sacrificing some of the most powerful value plays in the game by doing this. Finding the right balance is key.
I tend to err on the side of combos and synergy, and eschew a little bit of individual card power to do so. The way I do this is to make sure most cards that are strong in combination with others have multiple cards they pair with to become strong. Having twice the chance of pulling off a combo, even if one of the combos is a bit weaker, is one way to circumvent the problem of inconsistency in decks based on synergy. I’ll describe the synergies in more detail in the individual card descriptions.
The first major combo piece is an obvious one: equality. This is a central combo piece for most any Paladin control deck in existence. Basically, it can combine with three different cards to create a board clear. Those cards are wild-pyromancer, consecration, and avenging-wrath. This provides with you a four, six, and eight mana board clear. Two of those board clears are one-sided as well, which is extremely potent. These combinations are amazing against decks all along the aggro-control continuum.
The next major combo piece to mention is wild-pyromancer. Although most Paladin control decks have the aforementioned combo with equality, and consecration is essentially an auto-include in the deck, we have a few other pieces that work well with him. The main things to pair with wild-pyromancer are humility, holy-light, and hammer-of-wrath, and I run both copies with all of these cards. This is one of your main weapons against aggro, though it does a lot less against fat creatures. Against control, he provides additional card draw by triggering acolyte-of-pain. Thankfully, wild-pyromancer also passes the vanilla test, so you can always just throw out three power onto the board for an efficient two mana if you need to.
The last central combo pieces are humility and aldor-peacekeeper. These two cards have the same powerful effect, which is good even without synergy. Thus, it’s rare these cards just rot in your hand, especially in the case of aldor-peacekeeper, which has good base stats for a three mana creature. These cards synergize with both acolyte-of-pain[card] and [card]stampeding-kodo. For the former, it allows you to trigger the acolyte-of-pain ability without killing it, and for the latter it allows you to kill most anything in the game.
Unorthodox Card Choices
Instead of talking about every card in the deck and rehashing fairly obvious explanations of why I use truesilver-champion or consecration, I want to discuss why I chose certain cards that you don’t see very often. First off, I want to make a shout out to humility. I know I’ve discussed the synergy component of it, but it’s still a pretty powerful card in it’s own right. It’s great against a turn one flame-imp, a turn five mountain-giant, or a turn nine alexstrasza. It also counters tempo plays like an early innervate or king-mukla. The versatility of the card in this deck means you are virtually always happy to see it in your hand. I know the effect is already present with aldor-peacekeeper, but I assure you that you won’t be sad to have it.
The next talking point here is nat-pagle. I’m sure there are people reading this list calling me a noob because of it’s inclusion. However, I think you should never be afraid to try something, even if it’s generally considered bad or unplayable. Well, I can tell you that after I tried this card, I was surprised at how much work it did. Typically, one of two things happens: either your opponent attempts to ignore this card and it runs away with the game, or it draws out removal, often inefficient, or at least powerful, removal. Furthermore, even though there are no taunts in this deck besides tirion-fordring, you can actually protect this guy pretty well with the humility effect if you decide it’s worth it. I implore you to try this card before assuming it’s bad and immediately swapping it out.
We have another big legendary on the docket, which is malygos. I don’t recall ever seeing this guy run in a Paladin deck. However, I thought to myself one day that it turns all of your spells into batshit insane game winners. In particular, consecration and avenging-wrath become absurd at closing out the game. Now I know, you can’t play any of those spells the same turn as malygos. My argument against that stance is that you don’t need to. It’s okay if you prevent you from actually getting off the combo, because you have plenty of other threats to end the game.
This deck isn’t a combo deck in the sense that it is built around ending the game with any particular combo. It’s about sucking all of their removal dry with big fatties and winning the slow game. malygos does that very well, as he is quite the challenge to remove, but he also provides incredible additional value in cases where he can’t be removed. I know ysera is another option, and she provides some value even if she gets removed. However, I was impressed with the frequency with which I was able to end the game in short order with this guy, and I think you will be too if you play it right.
Lastly we have mountain-giant. I have seen giant Paladin decks before, but it’s fairly rare at this point. I chose the mountain giants because of the higher amount of card draw in this deck relative to other Paladin control decks. Thus, it’s a solid threat you can play at any time, and often times you can play it early and start forcing your opponent to respond. Obviously, it also makes a great finisher later in the game. It’s very versatile in terms of when it’s an effective play.
Many games are won and lost with mulligan decisions. I’m going to clue you in on the way that I found most effective mulligan with this deck. You have a couple of solid keeps in almost any situation: aldor-peacekeeper and truesilver-champion. aldor-peacekeeper is so versatile that he never ends up a dead card. truesilver-champion is so often a two for one that it’s hard not to keep this card. Although these are never bad keeps per se, I will reference below where I think you need to mulligan aggressively for certain cards.
With that said, you will notice in my explanations that I tend to mulligan assuming my opponent is aggressive. If the meta has shifted and you’re confident it’s not an aggro deck, then use your best judgement and mulligan accordingly. As well, it’s also important to have a plan with the hand you draw. You need to imagine how the first few turns are likely to play out. Even with all my mulligan suggestions laid out here, sometimes it’s hard to pass up a nice curve. For example, having the coin with acolyte-of-pain and aldor-peacekeeper is great if you’re pretty sure their turn three play is going to be dropping a minion. It creates a turn two, turn three, and you have a high chance of having a solid turn four because of this deck’s curve. As well, it gets value out of both your three drops. Hopefully this example gives you some sense of what I mean.
Against Druid you need to able to deal with innervate shenanigans. Thus, I usually look aggressively for either humility or aldor-peacekeeper. Thankfully, because this effect appears four times in the deck you have it fairly consistently. mountain-giant is also great as their options for dealing with this card early tend to be quite limited; it provides you a way of winning the tempo game instead of the attrition game.
Hunter is one of the tricker matchups, and probably one of the worst. However, I mulligan assuming they are running the aggressive Hunter deck. Because this is not an deck that typically builds up much of a board presence, AOE proves less effective. With that said, I still think wild-pyromancer is your best bet. Because of all their one health creatures, he can turn some of your cheap spells into kill spells and still leave something on the board for the following turn. holy-light is also fantastic as it can often stall that one extra turn, particularly if you already have wild-pyromancer. Because their cards are so low value and short-lived, holy-light actually counters the damage of more than one card.
A lot of people might call me crazy for saying this, but I usually look pretty hard for consecration against Mage. No matter what their strategy, mirror-image can be a real pain in the ass when you don’t populate the board very much early on. It protects their stuff if they are aggressive, and it stalls you a ton if they are some late game strategy. I mulligan very aggressively for this card, as I feel like it decides matches more than just about any other card against this class.
Ah the mirror match; that’s always a tricky one. Your AOE cards are the best choice here: consecration and wild-pyromancer. The aggressive Paladin deck tends to run a lot of low health guys, and the hero power is also dealt with as well. If you can clear their board a couple of times, they often run out of gas before your healing puts you out of lethal range.
Priest is an interesting opponent; it feels like you see less uniformity and net decking among them. My favorite cards against these guys tend to be your rocks: aldor-peacekeeper and truesilver-champion. The main reason for this is the lack of solid knowledge of what they’re playing. hammer-of-wrath is also a solid choice since single target removal is going to be more important than anything for dealing with their threats.
Rogue was once easy to understand, as it was always miracle. Now there are more aggressive and tempo oriented decks to deal with. As a result, I also like your rocks here. truesilver-champion kills everything in both variants, and aldor-peacekeeper can deal with an absurd early edwin-van-cleef or king-mukla. This is a situation where you need to keep a close eye on the meta and see which variants are most prevalent.
The Shaman matchup is a pretty strong one. consecration is your best friend in this situation, as you will undoubtedly find yourself in a situation where you have oodles of totems in play and need to wipe them. As well, truesilver-champion and hammer-of-wrath are both amazing against Shaman. truesilver-champion is what you need to deal with both feral-spirits and unbound-elemental. hammer-of-wrath lets you pop guys beyond taunts, which Shaman could have at any time with its hero power.
Warlock is interesting in that it has archetypes sitting at total opposite ends of the aggro-control continuum that are very frequently played. Still, I suggest you mulligan against aggro. Get your AOE in the form of wild-pyromancer or consecration. You have a very strong matchup against the giants control variant, as all your board clears and humility effects ruin virtually all of their threats. You typically have time to draw into these as well. humility is also a pretty decent against aggro as it lets you not get pounded for three turns by flame-imp before you can clear it.
The final class to discuss is Warrior, and I virtually always assume control warrior. There aren’t a lot of great early plays against control warrior in this deck. Really, the way you win this match is to just hero power a ton and save your serious removal for their toughest threats. As such, I just think you want things that can generate card advantage: acolyte-of-pain, truesilver-champion, and hammer-of-wrath.
Although I think this deck operates very smoothly as listed, there are some potential alternative cards you could try if you’re missing something. There are even a few things I haven’t had the opportunity to try, so you could give me feedback on how it works for you.
The easiest substitution you could try is to replace nat-pagle with bloodmage-thalnos. Each has its pros and cons, but bloodmage-thalnos is one of the few cards I actually haven’t tested. This is only because I don’t own one. I like the idea of nat-pagle more because he can actually generate more substantial card advantage in a lot of situations, since they usually get to kill bloodmage-thalnos relatively free. Of course, spell power is brutal with consecration and decent with hammer-of-wrath, so that’s not a negligible component of the card. An azure-drake is also decent if you need something at a lower dust cost. I have run azure-drake a number of times and overall I found it to be pretty good.
Another substitution would be to replace malygos with some other finisher. ysera is the most obvious direct replacement. She is another card I can’t try because I don’t own one, so perhaps she would work out better than malygos, but he hasn’t disappointed me so far. ragnaros-the-firelord is another decent replacement. I have used him in the past, and I thought he was alright, but malygos tends to have a greater impact in my eyes. If you need something that is of a lower rarity, then perhaps faceless-manipulator would be a decent replacement.
If you don’t have the giants, then you could try boulderfist-ogre. In the past, I have been pretty pleased with that card in testing. The main reason mountain-giant won out in the end is because of all the card draw synergy. With that said, boulderfist-ogre doesn’t get hit by big-game-hunter, so that may be relevant depending on how popular he is in the current meta.
tirion-fordring is another expensive card in this deck, and probably one of the hardest to replace. His effect on the game is so unique compared to other cards. Honestly, I’m not entirely sure this guy is replaceable in the deck. He’s the ultimate stabilizer against creature based aggro decks on turn eight, and that’s where he really shines. Perhaps you guys can experiment with replacements if you don’t have him and let me know.
The double avenging-wrath is also hard to come by for a lot of people. My best suggestion here is a couple of argent-commander. It doesn’t exactly fulfill the same role; however, it does in the sense that it can act as removal or an aggressive play. Of course, it’s also another value card that can often two for one, which is always important.
Since Hearthstone Players has been so gracious in waiting for me to write this during some crazy changes in my personal life, I am a bit behind the meta. Nonetheless, I figured I would drop in some mention of Naxxramas. It’s hard to speculate on how things will turn out after the dust settles from the meat shakeup, but I think this deck will remain relatively solid. In some ways it will have more brutal matchups because of the new anti-AOE additions, but there are also some incredibly juicy stampeding-kodo targets. I think the net result will be fairly unchanged. However, there could be a couple of meta decks that rise to high levels of popularity and give you a really hard time. My suggestion right now is you just do your best to monitor the meta and adjust accordingly, but don’t make any really drastic changes until things stabilize a bit more.
As well, I only see a couple of new cards possibly fitting well into this deck. The new class card is not suited for a control deck. Although I think the card can be decent, I would argue that it’s much better suited to an aggro or mid-range strategy where you are more likely to have something on the board.
However, that doesn’t mean I won’t experiment with it! loatheb is another card I could see being pretty useful. It is a strong play against almost any Rogue or Mage deck I can think of, and probably proves pretty strong against other control decks as well. kel-thuzard is a finisher that I definitely want to experiment with. I’m not entirely sure yet what I’d replace it with, but it seems like a possible substitute for malygos. I suspect he’d be better suited for a mid-range deck with a higher creature count and better board presence, but still worth trying out either way. sludge-belcher is the last card I think might prove interesting. It seems decent against aggro decks, but it’s also a solid play to stop leeroy-jenkins style combo finishes, which is very relevant.
I’m interested to see what you guys come up with, so post in the comments if you experiment and let me know!
On that note, it’s time to wrap things up. I hope you folks have enjoyed reading about this deck I spent a lot of time sculpting and play testing. More importantly, I hope you have fun playing it. This isn’t the best deck for grinding early rungs on the ladder, as the games play a bit slow, but that doesn’t matter to me. I find it very challenging, but very rewarding when you make the right plays. The decision tree is complex, so for those of you who like it, go out there and show the haters what Paladin can do. Cheers!