Update: After the Tinkmaster Nerf, we suggest using Blessing of Kings in place of it!
Don’t Kick My Robot here to walk you through how [DKMR]Varranis went from rank 5 to legendary. We will talk about the deck used and the strategy behind it. [DKMR]Varranis sat at a high of rank 6 at one point in legendary and continues to work on his decks with the team to reach that #1 spot. Aggro Paladin.
So how exactly does one go about making it to Legendary? It’s not easy and it can take a lot of work. For [DKMR]varranis it just took one crazy Paladin deck.
It all started when one of my teammates on DKMR and I kept running into an odd Paladin Aggro deck on the ladder. The deck was different but seemed to have some potential, particularly against the Shaman decks that were gaining popularity due to their favorable Druid match-up. So we tried it out. It was ok. Turn 1 Argent Squire followed by Blessing of Might was bananas. Divine Favor sometimes felt like cheating. The deck had cool things going on, but it was incredibly clunky and clearly not on par with other top tier edcks.
I was about to move on and go back to my stock Shaman and Druid lists, but I paused. Something was off. My deckbuilding senses were tingling. Sometimes I see things in Hearthstone decks that would never fly in other card games, and I tell myself, “No Varranis, let it go. This is Hearthstone, it’s different than Magic: the Gathering.” But what good would those years of CCG experience be if I didn’t apply them here? So I went to work.
As a deckbuilding exercise, what cards would you change, if any, in this first version of the deck? Blessing of Might? Aldor Peacekeeper? Equality…?
To know how to tune a deck, you need to consider the goal of your deck. Is it to play Alexstrasza on turn 9 and Gorehowl on turn 10 and swing for game? If so, you should play cards that aid that strategy. Not only should you play cards that aid your strategy, you should play the cards that best aid your strategy. In the simplest terms, your goal as a Warrior control player would be to make the game last long enough to allow you to play Alexstrazsa then Gorehowl. Silverback Patriarch makes the game last longer, but is it the best way to make the game last longer? Probably not. Efficient removal spells like Slam and Cleave allow you to survive longer much more effectively while Nat Pagle fishes for your end game, shortening the time you need to survive.
So what’s our goal with Paladin Aggro? In short: get ‘em dead. Nearly all the cards in our initial version of the deck serve this goal, but are they the best choices?
After playing a few games with this version and recalling the lessons I’ve learned from Magic, I decided I really didn’t want board clears in my aggressive deck. Sure, Consecration does two damage to the opponent’s face, but if that’s all we want we can probably get it for a lot cheaper than four mana. Removing the opponent’s minions is not high on your priorities when playing Paladin Aggro. Equality is similarly awkward. Equality synergizes particularly well with the Paladin’s Hero Power, but is pretty slow when trying to get ‘em dead. You need a way to break through Taunt minions in the deck, and that was Equality’s initial purpose. Unfortunately, removing a Taunt minion with Equality requires that you either already have a minion in play who can attack or have a Charge minion you can play. Even in those situations, you often won’t have a Silver Hand Recruit at the ready and will have to trade away an actually valuable minion like Arcane Golem. In these cases, Equality adds very little value.
Both of these cards also negatively impact the tempo of our deck. A turn we take to play Equality and trade minions is a turn we’re not achieving our goal of getting ‘em dead. What this deck really wants Consecration to be is Holy Smite or Arcane Shot. Those cards are both very efficient on our mana and serve modal purposes: either as end game reach or a removal spell. While control decks place a lot of value on board clears like Consecration, an aggressive deck values efficiency and precision. Consecration is a nuke when we need a sniper rifle.
So How Do We Fix This?
I took the decklist to the left on a 20 win 3 loss rampage to Legendary. My toughest match-up was Druid (accounting for two of my losses), but I found the deck could take on all competitors. After some fiddling, I had also decided that the Hammer of Wraths were too much mana for three damage and were counterproductive to big Divine Favor plays. Let’s explore the changes I made and why.
Ironbeak Owl is like Equality on steroids in this deck. It costs the same amount of mana, deals with the Taunt immediately, AND leaves a minion behind. You really can’t get much better than that. There are certain decks against whom the Owl is merely a two mana 2/1 (usually against Warriors or other aggressive decks). However, this deck is so weak to Taunts that the inclusion of some form of answer is mandatory. I’ve found Ironbeak Owl to be by far the most efficient solution. The Silence usually always has a target even if the opponent doesn’t play Taunts.
Who gets ‘em dead better than anyone? Leeroy Jenkins, that’s who. As the most powerful Charge minion in the game, there’s really no reason not to play Leeroy in this deck. His exclusion from our initial list was mostly an oversight.
What else gets ‘em dead? Blessing of Kings! What, really? Yes, really! Blessing of Kings is often disregarded for its situational nature. It requires you to have a minion in play. If you want to get any value out of it, the minion you play it on needs to be able to attack that turn or risk being Silenced or otherwise dealt with in some efficient fashion. Essentially, Blessing of Kings can set you up to get blown out pretty badly as playing it typically requires you to invest two cards in a minion that can be removed by one of your opponent’s cards. Let’s think about the card a little differently though. If your goal is to deal damage, Blessing of Kings is basically a 4/4 with Charge for four mana. That’s a pretty sweet deal! Most people also don’t expect it and fail to prepare for it. This allows you some huge game winning swings. We only play one because it is near the top of our curve and is still somewhat situational despite the number of Charge minions we run.
Blessing of Might probably deserves a similar discussion. Although it was in our initial version of the deck, it isn’t the most obviously powerful Paladin card. But let me tell you. You’ll fall in love as soon as you play turn 1 Argent Squire, turn 2 Blessing of Might. It’s like playing Defender of Argus on an Argent Squire, but light years faster. It’s like build-your-own-Argent Commander on turn 2. Often this combo is enough to get in eight damage and let you run away with the game. When Blessing of Might isn’t bending reality on turn 2, it still serves as a perfectly respectable means to deal Charge damage. Much like Blessing of Kings, I don’t think it’s amiss to think of Blessing of Might as a one mana 3/1 Charge minion. Sometimes the minion you play it on won’t live to attack a second time and it’s just a Sinister Strike, but Wolfrider is often the same thing for two more mana. Like Blessing of Kings, Blessing of Might can be situational. Fortunately it’s a steal at one mana.
Another card I eventually removed after reaching Legendary is Aldor Peacekeeper. Despite being a Paladin staple, he isn’t the best at getting ‘em dead. While the Battlecry is certainly powerful, it isn’t necessary and won’t even save your one health minions from danger. I replaced the Aldor Peacekeepers with Bluegill Warriors and never looked back. I’ve also been experimenting with the number of Avenging Wrath in the deck. I most often try to play Avenging Wrath as a mini-Pyroblast or to clear Taunt minions. Unfortunately, the card does almost literal nothing if your opponent has six or more health worth of minions on the battlefield. This situation isn’t infrequent and this deck can’t afford to run a six mana do-nothing (hello awkward Divine Favors). I’ve settled on running one for the time being, but I wouldn’t be surprised to remove it completely soon. I replaced the other with a little spice that goes by the name of Millhouse Manastorm, as you can see in the list I’m currently using to the right. I’ve discussed Millhouse in previous articles. There are very few situations when his drawback actually matters and far more situations where he’ll trade for two cards or run away with the game.
So How Do You Play This Deck?
I’ve said it before, but get ‘em dead. Much like playing Hunter, it’s usually right to go for the face. The most difficult lessons to learn will be when to play your Charge minions and Blessings and when to play your Hero Power. It can be hard to accomplish, but if your Blessing of Might accounts for six damage to your opponent, you’re likely going to win that game. It’s easy to slam an Arcane Golem and buff it with a Blessing for seven damage, but it isn’t always right if you know your opponent can easily deal with a 7/2 Golem. It’s possible you can create a situation on later turns where your Golem or Blessing can live to swing a second time. Often that’s the difference between winning and losing.
Sometimes you can accomplish this by using your Hero Power instead of playing a minion or a Blessing. Because of how powerful your Blessings are, your opponent will have to treat the Silver Hand Recruit with nearly the same respect he’d give a 7/2 Golem. That 1/1 could very well turn into a 7/2 if he lets it live! This can gain you enough tempo to get a Golem or Blessing to survive longer or to accumulate enough Charge damage in your hand for lethal. Noble Sacrifice serves a similar role, allowing you to protect a Knife Juggler or a high-powered, yet frail Charge minion. It’s also important to remember that it’s more valuable to play your non-Charge minions first in many situations since they need a turn before attacking.
We’ve gone this long without talking much about Divine Favor; I think it’s time we give it its due. Divine Favor is the best card in the deck and one of the primary reasons this deck is worth playing. Every card in this deck does a lot of damage for its mana cost. When you play a Divine Favor for four or five cards, dealing thirty damage over the course of a game is child’s play. A lot of the popular decks right now also thrive on card advantage. Druid, Warrior, and Shaman all put a lot of work into drawing cards. All you need to do is pay three mana for a Divine Favor. It’s often right to ignore cards like Nat Pagle or Mana Tide Totem because of Divine Favor and the aggressive nature of our deck. We don’t care about how many cards they draw because they only have so much mana to spend on those cards over the course of the game and we can match them with Divine Favor. Not only will we draw as many cards, but our cards are much cheaper and efficient, meaning we can often deploy a full grip in one turn. Divine Favor is one of our deck’s most powerful assets, and playing it right is important. As a rule of thumb, I am ok playing it to draw three cards but I usually shoot for four or five. If your opponent knows your tricks, they will actively try to empty their hand and all their Ancient of Lore will gain life instead of drawing. In these situations you’ll want to cash in your Divine Favor quickly before they have mana to play each of their cards every turn.
I find this deck has a 50-50 match-up or better against nearly everything except perhaps Druid. Druid plays just enough Taunts to give you a headache and Swipe is ludicrously good against your packs of Wolfriders and Leper Gnomes. This exact build gets much worse if people start playing more Taunt minions. Defender of Argus, Earth Elemental, and their ilk are fairly underplayed at the moment. If they do regain popularity, running The Black Knight and maybe even a Spellbreaker or Tinkmaster Overspark could be warranted. Tinkmaster has the potential upside of turning a Silver Hand Recruit or naked Argent Squire into a 5/5 Devilsaur.
Let’s take a look at some mulligan decisions.
You want to mulligan in a way that maximizes your opportunity to have a strong opening. Against this Druid above, I’ve decided to send back Truesilver Champion and Leeroy Jenkins. Neither card is specifically strong against Druid and both are near the top of our curve. We would prefer a two drop or an additional one drop. Noble Sacrifice is fine to return as well. It isn’t particularly strong in this match-up, nor are we certain we will have a play worth protecting this early in the game. I chose to keep it as it is a suitable early play. Argent Squire is one of your best early drops and should almost never be mulliganed.
Here’s what we got.
Wow. It doesn’t get much better than this. This hand is strong against nearly any opponent. Your most likely play will be to play Argent Squire, Coin, and Leper Gnome on turn 1. The Druid player will most likely use his Hero Power to kill the Leper Gnome on the following turn. On turn 2, you can play Blessing of Might and Noble Sacrifice for an incredibly potent and difficult to remove Argent Squire.
This hand against Hunter is somewhat more difficult. I chose to send back the Avenging Wrath due to its high mana cost and the Blessing of Might since my hand currently has no creatures to play it on. I kept the Noble Sacrifice because it guarantees I have turn 1 play and will likely serve to remove one of the Hunter’s Charge minions. I kept the Truesilver Champion as it is one of the better cards against Hunter aggro. It gains life while ending the game quickly. Sending the card]Avenging Wrath[/card] back is almost certainly right as it will be several turns until we could cast it. Sending back the Blessing could be wrong since it is one of the cards that allows us to be faster than the Hunter and forces them to prioritize our minions over direct damage. Although I typically keep Truesilver against Hunters, this could be one hand where that is incorrect given the overall weakness of our early plays.
Here is what we got.
Things didn’t get much better. Our line of play is likely to play Noble Sacrifice turn 1 and use our Hero Power on turn 2. This hand is weak enough that our future draws will heavily influence the line of play we take. It is possible the Argent Protector will serve invaluable and allow us to protect an important minion from Explosive Trap or allow a Silver Hand Recruit to trade for a Bluegill Warrior and a Wolfrider. It’s important to note how strong your Hero Power is against the Hunter’s minions. It’s important to be mindful of Explosive Trap and Unleash the Hounds, but your Hero Power is more powerful against Hunter than any other class.
Divine Favor is especially good against Shaman since most builds play Nat Pagle and two Mana Tide Totems. Shaman also usually plays in a fairly reactionary fashion, holding on to removal spells until they provide the most value. Because of these things, Shaman typically has many cards in their hand and it should be easy to get significant value from our Divine Favor. Note that even though Divine Favor is very powerful, it is often correct to replace it depending on the match-up and the other cards you are keeping. I have replaced both Wolfriders here as I would like a stronger opening and be able to empty my hand quickly to maximize Divine Favor. Abusive Sergeant is your weakest one drop, but I have kept it as it is a card we can play early to make our Divine Favor better.
Here is what we got.
This hand is fairly powerful and should allow us to play an early Divine Favor for significant value. I almost always play Millhouse Manastorm on turn 1 or 2 if possible. However, Shaman is one of the few classes he can backfire against. Feral Spirit is Shaman’s best card against our deck. Played early, it can be back-breaking. I believe I would still take the risk and play the Millhouse on turn 1. He can potentially trade for both 2/3 wolves on his own and our opponent will only have one mana to spend on his turn 3 due to Overload. If our opponent does not have Feral Spirit, Millhouse could seal the game by himself. Holding the Millhouse for later turns is riskier as it becomes more likely our opponent can capitalize on his Battlecry. Note that you should also play only the Argent Squire on turn 2 assuming you played the Millhouse turn 1. Holding the Abusive Sergeant will allow a Squire or Recruit to trade up for a Feral Spirit wolf later.
I highly encourage you to try the deck out for yourself. It’s a blast to play and very powerful. Some other cards to consider if you’re missing some of the Legendaries or just want to try a new flavor are Shattered Sun Cleric, King Mukla, Blood Knight, and Harvest Golem. Shattered Sun Cleric is powerful in this deck, but a little slow. She gives you one “Charge” damage and synergizes well with Divine Shield. King Mukla is very powerful, but I find his drawback to be relevant more frequently than Millhouse Manastorm’s. The Bananas are cards in your opponent’s hand, which can enable an especially powerful Divine Favor. Just be careful if you expect your opponent’s to be playing Wild Pyromancer. The Bananas are spells, so a banana-powered Wild Pyromancer can make short work of your minions. I’ve found Blood Knight to be too situational, but our deck does run enough Divine Shields to make him work. A three mana 6/6 is definitely no slouch. Harvest Golem is slow and unexciting, but provides a means to retain board presence for your Blessings. Harvest Golem has never impressed me in this deck, but it’s also never disappointed me.
Sound off in the comments if you have any specific questions about the deck, card choices, or strategy.
Let us know your thoughts on our forums at http://dontkickmyrobot.com/forums.
Guide written by [DKMR]Varranis
Discussions about this topic brought to you by Team [DKMR]
As usual, Hearthstone Players took this deck for a spin and recorded some games – see them in action here!