Grand Tournament: Dragon Warrior and Dragon Paladin

Hello everyone. The Grand Tournament is right around the corner and I’m very excited. From my point of view, The Grand Tournament is an amazing set and I can’t wait to finally play with all the new sweet cards. I love playing control decks, and Dragons are the only tribal that supports control decks. Therefore […]

Introduction

Hello everyone. The Grand Tournament is right around the corner and I’m very excited. From my point of view, The Grand Tournament is an amazing set and I can’t wait to finally play with all the new sweet cards. I love playing control decks, and Dragons are the only tribal that supports control decks. Therefore I’m thrilled when it comes to the new Dragon cards, because I think they are exactly what Dragon decks were lacking and therefore they will help building better Dragon decks.

In this article I will first of all analyze the new neutral dragons and tell you how good they are. Then I will show one Warrior and Paladin Dragon list and explain you the reasoning behind my card choices.

I played a lot of Paladin and Warrior Dragon for the last several months (Dragon Paladin is a deck I used for the more casual ranks at the beginning of each season, so until Rank 5-3, while the Dragon Warrior was still good enough for Legend 500-200), therefore I think I’m the perfect guy to tell you with what list you should start playing, once the new expansion rolls out, if you liked either of these two archetypes.

It is also important, that I don’t claim that the lists I show you are perfect ones, some slots will of course change when I finally can play with the new cards. But they are an excellent starting point, when the new set comes out. The theory behind games was always a part I highly enjoyed and was very good at, ranging from Magic the Gathering to Chess.

Also note that I won’t cover other possible Dragon archetypes, because I simply never played them a lot to have enough insight and be sure they are good with the new set.

The new Dragon cards for Warrior and Paladin

Twilight Guardian

This is the exact card Dragon decks needed when Blackrock Mountain came out. It is a Dragon synergy card, that also happens to be a Dragon. If you’re holding a Dragon, Twilight Guardian is a 4 mana Fen Creeper, which is very good. Piloted Shredder is still the 4 drop of choice in an abundance of Aggro and Midrange decks. Twilight Guardian with the bonus from the battle cry contests Piloted Shredder very nicely which is of utter importance. Nevertheless he is an underwhelming card if you don’t hold a Dragon, because a 4 mana 2/6 with zero additional effects is overcosted.

Therefore, unlike Blackwing Corruptor, you can’t simply throw Twilight Guardian in a Dragon deck with very few Dragons (like the Blackrock Mountain Dragon Warrior, that plays three 9 mana Dragons), because you really want to get the benefit of the battle cry. Blackwing Corruptor on its own at least contests other popular 5 drops like Sludge Belcher and Loatheb or even 6 drops like Sylvanas Windrunner or Emperor Thaurissan. So playing a Blackwing Corruptor without the battle cry, is not that bad. But playing a Twilight Dragon without the battle cry is very bad for trading purposes except against aggressive decks like Zoolock and Hunter (they have a lot of 2 health or lower minions, and a 2/6 can at least trade nicely with some of them), when you are not in dire need of a taunt. For that reason having at least 7 Dragons (the more the better of course) in your deck is very important to have a consistent activator for Twilight Guardian.

In theory this card is nothing amazing, it does not have any spectacular battle cry like dealing damage to an enemy minion or death rattle, so it does not offer as much potential value as the all-star Piloted Shredder. In my books Dragon decks already have enough high value cards, they did not need a “Dragon- Piloted Shredder”, they simply needed a cheap dragon with taunt that helps them slow down the game to the point where they can start playing their very powerful dragons and simply crush the opponent with them. And most of all they needed more cheap Dragons to have a higher density of dragon cards for the holding a Dragon mechanic.

Chillmaw

One big weakness of Dragon decks is the lack of defensive Dragons. Prior to The Grand tournament, there was not a single Dragon that had taunt or helped you catch up when facing a flood of smaller minions that smash your face. Now Dragon decks not only have Twilight Guardian, but also Chillmaw as defensive cards.

Chillmaw, like Twilight Dragon is nothing amazing. A 7 mana 6/6 Taunt with a conditional Hellfire attached is a little bit overcosted, but once again the lack of powerful cards was not the reason why Dragon decks never were very popular. Chillmaw instead does not give Dragon decks a new Dr. Boom to even have more high value cards in their decks, instead he is just a nice card to have against decks that don’t care a lot about value, that just want to kill you as fast as possible, before you can slow the game down and stabilize and simply beat them with your more powerful cards.

And that is exactly what Chillmaw is doing. A nice defensive Dragon, that slows aggro down and can punish your opponent for too many small minions on the battlefield.

In addition to that his death rattle will help you clear Grim Patron. But he is not a very strong counter against Grim Patron Warrior. They won’t have nightmares of Chillmaw, they will simply send all their Patrons into Chillmaw and kill it or simply Execute him, before they even play their Patrons. So he is nothing more than an additional very nice card to have against Grim Patron. So Paladin will still have a very hard time against Grim Patron, while Dragon Warrior will still be good against Patron. But Chillmaw will make it a little bit better for both decks, because he is another angle of attack. Unlike Abomination Chillmaw also does not damage your life total, which is very important against aggressive decks.

Alexstrasza’s Champion

This card is a dream come true. A 2 mana 3/3 charge is insanely good. The Champion can kill a lot of very popular early game minions, like Mechwarper, Mad Scientist and the soon very popular Darnassus Aspirant. And even if you don’t get to play him as a 3/3 charge, he is still a 2/3 which is decent for trading purposes against aggressive decks. If you play about 7 Dragons in your deck you will benefit from the bonus around 75 % of the time. 25 % of the time he will just be a 2/3. In my books a 75 % chance for an insanely strong early game minion is very good.

A lot of people might think that Alexstrasza’s Champion is not needed in a Control Dragon Warrior, because Charge is an aggressive mechanic and Warrior already has Fiery War Axe and Armorsmith to deal with early aggression. Such an assumption is just wrong. His charge ability does not mean he is an aggressive minion it means that it can trade the turn it enters the battlefield. The Fiery War Axe argument is also flawed, because sometimes you don’t have a Fiery War Axe and even if you have both cards in your starting hand, it is just fantastic, because you can dominate the early game and make your aggressive opponent lose all momentum.

So in Dragon Warrior the Champion will replace Armorsmith which is sometimes very embarrassing against a lot of aggressive decks that don’t play a lot of 1 health minions (Mechdecks, Zoolock etc.).

Why play Dragon decks?

From a competitive point of view, the first and most important question when it comes to exploring and building new decks or new archetypes must be: What does it better than already existing decks?

If it does nothing better than an already existing deck, then the deck is unplayable and you should not bother playing it. So whenever building new decks, try to think of the weaknesses of other popular decks and ask yourself what exactly your new deck does better. Such a quick analysis will help you save a lot of time.

So what does Dragon Warrior offer that standard Control Warrior does not?

Answer: Blackwing Corruptor and Alexstrasza’s Champion

Both cards have a very high power level. If they were completely unconditional cards, absurd power creep would happen to Hearthstone and they would be played in almost every deck. But luckily they are synergy cards, that reward you for putting dragons in your deck.

And let us be honest here. All the midgame Dragons like Twilight Guardian or Azure Drake are nothing amazing when compared with other options Piloted Shredder or Sludge Belcher. So you pay a price, and the price is playing slightly worse cards to have access to extremely powerful cards.

Blackwing Corruptor is a 5 mana 5/4 that deals three damage. At first that may sound like nothing amazing. But actually it is very amazing. Putting a decent sized minion on the board while killing a smaller minion or damaging a bigger minion and then kill it with a Fiery War Axe is just great. You not only remove your opponent’s board presence, you also develop your board. Cards that let you develop minions while removing opposing minions are fantastic.

Alestrasza’s Champion is a cheap minion that immediately can trade with all other cheap minions or simply kill them. Killing a Mad Scientist with the Champion and then proccing a potential Freezing Trap is very good. In standard Control Warrior you don’t have any other cheap minion that is as powerful. And even in the late game, where smaller minions will usually get killed for free by bigger minions, Alexstraszas Champion is still better than all the other options, because it has Charge which means that it can act like a Darkbomb. Other small minions will give your opponent the initiative because he can choose what minion takes the three damage.

So what does Dragon Paladin offer that Paladin Control does not?

Answer: Blackwing Corruptor

In Dragon Paladin the Corruptor is even better than in Dragon Warrior, because Paladin lacks tempo efficient removal. The lack of tempo efficient removal is mainly the reason why Midrange and Control Paladin are both bad versus Oil Rogue.

The two decklist I will show you were built with several other very good players, and we all agreed on them being a very good starting point for their respective archetypes:

Dragon Warrior

The very good core of normal Control Warrior is still there, but it has some very spicy upgrades:

Bash

Aggressive decks are here to stay with The Grand Tournament. Those who say otherwise are delusional. Bash gives you more removal in your early game with a little bit of life gain attached. It complements your Weapons, Executes, Shield Slams etc. and gives you more answers. More removal and therefore answers for early game minions are always great for every control decks , because the games you usually lose against aggro are the ones where you drew not enough answers to slow them down and then to fully benefit from your powerful legendaries.

Another big appeal of Bash is Piloted Shredder. Piloted Shredder gives a Control Warrior nightmares and is one of the reasons why Combo Druid is such a bad matchup. It is a very sticky minion that gives you a hard time, because you normally need two attacks with your weapon to completely get rid of it. Bash just kills the first, more threatening (the majority of time, outside of bad luck) half of Piloted Shredder and a weapon can take care of the leftover.

Azure Drake

Azure Drake is not a great minion in this deck, but he is still decent enough to include, because you need more Dragons to consistently activate the crazy power of Alexstrasza’s Champion and Blackwing Corruptor.

Azure Drake also replaces himself and has some small synergy with Bash and Slam.

Varian Wrynn

The king himself and oh boy he is so awesome. Drawing 3 cards and putting a 7/7 on the board is already very good, but you he also can put any minions you drew for free on the battlefield.

One argument people make a lot and that makes me giggle is that you have to build your deck around him, because he does not trigger battlecries. That is just nonsense, because in the majority of games you don’t draw your entire deck and even if you do some lost battle cries will maybe in 1 out of 1000 games have an impact on the outcome of the game.

Let us imagine you play against Combo Druid (one of many matchups where you will never reach fatigue, you win or lose before) and you play Varian Wrynn on Turn 10 and draw 3 cards: one Twilight Guardian, one Blackwing Corruptor and one Execute. Horrific, because you did not get the two battle cries? No, it is amazing! A 10 mana 7/7 that puts a 2/6 minion and a 5/4 minion on the board AND also drew a spell is just very powerful and exactly what you want from a 10 mana minion.

Of course he would be better in a deck that plays zero battle cry minions, but there is one thing you have to keep in mind: he is a legendary, a one of in your deck. You don’t want to make your deck worse just for one card, you might not draw in a lot of games. And he is still amazing, even if your deck is full of battle cry minions. Just the raw stats and the card draw are amazing and are exactly what Control Warrior needs from a Legendary minion that costs ten mana. Varian Wrynn could also be another expensive legendary dragon that increases the odds of having a Dragon. But he is just so powerful that I feel like you absolutely have to include him and having an eighth Dragon only increases the chance of holding a Dragon by a small margin.

Cards that did not make it:

Blackwing Technician

A Spider Tank with one more health is not really what you want in Dragon Warrior. Of course you can build a more Midrange style Dragon Warrior and cut some late game and removal to be a more board focused deck, but I think such a deck is inferior.

Sparring Partner

Giving your midgame minions Taunt is nice, he can also gives enemy minions Taunt which can help when a must kill target is protected by a Taunt minion and you want to kill it with your weapon. He also combos with The Black Knight. But overall I think he is just a worse Sunfury Protector, because a 3/2 is worse than a 2/3 for trading with opposing smaller minions (Mad Scientist, Leper Gnome etc.). The combo potential with The Black Knight is also nothing more than gimmicky.

The gameplan of Dragon Warrior: Use your cheap removal to leverage the advantage of aggressive/ faster decks in the early game, then gain slowly control of the board in the midgame with the help of Blackwing Corruptor and other midgame minions, then overwhelm them with your late game dragons and Varian Wrynn.

Dragon Paladin

Without TGT Paladin lacks several cards to be a good deck, but with the addition of the new expansion it will be a much better deck. This deck has the standard staples of Paladin with some spicy new cards and Dragon synergy.

Tuskarr Jouster

Before The Grand Tournament Paladin had to play Antique Healbot, which is a very embarrassing bad card against other slower decks. Especially because, unlike Warlock Control decks (f.ex. Handlock) you don’t have an inbuilt card advantage mechanism that gives you always enough other good cards to play.

Enter Tuskarr Jouster, which acts as a Healbot against highly aggressive decks, while also still offering good stats against other control decks. 5 attack is very important because he can trade with other popular 5 drops like Sludge Belcher or Loatheb and even 6 drops like Emperor Thaurissan or Sylvanas Windrunner. Of course you are not guaranteed to get the heal against for example Face Hunter (about 20 % chance to miss), but card games are not like Chess. They are a game about chance. You want to maximize the odds and give yourself the best chance to win any given game. So overall, having a slightly inconsistent Healbot that has better stats against slower decks is totally worth it. Of course you will lose some games, because you did not get the heal against Face Hunter, but overall you will lose more games when you play Antique Healbot, because it has very bad stats in a slower matchup.

Master Jouster

One problem we found when building the Paladin Dragon deck, was the number of five mana minions (six 5 mana minions; Warrior has four 5 mana minions and one Brawl, which is usually not played on Turn 5 and acts as a more late game spell) and the lack of six mana minions. So we tried putting in at least one six drop to smooth the mana curve. We all agreed on Sylvanas Windrunner or Emperor Thaurissan not being good options, because they are not defensive enough. So we wanted to play something else: Master Jouster.

Master Jouster, unlike other options like Sunwalker has five attack, which is of utter importance because you really want a six drop to deal with popular 5 health minions (Sludge Belcher, Sylvanas Windrunner, Emperor Thaurissan, Savannah Highmane etc.). On average you have a 50 % chance against other decks to get the bonus from the joust, the faster the deck the more likely it is to get the bonus from the battle cry. I think that is good enough to warrant a spot in the deck, especially because getting the bonus is very good against Grim Patron Warrior.

Cards that did not make it:

Blackwing Technician

Once again a Spider Tank with one more health is nothing amazing, while also being very lackluster in the late game. If you want to build a more Midrange style focused Paladin, the standard Midrange Paladin without Dragon synergy is just a better approach.

Eadric the Pure

Eadric is definitely a good card, especially against other control decks, but is kind of lackluster when facing more aggro focused decks. For 7 mana turning a board full of for example 3/2’s and 2/1’s into 1 attack minions is nothing amazing, especially when the opponent has Nerubian Egg on the battlefield.

The gameplan of Dragon Paladin: Ideally you use your early game minions to gain quick control of the board, then you want to achieve a snowball effect and gain further dominance by playing your midgame minions and/or Aldor Peacekeeper to turn threatening minions into smaller minions. Then one heavy hitter like Ysera or Nefarian will be the final nail in the coffin. If you don’t get early board control, you have powerful comeback cards like Equality with either Consecration or Wild Pyromancer to completely destroy the opponents board or simply Chillmaw that can wipe the board against aggro and make them lose a lot of momentum.

Overall Dragon Paladin is a more minion focused deck than Dragon Warrior. Dragon Warrior deals with other minions mainly with their weapons and cheap single target removal, whereas Paladin mainly uses minions to deal with opposing minions.

So which archetype will be better?

The viability of a class highly depends on the their hero power. For that reason Hunter and Warlock will never be bottom tier classes, unless some ridiculous power creep happens to other classes (a lot better class cards for the other 7). The reason why hero powers are so important to decks in general is that, you have access to them 100 % of the time every game, against every opponent. It does not matter if your opponent is playing a highly aggressive deck or a more controllish, your hero power acts like a card you will always draw. A card like Sludge Belcher or Antique Healbot you may simply never draw in a given game, but you always have access to your hero power.

Because of that they play a big part when it comes to the viability of classes. I’m not saying that a class with a bad hero power is doomed, but they better have some really powerful cards that make up for their weaker hero power. The best classes pre TGT are: Warlock, Warrior and Hunter and they all have very good hero powers. Armor is flat-out superior to health, because you can stack it over 30, wich means Armor Up will increase your survivability, which is a big deal because all the major archetypes of Warrior are slower ones that heavily benefit from their hero power, because it might buy them that one extra turn they need to stabilize or win the game. For that reason an aggressive Warrior deck would need some very powerful cards to be a competitive deck, because the hero power does almost nothing. Gaining 2 life as an aggressive deck against any type of slower deck is incredibly bad. Your life total will not matter, once the slower deck has stabilized and runs you out of steam.

Warlocks hero power is flat-out the most powerful in the game, because having access to guaranteed draw effects is good in every type of deck, ranging from hyper aggressive to slower decks.

And Hunters hero power? It is noninteractive (not meant as a complain! I mean it has very few counterplay, only 2 out of 9 classes can negate Hunter’s hero power with their hero power) and it is a win condition on its own. With Warlock or Priest for example, you can’t expect to press your hero power 30 times and simply win, with Hunter on the other hand it is a very realistic scenario.

For that reason Hunters hero power is both good in aggressive decks and control decks. Why control decks? Face is the place, Control Hunter is a joke deck.

Not exactly. Hunter’s hero power is a win condition on its own, and it is a hero power that makes sure that the longer the game goes the more likely you are to win. When a supposed Control Hunter deck plays against Handlock, the Handlock has to be aggressive because he will inevitably lose to the Hunter hero power. The same is true when a Control Hunter plays against any class except Priest and Warrior. The Control Hunter just needs to delay the game. So by killing all enemy minion and removing their tempo, Control Hunter will simply win against the majority of classes, if the game lasts long enough. With TGT Control Hunter gets some very fascinating tools and I fully expect it to be a more viable deck (at least Tier 2, while previously Control Hunter was a very bad deck). Control Hunter lacked some more good removal spells and card draw. It is a very cool deck, and before Naxxramas came out I enjoyed playing it a lot. It was a very skill intensive deck and games would go very long, before your opponents loses to your inevitability. Anyways it is not an article about Hunter…

Now onto Paladin. Lets examine their hero power.

Paladin’s hero power is a value based one. In a vacuum you make a bunch of 1/1s that add up and enable good trades with your opponents real minions. So the hero power is kind of similar to Warlock, which means that it should produce card advantage over time. The problem is that first of all, unlike Warlock’s hero power it does not produce immediate card advantage. In addition to that a lot of other classes can negate your hero power with their hero power (Rogue even trades very tempo effectively for it, because one Rogue hero power activation will counter two of Paladin’s).

So we are building a super sweet Paladin Control deck with enough high value cards (Tirion Fordring, Ysera, Dragon synergy), very effective removal for big minions (Equality and Big Game Hunter) and some card draw to compete against other slower decks and some early minions and healing effects that help you combat aggressive decks.

If you’ve read carefully enough you will notice that the Paladin hero power will not benefit you a lot. It just gives you a little bit more value against other control decks, but does not give you any actual immediate card advantage. Now let us compare it to Armor Up!. Armor Up has a clear purpose and does something unique. It lets the Warrior player stack life way above 30 health which is a huge deal against aggressive decks and combo decks that have a high damage output (Freeze Mage and Patron Warrior are good examples). So Warrior has one of the bases of Control decks covered very well covered with its hero power: life gain. That gives the Warrior player more slots to cover other important bases of control decks: high value cards, card draw, early game.

So Warlock does cover card draw very well, which means that Warlocks deck almost never play card draw minions or spells and Warrior increases survivability. So what does Paladin’s hero power offer? Not that much. A little bit of value with some minor board presence that is very vulnerable to other hero powers, while also being vulnerable to board clears. It also does not help you survive when you are very low on life against a Rogue or Hunter.

And I still haven’t mentioned another major problem of Paladin: Silver Hand Recruits can be a liability against Grim Patron Warrior and can even outright lose you the game, which results in the awkward situation that you should NOT use your hero power after Turn 8 the majority of time.

So what is my point? Is Dragon Paladin bad? No I don’t think so. It will be a good and a definitely viable archetype you can reach Legend and possibly even higher Legend ranks, but is not a highly competitive deck, mainly because the hero power is not as good as other hero powers.

So in my books, while Dragon Paladin is favored against Dragon Warrior, it is still inferior overall and if you want maximum efficiency, Dragon Warrior is the Dragon archetype you should play.

Conclusion

I could easily write more about this topic, but everything must come to an end. I hope you liked my article and if you have any questions feel free to ask me in the comments, I will do my best to answer them.