As all of you well know, the best part of a new set (and format!) is brewing. New decks are one of the most interesting parts of any card game, and they are what really keep it fresh and fun for a lot of people (myself included). It is always cool to see how new cards are going to impact the game, and try to figure out what you want to play in the new meta. Whiile there are many directions you can go in when brewing with Whispers, I think there are some very interesting or new deck types that have a very good chance of seeing competitive play. Some of these are new spins on older builds, while others are just completely new ideas that have never been seen before. Either way, I am going to outline six different deck archetypes below that I think are going to come out of Whisper of the Old Gods (and that I will be playing) in order to give you guys some ideas of what to build in Standard and to get those creative juices flowing.
Divine Shield Paladin
We’re going to kick things off with a deck that I know quite well. You guys who keep up with me are probably tired of me talking about how much I enjoy Aggro Paladin, but my God do I love it. Now that (thankfully) Divine Favor did not get nerfed, this deck has some real possibility in the new set. Instead of playing the half-aggro-with-a-strong-midrange-core version that has been so popular over the last few months, this deck has some real potential to get back to its roots. That is, you can play a ton of small minions that either overwhelm your opponent or set up a strong favor to reload your hand. You don’t need much to make Aggro Paladin strong. All it takes are swarms of powerful, small minions. And, with the inclusion of Whispers, this deck is going to be chock-full of them.
Looking at the list, there are three options that are really important: Selfless Hero, Twisted Worgen and Steward of Darkshire. Hero and Steward are both very strong cards in a deck that wants to pump out small, sticky minions. They have a lot of synergy with just about every other aggressive card in the deck, and can help give shields to a wide range of opening cards like Twisted Worgen, Leper Gnome, Abusive Sergeant, Worgen Infiltrator and Southsea Deckhand. Being able to buff those cards is really powerful, and slots right into what Aggro Paladin wants to do. Instead of solely focusing on damage, this deck seems to be naturally moving towards a divine shield based deck (hence the double Argent Protector), which I think will make it stronger against both other aggro decks as well as removal-heavy control.
Beyond the divine shield plan, Twisted Worgen is a very strong one-health tool for this deck to gain access to. A 3/1 for two is normally too weak for any deck to run since it can easily get picked off by hero powers, but give it stealth and you have a very strong turn two play. Three damage is very good, and the fact that Selfless Hero‘s ability can trigger on it if the one drop trades is even better. Every strong aggro deck needs cheap, high-attack minions to crash into taunts and get in early damage. This seems to be the best one for Aggro Paladin moving forward. These new tools really give you some options to add to the strong core that already exists. Even without Shielded Minibot and Muster for Battle this deck has enough tools to be a real contender.
You should note that anytime you are making a list like this, especially early on, it is going to be rather difficult to get an idea of the tech cards. Paladin has a lot of strong options for aggro decks, and you can play anything from buffs to removal to silence. I currently have Equality and Keeper or Uldaman as my big minion removal/tempo plays, and Truesilver Champion for some extra burst. However, there are a lot of ways you could go with those slots.
While it may seem obvious that Druid has a leg-up on Rogue in terms of C’thun decks, I think that Valeera has a real shot at teaming up with the old God. There are several reasons for this, but one of the biggest is Shadowstep. Almost every single C’thun deck is going to revolve around battlecries, and triggering them twice is never going to be bad. Not only do the C’thun minions have a wide range of bonuses, but the God himself has a staggeringly strong battlecry that you would love to use twice. Take those interactions with the already strong plays Rogue has with Shadowstep (SI:7 Agent comes to mind), and you have a card that can outright make the deck.
This list is a very simple idea. Half of the deck builds toward your finisher, and the other half is jam-packed with the classic Rogue removal spells to keep you alive. Shadow Strike and Disciple of C’thun give Rogue even more ways to clear the board alongside Backstab, Fan of Knives, Eviscerate, Deadly Poison and SI:7 Agent. That is a very impressive range of removal that should let you deal with just about any minion your opponent puts down. While this list does not have healing or taunts, you should be able to keep your life total high by controlling the board before your opponent can attack. However, if you do need extra taunts, Twin Emperor Vek’lor is a solid choice.
Perhaps the strongest part of C’thun Rogue is Blade of C’thun. While it is a 4/4 for nine mana, it has one of the strongest battlecries in the game. While most C’thun decks have to go more “all in” on the old god, Blade lets you play less C’thun-based minions because it instantly gives your C’thun huge buffs that can reach five, six, seven or even eight power. I think this is going to be a list that wants to win the game with C’thun, either by playing him once, or slamming him twice with Shadowstep. That means you usually want him to be over twenty power most of the time when he comes down.Blade is one of the best ways to do that.
The only thing I am not quite sure about is this deck’s middle game. C’thun’s Chosen and Tomb Pillager are both very strong, but I am not sure if you need access to the coin. Also, running them alongside Azure Drake feels a bit clunky, even with the smooth early game you have access to. The one Sprint seems necessary, but it also may be too slow. I also do not like Beckoner of Evil, but I think this deck wants a two drop, and the card seems stronger in this deck than Undercity Huckster.
It seems that Shaman is finally coming into its own identity, and has a real chance of becoming a contender. While The Grand Tournament aimed to bring Totem Shaman to the top of the meta, I think that Whispers may have actually succeeded. Not only do they have access to solid removal in addition to the core of Tuskarr Totemic, Totem Golem and Thunderbluff Valiant, but Master of Evolution and Thing from Below are very pushed. Every deck needs overpowered cards to be good, and this pair is really what is going to take Midrange Shaman over the top. A lot of people have speculated that Control Shaman is going to be a new archetype to arise in the next few weeks, but I think Midrange, which already has a strong base, is going to be better since most of the new cards work much better for the mid-game rather than control.
With many of the staple deathrattle cards (Nerubian Egg, Haunted Creeper) that once fueled Midrange Shaman leaving, this deck is going to operate in the same vein as Secret Paladin rather than its old self. That is to say, you want to just play the best card on every turn, starting with Tunnel Trogg and ending with a big finisher. Looking over the curve, there are very few bad turns, and while you only have access to four two drops, making a totem is never bad (especially now that Thing from Below is in the game).
I have included Hallazeal the Ascended in this list over one Thunderbluff Valiant simply because of how rare healing is and how strong both Face Hunter and Aggro Shaman are going to be in the opening weeks of the format. While I think you could make a case for running her over Harrison Jones, I love playing archaeologist in midrange due to prevalence of both Warrior and Doomhammer. I think Hallazel is going to be a necessary piece to the game, and acts as a “must kill” for so many different decks.
Dr. Boom, another Midrange staple, is also going to be gone, which is why I have included Hogger, Doom of Elwynn. Though the seven drop has not had too much hype, Hogger is exactly what Shaman wants: a solid threat you can play on curve that forces your opponent into tough situations. This card is almost always going to get some type of board presence and will bait out premium removal. While it is not the doctor, it can fill the board, protect your face, and act as a “must kill” threat.
The last two cards I want to touch on are Al’akir the Windlord and Evolve. I am not sure how strong Evolve is going to be, but I think it works very well as a one-of option should you ever have control of the board. Shaman runs a good slew of different minions, and being able to suddenly upgrade everything for one mana can be very, very strong. On the other hand, Al’akir the Windlord is here because any midrange deck is going to need a finisher. Bloodlust and Doomhammer are both great options, but I like having access to the windlord because of how well he can clear, as well as the versatility of being able to just run him out onto an empty board.
When evaluating brews for the new format, it is always important to look for synergies or combos that did not exist before. For me, the most notable from Whispers of the Old Gods is Pirates. Pirate decks have always been a sort of fun fringe deck that people would try to experiment with from time to time. Most of those experiments did not work, but it was always close to being strong. As a result, I think that a weaker meta and some very niche tools are going to take Warrior Pirate and really push it forward. However, instead of going with the classic aggro version of this list, I think this deck works a lot stronger as a tempo-based aggressive deck in the way that Patron Warrior does. This is an important distinction to make because it helps you understand the way the deck is constructed. The build I have here is not simply some face-Warrior deck, it is a little more finessed, and I think it will be strong for that very reason.
The most important part of this list is going to be weapons. Not only are they essential for tempo, but they interact with a good portion of your minions and help you push through damage in games where you need it. However, Warrior no longer has access to Death’s Bite, and there aren’t that many solid options outside of Fiery War Axe (I am not going to play King’s Defender). As such, Arcanite Reaper, for its damage and ability to clear taunts, seems like a card you have to run. Beyond that, I think this deck is going want minions that put a body on the board, but also give you weapons. The two cards that do this are N’zoth’s First Mate and an old favorite of mine, Arathi Weaponsmith. Each of these minions are inherent tempo plays that also enable you to interact with things like Southsea Deckhand and Dread Corsair.
The card that is really going to push this deck into a new light is Bloodsail Cultist. While I am not sure how many pirates you want to run (I also am not completely sold on Southsea Captain), you need enough to make sure you can reliably trigger Cultist. Giving a weapon an additional 1/1 is an insane amount of value, and, even though the ability is conditional, it is something you should be willing to work towards. A 3/4 on turn three is perfect stats, and all you need is a pirate to get the trigger. This card works well when you need removal, and is also great at applying early pressure. It is even fine on three if you are just playing into your curve.
The final thing we have to discuss when looking at any tempo list is the finishers. The core of this deck is very similar to Patron, and so are your end-game cards. You have three “big” option in this list that I think are all going to be key to its success. These are Skycap’n Kragg, Malkorok and Grommash Hellscream. Starting with the captain, Kragg is not the most exciting card, but a 4/6 with charge is not bad for clearing as well as pushing for damage. While your other two finishers come down later in the game, there is no reason you can’t reliably play this card for five or four mana in this list, giving you just another above-the-curve midgame tool.
The next finisher is Grommash Hellscream, another solid option for any Warrior deck. While you only have a few ways to trigger him, I would view him as more of a clear card that instantly becomes a threat than just a primary finisher. However, his ability to suddenly do ten damage should not be overlooked. Finally, we have the newest addition to the Warrior legendaries, Malkorok. While this card is not a finisher in the strict sense, it is a huge body that instantly gives you value in the form of an all-important weapon. A one-sided play on a 6/5 body that also buffs your other minions is exactly what this type of list needs, and I find it hard to imagine that pirates will go into battle without the orc at their backs.
Note: Right now there is not a lot of card draw, and that is something to consider. However, I think this is a curve deck more than one where you just want to fill your hand.
Hunter has always been a strong class, but it has fallen out of favor in recent months. However, while there are many people who do not appreciate the faster face decks, I have always thought that midrange beast Hunter was very interesting. In fact, I think it could be one of the strongest decks in Standard. Beast synergy has always been very strong, and right now Hunter has some of the strongest non-buzzard beast synergy it has ever had. In addition to the strong Hunter got three very strong options in Call of the Wild, Princess Huhuran, and her trusty canine sidekick, Infested Wolf. Each of these cards needs to be discussed to understand their impact on the class (and this list) moving forward.
First, Princess Huhuran is an very powerful tool that gives you a third Savannah Highmane caliber threat to contest the board and push damage. You are a deck that loves to fight on the board, and a 6/5 body for five that has an added ability is more than anything you could ever want. She is going to be a big piece of this deck, and really help that midgame curve. She is also very strong coming down after Infested Wolf, one of my favorite cards in the set. The wolf’s ability to make two beasts after it dies is probably the most important factor in this list, as it helps you leverage board control and get more targets out of both Ram Wrangler and Hound Master.
I have Call of the Wild in this deck as a finisher, but I think there is a strong case to run two. I am a little wary of running two eight drops in a list so dependent on having as strong curve, but it is probably right to have two due to just how good the card is. Call is never a bad play, and will help steal a lot of games that you would normally lose.
In addition, Hunter’s Mark is still here as well. While it was a bit too insane for Blizzard’s liking at zero mana, even at one you want to run it. The reason is that Hunter is a deck that is all about tempo plays, and being able to easily remove a giant minion while playing your own can usually give you enough priority to wear your opponent down. Unconditional removal is always good, especially in a new format or control meta where people are playing a wide range of large minions. Not to mention, it still has great synergy with Dreadscale.
We have always know that Midrange Hunter’s late game was going to be fine, but they did lose a lot of strong tools in Standard. Knife Juggler got (sorta) nerfed and they no longer have Mad Scientist, Webspinner or Haunted Creeper to build their curve. However, that does not mean they are hopeless. Though the staples are gone, there are still a lot of early game beast options. Fiery Bat and Hungry Toad are both very good at contesting early plays and pinging off small minions, while King’s Elekk is an aggressive two drop that sometimes acts as card draw. While I do not think you need to play the Injured Kvaldir package with this deck, I like Desert Camel as a one-of tech card to go fetch Fiery Bat. The reason is that the bats deathrattle will offset a lot of your opponent’s one drops, and you get a 2/4 beast as well. However, if you are scared of giving your opponent something like a Tunnel Trogg you can easily play a copy of Carrion Grub instead.
Note: I think this is a list that wants to only focus on minions and the board rather than messing around with weapons or removal. Yes, there are plenty of places where you can slide in Eaglehorn Bow or Quick Shot, but I think you just want as many minions and high-density threats as possible.
Another class that could benefit from some beast synergy is Druid. Now that the class has been completely gutted, I was not sure which direction I wanted to take it in. Aggro is still strong, but that lists seems to be played out (even if they do get a new tool in Validated Doomsayer). Ramp is struggling and combo is dead, so I thought looking at the class from a more aggressive beast point of view would be fun.
Like Warrior with Pirates, Druid has always been very close to being good with beasts. Wildwalker is very strong, as is Savage Combatant and Druid of the Claw. However, Druid have never had the tools to make it all come together in the way that they wanted. Though, I think a shifting meta with a lower power level could be the catalyst they needed. As with Hunter, this is a deck that is going to win by contesting the board as much as possible. However, as a Druid you have access a lot more burst. This deck is chock-full of powerful minions, and Innervate can lead to some explosive starts. While most of the beasts are pretty straight forward staples, I want to discuss both Jungle Panther and Stampeding Kodo.
In the current list, Druid of the Flame is often going to be your three drop of choice to contest early plays and give you a way to clear small minions. However, Jungle Panther is better when curving into Wildwalker (becoming a yeti), and stealth means your opponent is not going to be able to target it. While I am not sure how often that curve is going to come up, having something you can almost guarantee to stick around for Mark of Y’Shaarj or Wildwaker is very important. On the other hand, Kodo is simply in the deck as a way to remove a wide slew of small minions, ranging from Flamewaker to Defender of Argus to Imp Gang Boss. There are a lot of small minions in the game, and having a 3/5 beast that can take one of them out is worth a slot here.
The other card that really pushes this deck forward is Mark of Y’Shaarj. If you can reliably get beasts onto the board, this card is straight-up better than Power Word: Shield. Plus 2/2 is not just good for trading, it instantly turns anything you have into a threat. Druid of the Flame is a lot scarier as a 4/7, and turning Druid of the Saber into a 5/4 can suddenly and rapidly swing the game in your favor. When that buff also draws you cards to keep your hand energized, you have a real winner. Also note that this card does not have to be played on a beast, giving it some extra versatility as well.
Many of the Druid staples (Swipe, Wrath, Living Roots) are still here, and you will notice this deck runs two Savage Roars. I think this is very important because, even with the combo gone, you need to be able to kill off your opponent quickly. Burst is the only way a deck like this can beat something like Control Priest or Renolock, so you need to have it in your back pocket. Not only does the spell work with a strong board, but it acts as damage out of hand with things like a charging Druid of the Claw or Druid of the Saber.
The final note is that this list runs two Keeper of the Grove. While the body is now atrocious, I still think the versatility of silence and damage warrants a spot in the deck. I could easily be wrong on this, but you are a deck that is going to want to get rid of taunts (the reason The Black Knight is here), and I think being able to get the damage option is much more important than the extra stats Spellbreaker affords.
There is just nothing like a new set. Whispers of the Old Gods is finally upon us, and with it comes new cards, new nerfs and brand new format to explore. I do not know what decks are going to be good in the coming months, nor do I know what cards are going to rise to the top. However, I am certain that at least some of the decks above are going to be competitive in one way or another. The numbers may not all be right, and some key cards may be missing, but I will be trying each and every single one when Whispers drops. Hope you are as excited as I am, and thanks so much for reading!