Mastering the Control Warrior: Beginner Guide

This is Part 1 of the Mastering the Control Warrior extensive deck guide series. It is split into 3 main guides: Part 1: Beginner Guide Part 2: Advanced Strategies, Alternate Cards and Tech Choices Part 3: Matchups and Mulligans Warrior Control was always a strong tier deck in the metagame. It has been updated quite a lot in the […]

Introduction

This is Part 1 of the Mastering the Control Warrior extensive deck guide series. It is split into 3 main guides:

Warrior Control was always a strong tier deck in the metagame. It has been updated quite a lot in the past year – every expansion brought new tools to the deck, making it competitive and able to keep up with other decks that also got updated.

But what does Warrior Control do? Warrior Control is a deck focused on early board control, that follows up with a big Legendary threat that tends to take over the game by itself.

In general Control Warrior is a very consistent deck, that is an excellent choice for any Conquest Tournament or daily ladder play. There is not a single deck in Hearthstone Warrior Control almost auto loses to. You have a lot of good matchups, some even matchups and very few bad matchups. And even the worst matchup (the almost extinct Token Druid with Violet Teacher) is a winnable matchup (It is a 70% matchup for the Druid player). All the other classes have absolute nightmares to play against and/ or some very bad matchups.

In addition to that Warrior has the best removal in the game, that is not situational (for example Shadow Word: Death is dead against rush decks and 4 attack high value minions like Ysera). Removal like Shield Slam and Execute can either remove a Mountain Giant or a simple Knife Juggler.

Strengths

  • Best single target removal in the game (Shield Slam, Execute)
  • Very resilient against aggressive decks, due to the high amount of life gain
  • Very tempo efficient removal in the form of Death’s Bite and Fiery War Axe. You spend mana on one turn and can kill something and then on your next turn, you can kill something again without spending mana again. If you have access to weapons, Control Warrior is a beast!

Weakness

  • Sometimes clunky hands with a lot of expensive minions or no weapons
  • Anti- aggro hand against Control decks, drawing double Armorsmith against for example Handlock is very bad
  • Hero Power does not create any sort of card advantage/ board presence and is purely defensive

Favored Against

Face Hunter, Freeze Mage, Oil Rogue, Patron Warrior, Hybrid/Face/ Midrange Hunter,  Midrange Druid, Tempo Mage, Dragon Priest, Control Priest

Unfavored Against

Midrange Paladin, Handlock, Secret Paladin (only slightly unfavored, can be improved by adding tech cards)

Card Choices

execute: The Warrior’s standard removal. It often requires some sort of activation (ways to damage a minion so you can cast this). No Control Warrior deck can be played without a pair of these, seeing as how effective they are despite the casting requirement. Execute is easier to utilize than Shield Slam, so almost always if given the choice use Shield Slam before Execute.

shield-slam: Core removal for Control Warriors. Do not feel confused by the fact that Patron Warrior lists don’t use this, they’re much weaker at generating Armor than Control Warriors. Between shieldmaiden, shield-block and armorsmith, you’re able to cast this with ease.

fiery-war-axe: Core card. Fiery War Axe and Death’s Bite are the best weapons in the game. It is also very useful against control decks, because you should not be afraid of double attacking a bigger minion in order to kill it. Unlike other weapon classes Warrior has a lot of life gain to migitate a heavy life loss from such a move.

armorsmith: A very strong and resilient early game defense tool. This card scales pretty decent to the late game as well – being able to generate value regardless of when it is played and thus being a core card in most Control Warrior decks.

Slam: Slam is a very good card. It helps dealing with smaller minions like Knife Juggler and you can kill bigger minions with the help of a weapon or Bash. It is also very potent against Control decks because you don’t need to spend a card to trigger Execute. Because of its flexibility (being good against Control and Aggro decks), Slam replaced Cruel Taskmaster in the majority of Warrior Control decks.

acolyte-of-pain: A very powerful draw engine in the hands of a Control Warrior. This card is usually played whenever you are able to generate value from it, either from Death’s Bite Deathrattle effect, or by turning Slam into an Arcane Intellect. But you should not feel bad about simply playing him on curve, if you play against a deck where card draw is neglectable.

Bash: A slightly more expensive Darkbomb with some lifegain attached. The reaosn why this card is so good in Control Warrior is its flexibility. If you don’t draw any weapons, you can still kill cheap minions, which was previoulsy very hard without any weapons. In addition to that it also scales with your weapons and allows you to kill bigger minions with the help of a weapon. The small armor gain is also relevant, because it improves Shield Slam. So for four mana you can kill two minions if you combo Bash with Shield Slam. A nice bonus is that it also helps you dealing with annoying midgame minions like Piloted Shredder or Druid of the Claw Warrior previously had a very tough time dealing with. Because of that the Midrange Druid matchup got a lot better with the addition of Bash, because the chance that you are behind before their Savage Roar & Force of Nature turn got greatly reduced.

big-game-hunter: Because Dr. Boom became such a popular card, Big Game Hunter almost always gets his value. Don’t be afraid to simply drop Big Game Hunter on Turn 3, if you need the board presence against decks like Hunter (to conest a potential Animal Companion). Unlike a lot of other decks, you have quite a lot of other answers for Dr. Boom or other 7+ attack minions.

shield-block: We use this card to generate value from Shield Slam, which is very good. It also acts as a cycle for the early turns when we don’t have anything to play since our curve tend to be on the high end.

Piloted Shredder: Warrior always lacked good four drops beside Death’s Bite, so the best neutral four drop in the game is a very nice addition to the deck. It improves the curve and gives you something very good to play on Turn 4. Although Piloted Shredder is an extremely powerful card, it is not that great in Control decks like Control Warrior, Control Priest and Handlock. Piloted Shredder is simply not defensive enough, it is only really good if you play very proactive and Control decks by their design are not very proactive. They prefer more defensive cards that buy them time, so from my point of view I would prefer playing a Sen’jin Shieldmasta or Refreshment Vendor, because they are more defensive minions and help you slow down the game.

deaths-bite: Allow us to introduce the best card in the game. For 4 mana you get 8 damage over two turns. If this wasn’t enough, you also get a free  Whirlwind on top on that, that has a lot of synergy with other cards (Armorsmith, Acolyte of Pain, Execute). With the last charge you can also kill 5 health minions like Violet Teacher or Sludge Belcher. Patron Warrior would never be such a powerful deck without this card. So if you play against Grim Patron Warrior  and have Harrison Jones in your hand be patient, there are worlds between destroying a Fiery War Axe or a Death’s Bite.

brawl: Brawl is a rather tricky card. It is there in the deck to have some kind of board clear. The best Brawls are the Brawls you can’t lose (because of Sylvanas Windrunner) or the ones where every outcome is good or manageable.

shieldmaiden: The best defensive 6-drop in the game, it also generates Armor which fits nicely with the theme of Control Warrior.

Justicar Trueheart: Justicar is a staple in Control Warrior and you should always play her.  Justicar Trueheart is not so good because she wins you the fatigue war against control decks. When it comes to fatigue it is mainly all about being the player with the last threat. If both players hit fatigue at the same time and Player A has Ysera as the last card but only 20 life, while the other Player B has 60 life but no cards left, poor Player B will simply lose despite having stacked all that nice armor. So the reason why Justicar is good in Control Warrior is that she lets you play the game differently. Imagine the Control Warrior vs Dragon Priest matchup. Both players have 15 cards left in their deck, the Priest has Twilight Guardian on the board while the Warrior has nothing on the board. Without Tank Up! the Warrior player has to do something because despite Armor Up!, he will just simply die if he does nothing. But with Tank Up! (you now get 4 more armor) you don’t have to do anything, every turn will net the Warrior one more armor if the Priest does not commit more to the board. And that is actually quite a huge advantage, because it allows you to not be in a hurry to deal with certain minions, instead you can just simply wait for a more favorable board state. A simple example would be waiting to get more value out of Brawl. With Justicar you can even fatigue a Hunter player, which was previously not possible because overall the Hunter has more damage in the deck than the Warrior has life gain.

sludge-belcher: Sludge Belcher has been a core card of Control Warrior since the release of the Naxxramas adventure. At first sight you might not appreciate the power of Sludge Belcher, but Sludge Belcher is highly needed in Control Warrior, because the opponent very rarely has a way to cleanly kill the Belcher. Sludge Belcher also absorbs a lot of damage, which is of utter importance for Control Warrior because it helps slowing down the game against aggro decks and drawing into your key cards. Sludge Belcher will also very often mess up the opponent’s curve, if he wants to effectively kill the entire Sludge Belcher (f.ex playing Fireball on the Sludge Belcher over playing another minion). As a nice bonus, Sludge Belcher also trades very well with Piloted Shredder.

sylvanas-windrunner: Part of Warrior’s core together with Grommash Hellscream. This card has multiple synergy with Warrior cards (Shield Slam, Brawl) combined with the fact its one of the best Legendaries in the entire game makes it so this card is a must-have in Control Warrior decks.

Baron Geddon: Baron Geddon is at its best in Control Warrior and is absolutely needed in this archetype. Geddon gives Control Warrior access to a Consecration on a minion, which is very powerful  against a lot of decks that flood the board with small minions like Zoolock, Paladin and Hunter. Warrior can sometimes struggle with a flood of smaller minions and Baron Geddon will healp you dealing with such a board.

Dr. Boom: Dr. Boom is the best neutral legendary in the game. He is good when you are behing and when you are ahead. Even the worst outcome of the Boom Bots (being only 1/1 and dealing 1 damage to the opponent if the opponent has a lof of life left) is still decent, while better outcomes (a Boom Bot killing an Azure Drake) can have enermous impact on the game. Before the Warsong Commander nerf it was correct to maybe not even play Dr. Boom in your Control Warrior, because very often he was liability (making more Grim Patrons and increasing the damage output of Frothing Berserker). Nowadays I would always include the good doctor in Control Warrior.

grommash-hellscream: Grommash acts as one of the main win conditions of Control Warrior. Being used with one of the activators in your deck (Death’s Bite, Cruel Taskmaster) makes it so you’re able to do tons of damage within a single turn with just two cards while maintaining a threatening board presence, that your opponent must deal with immediately.

alexstrasza: This card is a staple in Control Warrior and for good reason. It is a 8/8 minion with an extremely powerful battlecry.  You can use Alexstrasza offensively by setting the opponent’s life total to 15 (usually used to set up the finisher with Grommash) or by using her as an even more effective Antique Healbot on yourself.

ysera: Dream Cards are extremely powerful, and Ysera is the card most capable of winning the game by itself amongst all Legendaries in the game because of the value it generates if it stays on the board. A lot of classes like Druid and Paladin have a tough time dealing with Ysera due to her high amount of health.

How to Play/ Strategy

General Strategy

Control decks tend to run a massive number of Removal, draws, cycle, and usually has literally response to any kind of threat that is common in said metagame, after exhausting the opponent out of threats, the Control deck usually proceeds to drop a very big and threatening minion that wins the game on its own.

Control Warrior is a good example of a classic Control deck in a card game – remove opponent’s threats, keep the board clear and then proceed to drop a threat after threat when the opponent has ran out of steam.

Warrior excels in removal, better than any other class, because of 1). its weapons, that are basically 2 removal in 1 card and 2). its 1-mana removals in the form of Execute and Shield Slam. By knowing when to use these will be key in winning your matches.

Early game (Turn 1-3)

Unlike other Control decks like Handlock or Priest, Control Warrior cannot simply sit back in the early game, due to the lack of consistent board clears. Warrior fights for the control of the board as soon as the game starts. Fiery War Axe is an integral part of supressing any early aggression. If you don’t have Fiery War Axe, it is not that bad, because you still have your Slams, Bash and Armorsmiths to slow your opponent down. And even if you are very unlucky and don’t have any plays besides Armor Up! on Turn 1 to 3, you still have a  powerful Turn 4 play: Deaths Bite. Warrior’s huge amount of lifegain, will migitate the lifeloss you could take if you don’t draw any early game action. Against aggressive decks like Zoo or Hunter, you also don’t mind simply droping an Acolyte of Pain on Turn 3. You don’t need bigger draws from the Acolyte against faster decks, because if you survive to the late game you will overwhelm the aggressive deck with your more powerful cards. On the other hand against other Control decks, you almost never want to throw down the Acolyte on Turn 3, because you want to get at least two draws out of him.

Mid game (Turn 4-7)

The Mid game consists of further weapon action to make sure that the board of your opponent does not get out of control. If you have the choice between playing Piloted Shredder or Death’s Bite on Turn 4, almost always go for the Piloted Shredder, because unlike Death’s Bite Piloted Shredder does not have an immediate impact on the board. To follow- up the Piloted Shredder with a weapon is much better than the other way around. An exception would be if you are under a ton of pressure, but the majority of time that is only the case against Hunter decks.

In general the Mid game is the time, where you like being a Control Warrior. You are about to get the initiative of the game. You have access to your very powerful Death’s Bite and to your very good midgame minions like Piloted Shredder, Sludge Belcher and Shieldmaiden. All these cards will slow down your opponent and will help you achieve your game plan, which is: to stay alive and crush your opponent in the late game.

If things get too much out of control and your opponent has an abundance of smaller minions, you also have access to Brawl and Baron Geddon to clear a board full of minions. Because of Alexstrasza dealing damage to your opponent is not of big importance in the majority of games, because you will very rarely get them below 15 life points. Therefore you should always favor trades over going face in the mid game.

Late game (Turn 7-10+)

In the late game, if you still have a good amount of health left you will win against the majority of decks. Their less powerful minions are no match for your legendary minions. In general you win the late game with card advantage (multiple midgame minions that are tough to deal for your opponent and/ or Ysera) or with your burst (Alexstrasza and/ or Grommash Hellscream).

Closing

Warrior Control is a core part of the Hearthstone meta since the beginning. It can be expensive to build, but once built, you’ll have a solid deck in your collection that is quite immune from it ever falling out of the meta. Highly recommended to also check out this theory article that features Control Warrior.

Be sure to check out all the guides in this series: