Hello everyone, in this guide I’d like to discuss (what I believe to be) one of the strongest decks in the meta at the moment, Midrange Paladin. I’ve reached Legend with it in September and I feel the meta has only improved since then, thanks to the warsong-commander nerf. This deck has been viable on ladder since GvG, where it got some of its core cards like muster-for-battle, shielded-minibot and quartermaster.
With TGT it got another boost, in the form of murloc-knight and justicar-trueheart, making it a very powerful, well-rounded deck. The only problem it had for quite some time was the prevalence of Patron Warrior in the meta, which absolutely crushes this deck (and Paladins in general). But now that Patron is dead and buried, Paladin in all its forms can rise again!
I will first talk about this deck’s play style, it’s strengths and weaknesses. Then I’ll address the card choices, possible substitutes and the different matchups.
1. Play style, Strengths and Weaknesses
This deck is the prototype of the midrange archetype, meaning it has ways of dealing with both aggro and control. Therefore it has 2 different tactics it can use, depending on the matchup. Against aggressive decks, you’ll mostly play in the defensive ‘keep yourself alive’ mode: you use your early game minions and weapons to keep their early aggression in check and then stabilize trough your taunts and healing. You have 4 taunts (with defender-of-argus possibly giving you one extra) and 24 points of healing, so you should be able to pull this off more often than not. Face Hunter for example needs a really good start to be able to beat you. If you survive in a reasonable state until turn 5, you can just play taunt after heal after taunt and watch them crumble away. The most important thing you need to do to make this happen, is to try to curve out as smoothly as possible. Since this is so crucial I’ll go into detail a bit.
Obviously curving well is important for most decks, but in this case it’s really vital and you’ll often be tempted to go off curve to make a ‘value’ play. While in some cases this might be the right choice, you should always be looking for ways to spend all your mana. Don’t make a play just because it seems obvious to do so. I’ll clarify with an example from one of my own games: I was up against a Midrange Druid. I had played knife-juggler[card] on turn 2, he played [card]darnassus-asspirant. I had blessing-of-kings and aldor-peacekeeper in hand and drew into Shielded Minibot. So on turn 3, I was tempted to play the minibot so I could give it the Blessing of Kings next turn, and then trade in the Knife Juggler while keeping Aldor for later. And while this is not a terrible play, I realized it’s a mistake. The correct play is to Aldor the Darnassus Asspirant and kill it with the Knife Juggler. Not only did I spent my mana efficiently (also for the next turn, because I then had the choice between Blessing or Shielded Minibot + hero power, both plays costing 4 mana), I also saved my Knife Juggler, and the only downside was I had no Aldor Peackeeper left for his bigger minions. There’s a saying in chess that goes: “When you see a good move; wait and look for a better one”. Against aggressive decks this translates as: don’t waste mana, plan your turns ahead and you should be fine.
Against control decks you’ll need to follow a completely different plan: here the power of the deck lies in its hero power and a couple of cards that are able to generate immense value, like sylvanas-windrunner, Justicar Trueheart, tirion-fordring and Murloc Knight. The plan is to take board control early (which should not be a problem)and slowly but surely squeeze your opponent to death until you can finish him with one of your value cards (which is the tough part). It’s important to keep track of which cards you and your opponent have played so far (especially their removal) , so you know what the optimal time is to play your threats and whether or not you should use your removal on their minions. Another win condition against control are the silver hand recruits. Since you run 2 Quartermasters, you can push in a lot of damage if you have 2 or 3 recruits on the board.
And because of the prevalence of Secret Paladin, sometimes your opponent won’t expect a Quartermaster and kill your other minions first, giving you an enormous advantage. So in general, you want to take board control as early as possible and then use your hero power as often as you reasonably can. Therefore you should also try to play Justicar Truehart whenever you have the chance. Control decks like Warrior and Priest already have a hard time dealing with one recruit per turn, so upgrading your hero power can decide the game on its own.
Against other midrange decks, the most common being Midrange Hunter and Combo Druid, curving is again very important. The player who curves out best in the early game will most likely win. The reason is that most midrange decks have a lot of good, sticky minions but not the amount of removal and AoE that control decks have. Once the board control is lost, it’s really hard for any midrange deck to come back into the game. This is especially true for this deck since you run a lot of buff cards (Coghammer, Defender of Argus,…) that are almost useless if you have no board. So you need to mulligan in a way that allows you to play something every turn. On a side note, the matchups against Midrange Druid and Hunter are the only ones where you can play more aggressively than you normally would, since these two decks have powerful cards to finish you off in a few turns. You need to pressure them, forcing them to use their burn on your minions and not on your face.
So to summarize, the strength of the deck lays in the fact that it has great tools to fight off both control and aggro, while having an even chance against other midrange decks. To great weakness on the other hand is that it’s very vulnerable to combo decks. Decks like Oil Rogue, Freeze Mage or Patron Warrior are an absolute nightmare because you can’t kill them quick enough since you have very little burst, so they can stall and gather their combo pieces to finish you off in one turn. The only way you can beat them is to completely ignore the board and try to rush them down (which will not work in 8/10 cases but it’s still you’re best option). The longer the game goes on, the less likely you are to win. But the good news is that neither of those decks are popular in the meta right now, which is one of the reasons I would recommend this deck; it’s major weakness is not relevant at the moment.
2. Card Choices en Substitutes
zombie-chow: Great card against aggro because it contests everything your opponent can play. You can run 2 copies if you face a lot of Hunters or Secret Paladin.
ironbeak-owl: A silence effect is always nice, especially since this deck has no hard removal. It’s a great way to deal with Piloted Shredder, Mad Scientist or just a last resort when you’re faced with Ysera or Sylvanas.
knife-juggler: Also great in the early game. Has nice synergy with Muster for Battle, Murloc Knight and Equality but don’t save him just for the combos, play him on turn 2 if you have nothing else.
shielded-minibot: One of the best early game plays. It nearly always trades 2 for 1 thanks to the divine shield. If you can follow it up with the Blessing of Kings it can win the game instantly.
equality: An extremely valuable card in control matchups where you have to deal with big minions. I would not run 2 unless you’re in a really control heavy meta since it does little against aggro. It can be really good against midrange decks as a tempo play, combined with consecration.
aldor-peacekeeper: One of your only real tempo cards so he’s very valuable, both against aggro (to keep your minions alive in the midgame) and control (to deal with the large minions).
big-game-hunter: Absolutely necessary to deal with dr-boom and the like.
muster-for-battle. The strongest card in the deck on its own, besides that it combos very nicely with Knife Juggler, Quartermaster and Defender of Argus. The great thing about this card is that it lets you trade very efficiently. Your 1 attack recruits and weapon make sure you can always deal exactly the right amount of damage to clear the opponents board.
coghammer: One of the optional cards since it requires you to have the board to be good, but if you can use the battlecry it’s EXTREMELY powerful. It lets you kill a minion for (almost) free while giving you a 2/3 weapon in the process. It is worth noting here that this deck runs a lot of weapons. You have 18 (yes, 18!) weapon charges in total so you should not hesitate to attack face with a couple of them in the right situation. Against Face Hunter f.e. you don’t want to take extra damage by killing minions so you can wear him down with your Light’s Justice and Coghammer.
defender-of-argus: Also an optional card but one I like very much personally. It’s great against aggro to protect your hero while also adding damage to the board. Against control you can use it to taunt up certain minions that are annoying for your opponent to deal with ( Minibot, Sylvanas, Piloted Shredder,…). If you want to replace it, take another 4 drop like Murloc Knight or Piloted Shredder.
murloc-knight: A great card in terms of value and one that can win the game on its own if it’s not dealt with. I originally ran 2 copies but I found myself repeatedly in the position where I had no decent play on turn 4 because all of my 4 drops were situational. So I took out one and replaced it with a Piloted Shredder, which is therefore your only 4 drop you can always actively play.
piloted-shredder: I don’t think this card needs much explaining, in this deck it combos well with cards that give taunt.
consecration and truesilver-champion: Staple Paladin 4 drops. Very efficient removals. Not much else to say.
blessing-of-kings: I really like this card in the deck because it can give you a big lead if you can use it well. Since you have a lot of sticky minions and recruits, you’ll often have a good target. It might be interesting to replace it with a seal-of-champions since it does more or less the same but it costs 1 less mana.
antique-healbot: An essential tool against aggro, you can add another if you face a lot of Hunters.
harrison-jones: Originally intended as a tool against Patron, in the current meta it works wonders versus Hunters and other Paladins, while also improving the matchup against Rogue. If you don’t face a lot of weapon classes, replace it with azure-drake.
quartermaster: an insane card if you can buff 2 or 3 recruits. It lets you take the board or push in a lot of damage. In fact this is the only card that can act as a kind off burst when combined with Truesilver or Blessing of Kings ( realistically you can do 8- 10 extra damage for 9 mana) so always look out for surprise lethal when you have it in hand.
sludge-belcher: It’s always nice to have a Belcher in the deck as a non-situational taunt. I would only run 2 if you face a lot of aggro (and even then I would consider a second Healbot over Belcher.)
justicar-trueheart: The all star in control matchups. The earlier you play her the better, since you create a lot of value over time and control decks can’t finish you off quickly. Against aggro the card is pretty bad, but that’s just the prize you pay to improve your other matchups considerably.
sylvanas-windrunner: One of my favourite cards, I’d like to include her in every deck that isn’t aggro. Like Justicar, she improves your control matchups quite a bit, while being bad against aggro. She combos nicely however with Defender of Argus and Coghammer since that puts your opponent in a really awkward position. If you want to replace her I would suggest adding a big card like Dr. Boom.
tirion-fordring: No answer for Tirion = GG, both for control and aggro. Try to bait out hard removal before you play him.
lay-on-hands: Great card in all matchups because of the combined healing and card draw. It can really save you if you’re in a bad spot.
If you want to experiment and replace card, I strongly suggest that you only replace the ‘tech’ cards : Defender of Argus, Coghammer, Harrison Jones and Sylvanas. All other cards are really necessary for the deck. You can add a second copy of Zombie Chow, Piloted Shredder, Murloc Knight or Antique Healbot if you feel you need them in the meta.
3. Matchups and Mulligan
In general, against aggro, you always want to have a 1 or 2 drop, so mulligan aggressively for Zombie Chow, Shielded Minibot and Knife Juggler. Only keep Muster for Battle or Coghammer if you already have of those or the coin. Don’t keep Consecration or Truesilver because they’re too situational.
Against (Face) Hunter , you might also consider keeping healbot if you have good early game since you will almost always need heal at some point. You should be able to keep the Face variant in check, but the Midrange Hunter is a tough matchup. Piloted Shredder and savannah-highmane can really ruin your day so try to have answers for them. Calculate what the maximum amount of damage is they can do the next turn, so you know whether or not you should heal or taunt up on this turn.
Against Secret Paladin (and Zoo), you might keep Ironbeak Owl since they have a lot of annoying deathrattles and buffs. Beware of the mysterious-challenger! Save a BGH or Aldor Peacekeeper to counter it.
Against Tempo Mage, you can keep Truesilver and Consecration with good early game, since these provide excellent answers against two of their more annoying cards, flame-walker and mirror-image respectively. This is a good matchup as long as they don’t overwhelm you in the first 4 turns.
When you play against control decks, your mulligan changes dramatically. Zombie Chow is no longer a priority so you can keep more expensive cards. You always keep Minibot, Juggler, Muster, Piloted Shredder and Truesilver if you have one of those or the coin.
Against Control Warrior, you also always keep Harrison Jones, and you might consider keeping Quartermaster (if you have a Muster and the coin) and Justicar Truehart (if you have some early game). This is a very favourable matchup thanks to your hero power and their lack of AoE, so press the button every time you can! A well placed Quartermaster can seal the deal .
Against Control Priest, Justicar is also a good keep if you have early game. The matchup is tougher because they run a lot of AoE (wild-pyromancer, holy-nova and auchenai-soulpriest) so don’t over commit to the board and press the button a lot. Against Dragon priest you follow the guidelines for midrange decks. Don’t let them take the board or you’ll lose 95 % of the time.
Against Handlock, you should keep Ironbeak Owl and Aldor Peacekeeper to counter their turn 4 plays twilight-drake and mountain-giant. You should be wary of the molten-giant, but if you have Equality + Consecration in your hand you can be really aggressive and start hitting their face, simply wipe away their board with the combo and kill them.
Against Midrange decks, your curve is very important, so always go for a turn 1/2/3 hand (that includes keeping Aldor and Owl). Midrange Hunter is tough but Midrange Druid is more in your favour. You should keep Aldor against an early Innervate play, but Truesilver is also great in dealing with their midrange minions. Always assume they have the combo and play around it at all cost through taunt or heal. Once they lose board control (and they will due to your hero power) it’s their only way to win.
That’s it for this guide. I strongly recommend this deck to anyone who tries to reach Legend for the first time. It’s not very hard to master and, more importantly, it’s great fun! If you have any questions or suggestions feel free to leave a comment below.