I am very excited for this month. While I play (and have played) a lot of different decks on this series, I have never touched Control Paladin. That is a real shame and something I aim to fix this time around. This deck is something I have wanted to build for a loooong time but have just never had the chance to do so. The meta shifts over the past half year have not been kind to slow control decks, and that goes double for decks that focus solely on healing (looking at you Priest). Every good deck in the game has strong burst at their disposal. As a result, in order to make a strong control deck you need to be able to control the board but have enough healing where you aren’t going to die once you stabilize. That is not an easy medium to reach, but I do believe Paladin has the tools to do it. This is an experiment I have wanted to try for months and with the nerfs now in place there is no better time to try.
Control Paladin is in a very weird spot. You have a lot of healing, but you are also very reactive. Check that. Extremely reactive. As a result, that often means your healing is going to do very little against strong deathrattle minions or decks that can flood the board over and over again. Healing when your opponent has a full board does little to nothing, so you need ways to stay ahead. This deck aims to play a more proactive version of Control Paladin that lowers the curve but still keeps the late game that makes this archetype so strong.
The most important part of this deck is the early game. The reason for this is that Paladin has some of the best late game in Hearthstone. The trifecta of Tirion Fordring, Ragnaros, Lightlord and N’zoth, the Corruptor trumps just about every popular class, but getting there is by no means easy. It is very easy to draw a clunky hand and then quickly die to quick burst from Shaman, Mage or Hunter. To fix this, the list has a wide range of low mana cards and silver bullets to make sure you can start off with a decent curve. Doomsayer is here as always, but adding in a couple of extra cards like Acolyte of Pain just give you more ways to gum up the board and pull you deeper into the deck.
The final aspect of this deck is card draw. I have not quite figured out the numbers yet, but for Control Paladin to be more proactive you need to have access to card draw. There is simply no way around that. You are a deck that has a lot of strong interactions and, similar to Priest, you need to find ways to get them. Solemn Vigil and Acolyte of Pain are my go-to’s for this purpose, but there are a wide range of options you could look into such as Loot Hoarder or Hammer of Wrath. These slots are still up for grabs, but they need to exist for this to function.
This section will explain certain cards and how they’ve performed so far.
While just about everyone who has ever faced down N’zoth or Murloc Paladin knows the power of Doomsayer, I bring it up because I think knowing when and how to play this is very important. There are three different times where you want to play this card. You either want to put it down when you need to soak up damage and buy extra time, when your opponent cannot kill it, or onto an empty board as a tempo play. It is not easy to read what mode you are in, but making the right call can often lead to a win. You almost always want to run this out turn two against any curve-based deck, and you typically want to save it for the middle game when facing down a midrange list. Every deck has removal or damage, so you need to make a read when they don’t have any in hand or when you want to bait out those spells for whatever reason.
Above all, Doomsayer is strong because it buys you priority, which is very hard to come by these days. That is what this card does, that is why it is here, and that is what you always want to see it as. Aside from turn two (or turn one with the coin) this card is going to come down on empty or mostly empty boards to anticipate your opponent’s plays and set up your own. For instance, playing this on an empty board turn seven to set up a Tirion Fordring or Ragnaros, Lightlord for turn eight. In addition, it also works really well as a preventative measure. Playing the two drop on turn five can force your opponent to hold their Savannah Highmane, and playing it on seven will stop them from running out Ragnaros the Firelord.
Along with Acolyte of Pain, Solemn Vigil is an extremely important piece of this list that helps you just see more cards. If you can draw your spells and minions at the right times you are going to win a lot of games. As such, you need to maximize the chances of that happening. Vigil is just more card draw that has some very solid interactions with your clear spells and AOE. Just know you never want to work too hard to make this card work. While being able to draw cards for zero is very good, your mass removal is very important and you do not want to use it early on simply to smooth out your hand. If you really want to get value try and set up Doomsayer or trade in your minions. That being said, this would be the first card you would want to cut if you wanted to shave down on the draw (not something I recommend). The lower options like Acolyte of Pain and Loot Hoarder are much more important because they often act as clear spells or distractions in addition to draw.
Though not common fare in Uther decks, I believe you need Justicar Trueheart in Control Paladin. The reason is that she serves two very important functions. One, she beats control on her own and two, she acts as a trump card during the later stages of the game. Being able to make two 1/1’s for two mana will quickly take over games against any slow deck and give you a huge push when you get priority against midrange or aggro. I see this card like Elise Starseeker. However, while Elise is only really good for the long games, Justicar comes with a lot of extra versatility that comes in handy over a wide range of different scenarios. That makes her much better in the current meta.
This card also has some fantastic interactions with Sir Finley Mrrgglton. Though the murloc may seem like an odd choice in this list, making a 1/1 is actually quite reactive and something that you usually don’t want to do. Rather, you typically want a hero power that can heal you or that can help control the board. This gives you more ways to remove threats or fight against aggro. When those hero powers then get the ol’ Justicar buff they really knock it out of the park. This reaction seems a little gimmicky at first glance, but once you have access to Tank Up or Greater Heal you will understand why this is so good. Even getting an upgraded Mage or Druid hero power can give you a lot of power you normally wouldn’t have by getting extra 1/1’s.
All will burn! Nerfs or no nerfs, we are living in a Shaman dominated meta. That means you want as many ways to clear the board as possible. Consecration and Equality are solid, but they only go so far. Baron Geddon works well because he is just another form of AOE. This deck wants to build a balance between mass removal and kill spells. Though it was once ok to have less answers, you cannot only pack two board clears in this meta and expect to survive. Baron Geddon may have a huge setback in that he damages your own face (which can come up during the late game against more aggressive decks) but the fact that he deals with so many popular decks in such a clear way is more than worth it.
The other reason I think this card is such a good call is because of Zoo. The aggressive Warlock deck always resurfaces during periods of flux, and with the new nerfs I expect to see its return. As with Shaman, that means you are going to need ways to clear the board, and having something that can trade while also giving you repeated clear after repeated clear is more than welcome. This card also works well with Equality when you do not have access to your Wild Pyromancer or Consecration. These types of silver bullet cards are easy to overlook but they are key when it comes to building a deck like this. Consistency is king.
Eadric the Pure
Eadric the Pure is a card that has received no (repeat NO) love since he was first released in TGT. However, he can do some serious work here. Control Paladin has a lot of healing options and you can survive taking three or four damage a turn, which is why Aldor Peacekeeper is one of the best control cards ever made. As a result, having a card that acts as multiple peackeepers is great in many situations. This legendary singlehandedly shuts down things like Call of the Wild and helps you buy time when searching for hard removal or a big threat. Also, do not forget that Eadric is a threat in his own right. Three attack may not seem like much, but it does a very nice job against boards that have only one attack.
Like Baron Geddon, Eadric is important because he serves as more AOE. Yes, his AOE isn’t true removal because he keeps the minions on the board, but you are a deck that is equipped to handle taking a few small scratches each turn. Eadric is a very good tempo card that comes with a lot of versatility. You can play him on curve just to get board presence, you can hold him back to shut down numerous threats or you can simply play his against one big body. For all of those reasons this card is a perfect late-game option for you to have. He is not always going to be the answer, but there are many games where using Eadric at the right time is going to equal an extra turn or two. And when playing a deck like Control Paladin that is often all you need.
Some of the most common matchups I see while playing ladder.
Even with the newfound nerfs, it seems Shaman is primed for the meta. No one is ready to give up on Thrall just yet (nor should they) and you have to worry about this deck above all others. Though you have the tools to beat Shaman, it is not going to be a smooth ride. Thrall has a thousand ways to rebound on the board and many cards that help them pile up huge threats out of nowhere. You just want to pace them as much as you can and look for ways to get minions onto the board. While it is not easy to say with the new nerfs, most Shaman decks have only really had a big minion in Thing from Below. That is going to be your biggest target for keepers. Beyond that, you just need to use your weapons and do your best to hit your hero power to make sure your opponent never amasses too many totems. If they do have three or four before turn seven you should use Consecration to stop Thunderbluff Valiant.
Always watch out for burst. It may be tempting to assume your opponent does not have access to any quick damage because of the Rockbiter Weapon nerf, but that is simply not true. Flamtongue Totem and Spirit Claws are both still strong, and many decks are likely going to shift to running more win conditions like Bloodlust and Al’akir the Windlord. You have to work hard to protect yourself from those plays, especially as the game goes on. Know when your opponent may be setting up finishing damage and play accordingly. Also take the time to kill any threat you can, no matter how small. There is never reason to push because this is a matchup you do not mind going long.
Though I am not sure which form Hunter is going to take in the coming weeks, the versions I have been running into have been midrange over secret. However, you should prepare for both. This is easily going to be your hardest matchup because Hunter seems primed to beat slow control. Not only do they have ample deathrattle minions, but they also come equipped with a constant string of pressure that laughs at healing. This is a game that can get out of hand extremely quickly so you need to very careful. Always kill your opponent’s minions as they come and do your best to anticipate their plays. Hunter has a strong curve that they are going to stick to. Knowing what they are going to do each turn will help you plan your plays and figure out what cards you need to keep for each threat (such as saving Aldor Peacekeeper for Savannah Highmane).
You are going to beat Hunter by neutralizing each of their threats as soon as they come down and by making he most out of your healing. While you can afford to take some damage here and there against most classes, that is simply not going to be the case when facing Rexxar. Hunter has so much burn and so many ways to kill your from high life totals that you need to be as proactive as possible. Be very conservative with your Doomsayers and only use them to stop homerun turns. In that same vein, do not be afraid to pull the trigger on Forbidden Healing. The zero mana spell is basically a Reno Jackson in this match and you never want to get caught with it in your hand. Always keep track of your opponent’s spells and know how much damage they can do at anytime.
A deck I expect to quickly take over once the post-nerf meta begins to settle, Control Warrior is a matchup that you should win ten times out of ten. That may seem like a very bold claim, but you just have too many threats that they cannot keep up with. Not only do you have access to Justicar Trueheart (this is the matchup where you do not want to play Sir Finley Mrrgglton without very good reason) but you also have N’zoth, the Corruptor. N’zoth is especially important as a win condition because most players are not going to expect it with only two real targets. Most Paladins go all in with the Old God, and the fact that you only have two deathrattle minions means you can almost always get your opponent to play their Brawls before you drop the 5/7.
This is going to be a long game. So long that you pretty much want to prepare to draw your entire deck. Unlike most control vs. control matches, this is a game where you do not want to shy from drawing cards. Control Warriors run Elise Starseeker, which you are not going to beat over the course of a long game. That means you need to find both Justicar Trueheart and N’zoth as soon as possible. Dig as deep as you can and get to your big threats. This will put you in priority and force your opponent’s removal. You can then often build on that pressure and keep your opponent on the back foot. Once Warrior gets in control they are going to pace the game, and you never want that to happen.
Call it arrogance or call it denial, but I have still run into more than my fair share of Druid. Now, I am not sure if all of them were running Yogg-Saron, Hope’s End (though the one in the video certainly did), but I did see it more than once. The early preference seems to be towards token, but I have seen at least a couple of Malygos versions out there as well. This is a matchup that you can win prior that you get to your AOE. Druid is one of the least interactive classes in the game right now. That is to say, they are going to ramp, play minions and draw cards despite what you do. That consistency means you want to try and take them off of that curve as much as possible. The way you do that is by playing minions in situations where you normally wouldn’t. For instance, putting down a turn three Aldor Peacekeeper. That is not always going to be the right call, but bodies are very important when facing Druid because it forces them to remove the board instead of drawing cards. Try and identify your opponent’s deck early on and then play to whatever you see. If you see any of the classic token cards prepare your AOE and bigger threats, and if you see things like Gadgetzan Auctioneer or Moonfire, try and save up as much healing as you can.
As mentioned, nobody likes a meta in flux like Zoo. It is almost as if this deck was made for the shifting ladder. Like Shaman, this is a game where you really need to work hard to get as many AOE’s as you can. However, unlike Shaman, this is a game where you can use Wild Pyromancer as removal because your opponent has so many small minions. Do not underestimate the two drop and do not be afraid just use it to take out a few imps. Anytime you can get something down on the board when your opponent has nothing you should be ok. Doomsayer also does this very well and you should always try and play the end-bringing on an empty board or boards with one minion. If your opponent can kill the sayer it is going to cost them a lot of damage or potential or zap potential resources.
The one big difference between the Zoo decks of today and the Zoo decks of old is the amount of damage they can do. This is important to calculate and be aware of because it will help you know when you need to heal or put up a taunt. Almost every popular Zoo deck is going to play the discard sub-theme, running Power Overwhelming, Soulfire and Doomguard. That is a lot of damage to have in a deck, especially when combined with the usual gambit of buff effects they naturally have (Abusive Sergeant should stick around). You are always going to be toeing the line between life and death with this deck, which means steady burst is the only way you die when things move into the later stages of the game. Zoo has a lot of topdecks, but they also have a lot of ways to clear. You can win once you get ahead with your hero power, but their out-of-hand potential is always going to be there. Understand what spells they have and what they’ve already used.
When mulliganing with this deck you absolutely need to try your hardest to look for your opening curve. There will be some exception to this rule (covered below) but for the most part you just need to try to get anything playable. Starting out slow or having a heavy hand is basically going to lead to a quick death. Doomsayer, Acolyte of Pain, Sir Finley Mrrgglton and Rallying Blade are your must keeps. Beyond that, Wild Pyromancer is good against Zoo if you have spells to go with it, Consecration is strong against any aggro and you want Truesilver Champion if you have the coin or a good curve. Aldor Peacekeeper is solid on curve against midrange decks, as is Keeper of Uldaman.
The overall rule with this deck is to always look low and never keep anything that costs five or more. However, there are two exceptions to that rule. First, you can keep Harrison Jones with the coin or a solid opening when playing against a weapon class. Two, Justicar Trueheart can be kept if you have the coin against a slow control deck like Warrior or Paladin as a win condition.
I love me heavy control, and it is always cool to get to look at one that isn’t Control Warrior. Garrosh has dominated this slot for too long, and I want to try and spread the love around. This game is not kind to healing, especially in the midrange curve-based meta we are in right now, but I am always up for a good challenge. This is not an easy route to take, but it is all the more rewarding when it works. Until next time, may you always draw your early cards before your late ones.