The New Standard: Control Paladin

Note: If you missed last week’s New Standard (and want to see the deck and mulligan guide) check it out here. As the post-nerf meta continues, I seek out more ways to play control. As anyone who followed last week’s article knows, I am trying to tune Control Paladin to the current ladder environment. This […]

Note: If you missed last week’s New Standard (and want to see the deck and mulligan guide) check it out here.

Introduction

As the post-nerf meta continues, I seek out more ways to play control. As anyone who followed last week’s article knows, I am trying to tune Control Paladin to the current ladder environment. This is not an easy task, but many of the recent nerfs have slowed down some of the faster decks, and in a slow meta no deck wins games like Control Paladin does. Though the deck has not changed since last week, I have a much better understanding of it and the way it operates. As such, this week’s guide is going to look at the current core of the deck and then discuss some of the possible alterations of options that could be built off of it. Though I am really enjoying the direction of this list, there is no doubt there are many directions it could go in. I want to explore all of them to figure out which one if the best.

The Deck

As we continue forward, the more and more I realize how important balance is. Control Paladin is a deck of many moving parts, and each one has to be in place for the deck to come together. You need to the AOE, but you also need to have access to the big finishers and strong spot removal. The current list I have is an amalgamation of all of these elements and each card is here for a purpose. This is a fluid deck and you always want to make sure every card has a set reason for being here.

The biggest part of this deck is the healing, and I am not sure if it quite where I want it to be yet. Healing is such an interesting concept because it is the way you beat a lot of decks, but it is inherently weak. Board control is currently king, and most of the heals in the game are very undercosted or simply do nothing to affect game state. The card I have been considering a lot is Guardian of Kings as a way to fill that gap. However, this deck is already very heavy. If I wanted to play the 5/6 I would probably look at an all-healing style of control that also runs cards like Refreshment Vendor and Earthen Ring Farseer.

There are still a lot of one-of’s and tech cards running around, and this deck has many of them. However, that does not mean these are the best you want to play the ones that best help you. One of the best parts of this list (as covered more below) is the fact that you can tweak it so easily. Mind Control Tech is a card that is definitely worth considering in the Shaman-dominated meta, while Big Game Hunter is a decent choice if you are seeing a lot of big threats. Always make sure you are countering the decks you are seeing the most and plan accordingly.

Key Cards

This section will explain certain cards and how they’ve performed so far.

Sir Finley Mrrgglton

Though I explained the second half of this combo (Justicar Trueheart) last week, I felt a need to go back and explain the uses behind Sir Finley Mrrgglton. The one drop is very strong, but unlike decks like Aggro Shaman, you do not have that one “must pick” hero power you are always going to want. Sometimes you are going to want ways to control the board (Mage, Rogue, Druid) sometimes you are going to need to heal (Warrior, Priest) sometimes you need draw (Warlock) and sometimes you may even just want extra pressure (Hunter). These are all different reads based on a lot of different scenarios, and they are going to change game to game. However, when making the choice always think about the power will be buffed and how that will affect the future turns. While Mage hero power may not be good against Shaman early on, doing two damage may is incredibly useful at taking down totems during the late game.

The most important part of playing Sir Finley is knowing what games to play him and what games not to play him in. The general rule here is to use him if you can. For instance, while creating 1/1’s may be good against Zoo, there are going to be some games where you actually would rather have ways to do direct damage. In the same vein, Justicar Trueheart is your win condition against Control Warrior so you do not want to lose your hero power for something else. Yes, that makes the 1/3 a dead card sometimes, but the upside is so great here that typically will not matter. You only want to hold off in heavy control matchups or where you can use your 1/1’s to just take over a game.

Rallying Blade

Man oh man do I want to find an excuse to run two of these. Rallying Blade may seem like a clunky one-of in a deck with a very strong purpose, but it is a card that has come around to save me time and time again. One of Paladin’s biggest problems (maybe their biggest problem) is an inherent lack of early removal. While you have access to a lot of lategame power, that doesn’t matter when you are getting run down by Tunnel Troggs and Mana Wyrms. This card acts as a bridge and helps you keep off those early pushes. Being able to kill a two drop that would normally do six or nine damage is a huge swing and helps you win a lot of games where you would normally die on turn six or seven. Running two of these is an option, but I just get worried about clunky hands.

It is also worth considering Rallying Blade‘s ability. While buffing divine shield minions largely does nothing in a slow deck like this one, it could be really good in conjunction with Argent Squire. Yes, the one drop is not exciting, but it is quite good in the current game. Not only is it strong against both Shaman and Zoo, but it can be very annoying for decks like Hunter and Mage to deal with. When that 1/1 suddenly becomes an early 2/2 with divine shield backed by a Fiery War Axe it really helps you control the first turns. That being said, I would only run the squire if I was going to run two Rallying Blades. Running two squires without this as a backup is often not going to be enough. Rather, you want the whole package.

Keeper of Uldaman

The more I play this deck, the more important Keeper of Uldaman becomes. You just don’t see this much versatility in a control deck, especially on a midrange threat that can be used to push damage or to hold it off. This card helps you play two different roles. Some games it is going to be the control special, helping you knock a Flamewreathed Faceless or Savannah Highmane down to size. However, in other games it is going to let you be a midrange list that helps you put 6/7 worth of stats on a board. Each of these modes is very acceptable depending on the game state and you should not shy away from pumping up a Silver Hand Recruit if you need to push or want to solidify a board. However, if you need to save this for a target, then take your time. There is no rush with this list.

Something you will notice is that three damage is a lot (a lot) more than one. That is to say, this card is not always going to bail you out in the same way that Aldor Peacekeeper does. I bring this up because you can be more liberal with this than you can with peacekeeper. In fact, you typically want to use this first if you have more health because it is going to be much worse than the 3/3 during the end of the game. I have played the cards in the other order more than a few times only to wish my opponent could only hit me for 1 instead of 3 when I was sitting at six or nine health. All that matters here is staying alive, so you need to do your best to stack the cards in the way that will build towards that plan.

Harrison Jones

As mentioned, one of the benefits of heavy control decks is that you can basically run any tech cards that you want. The core of decks like these is so consistent and so solid that the fringes can be molded to your liking. For me, that liking is Harrison Jones. I talked on end last week about the important of card draw in this list, and this card gives you card draw, a solid body, and a great silver bullet against the meta. Hunter and Shaman are both very strong right now, and they both have ample weapons for you to hit. Control Warrior is also good and being able to take down a Gorehowl is very important. While there is merit to running Acidic Swamp Ooze because of how it can also be played early on against more aggressive decks, I think the card draw is more than worth the extra mana you play for the explorer. Ooze is more of a tempo play and you generally want to build to the long game, not the tempo.

The Curator?

As the question mark shows, The Curator is not in this list. However, I wanted to take some time to discuss its potential in the deck and how it could be used to great effect. The deck already runs Sir Finley Mrrgglton for the murloc interaction, and that is almost always going to be the hardest minion to find. However, this card could also allow you to slide in a copy of Corrupted Seer. Though not quite as impactful as Baron Geddon, the 2/3 doesn’t hit you for 2 damage a turn, which could be very relevant. That flexibility in combination with a large taunt (which you currently do not have) could really help against some of the faster decks around.

When it comes to Curator silver bullets the usual suspects come to mind. For beasts the two best options are Stampeding Kodo (already run in some Control Paladin decks) or Jeweled Scarab. In terms of dragons, I like Alexstrasza or Ysera as a way to naturally build into your end game, but Azure Drake works as well. However, if you wanted to go that route you would have to cut one of your late game cards (N’zoth?). Though just speculation for the time being, this is a card I will probably test further next week. I just wanted to bring it up now because it has been on my mind and I think it could add some extra power here. Definitely worth trying out.

Matchups

The most common matchups that I have seen while battling up the ladder.

Midrange Shaman

Public enemy number one and the deck that I have teched the most cards against, Shaman is definitely as strong as ever. This is a big issue, but it is not necessarily the end of the world. You have many ways to beat Shaman and they all come down to lasting as long as you can. This is a game where you just want to keep your life up as much as possible and conserve your AOE. Never pull the trigger to early, but always clear before Shaman can go off with things like Thunderbluff Valiant. As strong as Thrall is, the decks these days have limited burst potential. That means you can be a little more relaxed with your life total. It is usually right to

You are going to win this game with one of your big minions. Plain and simple. While you can just win through sheer attrition, Shaman has so many comeback mechanics that you typically want to have a large threat when you can get one down. For that reason, I cannot stress the important of baiting out Hex. The three mana spell is going to hit something, but you want to make sure it is not going to take down Tirion Fordring or Ragnaros, Lightlord. Those two cards are your win conditions and the way you are going to put the game out of reach. One of Shaman’s biggest strengths is their ability to refill a board out of nowhere. Not only does that make them consistent but it also means they are never truly out of a game. The way you overcome that is by putting down one of your two big finishers and then riding them to victory.

Secret Hunter

While Call of the Wild costing nine has decimated Midrange Hunter, Secret Hunter appears to be going strong and well. That is very good news for you because as hard as Midrange Hunter was, Secret Hunter is quite easy. The reason for this is that Secret Hunter is a deck that wants to interact with minions and you really don’t run any. They have a lot of cards like Freezing Trap and Snake Trap that are designed to combat the midrange decks of the meta. These cards do nothing against you. In fact, understand the way Hunter’s secrets work and know that you can only be hit hard by Cat Trick. Play around the panther when you know they have it by playing small spells before clearing. You never want to work hard to clear only to face down a 4/2 beast. Also note that you do not have to trigger secrets. This is a game you want to go long so just waiting to trigger a secret until the right moment (such as after you Harrison down their bow) is more than fine.

With Call on its way out the door, Secret Hunter has gotten much aggressive. Be aware of this and know which cards you need to watch out for when trying to take care of your life total during the later parts of the game. Most decks run double Savannah Highmane and they also favor cards like Secretkeeper and Ragnaros the Firelord. As a result, though this game is easier, you never want to get complacent. Always keep track of your opponent’s burn and always make sure to heal if you ever think you are in danger of dying. The only big threat you need to worry about is Highmane, which you should save your Aldor Peacekeepers and Keeper of Uldamans for at all costs. Everything else you should be able to handle with your regular removal.

Control Warrior

I said this was the easiest matchup last week and that hasn’t changed. The new Control Warrior builds are only focused on staying alive and going all the way up to fatigue. That is great for you because, even with N’zoth, the Corruptor, you have access to a ton of powerful minions as well as Justicar Trueheart. Those are cards Control Warrior cannot keep up with. This is going to be a game of attrition where your whole goal is to slowly grind your opponent into dust turn after turn after turn. Use your hero power a lot and know that you are going to spend a lot of turns doing nothing. One of the only ways to lose here is by getting jumpy and doing something stupid (like playing multiple big threats into Brawl) because you want something to happen. Patience is key.

Another big part of this match is spell conservation. That is to say, always make sure you save your removal spells for the big targets. While you do not have any true kill spells, you do have access to Aldor Peacekeeper, Eadric the Pure and Keeper of Uldaman. Though most Warriors plan on entering the Golden Monkey stages of the game, they still come with a few threats peppered in here and there. Watch out for those cards and make sure you never randomly die to Grommash Hellscream. It is also very important to watch out for/play around Sylvanas Windrunner/Shield Slam. That combo will ruin you if it hits a strong deathrattle minion because it cripples your N’zoth and gives your opponent a ton of tempo. That can be such a problem that I will often play a big non-deathrattle minion to bait out Sylvia before dropping Tirion Fordring.

Tempo Mage

Another deck that made out of the nerfs like a bandit, Tempo Mage has proven once again to be a top-tier deck that is more than capable of holding its own. This is a very tricky game because Mage is going to throw all of the burn at your face and you need to make sure you can gain enough life to outlast that push. Though Mage does have a ceiling on their damage potential, it is one heck of a high ceiling. In most games Mage suffers if their early minions get cleared. However, since they are almost always going to see their whole deck when playing you, that does not matter as much. You still want to work hard to clear their threats, but just know they are going to hoard burn and then unleash it in one or two “go big” turns. Plan for that and make sure to heal before taking twenty or so to the dome.

You need to try and mitigate your opponent’s damage in any way that you can. The best way to do this is by playing a solid string of threats throughout the game, which then forces them to use their burn on your board. Though it is going to be hard to do, any chance you can to stack up a board or put down a threat against Mage you should. Allowing them to be comfortable and stick to their gameplan is going to almost always lead to a loss, so you need to be proactive. Also note that many decks have also dropped Yogg in favor or other finishers like Ragnaros the Firelord and Archmage Antonidas. Those cards can put on a ton of damage even after you think you’ve stabilized. If you haven’t seen a finisher moving into the later stages of the game you want to prepare for one as best as you can.

Zoo

As expected, Zoo has made its triumphant return to the meta. No deck loves punishing people for experimenting quite like the Aggrolock build, and this remains true more than two years after its inception. As mentioned last week, Zoo is going to be tough. Very tough. The gameplan here is going to look very similar to how you play Shaman. That is to say, you simply want to wear your opponent down and stall until you can get a big minion to stick. All of your threats, from Sylvanas to Rag, are going to do a lot of work here. You just need to make sure you are going to live long enough to make that happen. Zoo makes its money during the first three turns of the game, where they just build upon themselves over and over to create such an overwhelming board there is no hope of coming back. Understand that and do not be afraid to make tempo plays like putting down an Aldor Peacekeeper on turn three to shut down their

Conclusion

Heeeaallling. I am having a lot of fun with this list and I am really excited to continue working with it. The Curator package is going to be tested next, but there are still a couple of things I want to try out. Hearthstone is always the most fun when you’re experimenting, and that continues to be true. It’s why I love series like these. Let me know what you think about a possible teaching series and, until next time, may you always put your faith in the light.