The New Standard: Karazhan Edition (Midrange Dragon Paladin)

Disclaimer: Sorry about not having an extra video after the last game, just ran out of time this week. This week we enter wing three, and this time around we got some really interesting options. I thought long and hard about what I wanted to do, and I eventually settled on the card . I […]

Introduction

Disclaimer: Sorry about not having an extra video after the last game, just ran out of time this week.

This week we enter wing three, and this time around we got some really interesting options. I thought long and hard about what I wanted to do, and I eventually settled on the card Nightbane Templar. I have been thinking about the three drop for a long time and what it would mean for Dragon Paladin. Though it has had a lot of powerful tools and strong minions, Dragon Paly has never quite had enough power to keep up with the shifting meta or fast decks. This time around, I sought to change that by making a Dragon Paladin list that had a much lower curve and was much more aggressive in its approach. There is a ton of damage output in the game right now, and it puts slower control decks in a really rough spot. Instead, I went the route of Dragon Warrior and decided to try to make a deck that gets the board and never lets it go.

The Deck

Unlike traditional Dragon lists, this is a Midrange deck. The addition of Nightbane Templar greatly changes the curve of this deck in the same way Cloaked Huntress and Kindly Grandmother helped out Hunter. Having two extremely strong, board-centric three drops really smooths out your curve and makes your opening much more reliable. This then helps you run really smoothly into your powerful four drops (and oh my do you have some powerful four drops). It may seem strange that one card can make such a big difference, but, as we will see below, Nightbane Templar is no ordinary card.

The biggest challenge of this deck of finding the lower end of the curve. While I will talk about this in more detail below, there are a lot of options at your disposal when it comes to opening the game. I started out with the divine shield plan that many Secret Paladin and Bubble Paladin lists have adopted, running both Argent Squire and Selfless Hero. I even tested some other aggressive openings running things like Knife Juggler. However, they really didn’t pan out in the way that I wanted and proved to be completely dead draws later in the game.

A big note is that this deck does not run Equality. While most Dragon Paladin and Midrange Paladin lists in the past ran the two mana AOE, I don’t think it fits here. Yes, you still have Consecration, but that is one sided. This is a deck where you want to have the board for the whole game. If you plan to play cards that are going to help you when you’re behind, it most likely isn’t going to work out. Also, it is very rare you want to set your minion’s health one.

Finally, a big aspect of this deck is healing. Right now the only option is the classic Midrange curve-topper of Lay on Hands. Though I am not sure if this deck wants healing, there have been times where I desperately wanted a way to climb out of burn range. Forbidden Healing is the only other real option for this, but, similar to Equality, it may be for a deck slower than this one. I think it deserves some further testing.

Key Cards

This section will help to explain why certain cards are in the list, what I think about them, and how they’ve performed so far.

Selfless Hero

As mentioned above, this deck, like all midrange decks, needs some opening plays. While Selfless Hero is not the most exciting card in the world, it has two attack (very important when matching up against other early game cards) and also an ability that can really swing a game. Giving a minion divine shield is very interesting because this card allows you to play an aggressive one drop that also curves up really well with the rest of your deck. If you play this and then trade it into a two drop to give your own two drop a divine shield, it instantly puts you in control of the game. Though that is often not going to happen, there are very few turn one cards that have hit that ceiling. The card also has the added bonus of not completely dead later in the game because it allows you to make some strong trades and put your opponent into tricky situations.

A reason I like (and have always liked) Selfless Hero is because of how it forces your opponent’s hand. That is to say, this has a very strong ability that your opponent is going to want to limit. This often means they are going to kill this card as soon as it comes down to prevent you from getting the bonus. This is very good turn one against any class that can ping it down. The reason is that, if you are facing Rogue, Druid or Mage on turn one and you run this out, they are very often going to use the coin to kill it. That may not sound like a big deal, but the coin is worth quite a bit to those classes. On the reverse side, running this out when going second can also really throw Mage or Druid off their game plan by stopping a two drop or a turn two Wild Growth.

Loot Hoarder

Though Faerie Dragon‘s inclusion into this deck is quite explanatory, I needed a second two drop to go along with it. This deck hits very hard on turn three, but it just needs a play in order to get there. After some debate, I figured I would try to slot in Loot Hoarder as my option, and so far it has worked very well. Hoarder is strong in a deck like this for two reasons. One, it gives you a way to get early board presence, which is essential in a deck that wants to curve out. A 2/1 body trades well against a lot of the popular decks and allows you to also get some pressure on slower lists (or Druids casting Wild Growth). Just having something on board is very important in today’s meta and you want to start that out as soon as possible. However, you cannot just play early minions, they have to do something as well. Hoarder (similar to Selfless Hero) is great because it is a card that comes down early and then builds into your later game. Seeing cards is very important in a Dragon deck, and having a turn two play that cycles can really smooth out your draws over the course of a game.

Nightbane Templar

Yes. Oh my God, yes. Nightbane Templar is an extremely powerful tool that just absolutely takes over a board, smooths out your curve, and is the sole reason this deck can even exist. As Muster for Battle once taught us, having three bodies on turn three is a huge deal. Not only is that inherently hard to deal with, but it also trades well and puts on a lot of pressure. Though there is no weapon this time around, you get a 2/3 on one of the bodies. This card is just the complete package. It clogs up the board against aggro, give you viable threat against both midrange and control, and allows you a great board re-fill during the later stages of the game. This deck is also about controlling the board, and there is nothing that does that better than 4/5 worth of stats spread across three bodies on turn three.

One of the most important things about Nightbane Templar (as will be explained more below) is how well it interacts with buffs. This card makes it so you are almost always going to have some target for a turn four buff. As a result, you can curve intoBlessing of Kings without having to worry about targets. In fact, this interaction is so good I want to test other buff cards like Silvermoon Portal to see how they stack up as well. Buffs normally aren’t good enough to make a deck because they have a lack of targets. This means they are going to sit in your hand and rot while your opponent plays proactive cards. However, the ability to have three bodies curving so well into your buff turns really changes their value.

Blessing of Kings

Though it sat dormant for a long time, Blessing of Kings is a card that works marvelously in this deck. This card is very strong that allows you to turn small minions into threats, gives you ways to trade up and builds pressure out of nowhere. All of those things are very important, and the extra four attack is extremely relevant for a deck like this one. I have used this both aggressively and defensively. Sometimes you use it to push hard and force your opponent off of their curve, but other times you can just play it on a taunt to force aggressive decks to use resources to clear rather than burn your face. Versatility is always important in Hearthstone, and this gives your deck a surprising amount of options.

Nightbane Templar is the reason this card is in the deck, but as long as you curve well this card is going to give you some power. Any target allows you to really go in with the extra 4/4 and being able to curve with this allows you a lot of options. Blessing also has the bonus of being good no matter what stage of the game you use it at. This card is always going to be live when played on a minion on turn four, and it is also really good when played on a minion on turn ten. It also is strong when it comes down on turn ten or later. You want work to get it down on a minion that can attack immediately, but do not be afraid to play a minion and use this in the same turn when attempting to get something to stick. That goes double if you can do it on an empty board.

Ysera

Despite this deck’s low curve, I think you want to have a big finisher dragon in the same way you want Tirion Fordring. Just like with Dragon Warrior, it is ok to have some late game trump cards that finish off your curve and overpower the board. Of course, there are several dragons for this job, and all of them have their own merits. Nefarian is really good in games where you are out of resources, while Alexstrasza is very strong against control (with an added bonus against aggro) and Chromaggus generates a ton of value if he manages to live for a turn. Out of all of the options, however, I prefer Ysera. The reason being that she just gives so much recurring value and enables you to grind out opponents during topdeck mode. That is really helpful against decks that have managed to answer all of your resources. She also gives you a great trump card for the games where you and your opponent are simply trading up the ladder.

If I wasn’t going to play Ysera in this spot, I would probably go with Chromaggus. The reason being that Chromag curves really nicely with Dragon Consort (an added bonus) and also has the same grindy effect. Though I think the 6/8 body is much worse overall than a 4/12 (especially with the lack of hard removal right now), it does come down one turn earlier and can really give you some powerful options. Having just another big threat in the deck is not necessarily good enough. You want to have a big threat that can actually do something and gain you more value as the games goes on. The choice is completely up to you what big finisher you want, but you definitely want one big dragon at the end of this deck.

Matchups

Some of the most common matchups I’ve seen so far.

Aggro Shaman

Though it is always popular, Aggro Shaman has quickly skyrocketed to the forefront of the game as aggro decks so often do during times of flux. This matchup is largely going to come down to turns four and five when your opponent has access to either Flamewreathed Faceless or Doomhammer. Your low curve gives you a lot of ways to battle with your opponent during turns two and three, but those cards can quickly go over your head and just pour on more damage that you cannot match. You want to play this game largely based on how the first turns go. If your opponent jumps out way ahead you should put up walls and do everything you can to slow them down. On the other hand, if you begin the game much faster than them you want to push for damage and make them answer you.

This is a game where you generally want to play the role of control. That is to say, you should try and clear your opponent’s board when possible and set up your taunts as best as you can. Putting a strong amount of threats down will force Shaman to remove your board and keep the pressure off of your face. It also enables you to have priority on trades, which is very important when choosing how to deal with the different threats your opponent is going to stack up. Anytime you get the chance to totally clear their board you should take it. You never want to give your opponent an opportunity to leverage damage and ignore the board. You need to keep them focused on minion combat for as long as you can.

Midrange Hunter

Kindly Grandmother and Cloaked Huntress had the exact effect on Hunter as everyone thought they would, instantly bringing the class to the forefront of the meta. This is a very tough matchup if Hunter curves out well. Your goal is to try and stop that curve as much as you can by bringing your own threats and solid removal to the table. Your goal is to trade evenly with your minion up until the middle game where you can really start going over their head. Once you get ahead in the game you should be ok, but that is not going to be an easy task. Always keep their removal in mind and do what you can to make sure they are dealing with your threats instead of playing on curve.

A very important part of this game is prediction. Hunter’s curve is one of the best in the game, but it is also largely predestined. You know they are going to play their Infested Wolf on turn four, Savannah Highmane on turn six and Call of the Wild on turn eight. As a result, you can set up the turns before that with as much board presence as possible. This will result in two scenarios. Either your opponent will be forced to use removal on their board (keeping them off curve and preventing them from playing a big threat) or they will add their threat and allow you to keep priority over the game. Most of the time they are just going to run out their minions and let you deal with it, which can lead to an easy win if you pile up enough pressure.

Dragon Warrior

It dipped for a while, but Dragon Warrior is still hanging on at the edges of the meta. In many ways this is going to feel like a mirror match. The reason being that you and your opponent have many of the same cards and are trying to do the same things. However, they have an extra big threat or two that can really help them out during the later stages of the game. As a result, you want to work hard to make sure you win the mid-game of this match. If you have a strong board by the time your opponent plans on putting down a Grommash Hellscream or Ragnaros the Firelord you should be able to just win the game through pressure. Make sure to do whatever you can to clear their board and add to your own. Truesilver Champion is very strong for this goal, as is buffing up a Silver Hand Recruit with Blessing of Kings alongside another hefty body. Dragon Warrior’s only hard removal is two Executes. Baiting an early one out with a buff is by no means a bad play if you have a string of threats coming after it.

As with so many decks today, you need to be very careful about Dragon Warriors damage. Though they will trade and go back-and-forth during the early game, their goal is to get ahead and then use that to just only go face until you die. You need to keep them off of that plan and focused on the board as much as possible. It is also important to anticipate their midrange plays in the same way you can do it for Hunter. For example, playing Twilight Guardian turn four to protect your early cards from Kor’kron Elite or playing Blackwing Technician over Nightbane Templar to play around Ravaging Ghoul. Testing for things like Execute and Fiery War Axe can also be very important throughout the course of the game to help you know which options are most important.

Resurrect Priest

Yep. Priest is back baby. Resurrect has proven itself to be a real powerhouse, and while only time will tell if it has enough power to last past Karzhan, it is something you need to prepare for. This is perhaps one of the most swingy matchups around. Some games you are just going to get obliterated by a never-ending string of 4/7’s and some games you are going to curve out and they are going to die with nine cards in hand. The rule of this game is to just stick to your guns and force Priest to react to you as much as possible. They have a lot of removal, but almost all of it is going to eat their early turns and not be able to keep up with a strong curve. This is a game where it is important to always have something to do, even if that means playing a card without a buff.

Against Priest you want to be the aggressor. Resurrect is a deck that will just run you over if you give them time to set up their big minions and draw into strong combos. You need to constantly force removal out of their hand and do everything within your power to keep them from playing minions. Once they get anything down they are going to bring it back more than a few times. However, if you hit them hard and fast enough that isn’t going to matter at all. The goal here is to just force Priest back as much as you can and put on as much pressure as possible. While there are going to be games where you want to trade, you want to do everything in your power to maximize damage. Even something as simple as sword/attack your opponent’s face can cause them to play more defensively than they should.

Beast Druid

Though it is hard to gauge just how popular or big Beast Druid is going to be, it has been everywhere since the release of Menagerie Warden. The 5/5 is very good (as predicted) but the rest of the deck is strong as well. They have a tight curve and a lot of ways to put on pressure out of nowhere. This game is going to play out a lot like the match against Shaman. You need to do what you can to make sure your opponent never amasses a real board and is always playing from behind. Though beast Druid has an insane amount of burst and powerful minions, they really depend on having the board to be able to enact their gameplan. If you can force them off of their curve or make them take a gap turn you should be able to take over priority and win the game from there. The only thing you really need to watch out for is sudden burst. Though it is a new deck, you will find Savage Roar in pretty much all lists. They also have access to Druid of the Claw, Druid of the Saber, Swipe and Living Roots. In addition, do everything you can to clear their beasts during turn five to limit how much value they get from Warden.

Mulligan Guide

You are a midrange list, so you really want to work hard to mulligan for a strong curve. The golden rule of this is to just keep everything as long as it fits inside of your opening. Selfless Hero, Nightbane Templar, Loot HoarderRallying Blade and Faerie Dragon are how you want to open every game and then just curve from there. Twilight Guardian is a good keep with an early curve, especially if you have the coin. Beyond that, Truesilver Champion and Blessing of Kings can both be kept against Shaman and Druid. Consecration should be kept when facing aggro like Zoo and Shaman.

The biggest part of mulliganing with this list is deciding when to keep a dragon. My general rule for this is to always keep a dragon on curve, or keep a dragon for one of your early activators if it makes sense with your hand. For example, keeping Ysera to activate a turn three Blackwing Technician probably isn’t worth it against Priest, but it can do a lot to have a 3/5 against Dragon Warrior. In that same vein, I wouldn’t keep Ysera in that situation against Zoo, but I would if it were to trigger Nightbane Templar since the bodies are so strong in that matchup. These reads are very important for knowing how and when to keep slower dragons.

Conclusion

I just cannot express how much I love this adventure and how much I am currently enjoying the game. I have never seen a meta this diverse and I have cannot remember a time where this many classes and decks were viable. This deck is a good example of that, and I predict it will be very strong once Book Wyrm comes out next week. Though the party is almost over, there are a ton of decks to explore and just about every class has a viable option. I plan to explore many more things in the coming weeks. Until then, may you always hit your curve.