Neeeeeewwwww sssssssseeeeeetttttttttt. Ok, now that’s out of my system, welcome back to The New Standard! I took a break from my regularly scheduled programming to do Scalise’s Sessions (which will return next year) but now its time to learn how to survive on the Mean Streets of Gadgetzan! The cards are out, and boy do we have some brewing to do. Now, for all of you that know me (and for those of you that don’t) my favorite deck of all time is Aggro Paladin. Hands down, no questions asked. And, when I get a chance to make a good Aggro Paly deck, by God do I make a good Aggro Paladin deck. This is where we are this week on The New Standard, looking at my current version of the list and explaining why I think it’s a great choice for the early meta.
I am writing this on day two of the new season (and the new set), and at this time I have played more Hearthstone in the past two days than any healthy human being should. In that time, I have experimented with a ton of new decks, including many builds of this one. While that experimentation quickly got me to rank 20, it also allowed me to climb back up the ladder and rise through the ranks once I found a list that I liked. After extensive testing with all sorts of new cards and combinations, I finally managed to settle on something good. I am not saying this deck is perfect or this versions is the final build, but it’s been doing well and I know there is something solid going on here.
Did somebody say one drops? No? Well, I sure as heck did! This list, like all the great Aggro Paladin lists of the past, is predicated on swarming your opponent, dropping your hand, and then refilling it with cheap and effective card draw to do it all over again. However, this version takes that idea and maxes it out to the absolute extreme. This whole deck (well, half) is one drops, and the other half are cards that synergize well with those one drops. This is key to note because it allows you to play much more greedy than you normally would and go all-in with your card draw. The idea here is to simply never run out of steam. Either you control the board by playing the tempo game and applying pressure, or you just keep drawing so many cards and playing so many threats that your opponent can’t keep up.
This deck strips away a lot of the fluff that Paladin used to run to focus on the minions. While you could try and fit in things like Consecration, Blessing of Kings or Equality, all of those cards were extremely underwhelming when I tested them. You are a deck that needs to constantly be playing threats, and whenever you take the time to cast a spell you lose some of that tempo. I would recommend staying away from those cards, no matter how good they have been in the past.
There two most important parts to this list are card draw and trading. Divine Favor and Small-Time Recruits really give you some steam and allow you four ways to fill up your hand. That means you can be much more liberal with how you run out your cards, as well as how you trade and apply pressure. In the past, you wanted to hold back minions and carefully add them to the board to play around various clears. While that is still true in a lot of cases, it is not concrete as it once was. In addition, though this is an aggro list you really want to work hard to out tempo your opponent. Giving them priority is one of your only ways to lose against some decks, so if you can ever take the board you should.
Something to note is that this list does not run Leeroy Jenkins. That may be fixed at some point, but the whole thing feels so tight I just don’t see where I could stick in the five drop. The lack of burst does stink, but you have plenty of direct damage (not to mention charge) at your disposal. Also, Leeroy is a weak top deck and he does worsen your mulligans. He could still be good, but I don’t think he’s as necessary as he once was.
This section will explain certain cards and how they’ve performed so far.
“Wait, Joseph, you’re running Patches the Pirate?” “Of course, he’s great.” “But you only have four pirates.” “True.” “And you’re running Small-time Buccaneer with only three weapons?” “Yep.” A big part of deck building is not getting hung up on things that aren’t central to your deck. What I mean by that is it is easy to say “I can’t run patches with only four pirates” immediately write off this package. However, these five cards are crucial to this list, and having four ways to summon patches when you’re specifically not mulliganing for him is more than enough. All three of these one drops serve a very important purpose. Not only are they cheap, aggressive minions, but they also build off of each other and play well with the other cards you’re running anyway.
Patches the Pirate is simply too good not to run. Yes, you may draw him from time to time, but with four pirates you will most often just get him for free. Thinning out your deck is key to finding your card draw quicker, and having a one drop with charge on top of that is incredible. However, I will say that if the other pirates were bad it wouldn’t make sense to include patches, but they aren’t. Southsea Deckhand has been an Aggro Paladin staple since the beginning, and that hasn’t changed. A 2/1 for one is fine in its own right, but being able to play two more charge minions in your deck is also extremely key towards the later stages of the game. On the other hand, Small-Time Buccaneer is a constant threat that will eat hard removal or get in for three. Even without a weapon, a 1/2 body on turn one is extremely important right now, and it comes with nothing but upside.
Another new, and extremely important, addition to this deck is Meanstreet Marshal. In the past, Aggro Paladin has had two primary weaknesses: card draw and one health minions. Having a single hit point, even in the early game, can be a huge problem in Hearthstone because of various hero powers (and now because of patches). In addition, while this deck has draw, it is very limited. So much so, that most builds used to run Loot Hoarder just to get a little bit of extra reach. Meanstreet Marshal fixes both of these problems in one, simple-to-use card. The 1/2 for one may not seem like much at first, but it’s a threat that survives a hero power and, like Small-Time Buccaneer comes with nothing but upside.
This is a card you almost always want to get value out of if you can afford it. Now, that does not mean you need to go out of your way to make sure you draw, but that if you have numerous cards to trade in with, you typically want it to be a two attack Meanstreet Marshal. You will notice that there aren’t a ton of buffs in this list, but they really aren’t needed. Between Grimestreet Outfitter, Abusive Sergeant and Keeper of Uldaman this card can almost always gets some type of value. That is very strong in any aggro deck because your opponents are going to see this at a threat. In that way you can use the 1/2 as a lighting rod to force your opponents to use early removal and take them off of their curve.
Now we’re talking. When the cards first got spoiled I was immediately excited about Grimestreet Outfitter‘s potential, and so far it has not disappointed. Many aggro decks run Defender of Argus as a way to buff up their board (the taunt is there too but it’s less relevant). As non-threatening as a 1/1 and a 2/1 are, they instantly become scary when they are a 2/2 and a 3/2. That’s two real threats that have to be dealt with. In addition, those buffs also protect those cards from removal and nullify easy pings. That idea is the same one behind Grimestreet Outfitter, except that the goblin buffs more cards on average and comes down on turn two. That cheap mana cost makes it so you coin this out on turn one and then begin to flood the board as fast as you can. Just make sure you get as much value out of the 1/1 as you possibly can. This is a fantastic play on its own, but you should always count the cards in your hand. Buffing two minions is good, but if you can wait a turn or two that potential skyrockets. One of the best combos this deck has is Small-Time Recruits into the outfitter on turn five to give you a huge turn six.
I have talked on end in the past about how to correctly use, set up, and plan for Divine Favor, but it is the most important part of this deck. Whenever you have the three mana spell in hand it is vital to try and figure how and when you are going to get the most value out of it. This will not always be the best play on that turn, but you want to think about it the whole game. Every deck, and every class, has a tipping point where they start to dump their hand. For aggro decks this happens right away, for midrange it it usually around turn five, and control will almost always a full grip. Understand these differences, and be sure to draw cards before your opponent spends theirs and cripples your potential.
Another important part of Divine Favor is to map out the turns coming before it and figure out how you are going to have the least amount of cards in your hand as possible. That type of forward thinking is needed to pilot a deck like this because setting up big favors are key to both gaining tempo and getting ahead in the game. This deck starts early, slows down, and then burst ahead for a strong finish. In order for that to happen, you need to be able to get cards into your hand. Playing things sub-optimally may not seem correct, but it can often be worth it if you can draw a few extra cards.
While many of the cards in your deck are strong, none of them have the impact that Wickerflame Burnbristle does. The 2/2 may seem very underwhelming at first glance (it does seem quite like a Silent Knight) but it is so much more. So, so, so much more. Divine shield has always been a strong ability, but the taunt really elevates this to the next level. Not only does the three drop trade extremely well, but it can also be played both proactively and reactively, and protects your board. All while gaining life. This is one of the linchpins of this list because it singlehandedly breaks open the aggro mirror and gives the ability to climb out of lethal range against burst oriented decks. That just isn’t seen in aggro.
The most important part of playing this card is understanding how to use him as a road block. Sometimes you want to run Wickerflame out on turn three just to slot into your curve, but more often than not you want to really think about what situation to put him into. For instance, dropping him turn five against a Hunter to intercept a Savannah Highmane, or turn six against a Pirate Warrior to shut down a potential Arcanite Reaper is huge. So huge in fact that playing him on the right turn can often just lead to an instant win. The 2/2 is not easy to kill when your opponent has no board, so it is important to always look to play him when he cannot easily be answered.
Some of the most common matchups I see while playing ladder.
Kicking off our new matchup list for the early days of the shifting meta is Pirate Warrior. And for good reason. The deck has some of the best burst in the game, is simple to pick up, and has some truly incredible combos. That is a great combination for a shifting meta, and has easily made this the king of the ladder for the first few days. Even so, you matchup quite well against it. I am not going to say that we are favored in this one (it is just too early to tell) but I can say this is a very winnable game. In fact, almost all of my games during my climb so far have been against it. Not only can you match them hit for hit during the early turns, but you have enough mid-game power that you can overwhelm them once you get ahead.
This matchup comes down to the board and who can control it the best. We live in a time where aggro decks have huge upside potential, and that means you need to get ahead of your opponent in anyway that you can. Often, Pirate will start going face and try to ignore the board, and you can just absolutely punish them for it. Do not worry about getting serious damage in until about turn four (where you need to push to outrun an Arcanite Reaper). Also work hard to set up Wickerflame Burnbristle against a weapon or an empty board. Warrior does not have the resources to fight through the legendary, and you will win if you ever get it down uncontensted. In fact, he usually draws an instant concession.
I am putting Dragon Priest at number two because I think it is going to be extremely powerful in the coming days, even if it is not overwhelmingly popular right now. They have some of the best minions around and one of the strongest curves in the game. That makes for a very powerful and consistent list that can go toe-to-toe with just about any deck. This is going to be a tricky matchup, but it is not going to be impossible. While they have bigger minions, you are much, much faster. This means you are going to control the tempo and push very hard throughout the game. Dragon Priest’s biggest weakness if that they are stuck playing one beefy minion a turn. That works against a lot of decks, but it does very little against you. That is because you can pace them in the first turns and then push hard after. Don’t worry about getting in damage early, you’re power will come in the midgame.
Another big feature here is planning for your opponent’s taunts. While they do not have a lot, Dragon Priest is able to put up walls if they need to stay alive. That is a problem because it forces you to trade a lot of your board into their threats. Always save your buffs and have a plan for all of them. For instance, saving an Abusive Sergeant to combat a turn two Wyrmrest Agent or using your Keeper of Uldaman on a turn four Twilight Guardian. You have enough firepower that Dragon Priest can only slow you down. If you know how you are going to overcome their walls you should be able to run them over before they can ever get anything properly set up. Just don’t overextend into Dragonfire Potion after you hit turn six.
Is Jade Druid strong? Possibly. Is it good against our deck? Not so much. This game can feel like an uphill battle if you are not familiar with playing Aggro Paladin against Druid, but if you understand the ins and outs of this one you should be able to take it down. The way you play this game is by forcing Druid to use their removal in very poor ways or on small boards. For example, getting them to Swipe just three small minions or forcing them to use Coin/Wrath on a one drop. Don’t overextend too far into AOE and always try to have a few things with divine shields running around. Those plays are hard to spot, but they are key. Even getting one card to stick can be the difference between winning and losing.
The Druid matchup will always feel bad while you’re in it, but if you can step back and look at the whole picture you should be able to out-pace your opponent. The way you win this is by forcing your opponent’s turns. This can be tricky if your opponent is sticking to their game plan, adding to the board and constantly upping their curve, but if you make them do one thing that you can predict you will be fine. This is not always easy to see, but putting down a solid body on three to make them Swipe on turn four or applying so much pressure on turn six to force that they have to taunt on seven is how you win this game. When playing through this match you always want to look at your hand and say to yourself “what do I want my opponent to do next turn?” Then you go ahead and try to make them do it.
While there are a few Reno style decks running around, none of them are as strong or as popular as Renolock. The slow Warlock deck has a ton of new cards at their disposal and an overwhelming amount of power. Even so, this is going to be your easiest matchup by a long shot. The reason being that, despite their odd healing here and there, Renolock draws a ton of cards (yay Divine Favor) and usually only plays one thing a turn. That means if they want to heal, they need to spend their whole turn doing it. If they want to clear, they need to spend their whole turn doing it. To take advantage of that, you want to simply want to run out enough minions to pressure them, but hold back some to be able to refill. You are going to be the aggressor in this one and you always want to look for opportunities to do damage.
Do not get caught up on minion combat here. It is very easy to try and find certain value trades, but if you spend your time chipping down a Twilight Drake or the like you will often lose. You want to put this game away around turn five or six and letting Warlock take out your minions for free is not the way to do that. Beyond that, you need to watch out for turn six. Reno Jackson can instantly cause you to lose the game if you aren’t properly prepared. While you can’t do much about the explorer, the way you beat him is by flooding the board on turn five (preferably with some sticky minions). This will put them into a corner and make it so that if they do heal you can just rush past the 4/6 and go face hard.
While this is an easy mulligan in theory, it is not as easy in practice. That is because, while there are some rules you have to stick for, the way you look at your hand is going to change with or without the coin. This is because with the coin you want to try and get as many one drops as you can to really start off fast and hit hard. Be more aggressive with your mulligans and value getting a quick start over a solid curve. In contrast, without the coin you care much more about your curve. Keeping two one drops is very strong when you can play them both right away, but when your mana is constricted it is much better to try and find one-two-three. Keeping three one drops is also strong, but that is a very specific situation.
Your “must keeps” here are all of your one drops that aren’t Patches the Pirate (which you never want). Then, look to keep Knife Juggler and Grimestreet Outfitter if you have the coin or a curve coming before them. Argent Horserider should be kept with the coin and a curve. The same goes for Wickerflame Burnbristle and Rallying Blade. When it comes to the draw, Divine Favor is good with a cheap hand against a slow deck, while I do not keep Small-Time Recruits (though that could be wrong). Finally, you only want Truesilver Champion or Keeper of Uldaman when you have the coin and a very strong opening curve.
New meta! God, I am having just a ton of fun right now playing with the various new decks that have been bouncing around on ladder and I’m not going to stop anytime soon. I always love to brew, and that always gets magnified during the first days of a new set. It has only been a few days so far, and there are so many questions that need to be answered. How good is buff Hunter? What about Taunt Warrior? Will Reno Mage ever actually be good? These are all on my mind and I’m going to find out one way or another. Until then, may you always have the coin.