The New Standard: Season 1, Episode 4

Hey guys, if you’re just tuning in for the first time, you should check out the first three installments of the Brewmaster series to get caught up to speed. One, Two, Three Note: Due to time constraints there will be no video this week. Sorry for the inconvenience, will be back up for The New […]

Hey guys, if you’re just tuning in for the first time, you should check out the first three installments of the Brewmaster series to get caught up to speed.

One, Two, Three

Note: Due to time constraints there will be no video this week. Sorry for the inconvenience, will be back up for The New Standard Season 2 (hint: post deck ideas in the comments).

Introduction

Every time I get to the end of the season (and subsequently the end of the deck) I always take some time to reflect. I think this is a good exercise that is always important for getting better at Hearthstone. Everyone, no matter how good, can still learn something about the game. For instance, when deck building there are many times where you will lose a game or not be able to rank up enough and, quite frankly, it will be your fault. That does not necessarily mean that you misplayed or you are not making the right calls at the right time, but rather that your deck could probably use some work. It is very hard to know when a deck is optimal or when your list is going to be at the right space. Even decks that are at the top of the meta, like Tempo Warrior, Zoo or Aggro Shaman, do not have one set list. There is always room for change. Building a deck is about fighting a meta, and I think this one manages to do that quite well. There are certain climbing milestones that you always want to track when you make a deck. While I did not get as far as I could have, I did make it to rank 5, which is on the final road. Though, I think with more time and more planning we really could have done something.

Where We Are Now

The deck ended up very near to where it started, which is an odd spot. I am very happy with the final build, and I like all of the tech choices (though I still think there are more explore). The idea to go with Dreadsteed over the more conventional deathrattle options was by far the best move we’ve made. A list like this (as with most lists) is extremely tight. Every card matters and every single decision is going to be important. When you put a card into the deck it has to have a purpose. Shedding off the extra deathrattle weight really helped and allowed for more niche cards to fill up the deck. While it seems like there a lot of one-of’s here, I trust they all serve their purpose to one degree or another. As you well know by now, you need some neutral silver bullets to make Renounce Darkness work, and that’s exactly how this deck was made.

This deck does a fantastic time against all control (not Priest) decks, and also is very strong against swarm aggro like Zoo. I think Shaman and Hunter are just going to be one of the hardest obstacles to overcome, and I’m not sure if we’ve solved them yet. While Shaman can be beaten by strong draws, Hunter is a nightmare. Healing has been a constant battle for me. I didn’t know where I stood with it last week and I don’t know where I stand now. Everyone (including myself) has mentioned Alexstrasza and she honestly might be the right option. While she is slow and I do not like raising the curve, there just aren’t that many choices. I will talk about this more later, but every deck can do a ton of damage out of nowhere. Having even an extra two health can be critical. Reno Jackson seems like an obvious choice, but I tried him and found that his ability never triggered after Renounce Darkness, really limiting what you could do. Lord Jaraxxus could also be a good fit, but you already beat control and he makes your Sense Demons much worse.

The final version of this deck is really focused on the curve. The two-tier finisher system is alive and well, but in order to play it optimally you really need to be able to play a card just about every turn. Lifetap will help you out in a pinch and fix some slow starts, but we live in a board-dominated meta. AOE is very strong, but sometimes it just doesn’t quite cut it. One thing I found is that this deck always needs to be contesting the opponent’s board (one of the many reasons Dreadsteed is so good) and that can come from either minions or removal. This type of list is all about consistency, and if you can stay ahead you can outlast almost anyone. Minions rule this world, and while you don’t need to have a ton, you just need enough to make sure you are always being active in some way.

The Cards

This section will help to explain some of the cards I found to be the most interesting throughout the season.

Sacrificial Pact

This is a card I touched upon last week but wanted to go into more detail about now. I think Sacrificial Pact is an extremely important card that should probably be upped to a two-of. I know that sounds kind of crazy, but it really is some of the best healing this deck has access to. Five life for free (free!) is an amazing deal when you start to think about. This enables you to add to the board and play your threats while also keeping your health up. A lot of times control decks will lose to a strong board because they will take a turn to heal and then fall behing on minions. This balances that out quite well. You are almost always going to play Pact on Dreadsteed, which means you aren’t even losing board presence. It can also be used on one of your Imp Gang Boss imps as well.

Another big reason to run Sacrificial Pact is because it has much less of a set back in a Renounce Darkness deck. As I have mentioned many times throughout the last month, the ability to change all of your Warlock cards lets you get much more greedy than you normally would. That does not mean you want to play a lot of bad or situational cards, but you can put more into your deck. The set back of Sacrificial Pact is that it does nothing a lot of the time and is useless if you do not have a demon. For that reason, it is usually kept as a one-of if it is run at all. Here, you can always change them during the later stages of the game if you need. This card also can lead to some huge swings against Zoo as well. That is not the actual reason you run this card, but it is a very strong bonus.

Argent Watchman

I attribute my entire climb to the gold ranks on this card. The original idea for Argent Watchmen came from a brainstorming session with one of my good friends. While I was complaining about the lack of good two drops he mentioned running the new Nat Pagle. The reason was that in a meta of 3/2’s for two a 2/4 would be fantastic. While Pagle was obviously a joke (never play that card) it wasn’t a bad idea. As I will say a thousand times throughout this article, I found many games that I needed to contest the board much more than heal or clear. The reason was that by the time I did stabilize I was at too low of life and would die to some random damage spell of midrange threat. Having a strong turn two is very important, especially with the resurgence of both Hunter and Tempo Mage that love to start their curve with a 3/2. Doomsayer does a nice job, but most decks are going to be ready for it these days. Watchman changes those expectations and makes it so your opponent is going to have to lose minions if they want to trade.

To understand how good this card is you need to look at how it compares to Dark Peddler. While it does not keep your hand full or give you a multitude of options, as I noted, you need to keep a strong curve. The 2/4 is much more impactful than the 2/2. It will even eat removal against a lot of decks (I had more than a few games where the argent ate a Power Overwhelming against Zoo). Keeping something on the board, no matter the stats, is super important for this meta. While you may be hesitant about this card due to its drawback, it is ok to tap early on with this deck. Once you start into your middle game you won’t be able to trigger the 2/4 as much, but this is for attacking on turn three or two with the coin anyway. Anything past that is just gravy.

Note: Doomsayer is still quite good, but running four neutral two drops seemed very weak here. I thought three was a good split that helped smooth out the later draws after you had renounced.

Stampeding Kodo

This is a card I upped to two because I found myself wanting it more and more. As of late I have fallen out of love with Big Game Hunter. While BGH is still needed to deal with those final trump cards (not to mention nobody is going to play around it), the truth is people just don’t play that many big minions anymore. A find most of my games coming down to how well I could answer a string of powerful midrange cards like Thing from Below, Druid of the Claw or Darkshire Councilman. The days of giant minions are over. As such, I wanted more ETB-kill cards that could help mitigate the board while putting down a threat. Bane of Doom was a solid two of because of this, but it quickly shifted into Kodo’s favor because of how many small minions are running around these days.

In the past Stampeding Kodo was not a good card because it had an extremely low impact. Not only were there very few targets it could hit during the center of the game, but most of the small cards it did kill had some outrageous deathrattle that completely nullified the five drop beast (Haunted Creeper I’m looking at you). Now, a lot of decks run really powerful low-cost minions that range from Flamewaker to Bloodhoof Brave to Acolyte of Pain and Flametongue Totem. Zoo gets hit by this card hard, as does Shaman and Hunter. It also helps you take down a lot of grow cards. That removal, on top of a 3/5 body is more reliable than Bane, especially because it sticks around after the darkness is gone.

Emperor Thaurissan

In hindsight, Emperor Thaurissan was a card I should have keyed into a lot earlier. While tech cards are very good, the fiery dwarf is an incredible soft-taunt midrange threat that can lead to some massive swings. I really underestimated this card when first putting the deck together. While I do not need to discuss how strong the emperor is, he is worth noting because he can be used at many different times in many different ways. Sometimes you want to play him to force your opponent to trade, sometimes you need to speed up your hand, and sometimes he is just going to be value. When playing Thaurissan you just need to know at what stages you want to play him. Sometimes there are cards you want to ramp too, sometimes you just want to discount your hand and sometimes you just need to get a body down. All of those modes are good, and they all give you a discount to boot.

One of the best plays you can make in this deck is using Renounce Darkness on the same turn you drop Emperor Thaurissan. Getting the one mana discount has always been the reason I wanted to play Renounce in the first place, but getting a two mana discount with a 5/5 on board that has to be killed immediately is a large swing. The reason I like Thaurissan is that he really can stop your opponent in their tracks, which is vital for a slower control deck like this. A lot of this game is going to be forcing your opponent to deal with you and forget about going for your face. The dwarf  does that quite well. When he can do that and also give you a two discount across most of your hand, the game is quickly going to fall into your favor. You do not need to save Thaurissan for a big Renounce turn, but if you have both during the later stages of the game you want to try your hardest to set it up. Though, playing him after Renounce works just as well.

What I learned

The biggest lesson I learned this month was how to try and play heavy control (for what this is) in a burst meta. While the meta itself is not terribly fast, most decks can have a crazy start that is very hard to come back from if you aren’t careful. For that reason, you need to have punches that match everyone else’s. While Dark Peddler was ok at contesting a lot of minions, it simply didn’t do enough in the long run. You need to really have some punch in your deck. Trading a 2/2 for a 3/2 is fine, but being able to run your 2/4 into a 3/2 and keep that extra body on board is fantastic. It is easy to look at a control deck and think “only spells” but that’s just not the reality. There are probably a lot of minions that I could run in this deck, all of which would have some sort of impact. There is simply no place to be a reactive deck in today’s game. I am not sure why that is, but I know that you cannot keep up unless you have ways to stall them each turn.

Something else I realized is just how much burst is in this current game. That is not necessarily a huge problem, but what it means is that it is much harder to stabilize than it once was. While in past metas most control decks won the game once the board was cleared, it is simply not true anymore. Hunter has Call of the Wild, Warrior has Grommash Hellscream, Mage has all of their burn, and even Zoo runs Leeroy Jenkins, Doomguard or Soulfire. This makes it so many decks can aggressively go face and then trust they are going to have ways to do damage at the end of the game. As a result, if you want to play control you need to be able to get yourself out of holes. The best way to do that is to never fall into them in the first place. Healing may be good, but it just doesn’t feel that reliable. If you can just match your opponent each turn then you should have enough breathing room to make the long game.

The final thing I learned, which I will use next season, is how important having strong tech cards are. This deck is an exercise in tech cards and they really do win games. I have been though just about every fringe or tech option this game has to offer and they are all good for different decks and different metas. Your deck is going to change a lot when building and you always want to nail down the “must beat” decks you see the most. Fine-tuning your deck to your own particular meta is key and one of the most important aspects of deck building. This list is highly fluid. You do not have to run the same tech cards I did, if you think a certain deck is giving you a lot of trouble, plan for it in your own way.

Conclusion

While the run wasn’t as successful as I would of hoped, there are two factors at play. One, not playing as much as I should have and two, at the time of me writing this there is still a week left. With that extra time I probably could have done more, but that’s not how the cards fell. While I did not hit legend this month (despite a blazing fast start) I am going to try to really come out strong next month. I am not sure what deck I’m going to play yet, but there is always room to improve. Legend is always satisfying, but hitting it with own creation is even moreso. Until then, may you always Renounce the Darkness.