Deckbuilding can be a complicated endeavor. A great place to start is a successful list a good player piloted to legend, but every deck should be tweaked to your expected metagame and play style.
Metagame tweaks are a result of the ever-changing ladder environment; the decks that the player you’re copying played against might be much different than what is popular now. Play style tweaks are a little less obvious, and are the main motivation for this article today. When a deck doesn’t quite click with you, you need to make some alterations. I’m a very safe and defensive player, for example, so I want to cut win conditions for cards that extend the game and help me stay alive to fatigue and beyond.
In this article, I’m going to go through a way of examining decks to help you figure out where to tweak an existing deck or build your own from scratch.
Decks are not just a collection of the most powerful cards (usually); the best decks have synergy that makes each card function as part of a greater whole. When building a deck, you select one or more “packages” of cards that have synergy with each other and include either all or none of the cards in each package for the most part. Once you have those as the base of your deck, you season to taste with tech cards and cards to fill your curve.
Most often, a package will have a good curve within itself, as the package is a collection of cards proven to work well together, but you need to make sure you still have a good curve.
We’ll start with one of the most obvious examples, Priest.
Power Word: Shield, Northshire Cleric, Shadow Word: Death, Holy Nova,Cabal Shadow Priest, ~DarkCultist/Lightbomb/Zombie Chow
These are the bread and butter of the Priest class, and some of the main reasons to play it. You’v got an insane card for enabling trading up, a great card draw engine, an efficient removal spell, an AOE spell, and a ridiculous value machine. Cultist, Lightbomb, and Chow are all great, but not necessarily staple. Sometimes there is only room for one or two of them due to selecting a lot of other packages for your Priest deck.
Circle of Healing Package:
Light of the Naaru, Circle of Healing, Injured Blademaster, Auchenai Soulpriest
All of these cards have great synergy with each other, creating combo power plays such as 3 mana 4/7 and 4 mana 4 damage AOE.
Velen’s Chosen Package:
Velen’s Chosen, Deathlord, Gilblin Stalker
This package has sticky early minions so that they can survive for you to slap a Velen’s Chosen on them and dominate the early game. If you don’t include the CIrcle of Healing package for AOE you probably want this package so you don’t fall behind in the early game.
Shadowform, Antique Healbot, Holy Fire
This one is a little more out there, but if you want to harness the power of Shadowform you need a lot of life gain to have time to take advantage of your powerful hero power. Not standard, but an example of a package of cards with synergy you can try out when building a deck.
So when building a control Priest deck, you could build by selecting the Staple Package and Circle of Healing Package, then add some cards due to personal preference: Ysera, Sylvanas Windrunner, Thoughtsteal, Wild Pyromancer, Harrison Jones, and you have russkipapa’s legend hybrid Priest deck!
For a more off-the-wall brew, try the Staple Package, Circle of Healing Package, Shadowform Package, and Sylvanas. It’s a very fun control deck that accrues gradual advantage by playing a strong card plus a strong hero power every turn.
Warlock is really interesting because the hero power is so strong that you can do pretty much whatever you want and have success, as evidenced by the large amount of viable packages it has:
Early Game Board Control Package:
Abusive Sergeant, Voidwalker, Flame Imp, Haunted Creeper, Nerubian Egg, Power Overwhelming, Knife Juggler
Early board control preserves your life so you can draw more cards, which is great. All of these cards make great trades early game or enable treading up into your opponent’s larger minions at a mana advantage.
Midgame Board control Package:
Imp Gang Boss, Defender of Argus, Imp-losion
These solidify and early advantage or wrestle back midgame board control with swingy effects that can take out many small minions.
Voidcaller, Void Terror, Doomguard, Mal’Ganis
When you have a broken card with restrictions like Voidcaller, you find a way to use it. Doomguard and Mal’Ganis are that way.
Mortal Coil, Darkbomb, Hellfire, Shadowflame
If you don’t have the Early Game Board Control Package, you need some other way to survive the early game. Removal spells and AOE serve this function while having more utility than small minions if the game goes long.
Heavy Taunt Package:
Sunfury Protector, Defender of Argus, Ancient Watcher, Sludge Belcher, Molten Giant
Sometimes you want to give minions taunt to stay alive, and big minions are the best ones to taunt up.
Hero Power Into Huge Minions Package:
Twilight Drake, Mountain Giant, Molten Giant, Emperor Thaurissan
If your plan is to life tap a lot, you might as well be rewarded for having a huge hand and low life total!
Long Game Package:
Antique Healbot, Sludge Belcher, Emperor Thaurissan
It takes taunts and life gain to play the long game
Malygos, Darkbomb, Soulfire, Mortal Coil, Emperor Thaurissan, Blackwing Corruptor, Azure Drake, Twilight Drake
If you’re playing a big dragon, you might as well play a mini Fire Elemental as well, and add another couple dragons to fuel it consistently.
You can construct the three most popular Warlock decks with these packages!
Early Game Board Control Package
Midgame Board Control Package
Dr. Boom/Sea Giant and Ironbeak Owl/Mortal Coil
Midgame Board Control Package
Long Game Package
Ironbeak Owl and Zombie Chow
Heavy Taunt Package
Hero Power Into Huge Minions Package
Long Game Package
Ironbeak Owl and Dr. Boom/Lord Jaraxxus/Ragnaros the Firelord and Big Game Hunter/Siphon Soul
As you can see, there is a lot of overlap between the Warlock packages. Selecting multiple packages that contain the same cards means your deck will have more internal synergy, as many of the cards work well with many of the other cards. Some Handlock decks play the Demon Package instead of Mountain Giant, and cut Void Terror for Lard Jaraxxus to better fit into the plan of the deck.
There are also three different early game packages, one for each of the decks (Early Game Minions, Removal Spells, Heavy Taunt). Could they be mixed around? How string would a Malygos Warlock be with a Heavy Taunt package in it? How about a Control Warlock with the Midgame board control and spell removal Packages? There’s a lot to try out here.
Hunter is where I got the idea for this categorization of deckbuilding. Face Hunter and Midrange Hunter are distinct decks with their own packages, but then they were combined in Hybrid Hunter, and started a craze of hybrid decks created by combining packages from two different deck archetypes. Hunter’s packages are also a lot bigger than most other classes due to the beast synergy that defines the class.
Haunted Creeper, Mad Scientist, Knife Juggler, Quick Shot, Unleash the Hounds, Kill Command, Animal Companion, Eaglehorn Bow
Hunter is an aggressive class, so a lot of aggressive cards are staples.
Leper Gnome, Worgen Infiltrator, Glaivezooka, Ironbeak Owl, Explosive Trap, Wolfrider, Arcane Golem
Classic . Sometimes you just want to get the other guy dead, and these are the most efficient cards for doing so.
Webspinner, hunters-mark, Freezing Trap, Piloted Shredder, Houndmaster, Savannah Highmane
A few slower cards and removal to facilitate playing the absurdly powerful, but fairly expensive, Savannah Highmane.
Face Hunter and Midrange Hunter are created by combining their respective packages with the staple package. Hybrid Hunter is interesting. It uses all three packages, and trims a bit from each – it cuts the Explosive Trap and some of the most expensive cards from face and the Webspinners and some of the cheaper cards from midrange to create a deck that plays completely differently. Is there a lesson to be learned here? Should we be combining packages in other classes to create decks like “Hybrid Warrior” with elements of control and Patron?
Warrior appears pretty linear on the surface, but the cards can still be broken down into synergistic groupings.
Fiery War Axe, deaths-bite, Acolyte of Pain, Execute
Warrior has good removal throughout the game, and no Warrior deck is going to forgo that. Acolyte is the best draw engine in a deck with a lot of 1 damage effects, so he always makes the cut.
Armorsmith, Shield Block, Shield Slam, Shieldmaiden
Having a lot of armor lets you play a 1 mana hard removal spell. Seems good. It also lets you stay alive to play big legendaries or combo kill your opponent.
Sludge Belcher, Brawl, Sylvanas Windrunner, Grommash Hellscream, Baron Geddon/Alexstrasza/Ysera
If your plan is to extend the game, you need ways to end it. Grommash is usually combined with at lest one more enabler beyond Death’s Bite, either Cruel Taskmaster or Whirlwind/Revenge.
Grim Patron Package:
Warsong Commander, Grim Patron, Frothing Berserker, Whirlwind, Inner Rage, Battle Rage, Emperor Thaurissan
Ways to multiply Grim Patron also synergize with Frothing Berserker, and he is your main win condition in many matchups. This package is almost always combined with more ways to draw cards like Gnomish Inventor or Slam.
Blackwing Corruptor, Ysera, Alexstrasza, Nefarian
Blackwing Corrupter is a great card, and since you were likely including a dragon or two already in your control warrior deck it isn’t much of a stretch to add another to enable him.
So Patron Warrior is constructed as:
Some more draw or the Armor Package minus Shieldmaiden, sometimes Grommash or Dr. Boom
Control Warrior is:
Sometimes Dragon Package or Piloted Shredder
The Patron Package is too big to have room for the Control Package, and counterproductive since they are both ways to end the game, but a hybridization of sorts has already appeared by splicing Shield Block and Shield Slam into some Patron decklists. If those lists play Grommash or Dr. Boom they have creeped even further into hybrid territory.
So why should you care about all of these lists of cards? Using package deckbuilding to examine your decks finds synergies and weak links. By applying this method onto every class and deck, you can expand your understanding of deckbuilding principles and supplement basic techniques like mana curve and sticking to an archetype or plan. More functionally, it will let you analyze new decklists to figure out what the flex spots are and which cards might be worth trying out.
Please don’t hesitate to ask any questions in the comments, and all comments are appreciated. Thanks for reading!
Until next time,