Hello everyone. I’ve been asked to write this time and time again, so here it is. I hope that you’re going to like it.
I’ve been hitting Legend pretty much every season since the ranked system in the current form was introduced. So you might say that I have quite a lot of experience regarding that matter. But, I rarely do that by just playing one possibly best deck all the way to Legend. I like to alter a lot between different decks – mostly the quite strong, meta decks, but it still adds some variety to the mix. This means that I will actually have more to talk about than just “play Shaman, get Legend”. Which in this meta might be true, but where’s fun in that?
In this article, I’ll cover my path to Legend from this season – decks I’ve been playing, common matchups, tips, stats and my own thoughts.
P.S. I’ll only write about the decks I’ve played more than 10 games with. There are few more decks that I have very little games on – for example I’ve played them only to finish the daily quest. I’ll be omitting those, because there is no point to talk about them.
Rank 16-13 – Face Secret Hunter
I’ve opened this season with the Face Secret Hunter deck. When it comes to the decklist, I’ll be honest – this might not be the best Face Hunter deck around. I haven’t tested many of them so I can’t tell. I’ve played it mainly because I had two Hunter-related quests + I’ve wanted to play something quick.
Secret Face Hunter decks seems to be one of the best decks in the meta right now, even though it’s pretty underplayed. The Midrange Shaman matchup is surprisingly even – unless Shaman gets really high tempo start (like the perfect curve) or gets a lot of Taunts pretty early (Feral Spirit/Thing from Below), you should be able to sneak enough early damage + stall the game in the mid/late game with the Secrets to finish the Shaman off with Hero Powers and burn. What I don’t like about the deck, however, is the poor matchup against Druid. Midrange Hunter has much easier time, because it can keep up in the mid game. When it comes to Face Hunter, however, if Druid manages to deal with the early threats, he should stabilize thanks to the Feral Rage etc. + tempo out with Arcane Giants. And that was my problem with the deck. I’ve started facing too many Druids and surprisingly not enough Shamans. That’s why I’ve decided to switch it out.
Some tips for people who want to play the deck:
- Early game, go for the maximum tempo plays. You want to push as much minion damage as you can. At some point, probably in the mid game, you will mostly rely on the Hero Powers and burn to kill your opponent, so you want to play your minions out first.
- In the mid game, try to Hero Power as much as you can. Turn 4 can be 2 mana play + Hero Power. Turn 5 – 3 mana + Hero Power. Etc. The point is to maximize the damage in your hand. You can wait one turn with equipping the Eaglehorn Bow (unless you have a Secret in play that will likely get procced). You can wait one turn with playing Explosive Trap (unless you really need to clear the board) etc.
- If you plan to set up lethal, play Charge minions before burn spells. For example – Leeroy Jenkins is usually seen only as a finisher, but playing it on turn 5 to set up lethal next turn (e.g. with Quick Shot) is not a bad idea, even though it’s killed for free by the Whelps. If you would do it the other way around, enemy could play Taunt. Without Loatheb in the Standard, stopping the spells is very unlikely (Counterspell) while Taunting up is much more likely.
- Don’t be afraid to use your burn as the early game removal. Protecting your minions is much stronger in the long run than keeping the burn spells. Not to mention that if enemy gets a high tempo early game, you won’t even have time to burn him down. Time works in your favor in the matchups where the enemy can’t heal – e.g. Tempo Mage, Midrange Shaman, Zoo Warlock. The longer you can stall the game, the more damage you can deal.
Still, if your main matchup is Shaman, you don’t play against a lot of Druid and Warriors, then Face Hunter is a great deck choice to ladder with. Not only it has okay/good matchups against pretty much everything besides Druid/Warrior, the games with the deck are really fast too, so you can save some time that way. My average game with Face Hunter was 4.7 minutes, which makes it the fastest deck of the 5 I’ll be talking about here.
Rank 13-10 – Discard Zoo Warlock
I’ve decided to pick Zoo after noticing quite a lot of the Druids on the ladder (at least the part of the ladder I’ve played against). At the same time, like I’ve mentioned before, surprisingly I didn’t play against too many Midrange Hunters. And that’s why I’ve felt that Zoo is the best choice – it’s amazing against Druid, but it sucks against Shaman quite hard. There are many problems against Shaman – the fact that you rarely can take the game fast, because you have to clear all the totems, Spirit Claws, all the 4 AoEs etc. But Druid, Druid is another story. If he doesn’t ramp up – he won’t keep up with you and remove all of your threats. And if he ramps up, he still leaves you first few turns to develop and then he has to catch up, which isn’t always very easy. You can usually rush him down before late game and before the crazy combos Malygos Druid can do.
Discard Zoo is another deck that I can recommend for those who prefer fast and quite easy to play decks. Average game time of 5 minutes + solid matchups against everything besides Shaman/Control Warrior make the deck good ladder material.
If you face more Shaman, but you still want to play this one – I recommend teching the Crazed Alchemist in. While it’s not a huge deal, it’s definitely a way to deal with the totems. You will love it against Flametongue Totem or Mana Tide Totem that would make things awkward otherwise. Not to mention that destroying a Hero Power totem can also be a solid play – you can get rid of the Spell Damage or maybe prevent the extra Thunder Bluff Valiant value. You should probably play one copy instead of the Dire Wolf Alpha or Darkshire Librarian.
A few tips for the Zoo players:
- Positioning is key. If you want to see a full positioning guide for Zoo, I recommend reading my Advanced Discard Zoo Guide (Premium). But to make the long story short, here’s how you should position your stuff from left to right: High value minions you don’t want to trade off —-> Big minions —-> Minions that “don’t want to die” (Deathrattle, Divine Shield) —> Small/disposable minions you want to trade off in the first place —-> ONE minion that doesn’t want to die. This makes playing Dire Wolf Alpha and Defender of Argus much easier. For example – playing Possessed Villager in the middle is awkward, because it breaks your Dire Wolf Alpha buff chain. You sacrifice your 1/1 and it spawns a new 1/1 in the same place, one you can’t attack with. Now you can’t buff all 3 minions on the same turn, because of the bad positioning. When it comes to Defender of Argus – you usually want to buff two big minions (to have the biggest Taunts e.g. against Aggro) or two small minions (to put them out of range of AoE or to keep opponent busy dealing with the small guys) – that’s why you try to not mix those two. There is more reasoning behind it, but I won’t write a full guide here. This positioning tips aren’t universally right and sometimes there might be a better way to do things, but generally you should follow this – especially if you just dropped minions in whatever order before.
- Find the right balance between trading and going face. Sometimes you don’t need to make the trade – if you’re pretty sure that your opponent will make this trade for you, then don’t do it. E.g. trading your 2/2 into opponent’s 2/2 – if you play the faster deck and you have the tempo, if there is no clear punish (like leaving a minion against Aggro Paladin which he can buff with Blessing of Kings), don’t miss the face damage. On the other hand, going all-in for the face might not always be a good idea. At some point it should give your opponent a way to comeback through the good trades, maybe some extra removals etc. It mostly comes with the experience, but you need to understand when to trade and when to go face.
- Try to mulligan your discard effects away unless you open with the Malchezaar’s Imp – then Soulfire or Darkshire Librarian are okay. Discard effects are better in the mid/late game, because you can set them up correctly. You can empty the rest of your hand, you can play the Imp and discard on the same turn to guarantee card draw or you can set up the Silverware Golem in your hand. Try to play them as soon as you can, though, because if they start to pile up in your hand, you’ll end up with a hopeless hand where you have to discard other discard cards you’d like to have (like the double Doomguard nightmare).
Even though the Zoo was doing pretty well, the higher I was getting, the more Shamans I’ve started facing. So I’ve decided to drop it and play something else instead. It might have actually been a bad decision in a hindsight and I’ll explain why in the next section.
Rank 10-4 – Malygos Druid
Malygos Druid is by far my favorite deck in the current meta. I’ve always liked Druid and their ability to ramp, I’ve also enjoyed decks with a lot of decision making and this one has both of those. That said, the deck was performing pretty poorly for me this season. It was my most played deck and also the least successful one (among the ones I’ve played more). But I’ll blame it on variance, I had a lot of games where I was terribly unlucky. I’ve lost at least 3 or 4 games to insane Yogg-Saron, Hope’s End (surprisingly every Yogg I’ve encountered since the nerf was good for my opponent), a lot to the Tempo Mage RNG or the perfect Shaman draws. So if I had to rate the deck, I’d say that it’s still a great ladder choice, even though my performance wasn’t as good as it could have been.
When it comes to the deck itself, its worst common matchup is… yeah, you’ve guessed it, Midrange Shaman. Alright, Zoo Warlock is probably even worse, but Zoo isn’t as common as Shaman right now. I’d say that besides those two, most of the other matchups are manageable or good. And that’s what makes the deck so strong. If Shaman + Zoo is like 1/3 of the decks you face, you just need to perform well enough in the other 2/3 of your matchups and your win rate should be solid in the end. However, it’s not a deck I recommend for new players. Not only because of the high cost, but also because playing it correctly is really hard and I see people making huge misplays all the time.
A couple of tips on the most common mistakes I see:
- Don’t keep Raven Idol in the mulligan. You want to get it later, because playing turn 1 Raven Idol is like guessing. You often don’t even know what deck you face and you really have no clue which spells would be most useful later.
- Don’t ramp up into nothing. Be sure you can curve out properly. I’ve seen people playing Coin + Innervate + Mire Keeper turn 1 just to pass next two turns because they have nothing to play. Why? It would be better to skip turn 1, play Innervate + Mire Keeper turn 2 and then coin out the 5 mana card (e.g. Azure Drake). Also, ramping up with Nourish when you have no high cost minions or cycle in your hand. It’s usually not the right thing to do.
- Understand that Malygos is your main win condition, but not the only one. You need to know in which matchups you need the Malygos combo. E.g. against Control Warrior or Priest, you want to keep Malygos and not use the combo pieces (Moonfire/Living Roots individually). But you probably won’t need Malygos to win against Shaman or Tempo Mage, so turn 9 Malygos + Moonfire to kill a 5/5 (for example) is a good move. Of course, if enemy runs hard removals (like Hex in Shaman’s case), you want to bait those out first, but it’s not the end of the world if your Malygos gets Hexed.
- Don’t go all-in into the AoE removals. For example, I’ve seen Druids dropping both Arcane Giants + something else against Warrior, right into the Brawl. This deck has a solid amount of big threats, but they’re still limited, so playing 2-3 at the same time into the AoE is rarely a good idea.
- Try to not fall behind on the tempo. You have no comeback mechanic – Spell Damage Swipe is the only solid AoE you have, and that’s usually not enough to deal with big boards. I’ve seen Druids ramping up and drawing cards for the first 4-5 turns and then just dying, because they were overwhelmed on the board (mostly by the Aggro, but sometimes even slower decks like C’Thun Warrior).
I’ve stopped playing the deck around rank 4, because I didn’t feel like the progress was fast enough. I was jumping between high rank 4 and low rank 3 without really moving forward. Then I’ve decided to switch to something else and see how it goes.
Rank 4-Legend – Tempo Mage
And that something else was Tempo Mage. I wanted to try something different. I haven’t played the deck in a while, last time I’ve played it was around League of Explorers and Ethereal Conjurer release. So as much as I don’t like the deck, it was a pretty refreshing experience. But why I don’t like it? Because there is simply too much unnecessary RNG. I don’t mind losing the game because I was outplayed. But one thing I hate most about this game is losing the game because my Flamewaker missed 4 hits in a row and left the opponent’s Ragnaros the Firelord at 1 health. And this deck is pretty high on the RNG – luckily it’s less than it was back in the day (Unstable Portal flashbacks), but Arcane Missiles, Flamewaker, Firelands Portal and Ragnaros is still a lot.
The deck, however, seems to work pretty nicely in the current meta. What I like about it is the Midrange Shaman matchup. While it’s not amazing, it’s pretty even – of course it depends on the versions of each deck, but it seems that generally you should be able to keep up with the Shaman’s early tempo, maybe even get ahead with some good Flamewaker RNG. And then the Firelands Portal lets you get ahead on the tempo. He plays Thing from Below or Fire Elemental? You Portal it, kill it and you still have a minion on the board (possibly even something really good). Flamestrike is also pretty nice and I like the addition of the Water Elementals – they’re pretty hard to kill on turn 4 without using Hex and they can potentially make Spirit Claws useless for a few turns. Not to mention that lack of the healing means that some early game minion damage + hand full of burn can end the game as soon as turn 6-7. So in the end, I had positive win rate against Shaman… and against most of the other decks too. The only matchup that seemed really bad was the Zoo Warlock matchup, but I’ve played it only 3 times (went 1-2). And again, a few tips for those of you who want to try the deck out:
- Try to mulligan for your minions, not the spells. Sure, you can keep Arcane Blast or Frostbolt in the matchups where early removal is useful, but especially against slower decks – Control Warrior, Malygos Druid – you need your minions. Spells might be dead for the first few turns.
- If you start with the Coin and Flamewaker, try to save those for a combo. E.g. turn 3 can be Flamewaker + Coin + Arcane Missiles for 7 random pings.
- Don’t just play Mirror Image at whatever time. Try to use it more strategically. It’s good in a few cases. You can combo it with the Flamewaker, you can protect your minions from the trades and weapons (so it’s amazing against Fiery War Axe) or you can stop 2 attack from big minions – sometimes it’s going to save you 10+ health. But if you just play it because you have the mana, it can be pretty useless. It can die to AoE, it can give Warrior a much better Brawl, or it can just stop 4 damage when you don’t even need it.
- Chance that your Arcane Missiles will kill a 2 health minion (with no other minions on the board) are 50/50. It’s a common misconception that the odds aren’t in your favor, since you need 2 out of 3 hits to destroy it, but the math says otherwise. Overall, doing a quick probability checks should improve your win rate with this deck greatly. It helps with risk assessment – e.g. is it worth to go for the Flamewaker play or is it better to just Fireball something down.
- Burn tactic is a solid tactic a lot of times, especially against the classes with no healing. If you have a lot of damage in your hand, instead of clearing the board you can go all-in with your minions and for example Firelands Portal the opponent’s face. Now he will be forced to deal with your minions and you just unleash the rest of your burn next turn/the turn after. When going for the burn tactic, it’s also good to play Arcane Missiles on the empty board. It’s 3 damage for 1 mana (more with Spell Damage) and if you’re planning to burn the opponent down, you don’t want your missiles to hit minions. However, try to not go for the burn tactic against decks like C’Thun Warrior or Malygos Druid. They have ways to gain quite a lot of health, so burning the face is often a complete miss – if you can, try going for the solid board lead instead.
- Remember that Firelands Portal has a chance to give you Doomguard or Leeroy Jenkins for the lethal. If you’re few damage off and you lose the game anyway, going for a chance like that might be your best move.
And so, Tempo Mage was the deck I’ve hit Legend with after a pretty solid run. I have to admit that I got lucky on a several occasions and won the game thanks to the RNG going in my favor, but I guess that’s just what happens when you play this deck. Sometimes you get really bad RNG and you lose and other times you get two Firelands Portals from Babbling Books into Doomguard and Earth Elemental – those are the games which you just can’t lose.
Legend! + Stats
I’ve hit Legend on 15th of November and it took me 252 games (154-98) to do so with 61% win rate. I feel like the number of games is a little too high – with 60%+ win rate it usually took me close to 200 games to hit Legend. The problem this season seem to be the lack of win streaks. I was pretty unlucky with the win streaks and I didn’t get too many of them on my way to rank 5. I usually won 2 games then lost 1 and rarely got the 3 wins in a row.
According to Hearthstone deck tracker, my total time played was 28.3 hours, which is 6.7 minutes per game on average. So I was playing 17 games/1.9 hours per day on average. If you add queue times, you can say that it was 2 hours per day. So once again I’m debunking the myth that you can’t hit Legend if you don’t play A LOT every day. If you spread that over a whole month (and mind you that pre-Legend ladder is easier by the end of the month), that’s about 1h per day. And my win rate wasn’t even that impressing. The “I can’t afford any good deck” argument is also pretty invalid unless you’re a new player. Midrange Shaman, which is clearly the strongest deck in the current meta, is also pretty cheap. Not to mention that you can also play a Zoo Warlock or Face Hunter, which are both solid AND cheap deck. And if you are really a new player, then you shouldn’t think about hitting Legend just yet.
But, let’s get to the stats, shall we? I’ll sort the classes by how many times I’ve played against each, to form a good visualisation of the meta I’ve been facing.
- 76 Shamans (30%) – 43-33 (56%)
- 42 Druids (17%) – 26-16 (62%)
- 40 Mages (16%) – 24-16 (60%)
- 30 Warriors (12%) – 21-9 (70%)
- 18 Warlocks (7%) – 11-7 (61%)
- 15 Hunters (6%) – 8-7 (53%)
- 15 Rogues (6%) – 10-5 (67%)
- 9 Paladins (4%) – 6-3 (67%)
- 7 Priests (3%) – 5-2 (71%)
Since I’ve played many different decks and most of them had pretty okay win rates, in the end I’ve managed to score over 50% against every deck. Still, the most problematic matchups seemed to be Hunter and Shaman. Shaman – no wonder, Midrange Shaman is the best deck on the ladder and I didn’t exactly play any counters. My game plan was usually to have a slight disadvantage or stay even against Shamans while farm some other matchups. For example, I’ve faced surprising amount of Control Warriors past rank 10 and the decks I’ve played there (Malygos Druid and Tempo Mage) both have good matchup against CW. People have most likely played CW because it has solid matchup against Midrange Shaman, but I really don’t think it’s the best deck right now, because for the even or slightly favorable matchup against Midrange Shaman it has to pay with bad matchups against many other popular decks. When it comes to my bad win rate against Hunter – first of all, sample size isn’t that big. But then again, I’ve mostly faced Midrange Secret Hunters which works pretty well against both of my most played decks.
When it comes to the class representation, no huge surprises here, that’s a solid representation of how the current meta shapes. The only surprise was the amount of Mages I was facing, most notably Tempo Mages. On the day I hit Legend and the day before that, Tempo Mage was my 2nd most popular matchup, almost as close as the Midrange Shaman.
My shortest game was Tempo Mage vs (I assume) RenoLock. I can only assume, because he conceded on turn 3, but he passed t1 and tapped on t2, so it didn’t look like Zoo. The game lasted only a little over a minute and ended up on turn 4. I went all in and hoped that the Warlock doesn’t have Hellfire – turn 1 Mana Wyrm, turn 2 Sorcerer’s Apprentice, turn 3 second Mana Wyrm + Cult Sorcerer. He played Imp Gang Boss on turn 3, but I had Arcane Intellect into Frostbolt (to kill 2/4) into Arcane Missiles. Luckily for me, he didn’t have the Hellfire and the game was over, he conceded right away (no wonder, he was pretty much dead next turn).
My longest game, on the other hand, was C’Thun Warrior vs Control Warrior game. I had Warrior quest to finish, so I figured out that I’d play some C’Thun Warrior. The game was over 30 minutes and I still have nightmares about it. Not only the opponent has moved very, VERY slowly (roping a lot), but he also got incredibly lucky in the end. I had the game pretty much covered – I’ve Shield Slammed my own C’Thun, shuffled 2 more copies into the deck. He was 4 cards ahead and 20 health down (70 vs 50), with Monkey + a few useless cards in his hand. I had two C’Thuns, 2x Brawl, Sylvanas, Execute, something else too. So I’ve just passed the turns and forced him to play the Monkey. After Monkey, I’ve played my Sylvanas. I’ve managed to steal 6/6 Monkey Taunt (thanks to the Brawl). He followed with The Black Knight. Okay, so I’ve dropped my first C’Thun. He played Rend Blackhand to kill it. Alright, second C’Thun. He played SECOND Rend Blackhand to kill it. He ended up having Black Knight, TWO Rends and a Dragon to activate them. I lost the game, because he had minions on the board and I had no way to kill then anymore. Besides Yogg comebacks, it was one of the most unbelievable loses in my history of Hearthstone. The guy was misplaying throughout the whole game, I’ve executed my game plan perfectly and he still got rewarded. And the worst thing about it was the game length – playing over half hour game just to get punished so severely by the RNG is terrible experience.
Sorry for the rant, I just still can’t get that game out of my head even though it was few days ago. I’m pretty sad that I didn’t record it, it would make a nice Trolden-like highlight.
That’s all folks. I hope that you’ve enjoyed it. I can recommend all of the 4 decks I’ve been playing most this season to you – every one of them is competitively viable and you can hit Legend with each of them. I’ve tried my best to give you some tips, but it’s obviously far from a full guide. If you have any questions about the decks or the Legend grind, feel free to ask in the comment section below.
If you’ll like this one, I might make a similar one in January – I think that December is too soon, because the early Gadgetzan meta will surely be changing constantly.
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Good luck on the ladder and until next time!