Finally Patron Warrior will be nerfed next week. Warsong Commander joins the Starving Buzzard-league and is now deleted from the game. While the ladder metagame will not change much at first, because too few people played Patron Warrior, due to its high skill cap, the tournament metagame will definitely be more diverse after the nerf.
In my last article I covered to some extent why Grim Patron is too powerful and something needs to happen. With the new announced balance changes the Hearthstone community now thinks* that Grim Patron is now an unplayable deck, and I completely disagree. This article will be an analysis of how the nerf makes Patron Warrior weaker, but why it still will be a good and viable deck on the ladder.
*that has to be taken with a grain of salt. The Hearthstone community not only has a lot of casual players, there are also a lot of people wo don’t play Patron Warrior very well. I had a 70 % winrate with Freeze Mage against Patron Warrior and was slightly favored with Control Priest (Lightbomb was too strong 🙂 ) at Legend Rank. And when I played with these decks against very good and well-known Patron players, I got stomped. So call me arrogant, but I think the majority of the Hearthstone community has nothing meaningful to say when it comes to the playability of Patron Warrior after the nerf, because they were bad with the deck and therefore did not understand the theory behind it completely.
Impact of the Nerf
Warsong Commander will be completely removed from the game, it may still be in your collection, but it is only there so that you can admire the artwork.
From my point of view the Warsong Commander nerf is a very good nerf, like the Starving Buzzard nerf. These two cards have such a high potential powerlevel, that the only way to reasonable balance them is to make them unplayable. I’m very sure that Blizzard tried back then a four mana Starving Buzzard and multiple other versions, but the card was still too dangerous. Now Warsong Commander gets the same treatment, which is good, because the card is way too powerful.
With Warsong Commander, Patron Warrior is a deck that not only stomps aggressive decks, it is also very good against almost every slower deck like Control Shaman and Control Priest. And from a gameplay and design perspective, a deck that is so good against so many different decks is an abomination and unhealthy for the game.
So with Warsong Commander gone the deck is now weaker. Patron Warrior not only loses the one turn kill potential with no board, while the opponent is at full health or even above 30 life points. It also loses the pseudo board clears for smaller minions when Warsong Commander gets combined with Grim Patron. So overall the deck is less explosive, no more Grim Patrons with Charge and no unexpected burst.
So at first sight you may think, well that was all the deck was about. You kill people in one turn, you kill small minions on Turn 8 and now the deck is not capable of that anymore and is therefore a dead deck.
I have to say that this is simply not true. From a theoretical point of view, the core of the deck and what makes it a viable deck is not Warsong Commander. Warsong Commander only makes the deck broken and overpowered, so saying that the archetype is dead now is like saying that after the Starving Buzzard– nerf that Hunter is dead. A lot of people said that back then, and they should feel silly now.
The core of the deck and what makes it viable are the tempo efficient removal in the form of the weapons (Fiery War Axe and Death’s Bite), Grim Patrons and very good card draw (Battle Rage). All these cards are left untouched, only the overpowered and very unfun part got removed. It is now at the same level as multiple other decks. So from a theoretical point of view, how does Grim Patron Warrior work now without Warsong Commander?:
- With the one turn kill potential gone, there will be decks that are actually very good against it. Handlock will just stomp the deck, while previous underdogs like Control Priest will be favored against Grim Patron.
- The part of the deck that makes it a great choice against aggro decks is still there. You very rarely needed Warsong Commander against aggressive decks, mainly you won by removing their minions, drawing lots of cards and then making a bunch of Grim Patrons. If you have a high sample size while playing the deck, you will realize that you won very few of them with the help of Warsong Commander. You won way more games against aggressive decks by simply making four Grim Patrons on Turn 5 or even later without Warsong Commander. And sometimes the Turn 8 combo of Grim Patron with Warsong Commander was too late, because you died before.
So previously against decks like Combo Druid, Hunter or Secret Paladin, Warsong Commander was not that great, very often it was a River Crocolisk that got played on Turn 3 that has same sort of super taunt while being a potential Battle Rage trigger.
.) Against the very popular ladder decks Combo Druid and Secretpaladin you also very rarely needed a Warsong Commander. You just beat these decks by gaining complete control of the board with Grim Patron and/ or drawing lots of cards with Battle Rage or Acolyte of Pain.
- The deck is now a more Midrange style deck. You fight for board control and simply want to overwhelm your opponent slowly with your minions. Sometimes not so slowly, because 4 Grim Patrons are still 12 damage to the opponent’s face every turn.
- You don’t have a comeback mechanism anymore, if your opponent has dominant board control, you will lose no matter what the majority of time. That can be mitigated by adding some more burst potential to the deck in the form of Alexstrasza and Grommash Hellscream or even the Raging Worgen combo with Charge and Rampage.
To summarize: The loss of Warsong Commander is very similar to the Buzzard nerf. People thought Hunter will become a dead class because they were so used to the broken draw engine. As it turned out Hunter was not dead. Now people think the same about Warsong Commander being the ultimate center piece, while in reality it was just an absurdly broken card in a deck that is already good enough without it.
So the deck is at a more healthy state with the new balance changes. If Control decks like Handlock, Priest and Control Warrior are very common decks on the ladder then Patron Warrior is not a good choice. On the other hand if aggressive decks are very common, you still have an excellent deck to counter them. That can result in some very interesting metagame cycles, where Grim Patron Warrior counters aggro decks, then Control decks show up to counter Patron, then Patron gets played less and aggro decks will be played more etc.
Previously such a metagame cycle was not possible at a high level, because Patron Warrior was too dominant, because nothing was really stomping the deck. Handlock and Control Warrior were good decks against it, but they did not have a 70 % winrate, they were just favored against it, not great against it. Now that will change and make the game overall more healthier.
The New Patron Warrior
Please note that my decklists are very unrefined at the moment, I played both of them a couple of games on the ladder and lost interest after I played against a Patron Warrior. So these decklists are not battle tested, but I think they are a good starting point.
So the Patron Warrior shell that makes it good against board-centric decks like Paladins or aggro decks is still there. This list tries to mitigate its weakness against slower decks like Control Priest by adding the Raging Worgen Combo to the deck. If you have all the combo pieces in your hand you can kill your opponent in one turn from full health. Of course it is worse than the soon outdated Warsong one turn kill combo, because a taunt can stop you, but I think it’s good while not being ridiculously overpowered.
This 2nd list, unlike the first one, does not have any great burst potential instead a Midrange Patron Warrior will be a more board centric deck. Maybe even Piloted Shredder could and should be included into the deck. Time will tell which version of the deck will be more consistent and better.
I hope you liked my article. It is a lot shorter than my previous articles, but I mainly want to show you, the readers, that Patron Warrior is not dead and how a good starting point looks like. Power level wise Patron Warrior will be among a lot of other decks, which will make Hearthstone a more enjoyable experience to both play and watch. So while the power of the deck got reduced, I’m very sure that it will still be a good deck. It is just not a deck anymore that is above everything else.
If you have any questions or want to have a constructive (!) discusion, feel free to post in the comments!