Pre-Release Brews – Pirate Warrior, Aggro Paladin, Midrange Buff Hunter

If someone has missed it, the new expansion is coming out on Thursday. Yes, tomorrow. Well, maybe on Friday for EU, because we always get shafted, but the point is that it will be available really, really soon. So it’s a time to start thinking about the deck you will want to test out at […]


If someone has missed it, the new expansion is coming out on Thursday. Yes, tomorrow. Well, maybe on Friday for EU, because we always get shafted, but the point is that it will be available really, really soon. So it’s a time to start thinking about the deck you will want to test out at the beginning!

And honestly, there are a lot of possibilities. Yesterday I’ve listed 3 Kabal decks, one for each class: RenoLock, Reno Dragon Priest and Secret Tempo Mage. Be sure to check them out if you haven’t yet. Today, I’ll focus on the second gang – Grimy Goons. And so, I’ve prepared 3 more decklists.

Just like Kabal will be mostly Control (you know, Reno theme), Grimy Goons support a way faster play style. The buff strategy works best in Aggro/Midrange decks and I’ll talk about both. I’ll also add a deck that I think might become the new so-called “cancer” of the ladder, Pirate Warrior. Of course it’s impossible to predict it pre-release, but to be fair, I think it might be one of the strongest decks out there. And so I’ll start with it.

Pirate Warrior

I’ll start with this – the deck doesn’t really look that different than the pre-Gadgetzan version. It actually plays only 2 new cards (well, 3 copies in total), but I think it’s enough to make it way, way better. When it comes to the new cards, the main offender is Patches the Pirate. The card is borderline broken. “But Stone, what are you talking about? It’s just a 1/1 with Charge!” Right, sure, but hear me out. You have surely faced a Pirate Warrior before, right? You know how insanely high tempo openings they might have? How much damage they can do? How hard is it to deal with their early board AND not die in the mid game? Now, imagine that every single game against Pirate Warrior (okay, not every single one, but probably at least ~80%) started with him having an extra 1/1 Charge. Not only that’s 1 immediate damage he deals to you, but it’s also another minion that you have to remove. 1 damage is not threatening, but it will pile up. If you don’t kill it, you will take 4-5 damage or something over time. And if you do kill it, it will take away tempo from you. He got that guy for free, it didn’t cost him anything. And you had to spend SOME resources to kill it. Then, thanks to the fact that it’s a Pirate, it will be much easier to play an early Bloodsail Cultist, making it even more scary. The card is just insane.

The second new card is also something that you should worry about. It’s the Small-Time Buccaneer. It’s basically a Cogmaster for Pirates – 1/2 for 1 that becomes 3/2 under some condition. And this condition is incredibly easy to meet in Pirate Warrior. Some games Pirate Warrior has weapon equipped pretty much throughout the whole match since turn 1-2. So a lot of time it’s a 1 mana 3/2 without a downside. Amazing in Aggro decks. You know those Zoo Warlock’s 2x Flame Imp openings that hit you twice before you can deal with them? That’s not THAT big of a deal in Zoo, but in Pirate Warrior every point of damage counts. Imagine Warrior getting 3 damage for 1 mana AND forcing you to play a removal on a 1-drop (because you can’t ping it). Yeah.

Like I’ve said, the rest of the deck hasn’t changed. The playstyle also hasn’t changed. The only thing that changes to better is the power of the deck. Pirate Warrior was already a solid deck. It was ranked lower Tier 2 on the latest vS Data Reaper Report. But not only the deck has got stronger, but everyone and their mother is hyped to play Jade Golem decks, mainly the Druid. And you know what’s the best counter to slow, snowbally decks that have weak early game and insane late game? Aggro, rush decks. Jade Golem decks might be amazing against Control, but they will be pray for the Pirate Warrior.

Oh, but I think I should talk about tech cards for a bit. Yes, there are some. First of all – this deck is optimized to fight against slower decks. That’s why it runs Huge Toad in a 2-drop slot and 2x Mortal Strike. If the meta ends up being faster, Flame Juggler should take the 2-drops slot – because it’s better against Aggro decks (immediate ping, better stat distribution) and you should drop one Mortal Strike and probably play second Dread Corsair or Argent Horserider, both of which are good against Aggro, because they let you get some tempo swings.

I also thought about playing the new Grimestreet Pawnbroker, but I think it’s hard to find a spot for it. It’s a little slow and situational, since you only run 4 weapons that can be buffed with this and if you have Fiery War Axe in your opening hand, you often have to play it on t2. So it’s only really good if you hit a Arcanite Reaper in your hand.

Aggro Paladin

Like I’ve mentioned before, today’s decks will be pretty aggressive. We had Pirate Warrior and now we have Aggro Paladin. Both are Aggro decks but both are oh so different. Pirate Warrior mostly depends on the “burn” damage of weapons/charge minions etc. while this deck mostly depends on the insane early game tempo and threatening board presence in the first turns. This one plays kinda like a Zoo Warlock, so the board is most important. You focus on playing minions, you fight for the board and you win the game by getting the early/mid game tempo. The deck runs even more 1-drops than your usual Aggro Paladin, but that’s mostly because of how well the new Paladin cards combo with them.

The deck runs 2 buff-everything-in-your-hand cards – Smuggler’s Run and Grimestreet Outfitter. Both give +1/+1 to every minion in your hand. So you trade a card and a little bit of tempo for more potential in the next turns. The effects can be incredibly powerful if you hit the right hand and the deck’s aim was to provide that right hand as often as possible. And so, to make the buffs stronger, it runs minions with Divine Shield – Argent Squire and Argent Horserider, which you can buff even further with Rallying Blade. Then it runs the good old Dragon Egg, which is weak as a 0/2, but even as a 1/3 it already can do stuff. The dream is trading it into a 1 health minion and spawning a 2/1 back, possibly even multiple times. Then it also runs the new Meanstreet Marshal, which is really weak at the base, but once you buff it, it becomes insanely strong, as it’s a 1-drop with good stat distribution AND card draw. Way better than Loot Hoarder in such a deck.

But since you can’t always count on getting the buff cards, and some of those minions – let’s get it straight – suck at their base stats (Egg, Meanstreet Marshal), there are other ways to buff them. Abusive Sergeant, Blessing of Might and Dire Wolf Alpha are all extra “activators” for the cards, because they combo well with all of the cards I’ve mentioned before. There is also another flexible buff card – Keeper of Uldaman, which can either buff one of your minions on the board (and there are a lot of good targets here) or soften up an opponent’s minion so you can trade it better. Knife Juggler doesn’t necessarily have any unique combos, but with so many 1-drops it still should be worth to play it. Then there is also a Sir Finley Mrrgglton – Paladin’s Hero Power is too slow in such a deck, at the point when you want to start Hero Powering, a 1/1 is nearly negligible – you always prefer to have an extra damage (Hunter, even Mage, Druid or Rogue) or card draw to find the finishers (Warlock). And when it comes to the finishers, the most obvious one is Leeroy Jenkins, which will often even go up to 7-8 attack because of the buffs. Then you can also deal finishing blow with weapons or let’s say Argent Horserider + Blessing of Might.

But, such a deck is bound to run out of steam really, REALLY fast. And that’s where the new card comes handy – Small-Time Recruits. It allows you to draw three 1-drops for 3 mana, which is pretty nice value. Another way is Divine Favor – I’ve decided to run only 1 (as opposed to 2x Small Time Recruits), because 2 might be too much. Sure, but what are you going to do with a bunch of 1-drops in the mid game? You need to remember that those 1-drops won’t likely be “just” 1-drops when you play them, because you can buff them too. And so, you lose some tempo for drawing, but then you get it back by getting +5/+5 across multiple bodies for 1 mana. Meanstreet Marshal also draws you a card on death, so in the end, I don’t think there should be a problem with running out of steam too quickly. I mean, you WILL run out of cards pretty fast, but that’s because every Aggro deck does. But you should be able to consistently finish your opponent before you’re out of options.

This is pretty much the full Aggro approach to the Paladin buff strategy. I think that it’s the most viable one (either this or Aggro Murloc deck), but like always, I will need to test it out first. It might turn out that it’s better to slow down a bit and play more mid game cards instead of so many 1-drops. But that’s really hard to say at this point.

Midrange Buff Hunter

I think it’s the deck with the highest number of new cards. It actually uses insane number of new cards – 16 out of 30 are from Gadgetzan. Because well, that’s a new archetype, isn’t it? Midrange Hunter was a solid deck for a while, but Karazhan it got outshined by Secret Hunter. This might be a way for the Midrange to comeback into the meta. It’s still highly experimental but I think it might actually work out. It’s also interesting that there are no neutral cards in the deck (I mean, tri-class cards are technically something between class cards and neutrals, but for the sake of game mechanics they’re counted as class cards) – Hunters generally don’t run a lot of neutrals, mostly things like Secretkeeper, Ragnaros or Barnes, but they’re not really necessary in this deck.

Maybe I’ll start with the cards that buff stuff. Smuggler’s Crate is a pretty risky card, but I think it’s still worth running it (otherwise the deck would be kinda too low on buffs). By risky I mean that it might be something like “putting too many eggs into one basket”. If you play a minion that buffs something, even if that something dies, you still get the body of the one that buffed it. In this case, you don’t. It’s something like playing a minion and buffing it immediately without knowing whether you will need it or if it will get enough value. But I actually like the fact that it works on Beasts only – Beasts are the ones that you want to buff most. It’s also a nice tempo play, because Midrange Hunters are always low on the turn 1 plays. This can set up a stronger mid game without sacrificing any tempo. Then, there is a Trogg Beastrager. It’s pretty basic – vanilla 3/2 for 2 that gives +1/+1. I didn’t think highly of that card until I found out that new Beasts synergize really well with the buffs. Then the tri-class Grimestreet Smuggler – 2/4 for 3 is pretty slow, but you might get the tempo back on turn 4 if you hit the right target. Then we have a Shaky Zipgunner. This is the one I like most. 3/3 for 3 is okay if it has strong effect and this one does. I think it might be used even outside of the Buff Hunter for how strong it is. And last, but not least – Don Han’Cho. I honestly think that it’s one of the strongest cards of this expansion. Even though 7 mana 5/6 is pretty slow, the +5/+5 is amazing on the right target. Or wait, it’s amazing on pretty much any target. But I like it most on the right “buffcatchers” – it obviously combos insanely well with Dopplegangster (3x 7/7, I can’t wait to do it) and Dispatch Kodo, but giving +5/+5 to the Alleycat is also very good. I mean, now you have a 1 mana 6/6 + 1/1, which is great tempo comeback after playing a slow 7-drop.

Then the minions that you want to buff – 3-drop and 4-drop Beasts are the main ones in this deck. Rat Pack and Dispatch Kodo are nearly playable even without any buffs on them, but even +1/+1 make them good. Since it should be really easy to give them +1/+1 or +2/+2 ON CURVE, I can see them doing some wonders. For example – if you hit the Smuggler’s Crate on Dispatch Kodo, you get a 4/6 Beast for 4 that deals 4 damage with Battlecry. You can clear something right away and still be left with a 4/6 minion. You swing the tempo right back. Rat Pack, on the other hand, is one of those minions that you can’t leave on the board but you also don’t want to remove. If you get it to 4/4, your opponent will HAVE to kill it – he can’t afford to take 4 damage per turn. But if he does, he will also have to deal with all the 1/1’s. That’s why I really like it. Then, going higher – Dopplegangster. It has probably the highest potential for buffs – even +1/+1 makes it playable (3x 3/3 for 5 mana is good). I run only one copy, because it’s not a Beast – so it can’t be buffed with Smuggler’s Crate or Trogg Beastrager.

I thought about Knuckles, but I’m still not sure about this card. I will definitely test it in the 5-drop’s slot, but I think that Dopplegangster is just better for getting buffs, because it’s spread over 3 bodies, so way harder to remove. So few quick notes. I run only 1 Savannah Highmane, even though the card is obviously amazing, because it’s terrible card to land your buffs on. It’s already 6/5 and it often baits hard removals already. Actually, you often don’t mind it getting removed because of the Deathrattle. But buffing it even further is too much. Then, one Call of the Wild as a finisher. This is flexible slot, whether it will be good depends on how fast the meta will be. If it will be faster – you should drop it, if slower maybe even play the second copy.

I thought about playing Ragnaros the Firelord, which works nicely in Midrange Shaman, but similarly to Highmane, it’s a bad minion to land buffs on. Buffs don’t increase the damage dealt, it’s still 8 per turn. So attack buffs are really useless – you get only 50% of the buff value (health). And even health isn’t that great, because Rag is often removed with hard removal. If your opponent will Execute or Mulch it, it doesn’t matter if it had 8 or 12 health.

The list is still experimental – I will have to playtest it a lot and decide whether cards like Grimestreet Smuggler or Dopplegangster are even worth it. Maybe it’s better to go for a little more traditional approach and not go all-in on the buff strategy. Since this deck runs 16 (!) new cards, I will definitely have to make some optimizations after testing it.


That’s it for the Grimy Goons. To be fair, Kabal brews were easier to make, because I have more experience with those classes. Here, I’m 100% confident that Pirate Warrior will be strong, pretty confident that Aggro Paladin will be strong and I honestly have no clue how the Midrange Buff Hunter will work. At this point it’s anything between “terrible deck” and “new broken”. But because of that I’m most excited to test it, those unknown decks are definitely most fun.

Early tomorrow I’ll drop the Jade Lotus brews, so stay tuned. After the expansion is released I’ll playtest each deck and write guides for those which have more potential. I really can’t wait!

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Good luck on the ladder and until next time!