“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, And wisdom to know the difference.”
I bet you did not expect my article to start with this quote. Although I don’t consider myself as a religious person, in fact I’m an agnostic, I think living by this quote will not only improve your overall happiness, but also will increase the likelihood of success at almost everything you want to succeed at. In terms of Hearthstone, I simply do not complain about bad beats, I may have met the fourth Druid in a row, who played a Turn 5 Dr. Boom, but I still would not complain. I have no control over variance, it is something I cannot impact and therefore complaining about bad luck or even worse, getting emotionally affected by bad luck is simply nothing more than wasted energy to me.
Instead I focus on elements of Hearthstone I have control over: Did I play well? Is my deck good? Is the decklist good or is it reasonable from a mathematical point of view to change some cards?
And most importantly: Do I enjoy playing Hearthstone?
And actually I enjoy it quite a lot. I finished at Top 100 Legend last season, and also did quite well in a couple of tournaments. Whenever I played in a tournament a Warrior deck was always in my lineup. During my climb to Top 100 Legend, I switched exclusively between Patron Warrior and Control Warrior.
Today’s article won’t be a strict deck guide, where I list all the cards and tell you how good Death’s Bite and Execute are and that you should play two of them etc. If you are looking for something like that you can find my guide about Control Warrior here. It is a little bit outdated, but overall the information you’ll find is still correct.
Today’s article will be about how I think the two most popular Warrior decks are positioned in the metagame, how you play them (so that you can reach at least Rank 5 with them, if you play both Patron Warrior and Control Warrior reasonably well, reaching at least Rank 5 is a cakewalk, I can promise you that!) and how I think optimal decklist looks like. Let’s get started!
Control Warrior’s core is not the fancy legendaries. The core is the weapons, the removal spells and cards that generate life points. The inherent nature of this deck is being defensive and to deliver the final blow in the later stages of the game. Actually winning the game can be achieved in various forms depending on how you build it after you put the defensive core into it. Control Warrior can win by taking a more Midrange approach with Piloted Shredder (possibly even a C’tun- Midrange deck with the next expansion), with flashy legendaries or with some sort of combo finish (Raging Worgen or Frost Giant with Charge). Because of how flexible you can build your deck, Control Warrior can be favored against any deck if you want to beat it and build your deck accordingly. For example if you want to be favored against Combo Druid, you make a Midrange version, if you want to beat Murloc Paladin, you play a 30 damage combo finish. This is something very few archetypes can accomplish and therefore I enjoy playing Control Warrior a lot, because you have so many deckbuilding possibilities.
As you can see on the right this is the version of Control Warrior I currently play and consider as a good choice for both the ladder and tournaments.
Unlike older versions of Control Warrior (before the Grand Tournament and the birth of Secret Paladin) the current iterations play very few legendaries and much more removal spells. When Blackrock Mountain was the most recent expansion it was very common that Control Warrior played two 9 mana minions (Ysera and Alexstrasza) and a whole lot of other expensive legendaries. Nowadays with Mysterious Challenger and the big popularity of Warlock Zoo and various other faster decks, you simply can’t afford to build your deck that greedy.
With the change of fewer legendaries and more removal (double Brawl is now standard), Control Warrior is now very similar to Fatigue Warrior, which makes a lot of matchup stronger (both Zoo Warlock and Secret Paladin are good matchups with my list), but that comes with a sacrifice, both Combo Druid and Murloc Paladin become even worse.
What is the deck’s game plan? How does it win?
Understanding a deck’s game plan is THE key concept of mastering a deck and playing it very well. Whenever I did a coaching session in the past, my first question to the other player always has been: “So you want to get better with Deck XY, how do you think your deck’s general game plan looks like and how does it change in some matchups?”.
From their answer I get a lot insight and discover the areas where I can help them.
Due to the fast paced nature of the game, a lot of players at lower ranks neglect thinking about their deck’s game plan and just play the cards as they flow. For these players it is also very hard or even impossible to reach Legend.
Back to Warrior. How does Control Warrior’s game plan look like? Control Warrior is the most defensive Control deck in the game. Throughout the early and midgame you don’t have any proactive plays or cards available that can put pressure on your opponent. Any damage you deal to your opponent in the early and midgame is negligible and almost useless, because you cannot pressure them in any good way before the late game. Your win condition with Control Warrior is to exhaust the opponent and once they have very few resources at their disposal, you can beat them with a wooden stick (so winning in the late game is just easy against the majority of decks. The harder part is reaching the end game and exhausting the opponent’s resources).
So to summarize, Control Warrior’s game plan is rather simple against the majority of decks. You stifle their pressure by removing their minions, stay alive and once they are exhausted you finish the game with whatever you have.
In contrast to other decks like Oil Rogue, Control Warrior’s game plan is very straightforward against the majority of decks. You are just defensive and win in the late game. With Oil Rogue you have to realize when you want to go aggressive and push for a lot of damage, when you want to be defensive and you also have to calculate your burst in your hand and the burst you can draw into. With Control Warrior you don’t have to think about these things, you just want to be defensive. In 99 % of the cases you remove damage from the opponent’s board, because it is all about delaying the game and reaching the lategame.
Take a look at this picture of a tank:
When you play Control Warrior you want to think like a tank. Does a tank do hasty things and makes needle attacks? No the tank is just chilling and doing “tanky” stuff. Be the tank when you play Control Warrior! 😀
Game Plan vs. Aggro (f.ex. Aggro Shaman, Hunter)
You want to diminish their damage output in the early game, by removing their minions and once you have board control, you use your life gain to get out of their burst spells. Once you have a high enough life total and they are low on cards, you just win and you should have no idea why your opponent is not already conceding.
Game Plan vs. Midrange (f.ex. Secret Paladin, Zoo Warlock)
The majority of Midrange decks like Secret Paladin have fewer burst, but a much higher curve when compared to Aggro decks. Therefore you are not so concerned about your life total, your biggest concern is finding yourself in a situation where your opponent has dominant board control. Therefore you can use your life points more liberally to wait for a better Brawl or Revenge swing turn. If you have 10 life points and you cleared the whole board and the opponent is exhausted, you will very likely win the game.
Game Plan vs Control (f.ex. Control Priest)
When you play against other Control decks, your biggest concern is card advantage. You don’t want to trade unfavorably with the cards of your opponent and you want your cards to trade with multiple of their cards (f.ex Brawl killing four minions is very good). In a Control mirror it is almost impossible to get a quick win, because both decks play a lot of life gain and removal, which makes it very unlikely that one Control deck can finish the other one. So one of the biggest mistakes against other Control decks you can make is putting too many minions on the battlefield and allowing your opponent to kill all of them with just one card. You cannot pressure them in any reasonable way, so there is no point to play too many minions.
Against other Control decks, you mainly win once Fatigue damage starts adding up. Warrior has a big advantage when it comes to fatigue, because you can go above 30 health, thanks to Armor Up!.
What is the reasoning behind my card choices?
I will only cover the most outstanding choices, and will not go card by card, because I think that approach is rather boring.
Armorsmith is a very good minion, it trades well with one toughness minions like Leper Gnome and has good value in the late game, because you can generate a big amount of armor when you have other minions on the board. But overall I think Armorsmith does not make the cut to be played in the deck. She is a rather underwhelming minion against Midrange decks and does almost nothing against Control decks. I would rather have other cards, that are always at least decent and can remove threatening minions like Knife Juggler.
Deathlord is a tech choice. Both Warlock Zoo and Aggro Shaman are very popular decks, where Deathlord really shines. Deathlord is a high impact card against low curve decks, because they have to trade multiple minions into it, only to get a smaller minion as a reward. Deathlord also has synergy with Brawl and is also a good card against other Control decks, because it pulls one minion out of their deck, which not only puts them closer to fatigue but sometimes you can pull out a critical card out of their deck game deciding like Lord Jaraxxus or Elise Starseeker.
2 Acolyte of Pain
There are a lot of Control Warrior lists out there, that completely cut Acolyte of Pain and I think this is a mistake. Control Warrior is a very reactive deck, which means if you don’t have the right answer in your hand in a dire situation: you lose. For example, whenever flood decks like Secret Paladin or Zoo Warlock have a threatening board, you absolutely need to have a board clear in your hand. And maxing out on card draw makes it a lot more consistent to have the right answer in your hand. I understand that against Control Priest and Control Warrior Acolyte of Pain is a bad card, but in every other matchup Acolyte of Pain is very good.
I still encounter people from time to time, who play Whirlwind in their Control Warrior. That is a huge mistake, because the three damage board clear comes up quite a lot and wins you a lot of games, you would have otherwise lost with Whirlwind.
No Elise Starseeker
First of all, I don’t think Elise Starseeker is any good in Control Warrior and it is a mistake to play her. On average you get the Golden Monkey super late in the game, so you only benefit from the effect against other Control decks. So against the majority of matchups you just have a vanilla 3/5 for four mana. That is far from good.
Both Reno Warlock and Control Priest are good matchups for Control Warrior, even without Elise Starseeker. Control Warrior is favored against every other Control deck, so you don’t really need her. She is only good in the Control Warrior mirror, which is from my experience rather uncommon.
Against Lord Jaraxxus and the relentless flood of 6/6’s, you already have the best card in your deck: Grommash Hellscream. Random legendaries won’t win you the game against Jaraxxus the majority of time.
Of course she is a very good card in the Control Warrior mirror, but that is not a common matchup and the matchup is still very winnable if you don’t have her, while the opponent does ( I have won two games, where my opponent played a very early Golden Monkey in the Control Warrior mirror, and I had to fight against ~20 legendaries)
In addition to that I greatly dislike this card, because of the high variance. If both players only have Elise Starseeker as their only win condition in their deck, it will all come down to which one of them gets the better legendaries. Which is nothing more than coin tossing. Who can flip better coins? How exciting, how fun! Let’s find out!
This deck plays very few legendaries, so I wanted to play one card that fulfills multiple roles. First of all Arch-Thief Rafaam is the greediest neutral legendary minion. He is a very slow card, but he gives you a huge amount of value and potential pressure. Mirror of Doom is the equivalent of three Ysera Dream cards on average. When you fill your board with mummies against Druid, while you have a high enough life total, you just win the game. The same is true for Zoo Warlock, Secret Paladin and a lot of other decks. He is also one of the few ways to win against Murloc Paladin (a full board of mummies is 21 damage) and can catch a lot of other control decks off- guard. In addition to that, Rafaam is somehow also a tech card against Elise Starseeker. As soon as your opponent plays the Monkey, he loses all his removal. You then just Shield Slam the Golden Monkey and play Arch-Thief Rafaam. Your opponent then has almost no way of dealing with the mummies (which are 21 damage per turn), while you still have access to all your removal. I also like saving Sylvanas Windrunner up to the point, once the opponent plays the Golden Monkey.
What are the good (50%+), even (50/50) and bad matchups (<50%)?
I won’t bother going into detail, you can simply trust me. I have a high enough sample size against all these decks.
Good: Secret Paladin, Zoo Warlock, Reno Warlock, Control Priest, Tempo Mage, Oil Rogue, Patron Warrior, Freeze Mage, Aggro Druid, Face and Midrange Hunter
Even: Aggro Shaman
Bad: Demon Handlock, Combo Druid, Murloc Paladin, Control Paladin/ Midrange Paladin, Desert Camel– Hunter
Overall Control Warrior has very good matchups in the current metagame, which makes it an excellent choice for ladder play at any rank. Only a high Combo Druid and Murloc Paladin population is utterly painful when you play Control Warrior.
Fine, fine but I never played the deck! How do I mulligan?
The mulligan approach is rather easy. You know that this is a Control deck, it wants to be defensive and reach the late game. So when you mulligan you look for cards that help deal with early aggression. In general you ALWAYS keep a weapon.
You also keep a mixture of other removal options like Bash and Slam against every non- Control deck. But also Revenge against matchups where Whirlwind is good (Paladin, Zoo Warlock and Hunter).
Against Control decks you mainly look for weapons and Brawl. Against board flood decks, like Secret Paladin and Zoo Warlock you also keep Brawl in your opening hand.
Because the deck has a high amount of comeback cards you can draw into like Brawl and Revenge and getting some sweet early card advantage is almost always nice, you also keep Acolyte of Pain against almost every matchup (an exception would be Aggro Shaman, where Acolyte can be a liability because he is too slow).
Bonus: What are some good tips that help me get better?
1.) Acolyte of Pain and Deathlord– management
Against Control Warrior and Control Priest Acolyte of Pain sits in your hand for the entire game, unless the opponent is stupid and draws a bunch of cards. To not get overwhelmed you then should also draw cards with your Acolyte. If your opponent is not stupid, you simply never play them. Against every other matchup, you want to maximize your card draw and ideally draw at least two cards with your Acolyte. The more cards you have in your hand, the more options you have to deal with the opponent’s board.
Deathlord is also a rather tricky card, do not just willy-nilly slam him on the board. That can make you lose the game, if you find yourself unable to deal with the spawn of Deathlord. Ideally you play him, when you want to buy yourself some time and have Brawl in your hand. So against a lot of matchups Deathlord is not something you just slam onto the board on Turn 3. Be mindful, because sometimes it is better to just use your hero power and not play your Deathlord.
2.) Good timing with Brawl and using your life total as a resource
You only lose the game if you have exactly zero life points. It does not matter if you win the game with twenty life points or with five life points. So your life total is a resource that you can use to your advantage to stall the game. If your Zoo Warlock opponent only has 5 power on the board, while you are at 25 life, there is no reason to use Brawl, just be patient and wait for him to commit more resources to the board. Against other Control decks, you ideally want to play Deathlord to increase their board size before you Brawl, to even get more value out of it.
3.) Taking risks and playing to win!
Control Warrior has two very bad matchups with Combo Druid and Murloc Paladin. Whenever you face these matchups, you have to craft a winning plan on the go. These matchups are really hard and if you want to win them, you have to make high risk but high reward plays. Against Murloc Paladin that means recklessly playing multiple minions to pressure them. If they have an Equality– combo to clear your board, you will lose, but you would have lost anyways. But on the other hand if they don’t have Equality you might have a chance to win.
Against Druid on the other hand, you will need to take risk. Combo Druid threatens a very high damage output combo, and has access to a lot of draw. The more time you give them, the more likely it becomes for them to have the combo in their hand. So whenever you discover a high risk, but high reward play, you should go for it. That means slamming Arch-Thief Rafaam on Turn 9, even if you are in danger of dying to the combo, and that also means that you take a 25 %- chance to win a Brawl, if you think winning the Brawl puts you in a commanding position.
Do not draw cards against other Fatigue style decks, like another Control Warrior and Control Priest. Play Harrison Jones only to destroy Gorehowl and if they don’t have it, you should play him when they don’t have a weapon.
Whenever the population of very skilled opponents (Combo Druids) reaches a critical density I put down Control Warrior and switch to Patron Warrior. Patron Warrior is the stupid man’s version of Combo Druid. I’m simply not good enough to master the sheer complexity of Combo Druid, so I’m forced to play an easier deck: Patron Warrior.
Here is a picture of one of my Druid opponent’s I faced last season ( he was Rank 30 and was a very good Druid player, because he realized keeping Innervate in the opening hand and playing Dr. Boom on Turn 5 is quite good) :
Ok now more serious! 😀 Unlike Control Warrior, Patron Warrior is favored against Combo Druid because not only does it have a lower curve, it also less reactive and can simply win on the spot against Druid by making a bunch of Grim Patrons. Grim Patron Warrior is also favored against Aggro Shaman and fantastic against Secret Paladin, so depending on the metagame there are good reasons to play Patron Warrior over Control Warrior.
I have chosen to play the Raging Worgen– version of Patron Warrior, because it makes unfavorable matchups like Control Priest and Control Warlock favorable.
What is the deck’s game plan? How does it win?
The deck has three paths to victory that can sometimes change depending on the matchup or the game state (cards in your hand and on the board):
1.) Outlive the opponent and beat them with your card advantage and kill them with small garbage minions. Also generating huge amounts of armor with Armorsmith falls under this category. You don’t need Grim Patron or or any other specific combo piece to actually win, you just grind the opponent out of resources and kill them with whatever you have.
Example Matchup: Aggro Shaman
2.) “Everyone get in here” is your second path to victory. You just make a bunch of Grim Patrons your opponent can’t deal with and kill them over several turns.
Example Matchup: Secret Paladin & Combo Druid
3.) Raging Worgen rages even more and you end the game in a single turn. Raging Worgen+ Charge+ 2 Inner Rage+ Rampage+ Cruel Taskmaster is 30 damage. Against Control Priest, you will need the full combo a lot of the time, so you avoid using Inner Rage and Cruel Taskmaster to make Grim Patrons, whereas against Control Warlock you don’t need to assemble the full combo. Drawing your whole deck against Control decks is very reasonable and therefore your combo finish is very consistent.
Example Matchup: Control Warlock & Control Priest
What is the reasoning behind my card choices?
There are three different versions of Patron Warrior. This combo version and the two Midrange approaches, where one features Sir Finley Mrrgglton and Kor’kron Elite and the other one Piloted Shredder and a higher curve. Each of these three versions has advantages and disadvantages over the other ones, the Midrange versions are for example even better against Combo Druid, but on the other hand they are worse against Control decks, that can consistently stay out of Grommash Hellscream burst range. Overall I just prefer the Raging Worgen version, because it has the highest amount of card draw and has a huge amount of burst, that a lot of opponents do not expect.
What are the good, bad and even matchups?
Good: Secret Paladin, Zoo Warlock, Reno Warlock, Control Priest, Tempo Mage, Aggro Druid, Face and Midrange Hunter, Murloc Paladin, Control Paladin/ Midrange Paladin, Combo Druid, Aggro Shaman
Even: Desert Camel– Hunter, Freeze Mage
Bad: Demon Handlock, Control Warrior, Oil Rogue, Ice Block– Control Mage
Due to the absence of horrible matchups, Patron Warrior is even better than Control Warrior in the metagame. It is one of the few decks that is favored against Combo Druid. In addition to that it is among the best decks against Secret Paladin (>65 % winrate).
Fine, fine but I never played the deck! How do I mulligan?
I already talked about the deck’s three paths to victory, so in your mulligan you look for cards that help you execute one of them.
ALWAYS keep: The weapons, Acolyte of Pain
Against Aggro: Unstable Ghoul, Slam, Armorsmith
Against Midrange: Grim Patron, Frothing Berserker if you already have a weapon
Against Control Grim Patron, Gnomish Inventor if you already have a weapon.
Some exceptions: Against Paladin you also keep Unstable Ghoul and Whirlwind. Also keep Whirlwind against Hunter. Also keep Slam against decks that have very threatening 2 drops like Knife Juggler and Sorcerer’s Apprentice.
Bonus: What are some good tips that help me get better?
Identyfing your game plan, so your best strategy to win a particular matchup
Identifying the correct game plan in any given matchup will increase your overall winrate with this deck. Let me give you a quick example. Against Combo Druid you can feel free to use almost all your cards to make 6 Grim Patrons, because they have a super hard time dealing with all of them. Grim Patron is your win condition in this matchup and you should try to save Inner Rage and Whirlwind for them.
Against Reno Warlock the Grim Patrons are not your path to victory. With Shadowflame and Hellfire they have a rather easy time dealing with the dwarfs. So committing too many resources into making Grim Patrons will lose you the game, because you can then run out of cards. Against Reno Warlock you ideally want to use Grim Patrons to draw cards with Battle Rage. They are just a distraction, you don’t plan to win with them. You have a far better game plan, which is to kill them in one turn from above 20 health with Raging Worgen. So you should focus on this particular game plan, which is to draw into all the needed combo pieces.
Against Face Hunter you don’t need Grim Patron or a combo finish with Raging Worgen. Your only concern is to not die, so you can feel free to use Inner Rage on Leper Gnome on Turn 1. The same is true for Whirlwind, just make sure you deal with their minions and not take too much damage, then winning is easy.
Grim Patron Setup
Against decks where Raging Worgen is your primary game plan, you don’t want to use Inner Rage to make Grim Patron or any other combo piece. Only use Whirlwind, Death’s Bite and Unstable Ghoul to make Patrons or to activate Battle Rage.
Against decks where you don’t need the combo finish, you can always use Charge and Rampage, whenever you find a convenient target for them. Also feel free to simply play Raging Worgen on Turn 3 if you have no other good play available, you only need the card against Control decks the majority of time.
Against Hunter and Aggro Shaman it is the majority of time wrong to simply play Armorsmith on Turn 2. A lot of the time, you get very low in these matchups, and then you go for a big swing turn with Armorsmith that can generate something like 15 life points or even more. Playing Armorsmith too early against Face decks can give them the possibility to answer her and then later you find yourself unable to put yourself out of their burst range and lose a game you would have otherwise won.
I hoped you liked the article and also pick up one of the Warrior decks!
I’m excited about the next set, Ancient Shieldbearer looks very powerful. He is a Shieldmaiden on steroids! C’thun looks like a very nice guy to worship if he gives you so much power in return!! 😀
Also if you have any questions, feel free to ask them in the comments!