IT’S DANGEROUS TO GO ALONE! TAKE THIS: WEAPONS TO WIELD ON THE LADDER
The Hearthstone ranked ladder isn’t always the safest place. As soon as you think you’ve gotten the meta figured out: BOOM. Hunter, 24/7. Wasn’t Hunter unplayable? Now you can’t take a stroll in the hearth without a Starving Buzzard eyeing you like a scrumptious tart.
Except we’re not offering you a broadsword. We’re offering an expansive look at the current meta, including the decks you’ll be playing against and should be playing.
This deck came out of nowhere and dominated the competitive meta for a few long days. It’s faded somewhat out of fashion, but it’s still an important deck to be aware of. There are several cards that get switched around depending on the meta and player preference, but the core of the deck revolves around Eaglehorn Bow and the neutral Charge minions.
The cards that fluctuate are Tracking, Arcane Shot, Timber Wolf, and Starving Buzzard. Tracking is an incredibly powerful card, but does not lend to an aggressive strategy. I don’t feel it’s right to cut the card, but one may be a reasonable number as well. Flare saw particular popularity over Tracking when Hunter was more popular since it drew a card and removed pesky traps. Flare is a fine card to play if you expect a lot of the mirror.
Some players prefer not to run Arcane Shot as it can often have too little impact or no creatures to remove. I’ve found one or two to be the correct number as it allows extra reach in the final turns or a clutch removal spell for a particularly troublesome minion. It gains additional value in an aggro heavy meta, so one may be the correct number at the moment. Some players even prefer one Deadly Shot as a means to deal with particularly resilient minions.
Timber Wolf is generally a one or two of. It is very low impact until you land a big Unleash the Hounds and can rot in your hand until that point. I would hesitate to play a second although it may not be incorrect.
Starving Buzzard is a peculiar critter in this deck. It would be more accurate if this card read “2 mana: if you play an Unleash the Hounds, draw 3 cards.” There will be some situations where you play the Buzzard followed by an Animal Companion, but it’s more likely you’ll be holding onto it to draw a few cards in combination with Unleash the Hounds. I don’t think you can leave home without at least one copy of Starving Buzzard in your deck, but I’ve seen many players trim to as few as zero Buzzards due to its situational nature.
As far as playing the deck, it is usually right to always attack your opponent and ignore his minions. Eventually your Steady Shot will find its final mark or you’ll win in explosive fashion with a large Unleash the Hounds. It is important to sequence your cards correctly, and sometimes you’ll have to play a more patient game. Make sure to play your Misdirections smart as well. I’ve stolen several wins by holding minions in my hand and using my Hero Power instead to minimize the number of Misdirection targets and maximize its chance of hitting what I want.
I would also recommend this deck to newer players as it is very competitive and relatively cheap to build.
Hunter was the fad a few days ago, but I swear I can’t click “Play Ranked” twice without facing at least one Druid. It’s particularly surprising either. Druid provides a dearth of answers in most metas and has a reasonable to good match-up against the much hated Hunter deck. So what’s a good list? Here’s the list I’ve been sporting:
This list is an evolution of StrifeCro’s original Legendary Druid deck from last season. The deck plays a particularly powerful top end with Ancient of Lores providing card advantage and Cenarius ending games. Innervate allows you to make some crazy plays in the late game or secure an insurmountable tempo advantage by playing a turn 1 Harvest Golem, turn 3 Druid of the Claw, or turn 5 Ancient of Lore. Swipe and Wrath provide incredibly efficient and versatile removal while the ubiquitous Tinkmaster Overspark waits to snipe you opponent’s most powerful Legendary. Fittingly, one of Druid’s strengths is its ability to adapt, both in deckbuilding and during the course of a game. Wrath can card draw or early game removal depending on the situation. Swipe serves double duty as a burn spell. Druid allows you to switch between aggressor and defender rapidly. Druid can also play a large number of different utility cards to fit the meta. Let’s look at some of the more recent changes in this list.
Novice Engineer has been removed as it has gotten significantly worse, dying to nearly everything nowadays. Nat Pagle was already seeing some play in Druid last season and is a more than fine replacement. With the majority of decks focusing on the mid to late game, Pagle can live to fish you out a win more times than not. Loot Hoarder is also a suitable substitute, but I found the 1 health to still be too big of a liability despite the extra attack power.
King Mukla is a bit of DKMR spice. You know how good it feels to Innervate a turn 1 Harvest Golem? How good do you think it feels to play a turn 1 King Mukla? A 5/5 on turn 1 is either going to quickly win you the game or trade for two to four of your opponent’s cards and win you the game later on. Your opponent won’t have enough mana to deploy threats and throw their Bananas, leaving your Mukla to wreak havoc for a few turns. Even if things get out of hand, Keeper of the Grove allows you to Silence a Banana buffed minion. King Mukla is less devastating in the late game, but is rarely embarrassing.
You can vary the top end of this deck to your liking. Cenarius and the two Ancient of Lores tend to be staples, but the Cairne Bloodhoof, Sylvanas Windrunner, and Ragnaros the Firelord can be switched around for cards like The Black Knight, Ysera, Faceless Manipulator, or Ancient of War depending on the meta. I would recommend against cutting either Ancient of Lore as the card draw can give you a back-breaking number of options, especially if Innervated on turn 5. The life gain mode serves as an emergency brake in dire straits.
Many players have eschewed the Wild Pyromancers and one or more Earthen Ring Farseers for better options against the mirror and other mid-range and control decks. Cards like Starfire and Faceless Manipulator give you an edge against opponent’s playing similar strategies, and this is a reasonable route to take if you find yourself playing against a lot of Druid or other control strategies.
Another build of Druid that has cropped up recently on the ladder is Druid OTK (“one-turn-kill”). It isn’t quite an OTK like Unleash the Hounds Hunter or Molten Giants Warrior was before, but it can have incredibly explosive turns to end the game quickly.
I’ve featured one such build to the right, but I’ve encountered quite a few different variations. Some choose not to run Power of the Wild and Force of Nature and rely solely on a Leeroy Jekins and a Savage Roar to end games. Others go as far as to include Soul of the Forest to maintain board presence for a devastating Savage Roar.
Frequently the deck plays out like any other Druid deck and you don’t even realize your opponent is running Leeroy, Force of Nature, and Savage Roar until it’s too late. This surprise factor is one of the more appealing aspects of the deck. Often your opponent will set themselves up for defeat by not playing a crucial Taunt minion because they do not anticipate a lethal swing on the following turn.
Whether you want to play this version of the deck or not, it’s an important piece of tech to be aware of when you’re grinding on the ladder. If your Druid opponent is playing a few peculiar cards, there could very well be a good reason for it.
There are a ton of great decks to play right now, but I’ll be honest; Shaman mid-range has been my go-to when I hit a rough patch on the ladder. Shaman has access to an excellent suite of removal and some great tools for a mid-range dominated meta.
Hex and Mana Tide Totem are pretty much the definition of what you want in a meta full on other mid-range decks. Hex is a universal, no questions asked, kill spell for cheap. Sometimes the Taunt minion will be obtrusive, but Hex really isn’t much less powerful than Assassinate for 3 mana. Mana Tide Totem is a Nat Pagle that always draws you a card. The key to winning mid-range grinds is usually to draw the most cards. If you draw more cards than your opponent, you’ll have more options and more methods to navigate to victory. An unimpeded Mana Tide Totem is about as good as it gets for card draw and I’ve rarely been disappointed in it (except for maybe the one time I took a lethal 5 fatigue damage at the start of my turn).
Lightning Bolt is about as generically good as a 1 mana removal spell gets and even serves as end game reach. It really shines when you have several Spell Damage +1 minions and can create some devastating tempo swings. Lightning Storm is the cheapest board clear in the game. Many have complained about the RNG on Lightning Storm. It’s important not to be greedy with the card. Always ensure you have some Spell Damage +1 if you absolutely need it to do 3 damage. Sometimes you have to risk it, but play your early turns in a way to minimize that risk.
Flametongue Totem allows you to use your Hero Power as a form of board presence and avoid committing too many cards to the battlefield. I find it serves as an excellent means to apply pressure early in the game and force my opponent to make awkward plays. The deck plays very few actual combat worthy minions, so you’ll need to maximize the value of your Flametongue Totems. Feral Spirit serves a similar role. It also provides early game pressure, but also gives you important Taunt minions against aggressive decks.
Your win condition is AlAkir the Windlord. Unplayable? I think not! Admittedly he can be unimpressive in the wrong circumstances, but Al’Akir with Rockbiter Weapon ends a game very quickly. He also doubles as an emergency Taunt minion.
The particular list highlighted here was used by TidesOfTime and DKMR team member Alcehmixt to reach Legendary. I’ve been having success with the same list. It is particularly good against Druid, but can struggle against Paladin and sometimes Hunter. You can add an Earth Elemental to improve your Hunter match-up, but it tends to be a liability against other classes.
My how the times have changed. The once dominate Warlock is now merely a fringe player in today’s metagame. Aggro Warlock still pops up from time to time, often in the form of Murlocs, but the real Warlock deck of the current meta is Warlock Control.
The Warlock’s Hero Power allows you to meet the conditions on both Mountain Giant and Molten Giant simultaneously. Your plan is usually to drop a turn 3 or 4 Twilight Drake or Mountain Giant followed by a Sunfury Protector or Defender of Argus to give it Taunt. Ancient Watcher allows for similar, although less powerful, plays a turn earlier. You can usually claim victory fairly swiftly despite being a control deck due to the size of your threats. Lord Jaraxxus and Earthen Ring Farseers keep your health at a manageable level while you Taunt your way to a victory.
This deck saw a rise in popularity right before the patch due to its very favorable Druid match-up. The Warlock player can deploy larger threats faster than the Druid, making it very difficult for the Druid to stick a threat or stay alive. Unfortunately for Warlock aficionados, this deck has a very poor Hunter match-up. It’s possible to get your Taunts early and frequent enough to stymie Hunter, but they will usually have enough direct damage to seal the game or will just be too fast.
Warlock Control is not an entirely unreasonable deck to pilot at the moment due to the preponderance of Druid players, but be careful if you see a lot of Hunter decks about.
As for Warlock Aggro, I’ve tried my hand at a fair number of builds, but have yet to find one I feel is particularly apt for the current meta. The only conclusion I’m comfortable with is that Millhouse Manastorm should likely be included in the deck. In testing, he often was removed immediately, but usually not in a way that gave my opponent a great advantage. Several times my opponent had to use a turn 2 Swipe as a one for one removal spell or risk being run over by the diminutive gnome.
Paladin seems like a very good place to be in this meta. Most builds of Paladin have a reasonable to good Druid and Shaman match-up. Paladin also has access to enough healing abilities to make Hunter feel silly.
The most common builds of Paladin you’ll run into will be mid-range or control decks. These decks will be packing all the Paladin staples including Equality, Aldor Peacekeeper, Consecration, and Truesilver Champion and will likely also include Tirion Fordring, some number of Avenging Wrath, Guardian of Kings, and a single Lay on Hands. The deck will be rounded out by the more common neutral minions you’ve come to expect.
Wild Pyromancer is especially good in Paladin since when paired with an Equality, he can serve as a global board wipe. Equality is generally one of Paladin’s most powerful cards and should always be played around if possible when facing Paladin. It’s usually never right to overcommit to the battlefield against Paladin as they can use Equality to make short work of your best minions.
While not terribly good value in most match-ups, Holy Light is a powerful card against Hunter. Hunter cares more about your life total than any other deck. Holy Light will often be worth two of the Hunter’s cards.
Another interesting card I’ve seen put to good effect is Redemption. While somewhat situational, it can provide a lot of value with Tirion, Cairne, or Sylvanas. It can even allow you to trigger and revive a Wild Pyromancer who dies to its own effect.
Although not particularly common, we have seen some Paladin Aggro at the higher ranks of the ladder. The deck plays a very aggressive curve, going so far as running to Blessing of Might. Divine Favor ensures you never run out of steam and Avenging Wrath serves as your finisher.
An interesting exclusion from most builds of Paladin has been Sword of Justice. The once feared blade has fallen out of favor due to its awkward place on the mana curve. Most decks are deploying a powerful or resilient threat on turn 3 or even in some cases preparing to kill you in the next couple of turns. While powerful, Sword of Justice has no immediate impact on the battlefield and is not where you want to be in the current meta.
Warrior Control had been picking up steam right before the patch, but things got grim when both Charge and Warsong Commander were hit by the nerf hammer. But what did the deck really lose? Check out this DKMR brew to see how you play Warrior without an OTK.
The deck relies on a broad base of early game removal and a powerful, star studded cast at the top end. Generally, your goal is to Armor Up and survive until turn 6 when you can start dropping game ending bombs. Ragnaros the Firelord, Grommash Hellscream, and Onyxia tend to end games very quickly while Ysera wins the extended control mirrors. Baron Geddon helps clear waves of aggressive minions but must be played cautiously as he will also chip at your life total.
Korkron Elite serves an important role as both a means to apply mid-game pressure and as a removal spell. In some situations he will demand an answer from your opponent, while in others he will be an answer to an opponent’s minion.
I would also caution against playing too many Brawl. Brawl is a very strong card, but running more than one can be overkill. Your other removal spells are much more efficient and rarely rely on an element of RNG. Brawl is an all-in move that can backfire on rare occasions.
Warrior Control goes bigger than most of the other mid-range and control decks out there. It should have a slightly favorable match-up against Druid and Shaman and have enough removal to compete with Hunter. I encourage you to give the deck a try and see that Warrior can compete even without an OTK. If you run into a lot of Hunter, I encourage you to add a Senjin Shieldmasta or two as the deck plays no Taunt otherwise.
If Priest were ever to be the power house it once was, now is the time. Priest’s Hero Power allows it to out grind Druid, Paladin, and Shaman while Power Word: Death is one of the most efficient answers to powerful minions. I crafted this particular build of Priest and piloted it to reasonable success on my previous stream.
While it involves too much RNG for my taste, I’ve come to terms with Thoughtsteal being a necessary evil for card advantage in Priest. It’s particularly lackluster against Hunter but has a shot at nabbing some powerful cards from other classes.
Northshire Cleric has long been a Priest standard. I opted not to run Circle of Healing as I felt it was too situational, but the Cleric can still get her draw on with a well-timed Holy Nova. Often Holy Nova would not only clear an opponent’s board, but draw me several cards.
Wild Pyromancer also put in significant work for me. Power Word: Shield and the Priest Hero Power allow Wild Pyromancer to trigger more times than most players expect. On several occasions, I was able to control my opponent’s board in the early turns with Wild Pyromancer and Power Word: Shield.
Another interesting card I tried but eventually cut was Cabal Shadow Priest. It provided serious value and huge swings when my opponent played a Nat Pagle or Harvest Golem. Unfortunately I felt Sylvanas Windrunner and Cairne Bloodhoof were ultimately stronger cards for 6 mana. However, if the meta evolves to focus on lower attack minions, I could see Cabal Shadow Priest finding her way back into the deck.
Another card I eventually cut was Auchenai Soulpriest. Without Circle of Healing, I was never able to use it effectively. I think it’s a fine card to play, but I wanted to avoid running the often situational Circle of Healing. I added Shadow Word: Pain and Shadow Madness instead and the deck can be run either way.
This deck was a blast to play and I highly encourage you to try it out. My favorite moment I had with the deck was Mind Controlling my opponent’s Cenarius and returning it to my hand with a Dream I had drawn from Ysera in order to use Cenarius’ Battlecry. It almost won me the game, but glitched instead! Something to keep in mind for the future perhaps.
I hope this article helps you navigate the dangerous terrain of ranked constructed! A lot of the lists in this article are perfect for creating a gauntlet of decks to test against in the current meta. I would say Druid, Hunter, and Shaman are the most prevalent currently, but almost every class has a competitive archetype.
Let us know your thoughts on our forums at http://dontkickmyrobot.com/forums. DKMR will be posting additional “Budget” decks as well as our current ladder decks that can be found on our website and HearthstonePlayers.com. Please tune in to my twitch broadcast every Sunday from 10 AM – 4 PM EST at http://www.twitch.tv/varranis. You can find all of DKMR’s streamers on their website with times and the days they stream!
Guide written by [DKMR]Varranis
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