Time to slow things down. The last three weeks on Scalise’s Sessions we have seen the faster side of the meta. We covered Tempo Mage, Token Druid, and Secret Hunter. All three of those decks, while strong, love to do damage. This time around, I thought it would be good to change gears and look at the control side of life. We are going to do that by delving into Control Warrior. Warrior has been one of the premier slow decks in Hearthstone for some time, and for good reason. It is very strong, has plenty of flexibility and can go toe-to-toe with just about any deck. While there are many different builds of this list, I prefer to raise the dead.
Out of all the choices, I am covering a version of JustSaiyan’s N’zoth Control Warrior that was developed by SlayerMax. There are many versions of Control Warrior these days, from C’thun to more traditional Elise/Fatigue, but I believe this to be the strongest. The added deathrattles on top of Elise Starseeker give you two win conditions that help you against just about every deck in the game. That is very important in a meta as volatile as this one.
The early turns of the game are going to be spent killing everything you see. Though you have some amazing mid-game comeback options, your real power comes from being able to shut down small minions before midrange and aggro decks can get going. This is your best asset and you need to play to it as much as you can.
You just want to stall here as much as you possibly can. Everything you do during the first turns should be to buy you time and limit the damage you take. This is especially important against Shaman, Mage and Hunter, all of who like to stack up early hits to build into late game burst. Every turn you can get your opponent to focus on something that isn’t your face you are coming out ahead. This does not mean you need to panic and use valuable resources on small targets, but understand that taking an extra six or eight damage from a Mana Wyrm is not worth saving your Shield Slam.
In that vein, do not underestimate the power of a tempo Acolyte of Pain. The three drop is always going to generate some sort of value (be it one card or three) and it has to be removed right away. This almost always baits out removal (or burn) or forces your opponent to use a minion hit on it. That is key because it draws you deeper into your deck and give you a turn to protect your face.
The middle of the game is going to play out much like the first turns, only you are going to have bigger spells at your disposal. This part of the game is going to be centered around spell conservation, where you work hard to make sure you are only hitting must-kill targets with your removal. Be very careful with your hand and always think about the multiple target each removal spell could have.
Work hard here to set up your deathrattles. While you only have three, Twilight Summoner is a fantastic card that can generate a ton of value. A 1/1 is not the best card in the world, but the 5/5 on the back end means that your opponent cannot simply blindly clear the board or run out minions. It forces them to pause and figure out the best way to deal with, which then gives you extra time.
The final aspect of these turns is knowing how and when to use AOE. Brawl is your best comeback card, but you only want to pull the trigger at exactly the right time. The same goes for Revenge. There are many boards that you could clear right away, but if you have the health it is often better to wait a turn to make your opponent think that you don’t have it. This will let you catch even more minions in the blast and help you conserve your other spells.
The final turns of the game are going to be spent playing to a win condition, and you need to know which one you are going to use. If you are playing against a non-control deck you want to try and deathrattle them out and if you are playing against a slow list Elise is going to be your best option following a strong N’zoth.
Setting up N’zoth, the Corruptor is going to be tricky to do. The 5/7 is your primary win condition, and it will win you the game if you manage to play it at the right time. However, when you drop it you also cannot gain life or play any removal spells. When playing against faster decks you always want to make sure you have a lot of health or strong priority when setting him up. There is no rush to play N’zoth right away, and you should think about him a few turns before he comes down.
When it comes to Elise Starseeker you want to hoard as many cards as you possibly can to get as many legendaries as possible. This will give you the highest chance for success when it comes to a powerful hand. Only use the cards in control matchups that you absolutely have to and never waste low-impact cards just to waste them. You want to always have nine or ten cards if you can afford to.
The final rule here is to value your health and do everything you can to maximize armor gain. A lot of the time against faster or burst decks you are going to win the game by just outlasting them. Prioritize anything that gives you health and work hard to fit in your hero power as much as you possibly can. That goes double if you have Tank Up. This is so important that sometimes it is better to play a cheaper turn in order to make sure you can gain health.
A breakdown of the most popular matchups in the game.
If there is a reason to run this deck, its the Midrange Shaman matchup. As strong as Thrall is against most of the meta, you have many tools to break the lightning-lover down. That does not mean this is going to be an easy game, but it is one where you have an edge. This is one of the matches where your goal is to go as long as possible. That means you want to constantly take down everything Shaman plays by prioritizing your AOE and using your spot removal on the right targets. In addition, know when to gain armor and understand your opponent’s burst. Spirit Claws and Lightning Bolt can both do quick damage, and both Flametongue Totem and Thunderbluff Valiant can hurt if your opponent has a minion. Always take the time to heal and make sure you don’t open yourself up to damage.
You are going to win this game through AOE, plain and simple. Brawl does a lot of work against Shaman, as does Revenge. These are the two cards you need to work hard to play to (as shown in the video). This is so important that if you have a lot of armor at your disposal it can often be right to get your health down below 12. Three damage just crushes Shaman’s board and gives you access to two extra Brawls. Just always be careful of when you use them. Shaman has many ways to flood the board and if you go too early they will simply refill and leave you in the same position. Every extra minion your opponent extends into your removal is one less spell you need to commit.
Buckle up, because this is going to be tough. Very, very tough. Secret Hunter is by far your hardest matchup, and to win it you need to be very careful with both your health and your removal options. Hunter’s curve is one of the tightest around. To fight that you want to just kill things as they come. As strong as Hunter is during the middle part of the game, once they get to the later turns they quickly run out of steam. The damage is always going to be there, but you can fight that with your different armor gain. In addition, lay back and only test for secrets if your opponent does not have an Eaglehorn Bow equipped. As evident in the video, the 3/2 can spell disaster for you if you let it climb up in durability.
As a Control Warrior, the two cards you need to watch out for the most are Cat Trick and Savannah Highmane. Dealing with the lion is never going to be fun, but you can beat it if you save hard removal for turn six. Yes, this only answers half the problem, but if you do a good job of mitigating early pressure you can usually pick off the hyenas with direct removal or AOE. On the other hand, Cat Trick allows Hunter a way to keep pressing for damage when you’re backed up against the wall. For that reason, the coin is very important here because it allows you a way to trigger the secret before using Brawl or Revenge. If you don’t have it in hand, then you should always try to play a small spell before going for a full clear.
Tempo Mage is a very strong deck, but they only have a limited amount of damage at their disposal. As such, you are going to win this game by constantly finding ways to gain health, clear their minions, and running your opponent out of cards. Almost all of Mage’s spells are going to be directed at your face in this match, and that means you want to work hard to limit the damage you take from your minions. Clearing is essential, especially during the first turns. Mulligan hard for any removal you can find and always prioritize your hero power moving into the middle and later turns of the game. It is all about survival here because the more the game goes on, the better chance you have at winning.
When moving into the later turns you want to keep in mind all of the different options that your opponent could have. There are many Tempo Mage builds running around, and they all have very strong finishers. Those differ from Archmage Antonidas and Emperor Thaurissan to Ragnaros the Firelord or Cabalist’s Tome and Faceless Summoner. No matter what, they are going to have some power during the end game and you need to be ready for it. Try to identify the possible options your opponent could have and always keep all of the avenues in mind. For example, thinking about your health at minus eight to plan for a Rag hit or at minus twelve from Antonidas Fireballs. This will help you know how careful you need to be as the game progresses.
This is a tight game where you have the slight edge. The reason is that Warrior has a lot of removal, but most of it is very bad against your deathrattle package. Not only do they have to save AOE for N’zoth, but that AOE is very bad against the pair of Twilight Summoners he is going to inevitably bring back. This means that it is much easier for you to run your opponent out of resources than it is for them to grind you down. Use this to your advantage and be patient. Gaining armor is always going to be important towards fatigue, so do not be afraid to just hero power as much as you possibly can. Another big thing to note is that you have two finishers that are very strong against Warrior. This means, unlike other lists, you actually want to draw when you can. The sooner you reach your finishers, the sooner you can lock this one down. Just note that you want to have a full grip when trying to get to Elise. It is not worth drawing quickly if you are going to use all of your resources to do it.
Note: Save Harrison Jones for Gorehowl. The 7/1 weapon can do a lot of work against you and getting rid of it is much more important than taking down a Fiery War Axe.
Like Tempo Mage, this is a game where you want to work hard to simply run your opponent out of damage. Though it may not your usual instinct, do not be afraid to be reactive. You are a slow deck, and you do not mind if have to spend most of your turns armoring up. Malygos Druid is a deck that runs three big minions in double Arcane Giant and Ragnaros the Firelord. Beyond that, they generally rely on direct damage and the burst they generate from Malygos. If you can push yourself up and out of the dragon’s range you should be able to win this one over the long term. Beyond healing, the most important part of this game is saving your hard removal for their large minions. Save your Executes and Shield Slams for the late game. You also aren’t going to have great Brawl boards here, so you should usually pull the trigger on three minions or when you can add your own low-value threat to the fray.
Tip and Tricks
Work hard to get into Revenge range against aggressive decks. While going down to twelve or so health can be scary, it is also one of the ways you secure a win. The extra AOE is vital. However, don’t die trying to do this. You generally only want to go this route if you have the proper armor cards in hand to heal you back up.
Know how and when to use Shield Block. Usually you want to play this card in conjunction with Shield Slam for a massive tempo swing, but there are many times where you just want to use it early on to either buy time or draw a card. Always think about what is going to be the most useful. If you have a weak hand or are under a lot of pressure, just pull the trigger.
Ravaging Ghoul is another card that you want to work hard to set up. You have a lot of ways to do two and three damage, and that often falls short in the current meta. However, you do not need to kill things right away. Setting up a kill over two turns is very strong against decks that do not run healing.
You do not need to use the Golden Monkey right away. The 6/6 is very good in Control vs. Control, but it is not the only card that matters. Removal is key, as is getting value from cards like Sylvanas. If you have the legendary-maker in hand, you should always see if there is any card that you need to play (such as Justicar) before pulling the trigger.
A very important part of this deck is understanding the best time to run out Justicar Trueheart. The card is going to be inherent tempo loss, so you want to get her down when you have breathing room or when you can gain six right away. I would say that playing her early is not as important as controlling the board, but if you have her in hand it is usually right to clear in a way where you are going to have a turn to put her down.
Understand that Grommash Hellscream is most often going to be used as removal in this build. While he can act as a finisher from time to time, you are more often going to win with N’zoth/Elise than with ten to the dome. As a result, always look to use him to pick off midrange threats. This gives you both a big body and a solid swing.
As a heavy control deck, you have to work hard for your early game. As good as you are once you get a handful of removal, the way you lose a lot of time is by being overrun during the first turns. Try and get anything you can to stall, and always look for ways to make it out of the early part of the game.
Must Keeps:Fiery War Axe Slam
Shield Slam and Shield Block can be kept in tandem against decks with early game pressure.
Execute is a good keep with an activator if you are playing against a deck that has large early game threats.
Revenge should only be kept against swarm decks like Zoo.
Acolyte of Pain should always be kept with other early game removal options.
Bash is a strong keep against aggro lists like Shaman, especially if you have other early cards.
Ravaging Ghoul is a strong keep against swarm aggro, but is also good against Druid to fight Living Roots.
Elise Starseeker and Twilight Summoner are both good keeps with an early curve.
Brawl can be kept with the coin and a good curve against any class that floods the board (Shaman and Zoo).
Harrison Jones should be kept against most weapon classes because the swing is so good.
There are many replacements for this deck and many different lists you can run. Here I will just outline a few of the switches you can make within the N’zoth shell.
Acolyte of Pain can be replaced by many different control cards. Though the draw is important, these can also be tech slots or beefy midgame threats like Bloodhoof Brave.
Twilight Summoner can be Infested Tauren.
As strong as she is, you can replace Elise Starseeker with other deathrattle options like Cairne Bloodhoof.
You could also slot in a second Ironforge Portal if you want more armor gain. That could replace an acolyte.
Though you have strong minions, there are other big finishers you could try out. Ragnaros the Firelord is a good option, as are must-kill threats like Ysera.
As much as I love aggro, I also do like me some old fashioned control. Warrior is a very interesting deck that gives you the chance to play with a lot of fun cards. The list is challenging, tough to pilot, and ultimately rewarding to use. I hope you had another good week on Scalise’s Sessions and, as always, let me know what you would like to see in the future.