Theorycrafting with League of Explorers – 4 Decks to Hit the Ground Running!

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s that time again! I absolutely love new sets. They bring about tons of new choices, new possibilities and new innovation. Every set reveal gets my gears turning, and there are a ton of new decks I want to make. While they might not all pan out, deck building is one of […]

Introduction

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s that time again! I absolutely love new sets. They bring about tons of new choices, new possibilities and new innovation. Every set reveal gets my gears turning, and there are a ton of new decks I want to make. While they might not all pan out, deck building is one of the best parts of Hearthstone and easily my favorite part of card games. This article is going to be divided into two separate parts.

The first section will look at some decks I think will greatly benefit from new cards from the League of Explorers while the second is going to look at some of the individual cards I am most excited about. I hope these samples get your mind working and help you come up with a new successful brew of your own.

The Decks

Tempo Rogue

It has been a long (long, long, long) time since Tempo Rogue saw play. However, those days could be back. Valeera got almost nothing to play with in TGT, but she got some absolutely insane cards in LOE. Each of the cards in this guide are not just good, but they push rogue into a completely new direction. Spells and combo cards have always driven the Rogue archetype. Now, you can play a minion based deck that can tangle with almost all of the popular decks in the game. The great removal is still there, but now there are some amazing minions to go along with it. Deathrattle could be the key to making Tempo Rogue viable again.

Unearthed Raptor might easily be the best card in the set. Spider Tank stats have always been good, and the ability to copy a deathrattle doesn’t just make this card strong at all stages of the game, it makes the entire deck possible. This version of the list is rife with deathrattle effects you would love to put on a 3/4. Nerubian Egg and Haunted Creeper both allow you to play this on curve, while drawing it late game is amazing with Sylvanas Windrunner, Dr. Boom and Anub’arak. This raptor just gives you more threats and more board presence at all stages of the game. Yes, it is weak on an empty board, but the upside is so high it is easily worth the risk. This deck is going to depend on solid deathrattles to push it through, and the three drop is the king of them all.

Moving forward you will notice that I cut Piloted Shredder for Tomb Pillager. Now, that does not mean those cards could not be run together, it just means Tomb Pillager is insane. A 5/4 for four is nothing to sneeze at, especially in a deck like Tempo Rogue. However, a 5/4 for 4 that gives you a coin 99% of the time is something different altogether. This card’s deathrattle may seem like a card to activate combo, but what it actually is, is a way to get from turn four to six. That means, not only do you get a threat on the board, but if they remove it you get to play Sylvanas Windrunner or Cairne Bloodhoof the following turn. That is some insane value. Even if you don’t have a six drop, you can just use it to squeeze out more plays or give you combo should you need it. That value is essential in a tempo deck (turn six Dr. Boom everyone).

There is no doubt the numbers need some tweaking, but I think this shell is going to be very, very powerful. Tempo has always been a few cards away from where it needed to be and I think. It currently seems very heavy at some points, but I do think that Defender of Argus is a must have with the inclusion of more deathrattle cards like Nerubian Egg. The four drop also makes Cairne Bloodhoof possible as well. This is probably the deck I am most excited for that I think can easily go toe-to-toe with some of the strongest decks in the current metagame.

Token Druid

When TGT first came out I had very high hopes for Token Druid. I thought Living Roots, Druid of the Saber and Gormok the Impaler were going to really push it forward. Unfortunately, those cards more manifested in the way of aggro Druid. However, I think there is a ton of potential for a good ol’ fashioned Token deck to rise from the ashes. Token Druid is a deck that has always been dependent on board control building into the combo. While that has gotten harder to do in recent months, I do believe two of the new cards will give the deck that extra stickiness it needs to be a true competitor.

Mounted Raptor is the first card that could really make token a real list. Shade of Naxxramas is the only three drop that Druid has and it is really a one trick pony. You only ever get one attack out of it, which is usually when you need to clear a big threat or to get lethal. Token does not operate like that. Token is a deck that constantly builds pressure through board control and sticky minions. Mounted Raptor is one of the stickiest minions around. It scales very well into shredder and allows you even more ways to trade effectively. That, combined with the three attack damage, make it one of the strongest options available. One drops are not always the most exciting cards, but they do keep something on board, which is all you really want.

This list is a no-nonsense build that strives for the combo play. However, this list operates a little slower and trades some of aggro’s pressure for really solid ways to keep the board. Board has always been the most important thing to Token Druid, and more deathrattle minions combined with a lower curve give you a deck that can play the aggro game if needed, but one that can also tangle with control decks should the time come.

The other LOE card that could help this list is Wobbling Runts. I know, I know. I’m crazy. This is easily the boldest claim I am making in this article, but I really believe the runts could bring some extra punch to Token Druid. Not only are they fantastic at getting you almost gauranteed board presence but, as you can see from the above list, they work really well with Defender of Argus. Defender has always been one of my favorite token cards in the game, and this list would love to have the 2/3 around. A big complaint about the runts is that they are not Savannah Highmane and add no pressure to the board. While they do add little pressure, forcing your opponent to attack into them instantly solves the problem. In addition, any minion becomes a threat in the later stages of the Druid game due to combo. At that stage it is better for your opponent to keep the runts in their first form, which gives you a higher damage ceiling.

I am not sure how many spells this list wants, but this is the direction I would go in with Token Druid. You have so many powerful cards at your disposal that getting board should always be possible. That is the largest hurdle, which these new cards help overcome. Aggro Druid is also a strong deck, but I like this build because of its ability to fight back against heavier minions.

Control Priest

Man oh, man. While I think that Token Druid and Tempo Rogue are going to be very good in the coming weeks, Priest made out like a bandit in the League of Explorers. Not only did it get a very strong two drop, but it also got one of the best removal spells in the game. Many people discussed how TGT changed Control Warrior. No longer is it a steady control deck that keeps dropping big threat after big threat. Rather, it is just built on just staying alive as long as possible. I think that same philosophy is what is going to apply to Control Priest moving forward. The new cards from League of Explorers are going to allow you to do that. While you still have a lot of the same tools you have always had, these two new inclusions play a very important role.

This deck plays a lot like the original Control Paladin. You simply want to trade away minions, stall the board and keep clearing until your opponent cannot answer Ysera or another big minion. This deck is about as pure control as it gets. You are going to steadily grind your opponent down turn after turn. That is not as easy as it once was, but it is more than doable with the tools at your disposal. One of those tools is Museum Curator.

A lot of people are ragging on the new two drop. While it is true that a 1/2 for two is very poor when matched up up against any other popular two drop in the game, I think the upside is too good to ignore. This draws a card with deathrattle. That is not something you can ignore. Most of the cards with deathrattle are very strong, and the fact that get to choose one of three options makes the chances of you getting something very powerful even higher. I like this card in a slower control list because not only does it allow you to play two extra minions in your deck, but it also a two drop that is a good late game topdeck.

One of the biggest problems with running cards like Zombie Chow in a control shell is that, as powerful as they are early on, they are just too weak in the late game. The curator does not have that problem, since you can always scale your choice based on what stage of the game you are in. While you may not always get a late game option among your three choices, you will most often get a threat. This will not stack up on turn two, but it will stack up as the game moves forward. You also have plenty of early game and catch up options which makes the one attack less of a problem.

[cardinsert card="entomb" float="left"]

As strong as [card]Museum Curator is, Entomb is perhaps the most important card in the new fatigue style Priest build. This is a godsend for Control Priest. The deck has had many options in the past, but it has always had two problems: Sylvanas Windrunner and Tirion Fordring. Not only does Entomb deal with both of them, it adds them to your deck. That is a removal spell that adds a threat to your deck and helps you out in fatigue games. All of those cards combine to give you everything you want in a six mana card. Running two may seem aggressive, but there is almost no downside on this card as long as you hit a big minion.

Murloc Shaman

If any of you follow my series you know I wasn’t going to be able to ignore Murloc Shaman. This deck just has so much potential and is so incredibly cool. League of Explorers brought two new murlocs to the table, but before we get to them we need to discuss the class. Warlock, with its incredible hero power, has always been the go-to for murloc decks. Paladin also has one of the best murlocs in the game in Murloc Knight. Both of those classes are very strong, but the new Shaman spell Everyfin is Awesome is what really pushed this archetype towards Thrall.

Everyfin is Awesome may seem very underwhelming at first glance, but as Mechwarper taught us, you never want to underestimate a discount. Plus two/two is no joke, and will often be the end of the game in many cases. That effect for seven mana is a much worse Bloodlust. However, that boost at a reduced rate is absolutely insane. Murlocs come out early and often. Their swarm is one of the best in the game, and if they get rolling the buff will often be only three or four mana. Yes, it is a bad topdeck, but the potential it has to win games is too good to turn down. I think this will be a staple if a murloc deck is going to exist.

Sir Finley Mrrgglton is a great one drop to have in a Murloc Shaman build. While you want to be aggressive with this list, your hero power does not further than goal at all. Making totems, while good for board control, are not good for aggression. As such, a 1/3 murloc for one mana that lets you find a new hero power based on your situation is very good. The base stats are fine because it is a tribal card, and the extra hero power means you will always have some kind of option. Being able to react to situations is really important, and this unassuming one drop can let you react to tons of scenarios. If Murloc Shaman is going to exist it will not be able to do so without this card’s ability to get rid of totems.

The final (and most exciting) murloc of the bunch is Murloc Tinyfin. Going back to the above paragraphs, getting cards for free is almost always a good deal. Add the fact that those free cards are murlocs and this card becomes super powerful. Not only does it trigger your other minions and take on the buffs for no mana, but it also can lead to some crazy early game Everyfin is Awesome plays.

This deck is all in on murlocs. While it does run some support cards like Doomhammer and Crackle for extra damage, the point is to play a lot of murlocs and play them really, really fast. That type of strategy could be good or it could be really bad. I honestly have no idea what effect the three new cards are going to have in making murloc a contender, but I know they will help. Shaman has some great damage tools at its disposal, and these two additions could very well bring this deck over the top. I will definitely try this when the entire adventure gets released. The tech cards can probably be tweaked, but I love Loatheb in decks that flood the board like this one does.

The Cards

Tunnel Trogg

Ooooh, yes. Yes, yes, yes. Tunnel Trogg is not just a one drop, it is the one drop that Shaman has been waiting for. Overload has long been a problem for Shaman. The meta is built in such a way where losing a turn or doing nothing on a turn can really hurt. Especially because the midrange shell that Shaman needs really depends on board control, which almost every deck can do. However, Shaman is much, much better than most decks when it has board control. Midrange Shaman is built in a way that where you almost never lose the board once you have it, but getting that initial board is very hard. This card works almost exactly like Mana Wyrm in that regard. It has the 1/3 base stats that most of the time will become a 2/3. However, the added ability to get up even higher and allow you trade into larger minions as the game progresses is what really pushes this over the top.

The obvious comparison to this card is Zombie Chow. However, I do not think this card necessarily needs to straight up replace Zombie Chow (though it likely will). Shaman loves building their board turn after turn and they love trading up. I am not sure what a new Midrange Shaman deck will look like, but as someone who played a lot of Midrange Shaman, I could easily see it running four solid one drops. A lot of Shaman’s problems in this meta come from overload or starting out slow. A turn three Lightning Storm is a good way to answer Muster for Battle, but then you have nothing to contest Piloted Shredder. Running more small minions will help you get an earlier board, which will then help fill in those gaps where the game starts to slip away.

Desert Camel

Desert Camel is a card I bring up to illustrate how tricky it can be to evaluate cards. When looking at cards before a set releases you can only see how they operate in a vacuum without actually trying them out. That means a lot of cards seem more or less powerful than they actually are because you can only imagine best and worst case scenarios. Desert Camel is one such card. While I keep going back and forth, I think this card has a lot of potential for Midrange Hunter. Some people are talking about it in aggro, but a 2/4 for three is not what Face Hunter wants or needs. Even if you do get a free Leper Gnome, giving your opponent a one drop with charge is usually not worth it in that build. However, things change greatly when you slot it into a Midrange shell.

Ignoring the ability, a 2/4 beast for three is pretty good. Not only does it trade pretty well in the early turns of the game, but it also is a fantastic Houndmaster target (see Leokk). However, if it only was a 2/4 it would almost always be worse than Animal Companion. Fortunately, it has a very strong ability. Here is a quick list of decks that don’t commonly run one drops: Midrange Druid, Ramp Druid, Control Warrior, New Patron Warrior, Handlock, Oil Rogue and Freeze Mage. In all of those cases this card just gives you a 2/4 along with a Webspinner or whatever one drop you want to play (I think you could probably sneak one Injured Kvaldir in your deck specifically for this card). I just love the value potential here. I am not sure if it will see play, but if it does get you a Webspinner, that is two beast targets for the next turn Houndmaster.

Eerie Statue

Ooh, spooky! Not only do I love the flavor on a haunted statue that only moves when no one is looking, but I think this has an incredible amount of potential. There has been a lot of discussion of this card being played in Handlock as Ancient Watcher three and four. That does make a lot of sense with the taunts and silences that are built into the deck. In that way it could operate as two more giants that can come down early and will probably be ignored for most of the game. Another bonus is that, unlike the Watcher, this card doesn’t need another card to work, it just needs a clear board. That is huge because if you are running low on life and this is out, even if it is not taunted or silenced, you have to be worried about a board wipe suddenly leading to lethal. However, I think Druid, not Handlock, is where this card will shine.

Silence Druid is a fringe deck that has seen some legend play throughout the past months. I think it is deck that has some serious potential, and Eerie Statue could be a perfect fit. Of course there is the synergy with Ironbeak Owl, Defender of Argus, Keeper of the Grove and Wailing Soul. All of those cards means you cannot simply ignore the 7/7 and give it an absolute ton of potential to put on pressure. In addition, this card is super powerful when Innervated out early on. Imagine a scenario where you get this out on turn one or two. If your opponent doesn’t have a minion it starts hitting for seven a turn. Even if your opponent does have a two drop, you can Wrath their play and start hitting for seven a turn. That early pressure builds up really, really fast. Once minions start coming down you can then taunt or silence it up.

Keeper of Uldaman

This is a card that has been largely looked at as a slow four drop with a cool effect. I see it as a very strong four drop with an extremely powerful effect. The body is weak for its mana cost, but as with Museum Curator I think that doesn’t matter as much. Versatility is one of the most important parts of Hearthstone. You want cards that can adapt to different situations and are good against a wide variety of decks. Keeper of Uldaman is both of these on a 3/4 body. Not only can its ability be used on your own minions, but due to the fact that it can be played as an aggressive or control card, it can be thrown into almost any style of Paladin.

That is the reason I like it. If you want to push for damage or trade, you can instantly make one of your Silver Hand Recruits or other small minions (Shielded Minibot, Haunted Creeper) into three damage. That is really good. On the flip side, if you need to take out a Dr. Boom, Nefarian, Ysera or the like, this card also helps bring them down to size. The more I talk about the card the more I like it. While it does seem a little slow when compared to Piloted Shredder, the ability is just too strong to ignore.

Arch-Thief Rafaam 

Naysayers are going to naysay, but I love this card. Love it. Nefarian and Ysera are the two nine drop minions of choice because they both contest the board and give you immediate card advantage. Rafaaf does the exact same thing, and should be in the conversation. However, the thief actually lets you choose the card you draw, which the dragons do not. I honestly did not believe this card said “discover” instead of “random” when I first read it. The ability to choose pushes this card from a cute adventure legend to an absolute powerhouse. All three of Rafaam’s artifacts are very strong, as they each allow you to adapt to the game in a unique way.

Above (and many times before) I discussed the power of versatility. Versatility is something that makes cards good. Arch-Thief Rafaam oozed versatility. Yes, he may be a slow, and yes, the artifacts all cost ten, but this card is a finisher, plain and simple. Do you need to get some board presence or a way to outlast a control deck? How about a whole mess of 3/3 zombie mummies? Want to get a finisher? How does +10/10 sound? Need those final points of burn? Sure, 10 damage to your opponent’s board. Of course each card gets better or worse based on the game you play Rafaam in, but there will always be a solid option. People may say this card has little upside, but in fact it simply just has no downside. It is pure value, and will absolutely break open control mirrors. It should also be noted that, since the artifact is always one of three options, this card will make your opponent play differently as they will need to be ready for all three choices.

Conclusion

A new set! I know people are cynical when it comes to new cards, but I do think LOE has a lot of potential. Not every class is going to get a share of the love (Warlock and Warrior come to mind) but the ones that do are going to have some awesome new tools to play with. I hope you are as excited as I am, and I hope the jungle treats you well in the coming weeks.