Varian Wrynn and Deathwing in TGT Control Warrior

Hello everyone. In this article I will make a quick breakdown about the new TGT Warrior cards and then come to the main part of this article, which is why Control Warrior without either or  is not as good as it could be. If you’ve read my other article , you will be aware of […]

Introduction

Hello everyone. In this article I will make a quick breakdown about the new TGT Warrior cards and then come to the main part of this article, which is why Control Warrior without either Varian Wrynn or Deathwing is not as good as it could be. If you’ve read my other article , you will be aware of my opinion about Control Warrior being an overall inferior deck to Patron Warrior. The power level difference, winrate against the ladder metagame and consistency is there. But I fully think that can be mitigated to some extent if people start building better Control Warrior lists. A Control Warrior with either of these two cards is lacking something very powerful in many matchups. I’ll get really detailed about it that in this article, so let’s get started!

TGT Warrior Cards

When Blizzard made the final versions of the new cards they were obviously aware of the fact that Grim Patron is a very powerful deck, therefore they made sure that Grim Patron– Warrior gets zero additional card draw or other synergistic cards like additional Whirlwind effects. Even the new Warrior Legendary Varian Wrynn with its high mana cost is completely unplayable in Patron Warrior and is mainly designed for other Warrior archetypes.

Varian Wrynn

Let’s start with the elephant in the room: Varian Wrynn. When the card was revealed during the spoiler season of the new set, the hype for this card was really big. Almost everyone and their grandmother thought this card was insane and a lot of people even thought this card was broken and would push Control Warrior to Tier 1 status in the metagame. Nowadays, more than a month after the release of the new cards, Control Warrior is not among the best decks and Varian Wrynn is not even played in the majority of Control Warrior lists. The general consensus of this card is quite negative. But why is that? Why do people think Varian Wrynn is a bad card and does not deserve a slot in a Control Warrior list?

  1. It costs 10 mana and is not defensive enough against aggro, meaning even if you get to play him on Turn 10 against an aggro deck, he does not heal you or puts a guaranteed taunt on the battlefield.
  2. You can lose valuable battlecries like Shieldmaiden, Alexstrasza or even small stuff like Twilight Guardian or Big Game Hunter.
  3. He puts you closer to fatigue and you can overextend on the board, meaning that you can give decks with mass removal like Equality, Shadowflame or Lightbomb a lot of value. Let us pretend you play against Priest and you pull out a Dr. Boom and an Alexstrasza. Not only you lost two very powerful battle cries, your opponent can simply kill three big threats with a singly copy of Lightbomb.

From my point of view Varian Wrynn is a good card and I would play him in every controlling Warrior archetype, because he is an extremely powerful card. If you think Varian Wrynn is bad, you are missing some key concepts about card games and Hearthstone. Why do I exactly think that? Let’s start with the 3 arguments people bring the most against Varian Wrynn and I will tell show you how each argument is flawed:

Concern: Its High Cost

Every very expensive minion is bad against aggressive decks. Surprise! Even such a powerful defensive minion like Tirion Fordring, because of their mana cost. When your opponent is bashing you with a couple of Leper Gnome‘s in the early game every expensive card is effectively a dead card in your hand. And even if you stabilize defensive minions like Tirion Fordring or Alexstrasza are a lot of the time not enough.

If the opponent has complete board control (very likely when you play Warrior Control vs Secret Paladin for example) Alexstrasza will only buy you one more turn until the game is over for you. And Tirion does not protect you from burn spells like Kill Command or even a simple Ironbeak Owl can completely negate your 8 mana investment.

So I don’t think that Varian Wrynn being bad versus aggressive decks is a good argument against him. You are not playing Varian over defensive early game minions like Armorsmith, you are playing him over other expensive legendaries that are also very bad against aggressive decks. I played thousands of games with Warrior Control and Alexstrasza has often been a life saver versus aggressive decks, but the majority of time she is still very bad because of her high mana cost.

Concern: Risk of Fatigue and Losing Battlecries

This argument is correct in one matchup: the Control Warrior mirror. If both players have a good list and play perfectly this matchup will almost always go to fatigue. In every other matchup fatigue is the least of your concerns, one player will win way before fatigue becomes a thing.

The other matchup where fatigue could become a factor is versus Priest Control (the non Dragon version). That highly depends on the Priest list, but if the Priest player plays a standard list (Zetalot’s Rank 1 Control Priest) and both players play perfectly only two things can happen:

  1. The priest rushes the Warrior down, sometimes fueled by Northshire Cleric drawing a lot of cards.
  2. The Warrior slowly overwhelms the Priest player and kills him before fatigue becomes a factor.

So after I have hopefully made clear that fatigue is not an issue against almost every deck you might face on the ladder or at tournaments, the next argument aka the “losing battle cries” argument is flawed. If you don’t draw your entire deck before the game ends, for example you have 8 cards in your deck left it might appear to you that you lost some battle cries from valuable minions but in reality you did not lose anything.

Your deck is randomized, you have no control about the cards you are about to draw next and the “lost” battle cry of Alexstrasza that was pulled out by Varian Wrynn is not lost, because Alexstrasza might also have been at the bottom of your deck and you might have never drawn her anyways to benefit from the battle cry. So if you play Varian in the majority of matchups and pull out a Dr. Boom you did not lose a battle cry, you just gained a free 7/7 minion.

So this discussion about lost battle cries kind of reminds me about the discussion about Fel Reaver in aggressive decks. For beginners or people who have not thought enough about the topic behind burning cards, his drawback must seem devastating. With every card your opponent plays, you burn three cards. Among them sometimes powerful cards like Dr. Boom or Archmage Antonidas. But in reality if Fel Reaver sticks on the board for several turns, outside of some rare circumstances you will just  crush your opponent with 8 damage to the face every turn. With the final blow you might have only left three cards and burned quite some powerful cards, but once again your deck is randomized, you have no control about the position of Dr. Boom or any other seemingly lost legendary minion. They also might have been in the last 3 cards, before the game ends. If you are more interested, I suggest you check out a fellow Magic players article about Fel Reaver which can be found here.

Concern: Over Extending

Every card has its weaknesses, and although mass removal can be a big deal when you play Varian Wrynn it can be mitigated by being aware of them and by playing around them.

First of all, you don’t need to drop Varian Wrynn on curve when playing a more grindy matchup and less tempo based matchup (like Control Warrior vs Handlock). If you have a decent hand size, your opponent played some minions that sooner or later must be dealt with and Varian is not a good play anyways because you might overextend too much, then simply make another play.

If for example you only have two cards left, you are very likely in a bad spot anyways so you need to bring some power to the board and draw some cards and/ or get some minions on the board. So simply drop him. Play to win and hope your opponent does not have mass removal that can deal with every minion Varian might pull out. If you already have a superior board presence, your opponent must deal with there is even less reason to play Varian or any other minion. Let him deal with the board and then drop Varian to keep on controlling the board and pressuring the opponent.

In the Control Warrior mirror Varian Wrynn is in fact a bad legendary. Drawing too many cards can lose you the game and giving the opponent to much value out of Brawl too. But the Control Warrior mirror match is not that common and you don’t decrease your chances of winning the mirror by a lot if you play Varian and your opponent does not.

This is overall a very complicated topic, I’m aware that I haven’t covered everything, but due to the scope of the article I have to stop it here. If you want to discuss it further or have any questions, just ask in the comments.

So Why Play Varian?

So now onto the most important part: Why should you play Varian Wrynn?

Varian Wrynn’s effect is extremely powerful and gives every Control Warrior a tool it lacked prior to TGT: a minion that not only draws you cards, but also has a very high chance of putting some minions on the board. The average result ranging from just drawing three cards to drawing 1 card and putting a free 2/6 (for example: Twilight Guardian) and a 5/4 ( for example: Harrison Jones) minion on the battlefield is exactly what Control Warrior wants in a lot of matchups from a very expensive card.

Of course there are still some dream scenarios where you get Ysera, Sylvanas Windrunner and dr-boom. But when you evaluate cards, watch out what they are doing on a consistent basis. With Varian Wrynn the average results are very good, while the awesome results are just the icing on the cake.

Examples

The Druid Matchup

The Druid matchup is a fight for board control, the lack of board control will very likely result in a loss due to the increased damage output of Savage Roar. In some games card advantage can also be a factor and you might run low on resources if the Druid player plays multiple Azure Drakes and Ancient of Lores. Varian Wrynn when compared to other legendary minions is very good in this matchup. Not only does he draw you cards and makes sure you can keep up with Druid’s card advantage, he also can build a very good board presence by putting free minions on the battlefield. The other legendary cards you might choose to play over him, can be all very lackluster, because one simple Big Game Hunter can answer your 8 or 9 mana investment (Alexstrasza) and make you lose a lot of tempo, card advantage and even the game.

Zoo/Secretpaladin Matchup

Like the Druid matchup these two matchups are also very board focused, both decks have a very high amount of sticky cheap minions that the Warrior has a tough time dealing with. In addition to that they also have some expensive high quality minions that put a lot of pressure on you like Doomguard, Mysterious Challenger, Dr. Boom or Tirion Fordring. Therefore when you reach the late game, a simple legendary like Alexstrasza or Grommash Hellscream won’t push you that ahead, because you might still struggle with controlling the board. Varian Wrynn can build up a much more resilient and threatening board presence, while he can also dig for key cards like a Brawl or Revenge.

Handlock Matchup

Handlock has an inbuilt card advantage mechanism because of the Warlock hero power Life Tap. Varian helps you keep up with their card advantage and makes sure that you don’t run out of steam in the late game. Other legendaries like Grommash Hellscream or Alexstrasza are very lackluster when it comes to producing card advantage.

Also you will very rarely kill a very good Handlock player with burst since Goblins vs Gnomes, mainly because of Antique Healbot. So overall Varian Wrynn is a more consistent option than the majority of other legendaries in this matchup too.

Other TGT Cards

We’ll now take a look at the competitive relevance (how good is the card in a competitive environment like tournaments or at high Legend Rank) of some of the other cards.

Magnataur Alpha

The last card analysis was almost half an article. But nothing interesting going on with this card. Unlike Piloted Shredder this card is horrible when the board state is even or you are behind.

Competitive relevance: 0/5

Orgrimmar Aspirant

Another card that makes sure that you always have some free dust when you crack some packs.

Competitive relevance: 0/5

Sea Reaver

100 free dust.

Competitive relevance: 0/5

King’s Defender

This card will also never ever be played in a competitive deck.

Competitive relevance: 0/5

Bolster

I think this is actually quite a good card in a deck that is built around it. Lots of cheap taunt minions with Hobgoblin and Battle Rage to refill your hand. But wait. There is Grim Patron Warrior which does everything better than this archetype.

Competitive relevance: 1/5

Sparring Partner

This card has some potential in a Bolster deck, but in any other deck this card is just way worse than Sunfury Protector. You don’t want your 2 drops in a Control deck to trade with Leper Gnomes.

Competitive relevance: 1/5

Bash

Finally a good card again. I wish more Warrior cards where like Bash and not unplayable garbage. While it is nothing amazing it is also almost never bad. Helps dealing with Control Warrior’s biggest nightmare 4 drop: Piloted Shredder. The inclusion of it highly depends on the metagame and the decklist you built.

Competitive relevance: 3/5

Alexstrasza’s Champion

If you trigger the battle cry you have an amazing early game minion that trades very well and ensures early board control. The “problem” of the Champion is that, you are kind of tight on slots in a Dragon Warrior. Another potential early game minion like Armorsmith may be worse in the early game for trading purposes but will be better in the late game, when it comes to stabilizing to get out of the opponents burst range. This is actually quite relevant, because Armorsmith will help you get out of burst range while Alexstrasza’s Champion will do way less in the late game. Of course you could play both, but I played hundreds of games with different Dragon Warrior lists and getting the slots for both of them is not an easy task and comes with some sacrifices.

Competitive relevance: 3/5

Justicar Trueheart

This is not a Warrior card, but the reason I included it is among the few new neutral cards that is actually quite good in Warrior and gets played a lot in Warrior Control. The reason for that is not that it Justicar wins you the fatigue war against control decks, because when it comes to fatigue it is mainly all about being the player with the last threat. If both players hit fatigue at the same time and Player A has Ysera as the last card but only 20 life, while the other Player B has 60 life but no cards left, poor Player B will simply lose despite having stacked all that nice armor.

So the reason why Justicar is good in Control Warrior is that she lets you play the game differently. Imagine the Control Warrior vs Dragon Priest matchup. Both players have 15 cards left in their deck, the Priest has Twilight Guardian on the board while the Warrior has nothing on the board. Without Tank Up! the Warrior player has to do something because despite Armor Up!, he will just simply die if he does nothing. But with Tank Up! (you now get 4 more armor) you don’t have to do anything, every turn will net the Warrior one more armor if the Priest does not commit more to the board. And that is actually quite a huge advantage, because it allows you to not be in a hurry to deal with certain minions, instead you can just simply wait for a more favorable board state. A simple example would be waiting to get more value out of Brawl.

So despite the poor stats of Justicar, the upgraded hero power is definitely worth the cost, because it helps you stabilize over several turns while gaining a huge amount of armor, which can be a big deal if you want to counter for example Patron Warrior with Control Warrior. I had a good amount of games against Patron Warrior where I got 60-70 life and even with Emperor Thaurissan discount, double Frothing Berserker and some Whirlwind effects the Patron player could not go for a one turn kill.

With Justicar you can even fatigue a Hunter player, which was previously not possible because overall the Hunter has more damage in the deck than the Warrior has life gain.

Competitive relevance: 4/5

Why Deathwing fits in Control Warrior

To visualize how a typical standard Control Warrior list looks nowadays, I show you this decklist again. If you have a Control Warrior deck, you have a deck that will always be viable.

The reason for that is that every Control deck ranging from Control Priest to Handlock existed since Hearthstone’s release and is very flexible. Each of them has a powerful and strong core, that will always be powerful.

Handlock mainly has the Giants and Life Tap, Priest has Northshire Cleric, Auchenai Soulpriest and Circle of Healing. Northshire Cleric can even draw 7 cards in one turn, when combo’d with Circle of Healing and Wild Pyromancer. How crazy is that for a one drop? And Control Warrior? Control Warrior has the best removal in the game: the weapons, Shield Slam and Execute.

So while each of them may not be a Tier 1 deck in any given expansion, because other decks got more powerful cards they will always be decent decks, because of the strong core.

In my TGT Warrior analysis I came to the conclusion that Patron is overall a better deck to play. With that I don’t mean Control Warrior is much worse than Patron Warrior. It’s only a little bit worse, and when it comes to highly competitve environments (tournaments, high Legend ladder) a little bit worse sadly means: don’t play that deck.

But I think there are options and possibilities to close that gap.

Two cards that makes a huge difference in a lot of matchup is Varian Wrynn, which I talked about earlier, and Deathwing!

When I switched from Magic to Hearthstone, my first legendary was in fact Deathwing. When I opened him I had quite some experience with Hearthstone already. So I dusted him. What a terrible joke card I thought. It costs 10 mana! You play 10 mana cards in a control deck! No control deck wants to discard their whole hand only to destroy all minions. Control decks want to have lots of cards in their hand. A simple Big Game Hunter or any other removal will flat-out lose you the game.

Then I opened him again about ten months ago, and this time I did not disenchant him. I saw him as a card with quite some potential. So I played him, he did what I expected him to do. Four months ago I crafted a golden Deathwing. 3200 Arcane Dust! Thats a lot of dust. Two legendaries in fact!

Nowadays every Control Warrior decklist I built starts with that one golden Deathwing. Am I stupid? No. I thought a long time about Deathwing, I always question my choices and I played him A LOT. I still not regret that heavy dust investment when he enters the battlefield and I crush my opponent with a card he did not expect.

So why is Deathwing such a good card in Control Warrior?

First of all like Varian Wrynn, he is a skill intensive card. He is not like Leper Gnome . If it is Turn 1 and Leper Gnome is your only play… hmm do you play that Leper Gnome? Yes of course you do! What are you thinking about?

But when it comes to cards like Varian Wrynn or even Deathwing and Turn 10 starts, you don’t simply drop these two cards, playing these cards comes with decisions, with skill. If you play them or not depends on the matchup, the board state and the game state (what cards did you opponent already play?). That is the beauty of Warrior Control, you get rewared for patience, for seeing the plays that are hard to see: Not playing a card on curve and waiting for a better moment is one of the reasons why there is such a huge difference between a Rank 5, a Legend Ranked Warrior player and a Top 100 Warrior player. Whenever I play the Warrior Control mirror against a typical Rank 5 player, I win almost every game. And the sample size is really big. Control mirrors are insanely complex when compared to Magic the Gathering Control mirrors, they have a beauty the standard ladder player can’t see, because they prefer to play Leper Gnome decks or Mysterious Challenger – decks. But let’s net get too off-topic.

Deathwing is good because together with Varian Wrynn it is the only legendary that can create a huge tempo swing when dropped on the board. Deathwing completely changes the board state, while Varian has a high chance to do so.

When you play a Legendary like Ysera against Mysterious Challenger– Paladin, the Paladin player still very likely has board control and you are struggling to catch up with him. Inside the Paladin players head:

“WOW. What a big hard to kill and absolute a lot of value generating legendary! Oh I just play that Sludge Belcher that Ysera can’t even kill on her own and keep on smashing your face until I win. I’m so smart, I’m so good at this game…”

So in such a common situation (at least if you are like me who played the MU a lot, then it becomes common) you will need other cards to win this game. You need to remove the opponents minions to not die because of the pressure. I’m fully aware that you can get very lucky if you get Ysera Awakens, while you are still at a very high life total and you somehow also hide Tirion Fordring at the bottom of his deck. Well then you are really good at this game. But we are looking at consistency. The majority of time Ysera or Alexstrasza won’t win the game on their own in such a matchup.

And from my point of view I want my big legendaries to completely turn the game around when they enter the battlefield. And that is exactly what Deathwing is doing in this matchup. When he enters the battlefield, your opponents board presence is gone, you now have control of the board and your opponent will lose over two turns because of Deathwing. Your cards in hand are gone, but if you reach this stage of the game the Paladin is always low on cards too. And Secret Paladin has a very hard time recovering from a Deathwing.  So with one card you turn the game completely around.

Secret Paladin is not the only matchup. He does the same job against Zoo, where you face a similar problem with other legendaries.

“If you are falling off a mountain, you might as well try to fly”

That is also kind of a feature of Deathwing. In some games, in some matchups like against for example Druid you can find yourself in a spot where you are about to lose no matter what. The Druid has dominant board control, you had a very bad starting hand and the loss is inevitable. So you drop that Deathwing and if the Druid has Sylvanas Windrunner or Big Game Hunter, you simply lose. But you would have lost anyways. But if the Druid has not an answer you just win the game.

Another highly relevant matchup where Deathwing shines is against the popular tournament deck: Demonhandlock.

Because of Life Tap and the high amount of threats Demonhandlock has, Warrior Control is unfavored in this matchup. But the matchup is not too bad. Sometimes Ysera can snowball or you draw a lot of cards with Acolyte of Pain or you get a lot of value with Brawl etc.

The Demonhandlock matchup is decided by many factors:

  • Who has more threats, who plays the first minion the opponent can’t deal with?

    Handlock has the advantage here, because of Life Tap that lets them dig for their cheap big four mana minions.

  • Who draws more cards?

    Handlock has the advantage here, because of Life Tap, but Warrior can keep up with, especially with Varian Wrynn.

  • Who gets more value out of their cards?

    Warrior has the advantage here. The power level of the Warrior cards is higher. Cards like Execute and Brawl are more powerful than the removal Handlock has at its disposal: Shadowflame, Darkbomb, Hellfire.

  • Who has the ultimate late game?

    Lord Jaraxxus vs Ysera. If the Warrior can’t deal with Jaraxxus he loses, if the Warlock can’t deal with Ysera he loses. But the Handlock has the edge here, Jaraxxus is easier to protect than Ysera.

Deathwing helps with the ultimate late game. Almost every Demonhandlock list plays one hard removal: Big Game Hunter. If you force the Warlock player to play Big Game Hunter on another target earlier, Deathwing can beat Jaraxxus. The turn he enters the battlefield he will kill every minion, and you have a 12/12 minion on an empty board. Mix that with a weapon hit and the game is over in one swing. Also you have to watch out for taunt givers, make sure the opponent played every Sunfury Protector and Defender of Argus and the one copy of Big Game Hunter. If everything got played which is very likely in such a matchup, Deathwing will simply win you the game on its own.

Conclusion

So I hopefully made my point. The current Control Warrior lists are not as good as they can be. Not only need they more draw power to be more consistent, like Slam over Cruel Taskmaster they also have to reconfigure the Legendary minion suite.

I hope you liked this article. If you have any questions let me know in the comments.