The Various Flavors of Control Warrior

Control Warrior is one of the true control decks that exist in the metagame right now and has a lot of facets when it comes to deck building. There are plenty of control Warrior loyalists like Sjow, NaviOOT and Fibonacci who are exceptionally good at playing the deck and they are always at the top […]

Control Warrior is one of the true control decks that exist in the metagame right now and has a lot of facets when it comes to deck building. There are plenty of control Warrior loyalists like Sjow, NaviOOT and Fibonacci who are exceptionally good at playing the deck and they are always at the top of their game with it. In the current meta there are very few decks that can stay toe to toe with Shamans and Control Warrior happens to be one of them. There are hardly any weaknesses of the deck and you are only punished by decks that are designed to punish greediness in deckbuilding. While on paper the Mid Range Shaman versus Control Warrior matchup is almost even, it is not true when Control Warrior decks are piloted properly.

There are plenty of builds floating around in the game right now and we will take a look at the most popular builds and try to point out the differences in terms of strategy. Here are the four major builds that you will find floating on ladder:

  • N’zoth Control Warrior
  • C’thun Control Warrior
  • Classic Control/Yogg Warrior
  • Curator Warrior

The major differences between these builds are the win conditions of the deck itself and the amount of removal for the most part. While the core removals are extremely identical each deck has some core advantages and disadvantages. Let’s break down the strategy of each of the deck elaborately in the following section.

Explanation of deck types and strategy

N’zoth Control Warrior

nzoth-the-corruptor is undoubtedly one of the most powerful legendaries in the game and when it comes to 10 mana cards, you must have a big enough impact to see play. N’zoth does just that and it summons all of your high value deathrattle cards from the ‘graveyard’. The Control Warrior build includes the classic set of removals and some high value deathrattle minions along with 2 copies of Infested Tauren. One of the key concerns about N’zoth as a card is that the effect is extremely powerful but it does not necessarily win you the game every time because opponents can just ignore the summoned minions and go face. Which is why we have 2 sticky taunts in the package allowing you to hide your high value minions behind taunts as well as protecting yourself from your opponent’s board.

Highlights

  • Extremely effective versus aggro
  • Weaker win condition than Fatigue Warrior and Yogg Warrior due to Hex being used on deathrattle minions.
  • Proactive board presence in the mid to late game.
  • N’zoth has the potential to win the game on the spot versus most decks.

Strategy: It is one of the more popular builds of Warrior right now. While removal/fatigue warrior does a lot better versus the king of the meta – Mid Range Shaman, this variant is better versus Malygos Druid, the second most popular deck in the game right now. The strategy of the Control Warrior deck itself as a whole is the same as any control deck, you want to be extremely aggressive at removing minions in the early game with your weapons and spells and then try to build up your health pool and develop the deathrattle minions. Once you stabilize in the lategame N’zoth automatically wins the game against most of the popular decks on the spot. Some of the decks also run Chillmaw instead of Infested Tauren and techs in an additional removal card like Doomsayer or Blood to Ichor. Outside of the Control Warrior gameplan the end game is extremely linear and is one of the slightly easier  versions of this medium to high skill cap deck.

C’thun Control Warrior

Coming to the next Old Gods Warrior deck, we have the cthun Warrior which became quite popular in early days of Karazhan and its presence has been diminishing with the rise of N’zoth Warrior. However, win condition of the deck is extremely strong and it has a one turn kill potential if you have the coin or you can opt to go for a triple C’thun play allowing you to obliterate your opponent’s board three times over. It has a lot more defensive tools and a linear win conditions.

The deck is very streamlined when it comes to C’thun buffers and you only run the good C’thun cultists just to get to the 10/10 checkpoint to activate your Ancient Shieldbearer and twin-emperor-veklor. Apart from the Control C’thun build that we all have faced one time or the other there is also a cycle version of the deck that allows you to cycle through to a triple C’thun or a double battlecry C’thun combo with Brann Bronzebeard. This version of the deck is the top dog when it comes to Warrior mirrors and there is no escaping the kind of punishment the lategame of this deck can push out against control decks, often leading to instant wins.

Highlights

  • Extremely high amounts of armor gain allowing it to be more consistent versus Freeze Mage.
  • Most powerful deck for Control Warrior mirrors by a huge margin
  • Armor gain is sufficient to outlast Anyfin Paladin, one of the known poor matchups.
  • Slower than other builds and requires lots of time to assemble the lategame combos.

Strategy: Unlike the N’zoth deck here you have multiple win conditions for finishing the game. Against burst damage decks you can simply use the Brann Bronzebeard and Ancient Shieldbearer combo to gain 20 armor in one turn and aggressively tank up, allowing you to go out of combo or burst range. Alternatively, you can also go  for the Triple taunt combo with Twin Emperor Vek’lor and Brann against decks that do not run mass board clears to hide behind a wall of taunts, this strategy is extremely effective against Zoolock and faster Hunter decks.

The most fun win condition however is the old god C’thun himself. If you have the coin you can choose to save it until you get Emperor Thaurrissan and once you have Brann and C’thun you can discount them for an instant OTK when you drop them in almost every situation. Or you can take the longer route with Brann and Doomcaller and put 2 more C’thuns in your deck when the first once gets killed. Do note that transformation effects and Entomb neutralize Doomcaller so you might want to C’thun and Shield Slam your C’thun in the same turn if you sense your opponent is stalling.

Fatigue Warrior

This is the ‘I do not have friends’ Warrior list as it is commonly called by many streamers. The goal of the deck is to have enough answers for all of your opponent’s minions and exhaust all of their resources. Some of the more recent builds of ‘removal’ based warrior decks also run yogg-saron-hopes-end due to the sheer number of removal spells you have in the deck. This build of Control Warrior is extremely low on lategame minions and you are mostly reliant closing out games with Grommash Hellscream or Elise Starseeker once you are able to exhaust all resources.

It is the most effective deck to play against all of the Mid Range Shamans because you have all the removals you need and once you take them to fatigue you are very likely to close out the game comfortably. I personally prefer the slightly greedier fatigue warrior lists that run Doomsayer and Baron Geddon because of how effective it can be to completely shut down your opponents plays and gain back the tempo for your advantage.

This is one of the builds we are all familiar with and closer to the Classic Control Warrior lists we have all seen.  I also like the inclusion of Alexstrasza in the build due to the game ending potential with Grommash as well as the healing it can offer when you are too low on health.

Highlights

  • Removal heavy build meant to shut down opponent’s plays completely
  • Deathwing allows for great comeback mechanisms
  • Weaker than other builds in the lategame

Strategy: It is a much more removal heavy version of the deck and there are extremely diverse builds that sometimes even include Soggoth the Slitherer for dealing with board heavy decks. The maximized amount of removal means that you will be weaker on the proactive side of things and you either rely on Grommash or Elise Starseeker to end the game after you are ahead enough in the lategame.

Curator Warrior

This is one of the most recent creations and there are plenty of pro players who have been playtesting the deck in the recent past. The creation of the deck is credited to XRBlackwolf. One of the coolest things about the deck is that you know what exactly you are going to draw with the deck when it comes to the draw offered by The Curator. You can either play Jeweled Scarab or Fierce Monkey depending on what you want to tech in. Jeweled Scarab has been a versatile tool that allowed me to get to great Warrior 3 mana cards like Bash, Ravaging Ghoul, Shield Block etc while Fierce Monkey is a more consistent pick. Corrupted Seer is one of the notable additions in the deck because it allows you to get an extra AoE they do not see coming and being able to clear out totems or 2 HP minions is really good. The third draw from The Curator is Alexstrasza. Being able to consistently get Alexstrasza as a tool in your hand is really great. If you have the initiative you can just go for the Alexstrasza into Grommash Hellscream kill across 2 turns just like the old days.

The deck is heavily teched to beat aggro and Mid Range Shaman in general, so you should not expect anything particularly crazy when it comes to control matchups against Warrior and an early Elise Starseeker is your only way out. The deck has a high amount of draw which goes against the control mirrors because you want to be ahead on fatigue and take as little damage as possible. You can however go for the tempo game plan and get a quick win by turn 10 if you manage to put together enough pressure and finish with Alexstrasza and Grommash.

Highlights

  • Well suited for the Shaman meta with a bunch of tech cards
  • Weak in control Warrior mirrors
  • High draw power and dual win conditions

Strategy: Another removal heavy anti-meta build of Control Warrior but this one is extremely aggressive at drawing cards, something that other Control decks generally do not want to do. You do not want to take things slowly when it comes to the lategame and The Curator is one of the best plays you can have on curve. People generally take you for granted after the second Brawl and that is when you can just slam a Corrupted Seer and also throw in another whirlwind effect card if needed to clear off boards and punish them for over-extending. The deck is weak to decks that have the fatigue game plan but it’s extremely efficient against the meta decks like Tempo Mage and Mid Range Shaman and pressures

Core Card Choices

Here are the cards that are almost staples in all of the lists and since it’s mostly the self explanatory win conditions that differ we have discussed them at length in the above section

Fiery War Axe: Often hailed as the best basic card in the game, which I can’t really disagree with to be fair. It is one of the best ways to deal with early game threats and the sheer amount of synergy it has with all of your spells and other minions is absolutely ridiculous. It’s a vanilla card that goes 2 for 1 almost every game and there is absolutely no Warrior deck that can exist right now without Fiery War Axe.

Shield Slam: One of the perks of playing warrior is that you have the most mana efficient and effective spot removals in the game in form of Shield Slam and Execute. While the card by itself might seem underwhelming but the large pool of armor gain spells and tools you have at your disposal makes this card incredibly powerful in the meta right now. Justicar Trueheart is one of the biggest benefactors to this card and in the lategame Shield Slam gets more and more powerful each time you Tank Up. However, using it wisely is essential though and you need to have a deep understanding of the meta to know which threats are worth using hard removal on and how you plan on dealing with future threats.

Execute: It has been one of the staple removals in most warrior decks even if it’s not control and you will often find it in iterations of tempo style decks as well or even Patron Warrior. The card was recently nerfed and it did make a substantial amount of difference to faster decks but Control Warrior being a deck that floats a lot of mana most of the time anyway did not have to worry about much and it’s still a staple removal card. Back in the day there were not too many activators that saw frequent play but with Ravaging Ghoul, Revenge and Blood to Ichor being cards we have access to now Execute is a lot easier to pull off and being only a 2 mana card you can theoretically destroy almost any minion for  3 mana without  any trouble.

Brawl: Despite having a lot of randomness attached to it, it is still one of the better AoEs in the game and being able to clear out almost all of the board quite efficiently for 5 mana is a great deal. It is a great crowd control card and one of the best ways to get value out of Brawl is by using Sylvanas Windrunner in conjunction to it to make sure you steal something off the board or deal with deathrattle minions better.

Ravaging Ghoul: One of the cards that broke into every Warrior deck ever since Whispers of the Old Gods came out, Ravaging Ghoul works perfectly with your other spells, weapons and even allows you to use it with Acolyte of Pain for extra card draw. The high amount of synergy and efficiency of the minion makes it an auto pick for Control decks.

Slam: A card that allows you to either create combos with weapons or other spells to remove minions or outright remove 2 HP minions by itself. It is a great card that was not quite relevant in older Control Warrior decks but the removal heavy and less greedy lists broke into the meta allowing 2 copies of Slam to become auto-include in warrior decks. The fact that it is disposable when you have floating mana to cycle into other cards makes it a lot better since it hardly sticks in your  hand as a dead card in most matchups.

Justicar Trueheart: Justicar can be deemed to be a Warrior class legendary at this point even though it is neutral. Justicar embodies and defines what Control Warrior is today. Being able to gain 4 health and exceeding  the  30HP barrier allows the deck to recuperate once you deal with your enemy threats and skyrocket the  armor gain over a few turns.

Grommash Hellscream: Your game ending finisher. Even though C’thun Warrior cuts Grom from lists in a lot of cases, he is a reliable removal tool for big minions or simply closes out the games that are dragging on for too long. It works really well with Alexstrasza offensively and allows you to end games over two turns.

Shield Block: Another basic card in the Warrior arsenal that allows you to cycle it and gain 5 armor at the same time. It works really well with shield slam or simply allows you to avoid excessive damage and survive a turn or two.

Revenge: It’s an extremely potent means of board clear versus decks that want to flood the board a lot like Zoolock or Mid Range Shaman. Sometimes you want to use your weapons to force your HP down and get down on health to trigger the higher damage condition of the card to wipe out boards for just two mana. It is also a great Execute activator and also clears off tokens quite easily.

Mulligans

High Priority

  • Fiery War Axe
  • Slam
  • Ravaging Ghoul
  • Bash

Medium Priority (for specific matchups)

  • Justicar Trueheart (against Rogue, Druid and Warrior)
  • Brawl (against Warlock and Shaman)
  • Shield Slam + Shield Block
  • Harrison Jones (against weapon classes)

Choosing The Right Control Warrior Deck

Let’s take a look at the top 5 matchups that I’ve experienced this season. I have been exclusively playing Control Warrior to get my golden Garrosh portrait and have clocked over 230 games with the above decks almost evenly distributed. Here are the most popular decks that I’ve faced and have taken up at least 10% of my matchups this season. The total score of the 4 decks currently stands at 150-83 which is around 64% and it’s been doing quite well against the current meta.

Mid Range Shaman: No Surprises here as it’s one of the most dominant decks the game has ever seen. I’ve had a score of 36-16 versus Mid Range Shaman and I feel all the variants listed above except C’thun Warrior are quite favored if you are always keeping their maximum burst damage with Bloodlust in check and actively analyze their possible threats and means of removal. Curator Warrior would be my pick here even though stats from data reports suggest Fatigue/Yogg Warrior is better simply because of how efficiently teched the Curator Warrior is versus Shaman and ends the game fast enough, while the Fatigue decks often seem to run out of steam once all threats are dealt with. However, it’s a niche deck and takes time to master compared to something like N’zoth Warrior which is a straightforward and linear win condition and if you want something effective without spending time learning the intricacies and get some stars on ladder then N’zoth is the way to go!

Malygos Druid: Malygos Druid is quite good against control Warrior if they manage to keep the pressure going and with so many big minions at their disposal you need to be extremely careful about your health pool because of their burst potential. The best way to deal with the burst damage is by looking for Justicar in the mulligan itself and plan for their removal. While it’s an even matchup on paper I have a score of 23-11 against the deck which is substantially favored but I have been lucky to face them mostly as C’thun Warrior which has the edge over them due to Twin Emperor Vek’lor being really hard to deal with and the high amount of armor gain you have access to with Ancient Shieldbearers to get out of lethal range.

Control Warrior: The mirror matchups almost always go to fatigue and it’s all about grinding out your opponent. Control Warrior takes the third spot in popularity in my matchups and there is one clear winner when it comes to Control Warrior vs Control Warrior matches – it’s C’thun Warrior. If you plan your win condition right you will be able to absolutely destroy your opponent if they are N’zoth Warrior or Fatigue Warrior due to the multiple C’thun win condition.

Tempo Mage: While there have been some Freeze Mages that pop up here and then it’s mostly been Tempo Mage more often than not and  if  you manage to stabilize and neutralize their early game you will have absolutely no difficulty winning, but that is an uphill task by itself due  to how much burn they have. You should take as less damage as possible and try to look for your armor gain tools as soon as you deal with their 1-3 drops, because that is when they go all aggressive and start burning you down. When it comes to Freeze Mage, it is one of the most biased matchups in your favor and you should not have any trouble at all dealing with them as long as you hard mulligan for Justicar Trueheart and other armor gain cards.

Hunter: There are too many builds of Hunter right not to pin point a single deck that is  the most popular and we are better off talking about the class as a whole when it comes to the matchup because of how closely knit the strategies across the decks are mostly. Even though my stats show I faced one more Warlock than Hunter, a lot of it has to do with the balance patch which kept Hunters at bay for a while but there has been a resurgence of the class in the recent past. It’s arguably the most difficult matchup even though you see a positive winrate in the stats. They have exceptional tools to win the attrition game against you and you have no tools to efficiently deal with their sticky minions. You have to give your best and throw every ounce of removal to negate their tempo. Secret Hunter can be tricky to maneuver against and Cat Trick is one of the scariest cards against the deck. Try to not fall low on health and keep your health pool as high as possible.

Conclusion

These are the top builds of Control Warrior that you can try on ladder and I’ll probably be picking N’zoth Warrior for the Heroic Brawl coming this weekend simply because of how fun it is to play. I played all of these decks at Legend ranks and climbed up to Rank 21 Legend on the Europe server, however I did not use any of them to climb to legend but I feel they are potent enough on any rank whatsoever since the meta between Legend ranks and non Legend ranks hardly have any differences except I tend to face a lot of Renolock, something that did not happen before I hit legend. Hope you guys  have fun with the deck and get the season rewards of your choice with Control Warrior!