Though it has been discussed so many times on Weekly Legends, this week we return to the element of surprise. I will never stop talking about surprise in relation to this game because it is one of the central-most factors to deck building and one of the key elements of card games. Even though no one ever really talks about it, having a deck or certain cards that come out of nowhere really gives your deck depth and helps you win many matchups that you would normally lose. We take a trip to that well this week with a Warrior deck that appears to be a pretty stock control list. However, upon further inspection you see it is actually an OTK (or huge damage) deck that aims to kill your opponent in one turn. This was created by apdropx and is one of the coolest combinations I have seen in some time.
It is rare that I come across a deck so cool and unique I wish I had come up with it, but that is the case here. Not only do you have some awesome card choices at your disposal (as we will see below) but I don’t think I’ve ever seen these two archetypes blended in this way. The closest comparison I can think of is the old Reno Combolock decks that ran both the classic Warlock Control shell with a Leeroy finisher. However, that didn’t go in quite as deep, and wasn’t as surprising, at this list. If you have ever played Control Warrior before you will be familiar with how this plays, but piloting it is going to feel brand new.
Jeweled Scarab is a strange card, but it is a good one. Though typically seen as much too weak for a two drop slot in today’s world of Totem Golems and Cult Sorcerer‘s, the beetle finds its way into the deck for two reasons. The first, and most obvious, reason is its interaction with The Curator. While we are going to discuss the seven drop and its package much more in-depth later on, being able to go through your deck and put a Jeweled Scarab into your hand is very powerful. The insect also fits right into your curve and can be played alongside other mana-intensive card as well. Getting to wipe the board with Corrupted Seer and then put down an extra body and get a card is very strong. It also pairs nicely with Brawl.
The other reason Jeweled Scarab makes the cut is because of its inherent card advantage. Being able to put something on the board, no matter how small, has always been strong in Hearthstone. This ability is particularly powerful in Control because of how badly you want to extend the game and soak up damage. For instance, if your opponent runs their 3/2 into your 1/1 to kill it, you just saved yourself three health and likely bought an extra turn. On top of that, the little beetle opens up a lot of options for you. Though it may not seem like it, Warrior has some pretty good three mana cards, especially for control. You generally want to use this to find Bash, Shield Block or Ravaging Ghoul, though a Frothing Berserker can be great on an empty board. If none of those are available, then you adapt to the situation at hand. While the scarab may be low-impact, it can really help you over the course of a game.
As someone with a lot of experience playing OTK Warrior decks, I know how important using Faceless Manipulator is. There are two modes to this card, and each is key to understanding the way the deck operates as a whole. The first part is the finishing combo. For those that don’t know, the goal of this deck is to control the game until you get to a point where you can use Charge on a free (or low-costed) Arcane Giant and then Faceless it for an whopping twenty damage. You want to conserve this card as much as you can and use it to catch your opponent by surprise. However, that is not always going to be the case, and you don’t always need 20 damage to win a game.
As strong as it is for your finisher, Facless Manipulator does not always need to be apart of the combo. A lot of people will miss good targets or clutch copies because they are stuck on the “OTK” part of the deck. Do not fall into that trap. There are plenty of times where this needs to become something like a Ysera, Ragnaros the Firelord, or an Archmage Antonidas. There have also been many games where I have turned this into a charge minion to trade on board and keep pressure off of my face. This is not the first mode of the card, and you should only use it as a last resort, but it is important to understand that the option exists. Also remember that you can find lethal sometimes simply by copying your opponent’s huge threat and then giving it Charge. While they may suspect Arcane Giant, they aren’t going to count on taking ten from a speedy Edwin Vancleef.
More AOE has never been a bad thing, especially in Control Warrior. Corrupted Seer is not a normal card you would expect to see teaming up with Garrosh, but it has won me countless games with this list. The murloc, just like Jeweled Scarab, slides into the deck because of how it works with The Curator. This is not a card you generally want clogging up your hand, which is why it is not a two-of. However, being able to run one that you can always fetch if you need to, changes that dynamic greatly. That means this card is often going to be drawn later in the game, or it is going to come “free” alongside your seven drop legendary. It is even good on curve, but being able to fetch up two damage AOE out of nowhere is more than helpful, especially after your opponent finishes dealing with a 4/7 taunt.
Unlike most silver bullets, Corrupted Seer has the ability to stand up on its own. The 2/3 may cost six mana, but having a one-use Baron Geddon that also can be tutored for is absolutely fantastic in both this deck and this meta. There are many times where double Brawl or a Ravaging Ghoul/Revenge just won’t cut it. Zoo is making a solid comeback, and decks like Hunter and Shaman just love to flood the board these days. Two damage hits a lot of the current aggro hard, especially because you get a body on top of it. Another bonus here is that you can often drop this down after running out two Brawls to really catch your opponent by surprise. It does not come up often, but I will try to bait my opponent into using their second Violet Teacher or Forbidden Ritual in this way if I can afford it.
One of the best cards in the list, The Curator really helps out with both the control game and overall deck consistency. Though its targets shift from list to list, here the seven drop can grab Alexstrasza, Corrupted Seer and Jeweled Scarab. Those are three strong options that all help build to your overall gameplan. Grabbing the dragon is especially important because it just gives you even more chances to set up your combo. Being able to go through your deck and find indivudual cards (als known as tutoring) is the most powerful ability across all card games. It is even better in Hearthstone because of how much impact one card can have. A 4/7 with taunt (which is inherently a control card in its own right) that can fetch you card advantage, three bodies, and a finisher is just stupidly strong. Consistency is key to this deck, and this card oozes it.
The final piece of the Curator Exodia, Alexstrasza is a combo card that also doubles as a control finisher. The legendary dragon has long been a part of Control Warrior because of how well she slides into the late game plan of being able to be played both offensively and defensively. The ability to put an 8/8 down onto an empty or small board while also cutting your opponent’s health in half instantly puts you in control of priority. That can be a huge problem for a lot of decks that like to play aggressively, such as Shaman and Mage. In addition, there are many times (epsecially when you and your opponent are topdecking) where you win by slamming Alex down and healing yourself out of burst range. That type of versatility is extremely important to understand.
Know when to use the dragon on your opponent to set up an OTK turn and know when you are going to need to use her on yourself. This distinction is always important in any combo deck, and choosing the right mode is going to lead to many wins, while choosing the wrong one will often lead to a loss. The overarching idea here is to use Alex on yourself when playing against aggro and on your opponent when playing against control. However, it is not always that simple. You need to read the situation at hand and always see how much damage you can amass. If you can set up two turn lethal without putting yourself in danger of dying, always take the chance. On the other hand, if you have no damage it is best to hold onto Alex in case your opponent ever puts you in a tight corner. The only exception to this is when you can run her out on an empty board, which you always should do.
The five decks I see the most when grinding up the ladder.
The bane of the ladder and current public enemy number one, Aggro Shaman still stands tall amid a sea of death and destruction. The hyper-powered list is not going to be your hardest matchup, but it sure isn’t going to be your easiest. This game almost always comes down to how fast they can assemble Doomhammer, and how many Rockbiter Weapons they have to go along with it. The windfury weapon is their only real way to break through your armor, and if they ever have to use their precious burn on your board they are never going to be able to keep up. For that reason, you should be able to take this down as long as you can keep their minions in check.
Most Shamans these days depend on board presence to win games. Tunnel Trogg and Totem Golem are as strong as ever, but Thing from Below and Tuskarr Totemic have also made a huge comeback. You need to kill everything your opponent plays as effectively as possible. This will really bring down their damage potential, and usually ruin their overloaded curve. Just like when playing Zoo, you want to work hard to remove anything they play. Rockbiter Weapon, Abusive Sergeant and Flametongue Totem are all ways they can use their minions to pour on damage and you have to be ready. Armor up as much as possible and always try to sneak in uses of your hero power. Also, if you opponent has a Doomhammer you should at ten when calculating their potential damage to account for rockbiter.
Midrange Hunter could very well be the most popular deck around, and for good reason. It has some of the best minions in the game, some of the strongest burst, and an overwhelming amount of consistency. For those reasons, this is going to be a very tough matchup. Though you operate a little differently, Hunter has always been able to stand up to Control Warrior extremely well. Not only do they have a lot of burst coming from their hand as well as their hero power, but they pack a lot of deathrattle cards that your spot removal just doesn’t effectively deal with. You can win this game if it last long enough, but that is rarely going to be the case. Typically you want to save Brawl for Call of the Wild, and you should always have a gameplan for clearing a turn six Savannah Highmane. Beyond that, always look for ways to gain armor and use your hero power as much as possible. Though gaining two life gets nullified by Steady Shot, breaking even if better than losing life. The biggest rule of this matchup is to always clear out beasts to prevent Houndmaster and almost always use Alexstrasza on yourself.
Tempo Mage does what it always has, which is punch you in the teeth early and then burn you to death in a blaze of fire later on. That gameplan is one of the strongest in Hearthstone and will ruin many, many decks. However, you can easily laugh it off. This is a game where you want to force Tempo Mage’s hand in any way that you can. That is to say, you need to try and get much burn from them as possible. This will keep them off of the early board and make it so you take less damage across the game. While your later minions do this well, even running out a turn three Acolyte of Pain to eat a Frostbolt can be very helpful. Yes, this only draws you one card, but it stops them from playing a minions and soaks up three damage. As with any aggro deck, your main goal should be to outlast their burn. Unlike most lists, Tempo Mage only has a finite amount of spells they can run out before they concede to your armor.
The biggest thing to remember here is that today’s Tempo Mage lists have many more minions than their past iterations. While they still run the early game, they usually pack a few heavier threats such as Ragnaros the Firelord or Archmage Antonidas. For that reason, you want to try and conserve one hard-removal spell (if you can afford to) over the course of the game. The only exception to that rule is Water Elemental, which you need to kill on sight. This is a matchup you will always be able to win if you can keep your armor up and your removal sharp. Take down everything your opponent plays and never let them fully enact a gameplan. This will cripple them early and force them to rely on their spells, which is where you want them to be.
Note: You never want to attack your Fiery War Axe into your opponent’s Mirror Image unless you have a very specific reason for needing to get through the taunts.
As much hype as beast got, Yogg Druid is still holding strong as Malfurion’s main deck. The spell-based Druid list is one of the most consistent (if not annoying) decks in the game and it has a ton of powerful interactions at its disposal. This game if often going to come down to a 50/50 matchup of board presence vs. AOE. Though you want to conserve your hearty spot removal like Shield Slam and Execute, those do little good against a board or small tokens. You really need to set up things Brawl, Corrupted Seer or Ravaging Ghoul to win this one.
The way you beat Druid is simply by outlasting them. Conserve your AOE and do everything within your power to make sure they never put themselves into a position for a strong Savage Roar. Today’s Yogg Druid runs limited ways to flood the board, but they do have more threats. While there are times where you are going to have to burn an early Execute or Shield Slam, always look for alternatives if you can. Ragnaros the Firelord and Ancient of War are both very common. You also want to run out Sylvanas Windrunner whenever you have a chance to do so. She’s even fine on an empty board as a tempo play to prevent your opponent from adding minions to the board.
One more important thing to remember here is that they will often have and play Yogg, Saron Hope’s End. There is really nothing you can do about the Old God, but applying pressure or dropping any early Alexstrasza can force your opponent to use him early when they don’t have that many spells casted.
Every deck has its day, but if you’re Zoo that day never goes away. The sticky Warlock deck is still around and still out for all sorts of blood. This matchup is one of your better ones. Not only do you pack a whole mess of board clears that just ruin their day, but you can stack up a lot of health. The goal of this game is remove all minions your opponent plays to force them into supbar situations where they need to play a raw Abusive Sergeant or Knife Juggler just to keep to their curve. Once that happens, you can often just grind them down until you get a big threat to stick.
Even if you’re ahead in this match it is important to never get lazy. Today’s versions of Zoo (especially Discardlock) pack a ton of rapid damage that ranges from Doomguard and Leeroy Jenkins to Soulfire and Power Overwhelming. Each of those can put on a lot of pressure and often kill you from the mid-teens. If you cannot fully clear your opponentn’s board you should work hard to think of the possible buffs they could have and then compare them to your health. It is also important to watch for lethal anyway that you can. Zoo loves to lifetap, and they will rapidly drain their own life total throughout the course of a game. For this reason, Alexstrasza is mostly going to be used on yourself and you want to play a big minion if you ever get the opportunity to do so.
This deck mulligans exactly like a traditional Control Warrior deck. You never want to keep any combo pieces (Faceless Manipulator, Charge, Arcane Giant) and you always want to look for Fiery War Axe, Slam, Bash, Jeweled Scarab, Acolyte of Pain, and Shield Block. Those are the cards that are going to jump-start the game, and both Slam and Axe have top priority.
In terms of situational keeps, Execute is very strong with an activator while facing Shaman or Druid, and Shield Slam is a good keep alongside early armor. You want Ravaging Ghoul or Revenge when playing against Zoo. Ghoul is also a solid keep versus Shaman and Hunter as well. Though you almost never want to keep your later game cards, it can be a good idea to keep Brawl with a strong opening against a flood deck like Yogg Druid, and the coin plus a good curve makes Corrupted Seer a solid keep against aggro. Finally, Blood to Ichor should always be kept against Shaman, Zoo and when going second against Hunter.
I love the element of surprise, and I will never stop covering decks that use it as a weapon. This list just runs over so many people who never see the Arcane Giant package coming. When building decks (and playing games) it is always important to hide what you are doing. This is a game that is constantly dissected, evaluated and broken down (which is why you’re here in the first place) so being able to throw a wrench into the system can go a long way. Until next time, may you always swing for twenty.