Sometimes you just have to take some time to appreciate the classics. While some (many) people hate facing down a Paladin with Argent Squire or Divine Favor in their deck, I truly do not think it gets any better than Aggro Paladin. It will always have a place in my heart as the first deck I ever seriously laddered with, and I always look forward to when people bring it to legend. This week’s list comes from GeioRay_HS, and is a lot of the old aggro shell mixed in with some very strong new additions. It is not easy to take an old archetype and adapt it to a new world, but when it does happens it is usually good to analyze from a deck building standpoint. This is because looking at old styles in new ways can help you figure out how to sculpt cards towards a specific meta and fine tune other lists you might be working on.
Every time a new set comes out, it is always a good idea to look back on the older lists that were once good in different times. While Aggro Paladin did not have the oomph that its Secret brother did, a new meta and new format gives it a chance to shine. What I really love about this list is that it really adapts to the current meta, making it strong against both Aggro Shaman and Zoo (the two most popular decks right now). There are a lot of cards in this list that I would never have even tried to put into an aggro Paladin shell, and they really do some work. Surprises are always good in Hearthstone, and this deck has quite a few.
There are many strange inclusions in this list, and Vilefin Inquisitor is definitely one of them. The 1/3 murloc has no real synergy in the deck and the new hero power does nothing with any of our cards (making 1/1 murlocs is the same as making 1/1 recruits). So, the question then becomes, why is it in the list? The reason is because, like so many good aggro one drops, of its body. We have gotten to the point in the game where, unless you are a heavy control deck, you need to get the ball rolling early. Every popular list in the early days of the new meta has some way to get early board control, which they then use to control the entire game. This is almost always done with minions, with both people contesting each other to try and get the upper hand. However, while most of those contests are going to end in even trades, having a minion have three health changes that completely.
To help visualize why this card is so strong you need to think about Zoo. The aggressive Warlock build is a deck whose entire gameplan is built around the idea of playing cards on turn one and never losing the board. While Flame Imp helps with that to a certain extent, Voidwalker is their best one drop because of how well it can trade with other early plays (especially when it’s buffed). Three health is becoming extremely important in Hearthstone, mainly because it is the benchmark that many early game cards cannot hit. While Vilefin Inquisitor does not get bigger with spells or overload, in this type of early tempo/aggro hybrid it can really bring the pain. This deck is all about the subtle victories that help you steal the board and then hurt your opponent by using that presence to push through as much damage as you can. Getting a 1/3 helps you begin that journey on turn one, because you can combine it with Divine Strength, Abusive Sergeant or Blessing of Might to create a nightmare for your opponent.
This, to me, is by far the most genius inclusion in this list. Absolutely. Genius. Divine Strength is an incredibly boring card that only does one thing, which is buffs minions. However, it buffs minions. Plus 1/2 does not seem like a big deal, but going off of the above paragraph, to understand the buff you need to look at the deck’s make up as well as the current meta. While the game has slowed down (despite what some people believe), a lot of it still predicated on what you can do during the early turns. Every deck is going to try to get some semblance of board presence as fast as they can, and that is especially pivotal for an aggro deck like this one. Almost all of your one drops are plenty strong on their own, but giving them an extra attack and two extra health instantly turns them into much larger threats that can just ruin early plays.
Divine Strength is very simple in its design and uneventful in what it does. However, it is one of the primary reasons this deck is able to win games. Giving your 2/1’s the buff instantly turns them into 3/3’s, which then can freely trade into things like Knife Juggler, Northshire Cleric, Mana Wyrm or Tunnel Trogg and live to tell the tale. If that happens, you can they quickly build up your board and control the pace of the rest of the game. It is also very strong on Flame Juggler (giving you a 3/5), or the Murlocs (which give you a 2/5). This deck is all about making the most out of your mana and early minions. At one mana, this card fits right into that plan and gives you a way to just blow past many other decks where you would normally stall out or fall behind.
I have to completely honest here, I hate this two drop. I hate it, I hate it, I hate. It has a swingy ability, usually misses its target, and is a very poor topdeck. That being said, it is still in the list. Why? Because, as much as I don’t like it, Flame Jugger is the most proactive two drop in the game. A wide range of early minions have one health, and this can help kill something while dropping your own board presence into play. In fact, a proper juggler against a deck like Zoo or Hunter can immediately swing the game in your favor. As a divine shield deck, you always want to pressure your opponent through board presence, and this does help with that goal. With Knife Juggler getting hit by the old nerf hammer and most other two drops being very stagnant, Flame Jugger is a unique space because it has an immediate effect on the board as well as enough health to crash into minions and live.
Though I do not like this card, I don’t think there are many better options. The other proactive two drops you can run in an aggro deck are Knife Juggler and Mad Bomber. Juggler is solid (as any Zoo player can contest) but it rarely comes down on turn two, especially with the nerf to its attack. You typically want to play it later in the game, and without Muster for Battle or Equality it doesn’t quite have the same punch in Paladin that it once did. Mad Bomber is a very strong two drop in a lot of situations (mainly because of its aggressive stats), but too often it blow up your own stuff, which absolutely cannot happen here. If you are looking to replace the Flame Jugglers I would look to inherent value cards, like Bilefin Tidehunter, which is a very strong package for a two drop.
One of the newer cards in this thirty, Rallying Blade is in a very interesting place in this list. A 3/2 weapon for three is by no means a bad deal, and its ability is just icing on the cake. While you only have four minions with true divine shield (2 Argent Squire and 2 Argent Horserider), you also have access to Seal of Champions, Selfless Hero and Argent Protector. Each of those cards are strong on their own, and getting the chance to suddenly buff them up makes them even more powerful. Surprise is always good in Hearthstone, and being able to gives your minions a sudden buff can ruin your opponent’s plans. Good player will always try to predict their opponent’s turns, and if you can throw a wrench into that mix (especially with divine shield minions that get to attack and live) you can run away with the can.
The thing to understand about Rallying Blade is how good it is beyond its ability. I always talk about the importance of seeing a card despite its ability, and that is a very important note here. While Rallying Blade has a very strong ability, you want to see it as simply a 3/2 weapon that is used to protect the board or push through damage. While four health is becoming increasingly relevant with minions like Totem Golem or Twilight Elder running around, three damage does a very nice job against most early minions. Six damage for three mana is not a bad deal in an aggro deck, but the sword is here to mainly cement your early drops and make sure your opponent cannot stick a minion. In this way, the weapon is probably the best tempo play you have. Turn three is a very sweet spot to hit for an aggressive weapon, and this does everything the deck wants in addition to its synergy with your shields.
Call me old fashioned, but I cannot imagine running an Aggro Paladin deck without Leeroy Jenkins. The chicken-loving legendary was not in the original list, and for the love of God I do not understand why. Like the old iterations of Aggro Shaman, Aggro Paly spends most of the early game setting up minions and then ends with powerful burst. While that burst is still minion based (usually in the form of buffs) a lot of it has to do with Leeroy. When playing the first version of the list I would have multiple games where my opponent would stabilize at ten or less health and I would think to myself “How do I win? I don’t have Leeroy”. Yes, the whole idea behind this list is that you will never fall behind on board, but that is just not reality. You cannot sculpt a list to only live in dream scenarios, you have to have a safety valve or emergency button that you can go to if things go wrong. This card is that valve, letting you push damage in your early game and always giving you an out or opportunity for huge chunks of lethal damage should your opponent manage to stabilize. If you play this deck right Divine Favor is going to draw you a ton of cards, and you want those to push you towards Leeroy, not more one drops.
The five decks I have seen the most so far.
Yep. I mean, what do you want me to say here? Aggro Shaman continues its rampage across the ladder, and the higher you climb the more of them there are. However, that does not mean this is a hopeless battle. Far from it. This entire game is going to come down to the first couple of turns, because once you get board it is very hard your opponent to come back. Shaman has the strongest one/two punch in the game, but you can simply overwhelm them with small, efficient minions. Most of this game is going to be spent trading. While you do need to get damage in, you want to typically wear Shaman down and run them out of cards before that happens. Try to do everything you can to limit their board presence. Shaman does not play well from behind and if you can get them to burn your minions instead of your face you should come out on top.
The two cards you really need to watch out for here are Feral Spirit and Lightning Storm. The wolves are a problem simply because three health is annoying to punch through, and they will often buy your opponent enough time to set up their bigger plays. Tuskarr Totemic is also worth of mention because of how it can fill up a board, but the wolves have taunt and more health. In that way, they really slow you down. On the other hand, Lightning Storm has become very common in all forms of Shaman decks on the ladder. Even if you are playing against hyper aggro you need to always keep the clear in mind because of how strong it can be against you. If you have a chance to preserve your divine shields, you should probably do so just in case.
Aggro Shaman’s partner in crime, Zoo just keeps getting stronger and more refined as the days move on. Like Shaman, this is a deck you can simply overpower, but if you fall behind you will never have a chance to keep up. This game is all about the early board and making the most out of every single mana you have available. For that reason, Divine Strength and Selfless hero are the two cards that can really blow this thing out of the water. Zoo is a deck that, without Imp-losion[/card], can only kill cards equal to the number of minions they have. For instance, if they have two minions on board, they can only kill two of your minions (barring Knife Juggler). As a result, anytime you can trade into one of their cards and live, you can pull ahead. Both of those cards help you do that, as does Argent Protector. Work hard to set them up well.
An important thing to remember during this match is the way damage works from both sides of the board. Zoo is a deck that loves to lifetap, meaning they take a lot of damage and don’t really focus on their health. In this way, there are many scenarios where you can just pressure them by attacking face and forcing them to react. While you typically don’t want Zoo to have initiative when it comes to trading, putting them on the back foot can be a very strong move. The only thing you want to be aware of when attacking over trading is Defender of Argus. Past turn four the card can lead to come very big blowouts, which is why airing on the side of trading is usually a better play. Also, keep Sea Giant in mind here. The 8/8 is one of the few ways Zoo can go right over your head, and if you flood the board too much and it comes down to early you are often going to lose.
Though not as popular as it was in the early days of Whispers, C’thun Druid is still around and still extremely strong. That does not bode well for you as this is by far your hardest matchup. With the omission of Equality you have no real way to deal with large taunts outside of Keeper of Uldaman. That is fine on curve, but Druid has never once played on curve. Rather, they power out their big minions early, which can really stonewall you. The way to win this game is to simply go for it. That means pushing through as hard as possible. That is the only way you’re going to get them to fall behind and take them down before they start playing their bigger threats. The card you really need to be aware of is, as always, Swipe. The four mana spell is made to take out decks like this, so try to to always protect your minions with divine shields past turn three.
You typically need to get this game over by turn seven, and you absolutely want to end by ten. The reasons for these benchmarks are C’thun himself and Twin Emperor Vek’lor. Each of those cards completely ends the game in their own way. While Druid may not have C’thun on turn ten, you aren’t going to survive if they do. As a result, every turn past ten you are always one draw of instantly getting locked out. In addition, the twin is just too much for your to handle. Without Equality getting through two 4/6 taunts is going to be just about impossible. If you have board when they come down you may be able to push through, but it is usually going to cost you so many resources to recover. This is the match where you need to be hyper aggressive and do everything you can kill them before they stabilize.
Though N’zoth Paladin pops up here and there, its numbers pale in comparison to Valeera. Rogue seems to be the strongest deathrattle deack at the moment, combining a strong curve with powerful minions and good removal. The way you battle them is by playing purely tempo. While they have both Backstab and SI:7 Agent, most of their good stuff doesn’t come down until the middle turns of the game. That means you can really start out hot, buffing your minions and setting up divine shield. Rogue’s best two tools against you are Dark Iron Skulker and Fan of Knives. If you can get out of range of each of those cards they have no AOE, meaning that you can swarm the board as much as you want. Those are the types of positions you want to put your opponent in, because the longer the game goes the closer Rogue gets to N’zoth,the Corrputor, which is always going to end things.
The other card you always need to watch out for is Defender of Argus. While deathrattle is very good at getting the board, they run no healing and almost no taunts. The four drop is pretty much the only way they can stop an overwhelming push and mitigate their damage intake. Going back to the idea of tempo, you want to clear their minions as you go (as long as the trades are favorable). It may be daunting to try and battle with so many deathrattle minions, but the age of Piloted Shredder is over. Almost every deathrattle card in the game gives value instead of more board presence. This is good news because it means you are able to use your buffs like in other matchups without having to worry about getting blown out.
While C’thun Warrior is undoubtedly strong, I am surprised to see how much of them are on the ladder. While it is easy to look at this matchup and assume it is tough, anyone who has ever played Aggro Paladin knows how much you are favored. This is not your easiest matchup, but Warrior has a really hard time because most of their turns are going to be spent clearing one minion or using all of their mana to wipe the board. In that way, you are always going to be able to control the pace of the game, and as long as you have priority you can win. The biggest advantage you have in this matchup is Divine Favor, which you need to use at the opportune moment. Playing to favor is always important with this deck, but here it is your win condition. Try your best to dump your hand in a way where you force out your opponent’s while also setting up having little to no cards by the middle turns. In addition, try to do your best to watch out for Brawl, Revenge and Ravaging Ghoul. Most Warriors run some combination of these three, so you typically want to play around them as best you can. Brawl is the hardest hitting since you cannot get around it with divine shield. As such, hold minions back past turn five unless you are specifically going for a big favor.
One drops. One drops, one drops, one drops. You are a deck that wins the game by overpowering your small minions, and you absolutely need to find your small minions to get a hold of any game. Your must keeps are Vilefin Inquisitor, Argent Squire, Abusive Sergeant, Selfless Hero and Sir Finley Mrrgglton. Beyond that, you want the rest of your hand to react to those cards. For instance, Divine Strength and Argent Protector are usually too weak to keep on their own, but they should always be kept with early minions.
In terms of situational cards, Blessing of Might is a card you only want to keep early if you have a strong push or either Argent Squire or Vilefin Inquisitor. Keeper of Uldaman can be kept with a good curve against Druid and Shaman, and Flame Juggler should always be kept with a one drop, the coin or against aggro like Warlock or Hunter. Divine Favor should be kept against control decks, and you want Rallying Blade with a good curve coming before it. Finally, Argent Horserider should always be kept with the coin and a good curve, as should Truesilver Champion.
Man it feels good doing what you know. I don’t often take a trip to the aggro side here on Weekly Legends, but it is fun to get back to my roots. I know not everyone likes teaming up with Uther, but this is a really cool list that is a good lesson in both board and mana control. You need to optimize everything you play, and I have a lot of fun doing that. Straight aggro decks can get tiring, but one where you are constantly playing tempo is a lot of fun. Hope you enjoyed the list, and until next time, may you always mulligan for one drops.