Weekly Legends: Dragon Warlock!

After the buzz from Blackrock died down, it didn’t take long for everyone to realize that dragons, in all of their infinite glory, weren’t all what people cracked them up to be. In fact, it is rare to encounter a dragon deck on the ladder at all these days, and most aren’t that good. However, […]

Introduction

After the buzz from Blackrock died down, it didn’t take long for everyone to realize that dragons, in all of their infinite glory, weren’t all what people cracked them up to be. In fact, it is rare to encounter a dragon deck on the ladder at all these days, and most aren’t that good. However, while Paladin, Priest, and even Warrior, couldn’t sustain the beastly lizards, this decks legend list shows that some, who have a much more infernal power, can.

Warlock is not a class that seems like it would be a good fit for dragons, but time and time again, lifetap shows that it can support any type of deck. However, you should not be fooled. Despite its name, this is a control deck that plays almost exactly like Control Warrior does. You wear down your opponent with solid removal and card advantage, and then end the game with huge finishers. While Warrior wins on the back of Alexstrasza and Grommash Hellscream, this deck has Lord Jaraxxus and Nefarian. The goal of this is deck is to constantly stay alive, and, in doing so, just keep wearing your opponent down until they run out of things to play.

The crux of this deck is that it has two modes. With Twlight Drake, there is always the option of the early “Handlock” package where you can just fill your hand to dig for your middle and late game threats. However, also know there are many games where you will not be tapping for the first few turns, but rather just trying to keep control of the early board. Many games will go to fatigue, and plenty will go down to the last card or two, but that is usually a good thing as, not only can this deck match all others punch for punch, but it is built to excel in those situations.

Key Cards

This list is just filled to the brim with strange cards, and while I do not have time to explain them all, I will try and cover some of the more intricate ones.

Blackwing Technician

The number one rule of this deck is to stay alive. As such, while you always want to lifetap, you are largely dependent on your first turns to go toe to toe with other decks (Paladin, Mage, Zoo, Hunter) that depend on dominating the early game. While you have many tools, such as Mortal Coil, Zombie Chow and Dark Bomb, for those situations, an early Blackwing Technician can also stop those decks right in their tracks.

The technician is an extremely powerful card that has exceeded my expectations time and time again. In fact (as will be discussed later) there are certain games where you should keep a large dragon just to turn this on. A 2/4 for three (as I have played it from time to time) is very underwhelming, and actually feels quite bad. However, the trade off to that is that a 3/5 is a monster that kills almost everything in the first turns. As a result, this card on curve gives you one of the best chances of making it to the later turns of the game. Not only does it trade well, but people will almost always use some type of resource to kill it, which is also important to buying you time.

Blackwing Corruptor

I will continually compare this deck to Control Warrior, as that is the best way to envision exactly how it plays. As such, if this deck is Control Warrior, then Blackwing Corruptor (and Dark Bomb) serves as your weapons. What I mean by that is, you want to use them to get rid of anything midgame threat that isn’t worth Rend Blackhand, Siphon Soul or Big Game Hunter. In fact, you always want to think “can Blackwing Corruptor kill this?” before using any other kind of removal. That’s a good way to use this deck, and the kind of mindset you want to keep in mind. You have very little big removal options here, and you never want to use something like Siphon Soul on a midgame threat.

Besides being efficient removal, Corruptor can be a huge tempo swing. They really are just like Fire Elemental in this regard and, while a 5/4 is much worse than a 6/5, they still put a hefty body onto the board. Again, as Control Warrior tries to bait out removal with Shieldmaidens, this deck does the same thing with Blackwing Corruptors and Volcanic Drakes. Many games I have won by having a Warrior burn an Execute or Shield Slam on one of the 5/4’s, and then have no answer to a late game Chromaggus or Nefarian.

Volcanic Drake

Dragons deck needs dragons. A very obvious statement, but one that is very important when it comes to this section. I do not know why HenningHotS chose to include Volcanic Drake in his original list, but it was an excellent pick. Much like Blackwing Corruptor, these six drop dragons beg for removal, in addition to comboing very well with both sweepers and board trading. They turn on a lot of your key cards, and, because they almost always come cheap, they really can help you round out a curve quite nicely.

One of the most important things to understand about the drakes is that you don’t always need to get the max value out of them. This is a trap that many players will run into from time to time, and it is important to be aware of. While sometimes you will play the drakes for one or zero mana (value!), many times there will be no reason to go to all of that work. In a deck like this, you just need to have some midgame threats that pressure your opponent into reacting. Playing a 6/4 for six is sometimes perfectly acceptable for this reason, though most of the time you will play them for three or four. Even then, it’s a good deal and gives you just more ways to protect your late game.

Rend Blackhand

I’m gonna say it, this card is good. Check that: really, really good. Rend Blackhand may not be the largest minion in the world, but I defy you to find one non-Hunter deck right now that doesn’t run a legend (and most Hunters still run Loatheb). Sure, a lot of times, he will be an eight mana BGH, but that means you can kill two BGH targets throughout the game, which can be great against decks like Control Warrior, Druid and Paladin. Not only that, but he also has the power to slay many things that BGH cannot, such as Loatheb, Emperor Thaurissan, Sylvanas Windrunner, Al’akir the Windlord, Vol’jin and Tirion Fordring. That versatility is key.

While he may seem very underwhelming stat wise (and he almost always dies when he comes down), he is important for what he is. Just like with the Blackwing Corruptors, he needs to be answered. In fact, more often than not he will eat a key piece of removal. Eight damage to the face is not joke, and will bring someone from thirty to zero very quickly. Sometimes he will even take a BGH hit, which is a trade you (and Nefarian) will take almost every single time.

Twisting Nether

While what it does is self explanatory, I had to mention Twisting Nether. As aforementioned, this deck is built on the precipice of dragging the game out. Twisting Nether does this for two key reasons. One, while it does not answer death rattles, being able to completely wipe a board (or most of a board) is a very important tool that won me a surprisingly high number of games. Not only does this combo with Volcanic Drake, but you can also just use it when you are Jaraxxus to ice a key point in the game. Even against more controlling decks, it still can act as a very expensive piece of removal.

The other reason Twisting Nether is so powerful is because no one sees it coming. I have talked on end about the power of surprise in Hearthstone, and how good cards can be if people don’t play around them. There are some games you will just win because your opponent plays too many large minions into this card, or they put two of their end minions on the board on the same time. It is like Lightbomb in that sense, but nobody will ever be aware it exists. Yes, it kills your minions too, but there is never a point where you are going to use this while you are ahead on the board.

Chromaggus/Nefarian

No dragon deck would be complete without the inclusion of two big dragons (which I always think is the right amount). There is a case to play three, but you have enough power in this deck, and you do not need more finishers. So, first thing’s first, where is Ysera? While she is undoubtedly very good, being able to win the game if going unchecked, the truth of the matter is she is simply not as strong as the other two.

Chromaggus is an auto include in this list because, not only does he give you an extra bit of staying power (in addition to being a dragon) your hero power makes it so he will always give you an extra card. Yes, he dies or get silenced 99% of the time the turn after he is played, but just one extra Lord Jaraxxus, Siphon Soul or Nefarian can end the game on the spot. That kind of punch gives the deck the longevity it needs, and makes him almost invaluable.

The other half of this combo is Nefarian, who, much like Chromaggus, gives you the extra push you need in the later stages. This is a finisher that oozes value, and can be extremely helpful during the turns right before fatigue when both players are running low on resources. Furthermore, cards like Crush, Siphon Soul, Charge, Execute, Assassinate and Swipe have won me countless games. True, not all spells are good, but the more you play him, the more you realize there are very few that don’t give you value. They are free after all.

Matchups

Face/Hybrid Hunter

By now, it should not be a surprise that Hunter starts off our list. Most decks these days are the hybrid version, but that is really just face dressed up in a different package. Your life total needs to stay high, and tapping is very tricky. However, despite both of these things, I find Hunter to generally be one of the easier matchups. The plethora of early cards, mixed with two Antique Healbots, Siphon Soul and Lord Jaraxxus usually make it so you are very hard to kill. This is not a game where you need to burst, just trade and take as little damage as possible.

The only taunts you run are Sludge Belchers, which usually fall victim to Ironbeak Owls. As such, you solely depend on your healing to make it through this one. Just always be aware of how much damage they can do, and when to stop tapping. The other reason you have a good chance of winning, is you can take down their life total extremely quickly. While most decks have ways to deal with cards like Blackwing Corruptor and Volcanic Drake, they don’t. As a result, you can quickly turn the tables and make it so they have to react to your cards. If that ever happens, the game is usually over.

Zoo

I don’t care what Blizzard says, this deck is a problem that needs to be fixed. Not only is Zoo a bad matchup for this deck, but it is a bad matchup for just about every other deck in the game. It is so hard to combat their early plays, that even if you do get a sweeper, things like Voidcaller, Nerubian Egg and Imp-losion make it almost irrelevant. The best way to win is to plan to go into fatigue at all costs and make sure they never have things on the board (which makes it quite difficult for them to get lethal).

You have to be proactive here, as being reactive will mean a sure loss. Blackwing Corruptor, along with things like Darkbomb, Mortal Coil and Hellfire help you, but they usually aren’t going to be enough. Even if you do land a minion, a Power Overwhelming or Abusive Sergeant buff can switch that extremely quickly. You have a lot of tools, but also have no silences. As a result, it is best to try to kill Voidwalkers and break eggs on your own terms. That may not be ideal, but if they can buff those minions to trade up, you will never come back.

Tempo Mage

While I am particularly intrigued about how this deck is still going strong, it does exist. More often than not, this game is a massacre. They are extremely weak to early removal, and the only real way they can win is through direct damage. However, this can be easily avoided by counting their burn and using well-timed heals. Even in the games where you do not heal, they are usually forced to use a Frostbolt or Fireball as board clears. When that happens, they aren’t going to your face, making it that much more likely you will win in the long run.

Just make it through their early game, try and take as little damage as you can, and you should be fine here. Of course, they do have their big finishers, which means you will need to be prepared to kill Dr. Boom on sight. For this, you typically want to use BGH, as Rend Blackhand and Siphon Soul should be saved for Archmage Antonidas.

Control Warrior

As Patron continues its hiatus from the ladder, Control Warrior continues its resurgence to power. This deck has all of the tools you do, but actually does it in a worse way. They have armor (which you don’t care about) and a lot of big minions (which you don’t care about). Rend Blackhand, Siphon Soul and Big Game Hunter give you longevity they don’t have, especially if they have to use Execute and Shield Slam on your lesser minions. The only real threat you need be wary of is Grommash Hellscream, which can kill you out of nowhere if you’re not careful.

The basis of this match is to keep running out your threats until you run them dry. Once they are out of removal, you can drop something like Chromaggus or Nefarian and just down them in card advantage. You want to watch out for Brawl more than anything else, and as soon as you have an open opportunity for Lord Jaraxxus, you should let him take over. Control Warrior is good at many things, but dealing with an never ending army of 6/6 demons is not one of them. Harrison Jones could be a concern, but he is rarely run these days. If you are worried about the archaeologist, simply wait until the end of the game to become Jaraxxus when they cannot afford to draw seven cards.

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Ramp Druid

While it takes a heart much braver than mine to try and play Druid in a Zoo-dominated meta, those brave souls do exist, and you need to be ready for them. Druid plays out much like the Control Warrior match, where you simply want to outlast them with bigger minions and better removal, but instead of watching out for [card]Grommash Hellscream, you need to watch out for Force of Nature/Savage Roar. As there isn’t a Druid deck these days that doesn’t run the combo, past turn nine you need to make sure to stay out of combo range at all costs.

Ramp Druid is a deck that relies on its ramp to get out later threats. However, unlike most matchups, because of the combo, their 5/5’s and middle minions actually represent lethal. Clearing is very important in this match, and can be done in a variety of ways. You will usually win this by simply applying pressure. A 3/5 for three is actually much stronger than Druid can handle, and if you keep flooding the board, they most likely will be unable to keep up. Even if they do meet you pound for pound, your late game will almost always crush them in the end.

Mulligan Guide?

While I will discuss the way to mulligan, I also want to talk about how to play the first turns with this deck. This is because, I think that is very important to understanding how this deck works. For instance, if you have a Twilight Drake and Zombie Chow in your opener, what do you do? You may want to get your Drake as large as possible, but you need to play the Chow every time. The early presence is worth so much more than an extra health or two. As stated, there are two modes for the early turns. Against things like Warrior, Paladin or Druid, you are mostly going to go with the Handlock route of life tapping to draw into your threats. However, against Hunter, Mage and Warlock, you want to try and just curve out.

Mulliganing is not very subjective here. Zombie Chow, Mortal Coil and Dark Bomb are your always keeps, while Blackwing Technician is kept with a dragon (or always with the coin). The dream is usually technician and Twilight Drake, but sometimes it is right to just keep a much slower dragon to get a 3/5 on turn three. Imp-losion is also quite powerful with the coin, and can help you put some extra pressure against Zoo, Hunter, Paladin and Mage. For the most part, everything else in the deck is too expensive to keep. The only exception I have learned is against Hunter where, with the coin, Antique Healbot and Sludge Belcher can both be kept if you have early plays before them.

Alright, another week, another legend decklist. I hope you guys are enjoying this as much as I am, and I will be back against next week with a cool twist on my favorite deck of all time. Until then, hope your days are going well, and may you always curve out.