Every once in a while on Weekly Legends even I get surprised. Sometimes that’s because of certain decks, sometimes it’s because of strange card choices, and sometimes it’s because a deck that I never thought would ever be able to get to legend does. This week’s deck is very much the latter. Dreadsteed is not a card I ever thought would climb all the way to the orange diamond (at least not until more sets were released). In fact, I thought it was a very gimmicky card that had no reason to be on ladder. Very restrictive thinking for one such as myself, but sometimes even I have a hard time being a believer. However, this week I am very excited to say that VelGod proved me completely wrong, using the demon horse to show me that innovation is still alive and well in Hearthstone. That is something I love to prove, but sometimes people innovate in ways I didn’t think were possible. And that’s pretty cool.
This list, while full of different Dreadsteed interactions, is very much a slow Control-style deck. Your game plan here is going to use the steeds are a source of constant removal rather than a win condition. Much like Hobgoblin, this card is going to help you win, but you don’t need it to win. Rather, you are just going to play as if you are playing standard Warlock tempo or standard Warlock Control (based on the game state). This mindset is very important when playing this deck. Too often people get caught up in what a deck is “supposed to do” rather than just playing the game. This leads to misplays or causes them to keep cards in their opening hand that they shouldn’t. Avoid this trap by understanding what this deck is: a control deck with a lot of tools and interesting interactions at its disposal.
While just about everyone who has ever faced off against Zoo knows how powerful Power Overwhelming is, I bring this card up because of the litany of targets within this specific deck. This card is very strong, and it gets even better in a deck with a bunch of small minions like this one. Though this card can be used to push damage through, that is not its role here. Rather, both of the Power Overwhelmings are simply going to be used as one mana removal spells in the vein of something like Shield Slam. As a Control Deck you want to have cards that have a lot of versatility that can be used in a wide range of different situations. PO is your option for that. Not just because of how it can be used, but how it has almost no drawback. Sending a 1/1 into a 5/5 is a win you are going to take every single time, and that just gets ever better if you get that 1/1 back.
Haunted Creeper, Imp Gang Boss and Dreadsteed all make excellent targets for Power Overwhelming. Nerubian Egg is also fantastic and, just like when playing Zoo, you don’t want to hesitate to play that combo to get a trade early on in the game. However, even if a minion is larger, you should not hesitate to trade up when you can. While your other removal should always be used first, if you need to get rid of a Dr. Boom or other big minion, don’t be afraid to use this. One last note is about Power Overwhelming is that you should not forget that it can be used to kill one of your own minions if needed. This rarely comes up, but you can use it on a Voidcaller to pump out an early Mal’Ganis or to get a Boombot trigger. The last use is when you have a full board and you need to kill something in order to make room.
A card that has been generally overlooked, Demonwrath is an extremely powerful removal spell that only gotten better with the sudden influx of Paladin. This card doesn’t just beat aggro decks, it crushes them. When playing with this card (which should basically be viewed as a Consencration) you want to try and bait your opponent into overextending onto the board. This is difficult to do as many people will expect either Hellfire or Shadowflame. However, Demonwrath is not a card people expect to come down. That enables you to play it on turn three in response to a Muster of Battle or a Shade of Naxxramas. That one extra turn is important because it allows you to have that one extra element of surprise. When you add on the fact that this doesn’t hurt your own demons you get a very solid board clear at your disposal.
Do not forget that this card can also do damage to your own minions. As most of your minions are demons it is easy to forget that fact, which can be detrimental for two reasons. One, you never want to clear your own board. Sometimes you will get so focused on clearing out your opponent’s minions you will forget that your own minions are going die as well. You never want that to happen. On the other hand, you can use the two damage to your own minions to your advantage. Clearing the board while also killing a Nerubian Egg is a very strong opening that you want to look for against aggro decks. In this way, you can use the card a lot like Hellfire. Always look for those type of interactions, and always try and focus on the state of the board.
While this card has many uses, I bring it up to actually say you don’t need it to do everything. In fact, you don’t even want to keep it in your hand unless you are facing a Warrior (which we will get to later on). Dreadsteed is a pretty average card. However, you can make it a lot stronger when using it in a Control shell as repeatable removal. This will enable to have a source of constant pings that can be comboed with other removal to constantly keep track of the board. However, you want to try set this demon up in a certain way. Silence is very powerful against the steed, and you need to play around it as much as possible. Once your opponent runs out of (or doesn’t have) a silence, then the steed is almost impossible to remove. Once the steed is down, or if you are playing against someone who could have a way to answer it, you want to set up a Baron Rivendare play where you can get two. Having more Dreadsteeds is always better than having less, but you always want at least two. Remember that once they start to multiply you never want to fill the board completely since you will never get it back.
There are numerous interactions with Dreadsteed in this deck, and all of them make the card very strong. Knife Juggler gives you a ton of pings, while Sacrificial Pact is a zero mana, gain five health play. Baron creates more of the demon horses, Mortal Coil can be used on it to draw cards, and it can be combined with any of your buffs to act as a bigger removal spell. When the steeds are down, you use them to further your overall purpose. Remember, this deck is going to always play for the grind. If you need to, use them for damage, but most of the time they are just going to be free Mage hero powers that you get every turn.
Baron Rivendare is a very weak card. There’s just no way around that. Not only is it a 1/7 for four mana, but its ability is very situational. However, the Naxrammas legend is a necessary sacrifice you need to play when using this deck. You absolutely need Baron somewhere in your list if you are going to play Dreadsteed since it gives you combos and helps you get the all-important double Dreadsteed onto the board. One of the horses is never going to be enough. The ping for one works well, but when you start to build on that is where the game really gets going. The primary way to play this deck is to build that engine, and you need Rivendare to get the gears turning. The most common play is to drop steed on turn four (or three with the coin) and then drop Rivendare and trade the steed the following turn. Once people realize you are playing Dreadsteed they will usually remove Rivendare immediately. However, it won’t matter if he has already done his job.
Baron Rivendare, while weak on paper, does have interactions that go beyond Dreadsteed. You also run Dr. Boom, Haunted Creeper, Voidcaller, Sludge Belcher and Nerubian Egg. All of those cards have strong deathrattles that can be very good when combined with the baron. It is always important to study the different ways a card can help you. While you typically want to save Baron for the Dreadsteed plays, you also don’t want to hold him hoping to draw the horse. Rather, you need to get value out of him when and where you can.
This card is my own inclusion into the deck. While I thoroughly enjoyed the list when I first played it, I really wanted one extra finisher. The original list ran a Mistress of Pain as an extra early game card that also combated aggro. However, I often found I would run out of cards too early and not have that late game punch that control decks need. Lord Jaraxxus is that late game punch. There is no better finisher in the game than the Lord of the Burning Legion, and he fits this style extremely well as both a heal, board presence and removal. In fact, I honestly do not understand running this deck without Jaxx. Not only is he a super powerful all-control finisher, but he also isn’t too bad off of a turn four Voidcaller either. Mal’Ganis and Dreadsteed are going to be the way you end a lot of games, but those are merely tools to an end. Jaraxxus is the way you are going to finish most of your matches, as the other cards will give you plenty of ways to stay alive long enough for it to happen. Just be careful when you set up the giant demon. Fifteen health is not a lot these days, and while some games you will have to play him to not die, never drop yourself into burst range if you can avoid it.
Five matchups I see the most while climbing the ladder.
As predicted, the loss of Grim Patron raised the number of Secret Paladins on the ladder. While some people may be upset at the prospect, that is very good news for this list. A never ending Dreadsteed affects different decks in different ways, but it absolutely crushes Paladin. Not only will it cancel their hero power, but it can break divine shield, trigger secrets and absorb Knife Juggler hits. You want to get the engine going this game as soon as possible. You also have a lot of early game such as Zombie Chow and Imp Gang Boss which can directly challenge Secret’s opening. That is important because Secret Paladin directly depends on a good starting curve to build into the later game. Play around their secrets, always watch for Avenge and Redemption, and you should be able to tilt the game in your favor.
You want to keep Secret Paladin in check by clearing their board before turn six at all costs. Demonwrath is amazing against them, but so is a lot of your early removal. The first turns of the game should be spent merely using the removal that is at your disposal and finding good ways to trade. Muster for Battle is perhaps the only real threat you need to worry about. Even if you don’t have AOE for it, most of your minions will be able to trade with the annoying 1/1’s when the time comes. Mysterious Challenger is very weak on it’s own, especially if it is facing a solid board. Having that board control will give you control of turn six, which in turn will give you control of the seven, eight and nine. This is a game where you simply want to meet them punch for punch as their cards will start to get worse and yours will start to get better. Always take the chance to create two Dreadsteeds if you can since they can win this match on their own.
Yep. This section has just become “Hunter”. It’s hard to play against, and it is really hard to predict as well. The only way you can react to Rexxar is by just playing to your own curve and then reacting to the threats as they come down. Almost all Hunters these days are focused around killing you with their classic burst packages and powerful minions. Though you are a control deck, you don’t have that much healing or taunt at your disposal. That’s important because it means you have less ways to control your health against Hunter. For this reason, Face or hyper-aggressive Hunters can be very difficult to deal with. Not only do they not care about Dreadsteed, but they can simply power past what you are trying to do with their hero power. When playing against aggro always be aware of how much you’re tapping, and make sure you only go low if you have a heal or a taunt at your disposal.
Midrange Hunter, while still tough, is much more manageable than its aggressive counterpart. This is because you will (mostly) be able to react to their threats before they hit in your the face. You simply want to control the board here, using your removal and minions to keep clearing until you either get control or your board presence is too overwhelming. They have a lot of secrets, but you should almost always assume they are going to play Freezing Trap. However, to play aroud this you want to attack face to play around Snake Trap. The last rule of this matchup is to never put too many minions onto the board to play around Unleash, as it can lead to devastating amounts of damage if you’re not careful.
This matchup is a nightmare. So much so that if you’re facing a lot of Druid you might want to consider a different deck. Normally, I don’t like that mindset, but here that’s the way it is. One of the best advantages of your deck is the fact that so few decks run silence, and even those that do only run one. However, Druid runs two silences in Keeper of the Grove, and that will ruin Dreadsteed on sight. In addition, their combo can push enough pressure where you cannot keep up. Both of those create serious problems that are difficult to answer. The way you are going to win this game is through solid removal, killing Darnassus Aspirant and staying above combo range during the final turns of the match. If you can pull these off you will generally have some extra power than can put you ahead, though it’s not going to be easy.
However, not everything is hopeless. Voidcaller has always given Druid fits, and it can be a great asset to have when turns four comes around. Dropping any minion, from Imp Gang Boss to Dreadsteed to Mal’Ganis is good off of this card because it then acts like a tempo play. Druid has never liked deathrattle cards and you can use this to leveage some important midgame control. Voidcaller also has the added bonus of drawing out silence. If your opponent uses Keeper of the Grove to shut down caller’s ability, that will pave the way for your steed to come down. Never be afraid to use the removal at your disposal, make aggressive plays that will allow you to hold the board, and always assume your opponent has combo since that mindset will keep you alive.
Control Warrior is a matchup that falls greatly into your favor. This is a matchup where you want to keep Dreadsteed in your opening hand. While Dreadsteed can be difficult for some decks, Warrior has no answers to it. Use this as leverage, and never be afraid to get the steed down as soon as you can. You want to play this matchup by managing your resources and running Warrior low on cards. Lord Jaraxxus is going to be your eventual win condition, but you never want to play him until you have seen Grommash Hellscream. Due to your removal package, Warrior is generally going to try to win the game through their burst. If you can run them out of resources early and force them to burn Gromm for something other than lethal you will almost always win. This is a game you should fully expect to go into fatigue. For this reason you also want to watch how many cards you and your opponent have left. There is no reason to hit fatigue three or four turns ahead since their armor will eventually grind you out.
The most problematic cards to answer in this matchup are Warrior’s midgame options. Justicar Trueheart, Sludge Belcher and Shieldmaiden are all big threats that need to be killed but don’t warrant the same kind of removal that giant legendaries do. For this reason, it makes it very hard to decide how to trade. Power Overwhelming is one of your key options when dealing with these cards. However, if you can’t kill them cleanly, never be afraid to trade in and Darkbomb one of them either. Try to start out this matchup in a “Zoo way” by playing your value minions early. This will prevent the Warrior from knowing what you are, which could lead to misplays or greedy turns later on in the match.
While finally dwindling in numbers, Tempo Mage still has its place among the usual ladder fare. This is another matchup where Dreadsteed is very strong. However, here it is more powerful due to the fact that it can eat a lot of pings from both Flamewaker and Arcane Missiles. You will beat Tempo Mage in the same way you beat Control Warrior, by running them low on cards. Tempo Mage is a very powerful deck when they have a ton of spells, but they can do a lot less when starved of cards. Always remember that when they are busy trying to clear your board, they aren’t focused on doing damage, which is exactly what you want. Tempo Mage can end the game if you dip low. For this reason you should treat this matchup like you are facing an aggro deck. Heal and taunt as much as you can, and be very careful with your life total. Archmage Antonidas is a very strong card, and the way you can lose the game moving into Lord Jaraxxus turns. The way you combat the Mage legend is through Big Game Hunter/Abusive Sergeant or board control. This is important to note since you should save BGH for that exact situation unless you absolutely have to kill Dr. Boom when it comes down on turn seven.
The high amount of early game in this deck makes it so you want to mulligan exactly like when playing Zoo. You need to get something out early, and then use those minions to trade. However, instead of slowly controlling the board in the way that zoo does, you are going to start building to bigger and bigger plays. Zombie Chow, Haunted Creeper, Darkbomb, Abusive Sergeant and Nerubian Egg are your must keeps. While it may seem counter intuitive, Dreadsteed is only kept against Paladin and Warrior, as it is usually too slow for most other matchups. Power Overwhelming, while never kept on its own, is great with Nerubian Egg. Imp Gang Boss should always be kept with the coin. Knife Juggler is a good keep if you have other cheap early game minions like Haunted Creeper to go with it.
When looking at specific matchups, you need to understand the “key” cards against each class. Against Paladin you always keep Demonwrath, while you need Mortal Coil against any aggro deck like Paladin, Zoo or Hunter. Voidcaller is great against Druid and Ironbeak Owl is a must keep against Tempo Mage, Warlock, Hunter and Paladin.
A demon-themed deck right around Halloween. I love Hearthstone, but I love it even more when cool decks are being built and taken to legend. Rarely do we get to explore decks as cool as this one, and if this doesn’t spark your innovation, I don’t know what will. I have covered a lot of crazy decks throughout my series, but this is by far the craziest. I hope you guys are having a great fall, and I hope you bundle up for the cold days ahead. Until next time, may you always start strong but end stronger.