Weekly Legends: Face Warrior

Note: Due to technical issues, there is no game six on the video. And I am back! My two week hiatus is finally over, and boy, did I miss you guys. Now that we know that Whispers of the Old Gods is a long, long, long (long, long, long) way away, it is time to […]

Note: Due to technical issues, there is no game six on the video.

Introduction

And I am back! My two week hiatus is finally over, and boy, did I miss you guys. Now that we know that Whispers of the Old Gods is a long, long, long (long, long, long) way away, it is time to get back to business. And by business, I mean grinding. And by grinding, I mean cool legend decks! This week, we return to form with a new spin on a very old deck from the early days of Hearthstone: Face Warrior. Once upon a time, this niche archetype was a very real, very dangerous threat (once against thanks to Reynad). However, as time has moved forward, and more and more taunts (Deathlord, Sludge Belcher) have been printed, it faded away. This week we look at a modern version of the deck by Jon314159, who took the shell, formed into something for the current meta, and brought it all the way to rank 9 legend.

Let’s be frank here, Face Warrior has a lot of inherent problems. It can get weapon flooded, crumbles without a good curve, and gets absolutely stonewalled by taunts. However, that being said, if the deck curves out right, it is one of the scariest lists in the game. This deck takes the Aggro Shaman approach to the meta; get a bad curve and you falter, get a good curve and you win big. In this case, you are going to win really, really big. Face Warrior is predicated on the idea that not every opponent you play is going to have a strong opening. Yes, sometimes you are going to lose to your opponent’s nut draw, but a lot of games you are going to win simply because your opponent doesn’t have their two or three drop. That is how this deck builds, and if you know how to pilot it, it can really build into a powerful machine.

Key Cards

Sir Finely Mrrgglton

Sir Finley Mrrgglton, like so many other cards in this list, is a tweak that really takes the classic version of Face Warrior and brings it to the next level. The Murloc was once thought of as a great way to bring some decks that normally didn’t have Control options (Rogue, Hunter) a way to get a more useful hero power. However, like so many cards, he just became one of the strongest aggro tools around. The British murloc is especially important in this list, because he represents two important aggro tools that Face Warrior normally doesn’t have access to: reach and card draw.

One of Warrior’s biggest setbacks when going aggro is a do-nothing hero power. Armoring up is very good against other aggro decks (and can even be extremely useful in certain matches) but it is very bad at helping push damage through. Sir Finley changes that by giving you several options that can aid you in your quest to kill your opponent. While Hunter hero power is extremely strong in any face deck, it should be your second choice behind Life tap, which gives you never-ending resources against both midrange and control. Running out of resources is one of the only ways you lose, but if you have the ability to draw cards you can eek out games you wouldn’t normally win. Beyond those two, you want Mage and Druid, followed by Paladin and Shaman. Also, remember that sometimes you don’t want to play Finely, usually when you are under pressure and healing is essential to getting to an extra turn.

Southsea Deckhand

Despite all of its assorted bells and whistles, the core of Face Warrior is weapons. You are going to play the full six here, and use them as often as you can. As a result, cards that interact with weapons can be very powerful, especially if they are aggressive. One of those is Southsea Deckhand, an early minion that serves as both a one drop and a charge minion depending on what you need. Versatility is always important in Hearthstone, especially in a face deck that relies on being able to push damage through. Having something that you can just run out as a threat on the first turn of the game that also can become a way to trade or add on pressure later on is exactly what this deck wants.

The tricky part of playing Southsea Deckhand is knowing its use. As mentioned above, there are two ways this card can be played, and both are going to be right (or wrong) depending on the situation. The rule with Southsea is to never put it down early unless I have no other play. The reason for that is its ability in this deck means it is almost going to have charge. As such, anytime you play it early on over another minion or weapon is wasted mana. You would much rather put down a turn one Leper Gnome and then Southsea later on, then a Southsea, which has the potential to turn on charge. Charge minions have a certain element of surprise to them, and they can be a great way to lull your opponent into a false sense of security. You want to keep them hidden as long as possible.

Heroic Strike

When playing Face Warrior you need to understand the game is going to be played in two distinct stages. You want to spend the early parts of the game clearing the board and setting up your early game. After that is over, you then want to move into the second stage of the game where you really start hitting face and racing towards lethal. Heroic Strike, as four damage for two mana has only been printed once, is a very powerful tool for both of those tasks. At first glance this card seems to be very straightforward. You play it when you have two free mana and you hit your opponent as hard as you can. While that is its primary purpose, another big reason the card is in this deck is to clear.

As aforementioned, taunts are one of Face Warrior’s biggest problems. This deck runs a lone Ironbeak Owl as its answer to taunts, but it is often not enough. Sometimes, you just need to blast through. A good rule of thumb with this card is save it as long as you possibly can, meaning either to protect your board or to set up lethal. The reason for this is, you always want to have some taunt-killing option at your disposal. Four damage can get through a lot of early taunts, and if you pair this with a weapon you can clear just about any wall that steps in your way. This card is basically your wrecking ball, that can also go face if the situation arrives. Also note that, if you need damage, you want to sneak this through before your opponent’s taunts can come down.

Flame Juggler

Almost every single good aggro deck in the history of Hearthstone has had one thing in common: a tool against other aggro decks. Those come in many shapes and sizes, from Zoo’s Defender of Argus to Face Hunter’s Explosive Trap, but they all serve a necessary role the deck needs. For this list, that tool is Flame Juggler. While there are many aggressive two drops that a deck like this can run, Flame Juggler is the best for two reasons. One, it is very strong against aggro, sometimes swinging the entire game in your favor if it hits the right target. The ability is the reason it is here, clearing the way or popping a divine shield early on. Even if your opponent has no minions, it is still an on-curve two drop that does one damage when it drops into play. The second reason this card is better that minions such as Knife Juggler or Mad Bomber is that it can always be played on turn two. Many two drops are situational or too slow, but this card can be put down whenever you need to give a solid threat that you can build off of.

Note: Do not get caught up on the battlecry. Yes, you want this to hit a minion, but holding back a minion is not worth that value. A body is all that matters.

Mortal Strike

The final card I want to discuss is Mortal Strike, an extremely powerful finisher in a deck with little reach. As a Face Warrior, you are going to spend a good amount of the game both ignoring the board and clearing with your weapons. That is going to cause you to take a lot of damage, which means it is pretty easy to turn Mortal Strike on. Six damage for four mana may not seem like a big deal (it’s just a Fireball after all), but in a deck that is capable of doing so much damage so quickly with their face, it is one of the strongest cards you have access to. Just know that you do not always need this to be six damage. Using your mana efficiently is a big part of any aggro deck, and sometimes you just need to hit for four to keep your curve rolling.

Remember that this card is your only real form of reach. That means you want to work hard to set this up and get down to the all-important twelve life. There are many ways to do this, which range from not armoring up to face tanking into enemy minions as a way to clear the board. If you ever do not armor up, it is important to emote “oops”. This may seem like a very silly piece of advice, but it usually signals to your opponent that you genuinely forgot rather than you were going it on purpose to set something up. It makes it much less suspicious that way. As with Heroic Strike, this card is going to be your finisher. Hold onto it for as long as possible and use as much on board or weapon damage as you can before taunts start to come down.

Matchups

The five decks I encounter the most on ladder.

Secret Paladin

Its time is almost over, but Secret Paladin still has to have its say before the end. This deck is still extremely popular, and for good reason. It has a strong curve, very powerful midrange potential, and three of the best finishers in the game. While that can be problematic for many decks, you really can steamroll them if you get going early. Secret Paladin is predicated upon a very simple idea, which is that their opponent is going to care about their board. One reason they fall to decks like Aggro Shaman and Face Hunter is because those decks can outrace them. That means they don’t have to trade and don’t have to trigger Paladin’s secrets. As a result, Secret then has to spend their early turns mitigating damage, which ultimately crumbles their gameplan. You are an aggro deck as well, and if you start pushing from turn one, you should force them into a corner.

The two cards you need to be aware of in this matchup are Sludge Belcher and Noble Sacrifice. Belcher is one of the only real taunts Secret Paladin runs, and it will really hurt you if you aren’t aware of its existence. That is the target you need to save Ironbeak Owl, because if Paladin doesn’t have the five drop to save them, they usually won’t be able to match your damage. On the other hand, while Noble Sacrifice may seem like a small card, it can take away a lot of damage if you don’t properly play around it. If it early in the game you always want to swing in with weapons first to make sure your minions stay alive. However, later on in the game you want to swing into secrets with minions to make way for your larger weapon hits.

Zoo

The more popular Warlock deck these days, Zoo is easily the toughest matchup for Face Warrior. Not only is it an aggro deck, but it has access to the back-breaking Defender of Argus. This is a very hard match up to pilot because your gut will tell you to clear all of their early minions, but you absolutely need to push damage through. Just with most aggro decks, use your early weapons and minions to challenge only their highest-priority plays. You want to get ahead on board as soon as possible. This will stop Zoo’s potential damage, and heavily mitigate the amount of burst or trading they are able to do. Then, you need to quickly build off of that presence to get in as much damage as you can.

Sea Giant is a real concern, and it is the reason you never want to flood minions onto the board unless you are making a final push. The 8/8 is not something you can (or want) to answer with damage, but it is also something you cannot afford to race. You typically want to end this game by turn seven, because any large minions like Dr. Boom can immensely spin the game in Zoo’s favor. Always count their mana, as well as any opportunities they might have to stick something huge. If you are approaching one such turn and you are at a mid or low life total, you need to turn up the pressure as quickly as possible.

Aggro Shaman

Aggro Shaman is a very hard matchup to evaluate. On one hand, there are many games where you can just run away with the damage battle (and thus the game). However, sometimes they will get started much earlier than you, and force you to spend too much time clearing. The way you play this match will be predicated on the first two turns. If they play high density threats you need to clear with your weapons, and use that to protect your own board. However, if you start out faster than them, just push, push and push some more. The only minion you need to clear is Tunnel Trogg, which will just get out hand too quickly if you try to ignore it.

Feral Spirit should be your biggest worry here, and the card that needs to always be on your mind. It may never be fun to clear two 2/3’s, but if you are ready with them with minions or weapons you should be fine. However, if you are racing the wolves can really punish you. Damage potential is also very important to keep track of in this game, both for yourself and your opponent. Shaman is a deck that can supply massive amounts of damage out of nowhere (especially if they have a Doomhammer). Count their spells and keep track of how many big-burst cards they have played, such as Lava Burst and Crackle. You need to be pushing damage each turn, but you also don’t want to open yourself up for an easy kill.

Tempo Mage

Like Aggro Shaman, Tempo Mage is a deck you are either going to have to fight through or absolutely crush. This is a matchup where you absolutely need to clear all of their early minions. Everything from Mana Wyrm to Flamewaker to Sorcerer’s Apprentice needs to die because of the way that Tempo builds. Remember that Mage is an aggro deck that loves to end the game in a flurry of damage spells. However, they run no healing and no taunt. This means you really can race them in the midgame. Turns four through six are where Mage starts to move into their big minions. At that point you cannot beat them on board, so you have to turn all of your damage to their face.

As always, be aware of the anti-aggro cards your opponent has access to. Here, it is Frostbolt and Flamewaker. The Waker is perhaps one of the most dangerous cards in Hearthstone, and that is especially true against a deck that ignores the board as much as yours does. You need to clear the flaming salamander on sight, even if that means burning a Heroic Strike. Letting the three drop live will not only clear your board, but speed Tempo Mage toward lethal as well. In addition, Frostbolt will lock you out of your weapons, which is something you need to avoid as you race down the stretch. Being set back one turn against Tempo Mage can be the difference between winning and losing. As such, try to play your weapons on curve rather than holding them back.

Midrange Druid

Where are the nerfs? Dear God, where are the nerfs? Not only is Midrange Druid (in my opinion) easily the best deck in the game, but it is very hard to beat with Face Warrior. While this is nowhere near the nearly-unwinnable battle that Zoo is, you really need to start strong. Here, you are racing the ever-present combo of Force of Nature/Savage Roar. You can beat that with a strong curve and a lot of charge, but it is very hard against a deck like Druid that has healing, taunts and efficient removal. Though it is rare these days, always remove Darnassus Aspirant on sight. You want to limit Druid’s ramp as much as possible. The same goes with Azure Drake, whose spellpower is often too strong to ignore. Past that, Druid’s only real taunt minion these days is Druid of the Claw. Saving your Ironbeak Owl or Heroic Strike is key to deal with the bear, because you will fall too far behind if it locks you out.

Mulligan Guide

As with any aggro deck, one of the best advantages you have is easy mulligans. The plan here is to just go with your curve, attempting to start out fast and end even faster. Your “must keeps” are almost all of your one and two drops. Southsea Deckhand, Leper Gnome, Abusive Sergeant, Sir Finely Mrrgglton, Fiery War Axe, Loot Hoarder and Flame Juggler. Those cards start you off very strong and will let you naturally curve into more and more damage. The only early cards you don’t want are Heroic Strike (later game card) and Upgrade! (which is only good with weapons).

There are only a few subtleties you need to keep track of when mulliganing. Ironbeak Owl is a very solid against both Priest and Druid, while Argent Horserider is an always keep with the coin. Bash is very strong with the coin against aggro, and Death’s Bite is a great keep with the coin and a strong curve, or when you are playing Paladin. Finally, if you have the coin and a solid opening it is usually a good idea to keep Kor’kron Elite.

Conclusion

Man, it feels good to be back. I have been diligent on the ladder in the last two weeks, and I am just itching to get my claws into some Old Gods. However, they still continue to slumber just out of my reach. As a result, I continue to wait for their rise. Until then, I will see you all next week for some more legend action, and, as always, Lok’tar Ogar!