Weekly Legends: Flood Paladin!

Dare to be different guys and girls. Dare. To. Be. Different. That is a very important lesson in life (that has largely shaped the course of my existence) and it is a very important lesson in Hearthstone. You never want to go with the flow just because someone is telling you too (or because they […]

Introduction

Dare to be different guys and girls. Dare. To. Be. Different. That is a very important lesson in life (that has largely shaped the course of my existence) and it is a very important lesson in Hearthstone. You never want to go with the flow just because someone is telling you too (or because they are playing the “best deck”). Rather, forge your own path and understand that you need to be your own person in this world. This week’s deck is a good reflection of that, showing what can happen when you take a common idea and make it into your own. I know, a lot of inspiration for a Monday, but honestly, this deck deserves it.

Today we take a look at my favorite class, Paladin. Not as it is today, but as it once was. Today’s article is not going to focus on some aggro, secret or egg deck. No, this is a nod the classic midrange lists, but has a brand new twist. So, the biggest question is, what’s going on here? We have a half midrange deck that also runs some big finishers as well as some more aggressive cards. It seems like a very strange take on what was once classic Paladin midrange, and that’s exactly what it is. However, instead of being worse for wear, the changes really help make the deck special. There are many cards in this deck that do not normally fit into decks together, and there are also many play in ways you wouldn’t normally expect. The most important ones will be outlined below.

Key Cards

Abusive Sergeant

While Abusive Sergeant is largely an aggro card, in this list it a midrange tool. Think of this card as it is in Zoo rather than how it is in Hunter. You want to steadily advance your board, and while the one drop may not seem like the strongest play when you aren’t trying to get lethal or pop a deathrattle, it works just fine here at giving you minions on an empty board. This deck is all about priority, which means you want to always be the one choosing which trades happen each turn. Think of it like how you cannot catch up to a Druid when you spent your turn five dealing with their Druid of the Claw and you play the rest of the game trying to not die to their threats (though you die anyway). You want your opponent to spend their time catching up to your board, and trading up is the best way to make that happen. It forces your opponent to make plays that aren’t just putting down large minions, which then lets you play your threats uncontested. Of course the one drop is always an option to push for damage or get lethal, but that is not what it is here for.

Coghammer

Coghammer, while one of the more familiar cards in the list, is one of the strongest the deck has to offer. The three mana weapon is very important for two reasons. The first is that it is incredibly good at giving you the early board (which goes back to the all important priority we discussed earlier). The taunt is relevant, but divine shield is much more important for what this deck is trying to do. You really want to try and wrest the board from your opponent as early as you can, and allowing you two drop to take down another two drop is one of the best ways to do that. Think of this card in the same vein as Muster for Battle, a card that gives you extra board presence as well as a repeatable way to clear.

The second reason Coghammer is so good is because of the roadblock it sets up. While enabling strong trades is always important, being able to protect your minions or stop aggro are also key to any top-tier deck in the game. You usually want to almost always run this card out as soon as you can, especially if you control the board or are in a tight race. Yes, some targets are going to be better than others, but the point is not going for the dream, the point is to just run a minion into another and have your minion live. In addition, remember that the taunt can help set up some really nice plays by keeping some of your more fragile minions behind a wall. While the buff is random, you can always control it if you can. If you have a high-priority target on the board, remember to equip this (or trade away your minions) before playing anything else.

Gormok The Impaler

As the name suggests, you are going to be doing a lot of flooding. That means a lot of minions are going to be on the board, and you are going to have ample chances to trigger Gormok the Impaler. While the four drop has not seen a ton of play since it was printed, it easily has one of the strongest abilities in the game. Four damage on a four mana card is pretty unreal in a vacuum (and better than Fire Elemental). As a result, when you can reliably trigger the card it becomes one of the strongest plays available to you. It may be seem difficult to set up, but you always want to be thinking about ways to get four minions down when Gormok is in your hand. Especially if you are playing an opponent that doesn’t have (or has just used) AOE.

Something that is very important to note about Gormok (and this deck overall) is that you are going to spend a lot of time playing the tempo game. His ability is the definition of tempo (putting something down and removing a minion), but you do not always have to use him for his ability. While it can be tempting to hold him until you can get those sweet, sweet four minions onto the board (I spent more than a few games waiting for the board state that never came) sometimes it is just better to play the four drop out on curve in the same way you would a Piloted Shredder. I’ve said it a thousand times, but it is always better to see a card for what it is rather than what it can do. Yes, Gormok can do four damage when he comes into play, and yes, you want to work to trigger than ability as much as you can, but he is a 4/4 for four. Sometimes you just need to play him as such.

Blessing of Kings

I have played all different types of Paladin since beta, and, no matter how many times I team up alongside Uther, I am not sure how to use Blessing of Kings. This card is very strong as both an aggro and tempo play, but you need to know which mode to use it in and when. The way I play this card is when I need to trade up into something immediately (such as when killing Emperor Thaurissan or Dr. Boom) or punch through a taunt like Sludge Belcher or Deathlord. However, beyond that I will usually save it for some type of burst or threat or burst. While this card is good at trading, it is better at making sure you have extra threats on the board. Just remember that you never want to go all-in on one minion, try and spread out the buffs. For instance, there is no reason to play this on your 4/4 instead of your 1/1 unless you are trading up.

When playing this card for tempo, you usually want to just put it on something that the class you are playing cannot easily remove. For example, this is a very strong to stick on just about any card versus Druid, but only after you have seen a Keeper of the Grove. Otherwise, the silence is just too powerful against the buff if it doesn’t trade. It may not always feel safe, but suddenly adding a 5/5 to your turn four board can really put your opponent on the back foot. It is also important to note that this card is one of the very few forms of burst you have. There are going to be more than a few games where you need to really push for damage, and this card is one of the best ways to make that happen.

Sea Giant

For me, this is the card that really makes this deck special. While it seems like a pretty obvious inclusion into the whole “flood” package, Sea Giant is actually a tech card used to take down other aggressive decks. It is very rare that you just run over your opponent while using a deck like this, but sometimes you can absolutely blow your aggro opponents out of the water with the giant. This card is your tech answer to flood deck like Zoo and Paladin because, while they may have some strong early threats, they aren’t going to be bigger than an 8/8. Once you play this card early (which is quite easy to do against a deck that doesn’t expect it) you instantly become the aggressor. That then lets you slam into your opponent’s face, and force them to play reactively.

Just like Gormok, you want to work hard to play this card as early as you can. Sometimes that even means letting your opponent keep a minion or two around. This card is so good because, once again, your opponent will never see it coming. Nobody is going to be prepared to have to deal with a sudden 8/8 in their gameplan. Even if they have Big Game Hunter, using it on turn four or five doesn’t really hurt you that much since it takes up most of their turn. Not only that, but you also are going to have other minions on the board when this comes down (as per the giant’s ability). In that way you want to largely use this as Mysterious Challenger, a big threat that has to be dealt with and forces your opponent to ignore your other cards on the board. It may not have the secrets that the six drop has, but it is a lot more surprising and can come down much earlier.

Matchups

The five decks I encounter the most on ladder.

Secret Paladin

Normally a ho-hum affair, the matchup against Secret Paladin is very interesting with this deck because it plays like a mirror with a few tweaks, and each tweak gives you or your opponent a huge advantage. It is very important to know the differences between you and your opponent’s deck, and then play to or around those discrepancies as best as you can. The biggest discrepancy is that Secret attempts to clear the board to set up their six through eight plays, while you want to get board control through a swarm of small minions. Those are opposing playstyles, and the game usually is decided during the early turns of the game. You need to work to get the board in any way that you can. Even if you just have a lone Silver Hand Recruit, if it is the only minion on the board then you are ahead.

It is important to remember that you want to be the aggressor in this matchup. Secret Paladin lives on a solid curve, which they use to pressure their opponent’s life total and force them into awkward plays. If you can turn the tables and make them the ones answering your curve, then you will be able to stay ahead the whole game. Secret is a deck that wants to dictate the flow, and you want to disrupt that as much as possible. The best way to make that happen is by forcing as much damage through as possible. While you want to start trading, once you get ahead on board you should start pushing for face and let them answer you. Also, it is important to remember that you want to be the one with early big minions, and then use those to slowly overtake Paladin’s board. For this reason, careful about triggering Avenge early on, because then they will be able to dictate the pace of the game.

Zoo

While Secret Paladin may feel familiar at times, I would argue that Zoo is just a straight up mirror match. You are a Zoo deck, controlling the board and using it to slowly build into bigger threats. While many Midrange decks begin that quest from the middle turns, you really begin on turn one. You need to get something down each turn against Zoo, whether you are using an ability or not. A body is more important than anything else. If you are ahead on board don’t be afraid to preemptively deal with Zoo’s deathrattle minions. While it may feel wrong to pop a Nerubian Egg, if you can kill it right away that is a very strong play to stop things like Power Overwhelming.

A very important part of this game is understanding how the final turns are going to play out. You and your opponent both have a slew of huge threats, and they both serve the same purpose: sealing the game. If you cannot get to your bigger minions first, then dictate the trading and make sure you have enough power to take them down when they come. Try get as much use out of Keeper of Uldaman as you can. The four drop is instrumental during the final turns by taking down things like Dr. Boom or Doomguard, but she is also a very strong tempo move. Keeper is one of your strongest cards at all parts of this match, and while you may want to hold her for Zoo’s finishers, if you use her to gain early control, those slower cards won’t matter anyway.

Sea Giant will end this game from either side of the table. While you do have access to Keeper of Uldaman, if you don’t have the four drop in hand you are going to have to commit too many resources to taking down the 8/8. As a result, if you are not playing to your own giant you want to limit how many minions you are playing and how many your opponent might have.

Aggro Shaman

While it dipped in popularity for a while, Aggro Shaman has exploded back onto the ladder, and with good reason. Thrall’s army is extremely fast, and can put on an insane amount of damage very, very quickly. As strong as your deck is, this is not an easy match. They can often go over your head, and cards like Doomhammer make it so they can push rather than fight the board. However, you can also use that to your advantage because it gives you a free ticket to attack their face. You want to do your best to clear out their small minions early, but as soon as the game switches to damage, you need to push, push, push. Being aggressive is the only way you can fight Shaman’s immense amount of burn. That means getting a threat down every turn, even if you are just playing Keeper of Uldaman or Blessing of Kings on a 1/1.

Renolock

The second Warlock deck taking over the meta, Renolock is a very, very tough matchup. This is because the only real way to take down the control deck is through burst, and you do not have a lot to go around. As a result, the way you play this matchup is, as always, using board control to stack up damage. However, here you want to lull them into a false sense of security and then burst them down with a final push of damage they think you don’t have. You want to do your best to not scare them into using Reno Jackson (or even Antique Healbot) unless you have an overwhelming amount of presence on the board. You are going to need to flood, but that does not always mean you want to attack. Sometimes holding back can put Warlock into very uncomfortable positions.

A lot of this matchup is going to be playing around the many different removal spells that Renolock has access to. The way you do this is by playing down one big threat a turn to test for their removal. Big Game Hunter, Twisting Nether and Siphon Soul are their hard removal options. If you can slowly play around each of them you should be able to eventually get something to stick. Tirion Fordring is a very strong card that can usually put the game out of reach. As a result, you should try to get Renolock to use their Ironbeak Owl on one of your buffed minions or early threats. Also, remember to try to keep a divine shield or deathrattle minion on the board in case of AOE.

Note: Loatheb can also give you lethal if you have a large board. You want to play to the five drop if you have it in hand.

Midrange Druid

One of the best things about this deck (in my opinion) is how strong it is against Midrange Druid. While there are going to be games where you lose to a bunch of random Innervates, Druid has never done well when dealing with midrange threats. They have very limited access to AOE, which enables you to really flood the board as much as you can. Never hold back running out minions. The only exception to that is Muster for Battle, which you want to play after (or bait out) a Swipe. Aside from ramp, Druid is a deck that only has a few options during each turn of the game. You can take advantage of that by making plays that will cause them to take a certain line of play. For instance, getting them to play a Keeper of the Grove on your Tirion Fordring or Wrath you Piloted Shredder. You always Druid to do something other than play a large threat, and you can usually get them to do what you want if you accurately predict their play.

Your best card in this matchup is Keeper of Uldaman, especially because of how well it plays through taunts. Just remember you are not going to end the game very quickly, but rather by grinding them down. Always take out each card Druid plays to force them into using a Force of Nature/Savage Roar combo on your board instead of your face. Once they burn a combo on clearing you will have more than enough breathing room to grind them down.

Mulligan Guide

You want to mulligan for this like you would any other midrange Paladin list. That means, try and find a curve and stick to that curve as hard as you can. Abusive Sergeant, Argent Squire, Zombie Chow, Haunted Creeper, Shielded Minibot and Muster for Battle are your “must keeps.” While Knife Juggler is very strong, I will only keep it if I have other small minions to play alongside it. Coghammer is a very strong keep with early minions (or against Shaman), but is too weak to be kept on its own. Piloted Shredder is a good keep with the coin and a strong curve, as is Gormok the Impaler.

There are a couple of tweaks that you need to make based on what matchups you are seeing. Blessing of Kings is a great keep with the coin and an early curve if you are playing Priest or Druid. Keeper of Uldaman should be kept with a strong curve against Druid and Priest as well. Sea Giant should be kept against any other aggro swarm decks such as Paladin, Hunter and Zoo. Ironbeak Owl is very strong against Mad Scientist decks as well as Warlock, and you always want to hold onto Divine Favor against heavy control.

Conclusion

While I do not like what it has become, I love Paladin. Both control and midrange. Any chance I have to cover a new or interesting take on Uther I am going to take it. This list feels familiar in a lot of ways, but different in many others. Always innovate in this game, and always find subtle ways to catch your opponent off guard. I must go. Whispers are filling my skull, and I can feel a dark presence growing. Until next time, you will betray your friends.