This week we are going to get philosophical. After taking a short hiatus for the first release of Blackrock Mountain, I return with a question. How much impact can one card really have? This is something I want to explore in this week’s breakdown by looking at the Grim Patron Warrior list that Nomodogan took to legend. This deck is a mix of midrange and enrage cards that really shows the power that one card can have on the meta. This deck did not exist before the Patron came around, and as soon as he got released it instantly became viable.
As Blackrock Mountain continues to get released, you always want to be aware of what’s be introduced and how it can be used. Yes, sometimes things will surprise you (Dr. Boom comes to mind), but if you have an idea of what might be good, you can really tune a deck to your advantage. This deck is a perfect example of that, taking a bunch of seemingly innocuous cards (many of which rarely see constructed play) and bringing them together to make a very solid list.
The best way to think of this deck is a midrange build that slowly plays stronger minions while fighting for board control. However, it also has the added bonus of being able to finish games with some crazy combos as well. This blend of enrage potential mixed with a solid midrange frame really give this deck some extra punch and take it from a gimmick to legend material. It also reveals a very important part of Hearthstone: one card can change the meta. It can bring dead concepts to life, revitalize old strategies, and redefine whole class archetypes.
While it is obviously good against aggro, I bring up Unstable Ghoul because it is one of the trickiest cards in the deck to play. This is because Ghoul is a delayed combo card. You don’t get its effect as soon as you play it (unless you combo it with Warsong Commander) and that usually means your opponent will get a chance to play before it goes off. Not only that, but because it has Taunt, it also cannot be ignored. You’ll want to make it so that you set up this card to guarantee extra value.
There are three separate ways to play the Ghoul here. First, as an early game minion that fights back against aggro through its Taunt and Deathrattle effects. This is the usual play against decks like Hunter and Mech Mage. You can also save Ghoul and wait to play it with Warsong Commander, which is one of the better uses of the card. It gives you a free Whirlwind and triggers many of your combos. Finally, you can also play the Ghoul in front of some of your minions such as Acolyte of Pain or Frothing Berserker, to force your opponent into a bad situation. That is probably the most common way the card is played, but it can also lead to the most problems because your opponent will then get a chance to react. Ghoul is the weakest combo enabler in the deck, but the extra potential against aggro makes it a perfect fit for the deck.
Although Battle Rage is a very simple card, I highlight it here because you should never be afraid to use it. I find that many times people hold back or will not play Battle Rage due to the fact that they want to try to combo it later on. While sometimes you can use it to draw four or five cards, the best way to use Battle Rage is when you have a window to do so. Mana is at a premium these days, and you want to squeeze out as much as you can. Even if you only have one damaged minion, if you can afford to draw two cards, that is usually the best option. That may not be as sexy as drawing four or five, but drawing two cards for two mana is a better Arcane Intellect, and that’s pretty good in my book.
The only exception to the above rule is when you know that you can draw a lot of cards next turn. Not if you think you might draw cards, but if you have a guaranteed way to draw cards. This happens usually if you have any activator in your hand (such as Whirlwind) and some minions to play in addition to the Rage, then it may be worth holding. However, simply waiting to draw more cards in the future is usually too big of a tempo loss to afford.
Raging Worgen (especially as a one of) may seem like a very cuttable card, but I assure you it is not. In explaining the card choices for this deck, Nomodogan said that he wanted the Worgen’s effect somewhere in the list, and I couldn’t agree more. While Warsong Commander is very solid with many of the cards on this list, none of them do as much damage or have as much burst potential as an enraged Worgen. The best way to think about this card is like Force of Nature/Savage Roar. It is not something that you are always going to win with, but having it as an option can pull you out of games you have no business winning. That ability to steal games is key to a deck with combos such as this, and enables Worgen to operate as a very solid one of.
The only change I made from the original list was that I cut one Inner Rage for one Axe Flinger. This switch is entirely up to you, but I personally think it’s the right choice. With so many Whirlwind and damage effects flying around, this card has potential for quite a bit of damage. Not just that, but it is damage that gets through Taunt. Inner Rage is a card I have never really been impressed with, as it usually amounts to card disadvantage due to the fact that it empties your hand and adds nothing to the board.
Axe Flinger, on the other hand, works really well at giving you one more finisher. While there is a lot of combo potential in this deck, all of it, including the weapons and Grommash Hellscream can be negated by Taunts. This doesn’t come up too often, but it can be an issue against Demonlock or Druid. However, by adding Axe Flinger to the deck, it enables you to hold back on a conventional combo and force 6 damage through the Taunts. Surprise is always an important factor in Hearthstone, and having a card that can kill people when they think they are safe, allows you to win some games you have no business winning.
Everyone get in here! The crux of the deck, and the reason the entire Warrior class got a new archetype. Grim Patron is a very unassuming card that works absolute wonders. When looking at cards in a vacuum, it is very easy to let cards like this fall through the cracks. On the surface, even with Whirlwind, you are paying six mana for a 3/2 and a 3/3. Not very impressive. However, when you start to realize how many small minions are running around and how hard patron is to remove (dodging Consecration and punishing Swipe) this seemingly small five drop suddenly becomes a whole lot scarier.
The first rule of this card is that you are never want to play patron alone. Every time it comes down you want to be sure to get at least two cards out of it, as playing it naked is usually a waste. This whole deck is crafted out of little combos, and if you do not play to those combos you are hurting your potential to win. Of course, there are some times when you have to play it out onto the board, but this card is really best used for setting up big Warsong Commander plays, or filling up an empty board.
The last Blackrock card to make it into the deck, Emperor Thaurissan is yet another combo piece, but one that goes a little bigger. While so many of the cards in this list work towards getting sudden lethal or chaining a large number of 3/3’s together, Thaurissan sets up for the late game. His ability, due to the fact that this deck doesn’t have all that many cards, usually isn’t going to do anything crazy like it can in Combo Druid or Freeze Mage. However, it will give you the ability to go off a turn or two earlier than normal. In addition, it will also let you play your big threats in combination with other cards which can be very good when trying to maintain board control. As a 5/5 for 6, the emperor is below the curve in terms of stats, but he is exactly what you want in terms of effect: a card that baits removal, forces your opponent’s hand, and sets you up for a big kill later on.
As always on Weekly Legends, I will break down the five match-ups that I encounter most on ladder, and the best way to navigate those games.
The big bad of the meta right now. Combo Druid is a deck that, thanks to Emperor Thaurissan, came roaring back into the meta. The combo is stronger than ever, and with many resilient cards, their board gets harder and harder to deal with. However, the good news is that this is one of the best match-ups for this deck. Grim Patron by itself is very hard for Druid to deal with, and if you can get a few down on an empty board, the game will tilt very heavily into your favor.
When playing against Druid you want to always be one step ahead. That means, run out an Unstable Ghoul on turn two, or just play a Raging Worgen on three if it keeps your curve strong. Yes, these may get removed, but those plays maintain tempo. You never want to fall behind, as that is the way Druid wins games. Death’s Bite is an all-star in this match-up, because it is your best answer to their mid-game threats. Always keep Execute here just in case they decide to Innervate early, and always play to combo out Patron.
While Druid is tilted in our favor, the way this deck is constructed makes it even harder to lose to Paladin. These days, Paladins depend on Muster for Battle and an army of recruits to finish off games. Luckily for us, the recruits only have one health, and are usually quite weak to Whirlwind style effects. Since you are running six of those between Whirlwind, Death’s Bite and Unstable Ghoul, these games usually get out of control really fast. While Shielded Minibot can be annoying, you also have the ability to match their early game, and Grim Patron laughs at most of their removal options and small minions.
The only real tools they have in this match-up are Equality and Tirion Fordring. Always bait out their AoE, and force them to clear an unfavorable board. As there is no Silence here, the best way to deal with Tirion is to simply have board control when he comes down. This will enable you to kill him off and mitigate the damage. A rule of Paladin is, if their life total is under attack, Ashbringer really isn’t all that good.
With all the Druids going around, it does amaze me that Control Warrior is still as popular as it is. Not only that, but out of every match-up on this list, I find Warrior to be the most difficult. Besides the large amount of armor they can stack up, which lessens combo potential, they can also match you pound for pound with most of their minions. Unfortunately, once they get to the later game, instead of trying to play 3/3’s, they have things like Baron Geddon and Ragnaros the Firelord. Their late game punch is much stronger than yours, and you need to be aware of this going in.
The biggest rule here is to take your time. Aside from turn ten and beyond, you are rarely going to be in lethal range. Typically, this match is all about board control and keeping their armor down. Remove their minions every chance you can, and always watch out for Brawl. This is almost always going to be finished by a huge burst. As such, you should always save your Warsong Commanders for the lethal blow.
They always have Mal’ganis don’t they? Demonlock is perhaps the second most popular deck I see on ladder, and their Defender of Argus‘s and Sunfury Protectors are one of the main reasons I stuck an Axe Flinger into the list. The most important thing to note here is that there are typically two types of Demonlocks these days. One runs the conventional Handlock shell with Molten Giants and Twilight Drakes, while the other plays more demon-centric with early game cards like Nerubian Egg and Mistress of Pain.
Since you have no silence, you have to assume their Voidcaller is going to bring out something bad. For this reason, always keep Execute. You also want to clear their board whenever you can to avoid getting bursted down with Power Overwhelming. This match-up can be very tricky, but the best strategy is to sit back and build your hand until you can kill them off with a single strike. If that is not an option, or if they respond to your pressure, you can also burst them low and, if they put up taunts, try to push through the last damage with Axe Flinger instead.
To be honest, every time I write about this deck, I die a little inside. Face Hunter is a very good deck that Quick Shot made even better. They have a ton of a damage, and all they care about is using it on your face. You always need to react to their cards because ignoring them usually means death. There are three tools at your disposal in this match. The first two are Unstable Ghoul and Sludge Belcher, which give you taunts to stop their charge attacks. However, often this won’t be enough, especially due to the popularity of Ironbeak Owl. The last tool is your hero power.
Use your hero power as often as you can in this matchup. While you do want to get weapons, you need to build a board to eventually kill them. You can’t keep up with Hunter, and the only way you are going to live long enough to win is to keep your armor count high. While you want to sneak things onto the board here and there, the most effective way to win is to always be aware of your life total as well as how much damage they can do (hint: it’s always going to be a lot).
The most important part of understanding any muilligan guide is to know what cards you always want to keep. For this deck, those cards are Fiery War Axe and Cruel Taskmaster, as they are good in every match. Acolyte of Pain is another card I keep most of the time, and Frothing Berserker can be kept if you have a solid curve – and always when you have The Coin. You also never want to keep combo cards such as Inner Rage[card], [card]Battle Rage, Warsong Commander or Raging Worgen. These cards should be organically drawn throughout the game.
Against aggro (Hunter and Mage) Whirlwind and Unstable Ghoul are great keeps and should be mulliganed for. The only four or above card you want to keep is Death’s Bite, and it should only be kept if you have the coin (check number one) and if you have a good curve coming before it. If those parameters are met, I will keep the bite against Druid, Paladin and Mage. The final note about mulliganing is: Execute should be kept against Priest (to deal with a circled Injured Blademaster) and against Druid (to stop an early Innervate). As this is first and foremost a midrange deck, the rule is to have something you can play each turn. Wait for your combos, be patient, take control of the board and, if you slowly build to the big finish, you should be just fine.
After a week off, it’s good to be back in action. This deck is an absolute blast, and I cannot wait for the rest of Blackrock Mountain to see what’s in store. There are some great cards coming, and I plan to take Zoo to legend next week. I don’t know if that will be my next video, but whatever I look at, know that the meta is always going to be changing, and you never truly know what’s going to be in store.
Until next time, everyone get in here!