Weekly Legends: Overload Aggro

I spend a lot of time on Weekly Legends covering odd or interesting decks. Due to the way that Hearthstone is built, that is often some kind of cool control list or a strange midrange deck. However, what about aggro? I know it gets a lot of bad rap, but frankly that is due to […]

Introduction

I spend a lot of time on Weekly Legends covering odd or interesting decks. Due to the way that Hearthstone is built, that is often some kind of cool control list or a strange midrange deck. However, what about aggro? I know it gets a lot of bad rap, but frankly that is due to the ghosts of Hearthstone’s past such as Undertaker Hunter. I am an avid aggro player, and I love when a new build comes to light. It is hard to create a new aggro list because the ones in the game are so well fleshed-out, but that is exactly what has happened with the last wing of LOE. I always knew there would eventually be some new style of build, I just never would of guessed that it would have been Shaman,

This list was originally made popular by Reynad (a man who I have a lot of respect for), but this more-refined version was created by mowmali. Most good aggro decks are going to have a strong mix of creatures and spells, and this does that beautifully. While I hate Firebat’s original Mech Shaman list (which was basically draw the perfect curve or die) this list is a lot more consistent and has a lot more catch up due to the high amounts of burn. While it may seem odd that one card can bring about an entire new deck, that is exactly what happened here. Hearthstone is a game of changes, and this deck shows how subtle, and yet how important, those changes can be.

Key Cards

Tunnel Trogg

LOE has given us a lot of cool cards, and it is safe to say that Tunnel Trogg is one of them. Many people thought this was going to be Midrange Shaman’s third and fourth Zombie Chow. However, as this deck (and Reynad) has proved, it was aggro’s Mana Wyrm. This card is a one drop, but it packs a serious punch. Much like Mana Wyrm, if this card doesn’t die right away it can start taking your opponent from thirty to zero very, very quickly. Any time a one drop has three health people need to pay attention, and any time that three health is on a minion with damage potential, aggro wants it. While the damage is always the first priority, you should also never underestimate how well this can trade with other early drops, especially in aggro vs. aggro matches.

As an aggro deck you want to get as much damage out of Tunnel Trogg as you can. That means using your overload spells to sneak in an extra point here and there. Unlike Midrange Hunter or Aggro Druid, this is not a deck that is depending on board control for pressure. Rather, you are just depending on sheer amounts of damage. Using a turn two Crackle or turn three Lava Burst on the face may not seem like the best play at your disposal, but it can be the right one to amp up your trogg and add some extra damage. Every point counts, and you should always be looking for ways to make the trogg bigger when you can.

Knife Juggler

Knife Juggler is one of the best and most annoying two drops in the game. It has a lot of power, packs a huge punch and is basically an aggro staple. So, why bring it up? The reason is that, in this deck, you want to almost ignore its effect. Now, that is not to say you should ignore its effect, but you don’t want to get to caught up in what it can do. A lot of the time people will focus on a card’s ability much more than the card itself. Yes, Knife Juggler has one of the strongest abilities in the game, but it is also a 3/2. That body can do a lot of damage when unanswered.

This card is completely fine on turn two. That is not normally the case with the juggler, but here you want to do as much damage as possible and missing a drop is a problem. Remember, making a turn two totem is simply not an option in a deck that is as fast as this one. You want to be smart (such as not running this card straight into a Shielded Minibot, but playing the juggler without getting immediate knives is fine. Beyond Totem Golem, this card should be an automatic two drop when your opponent does not having something to play on turn one. Those type of aggressive plays may not come naturally, but they are what you need to do in a face deck like this one.

Feral Spirit

Feral Spirit is a relic from Hearthstone’s past, a card that has been completely outclassed in the past two years. However, in this deck it plays a very important role; it protects your minions. A lot of your early cards, ranging from Totem Golem to Tunnel Trogg to Knife Juggler, are extremely powerful ways to put on pressure. Most of your early minions can do a ton of damage. While spells exist, most decks these days depend on weapons or trading to get through the early game. When you have one of your early bruisers suddenly protected by two 2/3 taunts, it makes killing them much harder. You can then use that protection to keep hitting face, forcing your opponent to answer you rather than you answering them. While the wolves also do damage on their own, you should really view these as walls more than anything else.

The other reason Feral Spirit is so good is because of what it does in the aggro matchups. Most of the aggressive decks these days (including this one) are very fast. Speed is the name of the game with Reno Jackson running around. When facing down aggro decks you want to adopt a strict “never blink” policy. That is to say, force them to trade first. This can be very hard to do, especially when going up against a deck that has a ton of burst potential like Hunter or Aggro Druid. The way to get around that is by playing aggressive cards that are good against aggressive decks. Feral Spirit perfectly fits the bill. Not only does it allow you to trigger your other cards while putting four damage onto the board, but it also gives you two taunts, which can stall your opponent and lead to a win.

Arcane Golem

Fast mana? Try fast damage. Arcane Golem is one of the best designed cards in the game. Not only does it give aggro a very necessary tool to build with, but it also is a card that, if used wrong, can straight up lose you the game. This is a card you need to balance in two different ways. One, you want to play it at a time where your opponent’s mana jump will not matter. That usually means at the end of the game (turn ten or later), as a finisher, or when the extra crystal won’t give them anything new to play. Against control that will be at a time when you aren’t pushing them toward giants taunts, and against aggro it is when you aren’t giving them ways to do more damage. Also remember to never push your opponent into a combo (never get Druid to turn nine).

The other part of playing the golem is to use it when you can get damage through. A lot of times, due to the drawback of the ability, people will hold onto Arcane Golem for as long as possible. This is correct in almost all situations. However, there are some games where your opponent is going to put up taunts. You need to run out the golem before those taunts come down as a way to get the four damage through (as seen in the Druid matchup in the video). Most of your games are going to be finished by burn, which doesn’t care about the board. Push through with your minions whenever you can and let your spells deal the finishing blow.

Doomhammer

Oh, yeah. Now this, this is what I’m talking about. Running one Doomhammer is a sign of any solid Midrange Shaman list. Two is a sign of an all-out aggro deck. I bring up the epic weapon to remind you to never forget what this deck is. Trading a natural response in Hearthstone. It is something everyone does, and one of the natural plays in the game. However, you are super all-in aggro that wants to ignore the board as best as you can. Go face and force your opponent to react to you. The only time when you want to clear your opponent’s board is when you need to protect your own minions, when you need to go through a taunt, or when you want to avoid lethal. Doomhammer is just a great deal on damage. Sixteen points for a measly five mana is one of the best values in the game, and that is why there are two in the deck. Not because you ever want to draw two, but because you want to see one with some real consistency. Just rememeber, while you may be tempted to clear out the small minions on your opponent’s board, this is usually just four points of damage each turn.

Matchups

How to play against the five decks I see the most on ladder.

Face Hunter

Hunter is a class that will never go away, and Face Hunter is the reason why. In any metagame, no matter how unpredictable or tumultuous, Face Hunter will always be good. While many decks try to fight against Face Hunter’s aggression with taunts and healing, you need to fight it with aggression of your own. As odd as it may seem, you can actually out-race Hunter. However, that is largely dependent on how the game begins. It is always important to read the board before choosing which path you are going to take. If your opponent starts out quickly with a “must kill” minion like Animal Companion or Knife Juggler you need to clear. On the other hand, if you get the first step you want to hit them hard and fast.

This is a race. First to thirty wins. While it is not that straightforward in practice, that is the idea you always need to have in the back of your mind. You are trying to kill your opponent and they are trying to kill you. Just try not to be the one to blink first. That is to say, try and make your opponent trade before you do. The first aggro deck that worries about the board is the one that most often loses. Always be aware of the cards you could draw, and always be thinking about the damage your opponent can do. You never want to use your burn on their minions unless you have to, and try to leverage Feral Spirit to protect yourself as much as you can.

Deathrattle Rogue

If any of you follow my “Brewmaster” series, you know how much I absolutely love Deathrattle Rogue. I think this deck is beyond cool, and I believe it will be one of the ladder powerhouses moving forward. However, that is not the case here. This matchup falls into your favor for two reasons. The first is that, unlike past iterations of Rogue, deathrattle has very limited early removal options. Outside of Backstab and SI:7 Agent they depend on their minion trading to take over the game. The problem with that game plan is that it makes them very vulnerable to aggressive decks. While they may be able to clear, it often comes a turn after you have already done damage. The other reason that Deathrattle Rogue suffers here is that they depend on interacting with the board in different ways. As such, they cannot interact with spells, and you will often kill them with a firstful of burn.

You will notice that many of the matches with this deck come down to a simple rule. The one you want to follow here is, if they stabilize they will win. Deathrattle Rogue can be very aggressive and, like every Rogue ever made, has access to very large amounts of burst damage. If they manage to take over the board their damage can pile up very quickly. However, due to all of their sticky minions there is no reason to try and clear out their board. Rather, you just want to get as fast as possible. This is perhaps the only matchup where you really want to push all of your burn at your opponent and get moving as fast as you can. That is so important, you also should be a little more lenient with the way your play Arcane Golem, since this is one of the few decks that doesn’t get a huge burst from a mana crystal (just watch out putting them to turn seven).

Secret Paladin

This deck has fallen to third on my list, and I could not be happier. While once a king of ladder, LOE and a bunch of new cards have really taken the wind (and popularity) right out of Secret Paladin’s sails. That is not to say the deck is bad (though it is not anywhere near as strong as it once was), but that is just isn’t being as played as much anymore. Though, like Face Hunter, you want to be ready for this deck. Any Paladin you see is going to be secret, and that is very, very good news for you.

While this may be too frank, this matchup is almost always a joke. Secret Paladin is a build that is very good when their opponent is killing their minions and when they have time to set up a solid gameplan. Hyper-aggro decks have the ability to take away both of those because, not only do you have the ability to ignore the board and just attack the face, but you also can hit them so quickly that they often cannot catch up. The way you win this match is by forcing them to do all of the trading and play more like a midrange deck than an aggro one. While they have very little tools to interact with you, always be ready for Noble Sacrifice. This is one of Paladin’s best defenses when racing and when trying to stay alive. Try to trigger in a way where it doesn’t eat a lot of damage or where the minion that hits it survives.

Control Warrior

Every deck has a weakness, and Control Warrior is this deck’s kryptonite. While it is winnable, it does not feel like a fair fight. They have a ton of ways to get out of lethal range through armor and their weapons will absolutely crush you in the same way they crush Tempo Mage. However, unlike Tempo Mage, you are not ramping into bigger minions. This means once you get stopped, you are often just dead in the water. Justicar Trueheart is nigh-impossible to beat, as are a late game Shieldmaiden or Alexstrazsa. You need to get your hits in early and often.

The two ways you win this game are early board presence or Doomhammer. Though it is rare, if Control Warrior misses a turn two or three play you can come out really fast and take over the board. This makes their only real out a clutch midgame Brawl. If they don’t have it, they will often die. When that doesn’t happen, the other route is through Doomhammer. Even with their armor, taking four damage a turn really hurts. You want to point this card at their face as much as you can, and try as hard as you can to set it up with Rockbiter Weapon. This is not a game where you need to worry about their minions or what they are doing. Being complacent will almost always lead to a loss. Try and cut them off as quickly as you can by going all-out aggro as soon as you can.

Zoo

Zoo is back in a big, big way. While it took a quick hiatus from the ladder due to a certain brew-loving dwarf, Gul’dan and his army of sticky minions have returned with a vengeance. This deck is as strong as it ever was, and this matchup is going to be a tough grind. While lifetap does work in your favor, you will almost never have board control, which makes their Defender of Argus really powerful. Another setback is, unlike Face Hunter or Aggro Druid that can fight through Zoo’s swarms with things like Swipe and Explosive Trap, you have no real ways to deal with a lot of minions. Feral Spirit can slow them down, but it does a lot less here due to all of their buffs. You simply want to try and end the game before turn six or seven when their huge threats start to come down. Though, anytime you can get a favorable trade you absolutely should take it. Never forget that Zoo can do almost absolutely nothing without a minion on the board.

Mulligan Guide

Mulliganing with an aggro deck is very interesting. While many think it is a straightforward affair, in truth it is much more complicated. While you do want to play to your curve (like most decks) a lot of your mulligans will be based off of feel. I know, I know. That sounds like a cop out, but I trust you that it’s not. As I explained in the video, there are a set of rules, but they are more like guidelines than anything else. Sometimes you will throw back certain “must keeps”, while other times you keep cards you normally never would. It all depends on your damage, your early minions, what you expect your opponent to play, if you have the coin and the best way to protect your opening threats.

For the rules, you want to look for your one drops and two drops. Leper Gnome, Tunnel Trogg, Whirling Zap-o-matic, Totem Golem, Rockbiter Weapon and Knife Juggler are all your auto-keeps. You want to keep Earth Shock against Mad Scientist decks (Hunter and Mage) or Priest. Beyond that, all of your non-Arcane Golem three drops should be kept with the coin, Feral Spirit is a really good deck against aggro and you want Lava Burst against Druid and Priest if you have a good curve.

Conclusion

I don’t always cover aggro decks on Weekly Legends, but when I do they are fun. This style of blitz deck is really cool because, not only does it have a good blend of spells and minions, but it also is a great lesson in trading vs. going face. Aggro decks are not always completely one-dimensional like everyone thinks they are. In face, the best aggro deck of all time (Undertaker Hunter) was really built on leveraging early board control. Either way, I hope you liked the break from the usual control/midrange fare. Even if you didn’t, I’ll be back on that grind last week. Until next time, may you always topdeck lethal.