When Whispers first got revealed I brewed up a number of different decks I thought would have a lot of potential in standard. While those decks ranged across different classes and archetypes, one of the ones I was most excited about was pirates. As I said then, when a new set drops it is always important to see what synergy exists that didn’t exist before. It is even more important to do that with an entirely new format. Whispers of the Old Gods gave us a lot of new tools, and among those were some very solid options for pirates. While there is not a ton of new options, it is important to remember how much impact just one or two cards can have. Hearthstone is built in a way where each class is always going to get most of its power from classic or basic cards. That means it only takes a small push to instantly make an archetype good. Today’s builder, Lunk42, shows a perfect example of that by revealing how to take a few new cards and craft a deck with a lot of powerful synergy.
We look at many different styles of decks here on Weekly Legends. While this list may look like an aggro deck at first glance (and most pirate attempts have been aggro based), it is actually a heavy aggro/tempo build in the same vein of Zoo or the old versions of Midrange Hunter. That is to say, you want to start out with board control to get in some early damage, and then build on that until you end the game in a series of burn. Though the burn may not be as obvious here as it is in other decks, you do have a lot of ways to rapidly close out the game. This deck operates similar to a much more aggressive version of Tempo Warrior. The first three or four turns should be spent controlling the board and building up a presence, but once the middle game hits you need to turn up the heat and start pushing for damage as much as you can. There are a lot of finishers in this deck, and you should play to them as best you can.
Holy mother of value! Though it may sound like an overstatement, Bloodsail Cultist card may very well be one of the highest value cards in the entire game. The three drop not only has one of the strongest niche abilities in Hearthstone, but it also has a perfectly on curve body on top of a very relevant tribe. As such, this card makes the deck. Period. Without the 3/4 coming down early on and upgrading your weapons you would never be able to put together the kind of board presence you need to get a tempo list like this to work. This card is the whole package, and you want to try and build off of it as much as you can. Your early pirates are small, but they are going to stick much more often that you will expect. Druid, Mage and Rogue are the classes that can easily do one damage, but a lot of them are going to make other plays on their second or third turn, opening the door for you to get the buff. Even if they do take one down and you have to wait a turn to get your weapon going, the extra 1/1 is more than worth the wait.
Something to know is when you want to hold out for Bloodsail Cultist‘s ability and when you want to just run her out on curve. The overarching rule of this deck is to always play something each turn. Using your hero power during the early parts of the game (especially in a deck with a such a solid curve) is a disaster. If the cultist is your only turn three play then you must absolutely get her down to try and move into turn four and beyond. There is no reason to get stuck on her ability, because even without buffing a weapon she is a very strong 3/4 for three. The only reason you would hold onto her is if you have something else to play in lieu of the cultist (such as Fierce Monkey) and you do not have a pirate on board or a weapon equipped. Not everything is about getting value, but you should look for opportunities to gain an advantage where you can.
I bring up Southsea Captain because I believe it to be one of the most important cards in this deck. A lot of people omit this card when building pirate decks, writing it off as just another under-the-curve minion with an average ability. However, as you play this deck you realize just how strong the pirate lord is. Removal and minion-quality have both dropped with the induction of standard, making fights for the board more important than they ever have been. That goes double for a deck that builds on itself like this one does. An extra 1/1 buff works in two ways. It can either get your minions past removal or allow them to attack in and live. Keeping bodies on board is by far the most essential part of a deck like this. Even just having a 2/1 around to keep up the damage can help you control the pace of the game, and the captain helps with this greatly.
The other important part of Southsea Captain is its ability to stack up pressure. Pressure is incredibly important in the current meta because most of the ways that used to offset damage (Sludge Belcher, Antique Healbot) are largely gone. This means it is easier to push through now more than ever. Southsea Captain’s buff may not seem like a lot, but putting together an extra three or four damage a turn can add up in a hurry. Especially when you have that backed up by a weapon or are pushing for a finisher. Remember, pressure is not always the damage you are doing, but also the damage you represent. If you can suddenly fill the board that threatens to have lethal with a weapon or finisher from your hand, it is going to force your opponent to make plays they otherwise would not take.
While this deck is not an aggro deck (at least for most of the time), Leeroy Jenkins is pivotal to its success. Think of this very similar to Zoo, where you are going to be pushing through with a lot of minions for early board and then switch to burst for the end. As such, having access to more damage is never a bad thing. Burst goes a long way in the current meta, allowing you key windows to kill off decks with massive amounts of healing like N’zoth Paladin, combo decks like Miracle Rogue, as well as resilient aggro decks like Zoo and Shaman. Leeroy really helps by giving you access to more than one form of burst, and can lead to some really nice “oops, I win” moments when pushing for lethal. That helps you operate in two different modes. You can play as the midrange/tempo deck that slowly wears your opponent down, but in some games you can also become pure aggro and try to close things out by turn five or six.
An important thing to note about Leeroy is that almost nobody is going to see him coming. This is very key because you will win more than a few games simply by catching your opponent off guard. Every single person you play is going to spend their time playing around your minions, but they will rarely expect burst. To offset your damage your opponents will either heal or set up a taunt. However, they will usually only do this to plan for an Arcanite Reaper or Grommash Hellscream (which you don’t even run). Because Leeroy comes down during different turns and slots differently into the curve, they will usually not specifically heal out of his range. Play off of this, and try to lure your opponent into a false sense of security. Holding back your plays or trying to make them think they aren’t going to die can win you games by making them not heal or play taunts in favor of other plays.
While the original list ran Captain Greenskin in this spot, I find Malkorok to just be flat out better. While he does not have the pirate synergy that the captain does, the ability to create more weapons without actually having to put more weapons into your deck is very strong. You run five weapons in the list, and while you always want to have one equipped, running any more than that can get too clunky. To make up for this, you run the legendary. Not only is Malkorok a beefy, 6/5 body, but he is also going to give you a lot of value. Though you cannot accurately control the weapon you get, you can plan for having a weapon on board. For instance, you know you are going to get some form of damage, which you can then plan to use with Bloodsail Cultist or pick something off. No matter what the attack, every weapon in the game is going to be some form of damage, which means you can also use the legendary as a tempo play to keep the hits coming. I usually assume I am going to get two damage from the weapon, and then plan my next plays around that.
Ragnaros the Firelord
Is it 2013? It has been a long time since I have said this, but Ragnaros the Firelord is one of the strongest cards in the game. Now that Big Game Hunter has gone to the big nerf in the sky, this card has no real answer outside of the heavy-hitting removal, most of which is used up by turn eight. Though Skycap’n Kragg took this spot in the original list, I think Ragnaros is just an all-around better option. While the captain is kind of like a Doomguard at times, he can only ever do four damage to the face, and most of the time he is going to be used to clear a midrange minion before getting immediately removed. In contrast, the firelord is a gigantic, hard-to-remove threat that gives you more and more value each turn that it lives. He is currently one of the best finishers in the game, and a great way to top off the curve of a semi-aggressive deck like this.
You typically only want to play Ragnaros the Firelord when you either can have an immediate impact on the board or when you have no other play available. The worse part about Ragnaros is how unpredictable his ability is. The random damage is going to hit a lot of bad targets that you don’t want, so you want to try and play rag when you have the highest odds of taking a big target (or your opponent’s face) down. Also remember that you always want to play rag if you have a 50/50 of getting lethal. The reason being that, even if the firelord doesn’t hit your opponent, he is going to kill their minion, clearing the board and setting you up for a strong follow up turn. In this way, the legendary operates a lot like Leeroy Jenkins in that he is a form of burst damage most people won’t see coming. If you have the chance to slam him down on an empty board to get in eight immediate damage, you should usually take the opportunity to do so.
The five decks I see the most on ladder.
Though the Aggro Shaman of old is long gone, the new version is everywhere on ladder and may well be the most powerful decks in the game. This is very interesting because they have changed dramatically from what they once were. While Shaman used to be almost all burn spells and a few extremely powerful early game minions, they have shifted to being almost all minions with a few key spells. Many compare the new version to Zoo, and I think it is a very apt comparison. They are playing the tempo game, trying to back up some of the strongest early game cards with even stronger mid-game cards to create an almost unbeatable curve. Your goal in this match is to meet that curve and disrupt it in anyway that you can. This usually means using your beefy early minions or weapons to take down their guys and force them to choke on overload. It is important to remember that you do not run Execute, giving you little outs to Flamewreathed Faceless and Thing from Below. As a result, you want to be aggressive and try to end this game sooner rather than later.
The most important thing to remember about the new version of Shaman is that they have much less burst damage than they once did. Some run Lava Burst, but it is gone from most lists, as they now try to take over the game through the board. This means you can play a little looser than you once did, and can take some risks as the game progresses. However, you do want to make the most out of your hero power, and you should always try to get in some armor when you can. This is usually going to come up during the middle turns of the game, when you have time to be more flexible with your curve instead of trying to stick to a set play each turn. Also note that your opponent still has access to Rockbiter Weapon and Doomhammer, which is another reason to push to end the game quickly. You want to cement board presence as soon as you can and the be the aggressor.
There are many versions of Zoo on the ladder these days, and while they run a wide range of different threats and tech cards, they are all largely the same. They run a core of strong, sticky minions that they use to slowly build up a board and set up their finishing burst. This matchup usually comes down to the first two or three turns because, while it is very hard to keep up with Zoo, they have an extremely hard time keeping up with you. The deck has absolutely no form of removal outside of Knife Juggler plus minions, meaning once you get board you are never going to lose it. Even though they can try to stall with things like Defender of Argus or Sea Giant, you can simply run them over at that point because each card they draw is going to cost them two life. This entire point of this matchup is the board and you should spend all of your resources to get a hold of it.
The biggest thing to remember about Zoo is the amount of burst they have at their disposal. Abusive Sergeant, Dire Wolf Alpha, Defender of Argus, Power Overwhelming and Doomguard all stack up damage very quickly, and even Darkshire Councilman can kill you from high levels of life if you let it live. The best way to offset Zoo’s damage potential is to take over the game as early as you can, which will stop them from being able to use their burst effectively. You should always monitor what spells and minions they have played in order to know when to trade and when to go face. Pushing for damage is a great way to pace the game, but leaving even leaving one or two minions alive can open the window for Zoo to kill you from the mid-teens. If they still have a lot of damage left you should play conservatively.
The meta is still largely in flux, with all sorts of decks coming and going in popularity. However, it seems that N’zoth Paladin is rapidly rising through the ranks to be the premier control deck around. Not only does it have massive amounts of healing, but also very strong board clears and some of the most powerful late-game minions in Heathstone. That does not bode well for many popular decks on ladder, but it is not as big of a problem for us as you would think. Lunk42, the creator of this list, said that N’zoth Paladin was the worst matchup for this deck, but I have not found that to be true. In fact, it seems to me to be quite good. An early Doomsayer can be a huge problem (you have absolutely no way to kill it), but beyond that Paladin has really no answers to your board until turn six when they can set up Equality or Consecration. Even so, by that time it is often too later and the damage is done. I find that they are often forced to use a Forbidden Healing during the middle of game. That then forces them to spend eight mana to heal, which is too slow in the face of your finishers.
Burst is the way you are going to win this game, plain and simply. Paladin has some of the best healing there is, and you need to constantly keep pressure on their face to make sure they cannot get comfortable. Always look for ways to set up two turn lethal or get to that last push with Leeroy Jenkins or a weapon. Once you have a dead turn or Paladin takes control of the board the game is largely over. You want to build up enough minions where Paladin has to use a big heal or AOE to not die. This is important because all of their clearing and healing options are late-game, and are usually going to take the whole turn. That gives the option to then hit hard with a bigger card or immediately fill the board up again, which they have little answer to once their first AOE is gone.
While deathrattle is cute and all, Valeera has shown her true allegiance, and that is to Gadgetzan Auctioneer. Miracle Rogue is back in a big, big way. The combo deck does what it has always done, stall until turn six or seven when they can Conceal an Auctioneer or use it to go off and draw half their deck. From there they Conceal minions and then kill you with a mix of Cold Bloods and burn. As you can imagine, that gameplan plays right into this deck’s strengths. Aggro Warrior has always been extremely strong against all variants of Miracle Rogue (in fact people would once play Aggro Warrior to specifically counter the old versions of Miracle) because they have no way to interact with the constant damage that comes from weapons. While most decks tech in an Earthen Ring Farseer, that healing is not going to be able to overcome repeated hits to the face. You are absolutely an aggressive deck here, and you typically want to kill Rogue (or get them to extremely low life) before they can put together their combo. This is quite an easy task as most of your minions are quite beefy and they have no longer play Blade Flurry to clear out a swarming board. Just try and set up your weapon buffs as much as you can and swarm the board starting from turn one. Even if they have a couple of spells here and there they will eventually crumble to the damage or one of your various finishers.
Control Warrior is strong, but it is nowhere near as reliable or as popular at Patron Warrior. The drinking dwarves have more than survived Whispers of the Old Gods, mixing with some incredibly value-oriented cards to become one of the best midrange decks in the game. While they start out slow, they quickly can roll you over by playing a whole slew of high-quality midrange threats. This is a tough matchup for that reason as well as the fact that they have so many ways to clear out an early board. You win games through your early game, which is needed for both pressure and tempo. Losing those cards can quickly crush your middle turns. The way you take advantage of this is by being so aggressive early that they are forced to use their damage cards on your minions rather than your own. While it is never fun to have your board wiped, any clears they have to use make their combo cards that much worse.
You do not have access to any strong AOE. As a result, Grim Patron is going to just take over the game. The way you stop that from happening is, similar to when playing Rogue, to stack up as much pressure as possible before the combo turns come around. You want to be very aggressive in this matchup to force your opponent onto their back foot. Patron does not have that many ways to mitigate damage, and once you get ahead they will have to use a lot of resources to keep from dying. Another big part of this matchup is setting up an answer for Frothing Berseker and Bloodhoof Brave. These two cards are the most problematic for you because they each can push through early damage (allowing Patron to pace the game) and will force you to use multiple resources to remove if you aren’t prepared.
As I said in the video, this mulligan is only about one thing: the curve. You have an insane amount of 1-2-3 turn plays in this deck, and you need to do your best to play to that. N’zoth’s First Mate, Sir Finley Mrrgglton, Southsea Deckhand, Fiery War Axe, Bloodsail Raider and Flame Juggler are your “must keeps”. That may seem like all of your early game cards, and that’s because it is. Starting off slow will almost always lead to a loss, so you need to aggressively search for every small minion and weapon you can. The only exception to this rule is Upgrade![/card], which should only be kept if you have a weapon and a very aggressive start.
Fierce Monkey should always be kept with the coin or if you have an early curve. Southsea Captain follows the same rules except you never want to keep it without pirates. King’s Defender should be kept with the coin or a curve as long as you have no other weapon and you only want Dread Corsair if it slots into your curve and you have a weapon. Kor’kron Elite should only be kept with the coin and a solid curve. Since you want to start out so quickly, never keep any of your 5-plus mana cards. Those will come later on, especially if you work hard to curve out well.
Arrr! Man, do I love tribal decks. Beasts is, of course, my favorite, but Pirates (especially with the introduction of Bloodsail Cultist) is quickly becoming my second. I have always loved Warrior, and this deck is the reason why. Control is very cool, but the versions that have a ton of synergy and awesome minions are really what I like about the class. I hope you also took a liking to the scurvy dogs, and I hope this gave you a new look at Warrior. Until next time, may the northern wind always blow in your favor. Hoist the sails!