Weekly Legends: Tempo Warrior

Alright, now we’re getting to some cool stuff. This week I’m looking at brand new take on Warrior (one of my favorite classes in the game). In the past Warrior has been restricted to three different styles: Aggro, Patron or Control. All of those are fine archetypes that can be a blast to play. However, […]

Introduction

Alright, now we’re getting to some cool stuff. This week I’m looking at brand new take on Warrior (one of my favorite classes in the game). In the past Warrior has been restricted to three different styles: Aggro, Patron or Control. All of those are fine archetypes that can be a blast to play. However, with Whispers comes new decks and new styles, and these week we explore something a little different in Tempo Warrior. This list, rather than be purely midrange, purely aggro or purely control, is a blend of all three. As a result, it is two decks mashed into one, looking like half-Patron and half-control. The early game here is Acolyte of Pain and Battle Rage mixed in with Armorsmith and Fiery War Axe. However, as the game progresses your minion quality rapidly rises, giving you the chance to win or overpower other decks with some giant legendaries.

While I did not create this list, the following list is my take on Tempo Warrior. I mention this because there are a number of decks floating around that all do similar things. While only a few changes have been overall, I think there is a lot of flexibility with this, and that means you can freely tweak the deck how you want to. There are a lot of flex spots here, and many options to play. You typically want to alter the deck in a way that best fits the style you play as well as counters the decks you are most often seeing. For instance, if you aren’t seeing taunts (which is quite unlikely) you can switch out The Black Knight, or you might want more early game if you are seeing a ton of Zoo.

Key Cards

Blood to Ichor

Blood to Ichor is one of the newer cards in the list, and also one of the most useful. While this card cannot kill or buff things in the vein of Cruel Taskmaster, shaving one mana really allows this to be much more versatile and fill in your curve. Like all damage spells with some added effect (Slam, Whirlwind etc.) this card can trigger all of your minions that want to be damaged, like Armorsmith, Acolyte of Pain, Grommash Hellscream and Bloodhoof Brave. However, it also works wonders as a tempo play. Yes, the one mana spell is not typically going to remove anything (since then you won’t get the ooze) but it can be combined with other plays to kill things off. It also has even more versatility than Slam because it only does one damage rather than two. That allows you to damage smaller minions with the ooze, and it gives you a way to ping your own things (Acolyte of Pain) much more easily.

One of the best things about Blood to Ichor is that it helps you clear four health minions with Fiery War Axe. With so many C’thun and Aggro/Midrange Shaman decks on the ladder, getting to four health is more prevalent than ever. While the axe is still the best turn two play Warrior can have, it is weak when facing down things like Totem Golem or Twilight Elder. Using this to ping those cards, get an immediate 2/2, and finish them off is a really big swing that can put you ahead on board very quickly. This is a deck that, like all midrange decks, wants to snowball, and this card helps with that. The 2/2 body is very relevant against a lot of the current meta, and being able to clear while playing something on board is usually better than a card, especially early on in the game.

Note: You can feel free to use Cruel Taskmaster over Blood to Ichor, but I think ichor is better solely because the one mana gives you many more options than task does.

Ravaging Ghoul

Another extremely strong tempo card, Ravaging Ghoul has blow away my expectations. While a Whirlwind on a 3/3 body may not sound like the most exciting card (and I really didn’t think it was that exciting), it helps you in oh-so many ways. The fact that this card has a battlecry is extremely relevant, because, unlike Unstable Ghoul, it allows you to choose when and how the Whirlwind effect triggers. If you need to get in some extra damage you can trigger your Bloodhoof Brave, while you can get cards with Acolyte of Pain or armor with Armorsmith. It also clears out a lot of random junk minions, helps you activate Execute, and can be used in combination with Battle Rage. All good midrange lists need toolbox cards that can be used in numerous different ways, and this card is your swiss army knife. The fact that it gives you a solid body doesn’t hurt either.

While this card helps a lot of your individual interactions, it is also here as a meta call. Zoo, Paladin, and the new Shaman-Zoo (running Argent Squire, Tuskarr Totemic and Feral Spirit) do not like an opponent who can do one damage to the entire board. As a result, this card really gives you a huge swing in a lot of games by allowing you to crush your opponent when they try to mount a large counter push. It also does a very nice job of simply keeping your opponent’s big turns at bay, such as shutting down a Forbidden Ritual, and pinging down things like Disciple of C’thun. You do not always need to get max value out of this card. Just try and play it in a way where you are coming out ahead. Anytime you can clear at least one minion while putting something down.

Cairne Bloodhoof

The inclusion of Cairne Bloodhoof may seem like an interesting one, but there is a lot of power in this old tauren. While some lists include Sylvanas Windrunner in this spot (something you can feel free to do) Cairne is my card of choice because of how rare stickiness is these days. Right now on ladder most decks (outside of N’zoth) do not run a large number of sticky minions, making most decks depend and trust in their removal. Cairne blows that up by invalidating almost every single popular removal spell in the game. Even if he does eat a Fireball to the face, Baine is going to stick around to keep the damage coming. In addition, with five health not being as relevant anymore (goodbye Loatheb!), he does a great job of trading into minions and eating cards like Azure Drake for lunch. It is also important to remember that Cairne is very good in a pressure/value deck like this one. While you are playing a midrange list, you are tempo and you are going to pressure your opponent as much as you can. Cairne helps with this by giving you a removal-resistant card that your opponent is going to have a lot of trouble trying to remove. In this way, he can seal the game if you are pushing for lethal by invalidating any AOE or board clears your opponent was hoping to have.

The Black Knight/Harrison Jones

I lump these two legends together because they are my current tech cards of choice. While this list has a very stable (and very strong) core, there is a lot of room for different cards depending on your style or preferences. First, I am a strong advocate for Harrison Jones in the current meta. While Druid and Zoo are very popular, taking the tempo loss in those matches is worth having a set way to deal with (and win) against Doomhammer. You have a good number of ways to clear and mitigate the board, but you only have two ways to gain armor and a few taunts. That often is not enough against Shaman once the high-damage weapon comes down. Being able to stop that card and draw through your deck usually just ends the game on the spot. The bonus that this also hits Tirion Fordring as well as Warrior decks while also keeping your hand full is just an added bonus.

I cannot imagine playing this deck without The Black Knight. TBK is one of the best tempo cards ever printed, and I cannot think of a single deck (including this one) that does not run a taunt. Druid is filled with taunts, Zoo and Rogue run Defender of Argus, Patron plays Bloodhoof Brave, Paladin has Tirion Fordring, Shaman runs both Feral Spirit and Thing from Below, while Dragon Priest has Twilight Guardian and Hunter has Houndmaster. Point is, there is always something to hit with this card. Being able to remove something and put something else in play is the point of this deck, and a card that actually kills a minion on its own while dropping a 4/5 body is an absolutely massive swing. The biggest thing holding TBK back is its situational ability, but it is more than worth it if a good portion of the meta is running taunts.

Varian Wrynn

It is finally the armies of Stormwind’s time to shine! Varian Wrynn is by far one of the coolest card ever printed for Hearthstone, and I always will take an excuse to break him out. While he was much less playable in the age of deathrattle and AOE, times have changed. Now that Priests have lost Lightbomb and, due to the fact that there are no sticky minions, games take longer, you will be able to get a lot of value out of the ten drop. This is one of your big finishers, and you need to know the best way to play him. You do not simply want to run him out as soon as possible. Rather, you want to read the board and then adapt him accordingly. Against aggro you do want to race to him, since bodies are going to be more important than anything else, but against control you want to try and bait out AOE before crushing them. Also remember that this card has a huge element of surprise, as nobody is going to play around it. You can easily get your opponent to burn their key AOE spells before dropping the 7/7 onto the board.

One of the biggest setbacks to the Warrior legend was that drawing you extra cards or flooding the board would just be death against control. While that is true in Control Warrior, the fact that you are a midrange deck means that this is just another huge threat in a world of huge threats. Drawing cards is never bad, and putting some of your stronger minions into play is usually going to win a lot of games. Yes, you do have a lot of strong battlecries (another reason for running Sylvanas Windrunner as a tech card) but usually when you are ready to play Varian. This deck works in a way where you are going to have control of the board for most of the game, and if you can play him while you are head to set up lethal, the game will often be over. That may not work against heavy control, but it ends the game against just about everything else.

Matchups

The five decks I have seen the most so far.

Aggro Shaman

Public enemy number one, Aggro Shaman is just as good (if not better) as it’s always been. So much so, that I believe Harrison Jones is a must have specifically to take down Shaman. It may seem like overkill to tech in one card just to fight one match, but this deserves it. Shaman has never been an easy matchup for any deck, and this game is very tricky due to the fact that you don’t have a lot of Warrior staples like Shieldblock or Justicar Trueheart. To make up for this, you need to remove everything your opponent plays and use that to take over the board. While Shaman once was all about burn, they have become very minion focused, which you need to always be ready for. Also note that Flamewreathed Faceless will hurt you if you aren’t ready. Keeping Execute is usually right if you have a good curve.

Beyond destroying a Doomhammer, you need to make the most of both Armorsmith and your taunts. Armorsmith, when played at the right time, can win you the game outright. You can drop her on turn two as a early tempo play, but if you get her later on you want to try to play her with Whirlwind effects or when your minions are going to take a lot of damage. This helps you get immediate value that you opponent will not have a chance to react to. Fierce Monkey and Bloodhoof Brave are your two taunt options. Just run them out whenever you can to slow your opponent down or force them to use burn. Also, always look to get use out of your hero power. Sometimes it is right to make a cheaper play in order to also be able to armor up.

Zoo

If Aggro Shaman is public enemy number one, then Zoo is number two. The aggressive Warlock deck has always been strong, and while it lost some of its staples (Nerubian Egg, Haunted Creeper) it has come back more powerful than ever. With the addition of Darkshire Councilman and Forbidden Ritual, the deck has a ton of ways to both recover from AOE and push through massive amounts of damage. That means you cannot afford to be reactive here. Sitting back and clearing is going to get you nowhere here. Instead, push with everything you have to build towards Grommash Hellscream or another huge game-ending card. You want to clear aggressively and try to make sure Zoo will get no minions to stick to prevent them from getting an early Sea Giant.

You want to play this matchup in the same way a Rogue would. That means, getting any minions down and then using your removal at tempo plays to protect those minions. Ravaging Ghoul and Blood to Ichor are amazing for this, but anything that gets a body down is fine. An important thing to remember about Zoo is that they no longer run any removal spells outside of buffs. As a result, they can only clear as many minions as the ones they have on the board. Keep this is mind when trying to calculate trades and possible nightmare scenarios. Finally, you need to make sure to clear (as always) to prevent their burst. Just because you are using your removal as tempo doesn’t mean you should ignore the board. Killing off their minions is pivotal to preventing their burst and limiting the options at their disposal. If you take away their buffs, you should be able to win the game.

C’thun Druid

The deck I covered last week, C’thun Druid is an incredibly strong list that has a curve that rivals Secret Paladin (yeah, I said it). While other variations of ramp are popping up here and there, I imagine the inherent power level of C’thun will keep this at the top of the meta for some time. This is a very difficult matchup you because, unlike most decks, C’thun Druid has the ability to put up giant minions, ramp quickly and pressure you all at once. To counter that you need to get aggressive here. That does not mean you need to go face like an aggro deck, but rather than you are setting up an overwhelming board to threaten pressure. Druid has access to no AOE, so just keep playing threats until they are out of removal. It is not easy to do, but you can wear them down if you ever get the upper hand.

To win this matchup you need to be ready for all of their large minions. Ancient of War is very popular right now, and both Dark Arakkoa and Twin Emperor Vek’lor are staples to any strong list. A big reason to play Tempo Warrior is your high minions quality, but all of Druid’s threats outclass yours. Even something simple like Klaxxi Amber-Weaver can ruin your day by trading into multiple minions. In terms of hard removal, you have two Executes and The Black Knight. These are premium ways to kill Druid’s minions, and you always need to be as careful when using them to get as much value as you can. Though you may want to Execute your opponent’s Twilight Elder, you are really going to need the spell for Arakkoa later. This train of thought is important, and if you have a way to kill something on the board that is not hard removal, you should do that first.

Tempo Mage

Well, this didn’t take long. While Tempo Mage was absent during the first couple of days of the new expansion, it has bounced back quite well. Cult Sorcerer is a very strong early game tool, and the deck’s make-up really means it can be tweaked in all sorts of ways. As such, it is really hard to tell what your opponent is running. Rather than try and play around with the millions of new spells your opponent might have, you just want to focus on the core of the deck (which is still intact). Mana Wyrm, Sorcerer’s Apprentice and Flamewaker  are all here, as are Azure Drake and Water Elemental. If you ever get board ahead of those minions (even for a turn) it is very hard to them to come back. As a result, your entire goal here is to out-tempo your opponent by making value trades and making the most of your removal. They do not have a lot of catch up cards, and most of their damage would rather go face. Do whatever you can to take the board during the early turns and then simply overpower them with your stronger minions.

Note: Most Tempo Mage lists these days run Flamestrike. This may not seem like a big deal, but you never want to overextend if you don’t have to.

N’zoth Rogue

Though Paladin has taken a liking to deathrattle these days, Rogue is still vastly more popular (which probably has something to do with the dust cost). Though this matchup can be very daunting, I find that it is very much in our favor. While Rogue has some really strong tempo plays through cards like Backstab, they no longer have access to AOE. This gives you the ability to flood the board and play multiple cards, which then forces your opponent to spend removal or minions to trade. In this way you can actually outpace your opponent, and once that happens the game is likely over. Going back to your minion quality, you simply have better finishers than they do. Use your burst wisely and known when to play towards Grommash Hellscream.

N’zoth is just a little too slow to beat your deck. Deathrattle runs very little in the way of stopping damage, and you can usually make a final push before the old god comes down. Even if they do get him off, it is usually too late since none of their minions have taunt. Speaking of, always watch out for Defender of Argus. The four drop is pretty close to a staple in the common deathrattle decks, and it can blow you out if you aren’t ready. While the extra plus 1/1 is really important, but the taunt is what pushes the card over the edge. Two roadblocks can be very hard to get through, especially when they are buffed up in both attack and defense. While damage is important in this matchup, you should try and clear as you go to limit potential Argus value.

Mulligan Guide

You want to mulligan this deck in the same way you would for Patron. That is to say, the most important rule is to seek out all of your early cards such as Armorsmith, Acolyte of Pain and Blood to Ichor. You never want to keep any of your legendaries, and you always want the three previously listed cards as well as Fiery War Axe. Execute is a solid keep against Druid, and can be also kept to against Shaman to fight Flamewreathed Faceless (assuming you have a good opening to go with it). Fierce Monkey should always be kept with either a good curve or the coin.

A big exception to the above rule is to always keep Harrison Jones against Shaman (he can also be kept with the coin and a good curve against Hunter). Ravaging Ghoul should also always be kept against aggro (or token) decks, while Kor’kron Elite, Bloodhoof Brave and Arathi Weaponsmith all should be kept with a strong opening and the coin. However, I like keeping Kor’kron against Tempo Mage if I have the coin, and Bloodhoof should be kept against aggro if you have the coin.

Conclusion

Ok, now things are getting fun. It may not get a lot of love, but Warrior is a very cool class. Whispers is bringing out all sorts of decks and I cannot wait to get a deeper inside look into how this constantly-shifting meta is moving over time. There is no telling what interactions we haven’t thought of yet. This deck is very well poised, and hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. Until next time, your fear will betray you.