Now that Patron is (finally) gone from the ladder, Warrior has a chance to spread its wings. A chance to look at new decks, to find interesting interactions and create entire new archetypes…Ok, fine, there’s just gonna be more Control Warrior. Ruin all of my fun. However, as I always say, just because a class is good at one thing, doesn’t mean you have to follow the trend. Remember, variety is the spicy of life. This week, that variety comes in the form of a legend Fatigue Warrior deck by R0ch. This list operates very similarly to Control Warrior, but it is whole different beast. While Control Warrior attempts to wear its opponent down through huge minions, here you are going to win by making your opponent draw more than you. As Hearthstone has advanced, Warrior has found more and more ways to stay alive. Not only did Justicar Trueheart give Warrior one of the best ways to go long, but Bash and card choices like double Brawl also helped immensely. Take those tools, add in ways to make your opponent hit fatigue before you do, and you have a very powerful, very interesting take on the classic Control Warrior build.
While it may not be obvious, so many classes thin their decks these days. From playing Mad Scientist and Mysterious Challenger to the large amount of card draw, people love getting cards into their hands. Normally, this is bad for their opponent. However, in this deck that’s exactly what you want them to do. However, you don’t want them to do it all at once. Fatigue Warrior is all about the slow burn. This deck may be hard to grasp at first because, unlike most decks in Hearthstone, it is very reactive. Most Hearthstone decks are built around the idea of board control. How to get it, how to maintain it, and how to never let it go. This list plays quite the opposite. Instead of spending your resources to get a hold of the early game and then use that to snowball, you actually want your opponent to always make the first move, which will give you a chance to react. That may sound strange, but this deck is largely a exercise in resource management. You cannot simply afford to burn a removal spell just to burn one. You have many ways to get rid of minions, but you need to make sure you are removing them at the right time. Once you understand that, and once you start to learn what is a “high priotiry” removal target and what isn’t, the gears should begin to click.
Remember, all of these games are going to go to fatigue, which means you are going to see every card in your opponent’s deck. Have a plan for all of them.
It wouldn’t seem right to discuss fatigue warrior without starting with the card that makes it all possible. Coldlight Oracle[/card] is the best card in the deck. Period. That may seem like an absolutely absurd claim, but it’s true. Where most Warrior decks use Acolyte of Pain to try and draw extra cards, you only run one. That is because, while you want to draw, you want your opponent to draw as well. Coldlight Oracle does this perfectly. Not only is it two guaranteed cards, but it also pushes you to the end of your game. Much like Aggro Rogue, you want to use this card when you start to run out of steam. This will happen some games when you either get flooded with weapons or when you have to use some of your removal spells too early. This is not a card you want to keep in mulligans, as you don’t want to give your opponent more options coming out of the gate. However, it is definitely a card you want during the middle to mid-late turns of the game when cards become very important.
Coldlight Oracle is a card that becomes better and better as you get closer to the end of the game. This can give your opponent that final push to fatigue, and it can also deal the last points of damage once they are drawing death cards. Something that is very important to remember when playing this list is, once someone is two cards ahead of you in fatigue the game is over. It is almost impossible to come back from that gap as fatigue adds up to lethal very, very quickly. If your opponent has a smaller deck than you never be afraid to simply use the oracle to run them out of cards. Especially if you have removal in hand. In that same vein, you also want to constantly be looking for opportunities to burn cards. While you have a ton of removal at your disposal, your decks becomes even more efficient by killing a Dr. Boom, Archmage Antonidas or Sylvanas Windrunner for free. Those type of plays can really help you win close or tricky games. It is not the way you always want to use the murloc, but Coldlight Oracle can lead to some serious overdraw if your opponent isn’t being careful with their hand count.
Though a very innocuous one-of, I honestly do not think this deck would work without Ironbeak Owl. This deck is situated in a very certain way, where your removal spells are your primary resources and the way you win games. Unfortunately, there are a lot of cards in this game that don’t care about spot removal. There are a lot of cards running around these days that just need to be silenced. Not in terms of buffs like Avenge (as those can be removed just like anything else) but in terms of deathrattle. To date, deathrattle is the strongest key word in Hearthstone. It creates resilient minions, gives a constant board state and makes things very tricky. That creates nightmares for this deck.
Ironbeak Owl is your only true answer to deathrattle, and the only way you can truly kill some boards. While the first Piloted Shredder or Haunted Creeper won’t beat you, the second or third most definitely will. Hearthstone is a game of sticky minions, and having no way to deal with those minions makes it really, really hard to come out on top. You need to have an out every now and then, and the owl is that out. There is nothing too fancy about this card, but you do also want to remember there are certain targets you need to hit. For instance, though you may be temped to silence that Shielded Minibot or a buffed Knife Juggler, you almost have to save the owl for Tirion Fordring if you can afford it. Of course, you don’t want to take too much damage in the process, but you want to try and find the “must silence” targets in a deck and then save the owl for those situations. This will not only allow you to push through some terrifying minions, but it will also allow you to stretch your removal as far as you can.
Big risk, big upside. That is Deathlord in a nutshell. This card has had its moments since Naxxramas first dropped, going in and out of Control decks every few months. On the surface, the three drop seems like a great deal. You get eight points worth of taunt that also has enough attack to kill most early game minions. However, between Ironbeak Owl, cards like Abusive Sergeant and the hundreds of strong openings, it just doesn’t shut off aggro in the way that it once did. That being said, why is it in this deck? Well, it might not shut down aggro like it the days of yore, but Deathlord does enough to slow them down. Not only that, but there is an old rule of Deathlord: It is ok to play in decks that can handle the big minions it might pull. As a Warrior, this is not a problem since you can most often can deal with anything that comes your way.
That being said, do not run this out against control. It may be tempting just to play something onto the board, but there is nothing worse than insta-losing the game because you’re staring down a Savannah Highmane or Tirion Fordring on turn three. That’s simply not worth it. Especially in a game where a 2/8 is going to do little to nothing. Rather, in those matchups you want to save this card for the later stages of the game as a way to push your opponent closer to fatigue. For instance, in situations where you have five cards left and they have four, it’s an amazing play. Not only does it give you a body, but it also cuts another card out of their deck. These are the small things you need to be aware of when piloting this list. Know that you always want to be behind your opponent in cards, and figure out ways to make that happen.
While Brawl is not some new age card, I wanted to discuss it because there are two of them in this list. That is not as unusual as it once was, as Control Warriors started running two when Patron (R.I.P) began to get really popular. In this deck, you want to use the clears in very specific situations. The first thing to note is you always want to get the most value out of Brawl. Whereas cards like Execute can only ever remove one minion, this is the only card in your deck that can remove three, four, five or six. This does not mean you have to wait until your opponent has a full board to use it, but you do want to make sure you kill high priority targets. If you are at a high life total and think you can wait one more turn for your opponent to get another minion or two onto the field, you should do so.
Brawl also does a great job of keeping the pressure off. A lot of people play very carefully against a Warrior. Very rarely is anyone going to extend into the first Brawl, but you can often force their hand by using it to clear their mid-game board. This will often move them into the later stages, where you can pick off their larger minions one by one. Once you burn the first Brawl, a lot of your opponents will commit more to the board than they normally would. You can then use the second Brawl to catch them off guard. Even if they won’t play into it, you can simply save it for the fatigue turns (where removal is essential) as a way to clear one or two minions. Remember, never use Brawl unless you absolutely need to. This is really the only no-nonsense board clear you have at your disposal, so you want to save it whenever possible. If you can clear the board using Death’s Bite, Revenge or the like, do so. Those are your first options. Brawl comes in second as a way to really punish your opponent for getting impatient.
The big daddy of weapons took a break for quite some time. However, Justicar Trueheart combined with the mysterious absence of Harrison Jones has allowed Gorehowl to come back with a vengeance. This is a very simple, but necessary card. It is a seven mana weapon that acts as four, five or six removal spells. The best way to think of this deck is to constantly be aware of how many ways you can get rid of minions. While most of your removal is efficient, it is hard to find something more efficient than this. Your constant armor gain makes this a powerhouse, and turns something that should have a downside into hard, repeatable removal. The number one rule with Gorehowl is to always remove a big threat with it instead of using a card like Shield Slam if you can. Spot removal can go around taunts, and also has the ability to kill things far and beyond the five, six or seven health threshold. That is important because it allows you some extra wiggle room later in the game. You don’t want to use an Execute on an Ancient of Lore when you can Gorehowl it instead. Gorhowl has a limit of what it can remove, Execute does not. Use the weapon while you can.
This is perhaps the biggest reason to play the deck. Secret Paladin is a very tricky deck to beat, but this is one of the games that falls greatly in your favor. Not only does Secret Paladin have a lot of problems with spot removal mixed with lifegain mixed with constant AOE, but they also thin their deck really, really quickly. Divine Favor and Mysterious Challenger are both forms of giant card draw, and each of them ensure you will be ahead at the end of the game. The rule of this matchup is to never let them get rolling. That means you want to constantly disrupt their early plays in anyway you can. The way they are going to win this matchup is by swarming the board and using that to overwhelm you. This is because you have so much big-minion removal you really don’t care when they start shifting to their late game. Tirion Fordring is the only real card you need to have an answer to. Save Ironbeak Owl or the old Shield Slam/Sylvanas Windrunner combo for when your opponent puts their faith in the light.
As you can imagine, this matchup is largely about using your board clears in the right way. Each of your Brawls need to be conserved for the right moment, and you always want to clear with Revenge or Death’s Bite when you can. Sometimes you will have to just ring the bell on a Muster For Battle, but that is the absolutely last resort play. Death’s Bite is your best tool in this match. Not only does it deal with Silver Hand Recruits, but it also crushes their odd midrange minions like Loatheb and Sludge Belcher. Most decks facing down Uther need to try and figure out the style of Secret Paladin they’re facing. You do not. Rather, you play each game in the same way. Try to disrupt their early plays with solid removal and then snipe down the big minions when they hit the field. Never blow your clear too early and, as always, make sure they don’t have an army on board when Mysterious Challenger comes to town.
As with last week, I cannot simply write about one Hunter archetype. The kinds of cards I see slammed into the midrange shell is almost comical aty this point, and just when I think I have them pegged down they hit me with some crazy card out of left field. However, no matter how many beasts or charge minions people play, every version of Hunter is predicated around one thing: damage. That fact makes this one of the trickiest matchups to play. The reason for that is, while they have the ability to kill you before you can stabilize, if you stabilize they have almost no way to win. That is true even against Midrange Hunter, since they still need that final Kill Command or bow hit to finish you off. Every matchup you want to play a little differently, and here you are just doing whatever you can to get armor and stay alive.
Classic Midrange Hunter runs Sludge Belcher, Savannah Highmane and Piloted Shredder. Those three cards are by far the hardest for this deck to deal with. The way you combat that is by gaining lots and lots of life. Putting on huge amounts of armor (or racing to a turn six Justicar Trueheart) will enable you to take a little extra time to clear with your weapons instead of having to rush out a quick Shield Slam just to turn a lion into two hyenas. Hunter’s Mark is run a lot these days, but there is really nothing you can do about that. Rather, you want to run out your taunts as soon as you see them and mulligan hard for both Armorsmith and weapons. Also, remember that you are planning on playing all the way to fatigue. Save your Ironbeak Owl for one of the highmanes, and don’t attack into their secrets unless you absolutely have to.
I have yet to lose a match to Control Warrior. I’m not saying it’s impossible to lose, but it is really, really hard if you know what you’re doing. The reason being that, not only can your Justicar Trueheart cancel theirs out, but they don’t know what they’re playing against and you do. Here is a yet another example where surprise can help win you games. Control Warrior is a deck that loves drawing cards. That card draw is especially important in the mirror. Use this to your advantage by triggering their Acolytes as much as possible. In fact, you only really want to play your own acolyte during the early turns where they will kill it in one go. Using it later on will enable them to make you catch up to their draw. Cards are really all that matters in this battle, since you can deal with everything that comes your way. Even Alexstrasza/Grommash Hellscream can’t hurt you behind the insane amount of armor you will have.
The key to this matchup is to hide your deck. Just act like you are playing the mirror and try not to play any cards that are going to give you away early (since that will alter the way they see the game). The longer they don’t know you’re fatigue, the longer they will play the game wrong. Once you start playing Coldight Oracles to burn cards or force them into fatigue, it will be too late. Remember, if they hit fatigue before you (sometimes a few turns before you) you are going to win the game 90 percent of the time. At that point armor doesn’t even matter, as they can’t possible keep up with taking four, five or six plus damage a turn.
I am not sure what the future holds for Tempo Mage, but man do people love playing it. It seems that the further up I climb the ladder, the more Tempo Mages there are. This is a very interesting matchup, since they cannot kill you on burn alone. You have too many ways to gain armor, which really puts a rut in their plans. As the name suggests, Tempo Mage feeds off of their ability to create pressure. That early aggression mixed with solid burn spells and huge minions is the way they build their gameplan. Being able to clear everything they play and keep at a comfortable life total ruins this and forces them to operate in a new way. The way you stay alive in most matchups is by gaining ridiculous amounts of armor, here it’s by killing minions. They have many cards (Arcane Missiles, Mirror Image) that do nothing against you. It is their minions that do damage, and that’s what you need to focus on.
Do not forget, short of burning you are going to see every card in your opponent’s deck. That means you have to be ready to fight both Dr. Boom and Archmage Antonidas as well as any other odd threat they might have. While you can easily handle both of those on their own, Tempo Mage runs a large variety of other threats that all need to be taken care of at one time or another. Your weapons are for the early game, but you should always try to save Death’s Bite for a five health minion. That enables you to use Shield Slam and Execute on much more important targets. One last note is Brawl, which is incredible here due to Tempo Mage’s small minions. Never be afraid to use the board clear on Dr. Boom if you have no other options.
What seems like the hardest matchup on the list (due to Control Warrior’s difficulty fighting Malfurion) is actually one of the easiest. We have reached the point where Druid has become a combo deck. That is not to say that they are pure combo like Miracle Rogue or Patron, but they rely on the combo to win 90 plus percent of their games. While this was once a gigantic problem for Warrior, the new armor cards have turned that around considerably. Not only can you stabilize in situations where you would once normally die, but the inclusion of Danassus Aspirant over Wild Growth has also made it easier to stop their ramp since it can be cut off with a Fiery War Axe. Fourteen is the death point here, and you need to do whatever you can to stay above that life total. Once you get high enough they will do whatever they can to get a minion to stick. Just keep removing these high-end minions until they only have combos left in their hand with nothing to do with them.
The way to mulligan with this deck is very similar to mulliganing with Control Warrior. You have a lot of cards you do not want to see early on (like Brawl, Justicar Trueheart and Execute) but you also have strong early game. That early game is what is going to carry you through the day. Fiery War Axe, Armorsmith, Slam and Acolyte of Pain are all must keeps. Death’s Bite can be added to that list if you have something coming before it, or if you have the coin. A lot of decks in today’s meta depend on getting something going on turn two or three. Those are the key turns in the game right now. As a reactive deck, you need to take out those plays. For this reason, Shield Slam is very important to keep when you have no weapons or other removal. However, if you do have early weapons it is usually a little too slow.
Deathlord is a card that you only want against aggro. It can lead to disasters against Control, and should be saved for later on in those matches. Cruel Taskmaster is very good against both Paladin and Hunter. You also want to keep it alongside Armorsmith, Acolyte of Pain and Execute. Execute is often much too slow against every deck but Druid, and Shield Block is largely a judgement call. It doesn’t do too much on it’s own, but if you have other early plays it can be a good way to get a buffer when playing aggro or Druid. Finally, Ironbreak Owl should never be kept against slow decks, but almost always against aggressive ones (and always against Warlock). It shuts down things like Mad Scientist or Haunted Creeper while also getting a body down. One last note, never keep Coldlight Oracle. It’s a very strong card, but you never want to play it during the first turns of the game.
The winter winds spins in from high on the mountain peaks, and I write this from underneath the shielding protection of a thick robe. Winter is coming, and Autumn is already in full force. As the seasons change, so does Hearthstone. Patron is now gone, and a new world will surely be emerging. Many think Secret Paladin will take a choke hold on the meta, but I’m not so sure. Either way, there are many decks to talk about and I hope you all have a hankering for some candy. Until next week, may you always draw your opponent into fatigue.