Falathar here with a brand new guide on Paladin. A while ago, when GvG came out and Paladin was kind of unexplored, I wrote a Paladin Control guide here. A lot of information is still true, but I think it’s time for a new article.
This guide tackles Mid-Range Paladin as well as the classic Control variant. Like the previous article I don’t want to post my deck list and simply tell you to play it. Instead, I want to tell you what constitutes the core of Paladin decks and the key strategy to winning with the class.
For the control lovers out there, I will also give you a quick update on Paladin Control, and how I would build it in the current meta-game.
Before we start, I think it is important to summarize the differences between the two distinct Paladin decks.
Paladin Control aims to win in the late game and bury the opponent in card advantage. To do that it plays fewer early-game and mid-game minions than Paladin Mid-Range but more powerful late game cards. Another important feature of Paladin Control is that it absolutely needs to play double Equality. Mid-Range Paladin can afford to play only one, because it has a stronger curve in the early-mid game.
Paladin Mid-Range plays fewer expensive cards, but has more early and mid-game minions. It can also be more aggressive and can have quicker starts than its control counterpart. It is very reliant on having a good board presence, and then snowballing the superior board presence to victory. Paladin Mid-Range’s strategy revolves more around establishing board control and then riding tempo to victory.
At the time of writing this article, I’m Legend Top 100 with this list (hopefully at least Top 50 at the end of month). It is quite an unusual list when you first look at it, but a lot of thought and testing went into it. If you feel like playing Paladin Control is more your play style – longer games where you grind out your opponent – you should definitely play something close to that.
Let’s cover some unusual card choices, before I give you a quick overview on how to play Paladin Control.
2 Wild Pyromancer and 2 Equality
As already mentioned, Control is slower than Mid-Range. Therefore it can much easier lose control of the board and be overrun in the early to mid-game. To negate this problem, I think it is very important to play two of both cards, so that you have a higher probability of drawing the ultimate board clear on Turn 4.
Very few aggressive decks can come back from such a powerful board clear. When Mech-Mage is not careful enough, he can simply lose the game on turn four if he played too many minions. Another important factor is that not many people expect a complete board clear from a Paladin. The majority of Paladin players on ladder usually play Mid-Range with just one Equality and no Wild Pyromancers.
2 Lay on Hands
When you play Paladin Control, you want two things. First, you want to be the king of control decks and have access to a lot of card advantage. Second, you want to have a lot of life gain so that you don’t die when you are about to stabilize. Lay on Hands does both things, it is card draw and life gain in one card. Although it is expensive, I really recommend playing two of them.
I love Quartermaster, but after a lot of testing, I realized that other cards are better in Control so Quartermaster needs to go. If you play Control, you need to play expensive powerful cards so that you can crush your opponent in the late game. Quartermaster is a very powerful card when combined with some tokens, but is a rather poor five drop on its own. So to add more mid game consistency (more cards that are good on its own) and because control does not really need the power of Quartermaster, I’ve chosen to cut him completely.
Troggzor the Earthinator
The most overhyped legendary minion prior to the release of GvG. I think Troggzor is a very powerful card, but is not commonly played because it matches up poorly against Dr. Boom and people usually can’t afford to play both in their deck. Paladin Control however can afford to play both and is already in dire need of some help against the pesky Oil Rogue players. After Loatheb, Troggzor is the best legendary minion against Rogue. Troggzor is very hard to deal with, because it makes all their spells very awkward to play. When Troggzor is played on an empty board only a huge Blade Flurry can deal with Troggzor effectively, but requires a lot of resource commitment.
How to play Paladin Control
I already covered this in my previous Paladin article, but because it is so important to know how to play a deck, I will give you a quick summary (if you want more details, check out my previous article).
- You are the control deck. Your goal is to reach the late game, where you then win with your powerful legendary minions and card advantage. Therefore the main plan with Paladin Control is to play as defensive as possible and to kill opposing minions whenever possible. This deck is at its strongest in the late game, an abundance of legendary minions and the ultimate control spell Lay on Hands will inevitably ensure victory against faster decks, if you manage to survive.
- When playing against other control decks, try to gain as much card advantage as possible. A good way to squeeze in a lot of card advantage is to use your hero power as often as possible. Whenever I play against other slower decks, I often use the hero power on turn two, rather than play something like Shielded Minibot. Because games against other Control decks are slow, you will almost always draw your Wild Pyromancer and Equality at some point. Try to gain as much value as possible out of it.
- You should limit opposition card draw. Acolyte of Pain and Northshire Cleric should be removed as early as possible. If your opponent plays a turn one Northshire Cleric, don’t use your hero power. With Mid-Range it can be a correct play to use the hero power, but when playing Control, you fight for card advantage over anything else. Be passive; let the opponent build his board and even attack your life total a little bit. Then on Turn 4 or 6 (Equality and Consecration) it is time to reset the board. I always keep Equality against other control decks, because you then can be very passive in the early game and create virtual card advantage, by not committing anything to the board. Be greedy with your Equality combo against slower decks, but don’t be greedy against aggressive decks.
Paladin Control in the Current Meta-Game
Paladin Control is better against slow control decks like Ramp Druid, Priest, Warrior, Handlock and Mid-Range Warlock. However, Paladin Mid-Range is better against more aggressive decks like double Combo Druid, Mech-Mage and Mid-Range Hunter. Another big appeal of Mid-Range over Control is that Oil Rogue is not as bad with Mid-Range as it is with Control. So currently, if you only care about playing the best Paladin list on the ladder, you should pick Mid-Range Paladin.
This is the list I made legend with a while ago. Not many unexpected choices here, except Spectral Knight and Kezan Mystic. Both cards are meta calls, and you can easily cut them for something else if you don’t like them. Kezan Mystic is obviously a tech card against Hunter and Mage. Spectral Knight on the other hand is a decent mid-game minion in general and a very good card against Rogue.
How to play Paladin Mid-Range
Like every Mid-Range deck in Hearthstone, Paladin Mid-Range is very reliant on good board presence. It has a weaker late game, but a stronger early to mid game. If it loses control of the board it is tougher to come back for Mid-Range than Control.
An important feature of this type of Paladin and why many players prefer it over Control, is that it is more flexible. Control almost always wins in the late game by destroying the opponent with card advantage. Mid-Range can win through early Muster for Battle aggression, strong mid-game plays like Quartermaster and Piloted Shredder or even in the late-game with Tirion Fordring.
- Mulligan for a good curve against almost every deck. Unlike Paladin Control you need to have a good opening to get board presence. Pressuring your Control opponent and going for a quicker win is a more assured route to victory.
- Never keep Equality in your opening hand, because you need cards that develop your board.
- Don’t play around Acolyte of Pain or Northshire Cleric. Play your early game minions like Shielded Minibot if your hand is stacked with early game. Waiting and passing the turn will only leave you further behind. Your opponent will lose tempo if he wants to generate card advantage off them, and unlike Control Paladin, you aren’t as focused on card advantage. You want to build up a threatening board presence.
Core Cards of Mid-Range Paladin
I already covered the core cards of Paladin Control in my previous article. Now it is time to do the same for Mid-Range Paladin. Below you’ll find a list of cards which you absolutely have to play in every Paladin Mid-Range deck. Core cards are irreplaceable and there are no alternatives. Consecration for example is a unique card, that you cannot replace with something like Hammer of Wrath.
2 Zombie Chow
You absolutely have to play two of them. Not playing two of them is a mistake in my eyes. Unlike Warrior, Paladin needs to play them, because it lacks efficient early game removal like Fiery War Axe. Therefore Paladin needs to have a one-mana minion that establishes an early board presence and can also act as a pseudo removal spell by trading with other early game minions.
2 Shielded Minibot
That card is an amazing two drop against aggressive decks and is also very good against weapon based classes like Warrior. Paladin lacked early game pre-GvG, and this card together with Muster for Battle makes sure that Paladin is now a very good class. Don’t leave your house without two of them.
2 Knife Juggler
This card has decent stats for a two drop, but also gives us a lot of utility. Knife Juggler synergies with the hero power and helps making more favorable trades or pressure the opponent’s life total. When this card is combined with Muster for Battle, you can get a lot of value out of it.
Due to having a better board presence in the mid game than Control, Mid-Range does not need to play two of them. But the value of one copy is extremely high since this isn’t an aggressive deck. You still need a good way to destroy bigger minions and Equality fulfills this job. It also combos with Knife Juggler and Muster for Battle.
1 Big Game Hunter
With everyone playing Dr. Boom you need a very good reason to not play this card. Against almost every deck you play against will have targets for it and BGH can give you a huge tempo boost when sniping expensive minions.
2 Aldor Peacekeeper
A 3/3 for 3 is solid, but the Battlecry is what makes this card so good. Decreasing the power of big minions to one, makes this card a pseudo removal because it removes the card’s threatening presence altogether. It helps you answer huge threats, while improving your board presence. What more can you want out of a simple three mana investment? One of the strongest three-drops in the game and maybe one of the best cards in all of Hearthstone.
2 Muster for Battle
One of the best Paladin cards. It has so much synergy with other cards like Knife Juggler, Equality and Quartermaster and is also a very powerful turn three play on its own.
It doesn’t matter if you play Mid-Range or Control Paladin, this card is too good to not play at least two of them. When you combine Consecration with some minions you can make more favorable trades.
2 Truesilver Champion
A powerful weapon, that is useful in almost every match-up. Truesilver creates card advantage and tempo because it removes minions very efficiently.
This card has absurd synergy with Paladin’s hero power. Your opponents will make awkward plays because they live in fear of what dangerous things a Quartermaster can do. If you have three Silver Hand Recruits on the board and then follow-up with a Quartermaster you get a tremendous amount of value and put a huge amount of pressure on your opponent.
2 Sludge Belcher
This card is the best taunt in the game due to its stickiness. Paladin Mid-Range needs to play some taunts to slow down aggro and to have protection against face decks.
Loatheb is a very good 5 drop. At first, he may seem only useful against decks with access to powerful spells like Oil Rogue and Double Combo Druid. But he is also especially great if you are behind on board. Your opponent can remove other minions with spells. Loatheb, however, will make sure that your opponent can only use creatures to effectively rid of him. In addition to that, he is a great card to further develop your board and make sure your opponent can’t come back with spells the next turn.
1 Dr. Boom
Almost every deck plays Dr. Balanced, because he is most certainly NOT balanced. Dr. Boom is a good card when you’re behind, when you’re ahead or when the game state is even. Even though he’s a Big Game Hunter target, he is still worth playing because he is so powerful. I see a lot of people on ladder playing Kel’Thuzad over Dr. Boom. I consider that to be a mistake, because Dr. Boom is great in every situation, while Kel’Thuzad is only good when you are ahead.
1 Tirion Fordring
The best legendary card Paladin has access to. The death rattle effect is even more powerful than the 6/6 with Divine Shield. Also note that Ashbringer can put a huge amount of pressure on the opponent’s life total – if you choose to attack face.
Open Slots and Tech Cards
The core of Paladin Mid-Range is 23 cards. In my eyes they are all vital to the deck and there are no better alternatives. The missing 7 cards can be filled with a lot of different cards, depending on the meta-game or even your personal preference. Below I will analyze the most interesting options for the last 7 cards.
Late Game Options (Six Mana and more)Sylvanas Windrunner
Sylvanas Windrunner is played in every control deck, because of her powerful effect. In a Mid-Range deck she is by no means a necessity, but definitely a good option.Lay on Hands
If you want to play a slower version of Mid-Range, this is the first card you should add.Ragnaros the Firelord
Do not play this card. Ragnaros like Cairne Bloodhoof is an outdated card. He is very RNG dependant and is quite bad against everyone’s new darling, Dr. Boom. Very often he will just shoot 8 damage to face or hit Silver Hand Recruits and then get sniped by Big Game Hunter. Nowadays there are way better options for Mid-Range and Control decks.
Mid Game Options (Four to Five Mana)Harrison Jones
With so many weapon classes in the meta-game Harrison Jones is a good card to play, but by no means a must-have. At first he may seem like a fantastic card against Rogues, but the higher your Rank becomes, the worse he gets. Good Rogue pilots will play around him so that you don’t negate a buffed weapon. Against Rogue you mainly want to play resilient minions that fight for board control, your main concern is not their weapon or card advantage – more on this in the match-up section.Piloted Shredder
Unlike the core cards, Piloted Shredder does nothing unique. He is just resilient 4 drop, that can be replaced with a bunch of other cards (i.e. Sen’jin Shieldmasta, which is a more defensive card). Nevertheless he is a very good 4 drop unless you get screwed by RNG and get something like Ancient Watcheror Doomsayer.Defender of Argus
Some people still play this card, but I stopped a while ago. I don’t think it is good enough, because it requires you to already have a decent board presence to benefit from the Battlecry. I prefer four drops that don’t vary in power and are always good to play. Paladin already has Quartermaster as a mid-game minion that requires some setup, so I don’t feel comfortable having more situational cards. As with all the other options, this comes down to personal preference and if you feel like adding another card that has synergy with the hero power and can also provide additional taunts, feel free to add it to your deck.Kezan Mystic
From my point of view this card is a little underplayed. It’s a very nice tech card to have against Mage and Hunter, which are currently very common decks on the ladder.
Early Game Options (One to Three Mana)Coghammer
This Fiery War Axe imitation is a very good card to play. Taunting a big minion and giving it Divine Shield can lead to some huge tempo plays while the weapon helps you remove smaller minions or damage bigger minions if your life total is high enough. Some people think that playing this card is weak because you have too many weapons, but I can assure you that this is not true.Mind Control Tech
Before GvG this card was only played in Druid decks desperate to improve their Zoo match-up. It is now commonly played, because with GvG its viability increased by a huge amount. Dr. Boom will make sure that you can also get value out of it against other control decks, who very rarely had 4 minions on the board prior to GvG.
The increase of Paladin decks also made this card a lot better because of Paladin’s tendency to flood the board with minions. I personally don’t like it, due to its RNG nature and the fact it requires four minions to get maximum value, but nevertheless, it is a good card you can choose to play.Acolyte of Pain
– This is also a card that pops up in some lists. I don’t like it because unlike Warrior, Paladin lacks decent support for it. The only card it kind of synergies with is Aldor Peacekeeper. I don’t recommend playing it in Mid-Range Paladin, because you want three mana minions that impact the board.
– A very fine card to play if you want to have a silence effect in your deck. In the current meta-game you have lots of good targets like Mad Scientist, Sylvanas Windrunner, Tirion Fordring and Sneed’s Old Shredder.
Matchup Analysis and General Mulligan Strategy
Paladin Mid-Range is a proactive deck. This is important to understand, because unlike control decks, you want to dictate the pace of the game against every other deck. It doesn’t matter if you play against slower decks like Warrior, or faster decks like Hunter. You always want to have a good curve in your starting hand so that you can be proactive at the beginning of the game.
In general, look for the following cards when you mulligan: Zombie Chow, Shielded Minibot, Muster for Battle and Knife Juggler.
In general (there are some exceptions) don’t keep reactive cards, if you don’t already have a very good curve in your hand. Keeping a card like Harrison Jones against Warrior and then getting only other expensive or reactive cards is a sure way to lose the game.
Only keep Truesilver Champion if you already have a good curve and when you are playing against slower decks (Warrior, Druid, Priest). Against faster decks like Hunter or Mech-Mage it is almost never a good keep. I know that some people keep it occasionally, but unless your hand is the perfect early game (Zombie Chow, Shielded Minibot and Muster for Battle) this is a mistake against aggressive decks. Your main defense against aggressive decks comes from being proactive with your cheap early game cards, not from 4 mana reactive cards, so you should mulligan for them.
Most Shaman builds (Mech or Mid-Range) need to flood the board with minions and totems to function properly. This deck is very well prepared to stop that plan. Your powerful early game will hinder their development of the board and you have a stronger late game too. Paladin’s hero power is very good against Shaman’s because Silver Hand Recruits are excellent at killing totems.
Verdict: Very favorable match-up
A very unexciting matchup. It is very draw dependent with a low amount of skill involved. If you have a better start you will very likely win, if they have a better start they will very likely win. Always keep track of Spare Parts, so that you don’t mistake Spare Parts for real cards, because that might lead to a bad plays. Be aware of Archmage Antonidas, which can end the game in a flurry of Fireballs. Therefore you need to build up a decent board presence prior to the turn Antonidas hits the board. If Antonidas comes down on an empty board, you’re in a very bad spot.
Verdict: Favorable match-up
Business as usual. Hunter was presumed to be dead after the Undertaker nerf, but once again it has adapted and is still a very popular class. Zombie Chow is your best card against Hunter and the card you are looking for in the mulligan. He can kill Mad Scientist and then trigger the trap as well. Try to keep their board clean, don’t produce unnecessary Silver Hand Recruits, because Unleash the Hounds can punish you. Also be aware of your life total, and their burst potential. Do not waste Aldor Peacekeeper on a simple Piloted Shredder if you can’t handle Dr. Boom or Savannah Highmane on a future turn.
Verdict: Favorable match-up
vs. Combo Druid
Unless the Druid player has a quick start and/or you have a very awkward draw, you should win this match-up. Mid-Range plays many cheap minions that the Druid has a tough time dealing with efficiently. The matchup is very easy to play – develop your board, always kill their minions, and win. If you fail to clear their minions, you will lose. Always keep Aldor Peacekeeper against Druid because it slows them down when they Innervate big minions out.
Verdict: Favorable match-up
vs. Control Priest
Control Priest is very well prepared against early aggression, so simply playing your minions on the board and trying to overwhelm them with brute strength is not going to work.
Instead you should keep slower hands that can create card advantage or generate value for you. Don’t keep cards like Shielded Minibot and Zombie Chow. Instead you should mulligan for cards like Aldor Peacekeeper and Truesilver Champion. Don’t be too greedy by playing too many minions, because Priest has access to some very potent board clears with Wild Pyromancer and Auchenai Soulpriest. Also, play around Mind Control! For example, you should not play Tirion Fordring when you have other plays available past turn 10, because losing him to Mind Control will likely lose you the game.
Verdict: Slightly unfavorable match-up
vs. Mid-Range Warlock
Mid-Range Warlock is a deck that became popular recently. It is a hybrid between Handlock and Zoo, which means that it can have a quick start, while still having powerful cards for the late game. Due to its more passive nature it is okay to keep Truesilver Champion in your opening hand. Also watch out for Voidcaller – don’t kill it when you can’t answer the demon that comes out, otherwise you will lose a lot of tempo and be in a worse spot. Voidcaller is less dangerous than cards like Doomguard or Mal’Ganis, so you let them make that trade. Watch out for Lord Jaraxxusin the end-game and try to win before he comes down.
Verdict: Even match-up
vs. Control Warrior
Your main game plan against Warrior is to be aggressive and overwhelm them prior to the late game. If you give Warrior too much breathing room, they will beat you in the late game with their legendary minions. It is possible to bury Warrior in card advantage too, if your draw supports that.
But in general you should aim for a quick win. That doesn’t mean you need to be blistering fast and kill them as fast as possible, just be aware of the fact that you will very rarely grind out a good Warrior player. Quartermaster combined with Muster for Battle is a huge threat for Warrior, and can end the game very quickly. Always play around Brawl, so don’t commit too many resources on the board if you’re already ahead and pressuring the Warrior.
Verdict: Even match-up, but dependent on the Warrior’s skill level
vs. Oil Rogue
Finally your nightmare, your worst match-up when playing Paladin. Rogue has so many efficient ways to deal with your early game minions or can simply reset the board with a massive Blade Flurry. Rogue can build up a board while dealing very tempo efficiently with your board. Paladin on the other hand can’t keep up. Building up your own board while killing opposing minions tempo efficiently is almost an impossible task. In addition to that, Rogue has access to a large amount of burst. Your best way of winning this match-up, is hoping for a weak draw and a timely Loatheb. Keep Loatheb in your opening hand.
Luckily Oil Rogue is a very skill intensive deck to play, and there are very few masters of the archetype on ladder, so it is not too bad. Just note that when you match up against a very good Rogue player, you are very likely to get obliterated.
Verdict: Very unfavorable match-up
Paladin is a very good class to play in the Hearthstone meta-game and is very fun to play. I hope you all enjoyed my guide. If you have any questions regarding Paladin Mid-Range or Paladin Control, feel free to ask me in the comments!