The New Standard: Alice Tempo Warrior
There are many decks that I love, but there are few decks I love more than Tempo Warrior. I covered a list I liked a lot on this series about three months ago now, but the meta was quite different at that time. In fact, this list was quite different as well (RIP Fiery War Axe). Today's Tempo Warrior list has some of the old stuff that makes this deck so fun, but it also has gotten a lot leaner (and better). You will remember that most Tempo Warrior decks of old were built on an insane legend-heavy top end. Rather than go that route, this build significantly lowers the curve, packs in some crabs, and gets ready to feast. That quick damage does a lot of for the deck and enables it to take many routes to victory. This is a build Alice took to top 100 legend, and it definitely feels well tuned for the current meta.
I know I covered her last time, but Armorsmithis still one of the most important Tempo Warrior tools in the game. While she herself doesn't generate a lot of board presence, she basically allows you free healing on a card that works brilliantly well with what your deck wants to do. So many midrange lists (Hunter, Rogue, etc.) are great when pressing. However, to make up for that (from a balancing standpoint, at least) they have almost no way to protect themselves. That does not happen quite as much with Tempo Warrior because Armorsmith provides a hard-to-kill body that also naturally works with the thousand different Whirlwindeffects you're packing. You are going to play this card in two ways. On turn two (challenging most early drops) or when you can instantly get three or four armor from it. The second mode is the one worth talking about because, any time you fear burst, you need to find ways to get some of that health back. Always look for opportunities to go wide with the smith, especially in the later turns against faster decks. Going out of your way to get extra armor is always going to be worth it if it keeps you alive. This card is also great with Scourgelord Garrosh, because it helps you regain some of the armor you give up by transitioning your hero power.
Another amazingly good card when it comes to controlling the board, Bloodhoof Braveis a great example of how to win with decks like this. Currently, we are in a world of tempo decks and board control (how many times can I say that?). That means you want to builds boards that give your opponents headaches. Brave does that because it trades extremely well with just about every other early game minion around. Not only is six attack rarely seen on anything coming down on turns one through four, but once brave gets damaged it gets that amazing extra three attack, ensuring it can trade up. There is just no clean way to deal with this body early in the game, which means it is always going to two-for-one other powerful decks. Understand how this locks down attacks, and do not be afraid to run it out to situations when you need to slow things down and get to better parts of your curve. If your opponent can't deal with the taunt right away they are not going to be able to press.
Another reason Bloodhoof Braveis so good in this list is because it can effectively shield other units from harm. Take a quick look at most meta decks. Things like Tempo Rogue, Hunter and Zoo have very little spells. That means they depend on the board to remove threats. Their minions are supposed to carry a game, and most of those units have a hard time trying to break through six health walls. If you can stick brave into situations where it can deny value trades, you can go a long way. Putting this in front of Armorsmithand Frothing Berserkeris going to be your best options, but even something as simple as allowing a Kor'kron Eliteto attack again can be worth it. This card instantly attracts attention and forces your opponent to react to you. That's all you want to do here.
Kor'kron Elitehas long been a staple of aggressive Warrior lists. The 4/3 is fast, does a great job of trading, and can also put on pressure. Being able to both go face or run into a minion is very nice versatility that decks like this want to have. However, that is not the reason I bring the card up. I bring it up here because Kor'kron Eliteis very important when it comes to taking on the current meta. Most decks in the game, like this one, are tempo decks that want to pace the game by controlling the board. To win those matches you need to be able to get as many value trades as you can. Kor'kron does that like you wouldn't believe. It eats a wide range of early minions, from to Voidwalkerto Stonehill Defender. Always look for opportunities to kill something and have this live. Straight up trading works too, but if you can keep something on your board, you typically should.
Now, going off of everything I just said, you do not need to trade with Kor'kron Elite. This card is a great tempo play, not just for the value trades, but for the damage. Being able to slam this down and go face can do a lot. Once your opponent knows you are a Tempo Warrior, they are going to worry about damage potential. Lists like this one are always going to have burst. You need to know how to take advantage of, not necessarily the damage itself, but the fact that your opponent knows you have burst. There are going to be games where you have a weak hand, an odd curve, or where you feel things slipping away. Using Kor'kron to go face in those scenarios can instantly take your opponent off their plan and put them onto the back foot. This may not always be a huge shift, but just getting them to use removal or trade instead of advancing their board can be all the time you need to transition to your next threat without leaving yourself exposed.
Fool's Baneis without a doubt the most important inclusion to this list. The five mana weapon has not seen a ton of play throughout its history in the game, but there it definitely packs a punch. There are several reasons why it works here, but the most important is because of the card covered below: Bonemare. As I will continue to talk about, the 5/5 has become the sole focus of most tempo decks, and getting to it on turn seven can often be the difference between winning a losing. In board-centric mirror matches, the way most decks set up the undead horse is by spamming a lot of small minions onto the board. AOE is pretty rare these days. So, even if two die, the third is typically going to stick. Fool's Bane directly counters those plays because it enables you to effectively wipe out four threats at once. Not only that, but since so many of those minions are typically small, you are only risking a few hit points. That then forces your opponent off their plan and makes them reevaluate their curve. More than worth the spot.
Beyond being able to shut down Bonemare, Fool's Banealso has a lot of utility when it comes to pacing the game. Keeping priority is never easy to do, especially when it's all the top meta decks are focused on. As a result, if you're going to get ahead of certain builds, you need to be able to get a lot of removal for cheap. This card can hurt your health, but what it really does is give you four free Darkbombs that can't go face. That is very good for the low price of five mana, especially when it comes to controlling the board. While you never want to fall into burst range if you can avoid it, do not be afraid to face tank midrange threats to clear the way for your own minions. Think about what ways your opponent can get to lethal. If you're above that point, you'll be fine.
I have said it a thousand times now, but Bonemareis the most important card in the meta. Without a doubt. So many tempo matches (so, so, so, many) are simply decided by who can stick their Bonemare first. That may not sound like an exaggeration, but let's break it down. You and your opponent (a Tempo Rogue player) are going into turn seven. Your opponent has a 1/2 and you have a 3/3. They went first, so they play Bonemareonto their 1/2 and kill your minion. Now they have a 4/3 with taunt and a 5/5. You have nothing. On the flip side, if you played your Bonemare first, you would have a 7/6 with taunt and a 5/5. That's a world of difference. Know that, and do everything in your power to either shut down your opponent's turn seven play or make sure you get to yours first. This card may not seem like it has a ton of targets here, but if you know how to set it up, you'll definitely get the seven drop to stick.
That being said, tetting up Bonemareis not always as easy as it would seem. That is because you do not always need to play it as soon as turn seven comes around. Yes, you want to stick yours before your opponent does, but just because you aren't playing a Bonemare doesn't mean your opponent is playing theirs. Tempo is all about controlling the board, and if you can pace the game or pick of your opponent's minion you are going to have several options at your disposal. Don't play an auto pilot here. Before looking at how you are going to set up the 5/5, first figure out what the board state is going to be after it comes down. If your opponent is going to have an answer, it is often better to clear first and then set the mare up for the next turn. Not the most intuitive play in the world, but it is always better to get this onto a mostly clear board than a crowded one.
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The four decks I see the most while playing the ladder.
Treat this game like a mirror match of sorts. You and your opponent are both going to fight for the board as much as possible up until the game starts to shift around turn six or seven. Once again, Bonemareis the key card in this matchup. Do not let your opponent get an uncontested Bonemare onto the board, but also do everything in your power to set yours up. From there, whoever comes out ahead should be able to take the day. You do not want to be on the losing side of that deal. Also note that you have a lot of ways to pour on damage. Forcing Rogue on the back foot (as touched on above) is a form of tempo in and of itself, and can be a good way to set up some of your more powerful plays. Whenever you see an opening to hit your opponent, you should.
You need to plan for Vilespine Slayer. Plain and simple. Rogue has a lot of strong tempo tools, but none of them are going to have the sheer blow out potential that slayer does. The 3/4 is going to punish you if you aren't careful. In fact, it can completely take over the game. This is another example where your damage is going to come up. If you are the aggressor, you can take the sails out of the 3/4 because it isn't inherently doing anything of value except keeping your opponent alive. That is a great trade and one you will take every time. Rogue has some good one-two combinations, but if those combos are being used defensively rather than offensively, you should win. Just grind your opponent down, and then rely on your burst once they're out of cards.
Priest is in an odd spot. Some decks run all draw, some decks focus on a smooth transition into the combo, and some lists are more control based. Either way, this is a match where you want to bring the pain. Most lists you are a pure tempo deck, where you work to find the best openings and then push through once you open up a hole in your opponent's defense. Here, you are simply an aggro deck doing whatever it takes to make Priest use cards and worry about their health. Run out every single threat you have, try to get bodies down as much as possible, and always favor damage over your other avenues. Though it is not going to come up often, you should also try to gain armor when possible. Minions are always going to be more important than your hero power, but if you're racing to turn eight, it can be good to try to get some extra Armorsmithvalue.
Do not give Priest good plays. That may sound like an odd statement, but if you set your opponent up for a slam dunk, they are going to take it. For instance, let's say it is turn seven and your opponent went first (meaning they are going to have eight mana on their next play). You have a 1/3 Acolyte of Painagainst an empty board. While the easy move seems like to play the Bonemarein your hand, that is actually the play that is going to doom you. Why? Because you're putting down two five attack minions that can instantly be cleared out by Shadowreaper Anduin. As a result, you should run out a Kor'kron Elitealongside an Armorsmithinstead. You're not putting down as much power, nor are you using all of your mana, but taking away the turn eight Death Knight's ability is all that matters in that instance. Understand how Priest is going to answer you, and then do what you can to dodge it.
Zoo is strong, and also a good reason to play this list. You are favored in this matchup because you want to do the same things your opponent does, except you have a lot more removal. Where Gu'ldan relies on the occasional Soulfireto help push their board, you have access to Ravaging Ghoul, Blood Razor, Fool's Bane, Scourgelord Garrosh, Execute...the list goes on. That is your advantage in this one, and you need to press it as much as you possibly can. Damage is typically going to come second for you. First you need to secure the board before going big. However, as we will cover below, that damage needs to come quickly. This is a game where you need to go zero to sixty in an instant. You want to spend the first five or so turns just trying to stick minions to stop your opponent's push. Then, once you've stabilized, you need to kill them as fast as you can.
Win the game by turn ten. I know I say this every week, but that's because it is important. Bloodreaver Gul'danis just about a big of a beater as there is in the game. Not only that, but it is a ton of instant tempo that is nearly impossible for a non-AOE deck to deal with. In fact, I would just go ahead and say that once your opponent turns into the DK you've lost. This is a nine turn game with a ticking clock. You need to get in and out as fast as you can. Control the early board and never let your opponent get ahead of you. Even if you do manage to comeback, that can take two or three extra turns, which means it is too late. On that note, play to your burst at all costs and look for ways to hit your opponent hard. Grommash Hellscreamis your go-to, but even a couple of swings with Scourgelord Garroshcan do the trick.
Though Jade Druid is knocking on the door, I still see Midrange Hunter a bit more than Malfurion. For that reason, it gets the nod for the last spot. This is a game where you want to press your advantage as early as turn two and do everything in your power to be the aggressor. Hunter has a ton of power packed into each stage of their curve. If you ever fall behind it is going to be extremely hard to comeback. While your removal and trades work well against things like Zoo and Rogue, climbing back into a game against Hunter rarely matters because by the time you stabilize you're going to die to their damage. Turn six is super important (as always) but in reality you need to be ahead moving into turn four or five. Look where you can find value trades. Your weapons are amazing in this one, and one of the best ways to out-tempo Rexxar. If you do get the board during the later parts of the game, you need to try to use your hero power as much as possible. Go all in on Armorsmithas well. The last part about this game is to be very careful about turning into Scourgelord Garrosh. The weapon can give you pressure, but losing the armor hurts.
Tempo Warrior means you want to go with a curve based mulligan. Armorsmith, Golakka Crawlerand Slamare your three must-keeps, but Frothing Berserker, Acolyte of Pain, and Ravaging Ghoulare all good with the coin or a curve. Blood To Ichorshould always be kept against a tempo deck if you have the coin, while you should always keep Blood Razor, Bloodhoof Brave, and Kor'kron Eliteif you can curve into them. In addition, Blood Razor should also be kept with one early card against any aggro, tempo, or swarm deck.
I am not sure why I like Tempo Warrior so much, but it is just extremely fun to play. The pacing of tempo is amazing when everything is clicking, and it allows you to run some popular decks right off the board. You have a great mix here. Sometimes you are a pure aggro deck, sometimes you're a go-big midrange shell, and other times you are a finisher-oriented combo list. All of those are great, and playing a list that constantly switches styles means that you never truly get bored. Until next time, may you always gromm for lethal.