The New Standard: Post-Nerf Control Warrior
Deck Code: AAECAQcIigGQA/wE4KwCjs4Cws4C9s8Cn9MCC0uiBNQEkQb/B7II+wzGwwKixwLKzQLMzQIA
Where, of where, do we go from here? Nerfs are out, which means the meta (and ladder) is largely wide open once again. Ok, maybe not wide open, but there is definitely some room for experimentation. This week I wanted to go back and take a look at a more classic build of Control Warrior. The deck lost one of its best staples in Fiery War Axe, but I don't think that means the archetype is totally dead. Garrosh has always proven to be strong, and I think that could remain true moving into the coming weeks. While the list has definitely lost something, one card does not a deck make. As such, we're going to break down some ideas in this week's article and see if we can keep the armor-loving build alive.
This section will explain certain key cards to the list as a whole.
This deck, like so many Control Warrior decks of the past, depends on strong deathrattle minions to close out a game. Your plan here is to play the long game, where you contest the board and remove everything your opponent plays. Then, once your opponent has been reduced to nothing, you slam down N'Zoth, the Corruptorand bring back a slew of powerful bodies to close things out. This plan works quite well and gives you a reliable, end-game punch. You will also notice that your only deathrattle minions here are Direhorn Hatchlingand Mountainfire Armor. Each of these cards is great because, not only do they represent threats in their own right, but they protect your health. You can either get armor from mountainfire, or you can get taunts (and extra cards in your deck) with Direhorn. In fact, hatchling into N'zoth is one of the best finishers around because it helps pump your deck full of matriarchs. That then gives you more taunts, more finishers, and more ways to avoid fatigue. Threats are always going to be at a premium with a control deck, and the more you can get, the better. In addition, you can also use Dead Man's Hand(as explained below) to dump your finishers back into your deck to do it all over again. In this way, the deck works a bit like Jade Druid, except you go for 6/9 taunts instead of steadily-growing jade golems.
Dead Man's Hand
Though Dead Man's Handseemed like a gimmick at first, the epic spell has become one of the most important tools for Control Warrior over the past two or so months. The card has some incredible potential and, as covered above, enables you to double dip on armor, removal, or finishers. More importantly, it lets you get two N'zoth's. N'Zoth, the Corruptoris your main win condition and the way you are going to push your opponent out of the game. However, while the old god is strong, many slower control decks will save an AOE or removal for him. That can leave your exposed at times and take all of the power out of your end game. By being able to put a second N'zoth into your deck you can play around that and stretch your opponent thin. Even if they get rid of the second N'zoth (which is unlikely) they won't be able to handle the coming storm of s.
Using Dead Man's Handis tricky because you need to get value from the spell without completely diluting your draws. Yes, two N'Zoth, the Corruptors is great, but having a deck full of Shield Slams, Shield Blocks, Armorsmiths and Whirlwinds is not always going to be the best idea. Rather, you typically want this card to be lean. That means you need it to only hit a few choice cards. What's the point of putting N'zoth back if you're never going to draw him? Try your best to set this up by using up a lot of your hand before pulling the trigger. Also note that Dead Man's almost always comes at the end of the game. Playing it early on is just asking for more cards to dilute your top decks.
This is a trick I took from Control Warrior great Fibonacci, and man does it do some work. Mountainfire Armorhas been a card that really hasn't had enough strength to see long term play in Warrior decks, but it has multiple applications in this one. Something to note is that armor matters, and six armor is going to be good against any deck you face. While it may not seem like a big deal against something like Priest, any extra health you can build up will give you more time to set up your finishers at the end of the game. Not only that, but health can also let you resist damage or force your opponent to play into AOE. Damage is a big part of today's Hearthstone, and any way you can offset it you should. Look at armor as a future investment that will help you towards the back end of the game. Not only that, but Mountainfire also comes with a 4/3 body that can be used to hit your opponent in the face or trade into other powerful midgame bodies.
The tricky part of Mountainfire Armoris getting people to kill it. This minion ha two modes. You are either going to face aggro and they are going to ignore it as much as they possibly can, or you are going to be up against control and they are going to get rid of it immediately. Each of those modes is fine with you. If control takes it down right away, you get immediate value. However, if aggro ignores it, you can use the three drop to two-for-one your opponent or take down key minions they would otherwise protect. Your goal against faster decks is to put them into a bad position, and that's exactly what this does. Also note that, as this card has deathrattle, it is going to come back when you drop down N'zoth. That means you do not always need to worry about trading it in on your turn. Yes, you lose armor value, but you'll get that back later on.
For those of you paying attention to the slew of one drops scattered throughout this list, it also runs one copy of Forge of Souls. While that can grab you many different tools, I wanted it to act as more as a silver bullet that only gets Blood Razor. Though Fiery War Axegot nerfed, Control Warrior still needs to depend on weapons to control the board. The four mana razor is amazing at doing that, allowing you to take down small bodies while also hitting for three damage right away. The weapon is one of the best value cards in this list, and helps you trigger Acolyte of Pain, Execute, Battle Rage, and Sleep with the Fishes. Most of the time that value is going to come on the back end, because the second trigger is free. Know this and do not be afraid to equip and attack with the 2/2 just to get ready to break it the next turn.
It is also important to note how much damage Blood Razorcan do to a board. Brawland Sleep with the Fishesare both very effective at clearing out large swaths of minions, but you typically want to hold onto them as long as possible. Having an AOE during the later stages of the game can be the difference between winning and losing against swarm or midrange decks. For that reason, any time you can take down multiple threats with other cards you should. Using Blood Razor to clear two or three minions (no matter how small) can go a long way towards spell conservation and make you stronger as the game continues on. This is especially true when you have two Razors in your hand. Using one to break another is a fantastic form of AOE that you should try to take advantage of when possible.
Without Fiery War Axe, Control Warrior has to adapt. Part of that adaptation is to change the finishers. While the N'zoth package is key to making this deck run on all levels, Scourgelord Garroshalso helps it in many different ways. Yes, you lose the ability to gain armor once you transform into the DK, but that trade off is more than worth the weapon and constant Whirlwindher power. As covered in the above paragraph, Whirlwind effects are very strong in this deck. The ability to have one every single turn is extremely useful and turns on a lot of cards that would otherwise be dead draws. The eight drop not only gives you a powerful activator, but the new hero power also helps you out at ticking down different minions. You are rarely going to clear with the one damage, but there have been quite a few times where I've used it to finish things off.
The other part of Scourgelord is . The 4/3 weapon is already strong, but the ability goes a long, long way. A three time Flamestrikehas a lot of uses and can help conserve your other AOE options in the same way Blood Razorcan. Yes, the DK has typically been seen as a tempo card, but it works as a strong tool for a deck like this one. All of your deathrattle cards help you stay alive, which then helps offset any health loss you would suffer from giving up your starting hero power. In addition, the weapon does a great job of going face. Like Gorehowl(which could possibly make its way into this list) the 4/3 hits hard. Twelve damage over three turns may not seem like much, but that can put up pressure and force your opponent on their back foot. You are not running Grommash Hellscream(another possible inclusion) but your opponent doesn't know that. Never be afraid to leverage damage just to try to get back into a losing game.
The most common decks post-nerf.
Who wants to go long? As expected, the nerfs have given even more power to Kazakus Priest and allowed it to be one of the most popular decks around. This is going to be public enemy number one, and you need to be ready to drag these games out. Priest's main win condition is going to be the classic Raza the Chained/Shadowreaper Anduincombo, and yours is going to be N'Zoth, the Corruptor. This is important to recognize because you have to work to prioritize your deathrattle minions while also being careful about your health. This is a control matchup, but you have to make sure you stay above your opponent's damage potential as much as possible. The two ways to do that are to pressure your opponent's health or to gain tons of armor. It is easy to forget about those things throughout a slow match, but you need to hit your hero power as much as your can. There are not too many threats in this one, just remove what you see and get ready for the combo.
Your best card in this marchup is Mountainfire Armor. Kazakus Priest is strong, but they are not consistent. That means they are going to have very few answers to a four attack minion. You should take advantage of that by always trying to get the 4/3 onto an empty board when you can. Though your opponent may be able to kill, it is going to take some work. Then, you can just bring the armor back with N'zoth later on. The most important card to watch out for here is Dragonfire Potion. The six mana spell is Priest's only real AOE option, and also happens to be their only way to stall out N'Zoth, the Corruptor. If you can get them to burn the potion on your board before the old god you should be able to take this one (as long as you have enough health).
Though I did not expect it, there has been a huge resurgence of Pirate Warrior early on. Losing Fiery War Axehurts, but the rest of the deck has so much power that they can still prey on people experimenting with new lists. This game is going to be the same it has always been. However, as you no longer have war axe to help you on turn two, you need to work at slowing your opponent down. Your armor gain can do a lot towards offsetting damage, but that isn't going to matter much when you're getting beaten down with a 7/3 Arcanite Reapereach turn. This game is going to be pure control. You need to remove all of your opponent's threats, hit your hero power as much as possible, and then set up taunts. Do not be afraid to hold onto Armorsmithhere to combo with a Blood Razoror Whirlwind. Getting that extra three or so health can make the difference in the game.
The win condition of this game is, as usual, going to be taunts. Direhorn Hatchlingis your win condition, both on the front and back end. Not only does the 3/6 eat just about every single minion your opponent has, but it is not easy for Pirate to blast though it without committing multiple cards. Unless you are desperate, never run the beast out onto a crowded board. Rather, try to set it up against an empty set. This will help you play around top decks and shut off any surprise weapons. Also note that your opponent is never going to kill Mountainfire Armor. Pirate is a deck that seeks to maximize every single point of damage and they cannot afford to get rid of the 4/3. For that reason, play it as early as you can. That will help you control trades and give you a clean answer to things like Frothing Berserker.
As my games suggest, Rexxar appears to be back (for now at least). Hunter, like aggro decks in general, is a great choice for early shifting metas. Not only is the midrange core already strong, but the deck also has some absolutely explosive plays that will crush people who aren't ready. For that reason, this game is going to be one of your toughest. The way to win this match is by smartly using your resources and properly preparing for each turn. Hunter wants to curve in the same way every game, and you need to try to get out ahead of that in any way you can. Utilize your clears during the early midgame (Blood Razoris the best way to take down swarm boards) while your spot removal should be saved for the heavy hitters that come during turns five and six. Also do your best to minimize your opponent's Houndmasterpotential. The damage will pile up quickly.
Turn six is the key turn in this game. You absolutely need to have a plan to deal with both halves of Savannah Highmane, and you also have to crank up the damage should your opponent turn into Deathstalker Rexxar. Clearing is always your first priority, but you want to play any minion when you have an opportunity. Almost all of your minions are inherently defensive, which makes them all naturally build towards your end game. It is also important to work hard to get your opponent into a position where they need to answer Mountainfire Armor. That is often going to be at the end of the game when their health is low, but Hunter also loves to play strong small minions they want to protect. As a result, they will often kill it on turn three or four. That's a great deal for you.
I have reserved this final slot for all of the slow Mage decks bouncing around these days. I have seen many different variations of Jaina, and they range from Quest Mage to Grinder Mage to Freeze. Quest Mage is going to the hardest of those, and you need to do everything in your power to put out damage when your opponent tries to Open the Waygate. This is so important you should not be afraid of simply equipping a weapon and smacking your opponent in the face. You have no way of beating or interacting with their finishing combo, you just have to be able to kill them before they go off. In terms of the other two decks, you simply should take the control route. Kill any minions, save removal for Doomsayer, and work hard to gain armor. An important note here is to never use Scourgelord Garroshagainst the Freeze style decks. While his damage is extremely important against quest, giving away your armor is extremely dangerous when you're facing a burn-heavy build.
Though the deck has a different look, the mulligan is largely going to be the same. You need to aggressively look for cheap minions and removal and ditch everything else. You have a lot of bad draws here, and you never want to hold onto a greedy keep just to draw into two eight drops. Armorsmith, Slam, Forge of Souls, and Doomsayerare your must keeps, while is great against aggro, and both Acolyte of Painand Mountainfire Armorare great on curve or with the coin.
Battle Rageis good with minion-heavy openers against swarm decks, and you should only look for both Shield Slamand Shield Blockwhen they're together. Blood Razoris great on curve. Brawlshould only be kept against a swarm deck when you have the coin and a good opening curve.
Well, it's not perfect, but it's a start. The post-nerf meta is just starting (at least at the time I'm writing this) and I think Control Warrior has some real potential. It always helps to go back and look at past archetypes when things shift, and this is a perfect example of that. Not everything is going to be perfect, and there are definitely going to be some tweaks here and there as the days move on, but there is some potential. This is the base of what I believe could be a very strong and reliable list for the coming weeks, and I hope you give it an honest try. Until next time, may you always play N'zoth again and again.