Welcome back everyone! I hope your summer is off to a fantastic start! Today, I wanted to share the deck I used to hit Legendary Rank in the North American region this June season. It is actually a deck I came up with myself and tuned to adapt to the current tempo-oriented meta-game. For reference, here is the link to the initial Bloodlust Deck I brewed. All of you readers who helped provide support for the creation of this deck can pat yourselves on the back for voter participation!
One of the key concepts I discussed in my Fundamentals of Decking Building article was the idea of deck refinement. A smart player has to be willing to adapt to the changing meta-game. With the update to Unleash the Hounds, the Hunter class was no longer as popular as before. This resulted in a big shift in the meta-game. The true counter to Hunter decks was Warrior control archetypes that could armor up and thus stabilize more easily in the late game. Instead of a meta-game full of Warrior and Hunter decks, Miracle Rogue, Zoo, and Ramp Druid became universally accepted as top-tier decks and thus became more popular.
Though I felt that my initial deck list was off to a great start, I acknowledged that certain card choices were poor when keeping in mind the current state of the Hearthstone meta-game. Miracle Rogue was capable of killing you on turn seven. This was also true of Zoo. Meanwhile, Ramp Druid could often Innervate out a Chillwind Yeti on turn one (with coin) or an Ancient of Lore on turn four, leaving you way behind on tempo. This necessitated some changes to the core of the deck. As you can see, the deck-list shown is slightly different (five cards) from the initial list I came up with. Moreover, this provided me with the opportunity to test the deck fully optimized with no restriction of Legendary or Epic cards.
Imp Master – Though Imp Master is a fantastic card against various control decks, it is often a liability against aggressive decks.
Mana Tide Totem – Similar to Imp Master, Mana Tide Totem also gives control decks a tough time but is even worse against aggressive decks since it provides no board presence.
Bloodlust – Bloodlust is a fantastic finisher but is ultimately a bad top-deck when you’re behind. Having two of them makes matters worse so one was removed.
Bloodmage Thalnos – Bloodmage Thalnos takes the spot of one Mana Tide Totem since it allows you to draw a card with its deathrattle ability. More importantly, it is a staple in almost all Shaman decks due to its spell power bonus. Having a Wrath of Air Totem at your disposal at all times is nice for sweeping the board with Lightning Storm or killing an enemy Azure Drake with Lightning Bolt.
Harvest Golem – Harvest Golem fills the role of Imp Master by providing multiple minions on the board (though not at the same time). However, Harvest Golem is better against aggro decks due to having two power and is a good hedge against sweepers due to its deathrattle ability.
Doomhammer – Doomhammer takes the spot of the second Mana Tide Totem since it provides card advantage in the form of reusable removal. Having the ability to combo with Rockbiter Weapon also gives the deck additional reach.
alakir-the-windlord – With the removal of one Bloodlust, Al’Akir serves as another solid finisher. Moreover, the taunt ability effectively ends the game against zoo-like decks as well as buying you time against other combo finishes (i.e. Miracle Rogue, Savage Roar, Power Overwhelming, mirror match, etc.).
I am not going to get into too much detail with mulligan decisions as many of these cards are also in Kolento’s Shaman deck and I feel he does a good job discussing what to keep. Instead, I will talk about how to systematically approach each relevant match-up I’ve come across on my climb to legendary.
Miracle Rogue is considered the cream of the crop for a reason. In the hands of a skilled pilot, it is very difficult to beat if they draw well. The key to winning will be contingent on applying as much pressure early on with your 3-drops and Flametongue Totem as possible. Doomhammer and Al’Akir will give you some nice reach and may be able to steal you the game. Feral Spirit is the most important card in this match-up as it represents four power and may very well save you with double taunt protection.
Mulligan tip: Don’t bother with removal spells and make sure to keep minions with converted mana cost (cmc) three or less. Bloodmage Thalnos is the exception to this rule since he only has one attack power.
Overall odds: Unfavorable
This match-up is largely contingent on whether they have an explosive opening hand with Innervate or Wild Growth. If they don’t have either card, this deck is in great position to win as they will have trouble dealing with your early aggression. It is super critical to keep Fire Elemental away from Flametongue Totem as they often run Big Game Hunter. Moreover, paying close attention to your life total and how much damage they can do with their Savage Roar combo is often the difference between winning and losing.
Mulligan tip: Hex is worth keeping to counter their Innervate but the other removal spells should be put back. Flametongue Totem should be put back as well since it is vulnerable to their charge minions.
Overall odds: Even
Though they often have very fast starts with turn one Voidwalker into turn two Knife Juggler, it is important not to panic. Instead of wasting Lightning Storm just to kill two minions, calmly playing Harvest Golem or Unbound Elemental is often the right play. Establishing your own board presence is vital to surviving to the late game. Also, your opponent will often continue to deploy minions each turn regardless of the situation. This allows Lightning Storm to completely blow them out. Lastly, playing Al’Akir on turn eight will often seal the win.
Mulligan tip: Lightning Storm is a must keep as you will eventually need it to win. Both Rockbiter Weapon and Lightning Bolt can be very strong but having two isn’t desired. Therefore, Rockbiter Weapon should be prioritized.
Overall odds: Slightly favorable
As expected, do not put them below 14 life unless you’re able to kill them or they’ve already played their Molten Giant. Between Bloodlust and your Doomhammer / Al’Alkir combos, you have many ways to kill them from even beyond twenty life. Earth Shock is very important for killing their Twilight Drake for one mana and getting through their taunts during the late game.
Mulligan tip: Earth Shock is an auto-keep along with all of the your minions with cmc three or less. The other removal spells and Feral Spirit should be put back.
Overall odds: Favorable
Control Warrior’s presence in the meta-game is the primary reason for playing this deck. In my experience, it is extremely difficult to lose this match-up. As long as you save Earth Shock and Hex to deal with their legendary minions, they won’t be able to apply enough pressure. Just make sure to play around Whirlwind and do not over-extend into a Brawl. Instead, try to bait it out with Violet Teacher and student minions whenever applicable. Fun fact: I once beat this deck despite my opponent drawing six cards off Harrison Jones.
Mulligan tip: Don’t bother with removal spells and make sure to keep all minions with cmc three or less. Bloodmage Thalnos and Flametongue Totem (to play around korkron-elite) are the only exceptions to this rule.
Overall odds: Very favorable
The rise in the popularity of Freeze Mage is largely due to RDU’s win at Dreamhack. This deck can really thank him as that match-up is almost impossible to lose. They won’t be able to apply any pressure at all while you can attack unimpeded each turn. Moreover, their sweepers such as Flamestrike are not very good against Argent Squire, Harvest Golem, boosted Unbound Elemental, Violet Teacher, or Fire Elemental. In addition, you have plenty of time to assemble one of your multitude of combo finishes.
Mulligan tip: Don’t bother with removal spells and make sure to keep all minions with mana cost three or less. Bloodmage Thalnos is the exception to this rule since he only has one attack power.
Overall odds: Very favorable
Unless your opponent is new to the game or not very good, this match-up is incredibly difficult to win. There is nothing we can do to stop their hero ability, Steady Shot. Doomhammer is the probably the best way to steal the win as it doesn’t help their Unleash the Hounds. Speaking of which, you often can’t afford to play around their Unleash the Hounds combos. It is often to best to just flood the board and try to race them. On the bright side, this deck isn’t as popular as it once was.
Mulligan tip: Keep Earth Shock to counter their Leper Gnome and Wolfrider while making sure to have a 3-drop as usual. The other removal spells will cost you too much tempo or life.
Overall odds: Very unfavorable
Winning the mirror match-up is highly dependent on establishing board control early. Harvest Golem is tough for them to deal with and thus helps keep their totems off the board. Because tempo is very important, avoid playing your overload cards too early. If the game goes long, you become more favored since Violet Teacher and Bloodlust represent excellent trump cards and give additional reach.
Mulligan tip: Don’t bother with overload spells and make sure to keep all minions with mana cost three or less. Bloodmage Thalnos is the exception to this rule since he only has one attack power.
Overall odds: Even
The Control Paladin match-up is similar to the Control Warrior match-up. However, they do have more board presence during the first few turns due to their hero ability, Reinforce. Avoid leaving more than two minion cards on the field as they have plenty of sweepers such as Wild Pyromancer, Equality, Consecration, and Avenging Wrath. Try to bait these cards out early if possible. Also, remember to save Earth Shock and Hex to deal with Tirion Fordring.
Mulligan tip: Don’t bother with removal spells and make sure to keep all minions with cmc three or less. Bloodmage Thalnos and Flametongue Totem are the only exceptions to this rule.
Overall odds: Favorable
Acidic Swamp Ooze – Acidic Swamp Ooze addresses the two significant bad match-ups this deck has: Miracle Rogue and Face Hunter. Being able to destroy a dagger with Deadly Poison or an Eaglehorn Bow should go a long way in helping the deck stabilize.
Defender of Argus – Defender of Argus is actually a very flexible card. His primary role would be to help stop opponents from their combo finishes. However, he also gives additional taunts to stall zoo decks while boosting the stats of your friendly minions. Another small but not insignificant contribution is his ability to bait out The Black Knight so you can deploy your Al’Akir safely.
Harrison Jones – I personally like Acidic Swamp Ooze better since it costs only two mana as opposed to five. However, I will say that Harrison Jones hits much harder if the meta-game is full of Hunter, Paladin, Rogue, and Warrior decks.
Loot Hoard – There is no good replacement for Bloodmage Thalnos in my opinion. He is unique in what he does and I don’t believe Loot Hoarder or Kobold Geomancer does enough to replace him. My personal opinion is to go with a meta-game card such as Acidic Swamp Ooze or Defender of Argus. However, I like Loot Hoarder much more than Kobold Geomancer if I had to choose between one or the other.
Stormforged Axe – Personally, I am not a fan of Stormforged Axe because I believe the reward for playing it does not outweigh the drawbacks if your opponent happens to run Acidic Swamp Ooze or Harrison Jones. Moreover, Stormforge Axe is most useful on turn two when your opponent has played something along the likes of Knife Juggler. However, the overload really hurts your turn three play as you won’t be able to play Harvest Golem or Unbound Elemental. However if you don’t have Doomhammer and aren’t afraid of weapon killers, the axe is nice since it can come down early and swings the tempo of the game in your favor.
Argent Commander – Without Al’Akir, the deck will be a little lacking in burst damage. Argent Commander serves as a decent fill-in replacement since he can help with board control earlier (mana cost 6). Moreover, the charge ability gives some burst in the late game in order to finish your opponent off.
Thoughts on the Deck
The deck was a blast to play this season. It is a difficult deck to play optimally as there are multiple lines of play and the decision trees can be quite complicated. Moreover, you have to recognize when you’re the “beatdown” as the deck is still a mid-range deck at its core. I hope this guide has given some insight into the makeup of the deck. Furthermore, if you are looking for a challenging yet rewarding deck to play, I urge you to try this deck out.
Deck Building: Part Two
Due to the success of my Bloodlust deck, I am once again opening up the opportunity for readers to help me think of a new deck to brew and play in the meta-game. The last time I asked for suggestions, Windfury combo was the second most popular choice (Bloodlust being first). Would you like to see another Shaman deck or something else? What are some other decks you would like to see in the meta-game? Similar to the first experiment, the goal is to create a viable deck that can hit legendary rank similar to my Shaman deck. Once again, I would like to refrain from using Legendary and Epic cards so more people can participate.
Let me know what you guys think! I look forward to seeing all the cool ideas you guys can come up with. Also, don’t be afraid to suggest a far-fetched idea as I believe there is no such thing as a bad comment (unless it’s spam of course).