Aggro Warrior! Now, you may not be excited as I am (especially if you haven’t been playing this game as long as I have) but this is one of the first decks I ever had success with back when Reynad first took it to legend. However, it has been two years since that time, and everything has changed. Aggro Warrior is a very interesting style of face deck because it is a deck that operates on weapons rather than direct burn or minion combat. That makes it very weak to both taunts and healing, both of aggro’s kryptonites. That weakness is the number one reason the deck is no longer in the meta. When more solid taunts (Sludge Belcher) and heals (Antique Healbot) got released, the deck just couldn’t keep up. Now, that being said, just because something doesn’t work doesn’t mean it’s bad. Rather, it just needs a little tweaking to be good again. That is the approach that this week’s legend, Timmortal, took when sculpting this new dragon-heavy version of the classic list.
The most important rule of this deck is to remember to be the aggressor when playing this deck. While classic versions of Aggro Warrior were much more weapon-focused, this feels a little bit like a midrange deck due to the high number of minions (especially the three drops). This can sometimes cause you to lose focus on your gameplan. Clearing may seem like a good idea, but you almost never want to worry about the board when operating a deck so dependent on getting damage through with weapons. The only exception to that rule is when you need to protect some of your bigger minions. This deck runs a lot of powerful cards that take a turn to “charge” and you need to make sure they stay alive. In that way, this deck can either play the straight face strategy or a more tempo based face strategy. Just know that this deck is meant for the face and you need to always try to make the play that will give you the most damage at any given time. One point of health is often the difference between winning and losing.
Sir Finley Mrrgglton
While everyone knew that Sir Finely Mrrgglton had some potential, everyone was quite wrong on what that potential was. Most thought (including myself) that this would be a great boon for control decks, helping them switch out their hero power for something that could fit certain matchups. However, the one drop legend has pretty much done the exact opposite. It has become a great asset for aggressive decks everywhere, helping them get rid of their non-damage hero powers in exchange for ones that put on the pressure. Hero powers help balance out decks. That is to say, things like Control Hunter and Aggro Shaman don’t commonly exist because their hero power just doesn’t do a lot to help them in those builds. However, if you can change up that hero power to something that is more your style it gives you extra power and a whole new range of options.
Armor Up is a very strong hero power that does almost absolutely nothing for you. You are not a deck that wants to be steadily gaining life, you want to be doing as much damage as you possibly can. Two armor a turn is very stagnant, and not something you ever want to be doing if you can help it. Enter the legendary murloc. When playing Sir Finley you just want to take whenever hero power does the most damage. Hunter is always number one, since Steady Shot gives you an insane amount of extra reach that this deck lacks. If you do not have access to Hunter, you then want to look for Warlock, since Life Tap just brings on more cards (and thus more damage). Both Druid and Mage gives you a ping a turn, which can come in handy. However, Druid is the better of the two because of the way that it interacts well with weapons and gives you a small heal in the aggressive mirrors. After those three, I would take Paladin because it puts power on the board, and then Rogue because it can give you damage if you don’t already have a weapon. Priest and Shaman both are both last resort, but seeing as you always have three options you should never take them.
While very underused, Alexstrasza’s Champion is one of my favorite cards in the game. When it was first released the 3/3 with charge’s potential caused a lot of people to raise their eyebrows. That kind of burst is insanely powerful and could be an great tool to an aggro deck. However, dragons are a very midrange-style class and usually tend to be much slower decks. As such, this card never really saw play except in the control warrior turned dragon type lists that were extremely popular right after the release of TGT. This list changes that by giving you a very powerful tool that slots into your curve but also works as a two drop. That versatility is very important in an aggressive deck that is only focused on curving from damage into more damage. This is not the most exciting card in the game, but it is one of the most important. This card comes down on turn two, immediately does three, and is very hard to remove with most early game minions.
While it may seem silly to discuss, the most important part of the champion is knowing when to play this and when not to. A 3/3 with charge for two is an incredibly strong aggro card. However, a 2/3 for two is very weak and well under the normal curve. The rule for playing the champion is, if she doesn’t have charge you should play any of your other cards before her, but if she has charge always do your best to get her down onto the board. An interesting thing about her “dragon” clause is that it an be triggered at any time by, well…drawing a dragon. That instantly turns her into a Frostbolt. As such, the longer you wait the better chance you have of turning her into instant damage. Just remember, if you don’t have something to get down on turn two besides her, just play her as a 2/3. Putting down any kind of threat is much better than being reactive and using your hero power.
Now this. This is a blast from the past. It has been quite literally years since anyone has sleeved up Faerie Dragon to take the ladder. However, in a deck that cares about dragons, there is nothing more aggressive than the 3/2 for 2. A lot of decks (pretty much every single one) either depend on playing something turn two, or having some removal to answer a turn two play. While Faerie Dragon does trade evenly with every other popular two drop (and unfortunately cannot really answer Shielded Minibot), it cannot be touched by any removal. That (just like the champion) makes this an almost guaranteed source of three damage. Against slower decks like Paladin or Druid that can easily turn into six or nine. When playing Face Warrior you really need to find any way to sneak damage through that you can. Playing a sub-optimal body just to get three damage may seem like an odd play, but in a deck that really doesn’t have burn it can be the difference between winning and losing. Unless you are trying to get a dragon trigger, always run the Faerie Dragon out when you can. It is a bit slow, but it will most often push through some pressure and force your opponent to use a minion to trade.
A Ben Brode patented card, Fierce Monkey is a very strange inclusion to a very set list. While I was (still am?) very unsure about this card, it actually does have a very important purpose. I always talk about versatility as an important part of Hearthstone, and this card gives a ton of it to a deck with very little. The main purpose of the monkey in this deck is two-fold. The first is to threaten large chunks or damage and the second is to protect your other minions. As odd as it may seem, the three attack is not going to be your main focus with this card. As stated earlier, you have a lot of minions that need a turn to attack (and thus push through damage). You want to play the monkey in the same way that Aggro Shaman plays Feral Spirit. Set it up on boards where your opponent will not be able to get through. This can save a lot of your early game cards from dying to things like Shielded Minibot, but it can also allow your Frothing Berserker to get absolutely massive.
The other reason this card is strong is because of the way it fights against aggro. Though it may seem surprising, Aggro Warrior’s biggest threat is other aggressive decks. Most control lists have no way to interact with weapons, making most of their removal invalid. They fight through taunts and healing, which can be beat, especially in a deck crafted like this one. However, a lot of aggressive decks have some type of way to stall or shut you down for a turn, which then gives them the edge and the race. Back in the early days this deck would routinely get crushed by both Zoo and Face Hunter. The monkey changes that by giving you your own way to gum up the board and shut down aggressive plays. Even if you don’t run this out early, it can be a great surprise factor during a race. Almost all of the damage in Hearthstone is carefully calculated turns ahead of time, and if you can manage to suddenly drop a taunt down on your opponent when they weren’t expecting it, it can shatter their plans.
This is a very odd card for a face list to run. Yes, Frothing Berserker has a lot of damage potential (the highest ceiling in the game) but it also is usually a 2/4 that just sits around for a turn. Not only that, but there isn’t a deck today that can’t clear something with four health. Most of the time you run this out early it will simply die to a buff, minion or removal spell. So, why run this card at all? The reason is for the games where your opponent doesn’t have an answer. In a way it operates a lot like Face Hunter, punishing decks for stumbling for a turn or not having a set answer. Once this card lives a turn it is going to do so much damage your opponent will not be able to catch up. You just need to do what you can to get it to that point. As such, you want to get this down as soon as possible. The earlier you drop this the less likely your opponent is to have an answer. If they do spend their turn removing it, you can live with that.
If you are on the frothing plan (especially if you have the coin) you want to do everything you can to make sure it lives and keeps on living. Fierce Monkey is one of the best ways to do this, but using your weapons to clear a path also does a great job. Any time you are doing damage to some minion, you are giving your berserker some extra strength. Clearing here represents larger and larger threats, especially if you are adding more minions to the board. It is not the main way you are going to operate this deck, but when frothing is out things are quite different. Here you want to use your weapons to protect more than just go face. However, if you can go face while also pushing through with your berserker, you should be able to take your opponent down to zero health without so much as a sweat.
How to play against the five decks I see the most on ladder.
So close, ladies and gentlemen. We were so $%###*& close. Secret Paladin hung at the edges of the meta for so long, and I was just waiting until the day where it finally toppled. However, instead of toppling a large gust of wind (or sheer determination) pushed it back from the edge and into the middle of the ladder. This deck is back on the top of my list, and I am not happy about it at all. Now, that is not all bad news. In fact, Secret Paladin is one of the reasons you want to run this deck. Not only do you have very little interaction (something Paladin does not like dealing with) but you also are a deck that forces them to react to you, which puts them on the back foot instead of the driver’s seat. The most important part of this matchup is to make sure you are winning the race. Paladin has a lot of burst potential between things like Blessing of Kings and Avenge, and you need to count those buffs when ignoring the board and going hard for the face.
There are three ways that Secret Paladin can interact with you, and if you can dodge or prepare for them they will have no chance. The first of those is Noble Sacrifice. This card is by far your worst nightmare, because it completely negates your damage for one mana. The way to play around this is to attack with any minion with health higher than three if you can. If you only have minions with two health, use your weapons to attack as a way to protect them. The next card that halts your assault is Coghammer, a very popular inclusion into Secret Paladin lists these days. Finally, you do want to be aware of Sludge Belcher. While the five drop is not common secret fare, it is being run more and more these days. You don’t always need a plan for it, but keep it in your mind. Tirion Fordring can also ice the game, but this usually wants to end around turn eight. If you are going longer than planned try and save execute for the legend.
Hello, Malfurion. We missed you, old friend. Midrange Druid is a deck that went from silent to absolutely everywhere in about a day and a half. I am not sure what happened, but Combo Druid exploded and is one of the most popular decks around. That can be problematic on two fronts. One, Druid, no matter which midrange or combo iteration, runs a lot of taunts. In fact, it’s kind of their thing. Druid of the Claw is the staple, but you will also see Sludge Belcher and Ancient of War in a good number of decks. For this reason you need to do whatever you can to hold onto both Ironbeak Owl and Execute. Each of those cards at the only real way you’re pushing past taunts, and if you don’t have them your plans will quickly fall apart. Some games you will be able to break through with weapons, but as an aggro deck you don’t want to waste damage trying to get past minions, you want to use it on your opponent’s face.
The other reason Midrange Druid is problematic is because of their own burst potential. As mentioned above, this is not a deck that deals with aggressive decks well. You typically want to avoid the board and make your opponent clear your threats. That means you are going to take damage from your opponent’s minions. Most matchups that extra damage can be raced, but against Druid it cannot. Savage Roar just does insane amounts of damage when combined with minions, and that makes this very difficult because going face instead of clearing can quickly lead you to a loss. You should always try to push, but also be aware of when you fall into combo range. Also remember to always clear Darnassus Aspirant if you can, the extra damage you get from ignoring it is not worth dying on turn seven.
I am done cursing Reynad (for now) but I am still not happy about the sheer amount of Aggro Shaman I have to play on a daily basis. However, as strong as Shaman is at going face, you are favored because you can do more damage than they can in less time. Though they have a ton of burn, one of Aggro Shaman’s biggest setbacks is overload. That has been the bane of Shaman for quite some time, and aggro is really hurt by it due to the high amount of spells they need to play during their finishing turns. Despite how low cost everything in their deck is, an insane amount of their cards lock down crystals. Without Lava Shock those crystals can prevent them putting lethal for a turn or two. That gives you a huge edge, and is the small window that enables them you to win the race. Whenever they go in big or lock down a lot of crystals for the next turn you want to turn up the heat.
Going against the grain, this is a matchup where you typically want to hold off on Sir Finley Mrrgglton and use your hero power as much as you can. Armor Up is not what you want to do in most games, but it can be an absolute life saver when battling other aggro decks. Beyond Fierce Monkey, Armor Up is your only way to try and mitigate damage as much as possible. Every health point matters, and you should try to sneak in two health whenever you get the chance. The other big part of this matchup is forcing them to use removal on your minions instead of your face. You do this by cranking up the pressure to make them feel like they are about to die or very close to dying. Even if they use something like Lightning Bolt or Lava Shock to take care of the board, that is damage that you no longer have to worry about being pointed at you.
As much as things change, they really just stay the same. Once upon a time Zoo was one of the most difficult decks for Aggro Warrior to fight, and it is still the hardest one to play. There are two reasons for this, and each is very important for you to understand. The first goes back to the idea of ignoring the board. You are going to try to race Zoo as fast and as hard as you can, which means you don’t want to waste a lot of time trying to mitigate their board presence (which in itself is nearly impossible). However, while you ignore the board, remember that Zoo is a deck that absolutely loves having the board. It allows them to quickly build an army, which they can then use to quickly kill their opponent. It is a tricky paradox, but you really have to commit to the face plan in order to win this game. Of course there are some situations where you should clear (such as to protect a minion or prevent lethal) but for the most part you need to be the aggressor and hope they stumble much more than you do. The only card I like to clear on sight is Knife Juggler, which can just do way too much damage is left unmolested.
The second reason this matchup is trouble is due to Defender of Argus. The four drop taunt-giver is the best card against this deck in the entire game. One taunt, no matter how big, can always be dealt with through minion combat, Execute or Ironbeak Owl. However, two taunts, especially ones that can grow pretty big, is often too much to fight through. Two taunts completely blocks off your weapons and takes away most of your punch. Even if you do fight through them, but that time you are usually going to be moving to slow to put together the final punch. Defender can also be used to win a race as well. Just like how overload will hold back Shaman for a turn or two, the taunts will shut you down for an extra turn. Always be aware of Defender of Argus and make sure you either have the board or the hand to answer it. If you can’t answer it, or just aren’t properly prepared, you will most assuredly die.
Just like Midrange Druid, this is a deck that went from nowhere to everywhere in about two days. I am not sure if it’s the Christmas cheer or if it’s the powerful tools Priest has gotten from LOE, but Museum Curator and Entomb are flying all over the ladder and they are bringing the dragons with them. This is a very rough matchup, and one of the biggest reasons against playing Aggro Warrior. That is not to say battling Anduin is impossible, but it sure feels like an uphill climb every step of the way. Not only they do have strong taunts (public enemy number one) but those taunts are low-cost and get down before you can really start stacking the board in your favor. Beyond that, they also have healing, which can be a large pain as well. Both of those makes this game go quite long, which is not a place that you want to be. The way you win this is more often going to be through one turn of big burst, where they are caught off guard and don’t have time to heal. In fact, some games I will hold back cards for no other reason that to put them in a false sense of security before dealing the final blow. One final thing to remember, Priest interacts very poorly with weapons outside of their taunts. Most of their minions are low impact and will not race you very well, while their removal does nothing to your axes. Always turn your weapons to their face unless you are in immediately in danger of dying or desperately need to keep a grasp on the board.
I talk a lot in the mulligan guides (which is really a reflection of the way the Hearthstone meta is right now) about sticking to the curve. There are a lot of decks that want to come out strong, and you need to be able to fight that early surge when necessary. However, a lot of decks can start out a little slower, and some have great catch up mechanisms, making that curve less important. Here, you absolutely, no-matter-what, have to stick to your curve. Face Warrior is a deck with very little burn, which means you want to start hitting your opponent on turn one and never stop until you or they are dead. Missing a turn or being forced to use your hero power can often be a disaster. Here you need to send back anything that is not a one or two drop, and you want to always keep your early damage cards. Upgrade, while strong, should never be kept without a weapon to go with it, and Execute just isn’t better than early pressure in just about every matchup. Missing a turn one or two play with such a low curve cannot happen. It may seem strange to throw back three drops, but starting the game on a Fierce Monkey is just asking to get crushed.
There are only two exceptions to the above rule. Execute is a card that you (unfortunately) have to keep against Druid just in case they ramp into an early taunt of huge minion. While you may have a lot of damage, there is no way you can accurately race a turn three or four Dr. Boom. The removal spell can also be kept against Priest to deal with Twilight Guardian. Death’s Bite is another interesting keep against aggressive decks. The deathrattle can do a lot of damage against both Hunter and Paladin, so I will usually save it for those if you have a good opening curve or a strong one/two drop with the coin. Beyond those two exceptions, you typically just want to look for those early plays. Though, remember that your three drops like Fierce Monkey and Frothing Berserker
Man, call me sentimental, but I love the classics. Face Warrior is a very old deck that harkens back to the days of yore. While I do not always think fondly on those times (I still see Undertaker in my nightmares) there were some good parts. I just think how the past is, we are so quick to think of the dark we often miss the light. This is a part of that light for me, a fun, fresh take on a class that is so often built around heavy control. I hope you enjoy the list, I hope you guys like the new spin, and I hope you are all looking forward to a new year. Until next week, Lok’tar Ogar!