It all started with a message.
Brian (Twizz from KCDKMR) shot me a message telling me that he had a cool deck he’d been working on; he mentioned that he built it to crush aggro decks like Warlock Zoo and Hunter Combo/Faceroll and had skewed the deck in that direction.
He also said that he’d been having issues with slower decks, the midrange and control decks. He asked if I could give the deck a good once over, play it some, and we’d talk about it and see if we could find a way ahead.
The initial list he sent to me was very anti-aggro; I mean, I had a hard time seeing how a hunter deck could hope to succeed. Holy Light, Earthen-Ring Farseer, Guardian of Kings, Defender of Argus, Abomination, Sunwalker…
It was an aggro player’s worst nightmare!
The original list (for reference; this is not the final list):
As always when I try out someone else’s deck, I didn’t change a single card prior to playing a game; this is something that I suggest everyone do, as there’s a reason the person included the card you’re about to cut. How can you know what to replace it with (in other words, how can you know how to fulfill the role of the card you’re taking out) if you don’t know what the card was in there for to begin with?
From Twizz: My First Night With the Deck
So I threw the deck together exactly as he sent it to me and gave it a shot. As is usually the case, I ran face-first into a field of Hunters and Warlocks; I won quite a large percentage of my games. Against Warlocks, your game plan was essentially “outlast them, let them deal 20+ to themselves with Life Tap, then give them that last little love tap to finish them off”. With the obscene amount of healing the deck had, this actually worked most of the time.
Against Combo and Faceroll Hunters, the amount of taunt minions (Sunwalkers, Abominations, Senjin Shieldmastas, Defenders of Argus) combined with the aforementioned healing made the matchup seem almost unfair. The midrange version gave me a bit more issues than the previous two, but it was still a deck that won by playing minions on the board, making Equality+Consecrate (or Avenging Wrath) quite good.
That was all well and good until I ran into other control decks; I simply could not win. Holy Light is essentially a dead card in those matchups and your seven mana card of choice (Guardian of Kings) was sorely lacking when your opponents played legendary after legendary. Brian had eschewed including a ton of powerful legendaries to include as much anti-aggro technology as possible, but this had the opposing effect of destroying his matchup percentages against slower decks.
(If you’re a fan of Dragonball Z, think about how Super Saiyans could ramp up their power level at will, but it came at the cost of speed and agility; that’s essentially what this deck did, albeit in reverse. In order to interact early, often, and relevantly, we skimped on overall power level.)
Brian came out and, within the stream, we talked about the deck, card choices, and debated play decisions; it was honestly a very productive stream, as we were able to identify some issues.
To Drunken: My Revisions to the Deck
Here’s the version I took into night#2 with the deck:
After a night of streaming, I decided to give the deck some touch ups; I removed the two Abominations and the Redemption. I just wasn’t overly impressed with them even though Brian loved the interaction between Abomination and Redemption. This is something that comes up quite often, as cards that are great for some players don’t perform the same for other players; it’s a byproduct of playstyle differences, and I have 100% confidence that with how Brian plays, the card is great for him.
During the stream in which I first played the deck, Brian would call out the plays he would make (but because of the delay, I wouldn’t see it until after I’d already made a play). Sometimes we agreed, a lot of the times we didn’t. I’d explain why I made my decision and he’d explain his side and, for the most part, we both made sense and had logic behind our decisions (sometimes it’d just be an oversight on my part, which I would admit sheepishly). So if you have a difference of opinion on a card, realize that that doesn’t mean that you or that deck’s creator are “wrong”, just that you play the game differently.
Another change I made was dropping a Blessing of Wisdom; I enjoyed having the unexpected card to mess with my opponents, but there’d be plenty of times it would sit dead in my hand. I liked it enough to keep one, but I think the second is unnecessary. I think it’s actually a great card against Warlock Aggro, as when it’s used as a one mana “removal” spell, your opponent has to debate either letting me draw a card in order to get in two or three damage or letting their minion be “removed” by a “bad” card. Most of the time, they attacked anyway, so Blessing replaced itself.
However, the times where the minion sat unused for even a turn or drew me two cards were quiet common, making it better than a one mana “draw a card”. One got to stay, one had to go.
I also cut down one Defender of Argus initially before realizing that I didn’t like it at all in the deck and took the other out as well. I just didn’t have enough cheap minions to make casting a Defender of Argus anything but a mediocre play early. If I could even get one minion to get the buff from Defender, I was happy to take it. Since I was basically looking to build a roadblock with my Defenders anyway, I included the second Senjin Shieldmasta which did the same thing I wanted Defender to do, only better.
I also tentatively removed the Avenging Wrath for a Stampeding Kodo; this wasn’t necessarily a swap because I felt the cards did similar things but rather I felt that Kodo was a good card and Avenging Wrath was typically underwhelming in this deck. Then, I threw in the legendaries (Cairne, Tirion Fordring, and Ysera) to help solidify the late game.
I played the deck on stream and still had issues with slower decks, though the matchups felt closer than before, so we were on to something. The aggro matchups got marginally worse, as I definitely felt a difference when I was drawing Ysera against Warlocks instead of Blessing of Wisdom; however, I still felt I had a pretty decent matchup.
The deck has no stellar matchups (like how Control Warrior could smile when it saw a Hunter on the opposing side of the table) and you have to truly think through every one of your plays. I’m still learning the deck, honestly, as there’s just so many decision points you could make in any given turn.
I’d say that the bad matchups include other control decks, as the deck is currently positioned to beat aggro decks; when you play the full complement of Earthen Ring Farseers, Holy Lights, and Guardians of Kings, you have very specific decks you’re aiming to beat. However, I think that Holy Light, despite it being utterly terrible against other control decks, is a must-have against aggro decks.
I hate saying that…
Based on my background in Magic: the Gathering, I hate cards that just gain life; they don’t do anything. They don’t help progress your board, they don’t help control your opponent’s side of the board, and they don’t contribute to getting your opponent dead. They don’t help you win the game at all; they just help keep you from not losing for a bit. I hate that…
But in Hearthstone, where there’s no such thing as blocking or having the ability to control the creatures that can hit you, life totals are much more fragile; in the case of the might Paladin, who has incredibly powerful midgame cards but is sorely lacking in the early game, Holy Light gives you the ability to disregard the damaging effects of not having great early removal. Since your midgame cards will effectively let you recover from early deficits, the biggest issue with Paladins against aggro is just dying to being hit in the face time after time before you get to play your Guardians and Lay on Hands.
With Holy Light, Paladins have a way to bridge the gap from the early midgame (turn 4, 5) to the late game without randomly dying to Leeroy and his crew; it’s a necessary evil. When you combine it with cards like Wild Pyromancer and, possibly, Gadgetzan Auctioneer (for instance), then the card only increases in value.
Oh, that whole “drunken” thing; I called the deck “Drunken Pally” because it’s an Anti-Aggro Paladin deck, an “AA Pally” if you will… I think you can make the (admittedly cheesy) connection from there.
Finally… We’ve Come to This
Here’s the current version of the deck:
Drunken Pally by Shoctologist
Cards sorted by Low Cost
- Acidic Swamp Ooze
- Ironbeak Owl
- Wild Pyromancer x2
- Earthen Ring Farseer x2
- Sen’jin Shieldmasta x2
- Faceless Manipulator
- Cairne Bloodhoof
- Sunwalker x2
- The Black Knight
- Baron Geddon
- Ragnaros the Firelord
- Blessing of Wisdom
- Equality x2
- Holy Light x2
- Aldor Peacekeeper x2
- Truesilver Champion x2
- Consecration x2
- Guardian of Kings
- Lay on Hands
- Tirion Fordring
It seems I’ve taken the deck, added some legendaries, and called it a day… right? Well, sort of; as I’ve said numerous times, in order to have a successful control deck, you need to have finishers. You have to be able to close out the game. Every single game I played against other slow decks ended up with me just running out of cards, my opponents able to easily handle the ragtag group of threats I put out on the board.
If you don’t have these legendaries, some are replaceable. The Black Knight can become either Stampeding Kodo or Big Game Hunter depending on what you want to do with the card. Baron Geddon can go back to being Abomination and Ysera can be replaced by any end-game threat, as that’s the dragon’s role. Ragnaros and Tirion are impossible to replace, however, so realize that if you want to run the deck without them.
Basic Play Tips
1. Blessing of Wisdom is going to act as a removal spell 90% of the time.
2. Equality is your only “solid” removal spell; don’t use it unless you’re sure you’re getting the best use out of it.
3. Consecration and Truesilver Champion are probably the best four mana class cards in the game; if you can make it to turn four without being super far behind Warlock decks, you should be fine. That being said, mulligan anything that doesn’t interact early with them (including Holy Light).
4. It’s ok to spend the first couple of turns just activating your hero ability if you’re not under pressure; don’t feel like you have to play cards out just because you’re “not doing anything”. Get the most out of your cards.
5. Bait out silences and removal spells as much as possible before you play your big hitters like Tirion and Ragnaros; Sunwalkers are great for this (so is Cairne)
6. Remember that Holy Light can heal minions; you don’t have to use it to heal yourself. Against other control decks, this is my primary use for the card.
7. Think before you do anything; this deck gives you a billion options which, while it might seem like a good thing, can lead you to get mentally lazy and go with the first thing you think of. Consider if there are better ways to do what you’re trying to do.
8. Don’t be afraid to take some damage to get maximum value out of your Equalities. You have more cards that heal you in this deck than you do solid removal spells, so if getting the best value out of one of your two Equalities means taking some extra damage (that you can heal with any of your seven heal cards), so be it.
9. Patience is a virtue; you don’t have to immediately control every single thing. Trying to do so is actually a bad thing, as you really don’t have the ability to do so.
10. Have an end-game plan and work towards it; don’t just react to your opponent’s plays every turn, have an idea about how you plan on winning the game and work towards that. Don’t let your opponent dictate your game and make you play your cards in ways that don’t actively contribute to you winning the game.
Cards to Consider
Avenging Wrath: I do miss having the additional removal spell to couple with Equality late-game; I’m likely to re-add this.
Big Game Hunter: If you’re running into more control/midrange than Hunters, then 1. this card is for you and 2. I want to play at your rank… Replace a Holy Light with this.
Gadgetzan Auctioneer: Combined with the Blessing and Holy Lights, this gives you more value out of your cards; there aren’t enough spells in the deck currently for me to want to go this route, though.
That’s it for this week; if you want to give this deck a try and have any questions, be sure to contact either myself or Brian on Twitter (my info is in my signature block below, Brian can be found here on Twitter).
Michael “Shoc” Martin