First week of the NEW YEAR
by Nick ‘Hellthrower’ Gavra
Recap of 2016
2016 was a confusing year for the world of Hearthstone.
In the begginning, the ladder was flooded by aggro Shamans, Combo Druids, and Secret Paladins.
After the introduction of Standard mode and the release of Whispers of the Old Gods, aggro Shaman became even better, and we saw the rise of Dragon Warrior and Token Druid.
With the release of Karazhan, Shaman became a more midrange deck, and Druid turned to the Malygos version.
Gadgetzan came at last, to shake things up a bit. The introduction of [Patches the Pirate] has change the state of the ladder a lot.
State of the Meta
In my personal opinion, the meta at this moment is the best we have seen all year. Even though Patches has been dominating, and aggro decks are the strongest, we have at least 5 top Tier decks.
Deciding on the top Tier decks was not easy. Some had to be left behind. Examples are Renolock, Dragon Priest, Jade and Kun Druid, and Midrange Shaman.
After this small introduction, those are, without any specific order, the strongest decks on ladder as of New Year 2017.
This is the more Midrange version of the Dragon Warrior. Possibly the strongest deck back in Summer, as it was baiting the most bans in tournaments and was dominating ranked ladder. Guaranteed to have a strong oppening, Dragon Warrior can cursh its opponents in all stages of the game. In the first turns, the Pirates and [Alexstrasza’s Champion] will take control of the board, while later, you will have strong taunt minions and card draw. In the end, you can establish the powerful 9/9 [Drakonid Crusher]s, or finish off your opponent with [Ragnaros the Firelord].
The deck succeeds in playing on curve, making efficient trades, and using direct damage, with charges and weapons. Keeping an eye on [Frothing Berserker] for explosive OTK turns is something to remember. [Execute] is used as a single optional copy, and its best targets are [Flamewreathed Faceless], a big [Edwin VanCleef], or any imposing threat Renolock and Reno Mage can develop.
[N’Zoth’s First Mate], [Small-Time Buccaneer], [Sir Finley Mrrgglton], [Fiery War Axe], [Faerie Dragon] and [Alexstrasza’s Champion] are all great keeps. Consider keeping a cheap dragon as an activator. Similarly to any Pirate deck, avoid throwing away too many cards, in fear of getting [Patches the Pirate] in your starting hand. To avoid being repetitive, this will also apply to the rest of the Pirate decks in this list.
[Execute] and [Ravaging Ghoul] can be swapped out for [Blood To Ichor], which is amazing against aggressive decks, or a single copy of [Arcanite Reaper].
A truly aggressive Warrior deck. Has been the most common deck since day 1 of Mean streets of Gadgetzan. However, is has become slightly weaker, as Dragon Warrior works great against this deck.
Try to quickly get on board with the 1 mana pirates and finish your opponent at turns 5-8. Use your charge minions earlier if you are afraid your opponent will have a taunt, as you can always bypass the taunts with [Mortal Strike] and potentially [Steady Shot] or [Fireblast], if you are lucky with Sir Finley.
Some players have messed around with the deck, trying to come up with a more Midrange version, that focuses more on controlling the board and buffing your weapons, but this decklist remains more consistent.
During the mulligan phase, you are looking for [N’Zoth’s First Mate] as the most important 1-drop. [Southsea Deckhand], [Small-Time Buccaneer], [Sir Finley Mrrgglton] and [Fiery War Axe] are also important keeps, and depending on your cards you could consider keeping [Bloodsail Raider] and [Dread Corsair].
Pirate Warrior has 1 flexible spot, where you can include [Acidic Swamp Ooze], [Hobart Grapplehammer], [Argent Horserider], [Bash], or any other aggressive card of your choice.
MIRACLE ROGUE (Questing Version)
The underdog of this expansion, despite the bad cards it got, has managed to take advantage of the Pirate package to climb to Tier 1. The success of this deck is:
- [Swashburglar]: A very solid 1 mana pirate exclusive to Rogue that can bring out Patches early.
- [Counterfeit Coin]: Going second as Rogue has always been a huge advantage, and now you are always guaranteed to have more coins. Works great with [Gadgetzan Auctioneer], [Questing Adventurer] and Combo Cards.
- [Dagger Mastery]: Rogue’s Hero Power synergizes exceedingly well with [Small-Time Buccaneer], and therefore [Patches the Pirate].
Pirate Miracle Rogue, AKA Piracle Rogue has not any differences than a standard Miracle Rogue deck. Amazing tempo swings with [Backstab], [Sap] and [Edwin VanCleef]. Remember to keep some cheap spells for [Gadgetzan Auctioneer], [Edwin VanCleef] and [Questing Adventurer]. By the time you draw [Leeroy Jenkins] and double [Cold Blood], you will most likely have dropped your opponent down to 14 HP to kill them.
Rogue also has a more favorable match-up against Dragon Warrior, compared to Pirate Warrior, as it can contest the board more effectively, without having to worry about its life total, and lack of taunt minions.
[Swashburglar], [Small-Time Buccaneer] and [Backstab] are what you are looking for. If you have many cheap spells, [Edwin VanCleef] is also a keep.
If you are facing against Renolock or Renomage, kepping [Sap] will more often than not work out to your favour. It’s important to remember that this decklist only has 1 copy of [Sap], due to the aggressive meta.
If you are facing many control decks, you will need to make room for a second [Sap]. You could cut a [Counterfeit Coin].
An uncommon decision is the replacement of one or two of the priates with [Bloodsail Corsair], to counter the weapon classes.
Even though a true Midrange Jade shaman is strong, the aggressive variant still holds the spot for the best Shaman deck at the moment.
This is a mix of Burn Spells, the [Patches the Pirate] package and some Jade Golem cards. Similarly to Pirate Warrior, you need to get early on board, use chargers when there are no taunts, and finish off your opponent with burn spells. Remember to manage efficiently your overloaded crystals and plan out your lethal strategy many turns ahead.
Plenty of good cards can be kept depending on your opponent and whether or not you are holding [The Coin]. Generally you want to look for [Tunnel Trogg], [Spirit Claws], [Small-Time Buccaneer], [Southsea Deckhand], [Totem Golem] and [Sir Finley Mrrgglton].
If you wish to go with a more aggressive style, you could swap the [Feral Spirit]s with [Argent Horserider]s , and remove [Aya Blackpaw] for [Doomhammer].
RENO MAGE (NEW)
Reno Mage has seen explosive rise the past 10 days. Although it seemed underwhelming as a Kabal class at the beginning of the expansion, players figured out its effectiveness against pirate decks.
As a Reno deck, many of the cards can be replaced. There are a few version roaming around the ladder, but this one, with [Alexstrasza] is the most popular. There is a version running [Medivh, the Guardian], and another one which takes an approach similar to Freeze Mage, with [Archmage Antonidas] and [Ice Lance].
The deck plays very similarly to Renolock. Control the board, use defensive and healing cards, and drop your opponent to 15 with [Alexstrasza] to finish them off with the remaining of your burst cards.
Unlike Renolock, Renomage does not have as many AoE spells, so be conservative with your [Flamestrike] and [Blizzard].
Against a control deck, you should try to use [Kazakus] with [Brann Bronzebeard], as this value alone can win you the game.
[Manic Soulcaster]: A very unique new card for Mage. Against an aggressive deck your best target would be [Reno Jackson], and against a control deck, probably [Kazakus].
REMEMBER: Reno decks have to make decisions on the go. You play reactive, while having a faded gameplan on the back of your head. Whether you have to keep [Brann Bronzebeard] to go with [Kazakus], or use [Manic Soulcaster] for tempo is up to you to decide. Try to consider what cards your opponent’s deck might have, and save your removals accordingly.
KEEP IN MIND, if you use [Manic Soulcaster] with [Brann Bronzebeard] you will put 2 COPIES of a card into your deck, which will temporarily disable [Reno Jackson].
Jade Druid will be troublesome for you. You need to play as a tempo deck against a Jade Druid, and not allow them to get out of control. Finish the game fast, before having to deal with a huge wall of Jade Golems.
Defensive cheap spells, like [Frostbolt], [Arcane Blast].
[Babbling Book], [Doomsayer], [Dirty Rat] (although it’s a big gamble).
[Ice Block] and [Reno Jackson] could also be kept against aggressive decks, just to be safe.
Honestly, most of the cards can be changed. Look up the varied decklists online, get experience with the deck, and make your decisions accordingly.
Cards that can be removed: [Forbidden Flame], [Babbling Book], [Acidic Swamp Ooze], [Dirty Rat], [Forgotten Torch], [Ice Barrier], [Kabal Courier], [Manic Soulcaster], [Mind Control Tech], [Sylvanas Windrunner], [Alexstrasza].
Cards that can be included: [Mirror Image], [Mistress of Mixtures], [Earthen Ring Farseer], [Inkmaster Solia], [Frost Nova], [Flame Lance], [Ethereal Conjurer], [Cult Sorcerer], [Medivh, the Guardian], and anything else you consider necessary.
We wish everyone a happy new Year. May 2017 bring you, your friends and families happiness and health, and may you achieve all your goals.
We are all looking forward to Hearthstone’s development this year.