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 Crushers, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.