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Theorycrafting Forged in the Barrens

by - 1 month ago

Forged in the Barrens comes out tomorrow, and with it comes the Core Set and the rotation of five sets into Wild (the normal rotation and the removal of the Evergreen sets), so it is poised to be one of the biggest shakeups in the game’s history. So you know I’ve got to write about it! I brewed up fourty-five (45!) Standard decks, and explanations of them, for you to try tomorrow when the sets go live.

As always, there will undoubtedly be some mix of meta and meme in here, and it won’t always be clear which is which, but we’re having fun putting them together anyway. Hopefully there’s something here for everyone! Or, at least, something to spark everyone’s creativity for their own brewing.

This time, we’re trying a slightly different look, and using the official Blizzard deckbuilder. We hope it increases readability overall while still giving you the information you want most about any particular deck that might catch your eye.

Without further ado, some theorycrafts:

Honestly, it kind of feels like Demon Hunter got a bit of the short end of the stick with this expansion. Now, the class has been somewhere between “good” and “oppressive” for literally its entire existence, so it taking a set off is not necessarily a bad thing, but it does leave us wondering if we play any of the new cards, or just keep playing the archetypes it already established and dominated with over the past year. In the spirit of theorycrafting, let’s just assume we want to play new cards.

Deathrattle Demon Hunter

When I saw Death Speaker Blackthorn, I immediately gave it a five-star rating in our Power Rankings article and started telling people on twitter that it was like 20+ mana of value in a 7-mana card. Unfortunately (or maybe very fortunately), the rest of the expansion didn’t really deliver on that promise. It’s still a build-around card, but probably no longer the obviously busted thing that it appeared to be on its face.

There are two ways to take the card: 1) as a targeted effect, hitting three high value 5-cost Deathrattles; or, 2) with just a pile of medium-value Deathrattles, so that you can almost guarantee that you get three decent pulls out of it each time. I was hoping for the former, but they gave us the pieces to do more of the latter. I’ve brewed up both here.

Many Deathrattles Decklist and Code

Few Deathrattles Decklist and Code

The goal of the Many Deathrattles version is to get steady, incremental value throughout the game, ideally using your deathrattles as a kind of “ramp” effect that also keeps the board consistently full. The Few Deathrattles build is more about just capping out your aggro push with a big final value push that is the final nail in the coffin. In both versions, I think the Deathrattles you really want to hit are Burning Blade Acolytes, whereas Polkelt and Fordring get you to Blackthorn. Then you just fill in the rest of the deck with either more Deathrattle synergies or with regular aggro/tempo tools, depending on which build you like.

I’m going to be honest here, I don’t really have high hopes for this archetype in this expansion. I can’t see what it does better than the existing Demon Hunter archetypes (Aggro, Soul, and Lifesteal/OTK), which are barely touched by rotation. (To that point, I’m not theorycrafting those decks here because it’s not fun to theorycraft decks that just slot in one new card, discussed further at the bottom of the Demon Hunter discussion). I think Deathrattle has a small chance if, for whatever reason, consistent board presence is more important than burst damage in this upcoming meta. But more likely this is just an archetype that is waiting for a few more cards before it can shine.

BIG Demons Demon Hunter

Thus far, this archetype has been hinted at in every expansion, but never good enough to see play. Forged in the Barrens may well change that, though, as it has given the deck another great big demon payoff/target and some solid removal to help stall for it. Is it finally time?!

BIG Demons Decklist and Code

Again, I think the deck will probably fall a little short of the three established Demon Hunter archetypes, but I am really excited for Illidari Inquisitor, and Sigil of Flame seems really strong. Pair that with the goodies we already have, and you’ve got a decent deck for stalling until you can start dumping big demons, starting on around turn 5 or 6 with Raging Felscreamer and/or Fel Summoner. Then, once you get the big demon train rolling, many of them allow for snowballing until the game is out of control.

Okay, but what about something even sillier.

Magtheridon Control Demon Hunter

Okay, so this isn’t so much a new archetype that they wanted us to play as much as it’s just some nonsense I came up with. Here’s how it works: it’s all about playing multiple Magtheridons until your opponent runs out of stuff. You find your Magtheridon by using Tuskpiercer to pull either Claw Machine or Taelan (who then finds Claw Machine), and then using that to find Magtheridon, your only other minion. Then you copy it with Felosophies (including maybe bonus copies from Illidari Studies) and start cracking. The rest of the deck is stall and draw and C’Thun as a backup finisher, because why not?

Magtheridon Control Demon Hunter Decklist and Code

Something about the concept of using Tuskpiercer and a few designated deathrattles as a tutor engine just tickles me. And the concept of playing a bunch of Magtheridons gets me every time as well. The loss of Blade Dance hurts this deck a bit, but Sigil of Flame seems solid and Warglaives of Azzinoth is back on the menu. It again seems a little susceptible to burst, and hyper-aggro, but it has a lot of clears and life gain, so it might be a decent option if we end up with a minion-based midrangey meta.

In terms of other things Demon Hunter has to offer, the timing of the Core Set is such that they don’t get the return of old things, like the other classes do, but instead just gets to keep some (most) of what it has had this whole time. As mentioned above, that means that you can also probably play the big three existing Demon Hunter archetypes (Aggro, Soul, and Lifesteal/OTK) with only minimal revisions, if any of those are more your speed. It’s hard to do spotlight a theorycraft of a decklist when you are just taking the best version of the deck from last meta and subbing out a card or two. I think Soul and Lifesteal Demon Hunter like Sigil of Flame; Aggro and Soul use Fury in place of Twin Slice; and Aggro might run Oasis Thrasher, but all three remain essentially the same as they were before.

Alright, on to the next class!

Druid’s coming into the expansion with some solid–albeit not dominant–archetypes. It loses two, or maybe one-and-a-half, depending on how you count, but it gets some exciting new cards, and also some Taunt synergy stuff.

Celestial Alignment Druid

Druid got one of the most exciting cards of the expansion in Celestial Alignment. All signs point to it probably not being all that good in Standard, but still interesting, and potentially game-breaking in Wild. Let’s take a look!

Celestial “Watch for Dragons” Alignment [Standard] Decklist and Code

Alignment sets your cards to 1 and then cards that reduce their own costs reduce from there, which means that cards like Umbral Owls and all* the Giants can then get played immediately for free! Then, of course, you run big guys to take better advantage of the cost reduction than your opponent does.

*In Wild, where there are still several giants available, it goes to 11! It’s like Naga Sea Witch except a couple mana more for a bigger discount. In theory, that means your explosive turn should be much slower, but Druid has so much ramp that it can still go off as early as turn 3. Then you drop your giants, refill with your huge card draw cards, and lock your opponent out with Loatheb. EZ.

I’ve seen some people putting Guardian Animals in the deck, too. That makes a lot of sense because it gives you refill and stabilization, but I didn’t do it in my build because I like using Primordial Protector as a tutor effect for the Alignment. Instead, you use Malygos and Nourish for your refill. You play a ton of big dragons as your payoff cards because they’re dope and pretty powerful now that they’ve been reworked. I like the Watch Posts to fill the middle turns, and 2-cost Post is a nice stop-gap to really slow your opponent down after you play Alignment. Cult Neophyte can play a similar role if the Posts end up being bad, but it only works for one turn, and they could just play a minion, so I don’t like it as much. I thought about adding Kazakus, for the cute “nothing costs 4 after Alignment” interaction, but since your mana is reset, it would be a while before you get to play your bigger Golems anyway.

“Spiteful Summoner” Druid

Speaking of Primordial Protector, I really like the card as a new Spiteful Summoner. This deck is devoted to getting to 8 mana and then doing a big swing turn for it. It has a lot of the same cards as the Guardian Animal Druid used to have, but I think it got some decent tools while other decks got worse, making it potentially a meta contender again.

“Spiteful Guardian” Druid Decklist and Code

Since this version does not run Alignment, it can get away with running Corrupt cards. Taelan is a pseudo-tutor for your Protector, with it only getting disrupted by the one Clown, which seems too good with Survival to pass up in the new, softer meta. Though, it may end up getting cut like it was in the previous version. It’s hard to tell how many threats you’ll need in this upcoming meta, so the hope is that this will present enough big boards that your opponent can’t just run you out of stuff too easily. Since Primordial Protector is a big board on its own, I think that’s a reasonable hope.

Token Druid

Gibberling Token Druid is another deck that does not lose a lot to rotation. Well, it loses Savage Roar, which is “a lot” in the sense of impact, but it keeps all its other key cards, and gains some new tools that might help it offset the lost value. Note that, while there is currently a split because Gibberling Token Druid and Treant Druid, that won’t exist any more after the rotation, when Treant Druid loses Aeroponics–the most compelling reason to run the deck. So we’re focusing on the other build(s).

“Gibbs and Gruff” Spell Token Druid Decklist and Code

The deck loses a little bit of draw, but I haven’t decided if you make that up with Guidance or Guess the Weight. I went with Guidance for the cheaper Gibberling activation. Since you lose some of that draw, I don’t think Glowfly Swarm is that good any more. However, you keep the explosive Gibberling starts and then, instead of ending the game based on that, you continue to build that initial board up throughout the game with Nature’s Fury, Arbor Up, and Guff. Most of your spells are Nature spells, so Guff can really go off if you play it at the right time.

Minion Swarm Aggro Druid Decklist and Code

On the flip side, we also got Arcane Anomaly, Enchanted Raven, and Annoy-o-Tron, both of which are great for minion-based strategies, so maybe we use Voracious Reader as our refill instead. And we can throw Kazakus in there, too, as Soul of the Forest is much worse without Savage Roar and I was never convinced about Pride’s Fury in the first place. The new Kazakus effects are also pretty minion-focused, too, so it works in this more aggressive deck, as opposed to the control lists the old one was best in. I’d like to run Crabrider in here, but the deck doesn’t actually run that many buffs, so it’s hard to see how it’s worth it. Also, if the deck ends up needing just a tiny bit more gas, Wandmaker is an interesting pick–the 1-cost spell pool has been limited to only refill cards now, so it might just be worth playing.

Taunt Druid

And, finally, to take things in yet another different direction, Taunt Druid: the archetype Blizzard pushed hardest in this expansion. What I think we really want is Razormane Battleguard + free Taunt on turn 2. Then, ideally, the taunt protects the Battleguard and you get to play a 5-drop on turn 3, but I’m not sure where it wants to go from there. The best 5-drop Taunt is Greybough, so I guess you add a bit of that synergy… and then maybe some AoE buffs to make our Taunts more annoying.

Midrange Taunt Druid Decklist and Code

Another possible way to take it is as another aggro Druid variant, using just Razormane Battleguard to cheat out a 2-drop and, most likely, call it there. That seems pretty solid for a 2-mana play, but even with 6 solid 2-mana taunts, I’m not sure if that’s enough to warrant running the Battleguard–and it’s a lot of card slots devoted to that small package. It feels like I want one more Taunt payoff card to really make me feel happy about playing these Taunts. I like that the Battleguard essentially protects itself with the taunt, but, like I noted in our Power Rankings, I don’t believe in this archetype as a whole.

One cute thing to note: all your cards that give minions taunt allow you to then make a copy of the minion with Mark of the Spikeshell. We still have Germination in the card pool, though, so the main value there is with cards that have relevant Battlecries, and maybe Frenzies, instead of cards you just want to have another copy of in play. However, the most notable of those is Kazakus, which has anti-synergy with Plaguemaw the Rotting, which clearly wants to be in the Taunt deck so, again, I’m not sure about that.

A mega-cute thing that I saw pro player Feno pitch: if you play Celestial Alignment, then your Razormane Battleguard makes your Carnival Clown cost 0–so it is corrupted by you playing any non-taunt. So is the solution to make our Celestial Alignment deck a Taunt Druid deck? I don’t think it’s worth it overall, but maybe that’s the way.

Hunter is losing almost all its most powerful cards to rotation, but between Barrens and the Core Set, Hunter has gotten a lot of tools to rebuild with. The question is just whether it’s good enough. First, perhaps the most obvious of the offerings:

Aggro-Midrange Hunter

If there’s one thing about Hunter, it’s going to hit face. And, in this expansion, it’s also going to shuffle and buff its beasts, for some longevity in the mid- and later-games, if need be. Let’s take a look:

Aggro-Midrange Hunter Decklist and Code

You still keep your aggressive minion starts, and then you add a bit of reach through Frenzy effects, trample effects and your various Beast duplication and buff effects. Warsong Wrangler makes me super excited to play Dire Frenzy again as a way to immediately cash in on the bonus and also make it a bigger bonus going forward. Wound Prey is a good way to activate Frenzy effects without completely conceding board presence. All the rest of the deck is just aggressively-statted minions that let you pressure your opponent efficiently.

But what if we wanted to do the same thing, but BIGGER?

Leoroxx Beast-Copy OTK

It wouldn’t be a theorycrafting season without trying out something insane like this, would it? Leoroxx Beast-Copy OTK (if it gets big, we’ll have to think of a better name) works by copying and buffing big beasts from your deck, and then playing Leoroxx to unleash them for one big finisher. The deck now has several ways to piece together your key cards, and make them stronger, making the entire deck significantly more consistent than it was before.

Pure Leoroxx OTK Decklist and Code

You have Trampling Rhino and King Krush as your Leoroxx targets. You can copy and/or buff them with Scavenger’s Ingenuity, Selective Breeder, Scrap Shot (if already in hand), and Warsong Wrangler, so there’s a lot of redundancy there. Polkelt and Taelan both help you draw Leoroxx and/or Krush. Tracking and Kodobane help you smooth everything out. Then the rest of the deck is just stall and chip damage until you can get your opponent with that sweet, sweet, triple King Krush action!

Note: I went with Explosive Sheep over Explosive Trap because I wanted Kodobane to more frequently hit Scavenger’s Ingenuity or Tame Beast. Deadly Shot is only in there because of Kodo as well (it can also get Makrik’s wife in the 3 slot). If you plan on tinkering with the list, the Kodobane package might be better as a Professor Slate package, or even just good cards.

But what if we want to get even crazier?

Yogg-and-Load Hunter

The problem with the Leoroxx combo deck is that it gets boring when your deck does the same thing every game. Enter Yogg.

Yogg-and-Load Hunter Decklist and Code

Lock and Load was brought back to Standard and buffed! On top of that, we got Kolkar Pack Runner to help control the early and mid-game. Malygos and Kodobane, again, for refill. Rinling’s Rifle would fit really well in the deck, but it’s more-or-less solo in the 4-slot, so I figured we could cut it for Kazakus and hope that the Rifle falls off a Pack Kodo. What’s your win condition? You make it up as you go, of course!

Okay, all of that’s fine, but this is Hunter. Where’s the smorc?

Face Hunter

Face Hunter is one of those classic archetypes that seems to exist in one form or another in almost every meta, regardless of how good it is. People like just going face! With the rotation, it loses a lot of the stuff it has been abusing for the past year, but it also picks up some decent cards, so the archetype as a whole seems likely to continue existing.

Face Hunter Decklist and Code

Oh, you know Face Hunter. You play early-game things and things that go face. It’s similar to the aggro-midrange, above, but sped up a bit. Makrik gives you your lone 3-cost spell for Kodobane to draw and immediately cast. You gain Kolkar Pack Runner to contest early boards with the hyenas so that you can focus on sending everything else face. Oasis Thrasher and Piercing Shot are some of that going face action. You can even Piercing Shot your own Hyenas for 5 damage to the enemy hero, in a pinch. Most decks running so few 4-drops would probably cut them for Kazakus, but that’s too slow for this deck. SMORC!

In terms of other stuff Hunter has going on, I like Tavish, but I’m not really seeing the support for him yet. We also got some new Deathrattle Hunter toys, but I think they are inadequate to make up for the Deathrattle Hunter stuff that we lost. Them putting Baron in the Core Set does indicate that we might be able to get there later this year, though.

Mage is one of my favorite classes, but it is coming into Barrens in a bit of a rough spot: it lost Highlander Mage, it lost Mana Cyclone, it lost Sorcerer’s Apprentice, it lost Elemental Allies, it lost half its Secret support cards, and, even though it kept all its Spell Damage cards, it lost some of its burn that the deck uses as the payoff. Let’s see if it got enough added to it to keep it in the game.

Spell Damage Mage

Despite the doom-and-gloom, for each thing that Spell Damage Mage lost, it seems to have gotten a near 1-to-1 replacement. No Arcane Explosion? Have a Shooting Star. No Frostbolt? How’s about Runed Orb? No Elemental Allies? Maybe you use both Refreshing Spring Water and Arcane Intellect? (I opted not to, because my build was 50/50 on minions and spells, but one could build it to play the card). All in all, it seems like the deck will make it out of this alright if the meta remains receptive to it.

Spell Damage Mage Decklist and Code

On top of the 1-for-1 replacements, we got a few cool new toys. Varden Dawngrasp seems like a nice addition for this tempo-swingy deck. And Aegwynn makes sure that all your minions give Spell Damage, so that seems like a decent addition. This feels like a pretty solid deck going into the weaker 4-set meta.

No Minion Mage

No Minion Mage is another deck that comes into this rotation mostly unscathed. The loss of Reno, with his unconditional board clear and small amount of life gain, hurts, but the core pieces are still there. The thing is, the deck wasn’t good to begin with, so it has a way to climb.

No Minion Mage Decklist and Code

Refreshing Spring Water is obviously a great addition–almost always being free two cards or even free mana if it was already discounted. But the rest of the deck is still the same rest of the deck. I non-ironically put that Snap Freeze in there, so that’s something.

Okay, but what about something new?!

Hero Power Mage!

Play the Hero Power Cards and then get the big payoff in the end! In truth, Mordesh is pretty good–Pyroblast all enemies and also leave behind a 10/10 seems dece–but really the power of the deck seems to be spread out throughout the turns. Wildfire makes your hero powers all solid. Reckless Apprentice is good value, especially if your hero power is buffed. You play Mordesh because it fits with the overall deck, instead of being the whole reason for the deck. And then you lean into it a little bit.

Hero Power Mage Decklist and Code

Okay, so the “lean into it a little bit” is that once you’re playing Mordesh, all the temptation in the world is there to try to go Mordesh-Mana Biscuit-Mana Biscuit-Potion of Illusion, so that you can do it again the following turn. That almost certainly will prove suboptimal, but you have to try it! Also, I think Potion is really solid in this deck anyway, where all your key cards are minions. So even if the full combo is a meme, you still get lots of value from it. Other than that, you use the Turtle Mage shell just to get maximum Potion value and hope that your minions can stall and chip away and eventually get there. Taelan, of course, tutors out your finisher.

Note: In Wild, there might be enough here to make for a cool Even Mage list. I suspect it won’t be able to compete at the high levels, but it seems fun!

Secret Mage?

Secret Mage is in a weird spot. There are lots of solid secret synergy cards–so many, in fact, that it’s hard to narrow a deck down to 30 cards–but most of the strongest synergies are gone, so it reads more like a pile of mediocre cards that say “secret” on them, instead of a competitive deck:

Tempo Secret Mage

See? This deck is really hurting for a relevant 1-drop. Though, to be fair, last meta’s Secret Mage only ran Secretkeeper, so they skipped their one-drop turn a lot, too. I thought about just skipping the 1-slot entirely and loading up on more 2- and 3-drops (the deck has a ton more options there to pick from), but the 2- and 3-drops are so much weaker if they’re not following anything up. Also, the most obvious 2-drops that we’d want to add are those which just further help fill up our hand, which I don’t think is what this deck needs–its draw engine is pretty much its strongest asset!

In fact, with that powerful draw engine, I thought about trying to play a late-game control Mage deck that tore through its deck for some sort of combo finisher, but the pieces just weren’t there: 1) there’s not really a combo or other payoff to make it worth it–C’Thun is the closest we get, and this meta has shown he’s not enough to carry; and 2) with Blizzard and Frost Nova gone, playing a purely defensive Mage seems really tough. I think we’ll have to revisit the thought in future expansions this year as the cardpool grows.

Paladin comes into the expansion with a meta defining deck that is losing its draw engine and a couple other meta contenders that are completely destroyed, so there’s some rebuilding to do, but it’s not the worst off class in the game. Let’s start with the more known quantity.

Libram Paladin

Libram Paladin kept everything except for the part that might have been subtly the most important: its draw engine! We had to replace that with a small secret package, and a few cards that replace themselves, to try to make up for the loss.

Libram Paladin Decklist and Code

Unfortunately, the draw engine seems to take Animated Broomstick with it, and makes Pen Flinger a lot harder to get online, so you’re down a lot of shenanigans as a whole as well. However, the deck does pick up some goodies. The secret package allows you some tempo and card advantage, with the upside of Oh My Yogg! saving you from disruption or Avenge hitting a Crabrider–lest you forget that Avenge is just busted. Taelan Fordring is nice for tutoring out Liadrin. Cariel Roame is, in my opinion, pretty overrated, but she’s still going to give you a tiny bit of cost reduction–the tags have not yet been updated in the official deckbuilder, but devs have confirmed that all Libram spells are “Holy”–and the body is almost good enough to play even if the cost reduction totally whiffs. Warmedic is a decent body with an effect that will almost always hit at least a couple times, so she’s quietly a really solid pickup. The rest of the deck stays pretty much the same, which should be about good enough to compete, and maybe even continue to be a meta defining deck, in the weaker 4-set meta.

By why stop at just a small secret package?

Secret Paladin

Secret Paladin lost some toys and got some new ones. Luckily, for budget players, I think the better new tool is Sword of the Fallen, instead of the Legendary, Cannonmaster Smythe. Still, both are solid if you have them, and the Paladin secrets are actually fairly strong in their own right at this time, so there might actually be something here.

Secret Paladin Decklist and Code

Paladin secrets cost 1 mana, so I think you want to make a low-to-the-ground aggro deck that uses Voracious Reader as refill (alongside, of course, the secret synergy cards of Sword of the Fallen and Northwatch Commander). Crossroads Gossiper is probably strongest in Paladin, where it can most easily grow. I also threw Kazakus in because I had nothing better to play on 4. You cap out at Cannonmaster Smythe who lets you turn your late-game secrets into a wave of threats.

But that’s not the only Paladin archetype being pushed this expansion.

Dude Paladin

“Dude Paladin” is an archetype that comes and goes–usually into and out of tier 3-4, unless you count Odd/Even Paladin as “Dude Paladin” builds–as cards that focus on Silver Hand Recruits (“dudes”) enter and leave the meta. The archetype works by summoning dudes, buffing dudes, and offering other dude payoffs. This time, we go into the meta with a bit of dude support, and got more of it from both Barrens and the Core set.

Dude Paladin Decklist and Code

Soldier’s Caravan (should probably be Soldiers’ Caravan, but that’s neither here nor there) is, miraculously, one of the few Caravan cards that seems somewhat likely to see play! It has an impact on the board, and the dudes it summons can then protect it on subsequent turns through proactive trades. Play it on two, hiding behind a Righteous Protector, and you’ll probably get several activations out of it. Plus, of course, dude synergy. In fact, you pretty much just play all the dude synergy cards in this deck, except for Balloon Merchant, who I cut for being redundant with Lothraxion and, more importantly, so that I could again play Kazakus. Other than that, everything either summons dudes, buffs dudes, or is sufficiently similar to a dude to take advantage of some of the support cards while still doing work (Argent Squire has tons of synergy throughout the deck). Lots of Divine Shield makes things tough to get rid of, and the lack of draw is okay because you’re fine with filling some of your mana with semi-frequent hero power pushes. Finally, Libram of Justice over Equality because the weapon gives you one free removal without sacrificing a dude, or represents 4 damage if you’re on the offensive, because you usually don’t need the clear as early as 3 (that would mean something went horribly wrong), and so that you can more frequently corrupt Statue.

And, let’s end with a deck that is a bit more out there than the rest.

“Keleseth” and/or Rally Pally

So, the idea here is that you cut all Holy spells from your deck except for 1-2 very specific targets, so that Knight of Anointment always gets exactly what you need. In this case, it gets Rally or Invigorating Sermon. The deck has lots of minions, particularly those with effects that benefit from the stats buff–like Rush, Divine Shield, and/or Taunt–so Invigorating Sermon is a pretty strong “Keleseth” effect. Rally, of course, gives you some solid refill. It’s a pretty linear game plan, but the average value seems pretty high.

Invigorating Rally Pally Decklist and Code

I think the problem here is that almost all of the Paladin spells are Holy, including, probably, too many of the good ones. On top of that, the payoff for these good 4-drop spells isn’t quite there. I’d love it if I could follow my turn 4 Rally with something like a turn 5 Fungalmancer, for instance. Instead, there are barely any 5-drops I’d want to play in the format. When you build your deck around an interaction, you want it to be a blowout when all goes according to plan; this seems more like it’s just “pretty good.”

So the cost is too high and the payoff isn’t there, but other than that, it’s a great idea! This will be another thing to keep an eye on as more cards are released and the meta develops.

There’s a lot of room to play here, too. I put both Rally and Sermon in my sample deck, since they have a decent amount of overlaps in usefulness, but I could also see it as two separate decks. I could also see a world where you put Sword of the Fallen, Avenge, and Oh My Yogg! into the deck in hopes that the Sword pulls Avenge before Knight of Anointment does, and just accepting that as a lowroll some percentage of the time. Similar to how Alura is used now. Also, I could see this becoming an Alura deck. Finally, I had a version with Watch Posts as Rally targets, but I didn’t like the anti-synergy between Sermon and the Posts not being able to attack, so I’m saving that Rally deck for later…

Okay, the long wait for Rally-Watch-Post.dec is over! That alphabetical order sure is convenient.

Watch Post OTK Priest

Okay, so this is some mad scientist nonsense, but it might just be crazy enough to work! You spend the mid-game stalling your opponent with Watch Posts, which you can bring back with Rally. While you do this, you’re drawing through your deck with Thrive in the Shadows, Insight, and, later in the game, Auctioneer. Then, once you have 5 Watch Posts summoned during the game, you play Kargal to fill your board with six 5/5s, and then play Illucia so that you know your opponent has no answer to them for a clean shot at 30 damage swinging in next turn.

The deck is basically the same idea as an older Nomi deck that didn’t quite work all that well, but maybe things will be different this time, for reasons. For one thing, the fill-your-board card is easier to activate. For another, the meta as a whole looks to be slower and more midrangey (though we say this every time), so maybe it will be easier to do the thing under those conditions. We also have a lot of sweet card draw now, so it might just be the perfect storm.

Watch Post OTK Priest

The single Imprisoned Vilefiend is so that you can play it two turns before you want to play your OTK so as to ensure you don’t fill your board with 5/5s and find yourself unable to fit the Illucia. No Soul Mirror because it’s hard to just dump whenever and you want to make sure your opponent has no response to your combo. The same cards that synergize with Auctioneer also synergize with Xyrella for another clear that you can make sure your opponent can’t use against you. Draconic Studies is just in there as a cheap and easy backup plan in case you have to find a bit more damage than you can OTK, or something else goes wrong; just make sure you play them before shipping your hand off to your opponent, so they can’t find a Deathwing or a taunt and ruin your day.

This deck is so evil. I hope it’s just a meme. But speaking of evil…

Big Priest

Unlike prior versions of the deck, the current iteration of Big Priest is not so much about mana cheating, but is instead all about getting insane value from your big threats. You then win by outvaluing your opponent as the game goes on. The deck definitely loses some good stuff with rotation–including all of the resurrection stuff (thank you!)–but it also gains a couple good targets, so there’s still potential for something there, depending on how the post-rotation meta shapes up.

Big Priest Decklist and Code

So you have stall and a bit of draw so that you can set up your big Idol of Y’Shaarj and Blood of G’huun turns. Lightshower Elemental is a good new target for those, with the taunt and healing, but it also is good just played from hand in the mid-game, to make sure things don’t get out of control before you get to your real big guns. Blademaster Samuro is another new target because the copy cards make him beefy, so his AoE becomes really relevant. Also, he’s just nuts with Apothecary if you draw him. Finally, I added C’Thun to this version because it otherwise felt a little threat light with the loss of the reanimation effects. That should help make sure you get over the line.

Okay, but what if we want an more traditional version of Priest?

Regular Old Control Priest

Why play your own threats when you could just steal your opponent’s and get a guaranteed friend request after the game?! The basic concept here is simple, and the same concept that Priest has been kicking around since the early days: destroy, heal, and steal until you just run your opponent out of stuff. In the end, you usually win when your opponent concedes, but sometimes you might smack them with their own threat or even, if the game goes really long, you might play one (1) threat yourself.

C’Thun Control Priest Decklist and Code

The loss of Galakrond hurts your ability to just generate value forever, so I think the Mind Control package gets better. Sethekk is also a little worse, and Apotheosis doesn’t really work when there’s no Pyromancer. However, the bones are still there. You consider Yogg just another AoE removal and C’Thun is more for the 5 spells than for the finisher effect.

Alright, next class.

Rogue has been at or towards the top of the meta for much of the last year, forcing a couple nerfs. Aggro Weapon and/or Stealth Rogue don’t really lose much. Whirlkick Rogue loses its namesake, but a lot of pros thought that was the weakest part of the deck. It even kept its secret synergy cards! So, long story short, Rogue comes into the expansion in a solid spot. Oh, and it turns out Rogue also gets new cards this expansion–who would have thought?! Let’s sample the riches:

Field Contact Miracle

Whirlkick Rogue lost the Whirlkick, but got perhaps a better replacement in Field Contact. The card costs one more, and the body is a little easier to handle, but it triggers off Combo and Battlecry, and it draws from your deck which, in theory, means higher quality cards (though no outside value in grindier matchups). Then you have Octo-bot, which you can ping with Pen Flinger, to discount your full grip of cards. I think that combination of cards is worth building a few decks around.

Field Contact Miracle

You’ve got your Field Medic and Pen Flinger engine, and then a bunch of really solid value and tempo tools to go with it. Fogsail Freebooter seems pretty busted in Rogue generally, but especially in Field Contact decks. Wandmaker gets a lot better with the 1-cost spell pool trimmed down. Mankrik triggers Field Contact and also seems pretty easy to find when you’re drawing so many cards so quickly. Kazakus fits pretty easily in there as well.

Or we can go more aggressive with it:

Aggro Field Contact

This is the same idea, but you sub out some of the value for just more cards that go face. It has the same draw engine, so hopefully it doesn’t run out of steam while you fling things at your opponent with reckless abandon. This is the spiritual successor to the popular aggro rogue from this past meta, which seemed to just always hit your face and never run out of steam due to Secret Passage. Well, now we have Secret Passage and a 3-mana Auctioneer.

Okay, but what if we want to use that powerful engine for something a bit cuter–you only get that soft day one meta once ever four months, after all.

Nutter-Butters OTK

I don’t know who gets credit for this, if we want to assign it to one particular person, but I saw this combo on twitter. It works as follows: use Octo-bot(s) to discount at least 4 mana across your 4 combo pieces. Then, on your combo turn, you: 1) play anything to activate Scabbs (preferably a free thing, or you need more Octo-ticks); 2) play Scabbs; 3) Alexstrasza your opponent for 8; 4) Potion of Illusions to get Scabbs and Alex back; 5) Scabbs again, Alex again, Potion again; 6) play two more Alex. The entire combo deals a total of 32 damage, takes 6 board slots, and can be done fairly early with your discount effects.

Nutter-Butters OTK Decklist and Code

You’ve got your combo, your draw engine, a bit of synergistic stall cards–Brain Freeze and Coerce both trigger Field Contact, and bounce Pen Flinger, and Brain Freeze even activates your Octo-bots in a bind. And Loremaster Polkelt puts all your combo cards on top of your deck! You have to be mindful of your discounts, board space, and hand size, so this definitely seems like the type of deck that people are going to try and mess up with. It’s also almost certainly worse than just hitting your opponent with stuff, but it’s such a beautiful day 1 meta meme. Just one request: please call it something fun! We don’t have enough fun names in the Hearthstone deck name meta.

Maybe that’s too meme for you. Maybe you’d like something somewhere between just bashing your opponent in the face repeatedly and Nutter Butters. Well, the dev team gave you a brand new archetype that, I think, fits right into that category.

Weapon/Poison Rogue

It’s a new archetype, but also, actually, it’s not. Team 5 printed a few “Poison” synergy cards that work incredibly well alongside the existing Weapon Rogue deck. So much so that I see Swinetusk Shank as pretty much just copies 3 and 4 of Self-sharpening Sword–the key card in the deck! You stack up your beefy weapon and go from there. Even though Nitroboost Poison got nerfed, and the deck lost Dread Corsair to the rotation, I think the deck might be even better after rotation, because almost all of the weapon hate is gone!

Weapon/Poison Rogue Decklist and Code

Funnily, the redundancy in the deck makes me think that the dedicated Poison Rogue legendary doesn’t actually fit in it, whereas the fact that you should expect some decently-hefty hands kind of makes me want to play Cutterbutter for a mid-game swing turn! Once again, Rogue has an insane amount of draw to help you keep up the pressure, while continuing to stack up on your weapon, until your opponent is dead. I’m not running the Paralytic Poison because: 1) why would I attack minions, lul; and 2) the redundancy with the weapons, plus all the card draw, means you’ll probably be holding weapons a moderate percentage of the time anyway, so you don’t need your Swinetusk to go infinite.

Alright, one last existing rogue archetype that somehow also got support from the new expansion.

Secret Rogue

Secret Rogue kept pretty much everything it had before and picked up Crossroads Gossiper (an immediate and ever-growing threat), Efficient Octo-bot, and Kazakus to fill in the 4-slot.

Secret Rogue Decklist and Code

Gossiper means that you don’t want to run Bamboozle, but I like that it’s a must answer that applies pressure in the early-mid game, because that means your opponent can’t just sit back and slowly take their time to trigger the secrets optimally. It also makes Hanar turns even more painful for your opponent. Speaking of Hanar, he gets even better after rotation with the upgrades to Paladin secrets and the trims to some bad secrets in all classes. You should expect to have fairly full hands with all the card draw and generation in the deck, so Octo-bot can help you with that–or just be a decent tempo play early on. Kazakus essentially plays the role of a second Jandice, as both exist to just put the nail in the coffin on your opponent before they can finally finish testing all your secrets.

It’s hard to say which of those Rogue decks will be meta, but the class as a whole is looking very powerful. Can Shaman compete? It can sure compete in terms of volume of theorycraft decks!

Over the past year, like many Hearthstone years before it, Shaman has vacillated wildly from absolutely broken to essentially unplayable. One theory as to why this happened is that Shaman’s Evergreen sets were so weak that Shaman lived and died on what it got from expansions, making the class’s power level naturally cyclical as expansions entered and exited Standard. In theory, the Core Set revamp should help address that… I have a ton of theorycraft decks to test that idea.

Murloc Shaman

Let’s start with the most obvious archetype pushed by Barrens: Murlocs! Barrens added several powerful murlocs to Neutral, and a handful to Shaman, making it the main (only?) class to have the critical mass needed to play murlocs at this point. Plus, we have to play Nofin Can Stop Us after Blisterguy’s amazing reveal video. It would be rude not to.

Murloc Shaman Decklist and Code

There are actually so many murlocs–and other solid Shaman cards–that you have to make some cuts somewhere instead of just playing them all. I decided to make those cuts at the 4-drops, so I could put Kazakus in. Other than that, you play pretty much all the murlocs, since there are a lot of strong ones this go around. Spawnpool Forager is a buffed Possessed Villager/Mech-a-Roo that activates your two-mana murlocs. Firemancer Flurgl is a better Altruis. And Nofin Can Stop us is busted when you have a board full of murlocs. Use Voracious Reader (over the Caravan) for a little bit of refill.

Murlocs are actually a lot more about board control this expansion than they have been in the past. They have guys who deal damage, so you can destroy enemy minions, and they have a bit of a Rush subtheme. With the loss of Murloc Warleader, you play more like a Zoo deck than a face deck. Even previously bad murlocs, like Tinyfin and Tidehunter make the cut in my list because of Nofin Can Stop Us, Lushwater Scout (which hits both Tidehunter and the token), and the ability to use Tinyfin as a free activation on your other murlocs. It seems pretty solid.

Spell Damage Shaman

Novice Zapper–a.k.a. “Zappy Boi”–is a super solid 1-drop, even if you only sometimes get to use the Spell Damage bonus. Bru’kan is nutty because the only spell that you’d want to play that it doesn’t buff is Molten Blast. Landslide is a Nature spell, for instance, and that seems insane. So, all your spells are powerful, and most of them can be pointed at your opponent’s face.

Spell Damage Shaman Decklist and Code

Wandmaker also got a big buff in Shaman, where the one-cost pool has been trimmed all the way down to the point where the only one you don’t want is Revolve, and even that you’ll take sometimes as a desperation “silence.” Steward of Scrolls ended up sneaking its way into the list because I needed another way to corrupt Dunk Tank, and it was the most overall synergistic option of the bunch. It also helps with the issue of the deck not having any draw, so I kinda like it.

Or, for a slightly different take on it…

Doomhammer Damage Decklist and Code

I’m not sure if this is sufficiently different that it should get its own category, go in this category, or go in the next, but here it is. It has 23 of the same cards as the last deck, so just imagine Doomhammer in place of Ras in that little preview picture portion. Remember how I noted in the Rogue section that most of the weapon hate cards are gone? Well, that sounds like the recipe for Doomhammer Shaman! You already wanted to run Stormstrike as a Nature spell, ran Inara Stormcrash because she was good, and needed a way to Corrupt your Dunk Tank. Doomhammer works with all of those. Add a little extra Doomhammer support in Cagematch Custodian, Rockbiter Weapon, and Speaker Gidra (as another Rockbiter target), and you’re in the money!

Or, we can do something a little less cute with our Doomhammer.

Aggro Shaman

There’s not too much to say about this deck. Play efficient minions, weapons, and burn spells. Don’t worry too much about synergies, just play good stuff and focus more on just pushing damage at the opponent’s face.

Aggro Shaman Decklist and Code

Zappy Boi is, again, a great addition. Forager works as just another solid 1-drop, with Wandmaker, Wriggling Horror, and Oasis Thrasher in the follow-up suite. Once again, we can pretty easily fit in Kazakus for refill, and cap out at Doomhammer and Inara Stormcrash.

I could also see an alternative version where you run a small murloc package instead of going full murlocs. You already want to run Spawnpool Forager and Crabrider in a lot of decks as just the best things you can do in them, so maybe you can find room for a South Coast Chieftain, a Lushwater Murcenary, and maybe Lushwater Scout. The question is whether there is a sweet spot where Chieftain and the Lushwaters work but Nofin Can Stop Us isn’t worth it.

Totem Shaman

Totem Shaman is in a bit of a weird spot because it lost some of its most obvious and powerful totem synergy cards, but it also gained a buffed Dranei Totemcarver. Totemcarver is doubly weird because it’s the only 4-drop the deck really wants to run, so in most decks you would just cut that to make room for Kazakus. In short, I’m not sure this makes sense right now, but it’s something worth exploring.

Totem Shaman Decklist and Code

Totemic Reflection is still nuts, and Dranei Totemcarver gives you a big payoff for lots of Totems, without forcing you to go all-in to get any value, like Bloodlust did. You lose the totem weapon, but some of the top Shaman players were already picking Whack-a-Gnoll over that anyway. Minion buffs work well with copying minions, and also with Crabrider, which is why we also run Wriggling Horror and Mistrunner. Manatide Totem is the one good traditional totem that we have left, so that obviously goes in there. Other than that, you play the same good Shaman cards that the other decks are running. Eyesor proved to be a trap before, when we played more Totems in the deck, so it definitely does not make the cut now.

Elemental Shaman

Elemental Shaman is the other main archetype that was pushed in this expansion. It’s also pretty much the only deck that can take advantage of the stellar Kindling Elemental, which is just sitting there in neutral, taunting the rest of the classes.

Midrange Elemental Shaman Decklist and Code

Kindling Elemental into Arid Stormer into Whack-a-Gnoll Hammer feels like one of the best “fair” openings in the game. And, of course, Lightning Bloom allows it to get less fair from there. Gyreworm, Lilypad Lurker, and Fire Elemental let you control the board while you also develop, and, once again, Kazakus, Wandmaker, and the good Shaman cards fill out the rest of the deck.

If the meta is incredibly midrange, then the Elementals–with their thick bodies that come with removal–may be relevant. Depending on the meta, we might want to trade some of the targeted removal Elemental cards (and/or Kazakus) for some of the AoE Elemental cards.

But what if we don’t want to just play aggro and midrange? Well, maybe elementals are the way to do that this expansion.

Control Elemental Shaman Decklist and Code

If you’re a fan of slow, grindy control, Elementals might be the thing for you. There’s a mountain of AoE and a good amount of single target removal as well. You also run no card draw, and actually add 6 cards to your deck with C’Thun, so if we’re in a fatigue meta, you got this. Just dink and dump and run your opponent out of stuff until you eventually win. The main weakness I see for this is that it doesn’t really have access to life gain–Tidal Wave is very slow, and C’Thun alone is not enough to support Groundskeeper, so you’re pretty reliant on Bru’kan + Tidal Surge. If we end up needing more of that, I could see making room for Death’s Head Cultist or even switching things up a bit to make Mo’arg Artificer make sense, but that latter option probably means moving away from the Elementals, since I can’t see how we fit it all in. Alternatively, I could also see fitting Y’Shaarj in here, maybe even in place of C’Thun, if we need more burst finishing power.

Okay, that’s a lot of Shaman. We’re done with Shaman now.

Warlock is going into this expansion in interesting spot. It’s pretty low on the class rankings, but it pokes its head into the meta every once in a while. It keeps its Soul Fragment cards, though they were never as important for Warlock as they were for Demon hunter, and they have Tickatus, which will always see play almost regardless of how good it is. Let’s start with Warlock’s only current positive-winrate archetype.

Zoolock

Zoo really only lost two cards: Soulfire and Expired Merchant. Of those two, I think Expired Merchant is much more important. It means that Zoo will need to figure out if it can still run Hand of Gul’dan as its draw engine, and it also hurts longevity a little. That said, when you retain almost all your cards, and then gain new ones, you’re usually in a pretty good spot.

Regular Zoolock Decklist and Code

This version of the deck is close to a 1-to-1 port of the version from last meta. You replace the few missing cards with other cards that play similar roles, or just are generally decent, in an attempt to fill-in the gaps and maybe try to improve the deck. Here we have the “self-mill” card, Neeru, as an alternative late-game play, especially against slower matchups, and a 5 mana 5/5 isn’t the end of the world for the other matchups. I added a Backfire to make up for the weakened and lessened Hand of Gul’dan plays. Possessed Villager goes in the 1-drop, even though he’s not the best any more. I’ve got one Hecklefang for the obvious synergies, and because the two-slot is a little light, but you can’t deal too much damage to yourself, so it’s not a two-of.

Or, we can do things a bit more differently than before. We have a new (well, returning) Egg, so I, of course, needed to try to make Egglock work again. But I wasn’t terribly impressed with the rest of the support around it, so I decided to go about 50% in on it and to also go for a new draw engine, so the list as a whole looks a bit different than what we’ve gotten used to over the past year.

New Zoo Decklist and Code

By switching off Hand of Gul’dan, we get access to Kazakus. In theory, we also have access to cards that cost 6 or more, but the offerings for those aren’t actually very good. You go a little heavier on the cards that can help you pop your Nerubian Eggs, but you’re mostly just playing cards you wanted to play–or which were borderline anyway. You don’t have to force it, because it’s just for the two eggs. Other than that, you have the same core of Zoo minions to swarm your opponent to death.

Alright, on to the other established archetype.

Control Warlock

This deck is just a value monster. With the upgrade to Lord Jaraxxus, you can now actually play him and not just immediately die to burst damage. That means you can make the steady stream of 6/6 Demons your win condition. The rest of the deck is just stall, draw, and value.

Control Warlock Decklist and Code

Drain Soul got an upgrade that makes it solid with Mo’arg. The return of Explosive Sheep gives you another decent clear and a guaranteed Mortal Coil draw. Tamsin Roame gives you a bit of extra value; it’s not insane because they, wisely, chose not to make Cascading Disaster a Shadow spell, but it seems worth the price. Some people are saying we should cut Cascading Disaster to run Kazakus. I think that call depends on how the meta shapes up. Kazakus is best in more minion-based decks, so this isn’t the ideal deck for it, but if we don’t need that extra removal, then we might as well run Kazakus at 4. Note: if we cut Cascading Disaster, we probably also cut Headmaster Kel’Thuzad, since he loses his strongest interaction.

But what about the new archetypes? Well, there’s one…

Brain Damage Warlock

I have a sneaking suspicion that’s not the name the devs wanted us to use for this archetype, but it’s actually more appropriate than what I started with. This deck has some interesting cards, but it kind of steps all over itself. You really want to draw Neeru Fireblade before you start destroying stuff, so your first plan is to play Taelan to tutor it, but then you can’t play Barrens Scavenger, one of the few payoff cards! But if you want to play it as a slower deck that doesn’t turbo out Fireblade, then you have to hold off on your deck destruction cards–and why do you need 1-mana 6/6s anyway if you’re not trying to play for some tempo? Also, of course, the deck destruction cards are pretty bad, except for the niche use-case of Altar of Fire burning an enemy combo piece, so you don’t really want to play those anyway. What to make of this mess?

Brain Damage Warlock

Okay, so here’s what I came up with. You play Polkelt as your “tutor” and that means you either naturally draw Fireblade or tap for him on turn 6. Then you can start the destruction which is, in part, at the 4 mana slot. This lets you also run Rustwix, which makes it so that you don’t kill yourself to fatigue after your portal goes, or as a backup plan if your main plan isn’t going to work for whatever reason. You have Ebonlocke to give you another one as well. Wandmaker is comically good because it gives you removal, Altar of Fire, more chances at Rustwix, or a buff for after your portal goes online. Mo’arg makes all your removal spells extra potent, since they’re all damage based in this deck, and also gives you an important life boost with Drain Soul.

I still think this deck is trash, but it’s my beautiful trash. And hey, it has tons of removal for aggro and ~infinite value–plus card burning–against combo and control, so maybe it surprises. How funny would it be if this actually ended up being good?

Unfortunately, that’s all I have for Warlock. I don’t think this set was what Warlock needed to return to the meta in force. I think we will continue to see the Warlock decks we’ve been seeing, with some updates, but the new cards do not give the class much. Tamsin Roame seems likely to be the most common addition. There are a lot of cards that have me excited for potential future interactions, but which don’t feel like they have enough synergy just yet. Maybe Barrens’s mini-set will get Warlock there.

And, last but not least, Warrior. Warrior had a good year. But that success was largely on the back of Risky Skipper, which is now gone, and Bomb Warrior, which is also gone. So there’s a new age coming.

Control Warrior

Control Warrior, the evergreen archetype. If you’ve been playing Classic, you’ve probably seen plenty of it. Well, it lost some of the oldies with the Core set revamp, but it kept the most important parts and picked up some goodies! Outrider’s Axe seems absolutely broken, and the return of Shieldmaiden in the Core set was a welcomed addition. Here I’ve got it two ways.

Basic Control Warrior Decklist and Code

Play all the oldies and the new goodies to control the board, run your opponent out of stuff, and finish them off. Outrider’s Axe? Busted. Pretty much always having a weapon on 4 so that Mor’shan Elite is always a one-card Faceless Corrupter? Busted-er. You play a somewhat tempo-based game all day, but then you top it off with Troublemaker and Rattlegore to put the nail in the coffin.

Frenzy Control Warrior Decklist and Code

This version has a bit of a spin on it. Specifically, it adds Saurfang with Stonemaul Anchorman and Taurajo Brave, for value in those mid-turns and a powerful swing turn later. I really like that this version feels kind of more like a midrangey control, with lots of decently-statted dudes throughout the curve. That midrangey build makes Wandmaker amazing, with every single possible outcome being a hit. Your win condition is either Rattlegore or literally any and every minion and weapon in your deck. This is one of the builds I’m most excited to try tomorrow.

But what if you want to play something a little faster?

Menagerie Warrior

Keep your hand full of solid minions that you buff with Ringmaster’s Baton, play on curve, and then buff again with Rokara. There was a small contingent of mech and mech synergy cards added into the Core Set, but most classes don’t have any support for them. Warrior does! And it has some of the few dragons left in Standard as well.

Menagerie Warrior Decklist and Code

This deck revolves around attacking with your powerful weapons–Outrider’s Axe and Ringmaster’s Baton. Those cards fuel your deck and empower it, respectively. They also define your deck, so you’re looking for some decent Pirates, Mechs, and Warriors to catch your buffs. For Dragons you have Tent Trashers; for Pirates, you have Bloodsail Deckhand (the new one-drop), Sword Eater, and Stonemaul Anchorman; and for Mechs you have a slew of 2-drops. Of course, Circus Amalgam hits all the Minion Types. The fact that your mechs are mostly 2-drops means that you can run Cogmaster along with your other 1-drops. Rokara kinda fits as a decent 3-drop (a thin part of the curve) that also buffs your other minions, which are usually going to have Rush and/or have already been buffed by other effects, making them harder to kill before they get a Rokara buff. Your various Taunts mean she might survive to have a few turns of influence.

This seems like a strong midrange deck that beats most decks in a head-to-head, “fair” matchup. It will be interesting to see if that’s enough, however, as Hearthstone has not been defined by “fair” decks for a few years now. I want to do something busted!

Handbuff Warrior

Okay, Handbuff Warrior probably wasn’t where you thought I was going with “something busted,” since it got so little love last time it was available in Standard, but I think there’s maybe something decent here. Warrior got a few more buff cards to accompany those it already had and, perhaps equally important, it got a really powerful target that copies itself when played. That means you get double value out of your buffs. I made the deck two ways, once as a more tempo-based deck, that could run more Handbuff effects, and one with a more limited and targeted pool.

Midrange Handbuff Warrior

Ideally, your power spike in most games will be on or around turn 5, when you play a buffed Mor’shan Elite. That ideal curve would look something like: Gan’arg on 1; Stage Hand on 2 (hitting your Mor’shan, of course); Feat of Strength on 3; Outrider’s Axe on 4; two 10/10 Mor’shan Elites on 5.

So, with your power spike centered around turn 5, you want to build the deck in a more midrangey fashion. You have some early plays so you’re not super far behind when you get there, you have your setup cards, your payoff, and then a few cards to help bring you home from there. Bulk Up gives you more of your good stuff (especially if you play it after a Feat of Stength–whooo!) and Claw Machine is another potential buff for your copy effects. Carnival Clown is your mega-copy effect, as a big final push if needed, but you only run 1 because you don’t plan to need it in most matchups and don’t want to clog your hand with it. Then the rest of the deck is solid midrange cards that you wouldn’t mind giving buffs to as well.

Or, you can take it the other way and only play the targets you really want to hit. This results in a more value-based plan, which lends itself to a more controlling list.

Control Handbuff Warrior

Conditioning is worse when you only care about hitting 1-2 cards, so you cut it. This deck cares a lot more about the Bulk Up copies, and keeps the Feat of Strength more for general synergy and potential for early swing turns than as the main goal of the deck. Though, if you get some 9/9s or 10/10s in the mid-game, that will often either just close out the game, make your opponent concede, or force your opponent to expend so many resources that there is a lot less strain on the rest of your control tools.

Cache, Outlander’s Axe, Anchorman, and Claw Machine keep you going through your deck at a moderate clip, while you top out at Old Gods and two Clowns. The rest of the deck is just solid control cards. Due to the limited amount of minions in the deck, Claw Machine has a pretty good shot at hitting your Taunt guys, and you don’t mind it on your Rush guys, either.

This version even goes so far as to cut Sword Eater, even though it’s busted, so that: 1) it never accidentally eats your buffs; and 2) N’Zoth guarantees refill through Anchorman. If you need to go omega-late, you play to Corrupt your Clown(s) first, and then you start buffing and copying. Note: Scrapyard Colossus is already big and a bit clunky to play, so you’re usually trying to play it first, to avoid your copies, instead of making it a target; it’s more in there for the N’Zoth package than the Taunt stuff.

Thanks for reading!

Alright, that seems like a good place to stop for now. Thanks for reading through it, and good luck in your pack openings tomorrow! What are you looking forward to playing?


Nicholas Weiss

Is a lawyer by day and a cardslinger by night. He's decent at both. He's been playing Hearthstone since open beta and writing about it for a few years now.