In our comprehensive Rise of Shadows preview article, we’ve evaluated every card in the set and gave our thoughts regarding each class’ prospects in the upcoming new meta. Now it is time to follow that up with one of our favorite articles. Pre-launch theory-crafting is something that we find to be one of the most fun aspects in a new expansion. Considering that we’re likely about to experience the most impactful rotation in Hearthstone’s history, and the game should blow wide open to new ideas, this is the best time for some good ol’ pre-launch deck building.
This expansion’s article is the biggest one yet and has 25 new decks for you to try. We’ve always tried to avoid theory crafting established decks, which made things difficult for us in the past since the relatively weak Boomsday and Rastakhan sets were always unlikely to shake up the meta as much as we would have liked. The Rise of Shadows set looks far stronger and combined with the exit of Year of Mammoth’s sets, powerful decks should feel fresh.
The first Data Reaper Report of Rise of Shadows is planned to be released on April 18th, just 9 days after the set’s release. Don’t forget that with the launch of the new expansion, data is as crucial as ever, and your data contribution is what allows us to produce these reports.
Contributing to the Data Reaper Project through either Track-o-Bot or Hearthstone Deck Tracker (recommended) is very easy and takes just a couple of minutes of your time. If you haven’t done so already, you can sign up HERE. If you have signed up in the past, make sure your tracker or plug-in is active with the expansion’s launch.
Remember that while the decks we present have been extensively worked on for the last week and carefully built, they are still completely untested, and nothing can replace the post-launch refinement that is backed up by real-time game experience and data.
If you have a limited collection, we highly recommend that you DO NOT make big crafting investments on any deck we present below. Wait at least a few days, if not until the first Data Reaper Report, to see what strategies end up being strong and fun before making a significant commitment.
As we’ve said in our RoS preview, we think Crystalsong Portal is nuts and could warp deck-building in a way you may not expect. Token Druid has received some very strong synergistic cards such as Acornbearer, Dreamway Guardians and Forest’s Aid. This build maximizes the consistency of Crystalsong Portal by only playing a couple of cheap early game minions that are easy to get out of hand alongside the likely-busted Stalladris and Vargoth. Token Druid has so many board generating spells that it shouldn’t miss a slower mid-game card such as Violet Teacher. We also have a lot of resource generation which is terrific with Wispering Woods and should help us last long enough to start casting Forest’s Aid on turn 8.
Druid might be losing its core Mammoth shell, but it does still have the combo enablers of Florist and Floop. This gives Malygos Druid a chance to find a new viable shell that can protect it long enough to be able to execute its finisher. This list is inspired by Orange, who seemed to have walked along a very similar thinking pattern for a few other archetypes we had in mind for this article. Proud Defender is a solid defensive card that works well with Druid’s relatively slow early game board development. Sunreaver Warmage provides an amazing swing turn and is a natural fit alongside Nourish and Starfire. Since we’re lacking card draw without Ultimate Infestation (which is also why we’re forced to run Nourish), running a single Juicy Psychmelon helps us find our late game finishers quicker. Finally, without Spreading Plague, Druid is now much more vulnerable to board flooding decks. Batterhead plugs a gap in this weakness and fills the role of an 8-mana target minion for Psychmelon.
This deck might be the least likely of the three to make it to the meta because its win condition is slow. However, Heal Druid does have some nice synergies that work well alongside an attrition-based win condition. To fuel Crystal Stag, Lifeweaver, and Lucentbark, both Crystal Power and Ancient of Lore (remember him??) should be considered core, with their heal for 5 ability. We also add the best neutral healing we can find with Rotten Applebaum, Zilliax and Potion Vendor (which can heal for a lot if we have a board). We don’t like the idea of running self-damaging minions because they do almost nothing for us at later stages of the game (we can punch a minion with our hero power if we’re that desperate to activate a heal). Our win condition is based around copying Lucentbark with Floop, Da Undatakah, and Faceless Manipulator until we create a wall of resurrecting taunts.
In the absence of Deathstalker Rexxar, we think Zul’jin is very important for Hunter’s potential longevity and it’s likely that we will see hybrid builds such as this one come to the forefront. Hunter’s early game is noticeably weaker though a few serviceable early game beasts are now available in Shimmerfly, Cable Rat and Hench-Clan Hogsteed. With Unleash the Beast, Marked Shot, Baited Arrow, Dire Frenzy and Master’s Call, Zul’jin should provide Hunter with a lot of gas to potentially swing the game around.
We can replace the Beast package with a Mech package while keeping the Zul’jin shell of high-value spells. This deck is slower to get to the board but has a very strong mid-game since it can run Sunreaver Warmage alongside Marked Shot, Baited Arrow and Unleash the Beast. This deck doesn’t have as many deathrattle value cards as Cube Hunter did, but Fireworks Tech and the extremely versatile Nine Lives can still do a lot of work with Mechanical Whelp.
This deck idea is inspired by Theo and piqued our curiosity. Master’s Call allows us to tutor Jepetto out of our deck, which then tutors and discounts two of our late game finishers of Alex, Malygos and Vereesa. We can afford to draw one of these finishers before Jepetto, but even in the worst-case scenario of a Jepetto whiff, the deck might still be able to pull wins thanks to the Zul’jin shell. If this deck ends up a meme, at least it’s a good one.
In our opinion, this is the most promising Mage deck in the next expansion. Mana Cyclone is a building block for a spell heavy archetype that looks to combine cheap spells in a single turn and cash in on that delicious value. With Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Elemental Evocation and the maximum package of 1 mana spells, this deck can execute some crazy turns with either Mana Cyclone, Cosmic Anomaly or Vex Crow. At the top end, we’ve got Antonidas who’s already haha-ing at how many Fireballs he can create in this deck and our spicy inclusion of Jepetto. When going over all the minions in this deck and their powerful static effects, you can conclude that the outcome of Mr. Joybuzz entering the board will almost always be strong, if not game-winning. That’s why we believe there’s more to Jepetto than just a combo deck enabler.
Could Freeze Mage be back? It’s possible. It may not have that much burn available to it, but it does have a new best friend in Jepetto and two of the most powerful Jepetto targets in Kalecgos and Antonidas. Alongside Alex and Maly, the damage potential of these four late-game finishers is quite… chilling. Running Jepetto does carry a price, which is minimizing the use of other minions. Doomsayer is the one minion that’s too important to ever cut due to its synergy with freeze effects. And, since we have fewer minions, we must run more freeze effects to stall the game. Ray of Frost is a great fit in the deck alongside Icicle and Snap Freeze to give us some more draw and single target removal.
Secret Paladin might become the scariest aggressive deck in Rise of Shadows, and for a good reason. A deck that can run Secret Totem Golem, Secret Fiery War Axe and Secret Undertaker should have a strong early game. In this build, we take full advantage of the deck’s powerful weapons with a Dread Corsair/Greenskin package that should ensure that we will be gunning for our opponent’s throat as early as possible. Without Divine Favor, the deck’s main issue will be card draw. Our solution is to run as many secret pulling effects as we can possibly fit in order to improve our average draws. This includes Masked Contender, Bellringer Sentry and Subject 9. From what we’ve seen so far, Subject 9 has not been mentioned as a potential inclusion in the deck, but we think there is a lot of merit to running this card and predict he will become core post-launch.
Paladin’s late game prospects didn’t get a significant boost from this expansion, which means it will have to rely on established win conditions. Holy Wrath Paladin can adjust to some rotating cards in its previous build. Belligerent Gnome replaces Righteous Protector as an early game taunt that can be tutored with Crystology. Zilliax “replaces” Uther of the Ebon Blade, and there is an option to run Nozari in this slot to rival the Death Knight’s healing potential. Overall, this deck doesn’t change much, and hitting our opponent in the face twice for 25 damage might be a decent win condition.
We’re a bit skeptic about Dragon Paladin’s chances of success in Rise of Shadows, but we’ve still explored this direction to see where we ended up. Dragonspeaker encourages us to run as many dragons as possible to get full value from its ability since it is the main selling point of the archetype. Otherwise, we might as well play a different deck. This promotes a minion-dense midrange build, much like a Spiteful deck, rather than a Control Paladin deck. This list is packed full of threats and might be very intimidating in slower matchups, but the lack of effective comeback mechanics may leave it vulnerable to opponents that are faster at getting to the board.
We recognize that Priest’s main problem in the upcoming meta will be its ability to close games. Win conditions such as Mind Blast and Divine Spirit/Inner Fire were non-existent before the introduction of Shadow Visions. Without Psychic Scream, Priest will also have to fight for the board much more proactively. Keeping that in mind, we’re curious about what Control Priest will be able to do. Forbidden Words, Lazul’s Scheme, Madam Lazul, Potion Vendor and Hench-Clan Shadequill are great fits for the old Auchenai/Blademaster shell. This deck looks to constantly frustrate the opponent with Priest’s famous abuse of Auchenai/Pyromancer and Cabal Shadow Priest combos. Its win condition will likely be attrition-based, so it is one of the natural homes for Archivist Elysiana.
Priest also got some sick support for Silence Priest, an archetype famous for its breakout performance in the Un’Goro meta. We think it will be very important for Silence Priest to have a strong enough draw engine, so the Acolyte/Pyro package is included. Game plan of this deck is straight forward: silence big dudes and hit your opponent in the face. Sunfury Protector is an optional flex card we haven’t forgotten about, but its importance is highly dependent on what kind of meta we will be facing.
If this deck ends up being good, many of you will be upset. Can Gallery Priest remain a thing after losing so many of its powerful cards? Probably not, but we’ll have to ask Jepetto and Vargoth how hard they can carry. This list runs all the removal spells it can find alongside the familiar resurrect minion package. Catrina Muerte can be a powerful and recurring threat generator in this deck. With Jepetto potentially enabling some very unfair things and Vargoth already giving us a taste of how absurd he can be in current Gallery Priest, maybe there is some potential here.
As we’ve repeatedly said before, we expect Rogue to be a top-performing class in Rise of Shadows. The main debate lies in the inclusion of certain packages rather than different cores. The first build we’re featuring tries to incorporate as many of the powerful additions from Rise of Shadows as possible. We’ve got Myracle Rogue slapping in Togwaggle and his lackeys. We’ve got a Burger package with the promising Underbelly Fence and Vendetta, fueled by Blink Fox and Hench-Clan Burglar. We’ve got Waggle Pick as the weapon of choice for its synergy with Raiding Party and Dread Corsair/Captain Greenskin. This deck looks so damn good.
There is a strong case not to include the Burger package in Myracle Rogue. With only Blink Fox and Hench-Clan Burglar, the package may not consistently activate early enough to get Fence and Vendetta online. We do not want to run Pilfer or a meme card like Academic Espionage either. In addition, if Rogue is strong and popular, Blink Fox shuts down as a relevant Burger activator, making this entire package weaker. Therefore, this list suggests we drop the Burger and go for a Burrito, with some spicy Deadly Poison to increase our damage potential with Waggle Pick and Captain Greenskin. To replace Vendetta and Underbelly Fence, we run Saps and Cable Rat. We think Cable Rat will be a very good card in Rogue since it offers a deceptively strong turn 3 play for the class no matter which lackey is generated. Don’t think of it as a 2-drop! It’s a 3-drop on curve and a flexible card later in the game.
Let’s not forget that Myra’s Unstable Element is not the only busted card in Rogue’s arsenal. Captain Hooktusk might also come to play, with Tempo Rogue adding the good stuff Rogue has been given in this set. Much like in Myracle Rogue, the Burger package can be dropped in case it proves to be inconsistent, but the idea of Hooktusk Rogue remains the same. Instead of running Raiding Party, we’re running an 8-mana card with a battlecry that reads “win the game.” So, with the addition of Heistbaron Togwaggle, we have two minions in the deck that have this battlecry. Sounds good to us!
The mrrrgling fish men are eyeing a comeback to the Hearthstone meta, this time in the Shaman class. There are two main approaches to Murloc Shaman that boil down to this question: Do we run a full tribal deck or only the best murloc cards? We prefer the second option, since we would like to be running strong Shaman cards over mediocre murlocs. The best murlocs are the 1-drops, Underbelly Angler and Murloc Warleader. The Angler/1-drop combo can chain a whole board later in the game. Toxfin gives us a removal option and Warleader can produce a lot of damage with Soul of the Murloc, placing the opponent between a rock and a hard place: does he play around Warleader or Bloodlust?
The rest of the space is dedicated to an early game overload package centered on Likkim and Thunderhead, as well as a “Big-Spell” package with Warmage. Soul of the Murloc should make Bloodlust extremely powerful in slow matchups, while Rain of Toads is a great win condition in faster matchups. We’ve got Storm Chasers to tutor them on turn 4, right before we need to activate Sunreaver Warmage. This deck couldn’t be more perfect now, could it?
With the two Hagatha’s, Shudderwock and Walking Fountains, Shaman’s late game tools look delicious. This list is somewhat of a hybrid of Midrange and Control Shaman that incorporates the “good stuff” that the class has available to it. Shaman is a particularly strong class to run Warmage in because of its powerful expensive spells and on curve Storm Chasers. With no Spreading Plague around, it’s really time for Rain of Toads to shine. We’ve got the early game Likkim package and we’ve got Electra/Vargoth to enable some very silly and broken stuff.
There were more Shaman decks that we would have been happy to feature because the class looks so well rounded. This archetype is one that we’ll be keeping an eye out for and is the reason why we believe Muckmorpher is so powerful. A “Big” Shaman deck can cheat out threats with incredible consistency in the mid-game, and while it doesn’t have the resurrection spells that Priest has, it has the pre-emptive resurrection from Ancestral Spirit and Big Bad Voodoo. In a faster meta, we would consider swapping out Big Bad Voodoo for Mutate and Cairne/Ysera for Big Bad Archmages in order to impact the board faster. Imagine cheating out a Walking Fountain on turn 6, having it kill two small minions, heal you for 8 and then casting Mutate on it. If that doesn’t sound broken, we’re not sure what does.
Even though Warlock got a weak set in Rise of Shadows, we wouldn’t count out the class. Zoo Warlock, specifically, has the foundations of a good deck. The key to its potential success is almost completely ignoring the new set and focusing on the good cards it has received throughout the Year of the Raven. These cards were overshadowed by Mammoth cards but are strong enough to take another serious look at now.
The list we’ve come up with is a heavy demon build, but one that doesn’t run imps. Instead, we focus on Void Analyst (“Keleseth light”) and strong early game demons that can receive the buff. We’re also running Nethersoul Buster, which is a powerful turn 4 play alongside one of three self-damaging activators. Finally, we have a robust value package centered on discard mechanics and Soulwarden, and to top it off we run Barista Lynchen and Arch-Villain Rafaam. Rafaam gives us a late game plan B, and Barista can be an extremely powerful value engine. There are no less than 16 battlecry minions in this deck (!), excluding Rafaam and Barista herself, so having her drop into any kind of board is extremely punishing for the opponent. Zoo Warlock may run into issues against Paladin and Shaman carrying their unique versions of Fiery War Axe, but one weakness Zoo won’t have with this deck is running out of stuff to play.
We don’t have much faith in Control Warlock decks. If Gul’dan cannot play defensively, he needs to abuse Life Tap early as much as possible, and the other Warlock archetype that can do that is Handlock.
Handlock got some very strong enablers that came from neutral cards in this set. The silence package got much stronger and more consistent with Arcane Watcher and Dalaran Librarian joining Ancient Watcher. Faceless Rager is also an excellent card in the deck since it has so many high health targets. The rest of the build is very defensive and lean, with not a single card meant to cost more than 5 mana. However, this doesn’t mean Handlock can’t have a strong late game, and this is where Barista comes in. Not only does this deck contain many battlecry minions she can copy to a great benefit, but her interaction with Omega Agent on turn 10 is particularly sick. It allows the Warlock to keep pressuring the opponent seemingly forever with up to 5 waves of Omega Agents. That’s a quite a handful for any deck.
We’ve talked about our interest in a Rush Warrior deck that incorporates a Bomb package. There are two benefits to this idea: 1. We get to play Blastmaster Boom, which is a terrific tempo card on turn 7 that can dish out a lot of pressure and swing the game. 2. The bombs can provide us with inevitability since Rush Warrior tends to struggle with finishing opponents in slower matchups.
The featured build is the fruit of our labor, a list that’s focused on curving out threats while sprinkling some bomb synergy. For example, we don’t mind playing Augmented Elekk on turn 3 as a “Spider Tank” because it’s a must remove threat that can punish an opponent with a follow-up Wrenchcalibur. The pieces can be played together, or independently. That’s the beauty of a Bomb Rush Warrior. Say it with us: Bomb Rush Warrior! Bombrush Warrior! Bumrush Warrior!
Besides bombs, Warrior didn’t get anything too worthy to note, but the class should still celebrate rotation as if it was Christmas in the spring. Control Warrior’s late game is so much stronger in the absence of Death Knights and several OTK mechanics that are going away. Mad Genius, Dragon Roar and Omega Assembly can produce so much late game value that could crown Warriors as the new kings of the grind. Add a small Dragon package and some additional late game removal through Omega Devastator, and Control Warrior looks good. Our list features The Boomship, which is a tempo finisher that we highly recommend running alongside Dragon Roar and Archmage Vargoth, since the synergy between these cards is so strong (We think Vargoth is going to be straight up broken in Control Warrior). Alternatively, we could run Elysiana instead and gear our Control Warrior build to win through fatigue, but for now, we’re going for the faster win condition.
Most Mecha’thun decks have lost the core cards that enabled them to execute their win condition, but Warrior could still be kicking. This build doesn’t run any Rise of Shadows cards since we’re mostly worried about maximizing cycle and we don’t want value cards to clog our hand. With so many late game win conditions rotating out, Mecha’thun Warrior might be one of the only OTK decks left in the game.