After completing both the comprehensive Death Knight Core & Path of Arthas preview and the comprehensive March of the Lich King preview, it’s time for theory-crafting! We encourage you to read the card previews as they are likely to shed light on many of our decisions regarding deck building.
Our first Data Reaper Report for March of the Lich King is scheduled for Thursday, December 15th! We will note that should there be balance changes within the first few days of the expansion, the Data Reaper Report could be delayed. We will provide an update in such a case on our Twitter.
Once again, we remind you that you can help us perform our analysis by contributing your Hearthstone game data. This can be done using Firestone, which provides us with all its user data (with an option to opt out). Alternatively, you can contribute data through our Hearthstone Deck Tracker plugin. Installing the plugin is very easy and will only take a couple of minutes of your time. We appreciate and thank all our contributors for keeping this project going. We remind our existing plug-in contributors to check on their plug-in and make sure that it is still active. Sometimes, with big patches, the plug-in deactivates inadvertently.
Remember that while we have extensively worked to produce the featured decks, they are still untested, and nothing can replace the post-launch refinement that is backed up by real-time game experience and data. Keep in mind that we’ve made a conscious effort to incorporate new packages into decks and avoid highlighting decks with minimal changes compared to their Nathria iterations.
If you have a limited collection, we highly recommend that you DO NOT make big crafting investments on any theory-crafted deck. Wait at least a few days to see what strategies end up being strong and fun before making a significant commitment.
This article has over 40 decks, because we’ve decided to feature 10 Death Knight decks! That’s right, we have attempted to exhaust every avenue of this class, giving you a chance to explore all its potential. We hope you have fun with the new class, and many others!
Unholy is most likely to give rise to the most aggressive deck of the class thanks to Grave Strength, which encourages a strategy that floods the board as quickly as possible. This is our attempt at refining this style.
A card we’ve excluded from the deck is Plagued Grain. It makes little sense to run it here as the deck doesn’t have significant corpse spenders beyond Grave Strength. A card that has no immediate impact on the board should be a liability for a deck that needs to seize the board early on to stand a chance.
Hawkstrider Rancher is a strong build-around card for aggressive decks with a low curve, as it’s difficult to remove on turn 3 and can help us develop a sticky board, which can be leveraged into Grave Strength. Infected Peasant and Vrykul Necrolyte add standalone stickiness and help us naturally gather enough corpses to cast our finisher. Vizier should be a good card in aggressive undead decks since they are likely to activate it on curve, and the spell discount can help you get ahead.
This deck is a bit slower, and rather than prioritizing flooding the board early, looks to power spike on a turn 5 Army of the Dead/Corpse Bride, with the goal of quickly discounting a Stitched Giant that can be played on turns 5-6. In this deck, we run the best corpse generators we can find to make sure Corpse Bride, the best Stitched Giant enabler, summons the biggest Risen Groom. A bigger Groom is not just a bigger threat that’s harder to kill and deals more damage, it makes it more likely that we can drop a Stitched Giant alongside it with a backbreaking 5 mana 20/20 swing.
Plagued Grain, Graveyard Shift and Meat Grinder are all strong corpse generators. Tomb Guardian is particularly important in this deck as it’s a mid-game stabilizer that not only spends corpses but pays them back, making it easier for you play Bride/Giant on the same turn. You can think of this deck as a Zoo/Handlock hybrid, with the ability to go both wide and tall. Grave Strength leverages the wide boards, Battlegrounds Battlemaster leverages the tall ones.
A Renathal/Denathrius shell is highly synergistic in Unholy Death Knight since the archetype is inherently dense with minions. Death Knight has global infuse as a class resource, which means summoning minions offers a double payoff, both in generating corpses, and infusing Denathrius as well as other cards such as Sylvanas and Famished Fool.
This build aims to expand the Giant build into a Renathal deck. We’re still very proactive and look to pressure most opponents by developing overwhelming stats before finishing things off with Grave Strength. However, against faster decks, we’re comfortable playing more slowly and stabilizing into the late game, in a similar vein to Beast Hunter. Army of the Dead, Plague Strike and Blightfang offer strong comeback mechanics in the early-to-mid game.
This deck is extremely flexible, and this specific list has been intentionally built to be very lean, prioritizing early board development to leverage Grave Strength over late game value bombs. There are options to greed the deck up for slower matchup if they become increasingly common. Astalor Bloodsworn, Lor’themar Theron, Invincible and the Scourge are notable options.
A Bloody twist to Unholy Death Knight can turn it into a late game powerhouse that stylistically resembles Control Shaman. We love what a single Blood rune can do for this archetype.
Noxious Cadaver might be one of the best 1-drops in the format. Boneguard Commander replaces Corpse Bride as a stable late game corpse payoff that can be fueled by Soulbreaker and has amazing synergy with Denathrius and other infuse payoffs. Patchwerk is the strongest disruption card in the format and has a crippling combo with Brann. Gnome Muncher is both a strong threat against slower decks and a stabilizer in fast matchups.
This deck no longer prioritizes flooding the board as its primary win condition. Its goal in faster matchups is to fight off the opponent’s early board development until it reaches its swing turns. Army of the Dead, Muncher, Commander, and Devourer can all end an opponent’s advance in dramatic fashions, setting up Stitched Giants, Astalor and Denathrius to end the game. More greed is also possible, with Theron buffing Muncher a neat little synergy.
Handbuff Blood Death Knight might be the least talked about archetype in the class. It did receive support, although some players may argue it’s not enough. We’ve tried making it anyway and… we don’t hate it.
It very much reminds us of Barrens Rush Warrior. Death Knight has its own version of Conditioning in Blood Tap, so the goal is to generate enough corpses while maintaining a respectable number of minions in hand before we make our big play. Soulbreaker is a strong corpse generator that’s available to Blood and crucial to feed our big corpse spenders.
Handbuff payoffs are plentiful. Malignant Horror and Nerubian Swarmguard, the latter we grab from an Unholy rune, scale extremely well with buffs. Gnome Muncher is another ideal target that’s quite dangerous to drop on an empty board. Mr. Smite and Blademaster Samuro work well with Darkfallen Neophyte to enable massive burst damage from hand or a big board clear.
Control Blood Death Knight aims to live forever with the strongest survivability tools available to the class. The question has been whether it can proactively win games by pressuring the opponent, and this is how we believe it can. The key is to combine the damage from Corrupted Ashbringer with Alexandros Mograine to soften up the opponent before we land final blows with Denathrius and/or Astalor.
Blood Death Knight can make Denathrius work thanks to Boneguard Commanders fueled by Soulbreaker. Soulbreaker is also particularly important for activating Vampiric Blood or a turn 5 Corpse Explosion. The weapon package expands with Corrupted Ashbringer and Runeforging. Runeforging allows us to occasionally play Ashbringer on 5 and curve into Gnome Muncher, which should be debilitating to decks looking to burn us down.
This deck has multiple discover effects, with the goal of finding pieces we normally don’t have access to but can close out a game. It’s also nice to discover more Vampiric Bloods! You can think of this deck as a Control Warrior that can thrive in a Renathal/Denathrius shell. You’ve got removal options for every type of situation, but at a point, you start the bleeding.
Frost Death Knights might look dramatically different from their Blood and Unholy counterparts, with a plethora of direct damage spells and a reduced focus on board development. This Burn Death Knight build was played by McBanterFace, and we ended up agreeing on every card, because the concept is straightforward.
We have a frost spell package initially enabled by Deathchiller and Talented Arcanist to control the board. Deathchiller synergizes with our ability to cast a flurry of spells thanks to Horn of Winter and Glacial Advance, while Talented Arcanist turns Remorseless Winter and Howling Blast into big AOE effects that deal face damage too.
To close games out, we’ve got Guild Traders backed up by Rimefang Sword and Lady Deathwhisper to blast our opponent with multiple spells in a single turn. Frostwyrm’s Fury makes it work by stalling the opponent while getting us closer to lethal range.
Most players might not think that Frost Death Knight is capable of minion-based aggression, but we see potential for this style thanks to Marrow Manipulator. The card has an absurd damage ceiling for a 6-drop but is a steep corpse spender in Frost, which isn’t an expert at corpse generation like Unholy is.
But utilizing Manipulator becomes easier when you’re playing an aggressive deck. Aggressive decks are naturally more inclined to generate corpses since they develop minions every turn. Infected Peasant, Vrykul Necrolyte and Body Bagger are both worth two corpses each and help us land chip damage in the early game. Rime Sculptor generates three bodies and can set up a stronger turn 6 Manipulator. Incorporeal Corporal has great synergy in a deck with a burn game plan, as it’s a minion-based form of Mind Blast.
The high minion-density also allows us to run Might of Menethil, a powerful weapon if you can support it with corpses. It allows Aggro Frost to ignore the opponent’s board development and push more face damage, much like Frostwyrm’s Fury does at the top end of the curve.
Another little thing that high minion density allows us to do in Frost: Harbinger of Winter finds us either Defrost or Frostwyrm’s Fury. That’s neat.
Can we enjoy the benefits of both Deathchiller, the frost spell package and Marrow Manipulator? This hybrid list attempts to do that, by cutting the spell damage package for the Manipulator mid-game. We’re trading damage that’s conditional on Guild Trader and Talented Arcanist combos for damage that’s conditional on corpse generation.
Queen Azshara might be a good fit in this kind of deck since she can copy another spell with Ring of Tides (in which case, copying a Frostwyrm’s Fury sounds very strong) or give us a Colossal threat to help us produce more corpses.
A Manipulator approach can be suitable to a Renathal/Denathrius shell since they both require similar things. While Frost Death Knight doesn’t have the sheer number of minions to infuse Denathrius in the way Unholy does, it does have a path to late game combos involving Brann Bronzebeard thanks to Horn of Winter.
Brann/Horn/Astalor and Brann/Hornx2/Denathrius are both combos that Renathal Frost Death Knights can execute without too much difficulty. The availability of two copies of Horn of Winter is helped by Lady Deathwhisper, so setting it up in slow matchups is more realistic than it initially looks.
We prioritize Talented Arcanist over Deathchiller since we’re less likely to draw enough frost spells consistently in a 40-card deck to make the best use of the latter, while Arcanist can clear a wide board with just Howling Blast or Remorseless Winter.
We could swap out the primary Frost burst payoffs of Marrow Manipulator, Lady Deathwhisper and Frostwyrm’s Fury for the strong single Blood rune cards that provides us with more late game defensive utility: Gnome Muncher, Patchwerk and Boneguard Commander. Noxious Cadaver and Soulbreaker also become available.
The Spell package in Demon Hunter is one of the most exciting directions of the new expansion. Fel’dorei Warband is an extremely powerful card that can be an amazing reactionary tool as well as an offensive firepower. Deal with a Devil provides huge board presence that could be oppressive to deal with for aggressive decks. Mark of Scorn is a great cycling tool at all stages of the game.
Souleater’s Scythe allows Relic Demon Hunter to store three key minions in the deck without disrupting the no-minion payoff requirement. Xy’mox and Jace are the obvious candidates to be included, but the 3rd minion may not be as straightforward as it seems. The natural inclination is to include S’theno, but there’s also a case for Silvermoon Arcanist!
You get three souls that discover the minions, which means you have three times the chances to draw one of those minions first. Unleash Fel is a great card by itself, but it gets even stronger with spell damage. If the first minion you find is Silvermoon Arcanist, then your chances of landing an Arcanist/Unleash Fel combo early in the game are quite high, cleaning an aggressive deck’s board and negating most or all the damage it has dealt during the early game.
Silvermoon Arcanist is also strong with Fel Barrage later in the game, though its damage potential might not be as high as a S’theno fueled by Predation. We’ve listed how both options would look like. You can drop Arcanist, Aldrachi Warblades and a Sigil of Alacrity to fit in S’theno and two Predations.
Spending 1 mana to discover the minions? Can’t run Brann or Xhilag? Can’t discount Xy’mox and Jace with Relic of Dimensions? You might decide to wave off the advantages of the spell package and decide that Relic Demon Hunter wants none of that. We got you covered.
Silvermoon Arcanist is a card we love for this archetype. You can do disgusting combos with Unleash Fel and Fel Barrage if you’ve managed to discount Arcanist with Relic of Dimensions, so they take Venomous Scorpid’s place in the deck. Don’t forget that they work with Relic of Extinction as well!
This is our attempt at an Outcast Demon Hunter, and we think its current best shell is on the faster side, with Dreadprison Glave and Lady S’theno providing us with damage. A deck built around the outcast mechanic must be cheap and the cards need to be easy to dump from hand. Based on its performance in Aggro Demon Hunter, we don’t expect Jace to be a good fit for the deck, as it can blockade our outcast cards if drawn early, severely hampering our ability to get the most out of our deck.
Felerin is another card we’re not completely convinced belongs in the archetype, simply because the generated outcast pool has too many bad rolls that we can’t play in many situations. Keep that in mind when you plan to drop it on turn 4. We opted to run it since our goal is to discount Wallopers as quickly as possible, and Felerin can be worth a 2-mana discount on them. Walloper is the the package’s primary payoff, and your way to get ahead on the board.
Once you reach the mid-game, Wretched Exile chains become possible. Fire off your cheap outcast cards with Exile on board and try to get Walloper down on the same turn. If you’ve ever played Whirlkick Rogue, it’s back in green.
Ramp Druid is getting a powerful armor package that’s going to help it survive against aggression as well as execute powerful late game combos. The addition of Anub’Rekhan has compelled us to build a Celestial Alignment variant, as the card makes every minion you play this turn ‘free’ post-Celestial Alignment, giving the deck another Lady Anacondra for minions.
We see promise in the armor cards. Underking is a huge stabilizer. A sizeable rush minion that’s worth 12 armor is no joke. Crypt Keeper is a free taunt post-CA with just a single point of armor. Chitinous Plating is a generously costed armor gain card that can help you execute swing turns since it guarantees you starting off the next turn with 4 armor. We can cut Topior and Planted Evidence as they aren’t that strong in this variant anyway.
But Ramp Druid can be just as powerful, if not more, by cutting Celestial Alignment and utilizing another Denathrius-esque finisher in Astalor Bloodsworn. Brann/Anub’Rekhan requires 11 mana, so either Guff or Innervate are needed for the combo, but it allows you to dish 48 damage in one turn through generating two copies of Astalor, the Flamebringer. You need either 2 armor to start the turn or have the 5-mana Astalor already in hand. Scary.
Our take on Undead Aggro Druid is unique, as we might be the only ones suggesting ripping off the band aid and not try to shove in Herald of Nature and the large amount of support it requires to be a consistent card. If Herald is too good, then we’d add Lingering Zombie to the established Herald Aggro Druid and call it done. None of the new cards should realistically make the cut. We could be very wrong about this, but this is our surface impression.
So how do we buff a swarming undead deck without Herald of Nature? Hawkstrider Rancher is up for the job. If you don’t kill this card immediately on turn 3, expect a lot of pain coming your way, as the Druid will undoubtedly flood the board with sticky and buffed minions, making cleaning up the mess a rough undertaking.
Undead feeds itself as a tribe. The more you have, the more easily Nerubian Flyer, Nerubian Vizier and Bone Flinger activate. Wither is a card that exclusively works with undead minions, so it’s hard for us to imagine it working with just a small package of them. If we want Elder Nadox to be a scary card, we better have undead minions on the board. One card we really like with Elder Nadox is Incorporeal Corporal. The opponent either invests the resources to remove a 5/5 from the board, or risks seeing the Druid’s board buffed in a devastating, game ending way.
We don’t need nature. All we need is death.
Bet you didn’t expect this archetype featured in this article, but this is impossible to ignore. Quest Druid is getting an absurd OTK combo that only requires three cards from your deck to execute, thanks to none other than Anub’Rekhan!
Remember that Guff the Tough gains armor in its battlecry? After quest completion, you can play Anub’Rekhan -> Brann -> Guff -> Zola on the Guff -> 2 more Guffs. This combo only costs the 8 mana you spend on Anub’Rekhan and deals 48 damage while gaining 45 armor. Of course, you don’t need Guff the Tough to sit in your hand until you can execute the combo, since you can play it with Mark of the Spikeshell to keep one in your hand.
Anub’Rekhan can be specifically tutored by Capture Coldtooth Mine, and the deck now has cheap silence effects to get past taunts with Attorney-at-Maw. Guff is indeed Tough.
Arcane Hunter looks insanely fun, and we made further tinkering after our initial impression of the archetype. Spell damage is extremely valuable to the deck because the damage potential of the Arcane package, and especially the swing potential of Eversong Portal, are just so much more consistent when spell damage is always available.
So, we’re not just running Silvermoon Farstrider and Halduron Brightwing as spell damage enablers, we’re also adding both Talented Arcanist and Silvermoon Arcanist. Despite the cost of Silvermoon Arcanist, we really like the option to use it with Ricochet Shot to clear the board, and then force the opponent to kill it or risk a blowout by an Eversong Portal in hand.
To further leverage the spell damage package, we’re adding Shellshot. Though it isn’t an Arcane spell, it’s a 3-mana spell that gets drawn by Barak Kodobane, scales extremely well with spell damage, and helps us keep the board clear.
We keep Collateral Damage at the top end to make sure we have the damage to close out the game. We keep Twinbow Terrorcoil because it synergizes with our deck extremely well and is absolutely devastating with Eversong Portal.
An alternative win condition that we can add to the Arcane package is Shockspitter! The goal of this deck is to repeatedly buff Shockspitter with cheap, early game weapons in Candleshot and Bloodseeker. We discover Shockspitters with Selective Breeder. We search for Shockspitters with Tracking. We duplicate Shockspitter’s battlecry damage with Brann. We copy and duplicate more Shockspitters with Devouring Swarm and Zola the Gorgon. It’s just Shockspitters everywhere!
Since we are running Candleshot, it only makes sense to run Keeneye Spotter too. This build doesn’t have the swing potential of the Collateral build, but it can stack up a lot of direct damage very quickly if left alone.
Is Quest Hunter coming back from the dead to terrorize ladder once again? It did get some exceptionally good cards that fit its game plan, so it’s possible. Ricochet Shot is a 1-mana damage dealing spell, so it’s highly likely to be a top performer in the deck. Conjured Arrow should be a significant upgrade to Furious Howl, as it’s a source of card draw that progresses the quest and doesn’t clash with Multicaster. The addition of more Arcane spells is a subtle buff to Multicaster too.
We opted not to run Arcane Quiver, as it doesn’t progress the quest and is slow for the deck, but it could be a fringe option. We don’t think Quest Hunter needs more ways to dig for resources.
The Arcane package in Mage is just as exciting as it is in Hunter. Vexallus allows us to deal an incredible amount of damage in combination with Arcane Bolts. All that’s left to figure out is how we boost our combo with spell damage. There are two primary sources of spell damage in Mage: Sorcerer’s Gambit and Aegwynn, the Guardian.
Quest Mage’s advantage is that it is more difficult to disrupt. Your source of spell damage starts in your opening hand, so you don’t need to draw it. Magister’s Apprentice isn’t needed either. You can accumulate Arcane Bolts, play Arcane Wyrm and then kill it with Siphon Mana. Be careful not to do it after you play the quest reward though!
Aegwynn’s advantage is its ease of execution. All you need to do is draw Aegwynn, have her killed and then draw the spell damage buff on a cheaper minion, ideally Magister’s Apprentice or Vexallus since they form the combo. The disadvantage here is that Aegwynn is vulnerable to transform and silence effects, so against a deck with these tools, you might want to kill Aegwynn yourself with a turn 8 Arcane Bolt, or a First Flame + Hero Power.
The rest of the shell is straightforward, built around Multicaster. Hot Streak should be a good card for Quest Mage specifically, since it needs more fire spells and Ignite is no longer necessary.
Neither Big-Spell Mage nor Spooky Mage should get big overhauls. Spooky Mage will happily fill the last two slots of its build with Prismatic Elemental, dropping Brann/Finley. It gives Spooky Mage an opportunity to find spells from schools that Mage doesn’t have access to, boosting the power of Magister Dawngrasp.
Big-Spell Mage does get a significant boost of power with Arcane Defenders. It’s a card that synergizes with Magister Dawngrasp and Grey Sage Parrot and adds threat density as well strong defenses to the deck.
Another card we really like in Big-Spell Mage is Astalor. The 30-card build has flirted with Denathrius, looking for a secondary win condition in its minion-dense shell, so Astalor makes sense.
The principle of this Casino Mage deck is to maximize the power of Rommath while also leveraging Energy Shaper to swing the game in our favor. The deck is loaded with discover and generation options as well as minions that add “fodder” spells that can be flipped with Shaper.
We have Arcane Wyrm and Arcsplitter giving us Arcane Bolts. Vast Wisdom is an ideal card for the deck since you can play the discounted spell while flipping the expensive one. Sketchy Stranger has strong synergy with Rommath. Prismatic Elemental is a must have. Submerged Spacerock offers strong setup to an Energy Shaper. The Sunwell is an obvious fit. Sivara can boost Rommath too. Murloc Holmes can provide you with constructed worthy spells, and if your hand is filled with mediocre spells, you can reset it with Finley.
But the important thing about this deck is that it’s not completely reliant on a lucky Energy Shaper flip to win since you can fall back on the Wildfire package as well as on Astalor/Denathrius to finish games.
Do you like to have eggs on your toast? Say no more! Aggro Paladin looks ferociously explosive with its new set. Sanguine Soldier is a great 1-drop but Seal of Blood is really what makes this deck tick. Our goal is to consistently find it with Stonehearth Vindicator or Knight of Anointment. Vindicator pulling a Seal of Blood is a 3 mana 6/4 with Divine Shield. You follow it up with a 4 mana 6/7 Squawker with divine shield, and you can see how the deck can quickly develop overbearing pressure.
Eggs are prime targets for Paladin’s buffs. Great Hall and ‘For Quel’Thalas’ are strong follow ups to any of our turn 1 plays and synergize with eggs in particular. ‘For Quel’Thalas’ can be devastating later in the game in combination with Kotori Lightblade. This might be Kotori’s time to shine, as it works extremely well with Seal of Blood on turn 5 too.
Blood Matriarch Liadrin might be quicker than Kotori at becoming a meta relevant legendary. She can give our eggs divine shield, setting them up for buffs. She’s a dangerous buff target herself, as she can start giving divine shield and rush to bigger minions. At her baseline size, she gives divine shield and rush to Blademaster Okani and Buffet Biggun, which is a neat little interaction.
Another option is to run an aggressive Paladin shell but maintain a strong late game win condition with The Countess and Order in the Court.
Pure Paladin looks clean. Its early game has become so much more consistent thanks to the Blood package, and it no longer needs to play reactively at any stage of the game. Apply pressure with your early curve and play as many Paladin cards you can. Cast Order in the Court and find your Lightrays to further dominate board control. Play Countess and use the discovered legendary minions to seal the game.
Control Paladin has a ridiculous amount of late game options at its disposal. It can run a simple Denathrius shell. It can persist with a Jailer game plan. It can now adopt a Dragon shell, which is the new option we’re highlighting here. We expect the established Control Paladin builds to incorporate the new cards. We suspect they’ll be most interested in Feast & Famine, Flight of the Bronze, Blood Crusader, Anachronos and Astalor Bloodsworn.
Dragon Paladin looks to have a consistent curve of dragons to be able to play Kazakusan in a reasonable timeframe. Amber Whelp should help establish board control in the early game. Daring Drake and Timewarden are additional tools to fight for board. Timewarden is a strong setup to Onyxian Warder.
Once we’re assured of Kazakusan’s activation, it’s time to play Order in the Court. We will find Denathrius, Raid Boss Onyxia, Lightrays and Lightforged Cariel before playing Kazakusan and destroying our deck. We can wait a little longer to find Anachronos and try to play Kazakusan while we’re ahead. It looks like a solid game plan.
Could Shadow Priest come back for the last four months of Darkbishop Benedictus’ participation in Standard? We’re intrigued by the new cards it got. Crystalsmith Cultist is often going to be a turn 1 2/3. Animate Dead can be a backbreaking play against an opponent who managed to clear your Irondeep Trogg and Voidtouched Attendant, but it can scale even harder late in the game.
An undead package could also be strong, and we’re most curious about a curated package that allows us to leverage Bonecaller into a strong play. There are several undead minions that can be worthy of its effect. Haunting Nightmare is a 3 mana 3/3 with a delayed deathrattle that summons another 3/3. We like this card in Shadow Priest because it is trivial to get value from it since all your cards are cheap. Shadowed Spirit provides burn, but the undead we like the most is Incorporeal Corporal. It is Mind Blast in minion form, and it allows you to control activation of Grave Digging and Shadow Word: Undeath if your opponent ignores it. You can simply have it sit on the board until you decide to attack with it.
An alternative build would cut Bonecaller and run smaller and swarming undead minions, alongside Undying Allies and High Cultist Basaleph, but we’re not fans of the early game undead minions in Priest.
We present to you: Scourge Rager. The deck. The goal of this deck in the early game is to tutor Scourge Rager with Switcheroo, play it alongside Animate Dead on turn 4 and then resurrect three Scourge Ragers with High Cultist Basaleph the next turn if your opponent clears the Ragers from the previous turn.
The deck runs Bonecaller, which resurrects Scourge Rager, as well as Amulet of Undying, which resurrects Bonecallers, which resurrect Scourge Ragers! It all comes to a head when we play Xyrella the Devout and start triggering the deathrattle of every Bonecaller we’ve summoned this game, which usually means a board full of Scourge Ragers. If your opponent doesn’t have the means to clear a board of Scourge Ragers, they’re in trouble.
But there’s another option that sacrifices early game consistency for late game inevitability, by adding Shadowed Spirit. You can repeatedly resurrect Shadowed Spirit with Bonecaller, which will drain the opponent’s life total until Xyrella the Devout deals a bunch of burst damage through deathrattles in a single turn. This does make our Switcheroo worse, and the early game blow out potential less likely to occur, so we prefer the all-in Rager plan.
The wackiness in Priest’s set doesn’t stop in Rager. Sister Svalna could be the centerpiece of an infinite value deck that can repeatedly cast Vision of Darkness for free until the rope burns out, and this is not a one turn thing. It can persist for the rest of the game!
The secret is to run a small core of minions, with Radiant Elemental the only minion in our deck that costs 3 or less, which means it is the only minion that can be resurrected with Animate Dead. The other minions in our deck are Xyrella, Sister Svalna and Spirit Guide. Spirit Guide can help us soft tutor Animate Dead, Thrive in the Shadows, or an activated 1-mana Grave Digging (Spirit Guide is undead).
The combo requires us to have one dead Radiant Elemental in the graveyard. We play Sister Svalna to add Vision of Darkness to our hand. As early as turn 7, we play Radiant Elemental and two copies of Animate Dead to resurrect Radiant Elemental twice. Vision of Darkness now costs 0 mana, and we can play as many copies of it as possible in a single turn. We can find removal, healing, and value in the discover phase. Most importantly, we find 3 more copies of Animate Dead, setting up the next infinite turn. This is a very realistic scenario, since there are 16 Shadow spells we can discover, you should be able to discover 15-20 times in a single turn, and we’re being conservative.
There’s an option to run Psyfiend and turn this into a possible OTK, but this means we can’t continue to execute infinite turns, and we might not be able to kill the opponent without killing ourselves first if our health is low. It’s not necessary. The opponent will concede when they understand what’s going on and they can’t win.
Another card we’ve been tinkering with is Deliverance, with the goal of killing our own 3-health Radiant Elemental in the first combo turn in case we haven’t drawn both Elementals. The issue is that you’re often going to have a Radiant Elemental drawn by Switcheroo (with modified health), which means that you can’t utilize Deliverance this way. Another issue is that players might mistakenly land an honorary kill on a cheap enemy minion, messing up their graveyard for Animate Dead. We decided to cut the card to avoid having people make this mistake!
We think Concoctions are the strongest package in this set, and Rogue will be in a strong position in the format thanks to them. Concoctions can be a complementary package to any kind of strategy, and we’ll show you three examples of how they can perfectly fit into a deck.
Concoctions might be the strongest in Miracle Rogue, a deck that can abuse the mana manipulation mechanics of Ghoulish Alchemist and Shadowstep to leverage huge threats through Sinstone Graveyard and the infamous dagger of Necrolord Draka.
Players might say that Vile Apothecary is too slow for Miracle Rogue, but we think the more concoction generators we have, the better. We can afford to cut the underwhelming card draw options of Shroud and Sprint to keep a leaner list compared to the older iteration that should still take advantage of Edwin better than before. Concoctions add so much value and draw to the deck that we really don’t need anything else.
Ghostly Strike is a perfect glue card for the deck alongside Gone Fishin’, while Shadow of Demise should be played in every deck that utilizes Concoctions. A more accurate statement is that Shadow of Demise should go into every Rogue deck.
Thief Rogue can also decide that the secret package just isn’t all that great, and it would rather run the stronger standalone cards available in the concoction package. Once again, this allows us to drop the mediocre card draw option of Sprint. It served us well after the buff, but it’s time to make way. Hazy Concoction has great synergy in Thief Rogue specifically because of Contraband Stash and Tess Greymane.
Another card that could be truly disgusting in Thief Rogue is Potionmaster Putricide. You can play it in the early game in combination with Wildpaw Gnoll to get guaranteed value and potentially snowball the game out of control in a faster matchup. You can also use it once, Shadowstep it, and then play it for free in combination with Crabatoa on turn 6 to generate 4-5 concoctions in a single turn.
The final addition to Thief Rogue might be Astalor Bloodsworn. It’s a strong generic win condition for the deck that offers another late game Shadowstep target. Thief Rogue just has so many ways it can win Hearthstone games.
Even the forgotten Quest Rogue can benefit from concoctions. The historical problem of the deck is that non-SI7 cards have always been very weak for the deck. We still expect the deck to prioritize finding SI:7 cards above all else, but concoctions are probably the strongest fillers you could ever add to Quest Rogue.
Bomb Rogue is getting a major upgrade in consistency with Scourge Illusionist. Illusionist may strike most players as a tool to cheat out big threats, but it is much better when copying minions of a low attack value.
If you play Sketchy Information and draw Illusionist, you either add a 0 mana 4/4 Naval Mine to your hand, or a 1 mana 4/4 Burning Blade Acolyte. The same happens when you play Smokescreen. Illusionist simply amplifies the consistency of your best deathrattle minions. We advocate cutting Stoneborn General since it’s a slow card in its Illusionist form, to make sure Illusionist always hits Mine or Acolyte.
The rest of the deck doesn’t change much, though the idea of playing a copied Sketchy Information from Shadow of Demise is too good of an opportunity to pass on. Ghostly Strike is another auto-include that you can even use to kill a Burning Blade Acolyte.
Though the Shaman set could have been better, the class does have one of the most promising aggressive undead strategies. Scourge Troll is the centerpiece of the deck, and our first goal is to build a deck capable of giving it the strongest deathrattle effects we could find. The best one is Deathweaver Aura, but Vrykul Necrolyte also works on curve. There are three others that become active later in the game: Hawkstrider Rancher, Shadow Suffusion and Rotgill.
Our second focus is to take advantage of Unliving Champion, which is immensely powerful on turn 3 but is conditional on a friendly undead’s death. Corporal once again comes in to make that condition easier to meet on curve, which also helps Nerubian Vizier. Infected Peasant is a sticky, standalone 2-drop that the deck is otherwise lacking.
Rancher should be powerful in an aggressive deck that runs Schooling. Gorloc Ravager provides us with card draw and can find us Rotgill.
Flood the board. Buff it with Shadow Suffusion. Watch the opponent die.
How do you make a Big Shaman deck work when it can’t cheat out its threats? You give it an OTK combo, of course!
The idea is to utilize Harkener of Dread and Blightblood Berserker as defensive stabilizers, supporting a small minion package that allows us to draw our minion combo pieces consistently with Prescience. Our early curve consists of draw and removal to fend off early game aggression. Thankfully, Shaman does have Wildpaw Caverns and Command of Neptulon to give us board presence in spell form.
What’s the combo? It’s quite simple. Bonelord Frostwhisper dies, and you reach turn 10. You play a 0 mana Al’Akir, buff it with Rockbiter and copy it with Criminal Line up. That’s 48-charge damage. A single taunt is unlikely to help the opponent, since you can clear it with one Al’Akir and have the others hit the dome. It’s quite dependable and requires very few pieces you can soft tutor, but it is vulnerable to a silence or transform effect on your Bonelord.
Another option is to just drop a Berserker or Harkener to the board and copy them on the next turn, without playing Bonelord. Decks without mass removal options should lose on the spot.
Control Shaman is unlikely to change much. It probably runs Astalor. Though it can’t double up its Manathirst bonuses with Brann or Macaw, it’s a good win condition for a Renathal deck. It might consider Lor’themar Theron to exponentially scale in the late game. Rotgill and Bonelord Frostwhisper also have a shot, but there’s not much else. You see, featuring a modified Control Shaman deck sounds boring.
So how about we try and make the impossible, possible? It’s time to get on DE OTHER SIDE.
This highly modified Control Shaman deck cuts all spells from its build except for Schooling, adds FROM DE OTHER SIDE, Barbaric Sorceress and looks to imitate Big Spell Mage’s style with a deathrattle twist.
Primal Dungeoneer increases the likelihood we have FROM DE OTHER SIDE in our hand. Mailbox Dancer and Escaped Manasaber accelerate us into Barbaric Sorceress. We have a package of undead deathrattles that serve as prime targets for FROM DE OTHER SIDE. Behemoth. Harkener. Berserker. Throw in a Burning Blade Acolyte for good measure. Hell, throw Overlord Drakuru into the deck. If there’s one deck it might be okay in, it’s this one.
We’re not the biggest fans of the Warlock set, but as we’ve said before in our reveal recap and the expansion preview, we do see promise in a specific package meant to cheat out and resurrect Dar’Kahn Drathir.
The goal is to play Amorphous Slime and discard either Flesh Behemoth or Dar’Kahn. Slime can be played in combination with Grimoire of Sacrifice or Shallow Grave to immediately get the undead minion on the board. If Behemoth is summoned, then it will draw and summon Dar’Khan when it dies. Infantry Reanimator can then re-summon Dar’Khan or Flesh Behemoth and give them reborn.
We put this package into a Control Warlock shell that is running the Curse package. Scourge Supplies should be a fantastic source of card draw for nearly every Warlock deck. In the absence of Defile, Explosive Sheep is a strong AOE option that can work with both Grimoire of Sacrifice and Shallow Grave.
We can put the package in Imp Warlock too, while replacing the Curse package. Shallow Grave isn’t as good of a fit here, but Grimoire of Sacrifice is a card we already play in the deck. Dar’Khan is more of an offensive tool in this deck, imitating the effect of curses by repeatedly resurrecting and dealing damage to the opponent. This puts a lot of pressure on their removal toolkit and sustainability, especially when Dar’Khan is backed up by an aggressive shell.
Phylactery Warlock can similarly replace Defile with Explosive Sheep combos, and we can amplify these board clears with Enchanter. Scourge Supplies is particularly strong in decks that run Runed Mithril Rod. Devourer of Souls replaces Queen Azshara as a Phylactery Amplifier. This deck’s damage potential is probably the highest of any deck in the format, only challenged by Arcane Mage.
If Phylactery Warlock can maintain survivability against aggressive decks, it has a good chance to compete. Note that we intentionally cut Goldshire Gnoll. It’s a borderline performer in the deck, and we wanted to re-add Hellfire as a combo finisher option for the deck with Defile leaving Standard.
We’re fans of the Fire package in Enrage Warrior and think the deck could be going places in the upcoming expansion. Sunfury Champion, or Crispy Skipper, is the perfect 1-drop enabler for the deck and its Fire package.
We can execute turns in which we damage our board to set up an Imbued Axe swing. We can set up big Anima Extractor turns. We can draw cards for no mana cost thanks to Light of the Phoenix, a top tier card draw source finally available to the archetype. We can set up a strong Blazing Power play, a new Rampage-esque buff.
Moreover, Enrage Warrior’s late game prospects are improving. Thori’belore is a strong value card that’s enabled by the Fire package spells. Asvedon the Grandshield is a very tough card to evaluate before seeing it played live, but its potential is obvious on paper. A 3 mana 3/3 can be very powerful if it copies a strong spell from the opponent. You can think of it as a mini-Murozond, which was an underestimated card back when it was revealed too. The only question is whether Enrage Warrior is too fast of a deck to take advantage of it.
But the Fire package isn’t all that Enrage Warrior can do. One thing we noticed about Fire Enrage is that it’s a slower deck, and there’s a potential variant that should be faster.
Foul Egg is a very strong fit for Enrage Warrior, especially when followed up by a Cruel Taskmaster. The addition of Foul Egg means we can run Nerubian Eggs and add more cards that buff eggs, such as Shoulder Check. There’s a greater consistency here at developing early game minions, buffing them, and snowballing on the opponent.
Control Warrior? No thanks. Any attempt of developing the archetype has left us wondering if it could ever win more than 40% of its games. The greatest chance a slower Warrior deck has in the upcoming format is one that’s running the Galvangar OTK combo. We’ll be very surprised if it’s not the case and an attrition style Control Warrior becomes a viable strategy.
Charge Warrior did get two critical pieces. One is Light in the Phoenix. Despite the fact the deck barely runs minions and has no inherent synergy with the card, it’s enough for the hero to be damaged to turn it into an Arcane Intellect. AI is good enough for this deck, no question. The other major upgrade is Bonelord Frostwhisper. Warrior might be the class best equipped to utilize Bonelord because of the ability to kill it with Shield Slam, denying counterplay from the opponent. This could also be how Warrior figures out a new win condition. If we had to bet on a card that can save Warrior’s late game, it’s the Bone Man.
The Data Reaper Podcast will return to discuss the early expansion impressions of the meta! Follow us on Twitter for updates on when it will occur, if you want an early scoop on developments before December 15th, when Data Reaper Report #249 comes out.
We’ll see you then.
The Vicious Syndicate Team