Winning on a budget: A compilation of winning limited decks from the last weeks

Posted by Radoslav "Nydra" Kolev at 22 March 2014 21:45

This article features a list of several limited decks or various classes - meaning no epics and legendaries used - which managed to prove themselves in competitive environment and which players with poorer card collections should find useful.

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To be successful in the high ranks of constructed, players often need to invest substantial money, dust and/or time to acquire the cards necessary to build that powerful Handlock, control Warrior or Druid. Fortunately, there're more than a few ways in Hearthstone to build both cheap and consistent decks with no expensive cards, as tournaments like Managrind and GosuCup Limited prove weekly.

Below is a list of several limited decks or various classes - meaning no epics and legendaries used - which managed to prove themselves in competitive environment and which players with poorer card collections should find useful.

Note: This is NOT a list ordered in terms of power (well, maybe with the exception of Zoo and face Hunter) and having one deck listed above another doesn't mean it's necessarily stronger. This feature merely comes to portray the different kinds of decks which can be played and are viable within the budget.

1. The Zoo

GosuCup #2 Limited: 1st place, twice more in top 4
Managrind #7 Limited: 4th place
Managrind #6 Limite: 1st place


Of all the decks running on a budget, the Warlock Zoo - named that for the compilation of cost efficient minions it runs - is arguably the most scary opponent one can face.

The Zoo was born from the mind of popular streamer Reynad in attempt to revive the pre-nerf board control Warlock. The Zoo follows the same principle of its predecessor: play value minions, establish favorable trades, re-fill hand with Life Tap and pounce away for victory.

Although the Warlock can't enjoy the old Blood Imps anymore, the board control of today can have as an explosive start as before. There are a total of fourteen 1 and 2 drops not counting the removal spells whose aim is to establish a strong board presence early on. Young Priestess is here to do Blood Imps' job while Shieldbearers offer additional protection.

From 3 mana up, the deck becomes even more cost efficient. Harvest Golem and Scarlet Crusader are guaranteed two for ones (unless Earthshock-ed away). Shattered Sun Cleric and Defender of Argus offer nice stats boosts and Doomguard and Argent Commander are the tough finishers the deck needs.

As with every deck, different iterations have appeared to suit different players' preferences. Gnimsh's Zoo from SeatStory Cup featured Amani Berserkers in the place of Mortal Coil.  The same deck showed how powerful Abusive Sergeant can be. Other cards that fit nicely are Ironbeak Owl to deal with taunts and Twilight Drakes or Dark Iron Dwarf as a heavy body and instant 2 damage during trades.


2. The "face" Hunter

GosuCup #2 Limited: Three top 4's
Managrind #7 Limited: 1st place (NA), twice more in top 4
Managrind #6 Limited: 1st place (EU), twice more in top 4


Similar to the Zoo, the face Hunter was not created to fit a certain "limited" metagame but rather is an all-around solid deck you'll often encounter on the ladder and even in competitive games. 

This version of the Hunter is all about putting a clock over the opponent via Hunter's hero power and the large number of charge minions who deliver value upon arrival. Most of the attacks are aimed directly at the enemy character - hence the "face" in the name - as their goal is to bring him down to lethal as quickly as possible.

The face Hunters perform even better in limited environment as their hard counters like Shamans and control Warriors are mostly absent. As the limited metagame is more heavy on aggro decks, many games essentially become races for who will kill the other quicker and the Hunter excels in those situations. Cards like Explosive Trap help him deal with the aggro match-ups while other removal such as Kill Command, Hunter's Mark and Ironbeak Own shine against control decks.

There are several different variations of the face Hunter, most of which feature only minor changes. The deck on the right is a copy of DKMR_Born's Managrind winning deck from Limited #7 and is one of the more weird builds: it features no Tracking and just a single Starving Buzzard (more standard Hunters would feature two of both) but implements one copy of Abomination as an extra Explosive trap and double Elven Archer to synergize with Hunter's Mark.

Building beyond that is a matter of customizing due to personal preferences. The runner-up of GosuCup #2 player a version with double Misdirection, double Abusive Sergeant and a single Acidic Swamp Ooze. Others run Freezing Traps to kill the tempo of the opponent. Play around and see what you like best.


3. The Rogue menagerie

GosuCup #2 Limited: Twice in top 4
Managrind #6 Limited: Once in top 4
Managrind #7 Limite: Twice in top 4


Rogues might be having a hard time on the ladder but in limite tournaments they're among the kings. The flexibility the class offers has led to a variety of builds that perform very well in tournaments and fit different styles of players. 

The first deck from the left (see below) is Romice's spell-heavy, anti-aggro Rogue from Managrind EU #7 and is a top four finisher. The build reminisces a poor man's version of Kolento's miracle Rogue in the sense that it uses Gagetzan Auctioneer and lots of cheap spells to draw into its finishers (in this case Argent Commander + Cold Blood combo) while maintaining a clear board. 

The deck will be loved by players who enjoy playing the control game but for those who are fans of the minion-based playstyle we present Kirstuvas's mid-range Rogue, runner-up of GosuCup #2 (down center). The build is very similar to how Rogues used to play before Kolento's revolution, i.e. play the mid-range game by utilizing cards like Shattered Sun Cleric, Dark Iron Dward, Defender of Argus and Azure Drake. Similar decks placed second in Managrind Limited EU #6 (played by Johnrambo) and third in Managrind Limited NA #7 (played by Abaporu). A copy of the latter is give below to the right.


4. The mid-range Druid

Managrind #7: 1st place

Usually, Druids are known to be costly decks. In constructed, both the "Watcher" and the "Token" builds rely heavily on legendaries and epic cards to make good plays. Ancient of Lore is one of the best Druid cards and Force of Nature has become Druids' most reliable way to burst down opponents.

Consequently, many players gave up on the idea of finding a cheap Druid deck that works. On first sight, there are better options for both aggro (Hunter) and board control (Warlock, Rogue) players. Aioria - winner of Managrind EU #7 Limited, however, found a way to battle the current meta and prevail.

Aioria's deck was built to counter act the dominating decks in limited, namely the creature-based Zoo and face Hunter. The build relies on taunt mechanics from Defender of Argus, Sunfury Protector and Mark of Nature to activate the *CARD "Ancient Watchers" NOT FOUND* and stop early aggression.

The rest of the deck is also aimed to counter certain things. Starfall and Starfire are useful against Chillwind Yetis and Shaman's Fire Elementals. Boulderfist Ogre is a bigger, stronger version of the Yetis and the Ironbark Protector is poor man's alternative to Ancient of War. There's even a pair of Acidic Swamp Oozes to battle Eaglehorn Bow, Fiery War Axe and Stormforged Axe

There are a number of adjustments which can be applied to make this deck a bit different. RanDew - 5th place finisher in the same Managrind - used Mark of the Wild instead of Mark of Nature, implemented a single Gadgetzan Auctioneer and one of Nourish for extra card draw (something that's lacking in Aioria's build) and also has one Kobold Geomancer to substitute for the missing Bloodmage Thalnos.

Overall, both decks are good options for those who like the Druid class but it's likely they feel inferior to the top tier choices. They're heavily reliant on getting a solid early game board so they can live till their big mid and late game cards and if you can't get a taunted watcher early on, Zoo and Hunter will eat it alive.

5. Trump's mage

GosuCup #2 Limited: 1st place
Managrind #6 Limited: One top 4
Managrind #7 Limited: One top 4

After its initial bloom shortly after Trump made it to legendary with it, the budget Mage lost some of its popularity (largely thanks to the Zoo being just as cheap but more consistent overall) but it's still a solid deck to bring to a limited tournament or to build if you lack substantial funds.

Not much can be said about the build besides what is obvious from the deck list. The deck is filled with minions which synergize well with the Mage class (be it Jaina's hero power or her love for spells) and Mana Wyrm, Sorcerer's Apprentice, Amani Berserker and [card]Azure Drake[card] are simply outstanding.

It's easy for Trump's mage to play on the curve and create tempo. Almost every mana slot has both a good minion and a point removal to keep it safe. The fact that most minions are tough to kill (Chillwind Yeti, Water Elemental, Boulderfist Ogre, Harvest Golem) often forces the opponent into two-for-one trades.

Naturally, there are other variations of this build which are viable. IhaveLethal's build from Managrind EU Limited #6 (third place) uses cards like Crazed Alchemist, Stampeding Kodo and Acolyte of Pain, dropping the Mirror Images and Sorcerer's Apprentices. Other builds mostly differ in the number of times each card is represented: some run double Ogres but a single Polymorph; others add one additional Farseer but remove one Arcane Missiles, etc. Just like with the Hunter, it's more or less a matter of personal preference


6. The mid-range and Bloodlust Shamans

Mid-range: GosuCup #2 Limited 2nd place
Bloodlust: Managrind #6 Limited Top 4's

The last class we'll feature in this article is the Shaman, a class largely considered to the best in constructed but one that loses some potency in limited.

Two main versions of Shaman are popular in the budget meta. The first one is simply a cheaper version of the standard mid-range board control Shaman that you'll see in ranked. A copy of the build you can see below on the right belongs to Kirstuvass (GosuCup #2 runner-up) and uses the standard menagerie of Shaman removals and value minions to establish board control and win through Argent Commanders and Fire Elementals. An interesting addition is the Fen Creeper, a card rarely seen even in limited decks but one that provides good stats for its cost and is hard to remove with just one card.

Build #2 is Kero's bloodlust Tokens from Managrind NA Limited #6. Similar to the Druid tokens you'll see in constructed, the Bloodlust build aims to fill the board with cheap minions through Imp Master, Violet Teacher and Shaman's hero power and boost them for an explosive finisher. Gadgetzan Auctioneer is there to help you draw into the combo.


This is all for now, folks. If you like the feature, it will return as soon as there's a major update to the Limited meta. Until then, use this newly acquired knowledge, sign up for GosuCup #4 and prove your worth!