What are pros playing, episode 2: 9 players, 9 classes, 9 decklists
Thijs & Dog
When we first set off to do such deck compilation post, we honestly didn't expect to go so well, our intention only being to provide an insight into what popular pros and streamers are testing on the ladder and help our readership with the rocky road to legend. What happened was literally hundreds of thousands of readers tuning in in the first week after the publication alone. So, of course, we knew we had to make a second episode.
Today, we take a look at nine different decks played by some of the most popular Hearthstone streamers on the scene. This small collection aims to provide an overview of the ladder meta and showcase some of the new deck types which have appeared with the expansion as well as the upgrades that older decks have received.
Note: Have in mind that all nine decks have been screenshot at different points of time so by the time you're reading this article they might've undergone changes. After all, climbing the ladder is all about making constant, minor improvements but in the end this collection should be enough to give you the basics on how to build for a certain class.
Once upon a time, Druids were the king of Hearthstone, during the reign of mid-range expert StrifeCro, the ramp builds of Gaara and Savjz and the [card]Violet Teacher[/card] combos which were in the spotlight just before Naxxramas. Class' flexibility allowed for different archetypes to be created - all of which viable - and the Druids were feared, deservedly so.
Post Naxxramas, however, Druid has been struggling to regain its top position and classes like Hunter, control Warrior and Handlock stole the podium. Until an innovative Ukrainian pro came to show us how it's done.
Cloud 9 Kolento piloted this deck, built by his teammate Strifecro, to #1 legend. Brian Kibler played a similar build to a top-two finish at the Sunshine Open. It’s a pretty typical druid shell that maximizes the number of hard-to-remove minions.
Joining [card]Haunted Creeper[/card] in the two-drop slot is [card]Echoing Ooze[/card], one of the most interesting choices for this deck. 2/4 worth of stats for 2 mana is already a bargain, but spread across two bodies increases the effect of [card]Savage Roar[/card] and [card]Defender of Argus[/card]. Taunting up a [card]Spectral Knight[/card] with Defender is also a huge pain for just about any deck to deal with.
If you’ve been playing on ladder at all lately you’ve probably encountered numerous iterations of this deck. As is often the case with Druid, it has decent matchups across the board and doesn’t just roll over to anything, making it ideal for high ranked play.
During the preparation of this article, we weren't actually sure what to do with Hunter. Since Mad Trapper was featured in the last episode, the class didn't move an inch and every deck was more or less the same. Some would run [card]Tracking[/card] and others would not; some would have [card]Stampeding Kodo[/card], some [card]Misdirection[/card]s and others would go for a varying number of [card]Explosive Trap[/card]s and [card]Freezing Trap[/card]s but in the end of the day - it was the same deck!
At first sight, it's the same old Rexxar that wrecks nerds on ladder and makes them hate life but there's this one little thing that makes it cool. The deck doesn't run [card]Tracking[/card], or [card]Freezing Trap[/card] or even [card]Explosive Trap[/card]. It has one [card]Flare[/card] for the mirror and against Mage and that's his entire draw engine outside Buzzard/UTH.
A second look, however, reveals the coolness of double [card]Snake Trap[/card], a card that's been heavily overlooked by most Hunters. Before any verbatim netdecking, you should note that [card]Snake Trap[/card] is there as a tech choice, since this deck was constructed for VGVN #3. With Hunter almost always banned and the meta relatively slow, [card]Explosive Trap[/card] loses a lot of its beauty. [card]Snake Trap[/card], on the other hand, punishes opponents' trades by establishing a board presence and drawing cards through [card]Starving Buzzard[/card] and looks like a better fit for a tournament meta.
The coming of Naxxramas brought [card]Duplicate[/card] and [card]Mad Scientist[/card] to the pool and, naturally, experiments were conducted to try and build the new age Mage. In the last episode, we featured Rdu's secrets and today we're looking at Hyped's Secret/Giants combo, currently one of the most talked Mage builds on the scene.
The old build of Hyped's combined elements of Freeze Mage and the old school Giants mage to deadly effect. A more updated version, however, is lighter on frost spells as it drops [card]Blizzard[/card] and [card]Cone of Cold[/card] for [card]Archmage Antonidas[/card] and second [card]Flamestrike[/card].
The key Naxx card in the deck is—you guessed it—[card]Mad Scientist[/card]. The value of [card]Mad Scientist[/card] is particularly noticeable in Mage due to the 3-cost secrets.
The gameplan of the deck is to stall with freeze spells, removal and secrets until it can drop cheap or free [card]Molten Giant[/card]s to seal the game. Duplicating a Molten Giant is a sick play that can make it very hard to lose against control decks. Strifecro even declared Duplicate his favorite Naxx card due to its utility in fatigue wars. All of your late game threats plus Duplicate give this deck a strong matchup up against many control and midrange strategies.
Due to the prevalence of Hunter (and consequently, the prevalence of [card]Flare[/card]), queuing up secret Mage on ladder is a risky proposition. However, with Blizzard’s latest announcement of a huge [card]Starving Buzzard[/card] nerf, Hunters should be on the decline soon (In fact, the Buzzard nerf is so substantial Trump went so far as to declare Hunter dead). Once the nerf is in full effect, you can dust off your secrets and queue up this deck without fear.
[card]Mad Scientist[/card] not only revitalized Hunter and Mage but it also helped Paladins some or at least to the point where players started considering the aggro/midrange builds as a viable option.
Last month, we featured Darkwonyx's take on Paladin secrets. Captioned "El Diablo", the deck was more mid-range-y, with cards like [card]Harvest Golem[/card] and [card]Scarlet Crusader[/card] in the middle of the curve and [card]Sunwalker[/card], [card]Sludge Belcher[/card] and [card]Tirion Fordring[/card] at the end. What happens, when you speed things up, though?
Here is an aggro secret Paladin deck Tempo Storm Reynad experimented with on ladder. The deck not only runs six secrets but a pair of [card]Secretkeeper[/card]s as well! This card kind of functions as your third and fourth [card]Undertaker[/card] due to the sheer quantity of secrets in the deck. Like Undertaker, it enters play on turn one and represents a potentially huge threat that must be dealt with. And of course, no secrets-based strategy is complete without value Mad Scientists summoning free goodies.
Like any aggro Paladin deck worth its salt, [card]Divine Favor[/card] is a must to reload your hand after playing out all of your low drops. I like to keep a copy of it in my opening hand when the opportunity presents itself, along with as many one-drops as possible.
The deck’s curve is incredibly low, like the old Face Hunter decks: stacked with 1, 2, and 3 drops and topping out at 4. In this particular deck, [card]Truesilver Champion[/card] serves as an excellent finisher. As a general rule you should always attack the opponent’s hero directly with this deck, pausing only to clear out particularly dangerous minions. Learning when to stray from the face-damage path is the most important skill to learning this type of deck.
The Tempo Storm guys have been known for being innovative deckbuilders. In fact, five of all nine decks featured in this article have come fron the TPS house.
As we get to the Priest talk, let's look at a different Anduin build. We've all seen the standard Priest controls popularized by players like Amaz, as well as Kibler's [card]Undertaker[/card] mid-range so let's spice things up a bit.
Tempo Storm Reckful’s OTK Priest attempts to fulfill every Priest players’ dream: the [card]Inner Fire[/card]/[card]Divine Spirit[/card] combo kill. [card]Shade of Naxxramas[/card] provides the perfect target for these powerful but inconsistent spells. The shade enters the battlefield on turn 3 (or turn 2 with the coin) and patiently waits around in stealth mode for the combo to assemble in your hand.
[card]Lightwell[/card] is another key cog in this deck and Reckful has chosen to run two copies. Lightwell is great for maintaining your minions’ health to maximize the strength of Lightspawn and Divine Spirit, though you must beware of its anti-synergy with [card]Auchenai Soulpriest[/card].
With all of the little deathrattle minions running rampant right now, [card]Cabal Shadow Priest[/card] is one of the strongest cards in the meta and one of the best reasons to play Priest right now. Stealing a [card]Harvest Golem[/card], [card]Loot Hoarder[/card] or the likes is a huge tempo swing.
Rounding out the top of the curve is [card]Ysera[/card], the best legendary target for Inner Fire shenanigans.
What? Another Miracle? Aren't Hearthstone ladder players suffering enough already?
We're sorry, just indulge us for a while as Miracle master Forsen shows us how you can build a powerful OTK Rogue... without Leeroy or [card]Shadowstep[/card]s.
In preparation for the impending [card]Leeroy Jenkins[/card] nerf, Trump predicted miracle rogue would shift to the version with [card]Malygos[/card] as the finisher. Not to be outdone, Forsen runs neither legendary and instead relies on a singleton [card]Southsea Deckhand[/card] for lethal damage. He’s dubbed it “Hipster Miracoli” because it’s similar to the Miracle builds that pros played during the deck’s inception, before the lists were fine-tuned to win with Leeroy/Shadowstep combo.
It’s the usual miracle gameplan: build your hand with [card]Gadgetzan Auctioneer[/card] and cheap spells until you assemble a lethal combo. With your Wicked Knife equipped, you can play the Deckhand with [card]Cold Blood[/card]s and [card]Faceless Manipulator[/card] for a huge burst. The deck also has a lot of midrange minions to build early pressure, from [card]Earthen Ring Farseer[/card] and [card]Edwin VanCleef[/card] to [card]Azure Drake[/card] and [card]Loatheb[/card]. And with the likely decline of Hunter, [card]Conceal[/card] is stronger than ever because you don’t have to worry about Deadly Shot countering your stealthed Auctioneer or finisher.
Personally, I love aggro Shamans. Not only do they get you faster to the 500 wins and the golden Totems - which look awesome by the way - but to me it just feels the natural way of playing the class. Which is strage, because I'd usually defend the control archetype with all my dear, advocating how that's the right away to play a TCG.
Last month, I built Xixo's [card]Bloodlust[/card] Shaman and enjoyed the heck out of it on ladder. It had all the tools to deal with the control decks and the explosive finish made it possible to outrace Hunters and turn a bad match-up into an unwinnable one.
When I started looking for a Shaman deck for this episode of the article, I knew I'd rather have another burs build rather than the standard control ones that everyone already knows by heart. Thankfully, Tempo Storm's (yes, again) Gaara had just the thing.
For his aggro Shaman, Gaara exploits Shaman's many Windfury cards to build a deck that kills out of nowhere. The early game revolves around building pressure and chipping away at enemy's health through [card]Leper Gnome[/card]s and [card]Haunted Creeper[/card]s and setting the stage. There's a pair of [card]Shade of Naxxramas[/card] which can remain stealthed until the time is right.
Everything else is about inflicting huge doses of pain. Gaara even skips the otherwise omnipresent [card]Fire Elemental[/card]s as he just doens't care about board control. As long as there are no taunts on the field (which can be eliminated with [card]Lava Burst[/card] and [card]Earth Shock[/card] by the way), the deck can swing for lots, running four windfury cards in [card]Windfury[/card], [card]Windspeaker[/card], [card]Doomhammer[/card] and [card]Al'Akir the Windlord[/card]. Those come equipped with [card]Rockbiter Weapon[/card]s and [card]Flametongue Totem[/card] for extra hurt.
We really wanted to have some cool warlock build to show you this month but unfortunately nothing could top Xixo's Demonlock from the last edition. Nevertheless, it's still useful to be reminded what a solid, standard deck looks like, especially when it comes to a long-time staple like this one.
While they flourish in tournament environment where certain classes can be banned, Warlocks have been almost non-existent on the ladder, save for the occasional Zoo deck trying to speed its way to the top. The prevalence of Hunter is almost a hard-counter to Gul'Dan as winning the race against Steady Shot - especially when Life Tapping regularly - is a tall order and the majority of the players prefer to avoid the match-up altogether.
Consequently, Handlocks are nowhere to be seen on ladder, or that's at least for the time being. The news about Hunters biting the nerf bat must've been like an angel's song to Warlock players' ears as they expect the huge and favorable for them meta shift on September 22nd.
On the right, we take a look at ThijsNL's Handlock, one of the builds that's likely to be played en masse in one week time. Minor things will be changed, of course: with [card]Leeroy Jenkins[/card] getting pushed to 5 mana, the 20-damage combo of Leeroy/[card]Power Overwhelming[/card]/[card]Faceless Manipulator[/card] will no longer be possible but these are cards that will still have uses in the deck. Leeroy remains a great [card]Shadowflame[/card] target, Faceless can still copy giants, and PO... well, PO might get replaced by a second [card]Siphon Soul[/card], I imagine, especially if the metagame slows down some more.
As it was already mentioned - the decklist is standard and straightforward. Life Tap to get cheapen your Giants or inflate your [card]Twilight Drake[/card]; keep your life total safe with [card]Sludge Belcher[/card]s, [card]Earthen Ring Farseer[/card]s and taunters; play big bodies and swing for the win.
As a bonus here, we're giving you the Egglock of Complexity's newest recruit, Dog, who we also reached out for a Warlock deck. Dog's Handlock is different than Thijs' in the sense that it cuts cards like Loatheb and Ragnaros to play two [card]Nerubian Egg[/card]s and two [card]Void Terror[/card]s. Definitely a fresh take on the old standard.
It would be blasphemy to go two episodes talking about established builds and not mention Kitkatz's Warrior. The Canadian has long been regarded as the expert on all things Garrosh and on the right we have his latest take on the control Warrior.
The core of the build is more or less the same as all other Warrior builds: there are the [card]Execute[/card]s, [card]Shield Slam[/card]s, [card]Armorsmith[card]s, [card]Shield Block[/card]s, the weapons and the long string of high-mana finishers which make the control Warrior great. Compared to what Forsen offered last month, however, Kitkatz's iteration features these slight changes which really make it stand out.
Early in the curve, there's a single [card]Zombie Chow[/card] - a strange choice at first sight but a great one once you get to play with it. Having a 2/3 minion early on helps a ton against Shaman (usually unfavored match-up for the warrior) and Hunter, clearing their early board presence. With control Warrior's not really caring about opponent's early game life points, Zombie Chow is practically a card without drawback.
On the 4-slot, there's a single [card]Defender of Argus[/card] and [card]Kor'kron Elite[/card] which add flexibility to the deck. The Defender helps against aggressive decks while the Elite can put pressure to slower decks and shines a lot in the mirror. On 5-mana, there's a single [card]Stampeding Kodo[/card] for additional edge against Hunters and Shamans and on 9-mana it all ends with the almighty [card]Ysera[/card].
At the end of the article, we'd like to remind all our readers that blind netdecking will never yield fruitful results. Climbing the ladder is about understanding and countering a dynamic metagame as well as getting proficient with a certain class, or deck or playstyle. Get inspired by what the pros are playing but be ready to tune each of these decks to your liking and if the metagame requires it.