Running Wild: Flavors of Control Warrior
Welcome, dear readers, to another installment of ”Running Wild”, the weekly article series where I cover things regarding the wild format. We have a pretty exciting week ahead of us as the first huge drop of spoilers for the next set, Journey To Un’Goro, is going to happen on the 17th of March which is this Friday! I’m really excited about the upcoming spoilers and I can’t wait to see how will the new cards affect the wild format. Since spoiler season is almost upon us I will focus a bit more on covering the spoiled cards and theorycrafting for both wild and the standard format and if I’ve guessed correctly we’re going to be able to play with the newest cards on the 1st of April because it really doesn’t make sense to change the complete standard format a few days into the current season. Because I’m taking a break from the conventional ”Running Wild” articles in favor of theorycrafting wild articles I’ve decided to dedicate this article to my absolute favorite deck in the entire game: wild control warrior! That’s right! Today I’m covering just about everything regarding the wild control warrior.
Sit back, relax, and let’s dive right into this!
History of Control Warrior
If you ask any player who has played the game since anywhere from open beta to launch what is one deck in the entire game, a non combo deck, that has changed the least over the years the answer will most likely always be control warrior. Control warrior is a pretty fine tuned deck that has a lot of staple cards in it and when changes to the deck do happen that usually means that 1-2 cards are getting replaced for better versions of those cards. The extreme scenario is the one from the standard/wild split where the best control warrior cards went away and a new type of control warrior had to be made: the C'Thun control warrior.
So, where do we begin? What did the control warrior look like when it first came out? To be completely honest with you I don’t remember the complete control warrior list from the pre Curse Of Naxxramas days as it was years ago but I remember that it did have the following cards in it: Baron Geddon, Sunwalker, Sen'jin Shieldmasta, , Slam, Tinkmaster Overspark (pre nerf), Harrison Jones and Big Game Hunter. This lineup seems extremely weak by today’s standards but back then this deck was a near unstoppable powerhouse. Free2play players hated it and therefor dubbed it ”wallet warrior” and it was my goal to make a ”wallet warrior” of my own one day. The deck became drastically better when Curse Of Naxxramas came out and gave it Sludge Belcher and Death's Bite but the real power spike that this deck had received was when Goblins Vs Gnomes came out and it got Shieldmaiden and Dr. Boom.
Now we’re reaching that point where further changes to the deck become minimal. Blackrock Mountain came and it brought absolutely nothing for control warrior. It was really bad adventure for that archetype but warrior players couldn’t complain because the adventure had also gave them the patron warrior deck so the class wasn’t left completely hanging like some other classes (looking at you, paladin). The biggest and most significant change for the control warrior deck was the introduction of Justicar Trueheart in The Grand Tournament set. This card is a complete monster in control warrior because changing your hero power from ”Gain 2 armor” to ”Gain 4 armor” can make you almost unbeatable in certain matchups. There are some players nowadays who thing that the standard control warrior won’t survive without Justicar Trueheart but that couldn’t be further from the truth because, as I’ve already shown in this section, the deck had existed long before The Grand Tournament came out.
League Of Explorers gave us only one useful control warrior card and that was Elise Starseeker. Elise Starseeker was a much welcomed addition to the control warrior because it made control vs control matches a lot easier to win. However, not all control warriors ran Elise Starseeker. It wasn’t played as much during the very early League Of Explorers metagame but it got a sudden increase in usage after people had realized that Elise Starseeker made fatigue a viable win condition. You will enter the extreme late game where both you and your opponent won’t have any more cards in the deck but because you’ve got Elise Starseeker you’ll transform all cards in your hand into legendary minions which will give you a massive advantage over your opponent. Another cool thing to note is that the cards that Elise Starseeker puts into your deck restart the fatigue counter!
The following year, the Year Of The Kraken, was not kind to control warrior. This is where I’m making a split in this section because now we have 2 different control warriors: wild control warrior and standard control warrior. Because this is a ”Running Wild” article I’ll naturally talk more about the last year’s impact on the wild control warrior deck but let’s just get the standard control warrior out of the way. Standard control warrior was really bad at the very beginning of the new metagame. It had lost all of its best cards from Curse of Naxxramas and Goblins vs Gnomes and now it had to compensate for the lost. Luckily it had received the best C'Thun class card, Ancient Shieldbearer, which turned out to be stupid good when you manage to combine it with Brann Bronzebeard and so C'Thun warrior was born. There was also another warrior, Yogg warrior, which was more like the wild control warrior but this deck had died off when Yogg-Saron, Hope's End was nerfed into the version that we have today. The wild control warrior had unfortunately gained absolutely nothing, zero, from all three expansion of the last year. Not a single card had proven itself to be good enough to find a spot in this deck. Sure, some versions of control warrior ran N'Zoth, the Corruptor but those were, from the data that I’ve managed to collect, a minority of decks. Hopefully this deck will get at least one new card in Journey to Un’Goro.
This leaves us at the present day.
Pros and Cons
Wild control warrior, like every other deck, has its own pros and cons. Because the deck itself has remained almost exactly the same in every iteration all of these pros and cons can be applied to any control warrior deck from any era of Hearthstone‘s history.
1. Best control deck in the game:
This one goes without saying. Control warrior is the best control deck in the entire game. It had always preformed well, it is the only deck which had managed to complete nail the control style of gameplay and it was mentioned by many professional Hearthstone players to be one of the best decks in the game. Keep in mind that the deck that I’m talking about is the wild version of control warrior, not the standard one. It has everything that a control deck needs to have in order for it to work. The deck has mountains of removal ranging from weapons to spells, it has the best recovery mechanic (armor) in the entire game and it aims to beat its opponents in the late game. A very well optimized control warrior is very hard or nearly impossible, depending on the type of deck that it is facing against, to beat. It is extremely efficient against other aggro decks, it is stupid hard to beat it with combo decks due to the armor mechanic which allows it to have an insane amount of health and if you’re running Elise Starseeker in your deck then it can give other control decks a hard time as well.
2. Powerhouse cards:
If you visit either official Hearthstone forum (I strongly advise against doing so) or Hearthpwn forum, you will notice players making threads about how legendary minions are completely unfair and are ruining the entire game. Those players are usually either new players or just bad players. For reference, there are currently 138 legendary minions in the entire game and only 40 of them ever saw any actual competitive play. 98 legendary minions are completely useless in competitive decks. Control warrior runs at least 7 legendary minions, depending on the type of the deck, and those are usually 7 of the most powerful legendary minions in the game. We’re talking Ragnaros the Firelord, Alexstrasza, Grommash Hellscream, Dr. Boom, Sylvanas Windrunner, Justicar Trueheart and Elise Starseeker. This deck will most likely throw each of these at its opponent in order to beat them and these are only the 7 regulars. I’m not even counting other optional legendary minions which include Ysera, Baron Geddon and N'Zoth, the Corruptor. If you’re looking to bash your opponent with some of the most powerful minions in the entire game than this is absolutely a deck for you.
3. Medium learning curve:
I’ve been playing this deck for years and I’ve been through all different version of it and by no means am I saying that this is an easy deck to master. Control warrior is the very pinnacle of control play. The deck seems easy to play when you’re playing against it but piloting it requires a lot of decision making. However, it is not the hardest deck to pilot and there are several decks which are harder to pilot than control warrior. What I mean by medium learning curve is that this is a deck that is easy for new players to pick up, provided that they can actually afford it, and be decent with it the first time when they play it. Sure they might make some mistakes here and there but the basics are easy to learn. Mastering the deck, learning when to invest in recovery, when to invest in aggression, when to use a certain removal and/or holding your cards for later comes with a lot of practice. It is not an aggro deck which you learn almost instantly and you just need to learn the matchups, but it is also not a miracle rogue or freeze mage or patron warrior where you need to constantly keep track of your combo.
1. Extremely expensive:
Wild control warrior is an extremely expensive deck to craft from nothing. Roughly costing about 13,000 dust this is one of the most expensive, if not the most expensive, decks in the entire game. The barrier of entry regarding this deck is its extreme price. Not a lot of players which are new to the wild format or even new to the game can afford to craft this deck from scratch and by crafting it you’re spending dust which you might want to invest in the standard format. If you’re looking to get into the wild format and you don’t already have most of the expensive cards from this deck than I strongly suggest that unless you can craft this deck from scratch that you stay away from it until you can do so. You can make at least 2 deck for the price of one control warrior deck.
2. Weak to midrange:
Control warrior is extremely weak to midrange decks. While it does wonders against aggro and combo deck it suffers greatly vs midrange decks. In my experience with this deck I can tell you that it struggles mostly against midrange paladin (which I’ll cover sooner than later), midrange shaman, midrange hunter and zoo warlock. Some people have more success against zoo warlock than the others and I’m falling into that ”others” category. The problem is that midrange decks can very easily refill their board and you simply don’t have the tools to constantly keep removing whatever they throw at you. They will make you run out of your resources and then you’re going to lose. It is not impossible to beat midrange decks but it is not the easiest thing to preform.
3. Jade golems:
Now, before you freak out, jade golems are not as present in the wild format as they are in the standard format. I haven’t been playing a lot of Hearthstone this month but I can tell you that there are far less jade druids in the wild format than there are in the standard format. A jade deck that you will definitely run into in the wild format is jade golem shaman and that is just because it is currently the top dog in the standard format and a lot of players don’t have wild cards so they just take their standard decks into the wild format. Unfortunately there is not much that can be done about this because we still don’t have a solid control counter for jade golem decks. A fortunate thing is that you will have a easier time dealing with jade golem shaman than you would dealing with jade golem druid because the druid has the potential to creature much more jade golems which are much bigger than those that shaman can create. Either way this is a problem and if the problem is persistent than I suggest that you put Deathwing into your deck.
Wild Control Warrior Deck
Now it is time to discuss a wild control warrior deck. I’ve already mentioned how these decks don’t really change much…or at all, so pardon me for once again presenting you with my control warrior deck. This time I’ll go into much greater detail than the last time, I promise.
This is your standard wild control warrior deck. Mine doesn’t run some staple cards that some other control warrior decks do but that changes with the metagame. The core of the deck and the way to play it remains the same. You exhaust your opponent of resources and beat them in the long game. So, how do we do that exactly?
The first thing to keep in mind when constructing any control warrior deck is the number of removal cards in your deck. Your strategy is to get your opponent into the late game and beat them there but trust me when I say that rarely any opponent will go toe to toe against a control warrior and allow it to get into the late game. So, from the very start you can identify that you and your opponent have very different goals. Luckily for you, you have ways of preventing them from achieving their goals and those ways come in form of removals. This deck runs a total of 14 removals which are either weapons, minions or spells. This is the largest number of removals that you will find in any deck in the game. Our removals are: Shield Slam, Execute, Fiery War Axe, Revenge, Bash, Death's Bite, Brawl and Baron Geddon with only Baron Geddon not being a sure removal like other cards but I still count it as one. Now, let’s say that you manage to, in the worst scenario, remove a single minion with each of these removals. That is a total of 14 minions which is half of a deck which is insane and we’re just talking about the worst case scenario. What you’re looking to do is to remove multiple minions with your Revenge, Brawl and Baron Geddon when you play them. Now to elaborate some of these removal cards.
Revenge is in this deck instead of Whirlwind because Revenge can do the same thing that Whirlwind does but only better. While Whirlwind will always deal 1 damage, Revenge has the potential to deal 3 damage which makes it a lot better in the late game. Sure, it costs 1 more mana but what is important, the key reason for this card being in the deck, is that it can clear Grim Patron and Whirlwind can’t. It is also a great tool to have against both zoo and shaman decks because zoo runs a lot of lower health minions and Revenge can clear both totems and, more importantly, the taunt tokens created by Feral Spirit.
Baron Geddon is one of my favorite legendary minions in the game. I’ve placed it in this deck when I’ve first made it and I’ve rarely removed it except when I felt that it was unnecessary. I’ve been using it lately because there are a lot of 2 health minions in the meta and Baron Geddon is a godsend against them. At the surface it might seem like it can act as a double edged sword because it deals damage to both heroes as well but it’s real drawback is that it constantly forces you to spend 2 mana to gain 2 armor and prevent the 2 damage that it would deal to you. If you’re low on health and Baron Geddon is on the board than what happens is that you’re basically overloaded (2) as long as it remains on the board. With Baron Geddon now getting an elemental subtype I’m extremely excited to see if it will get any good cards to go along with him!
Brawl is your only RNG removal but there are ways of working around that. You have three good uses of this spell. Usage number 1 is a scenario in which you have a non deathrattle minion on your side of the board and your opponent has multiple other non deathrattle minions on his/her side of the board. Knowing that your minion might not survive, what you do is that you slam the minion into their face and then play Brawl. Best case scenario is that your minion survives and worst case scenario is that it doesn’t survive but at least you’ve dealt damage to your opponent. Usage number 2 is a scenario in which you have a non deathrattle minion on your side of the board and your opponent has one or more deathrattle minions on their side of the board. This is a tricky one but what you need to do is to be able to identify which minion has the most troubling deathrattle and attack into them, kill them and force the activation of that deathrattle and then play Brawl. The best minion to run your minion into is Sylvanas Windrunner because if your minion survives than your opponent will be getting it but then it might die with the other minions when Brawl is played…or it might survive and be badly damaged from the previous attack. The point is that if your opponent has Sylvanas Windrunner and you have a minion on your side of the board, you play Brawl and your minion survives then your opponent will be getting it once the Brawl resolves because of the effect of Sylvanas Windrunner. The last scenario is the opposite of the previous one. You play Brawl after hitting face with your Sylvanas Windrunner and as a result you will steal the surviving minion and you’ve got to deal damage to the face. Don’t be afraid to use Brawl if your opponent has two huge threats one the board and you have no other way of dealing with them. Sometimes it is just worth it.
Now that I’ve covered the removal part of the deck it is time to move on to the recovery part. Recovery gets you to the long game so you want to have a lot of it. We’re running 11 recovery cards in the deck and those are: Armorsmith, Bash, Shield Block, Shieldmaiden, Justicar Trueheart and Alexstrasza. On top of those cards we’re going to be using our hero power a lot to keep us alive, especially once we upgrade it with Justicar Trueheart. One Justicar Trueheart upgrades your hero power and if you’re currently in the lead it is near impossible to lose the match through sheer damage alone. Something would have to go terribly wrong like your opponent suddenly filling up the board out of nowhere and you don’t draw your board clear. It is extremely difficult for your opponent to consistently deal more than 4 damage to you on every turn.
Armorsmith is in this deck because it is a great 2 drop which grants you recovery. Now that the Small-time Buccaneer got nerfed there aren’t many 2 health or more 1 drop minions left in the game and Armorsmith is an absolute monster if you drop it on turn 2 against an opponent who has 1 health minions on the board because she will eat them alive and provide you with armor every time she takes damage. Other cards on the list are self explanatory but the one that I want to talk about is Alexstrasza. Yes, I’ve listed Alexstrasza as a recovery option but consider this card more of a panic button recovery option. Do not use Alexstrasza as means of recovery unless you have absolutely no other choice. Alexstrasza is used in combination with enraged Grommash Hellscream on the following turn for lethal/near lethal. That is the main purpose of this card. Don’t waste her as she is one of your few win conditions out of fatigue.
Lastly I want to talk about the top dogs in this deck, the end game legendary minions. Now that you’ve ran your opponent out of resources you need to win somehow. The legendary list that I’m running in my deck is not set in stone and it can be improved upon. For example, I run Ysera which is a crazy card that can easily win you the game if your ran your opponent out of answers, but some players might prefer Ragnaros the Firelord instead of her which is absolutely fine. Both cards are doing a good job and it just comes down to personal preference. The only two legendary minions that I would change in this deck, if you’re going to change anything, are Ysera and Baron Geddon for Ragnaros the Firelord and Elise Starseeker. I haven’t done so mostly because of personal preference but if slower decks appear once the next expansion comes out than do yourself a favor and replace Baron Geddon for Elise Starseeker.
This brings us to the end of yet another ”Running Wild” article. I hope that I’ve done a good job explaining how the control warrior deck functions and that you’ve had fun reading this article. Starting either this or next week, depending on the reveal, I’ll be covering the newest cards and their impact on the wild format while my colleges will more than most likely cover the standard format. I’m also planning on going back to two articles per week because now things are going to start rapidly changing in standard and hopefully, hopefully, in the wild format as well. Don’t take this with absolute certainty but I’m sure that I remember hearing Ben Brode say that there will be cards that better interact with wild exclusive cards in the upcoming expansion which means that we just might get some new wild decks! That would be extremely refreshing since Mean Streets Of Gadgetzan had failed to deliver on that front…and yet I’m doing my very best to try to make jade druid function in the wild format. If I were to guess I don’t think that we will get some completely new decks with the upcoming expansion but that it would be more like us getting some new cards which just might be enough to push a certain deck archetype into viability. One of my deepest desires for Hearthstone is to get new dragon cards that will finally, finally, make dragon paladin a viable deck but that might not be the best idea because I was really bummed that there were no functional pirate decks and look what came out of that. Sorry :/
So, what do you think about the control warrior deck archetype? Is that a deck that you enjoy playing or playing against? Do you have suggestions on other legendary minions that would fit in a such a deck and that I haven’t mentioned yet? Most importantly, and I would love to hear your opinion about this, is how would you, as a control warrior player, deal with the jade golem decks and/or how do you expect Blizzard to try to deal with them in order to make control warrior viable once again? Leave your feedback in the comment section below. As always if you’ve liked this article do consider following me on twitter https://twitter.com/Eternal_HS. There you can ask me all sorts of Hearthstone questions (unrelated to this article) and I’ll gladly answer them as best as I can!