Hearthstone Help: Can you save the PC Gamer demon deck?
In a break from our usual programming, this week I need your help. You see, dear and constant reader, like many Hearthstone players I have a dream. My dream is the ‘free Doomguard’ dream, and it arrived in my brain, much like Kurtz’s diamond bullet, back when Blizzard revealed the Voidcaller card . Now, with the unlocking of Curse of Naxxramas’s Military Quarter wing, I have the card, I've built an experimental demon deck around it, and... I'm getting my ass kicked quite hard. But I'm hoping that, together, we can fix that.
First, let's talk about the Voidcaller. At a glance the card’s baseline stats are subpar, but the value from its Deathrattle is potentially insane: “Put a random Demon from your hand into the battlefield.” Given that most demons have heinous side effects in exchange for decent stats, the idea of it dying and summoning a 'free' Doomguard (which ordinarily forces you to discard two other cards) seems amazing.
It also seems, let’s be honest, gimmicky and situational as hell in the sense you’d have to rely on your Voidcaller not getting silenced or turned into a sheep, and having the Doomguard ready to roll in your hand, and not already being in such a parlous state in terms of the board that the demonic shenanigans wouldn’t make a difference because you’d be dead in a couple of turns anyway. Only a damned fool would try to build an entire deck around that kind of combo. Reader: I am that fool.
The deck is a kind of mid-rangey build, which relies on judicious use of Soulfire, Hellfire and Void Terror to keep the tempo up and the opponent on the back foot until the Voidcaller unpleasantness.
With the card in place, I can now confirm that the deck is pretty terrible. It’s not quite the Hindenberg of Hearthstone I feared, but it’s not far off. Which is where I’m hoping you can come in. Rather than give up on the dream entirely, I want to crowd source ideas and tweaks direct from your pulsing brains. You can leave those in the comments below or mail me direct here
Even if it means starting from scratch, I’m ready to listen. What follows is my thinking so far, followed by some questions I’m kicking around. Stick around, if only to savour my failure.
I decided early on that rather than having a lot of demons, it was better to actually have a small selection of good ones so as to help ensure some semblance of consistency. There’s not much point building around Voidcaller if you only get a Blood Imp in exchange. However, it still feels both fragile and underpowered. And also a bit slow. Quite the combination, really.
My suspicion at this point is that 1) the deck actually lacks enough late-game punch to get through the walls of Taunt that are everywhere right now and 2) it actually wants to be an all-Deathrattle deck. Next week I plan to add a few cards from the Construct Quarter—Undertaker, certainly, and Stalagg and Feugen for late game megalolz. (Might as well go full gimmick, eh?)
Here’s the deck, which I have tentatively named ‘The Exorcist’, because it draws out demons and because all decks need a cool-sounding name. (Even ones that are this ill-conceived.)
2 x Soulfire — 4 damage for free makes it one of the best removal spells in the game. Yes you lose another card, but if Handlocks can afford to run it, so can the Exorcist. The tempo you gain from zapping a 4 health creature while still playing your full turn is too great to pass up on.
2 x Power Overwhelming — Use it to combo with the Nerubian eggs or Sylvanas, or give it your smaller minions to trade up against bigger creatures. The dream here is you use your Void Terror to absorb the stat buff, as another huge is somewhat unlikely bonus.
2 x Leper Gnome — Earlier versions of the Exorcist desperately lacked any early game presence. The sickly little gnome’s arrival also flags the deck as aggro to your opponent, which it actually isn’t, hopefully tricking them into misplaying.
2 x Shieldbearer — The armoured punchbag may seem a little underwhelming, but he’s proved invaluable on a couple of occasions while fighting to establish any sort of board presence in the early-mid game. Nonetheless, I think I’ll cut him for two Undertakers next week.
2 x Haunted Creeper — In there essentially because I needed a 2-drop that was more active than the egg. The spectral spider tokens it drops can also be combo’d with Power Overwhelming pretty effectively.
2 x Nerubian Egg — To be honest I hate the eggs. Every beggar on the ladder is using them right now, but there’s so much self-harm going on in this deck with the Hellfires and Power Overwhelmings that they definitely fit. Plus, it’s nice to have Area of Effect insurance.
1 x Sense Demons — Essentially a ‘demons only’ version of Arcane Intellect. This is essential in ensuring you have your Doomguards and Voidcallers nice and early. I’ve considered running two, but there’s a risk of both clogging your hand and slowing you down.
2 x Harvest Golem— You know this guy. Solid 3-drop, and should help the overall Deathrattle theme if we go that way next week. I considered the new Deathlord card but holy smoke is its drawback disastrous. We want to get free minions, not give them away. I actually think it’s pretty much unplayable.
1 x Void Terror — I’ve gone back and forth over having one or two of these ugly blobs. It combos brilliantly with Power Overwhelming, the Eggs, and even Sylvanas, but is a disaster if you summon it with the Voidcaller instead of a Doomguard. One feels correct.
2 x Hellfire — Hey, know what zoos hate? Fire. I’m using two of these, because it’s a vital tool for scorching the waves of aggro that are still out there and pushing for that last bit of face damage late on.
1 x Shadowflame— I originally thought this would be an essential Voidcaller activator, but I’m not having much trouble getting them killed. One is probably enough though. Again, even more potent if combo’d with Power Overwhelming.
1 x Defender of Argus— This feels like a tech slot I definitely haven’t quite got right. Theoretically the Taunt can be used to buff my weak early drops, or force the opponent to deal with Voidcaller, but I’m sure there has to be a better 4-drop.
2 x Voidcaller — The deck’s entire raison d'être. (Although I’m beginning to regret ever seeing that infernal grin.) Ideally played on turn four. Even more ideally, not immediately silenced.
2 x Doomguard — “Who DARES summon me?” I do, you idiot, now hurry up and start killing stuff. Without this card this deck wouldn’t exist and I’d have lost a lot less sleep. In a pinch can be played from the hand, but that’s, quite literally, the doomsday scenario.
1 x Faceless Manipulator — There are a number of good Faceless targets in the deck: Illidan, Sylvanas, a buffed Void Terror, and of course the Doomguards. Tip: don’t forget that if you copy a Doomguard you still get the Charge so can attack immediately.
2 x Sludge Belcher— Ignore the rolls of corpulent flesh and feel the Deathrattle synergy. Mr Burpy affords some much-needed protection as we enter the late game, and potentially allows Illidan to operate unmolested. Speaking of which…
1 x Illidan Stormrage — I semi-love this card even though his low health makes him ludicrously fragile. The beauty here, though, is that if the Voidcaller summons him for free you can often spaff out some quick tokens by spamming low cost minions and spells.
1 x Sylvanas Windrunner — She’s arguably got the coolest Deathrattle in the game, plus looks 100% badass, so was effectively an auto-include. The undead elf also provides some much needed threat if the game goes long.
1 x Lord Jaraxxus— I wanted the Eredar Lord of the Burning Legion in the deck because I loved the idea of having him on the board as 3/15. But it turns out that’s actually no more useful than a really big Oasis Snapjaw. I need a new finisher, which brings us to...
- Should I try one or two Crazed Alchemists instead of the Creepers? The Alchemists could activate the eggs, or even turn Jaraxxus into a 15/3. (Which, realistically, is an even stupider dream than the Doomguard one.)
- Should I swap the Argus for a Spellbreaker? In the current Meta it seems borderline insane to have no Silence in the deck at all. Or, purely for shits and giggles, we could try Baron Rivendare in there to double all our Deathrattle effects.
- What should I replace Jaraxxus with? Ragnaros feels a bit too obvious. Ysera is probably too slow. Maybe I should for the final Naxx wing and try Kel’thuzad?
- Could Feugen and Stalagg work better than the two Faceless Manipulators? Their stats pass the vanilla test and it would mean being less reliant on having something good to copy. (In a deck already far too reliant on having the right situations.) Still, getting a free Thaddius is an even more exciting/less likely dream. Sold!
- Should I scrap the Deathrattle theme and double down on more demons? Perhaps a couple of Succubi and a Felguard? I’ve seen a couple of decks like that which were pretty effective (at smashing my face in) but it would cut me deep to abandon my Voidcaller/Doomguard baby now.
- Or is it time to just give up and play Zoo forever?
So there we go. Hopefully if nothing else you’ve enjoyed riffing on my pain reading this. But together I know we can make this work. By which I mean: make it slightly less terrible. I look forward to hearing from you, and publishing a revised list this time next week.
Hmm... Could Twisting Nether work? That's a trick question. Never go full Nether.