Are you bored of facing the same endless queue of Handlocks, Miracle Rogues, Charge Druids and (ugh) Zoo? At this point I feel like I've visited the Zoo enough times to own shares in the tiger enclosure. Chances are you're equally bored of using those same top tier decks too. As we all wait on the injection of new cards that will come with the Curse of Naxxramas expansion—pricing here —there's no doubt that the metagame has got a little stale.
However, there are still fun new decks out there, and some interesting twists on old classics, that are worth trying and may prove surprisingly viable. In this piece I've picked out three fun new lists which I've enjoyed using on the ladder, and spoken to their designers about the creative process. Let's start with the tauntiest of Shaman decks…
Dust cost: 7300
Deck guide: Hearthpwn
Play this because… You think you can't have too much Taunt
Of all the hero classes, Shaman is arguably the least innovative right now. There's widespread acceptance that the only really viable build is some version of the midrange Shaman along the lines of this Kolento list . Other variants also include Doomhammer for extra finishing power, and a few also run Lava Bursts and possibly even a Bloodlust, but the core suite of removal spells and Unbound/Fire Elementals remains the same.
However, the 'Crusher Shaman' control deck works quite differently. There are two key minion choices, both of which combo with relatively unfashionable Shaman spells. Injured Blademaster will probably be more familiar from Priest decks, but played alongside Ancestral Healing on turn 3 will give you an imposing 4/7 creature with Taunt.
More controversially, the deck also runs a pair of Earth Elementals, a card widely considered unusable. "It's fun to make use of cards that are usually ignored, and show that they can be surprisingly effective," explains the deck's builder, the mysterious Crusher. "The [combo] that really won me over was Ancestral Spirit plus Earth Elemental, because Earth Elemental seems like such a interesting, strong card, but is usually dismissed because of its weakness to Big Game Hunter and The Black Knight. Ancestral Spirit mitigates this risk."
With the spell in place, even if your opponent kills the Earth Elemental then—shazam!—another one pops up in its place. Factor in that the deck also includes a Faceless Manipulator and it's possible to build a Taunt wall capable of keeping Westeros safe from the White Walkers.
Even if the Earth Elementals do end up eating hard removal, there's only so much the other player can run, and it should ensure your Ragnaros is safe by the time you play him. And if the Earth Elemental gets silenced, well, it still represents a sizeable body on the board—and beyond Druids not a lot of classes run more than one silence these days anyway. (Although that will surely change post-Naxxramas.)
The key thing is deciding when to play your Earth Elementals. It's often not right just to slap them down as soon as you can. Certainly you want to wait until you know you can combo them with the spell, and have a suitable follow up play for your next turn when your Mana will be Overloaded.
Crusher piloted this deck all the way to Legend in season 3, so it's clearly viable for Ladder climbing. While testing it I found very few players expected the Earth Elemental, so were thrown into a panic when it appeared. Certainly you can sense the fury when having dealt with one another pops up. Fun fact: you can also use Ancestral Healing on a high value enemy minion to Taunt it, and then play the Black Knight for instant removal. I'm invincible, indeed!
Next page: The Zoo killer and a cool twist on Control Warrior
Dust cost: 7320
Deck guide: Kernel Critic
Play this because… You have a pathological hatred of Young Priestesses
One of the least endearing quirks of the monthly Ladder reset is that the Legend players get dropped to the lower ranks, from where they begin climbing back to the top by the quickest route possible. This invariably means the first week or so of a new season sees a flood of aggro decks— Zoo Warlock , Shockadin Paladin , Backspace/Cancer Rogue etc.— because their fast nature enables players to climb quicker.
In the hands of a skilled player, many of the top tier decks can deal with aggro effectively, but even then you're reliant on a decent early draw. What's interesting about the next deck I want to highlight is that it's been built purely with combating the aggro hordes in mind, and as such potentially provides a good solution if you're running into an endless stream of Faerie Dragons and Leper Gnomes.
"My goal was to create something that could beat Warlock Zoo with some measure of certainty," explains the deck's creator, Brody Leonard. "I have played both Aggro and Freeze Mage, which are polar opposites, and I had the idea that there was probably a great Mage list waiting to be found somewhere in the middle ground."
The deck is called 'Poachers United', and the core cards which Leonard settled is the same Ancient Watcher 'package' which Handlocks run—Ancient Watchers, Ironbeak Owls, Sunfury Protectors and Defenders of Argus. Mulligan for these and you ought to be able to build an early taunt wall that the Zoolock will find it tough to bust through.
Leonard decided against relying on Area of Effect 'sweeper' spells, because: "More often than not I wasted a turn clearing the board to see it repopulated immediately." Instead, in the mid-game the Water Elementals, Azure Drakes and Sunwalkers slow the rush further and provide meaty board presence, while the Molten Giants act as a final, enormous line of defence. (Leonard's pro tip: Save the Farseer until after you've dropped the Giant.) Frostbolt and Fireball provide handy removal options, while the Black Knight will remove an annoying taunter and help set Ragnaros up for the finish.
I tested this for a couple of days at the start of this season and it did appear to perform as efficiently as billed against Zoo (which usually has a 50/50 matchup against most decks.) What was more surprising was that it held up okay against non-aggro decks. Again, I think the fact people weren't expecting it was a big factor. I got the sense most opponents assumed they were facing either an Aggro or a Freeze Mage, so when you start chucking cards like Cairne down it weirds them out.
I'm not sure I'd use this deck to climb all season, but as an option in an aggro-heavy meta it's worth keeping in your back pocket. Because screw Zoo. "It was most effective right at the Ladder reset, when aggro opponents got smacked down left and right," confirms Leonard. "As I approached the higher ranks, the meta became more control-orientated, cutting down my win streaks and making the grind lengthier. That said, this deck has fairly even matchups against some of the top contenders in the upper ranks, and tweaking a few tech slots will only make those better."
Dust cost: 6520
Deck guide: BlizzPro
Play this because… You love to buff and grind
Control Warrior is one of the longest standing archetypes in Hearthstone, and instantly recognisable for its powerful toolkit of removal spells and weapons, which are followed up with a relentless stream of Legendaries. The best known version of the deck is the one popularised by Kitkatz , while Tidesoftime hit Legend last season using a variant that included Ysera and double Faceless Manipulators.
However, whilst never falling entirely out of favour, Control Warrior isn't particularly prevalent in the current metagame, which is focused almost entirely on dealing huge amounts of burst damage. Control Warrior can do big bursts with an enraged Grommash Hellscream, but it tends to come a little late. And if you haven't managed to keep the board clear and your armour up, it can be already be over by the time the angry orc arrives on the scene.
This deck is a new twist on the archetype, created by Christopher 'Kisstafer' Oglivie , from Don't Kick My Robot , a prolific team of pro-players who also collaborate when it comes to deck building. It's cheaper to craft than the classic version, and less reliant on drawing the perfect hand of answers early on, thanks to a more even Mana curve that runs additional minions in the form of Harvest Golems and Dark Iron Dwarves.
"Historically, Warrior decks would excel at winning long drawn out control vs control matchups, and beating life-burn decks due to the amount of monster-removal and life-gain in the deck," explains Oglivie. "We felt like the metagame today needed more damage on-the-spot type of cards to keep up pressure and board control against the plethora of combo decks that have been coming out recently."
It's those Dark Iron Dwarves which really impressed me while testing this one. The extra two damage buff Battlecry means your Cruel Taskmaster or Harvest Golems can trade up to kill 4-health minions like Azure Drakes, making for some potentially important tempo swings. Interestingly, Oglivie reckons that the deck probably performs best below Legendary on the Ladder right now. "In early ranks like 24 to about level 3 or so, Warrior control is probably one of the best decks to play because of how solid it is at defeating weaker players. Warrior excels at ranking up because a lot of the players you face while climbing to Legend don't use standard decks, and often will just crumble under the consistency of the Warrior."
When it works I love playing Control Warrior. At its best you feel like an anaconda crushing the life out of your opponent. That said, I felt uncomfortable not having a Brawl or a Cleave in this deck to help regulate boards that were threatening to run out of control, so felt I had to find room for those cards. That's half the fun though—tinkering with solid lists so they best fit your play style. Let me know in the comments how you get on with any of these decks, or recommend some others for us to try. Just not a new version of Zoo. The Zoo is closed for business.