Do you lust over legendaries? Is your Hearthstone card collection slightly, moderately, or extremely incomplete? No? Then what I’m about to say isn’t for you. I understand that I’m a nobody, and there are plenty of somebodies out there to listen to like Trump, Kripp, Reynad, or Hafu. However, like most of you, my collection is far from complete, and I want to tell you how I made it to the top 2% of players this season, with non-meta cards.
While I will be discussing what deck I played, how I made it, changes along the way, etc, I want to dive further into the trade-offs of swapping out cards that I didn’t have, and including some of the few legendaries that I had opened in packs.
I’ve played plenty of video games that require mechanical skill (League of Legends, Vainglory, Street Fighter II on SNES to name a few), but I’ve also competed at Magic: The Gathering events in a local setting. I’ve always surprised myself with my results, so I want to discuss a few of those here. While this is me tooting my own horn, there is also a story that hopefully you can relate to.
In League of Legends I was a LeBlanc main, but I loved playing Teemo, despite the community thinking he was a bad pick. He brought utility to the game that I saw intrinsic value in, with vision, AoE crowd control, and efficient damage-over-time abilities. At one of my first official MTG events I finished as the only player to not lose a Swiss round. I was playing a deck that had never been played, along with cards that are considered extremely “win more”, like Iroas, God of Victory. In Street Figher, I played Blanka because I broke both of my thumbs when I was younger and I lost the ability to use either of my thumbs to do a quarter circle. In the Vainglory universe, the hero Krul earned a soft spot in my heart for being considered the weakest hero in the game, so I mained him until I was in the top 5% of players. I was the Wickd to his Irelia, if you speak that lingo.
The pattern that I started noticing was that I was grabbing non-meta, non-mainstream heroes, cards, and concepts, and abusing them to leverage the game in my favor. So let’s transition over to Hearthstone so we can see how this all fits in.
Historically, I mainly played arena in Hearthstone. I always told myself that I didn’t have the card collection to take ranked seriously, and I needed an excuse to watch Hafu play for hours on end. I have ten of the 33 Classic legendaries, but one of those is Tinkmaster and another is Pagle, so they hardly count! Including the Dr. Boom I crafted, I have five of the 20 Goblins vs Gnomes legendaries.
I had tried ranked a few times, casually. I made a Druid deck that played expensive minions, ramped curve, and then tried (miserably) to stick a Kel’Thuzad and hope my opponent didn’t have a card that said “Answer” on it. More often than not, Kel’Thuzad died, along with my hopes of winning that game. I think one season I made it to rank 17 or 16. I was thrilled.
I fell into the same trap that most players do. I curved down and I played zoo. I made a Warlock deck that could use all these moving pieces with buffs and burn and sticky minions. It was so much value! Life Tap was my ultimate goal. I loved to press that button every turn. However, I didn’t have Jaraxxus. I didn’t have Mal’Ganis. When push came to shove, I was losing to legendaries like Sylvanas, Dr. Balanced, Ysera, and Antonidas, or just run-of-the-mill tech like Antique Healbot. I hated it. I hated playing a deck with no real potential outside of speed, but my collection wasn’t deep enough to play control. Or so I thought.
Two weeks ago, Mr. Trump was playing a control Paladin list. Even though the list was very light (as far as dust goes), I still didn’t have all the cards, and couldn’t afford to craft all of them. I wish I had a picture of his list, but it was “To Battle 5.1” or something ridiculous like that. He had worked on this list and had refined it, tweaked it, and improved it. Then I came along and said, “I don’t have Quartermaster or Harrison or Sylvanas, but I want to make this deck.”
I believe Trump was also running dragons in the deck. He had double Dragon Consort for “value”. I can’t argue with the mayor of Value Town, but I didn’t like the idea of playing a minion to play a minion, especially in a control deck.
BIRTH OF MY CONTROLADIN LIST
There are a few things that need to be mentioned about the changes that I made, and why I made them. I crafted Dr. Boom for this deck. As you can see from that lump sum of dust in my account, I’m very stingy with my dust. I understand that if I craft that Auchenai today then I’ll open five more in the next month. Now that I’ve become such a hoarder of dust I have a hard time convincing myself to use it! However, Dr. Boom seemed like a good investment, because if he ever gets nerfed (which people have hinted at) then I just get my dust back! Plus, he forces a two-for-one trade in most cases, which is the value that control players should be looking for.
THE RE-OCCURRING “WHY”
I didn’t like Solemn Vigil. I know the deck needs draw, but in any aggro match-up my soul cried when I drew it. Solemn Vigil was either a decent “draw two” in the late game for 4-5 mana, or it was too slow in the early game and I traded a Muster for Battle and creatures to get the cost down. I could either make efficient trades, or I could make bad trades to use up the rest of my turn to replace the card I’m casting, and get one more card. How many Silver Hand recruits must die for my card draw??
I went to Blessing of Wisdom because I had honestly never tried it outside of arena. I loved it. Period. Aggro match-up? I drop it on Flame Imp and watch my opponent squirm. Control mirror? I’ll make a Warrior burn a Firey War Axe charge on a Silver Hand recruit after they had to cast Execute on my taunt minion to get the attack off. It’s hilarious. Armorsmith? She’s blessed with wisdom. Now I can make guys and trade my hero power for a card draw. Face Hunter? Cast it on Mad Scientist and watch them not attack. I blessed Northshire Cleric with wisdom and then my hero power isn’t useless. It’s also great because I’ve had games where Priest will Shadow Madness the creature I put BoW on, and I still get to draw the card. Now you know why you’re better than players at rank 10.
I cut Zombie Chow because I included Kel’Thuzad. While KT isn’t the best late-game bomb, he dodges removal, which is sometimes important, and you can unlock him without dust, just by playing the Naxxramas wings. Zombie Chow and KT let my opponents live forever, which I felt could be a bad thing. While the situation didn’t occur often, I couldn’t afford to play KT if I had a Zombie Chow alive on my turn. This was such bad synergy between the two cards that I opted away from an effective one-drop in hopes that my late game would be better.
By removing Chow, I opened the door for a second Equality. Sometimes the first Equality is bad. Most times the second Equality is a bit much. However, with double Consecration and four weapons, there have been too many occasions where I wished that I had a third Equality.
I run double silence in Ironbeak Owl, but I didn’t feel like that was too out of the ordinary. I have needed both silences on so many occasions. It’s another answer to Sylvanas, Belcher, Thaurissan, Ysera, Patron, etc. Do you ever play against any of those cards.
I cut a Muster for Battle for Coghammer. Why? Because I had a Coghammer and I don’t have Quartermaster. Coghammer is a better weapon than Light’s Justice, no one can deny that. The value of three 1/1’s is probably high, but taunt and divine shield can sometimes help resuscitate an owled Tirion. Read that last sentence to someone who doesn’t play Hearthstone.
Do you have Quartermaster? Then he’s probably better than what I played in his place. Spiteful Smith. Why? Why do you keep asking me that? Do I have to justify every pick?? Ok, I have a number of reasons. First, he’s a four attack minion, which dodges Priest. Second, I had a golden copy of him (that’s a reason!). Third, he enables all four of my weapons, and lastly, his six health butt is tough to deal with. The results have been astounding.
I cut Belcher. If you think he’s a good card versus aggro then you’re lying to yourself. Every aggro deck is expecting to see Sludge Belcher, and they are ready for his fat 3/5 butt. You wouldn’t play Goldshire Footman, so he is really a four mana Sen’jin and a one mana Footman! In his place I brought in the ultimate RNG removal. Tink.
I run Tinkmaster Overspark. Let’s look at the board. My opponent played Thaurissan on an empty board? I’m a Paladin. I can’t kill that. However, Tinkmaster can deal with it. Either he silences it and my opponent has a 5/5 beast (relevant creature type for Hunter, the only class not running Thaurissan) or they have a 1/1 and they hear “Well met!” If I played Truesilver on four, there are plenty of decks that don’t have anything in play after my second swing on turn five, especially Warrior, because they are trying to do the same thing with Death’s Bite. That means that I can hero power and slam Tink. Worst case scenario, I lost a Silver Hand recruit and gained a 1/1 beast. I don’t have Quartermaster anyway! He answers Sylvanas on an empty board. He just decimates anything bigger than a 5/5, but he’s surprisingly efficient when you’re controlling the board, or you need to turn off that pesky Mal’Ganis. Speaking of which…
I run double Big Game Hunter. This probably isn’t too strange when you consider the meta. Dr. Boom is out there, and you want to draw one in the first half of your deck. Having two gives you a 75% chance of getting one by halfway through. If you’re playing against Face Hunter and you get BGH, slam him on three. Either they trade into it, effectively making him a 4/2 taunt, or they swing by him giving you a four attack minion for three mana.
I was fortunate enough to have Ragnaros and Tirion. I don’t remember if Ragnaros was in Trump’s original list or not. I included him because he’s a card that can deal with a large threat, but can also be an eight damage finisher when no one expects Paladin to burst like that.
Tirion was in Trump’s list, and for good reason. Tirion is so cool. I normally won’t play him against Priest, because they will find a way to make you sad. If they don’t Mind Control him away, then they will SW: Death him so they can Harrison to draw some cards. However, Priest is the hardest class for this deck.
I started this season at rank 22, expecting to get to rank 18-20 and get card back with a ninja on it. Thanks to rain on Memorial Day weekend, I played this deck to rank 5. From my experience, I have never had this much success with a control deck with my limited collection. I never would have expected to piece a monstrosity together like this and be ranked in the top 2% of players. At the end of this season I would encourage players out there to try cards that they don’t see every day. Try your Tinkmaster’s, your Spiteful Smiths, your Blessing of Wisdoms. Not everyone has every card, or can make the deck that they want. However, if you use the cards you are dealt you can make something effective, fun, and unique.