Highlander Priest and tempo Decks have been nerfed. What should you play right now?
Hearthstone’s 10.2 patch update is now live, and with it are some long-awaited balance changes. Hearthstone’s meta in the last couple of months has been defined by a number of incredibly high power level decks; tempo decks that can put a mountain of stats on the Board quickly, can recover efficiently from board wipes and can create swing turns out of nowhere; and Highlander Priest, a deck that utilises Shadowreaper Anduin and Raza the Chained to turn every card into additional damage. In the right hands it’s a deck capable of bursting for 30 damage or more in a single turn. Blizzard has targeted some of the cards that make these strategies sing for its latest nerfs.
The cards that have been changed are below, if you want more detail you can read more here:
Corridor Creeper: Now has 2 attack, down from 5
Patches the Pirate: No longer has Charge
Bonemare: Now costs 8 mana, up from 7
Raza the Chained: Now reduces your Hero Power cost to 1 instead of 0
If you’ve been playing Hearthstone recently, these changes should come as no surprise. Nearly every top tier deck has made powerful use of these cards, and the fact that three of them are neutral has also led to a feeling of “sameyness” across the different classes. Cards like Patches (plus a pirate or two), Corridor Creeper and (to some extent) Bonemare are the foundation of an extremely effective tempo shell that any class can adopt and use to some success.
Now that those cards have been addressed, the meta game will change and – hopefully – the reduction in overall power level will allow for some cool new strategies to ascend. I’m not going to speculate about where the meta might be once it has settled. Instead, I’m going to recommend three decks that I believe are strong right now in the brand new post-nerf meta, and are sure to help you climb through the ranks… while also having a good time.
Background: Control Warlock has quickly become one of my favourite current Hearthstone decks, and not just because it carried me to Legend rank last month, but because of the way it comfortably and reliably counters aggro decks – of which there’s been plenty. Unaffected by the new card changes, it’s sure to continue being one of the top decks to beat.
How it Plays: Playing Control Warlock relies on a basic understanding of your opponent’s deck, and recognising your win condition early. If you’re versing an aggro deck – take advantage of the numerous board clears, heals and taunt minions to survive until the late game. Once you make it to turn ten and play N’Zoth or Bloodreaver Gul’dan the game is as good as yours. Against slower decks, you will need to out-value your opponent in order to win. This can be done in numerous ways, like saving your board clears and using them with Dirty Rat, or even deleting their deck altogether with Rin, The First Disciple. A versatile and competitive deck, it’ll make you think about each turn and how to get the most out of your cards.
Key Considerations: Since Control Warlock is such a versatile deck, there’s lots of room for personal preference. Running into a lot of Jade Druids and Combo Priests? Add a Skulking Geist to cull their combo pieces. Seeing a lot of slower decks? Adding a couple Mountain Giants can provide some early pressure. Need more burst damage? Consider the Cubelock variant, which trades some of the reliability in favour of a burst combo with cards like Doomguard, Carnivorous Cube and Skull of the Man’ari. However you want to play, this deck has got you covered.
Background: Named after its core card Spiteful Summoner, Spiteful Priest has proven to be an incredibly strong tempo deck. Even after losing Corridor Creeper and Bonemare, Spiteful Priest has plenty of other strengths to continue being a top tier deck. (It can now include more dragons and dragon synergy cards, for instance, giving it more consistency.) Designed to curve out reliably, Spiteful Priest excels at establishing board control early, and then finishing with big minions in the mid to late game.
How it Plays: A fairly straightforward deck with a dragon synergy backbone, Spiteful Priest relies heavily on successfully curving out in the early game, developing bigger and bigger minions while trading favourably. If you fall behind on the board, it can be very difficult to catch up. To get the most value out of Spiteful Summoner, the deck doesn’t run any spells besides Free from Amber and Mind Control. While this means you can potentially get a 12/12 (alongside a 4/4) on turn six, it also means you’ll miss out on the usual surplus of classic Priest removal options like Shadow Word: Pain / Death and Holy Nova. This is where cards like Duskbreaker and Twilight Acolyte show their importance. Crucial for keeping up with aggro decks, using Duskbreaker to regain control of the board, or negating a big threat with Twilight Acolyte, can sometimes be enough to win the tougher games.
Key Considerations: One of the reasons this deck list is so strong is due to the options it creates through different Discover cards. Netherspite Historian, Drakonid Operative and Free from Amber all provide you with a choice that might decide whether you win or lose. Netherspite Historian can provide an extra needed Duskbreaker for those aggro matchups. Free from Amber, on the other hand, can provide the perfect minion for that point in the game. Getting overwhelmed on the board? An Obsidian Statue could provide the perfect comeback. Need to win the value game? Look for cards with powerful end of turn effects like Ysera and The Lich King. Choosing the right card for the right situation is the ultimate decider when playing this deck. (The list we have here is from KremePuff.)
Background: The Recruit Aggro Paladin has been one of the more popular aggro decks recently, enabled by the new card Call to Arms. Its strength lies in being able to swarm the board early, refill its hand with Divine Favor, and then burst down the opponent with weapons or Leeroy Jenkins. The nerfs have definitely had a big impact on Recruit Paladin, as cards like Patches and Corridor Creeper no longer provide the big tempo swings which can be needed to turn a bad game around. Pre-nerf the general consensus was that the archetype wasn’t as strong as Murloc Paladin, and that may still be the case, but I find it more fun, and there’s also more experimentation happening with these lists.
How it Plays: People have recently begun experimenting with variants of Recruit Paladin that leaned more into the Silver Hand Recruit synergy, but in the pre-patch meta they could never compete with the Zoo-oriented deck lists. With the new changes now in place, however, a mix of the two deck types is starting to look viable. In the early game the strategy for Recruit Paladin stays the same: rushing out cheap minions and seizing board control while gradually damaging your opponent. Then in the mid-game, you try to finish them off with the burst damage built into the deck. Silver Hand Recruit synergy now acts as your tempo swing, refilling your board with Stand Against Darkness or getting a cheap Crystal Lion can help you keep your momentum against opponents with lots of removal. Have faith in your damage and rush them down!
Key Considerations: A lot of decks right now (such as my beloved Control Warlock) are designed purely to counter aggressive deck lists like these. Being aware of your opponent’s potential board clears and learning to play around them is the most important thing in an unfavourable matchup. Thinking of cards like Defile and Duskbreaker and trading appropriately can force your opponent into some tough decisions. Try to think a couple of turns ahead and find a strategy to squeeze in those last bits of damage to win the game.
Honourable Mention: Zoolock
Let’s be honest, the decks above aren’t exactly the cheapest. While you can substitute some of the more pricey cards for cheaper alternatives, I thought it would be good to offer a deck that is just as powerful – while chewing through less of your precious arcane dust. Zoo Warlock is the cheap and cheerful deck for when you’re playing on a budget.
Zoolock is a deck that has been around since Hearthstone began, and while it’s also taken a hit from the nerfs, it still has no shortage of reliable burst damage. It plays similarly to Aggro Paladin, developing a strong board early on with lots of small minions, then refilling your hand using the Warlock hero power. Packed with enough damage to finish the game early, it can keep the pressure on well into the late game with Bloodreaver Gul’dan (the only Legendary in the deck – but definitely one well worth crafting).
The deck is flexible and open to experimentation, with lots of cards that can be swapped around to suit your style. It’ll definitely be a contender as the post-nerf meta develops. Check out a sample version of the deck here.
Jonty lives in Sydney and has decided to actually try for HCT this year. He would be on Twitter, but isn’t quite ready for that kind of commitment.