The metagame has been in flux with the nerfs this week. The new popular powerhouse decks that have emerged are Quest Shaman and Quest Druid. These decks are incredibly popular and can make a matchup feel unwinnable once they stabilize the board. Murloc and Aggro decks are still popular in addition to Highlander Hunter. This week's "Rock, Paper, Scissors" features 3 decks which are poised to counter the most popular decks in the metagame. We feature Highlander Warrior, Quest Paladin, and Holy Wrath OTK Paladin.
A Word about Highlander Decks
I imagine that those unfamiliar with the history of Reno, Singleton or Highlander decks wonder how on earth we came to agree to call them by this name. Singleton is a rather straightforward term, so we'll just leave it as is, a dictionary search of singleton should explain it. There is an old 80s movie called "Highlander" with an intense theme: "There can be only one!!!". The movie revolved around an immortal race of men destined to fight each other in battle until only one of them remained standing to gain ultimate power and remain the only immortal on the planet. It’s worth a watch for the memes alone. Sean Connery was mysteriously chosen to portray an Egyptian swords master, Juan Sanchez Villa-Lobos Ramirez. He teaches the main character, Connor Macleod. This movie is the origin of the name Highlander Decks; there can be only 1 copy of each card in your deck. By having only one copy, you enable incredibly powerful cards to take their full effect. This originated with the original Reno Jackson from League of Explorers because he would heal your hero to full health when played, thus adding the name Reno Decks to the pool of names. We also had a series of Highlander cards for the Kabal in Mean Streets of Gadgetzan. Kazakus was a powerhouse that could get you out of many tricky situations and anyone who played Hearthstone when Shadowreaper Anduin + Raza the Chained existed, remembers one of the most powerful combo decks ever. Over the years, Highlander decks have been a style of play that many have embraced and loved.
With the Saviors of Uldum we have 5 new Highlander cards: Zephrys the Great, Dinotamer Brann, Elise the Enlightened, Sir Finley of the Sands, and Reno the Relicologist. All 5 cards are incredibly powerful, with the ultimate being Zephrys the Great, literally the perfect card. Zephrys the Great is so powerful, that even classes without any singleton synergy have built decks solely around him. This week's Highlander Warrior is a perfect example. These decks have so many tech and deck-building choices that each game feels unique. Highlander Hunter and Mage have been incredibly powerful in the new expansion, and further iterations of other Highlander decks are bound to pop up after nerfs. Highlander decks are here to stay for a few years, and it is a great thing!
Rock - Aggro
The term SMOrc comes to mind when I think of aggro.
Aggro is viewed as the most straightforward of the deck types for a beginner to understand and play. Your goal is to kill your opponent before they have a chance to stabilize the board, keep their life total outside your damage from hand, and you run out of cards to play. Your goal with an aggressive deck is always to balance how much damage you are dealing to your opponent each turn and fight for control of the board at each stage. Aggro thrives against Combo decks which sacrifice board presence, removal, and healing in order to play powerful combinations of cards that can win them the game. Aggro suffers against Control which focuses on removing all of your minions, healing, and generating value, so they have more resources at the end of the game.
Featured Deck of the Week: Zephrys Tempo Warrior
How to Play It
This decklist had one of the most successful runs I have ever heard of in Legend. A friend of mine, who created the deck, went on a blistering 35-2 run in Legend to climb from over rank 4000 to end the season in the top 200. He told me, "I broke the Highlander list!". To give you the best possible guide I asked him to make the deck and write a brief guide:
"The deck is designed to steal the board quickly on turns 1 to 4 and then close out the game with burst damage from weapons and charge minions, while you control the board with rush minions. However, if you do not win board early do not panic, Sandbinder into Zephrys the Great or Siamat is always enough to give you a second chance. If you run out of steam, Octasari is there to give you resources to finish the game. Learning when its time to stop trading and time to go face will determine your success with this list. Too early and you will leave yourself open for an early loss. Too late and you will trade yourself out of the game."
I've had great success with this deck myself and hope you enjoy it as well!
How to Beat It
When this deck loses initiative and tempo, it can struggle to finish the game. Fight hard in the early game to avoid this deck snowballing in a hurry. Tempo Rogue and Token Druid can take advantage of suboptimal turns and their own board swings to take advantage of the Warrior's inability to clear a big board. This is a Highlander deck, so you can simply outdraw them and should not play around anyone card they might have in their hand. If you can get to turn 8, you are typically on your way to a win; but watch out for a Grommash Hellscream lethal.
Paper - Control
Control is challenging because it takes practice to know what threats to expect from your opponent. The more knowledge you have of your opponent, the better you will perform. Control, typically, has a finite number of removal tools for individual minions and board clears. When playing this archetype each turn, you have to ask yourself a few questions: Do I need to remove this minion/board right now? How can I stabilize this board to keep it from getting out of control? How do I prevent lethal damage from my opponent's hand? By answering each of these questions, you learn when to clear board and when to leave it, when you should be playing a taunt minion, and when you absolutely need to heal. Your end goal is how/when to stabilize and take full control of the game so your opponent cannot get back into the game. Control thrives against Aggro because eventually, all Aggro decks run out of cards; meaning that if you can keep the board, they will run out of steam and lose. Control suffers against Combo because it often lacks proactive plays to deal damage to the opponent, allowing Combo to play their combo pieces whenever they want.
Featured Deck of the Week: Quest Paladin
How to Play It
Quest Paladin has been a thorn in other control deck's side since SoU came out. This deck simply never runs out of stuff. Look to play your reborn minions early. Save your Zilliax for the last possible moment; if you don't heal significantly from it, or run into a sap or silence, you could be in some serious trouble against an aggressive deck. This deck has a plethora of taunts and mechs to fight for board with minions, just like Paladin is intended to. Once the Quest is complete, simply copy your Mechano-Egg and Mechanical Whelp to generate board states that will inevitably win the game. This deck runs the opponent out of spells to clear a board, silences to shut down their deathrattles, and minions that can get through taunts. Once your opponent runs out of cards or tempo on the board, you finish the game with your big minions.
How to Beat It
This deck is vulnerable to burst damage from hand, it can fight for board endlessly but lacks a significant number of healing cards. Keep in mind that Kangor's Endless Army can ruin your day if you don't silence enough crappy mechs or kill them before they get too many magnetizes. Typically, the individual minions of the Quest Paladin don't do much but make sure to kill every mech you can each turn.
Scissors - Combo
Combo is sometimes classified more like a game of solitaire than a game of Hearthstone. Historically, combo decks are assembled in a way that once you complete each step, you win the game with a lethal in one turn, known as a One-Turn-Kill (OTK) deck. However, the current state of Hearthstone has very few decks which are capable of this. Most combo decks execute a series of plays to set up incredibly powerful boards by cheating out discounted cards or an infinite source of large minions (think Pogohopper Rogue and Conjurers Calling Mage). Combo decks thrive against control because the control deck often does little to nothing to threaten lethal against you. Combo suffers against aggro because by running combo cards, you sacrifice removal and healing; allowing aggro to beat you before you complete the combo. Once a combo deck has played it's combo cards, it is almost unstoppable.
Featured Deck of the Week: Holy Wrath OTK
How to Play It
This deck is incredibly fun and is one of the most powerful OTK decks left in the game. With so much card draw in the game right now, Paladin is well-suited to finding a way to OTK the opponent. You want nothing but draw in your opening hand: Crystology and Novice Engineer are both ideal. Use your Time Out! wisely to stall for a turn, you can even use it to wait for a turn to clear the board using Equality/Shrink Ray + Wild Pyromancer/Consecration. This deck takes great advantage of the slower decks which rely on big boards, namely Quest Shaman and Quest Druid. Often you will need to do the 25-damage combo twice to finish the game out against control decks, but the tempo play should make this possible. If everything fails and you have the combo in hand, it is always worth trying it for a chance at winning the game. Against aggressive decks, you may need to play Shirvallah, the Tiger early and shuffle it in before you can combo it. One final tip is to try to send your extra damage to the face if you can't kill minions on board, it may be just enough to lethal your opponent at the end of the game.
1. Play enough spells to discount Shirvallah, the Tiger from 25 to 0
2. Empty your deck of cards
3. Play a 0-cost Shirvallah, the Tiger + Baleful Banker + Holy Wrath = 25 Damage
If you have a Truesilver Champion on board and Elven Archer in hand, it is a full 30-damage OTK
How to Beat It
This deck can be beaten quite easily by very aggressive decks, Tempo Rogue specifically has a field day with it. The more damage from hand you have in your deck, the better your deck will be against the OTK Paladin. Sticky minions with big stats or potential to grow are also incredibly hard for this deck to handle easily. Make sure to save some resources for when your entire board is inevitably wiped, play to win by turn 8-9 if the Paladin's health total is high as any later in the game it will be a struggle for you to get there.
I hope you have enjoyed this week's edition of Rock, Paper, Scissors. Tune in next week for another 3 competitive decks of each archetype.
Have you encountered these decks or played them? Tell us about your experiences and share your thoughts below!
If you believe a deck should be featured: please comment below or feel free to DM me and I'll take a look!