The metagame has not changed much at all since last week, that's not necessarily a bad thing, but that's the normal state Hearthstone reaches 6-8 weeks into a new expansion. The most meta-defining deck in the game is Combo Priest; it is oppressive at high ranks, and the only decks that stand a chance are Highlander Hunter and Control Warrior. We also see a large number of Quest Shaman and Quest Druid decks, both of which play like control decks with powerful late-game win conditions. The best aggressive decks focus on board damage examples include Murloc Paladin, Aggro Warrior, and Aggro Overload Shaman, which all have their respective strengths and weaknesses. Grandmasters has also featured some of the most interesting matchups due to the success of combo decks against slower matchups such as Malygos Druid and Shirvalla OTK Paladin.

After a long grind of meta decks, I hit Legend over the weekend, which made the goal of this week to have some fun. This week's article aims to mix it up a bit and feature some decks which highlight different ways to think about deckbuilding rather than competitive ability. For the most part, they are not anywhere near Tier 1 decks, but they bring new playstyles that make games interesting.

We feature two builds of Secret Mage (one budget, one fun), Highlander Shaman which hit Rank 1 Legend in China, and the incredibly fun, but arguably terrible King Phaoris Paladin. 

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: Secret Mage Two Ways

I decided to feature two versions of this deck to show how similar cores of a class-specific archetype can be used to take it in very different directions. Both decks are successful and have a set of cards in common; in this case, most of the secrets and secret synergy cards. Ultimately, deck-building decisions can be made based on which cards you have in your collection, what decks you want to counter, or what you want it to play like in the first place. There is no wrong way to build decks, but successful decks have cores which accomplish something specific.

Budget Version

Fun RNG Version

How to Play It

The Secret Mage archetype has found a way to win games from Hearthstone's inception. In the current metagame, there are a wide variety of decks which struggle to deal with an early board followed up with heavy late-game damage. This paves the way for a budget version of Secret Mage to exist. The goal of the deck is to snowball your minions like Secretkeeper and Ethereal Arcanist for early board into late-game lethal damage via spells. You can also do some fancy secret plays via Ancient Mysteries, Arcane Flakmage, and Cloud Prince to deal with board. Enjoy!

Have you ever found yourself wishing for more randomness in your Hearthstone adventures? If you answered, "Yes! I would love more randomness during my Hearthstone adventures!", then the Fun RNG Version is for you! I have been playing around with the idea of discounting Puzzle Box of Yogg-Saron and Pyroblast quite a bit the past few days. As a servant of the almighty RNG god, I am incredibly pleased with how often I get to play Puzzle Box of Yogg-Saron and only occasionally let down by it. The deck plays incredibly linearly: play early cards, draw secrets, and burn the opponent down. The exception, of course, is when to play your Naga Sand Witch, I would wait until you need the discount and do your best to rid your hand of lower-cost spells to prepare for this outcome. The deck focuses on burning the opponent down as quickly and efficiently as possible; there will definitely be a point in each game when you have to transition to throwing all damage face. 

How to Beat It

Secret Mage has historically struggled against decks with a lot of life gain. The budget version really only has terrible matchups against Control Warrior due to the massive life gain from armor cards, while the RNG version will also struggle against Quest Druid because it lacks the same snowball cards that become too big for the Druid to remove. Rogue can be challenging if you cannot find a way to deal damage with your early game minions to put it within range of your burn spells, they will find lethal before you. You should try to fight for board early against the Mage and prevent their snowball minions from taking over the game. Be sure to save your healing as long as possible. The later you play it, the more likely they are to have used their damage spells incorrectly.

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 the 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: Highlander Control Shaman

How to Play It 

I found out about this deck watching Omnistone, which is a weekly podcast series that discusses the latest in Hearthstone news featuring pros and casters: Kibler, Firebat, and Frodan. I love the banter, and they often discuss fun and interesting deck ideas. I was struggling to find a good control deck when this one caught my eye. LvGE reached Rank 1 Legend on China's server with this deck, which got me thinking that the deck must have some serious merit to it. I believe the low winrate on HSReplay is due to the amount of skill required to pilot this deck and the presence of more combo decks on Americas and EU (but I could be wrong). This deck has an answer to any problem that you could encounter via the ever-present Zephrys the Great and a variety of discover spell cards. Another strength is that you will never fatigue due to Archivist Elysiana + Shudderwock. Your goal is simply to survive the game; you will win in the long run every time. 

How to Beat It

This deck gets obliterated by OTK Combo Decks: Shirvalla OTK Paladin, Malygos Druid, and any Mecha'thun deck will win quite easily against a deck with a fatigue-the-opponent win condition. The other thing you can certainly take advantage of is that it is a Highlander deck; they only have one of each card. You can play turns expecting them to use a specific piece of removal or minion and then you don't have to play around it again. Except for random spells, of course, thanks Hagatha the Witch. If you are playing an aggro deck and the Shaman stabilizes with high health, your game is over, play fast and save your burn to avoid this outcome. Good luck!

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: King Phaoris Paladin

***Disclaimer: This deck is not tier anything, but the combo is so fun to pull off. It's bad but very very fun***

How to Play It

I have played with this deck more than I care to admit, and laughed much harder than I would have expected when I won from difficult positions. Yes, it wins games at Legend. No, it does not do so consistently. This deck is incredibly straightforward and feels like cheating when you pull it off. It is similar in nature to Barnes in Big Priest if you play wild, except that there are two copies of Prismatic Lens in your deck making it much easier to find. However, you cannot continue to resurrect minions once they die with Paladin. Therein lies the combo, you have to make sure that if/when you get a discounted King Phaoris it will win you the game. I have been killed by a Combo Priest when I had a turn 5 King Phaoris because of Circle of Healing with two Lightwarden on board. I have made the mistake of not casting double Rebuke when I had the chance and lost. There are lots of ways to stall, and you should do so until you can seal the victory. It's a fun deck, enjoy it!

*If you are missing anything except for King Phaoris and Prismatic Lens, it can most definitely be replaced. Just pick a spell that doesn't need your own minions to be used, and it will perform just fine*

Combo Steps

  1. Build a deck with King Phaoris as the only minion and 2x Prismatic Lens.
  2. Survive until you can play Prismatic Lens.
  3. Play heavily discounted King Phaoris and win the game.
  4. If the other deck has a board clear that costs enough mana to clear a full board, play Rebuke with King Phaoris

How to Beat It

This deck loses hard to a lot of different decks, due to it relying on the luck of the draw. Combo Priest comes to mind as an immediate deck that will snowball so quick you never stood a chance. Warrior can win with Brawl if you don't play Rebuke. Druid and Shaman will struggle, but a Mind Control Tech will often remedy any problems they might have. This deck is easy to counter, smack it in the face and snowball minions for what should be an easy win. Finally, if this deck does ever beat you, just chalk it up to luck. The odds are very high you will win next time.

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!