Anyfin/Murloc Paladin* is an archetype that was created shortly after The League of Explorers, when the Anyfin Can Happen card was released. It’s a Combo/Control deck, which wants to stall the game until every Murloc is played and then play Anyfin Can Happen for a huge burst turn (and a second one if first is not enough). The history of the deck is really bumpy – it has gotten into the meta and fell out of the meta very often.
Right now, in the Gadgetzan meta, Paladin was considered one of two worst classes (alongside Hunter), because no archetype was strong enough to compete with either Reno decks or the Aggro decks. However, Anyfin Paladin has been getting more and more popular recently, especially after the G2’s performance at the Hearthstone Trinity Series (they went 6-0 with the deck against Alliance). While it’s still not all over the ladder, you actually play against them quite often, especially around higher ranks.
Anyfin Paladin has also been confirmed to be the strongest Paladin deck right now according to the dev stats. So if you like Paladin, this is most likely your best shot at playing a viable deck.
*It’s called one way or another depending on the player, writer etc. I’ll stick to the Anyfin Paladin, because in my opinion it explains the deck better (and separates it from the possible Aggro Murloc Paladin decks).
P.S. The deck list I use for this guide is the Team G2’s tournament list. However, if you struggle against Aggro decks on the ladder, you might want to sub 1-2 expensive cards like Tirion Fordring or Ivory Knight for more early game like Mistress of Mixtures or Loot Hoarder (if you do, those cards get high priority in mulligan vs fast decks, of course).
UPDATE – ANYFIN PALADIN IN MARCH 2017, SEASON 36
Latest nerfs were good for the Anyfin Paladin, the deck should be slightly stronger right now, but it’s still not getting more popular on the ladder. My guess is that people don’t really want to craft and learn how to play the deck that will be dead one month from now (and let’s be honest, it’s pretty expensive deck) – Anyfin Can Happen rotates out, so the deck will just no longer be playable.
But when it comes to the current meta, I believe that the deck can’t really be improved. Thijs has experimented with The Curator list for a bit, but that was before the patch. In the latest Trinity Series, however, Team G2 (including Thijs), which I believe are experts in the archetype, have decided to go back to the standard list.
Just like last time, if you face too many Aggro compared to Control, you might remove a late game threat like Tirion Fordring or a value card like Ivory Knight and try adding Mistress of Mixtures instead. But those changes seem to be less necessary now – Aggro is less popular on the ladder. While Pirate Warrior is still a bad matchup that you will lose most of the time, same goes for the Aggro Rogue that has raised recently, the other most common matchups should be either close or in your favor. Team G2 is also experimenting with Emperor Thaurissan tech, but I’ll need to take a closer look at that first.
Anyfin Paladin Mulligan Strategy & Guide
I’ll divide the mulligan section into two – against fast decks and against slow decks. Fast decks are generally the Aggro decks (e.g. Aggro Shaman) or high tempo Midrange decks (e.g. Dragon Warrior). Slow decks are slower Midrange and Control decks.
Vs Fast Decks
Higher Priority (keep every time):
- Doomsayer – The best card in fast matchups. This deck has enough sustain and removals to win the match against Aggro, but those cards come after turn 4. The main problem of this deck vs Aggro is your opponent rushing you down – Doomsayer prevents that most of the time, and even if it’s removed it buys you a little bit of time.
- Bluegill Warrior – Not an amazing card, but it’s another early game “removal”. You can immediately charge at the Small-Time Buccaneer and clear it. While it will still be a tempo win for the Aggro deck, you at least prevent A LOT of damage.
- Aldor Peacekeeper – Even though Peacekeeper works best against big minions, it gets some value in Aggro matchups. You want some early minions anyway, and if this one will turn a Totem Golem into 1/4 or prevent a huge Frothing Berserker from killing you, it’s worth it.
- Wickerflame Burnbristle – Like I’ve mentioned, you want minions against Aggro. And this is probably the second best (after Doomsayer) minion to get – Divine Shield and Taunt is a great combination against Aggro and the extra healing is also pretty good. The card should kill some early game minion (or at least damage it into the Consecration range) and heal you for ~4. It’s often all you need to win against Aggro.
Lower Priority (keep only if certain conditions are met):
- Forbidden Healing – You can keep it if rest of your hand is really good. Basically, it’s a way to prevent the burn damage after you’ve already stabilized in the mid game. If you have let’s say Doomsayer and Wickerflame Burnbristle in your hand already, it means that you will most likely last until the turn 5-6 and this card starts to really shine then (when you can spend your whole turn to heal and not develop anything).
- Wild Pyromancer – Going second. Pyro’s effect is really powerful, but you have no cheap spells to combo it with, so it’s basically a 2 mana 3/2. There are better things you can get. However, having it on the coin is pretty powerful, because you have a guaranteed 1 AoE damage whenever you need it (and it’s pretty strong against Aggro). For example, you can play turn 3 Wild Pyro + Coin + Bluegill for a mini-Swipe. You can also keep the Pyro + Equality combo as a guaranteed turn 4 board wipe.
- Truesilver Champion – With the 2 -> 3 -> 4 curve. Removing minions is your highest priority against Aggro and Truesilver does that quite well while also healing you for a bit (it’s usually almost enough to offset the damage you’re taking). However, keeping it when you still have no curve, nothing to play on t2/t3 is pretty bad idea, because by itself it’s too slow.
Vs Slow Decks
Higher Priority (keep every time):
- Doomsayer – While not as strong against Control, it still stalls one turn. Can also be used to deal with some early game drops. Pretty good keep.
- Equality – Equality is a key to stall the game, so you really want to keep it no matter what. A well-timed board clear can often buy you a few extra turns and you can’t afford to not draw them, so keeping them is important.
- Acolyte of Pain – Slow matchups are all about cycling. Vs Slow decks, Acolyte will often draw 2, but even if it just cycles itself it’s fine.
- Barnes – Barnes is amazing vs slow decks. Most of the cards you get are really good. Getting an extra Murloc means that you make your first Anyfin much stronger. Getting Acolyte means you cycle a card. Admittedly, Ragnaros, Lightlord is not a great pull on turn 4, but it’s also amazing later. Tirion Fordring is probably the best one, because you get a free 5/3 weapon, which pretty much gives you a control over the mid game (or baits an Ooze, which is also okay – it means that they won’t have Ooze for the actual Tirion or Truesilver).
- Truesilver Champion – It lets you deal with most of the mid game minions, if not by itself, then with the help of your Recruits, Bluegill Warriors or other small minions.
- Bluegill Warrior + Murloc Warleader – Those are the cards that you’re looking for in the end. So having them in the opening hand reduces the risk of not drawing them. They’re also okay-ish in the early game, as they help you with the board control. A good Murloc start can even put a lot of pressure at a slow deck, I had RenoLocks playing turn 6 Reno after 2x Warleader opening.
- Solemn Vigil – You almost always get Solemn Vigil value in the early game. Playing it for 3 mana is already fine, you’d want to keep that card. And it’s not that hard to do that – if you play t2 Doomsayer against their 2-drop it will most likely go off and reduce the cost by 2. If you stack some early game recruits, it’s also pretty easy to get it for cheap. Overall I like this card, since cycle is important vs Control. However, you don’t want your hand to be only cycle, so you don’t want to keep it AND Acolyte of Pain most of the time, because it’s too slow.
Lower Priority (keep only if certain conditions are met):
- Wild Pyromancer – With Equality in the hand already. You sometimes need a turn 5-6 Equality clear if your opponent gets a really fast start.
- Aldor Peacekeeper – Against deck that can put a big minion quite early in the game. For example, it’s a keep against RenoLock – turn 4 Mountain Giant or Twilight Drake can be really hard to beat and with Aldor Peacekeeper you can at least neutralize the threat.
- Finja, the Flying Star – I know that some might see keeping Finja as too greedy, but it’s a really crucial card in the slow matchups. One of the worst case scenarios when playing Anyfin Paladin vs a slow deck is when some of the Murlocs are stuck at the bottom of your deck and you can’t stall long enough. Finja prevents that, pulling out 2 Murlocs immediately. It’s also a pretty huge tempo swing most of the time, because pulling let’s say 3/3 + 4/3 Charge for free is very strong. I’d say that you want to keep Finja in the matchups where you want to play a fast Anyfin – let’s say against other combo decks which might get to the combo faster OR against a deck that can bunker itself quite well (e.g. Control Warrior with tons of Armor).
Anyfin Paladin Play Strategy
Anyfin Paladin was always a deck that destroyed slow Control decks. Even though it has a solid amount of healing and stall mechanics, it was usually not enough to win against the aggressive/high tempo decks – they simply killed Paladin before he could do anything. And it’s pretty similar right now. The deck struggles against very high tempo decks like Pirate Warrior or even Miracle Rogue, while it boasts a high win rate against decks like RenoLock, Dragon Priest, or Control Warrior. Basically, if it can survive until the late game, it has a huge chance of winning unless something goes wrong.
The basic win condition of the deck is Anyfin Can Happen. It summons up to 7 Murlocs that died this game, basically refilling your whole board. If your Murlocs (Bluegill Warriors and Murloc Warleaders), are the first Anyfin can deal up to 12 damage (2x Bluegill, 2x Warleader), which is okay, but not game-winning. However, the second one can basically OTK by dealing up to 32 damage (4x Bluegill, 2x Warleader). That’s the best case scenario, because you also play Finja, the Flying Star, which is another respawn target. Finja might be a double-edged sword, as it can reduce your combo’s damage quite significantly (especially if you get unlucky rolls with your resurrects), but it’s still a card worth playing.
But, Anyfin can Happen costs 10 mana AND you really want all of your Murlocs to die to make it work, which means that this combo usually comes down on turn 15 or later, making it a very slow combo deck. Also, here are a few key points any aspiring Anyfin Paladin player needs to understand. Anyfin only resummons Murlocs that died. It means that if your opponent removes the Murloc from the board without it dying (e.g. Entomb or steals it with the Sylvanas Windrunner and then bounces it back to the hand), it won’t get resurrected by Anyfin. Also, if your Murloc stops being a Murloc, you obviously also won’t respawn it – it means that cards like Hex or Polymorph are great counters to the deck. This is mainly a problem with Warleaders, since you can immediately kill off Bluegill Warriors by charging them into something. But it simply means that you need to understand each matchup really well, know which cards that can mess with your game plan they’re running and try to play against them.
But first of all, you need to identify your win condition in a given matchup. Do you need a full combo, a part combo is okay or maybe you don’t even need a combo at all? I’ll bait the last one – no combo – first.
Vs Fast Decks
You don’t need combo at all vs Aggro decks. Anyfin is 10 mana, 90% of the Aggro games don’t even last until turn 10. It means that Anyfin is a dead card and you can completely ignore the combo part. You just play your cards without thinking about the burst damage. Vs Aggro, like with every slower deck, all you need to do is survive. This deck runs multiple ways to heal, but most of them are mid/late game options. Which means that you have to survive until that point. In order to do that, you want to play your early game drops. Sadly, most of your early game is really low tempo – Doomsayer is pretty much the best you can get, but other than that, you can only answer and your answers aren’t best against Aggro. You want to Bluegill down the early minions, you want to Aldor the big minions, if possible you also want to drop Acolyte of Pain – it’s slow, but it usually tanks 3 damage + it draws you a card.
Wild Pyromancer + Equality is often a key combo to survive against Aggro. You usually fall behind in the first turns, sometimes you fall behind so much that you can’t come back without a full board wipe. Consecration is rarely enough to clear the board on turn 4 these days. Maybe sometimes against Pirate Warrior, but most of the Aggro decks run a lot of 3-4 health minions that are out of range of Consecration.
Playing Equality + Bluegill Warrior just to kill a single big threat is also okay-ish if you really need to do that. Playing just Equality on turn 3 if you have Consecration to follow next turn. Even though it telegraphs your play from a mile away, your opponent can’t get the 1 health minions back to 3-4 health, so you at least clear those.
Surviving the early game onslaught is most important. If you do that at a decent life total, you should be a favorite from now on. Key cards that become useful in the mid game are: Ivory Knight and Forbidden Healing. Both plays are very low tempo ones, but they can get you out of the range. So you should play those only if you desperately need to heal or after you’ve cleared the opponent’s board already. When it comes to Ivory Knight, you generally go for the highest cost option. If you can hit Anyfin, you’re home – even though it might be a dead card, it healed you for 10, which is important. Only exception from the “highest cost card” rule are healing cards – if you can choose between let’s say 1, 3 and Forbidden Healing, you pick the last one unless you need to heal right now (and 3 health actually matters). Similarly, you usually prefer Holy Light over the 4-5 cost spell unless you need to heal up immediately, because Holy Light is 8 healing in total (2 from the Ivory Knight + 6 from the spell itself). When it comes to Forbidden Healing – you want to spend full turn to play it most of the time. You want to get at least 12 or 14 points of healing. However, if you need a 1 damage AoE you can also combo it with Wild Pyromancer – you lose 4 points of healing, but the 1 AoE might be worth more.
At this point you should already be ahead and looking for a way to close the game. You most likely still clear the minions, going for the face with whatever’s left. There are two cards that can seal the game right away on turn 8 – Ragnaros, Lightlord and Tirion Fordring. First one is 8 instant healing + 8 each turn, while the second one is a huge Taunt. When it comes to the Lightlord, you need to remember that it can also heal minions. So a turn or even two before, you want to set up for it. Kill off the damaged minions and do not damage any on your Lightlord turn either. Your opponent will very likely try to throw some minor damage (like a ping) to Lightlord, so it has a chance to heal itself instead of your face. If that’s the case and you really need healing to go into your face, you can play Equality – it sets up health of every minion at 1, meaning that there will be no damaged targets on the board and Lightlord will guarantee a heal into face (it saved me a few times already). Tirion is more straightforward – you just drop it and it protects you against any minions and weapons. Aggro decks won’t likely have a way to go through the Divine Shield AND 6 health, so unless they develop a big board presence, you might want to go face in order to close out the game faster (even if Tirion dies, you still get the 5 damage weapon that you can use to push).
Games vs Aggro are probably over, but sometimes, if it lasted long enough and you had played some Murlocs earlier, turn 10 Anyfin Can Happen can be lethal. It won’t likely do much, but if you’re a few points off, it might be just what you need.
Vs Slow Decks
Let me explain something first – if you’re looking for the Midrange section, you won’t find any. That’s because it would be redundant, I would need to repeat stuff I’ve said in both this and the last section. Why? Because, depending on the exact deck you face, you want to play the matchup like you would play it against Aggro or against Control. For example, against Secret Hunter (which is non-existent, but that’s not important right now) or Dragon Warrior, you play very similarly to vs the fast matchups. Sure, you might be able to slow down a bit, but the general game plan doesn’t change. Similarly to the slower Midrange decks, like let’s say Dragon Priest or Midrange Shaman – you play against those like you would play against the Control, although you might need to play for the tempo from time to time and worry about your health total.
Your most important concern in slow matchups is setting up the combo. You can’t win games without it. I mean, sometimes if you hit a good curve, then drop a Tirion they can’t answer, you might be able to win the game without Anyfin. But it’s really, really rare and you generally shouldn’t think about it (when it happens, it happens). Since the Anyfin combo is your main way to win, you really want to get a full combo off. It means that you actually want to kill your own Murlocs, especially later in the game. If you’re sure that you play against a slow deck, you want to play your Warleaders right away in the early game (where it’s very unlikely that your opponent will transform them) OR you want to not play them at all, only play them when you can kill them right away.
The most common cards you want to play around are: Hex against Shaman (possibly Devolve too if you play against Control), Polymorph against Mage and Entomb against Priest. It means that it’s pretty safe to play early Murlocs against Priest (because they can’t Entomb yet), it’s also okay to play them against Mage, since they run only a single copy of Polymorph in Reno decks. But it gets more tricky against Shaman. While I think that you should play turn 3 Warleader against Midrange Shaman, if you play against a Control one you probably want to wait. If Midrange Hexes your Murloc, Tirion should wreck him – however, Control might be able to outvalue the Tirion quite easily (or even set up to steal it with Sylvanas).
But, back to the point. You want to kill of your Murlocs. Two most common ways to kill off your Warleader is 1 – playing them INTO a Doomsayer – it procs and Warleader is dead and 2 – playing them with Pyro + Equality (remember that you can’t play both this way, because they won’t die because of the buff!). Yes, I know that it might seem dumb, but trust me – it’s not. While you can get away with your opponent dealing with a single Warleader, if he finds a way to deal with both – it might be game over. With only 1 Warleader, second Anyfin is 8 damage, but the third one is still 30 damage (2x Warleader + 5x Bluegill Warrior). However, if they deal with both Warleaders, now first Anyfin is 4 damage, while the second one is only 12. 12 damage is rarely enough to kill a Control deck and that board is incredibly easy to clear. So you simply can’t let your both Warleaders get transformed or Entombed.
Now, the main concern besides the combo is to cycle through your deck. Current decks are way lighter on the cycle than the old ones used to be. It means that it will still take a while to get through most of your deck. Cycling is easy – you just try to draw as many cards as possible. However, a more important skill is stalling the game until you can cycle. You need to use your removals really well. The main skill is knowing when you need to Equality combo and when you can still do well without it. It’s very likely that your opponent will play around Equality and won’t want to play too many minions into the board. Which you can actually use to your advantage. If they don’t put too much power on the board, it means that you can heal that damage out. It also means that a Doomsayer is more powerful, as something like an Aldor on the biggest minion + Doomsayer has a decent chance to proc on those small boards. You only have two Equalities, so you absolutely need to save them for when you really need them. At the same time, you also want to have at least one Equality activator in your hand at the time. So don’t play a tempo Pyromancer when you have no other way to combo your Equality.
Finja, the Flying Star is an interesting case. On the one hand, it’s a great card, because it lets you get to your combo faster and more consistently. Pulling out 2 Murlocs is not only a big tempo swing in your favor, but it also thins your deck and makes an early Anyfin better. On the other hand, it makes your Warleader vulnerable to the counter cards I’ve mentioned before (Hex etc.), as you don’t kill it off immediately. Then, Finja is also a Murloc, so it will respawn. Respawning in the first Anyfin is usually good thing – you get an extra minion, a 6 health minion that won’t likely die to any non-board-wipe-AoE (like Brawl or Twisting Nether). But in the second, which is usually meant as a finishing combo, it has a chance to take up to 2 slots, which is really bad. Getting 2x Finja and 4x Warleader in the 2nd Anyfin is absolutely disgusting, because you only Charge in for 10 damage immediately. I mean, you still end up summoning a HUGE board, but if your opponent has a way to clear it, it’s probably game over. That’s why, if you play in the matchup which you don’t need to finish quickly (let’s say Reno Priest), you might decide to not play Finja at all, so your second Anyfin will be a guaranteed OTK. Still, those kind of unlucky rolls don’t happen often and you might not even see a single Finja in the second Anyfin, which most likely makes it worth to play (unless you’ve already got it from Barnes – then don’t play it, because it would be too much!)
One of the best cards in the Control matchup is Ivory Knight. While you pretty much tell your opponent what you draw (unless you’re close to or at full health), the card itself is very flexible. You can get another Equality, which is an amazing outcome – now you can wipe the board 3 times instead of 2. You can get more removal like Consecration or way to put pressure on the board like Blessing of Kings. You can also get cycle card like Lay on Hands (which heals for 16 in total, when counting both heals). But absolutely best outcome is getting an extra copy of Anyfin Can Happen. Now you can use your first two much more freely (let’s say to clear the board, or without the full Murloc roster drawn yet) and you are still safe, because you have an extra copy.
Be careful against Priests (Drakonid Operative) and Rogues (Swashburglar) because they can get a copy of Anyfin themselves. If they hold a card they’ve got this way for really long time, it’s probably it (or they’re faking it). The only thing you can really do in that case is making the second Anyfin (since you will play the first one) non-lethal from full health, meaning that you don’t want to play all the Murlocs. It’s just something to have in mind.
Anyfin Paladin Combos and Synergies
The most important combo is, of course, Anyfin Can Happen. Even though you don’t really need it in fast matchups, against slow decks it’s your main win condition. It’s important to count the Murlocs that have died this game (you can do it manually, but using Hearthstone Deck Tracker might make it a bit easier) – not only the ones you’ve played from your hand, but also the ones you’ve pulled from the Barnes or Finja. Any Murloc your opponent has played, let’s say something like Sir Finley Mrrgglton or Coldlight Oracle dilutes the Murloc pool and respawns with your Anyfins – but you still have to count them. Of course, it’s impossible to make a spreadsheet of every possible outcome taking extra Murlocs into the account, so you will need to count the damage yourself. Remember that Finja also reduces the damage of your burst combo!
The second most important combos (or well, maybe even most important, because you wouldn’t really get to the late game without them) are Equality board clears. You can combo Equality with two cards – Wild Pyromancer and Consecration. Wild Pyro combo is 2 mana cheaper, however it also destroys your own board. That shouldn’t be a problem most of the time, but if you want to keep your minions alive, go for the Equality + Consecration instead (it still reduces the health of your minions to 1, but it doesn’t kill them). If you have a few small minions on the board, for example Silver Hand Recruits, you can just play Equality and make the trades on the board. Equality is also good if you have Finja on the board and your opponent has a big minion – you can Equality and hit it with Finja, summoning 2 Murlocs (Finja dies in the process, but that’s fine). After a big board clear, you might also consider playing a Doomsayer on the empty board – it won’t kill anything, but it lets you stall the game for one more turn (most of the time).
Anyfin Paladin Card Substitutions
Here is the list of non-adventure Legendaries with possible replacements:
- Wickerflame Burnbristle – Even though the card is really strong, you can achieve a similar effect with Mistress of Mixtures. Mistress’ upsides are guaranteed 4 healing and 1 mana cost. However, the downsides are that she needs to die in order to heal (and she doesn’t have Taunt) + you rarely get advantage of the heal on turn 1, because it’s very likely that she will be cleared before you take any damage.
- Finja, the Flying Star – I think that it might be hard to replace Finja. Even though the card is not necessary, it makes pulling out a combo consistently much easier. There is no card with similar effect, so if you need a replacement, you’d probably want to play more cycle – for example Loot Hoarder (if you face more fast matchups), Lay on Hands (if you face more slow matchups) or Hammer of Wrath (an in-between choice).
- Ragnaros, Lightlord – I’d honestly say that this is one of the best cards against aggressive decks. If you manage to stop their initial onslaught and survive until Ragnaros, the game is pretty much over. It’s hard to out damage the 8 healing per turn and at the same time, thanks to the 8/8 body you put your opponent on a clock. However, the best replacement would probably be Forbidden Healing (if you face more fast matchups) or Lay on Hands (if you face more slow matchups).
- Tirion Fordring – Even though it’s one of the stronger Paladin cards, there are tons of ways to deal with it in the current meta. For that reason, it was cut from some of the lists and usually replaced by some early game like Mistress of Mixtures or Loot Hoarder. I still think that it’s strong play, even as a Hex/Polymorph bait – when you bait those, it will be much harder for your opponent to neutralize your Murlocs.
Like I’ve mentioned at the beginning, this list is pretty greedy. Even if you have cards like Tirion Fordring, it still might be a good idea to sub them for the cheaper cards. I was having a good run with the current list at the beginning, however after facing a few Pirate Warriors in the row I’ve made a few changes myself.
I would like to remind you, however, that Legendaries are pretty important in most of the decks and replacing them might reduce the given deck’s quality/performance significantly.
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Good luck on the ladder and until next time!