Control Paladin has been around since Hearthstone’s beta days. The deck back then looked markedly different than it does now, but the strategy has not changed. The deck is a late-game focused deck that relies on reacting to the opponent with efficient weapons and board clears and looks to end the game with its large threats.
There are generally two schools of thought when building a Control Paladin deck: Play N'Zoth, The Corruptor or forego the deathrattle package and play more generalized minions to be more consistent at the cost of a little end-game power.
The list we’ll be looking at for the purpose of this guide is a “traditional” Control Paladin build with no deathrattles, as it is the more consistent version (and consistency is king for climbing the ladder).
Control Paladin Mulligan Strategy & Guide
The mulligan section will be divided into two parts – against fast decks and against slow decks. Fast decks are generally the Aggro decks (e.g. Pirate Warrior) or high tempo Midrange decks (e.g. Midrange Hunter). Slow decks are slower Midrange and Control decks.
VS FAST DECKS
Higher Priority (keep every time):
- Doomsayer – This is arguably the best card in the game versus aggro decks if played on turn two. The only card that even rivals the tempo swing this card brings is Fiery War Axe, but as Paladins we have no access to the beloved weapon. A Doomsayer that survives an early play will not only cripple your opponents board presence, but will also make them essentially skip an entire turn.
- Hydrologist – You may look at Hydrologist and question its inclusion in the anti-aggro section of this guide. It is very true that this card is not the best possible tool versus aggressive decks, but the deck has so few early plays that putting the body on the board for board presence and trading potential with early plays is worth keeping it in your hand.
- Wickerflame Burnbristle – This is a very obvious inclusion as Wickerflame does everything you want versus aggressive decks: He gets on the board early, he is hard to trade into efficiently, and he saves you a good chunk of life. You will usually want to run him onto the board on turn three, but it’s also worth noting that if you stick a Spikeridged Steed on him versus aggro, the game usually ends on the spot.
- Aldor Peacekeeper – Aldor is one of the better cards in the deck for fighting aggression. He comes with a Humility attached to a 3/3 body, which allows for solid trading potential early on.
Lower Priority (keep only if certain conditions are met):
- Truesilver Champion – Truesilver is a very important tool versus aggressive decks as it gains you card advantage (killing multiple creatures for the cost of only one weapon), heals you for a bit, and gains you board control. This card is important in matchups where you need to kill minions with three or four health that your Hydrologist and Wickerflame can’t kill (Like Southsea Captain or Frothing Berserker).
- Consecration – Consecration can be a very good card to swing a game in your favor, but it is not always useful against aggro decks’ early boards. I would only keep this if you have a Hydrologist or Wickerflame to pair with it, as they can trade into and reduce the larger minions’ health before a consecration play.
- Wild Pyromancer – You only really want to keep Pyromancer if you are either going second (you have the coin) or you have an Equality to pair it with. It’s a pretty weak body on its own, but can be played out on turn two if necessary (it’s not something you’re going to be happy doing though).
- Equality – You will only keep Equality in your hand if you have a Wild Pyromancer to go along with it. It does close to nothing on its own versus aggro, but with Pyromancer it can swing a game in your favor. Never keep this without Wild Pyromancer to enable it.
VS SLOW DECKS
Higher Priority (keep every time):
- Hydrologist – Hydrologist is one of the best cards in your deck versus control. It is an early play that produces value by itself and can sometimes turn into a two-for-one (if you are able to discover Getaway Kodo with it). This was one of the most overlooked cards during Un’Goro’s release, but has proven its worth time after time.
- Stonehill Defender – This card produces an absurd amount of value when it’s played. The Paladin class taunts are all fantastic discovers from this guy (Tirion Fordring, Sunkeeper Tarim, Wickerflame Burnbristle, and Grimestreet Protector). You can completely bury your opponent in the value he generates.
Lower Priority (keep only if certain conditions are met):
- Truesilver Champion – Truesilver is one of the best cards in the deck in terms of raw power and efficiency, but it’s not always the best to keep in your opening hand. It’s a solid keep against decks that will play a few important minions early on like Priest or Mage.
- Aldor Peacekeeper – This is just a solid card all around and you will usually want to save it to shrink a big minion, but it’s not terrible to run out early on to combat some early threat from your opponent (like Mana Wyrm ).
Control Paladin Win Rates
Control Paladin Play Strategy
Control Paladin is a deck that wants to make it to the later turns of the game with a high enough life total, so that it can begin deploying its myriad of large threats. The individual game plan changes depending on what deck you are facing, but the overall strategy remains the same: Make it to the late-game and outlast your opponent. Each card in your deck progresses this game plan in some way, by either generating value, gaining life, or clearing the board. The trick to playing Control Paladin effectively is knowing how to use your resources effectively to navigate a game towards your large threats.
When playing against aggro, there is really only one main goal: Survive the early onslaught of minions. You aren’t in any rush to kill them – you are mostly looking to kill everything they play until you can stabilize with a high enough life total while they run out of resources. The important turns in this kind of matchup are turns one through four, as this is when the pressure from the aggressive decks is the greatest. If you can survive these early turns while killing off your opponents threats, that is when the Paladin deck begins to take over the game.
Stabilization is the name of the game here. This means that you want to clear your opponents board as much as possible and navigate the game to a situation where you are not taking a significant amount of damage. You are going to want to do this with a high enough life total so that you are not in range of taking lethal damage and also so that you’re healing spells can replenish your missing health. This is why the Paladin deck plays multiple board clears and ways to kill or neuter minions.
The cards that usually end the game versus aggro decks are Spikeridged Steed, Forbidden Healing, Tirion Fordring, Primordial Drake, and Ragnaros, Lightlord. You may notice that all of these cards are pretty mana-intensive, which is why we don’t keep them in our mulligan, but we play enough of these game-ending effects versus aggro that we can expect to draw into them with consistency by the turn we need them.
One trap that I see players who are new to the Control Paladin archetype fall into is keeping Forbidden Healing in their opening hand. It may seem like a good idea, as it is a victory condition versus aggressive strategies and has a flexible mana cost, but it is almost never correct to keep in the mulligan. Forbidden Healing may not have a high mana cost (as it costs 0 naturally), but in the scenarios where it is winning you the game, you are going to be playing it for upwards of seven mana, so you should be looking at it as a seven mana and up card. Sure you can play it in the early game to fill out your curve and help you survive by playing it for one or two mana, but in those scenarios do you really want a card in your opening hand that reads: “Two Mana, Restore Four Health to your hero”? The obvious answer is no, because you would rather have something that contests the early board in that spot that Healing would take up.
The most important piece of advice I can give for playing against Aggro decks is to not be afraid of taking face damage with your weapon. If you have the opportunity to kill a problematic minion with your Truseilver Champion (like a frothing Berserker), take it. Even if the Frothing is going to deal you five damage now, you will take less damage over the course of the game having dealt with it now. The general Rule here is: Trading face damage for board control is okay – Don’t be scared to do it.
Control matchups get a bit more nuanced in terms of how the games are played. Depending on what deck you are playing against your turn-by-turn strategy may differ, but it is always important to focus on what matters during each game – advancing yourself to an endgame position where you are not facing too much pressure.
Generally, the name of the game here is value. You want to abuse your early value-generating card like Hydrologist and Stonehill Defender, along with your hero power to put pressure on your opponent while amassing removal and threats in your hand.
If you end up losing the board to another slow deck, Equality paired with either Wild Pyromancer or Consecration will steal the board right back from your opponent. Do not underestimate the value a Doomsayer can bring either – it is a fine follow-up to a board clear as it will essentially make your opponent skip their turn developing and allow you to seize the initiative.
If your opponent has board control but does not have a large number of minions on the field, Aldor Peacekeeper will really shine as he is great at dealing with large, isolated threats. Coupled with Stampeding Kodo, Aldor turns into a removal spell that will leave you with a 3/3 and a 3/5 on the board (which is nothing to scoff at).
Generally, you will be ending the game by either running your opponent out of cards, or overwhelming them with value gained from The Curator and Stonehill Defender. Ivory Knight will help to progress either of these gameplans as it is a solid 4/4 body that brings a reasonably sized spell along with it.
Sunkeeper Tarim is one of the most powerful cards in the deck and one of the best cards released in recent memory. He allows you to produce a board full of threats (assuming you have been taking advantage of your hero power), while simultaneously shrinking your opponents minions to allow for favorable trades by you. This card is an absolute all-star against control decks and will definitely win you his fair share of games. Don’t underestimate the burst damage he can do with a board full of small minions on your side of the field.
Control Paladin Card Substitutions
- Stonehill Defender – This card is incredibly powerful and while I feel I cannot state that enough, if you cannot be bothered to shell out the dust for two copies, you can always play two copies of Acolyte of Pain.
- Wickerflame Burnbristle – I understand that this is kind of a fringe Legendary, but good news is: He isn’t necessary to play in the deck. While he does add a good bit of power, he can be replaced by a second copy of Forbidden Healing. Just be aware if you make this swap, your early game will suffer a bit versus aggressive deck.
- Sunkeeper Tarim – Do not bother trying to find a straight up replacement for this guy. The best replacement is probably going to be another taunt in the form of Nesting Roc so you can grab it out of the deck with The Curator.
- The Curator – This is another card that does not have an obvious replacement as his effect is so unique. You will find the closest replacement to be Lay on Hands as it also draws three cards and gains some life, but it is significantly less powerful than the Menagerie Man.
- Ragnaros, Lightlord – This card actually goes in and out of Control Paladin lists from time to time. He is very powerful and I prefer him in the list, but he can be swapped with a copy of Lay on Hands if needed.
- Tirion Fordring – To be completely frank – if you do not own Tirion, you should craft him or look at playing another deck. He is one of the main draws to playing Control Paladin and is irreplaceable in terms of power level and impact on the game.
- Primordial Drake – You need two dragons in the list to be able to grab with The Curator. One Primordial Drake is great to have access to as it is a fantastic finisher versus aggro and is a very great combo card with Equality. Ysera is actually a great substitution for one Drake as it is a fantastic finisher versus control and keeps your Dragon count up for The Curator.
About the Author
Appa is a professional Hearthstone player with high finishes at multiple high-level events. He has been rated in the top 100 players in the world multiple times and brings a deep knowledge of the game with him. You can follow him on social media on Twitter or follow his weekly podcast that he co-hosts at Coin Concede.