Fatigue/Mill decks have long been a part of the Hearthstone metagame, but the release of KFT has given rise to some new tools and strategies to aspiring fatigue players. In principle, the goal is to exhaust the opponent’s resources and eventually kill them with fatigue damage once they run out of cards in there deck. Warrior is particularly well positioned to adopt this kind of strategy, with its plethora of control elements in the form of removal and board clear, its ability to gain armor as part of its hero power as well as many of its cards, and some brand new technology in the form of Dead Man's Hand. Not only does this allow the Warrior to increase the size and consistency of its library by shuffling in redundant cards, it also gives the possibility of going infinite if the Warrior can keep shuffling a second copy of Dead Man's Hand back into their deck.
Dog recently achieved Rank 2 Legend with this deck, and the approaching nerfs to aggro strategies and fast starts from Druids mean that Fatigue Warrior is well positioned in the future meta to take on the slower decks of the format.
Fatigue Warrior Mulligan Strategy & Guide
Generally, we always want to have card draw in our opening hand. On each of our turns, we want to be doing at least one of three things: 1) Drawing Cards, 2) Answering the Board, and 3) Gaining Armor. These are listed in priority order, as our deck is full of card draw to help us find the answers that matter in a given situation. Always mulligan away Dead Man's Hand, Coldlight Oracle, and Bring It On!, as these are easily the worst cards to have in the early game. Scourgelord Garrosh can be okay to keep in slower matchups, as we almost always want to play it as soon as possible.
VS Fast Decks
Higher Priority (Keep every time)
- Blood Razor, Acolyte of Pain, Sleep with the Fishes – Acolyte of Pain is good against early aggression and helps us to find better cards. Our priority should be to find Sleep with the Fishes and any Whirlwind effect, which will clear most early boards. Blood Razor can sometimes clear an early board by itself, and proper management of its Deathrattle is key.
Lower Priority (Keep only if certain conditions are met)
- Public Defender, Whirlwind, Slam – Public Defender might as well read, “2 mana: Gain 7 Armor” against early aggression. The fact that it does nothing to clear a board, only slows it down, is the reason why it is a lower priority keep. Whirlwind is fine if there is a Sleep with the Fishes in our opening hand, otherwise we should mulligan for the more powerful effect. Our deck is full of Whirlwind type effects, but only two Sleep with the Fishes, so that takes priority every time. Slam against fast decks mostly just become a removal spell, but that is not necessarily a negative thing. Being able to remove a Murloc Tidecaller is very effective, but we do not want to trade one-for-one too often if we can help it. It can be correct to play to your draws and use Slam to weaken a minion and draw, especially if you know that a Whirlwind or Sleep with the Fishes is coming next turn.
VS Slow Decks
Higher Priority (Keep every time)
- Acolyte of Pain, Shield Block, Battle Rage – Drawing cards is the name of our game here. We don’t have to worry about getting burst down early like we do against aggro, so we can focus on filling our hand, getting to our answers for the inevitable big minions coming down on the other side of the board. If an early play from the opponent can damage us before we use our hero power and Shield Block, our Battle Rage becomes much better. Do not be afraid to cycle Battle Rage and only draw one card, especially if seeking a specific card like Brawl.
Lower Priority (Keep only if certain conditions are met)
- Blood Razor, Public Defender, Slam, Scourgelord Garrosh – A Blood Razor on turn 4 after an Acolyte of Pain on turn 3 is excellent sequencing, and usually can answer early plays of other slow decks, but we only keep Blood Razor if we have Acolyte of Pain or Battle Rage that we can capitalize on. Public Defender is similar. Combined with a damaging effect and Battle Rage, Public Defender can net us an early draw or two, especially if we Slam our own minion. Scourgelord Garrosh is a card we want to play on turn 8 in almost all circumstances against slow decks, so keeping it in the opening hand if we already have something like Acolyte of Pain and Shield Block is reasonable.
Fatigue Warrior Play Strategy
Dead Man's Hand is a complex card, and using it correctly is not always obvious. While there are two copies in the deck to go infinite with, this is rarely necessary. A full hand shuffled in with Dead Man's Hand nets 9 cards, and doing it a second times means our deck has 18 more cards than our opponents deck in total. Combine that with the symmetrical card draw of Coldlight Oracle, and it’s easy to see how we can fatigue our opponent with only two good Dead Man's Hand shuffles. The optimal cards to cycle in with Dead Man's Hand vary slightly from match to match, but, generally, the high priority cards are: Dead Man's Hand, Coldlight Oracle, Execute, and Bring It On!. Shuffling multiples is good but not necessary, so use the first copy as needed and save the second copy for Dead Man's Hand.
Murloc Paladin – This is likely our hardest match-up. We cannot afford a clunky draw, and it is difficult to find space to draw cards with the kind of pressure and synergy that Murlocs present. Be careful of the interaction with Murloc Warleader giving +1 Health to other Murlocs. Murlocs with only 1 point of damage on them will revert to undamaged if Murloc Warleader dies, which can blank our Sleep with the Fishes. Keep the board as clear as possible, watch out for Finja, the Flying Star and try to clear the board before it has a chance to explode. Don’t be afraid to play an early Bring It On! if the opponent has only a few cards left in hand (often, we will have to just to stay alive). Do not worry about fatiguing them. We win if we just survive.
Token Druid – There are a lot of variants, so it can be difficult to play around the right cards. Early boards can be cleared pretty easily with Blood Razor, provided they do not use Mark of the Lotus early. Be wary of Living Mana, and keep a boardwipe in reserve for that eventuality. The versions running Bonemare and Strongshell Scavenger can be challenging, particularly because Bonemare is a difficult card for us to combat. Like Murloc Paladin, the goal is just to survive as long as possible. Only use Coldlight Oracle to draw cards if a specific answer is needed and there is no other option.
Pirate Warrior – Pirate Warrior is the easiest of the aggro matchups because they do not have the same late game velocity. Blood Razor can clean up their early start, but watch out for Frothing Berserker. Southsea Captain can be problematic if the opponent is able to maintain their board, so remove it immediately. Once the Pirate Warrior gets low on cards, use one of our Bring It On! to stabilize. Pirate Warrior excels at burst damage with weapons and individual, potent threats, but armor bursts and targeted removal like Execute can put us out of range and hamstring their game plan.
Evolve Shaman – This matchup is pretty good as long as we can play Skulking Geist on time. This lines up fairly well with their preferred play of Doppelgangster into Evolve, so saving our The Coin to shortcut this can be a blowout. Keeping Brawl for this exact turn is our best defense if we do not have Skulking Geist. After Skulking Geist hits the table, their deck becomes much worse. Maintain a clear board to keep Bloodlust from generating too much burst damage, and the rest is elementary.
Exodia Mage – This game comes down to Dirty Rat. Draw cards as usual, but watch out for a Coldlight Oracle from the opponent that can cause us to overdraw. If the opponent is similarly close to maximum hand size, dropping our own Coldlight Oracle or two to burn their cards is a good strategy. Archmage Antonidas is public enemy number one, so stripping him with Dirty Rat or causing our opponent to burn him is often our only hope, because we cannot gain enough armor to survive an infinite turn, and we cannot present enough pressure to kill our opponent early either. If Dirty Rat grabs a Sorcerer's Apprentice instead, this can slow our opponent down and possibly keep them from being able to go infinite. 1-mana Fireball is not 0-mana Fireball, so start generating armor. If we can survive their burst turn, that usually means the match in our favor.
Jade Druid – The main reason that Skulking Geist is in the deck. If our opponent can’t put an infinite number of Jade Idol in their deck, then we can fatigue them. It also puts a cap on how large their Jades can become depending on how many other Jade cards they run, but it’s usually around 9 or 10. As in the Token Druid matchup, Bonemare is a troublesome card if they run it because of how much tempo it generates, so try to keep the board clear as much as possible. Scourgelord Garrosh is one of our best cards in the matchup, and our weapon/hero power combination can clear all but their largest Jades. Ultimate Infestation is not as good without the possibility of drawing multiple Jade Idol, and it puts them closer to fatigue. Drop a Coldlight Oracle or two if there is a chance to burn some of their cards, because Jade Druid plays a lot of expensive threats and is usually unable to drop more than 1-2 a turn.
Raza Priest – Oftentimes, this comes down to their draw. Raza the Chained on turn 5 is bad, and following it with Shadowreaper Anduin on turn 8 spells doom for us. All is not lost though, as they will have plenty of board control cards that do little or nothing against us. Track their hand size constantly, and Coldlight Oracle when we can burn some cards. Burning Raza the Chained or Shadowreaper Anduin is huge, and Lyra the Sunshard or Kazakus are big hits also. Around turn 5 is an okay time to use Dirty Rat and try to snag one of these high-impact cards, especially if you have the tools to clean it up quickly.
Big Priest – This match-up is all about exhausting their threats. An early Barnes, and the card it generates, are the major factors in how difficult this match-up is, as the subsequent revivals can be more or less challenging as a result. Execute is the important card to shuffle in with Dead Man's Hand, as it is our best way of answering their massive threats. Ysera and The Lich King are the big threats that must be removed, but it also means they have trouble with hand control, so look for opportunities to burn from their deck when their hand gets full.
Fatigue Warrior Card Substitutions
- Scourgelord Garrosh – A must-have for the deck. The weapon generated is huge for stabilizing the board, and the hero power plays well with our other effects, particularly Sleep with the Fishes. It cannot be overstated how crucial this card is, and we want to play it on turn 8 in almost every game.
- Bloodmage Thalnos – Pairs well with our damage-based board wipes and draws a card when it dies, cycling itself. While not completely necessary, it makes some of the aggro matchups easier, particularly Token Druid. Can replace with another Dirty Rat if facing a lot of Exodia Mages, or a second Public Defender against aggro decks.
- Dirty Rat – Increases our win percentage against Exodia Mage and can help against Raza Priest. Worse against aggro, so swap for Public Defender or Fiery War Axe if that is the meta.
- Skulking Geist – Necessary against Jade Druid, good against Evolve Shaman and Token Druid, mediocre in other match-ups. I wouldn’t cut this card because it’s a small commitment to make one of the most-played archetypes win-able, same as with Exodia Mage and Dirty Rat. Jade Druid stands to still be very good post-nerfs, whereas the aggro match-ups that currently plague the deck will be worse.
About the Author
Rogue Zebra has been playing Hearthstone since its release, and has been on the Free-to-Play bandwagon since the beginning. He likes to theory-craft and build budget decks in both Hearthstone and Magic: The Gathering. He streams Hearthstone three days a week on his Twitch channel, and you can also follow him on Twitter.