The Witchwood Off-Meta Decks Compilation #1 (May 15th)

I know that some of you have asked for another best decks compilation, like the ones I did when The Witchwood has launched. And don’t worry – you will get one right after the nerf patch coming later in May (you can read more about the nerfs here). With the latest expansion being out for over a month now, I wouldn’t be telling you anything new right now. There is just so much data floating around that you can easily find the strongest decks yourself. After the balance changes shake up the meta, it will take some time for everyone to catch up, we’ll bring you fresh deck lists as soon as possible.

However, in the meanwhile, there is one thing that those meta tier lists don’t do very well – listing maybe not the best, but the most fun and interesting, off-meta builds. The decks that aren’t popular enough to be considered “meta”, but some players had success with. And this will be today’s point of focus.

Off-meta decks are much harder to write about, because it’s very difficult to measure their real power. We know that Even Paladin is the best deck in the game right now, and we know which builds work best, because thousands of people play it every hour, testing and optimizing (or at least providing data for other people to optimize) the lists. Off-meta decks, on the other hand, are mostly one-time experiments from a certain pro or a small group of people. Those decks aren’t optimized, weren’t extensively playtested against the entire meta etc. On the other hand, off-meta decks have their own advantage too – I like to call it a “surprise factor”. Not only will your opponent very likely mulligan badly (because they either think that you play a more popular meta deck, or have no clue what you are playing if you use an unpopular class), but without knowing your deck list, they might make a lot of silly mistakes along the way, ultimately increasing your chance to win if you can capitalize on them.

One more thing that you need to remember is that off-meta decks usually have a very short lifespan, because at their core they are simply worse than most of the meta options. The surprise factor is great at the beginning, but the more people start playing the deck, the worse it gets over time. That’s why I’ve decided to keep things relatively fresh and only cover the decks from the last week or so. Also, most of those decks were played on the way to Legend or in Legend, it means that they faced a very specific meta. Your local meta might be different depending on your rank, server, or even time of the day. On top of that, those decks were piloted by very skilled players, which means that they might not work for you as well as they did for the pros.

Without further ado, let’s get straight to the first off-meta decks compilation from The Witchwood.

Let’s start with this beauty that got popular around a week ago. It’s the first time I’ve seen someone using Archmage Arugal + Book of Specters combo successfully. The main problem with this combo is that Mage has simply no good early/mid game minions to build a deck around. Since you can’t run bigger spells, including removals, you can’t really build a Control deck, so you need to have a minion-based, pretty aggressive list.

The first and most obvious approach was Elemental Mage, but it has some problems. Elementals are generally kind of slow and already pack some value, like Bonfire Elemental or Servant of Kalimos or Pyros. So, the upside of drawing lots of cards is not that important if you don’t run out of steam quickly anyway, which means that a normal spells would supplement the deck better.

And so, Apxvoid built a Mage deck around… Murlocs. Yes, Mage has exactly zero Murloc tribe synergy… but so does Paladin after Grimscale Chum and Vilefin Inquisitor have rotated out (Hydrologist is still there, which is a nice boost, but it’s not a very important card), so it actually might make some sense, as Murloc Paladin is a great deck.

Neutral Murloc synergies aren’t best, but Un’Goro boosted them quite nicely with Rockpool Hunter and Gentle Megasaur. Another interesting synergy in this deck is the one between Archmage ArugalDollmaster Dorian and card draw. Normally, you think only about the Arugal + Book synergy, but Arugal also synergizes very well with Aluneth, and Dorian synergizes with both of those. Drawing or summoning a bunch of extra Murlocs can either put a lot of pressure on the board or give you another round of board refill.

So, in the end, it’s not a very high win rate deck, but it’s sort of viable, and probably the best way you can utilize that Arugal or Book of Specters you’ve opened!

Recruit Warrior is a deck that reminds me most of an oldschool Control Warrior. A lot of Armor gain, removals and a bunch of high cost Legendaries as a win condition. That’s basically how the deck looks like. Howeve,r instead of playing 100% fair, it incorporates some of the “cheating out a big minion” mechanics in a form of Recruit.

Let’s start with the removal part of the deck, which is quite extensive. Shield Slam and Execute as the single target removal. WarpathReckless FlurryBlood Razor and Brawl as the AoE. On top of that, massive Armor gain with Iron HideBring It On! and Shield Block, on top of the regular Armor gain from the Hero Power. On top of everything, Scourgelord Garrosh serves as a bit of everything – Armor gain, AoE removal and single target removal (well, the weapon is technically AoE, but it can be used as a single target removal just as well).

But of course, the main “juice” of the deck are big minions and recruit mechanics. Some games are sealed as soon as Turn 6, with Gather Your Party pulling out a huge minion, such as The Lich King. Recruit mechanics also make Rotface much better, since you can get it out on the board and still have some mana to play e.g. Warpath. Rotface from Woecleaver + 5x Warpath is a massive board clear + board flood with random Legendaries (damaged, yes, but still amazing). Talking about Woecleaver, the card is nuts in slower matchups if you don’t run into a weapon removal. But even in the worst case scenario, you get out at least 8 mana minion into a board for 8 mana + 3 damage from the weapon + you force your opponent to play a weapon removal, which might mean that he won’t be able to deal with your board. But, if your Woecleaver survives, it gets even better. Getting out up to three huge minions for just 8 mana is amazing.

As for the finisher, if you won’t win the game with your big minions, Grommash Hellscream can really help you with the 10 burst damage. Plus, a single Dead Man's Hand might not make you immune to fatigue, but it can definitely make you win the fatigue war + shuffle a bunch of threats/removal/armor gain (depending on the matchup) back into your deck.

King Togwaggle is like an epitome of a meme card. It’s a card that has no right to work, and yet it does. I mean, it’s a very niche, off-meta and honestly not a great deck in Standard, but let me tell you this – Togwaggle Druid actually WORKS in the Wild format. That’s because the Aviana + Kun the Forgotten King make the combo much easier, since you don’t have to rely on Twig, but since this is a Standard version, I will talk about it.

So, you might be looking at this deck and wondering – how the hell does it win? Well, against Aggro, it’s as simple as always – you just need to survive. This deck offers multiple tools to do just that, more than a regular Druid build. Majority of your deck is built around surviving and stalling, because that’s also a part of your game plan in slower matchups. Against Aggro, a great Spreading Plague, well-timed Malfurion the Pestilent or just a massive Ultimate Infestation into a bunch of stuff next turn is usually enough to seal the game. No, those games are not easy, but with so many tools, you should win a bunch of them. You can pretty much ignore the combo, unless the game actually lasts that long.

However, where the real, interesting game starts are the slower matchups. Here, you can actually use your Togwaggle to win the match. But how, exactly? First and most importantly, it’s important to get to the fatigue, or at least near fatigue quite quickly. It shouldn’t be that hard with all of that cycling. And then, there are two ways. You either need to burn the treasure or get the swap spell yourself to counter the opponent’s swap. The first one is easy, but often just doesn’t work. You need to keep your Naturalize, play it (or even two copies), make your opponent’s hand full and only THEN drop Togwaggle. Decks will switch, but your opponent will no longer have a way to switch back. And so, you end up with your opponent’s shiny deck, and he ends up in fatigue.

The second way is more complicated, but also the only way to do it if your opponent doesn’t have a nearly full hand. You need to get your Twig of the World Tree down to a single point of durability, play Togwaggle, hit with the Twig and immediately drop Azalina Soulthief. Now you will have an exact copy of your opponent’s hand, including the spell to swap the decks. So, basically, once your opponent swaps the decks, you can do the same thing give him an empty deck again. The problem here is that once your opponent understands what you’re playing, he will just destroy your Twig at 1 charge, making everything much more difficult, sometimes even impossible if your opponent knows exactly what he’s doing.

Yeah, that’s a pretty unique way to win the game, but it works surprisingly more often than you’d think. You don’t even have to give them an empty deck – as long as you’re further into the fatigue (and you should, thanks to the Nourish, UI and such), swapping decks is nice – cards in your opponent’s deck should be more valuable than yours after the swap anyway, as this build has pretty much no other win condition. The only card you don’t really want to give up is Malfurion the Pestilent, because the 3 damage per turn might be a way for your opponent to come back.

It’s a really fun deck. I wouldn’t craft all of the necessary cards just to play it, but if you happen to have them, it’s a great deck to try out.

Shaman isn’t doing very well right now. It’s on the bottom of tier lists. Neither the rotation, nor the new cards helped it enough to bring it back to the meta in any form. If you want to play Shaman now, you can basically go for one of the two things – either a slow Elemental build with Shudderwock, or Even Shaman. Both builds are capable of hitting Legend, but are basically off-meta choices. This time I’ve decided to feature the Even build.

There isn’t really much to it, more than the fact that a cheaper Hero Power works quite well in Shaman. The reason why 1 mana Hero Power is best in Paladin and Shaman is the fact that it’s not wasted on Turn 1 – it develops something. Even if it’s small, you always have a Turn 1 play and and you can flood the board more easily thanks to the 1 mana dudes/totems.

In case of Shaman, the biggest issue is capitalizing on that board full of totems. Yes, you can have a lot of them, but other than Flametongue Totem, it’s really hard to do something meaningful. That’s why Even Shaman builds try to look for as much synergy as possible. And so, they run Dire Wolf Alpha (which is like a weaker Flametongue), Dark Iron Dwarf, Defender of Argus or Sea Giant to make that board flood worthwhile. An interesting card that I haven’t seen in any other build before is Ravasaur Runt. It’s pretty easy to get 2 minions on the board, and 2 mana 2/2 that Adapts is quite good – having a 2 mana 5/2 or 2/5, or a 2/2 with Divine Shield (Shielded Minibot) is cool.

Another reason, besides the cheaper Totems, to run Even build is Murkspark Eel. An amazing card, 2-drop with vanilla stats AND unconditional 2 damage (well, deck restriction is a condition, but once you’re in the game it doesn’t require any further synergy or setup) is amazing. It wrecks the Even Paladins in particular, as they run a lot of 2 health minions, such as Knife Juggler, Dire Wolf Alpha or Acidic Swamp Ooze – hitting any of those with Eel is a huge win, but even getting rid of the 1-drops is good enough.

If your early/mid game plan doesn’t work, you can always try to slow down and go for a more control oriented game with Hagatha the Witch. Of course, given the card’s massive RNG, whether you will be able to perform the control role really depends on the cards you get from her – since all of the Shaman’s AoE cards are odd-costed (Lightning Storm, Volcano), you don’t really have any reactive tools like that, meaning that you’re completely relying on random cards Hagatha gives you. However, it’s still a nice backup plan – and the 3 damage AoE can come handy in some matchups (like against Paladin who just had a massive Tarim turn).

Given that the deck is good enough to slowly climb, if you like Shaman, it might be your best best way to play the class right non, while waiting for the nerf patch or the next expansion.

Spiteful Summoner is a silly card. While it was mostly played in Priest and Druid, there were more decks that have tried a Spiteful build, more or less successfully. Spiteful Hunter with Call of the Wild, Spiteful Paladin with Dinosize, Spiteful Mage with Pyroblast or this one – Spiteful Warlock with Twisting Nether.

I’ve already seen Spiteful Warlock builds in Kobolds & Catacombs, but a Spiteful Warlock with Skull of the Man'ari is something I see for the first time. The general idea behind the deck is to run a Zoo-like build, while also getting carries by a 4/4 + a random 8-drop you get from Spiteful. While Twisting Nether doesn’t really fit this kind of deck, ideally you just don’t draw them, and less ideally they can be sort of useful in certain late game scenarios.

However, Skull part is something I really like about this build. While the meta is heavily teched against weapons, with most of the builds running Oozes or Harrison, it’s much easier to get value of the Skull when playing a Zoo-like deck for two reasons. First is obviously a surprise factor – when they see Zoo, they might just drop that Ooze on the board, because they don’t expect a weapon and want to have some body in play. And second is that if you play Skull while you already have some pressure on the board, it might be impossible to play both board clear AND weapon removal in the same turn. And now your opponent will be caught between a rock and a hard place – removing board means that you might get a big demon for free from Skull, play some more stuff on the board and basically put him in the same situation. On the other hand, ignoring the board and removing Skull might lead to A LOT of extra damage, or even a preemptive death.

If you like Spiteful decks of all kinds, this is a quite interesting approach. While it doesn’t seem as good as a Druid, you can really catch your opponent off-guard, because they will have two opportunities to misplay. When they see Warlock, they will automatically assume Cube or Control. And then when they see your first minions like Flame Imp or Prince Keleseth, they will now assume that you play Zoo. No one really thinks about Spiteful Warlock, believe me.

I like to feature an unusual, somewhat clunky Paladin build when talking about off-meta or “interesting” decks for one simple reason – to showcase how busted the class is. Just add your early game core, 2x Call to Arms and then you can simply let the game finish the deck for yourself and you will still win a fair lot of games. Of course, I’m not saying that this was built that way, I’m just pointing out that Call to Arms is just broken.

When it comes to this deck, I like its playstyle more than the Even or Murloc Paladin. While it’s on the aggressive side for a Midrange deck, it’s still not “in your face” as some of the other builds. Stonehill Defender makes the early game a bit slower, while boosting the deck’s late game. The card is still nuts in Paladin – even though Wickerflame Burnbristle is no longer in Standard, you still have a solid chance to discover Sunkeeper Tarim or Tirion Fordring, or even a great Neutral options such as The Lich King or Primordial Drake.

I haven’t seen Cairne Bloodhoof ever since Bonemare was nerfed, but it makes some sense in a build with 2x Spikeridged Steed. Not only it’s a sticky target for the Steed, it also has a high chance of baiting the Silence first. Just remember that buffing the first body is very risky if you haven’t seen a Silence yet – not only it will get rid of the buff, but also of TWO Deathrattles. A single Spellbreaker can turn 12 mana, 2 cards play into a Chillwind Yeti.

And then, there is a Lynessa Sunsorrow. With 2x Blessing of Kings and two Steeds, it’s very easy to make her big. Even assuming a single BoK and a single Steed, she’s already 7/11 with Taunt, which Deathrattles into a 2/6 Taunt. Of course, her downside of being vulnerable to Silence is still there, and with lots of Silence in the meta, she might be underperforming in some matchups.

If you like Paladin, but you want to try something different, it might be a deck for you. If you’re sick of Paladin, well, the good news is that the nerf patch should come out in 2-3 weeks.

This one is more like a variation on a meta deck (Control/Mind Blast Priest), but since it’s not a very common build (yet), I feel like it counts.

Control / Mind Blast Priest is one of my favorite decks in the current meta. I just love slow, Control decks with a combo finisher. However, about that “Control” part… Senfglas (because he first created the deck, Meati piloted it to #7 Legend) decided that if your game plan is ultimately to burn face with Mind Blasts and Anduin’s Hero Power anyway, why not add more face burn to the deck and turn it from a Control deck into something more Combo-oriented. And well, as it appears, it works quite well.

The thing is – the deck still keeps the main reason why it’s good against Paladins (AoE, AoE and more AoE), while boosting the Warlock matchup even further – especially the Control build, which is slow and won’t likely fight back very hard. The deck can deal MASSIVE amounts of damage every turn after switching to Anduin, basically more than any deck can heal. On top of the basic Hero Power + Mind Blast + Hero Power for 9 damage, the deck can also do the same thing with Holy Fire (more expensive, but heals and can potentially target a minion if necessary) and also deal 7 damage with Lifedrinker. Dealing 7-9 damage might not seem amazing, but remember that the deck can basically do it every turn, forcing the opponent to heal for A LOT or just die. If we add the fact that Alexstrasza can bring any opponent who tries to escape the lethal range back to 15 (or just be a great way to start the damage turns), it destroys a lot of the decks simply because they have no way to keep up with all the damage.

In a way, it reminds me of the pre-nerf Highlander Priest. While the combos aren’t that powerful, the fact that you can put opponent on a 2-3 turns clock very easily by constantly burning their face makes the opponent feel the pressure. Another potential similarity was that Highlander Priest was also built more in a Control fashion at first, and as the time went by it was more and more focused on cycling through the deck and dealing damage. It’s hard to say, but this build might be a step forward – right now it’s much less popular than the regular Control / Mind Blast Priest, bit it might turn out that the Combo or a “Face” approach is simply better.

The main issue I have with this deck is that Turn 4 Mountain Giant just wrecks it. With no way to answer it, if Warlock starts copying it, Cubing it etc. you might be dead way before you can drop a Psychic Scream or Shadowreaper Anduin to deal with it. But well, something had to be cut to fit more damage. Another issue is that, very similarly to the old Highlander Priest, Shadowreaper Anduin is a vital piece, and not drawing it in time often results in a quick loss. Getting him as one of the last cards means that you might have wasted 20 or more damage over the course of all those turns you couldn’t Hero Power your opponent down.

And last, but not least, I wanted to feature one Wild deck I played in the last few days. You thought that Highlander Priest is dead? Well, as you can see, you can still easily get to high Legend ranks with it.

So, here is the thing – Raza the Chained‘s nerf made the deck much more clunky. You can no longer play Hero Power for every single card you’ve dropped and get away with it. Now, since it costs 1 mana, you are limited – you can’t, for example, play 2x 4 mana card, a single 2 mana card and still Hero Power 3 times. However, as you can see when playing or facing Mind Blast Priest, Shadowreaper Anduin is still a scary card, even without any discounts. With a 1 mana discount, however, it’s even easier to get some combos done.

While in Standard, nerf made the Prophet Velen combos no longer possible, in Wild the deck was already playing Spawn of Shadows instead, making the combos much cheaper. And while it’s no longer THAT easy, it’s still possible to make massive combo turns. For example, playing Spawn of Shadows (4 mana) + Hero Power (5 mana) + Silence + Hero Power (6 mana) + Holy Smite (7 mana) + Hero Power (8 mana) + Flash Heal (9 mana) + Hero Power (10 mana) is doable. Since each Hero Power (with Spawn’s extra damage) does 6 damage, the combo above is 26 damage in total (including 2 damage from Holy Smite), usually enough to kill your opponent, given that you’ve probably grinded him down for the last few turns.

The deck feels much more balanced than it did when Raza reduced the Hero Power’s cost to 1, so I don’t think that it will take over the meta. But if you miss the old Anduin Chain Gun game play, it might bring back some fond memories (or well, PTSD if you were constantly on the receiving end).

Stonekeep

A Hearthstone player and writer from Poland, Stonekeep has been in a love-hate relationship with Hearthstone since Closed Beta. Over four years of playing and three years of writing about the game, he has achieved infinite Arena and multiple top 100 Legend climbs.

Check out Stonekeep on Twitter!

3 Comments

  1. Voicccy
    May 15, 2018 at 1:16 pm

    Murloc Mage is SO COOOOOL

    Reply
  2. blutrane
    May 15, 2018 at 10:01 am

    nice article, enjoy this type of content

    Reply
  3. Brb
    May 15, 2018 at 9:22 am

    Master brody is gone, the dark one is back

    Reply

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