When the February 2018 nerfs were announced, Spiteful Summoner was one of the cards that was predicted to take over the meta. Aggro is going to be weaker! Incredible swings on turn six will dominate the game!
However, statistics show that Spiteful Summoner is actually seeing less play now than before the nerfs. Only marginally so though, as it is currently found in 9% to 10% of decks instead of 10% to 11% of decks it used to be in, but this is still a surprising reveal regarding a card that was predicted to be one of the major winners of the nerfs.
Don’t get me wrong, Spiteful Summoner is still a strong card. I’m fresh off of a loss to a turn five Spiteful Summoner that brought a Deathwing, Dragonlord to the fray – I dealt with that – followed by a turn six Spiteful Summoner that brought a Deathwing to play – and then I died. The card obviously has power, and it sees play, but it still cannot dominate the meta even after the nerfs.
The Weaknesses and Strengths of Spiteful Decks
Aggro decks always find a way to survive. You can take away Corridor Creeper, you can take away Patches the Pirate, but there is always a way. After the February 2018 nerfs, that way was Call to Arms.
Spiteful decks suffer from miserable matchups against all forms of aggressive Paladin decks. Murloc Paladin, Aggro Paladin, Silver Hand Paladin, choose your poison, they all wreck Spiteful decks, because Spiteful decks do not have early spells to defend themselves with, and minions do not provide enough board clears to deal with all the threats Paladin can summon.
Other aggressive decks can also be a problem, although to a lesser extent. Zoolock and Aggro Druid are not that common right now, but can still get the job done.
Finally, Spiteful decks can be defeated by other decks that are weak to aggro, but are able to complete their win condition faster than Spiteful decks or stall them indefinitely. Kingsbane Rogue, Quest Rogue, and Exodia Mage are a formidable challenge to board-based decks that rely on huge mid-game swings.
Despite these obstacles, Spiteful decks have good matchups against many of the meta decks, such as most varieties of Warlock, Mage, and Hunter. This is why Spiteful Summoner has retained its popularity, but has not been able to grow: it is able to defeat many archetypes, but it is also countered by some of the most popular decks.
How to Build a Spiteful Deck
There is a major cost to including Spiteful Summoner in your deck: you want to cut all cheap spells to prevent it from summoning a weak minion. Some classes are better at dealing with this cost than others, and as all spells are currently class-specific, some classes also have better big spells to use with Spiteful Summoner than others.
Big spells are always in limited supply, still. Some Spiteful decks go as low as only including two expensive spells, which gives consistent summoning results, but also risks drawing the spells before Spiteful Summoner can be played, rendering its Battlecry useless: if you have already drawn all of your spells, Spiteful Summoner will summon nothing.
With only two spells in the deck, you will draw both spells before turn six in roughly one game out of eight. With three spells in the deck, this happens in one game out of twenty, and with four or more spells in the deck, it practically no longer happens at all. Building a Spiteful deck with only two spells therefore comes with some risks, but even that approach is sometimes used.
Which Classes Can Support Spiteful Summoner?
There are two meta decks that include Spiteful Summoner: Spiteful Priest and Spiteful Druid. Those two are proven concepts with well-known strength and weaknesses, so if you’re looking to play some Spiteful decks, those are a solid starting point.
Spiteful Priest is by far the most common Spiteful deck on the ladder right now, and we have a full guide on Spiteful Priest for you that details all the intricacies of the deck.
Spiteful Priest has access to Duskbreaker, an early board clear in minion form, and that is what separates it from other Spiteful decks. Turns out, the combination of Spiteful Summoner and access to early-game area-of-effect damage is a strong one.
Spiteful Priest has great spells to use with Spiteful Summoner: Mind Control and Free From Amber. They guarantee either an eight-drop or a ten-drop, and they are also powerful late-game cards in their own right. Mind Control makes Control Warlock a highly favorable matchup for the Priest, especially in combination with Grand Archivist, who can cast the spell for free as early as turn eight, making Voidlord steals that much easier.
Priest even has a backup plan for an aggro-heavy meta: Dragonfire Potion gives access to yet another board clear at the expense of making Spiteful Summoner slightly less consistent. Just swap Grand Archivist out for one if you are in a mostly aggro meta, and you can still climb.
The only other Spiteful deck that is an established part of the meta is Spiteful Druid. We have a full guide on Spiteful Druid available as well.
Curiously enough, the deck runs only two spells, but those are big ones – two copies of Ultimate Infestation. The joke that you can put in two copies of Ultimate Infestation in a Druid deck and autofill the rest has some merit to it – Spiteful Druid has some huge refill available to it, and as Druid has a bunch of minion-based ramp available as well, Spiteful Druid can simply out-tempo many of its opponents and Spiteful Summoner is just one tempo tool among many others.
Spiteful Druid deck is often a tech card galore: with no one-size-fits-all answers akin to Duskbreaker available to Druid, they need to be aware of the surrounding meta and put in various hate cards that target that meta, such as Hungry Crab and Eater of Secrets, to help them survive against fast decks.
No viable builds of post-nerfs Spiteful Hunter have been found so far. In fact, Spiteful Hunter is now worse than it was before the nerfs, as Corridor Creeper and Pirates were a major part of the deck.
The problem is survival. Early Beasts cannot do enough, and with no access to Unleash the Hounds and Explosive Trap, clearing wide Paladin boards becomes nigh impossible. Deathstalker Rexxar can help a little, but including it turns the deck into an even slower version. Crushing Walls helps in some metas, but if the opponents build really wide boards, it becomes much less powerful.
Hunter is a class where Spiteful Summoner has had a home before, and may have again, but so far viable builds have proven to be elusive.
Spiteful Summoner is viable in Mage. In fact, many early iterations of Big Spell Mage included Spiteful Summoner, and that remains a potential way to build the deck in a bit more aggressive and tempo-oriented way than the most common current builds, often also including cards such as Arcane Tyrant.
The downside is that Spiteful Summoner provides less of a swing for Mage than for many other classes. Sure, you have Firelands Portal, maybe even Pyroblast, but you often also have to include at least Polymorph, or even Ice Block.
Big Spell Mage has moved away from mid-game tempo swings and more towards pure control builds with little reach but powerful end-game win conditions.
As an upside, Paladin has Dinosize, which is an excellent spell to enable Spiteful Summoner. However, why would Paladin want to play Spiteful Summoner?
Paladin has arguably the strongest spell in the game in Call to Arms, so you really do not want to cut that from your Paladin deck. Including Call to Arms and Dinosize is possible, but makes Spiteful Summoner unreliable, alternating between four-drops and eight-drops.
Paladin has so many archetypes that are absolute beasts, it is hard to justify working with Spiteful Summoner for the class.
Missing out on all the cheap spells that enable combos seems too far-fetched for a Spiteful Rogue to ever be a thing.
Shaman is almost as far away from building a Spiteful deck as Rogue. Lesser Sapphire Spellstone is the only spell that synergizes with Spiteful Summoner, and losing all of the early-game board clears would be disastrous for Shaman in the current meta.
Shaman does not use the Combo mechanic, which makes Spiteful Summoner a potential match in theory, but the Shaman card pool currently does not support it adequately.
Warlock has some expensive spells. Unfortunately, they are not a great fit for decks that want to run Spiteful Summoner: Twisting Nether and DOOM! tend to not be your first choices for a board-centric deck.
Before the nerfs, there were some Zoo builds with Bloodreaver Gul'dan, Corridor Creeper, and Twisting Nether, as Creeper and Bloodreaver can help you refill the board after a clear, but after the nerfs they have fallen by the wayside.
Warrior is one the most interesting classes without an established Spiteful Summoner deck. Spiteful Summoner has seen play in a number of Pirate Warrior builds together with Lesser Mithril Spellstone, the only expensive Warrior spell, but none of the builds have really thrived in the post-nerfs meta.
Cutting Upgrade! and Heroic Strike hurts, and it can be easier to build the deck without Spiteful Summoner. If you want to go for a slightly slower build, missing out on Execute is a hefty price to pay.
That said, Warrior is one of the few classes that has early-game board clears without spells thanks to Blood Razor and Ravaging Ghoul, and it also has Scourgelord Garrosh for some late-game board control.
It also has another spell to add to a Spiteful deck, Unidentified Shield, so Warrior has access to cards that should be able to be bundled together to form a coherent Spiteful deck. Nonetheless, attempts to do so have so far failed, perhaps in part because Warrior’s spells only cost six or seven mana instead of the eight or ten of the established builds – resulting in weaker swings from the Summoner.
Priest teaches us that Spiteful decks are stronger the more effects you can have embedded into your minions (or weapons, although Priest obviously has none). Should Blizzard release more minion-based area-of-effect damage or the like, more varieties of Spiteful decks can grow to be fearsome indeed.
The success of Priest and Druid also shows that the size of the swing matters: getting eight-drops or ten-drops is much stronger than getting six-drops or seven-drops. In Spiteful mirrors, the deck with bigger spells generally has an advantage, unless the slightly smaller spells themselves can provide major swings.
Currently, the early-game tools of Spiteful decks are limited, which allows aggro decks to prey on them, and has prevented Spiteful Summoner from taking over the ladder. This is something to keep an eye on with future expansions, as more early-game tools can make Spiteful Summoner even better. Right now, it is playable, it is strong, but it does not dominate the ladder.