Classic is the latest Hearthstone format and it takes the game back to its (nearly) original state, before any expansions were released. All of the card changes done since them were reverted, all of the new mechanics, features etc. removed – other than some QoL changes, it feels like playing the game back in June 2014.
However, it also means that Classic meta is completely different than what you see in Standard or Wild. We’ve decided to gather some of the most powerful decks for every class. Keep in mind that some of the classes are clearly better than the others (right now Druid and Warlock are the two most dominating ones, with Rogue, Shaman and Warrior being Tier 2).
Deck lists use our old deck builder, since Classic deck builder is still in the works. We’ll update them as soon as we finish it, and until then, there’s a working deck code posted under each deck list.
Anyway, without further ado, here’s the list:
Table of Content
We have some good news and bad news. Bad news (okay, maybe good news for some of you) – Demon Hunter class didn’t exist back in the day, so you can’t play it. Good news – in Classic, every single class can feel a bit like Demon Hunter by putting Illidan Stormrage (now Xavius) into their deck! The card isn’t really that good, but I guess that if you try really hard, you can make it work in some builds.
When it comes to Druid, by far the most popular option in Classic was Ramp. There were two versions – one with Force of Nature + Savage Roar combo one one without it, but the combo version was generally more popular, since the deck needed a solid finisher. Druid’s biggest downside was the lack of removal, especially big minion removal, which is why most of the builds teched in Big Game Hunter and The Black Knight (especially useful in mirrors). Funnily enough, some players even teched in Mark of the Wild to – of course – buff their own minions, but also combo with The Black Knight to remove any minion. Yes, that’s how desperate Druids were against big bodies. The deck’s general gameplan was to hopefully hit Wild Growth on Turn 2 and then curve out with a Taunt every turn, then refill with Ancient of Lore if necessary (but because of deck’s high mana curve, it generally wasn’t).
Another, less popular option was Token Druid. It shared some similarities with ramp version, but most notably had a lower mana curve and played Violet Teacher as a way to flood the board with 1/1 tokens. Those tokens then could either be buffed by Power of the Wild (Teacher + Innervate + Power of the Wild was a really strong T4 combo) or, if they survived, used to burst the opponent down with Savage Roar. And, of course, the deck played two copies of FoN + SR combo, unlike Ramp, which often only included one.
We also had some early “Midrange Druid” builds, but those didn’t really take off until Naxxramas – however, I think that some players will be able to build viable ones in Classic too.
When it comes to Hunter, two builds were most popular – Face and Midrange. Just like with many popular decks back in the day, they shared a lot of similarities, and the biggest difference was that Midrange version curved a little bit higher, usually stopping at 6 with Savannah Highmane.
Face Hunter focused more on killing the opponent as quickly as possible by running more direct damage, e.g. Charge minions such as Wolfrider and Arcane Golem. The latter used to be a 4/2 with Charge that ramped up the opponent – which doesn’t sound that great, after all giving them Mana Crystal is a big deal, but the game was over so quickly that it mostly didn’t matter (and you could also hold it and use as a finisher).
Midrange Hunter, on the other hand, focused on Beast synergies. They played cards like Scavenging Hyena, which could run out of control thanks to Unleash, and Houndmaster, which was very efficient as long as you had something to buff.
But probably most importantly, both builds played the infamous Starving Buzzard + Unleash the Hounds combo. It was a massive refill, drawing a card for each minion opponent had on the board + summoning a bunch of 1/1’s with Charge. The combo made Hunter a powerhouse class on the ladder.
Mage had two options back in the day – a slower one and a faster one. While the Open Beta “glory days” of Freeze Mage, when Blizzard costed only 5 mana and Frost Nova only 2 were over, it doesn’t mean that the deck disappeared. On the contrary – it has been a really cool (get it? GET IT?) option all the way through the Classic deck. The gameplan was simple – stall the game long enough to play Alexstrasza on the opponent, preferably with Ice Block still intact, then burn them down. That said, in reality it didn’t always work that well – sometimes you faced so much pressure that you had to use burn pieces as minion removal, other times you had to Alexstrasza yourself because you were low on health, and then there were games against Control Warrior when you had to get a little more creative (and that’s when Archmage Antonidas came into action). Freeze Mage was one of the most difficult and tricky decks of Classic days, but it was also incredibly rewarding once you managed to pull out the combo.
The second option was Tempo Mage, also known as Aggro Mage back then. Unlike Freeze, this one relied on early game minion pressure combined with some late game burst. It ran the same burn pieces that Freeze Mage did, but instead of trying to stall the game, it just went all in from the get-go. 1 mana Mana Wyrm was of course the deck’s MVP – I remember games where T1 Mana Wyrm into T2 Mana Wyrm + Mirror Image meant game over for the opponent, as they died before they could get to the Wyrms and kill them. Of course, it wasn’t always easy – especially against slower decks which cleared all your early pressure, you had to go for some late game tactics like Pyroblast finisher or – once again – Antonidas. Antonidas + Sorcerer's Apprentice + a bunch of cheap spells was a common way to generate necessary burn to close out slow matches.
And once again, two polar opposites – yes, it’s a pretty common theme of Classic. Probably the strongest Paladin build from back then was Aggro Paladin, also known as “Shockadin” (I think the name became popular after Avenging Wrath was added to the build, but don’t quote me on that). Here the goal is to, to put it in simple words, vomit your entire hand and then magically refill it with Divine Favor. Divine Favor was slow decks’ and mostly Handlock’s worst nightmare – for a good reason. It often drew 5+ cards for just 3 mana, giving Paladin 2-3 more turns of damage. The gameplan was to start with minions – mostly aggressive, damage-dealing, with Stealth or Charge, and then finish the opponent with a mix of weapons (Truesilver Champion) and spells (Consecration, Hammer of Wrath, Avenging Wrath). If things lined up correctly, the deck worked really, really well.
The other build was Control Paladin, also known as Healadin or Taunt Paladin. It was a very, very different deck, mostly focusing on defense. It ran lots of removals, including the famous Wild Pyromancer + Equality 4 mana board wipe. It also played a bunch of Taunts to protect itself from aggression. And, of course, healing cards – just like the name suggested. This varied depending on the meta, but cards like Holy Light, Guardian of Kings or Lay on Hands were pretty much staples. The biggest problem was that the deck has no real “win condition”. Against faster decks it wasn’t a big deal, but some games against slower decks were really hard to win. You relied on Tirion Fordring to carry you, but once it got Silenced or Transformed, it was very hard to close out the game.
I’ll be honest – Priest wasn’t in a great spot back then. Not many players attempted to play it, because for the most part other decks could do similar things, but better. Priest had basically one viable deck – Control. There were some attempts to play Aggro or Combo Priest (with Divine Spirit + Inner Fire), but they were mostly unsuccessful. I wonder if that will still be the case once players go back into the format with all the current knowledge.
Anyway, Control Priest focused mostly on removal. It had lots of ways to clear the board – Wild Pyromancer + cheap spells, Holy Nova, Auchenai Soulpriest + Circle of Healing, Shadow Word: Death and so on. Against Aggro, just clearing the board and sticking a bigger minion was of course enough to win. However, slower matchups is where it got tricky. With no huge win condition, the deck relied either on sticking some minion and hoping that it will survive (including a T3 Injured Blademaster + Circle of Healing – 4/7 minion for 3 mana was the pinnacle of power back then). Then, after dealing some minion damage, it mostly relied on burst from spells. It could deal some damage with Auchenai + Hero Power (+Earthen Ring Farseer – yes, that also works), with Holy Smite, with Holy Fire, Holy Nova and some builds (like this one) even ran Mind Blast to have a way to finish the games. And sometimes it worked pretty well, especially if you got a lucky random Ragnaros hit into the face. The deck’s author – Amaz – was particularly well known for those.
Rogue also had two biggest options. By far, the best Rogue deck and one of the best decks in general was Miracle. The deck went through multiple iterations, but what I’m showing here is basically the final version (those are actually pretty easy to find given how popular it was). There were some tech options here and there – e.g. Forsen’s #1 Legend build used second Fan of Knives instead of Assassin's Blade, but the deck was optimized to the point where changes like that were basically biggest ones. In case you haven’t played back in the day – the deck’s main selling point is Gadgetzan Auctioneer (costing 5 mana back then) combined with a bunch of free/cheap spells to draw a lot of cards. The deck could cycle like crazy. As for the win conditions, it was a combination of weapon damage, minion damage including Charge damage from Leeroy (possibly buffed with Cold Blood or bounced with Shadowstep), burn from spells and – of course – a big Edwin VanCleef. Sometimes you would build a 10/10+ VanCleef and then play Conceal to guarantee that it survives a turn. Alternatively, against decks with no AoEs, Leeroy + Cold Blood + conceal was another amazing combo, dealing 10 damage immediately and then having another 10 ready for next turn. The deck usually packed enough punch to close out the games without a problem, and since it drew the entire deck so quickly, it usually had win cons right on time.
Another Rogue deck, which interestingly enough rised as a sort of counter to Miracle build, was Aggro Rogue. It even shows up in a fact that this build runs Faerie Dragon, a card that opponent couldn’t Backstab. It was also the first deck I hit high Legend with – I think I got it to Top 30 at one point, but those were really different times and competition wasn’t nearly as fierce as it is now. Anyway, the deck’s strategy is – like it usually is for Aggro decks – to kill the opponent as quickly as possible. It relied mostly on the early game minion pressure and then some weapon damage. One of the deck’s biggest selling points was Cold Blood, which worked incredibly well on the early game minions, especially Argent Squire. Turning it into a 5/1 with Divine Shield on T2 was often more than the opponent could handle. Later in the game, you often finished the game with either Assassin's Blade + Deadly Poison (really good source of damage – hitting for 5 every turn hurt) or Shadowstep. Yes, Shadowstep. You played multiple minions that could utilize it. Southsea Deckhand (0 mana for 2 damage), Arcane Golem (1 mana for 4 damage) or Leeroy Jenkins (2 mana for 6 damage). Throw in some Eviscerates, get rid of enemy minions with Sap and you had a recipe for success.
While Shaman wasn’t considered one of the best classes back in the day, it actually had quite a lot of tournament representation thanks to this build – Midrange Shaman. Just like your normal Midrange deck, the goal was to outlast and defend yourself against Aggro and put pressure against Control, so you ran a mix of defensive and offensive tools. Many of your cards acted as both – e.g. Lightning Bolt and Fire Elemental could either be used as a removal or burn damage. Anyway, you usually tried to curve out as well as you can, which was actually quite hard because of Overload cards. But when everything lined up correctly, you had some really strong turns. Unbound Elemental could run out of control if not removed quickly. Playing Feral Spirit on T3 and then plucking Flametongue Totem right between them on T4 was also a common strategy. Then, of course, your burst damage. Some builds played Doomhammer too, so you can try it out, but long story short, the idea is to play either Doomhammer or Al'Akir the Windlord, then top it off with Rockbiter Weapon (or even better – two copies) and burst the opponent down.
Warlock was probably my favorite class back in Classic, mostly thanks to the first build presented here – Handlock. Many of you should be familiar with this play style even if you didn’t play back in Classic – after all, slow Warlock decks relying on Life Tapping in the early game to power their synergies are quite common. In case of Handlock, the game often really started on Turn 4 with either Mountain Giant or Twilight Drake, and then continued by removing opponent’s minions, Taunting your own, getting low on health and dropping cheap (or even free) Molten Giants and so on. Later builds usually included Leeroy Jenkins + Power Overwhelming + Faceless Manipulator combo as a finisher too. It was 20 burst damage, and given how quickly the deck cycled with Hero Power, it was quite easy to find it. And if you were brave enough, you could even turn into Lord Jaraxxus and enjoy dropping 6/6’s for 2 mana every turn – at the cost of getting bursted from 15 health very easily by multiple decks. Handlock is definitely one of the most iconic Classic Hearthstone decks.
But Warlock has another, nearly as iconic build – Zoo Warlock. This one is way, way faster and interestingly enough mostly relies on Neutral minions, as Warlock didn’t have as many good, cheap, class minions back then. Zoo Warlock is played even today, but the old builds were much simpler – no fancy self-damage or Discard synergies, no cheating out bigger minions, no nothing – just straight up a bunch of solid 1-drops and 2-drops to get out of your hand as quickly as you can and then refill with Hero Power. You usually closed out games with Doomguard – while it discards 2 cards, it’s actually not that bad, given that you usually could empty your hand before playing it. Well, until you ended up with 2x Soulfire + Doomguard in your hand – which sadly happened from time to time. Anyway, flood the board with minions, buff them, trade efficiently, then close out game with Doomguard and Soulfire burst.
Warrior had – yes, you’ve guessed it – two options, slower and faster. Slower, Control Warrior shares tons of similarities with Warrior decks we see today. You see the same removals like Shield Slam or Brawl, the same synergies between minions (Armorsmith, Acolyte of Pain) and Whirlwind effects, and then big minions to finish the game off. Well, the last part doesn’t exactly match current builds – back in the day Warrior mostly used those big, high value / powerful minions to close out matches. But it had some other tricks up its sleeve – such as two turns kill combo. Ince you had a weapon pre-equipped (either Fiery War Axe or Gorehowl), first turn you played Alexstrasza and then on the second turn you dropped Grommash Hellscream + Cruel Taskmaster + weapon hit. Unless opponent healed up, it was enough to kill them.
Then, Aggro Warrior was one of Reynad’s invention and actually a solid F2P deck (yes, this particular build played two Legendaries, but you could play it without them). It was way before Pirate Warrior became a thing, but it shared a lot of similarities. Of course, it run the “base” Neutral Aggro package of cards like Leper Gnome, Wolfrider or Leeroy Jenkins, but it also included some interesting options, such as weapons (which are very efficient when it comes to damage per mana), Frothing Berserker and – yeah – Nightblade. I still don’t know how it worked, but it did – I recommended this very deck to my friend who just started playing and he hit Legend after just a month, I’m pretty sure that it was a build very similar to this one. Those were truly different times, but who knows? Maybe it will work just as well right now.