Control Warrior is gaining in popularity due to the frequency of Midrange Shaman on the ladder. Imnotanumber was kind enough to allow us to re-host his guide on this Fool’s Bane version of the deck!
Hi, I’m Imnotanumber, this is my second time hitting legend, going 46-26 from rank 4 to legend, playing exclusively Control Warrior. I believe that Control Warrior is uniquely positioned to take advantage of the Shaman-heavy meta; and after weeks of tinkering with the new Karazhan cards, I’ve put together a build that’s heavily favoured against both Aggro and Midrange Shaman whilst not sacrificing competitiveness versus the rest of the ladder (even Midrange Hunter!). Notably, my deck eschews N’zoth, C’thun or Yogg in favour of a more conservative, utilitarian list to maintain consistency and minimize weaknesses.
For data gathering purposes, I tracked exactly 100 games, both the initial 72 games to legend (46-26) and a further 28 games at legend rank (16-12) for an overall 62% winrate.
What Made the Cut
A superbly efficient and flexible card, Blood to Ichor is devastating in the early game (especially on the coin) while remaining handy later. I nonetheless couldn’t quite justify 2 copies; it simply isn’t impactful enough in the late game. A slot to watch; in a more aggressive meta this should definitely be a two-of.
I definitely think we are in a 2x Revenge meta. Obviously great versus shaman and zoo for mopping up small threats (often combo’d with Ravaging Ghoul), it gets surprisingly good utility vs aggressive midrange decks that get you low but rely more on board than burst to kill you (In particular, Dragon Warrior and Midrange hunter; Revenge and Ravaging Ghoul being one of the cleanest answers to Call of the Wild)
I find that one Acolyte of Pain is enough currently. If you can get 2-3 cards off it (which this deck can very easily due to synergy with Blood To Ichor, Ravaging Ghoul, Revenge, Slam and Baron Geddon), you’re pretty much set for the match considering you have 4 other cards capable of cycling. 2 often means you’re stuck playing one just as a delayed cantrip, which is simply not worth it for 3 mana. If you feel tempted to try two Acolytes and often find yourself running out of cards, I would recommend trying the halfway house of 1x Acolyte and 1x Loot Hoarder first.
- 2x Bash
Some don’t consider Bash “core” to Control Warrior, and may cut one. I heartily disagree; killing a minion and gaining armour is pretty much perfect for what this deck wants to do.
Reports of Elise Starseeker’s death were greatly exaggerated. Despite the propagation of late game “win conditions” such as Anyfin, N’Zoth and C’Thun, the unassuming explorer is still as vital as ever; still potent vs control if you can stay ahead in the fatigue war and force them to play their end-game threats first, she is in the deck more than anything else to guarantee an inevitable victory vs low-cycle midrange decks that otherwise would win the fatigue war, and allow you to cycle ahead of decks like Tempo Mage without simply running out of value.
- 2x Brawl
In terms of pure power for your mana investment, the best board clear in the game. Hard counters Shaman, Zoo, and N’Zoth boards, and almost always gets you huge value for your mana. There are some metas where only one is justified; but this is not one of them.
- 1x Fool's Bane
This is one of the most underrated Karazhan cards in my opinion, and one that makes gives this deck the edge vs the all-important Midrange Shaman matchup. While the number of Hunters means it’s only a one of currently, it would take a lot for me to cut it completely. It absolutely devastates midgame shaman, zoo (especially the discard zoo that typically runs fewer tokens and more 2-3 health minions), and token druid boards while remaining a flexible and powerful tool against pretty much all other decks.
A good card in this meta. Almost always eats a Spirit Claws or Doomhammer versus Shamans (a matchup where cards are crucial), takes out those pesky Eaglehorn Bows and even a Gorehowl or Ashbringer now and then. Obviously should be cut if non-Medivh Tempo Mage or Druid rise to the fore again and become a troubling matchup. Probably the weakest slot in the deck due to high situationally.
After the pros gave it a near-universal panning, most Warrior players have now come to the realization that Shieldmaiden mk II is a good card. All of my control warrior will have two of these thanks to the sheer power of Armor combined with board presence.
Deathrattle: Gain a win condition vs Midrange Hunter
- 1x Baron Geddon
As well as **”YOU… WILL BUUUURN!”** being the best entrance line in the game, the Baron is fantastic in this meta. Acting as a pseudo-consecrate, he can help you set up lethal or steal a Highmane by killing your damaged Sylvanas. I would consider cutting for Corrupted Seer if Anyfin Paladin gets more popular for the Anyfin anti-synergy and for use with execute, but the beefy body combined with such a powerful ongoing effect is simply too strong to pass up.
- 1x Gorehowl
The most value-tastic weapon in the game is making a comeback, at least until people start running Harrison again. As well as proving huge board control capability backed up by Control Warrior’s now-formidable post-Karazhan lifegain abilities, I’m using Gorehowl more and more simply to lethal my opponents. Gorehowl, Grommash Hellscream, 2x Fiery War Axe, 2x Bash and a Baron Geddon effect means this deck has 31 points of direct damage if push comes to shove. Such strategy is pretty vital against midrange hunter since you’re often on a clock before they draw Call of the Wild number 2.
As vital as ever. Either eats an Azure Drake and demands removal or simply kills your opponent. Often it’s correct to Grommash Hellscream them in the face for 10 when they’re at 20 life or so even if they have a small board; you can set up lethal with Bash and Gorehowl with a couple of FWA swings.
With the Warrior 3 slot so crowded with Bash, Ravaging Ghoul and Shield Block, some Warrior lists run the 2 mana draw minion alternative. I wouldn’t play it currently, however, due to weak performance against Druid hero power, Spirit Claws and Kindly Grandmother (where previously Hunters only ran 2 mana 3/2s). That said, it still performs well vs Hunter archetypes in general due to their lack of 1-damage pings, so ruin if you queue into a lot of that matchup.
Leave out for: Druids, Shamans, Mages, Rogues
Add in for: Hunters
Doomsayer is a fantastic tech card vs aggro in the right circumstances, but an unreliable one. I personally prefer cards that have wider utility and more consistency. Furthermore, this deck is already strongly favoured against the decks Doomsayer shines against, so I don’t believe it’s currently the right inclusion.
Leave out for: Control/Midrange decks
Add in for: Aggro Shaman, Zoo
As much as it breaks my heart, I can’t justify this wonderful gnome any more. If Shaman ever becomes less popular, he is great as a pseudo removal vs any kind of threat (especially Savannah Highmane) or cards you don’t want resurrected.
Leave out for: Shamans, Zoo Warlocks
Add in for: Warriors, Rogues, Paladins, HuntersRagnaros the Firelord
Whilst Ragnaros can dominate certain matchups, he is both slow and unreliable. He rarely has more than 50% odds for a good outcome, and with so many Shamans on ladder, that can often be far, far lower. If the meta got slower and less token oriented however, he could definitely find a slot.
Leave out for: Shaman, Hunter, Zoo
Add in for: Druid, Rogue, Non-Paladin Control decksAlexstrasza
Just a tad too slow for this meta, especially since setting your own face to 15 is often in place of a tank up. If your midrange matchups become greedier, add this in to turn the clock faster.
Leave out for: Fast midrange and aggro
Add in for: Control Paladins, Yogg Druids, greedier midrange matchupsYogg-Saron, Hope's End
As well as personal preference (I personally hate playing the card) the inconsistency and potential for backfiring means this old god is not included. The deck runs a few spells, but realistically the Yogg is only gonna be good (10+ spells) well beyond turn 10, at which point you should be winning anyway; and Yogg is not a card you want to play when winning. The role of Yogg-Saron as a third Brawl is largely supplanted by Fool's Bane.
Leave out for: Consistency
Add in for: Occasional hilarity, salt
Flex Slots and Further Tinkering
If you want to try the list yourself and want to tinker or don’t have particular cards, then feel free to take out cards in the following (subjective) order of least damaging to remove.
- Harrison Jones
- Blood To Ichor
- Baron Geddon
- Fool's Bane
- 1st Ironforge Portal
- Grommash Hellscream
Considering adding in the following cards if you need a replacement or just want to see how they play
- 2nd Blood To Ichor
- Heroic Strike
- Violet Illusionist
- Tinkmaster Overspark
- Tournament Medic
- Corrupted Seer
- Hogger, Doom of Elwynn
- Ragnaros the Firelord
- Soggoth the Slitherer
- Yogg-Saron, Hope's End
Midrange Shaman: (10-4)
The deck this one is tooled to beat, you should be strongly favoured if you play smart. Save brawls, draw as much as you can, and try and always have an answer to Thunder Bluff Valiant as it is basically their only real win condition against you. You might get burst down by various combinations of Al’Akir the Windlord and Rockbiter Weapon but don’t play around too much damage unless they’re being very aggressive and holding lots in hand.
Midrange Hunter: (8-6)
I managed to maintain a positive winrate versus Midrange Hunter, though I think the matchup isn’t in your favour. The trick to this matchup is to not be too scared of taking damage in the very early game, and to always play around their power turns if at all possible. That means on their turn four (or three with coin) they can’t have a beast on board to Houndmaster; on turn 6; have an execute or Sylvanas Windrunner on hand for Savannah Highmane; and for turn 8 have removal in hand and ideally a decent board to deal with Call of the Wild. After that, play aggressively and try and kill them before they draw their second copy of Call of the Wild. Grommash Hellscream is vital in this matchup as it can kill a minion while setting their clock to one or two turns.
Tempo Mage: (9-2)
A deceptively even matchup that is as clown-fiesta-ey as it gets. Short of clearing their minions (don’t be afraid to have use Execute and Shield Slam liberally) you mainly should maximise your hero powers and armour gain, draw as much as possible and hope their Yogg isn’t too good and their Cabalist's Tome don’t generate more; short of being unable to clear Flamewaker, it’s pretty much the only way you lose.
Secret Face Hunter (4-5)
A tricky matchup that’s hard to optimise due to the variety of secret lists going around. Definitely a matchup to watch and possibly tech against. They rely heavily on Eaglehorn Bow, so a well timed Harrison Jones can often stop them in their tracks. Often it’s correct to deny charges and 4/2s from Cat Trick by passing until you can deal with it (and get into the habit of attacking with War Axe into Ghoul rather than vice versa to play around Snake Trap). Otherwise, see the Midrange hunter guide.
Malygos Druid: (4-3)
A pretty even matchup. If you don’t see Innervate and they have a lot of cards, be conservative with your life total. Save execute for Malygos but in a pinch Grom + Activator + Weapon Swing will do. Use Shield Slam liberally as you will struggle to use them post-burst. Watch out for Arcane Giants and don’t overextend into Yogg and they should be unable to overcome your huge amounts of lifegain. Often you want to save a Brawl for post-Yogg since the new Karazhan spells means it’s more likely they build big boards.
Zoo Warlock: (7-1)
This is more like it. This deck is heavily favoured against both discard and token versions of zoo. Double Revenge, Double Ravaging Ghoul, Double Brawl, Fool's Bane and Baron Geddon all make their boards extremely vulnerable. If you don’t draw well they have a shot but you should be winning most if not all of your games. If you see your opponent is playing the Discard version then use your Ghouls more aggressively as those lists tends not to run Forbidden Ritual. Sadly Zoolock seems to be declining in popularity lately so this favoured matchup may be so prevalent much longer.
Control Warrior: (3-5)
This deck is significantly less greedy than some N’Zoth lists, but you still have a fighting chance. Mostly comes down to skill, who drew Justicar first and Monkey brinkmanship. Always try and save Sylvanas for after their monkey, and above all never draw if you can help it. You lose by being out-fatigued so don’t drop a naked Sylvanas or your enterprising opponent will give you an Acolyte of Pain to lose the game for you
Mulligan (only if you’re sure it’s control): Justicar Trueheart
Dragon Warrior: (3-2)
You’re strongly favoured. Draw as much as you can and don’t waste executes. Going low to gain board control is a fine strategy, they have limited burst outside of 8 with Ragnaros and 10 with Grommash. Furthermore, modern lists run fewer, if any, Drakonid Crusher (but still try and be above 15 on Turn 6). Sylvanas severely cuts into their pressure mid-game. Brawl liberally to ease the pressure, killing 2-3 midrange minions is fine.
Aggro Shaman: (5-1)
You are heavily favoured. Try and save an execute for the 4 mana 7/7, consistently clear their board, and don’t be afraid to use brawl on low value boards (but only if you’re certain it’s not midrange). Armour up as much as possible and wait for the concede.
Token Druid: (2-2)
You have a lot of AOE so should be favoured. Usually comes down to strength of their Yogg-Saron turn. It’s usually correct to do things like Fiery War Axe and Execute their Ancient of War rather than Ghoul Execute; your life is much less important here than in Malygos Matchups. Another matchup where Fool’s Bane shines.
Anyfin Paladin: (0-1)
A thankfully uncommon sight on ladder nowadays, but you’re heavily unfavoured. Try and play around their 32 damage burst and save brawl. Life total is important so be conservative with weapons and try and get good Sylvanas value. You can still lose in fatigue so only start drawing if they do (your Golden Monkey is useless until you see both Anyfins).
Malygos Rogue: (1-1)
You’re slightly unfavoured but a combination of pressure, clears and lots of life gain can let you fatigue them. One of those rare matchups where FWA isn’t amazing. Always try and have good ways of dealing 4 damage in hand (Tomb Pillager, Azure Drake, and Gadgetzan Auctioneer)
Other matchups were too infrequent to comment on (Out of 100 games I saw only one Priest, for instance).
I hope you enjoyed this guide and deck. I’m looking forward to where further experimentation will take this list and other Control Warriors in the future!