Rastakhan’s Rumble Dragon Warrior: The Past and Future of the Archetype

In Rastakhan’s Rumble, Blizzard is clearly pushing for Dragon Warrior as one of the new archetypes. It may be new for some people, but Dragon Warrior actually already existed in Hearthstone a long ago. Year 2016 was the year of the Dragon Warrior, the archetype saw a lot of play on ladder and in tournaments and it was able to keep going strong through the various expansions of that year. Ultimately, it was the Standard rotation of 2017 that killed the deck, as most Dragon synergy cards rotated out of Standard format with the Blackrock Mountain adventure, and there was not enough left to rebuild.

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Will the new Dragon Warrior resemble the old? Is there something we can learn from the past? Let’s take a look at the old Dragon Warrior builds, the upcoming Dragon Warrior cards, and what kind of Dragon Warrior decks we might see in Rastakhan’s Rumble!

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Dragon Warrior of 2016

In its glory days, the most played variant of Dragon Warrior was an aggressive tempo deck: dragon synergies allowed it to play overstatted minions on curve and simply power its way through the opponent’s defenses.

Here is an example from the middle of Dragon Warrior’s domination:

When this deck curved out, it really curved out. N'Zoth's First Mate gave it an early weapon and board presence to fight aggro, and it was followed up by Alexstrasza's Champion – a 3/3 with Charge for two mana! Frothing Berserker was as scary then as it can still be today, and when protected by Twilight Guardian, it was hard to get to it. If the face plan worked well enough, Blackwing Corruptor soon followed and the real power move was the six-mana 9/9 Drakonid Crusher. If for some reason the opponent refused to die, there were always Ragnaros the Firelord and Grommash Hellscream to finish the job.

Execute provided some hard removal and Sir Finley Mrrgglton played a crucial role in any non-control Warrior builds back then, allowing them to change their Hero Power to something more aggressive, preferably to Warlock or Hunter Hero Power.

Dragon Warrior simply refused to give the opponent a break and kept pushing on, which made it one of the defining decks of the era.

However, while the tempo deck was the most powerful Dragon Warrior deck in the game, some people also kept playing Control Warrior, sometimes with Dragon synergies.

Dragon Control Warrior substituted some of its spells for Dragon synergy cards, which in this deck were used mostly for removal. Alexstrasza's Champion could go for an early trade, often trading two for one, and provided a lot of consistency for the deck in case it did not find the pre-nerf Fiery War Axe for turn two. Twilight Guardian was a formidable barrier for aggro decks to overcome and Blackwing Corruptor was mostly used for removal as well. Later in the game, Chillmaw formed yet another obstacle the aggressors had to cross.

In those days before Baku the Mooneater, Control Warriors were only able to tank up once they found and played their Justicar Trueheart. Big dragons offered win conditions, especially in the form of Ysera and Nefarian, but the main win condition in slow games was the endless stream of Legendary minions from Elise Starseeker.

Dragon Control Warrior remained a niche deck, however, not only because it had to compete with the more aggressive Dragon Warrior, but also because Warrior received a powerful new control archetype in spring 2016: C’Thun Warrior. The more aggressive Warrior players played with dragons, the control types trusted in the power of the Old God.

Dragon Warrior Cards in Rastakhan’s Rumble

What kind of Dragon Warrior will the new cards support? Let’s take a look at what we’re getting.

War Master Voone is a four-mana 4/3 minion with a Battlecry to copy all dragons in your hand. Its stats are not great, especially because three Health makes it easy to trade into, but at least its four attack is somewhat better. The effect is great though, as it can significantly add to your Dragon count during the game and enables easy activation of Dragon synergies as you will have plenty in hand. As an interesting detail, Voone was originally revealed as a five-mana card, but it was later clarified to be a four-mana card. I don’t think this is a buff. Rather, I’m inclined to think that Odd Dragon Warrior was looking too scary with Voone and it needed to be removed from the deck. Will there be an Odd Dragon Warrior? We can take a look at that after looking at all of the new cards first.

Smolderthorn Lancer is a three-mana 3/2 minion with a Battlecry to destroy a damaged enemy minion, if you’re holding a Dragon. Holy guacamole, Batman, that’s an Execute on a stick! Remember when a couple of paragraphs above I wrote about old Dragon Control Warriors replacing some of their spells with Dragon synergy cards, especially for removal? This is exactly what I was talking about. A very solid card indeed.

Emberscale Drake is a Warrior class Dragon, a five-mana 5/5 with a Battlecry to give you 5 Armor, if you’re holding a Dragon. That would be a better version of Shieldmaiden, so we’re talking about a seriously powerful card. Gaining Armor has never been something aggressive decks are interested in, so it is more of a control card, although it is not impossible to see it as a part of a tempo deck either.

Crowd Roaster is a new Neutral Dragon from Rastakhan’s Rumble. It’s a seven-mana 7/4 with a Battlecry to deal 7 damage to an enemy minion, if you’re holding a Dragon. Again, no face damage from this one, so it would naturally support a slightly slower archetype. It also has a very low health total, so it can easily be traded into, but it does have a powerful removal effect as a Battlecry, again in line with what Dragon Control Warrior of old was trying to do with Dragon synergy cards.

Firetree Witchdoctor is a new Neutral Dragon synergy card from Rastakhan’s Rumble. While not a dragon itself, it is a two-mana 2/2 with a Battlecry to Discover a spell, if you’re holding a Dragon. According to the usual Discover rules, you can only Discover cards that are Neutral or from your own class, and there are no Neutral spells, so you’re Discovering a spell from your own class. This is a very powerful effect, and you’re paying almost no extra for it as you still get a usable minion for its mana cost.

Three of the cards, including both Dragons, are odd-cost cards, while two of the synergy cards are even-cost cards. The cards are also generally more suited for control play than for aggression, but their real effect will be a matter of player ingenuity, not Blizzard pushing. While it looks like Dragon Control Warrior is receiving more here than Odd Dragon Warrior, Odd Warrior already has a more solid base to move from, so the winner is not obvious at all yet.

Dragon Warrior in Rastakhan’s Rumble

There are three paths the deck can take: tempo, control, and odd control. What would they look like?

Common to all decks is the need for Dragons to activate the synergies. The earlier you want the synergies, the more Dragons you need. You generally want eight or more if you need the synergy right away, but can go down to as low as six, if you’re fine with getting the synergy only later in the game.

Odd Control Dragon Warrior is receiving the least support as you’re locked out of some of the synergy cards as well as from some of the good dragons. Nonetheless, it’s still possible to put together eight dragons for the deck, so synergies are not a problem.

The current Odd Warrior builds run on two engines: shuffling cards into the deck for a fatigue win and Mech power. In order to fit in Dragon synergies, something has got to give, and in this theorycraft build, I’ve cut the Mech package in favor of a Dragon package. I could not quite figure out good enough of a proactive win condition, so the fatigue package of Direhorn Hatchlings and Elise the Trailblazer is still there. With Emberscale Drake providing some additional Armor, the deck has some additional tools to get there as well, although it is now missing Zola the Gorgon and Faceless Manipulators, so perhaps something will still need to be tweaked to include some of them.

Going with a non-odd build comes with lots of options. Fatigue as a win condition is difficult without the upgraded Hero Power, unless you run Dead Man's Hand, which is unlikely to fit in with a number of Dragon minions. Therefore, the deck would need to have some late-game punch in order to succeed. Here’s one draft of what it could look like:

Having access to the full suite of synergy cards, including using War Master Voone to potentially copy some Twilight Drakes, can give the deck some powerful minions to play. Regular Executes and Smolderthorn Lancers mean that no damaged minions are safe – and Blood Razor gives convenient means to damage some minions. Unlike Odd Warrior, the deck can also use Skulking Geist, and it can do so without losing any of its own cards in the process.

This type of Control Warrior deck does not currently exist, so there are a number of questions to answer. Could it make use of Grommash Hellscream or King Mosh? Perhaps even Alexstrasza as a late-game dragon, possibly instead of a Primordial Drake? Well, depends a lot on what the meta will be like, will there be tokens to destroy or not.

Another option would be to include Cornered Sentry and Drywhisker Armorer for their synergies with whirlwind effects and with Brawl. Does the deck need that armor? As always when building a control deck, there are lots of questions that can only be answered once you know what meta you are building the deck for.

I’ve chosen to include double silence and Tinkmaster Overspark in both of these control shells. There are some scary minions coming in Rastakahan’s Rumble, and if they are not too slow to see significant play, having access to silence and transformation effects can be crucial.

Odd Dragon Warrior seems much more straightforward to build: the Hero Power and the limited dragon pool direct it to a specific style. For regular Dragon Control Warrior, there are no similar limitations, and there is a lot of space to explore.

Control dreams aside, Hearthstone is a very tempo-oriented game. So what if we ditch the pretense of controlling the game and hit face more? Then, we could end up with a build that looks like this:

Many aggressive decks in the game make use of Prince Keleseth at the moment, and its power is not diminishing. Any Keleseth build needs to have an answer to the early game though, as it can be difficult to find the sweet Prince for every game. For Warrior, that answer comes in the form of Rush minions, and the excellent one-drop Town Crier that can tutor for those Rush minions in the beginning of the game. Between Rush minions and Dragon synergy cards for removal, Warrior can establish and maintain board control and turn up the heat.

There are some nice synergies between Cobalt Scalebane and cards such as Militia Commander, where Scalebane can reactivate them to a useful level of attack. Scalebane can also turn the lowly one-drops into useful minions in the mid-game.

Late game brings in the power trio of The Lich KingGrommash Hellscream, and Scourgelord Garrosh.

Dragon Warrior does not have to be a Keleseth build, but it is hard to see how Faerie Dragon and Firetree Witchdoctor could be better for an aggressive deck. The most doubts I have are about the omission of War Master Voone – I’m uncertain whether the tempo sacrifice is worth the value gain, but it could be.

Dragon Warrior is getting a lot of support, and there are three paths that it can take. Will any of them be successful? What do you think? Which Dragon Warrior path do you plan to pursue when the expansion is released and do you have any good deck ideas for it already? Let me know in the comments!

Old Guardian

Ville "Old Guardian" Kilkku is a writer and video creator focused on analytic, educational Hearthstone, and building innovative Standard format decks.

Check out Old Guardian on Twitter or on their Website!

15 Comments

  1. Beks
    December 4, 2018 at 3:35 pm

    Really nice article. Much appreciate Old Guardian.

  2. ShadowHounder
    November 28, 2018 at 5:46 pm

    Hey, really like the article and how it looks at how Hearthstone has evolved over the years… but there might be a slight error for the first deck mentioned in the article. Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t Blood to Ichor a KoFT card, which would’ve been released in 2017?

    • B2I
      November 29, 2018 at 2:15 am

      Blood to Ichor was from Whispers of the Old Gods.

    • Old Guardian - Author
      November 29, 2018 at 3:16 am

      The old decks were created on this site when they were current. Nerfs to Execute and Fiery War Axe have occurred since, so individual cards have changed a bit, but all the cards are correct.

  3. Killyridols
    November 28, 2018 at 3:42 pm

    One thing to consider in an odd dragon build is Marsh Drake, I have experimented with it in current odd warrior because of the insane value it offers with Supercollider. If you get it without the collider up there are still plenty of ways to deal with the 2/1. Also you want to be holding a dragon, so hold the Marsh Drake until you get the weapon up. Makes killing a lone Lich King so easy, and leaves you a board.

    • Old Guardian - Author
      November 29, 2018 at 3:19 am

      So far, none of the minions that summon a minion for your opponent have succeeded, and even dealing with a 2/1 Poisonous can be tricky if your opponent plays Taunt minions, for example.

      • Killyridols
        November 29, 2018 at 9:09 am

        You just bop whatever is next to the poison minion they get with the Supercollider and problem solved.

      • Killyridols
        November 29, 2018 at 9:12 am

        With Supercollider the 2/1 poison minion becomes an asset.

  4. Ziezula
    November 28, 2018 at 10:55 am

    What about wild? Are those new cards powerful enough for a tier 2 aggro/ tempo dragon warrior deck?

    • Bajula
      November 28, 2018 at 11:52 am

      Considering that Dragon Priest, which has significantly better dragon related class cards, hasn’t seen much play, I don’t think so.
      Smolderthorn Lancer seems to be the only decent new card that might fit in a sort of Tempo-Dragon Warrior archetype, but this alone won’t make much of a difference.
      War Master Voone has potential, but it’s not mind-breakingly good with the available neutral dragons in Wild and I think that’s generally part of the archetype’s problem, that it lacks impactful dragons. Even though Alexstrasza’s Champion and Smolderthorn Lancer have really strong effects, if you have to run semi-competitive dragons to trigger them, they won’t be able to shine truly.

  5. Starcereal
    November 28, 2018 at 10:00 am

    Love your articles Old Gaurdian! Here are my thoughts:

    Odd dragon warrior could work, but giving up the late game mech package and boom might be too high a price to sacrifice. I’m more concerned if it can go the distance, especially v other control decks. Aggro is more doable here.

    Face dragon warrior is interesting and with the spirit of the rhino and the rush package, that may just work well enough to push into the meta. I’m hopeful this might be something.

    Finally,
    With a non odd control, I think that might be the sweet spot because you have an early board presence and board clear, and you can utilize as much dragon synergy as possible here. I believe if you gonna go dragon, go all in to get the most out of it. I do think you hit on something awesome with Voone and twilight drake!! Seems really good!

    Overall,
    I think the potential is there. Just a matter of fine tuning. I personally will be going more control heavy and make non odd work. but so excited for this archetype!

  6. Omnitarian
    November 28, 2018 at 9:50 am

    What about the play hyped up by Blizzard’s reveal itself – cloning all your Dragons with Voone, then dumping them via The Boomship. (In theory) You lay waste to your opponent’s minions, make a huge threatening board, and even start a value engine if Yseras are in there.

    • Old Guardian - Author
      November 29, 2018 at 3:22 am

      Only a couple of Dragons are good from The Boomship. Ysera of course is great, it is a staple in Recruit Warrior, but most Dragons have Battlecries that will not be activated, and you may also run out of Dragon enablers in hand. It is possible that it can work out, but I’m not convinced. Blizzard’s reveal streams are more about meme decks than actual competitive decks anyway.

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