Rise of Shadows – first expansion of Year of the Dragon – was released roughly 24 hours ago. On top of that, we just had a massive rotation, bigger than any other so far. Not only we got rid of three high power expansions, but also a bunch of others impactful cards were rotated out to Hall of Fame (Baku, Genn, Doomguard, Naturalize, Divine Favor…) The current meta looks nothing like the one we had before rotation (which is great!), we have a lot of cool, experimental decks on the ladder. But are they any good? And did we already see any huge surprises, or maybe the new Tier 1 decks are yet to be discovered?
Check out our Rise of Shadows Decks for Every Class!
I’ve spent most of the last 24 hours watching pro players and adding their decks to the site, so I have a quite good idea of what’s commonly played, which decks get to high Legend most often and what builds already look promising. Below, I’ll list some of the lists that already caught my attention. Just like every new expansion, remember that the early meta is very chaotic and it might look completely different in a few days. Decks are chosen based on my ladder experience, watching the steamers & pros, talking with other high ranked players and early statistics from sites like HSReplay.net or Vicious Syndicate.
These decks are only example lists – meta is adjusting very quickly and more optimized builds might be out at the time you’re reading it!
Let’s start with an unquestionable #1 deck after the first day of Rise of Shadows – Tempo Rogue running Heistbaron Togwaggle. Do you know why Marin the Fox failed, despite the treasures he brought to the table were quite powerful? Because it was so damn hard to activate. Not only you had to first spend 8 mana on playing it, but then you still had to clear a 0/8 Treasure Chest you’ve summoned for your opponent. Not to mention that it could just be Silenced and then you could kiss your fantastic treasure goodbye. Now, Heistbaron brings exactly the same, absolutely broken treasures into the mix… but you don’t really need to do a lot to activate it. It costs 6 mana, so 2 mana less, and the only requirement is having Lackey on the board. Given that your main Lackey generator – EVIL Miscreant – is a solid card on its own, all you really need to add to your deck to activate it is EVIL Cable Rat (and honestly, some builds don’t even run it and rely only on Miscreant). If you have Lackey on the board from previous turn, you can drop Tog on TURN 6, and use one of your broken cards that often straight up seal the game on Turn 7. And in the worst case scenario, you can play both on Turn 7. For such a game-winning card, it really isn’t much.
Summoning two big Legendaries for 3 mana? Why not! Drawing a card and filling entire hand with copies of it? Sure. Dropping a 3 mana 6/6 Taunt that turns everything into Legendaries? Yeah, that’s also a good option in some matchups. No matter what treasure you pick,
But even if we ignore Heistbaron, the Tempo Rogue shell itself is quite powerful this expansion. A lot of the best Rogue cards are Classic, so they didn’t go anywhere, and with the overall decreased power level, they are now stronger than ever. Raiding Party is still incredibly good (the card was good enough to see lots of play in the Rastakhan meta, so yeah), Waggle Pick turned out to be quite solid, and if you’re running some Burgle cards, 0 mana deal 4 damage to a minion (Vendetta) and 2 mana 3/4 with Rush (Underbelly Fence) are amazing tempo plays.
I’ve picked Gallon’s list, because this is the one that made the deck go viral. But I’ve seen five or six #1 Legend climbs with this archetype (but slightly different lists) on Day 1 alone. Plus some other high Legend climbs with other Tempo Rogue versions. It might take a while to figure the best lists and such, but I’m quite certain that Tempo Rogue will be an important part of the Rise of Shadows meta (something I’ve been saying even before the expansion’s release).
I’m calling it “Control Bomb Warrior” to differentiate it from Tempo builds of the deck, but given how successful it is, I might start just calling it “Bomb Warrior”. Again, very powerful deck, and most importantly – it works quite well against both Rogue and Warlock. Basically, it’s a Control Warrior shell with a full Bomb package – you run cards that shuffle Bombs to your opponent’s deck (Clockwork Goblin, Wrenchcalibur, Seaforium Bomber), a card that lets you shuffle even more of them (Augmented Elekk) and finally – a card that synergizes with Bombs you’ve shuffled (Blastmaster Boom).
This entire mix turns it into a very interesting deck. On the one hand, since you’re playing a Control shell, for the most part you’re playing reactively. You’re sitting behind and removing whatever your opponent drops. Your Bomb cards don’t have high stats and they don’t do anything more than shuffling Bombs, so you aren’t really winning the game on the back of 3 mana 3/3’s or 5 mana 5/5’s (and most certainly not 4 mana 3/2 weapon). But as you’re playing a slow game and removing whatever your opponent plays, there’s a bigger and bigger death threat looming over them. Assuming that each Elekk adds 2 Bombs to the mix (from my experience, that’s a rather common result), you can shuffle up to 12 Bombs, each dealing 5 damage, for a grand total of 60 damage. Given that most of the decks can’t regain a lot of life, and some don’t have any healing cards at all, that much damage is easily enough to kill your opponent… slowly but surely. Because sometimes it takes multiple turns for them to draw the Bombs even after you shuffle 10 of them.
And of course, we can’t forget about Blastmaster Boom. When playing this deck, most of the time it’s a 7/7 that summons six Boom Bots. Dr. Boom was already powerful, and I’m quite sure that he would see play in this meta, so imagine Dr. Boom on steroids. The best thing about it is that even if your opponent removes it (which usually happens vs slower decks), the Bombs will still deal anywhere between 6 and 24 damage to his face (assuming he has no board), with 15 damage on average. That’s massive boost to your game plan – you will often put your opponent on 10 or so life, which means that he’s now just 2 Bombs away from death.
Overall, it’s a really interesting deck with a cool strategy. While the Bomb RNG can be a bit annoying for either side (I’ve seen matches where Bomb Warrior lost even though opponent was sitting at less than 5 health with a few Bombs in his deck for multiple turns), the deck’s play style is quite unique, as it combined a “sit back” play style of Control Warrior with a burn game plan from Bombs.
Zoo always finds a way, that’s for sure. Even though both Prince Keleseth and the heal package (with Happy Ghoul) are no longer here, Zoo is still going strong. In a way, the deck is kind of going to its roots of being more focused on Token cards and board flooding. And it’s crazy fast. In the deck I’ve shown, 26 out of 30 cards cost 1 or 2 mana. 4 other cards are 2 copies of Magic Carpet (a 3 mana card that makes all of your 1-drops much better) and Sea Giant (which is usually dropped for just a few mana too).
A card that seems to be a key of the new lists is Scarab Egg. Most of the eggs we’re used to drop a single, big minion, but this one is different – instead, it drops 3x 1/1. Which might not fit every deck, but it certainly does this one. The card synergizes with majority of your deck. It’s good for your sac cards (Grim Rally and EVIL Genius) both before and after Deathrattle. It also has great synergy with Abusive Sergeant, Dire Wolf Alpha and Knife Juggler. Not to mention that sacrificing it makes dropping a cheap Sea Giant so much easier. Overall, it’s the fastest Zoo we’ve seen in a while.
While it’s not in this specific build, a lot of players also add Arch-Villain Rafaam to the deck. He’s basically a failsafe that makes it possible to play a longer game and stand a chance vs slower decks even after you run out of steam. Even though you can play 2 cards per turn thanks to your Hero Power, playing two 1-drops in the late game is still not very strong. But if you turn them into random Legendaries and instead of 1-drops you get two Legends per turn, now the game gets more interesting. The downside is that Rafaam doesn’t support your main game plan and he’s a dead card in hand early, so it remains to be seen whether he will still see play in Zoo after a while.
Shaman is seeing a kind of renaissance. Year of the Raven wasn’t good for the class. Even though it had two viable decks (Shudderwock & Even Shaman), both of them were gutted throughout the year, and in the end, the class was left with basically nothing. While Year of the Raven expansions were adding some Control tools to the deck, they were so few and far between that it wasn’t worth building a deck around them. Until now. In Rise of Shadows, Shaman synergies went two ways – Murlocs and Control. The latter got some interesting cards, like Hagatha's Scheme to replace Volcano, a new, strong late game healing card (Witch's Brew), Kazakus v2.0 (Swampqueen Hagatha) and a high tempo late game drop that doesn’t sit dead in your hand against Aggro because they kill you if you play it (Walking Fountain). Between all of that, Control Shaman archetype started looking pretty interesting.
Most of the builds have also incorporated Overload synergies the class was getting in the previous two expansions, mostly Likkim and Thunderhead. The first one is a 3/3 weapon for 2 mana if you stay overloaded relatively often, and the latter can give Shaman A LOT of tempo by flooding the board with 1/1 Rush minions that can even be used to trade immediately.
While a lot of the decks are rather streamlined, I’ve seen A LOT of different Control Shaman versions already, so it’s hard to say which ones will turn out to be best at this point.
Now that’s a cool deck, and something I honestly haven’t expected to perform that well. I mean, yeah, Jepetto Joybuzz was clearly a card with a lot of potential. Getting 1 mana copies of your big cards with powerful effects (especially Malygos) can be absolutely busted. If you still haven’t played or faced this deck, you should know how ridiculously easy it is to kill your opponent on Turn 9 if things line up (you draw Jepetto, you don’t draw Malygos). Say you drop Jepetto and draw Maly + Alexstrasza. You can drop them next turn for just 2 mana, and now you have 7 more mana to kill your opponent. With Malygos on the board and them being at 15. One Rapid Fire (2x 6 damage) and one Arcane Shot (7 damage) is more than enough. While Maly + Alex makes winning easiest, drawing basically any 2 of the minions is usually enough to combo down the opponent. Malygos + Vereesa means that you have +7 Spell Damage, Vereesa + Alex is probably the hardest one, but your opponent is at 15 health and you have +2 Spell Damage (+2 initial damage from the weapon), so a few burn spells can still do the trick.
So hey, the deck is basically broken, right? If you can consistently combo the opponent down on Turn 9 without any preparation, how do you beat it? Well, actually, when talking about the combos above, I’ve said “if things line up”. Because they often don’t. You might not draw your Jepetto. You might draw your other minions before dropping him. You might not draw your burn spells or have to use them to survive. You might also encounter Warrior with lots of Armor. That’s why Malygos Hunter (or maybe I should call it Jepetto Hunter…) is not a 100% combo deck. You can play it a bit like a Spell Hunter, controlling board with spells and minions summoned from spells. Of course, without Lesser Emerald Spellstone, you can’t swing the board like that in the mid game, but you still have your other swing – Zul'jin. Between Animal Companion and Unleash the Beast (and maybe Baited Arrow if you hit the right target), you should summon quite a nice board, and also remove some of the opponent’s stuff with Deadly Shots. And while your big minions are mostly combo pieces, they can also work well when dropped from the hand. Alexstrasza still works nicely to set up something, Vereesa is quite powerful on its own, and Maly… well, you can always try to drop him and hope that it will stay alive.
Malygos (Jepetto) Hunter is a pretty cool deck. When things go your way, you can absolutely dominate some of the games. But luckily for your opponents, things often aren’t that easy, and just like always when it comes to decks like that, the biggest skill comes from knowing what to do when you don’t draw well and you can’t just pew pew through your opponent’s health with 1 mana Maly.
So far I’ve only played a few Handlock games, but the nostalgia already hit me hard. Some opening hands and mid game turns really do feel like I was back in Classic Hearthstone, playing good old Handlock. If we just had Molten Giant back in Standard…
Handlock is one of the more popular decks in the early Rise of Shadows meta. Partially because of that nostalgia, and partially because it’s just solid. I don’t believe that it will be a Tier 1 deck, but after it gets optimized, it can actually work quite well. Since Even Warlock will be there no longer, Handlock will be the best way to abuse big hand sizes for the sake of Mountain Giant and Twilight Drake, something that Warlock historically wanted to do in nearly every single meta.
But the thing I like most about the deck is, without a single doubt, Lord Jaraxxus. I haven’t played with or against the card for a few years now and I really, REALLY missed it. It’s one of the coolest and most balanced win conditions in Hearthstone. On the one hand, it gives you a 3/8 weapon (which is 24 damage in total over multiple turns) and a way to summon a 6/6 every turn. On the other hand, it takes an ENTIRE late game turn to play it and you’re now capped at 15 health. Jaraxxus timing is very important, knowing when to drop him so you won’t die, and in which matchups you can even use it in the first place, was one of the coolest things about Hearthstone back in the day.
As for the new cards, this specific build runs Travelling Healer (which is basically a 1-1 replacement for Shroom Brewer, which rotated out) as well as Sunreaver Warmage (with Siphon Souls and Twisting Nethers in your deck, it’s not that hard to activate it, and when it works, it’s a really great 5-drop). Some other builds run Watchers, including the new Arcane Watcher. Some also run Plot Twist + Aranasi Broodmother, which does help with staying alive quite a bit (not to mention that with a big hand, Plot Twist makes looking for a specific answer pretty easy). I’m not partial to any build yet, because I do think that they need much more testing for the time being.
Yes, as you might probably tell, I’m a Handlock/RenoLock/any-slow-lock fanboy, but I really do recommend trying the deck out.
Deathrattle Mech Hunter is one of those decks that just build themselves. I mean, when you look at the current Hunter’s tool kit, it’s basically the most obvious deck you can make. Even Blizzard thought about that and included it in one of the deck recipes. Now, there is still quite a lot of wiggle room when it comes to HOW you build it, which makes everything more interesting.
The most successful build so far was probably Firebat’s, which I’m linking above. It’s basically a Midrange Mech Hunter with some Deathrattle synergies sparkled in. Two new key cards in this build are Oblivitron and Nine Lives. New Hunter’s Legendary, while a big tempo loss at first, can produce some amazing results after it dies. The best case scenario would be dropping Mechanical Whelp and triggering its deathrattle. So you would end up with a 6 mana 3/4, which Deathrattles into 7/7 and a 2/2 which would Deathrattle into another 7/7. Not only it’s a solid board, but it’s also annoying to clear, since you have to go through so many layers of Deathrattles. Now, Nine Lives is a similar story. While it’s rather underwhelming in the early game, once some of your Deathrattle minions start dying, it gets crazy good. Let’s give you the Mechanical Whelp example again – in the late game, for just 3 mana, you can Discover it and summon a 7/7 immediately. Or Oblivitron – you can Discover an extra copy and also force its Deathrattle right away, and since it’s mostly played FOR the Deathrattle anyway… you get it. The value potential is just insane.
The whole Deathrattle package can also be fueled by Necromechanic – a card that was overhyped in Boomsday Project, but might have finally found a home. With so many powerful Deathrattles and some ways to trigger them without having the minions to actually die, it can give you so much mid/late game tempo.
Zul'jin is a curve topper of this deck, and even though it might seem like it doesn’t belong here, I would argue that it’s still amazing. The only, and I repeat, ONLY spells this deck runs are 2 copies of Nine Lives and 2 copies of Unleash the Beast. But since the latter have Twinspell, you might end up with up to 4 of them in total. But let’s say that you drop Zul’jin after a single Unleash the Beast played twice and one Nine Lives. For 10 mana, you summon 2x 5/5 with Rush, get a random Deathrattle effect, and an extra card in your hand. Oh, and you also upgrade your Hero Power. It’s actually not that bad, and it gets even better if you actually roll a good Deathrattle from Nine Lives.
And last, but not least, we have a deck that operates on synergies that are hated by thousands, if not millions of Hearthstone players – resurrects. Starting with Big Priest, through decks like Resurrect Priest and Wall Priest, Eternal Servitude and Lesser Diamond Spellstone were some of the most played Priest cards in the last 2 years. When everyone thought that Priest will be back to its good, old, value-oriented play style, Blizzard has printed Catrina Muerte AND Mass Resurrection. To be honest, neither of those is as oppressive as Servitude or Spellstone – Catrina is random, so you can’t always get what you want (and it revives at the end of the turn, so you can’t really plan accordingly), and Mass Resurrection is like a mid-tier Spellstone for 2 more mana (and that’s a huge difference).
Is the deck weaker than pre-rotation Resurrect Priest? Yes, it is. But keep in mind that everything is weaker now. Even if you can’t revive Prophet Velen + Malygos and drop 20 damage Mind Blasts, reviving big Taunts over and over again can still win you the game. And just like Wall Priest, who dropped the Mind Blast combos in favor of Divine Spirit + Inner Fire, Rise of Shadows Resurrect Priest can do the same thing. When you keep reviving your high health minions, there’s a solid chance that at one point, your opponent will no longer be able to remove them. Luckily for anyone who is NOT playing Priest, with Shadow Visions gone, it’s harder to pull off the combo consistently, but even a single Divine Spirit + Inner Fire on 12 health minion can be deadly.
I’ve seen multiple versions of the deck so far, but I really like Zalae’s approach. I think that playing a lot of Taunts is the way to go. Some people get too greedy and then get rushed down. This approach means that you drop a Taunt every turn since the mid game and then revive them all back. It also means that Catrina has a significantly higher chance of getting a Taunt back, which in turn makes her so much harder to kill. In a way, this specific version plays a bit more like Rastakhan’s Wall Priest than Resurrect Priest, because that’s your basic win condition in many matchups – you build a wall.