Saviors of Uldum – second expansion of Year of the Dragon – was released roughly 24 hours ago. While we didn’t have any rotation alongside, between the set’s rather high power level and lots of new and refreshed mechanics, we’ve already seen a bunch of new, interesting builds. 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 Saviors of Uldum decks for every class!
I’ve spent most of the last 24 hours watching pro players and adding their decks to the site (as well as catching some games myself), 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.
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! The order of decks below is random.
I’ll start off by saying that I’ve decided to pick this build because it has some new cards in it, not because Control Warrior builds running Taunt are clearly better. No, it’s just that Control Warrior in general is great. It was one of the best decks before expansion, and it only got a few more tools to play around with, so it naturally is even better right now. We don’t see any clear counters so far, most of the decks played don’t have an amazing matchup vs Control Warrior. That might change as the meta develops and people start optimizing their decks… or it might not change, and Warrior will still be a dominant force.
As for the specific build – a full Taunt Warrior that runs even more Taunts and Into the Fray is also a thing, but according to stats, it works worse than a regular Control Warrior with just some Taunt synergies. By some I mean mostly Armagedillo. The card might just be good enough to run on its own, because just hitting Tomb Warden makes it pretty solid. Tomb Warden in particular works very, very well in this build. It has amazing synergy with Armagedillo (basically doubling the buff once it hits the board), but also with Dr. Boom, Mad Genius. For some reason, Blizzard decided to make it a Mech, which means that it gains Rush after playing your Hero card, and it can also be Magnetized onto (which is pretty relevant, since it sticks quite commonly). Frightened Flunky is just a solid card, arguably a better Stonehill Defender (because I’d rather take the same effect on a 2 mana 2/2 than 3 mana 1/4), it might even make a way into some Warrior builds that don’t run Taunt synergies.
And, of course, just like many have predicted – Restless Mummy is just good. For now it has replaced Militia Commander in most Warrior builds. We’ll see if that is only temporarily as people are testing new stuff, or the change is permanent. My guess is that it comes down to being a meta call – while I’d rate Mummy a bit higher on average, there are situations in which Militia Commander is better, so I could totally see it being played depending on the minions you face in the mid game (e.g. Commander is WAY better against Bone Wraith).
All in all, it doesn’t take a great player to figure out that Control Warrior will be a solid deck in the upcoming meta. While it’s way too early to make predictions, I think that it might be the most likely nerf candidate in our usual mid-expansion nerf patch.
While Control Warrior was obvious, this build is much more interesting. Tempo Warrior (if it even should be called that way, more about that later) is making a comeback. Mainly thanks to the new Bloodsworn Mercenary, which is just insane. Given that your minions are damaged very often, and even if they aren’t you can always do it yourself with Inner Rage, the card provides some INSANE tempo swings. And, something also theorycrafted before expansion, activates some interesting combos.
So back to the deck’s name. I call it Tempo Warrior in a reference to the oldschool Tempo Warrior decks. Some call it Aggro Warrior, which is also a perfectly viable name. But it also has a very interesting Combo aspect that makes the deck what it is right now. The idea is to play a Charge minion, buff its attack, and then copy it with Bloodsworn Mercenary. The strategy works amazingly well as a finisher, because it doesn’t force you to run any extra “combo pieces” that you wouldn’t play anyway. The most simple combo is Leeroy Jenkins + Inner Rage + Bloodsworn Mercenary. And that’s 16 damage out of nowhere with 3 cards. And trust me, it’s not hard to get your opponent below that health with this deck, so it works like a charm when it comes to closing out games. You can also add Rampage to the combo for 6 extra damage, which now should be enough to win nearly every time (well, okay, Control Warriors are an exception), but I think that I prefer builds without Rampage. You can do similar combos with Kor'kron Elite, and while they don’t deal as much damage, I like them because they leave a better board behind, so you can use them even before actually finishing the game. Kor’kron + Inner Rage + Mercenary creates 2x 6/2 with Charge and a 3/3, so not only you push a lot of damage right away, but also leave behind a very scary board.
While Mercenary is the key card, others also help. Temple Berserker is a great 2-drop in this deck, since it’s sticky and comes out damaged, so synergizes with some of your cards. Restless Mummy is a solid mid game tempo play, Livewire Lance is a bit like Warrior’s EVIL Miscreant (probably weaker, but still good), and it all makes the deck work just fine. The best thing is that you don’t have to play it like a Combo deck – you just develop board, put pressure on the opponent, do some solid trades and then – if the matchup requires it – you just keep a few cards behind to prepare for a burst turn.
It’s hard to say whether Tempo Warrior will stay as a part of the meta, but for now the deck works better than I’ve expected it to work.
Probably my favorite new deck so far, Quest Druid is one of the most popular decks of Day 1. I really like it for the fact that it’s by far the most consistent Quest. You can always finish it on the same turn – T5 when going first or T4 when going second. Of course, most of the time you have to completely sacrifice any early game tempo, which can be very problematic against Aggro decks. But luckily, you have lots and I mean LOTS of ways to come back. The idea is that you trade your first few turns for a lot of broken cards in your deck.
Starting with a simple Oasis Surger – 2x 5/5 with Rush. Then we’ve got Hidden Oasis – 6 mana 6/6 that heals for 12. Nourish on curve? You casually ramp for 2 and draw 3 cards for what is technically only 4 mana (since you get 2 back immediately). Even your 2 mana cards like Wrath or Power of the Wild become way more potent. So after just 2-3 turns, you should make up for all of the tempo you’ve lost early and then you play a deck full of overpowered cards. After Quest is done, you put massive threats out every single turn and if your board is not answered, it can easily snowball out of control.
Of course, the deck is far from unbeatable. Aggro decks might rush you down before you finish the Quest. Slow decks might still outgrind you with the right draws, and since you have no “infinite value generator” card, once they clear all your threats you can’t win the game anymore. But it all doesn’t change the fact that the deck works way better than many thought it would. Will it stay as a part of the meta? Hard to say yet, but for now it looks quite promising (especially since people are still far from figuring out the best build).
Battlecry Shaman is the second most successful Quest deck after Druid so far. While it’s a bit more difficult to finish, you don’t need to sacrifice tempo by doing it (the only sacrifices you have to make is starting with 1 less card and skipping Turn 1, just like with every other Quest). On the contrary, the great thing about this deck is that you just proceed with your regular early/mid game game plan, which involves playing a lot of Lackey generators and Lackey cards, and the Quest will finish naturally around the mid game.
A great thing about this Quest is how much value and tempo it adds to your plays. Even your Lackeys, which normally fall off as the game goes by, become more potent. Pressing Hero Power and then playing a few Lackeys can make for a very powerful turn without really using that many resources (and sometimes even generating more with Discover a Spell Lackey). But in reality, each one of your Battlecries becomes powerful. Lifedrinker deals 6 and heals for 6. Weaponized Wasp just deals 6 to any target. Siamat gets ALL of the effects. Giggling Inventor summons four Annoy-o-Trons (that’s a nightmare to face). And then after you run out of stuff to do, you play Shudderwock and replay everything. Sadly (or luckily, depending on which side you’re on) you can’t play Hero Power and Shudderwock on the same turn… unless you also run Jepetto Joybuzz and high-roll it.
I think that it will take a while to figure out the best build, though. There are so many great Battlecry minions, but players need to balance it between early, mid and late game. They also need to take Shudderwock into account, because you don’t necessarily want to repeat some of the Battlecries. Also, do you go for a more Midrange build, or try to run Quest in Control Shaman? But I believe that in general, Battlecry Shaman might be one of the more successful Quest decks.
- 1Secret Plan1
- 2Explosive Trap1
- 2Freezing Trap1
- 2Pressure Plate1
- 2Rat Trap1
- 3Animal Companion1
- 3Deadly Shot1
- 3Eaglehorn Bow1
- 3Hunter’s Pack1
- 3Nine Lives1
- 3Unleash the Hounds1
- 4Houndmaster Shaw1
- 4Hyena Alpha1
- 4Marked Shot1
- 6Unleash the Beast1
- 7Dinotamer Brann1
I’m kind of surprised that I’m putting it on the list, but between my personal experience and stats, Highlander Hunter is actually not that bad. Back when new Brann was announced, I didn’t believe that Hunter will be able to pull it out, but here we are. The class has got so many solid cards that they can easily build a singleton deck without breaking a sweat. Then, Dinotamer Brann is definitely a nice pay-off (especially when you get it on curve), but Zephrys the Great really takes the cake. Calling it the effect in the game is really not an overstatement. It’s just everything you want it to be – and more! It often gives you a card that you didn’t even realize would help you. It can get you out of many bad situations, and give you the craziest lethals with burn/silence/buffs/weapons/windfury etc.
One more thing that I don’t see mentioned a lot is that Zephrys can have a great synergy with Zul'jin. If it gives you a board clear like Flamestrike, or AoE Freeze like Frost Nova, then Zul’jin replays it ON TOP of developing a solid board. So not only you get a lot, but you stall / remove your opponent’s stuff. That’s often a swing that your opponent can’t come back from. Just remember that picking mirrored clears like Twisting Nether or Hellfire can be scary, because if Zul’jin plays them last you lose your board (or at least part of it).
Like always, Highlander decks will most likely take the longest to optimize, because you have 30 unique cards in your deck, which opens many new options. And when it comes to Highlander Hunter, there is a lot to pick from. You can go for a generic solid build with everything, for Beasts and Beast synergies, for Secrets, for Mechs, possibly even for some more Control-ish build (although I don’t think that will be the way to play it). Each of those options comes with its own merits. So far I think that every build I’ve seen runs a Secret package, and it works surprisingly well. I thought that there might not be enough good Secrets to support it, but with the new Pressure Plate you can easily play 6 solid, different Secrets (and the fact that you run so many different Secrets makes Subject 9 even better).
All in all, everyone saying “Highlander decks will be DOA” was clearly wrong, and there is a lot of potential in the new singleton builds. Whether they will stick in the meta is a difficult question, but if anything, they will probably get even better with the last expansion (singleton decks benefit from more options even more than other decks).
And a second Highlander deck on the list is Mage. I think that Hunter and Mage are the two most promising Highlander builds so far. Paladin doesn’t seem very good right now (it’s great if you get Finley on curve, but it’s pretty awkward if you don’t, since Paladin doesn’t have access to THAT many good cards and it has to mix play styles too much), and Druid… Elise the Enlightened seems more like a combo card than a card you build a regular deck around and I don’t think that people have figured out any good combos around her yet (I’ve seen a few Elise Combo decks, but they could probably be classified as “meme decks” right now).
When it comes to Mage, the story is similar to Hunter. Mage’s Highlander card – Reno the Relicologist – is not the BEST pay-off, but it’s still very strong. The best thing about is it how flexible it is. You can use it to clear a single big minion, two mid-sized minions or a board full of small minions. Plus, unlike regular board clears (e.g. Flamestrike), it leaves behind a body, so you don’t fall behind on tempo. And Zephrys is just as good as in Hunter – I won’t repeat myself, but I really love the card.
When it comes to the builds, people opt for slower ones in general. Most go for a Control/Conjurer/Big Spell Mage mix with a lot of generally solid cards and some interesting synergies. The goal is to outgrind faster decks and outtempo slower ones thanks to Luna's Pocket Galaxy, Conjurer's Calling combos or King Phaoris.
My biggest issue with Highlander Mage is that it works pretty poorly vs Control Warrior. It doesn’t have enough pressure to kill Warrior quickly, and once Dr. Boom, Mad Genius comes online, the matchup becomes miserable for Mage. They can hope to get a big board from Conjurer’s Calling or Phaoris, but if Warrior can clear those, then it’s basically game over. However, that’s not exactly a new issue – that’s what happens when one deck has finite resources and other doesn’t.
Overall, I think that Highlander Mage might have a place in the meta, especially if Control Warrior falls out of the meta for some reason (e.g. it gets nerfed).
Even though I’m a big fan of Zephrys and Highlander decks, when it comes to Mage, Big Spell version might be even more fun. Especially if you liked Yogg-Saron, Hope's End back in the day. Because Yogg is back. Multiple times per game, potentially for 5 mana. Yeah.
Big Spell Mage is not exactly a new concept. Mage already has cards that synergized with expensive spells – Dragon's Fury, Dragoncaller Alanna. And now we’re getting some more synergies. Naga Sand Witch lets you discount those expensive spells down to 5 mana, Tortollan Pilgrim and Kalecgos let you play them while leaving a body on the board, and – of course – King Phaoris summons extra minions for each big spell in your hand (this specific build doesn’t run it, but some others do).
And the thing is, even though I’m calling all of those decks “Big Spell Mage”, we have quite a lot of different builds running around. This build, which is an extension of Rise of Shadows’ Conjurer Mage, seems to be the most successful ones. You get the usual Mountain Giant + Conjurer's Calling combos, but Tortollan Pilgrims in particular add a lot of extra tempo to the decks. It’s a solid, flexible card that does a lot of things. If your opponent has board, you can pick Blizzard or Frost Nova to clear/stall. If you need bigger board and it’s the only minion, you can pick Conjurer's Calling and it will turn into two random 8-drops (and you will the second copy in your hand just in case). If it’s not – you can also play Power of Creation, and while it will pick targets at random, you still get two random 6-drops. But most importantly – in case everything else fails, or you just need to break the stalemate, you pick Puzzle Box of Yogg-Saron. To be honest, the card is not even THAT strong at 10 mana, but given that you can constantly cheat it out for cheaper in this build, it gets pretty scary. And just like the good old Yogg, it has a tendency to do more good than harm. It often clears the board (or at least part of it), while summoning some stuff for you + drawing you a bunch of cards. Of course, given its high RNG nature, it can also fail horribly and buff your opponent’s minions and burn your face, but those situations are more rare.
But that’s just one of the ways to build the deck. We also have a more Control-oriented build that goes more all-in on the Big Spells with Phaoris to summon a big board of minions. Then, I’ve also seen a more combo-oriented builds running Pyroblasts and Alexstrasza. The goal is to discount Pyroblasts to 5 mana, then play Alex one turn and hit them for 20 with 2x Pyro next turn. Alternatively, getting a 1 mana Archmage Antonidas from Luna's Pocket Galaxy can provide even more burn.
For now, this is the best build, but it might be just because it was easiest one to build correctly – we already had a Conjurer Mage shell ready and it was matter of adding a few new cards. Other builds are newer, so they might need more time to become optimized. Either way, I’m not sure how I feel about the deck, or rather Puzzle Box in particular. I don’t think that they should print this card (especially with ways to cheat it out), but it’s not my call and not really a great place to discuss it (I might write a separate article about it when things cool down a bit).
Zoo Warlock is also back on the menu. While it technically never disappeared from it, the deck wasn’t that powerful or popular in Rise of Shadows, especially later when Almost 20% of the meta were variations of Control/Bomb Warrior. But never mind that, what’s new in Zoo? Two things, actually! First – Lackeys. Zoo was already running some Lackey generators and Lackey cards, but now they have a way bigger incentive to do it. Not only we’ve got another “sacrifice” card with a nice pay-off (EVIL Recruiter), but a 5-drop that turns all of your Lackeys into threats (Dark Pharaoh Tekahn). Tekahn in particular is probably the biggest point of dispute between Zoo players right now. Some say that it’s a good addition and that it makes the deck’s mid game way better, while others argue that it comes down too late to be relevant and it will only decrease the win rate. It’s too early to tell which camp is right, but for now we can see both kinds of builds quite commonly.
Another new pair of cards that Zoo got are Neferset Thrasher and Diseased Vulture. And I think that those might make an even bigger impact than Lackey stuff. Neferset Thrasher alone is quite scary – 3 mana 4/5 is a great tempo play in a deck that is all about early tempo. While it costs you a lot to attack with it (1/10 of your starting life total is more than one might imagine), right now there aren’t many decks that can capitalize on it. You can commonly go down to 15 health in the mid game and you won’t even feel any pressure from the opponent. Sure, there are some decks that can rush you down after, but most of them rely on board presence to deal damage. And thanks to the extra tempo of 3 mana 4/5, you might stop them from developing board quite nicely and snowball from there. The card, however, gets even better if you consider the second one – Diseased Vulture. 4 mana 3/5, Violet Teacher-like minion that floods the board… except the fact that it summons 3-drops and not 1/1’s. And you don’t even need much to trigger it. If you played Thrasher on curve, you just drop Vulture and attack with the former. Bam, it costed you 3 health to summon a 3-drop. That’s a good trade if you ask me. If Vulture survives, you then drop Flame Imp, play your Hero Power and a few more 3-drops rally to your side of the board. Diseased Vulture has amazing snowball potential, and given that it synergizes with your Hero Power, you don’t even need to run a lot of extra self-damage cards for it to be good.
For now, Zoo looks to be in a really solid spot. However, it’s still too early to make any meaningful conclusions. The thing is, decks like Zoo Warlock are always stronger early in the expansion, when most of the opponents play greedy, unoptimized, homebrew decks. Once the meta starts to settle and those decks realize that their strategies might need some more early game protection, decks like Zoo become worse and worse. Does it mean that it will disappear from the meta? Not at all. But there’s a solid chance that it won’t be as relevant as on Day 1.
And last, but not least, a deck that I have honestly not expected to see. While – obviously – I did realize that Tip the Scales is a very powerful card, with no other Murloc support, I didn’t think that Paladin will want to play the deck. And here we are.
However, the thing that makes this Murloc Paladin quite different than builds we had in the past is that it tries to cheese out games. Flooding the board with Murlocs was always the archetype’s game plan, but usually it had to be done fair, over many turns, while your opponent could respond to your individual plays. In this case, the idea is to play only two spells – Prismatic Lens and Tip the Scales. Which means that playing Prismatic Lens has a very high (or even 100% if you drew both) chance to give you Tip the Scales and a small Murloc. The Murloc becomes 8 mana (and will most likely remain unplayable until the game is over), but Tip the Scales now costs 1-4 mana. Which means that Paladin can flood the entire board with Murlocs, with only a single card, as soon as Turn 5 (or 4 with Coin). And the problem is that many decks simply aren’t capable of dealing with such boards so early.
Obviously, the deck can still win the decks in a more “fair” way – by just having a solid Murloc curve – but this strategy alone wouldn’t even get close to hitting 50% win rate. However, you win an extra game in a few just thanks to the fact that you cheated out 8 Murlocs in the mid game.
Interestingly enough, because Tip the Scales pulls out so many Murlocs from your deck, you run out of cards incredibly quickly. That’s why lots of the builds run Sir Finley of the Sands (although that one also gets pulled out with Scales commonly) as well as Zephrys the Great. The latter is an unexpected surprise that can seal some games. Given that your board is usually full of minions, it has a high chance of giving you Savage Roar or Bloodlust for lethal. Even if you have no board, the chances are that your opponent is pretty low from previous turns, so it can still give you some unexpected lethal. Is Zephrys even good in the deck? Honestly – probably not. But it’s definitely fun and feels very rewarding to run. In the same vein, some players even run Chef Nomi as a finisher after they run out of cards completely, but that’s even more risky (because you can often play Zephrys after the first Tip the Scales – you basically need to play both before you can use Nomi).
Is Murloc Paladin an actually good build, or is it winning only because people aren’t expecting (and thus aren’t prepared) for the cheese? Hard to say, but I think that it might be a bit of both. T5 Tip the Scales is very powerful no matter if opponent expects it or not, but if it became a more popular build, people would probably tech in some mid game AoE removals.