Well, that was a surprise. Voyage to the Sunken City places a big emphasis on tribal decks. Some are brand new (Naga) or blasts from the past (Mechs), but the new expansion also added a ton of Pirate support. We all have recent experience with this one deck that loves all this new support. Pirates deserve to be one of the top decks at all times, and Questline Warrior would have it no other way.
There are, of course, also viable non-tribal decks. You might think that a minion that is only useful when all remaining minions in your deck are Dragons would go to a Dragon deck, but you would be wrong. Kazakusan is still here, chilling in Ramp Druid like it’s 2021 all over again.
In some ways, the rotation and the new expansion changed things. In some ways, everything remained the same. It is all a matter of perspective.
Quest Warrior got lots of new cards in Voyage to the Sunken City. The one thing the deck craves is cheap Pirates so that it can progress through its Questline as fast as possible. The new expansion definitely delivered: Amalgam of the Deep, Obsidiansmith, and Tuskarrrr Trawler are excellent additions to the archetype, and why not throw in a Pufferfist on top to give the deck even more area-of-effect damage.
The crazy thing is that even Nellie, the Great Thresher has to compete for its spot on the list, as it is sometimes too slow!
In Lee1k’s list, Nellie has been cut in favor of a Smothering Starfish silence tech. An understandable reaction to Switcheroo. Lee1k also runs only one copy of Shiver Their Timbers! in order to fit in a Stonemaul Anchorman. Changes around those cards and sometimes cutting some Cargo Guards are pretty much the extent of Pirate Warrior innovation right now. The deck came in well-tuned and ready to blast right from the start.
In Fractured in Alterac Valley, Quest Warrior was largely a low-ranks bully. The deck was easy to play, very linear, and relatively powerful, so it was great for farming inexperienced players. However, it lacked tricks, and when up against more seasoned opponents, it had weaknesses that could be taken advantage of and win.
In Voyage to the Sunken City, Quest Warrior is just strong. It is only slightly weaker in Legend than it is in Gold. The deck is still linear and lacks surprises, but it is stronger in comparison to the competition than it was in the last expansion. Some part of this is undoubtedly caused by the deck starting out reasonably well-tuned whereas there is more to solve in other decks. Some of it is just raw power.
No matter your rank, you need a plan to handle Quest Warrior.
Think, Guff, Think!
The most popular deck overall is Ramp Druid. It is rare that we have a meta with two extremely popular decks. Usually, there is one deck that is more popular than anything else, and then there are those rare moments when no deck is super popular.
Ramp Druid has had to reinvent itself after the rotation, but ramping up remains its central characteristic: Wild Growth, Nourish, and Wildheart Guff still provide plenty of tools to get ahead in mana. Jerry Rig Carpenter also plays a central role to ensure that Nourish draw.
The deck is no longer using only Dragons as minions, and consequently, the role of Kazakusan has changed. Instead of trying to get to Kazakusan as fast as possible, the deck has a bunch of big threats it tries to use, and only if they fail, Kazakusan comes in to provide even more threats.
Miracle Growth is the first big minion to hit the board, and Naga Giants are never far behind. Add Oracle of Elune to the mix, and you can have many Giants. Top things off with some Earthen Scales, and you will have plenty of armor too. Fun. And interactive.
Ramp Druid is another contender you need to consider when choosing your ladder deck.
If You Can’t Beat Them, Scam Them
As you can see from the tech cards of both recent high-Legend lists, Quest Warriors and Ramp Druids are scared of Switcheroo Priests.
Switcheroo Priest is a deck I’m certain will be nerfed, but it’s cheap anyway, so no worries. The win condition of the deck is to NOT draw your Twin-fin Fin Twin or Deathwing the Destroyer and to draw your Switcheroo instead. Then, all you need is some Switcheroo magic, and you will have a three-mana 12/12 Rush minion that summons a copy of itself in your hand. Fun. And interactive!
Amazingly enough, Switcheroo Priest wins roughly 50% of the time. That’s not great, but it’s not terrible either. And the deck is strong against both Quest Warrior and Ramp Druid. Think about it like this: if the top decks are favored against almost everything, a deck that beats anything 50% of the time is one of the best counters!
Or Maybe Just Kill Them Before They Kill You
There is another. Another aggro deck that can bring balance to the meta.
There are still several variants of Aggro Demon Hunter on the ladder. Some are called Token Demon Hunter. Others are referred to as Naga Demon Hunter. Ironically, the token cards are the weakest cards in Token Demon Hunter, and most Naga cards are the weakest cards in Naga Demon Hunter.
Aggro Demon Hunter is still going through refinement and it is uncertain which secondary cards will remain in the deck. Lady S'theno, for example, is by no means a mandatory inclusion.
Whichever form of the deck will prevail, the master plan remains the same: beat the opponent before they have time to do things. Questline decks have a moment of weakness at the start and Quest Warrior is no exception. Ramp decks take a moment to get started as well. This window of opportunity is where Aggro Demon Hunter strikes, and it seems to do this even better than Face Hunter.
Any Other Options?
Switcheroo Priest and Aggro Demon Hunter are the only decks that can succeed against both Quest Warrior and Ramp Druid. There are also some decks that are strong against just one of them.
The most interesting option is Quest Hunter:
Quest Hunter is fine against Quest Warrior, weak against Ramp Druid and Switcheroo Priest, and strong against Aggro Demon Hunter. That is a potent matchup spread.
Candleshot is a phenomenal tool to keep Aggro Demon Hunter at bay at the start of the game, and the rest is just Drek'Thar business as usual combined with the machine gun Hero Power that you get once the Questline is completed.
That’s pretty much everything that can claim to be favored against Quest Warrior.
Ramp Druid has more counters, as the deck is weak to all fast aggro decks. The problem with those decks is that most of them are awful against everything else. Murloc Shaman and Murloc Warlock, for example, can take on the Druid, but crumble to just about everything else, which makes them weak options to ladder with.
The most potent aggro deck outside of Demon Hunter is the good old Face Hunter. I don’t like any of the popular lists, the archetype is still rather unexplored, but I have explored the potential of Nagas in it in a budget form.
Face Hunter lost almost all of its one- and two-drops in the rotation. The only one that remained was the Irondeep Trogg. Luckily, Vicious Slitherspear is an excellent one-drop, and it is also a Naga, so it enables Barbed Nets and Naga's Pride.
Face Hunter still uses a similar playstyle as in Fractured in Alterac Valley: some minions at the start, buff them up with Doggie Biscuit and Ramming Mount, deal damage with them as long as you can, and then finish off with spells.
New tricks include coining out a Murkwater Scribe followed up by a pair of 3/3 minions from Naga's Pride on turn two and Twinbow Terrorcoil enabling Piercing Shot to deal up to 11 damage! The second cast of Piercing Shot hits the now zero-Health minion and deals the full six damage to the face. The second cast of any spell from Twinbow Terrorcoil always hits the same target as the first cast, so Barbed Nets deals its initial damage to the same target but you can choose the second target independently.
The Unholy Trinity
Overall, the early Voyage to the Sunken City ladder looks set to be dominated by three decks: Quest Warrior, Ramp Druid, and Aggro Demon Hunter. The first two already form half of the ladder, while the third is still making its way down from Legend, which is the only place where it is popular so far.
However, we are still early in the expansion. While it is unlikely that something like Quest Hunter could be refined to become a major contender, its current matchup spread is already good enough to ensure a minor presence. Face Hunter, on the other hand, still has a lot of potential for refinement and could conceivably challenge Demon Hunter for the throne of the aggro king.
We might also see the rise of yet unseen archetypes, and even if that does not happen naturally, there are always balance changes. I have no doubt that some of these top decks will be touched by Blizzard to open up more competition in the coming weeks if such competition cannot be found otherwise. In the meanwhile, the decks above are some of the top options to take to the ladder.