Warrior has been in a sad state recently. Control Warrior died in late Sunken City and has stayed dead despite many attempts by players to resurrect it. Enrage Warrior has been the best Warrior deck, and it is playable, but not great. The second-best Warrior deck has been Questline Warrior, and it is not a deck you want to try to climb with.
To make matters worse, the rotation will not be kind to Warrior. Enrage Warrior loses Warsong Envoy, Rokara, and Rokara, the Valorous. Those are some of its best cards. Control Warrior is already struggling, and it will lose Frozen Buckler and Shield Shatter, some of its only good tools.
That leaves the new Core set and the Festival of Legends expansion with a mountain of a challenge. With just a few cards, they would need to fix an entire class. In theory, this is doable. Ten super-strong cards and boom, you have a superstar class in your hands. At first sight, the new cards do not possess many star qualities, even though there are some strong candidates in the mix. Let’s see if anything can be built from them.
Enrage Warrior, Quo Vadis?
Enrage Warrior will lose some key cards and would have needed some clear improvements to stay viable. Sadly, the new Menagerie theme for Warrior has a rather miserable synergy with Enrage Warrior, as none of the main Enrage cards have a minion type.
I am not hopeful for Enrage Warrior in Festival of Legends. I have tried to shore up its weaknesses with the Riff package and Grommash Hellscream – another minion with no minion type – but I don’t think it will make it.
Menagerie Warrior to the Rescue?
The more aggressive Warrior archetype that receives support in Festival of Legends is Menagerie Warrior. Roaring Applause is a potentially great card-draw tool and Power Slider can swing the game back into Warrior’s favor in the mid-game. Party Animal and The One-Amalgam Band are strong Neutral cards that provide hand-buffs and another big swing card. Rock Master Voone can make copies of your buffed cards so that you will have threats for days.
The biggest question in my mind about Menagerie Warrior is how you will get your snowball rolling. Anima Extractor and Hawkstrider Rancher have been key tools for Enrage Warrior to buff up their minions, but they do not have a minion type of their own. Will the best answer be to run them anyway, or will they prove to be too awkward of a fit?
I have been toying around with the idea of combining Menagerie with Battlecry effects and finally have a deck where you can play Snapdragon.
This deck makes use of the full complement of Amalgams: Mistake, Amalgam of the Deep, and The One-Amalgam Band. Any minion types you have not otherwise played during the game will be filled in by the amalgams. Roaring Applause will also be much more consistent in drawing three cards or more, when amalgams provide many of the minion types. I believe even Amber Whelp becomes playable thanks to the large number of amalgams.
Thanks to the buffs, I hope that even Trenchstalker could be good enough to finally see play. It might prove to still be too slow for this type of deck though. Maybe in a control-style buff deck with Blackrock 'n' Roll?
My main concern regarding the deck is how meager its buffs are. You get buffs to multiple minions at once, but compared to the current Enrage Warrior, you do not have the big rolls you can get with Warsong Envoy or Anima Extractor. The Envoy is rotating out of Standard, but maybe there could be some way to integrate the Extractor into this archetype still.
Update after the theorycrafting livestreams: I think I want to splash some Mech synergy into the deck instead of Snapdragons and make it look like this:
Tony Warrior – The New Warrior Combo Deck
Warrior has one clearly-defined combo that Blizzard obviously intends for us to play:
- Switch decks with Tony, King of Piracy
- Replace the cards in your loaner deck with The Fires of Zin-Azshari
- Destroy the deck with Steamcleaner
- Have Tony die before or after deck destruction to switch the decks back and leave the opponent with an empty deck
There are two potential ways this combo can be used. It could be a win condition in a slow Control Warrior deck, or it can be played in a faster combo deck that focuses harder on card draw than the control variant. Typically, faster combo decks are better than slower combo decks, so I expect the main Tony Warrior decks to have a lot of card draw to cycle to the combo as quickly as possible.
Here is what that could look like:
With all the most expensive minions being five-cost, Taelan Fordring can be used to tutor for one of the combo pieces. I considered adding E.T.C., Band Manager to the deck to store second copies of Steamcleaner and The Fires of Zin-Azshari but ended up with only one Steamcleaner and double Fires directly in the deck. I was concerned that E.T.C. would mostly be used to create a copy of Fires, and in that case, it is better to just add Fires to the main deck.
The Riff package provides some survivability and targeted card draw. I considered using fewer minions to turn the Riffs into tutors for the combo pieces, and that could be the direction the deck eventually takes.
Warrior still has some good removal pieces as well, with Brawl staying in the Core set, Bladestorm getting added to Core, and Kodohide Drumkit coming in Festival of Legends. Survive, combo, and watch the opponent eventually lose to fatigue with no threats left.
Update after the theorycrafting livestreams: Tony Warrior seemed to have too many problems with survival. I updated the list slightly, but I am not very optimistic about the archetype.
Any Hope for Traditional Control Warrior?
I have played disruption-based Control Warrior at several points during March of the Lich King. It is a challenging deck to play because opponents are not easily exhausted in the current meta, but sometimes it can still achieve that old Warrior feel where you are able to match your removal to the opponent’s threats and survive everything they can throw at you.
In this type of slow deck, you want a good selection of removal tools to handle a wide variety of threats as well as some disruption tools to mess up the opponent’s plans. Call to the Stand, Disruptive Spellbreaker, and Theotar, the Mad Duke can remove cards from the opponent and allow you to survive against combos and overwhelming direct damage.
I am also hopeful when it comes to Kodohide Drumkit and Drum Soloist. Both look like fun new tools for slower Warrior decks. It’s just a question of how you can actually win the game in the end. Disruption and removal seem the least likely way to do it given where Hearthstone has been headed over the past years, but Warrior win condition beyond that are few and far between. There’s Tony, and that’s about it.
Update after the theorycrafting livestreams: Disruption is not good enough. You need a proactive win condition. Blackrock ‘n’ Roll can provide that win condition for a Control Warrior shell too, but success with a control deck still seems difficult. The most promising approach is something like this:
- 1Razorfen Rockstar2
- 1Shield Slam2
- 1Verse Riff2
- 2Roaring Applause1
- 2Shield Block2
- 3Chorus Riff2
- 4Kodohide Drumkit2
- 4Sword Eater2
- 5Blackrock ‘n’ Roll1
- 5Bridge Riff2
- 5Drum Soloist2
- 6Decimator Olgra1
- 7Remornia, Living Blade1
- 8Grommash Hellscream1
The Unlikely Champion – Taunt Warrior
There is one more glimmer of hope for Warrior. The new Core set adds a strong package of Taunt cards to the Standard format: Frightened Flunky, Sword Eater, and Armagedillo have all been playable cards once upon a time. Frightened Flunky was stronger before because the Discover mechanic used to weigh class cards more heavily than Neutral cards, but it no longer does that. We’ll see whether it is still playable. Sword Eater should still be a strong card by any standards, and Armagedillo will certainly see play if Taunt Warrior is strong enough, and not see any play if Taunt Warrior fails.
The idea with Taunt Warrior is to make some big Taunt minions. Armagedillo, Last Stand, Lor'themar Theron, and the new Blackrock 'n' Roll have the potential to make some huge minions. When those buffs land on Silverfury Stalwart, the opponent will have to think hard about how to get rid of it. That’s the best-case scenario, anyway.
There are a couple of styles you could build Taunt Warrior. You could add a Taunt and buff package to a Control Warrior core and use the few big Taunt minions or Trenchstalker as your win condition. Alternatively, you can try to just play Taunt minions all the way. This deck pursues the latter approach. The Riff package combines with early Taunt minions to keep you alive and is then followed by bigger Taunt minions with buffs to end the game.
Many questions remain about the viability of Blackrock 'n' Roll. We have seen over the past months that Lor'themar Theron is playable. It does not fit into many decks, but it can contribute to some. However, Lor’themar also develops a 7/7 body besides the deck buff. Blackrock develops nothing, no tempo whatsoever. You need to find a quiet turn to play it to then hopefully draw some big minions later. Those are some big ifs.
One new card that I want to see in action is Festival Security. My main concern is the low attack value, just two. If there are lots of three-Health early-game minions, dropping Festival Security on the board on turn three might be ineffective. There is one copy in this deck, but it should perhaps be two, depending on how the card and the meta turn out. It also might not be strong enough at all. That’s the thing about evaluating these cards before actually getting to play with them, I just do not know for sure.
Update after the theorycrafting livestreams: Sadly, it seems too hard to keep up with Taunt minions.
I am not optimistic about Warrior. Sure, at this stage it is possible to see that Warrior has multiple paths that it can pursue. There are some promising cards available to the class, too, many of them from the new Core set. The decks are quite new and refining them will take time and experimentation. But none of them feel immediately powerful.
The new Core set brings a strong Taunt package. There’s the new Tony combo theme. There is some Menagerie support. But will any of them be competitive?
A lot may ultimately depend on the Riff package. Verse Riff, Chorus Riff, and Bridge Riff are meant to be the Warrior’s Relics in Festival of Legends. The first one you play will be weak without the Finale effect, and the others will really want you to find a way to Finale by spending your last mana on them to replay the last Riff. If the Riff package is strong, it gives Warrior a great foundation to build upon. They can support a midrange deck and carry a control or combo deck to the late game. But if the Riff package proves to be inadequate, Warrior will struggle in the early game.
The developers have promised improvements to Warrior this year. Whether those promises can be redeemed by the first expansion of the year remains to be seen. At the very least, the multiple potential directions Warrior can pursue in Festival of Legends give something to work with, test, and hope.
Update after the theorycrafting livestreams: I am a little more positive now. Menagerie Warrior can succeed with or without Riffs. Blackrock ‘n’ Roll is a real win condition, even if survival is a challenge. The decks in the article have been updated to reflect the experience gained from the pre-release games.