Fall of Ulduar is a strong mini-set. It has clearly affected the meta and many cards from the mini-set see competitive play. One can argue whether these changes are for the better or for worse, but the power of Yogg-Saron, Unleashed cannot be denied.
In this article, I will dig as deep as possible into the early days of the Fall of Ulduar. The decks that it has made better. The new archetypes that are emerging. The definitive cards that will have an impact on the meta for a long time.
The New Age of Control Warrior
Control Warrior has usually been a staple in Hearthstone. From its early days with Cairne Bloodhoof and Grommash Hellscream to its Ancient Shieldbearer and C'Thun era, and the infinite games of Odd Warrior with Baku the Mooneater and Archivist Elysiana, the archetype has persisted in one form or another. Until one fatal night during Voyage to the Sunken City, when it was nerfed. To. The. Ground.
This year, Blizzard promised that Control Warrior would return, but it fell flat early on. Even Odyn, Prime Designate was not enough to revive the fallen hero. So, Blizzard went into overdrive, buffed half the deck, and then printed Sanitize in the mini-set on top. I’m not even exaggerating. 20 cards from the current Control Warrior meta deck have been buffed this year. Perhaps those cards were released in too weak of a state, but this shows what it took to get Control Warrior to the top of the charts again.
With the mini-set, Control Warrior is topping the charts a bit too effectively. Sanitize and Yogg-Saron, Unleashed have found spots in the deck, and some lists are also experimenting with General Vezax, which currently looks like a worthy inclusion as well. The mini-set has added ways for Control Warrior to push through Taunt minions more effectively, and this has removed the one late-game weakness the deck had. Its only real counter is Thaddius Warlock, which has multiple weaknesses of its own.
Control Warrior is currently the best deck in the game, and we are not even sure what its optimal build is yet.
Arcane Hunter Climbs the Ranks One Arcane Spell at a Time
Arcane Hunter was introduced to the game with March of the Lich King late last year, but the deck started out as a fun meme. However, it has been slowly empowered over the past year through the introduction of new cards and buffs to existing ones, and now Fall of Ulduar added the final piece to the puzzle in the form of Celestial Shot. Have you ever wanted to summon an army with Eversong Portal? Or maybe clear just about any board with Star Power? Thanks to Celestial Shot, now you can!
The journey to find the optimal Arcane Hunter list is only beginning. Control Warrior is closer in its refinement, whereas there are still some genuine questions about how to build Arcane Hunter. Even so, already the current builds are quite dominant on the ladder!
It seems quite clear from the data that late-game randomness is not Arcane Hunter’s thing. Prison of Yogg-Saron and Yogg-Saron, Unleashed are unlikely to make it to the final list. Likewise, the value of Awakening Tremors is uncertain.
There are many candidates to take those spots. Ancient Krakenbane has had some promising results. Astalor Bloodsworn is never awful. A second copy of Star Power may be worth including, depending on the meta.
One interesting aspect of building Arcane Hunter is the Secret package. Right now, Wandering Monster looks like a genius addition. Because most lists run Cat Trick instead, you can play mind games with your different secret. Hidden Meaning does look like an automatic inclusion though because playing around it wastes so much tempo that it’s great even when your opponent does everything right.
Arcane Hunter was solid already before the mini-set, and it looks set to become even better as the optimal 30-card list is found.
Choose Your Warlock
How badly do you want to beat Control Warrior? After the mini-set, Control Warlock has lost its edge against Control Warrior, but it remains a wonderful deck otherwise. Thaddius Warlock, on the other hand, can lose to a number of aggressive decks but continues to enjoy a good matchup against Control Warrior. The Warlock decks are otherwise the same as before as Warlock did not get anything worth playing in Fall of Ulduar.
If you meet a variety of decks and want a solid Warlock deck, Control Warlock is your choice:
If you meet a lot of Warriors or just hate Warriors, Thaddius Warlock provides the smoothest path to Warrior tears:
While the mini-set changed many things, Warlock remains the same as before.
Druids Just Want One Thing and It’s Yogg-Saron
Yogg-Saron, Unleashed is one of the strongest Titans. That’s a weird sentence to type because Yogg-Saron is actually an Old God, who are some of the main enemies of Titans in the lore. Whatever this abomination is, it is a potentially zero-mana minion that you can play on your big swing turn that clears the opponent’s board for free while you blast away.
Yogg-Saron is a wonderful addition to any Druid deck. Drum Druid suddenly gains access to a big board clear, but the real winners are even less interactive Druid decks. Moonbeam Druid and Miracle Druid can now survive long enough to pull off some crazy moves, which usually means killing the opponent from full Health. It is still too early to fully evaluate the consistency of these game plans with Yogg included, so perhaps they are not consistent enough in the end. They are extremely uninteractive when they work though.
Miracle Druid can draw its entire deck in a few turns when everything goes right. It can clear the board with Yogg-Saron, Unleashed, and it can make copies of select cards with Photographer Fizzle. If it picks up a one-mana Windfury weapon from Ignis, the Eternal Flame, it can OTK opponents with Harmonic Mood, Rake, and Pounce, possibly including extra copies of the cards from Photographer Fizzle.
It’s a pretty crazy APM deck that has now been enabled by Yogg. Previously, it had more issues with survival or getting through a board, but Yogg conveniently solves those issues. Now, success depends on your APM and on whether the deck will prove to be consistent enough or not.
Moonbeam Druid is a less flashy and less APM-dependent OTK deck. With this deck, you try to get some spell damage minions killed and later on resurrect them with Unending Swarm so that your Moonbeam can deal a bunch of damage. The combination of minions and damage spells you need can vary, but that is the main theme.
Yogg-Saron, Unleashed gives this deck a new way to clear the board and survive longer, but Miracle Druid may end up being the faster Combo Druid deck.
Miracles Can Happen
Yogg-Saron is the centerpiece of the mini-set. Whenever you can find a spell-heavy deck that can discount it, it is a powerful card to include. Making use of Yogg’s Tendrils is less common, but it is actually possible to combine the power of Yogg and the randomness of the Tendrils. The best deck to do that with is Miracle Rogue. Endless Tendrils. Multiple Yoggs (praise Shadowstep). The deck is madness. It is not a top-tier deck, but it has been surprisingly effective at staying above a 50% win rate!
You Can Still Aggro Like It Was August
If you do not have the mini-set or prefer to play with other cards, aggressive decks are still fine on the ladder. The old favorites Aggro Paladin, Totem Shaman, and Mech Rogue require no changes based on the mini-set.
You Can Also Aggro In a New Way
Speaking of aggro decks and the contribution of Fall of Ulduar to that archetype, Undead Priest got some interesting new cards from the mini-set. Soulburner Varia looks like a guaranteed inclusion in the archetype in the future, and Twilight Torrent also looks promising. There will be some testing ahead to see whether both of them make it and which cards will they replace, but Undead Priest keeps getting support from Blizzard now.
Fall of Ulduar And the New Meta
The most impactful card from Fall of Ulduar is without doubt Yogg-Saron, Unleashed. It provides an extremely powerful comeback mechanic for any spell-based decks, so there may be more spell-based decks coming as people have time to experiment and build them. The return of Spell Demon Hunter, for example? Already now, Yogg-Saron has empowered new Druid and Rogue decks that are able to hold their own on the ladder.
Fall of Ulduar has exceptionally good Legendary cards for a mini-set, which makes it an attractive item to purchase. Yogg-Saron, Unleashed is joined by Soulburner Varia and General Vezax, both of which are admittedly much more narrow in their application, but they can both contribute to their archetypes.
We are also seeing Contaminated Lasher, Celestial Shot, Twilight Torrent, Sanitize, and Prison Breaker have an impact on decks. As testing progresses, I still hold high hopes for cards like Aerosoilizer, Tainted Remnant, Keeper's Strength, and Battleworn Faceless too. Fall of Ulduar has a lot of potential, and we have not seen its full effect yet.
The meta is still trying to find its balance, and it is too early to say where things are headed. Control Warrior and Arcane Hunter are the big early winners. Druid is showing some scary potential, but it is impossible to say whether that will turn into reality yet. Going full Tendrils with Rogue actually looks viable, even though it is not top-tier. There are many things that can still be tested and improved upon. Fall of Ulduar is a strong mini-set, and the main ride should still last at least a week. It is a good time to try out some new things in Hearthstone!