Four great Hearthstone decks for climbing the ladder in Rise of the Shadows
It’s hard to know what decks to play in the opening days of a Hearthstone expansion. You don’t want to invest dust into crafting new cards yet so you need to make do with what you have for the first couple of weeks. You go to your favorite netdeck site and look at options, but you’re missing five or more cards for each one. Even if you find a deck that fits, how do you pilot it? Well, internet friend, you’re in luck. I’ve got four decks complete with guides on playing each one, plus a list of replacement cards in case you don’t have everything.
It’s easy to think “if I only had this epic or that Legendary, I’d win more games.” Say you’re building a Druid deck and want Keeper Stallandris. Even if you craft him, some games he’ll hide at the bottom of your deck and you never see him anyway. In actual play, yes, you’ll win more with a more complete deck, but if you’re winning 30% of your games (3-7), getting the perfect Legendary won’t change that to 7-3 — it’s more likely to change it to 4-6 or 5-5. The whole game is set up for you to win as much as you lose, but you’re going to have winning streaks and losing streaks.
Whether you have the right Legendaries or not, here are some strategies — and decks — that can help you win.
First, it’s important to get a good mulligan
When you start a game of Hearthstone, the first thing that happens is you draw three cards (four if you’re going second). You have the option at that point to choose to redraw and change any of those cards you don’t like. The cards you throw back are put into your deck and a new card is drawn to replace them. The cards you sent away are not added back into the pool for possible replacements, but if you have two copies, you could draw your second copy. If you have two copies of Arcane Intellect and you toss one back from your opening hand, the second one could come back as a replacement. That was not helpful, Hearthstone.
The mulligan is an important strategic moment in the game. You’re setting up the resources you will have for those first few turns. In general, you want low cost cards so you have something to play. You should also take into account your opponent’s class and the general strategies popular with that class. For example, if you are fighting a class like Druid, known for their affection for decks which flood the board with small minions, you might want to keep an AOE spell in your opening hand regardless of its cost.
Now on to the decks!
MULLIGAN: You’re looking for cards to help you survive the early game.
KEEP: Truesilver Champion, Mysterious Blade, Secrets, Flash of Light, and Call to Adventure. This is a deck where if your opponent is Druid or Warlock, you must keep some AOE spells like Shrink Ray or Consecration, if you get them.
PLAYSTYLE: Clear the board with Consecration / Shrink Ray and Batterhead or weapons. Play Duel with Archmage Vargoth to build a surprising and hard to deal with board. You can also play him after a Call to Adventure to buff another minion, just make sure to check it won’t put you to 9- or 10-mana cards in hand. This deck plays 8 cards which cost at least 7 mana so there will be games where you don’t have any other play than your Hero power until turn 5 or 6. Sometimes, that will be too long to recover. Take the loss and hope for a better draw next time.
REPLACEMENTS: Prismatic Lens and Duel are core to the deck. Ghostly Charger can slot in for Zilliax as it has Divine Shield and Rush, so it’s just missing Lifesteal. Bulldozers, Deranged Doctor, and Burly Shovelist are good replacements for the big Legendary cards. Batterhead is a tough one, but Missile Launcher provides a bit of AOE and Safeguard provides delay.
MULLIGAN: You’re looking for a good curve (something to play each turn).
KEEP: Mecharoo, Ursatron, Venomizer, Fireworks Tech, Spider Bomb
PLAYSTYLE: This is more of a midrange deck, but it has some ridiculous power swings. You start off contesting the board with your small minions, and try to use Venomizer on a Magnetic mech on the board so you can get the poisonous attack right away. Once you get into the mid game, Nine Lives and Oblivitron start to show their power. The dream is to have Mechanical Whelps in hand, but well timed Spider Bomb is great, too. In one turn, you go from little board presence to a board that is difficult to deal with even for a Control deck.
REPLACEMENTS: Oblivatron is core to the deck. You can still get some wins without him but he’s the engine that gives this deck its power. Vicious Scalehide is as close as you’re going to get to Zilliax, but Rusty Recycler is a another option if you can magnetize it. Cybertech Chip is an interesting idea. You could always high roll a Zilliax or Oblivatron. You don’t run a ton of spells. Zul’jin is kind of a last resort board reload with Nine Lives, Animal Companion, and Unleash the Beast. Archmage Vargoth might work well here. While nothing can replicate Zul’jin’s effect, Savannah Highmane or a Bulldozer would give you an alternative late game minion.
MULLIGAN: You’re looking for a good curve. You want low cost minions to contest the board early.
KEEP: Town Crier, Eternium Rover, Frothing Berserker, Woodcutter’s Axe, Hench-Clan Hogsteed
PLAYSTYLE: Did someone order a bomb? Bomb Warrior is a popular deck in the early days of Rise of Shadows. Almost every minion has an immediate effect on the board, which is called Tempo in Heathstone. You have the initiative and can dictate the pace of the game. Most of your minions Rush to attack the turn they are played. You want to make good trades, maintaining control of board through minions and weapons while building up Bombs in your opponent’s hand for face damage. There’s a tension about when to go face and when to attack minions.
REPLACEMENTS: This is a pricy deck that would make Gallywix proud, but as long as you’ve got Clockwork Goblins, you can have some fun — sometimes you’ll win from the Tempo of this deck alone. A second copy of Upgrade can replace Captain Greenskin. A Gilnean Royal Guard takes the place of Zilliax minus the Lifesteal. A Swift Messenger or a Sightless Ranger can slot in for Darius Crowley. Witchwood Piper makes an interesting replacement for Countess Ashmore. Nothing can really replace either Dr. Boom, but I’ve found many games I never play Blastmaster so any other large threat would be okay, but Burly Shovelfist fits the theme of the deck. Explodinator, Whirlglider, and Goblin Bomb give you even more bombs.
MULLIGAN: You’re looking for a good curve. You want something you can play on every turn.
KEEP: Acornbearer, Crystalsong Portal, EVIL Cable Rat, Wispering Woods, Keeper Stalladris and Wrath.
PLAYSTYLE: This is an aggressive deck that can be faster than even other aggro decks. You keep reloading the board with minions again and again. Soul of the Forest makes it almost impossible to clear your board in a single bound… err.. turn. If you can get a big hand, drop a Whispering Woods. Once you have some board presence, start buffing up your little minions with Blessing of the Ancients and Power of the Wild. Use Soul of the Forest on a big board, but be careful against Priest who might have a Mass Dispel. Once you have a Savage Roar (or two) in hand, be checking to see if you have lethal damage every turn — and don’t forget to count the damage from your hero. Sometimes you’ll need to use Savage Roar defensively to remove a big taunt. You could also think about running a Keeper of the Grove to silence a taunt to let you go face and finish off your foe.
REPLACEMENTS: This deck can overwhelm opponents even without Keeper Stalladris, though nothing can do what he does. Although it’s another Legendary, Leeroy Jenkins, would make good replacement for Stalladris. Leeroy is an older card you might already have. If you don’t have him, any charge minion would be good. For the Epics, a Keeper of the Grove could be a good addition. Force of Nature, Witchwood Apple, Knife Thrower, Dire Wolf Alpha, or even a Whirlglider all support the general strategy and can sub in for the other Epic cards.
Try the Deck Builder
As you look for replacements, try out the new deck builder tool in Hearthstone. If you input any of these decks and use the tool, it will suggest replacement cards that are pretty good substitutions. In fact starting with a blank deck, the tool will actually build a reasonable deck from your collection for the chosen class.
I’d wait at least another week before you spend any dust. Continue doing your quests for packs and gold. I’ve already made over 600g this week from quests which I’ll turn into six more packs. Good luck out there on the ladder.
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