A New Direction

Last Updated: December 30, 2015

This is the tenth part of the Free to Play Journeyman Hearthstone Guide Series. Be sure to check out the other articles in the series here:  Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5, Part 6Part 7Part 8 and Part 9.

Adjusting Aim

There are far more decisions to make in Hearthstone than we realise at first, especially for those of us who commit to spending $0 on the game.  Should I reroll that favourable but only 40g quest?  Should I try something experimental in ranked play?  Should I have one last chocolate? Those decisions seem trivial as all too often we are swayed by how we feel at the time or what motivates us to sit down and play the game today.  Maybe we have a strong Paladin deck coupled with a 5 wins Paladin 60g quest, but somehow we would rather be playing the Rogue deck we built yesterday because it's more interesting and we're bored of having played Paladin the last 4 days straight.  Maybe we'd rather play a deck that handles Mage a little better, having played 4 Mage opponents of the last 5.  Maybe that chocolate has spent the day sitting in the sun and now is just a gooey mess. Certain decisions are rather more weighty.  What to spend 1600 dust on, for starters.  Once we have dispensed with the formalities (Dr. Boom, Sylvanas Windrunner etc) the next craft generally takes a little head scratching.  Which heroes and more specifically which strategies do we like playing?  Are we trying to develop a solid base for any/all heroes or do we intend a more single-minded approach with only one or two?  Are we playing for fun or do we have specific goals in mind, such as reaching rank 10 each season or getting that first golden hero? Maybe we just want to beat more experienced players with their better cards... Whatever our ambitions, we need to prepare before we can have success.

Redefining the Rules

As you may recall, when starting this series 7 months ago I said:

"The goal is for all my decks to suck equally much in order that class-specific daily quests are not arduous for one or two classes while being a breeze for others."

My collection has matured significantly during the intervening period by opening over 120 packs (mainly Classic, with the frankly ridiculous rate of hitting a legendary minion almost twice as often as should be expected) while unlocking the cards from the first 4 wings of the Curse of Naxxramas (Naxx) and the first wing of the Blackrock Mountain (BRM) adventure sets.  However, in the intervening period, Blizzard has released not only an expansion set (The Grand Tournament - TGT) but also another adventure set (League of Explorers - LoE), and the cards from these sets have dramatically altered the landscape in which the game in played.  Cards that were good now suck, while others that sucked became good for a while and then got banned nerfed. As this season progressed, I felt I needed to re-evaluate my goals.  The introduction of the end of season chest reward provides a carrot for focussing on ranked play.  It offers 5 packages rather than 4 starting at rank 10, so that must surely be the first target for the season's end.  At rank 5 I believe the reward includes a random Golden Epic rarity card, which will either be a valuable addition to any collection or will provide 400 dust, either for an Epic of choice or as a down payment on a Legendary minion.  As a famous football manager once said, "Aim for the sky and you will reach the ceiling.  Aim for the ceiling and you will stay on the floor."  Having reached rank 10 with my US FTP account, I think it's time to adjust my aim for something closer to the Legend sky; rank 5.  To get there I will need to focus on "proper" decks, aka those good enough to take better players with more time through the ranks to Legend.  This implies that, while my ultimate goal remains to have a collection where I can pull out any deck on any given day and it will remain competitive at my ceiling rank, for now I will have to focus, to pick my poison, and use that focus as provider for the decks that follow.  It may be that as a trade-off I am forced to spend some time in the casual room completing quests. Although I took stock of my collection in Part 8 of this series, I've had another look at the current crop of viable decks in order to realign my goals with reality.  In doing so I realised that my route must change.

What was I Thinking?

Let us examine my Mage collection as an example.  I have the Classic set class legendary, Archmage Antonidas, which is one of the more obvious "I win now" cards in the game.  I have 2 copies of Ice Block, and in fact very nearly 2 copies of every Mage secret.  I've got play-sets of the good commons: Mana Wyrm, Cone of cold, and Sorcerer's Apprentice.  Heck, I've even got Mad Scientist which was much harder to collect than the others because it needed 2800 gold!  And yet I am missing significant elements to suit *any* Mage strategy that can survive on the ladder above rank 15 or 16. Consider Freeze Mage.  I am missing: 2 Doomsayer, Pyroblast, 2 Blizzard, Explosive Sheep, Forgotten Torch (free with purchase of LoE wing 1), Bloodmage Thalnos, Alexstrasza.  That's 4540 dust plus 700g!  While the deck may be playable without the Legendary minions, particularly Thalnos, completing the deck is still a big ask.  "Do I want to play this deck or do I want to craft the 8/8 Dragon it needs first?" is merely one question to be asked. Ok, so that seems a bit steep.  How about Tempo Mage, which is the next most commonly played Mage archetype (and ignoring Mech Mage because I don't really want to craft single-purpose Goblins vs Gnomes commons and rares).  For Tempo I need (taking the pro-player Kolento's deck as an example): 2 Flamewaker (BRM wing 4), 2 Flamecannon (GvG), Forgotten Torch (LoE 1), Ethereal Conjurer (LoE 2), 2 Azure Drake.  That seems an awful lot easier, eh?  No legendary minions or even epics needed!  280 dust!  Oh, hang on, and 3500 gold!  It took me 6 weeks to get that much last time, and it wasn't a period of playing the game that I truly enjoyed.  Same decks played week after week, without the feeling that one's collection is progressing even as one gains cards that are highly essential for future development. There is an aggro Mage deck out there that uses Ice Block to stop it losing, and it is much easier to build despite needing Thalnos because I have just about everything outside the obligatory Forgotten Torch and a Polymorph: Boar.  1 wing and 1 legendary minion seems a good place to start! And yet if we look back at my last article I had my next 1600 dust pegged on for Tirion Fordring!  What about him?  Well, it turns out that for a control Paladin to be successful you ALSO need 2 Knife Juggler, Coghammer, Quartermaster, and Justicar Trueheart to be competitive.  And for Aggro you need the same set of cards except for Justicar, but a few other things that my collection has missed, such as Defender of Argus and the now commonly occurring Keeper of Uldaman from LoE wing 2.  And for Secret Paladin you need all those things plus 2 Mysterious Challenger and Naxx 5's Avenge.  And let's not talk about all the dust needed on top of these for all the Murlocs (and unlocking Old Murk Eye) and the 2100g for Anyfin Can Happen in LoE wing 3. Yeah...  Maybe intending to craft Tirion next is about as good an idea as having a smoking section inside a dynamite factory. And while I was studying the decks in common circulation that are "legend rank quality", I found a much simpler and cheaper plan; craft the cards I already knew I needed.  This includes those in the Classic set, because it had become very apparent that every single top deck of every single class relies on at least 1 card from BRM 2 or LoE 1-3.  I had roughly 900 dust available from weeding out the chaff, and could see anywhere between 1400g and 3500g required to get myself back on track.  Saving up for the adventure sets would directly prevent me from crafting a Legendary this month or next (and rather unusually didn't open one since the last article), so perhaps I should make the decks I have as good as I can now in order to make the grind less ... grindy. The real question though was where to start?  While I will clearly be forced to focus on one deck or strategy, I still feel the need to get value out of my crafts.  Based on the decks in common circulation at the legend rank, my next legendary minion craft should almost certainly be Bloodmage Thalos.  It is a Mage and Rogue staple essentially regardless of strategy, and appears from time to time in Shaman lists.  While there are several other legendary minions that either catch my eye or will be necessary to "complete" top decks, Thalnos had by far the greatest level of application among my targets.  But!  This is only true if I plan to focus on one of those 3 classes, and only if Thalnos is core to my chosen strategy.  When one takes into account just how many cards I need for both Rogue and Mage to compete at a decent level (eg rank 10), and that my current Shaman deck is doing well enough at around rank 12 without requiring Thalnos, then perhaps that 1600 dust would be better spent elsewhere even though Thalnos would be the single biggest contributor to increasing the overall strength of my collection at this point. I realized then that I was looking at it all backwards; I'd arriving at the lecture venue without first preparing my speech.  Rather than considering which classes or decks I wanted to play, I needed to first eliminate the classes or decks that I simply would not be able to play within the next two months.  Out went Mage and Rogue.  With Patron Warrior consigned to the scrap heap out too went Warrior.  Paladin clearly has too high an entry requirement - bye bye!  Now let us consider the remaining 5 classes.

Class Examination

Priest Let's start with what I consider to be my strongest class.  There are 2 legend-viable strategies with Priest: Control and Dragon.  The cards I am missing from a typical Dragon list are: 2 Cabal Shadow Priest, 2 Twilight Whelp (BRM Wing 3), 2 Wyrmrest Agent, Lightbomb, 2 Twilight Guardian, 2 Azure Drake, 2 Blackwing Corruptor (BRM 5), Chillmaw, 2 Museum Curator (LoE 4).  In order to craft the non-adventure cards in that list I would need 4000 dust, while the adventure sets would require an investment of 8 wings worth of gold, aka 5400g.  I'll get 'em all next week, right? So forget that. Looking at pro-player zetalot's Control Priest is a more realistic proposition, as he tends to prefer Auchenai Soulpriest tricks combined with Wild Pyromancer, which is the current focus of my deck (and not by accident).  However, I'm still missing a number of the more powerful cards, viz: 2 Cabal Shadow Priest, 2 Lightbomb, 2 Museum Curator (LoE 4), 1-2 Entomb (LoE 3), 2 of either Flash Heal or Light of the Naaru, and Justicar Trueheart.  3280-3400 dust and 2800g to complete that lot.  Okay, so I lied when I said this was a "realistic" proposition. Needless to say, Priest is not likely to be on my shopping list any time soon.  My issue with the class is that my deck in its current form, while good enough at rank 11-12, loses consistently to these two, strictly better decks (I am 0-7 against them in the late season).  A further issue is that Priest is not especially well placed in the current metagame; the fact that I play against so many of them with this weaker deck suggests there isn't much scope for slightly better than average players above where I am despite the heavy investment required.  As it currently stands, my deck cannot be relied upon to climb the ladder. zetalot's version (or in fact any control version cluttering the 6 casting cost slot with Cabal Shadow Priest, Lightbomb, Entomb and Justicar) comes under criticism of having no actual win condition (eg Dr. Boom coupled with another finisher like Ysera or even Ragnaros the Firelord).  In my deck I rely quite heavily on Boom, Ysera and the single Mind Control, as shown in the screenshot above, as the deck sorely needs Lightbomb.  To be honest, I'm beginning to prefer the Mind Control to Cabal Shadow Priest (having 2 of them on my EU account) but to say as such in the presence of other Priest players is taboo. Verdict: No thanks!   Hunter Hunter stands out as the class needing the least discussion.  Building a Face Hunter deck requires very few cards of non-common rarity outside play-sets of Knife Juggler, Eaglehorn Bow, Arcane Golem, and a single Snake Trap, while the only "necessary" adventure set cards are Mad Scientist, and Quick Shot (both of which I have unlocked).  To "upgrade" to a mid-range approach would only cost another 100 dust in adding a second Savannah Highmane to the one I already own (as I already have the Piloted Shredders, and Sludge Belchers, while not all lists run Ram Wrangler, for instance). To make a "proper" Face deck I'd need only 480 dust for play-sets of Knife Juggler, Eaglehorn Bow, and Argent Horserider.  Call it another 140 dust for mid-range with a Highmane and a King's Elekk. Verdict: Eminently achievable!   Druid Another class that doesn't desperately need legendary additions to my collection, the Druid relies very heavily on its Classic set Epics: Ancient of War, 2 Ancient of Lore, and 2 Force of Nature.  In addition 2 Darnassus Aspirant are vital to the early game, and while some lists avoid Shade of Naxxramas (Curse of Naxxramas wing 5) in order to ramp to 4 crystals as soon as possible, they instead run elements such as Raven Idol and even Arch Thief Rafaam (both from LoE 4) or Sir Finley Mrrgglton (LoE3) to provide options.  Either way, I'm looking at 1800-2200 dust (depending on the number of Force of Nature I choose to run) plus at least another 700g to create something approaching a solid deck.  The alternative is to use the "flavour of the month" Aggro Druid powered by Savage Roar and Power of the Wild but is heavily reliant on Fel Reaver and the obligatory Force of Nature.  That's not exactly much cheaper to craft, and I'd rather work towards something consistently good rather than blowing 800 dust on a pair of cards I may never use again. Verdict: Second Prize.   Shaman The most popular Shaman deck on the ladder right now is what I call "Overload Shaman".  It uses a great deal of cards with overload (especially Doomhammer, Lightning Bolt, Lava Burst, a single Lightning Storm, and the necessary Lava Shock from BRM 2) in combination with Unbound Elemental, and Tunnel Trogg from LoE 2.  Several lists also employ Argent Horserider.  It also draws on Mrrgglton to overwrite the generally weak hero power with something more aggressive.  While I have some disdain for the deck, having had very little success playing with it on my EU account while winning over 90% of games against it, it certainly has its place in the meta.  The interesting thing is that outside the cards in the adventure sets I'm only missing a second Doomhammer and the Knife Jugglers mention in the Hunter section above.  Obviously the 2800g necessary is a lot of grinding, though. Other Shaman builds follow a similar path to mine - cheap, sticky minions and a finish with Doomhammer and/or Bloodlust.  Very popular for a time was Jeweled Scarab in LoE 1, as the 3 casting cost slot is Shaman's sweet spot, giving a good chance of cards such as Lightning Storm, Feral Spirit, Healing Wave and Hex. Verdict: A different kind of second prize, but will build upon the Hunter choices.   Warlock While it's obvious that building a Handlock deck is just as out of the question as Priest or Paladin (and for the same reason of needing at least 4 epic cards and a legendary {2 Molten Giant, 2 Mountain Giant, Lord Jaraxxus}), Zoo- or Imp-lock decks have a fairly low entry point outside Mal'ganis and the occasional appearance of a lone Sea Giant, both of which I happen to have.  The absolute baseline needed for my collection for such a deck would require an investment for 2 Knife Juggler, 2 Defender of Argus, 2 Imp losion, 2 Imp Gang Boss (BRM 2), and 1-2 Dark Peddler (LoE 1).  600 dust and 1400g.  Defender of Argus is also extremely versatile, commonly finding homes in Paladin and Shaman aggro decks.  More importantly, crafting Knife Jugglers and unlocking BRM 2 and LoE 1 is the same minimum goal for Shaman. Verdict: Coincidence?  I think not!  The stars are aligned and now is the time for Knife Jugglers.  

Summary - tl;dr

19277

With 900 dust to burn the goal was abundantly clear.  Craft: 2 each of Knife Juggler, Defender of Argus, Imp-losion, Eaglehorn Bow and Argent Horserider.  Then save 1400g for BRM 2 and LoE 1 (getting Forgotten Torch, a Mage staple, Druid of the Flame, a useful inclusion in Druid decks, Jeweled Scarab for Shaman, and the much-lauded Reno Jackson as a handy side-effect).  Then take stock.  I would have solid Hunter and Warlock lists, and would be only 700g away from an Overload Shaman deck that would work after a fashion despite my misgivings about it. So I did the crafting and started saving.  With some good fortune in (re)rolling almost entirely 50 or 60g daily quests I got the 700g needed for BRM 2 today.  I didn't get any Hunter quests in that time, however, being forced to complete a 3 wins with Mage in the casual room to get the last 35g.  The Hunter did perform well up to around rank 11, where I suddenly hit wave after wave of Druid and Priest decks and my climb to rank 10 stalled. The Zoolock deck I created fared no better, but once I got Imp Gang Boss things changed.  All I did was switch Harvest Golem for the Boss in the list to the right.  Having been 50-50 at ranks 11-12 I suddenly went 6-1 and shot up to rank 10, including beating the Overload Shaman deck.  Twice.  Perhaps I should be less eager to get Tunnel Trogg...  The loss was to an aggro Paladin who simply had the better start.  Ah, the difference the right card makes. Ceiling reached (rank 10).  Now the slog for the next 700-1400g commences.

Next Installment

This article was quite exhaustive, so thank you so much for taking the time to read through my ramblings.  As ever please feel free to provide your $0.02 in the comments section below.      

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A New Direction

Last Updated: December 30, 2015

This is the tenth part of the Free to Play Journeyman Hearthstone Guide Series. Be sure to check out the other articles in the series here:  Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5, Part 6Part 7Part 8 and Part 9.

Adjusting Aim

There are far more decisions to make in Hearthstone than we realise at first, especially for those of us who commit to spending $0 on the game.  Should I reroll that favourable but only 40g quest?  Should I try something experimental in ranked play?  Should I have one last chocolate? Those decisions seem trivial as all too often we are swayed by how we feel at the time or what motivates us to sit down and play the game today.  Maybe we have a strong Paladin deck coupled with a 5 wins Paladin 60g quest, but somehow we would rather be playing the Rogue deck we built yesterday because it's more interesting and we're bored of having played Paladin the last 4 days straight.  Maybe we'd rather play a deck that handles Mage a little better, having played 4 Mage opponents of the last 5.  Maybe that chocolate has spent the day sitting in the sun and now is just a gooey mess. Certain decisions are rather more weighty.  What to spend 1600 dust on, for starters.  Once we have dispensed with the formalities (Dr. Boom, Sylvanas Windrunner etc) the next craft generally takes a little head scratching.  Which heroes and more specifically which strategies do we like playing?  Are we trying to develop a solid base for any/all heroes or do we intend a more single-minded approach with only one or two?  Are we playing for fun or do we have specific goals in mind, such as reaching rank 10 each season or getting that first golden hero? Maybe we just want to beat more experienced players with their better cards... Whatever our ambitions, we need to prepare before we can have success.

Redefining the Rules

As you may recall, when starting this series 7 months ago I said:

"The goal is for all my decks to suck equally much in order that class-specific daily quests are not arduous for one or two classes while being a breeze for others."

My collection has matured significantly during the intervening period by opening over 120 packs (mainly Classic, with the frankly ridiculous rate of hitting a legendary minion almost twice as often as should be expected) while unlocking the cards from the first 4 wings of the Curse of Naxxramas (Naxx) and the first wing of the Blackrock Mountain (BRM) adventure sets.  However, in the intervening period, Blizzard has released not only an expansion set (The Grand Tournament - TGT) but also another adventure set (League of Explorers - LoE), and the cards from these sets have dramatically altered the landscape in which the game in played.  Cards that were good now suck, while others that sucked became good for a while and then got banned nerfed. As this season progressed, I felt I needed to re-evaluate my goals.  The introduction of the end of season chest reward provides a carrot for focussing on ranked play.  It offers 5 packages rather than 4 starting at rank 10, so that must surely be the first target for the season's end.  At rank 5 I believe the reward includes a random Golden Epic rarity card, which will either be a valuable addition to any collection or will provide 400 dust, either for an Epic of choice or as a down payment on a Legendary minion.  As a famous football manager once said, "Aim for the sky and you will reach the ceiling.  Aim for the ceiling and you will stay on the floor."  Having reached rank 10 with my US FTP account, I think it's time to adjust my aim for something closer to the Legend sky; rank 5.  To get there I will need to focus on "proper" decks, aka those good enough to take better players with more time through the ranks to Legend.  This implies that, while my ultimate goal remains to have a collection where I can pull out any deck on any given day and it will remain competitive at my ceiling rank, for now I will have to focus, to pick my poison, and use that focus as provider for the decks that follow.  It may be that as a trade-off I am forced to spend some time in the casual room completing quests. Although I took stock of my collection in Part 8 of this series, I've had another look at the current crop of viable decks in order to realign my goals with reality.  In doing so I realised that my route must change.

What was I Thinking?

Let us examine my Mage collection as an example.  I have the Classic set class legendary, Archmage Antonidas, which is one of the more obvious "I win now" cards in the game.  I have 2 copies of Ice Block, and in fact very nearly 2 copies of every Mage secret.  I've got play-sets of the good commons: Mana Wyrm, Cone of cold, and Sorcerer's Apprentice.  Heck, I've even got Mad Scientist which was much harder to collect than the others because it needed 2800 gold!  And yet I am missing significant elements to suit *any* Mage strategy that can survive on the ladder above rank 15 or 16. Consider Freeze Mage.  I am missing: 2 Doomsayer, Pyroblast, 2 Blizzard, Explosive Sheep, Forgotten Torch (free with purchase of LoE wing 1), Bloodmage Thalnos, Alexstrasza.  That's 4540 dust plus 700g!  While the deck may be playable without the Legendary minions, particularly Thalnos, completing the deck is still a big ask.  "Do I want to play this deck or do I want to craft the 8/8 Dragon it needs first?" is merely one question to be asked. Ok, so that seems a bit steep.  How about Tempo Mage, which is the next most commonly played Mage archetype (and ignoring Mech Mage because I don't really want to craft single-purpose Goblins vs Gnomes commons and rares).  For Tempo I need (taking the pro-player Kolento's deck as an example): 2 Flamewaker (BRM wing 4), 2 Flamecannon (GvG), Forgotten Torch (LoE 1), Ethereal Conjurer (LoE 2), 2 Azure Drake.  That seems an awful lot easier, eh?  No legendary minions or even epics needed!  280 dust!  Oh, hang on, and 3500 gold!  It took me 6 weeks to get that much last time, and it wasn't a period of playing the game that I truly enjoyed.  Same decks played week after week, without the feeling that one's collection is progressing even as one gains cards that are highly essential for future development. There is an aggro Mage deck out there that uses Ice Block to stop it losing, and it is much easier to build despite needing Thalnos because I have just about everything outside the obligatory Forgotten Torch and a Polymorph: Boar.  1 wing and 1 legendary minion seems a good place to start! And yet if we look back at my last article I had my next 1600 dust pegged on for Tirion Fordring!  What about him?  Well, it turns out that for a control Paladin to be successful you ALSO need 2 Knife Juggler, Coghammer, Quartermaster, and Justicar Trueheart to be competitive.  And for Aggro you need the same set of cards except for Justicar, but a few other things that my collection has missed, such as Defender of Argus and the now commonly occurring Keeper of Uldaman from LoE wing 2.  And for Secret Paladin you need all those things plus 2 Mysterious Challenger and Naxx 5's Avenge.  And let's not talk about all the dust needed on top of these for all the Murlocs (and unlocking Old Murk Eye) and the 2100g for Anyfin Can Happen in LoE wing 3. Yeah...  Maybe intending to craft Tirion next is about as good an idea as having a smoking section inside a dynamite factory. And while I was studying the decks in common circulation that are "legend rank quality", I found a much simpler and cheaper plan; craft the cards I already knew I needed.  This includes those in the Classic set, because it had become very apparent that every single top deck of every single class relies on at least 1 card from BRM 2 or LoE 1-3.  I had roughly 900 dust available from weeding out the chaff, and could see anywhere between 1400g and 3500g required to get myself back on track.  Saving up for the adventure sets would directly prevent me from crafting a Legendary this month or next (and rather unusually didn't open one since the last article), so perhaps I should make the decks I have as good as I can now in order to make the grind less ... grindy. The real question though was where to start?  While I will clearly be forced to focus on one deck or strategy, I still feel the need to get value out of my crafts.  Based on the decks in common circulation at the legend rank, my next legendary minion craft should almost certainly be Bloodmage Thalos.  It is a Mage and Rogue staple essentially regardless of strategy, and appears from time to time in Shaman lists.  While there are several other legendary minions that either catch my eye or will be necessary to "complete" top decks, Thalnos had by far the greatest level of application among my targets.  But!  This is only true if I plan to focus on one of those 3 classes, and only if Thalnos is core to my chosen strategy.  When one takes into account just how many cards I need for both Rogue and Mage to compete at a decent level (eg rank 10), and that my current Shaman deck is doing well enough at around rank 12 without requiring Thalnos, then perhaps that 1600 dust would be better spent elsewhere even though Thalnos would be the single biggest contributor to increasing the overall strength of my collection at this point. I realized then that I was looking at it all backwards; I'd arriving at the lecture venue without first preparing my speech.  Rather than considering which classes or decks I wanted to play, I needed to first eliminate the classes or decks that I simply would not be able to play within the next two months.  Out went Mage and Rogue.  With Patron Warrior consigned to the scrap heap out too went Warrior.  Paladin clearly has too high an entry requirement - bye bye!  Now let us consider the remaining 5 classes.

Class Examination

Priest Let's start with what I consider to be my strongest class.  There are 2 legend-viable strategies with Priest: Control and Dragon.  The cards I am missing from a typical Dragon list are: 2 Cabal Shadow Priest, 2 Twilight Whelp (BRM Wing 3), 2 Wyrmrest Agent, Lightbomb, 2 Twilight Guardian, 2 Azure Drake, 2 Blackwing Corruptor (BRM 5), Chillmaw, 2 Museum Curator (LoE 4).  In order to craft the non-adventure cards in that list I would need 4000 dust, while the adventure sets would require an investment of 8 wings worth of gold, aka 5400g.  I'll get 'em all next week, right? So forget that. Looking at pro-player zetalot's Control Priest is a more realistic proposition, as he tends to prefer Auchenai Soulpriest tricks combined with Wild Pyromancer, which is the current focus of my deck (and not by accident).  However, I'm still missing a number of the more powerful cards, viz: 2 Cabal Shadow Priest, 2 Lightbomb, 2 Museum Curator (LoE 4), 1-2 Entomb (LoE 3), 2 of either Flash Heal or Light of the Naaru, and Justicar Trueheart.  3280-3400 dust and 2800g to complete that lot.  Okay, so I lied when I said this was a "realistic" proposition. Needless to say, Priest is not likely to be on my shopping list any time soon.  My issue with the class is that my deck in its current form, while good enough at rank 11-12, loses consistently to these two, strictly better decks (I am 0-7 against them in the late season).  A further issue is that Priest is not especially well placed in the current metagame; the fact that I play against so many of them with this weaker deck suggests there isn't much scope for slightly better than average players above where I am despite the heavy investment required.  As it currently stands, my deck cannot be relied upon to climb the ladder. zetalot's version (or in fact any control version cluttering the 6 casting cost slot with Cabal Shadow Priest, Lightbomb, Entomb and Justicar) comes under criticism of having no actual win condition (eg Dr. Boom coupled with another finisher like Ysera or even Ragnaros the Firelord).  In my deck I rely quite heavily on Boom, Ysera and the single Mind Control, as shown in the screenshot above, as the deck sorely needs Lightbomb.  To be honest, I'm beginning to prefer the Mind Control to Cabal Shadow Priest (having 2 of them on my EU account) but to say as such in the presence of other Priest players is taboo. Verdict: No thanks!   Hunter Hunter stands out as the class needing the least discussion.  Building a Face Hunter deck requires very few cards of non-common rarity outside play-sets of Knife Juggler, Eaglehorn Bow, Arcane Golem, and a single Snake Trap, while the only "necessary" adventure set cards are Mad Scientist, and Quick Shot (both of which I have unlocked).  To "upgrade" to a mid-range approach would only cost another 100 dust in adding a second Savannah Highmane to the one I already own (as I already have the Piloted Shredders, and Sludge Belchers, while not all lists run Ram Wrangler, for instance). To make a "proper" Face deck I'd need only 480 dust for play-sets of Knife Juggler, Eaglehorn Bow, and Argent Horserider.  Call it another 140 dust for mid-range with a Highmane and a King's Elekk. Verdict: Eminently achievable!   Druid Another class that doesn't desperately need legendary additions to my collection, the Druid relies very heavily on its Classic set Epics: Ancient of War, 2 Ancient of Lore, and 2 Force of Nature.  In addition 2 Darnassus Aspirant are vital to the early game, and while some lists avoid Shade of Naxxramas (Curse of Naxxramas wing 5) in order to ramp to 4 crystals as soon as possible, they instead run elements such as Raven Idol and even Arch Thief Rafaam (both from LoE 4) or Sir Finley Mrrgglton (LoE3) to provide options.  Either way, I'm looking at 1800-2200 dust (depending on the number of Force of Nature I choose to run) plus at least another 700g to create something approaching a solid deck.  The alternative is to use the "flavour of the month" Aggro Druid powered by Savage Roar and Power of the Wild but is heavily reliant on Fel Reaver and the obligatory Force of Nature.  That's not exactly much cheaper to craft, and I'd rather work towards something consistently good rather than blowing 800 dust on a pair of cards I may never use again. Verdict: Second Prize.   Shaman The most popular Shaman deck on the ladder right now is what I call "Overload Shaman".  It uses a great deal of cards with overload (especially Doomhammer, Lightning Bolt, Lava Burst, a single Lightning Storm, and the necessary Lava Shock from BRM 2) in combination with Unbound Elemental, and Tunnel Trogg from LoE 2.  Several lists also employ Argent Horserider.  It also draws on Mrrgglton to overwrite the generally weak hero power with something more aggressive.  While I have some disdain for the deck, having had very little success playing with it on my EU account while winning over 90% of games against it, it certainly has its place in the meta.  The interesting thing is that outside the cards in the adventure sets I'm only missing a second Doomhammer and the Knife Jugglers mention in the Hunter section above.  Obviously the 2800g necessary is a lot of grinding, though. Other Shaman builds follow a similar path to mine - cheap, sticky minions and a finish with Doomhammer and/or Bloodlust.  Very popular for a time was Jeweled Scarab in LoE 1, as the 3 casting cost slot is Shaman's sweet spot, giving a good chance of cards such as Lightning Storm, Feral Spirit, Healing Wave and Hex. Verdict: A different kind of second prize, but will build upon the Hunter choices.   Warlock While it's obvious that building a Handlock deck is just as out of the question as Priest or Paladin (and for the same reason of needing at least 4 epic cards and a legendary {2 Molten Giant, 2 Mountain Giant, Lord Jaraxxus}), Zoo- or Imp-lock decks have a fairly low entry point outside Mal'ganis and the occasional appearance of a lone Sea Giant, both of which I happen to have.  The absolute baseline needed for my collection for such a deck would require an investment for 2 Knife Juggler, 2 Defender of Argus, 2 Imp losion, 2 Imp Gang Boss (BRM 2), and 1-2 Dark Peddler (LoE 1).  600 dust and 1400g.  Defender of Argus is also extremely versatile, commonly finding homes in Paladin and Shaman aggro decks.  More importantly, crafting Knife Jugglers and unlocking BRM 2 and LoE 1 is the same minimum goal for Shaman. Verdict: Coincidence?  I think not!  The stars are aligned and now is the time for Knife Jugglers.  

Summary - tl;dr

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With 900 dust to burn the goal was abundantly clear.  Craft: 2 each of Knife Juggler, Defender of Argus, Imp-losion, Eaglehorn Bow and Argent Horserider.  Then save 1400g for BRM 2 and LoE 1 (getting Forgotten Torch, a Mage staple, Druid of the Flame, a useful inclusion in Druid decks, Jeweled Scarab for Shaman, and the much-lauded Reno Jackson as a handy side-effect).  Then take stock.  I would have solid Hunter and Warlock lists, and would be only 700g away from an Overload Shaman deck that would work after a fashion despite my misgivings about it. So I did the crafting and started saving.  With some good fortune in (re)rolling almost entirely 50 or 60g daily quests I got the 700g needed for BRM 2 today.  I didn't get any Hunter quests in that time, however, being forced to complete a 3 wins with Mage in the casual room to get the last 35g.  The Hunter did perform well up to around rank 11, where I suddenly hit wave after wave of Druid and Priest decks and my climb to rank 10 stalled. The Zoolock deck I created fared no better, but once I got Imp Gang Boss things changed.  All I did was switch Harvest Golem for the Boss in the list to the right.  Having been 50-50 at ranks 11-12 I suddenly went 6-1 and shot up to rank 10, including beating the Overload Shaman deck.  Twice.  Perhaps I should be less eager to get Tunnel Trogg...  The loss was to an aggro Paladin who simply had the better start.  Ah, the difference the right card makes. Ceiling reached (rank 10).  Now the slog for the next 700-1400g commences.

Next Installment

This article was quite exhaustive, so thank you so much for taking the time to read through my ramblings.  As ever please feel free to provide your $0.02 in the comments section below.      

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