Taking a Deeper Look into Murlocadin - An Aggressive Fishy Surprise of the Light
Murloc Paladin riffs on the tried-and-true Midrange Paladin archetype. Playing the deck, players aim to take control of the board with low-cost Murlocs, buff them to make efficient trades, and snowball this advantage to a mid-game victory.
Anyfin Used To Happen
Classic Paladin cards like Truesilver Champion and Tirion Fordring, one of the most efficient minions in the game, have cemented the class as a go-to for midrange decks in almost every meta. Murlocs found their way into that shell with the release of the insanely powerful card Anyfin Can Happen, which threatened up to 30 points of burst damage on turn 10.
Anyfin Can Happen worked well within the midrange shell, but most players opted for control variants, using Doomsayer, numerous Equality clears, and Antique Healbot to stall games until unleashing lethal damage with the one card. After Anyfin Can Happen got pushed to the Wild format, Paladin players reacquainted themselves with Murlocs when Rockpool Hunter filled the gap between a turn one Vilefin Inquisitor and turn three Murloc Warleader. Further bolstered by Gentle Megasaur on turn four and the legendary Finja, the Flying Star, the Journey to Un’Goro expansion ushered in a veritable Murloc renaissance — one that happened to fit snugly in the cracks of the Midrange Paladin early game.
Pirates and Dragons and Murlocs, Oh My!
With the addition of Spikeridged Steed and Sunkeeper Tarim in the Journey to Un’Goro expansion, coupled with powerful early Murloc synergies, Paladins have powerful options to control the board early and throughout. The ability of Vilefin Inquisitor to generate Murlocs all game long makes Paladin the best class to capitalize on their synergies.
There are many variations to the Murloc Paladin archetype, some geared toward a hyper-aggressive start and some that favor a slower victory in the mid-game — but decks generally straddle the line between the two. Jambre piloted a unique list featuring Dread Corsair, Patches the Pirate, Cobalt Scalebane, and The Curator to rank 1 Legend in October. This is the list I have found most success with in the current meta, especially against Druid — the Murloc synergies threatening blowout wins if the opponent struggles to stall. If you feel too vulnerable to Golakka Crawler, you can pull the pirates for two Tar Creepers and a Bonemare for a more traditional Midrange build. And for something a little more spicy, [card]Zoobot/[card] manages to work considering our Beasts, Dragons, and many Murlocs.
At first glance, Dread Corsair may seem an odd inclusion over Southsea Captain, considering the latter's omnipresence in Zoolock and Aggro Druid. But it plays a key role in the deck, and using the minion effectively (and efficiently!) can be the difference between sputtering out of gas or amassing the on-board damage for a turn-six win. To preserve early-game minions, most decks use Tar Creeper. Jambre’s list, however, includes four weapons that trigger a super cheap or even free Dread Corsair on turn three or four. This results in a massive tempo swing: it pulls Patches the Pirate from your deck, allows you to dispatch an opposing minion with a weapon charge, and protects your Murlocs from any stragglers. And of course the longer your Murlocs are on board, the better your chances of game-winning Gentle Megasaur buffs.
While not unprecedented, Cobalt Scalebane and The Curator are the most unique inclusions. The latter helps you mine for resources and thins your deck for subsequent draws. Meanwhile, Scalebane pulls a lot of weight: it makes your Curator draw better, buffs tokens to a threatening size every turn, and prevents your board from being obliterated by the more than 16% of all decks that play Dragonfire Potion. Without a near-perfect curve, Scalebane may in fact be the Murloc Paladin’s win condition against Razakus Priest.
Large taunt minions are another problem for our deck to deal with, which explains the two Blessing of Kings. These and Sunkeeper Tarim allow us to trade 1- or 2-cost minions into everything from a Primordial Drake to The Lich King. Value trades like that are how the deck manages to eek out wins against control decks without strong early curves.
Follow the Warleader
Murloc Paladin is one of the best answers to the popular Razakus Priest and Big Druid decks. Against these two especially, mulliganing for your Murlocs on turn one and two is always correct. Playing a one-drop on curve to enable Rockpool Hunter’s buff effect is powerful, and maximizes the odds of snowballing damage over successive turns with Murloc Warleader and Gentle Megasaur. If you have at least a one or two drop, you can keep a Rallying Blade in all instances. As always, try to trade your minions efficiently over these first few turns, while minimizing the odds that an area-of-effect spell destroys your board. Once you draw a weapon, a taunt, or simply have made the read that your opponent does not have the cards to deal with your board, you can consider going face.
Making trades that minimize your opponent’s potential AoE value often will be the deciding factor in a win or an abrupt stall and loss--in this way, the style of play mirrors Zoolock. Avoiding a Priest’s Potion of Madness and Spirit Lash in the early turns will often lead to an overwhelming board presence by the time they can play Dragonfire Potion. Play around Volcanic Potion against Mage. In Control Warlock matchups, playing around Defile is near-impossible, but you can always play around a turn five Despicable Dreadlord. Murloc Warleader is your MVP in the early game; protect it and you’ll deliver about three times as much damage per turn as you would without it.
A Race Against Time...And Spreading Plague
Even though Hungry Crab meanders into decks when Murlocs really dominate, the sheer power of Murloc synergies, in tandem with Paladin’s strong set of midrange-geared cards, all but guarantees these creatures a presence until the first card set release of 2018. That’s when Blizzard banishes Vilefin Inquisitor, Grimscale Chum, Rallying Blade, and Finja, the Flying Star to the Wild format. Until then, as new cards morph the meta, Murloc Paladin will remain a persistent threat--and a formidable counter to the proliferation of Big decks, which struggle to stall against a Murloc Warleader and all its little soldiers.