0 - Introduction
After falling far out of favour, Control Warrior is resurfacing as a competitive deck. The new iterations are the "removal warrior", which use heaps and heaps of removal and life gain to stave off aggro decks, with Elise Starseeker to seal out the game against midrange/control decks.
I love Warrior, and I was very happy for the metagame to change just enough to squeeze in this kind of deck. This is the deck I play right now on ladder (I'm not Legend yet, my highest is rank 3. Maybe some day...)
- 1 - Beginner's Guide to Control Warrior
- 2 - Card Choices & Alternatives
- 3 - Matchups & Mulligans
1 - Beginner's Guide to Control Warrior
This section will cover the absolute basics of the deck and its playstyle. If you are already experienced and wish to just netdeck and chill, or want to understand the specific card choices, skip this section.
1.1 - The basics
The idea of control warrior is to use your many choices of cheap and efficient removal to control the state of the board until lategame, at which point you win the game with your big threats, in this case generated by Elise Starseeker.
Among your removal are cards such as Shieldmaiden and Shield Block, which increase your effective health. Along with the never-ending value of your hero power, especially after being replaced by Justicar Trueheart, you should be able to outlast your opponent's damage.
Elise Starseeker is a new addition to the control warrior archetype, serving to replace your survival and removal cards with the threats you need to win the control matchups, where such cards are often of little use. She stands alongside Coldlight Oracle (which I'll get to later) as the few cards in this deck which make the control matchup winnable.
1.2 - Armour vs Health
Whenever possible, it is important to maintain a high armour value at the expense of health. The reasons for this are to enable cards like Shield Slam, which uses your armour as a direct resource, and Revenge, which becomes more potent once your health dips below a certain threshold. It is these reasons that control warrior decks usually run no sources of healing such as Antique Healbot, as the armour is more valuable.
When I say trading armour for health, I mean it in fairly simple ways. For example, if I am facing a Hunter and coin out my Fiery War Axe on turn 1, and on turn 2 wish to run it in against the Knife Juggler he's played, then I will choose to use my hero power and gain armour -after- the trade, as the armour is the more valuable resource.
Another important case for valuing armour over health is Alexstrasza, whose effects can be reduced or even mitigated by trading armour for health. For example, say I am facing a Mage and on the turn he plays Alexstrasza I am on 30 effective health. If my health is no armour because I have been trading armour and saving my health, Alex will reduce my health total to 15. If I have instead been making effective armour saving trades and my health is 20 and my armour is 10, Alex will instead only reduce my effective health to 25.
1.3 - When to use your removal
It is very important to be sure that you use your removal in the most efficient way possible, as you only have a finite number of removal cards.
Say my opponent coins out two Leper Gnomes on turn 1. I could use my Revenge to immediately clear off both of them, but then on turn 5 he Imp-losions my Sludge Belcher, and suddenly his board is very threatening, but I have already spent my AoE removal.
For another example, my opponent plays a Twilight Guardian. I have Elise Starseeker on the board and Fiery War Axe already equipped, but instead of using this damage to kill the minion I instead use Shield Slam to preserve my health total and the health of my minion. Later my opponent plays Ysera and I have no way to remove it.
It's important to think ahead in your game before you make any play. One that might seem more attractive in the short term could be disastrous in the long run.
Remember, good players will expect you to have AoE removal and will play around filling up their board ripe for the picking. With this in mind, there is a delicate balance to be found between using your removal too early and allowing your opponent to easily recuperate with what he was holding back, and using your removal too late, once the pressure has already mounted to an unrecoverable level.
2 - Card Choices & Alternatives
This deck is my own take on the popular archetype, and includes a few choices you may not necessarily agree with. I will attempt to explain these as best as possible.
2.1 - Coldlight Oracle?!
I choose to run these cards for a number of reasons. This deck is designed as a ladder deck, and as such should be able to compete with every type of deck. The new breed of control warrior, the "removal warrior", is very susceptible to the other currently popular control decks, which are able to neuter all of its threats and draw the game out long enough to win, in the case of Priest often turning your own Elise Starseeker against you. The oracles are there to help in these matchups. Control decks, combo decks, and even some midrange decks will frequently end their turn with a hand full of cards. At 8 cards, playing a coldlight oracle guarantees your opponent mills a card. At 9, they mill two. The effective card draw for you is the same as you would expect on average from an Acolyte of Pain, if not superior due to the guarantee of drawing cards at all, while also allowing you to royally screw up your opponent's game plan.
The primary reason however is the sheer existence of the Murloc Paladin archetype. Murloc Paladin preys on heavy control decks, and control warrior matches very poorly against it. Unless it includes coldlight oracles. Not only can you (and you certainly will) mill the paladin, but once the coldlight oracle is dead it will clutter up your opponent's Anyfin Can Happen with completely useless murlocs. I've seen 2nd anyfins bring out 4 coldlights and 3 bluegill warriors, a completely useless and non-threatening board. Once you've polluted their win condition with your terrible murlocs, they might as well concede. Having this card in your deck turns the murloc paladin matchup from unfavoured to near un-losable.
The obvious downsides to the card are what are otherwise its advantages - giving your opponent cards. Against aggro this can add more fuel to the fire, but the particularly dangerous instances are against midrange decks. You can quite often give the midrange druid the lethal he's been looking for in drawing yourself. But I find that the advantages of having them in your deck outweigh the negative side-effects. The best advice I can give you is to simply never play them in those matchups, unless you've brought them to fatigue or can mill them. There are other sources of card draw in the deck anyway.
In case you really vehemently oppose the card, replace them with two Acolyte of Pain.
2.2 - Harrison Jones
I choose Harrison Jones every time, because of how hugely he can swing games against weapon classes. At best he can destroy that pesky Doomhammer and draw you a ton of removal, and at worst he's just a 5/4 to play on turn 5.
Loatheb on the other hand is used at his best to score a win against a freeze mage, which is redundant in this matchup, or to delay a combo deck. I feel Harrison Jones is far better suited to this deck, though Loatheb would also do just fine.
As useful as it is to have him in your deck, there are some cases where he becomes a completely dead and unplayable card. I have faced many a warlock who would save their Lord Jaraxxus until I am out of cards. At this point, playing Harrison would be tantamount to suicide, drawing me heavily into fatigue. For this reason I have considered running Acidic Swamp Ooze in his place, but feel that the situations are so rare not to overshadow the many times he is useful.
2.3 - Grommash Hellscream
It could be argued these days that the only strictly necessary legendaries in a control deck are Justicar Trueheart and Elise Starseeker. But Grommash is still a very useful card to take in your deck.
At worst, Grommash is turned into a random other legendary by the Golden Monkey. At best, he can trade into one of your opponent's minions and leave him with a tough and very threatening minion to clear, or deliver a huge burst of damage to your opponent when combined with one of the many potential activators in the deck.
If you were to cut Grom in favour of more removal, Gorehowl would be a great replacement. If you don't have Grom but want a big legendary to top out on, Dr. Boom or Ragnaros the Firelord will suffice. If you want a more board-centric legendary, Baron Geddon is the card of choice.
It isn't so important which legendary you pick in this slot, or even if you pick one at all.
2.4 - Cruel Taskmaster
While once a 2-of in most all warrior decks, this card has seen some recent controversy over its usefulness. At best this card tends to be used for the battlecry to kill off a 1 health minion. On very rare occasions it can be used for a lethal with Grom or even with one of your minions that are already on the board.
If you find this card as lacklustre as many do, there are a few alternatives. Once upon a time a little known card named Ironbeak Owl was popular in control warrior, and with the amount of buffs being thrown around these days could certainly fit in the deck.
2.5 - No Armoursmith
You may be wondering why there is no Armorsmith in this deck. While they can be nice to hide behind a Sludge Belcher, there simply isn't the same level of AoE as there is in patron warrior, which is where this card really truly shines in hugely buffing your armour total.
In the modern control warrior deck in the current metagame, an armoursmith will scarcely generate you more than 3 armour before being killed.
3 - Matchups & Mulligans
Below are my personal observations on certain matchups, along with my best advice for how to play them and which cards to search for in your opening hand.
3.1 - Warrior
These days you are just as likely to face control warrior as you are to face patron. Neither are threatening enough to warrant a dutiful mulligan phase. In general, look for Justicar Trueheart, as she can win you the game if you get her out on turn 6 in the mirror matchup, and playing her this early against patron also acts as an assurance in case they happen to be running some Raging Worgen Charge shenanigans.
For control warrior, as with any control matchup, you generally need not be sparing with your removal, so long as you keep something saved up for their big lategame minions. This matchup can be both a competition of who can stack up the most armour before fatigue sets in, and a race to get the first golden monkey.
Against patron, you have a very clear upper hand. They have a finite amount of damage which is very susceptible to your aoe clears. If you have both of your Brawls available for both of their patron boards, you've pretty much won. Even if things get really dire and they push an early advantage, this can activate Revenge and allow you to easily clear their board.
3.2 - Paladin
You've no doubt by now encountered the congealed tumour that is secret paladin, but thankfully it isn't the only paladin deck out there. Yes, it is actually possible to have a fun game playing against paladin.
Against secret paladin it's quite important not only to clear their minions to prevent some avenge/competitive spirit shenanigans, but also to save some removal for the inevitable challenger turn. The deck plays an unbelievable amount of threats, from the humble Knife Juggler Muster for Battle combo, to Blessing of Kings and Keeper of Uldaman buffing their minions, the big legendaries like Dr. Boom and Tirion Fordring, and then the dreaded Mysterious Challenger himself. It's a very tough matchup, which requires you to strike a perfect balance between clearing his small minions so as not to be SMOrc'd to oblivion and saving removal for the bigger, later threats. Harrison Jones can do a lot of work for you in this matchup, killing a Truesilver Champion if things get dire or, ideally, the Ashbringer immediately after Tirion's death.
Against murloc Paladin you want Justicar Trueheart and Coldlight Oracle as fast as possible, but the deck plays so slow and the threat of secret paladin is so omnipresent that you'd do far better to constantly mulligan for it.
Lately there has been a resurgence in the old style midrange paladin with Quartermaster. The rules for facing this deck are more or less the same as with secret paladin.
3.3 - Shaman
For Shaman, you will need to mulligan aggressively for survival. Fiery War Axe is a necessity to remove the Tunnel Trogg before it can do too much damage. Non-aggro Shaman decks are so mediocre that you shouldn't be concerned about the consequences of mulliganing only with aggro shaman in mind.
The matchup can go either way. It's not particularly interesting or interactive. You just play what you can to gain life and kill what they play while they hit your face.
3.4 - Hunter
This follows the same rules for Shaman, though since LoE face hunter has (thank God) been pushed to obscurity. The most common Hunter decks to face (which still aren't common at all) are the midrange variants, which use cards like Savannah Highmane to smack you hard in the face, and Hunter's Mark to control the board.
Again, do your due diligence in case it's the aggro deck. Mulligan for Fiery War Axe and other earlygame removal. Shield Block and Shieldmaiden are absolutely crucial, as the constant stream of smorc hero powers and Kill Commands can whittle your health away quickly.
3.5 - Druid
Midrange Druid (which accounts for 99% of the Druids you will face) is by far the worst match up for this deck, though it is by no means unwinnable.
You win this matchup by gaining effective health and removing their minions to stay out of range of their damage combo. You must always keep in mind what is the absolute maximum damage the Druid could do to you at any given moment, and play to avoid this as best as possible. Greedy plays can and will lose you the game.
A simple Force of Nature and Savage Roar combo will deal 14 damage if the Druid has no other minions. To work out the damage with minions, simply count them as having 2 more attack, and add the 14. A Force of Nature, Savage Roar, Innervate Savage Roar will deal 22 damage with no minions. To work that out with any minions, count them as having 4 more attack, then add the 22.
The absolute most damage a Druid can do in one turn is what I like to call the Omega Combo, and it's what a lot of Druids have done to me when I have gained too much life for their normal combos to kill me. In this case, if they get an Emperor Thaurissan discount on both of their forces and roars, they can play all 4 using 2 innervates. This amounts to a whopping 40 damage from hand. As your deck plays so very slow, there is a very real possibility that they are able to sit back, draw cards and wait until they have this combo.
Because their minions will benefit from the effects of Savage Roar during their combos, it is more important than any other class to clear all of them away if ever possible.
3.6 - Rogue
Every Rogue deck basically works the same. It plays a bunch of tempo-based minions to stall the game, it draws a load of cards, then hits you with a combo or two.
Against an oil rogue, it is very important to remove their minions to prevent the Tinker's Sharpsword Oil from coming down. This deck can do a heck of a lot of burst damage from hand, so try your hardest to safeguard your life total.
Maly rogue is more or less the same, though clearing minions isn't nearly as important. Save removal for their Gadgetzan Auctioneer, and more importantly their Malygos. After a Thaurissan discount they can sling a lot of maly-buffed spells at you, so once again be sure to keep up your health total.
Both of these matchups are very much in your favour, provided the Rogue doesn't get the nuts draw and throws out a 12/12 Edwin VanCleef on turn 2 which can't be answered.
3.7 - Mage
Never underestimate peoples ability to innovate with Mage decks. Half the time on ladder against a Mage I won't have half a clue what their deck is even supposed to be.
Do your due diligence and mulligan for Fiery War Axe and other early removal in case it's an aggressive mech mage or tempo mage.
If it turns out to be a freeze mage, you can pretty much do whatever you want and you'll still win because of how skewed the matchup is. The reason is that your armour is an infinite resource, while the freeze mage's damage is completely finite, depending on spells. It's fairly easy as a warrior with your ability to increase your effective health well above the maximum for other classes to reach a point where the freeze mage simply can't do a single thing to hurt you.
If you're not sure what their secret is, play around it sequentially. Throw out that Cruel Taskmaster or something similar to see if it's Mirror Entity. If it isn't, be sure to throw out your least valuable spell to check for Counterspell. If both of those are ruled out, you can relax as it won't be anything relevant to you.
3.8 - Warlock
There are quite a few different types of warlock deck these days. Zoo Warlock is currently considered one of the best decks in the game, so is fairly likely to be what you're facing in the event you encounter Gul'dan. Like with other aggressive decks, search for Fiery War Axe, Death's Bite and other early sources of removal to clear up his board before it gets out of control. Zoo warlocks have access to more consistent card draw than the other aggressive decks, and as such are much more difficult to bleed dry, as they will simply tap into more ways of hitting your face. Sea Giant is growing in popularity, so be mindful of that and keep a spare hard removal lying about.
Against Reno Lock, you're going to want to use your removal as efficiently as possible. Sure they play a lot of big scary minions, but the scariest minions of all are the 6/6 infernals that can be generated every single turn after Lord Jaraxxus is played. Harrison Jones has the potential to win or lose you the game against a Jaraxxus'd warlock. It's quite possible that they tap themselves to low enough health for you to simply Grommash them right in the face for lethal.
Traditional Handlock decks will be much the same as Reno Lock to deal with, though most certainly a tougher matchup. The Reno Jackson isn't very useful against this kind of painfully slow control deck, and the sacrifices to their cards required to fit it in mean that a traditional handlock is a tougher opponent.
Whether it's handlock or reno lock, beware the Leeroy Jenkins/Arcane Golem Power Overwhelming and Faceless Manipulator combo, which can dome you for a huge amount of damage. This combo is especially popular in reno lock, which has a lot more space to play around with which cards it can fit in. When they're at 10 mana and have a bunch of cards, you should always think ahead and try and avoid the damage they can do. An Emperor Thaurissan coming out is almost a sure sign that the combo is coming.
3.9 - Priest
Last but not least, the ResidentSleeper. Priest gained very effective tools in LoE, and so is more common than it used to be now, and quite rightly so.
Dragon Priest plays like a deck that really wishes it were zoo warlock. It floods the board, draws cards to get more cheap, efficient minions (at least if the Priest got a Northshire Cleric out), and ices the game out with some heftier minions. Use your removal liberally, but always, always keep something saved up for Ysera. One of the few ways dragon priests can beat you is with a cheeky Entomb on your Elise Starseeker, so try and hold off on playing her as best you can. For mulligans, Fiery War Axe etc.
The control priest matchup is going to be quite boring. There will be a lot of hero power pass turns traded between you two, as you both stare intently at one another's unblinking faces, the sleep-deprivation of the 40 hour long game palpable in your facial expressions.
No but seriously, control priest is a tough matchup and requires a fair bit of thought. Beware the Deathlord, for if it brings Elise Starseeker or Justicar Trueheart out of your deck (which doesn't trigger the battlecry), you pretty much just lose. Also beware the Entomb - try your hardest to apply pressure with things like Shieldmaiden, which he will hopefully waste his entombs on. Your coldlight oracles can do a lot of work here - if they mill some important cards away from him you can win very easily.
Thank you for reading, I hope you found it insightful. Please do leave a vote (hopefully up) and a comment!