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Hearthstone: Control Paladin in Rastakhan's Rumble

J Updated
Hearthstone Rastakhan's Rumble Review
There Will Be Games
Another three months, another HEARTHSTONE set. Rastakhan's Rumble hit the app last Tuesday and hopefully brings some change to a stale metagame. Things on the Ladder had settled into a dry landscape of Odd Paladin vs Odd Rogue vs DR Hunter vs everyone else…Probably some over-the-top Druid concoction. With Rastakhan's Rumble, I think there's a chance for a slightly more interesting bunch of games, i.e., decided on the board instead of when you realize the matchup is unwinnable after turn 2.

I was inspired to try out Control Paladin after reading this great Reddit post (?!) by 星辰之沙(sand of star). They're a long-time Control Paladin diehard. Akin to Zetalot as Priest, ApxVoid as Mage, or Fibonacci as Control Warrior; Sand of Star is a one-Hero player and we can trust that they have "explored the space" of Paladin options. A decklist from before Rastakhan appears here:


1x Crystology
2x Equality
1x Hydrologist
2x Wild Pyromancer
1x Gluttonous Ooze
2x Stonehill Defender
2x Consecration
1x Meat Wagon
Lx Spiritsinger Umbra
2x Truesilver Champion
2x Carnivorous Cube
Lx Harrison Jones
2x Mechano-Egg
2x Shrink Ray
Lx Zilliax
1x Mossy Horror
1x Nerubian Unraveler
1x Spikeridged Steed
Lx Sunkeeper Tarim
Lx Kangor's Endless Army
1x Lay On Hands
Lx Uther of the Ebon Blade

Yikes! Like most Control decks, it's heavy, with a lot of high cost cards; and expensive, packing six Legendaries and seven Epics.This is tuned for high Legend level play, and doesn't work down in the soup with folks like me at Rank 15. But the ideas of the deck are sound regardless and we can make some tweaks to get it right for lower ranks, as well as refresh the concept for Rastakhan's Rumble

You can see all the 1x, even with Commons, and this definitely tips the hand that this build is for late-game play. You want the right card, but you don't need it right away. Most of the early game cards are focused on surviving a rush. Equality, Wild Pyromancer, Hydrologist to get a cheap Secret to feed the Pyro, and Stonehill Defender are all about not dying by turn 4. Assuming you make it to turn 5, you are looking for Consecration, Mossy Horror, Sunkeeper Tarim, or Shrink Ray to asymetrically reset the game, stabilize and grind to a win against aggressive decks. In my experience, they concede if you are 15+ life on Turn 8 or higher. If they don't, start playing around the Leeroy Jenkins they have in hand. All these cards have reasons, and the post linked above explains them well. But for where I am, I can dump a lot of this and still have a lot of success and fun making big robots and dancing with the devil while watching my life total. 

You need to keep the board management stuff. You need to keep the Mechano-Eggs and/or Mechanical Whelp, and you want to make sure you can dress them with either Zilliax or some other decent Magnetic Mech. You want Carnivorous Cubes as well to guarantee they die, and Kangor's Endless Army to get them back in cool form. But the Nerubian Unraveler can go—it's there to beat Druids (hard to cast a 12-mana Ultimate Infestation when your hand is low) and Mecha'Thun Priests (they depend on a 10-mana turn that needs Twilight's Call to cost 3, not 5). Spiritsinger Umbra is overkill and underwhelming unless you get the magical Umbra-into-Meat-Wagon-into-Egg-into-8/8. Your weapon removal doesn't need to be Harrison Jones and Gluttonous Ooze. And so on. You can port these themes to budget options and still have a good time. 

What changes does Rastakhan bring? Well, the hero-healing aspect of Paladin has been dialed up as a theme. Between Zilliax, Lay On Hands, and Truesilver Champions, you'll get 10 life restored, and that makes this an option:
Zandalari Templar Rare 4/4 Minion for {4}. Battlecry: If you've restored 10 health this game, gain +4/+4 and Taunt.
I like 8/8 Taunts, and I like it when they cost 4. 

Also, Paladin, for whatever reason, was deemed worthy of Ice Block. It isn't a Secret, but you know when to cast this in today's OTK-heavy meta:
Time Out! Common Spell. You are Immune until your next turn.
Even beats the (bad) Temporus deck that's been bandied about! 

Paladin also gets an excellent early-game card that's worth it even if you only get an extra 2 life from a Truesilver hit:
Crystalsmith Kangor Legendary 1/2 Minion for {2}. Divine Shield. Lifesteal. Your healing effects are doubled. 

Small Legendary minions are tricky to get right. You want them good enough to play, like original Patches the Pirate, but not that good; and you want them weak enough to pass over sometimes, like Bloodmage Thalnos, but not so weak they never see play, like Patches now. This gets the mix right, I think. The effect gets better with decks that want fewer small cards. It's a nice effect, but you can do without it. Swapping this in for a Hydrologist is easy enough. With the bubble and Lifesteal, it represents at least 4 life, and potentially a lot more if it gets dressed by Steed, appears after you have Uther's blade, &c. Could mess up your Meat Wagon math, though, so your mileage may very. 

HEARTHSTONE has been tough the last couple of months. I was pretty burnt out on the metagame and I wasn't the only one. But I'm heartened to see a little light at the end of the tunnel. At first glance, it looks like there are decks that survive a weenie rush and still have tools to kill OTKs, without being one of those kinds of decks. Let's see how it plays out. 




There Will Be Games Hearthstone Rastakhan's Rumble Review
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ubarose's Avatar
ubarose replied the topic: #287578 06 Dec 2018 09:18
I have no idea what any of this means, but the picture on the Hearthstone articles/blogs are really pretty.
Jackwraith's Avatar
Jackwraith replied the topic: #287591 06 Dec 2018 10:30
My problem with it, as I mentioned to you the other day, is that the recipe for Control Paladin is still burdened by six essential cards: 2x Wild Pyromancer, 2x Consecration, 2x Equality. You will basically never be able to play Control Paladin without these cards because they haven't introduced any options to replace them. Control decks in every other class have had options presented to them: Think Hellfire or Defile or Dreadlord for Warlock or any of 13 different board clears, plus Secrets, for Mage. Think about how Priest lost one of the best board clears ever made in Dragonfire Potion, but was presented with Duskbreaker and Psychic Scream, to go along with the old standby of Circle/Auchenai. I think they made an attempt for Paladin by introducing Shrink Ray, but it doesn't actually clear the board and a 9-cost combo is a lot more difficult to pull off than a 6-cost one.

Paladin is in this odd spot because its hero power makes it one of the best aggro classes in the game, as we can all see from the omnipresence of Odd Paladin and, prior to CtA's nerf, Even Paladin. You can't introduce awesome control elements to the aggro class because then they have the best of both worlds. It's the same problem they've had with introducing any other kind of archetype to Priest. You can see this problem with the healing angle they've tried to reinforce with Paladin. Zandalari Templar sounds like a cool card but, in practice, it really isn't. In order to get value from it, you have to wait until you've done something extraordinarily passive: heal yourself of 10 damage. Truesilver is only going to get you four of that, per sword, so you have to do something else or arrange your deck in such a way that healing is its focus (Djinn, Flash of Light, etc.) Until then, Zandalari is either a dead card in your hand or a vanilla 4/4 for 4 mana, which is awful. What that normally means is that you won't be playing your 4-mana 8/8 until turns 8, 9, or 10, where they're far less impactful, despite being cheap. Yes, on turn 10, you can do the Equality-Consec-Zandalari move and clear your opponent while dropping an 8/8. That's great. But it's also turn 10, where the likelihood that your opponent has something to deal with your single minion is quite high. If they'd made it even a 4/5 for 4 (i.e. Yeti stats), so that it wasn't simply an awful card sitting in your hand until you've taken multiple steps that don't help you win the game (e.g. the story of healing since the game's introduction), it might've been more worthwhile. Personally, I'd have argued for baseline Taunt that gets +4/+4 if you heal 10. That way, it would at least be a passable card to play in the early/mid game.

I still think that their design approach is too oriented toward "throwing shit at the wall and seeing what sticks." This was the approach that led to Odd/Even decks being introduced as a "cool thing" that then dominated the meta for months until the nerfs and are still pretty strong (Odd Paladin, as noted; it's dominating the legend ranks again.) I know that they're taking this approach to avoid having too many clearly mapped out decks for people to play, which means every deck is the same on ladder and people get bored. However, they're still bored in many cases because they're presented with these scattershot cards with no obvious application (Crystalsmith Kangor...), try new decks that don't work, and then go back to decks that do. And we end up back where we were eight months ago with Odd/Even decks steamrolling everything. Can't please all of the people all of the time and so on. /rant

Anyway, nice work. I am very off the game (obvsly) but I appreciate your insights.
jeb's Avatar
jeb replied the topic: #287616 06 Dec 2018 13:30
Ubarose: YES. Blizzard makes good products. I hope they aren't dicks to artists. Anyone have tea?

I hear the complaints, the early game for Control Paladin is still Wild Pyro/Equality/Consecration. I just don't know how much this bothers me. Almost every Hero leverages Wild Pyro effects (Warrior/Mage just roll their own) in an Aggro metagame--you'd be crazy not to. Priest is far more reliant on Wild Pyro tricks than Auchenai + Circle over the last year at least. Auchenai is simply too slow, and competes with Duskrider at {4}. If anything, I'd say the anti-aggro metagame of HEARTHSTONE is more dominated by Stonehill Defender/Tar Creeper at {3}. Should we complain about the ubiquity of Lightning Storm?

The wrinkle this build adds is that where Pyro-Equality used to clear the board, now it can flip the board if you have Eggs scattered about. I've been using this in the Tavern Brawl and have cleared the opponents' boards and made three 8/8's with mana left over more than once. It's just in there.

The 4/4 on 4 isn't that bad. I see it like the Crackling Razormaw on 2 without a Beast. You'd rather have not, but sometimes you need to make a body. It puts Druid's 3/6's into Consecration range, for example. The issue with a full-throated commitment to Healadin is that you can end up with nothing to actually do except gain more life. I like the healing as a flank, and not main theme.
Jackwraith's Avatar
Jackwraith replied the topic: #287617 06 Dec 2018 13:53

jeb wrote: The 4/4 on 4 isn't that bad. I see it like the Crackling Razormaw on 2 without a Beast. You'd rather have not, but sometimes you need to make a body.

Except that a 3/2 on 2 is still a good play: it can deal with 1/1s or opposing 3/2s, can provide pressure, is 5 stats for 2 mana, etc. The most Arena of Arena minions, Ogre Magi, gives you +1 Spell Power for being a 4/4 on 4. Cards that actually get played in constructed (or genuinely good Arena decks) have better stats or at least do something useful: draw you a card; give you another smaller body; drain life from your opponent; silence things; or have Taunt all on their own and a fatter ass so that they can't just get removed by... a Truesilver Champion.

Razormaw depends on a relatively simple condition to achieve its value (Have a beast. Hi, Springpaw!) Zandalari requires you to expend a considerable amount of resources to satisfy its condition; most of which are resources that don't enable you to win the game (healing) unless you're a mill deck or are so expensive that you'll never be able to play them before the cheaper cost of Zandalari becomes irrelevant. There's a reason that the majority of Paladin control decks in recent years DON'T play Lay on Hands, because it's too expensive for what it does and wastes your whole turn doing nothing that affects the board state (typically; unless you have something that can be benefited by 8 healing.) I'm fine with just playing a body to have a body, but most class minions are supposed to be better than the average joe you can pluck from the neutral ranks. I'm betting that, in the majority of games, you'll have rather had an Ogre Magi than a Zandalari, if only because the former does something (Consec for 3!), whereas the latter often won't.
jeb's Avatar
jeb replied the topic: #287619 06 Dec 2018 14:11
I think Lay On Hands is coming back though. It was gone for a while, for sure, but the OP on Reddit says at least one copy is the heart and soul of modern Control Paladin builds. It's how you win against Control. You will lose without it on card advantage principles vs Control Warlock outdrawing you and Control/Odd Warrior out-valuing you. They even recommend keeping one on the draw if you know your opponent's decktype matches up. This isn't an OTK deck like the old Anyfin ones. It needs to make dudes (hopefully 8/8s) and beat on people. Fatigue isn't a path to victory, you need to push through with multiple attacks and sword hits. Barring that, you have occasional DK win, but that's not by design.

I have one Zandalari, and across 6 games it's been 4/4 twice and 8/8 twice. I wouldn't call it bad yet, but still trying it out.
Jackwraith's Avatar
Jackwraith replied the topic: #287621 06 Dec 2018 14:23
OK. Where did you slot it into the Egg list? For that matter, given Paladin's historic glut at the 4, what "essential" card did you remove to fit it in?
jeb's Avatar
jeb replied the topic: #287623 06 Dec 2018 14:44

Jackwraith wrote: OK. Where did you slot it into the Egg list? For that matter, given Paladin's historic glut at the 4, what "essential" card did you remove to fit it in?

Well, I built it assuming I'd see Aggro and Control, not a lot of mid-range stuff, and essentially no Silence. Why don't people run Silence? Anyway. Here's my build (I don't have Tarim):
1x Crystology
2x Equality
2x Hydrologist
2x Wild Pyromancer
1x Aldor Peacekeeper
2x Stonehill Defender
1x Time Out!
2x Consecrate
1x Meat Wagon
Lx Spiritsinger Umbra
2x Truesilver Champion
1x Zandalari Templar
2x Carnivorous Cube
2x Mechano-Egg
1x Shrink Ray
Lx Zilliax
1x Mossy Horror
1x Nerubian Unraveler
Lx Kangor's Endless Army
1x Lay On Hands
Lx The Lich King
Lx Uther of the Ebon Blade

So, it's "replacing" Tarim would be the most charitable thing to say.
Jackwraith's Avatar
Jackwraith replied the topic: #287626 06 Dec 2018 15:36
Huh. I do have Tarim and I'd never build a Paladin deck of any kind (except Odd) without him. He's just THAT GOOD (and the continuing stigma of shame for me, since I declared before Un'Goro that he wouldn't be useful; mostly because Paladin had no way to get large numbers of Dudes on the board and keep them there. Hello, Lost in the Jungle and Vinecleaver!) I don't have a Meat Wagon, though. So I could basically still build this entire deck ignoring Rumble, with the exception of one Time Out. Hm.
jeb's Avatar
jeb replied the topic: #287634 06 Dec 2018 17:07
Time Out! is really good. I needed a turn to set some stuff up and get my opponent to hit my board, which they dutifully did. I was thinking I wouldn't know when to use it best; but it's not been hard to work out, sometimes they have a lot of stuff and you don't have so much stuff. and it's like a free turn-and-a-half to get Taunts down, gain some life, &c.

Shrink Ray has been good too. With Eggs it's like a strictly better Equality. I

I would play Tarim if I had it. The synergy with ... everything ... is awesome. 3/3 Eggs? YES PLZ PLus sometimes it's really in my interest to have my Cubes die and I can't kill them fast enough at 4/6.

I would play Kangor too if I had it. That card is solid and likely better than a Hydrologist. Kangor + Lay On Hands late game? That would be an okay turn.