The Many Faces of Paladin
Paladin has made a huge resurgence in recent times. Journey to Un’Goro has given Paladin some insane new cards such as Hydrologist, Stonehill Defender, Spikeridged Steed, and Sunkeeper Tarim. Previously suppressed as a tier three class, it is now one of the most diverse classes, with aggro, midrange, and control variants all being competitively viable.
Aggro and midrange variants are typically built around murlocs and they have defined the meta so intensely that many decks have resorted to running Hungry Crab. If you love Paladin, but hate being solo’d by Hungry Crab, you can also try Control Paladin a defensively skewed deck with Doomsayers and a N’Zoth package.
Aggro Paladin can be built in a couple different ways. This is a basic example of an Aggro Paladin list, which can be adjusted based on preference. For example, you could choose to run a second Spikeridged Steed over Tirion or one of the four-mana spells. You could also run a second Stampeding Kodo, or choose to run Stonehill Defenders as your value card over Divine Favor.
Below is another variant of Aggro Paladin. As you can see, this has a lowered curve with Steward of Darkshire synergy over Tirion, Blessing of Kings, and Consecrations. Double Divine Favors can be hit or miss depending on the meta but you wouldn’t run Stonehill Defenders over Divine Favors in this list. Drawing cards is much stronger here because you can enable combos with Steward of Darkshires and Murloc Tidehunters/Bilefun Tidehunters.
The main reason to play Aggro Paladin over other forms of Paladin is that it has the best matchup against Quest Rogue. It is the only form of Paladin that can consistently race them. That said, it is also the worst form of Paladin against Quest Warrior.
Here is the standard Midrange Paladin list as submitted by 2015 World Champion Ostkaka and his teammate Powder to EU Spring Playoffs. It still has plenty of aggressive potential with four one-drops in the form of Murloc Tidecaller and Vilefin Inquisitor. What separates it from Aggro Paladin is a heavier curve and the presence of Equality, Aldor Peacekeeper, Stonehill Defender, Curator, Primordial, and Lightlord.
Possible adjustments include cutting the Murloc Tidecallers for additional late game in the form of a second Equality, Stampeding Kodo, Lay on Hands, or a Vinecleaver. This adjustment makes for a less consistent early game but improves the quality of later game topdecks.
Midrange Paladin is the most well-balanced of the Paladin archetypes. If you decide to run four one-drops, you still have the potential to quickly beat Quest Rogues. Compared to Aggro Paladin, you shore up your weakness against Quest Warrior but you remain vulnerable to decks running the Hungry Crab tech.
Tired of losing to Hungry Crab? Control Paladin might be for you! It’s also the archetype I personally have the most experience with and it was integral to my Top16 run at Dreamhack Austin (the breakdown of that event can be found here). In that article, you can read about my thoughts on this archetype three weeks ago and compare those decklists to the ones presented here.
This is the Control Paladin list that I have personally used the most this month. I stopped running Dirty Rat because outcomes of running it in Control Paladin are significantly worse than running it in Quest Warrior: Brawl and Execute are more reliable follow ups than Pyro/Equality or Equality/Conc. Dirty Ratting without a Truesilver equipped often leads to disaster and even then it’s still bad if you pull a Tirion or Finja. I play Loot Hoarders over Acolyte in order to have a play on turn two if I don’t draw Doomsayer, to not clutter the three drop slot, and for the N’Zoth synergy.
This is the Control Paladin list that respected deckbuilder wiRer submitted to EU Spring Playoffs. Some key points to note in this deck are the inclusion of double Hydrologist, Rallying Blade over Truesilver, only one Consecrate, no Spikeridged Steeds, two Ivory Knight, Curator, Drake, and a second Forbidden Healing.
I talked with wiRer about his weapon choice and he said that Rallying Blade and Truesilver kill the same targets but Rallying Blade comes out a turn sooner. Minions like Mana Wyrm, Arcanologist, Northshire Cleric, Radiant Elemental, Acolyte, Vicious Fledgling, Murloc Warleader, and Southsea Captain all have three health so the extra attack on Truesilver is rarely relevant. You can then develop a four-drop behind the weapon or coin kodo to generate further tempo. Having board control with Rallying Blade makes Consecrate worse, thus he cuts one to make room for Primordial Drake.
Running Ivory Knight over Spikeridged Steed makes the matchup against Mage a lot better. Spikeridged Steed is susceptible to Spellbender and Counterspell, while Ivory Knight gives you an extra source of healing to stabilize the matchup much more easily.
Overall, Control Paladin is my favorite of the Paladins archetypes. It’s the weakest against Quest Rogue but is strong against both aggro and other control decks. It’s also not susceptible to being countered by Hungry Crab, which is highly relevant given how many Hungry Crabs were included in the EU Spring Playoff decklists.
Paladin is the strongest it’s been since the days of Secret Paladin. I hope this article has equipped you with the knowledge of all the Paladin archetypes, and that you are ready to venture into ladder with your favorite variant.