Objectives, Strengths and Weaknesses
The keys to Control Warrior
Two of Cards
Must haves in every deck
Two or One
Key legendaries and secondary role players
One or Zero
Optional legendaries and niche pieces
Cards to keep an eye out for
Changes since writing
Hello! My name is Carthac and I am a legendary ranked player and I primarily play Control Warrior. I would like to share my knowledge of the class which I have accumulated over time. Unfortunately, Control Warrior is not a cheap class to play. Control Warrior focuses it's strength on late game; therefore, cheaper cards generally do not have the power to replace legendary cards and bring consistent wins.
The overall goal of Control Warrior, in it's current form, is to maintain board control in the early/mid game and utilize strong late game minions to overpower opponents. Warrior has the strongest late game out of the current control decks: it uses strong minions along with very efficient removal to take command of the board.
Warrior is the only class that can reliably raise itself above 30 Health. This is a tangible benefit in games where both players draw their full decks and also defends against burst decks without Taunt minions. Armor can also be utilized via Shield Slam.
Warrior has the strongest single target removal in the game. When it comes to clearing big minions, no class is better than the Warrior. Between Weapons, Execute, and Shield Slam, you will rarely find yourself in trouble against large threats.
Late game legendary minions are some of the most effective cards in the game. Want two Chillwind Yetis for six mana? Play Cairne. Want a card that can not only heal you up 14 Health or deal 15 damage to your hero while spawning an 8/8? Play Alexstrasza. Maybe you want a card that sits there hits for eight damage with immunity? If so, Ragnaros is the card for you. There are so many more to choose from!
The low mana minions utilized by the Control Warrior work well with each other and provide small buffs that can snowball into multiple advantages quickly.
When it comes to board clears, Control Warrior struggles. The current options are a combination of Wild Pyromancer, Whirlwind, Brawl, and Baron Geddon. Wild Pyromancer requires help and can damage your board in the process. Whirlwind as a board clear is typically not enough against most rush decks and using two is usually incorrect as you lose the ability to trigger positive effects for your deck such as Grommash. Brawl can be great, but rarely clears in your favor as your opponent is almost always statistically favored to win. Baron Geddon is great but you have to survive until you can play him safely, which can prove to be difficult.
Another weakness of the Control Warrior is responses to situations that require immediate action. The Control Warrior deck is much more of a slow build up in the early/mid game and attempts to stabilize and maintain board control until they are able to put their true threats out. There are definitely cards that help -- Slam and Fiery War Axe -- but it is still not above par compared to deck types.
**Cards are ranked alphabetically within their tiers.
Acolyte of Pain is a great neutral card for control decks that, in my opinion, is utilized best by Control Warrior. Unless your opponent is willing to use a three damage spell or silence, you are often drawing at least two cards with the large amount of ping effects the deck utilizes. As it is one of the few card draw options, I find Acolyte of Pain to be an essential card in this deck. I always run two.
Deadly Shot, Naturalize, Assassinate, there is no way not to put this card in your deck. An absolute essential card for Control Warriors.
Execute. This is one of the big reasons we play Armorsmiths but it also helps us use our defensive spells offensively: Shield Block and Armor Up. Another essential card and a must play in any deck variant.
Shield Block is pretty incredible: it is a heal five which cycles for only three mana. It is also part of the key synergy which makes Shield Slam a hard removal spell. It is an essential card, always run two.
Armorsmith, Acolyte of Pain, Frothing Berserker, and Garrosh. It can be used along with Wild Pyromancer to provide a two damage board clear. It can be used as a setup for Execute. All deck variants should run two.
Armorsmith is great. A very durable 1/4 that can be played effectively in both the early and mid game. If left alone, your armor can rocket up and steal a game.
Azure Drake cantrips, is a five drop in a midgame with few options, and provides Spell Damage for your spells. While I was not initially sold on it, I am coming around and realizing how much it adds to the deck. The main reason I really like the card is the card draw. Card draw in a control deck is very important since the mana curve is more spread out. Before this addition, the only options were Acolyte of Pain and Shield Block. Smart players, when playing against Control Warrior, realize this and will rush to either Silence or only allow a single draw on Acolyte. Stifling the Warriors draw in this way leaves him to rely heavily on luck to curve out effectively. Azure Drake changes all of this. Another mid game minion option is an added bonus. Two damage Whirlwinds are very nice to have. I am not a fan of cards without an immediate effect, but I still feel this is a great addition to the deck.
Baron Geddon is like a breath of fresh air. Ash filled air, but fresh nonetheless. If you can control Zoo decks and get Baron Geddon down on turn seven you can steal wins. In control match ups, I like to use Baron Geddon as a way to bait removal and make way for Ragnaros and Alexstrasza. Baron Geddon is also very valuable against Bloodlust Shaman decks. An amazing card overall which should be in any Control Warrior build.
The Black Knight is still very good against Druid decks and has seen a small increase in value with the emergence of Hound Master in Midrange Hunter decks. If the trend of cutting Taunt minions continues, Black Knight will be sidelined as well. In the present meta, I am still using Black Knight. It is, however, another one of the cards on my short list to be cut in favor of better options as they come up.
Brawl is one of those cards that is not great, but is basically an essential part of the deck. Almost all variants only run one, and I feel that is the correct amount. If you are running into situations where twp are necessary, you are most likely making mistakes somewhere else along the way.
Cairne may be the best legendary in Hearthstone. I would not argue with that sentiment. Cairne is not an immediate response toward regaining board control in the mid game, but it is a piece which sets everything in motion. Outside of a Zoo player having a Silence in their hand, it will be difficult for them to trade: they typically will opt to go for face damage and end the game. Given your two 4/5 minions on board, Baron Geddon, Gorehowl, or even use Brawl all become much better plays. Cairne is a pretty incredible card and near essential in any Control Warrior deck.
Whirlwind, Cruel Taskmaster provides an incredible amount early game utility. The card provides a one damage ping against one drops, can be used to trigger positive effects from your minions, or it can set up an Execute. I do not feel it is an essential card, but if it were to be swapped out, I would only replace it with Inner Rage to bypass the two mana requirement if you are just looking to utilize the Battlecry.
Faceless Manipulator is typically used in control mirrors to copy and clear opponent legendaries in one turn when coupled with cards such as Big Game Hunter or Execute. It can, however, be used in a pinch to maintain or balance board control. In the Zoo match up, you can use Faceless Manipulator on a Doomguard. Against Druids that utilize emphasize the mid game, it can be used on 4/4 Druid of the Claw for an immediate removal. As far as number the of them in your deck, I typically run one. Some deck variants run two, but I feel that is overkill. Not an essential card, but one I typically run.
Frothing Berserker is a minion which gets a lot of hype. I don't, however, feel it is as key to the deck as some people may believe. The goal of the Frothing Berserker is to work in conjunction with the other early game minions to provide a snowballing threat into the mid game. It can also provide a threat to end the game around turn 6-8: this very rarely happens. Since the four Health of Frothing Berserker never increases, it is still neutralized in one hit by almost all mid game spells and minions. You are therefore dropping a three mana minion and hoping he can go unanswered. If this is the case, why not just drop an Arathi Weaponsmith or Kor'kron Elite?
All that aside, I am still running two Frothing Berserkers because it fits the mana curve of the deck better than a second four drop. I am not sold on it being an essential part of the Control Warrior deck. I feel it could be replaced in future iterations of the deck.
Doomhammer. It can be great in the mirror match up if they run Gorehowl. It can be used against Rogue decks using Deadly Poison and Assassin's Blade. The five mana makes it more suited to be a mid to late game weapon answer. If there is a resurgence of Warrior beatdown, Acidic Swamp Ooze may become more valuable.
Kor'kron Elite provides a ton early to mid game utility in several different match ups. Against Zoo decks, it provides immediate removal and can easily trade 2-for-1. While it is not an essential card by any means, I have been running two for quite some time and enjoying success in doing so.
Faceless Manipulator and get two on board. Despite the random element, Rag is too good to pass up. An essential card in any Control Warrior variant.
Execute, can be used to draw extra cards out of Acolyte of Pain, and can be used to take out high value targets such as Knife Juggler. Some variants run one and I currently run two.
Abomination is better on paper than in practice. Being five mana, I found it being too little too late. It is also easily countered by Defender of Argus. As far as other match ups go, it really does not have a place at all.
Arathi Weaponsmith or Kor'kron Elite. Play Arathi if you prefer more damage over time. Play Kor'kron Elite if you would prefer immediate removal.
Big Game Hunter is quite the conundrum. When the Battlecry can be used, it provides incredible value for three mana. While the card is great, however, I feel the card is outperformed by Execute and Shield Slam. Since you already have four hard removal spells for control decks, and the 4/2 minion by itself is underwhelming, I prefer to keep it out. If you must have it in your deck don't run more than one. This card could make a come back if Handlock returns to prominence.
Chillwind Yeti is that it falls into that previously mentioned four drop slot. I feel Chillwind Yeti is the worst of these three options. I would stay away from this card in Control Warrior decks.
Cleave is not often seen in the Control Warrior deck but can have value in an aggressive meta. A two mana spell that can deal four damage to enemy minions sounds tempting: sadly this is too situational to be used consistently. It shines against Zoo decks if everything goes right, but with the addition of Shieldbearer and Voidwalker, it can be tough to use effectively. Run these depending on how much Zoo you face.
Gorehowl is a pretty cool card. This unique weapon really enables Warrior to keep the board clear. That said, I choose not to play it. Seven mana means this only will come down in the late game and Control Warriors needs to already be in the control and playing legendaries in the late game. If I need help taking board control in the mid game, I would prefer the cheaper Arcanite Reaper. The combo I was enjoying was equipping the weapon, playing Alexstrasza, then attacking with a combination of Gorehowl, Alexstrasza or Grommash to end the game. Getting your Gorehowl be destroyed by Harrison Jones or Acidic Swamp Ooze,however, is a huge tempo hit and not one you can easily recover from. I will not argue with people who play Gorehowl, but it is too high variance for my liking.
Argent Squire, Knife Juggler, and Voidwalker on board: ours is currently empty. We drop Shieldmasta which leaves the Zoo player with many good lines. They can double Abusive Sergeant their Argent Squire, use Soulfire and attack with Argent, use Power Overwhelming on their Argent, and the options going. If we drop a Kor'kron Elite, however, we can immediately trade into the Voidwalker and at least guarantee one minion kill with potential for more. It is also a prime target for Black Knight in many other match ups. In summary, I don't think this card is bad. I just don't play it currently.
Sylvanas: where I have board control with my low mana minions; and one where I was playing from behind and played Sylvanas to retake board control. In the first scenario, I would have board control with their side being either empty or having one minion to take. This would result in them trading off their minion and killing Sylvanas before playing more. I felt it never put me as far ahead as Cairne would have been stronger plays. When I played her with an empty board, it was either treated as a five Health-six mana Taunt, or she was just ignored and the pressure continued on. I am still undecided on the card, but I have not played her for some time and am still of the mindset to leave her out of my future decks.
Ysera is my favorite card. She is a late game legendary card that can't be removed by Shadow Word: Death or Big Game Hunter and can tank a huge amount of damage. Besides that, she is one of the only card generating mechanics in the game: Thoughtsteal being the other. "But Carthac, if it is your favorite card in the game, why do you not have it in your deck?" The sad news is that I tried, I really did. The problem I kept running into over and over again with Ysera was losing games before I was able to use the cards she produces. If Ysera cost seven, or if Warrior had an Innverate type effect, I would love to play Ysera. In the current meta, and against other control decks, I feel Ysera is too slow in comparison to other legendaries we have available.
Argent Squires aren't worth going in your deck just to utilize the Blood Knight mechanic, but with a fairly decent number of popular decks -- Zoo, Token Druid, Shaman -- already running Argent Squire. I could see Blood Knight seeing play in the near future, but it hasn't worked for me yet.
Deathwing. A 12/12 minion that completely clears the board is hard to stop. After testing, however, I came to the following conclusion: Deathwing has to be the last card you play or you are putting yourself completely all in. Since it is so easily countered by Big Game Hunter, I do not recommend playing him at the moment. Furthermore, after hitting ten mana you're most likely favoured in everything but the control mirror.
Vs Zoo Warlock
My current deck for reference.
My current deck for reference.
The Zoo deck is a very popular deck that can be seen at just about every point on the ranked ladder. The general strategy of Zoo revolves around playing small yet efficient minions, utilizing strong/cheap/efficient spells, keeping cards coming in through the use of the Hero Power, and trading up minions. Through efficient trades, the Zoo deck builds up board control very quickly. Their end game is get your Health low enough to be finished with Doomguards, Argent Commanders, and Leeroy Jenkins.
The key to this match is understanding their threats and how to best neutralize them. The Attack value of a minion sets their importance. The biggest threats early on are Dire Wolf Alpha, Knife Juggler, Flame Imp, and Shattered Sun Cleric. These are the targets you should be prioritizing with your Slam, Execute, and Shield Slam. Try to save Cruel Taskmaster for the ping on Leper Gnome, Young Priestess, or Abusive Sergeant. If you see an opening to Whirlwind and get two one Health minions, take it. Don't get greedy and wait too long or Defender of Argus can ruin your day.
Do your best to ignore Harvest Golem, Void Walker, Argent Squire, and Shieldbearer. Harvest Golem and Argent Squire takes too many resources to try to kill early, so let them be taken care of by your mid-late game threats. Voidwalker and Shieldbearer are simply buffers for their true threats so ignore them as well.
Top mulligan priorities are Slam, Cruel Taskmaster, Fiery War Axe, Brawl, and Whirlwind. The second tier is Shield Slam, Execute, Shield Block, Frothing Berserkers, Kor'kron Elites, and Armorsmiths. Get rid of everything else: Acolyte of Pain, Faceless Manipulator, and all the legendary cards.
You sadly won't have time to utilize card draw in this match up. It is the last priority and you have to hope you draw threats in such an order to be used efficiently. The ideal start would consist of taking out the high threat 3/2 type cards with Slam; bringing down multiple one Health minions with Whirlwind/Cruel Taskmaster; then allowing them to fill the board with 4+ minions and Brawl. Our game ending follow up will be with Cairne and Baron Geddon. This will not happen every time, but you should aim for something similar with what you have. If you can, try to save a ping/Execute combo for Doomguard: it can really turn the tide of a game very quickly. Doomguard should also be the target of your Faceless Manipulator if given the chance.
Vs Trap Heavy Hunter
The Heavy Trap Hunter is almost a mage-like deck in Hearthstone. Their goal is to use their Hero Power to deal damage consistently, equip a bow, refresh the charges and deflect damage through their multiple traps, then use Buzzard/Unleash the Hounds when enough threats on board to draw multiple cards and snowball an advantage into a fairly quick kill.
What is our strategy? We are never going to defeat the hunter in a damage race, but we can outlast the Hunter through smart play and patience.
My rule of thumb is to never have more than two minions on board at a time. It can be any two, just enough to put them on a clock without getting great value from their Buzzard/UTH combo. Try to focus more on building Armor and using your small minions to activate abilities.
The most important aspect of this match up is to not let the game get out of control by giving free weapon charges. Try to deal with the traps when a weapon is not up. Always lead the attack with your smallest minion in case of Freezing Trap and Misdirection. If you happen to draw Harrison, activate the trap with your minion for the extra card draw.
The end goal against Hunter is to play Ragnaros. Since they are playing a damage deflecting type style that relies on the opponent attacking them, Rag is a real problem for them. Just play the match up very defensively, take it slow, and you should do fine.
As far as mulligans, snap keeps are Armorsmith, Acolyte of Pain, Cruel Taskmaster, Frothing Berserker, and Kor'kron Elite. The middle tier cards are Whirlwind, Slam, Shield Block, Fiery War Axe, Harrison, Cairne, Black Knight, and Ragnaros. The bottom tier cards are Alexstrasza, Grommash, Baron Geddon, Brawl, Execute, and Shield Slam.
I hope you enjoyed the read! I put a lot of work into it. If people enjoy this, I might come back and add more information on additional matchups or expand upon points if people are interested. If you have any questions, feel free to send me a message on twitter. If you liked the work and want to see more, you can check out my stream on Twitch. Thanks for reading!
In the time between writing this and publication, I decided to change up my deck and experiment with a few things. I removed Harrion Jones for a brief amount of time in favor of King Mukla. After listening to Ben Brode speak about Mukla on an episode of Value Town, I grew to really appreciate Mukla for a couple reasons. Firstly, he gives you an unmatched early game presence. It actually was not bad in other matchups if it could be played on an empty board vs a non-aggro deck. With the recent popularity of Rogue decks, I have opted to cut one Frothing Berserker in favor of Mukla. I also put Harrison Jones back in and cutting Cairne. I was finding Cairne to be too slow in the current meta.
You may have noticed I opted to put an Arcanite Reaper in my deck. I am finding this card simply amazing in so many matchups.
It helps with Gadgetzan Auctioneer, it clears Chillwind Yeti and Ancient of Lore, and the list goes on. I switched this in for Gorehowl as the seven mana weapon was often coming in too late to help me transition to the late game. I am still experimenting with the card but I am really liking it thus far.
Finally, you may noticed I did a little experiment with Deathwing. For a while I was tearing through Ramp Druids and Midrange Hunters because of him alone. Deathwing helps take down that board of built up Scavenging Hyena and Savannah Highmane spawns. He is a complete trump card in the Druid match up if you can bait an earlier Big Game Hunter. While I found myself really liking him, I feel he will go back to the bench soon with the meta shifting again towards the midgame again. After playing with him a little bit, I find him severely underestimated in Control Warrior decks.