If any of you are like me, you probably find yourself spending a large portion of your time in your Collection while you’re logged into Hearthstone. Tinkering and tweaking your decks until you find that sweet satisfactory spot that scratches that never-ending want, to both have fun and be competitive. I’m talking about Deck building. One of the most basic, yet fundamental skills that a player of any rank must learn in order to build decks that are not only fun but competitively viable.
I usually like to finish my legend climb in the first week or two of a new season, however, this season was a bit different. Due to some real-world circumstances, I was forced to start my climb a lot later into the month than usual. Usually, I would stick to a deck that I know like the back of my hand, like Miracle Rogue, or even a fast Aggro deck like Pirate Warrior to climb, however, I was feeling adventurous this time around. I noticed that, outside of completing a few daily quests, I had very few games played as Priest. Only 30 games played to be exact. This inspired me to try something new and thus, I decided to climb from Rank 5 to Legend playing Dragon Priest!
For those of you who don’t know, Dragon Priest is a Dragon-centric deck that focuses on out valuing the opponent and sometimes, outlasting them as through the use of sustainability. This means that games are usually a bit longer than usual, with some of my games topping out at 21 minutes in length! But I was mainly in it for the fun factor and the challenge of trying something new to test my skills as a player.
The biggest issue though was simple: I had very little experience piloting a Priest deck. How am I meant to make use of my Hero Power? Am I ever the beatdown deck? When should I be playing to ‘Not Lose’ instead of playing to win? These were all questions that would come with practice, but the first step was to get into my Collection and build my deck.
But how do you go about building a deck for a class that you have no experience on? Well I’m glad you asked!
Constructing the Deck
The first part of deck building is the easiest part: Define the core of your deck. The first question you should ask yourself when building a new deck is, ‘What is the focus of my deck?’ In this case, our focus is Dragons, so the first step is to assemble our core Dragons that will power the deck. The way that I go about this is by looking for all the Dragons that I might want in my deck and adding them to the deck.
After that, I ‘trim the fat’ so to speak, by cutting the cards which I feel my deck can operate without or that would otherwise hurt my deck’s overall performance. In this case, I’ve found that Twilight Drake and Book Wyrm were too slow, and that Drakonid Operative, Primordial Drake, and Deathwing all do what I want them to do better than the other two dragons that I excluded.
After trimming my dragon package down to a respectable size, the next thing to do is to add support cards. These are generally cards that have direct synergy with your core. In this case, I’ve added Netherspite Historian and Dragonfire Potion. This allows me to continue to fuel my engine of Dragons, while also maintaining a strong board presence without affecting my own Dragons in the AoE.
The next step is to add ‘staple cards’. Generally speaking, these are cards that have a base power level that is so high that they will hurt your deck if you don’t include them. These are cards like Backstab for Rogue, Fiery War Axe for Warrior, Fireball for Mage, etc. Here you can see I’ve added the core cards for any Priest deck.
The Finishing Touches
The final step is to tech against the meta. This step is the hardest of them all, as it requires you to be knowledgeable about the meta and to understand how your deck fits into that meta. For example, I know that my deck is currently weak to hyper-aggressive decks and also decks that run heavy burn. The way to counter these decks is by adding cards that allow me to do two things.
Transition into the mid-game as smoothly as possible.
Stabilize after a large swing turn.
The best way to transition into the mid-game smoothly against an Aggro deck is to have taunt minions. This is why I’ve added Tar Creepers to the deck. It’s a cheap minion that is great against Aggro. The second best way to transition as smoothly as possible is to remove their minions, either by contesting the board with your own cheap minions or by using removal spells. Potion of Madness is a great tool for doing just that, and Radiant Elemental not only makes these spells cheaper, but it has a decent body for the cost as well.
Stabilizing after a swing turn can mean different things depending on the class that you’re playing against. For this example, let’s assume that my opponent is a Burn Mage. It’s Turn Nine and they drop Alexstrasza, reducing my health to 15. In order to stabilize, I must kill Alexstrasza and heal to a high enough health level where I cannot be burned down on the enemy’s subsequent turn to burn spells. This is why I’ve included Greater Healing Potion and Priest of the Feast, as well as Shadow Visions. This combo of cards allows me to fish for multiple copies of the Greater Healing Potion, despite only running one copy, with Shadow Visions, all while healing for each spell that I cast with Priest of the Feast. After using this combo after an Alex turn, you are in an incredibly favorable position to win. Every deck that you craft must have a method to stabilize after a swing turn. Sometimes that method can even mean just flat out killing the opponent before they kill you!
The final step is to flesh out your deck with flavor! But make sure that you are still adding value to the deck instead of hurting it. In this example, I add Elise the Trailblazer and Lyra the Sunshard. Both of these cards have positive synergies with the rest of my deck, such as Shadow Visions to pull multiple Elise packs, or Radiant Elementals to chain multiple spells to get incredible value out of Lyra. It’s nice to have a competitive deck, but it’s more important that you are having fun!
After putting all of these steps together, I had managed to forge an incredible Dragon Priest deck that differed slightly from other decks of the same type while still being fun and effective. After jumping on the ladder for a couple hours, here were the preliminary results!
I had managed to climb pretty quickly from Rank 5 to Rank 1. The games were long, sometimes 20 minutes per game, but the most important part was that I was having fun and succeeding!
After taking a small break to reflect on my losses and watch some replays, I came to the realization that was intriguing. Despite being a novice Priest player, it was apparent that my experience on how to play other classes as well as my mechanical skills as a player overall carried over into my Priest gameplay. But more importantly, I realized that my deck building skills played a big part in not only successfully building a deck but also in understanding why the deck worked and how to pilot the deck, despite having little experience with the class as a whole.
I really hope that me sharing my personal experience with deck building has given you guys a good starting point for those of you who wish to build your own decks. If you have any questions, feel free to Tweet me here.
As always, good luck on ladder!