If my fascination with the Midrange Warlock deck last week was any indication, I do not prefer the popular aggressive decks that are seen so often in Hearthstone. I like adapting to my opponent and feeling like I have options. Don’t get me wrong, I cackle maniacally as much as the next person when I get a perfect Undertaker opening. But I have always leaned towards control play. Shaman and Paladin were my first loves when it came to control decks. For whatever reason, maybe the crafting cost or what seemed like a boring Hero Power, Warrior was the class that took me the longest time to warm up to. But now, like an album I love or a good sandwich
shop, Control Warrior is a deck I keep coming back to.

Pro players Sjow and Kitkatz are probably the most well known for making Control Warrior popular and innovating upon it. Both players hit #1 Legend rank with pre-GvG Control Warrior decks. The thing that made the deck so good back then was that there really wasn’t a bad matchup for it, and that is still more or less true today. Really the worst thing that could happen to you as a Control Warrior player was to go up against another Control Warrior. Heaven forbid you needed to be somewhere by a certain time, the length of a mirror match up guarantees fashionably late arrival.

Getting in Control

Let’s get into what it’s like to take the reigns of a Control Warrior. Patience is key. The main mechanic of Warrior is Armor, and the amount that a Control Warrior can accrue is staggering. Being able to stack so many Armor points makes this deck one of the only in existence that can pass a turn with unused Mana and be completely fine with it. What you want to do is use your weapons to get value via trading life/armor points for your opponent’s minions. I have had multiple games where my opponent wasn't playing minions (knowing I could easily remove them) and I was perfectly content just holding onto my hand of removal and weapons while waiting.

On the flip side is that part of the skill of playing Control Warrior is knowing when to pull the trigger and start blowing through the durability of your weapons. At some point it will be worth it to start pressuring with your weapons, while being mindful not to have too much weapon durability on board for a painful Harrison Jones swing. And while a decent number of opponent’s deck are perfectly safe to hold of to cards and wait things out, beware of the popular mill decks that thrive off players keeping too many cards in hand.

Closing out a game with a Control Warrior can happen in many ways. There’s Grommash Hellscream who has really never left the archetype. Use Gromm along with a Cruel Taskmaster, or Whirlwind, or even play him before swinging in with the last durability of a Death's Bite for four extra damage and trigger Gromm's enrage off the Deathrattle effect. There’s the old favorite Ragnaros the Firelord as well, which while not the most accurate of finishers still has the potential. In case of emergency Gorehowl can also be used to squeeze in those last seven points of damage needed to lay your opponent to rest.

There are some variants of Control Warrior decks out there. A lot of players have stopped running Brawl, but I like to keep one around for those occasions when things get out of hand and I need a reset button. I also don’t run Baron Geddon, though he is a strong pick that exerts a large amount of board control and could easily go in instead of Loatheb or Brawl. While us Warriors love our weapons, nothing says we have to love our enemies. Harrison Jones is a great addition whenever you find yourself in a lot of mirror matchups or just frequently playing against weapon-heavy decks.

New Additions

Control Warriors of today do not look that much different from those that were played pre-GvG. You still want to Whirlwind or use the Deathrattle on Death’s Bite to get sick Armorsmith and Acolyte of Pain value. But Shieldmaiden has made a great entrance with Goblins vs Gnomes. Brian Kibler recently talked about the most underrated cards in Goblins vs Gnomes and Shieldmaiden was number five. I also didn’t think much of this plate-clad gnome warrior initially. While the current version of my Warrior deck only runs one Shieldmaiden, she fits in perfectly. Any card I can play that gives me armor and is low enough mana cost for me to play Shield Slam on the same turn is worth considering including. Cabal Shadow Priest, Cairne Bloodhoof, Savannah Highmane, The Black Knight, Fire Elemental, Piloted Sky Golem, these are all 6-drops that Shieldmaiden + Shield Slam can remove on Turn 7 (well the first half of Cairne anyway).

Dr. Boom is the other big new addition from GvG. Boom is another card that was horrendously underrated when GvG spoilers started rolling out, but has quickly become one of the most played cards in the game. He doesn’t have any particular synergy with the way Control Warrior is played beyond the fact that he is just pure value. There is no easy way to deal with the fallout from Dr. Boom. Sure Big Game Hunter can take out the doctor himself, but those two Boom Bots are going to get some damage in when they’re removed (and have a good chance at taking a minion or two with them).

Know Your Enemy

Earlier I said that Control Warrior first became popular because it didn’t really have any hard counters. But lets talk about what decks can cause issues. Druid is probably the biggest threat. The minions they run are the hardest for a Warrior to remove ( Spectral Knight being the worst), and the danger of being bursted down with little warning is always present. The biggest mistake I make is not using Execute early enough. Don’t be afraid to use it on a 4/6 taunted up Druid of the Claw. Try and hold BGH for their Dr. Boom, and keep one Execute or a Shield Slam to take down Cenarius when he shows up. Druid is also the most popular mill deck currently. If you identify early on that the deck you’re playing against is a mill deck, just hold back on playing Acolyte. No need to draw any more cards than you have to.

Mech Mage/Echo Mage are two other decks to keep an eye out for. Due to our reliance on weapons, a Mage’s ability to freeze the Warrior make them a formidable foe. Yes, this was a problem that existed before GvG. However, Mages have a truly terrifying new weapon against Warriors, Snowchugger. For two mana Mages have the potential to get the chain freezes rolling before a weapon can be equipped. I cannot emphasise how much this little mech needs to die. Keep the board clear so that the Mage cannot get any cloned cards off of Echo of Medivh and you should be more than safe.

Hopefully I helped convert a few aggro players out there to the world of slower/more methodical Hearthstone play. Control Warrior really is an exceptionally strong deck archetype with a lot of variance to keep players from getting too burnt out too quickly. It will make a great addition to any player’s deck library.