So you want to master the Paladin?
Welcome to the Paladin corner of Hearthstone. Paladin is by far my favorite character to play, even before the arrival of the Goblins vs. Gnomes expansion (GvG) which made our dear Paladin much more competitive on the Ladder. He was the first character to take me to rank 5 (thank you Tirion) back in the not so distant past. The Paladin is golden. Literally.
Paladin sees a lot more use in competitions now that GvG gave him some sweet early game cards (much needed against more aggressive decks) as well as a great new combo effect, which is not too different from the Druid’s finishing combo. I can’t forget the lovely new Legendary, which is actually playable unlike a lot of the other GvG class-specific Legendaries – it goes very well with the way that Paladin fields a lot of bodies on the board.
You will come across the golden dandy fairly regularly on the Ladder (the 26 ranks of ranked play) – he is pretty versatile so there will be fast, midrange, and slower decks crossing your path. I prefer to play control – but feel free to call it ‘slow’, if you want to call it that.
In the following sections I will start by looking at some of the class-specific cards that make Paladin tick (and tock) before moving on to building a beginner deck, using only free cards. Then we will add to it, looking at how best to boost the deck with other cards. I will consider what to craft first for our brave Paladin in order to make him shine ever more brightly.
I will then switch my attention to the different builds running up and down the Ladder. Don’t worry, we won’t forget to consider the current meta (the way that the game changes as a whole as some strategies and cards become more popular).
Paladin as a class
Paladin’s class power is strong in both standard play and in the Arena. The ability to field a constant stream of 1/1 minions is useful against characters that can’t deal with it using their class power. Now there are ways to take advantage of the tokens in other ways – there is a Legendary who becomes stronger with friendly minions dying and there are effects that work well with these minions. Never forget the Quartermaster.
Paladin can muster a lot of diverse effects – there are divine shields aplenty, he can heal using cards or minions, he’s got a lot of secrets, he’s got a lot of buffs, and he’s got card draw. Most of these effects and the cards granting them don’t get used that much, though – I practically never see anyone playing any of the secrets since GvG, while the buffs are used very rarely and practically only for synergies (combined effect of 2 or more cards). Apart from Lay on Hands, possibly Divine Favor if you are playing it quick, no other class-specific card gets used much for either card draw or healing. It’s lucky that Paladin has a lot more going for him.
Area of Effect (AOE) damage is very important in Hearthstone and Paladin’s Consecration deals an adequate 2 points of damage, which can stop aggro (stands for aggressive) decks in their tracks. Most importantly, it synergizes with Equality like french fries with ketchup (unless you are into mayonnaise). Equality is an amazing card that can get rid of heavy duty threats and/or entire boards. While for me the two cards are the best way to utilize Equality (and it’s always necessary to use them at the appropriate time, as using them before their time is a great way to lose the game), there are other ways to synergize with Equality – for example using Wild Pyromancer, using a 1/1 minion spawned by the hero power to take out big minions, or through using Muster for Battle or Knife Juggler.
Shielded Minibot is an amazing new 2 mana minion that can often take down 2 early game minions, making Paladin stronger in the early game. Aldor Peacekeeper is another wonderful card with its effect that turns big creatures into puny weaklings – it works wonders against late game minions or can be used early against more aggressive opponents. Last but not least is the Guardian of Kings who is a bit outdated now but can work as a late game minion who also brings in a bit of health. I prefer using an Antique Healbot in his place, but don’t let me dissuade you from giving him a try. He gets lonely.
Out of the buffs, the only one I see used is the Blessing of Kings, which synergizes well with Echoing Ooze, or possibly Flying Machine if you want to be original. Like any other buff, the element of surprise is what counts most.
Paladin has got not 1, not 2, but 3 awesome weapons. Truesilver Champion can easily take out 2 mid-game minions and heal you in the process, an absolute must before the advent of the Coghammer – which I like a lot too, as it is cheaper and works against aggro well as it also buffs a random minion with divine shield and taunt. This combination of effects makes it strong both early and late game. Last but not least, actually – for me definitely least, is the Sword of Justice, which I love but don’t play anymore. It’s a great weapon for buffing minions but it takes time to get some use out of it – although it synergizes rather wonderfully with Muster for Battle.
Oh yes, Muster for Battle. Not only is it great against early aggro attacks, not only does it give you a weapon (watch out for opponents’ Harrison Jones), not only does it draw out the opponent’s AOE,and not only does it fill the board against an opponent’s Sylvanas Windrunner, but it also synergizes with a lot of other cards. Obviously, it’s designed to work with Quartermaster, which can give you a strong board at turn 5 (turn 4 with the coin), or finish a game. It also works well with Knife Juggler who jumps with joy as each new friendly minion joins the fray. If you are in need of card draw, try to use it along with a Cult Master.
With Paladin I finally found a character whose Legendaries are all brilliant – not only are they brilliant visually, they are also very effective. Tirion Fordring is pretty much my favorite class-specific Legendary – he’s strong at 6/6 while still being safe from a Big Game Hunter (BGH), which counts in the current meta. Hey, he’s also got a divine shield and taunt. If that wasn’t enough, he gives you a 5/3 weapon as he dies. Could you really ask for more than that? Obviously, when using Tyrion, it’s necessary to figure out whether it’s likely that a Hex or a Polymorph could be coming his way, or whether a silence could take him down a notch (but luckily, even when silenced he is useful enough).
Bolvar Fordragon is also an interesting addition to the fold; especially now that Paladin is fielding more minions, most of which are inevitably going to die. This makes Bolvar‘s resolve, as well as his attack power, ever stronger. Often I will bring him out before his attack goes over 6 (BGH, remember?) but I sometimes use him as a finisher, in which case I wait for my opponent to use his BGH first. As with Tirion, silence makes Bolvar a sad puppy.
Starting Paladin Deck
Below I will list a deck built entirely out of basic cards (cards that are available from the start, as well as class-specific cards granted for reaching level 10 with Paladin, which is best done in Practice mode), with an explanation of how the deck works and some basic strategy for its use. This deck is great for a Hearthstone beginner and costs nothing at all. Yes, you heard me right – nothing at all. No gold or dust. Seriously.
We will then briefly look at some possible additions and improvements to the deck, counting our dust in order to figure out which cards it would be best to craft first.
- 1x Blessing of Might
- 2x Truesilver Champion
- 2x Blessing of Kings
- 2x Consecration
- 2x Hammer of Wrath
- 2x Guardian of Kings
- 2x Acidic Swamp Ooze
- 2x Bloodfen Raptor
- 2x Novice Engineer
- 1x Raid Leader
- 2x Razorfen Hunter
- 2x Shattered Sun Cleric
- 2x Chillwind Yeti
- 2x Frostwolf Warlord
- 2x Boulderfist Ogre
- 2x Stormwind Champion
This deck is very buff heavy, which takes advantage of Paladin’s class power. Having more minions on the board comes in handy when using Raid Leader, Frostwolf Warlord and Stormwind Champion. Razorfen Hunter can be of use when looking for more minions as it automatically brings in 2. Blessing of Might and Blessing of Kings can make a tough fighter even of your lowliest minions, allowing you to take out bigger enemies. It’s a good idea to use buffs on the turn you’re actually going to use the minion to deal damage in order to catch your opponent unaware and disrupt his or her plans. This applies to Shattered Sun Cleric too.
Hammer of Wrath is in the deck mostly for removal, but the card draw effect comes in handy too. Novice Engineer will serve as another source of card draw. Consecration works best against a fuller board or as a way to stop an aggressive player who fields a lot of low health minions. Truesilver Champion will once again work mostly as removal. Guardian of Kings is a relatively strong minion who can raise your health a little if you are getting close to dying.
Acidic Swamp Ooze is most useful for its Battlecry, which destroys weapons – consequently it is a good idea to keep it in hand against characters who use weapons – particularly Warriors, Paladins, Rogues, Hunters and to a smaller extent Shamans. Against classes that don’t use weapons, it serves as a standard 2 mana drop. Knowing when to play this card is a valuable skill to develop, and it requires the ability to identify and predict the opponent’s probable deck build (i.e. is the Shaman you are facing going to be carrying a Doomhammer?).
Depending on who you are playing against (which class and deck speed you are facing), it may be a good idea to use your hero power instead of placing a low cost minion. There are lots of opportunities in this deck for getting the advantage through having lots of minions on the board.
New Cards to Get
There is a large number of cards that will help your Paladin soar to new heights. Some of these cards are currently used in just about every deck, given how powerful they are. Some of them serve a very specific purpose that no other card serves as well. I will first give a list of useful cards based on whether they come from the Classic, Naxxramas or GvG sets. I will then briefly mention the cards most worth getting.
- Equality (wonderful removal, plays well with others, i.e. synergizes well with several cards, kind of essential)
- Ironbeak Owl/Spellbreaker (Paladin lacks a class-specific silence inducer, and I tend to like carrying one)
- Knife Juggler (lovely with good old Muster for Battle)
- Big Game Hunter (Paladin already has a lot of removal, not forgetting Aldor, but Big Game Hunter can still do wonders for you, especially in the current meta, against high-cost control decks and especially against Handlock)
- Defender of Argus (you need 2 minions on the board to make this card useful, which you are likely to have if you are playing a Paladin who fields lots of minions – works both as a buff or as a way to slow down your opponent)
- Aldor Peacekeeper (an adequate minion at 3/3, he brings big boys to tears)
- Lay on Hands (late game card draw, gives some health for that wasted turn)
- Tirion Fordring (exceptional Legendary)
- Zombie Chow (wonderful for early game stopping power as it is just 1 mana)
- Echoing Ooze (early game, or later to synergize with buffs)
- Haunted Creeper (hard to remove early game, lovely with a Knife Juggler)
- Harvest Golem (early game, hard to remove)
- Loatheb (one of a kind Legendary that protects from AOE, other spells and prevents board wipes – it can protect your board in order to set up for a lethal attack next turn. I don’t tend to run him with Paladin)
- Kel’Thuzad (If lacking in other late game Legendaries, it is a worthy pick and it doesn’t need to be crafted, it can also give you a definite win in your late game as it brings back dead minions. Works well with Paladin.)
Goblins vs. Gnomes
- Shielded Minibot (amazing early game minion)
- Coghammer (either early game removal or more useful for that divine shield and taunt later on)
- Muster for Battle (you must, must, must have this card)
- Quartermaster (not a bad idea to grab this one too if you are running Muster for Battle – which you are running, right?)
- Piloted Shredder (very strong for 4 mana, sticky and hard to remove)
- Piloted Sky Golem (same story, different mana cost, arguably more useful than Cairne Bloodhoof because of its high attack value)
- Bolvar Fordragon (if you are counting on having a lot of minions on the board, you could choose worse than him)
- Dr. Boom (most decks run this card nowadays and with good reason – lots of value even if the good doctor gets killed, leaving behind 2 bombs)
I tried to list all of the most important cards but there are far more cards that you can use to make your deck stronger. I didn’t list all of the useful Legendaries as there are so many of them by now and a lot of them work well with Paladin. I tend to run Sylvanas Windrunner, Harrison Jones (mostly for the card draw), and The Black Knight against Sludge Belchers. Ragnaros the Firelord has fallen out of favor but he can work wonders as a finisher. If running a lot of those lovely weapons, Captain Greenskin can be of service.
Paladin has most to gain from GvG cards – Muster for Battle is a must, Coghammer is strong and Shielded Minibot is the best that 2 mana can buy. Piloted Shredder and Piloted Sky Golem are strong in any deck (which is why so many run them) and they will work well for you too. When in doubt on which Legendary to craft, Dr. Boom will work for any class and any deck, Bolvar Fordragon is fun but his bigger brother (yes, that means Tirion) means a lot more business.
Quartermaster is sadly an epic card so it may take a while to acquire it. It’s very useful: it wins games, hands down. Even if you don’t have it, opponents will tend to react to your use of Muster for Battle as if you did, so use that to your advantage. I tend to run 1 rather than 2 Quartermasters but that’s just me.
Naxxramas offers a lot of great cards – Sludge Belcher the immutable, 2 strong Legendaries worthy of inclusion in any deck and a whole range of strong early game minions, none of which are quiet as useful as their GvG counter-parts (although Zombie Chow can be great for a control deck facing a lot of aggro as it comes in very early and protects the board before Paladin’s big-hitters show up).
The Classic card set offers several important cards – we have Aldor Peacekeeper, Equality and Lay on Hands, all of which come close to being essential. Depending on what you are going for, silencers or the good old BGH can help a lot too.
When it comes to the question of dust, I tend to wait until I have enough dust to craft Legendaries, possibly epics. There are several worthy Legendaries and several worthy epics for Paladin and it’s a good idea to have a clear picture of where you are going with your deck and what would benefit it most. Also, you should be clear whether you want to play more classes or stick to Paladin. I play Paladin the most so I wouldn’t think twice about crafting Tirion but there are some amazing neutral Legendaries too.
I don’t tend to craft cards beneath epic – they tend to come sooner or later in packs and crafting them, even with my extreme impatience, seems like a waste of dust. I say this even when cards like Muster for Battle are so strong that you simply must have them in order to be competitive.
Most Common Deck Types
Paladin can be played in several ways and at several speeds. I haven’t seen a lot of people playing very aggressive early game Paladins but it’s certainly possible, even more so now with the new GvG cards. Divine Favor can work well for card draw in these instances. I suspect that other classes would make a more powerful attempt at aggro but why not give Paladin a try.
Midrange and Control Paladins are all over the place. It’s pretty much certain that there will be Musters in any deck and 1 or more ways to synergize with them. There may be a reliance on buffs, possibly even some Divine Shield mayhem, in which case expect a Blood Knight. I haven’t played against anyone running a lot of Divine shields lately and I have personally been unsuccessful trying to make such a deck work.
Control Paladins come in different shapes and sizes. They can be built to work better against aggro in which case you might see a Zombie Chow on top of the usual Shielded Minibot and Muster for Battle. Control Paladins always carry scary Legendaries – Tirion is a must, but there will be Dr. Boom and and probably several other, more situational Legendaries. I always run Harrison Jones and The Black Knight. Kel’Thuzad can wreak havoc in the late game if you are counting on having lots of minions on the board. You can also expect to see board wipes caused by Equality, 2 or more weapons, Aldor and probably some heals, at least in the guise of Lay on Hands.
For me, Paladin is the master of response. He can remove minions with ease, lower their attack and heal himself when he needs to. I tend to play him this way – adding neutral cards that deal Silence and remove other threats (weapons, taunters). It’s possible to play him differently and I do come across a lot of faster decks on the Ladder. With Paladin, the only problem I feel that I run into is slow card draw. Nobody’s perfect.
GvG was a Godsend for people wanting to play Paladin more competitively. Paladin is now finally a strong class to play, which shows in him being played more often in competitions. I wonder what’s going to happen to him with the next expansion – I suspect that he won’t be getting stronger as there are other characters in need of a competitive boost (definitely Rogue and Shaman).
Paladin is also considered to be a strong class in the Arena – his hero power can be a problem for defensive characters and 1/1 tokens work well against 1 health minions, which tend to show up in more aggressive decks.
As always, good luck to you in playing the shining beacon of light that is the Paladin. May you find that golden Tirion in the first pack of cards that you open and use him to spread a thousand cans of whoopass everywhere you go. See you on the Ladder.