So you want to master the Warrior?
Welcome to the Warrior corner of Hearthstone. I have been purposefully putting off writing a guide for this class, given that there was so little to write about. Warrior used to be fairly boring and unvaried, with only one way to play it competitively. Warrior was famous for fielding the most expensive Control deck in Hearthstone, as it was filled with Legendaries, often with little variation between individual builds – usually revolving around the possible addition of Brawl.
Since the Blackrock Mountain expansion, a new type of deck and an entirely new way of playing has emerged: ladies and gentlemen, hang on to your hats and say hello to the Grim Patron. Yes, he brings in a lot of fun, with a healthy dose of masochism (hitting him gets the best out of him, as long as you’re not hitting too hard). He is heavily responsible for rejuvenating a class that was getting a bit stale. I can’t begin to express how happy I am with this new card and with what it brings to the game.
But let’s get back to the guide. In the following sections, I will start by pointing out the most useful class-specific cards that Warrior has at his disposal. I will then go and rally the troops for you so that we can build a free starting deck together, using the total sum of 0 dust. Don’t worry, we won’t forget to have a look at possible further additions to the deck, as always. I will then hop on to the Ladder (the 26 ranks within ranked play) and give you more details on the particular Warrior builds that are running up and down it. I might also take the opportunity to briefly mention the meta (the way that the game changes as a whole as some strategies and cards become more popular).
Warrior as a Class
Warrior’s class power is one of the main reasons why until recently he’s only been played as a Control class competitively. It’s hard to play him aggressively, even if he has the cards for it, if the class power is so defensive. Given that some Warrior cards benefit from armor (Shield Slam), the class power has utility beyond just getting armor (which is basically more health). Getting more armor is useful in and of itself, as Control decks make it all the way to fatigue more often than other types of decks.
Warrior is not at all a popular class for Arena – once again, this is mostly to do with the class power, but also the relatively small number of class-specific cards that are truly useful in Arena.
Warrior has a lot of very strong weapons, lots of cards that grant armor, very good removal spells and a number of cards that deal 1 point of damage to a Minion or to the entire board – which is something that many of the Warrior’s combos tend to take advantage of.
Let’s start with the Minions. Armorsmith is lovely when you manage to play it so that it generates a hefty amount of armor for you, and it can also work as an early drop against low-value Aggro Minions. Cruel Taskmaster is a must in most decks, not as a turn 2 drop but for its Battlecry which can take out 1 health Minions, charge Grommash, get you a card from damaging Acolyte of Pain, give you another Grim Patron, take an enemy Minion to 7 attack so that you can take it out with a Big Game Hunter, and so on… The sky is the limit.
Frothing Berserker works nicely when there are lots of Minions on the board as Warrior has ways to deal 1 point of damage to the entire board. This card can get out of control very quickly. Warsong Commander is an essential card in Grim Patron decks as it can charge up a whole army of Grim Patrons. Kor’kron Elite doesn’t see a lot of action, but he has high stats for a Charge Minion and he works wonders when playing aggressively. Shieldmaiden is another staple of Control Warrior decks – it is basically the only Goblins vs. Gnomes (GvG) card other than Dr. Boom that was added to the traditional Control deck. It’s good at 5/5, the armor comes in handy, and you can even combo it with Shield Slam.
Moving swiftly on to weapons now. Fiery War Axe is a must for early game removal – it will take out 2 early game Minions and it is the card that you want to mulligan for against Aggro decks. Death’s Bite does a lot of damage – there are numerous 4 or 5 health Minions that this weapon can help you deal with. The Deathrattle has great synergy potential – it can trigger a variety of effects that Warrior decks tend to be built around, so it’s best to wait until it can be played in this way. Gorehowl is the ultimate removal weapon as it can keep on removing Minions for a very long time.
Warrior knows a lot about removal through spells and damage dealing, too. His AOE (area of effect, very important if running behind or facing Aggro) falls down to Whirlwind, which tends to be used for combos rather than to deal damage as it only deals 1 point of damage; and Brawl, a highly unusual card which takes out all Minions and leaves just 1 standing. Execute is lovely removal at 1 mana, especially as Warrior has so many ways of dealing cheap damage that makes use of Execute possible. Shield Slam works wonders with the way that Warrior often collects vast amounts of armor. Even if he doesn’t manage to collect armor, this card can still synergize (combine effects) with Shield Block or Shieldmaiden.
Battle Rage has become useful for card draw with the advent of Grim Patron, who I can’t fail to keep mentioning. Shield Block also works for card draw, but also gives 5 armor, which is quite frankly a lot. Armor comes in handy when you lose health from removing Minions with your weapons.
Onto the Legendaries. Grommash Hellscream, as his name implies, likes to pick flowers, go on long walks in the countryside, and write poetry. When he’s not doing that, he likes to finish games by dealing 10 points of damage on the turn that he is brought in. In other words, he likes to break faces. He is the finisher in Control Warrior decks, making opponents of Warriors weary when they fall under 10 health. When playing Grommash, it is necessary to always keep a card handy that can charge him by dealing that all-important 1 point of damage.
Iron Juggernaut is not terrible, yet almost no one plays it. Its effect deals 10 points of damage at a random time to the enemy hero, which can come in handy in longer matches, but Control Warrior is already strong in Control matchups so Iron Juggernaut doesn’t add anything to the deck that the deck was missing. Not forgetting how difficult it is to find space for new cards in a deck that’s already so well balanced and difficult to change. In faster games, the random effect rarely even comes into play.
Starting Warrior 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 Warrior. This is best done in Practice mode), with an explanation of how the deck works and some basic strategy.
We will then briefly look at some possible additions and improvements to the deck, counting our dust in order to figure out which cards to craft first.
- 2x Execute
- 1x Whirlwind
- 2x Fiery War Axe
- 2x Cleave
- 1x Heroic Strike
- 2x Shield Block
- 2x Kor’kron Elite
- 2x Arcanite Reaper
- 2x Acidic Swamp Ooze
- 2x Bloodfen Raptor
- 2x Razorfen Hunter
- 2x Shattered Sun Cleric
- 2x Chillwind Yeti
- 2x Gnomish Inventor
- 2x Sen’jin Shieldmasta
- 2x Boulderfist Ogre
This is a strong starting deck that is very easy to play – with the exception of Execute, there is very little to plan for in terms of synergies. It can teach a player how best to use weapons – which is to remove Minions rather than starting off by going for the face.
It’s a good idea to mulligan for Fiery War Axe – it will take out 2 Minions at the beginning of the game and start you off nicely. Whirlwind and Cleave can be used to remove enemy Minions, but also to harm a Minion in order for it to be removed by Execute.
For card draw, we have Shield Block and Gnomish Inventor. Kor’kron Elite can finish the game or come out of nowhere to remove a Minion that your opponent was counting on keeping for the next turn. It’s a good idea to take advantage of Shattered Sun Cleric‘s Battlecry on the turn that you summon it by using the Minion being buffed to take out a Minion previously safe, or survive an encounter it wouldn’t have otherwise.
I love Acidic Swamp Ooze. 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 can be played on turn 2. Knowing when to play this card is a valuable skill to develop – it’s useful to be able to predict which weapons your opponent will be carrying.
New Cards to Get
There are a lot of cards in Hearthstone now, given that we are nearing 3 expansions behind us already. Consequently, I will not list every single card that you may find of use – the list may be long enough to break the Internet. I don’t want that, you don’t want that. Instead I will list the most popular cards in decks currently being played competitively. I will distinguish these cards based on whether they come from Classic, Naxxramas, GvG, or Blackrock. I will then briefly mention the cards most worth getting.
- Shield Slam (an amazing removal spell that synergizes with the class power and armor giving cards)
- Armorsmith (Control Warrior likes this guy)
- Cruel Taskmaster (everyone likes this guy, usually used to take out 1 health Minions or to activate something or someone through the 1 damage it can deal)
- Frothing Berserker (he can grow to epic proportions if there are lots of Minions on the board, best protected by a Minion with Taunt and played at the right time)
- Battle Rage (card draw if you are planning on fielding lots of Minions, looking at you brother Grim)
- Commanding Shout (another Grim Patron synergy card)
- Brawl (takes out the whole board, useful against those pesky Aggro decks)
- Gorehowl (the ultimate Minion removal tool, not so popular nowadays)
- Grommash Hellscream (finisher for Control Warrior and an all-around good guy once you get to know him)
- Ironbeak Owl (given that Warrior has no silence inducing Minions, this owl can come in handy)
- Acolyte of Pain (card draw in most Warrior builds, given that Warrior can easily dish out 1 damage to individual Minions or to the board; best played at the same turn as a 1 damage dealing card – smart opponents remove them quickly)
- Big Game Hunter (with Dr. Booms running amok everywhere, the BGH is never out of work)
- Dread Corsair (this card comes cheap or for free if you happen to be holding a weapon, can be useful for its Taunt)
- Harrison Jones (the usefulness of this card entirely depends on the number of weapon-wielding opponents in the meta; it can be very useful for card draw)
- Sylvanas Windrunner (always gives a headache to an opponent if played at the right time and without the possibility of being silenced)
- Baron Geddon (apart from being relatively badass at 7/5, it also does AOE damage each turn, which is useful for Warrior as he is not that good at dealing AOE in general, vulnerable to BGH)
- Ragnaros the Firelord (until Dr. Boom, Ragnaros was the biggest baddest late game Minion, susceptible to BGH)
- Alexstrasza (8/8 is great, even better that it can take your opponent down to 15 health, sometimes it can save you from a certain death by setting you at 15 health)
- Unstable Ghoul (I love this card if I am facing lots of Aggro, also the 1 damage to the whole board can be utilized by a great many Warrior cards)
- Death’s Bite (essential weapon – strong on its own, but the 1 AOE damage is incredibly useful, good timing required when using this weapon)
- Sludge Belcher (best Taunted Minion in the game)
- Loatheb (if lacking in Legendaries, this one will do, even if it’s uncommon to see him in Warrior decks; useful for board protection and to stop imminent spell use)
- Kel’Thuzad (same story, different (more expensive) card – can be less useful in Control decks as Control Warrior tends to have his Minions dying until finally one survives)
Goblins vs. Gnomes
- Shieldmaiden (great card, armor is always helpful and can be very useful even in Aggro matches that don’t go too quickly)
- Dr. Boom (he is good, let’s give him that, and he is also everywhere – even if a BGH gets him first, there are 2 bombs left behind)
- Grim Patron (unsurprisingly, the essential component of a Grim Patron Warrior deck; lovely and fun card)
- Emperor Thaurissan (if lacking in other Legendaries, this one will do, and very useful in Grim Patron decks)
For once, I have listed all of the favorite Legendaries in the list above. This is because Control Warrior always fields a lot of them and unlike with a lot of other classes, the Legendaries that Warriors employ all have a specific purpose and are difficult to replace by something else. If you simply don’t have the usual ones, there are other strong Legendaries that somewhat work.
Warrior is such an expensive class to play. Control Warrior, in its full form, costs a stupid amount of dust and takes forever to collect if you are not splashing out cash. Warrior requires numerous Legendaries, some of which only get played by him (Baron Geddon), some of which get played by very few classes (Alexstrasza), most of which get played by just about any class.
Both of the expansions also are near essential – Naxxramas carries an essential weapon and some other useful cards (primarily Sludge Belcher), while Blackrock Mountain allows for the Grim Patron deck – a cheaper (in my opinion also much more fun) way to play Warrior. Highly recommended if you are willing to splash out on Blackrock.
GvG is less essential – there are some cards that can be of use, Shieldmaiden is nice and Dr. Boom is great not only for Warrior but in general. There are far, far more useful cards in the Classic card set than there are in GvG.
As always, I tend to craft Legendaries and epics only – cards of lesser rarity tend to come around eventually and it can be annoying to craft a large number of them (which costs a lot), only to see most of them in the next 10 packs that you open.
Most Common Deck Types
Warrior is not as boring as I made him out to be in my opening statement. Well, maybe he is. It used to be the case that if you made your way to higher ranks, the ultimate Control Warrior was the only type of Warrior deck you would come across, usually with next to no variation. My heart almost jumped out of my chest with excitement when I came across a Control Warrior deck that only played Legendaries with attack power under 7 – I was so excited by coming across an unusual Warrior deck that I didn’t even mind having my ass handed to me. I also had to befriend that guy straight away. Legend at heart.
I have played other types of decks as well – I tried making an Aggro deck after GvG and had some very limited success with it. I tried playing around with Minions like Raging Worgen that can be triggered by the 1 damage dealing effects that Warrior has. None of these attempts were hugely successful on the Ladder, and their potential for success was diminished with each new expansion as the Ladder got more difficult to climb with the newer, stronger cards.
Then came the Grim Patron, taking the Ladder by storm and doing a good job of becoming another viable way of playing Warrior. It’s still fairly expensive (you have to at least pay for Blackrock), but it’s far easier to accumulate the cards for this deck than if you were aiming for full Control Warrior. If you get the chance, give this deck a try – it’s such a fun deck to play, with multiple synergies and so much strategic potential.
I am glad that I left out Warrior until Blackrock Mountain came around. I would have been bored stiff writing a guide for this class if it wasn’t for the one, the only, Grim Patron. I promise to stop talking about that card soon, really.
Warrior has been a strong class for a long time, with Control Warrior taking advantage of the few new strong cards in each Expansion, while staying more or less the same. This deck, while very expensive, is probably the strongest way to play Control at the moment.
It seems unlikely that we are in for any more surprises with Warrior cards – Blackrock Mountain is not yet fully open, but there are no other cards to be unlocked that can significantly boost Warrior or create any new possibilities. We will have to be satisfied with one of the best Control decks around and an exciting new deck built around Grim Patron.
In the future, I wouldn’t be surprised if more cards came around that made an Aggro Warrior finally feasible. There are already a few cards that would do the trick for an Aggro Warrior but something essential is still missing. Let’s wait and see.
As always, good luck in your epic Hearthstone battles. Warrior will do good by you if you do good by him. Make sure to keep a lot of dust ready to make him truly shine. Next time you meet Grommash, tell him I said hi. See you on the ladder, buddy.