A brief break from decklists and now we are now back to our regularly scheduled meme-ery! Recently in the RetroWowtcg facebook group the question came up about red control paladins and how to construct that sort of deck. That got me thinking about the plate class in general so I went diving back into my own notes for interesting ideas to talk about. The issue for me most of the time is: why am I playing paladin? Often it is tough to justify playing the class over alternatives. You get more universal answers, better card draw, or other unique options in several classes. There are opportunities that the Warcraft battle-priests have though. Let’s take a look.
A Strong Foundation
The previous write-up was intended to lay some groundwork, a few pillars that are axiomatic for classic. There are a few ways to discuss that topic, you could look at concepts or specific cards. Maybe archtypes and game flow. To tie it to this article I want to examine how paladins can combat the common threats presented in classic.
Step #1 is early game threats. The bad news is paladins stumble a bit here. Things like Censure are funny when targeting Rosalyne but not fantastic when they merely bounce a Garet Vice. There are some situational substitutes ready to jump in out of the side deck such as Exorcism. You won’t get the hilarious moment of Sacrificial Pact targeting Lord Jaraxxus like in hearthstone, but it will efficiently deal with any of the allies presented by typical Tyrus lists. Hammer of the Zealot isn’t terrible, but it encounters the same problem as Censure where it is not a permanent solution. This can become a serious issue in classic where an ally simply being on the board means that things like Envoy of Mortality now get that much more dangerous. If you want to lean to the janky side Guardian of the Light all but says “Destroy target attacking ally”. It is jank for a reason though and it is very limiting. In general paladins generally have a theme of reaction rather than action and as a result you have at awkward responses to early plays. Your best option really is Seal of Righteousness and if I’m playing solo paladin in classic I am not leaving home without it. You can of course fill out your 1 drop slot with allies but in we are strictly sifting through cards with a hammer in the top right you are kinda limited.
Not all hope is lost for removal. Paladins do have access to some decent removal including one of the cheapest board clears in Penance. The downside is werewolves apparently have zero interest in being penitent, and you’ll feel real bad if Dethvir says sorry for the entire opposing team. Since the allies in question are dealing the damage even Rekwa’s flip won’t help you here. Still, things like Holy Strike, Inquisition, Topple, or even Seal of Blood can be useful. The main problem with their removal suite is either it merely delays by stunning an ally, or they just cost 2 which may be too slow if you go second. The upside is much of the damage is unpreventable so it can be salvaged.
OK, so paladins may be a little awkward against those X/2 allies on turn 1, they can make up for it elsewhere surely. The second step is dealing with opposing graveyards. I’m not going to dwell on this one because you are going to need outside help. You gain access to recursion tools which will pressure opponents into dealing with your graveyard, but pallys are left high and dry for the most part. Blaze of Light is another notable sidedeck card against demon centric builds, but aside from Shadowmourne few cards actually remove things from the game. You will have to look at quests and allies to do the heavy lifting here.
Not a great start, but let’s examine tenant #3: ongoing abilities. Finally we have something to hang our hat on. As with the other healing classes paladins get access to a number of purge effects. Some are instant, some are cheap, some have secondary effects. Some even come with a sword attached. This let’s you combat the rampant issue of ongoing abilities without having to awkwardly construct your deck to squeeze in Cromarius or other ally based options. Or maybe you want to do that, at least you have the option.
So what faction do we go with?
While I’d love to make The Forgotten work, the list is regrettably forgettable. It is difficult to have a worthwhile mix of abilities, allies, and equipment while still being coherent. For this hero the big problem is explaining why you are green. If you go into red or blue you get a lot more power without really scraping the barrel when it comes to allies.
Speaking of red let’s talk about beefy paladins. Namely tauren. While you can certainly play blood elves, tauren are way more fun by default. For the list we are concocting the extra health is not insignificant either. I’m partial to Rohashu, Zealot of the Sun myself. The flip is always relevant albeit a bit clunky, though resource tradeoff compared to Naedia of Silvermoon City is something to be considered. Regardless the next debate will probably help determine this decision:
Zealotry vs. Tower of Radiance
3cc Ability – Retribution Talent
Ongoing: Heroes and Weapons you control have Sentinel (When each one exhausts for the first time each turn, ready it.)
Tower of Radiance
4cc Ability – Holy Talent
This ability enters play with four radiance counters on it.
Ongoing: At the start of your turn, remove a radiance counter from this ability. If none remain, destroy this ability.
Your hero has Assault 1 and Mend 1 for each radiance counter on this ability.
Just to get it out of the way you could get super duper memey by going blue and running In Defense of Halaa to add counters to the tower to keep it going. That’s…a thing I guess but I don’t think I would recommend it.
Now, more seriously these are legitimate reasons to go for the hammer wielding plate class. Combined with Broderick Langforth you can output some decent damage and utilize your hero as a more relevant resource than most decks. Let’s break the 2 options down:
If you go down the more vengeful path you are going to want ways to add attack to your hero. Sentinel is cool and all but if you are just running face first into things without actually doing damage then you’re in for a bad time. Broderick has already been mentioned and is probably in everyone’s mind anyway, that’s the freebie. There are other ways to increase your hero’s attack though, Crown of the Ogre King needs some help to power up but assault 3 if you have smash is threatening. Unfortunately it is headgear which is a slot that get crowded. If you go that way, likely you are going to need a super equipment heavy list to try and get Reclaimed Ashkandi into play. That gigantic sword helps solve the eternal question, do I attack their ally or their face? It instead replaces it with the question ¿Por que no los dos? Smash and sentinel pair very well together as you can see. There are jankier options like Apparatus of Khaz’goroth, but we’ll leave that the Alliance side who doesn’t have undead mages to power them up from beyond the grave. One card available to all factions though is the retribution talent Crusade. The secondary ability of auto destroying demon allies is nothing to sneeze at in classic. W’re more concerned with the first (2nd technically I guess), line of the text box.
“Your hero has +2 ATK while attacking.”
While it’d be nice to have that on defense as well beggars can’t be choosers. At a mere 3 cost you can pair Zealotry and Crusade early to keep the other side under control or just start going for the throat. Your opponent apparently did some bad stuff and it is time for a little justice! Unfortunately, your choices fall into jank territory quickly after that. Deflecting Brimstone Band just takes a little bit too long I think. That being said every counter on the ring translates to 2 damage (1 per attack) so maybe it doesn’t need to block too much damage. A single damage does definitely add up, but on turn 6? It is something to keep in mind at least. If orcs could be paladins, or they dealt more fire damage then Swift Timber Wolf and Gerwixicks could be considered but alas, not to be. What about the blue team? Ashnaar is a likely inclusion for the same reasons as Broderick. You could include Neferset Shadowlancer as there will be equipment to trigger it, but I have a feeling it may be in clots 61-64.
Retribution does provide interesting assets but they fall prey to collateral damage. Miniature Voodoo Mask will prey on both key ongoings. That’s before you consider that they are ongoings and will be popped by a number of cards that are included to address Unholy Power, Tuskarr Kite, and the myriad of other problematic abilities. You’re fighting an uphill battle with this gameplan due to other decks in the format. Then you need to think about what all that punching does to your health total. Without something like Wraith Scythe you can put yourself in striking range just by doing your thing. That being said, with Wraith Scythe you have a “Build your own The Forgotten kit”, just like it was on a late night infomercial. Just be sure to check out the fine print for side effects such as being unable to wield other weapons.
The Tower and the Tank
Tower of Radiance is your Edge of Oblivion. Sure you get 1 less attack and do a little less damage over time, but you also keep your health total in better shape and you can stack them! Not only can you stack towers on towers like you did with Legos as a kid, but your paladin can keep weapons equipped and start smashing other people’s block forts. The tower also dodges MVM nicely as it costs 4. A single Broderick in the graveyard means you can play the ongoing and swing in to crush Dethvir in a single hit. Albeit only one since your attack will decrease next turn, but it gives you a clean removal spell for the ubiquitous undead. You could go into various healing triggers since you will have a relatively reliable mend generator, or you can free up card slots by cutting other heals if you feel this 4 cost can carry the weight, or you can go all in an challenge your opponent to ever do enough damage by loading up on healing. The versatility of Tower of Radiance is a huge boon to solo oriented paladins.
It isn’t perfect though. It also is an ongoing so the moral of the story about the little ongoing that got destroyed applies here as well. You also need help to ensure clean one-shots of Dethvir or most Unholy Powered demons. The drop in both assault and mend can be an issue as well. It isn’t all dreary though.
Holy paladins sport some other powerful talents including Holy Shock. 4 unpreventable damage and 4 damage prevented can easily swing a game. On top of the healing from the tower you can theoretically race some decks, or even pretend to be aggro and burn your opponent out. 8 damage is a lot, especially if it is unpreventable. As with ret there are other talents that can be considered but they aren’t incredibly enticing at first glance. Maybe if there are a few slots left.
Big Greaves to Fill
Well those are the 2 major diverging paths, but both methodologies will have several cards in common. Depending on your faction you are of course going to run your hero-boosting-ally of choice. Odds are there won’t be many other cards with health printed on them beyond that. Wooly White Rhino actually fits decently if you want to include a mount. You get the quest cost reduction which is missing from most newer mounts and it helps you charge through protectors and armor. Charger is fine, but the impact isn’t quite there. In either case they are a mere 2. If you decide to be a mean green retribution/holy light machine they also are allies to help flip The Forgotten. One more thought on allies: black dragons. Etched Dragonbone Girdle is likely the best card draw paladin is going to get. Legplates of the Endless Void has actually done pretty decently for me if you don’t want to devote the deckslots to obsidian dragonkin and Twilight Citadel. There’s some mileage to be wrung out of Drakonids and Drudges but honestly they feel too slow. If the 4 and 3 cost were switched then maybe, but as it stands both are kinda clunky. I will say though that I love me some Sinestra. You pump out of bunch of permanents with this deck, get your swing on them let her come down and clean up. You don’t actually need to feed her all that much either. You may be able to squeeze in enough allies to get The Overseer’s Shadow working, instead of merely Bane of/Against the Illidari.
My own version leans into Resolute Aura. Imagine the aura side-by-side with Zeaoltry then you drop Jin’rohk and proceed to destroy 6+ permanents.
Granted that is living the dream territory as there’s Eye of the Storm among many other ways to disrupt it, but that’s a fun finisher. Speaking of weapons you are going to want Aldor rep. Vindicator’s Brand is a great tool in your arsenal as alluded to earlier. Alongside Righteous Cleanse you have some redundancy to deal with pesky opposing abilities. In my case I also run Scimitar of the Sirocco. There aren’t many allies to give ferocity but a nearly immortal weapon is important for many reasons. One of course is to help activate Vindicator’s Brand. The other is just to help ensure that you have a weapon. If you include Darkness Calling it is clearly a fantastic card to pitch. Rounding out my list I am also running a singleton copy of Shadowmourne. This is a holdover from Deathwish. Sometimes there is just a big monster on the other side that you need to remove and don’t want to punch. It has the advantage over more traditional targeted removal of being fetchable by Girdle of Razuvious. It will hurt, but no pain no gain right?
Moving to armor there is Girdle of Razuvious which can allow you to play more toolbox-y. Obviously Tower of Radiance would help offset the damage taken, or a certain monster hero flip. Otherwise if you are retribution you have to try to get that Wraith Scythe. Or you can sleeve up one of the most powerful paladin cards, and a hugely influential classic card in general. Voice of Reason. This shield is bonkers. A lot of decks will simply fold to it. It comes down early and it will extend the game for you. Google shaman decks ran it for a reason, and I try to find a way to include it in any deck that can run it. There are lots of other equipment to consider from Rock Furrow Boots to Bonefist Gauntlets to Shalug’doom the Axe of good lord why is this name so long? to Amani Mask of Death to even the Horseman’s Helm.
Depending on your card configuration this sort of decklist has a variety of quests available. A few have already been mentioned, as well as some location options. Some classics from an age gone by can even make an appearance. Round out all of this with some ally removal and you are on your way. You just have to keep in mind what your gameplan is and stay focused. I’ve found it is very easy to get pulled in too many directions and end up with an unworkable mess when building solo paladins. Many of their cards encourage you to dip into different strategies and that can spell disaster.
Walking the Straight and Narrow
Paladins have a tough hill to climb when trying to go it solo. They do have the tools though and can definitely catch an opponent unaware. The issue really boils down to the question at the beginning, why play paladin? While Zealotry is cool, you could play warlock and get a 4 cost “master hero”. Tower of Radiance is strong, but is it better than Deathwish + Guardian’s Plate Bracers? This class does offer some strong ability removal, some acceptable ally removal, alongside some heavy metal. The potential is there, maybe Gencon 2018 is when paladins will break out and claim a title.