Look On the Bright Side

Concept time folks! That means that not only is this deck untested, it hasn’t even been sleeved up yet. In the future (nearer than you might think) wife and I are going to be doing a DK centric episode and to kind of kick that off I thought we might start with the deck that was very briefly mentioned in that recording. Here’s the baseline:
Ghoulmaster Kalisa
Abilities (14)
2x Army of the Dead
4x Corpse Explosion
4x Tuskarr Kite
4x Frozen Core

Allies (30)
4x Broderick Langforth
4x Cairne, Earthmother’s Chosen
4x Deathcharger
4x Fungus Face McGillicutty
4x Vanessa Fairgraves
2x Mazu’kon
4x Daedak the Graveborne
4x Korgen Skullcleaver

Quests (12)
4x Darkness Calling
4x Proving Grounds
4x Rise and Be Recognized

Locations (4)
4x Shadowfang Keep

Total cards in deck: 60

The idea is something that stemmed from my efforts with Zuk’raj a couple of years ago. At the time I furiously flailing about, doing everything I could to try and make a scourge hero work. We’ve discussed that story multiple times so I won’t rehash it, but in the end I settled on running the druid/shaman hybrid. One of the advantages of scourge heroes is that they can recruit death knights of any affiliation. That is where our story really begins. Daedak the Gravebourne.

Daedak the Gravebourne
4 cost
4 attack (shadow) / 3 health
Ally Death Knight Blood Elf
Eternal, Protector
When this ally is destroyed, your hero deals 1 shadow damage for each resource you control to target opposing hero. Then, your hero heals 1 damage from itself for each damage dealt this way.

Daedak may not be green but he IS a monster. This guy almost single handedly elevated any scourge decklist I built. Against anything aggressive he isn’t just representing a possible 2-for-1 but maybe even a 3-for-1 if you steal enough tempo via a big heal (soaking up burn cards). He is one of the few protectors that I can comfortably say is a respectable play, and even if he is “just” swinging the 4 damage is not something you can ignore for long. Sometimes I wish he had a uniqueness tag, and the shadow damage isn’t preferable but hey you can’t have everything.

Really he only has 2 major downsides. The first is the paltry 3 health. That means that he can trade with 1 drops and that is a FeelsBadMan moment if there ever was one. Still, if you get a life swing with it, or eliminate the smaller threats beforehand then you could reasonably trade for something a little more appropriate. That isn’t the primary issue though. The bigger problem is that succubus that shows up in every warlock deck: Hesriana. If your opponent tags this DK with Hesriana then they will get the benefit of the death trigger. Against an aggressive deck, say Bogmara for example, this can be certain doom as you wasted a turn, they advanced a threat, and they also get to push additional damage on top of it. Suddenly our all star DK is looking like a dud. Of course not every deck is able to access the warlock pet, but it is a significant blow to the strategy. Aside from that you need to watch out that Rufus Claybourne doesn’t turn your opponent into a werewolf, otherwise you could be in for a bad time. All hope isn’t lost though.

With Friends Like These

Enter Shadowfang Keep.

Shadowfang Keep
[Exhaust], Destroy and ally you control –> You pay [2] less to play your next ally this turn.

It may be premature, but popping your Daedak a turn early is certainly better than allowing him to get RFG’d by a succubus. In the deck that I had considered for the 2016 event, this combo didn’t make the cut. I was too concerned that Tyrus would be running amok and as such it would be raining Hesriana’s. In retrospect if I had searched a bit more I maybe would’ve kept that plan maindeck as there is another death knight more than happy to keep Daedak out of harm’s way.

Well sort of.

Korgen Skullcleaver
4 cost
4 attack (melee) / 4 Health
Ally Death Knight Orc
Destroy another ally you control –> Target orc ally has ferocity this turn.

Conveniently he is a DK so congrats scourge heroes. Also at 4/4 he has respectable stats, the activated power however is where the gears really start turning. A long time ago Brok Bloodcaller wasn’t an uncommon sight. While Korgen needs some, let’s call it motivation, to get going he can punch things just as effectively and may net you some direct damage along the way by chewing up blood elf death knights and hulking out. Or he can go full SMorc and charge into your opponent’s face.

Korgen Skullcleaver may end up being the missing piece for this strategy. Previously you were forced to try and either draw into SFK or manage to ram your stuff into your opponent’s stuff and ideally profit along the way. The addition of this 4 cost ally gives you another repeatable, but possibly more importantly free destruction outlet. Since I missed him the first time around I was stuck trying to shoehorn things like the quest Betrayal. In short, those options were lacking. Sure you get outlets to help trigger your effects but they didn’t really have a function on their own and as such required multiple pieces to come together. At worst this guy is a 4/4 for 4. Nothing to write home about but you won’t feel completely awful about it.

The remainder of the deck is a best hits collection of DK staples such as Corpse Explosion, Army of the Dead, and Deathcharger. Then you have more synergistic options such as Vanessa and “Fungus Face” that give you a little something extra when they sacrifice themselves for the team. The latter also addresses an ongoing issue (hah!) that I have with the death knight class in general, at least on the red side. You typically have problems dealing with ongoing abilities since Cromarius doesn’t play well with Tuskarr Kite which is essentially mandatory. Usually you run the risk of the 3 drop getting eaten by Hesriana or other RFG effects before he can put in enough work. Well with this build you can immediately ship him off to his final resting place to ensure you get rid of annoying abilities. Death Knights are well equipped to address opposing allies and since you are getting a little farther ahead each time there is a trade due to all your death effects, you can snowball a small advantage into a wall of doom for your opponent.
I also wanted to call out the 6 drop, Mazu’kon. I am not entirely sure whether he is worth it in classic. Don’t get me wrong a 6/6 with ferocity is a serious threat. In the land of (effectively) 4 cost master heroes and infinite crustacean-fish mutants he may not actually be as scary as he once was. That being said in this setup you can relatively easily crank out the 12 damage play with the aid of SFK or Korgen. Closing a game out in that fashion answers a lot of problems since you’ll have a non-zero number of games where you just look at your opponent and go “oops your dead”. You also can ramp into him via SFK fueling it with any number of token allies generated by several cards in the deck. He gives the current list that last punch you want after chipping away with 3/3’s, some drain life effects, and the occasional exploding cadaver.

In the end I am concerned for the deck though. It still can’t really address that many things that don’t have a health stat. Opposing equipment or an oversaturation of ongoings could be problematic. Remove from game effects can be played around but you aren’t happy to see them. Of course the deck could also be super clunky both with respect to draw as well as curve. Plus I am sure a few readers are screaming at their monitors “WHY IS THERE NO DETHVIR?!”. At this point I wanted to try the deck without him, but both Dethvir the Malignant and Undercity are on the short list for inclusions. You could of course switch to a different hero and maybe gain Silvermoon City or something but it is tough to lose both Kalisa and undead. More than a few flaws are apparent when looking at this initial draft but just consider those opportunities for improvement.

How Exactly Does One ‘Twist’?

As mentioned earlier, just finishing the game makes a lot of problems disappear and maybe that is the best approach! There is also room for creativity in changing around allies, heroes, even factions. I think anyone could’ve guessed I am working on a scourge version since you get even more death effects such as Gardos Gravefang before you even consider the advantages of possibly delving into the dual class options. Going alliance means you lose access to Daedak but you’d have to weigh it against the alternatives you get from the blue side.

One thing I’d like to point out is the portability of this shell though. The scourge direction has been outlined but really you can stuff this idea into any class you want since the cornerstones are allies. The strategy is more general like aggro or control than a specific class based synergy. Death Knight was my starting point simply because Wife and I were discussing them recently. While there are benefits to sticking to that class you can easily go outside of that comfort zone and find useful tools elsewhere. For example, every class was granted a “twisted” ability in Twilight of the Dragons. How does draining your opponent for X life and drawing 2 cards sound? Or Maybe getting an 8/8 ferocity pet out of the deal? If you want to pressure and disrupt you can destroy Daedak, nuke an ally for 3, and make your opponent discard a card! If those cards don’t excite you then word on the street is that the leader of a certain dragonflight is crazy. In fact his entire flight are more than a little out there, there are a few friend you could make there if you are looking to destroy your own stuff for some gains.

In the end, it isn’t uncommon in card games to have decks that revolve around destroying your own stuff, although it has generally been a rarity in the WoWtcg by design. This gameplan is only one way to try and abuse that idea, definitely chime in if you are running something similar and how it is working for you! Check in next time for more random’s thoughts.

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