Counter The Net Deck II: Deck Building 101 – The Way of the Aggro
Alright guys, last week we talked about channeling your inner creativity and building a deck outside of what EVERYONE else is using on the ladder. If you’re new to this series I highly recommend reading the article prior to this one which you can find here: (Part I) to get your feet wet. We’re about dive a bit deeper into the first component of building a solid, viable, competitive and most importantly a creative deck.
As I mentioned in the previous article, this particular series is designed for two types of readers (well, three types if we include net deck panhandlers who are looking for a change). My audience should be either the FNG (friggin’ new guy) or the individual who desires to build a competitive deck (and no doubt has even given it the old college try) of their own, but feels too overwhelmed to make any significant progress.
Primarily, if you’re reading this you should also be someone who is on the fringes of boredom, having to succumb to “net decking” Secret Paladins, Dragon Priests, Mech Mages, Control Warriors or whatever deck is the flavor of the season that everyone else on the ladder is using. If you don’t consider yourself a bona-fide, card-carrying member of any of those fore-mentioned groups, don’t let the door hit you on the way out.
For those of you who are left, today I’m prepared to offer you a choice between continuing with your net decking; your sorry excuse for no-originality-lazy bones-approach to the game. Or on the other hand, I’ll offer you the opportunity to follow me through wonderland, where I’ll show you just how deep the rabbit hole truly goes.
Last week we stripped Hearthstone decks down until we were left with 4 main exoskeletons: aggro, control, combo, and midrange. If you remember, the first step in deck design is deciding which deck archetype you’re choosing as a foundation with which to build your masterpiece.
Today we’re going to take out our magnifying glasses and dissect the aggro archetype. In the previous article of this series, I’ve already provided you a snap shot of not only aggro, but of each deck archetype to whet your appetite.
For now let’s further examine the annoying-to-play-against aggro deck. Roll up your sleeves and join me as we really start getting our hands dirty, as we discuss this more in-depth. The dream is, that by the end of this series I’ll have given you the know how to implement a high level of annoyance, you dirty-little-no-good-face-cheaters.
Aggressive Deck Cornerstones
In this guy’s humble opinion, this deck type is probably the more straight-forward and easiest to implement of the four. For your convenience I’ve taken the liberty of listing a few of the Aggro’s decks cornerstones:
Short-Round Minions: Remember Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Doom? If you don’t or worse yet you’ve never seen this fine specimen of classic cinematography, go throw yourself off a cliff because you’ve got bigger problems in life than deck building (and you’re probably a very weird dude to begin with anyway). Anyway I digress, in this film Indiana Jones had this 12-year old-ish comic relief side-kick named Short Round, who really helped the bull whip wielding Dr. Jones with his kick-assery of the baddies both large and small. Sure Short Round was small in stature, but he was large in heart–where it truly mattered. This is the EXACT type of minion we’re after for this deck build, and copious amounts of them.
We need a hefty supply of low-cost, high value minions with which to meet our win condition. If only Indy had a well-trained, battle hardened, army of Short of Round side kicks at his disposal he could’ve grabbed his stones, kissed the girl and roll credits before you were half way to the bottom of your popcorn bucket fatty. Keep in mind though, the downside to going this route with your deck build is opponent minion removal, particularly spells—especially board wide—that severely hurts our little guys. “You call him Dr. Jones Doll!!”
He’s going the distance: He’s going for speed! Okay, you got me. In terms of total turn numbers, this deck isn’t very reliable in going the distance. In fact I’d submit to you, that if you should find yourself T5-T6, while orchestrating an aggressive style deck, your essentially sitting with your pants around your ankles within that closet-sized public restroom stall, having concluded your business meeting, only to realize there is no toilet paper available (don’t lie you’ve been there). However lucky you, you aggro-centric-face-bashing-dog, you don’t need to go the distance. All you truly need, is the need for speed! The goal is to bring our opponent to his knees from 30 to 0 as quickly and efficiently as possible, using a constant and steady dose of damage.
Go with the flow: don’t stand in the way. By design, the nature of this deck type is extremely minion heavy and runs very little to no (that’s right I said it ZERO) removal spells. Laying awake at night getting caught up in hypothetical circumstances, and trying to architect this type of deck to counter more popular decks on the ladder will be disastrous. The goal isn’t to survive what your opponent throws at you, it’s to rush him down before he can defeat you. Any spells you do choose to run need to be versatile; they need to have both the ability to deal direct damage to the occasional, non-situational, very problematic minion your opponent plays AND/OR can be used directly to his face.
Low mana curve: In many ways I think I’m being a bit redundant in even considering this sub-topic-aggro cornerstone. Ensuring your deck has a low-mana curve, by this juncture should be pretty straight forward. However, I see no harm in re-iterating that aggro decks need contain a bounty of cheap, high-value minions which is why this type of deck is so early game centric.
Deck Examples: The entire point of this series is to steer away from the norm and stimulate your creative juices to build a unique deck outside of what most forums and “pro” players are advocating. However, I feel it may prove to be helpful for some readers if I provide some examples, as well as some popular deck lists of strong aggro decks most people utilize on the ladder, especially if you’re new to Hearthstone: Face Hunter, Mech Mage, and of course the Warlock Zoo.
The Way of The Aggro
If you’ve decided to build your deck using an aggro archetype as your foundation, remember that these type of decks have a high saturation in the low-end of the mana curve. Point: with a few exceptions if you’re looking at 4-5 mana cost cards to include in your deck build you’re on the high end—re-evaluate. After re-evaluation should you find some of these higher-end cards are mission essential, you should run very few and the few you do run need to be extremely high-value.
For example, adding in Leeroy Jenkins a 6/2 minion for 5 mana with charge is an expensive buy, but it’s still good value for this type of deck. This card is often utilized as a finisher, propelling your sticky buns up and over the finish line. However, adding in good ol’ Leeroy as well as 2 Piloted Shredders and Jeeves for card draw is self-destructive and by definition is no longer an aggro deck. By this point you’re teetering on the border of a mid-range deck at best, at worst you’ve gone off the reservation altogether and your deck has totally lost all identity.
Don’t forget aggressive decks by nature are full on sprints to the finish line, not a marathons. Consequently, you want to begin applying pressure right out of the gate. As mentioned above, steer clear of removal spells and always remember aggro decks in Hearthstone need be very minion heavy.
There’s also a caveat to this type of build you need to be aware of. The nature of aggro decks causes them to be on a “timed life”. This is simultaneously both advantageous and dangerous to you, the architect. Advantageous, because you can get through more games in a shorter span of time, which is an EXTREMELY undervalued component to obtaining the ladder competition’s end state: Legend (The “how to” of which I’ll cover in a future series). Dangerous, because if you are unable to finish the game quickly enough, the power of your deck will wither and fall prey to a more stabilized deck that will drop bigger, meaner, more wicked threats like Ragnaros the Firelord that will end in your ultimate demise.
Ideally, you want your enemy to be within lethal range somewhere between T4-T5. Having said that, I realize that with Hearthstone (compared to MTG) this is a difficult feat to achieve, because of the availability of a larger health pool (30 vs. 20) and low-cost AoE damage spells. There is a direct proportional relationship between losing games and the amount of time that you spend rushing down your opponent while using an aggressive build . The longer the game goes, your probability of losing increases exponentially.
Have I succeeded in tickling your little brain cells yet? Have they giggled like a little school girl during recess (TEE-HEE)? Good, because get ready I’m about to zig, right as you’re about to zag. I’m about to go down just as you’re about to go up. You’re that high school defensive-end I juked left, while he went right, with nothing left to show for it except nightmares of the backside of my NO.22 Jersey in the end zone. I’m preparing to throw a curve ball your way.
Despite, everything we’ve discussed about aggressive decks they are not completely about blind aggression. This is important, so I’ll say it again: Aggressive decks ARE NOT completely all about blind aggression. I’ll be the first to admit such decks do exist and the experienced player can find lots of success with an aggro build that is face centric.
However, it’s important to note that due to the proactive nature of Hearthstone minions, bashing them into your opponents face every turn isn’t necessarily the objective. Situation will dictate, but using your minions to trade and establish board and game control can be every bit as important in establishing a win as rushing everything you got into your opponent’s face. Balancing face with trade and face with control is a tricky concept to master (but take heart because I’ve taken the liberty of writing an article on this very subject right here: (The case 4 face vs hoard for board), and in doing so have single-handedly willed you to victory). However, if aggro is the way your leaning it is an essential component to success.
Before we start wrapping up, let’s take a second to examine a few aggro deck staples that are popular in the current meta: Face Hunter, Zoo, and Mech Mage (though with the release of TGT these 3 are losing some steam.) I want to re-iterate that the purpose of this guide is provide you the ingenuity and know-how to build viable decks of your own on your own (I’m pushing creativity), and to that end I’m hesitant to provide deck lists of readily available decks that will ultimately negate my whole purpose is writing this series. However, I also recognize the need to provide you with adequate examples of aggressive, face bashing decks because your ability to grasp these concepts outweighs the temptation they offer to copy and paste them into your saved deck lists. Having said all of that, lets pause a second and look at little closer at these examples.
I’d like to call your attention to the fact that all three deck lists have very common themes. You’ll find that all of them run upwards of approx. 22 minions, which equates to about 73% of the deck; they’re all within the 1-4 mana ranges; and they all run a very small amount of high mana cost fatties as insurance policies for the later stages of the game. Bear in mind also, while constructing your aggressive deck using these three examples as a point of reference, that they not only have similarities, but they also have fundamental differences.
Many of their differences can be attributed to the hero power that correlates to the hero class they mother-hen from. It’s a definite point of emphasis that I caution you to not forget to account for, readily utilize and to an extent build around each hero’s individual hero power. Many players causally dismiss this component of deck design, regardless of what archetype they’re constructing and doing so is fool hardy. The Warlock Zoo, is not afraid to have more early drops than other hero classes primarily because it knows that the hero power (life tap) will resupply the hand. The Face Hunter on the other hand, has the means to slow down the mana curve because Steady Shot will apply essentially the same pressure on the opponent. I’ve seen firsthand, many aggro hunter decks that will run an occasional Sludge Belcher to counter other aggressive decks (hello, I’m looking at you Secret Paladin) as means of hiding behind a taunt while still firing rounds down range at the face. The Mech Mage can afford to run even a little slower, because of Mechwarper which accelerates the mana curve allowing half of the deck to be somewhere in the 3-4 mana range. Plus, Mage can approach games from a bit more of defensive mind-set, using their fire blast ability to ping smaller enemy minions or get in that last damage point for the victory.
One final strategy tip, I’d like to leave you with before we wrap up. A couple of aggressive deck builds, particularly Face Hunters incorporate Secrets into their into their design. Cards like Explosive Trap are a low-cost, high-value damage inflicting resources, that not only fry your opponents minions board-wide, but also singe the opposing enemy’s hero when triggered. When used in conjunction with Mad Scientist, their value is multiplied ten fold because you’re essentially gaining a 2 point damage spell that is face directed AND board clear for free. The tip here is applied when deciding to Mulligan upon your opening hand, which can be applied to any deck build that runs Secrets. Should you find even a single Secret during that initial opening, get rid of it immediately in order to gain further value out of both Mad Scientist and the Secret itself. Why hold onto and pay for a card, that with patience and fortitude you cast and benefit from in the game’s latter stages for free?
My hope is that this article has been beneficial and insightful to you in some way. If you were able to take away something from this article, I encourage you to set your eyeballs to PART I of these series also. My objective was to provide an in-depth prospective on the aggressive archetype deck build. There are 3 other archetypes remaining that we’ll discuss further in future articles at great length, and we’ll also examine how all 4 tie into our ultimate goal: Building a deck no one else is using on the ladder.
There are several key components needed to reach that end state, so I realize the fundamental core of every deck will be similar–therefore there is no way to be 100% original but my goal is to provide you with the tools and knowledge necessary to get as close as possible, or at least encourage you to think outside the box. If nothing else to I’d like for this article to have been a breath of fresh air, if you’re tired of playing with or against the same stale, old net decks every season.
I’ve enjoyed our journey thus far, and I look forward to taking you further down the rabbit hole. Until then, keep gaming.