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The Death of Control Decks

1 year ago

Death of Control Decks

By SnakeFawdz


The Death of Control Decks


A traditional control deck is one that aims to “control” the board until they either, fatigue their opponent, or out-value their opponent using strong tools. These tools include Elise the Starseeker, N’zoth, or their Death Knight card. This, of course, only describes traditional control decks. With prominent examples such as the old school control Warrior and Paladin, decks that have since fallen from grace. These decks are rarely seen today. Even if they are used you’ll rarely find success with them, except for the possibility of heavy control tournament lineups where control Paladin finds slight success. The modern control Warrior is nowhere near the same as the old style, now relying on an infinite combo that will outlast even the toughest decks.

Justicar Trueheart
(Image via Blizzard)

During The Grand Tournament, along with Goblins vs Gnomes, these types of decks had found their most prominent success. Powerful tools such as Justicar Trueheart allowed Warrior to survive through the fatigue games, along with other powerhouses, such as Dr.Boom, to help secure the late game. One of its major competitors, however, was the all-powerful Secret Paladin. The Grand Tournament had introduced Mysterious Challenger, a card so powerful that it turns six swings in tempo often won them the game on the spot. In addition to this, the powerful midrange tools for Paladin such as Shielded Minibot, or Muster for Battle, held little reason to run a full-on control style when this midrange package had such a powerful impact.

Today’s meta has changed from the days of Wallet Warrior and now focus on what is a subdivision of control decks, combo control decks. These are fairly similar to control decks in concept. They, however, contain a combo which will often win them the game on the spot. These were seen at the top of their respective metas, with decks such as Razakus Priest, RinLock, CubeLock, and the OTK Paladin. All these decks mainly stalling and aggressively drawing from their resources until they gain the correct combo to win the game. These decks were so powerful that a few were considered too powerful in the eyes of Blizzard, and as such, they cast the nerf hammer on the aforementioned Razakus Priest. A similarly powerful deck that was hit hard was Yogg Druid. This was a deck that contained many spells, which in turn strengthened the game-ending Yogg-Saron, Hope’s End, which was slammed down and had a slew of random spells that often either won or swung the board into your favor.

(Image via Blizzard)

The decline of these decks is not a one-off occurrence, as, during the launch of Whispers of the Old Gods, decks such as C’thun Warrior were able to overtake the old school control Warrior fairly quickly. At heart, it was combo control archetype. The ultimatum of C’thun at the end was nearly enough to end games on the spot, however, if the game called for it, the refuel of a Brann Bronzebeard and Doomcaller combo added two additional C’thun cards. This then provided a large amount of value which would rarely ever be stopped. There was the occasional tech choice of Tinkmaster Overspark. As Whispers Of the Old Gods came to a close these decks involving the old gods had begun to die out, with one exception. This exception came in the form of the aforementioned Yogg-Saron, Hope’s End, which was such a powerhouse that it had whole decks designed around it that were even taken to the Hearthstone Championship Tour 2016. This was used in many competitors decks with the most notable being Pavel, the winner of that year's tournament.

The most notable decline in these decks was found primarily when the Mean Streets of Gadgetzan was released, an expansion which many see as one of the most meta-warping and troublesome. The further support of highlander decks continued the trend away from traditional control decks. As powerful tools such as “Kazakus” allowed for the value needed to win many games in the popular RenoLock, along with its sister deck Reno Mage. The powerful combo of Brann Bronzebeard allowed for two Kazakus potions to be created. This generated enough value to keep the control archetype relevant. This is according to Vicious Syndicate’s meta report of January which had shown the small representation of control decks in comparison to the strong power of the Shaman and Warrior aggro variants. Typical control decks such as control Warrior and Paladin struggled to stay relevant against the Highlander decks.

Bloodreaver Gul'dan
(Image via Bilzzard)

As the first Hall of Fame and rotations hit, the hope for a resurgence of the archetype had begun. Highlander decks lost most of their power as Reno Jackson had rotated out, leaving the Highlander variants weakened. This included the loss of powerhouses such as Ragnaros the Firelord, Sylvanas Windrunner, and Azure Drake. These combo control decks had also lost Brann Bronzebeard, removing most of the possible value from the Brann-Kazakus combo. However, Un'goro had brought gifts in terms of Elise the Starseeker in a form that shuffled a fake “pack”, one which often gave huge amounts of value, and counteracted the loss of Brann + Kazakus. Another popular deck on the rise was taunt warrior. Taunt Warrior is still considered to be a combo-control deck due to the ultimatum of Sulfuras giving the player unprecedented levels of value, however, the archetype was still oppressed due to the abundance of Burn Mage, Murloc Paladin, and Jade Druid.


Knights of the Frozen Throne brought the powerhouse known as the Death Knight Cards. These cards brought in huge powerhouses that included the powerful oppressive combo of Raza-Anduin. This deck provided a powerful combo that, no matter the previous turns boardstate, had the potential to deal up to fifty burst damage simply from hand. During this time traditional control could be considered near extinction with Razakus, Jade Druid, or even the small percentage of Exodia Mage, which had an OTK combo that dealt infinite damage simply from hand, rising through the ranks. Traditional Control decks found themselves out of luck with all these combos keeping them from even being played.

As we now enter Kobolds and Catacombs, the situation is similar to Knights of the Frozen Throne, except there is a new player in the field, in the form of Control Warlock. Along with another variant that had a terrifying combo, named Cubelock. The former had their finished in the combo of dropping a Voidlord using a Dark Pack and Lackey combo. After their wall is planted, they use Rin, The First Disciple. A card that, if they avoid pressure, which is taken care of due to the Voidlord, can destroy the opponent's deck. This in turn destroying their chance to win, most of the time. The latter of Cubelock, which uses Carnivorous Cube, a cube that allows the duplication of any minion often in the form of Doomguard, enables combo kills from full health if a resurrection with Bloodreaver Gul’Dan is used right. Until recently Razakus Priest continued to oppress non-combo control decks since many could not handle the burst it would deal. Currently, the situation of Control Warrior and Paladin can be summed up in the humorous summaries written by Vicious Syndicate in their meta reports. (link down below)

Today the likes of a traditional Control Warrior, or Paladin deck, rising to the top rank has been shot out of the water. However, another rotation on the horizon coupled with new expansions, hope lives on.

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Citation: Vicious Syndicate Report (Paragraph 8):