Deckbuilding is a complicated and useful skill when it comes to card games, particularly Hearthstone. Such a skill can be difficult to master for beginners. There are many nuances to deck building, from managing a curve to understanding your deck’s gameplan, to properly utilizing tech cards and your matchup spread. So as theorycrafting season is upon us with the upcoming release of Scholomance Academy, I thought right now would be a wonderful time to discuss deck-building strategies.
Theorycrafting for the Wild format in the Scholomance Academy
Now, for the most part, when it comes to theorycrafting established decks in Wild, it’s usually as simple as cutting old cards for new, more powerful replacements. However, sometimes new cards fundamentally change how you build a deck. These cards cause you to look back at old cards to find the best formula for a new edition of an archetype.
However, today I have four decks I’d like to try that are pre-established decks that merely got better. I could easily show you my old lists and how I made the decisions to cut certain cards. That kind of article sounds particularly boring to me, however. I think the best way to teach valuable deck build skills truly is to act as though I’m building these lists from scratch. My first two decks are well-established in the metagame.
Starting with these two seems like a good place to establish a baseline with archetypes since most people are used to it. From there, we will work on two decks that are off-meta brews for the Scholomance Academy expansion.
Raza Priest’s return!
To start this article, I’d like to start with the deck I’m most known for, Razakus Priest. Now I know this is a well-established tier one deck. However, with my recent Top 30 with the deck, I think it’s fitting I talk about the deck, which is most familiar to me. So to begin, what is Raza Priest’s gameplan?
The goal is to assemble a three-card combo, Raza the Chained, Shadowreaper Anduin, and Spawn of Shadows. With this, you can cause an OTK (one turn kill) to close out the game. Therefore, your goal is to draw to this as quickly as possible while surviving your opponent’s gameplan; knowing this, we can begin building the deck.
Firstly, we throw in the three combo cards mentioned along with other highlander cards that support our gameplan. These come in the form of Zephrys, the Great, Kazakus, and Reno Jackson. All three of these are great survival tools and can be very flexible cards.
Secondly, we want to think about how we’re going to draw into our combo pieces. The new card Lorekeeper Polkelt is a powerful tutor effect in this deck when appropriately built. When we put all of our good cards at the top of our curve, it allows us to guarantee we top deck the cards we want with Lorekeeper.
However, we don’t always draw him, so we want a solid draw package regardless. I like beginning with the Dead Ringer package. This package includes Bloodmage Thalnos and Loot Hoarder as cheaper cycle options that you can tutor with Dead Ringer.
Mindflayer Kaahrj & Mass Dispell for Raza Priest
I also like including Mindflayer Kaahrj in this package. MindflayerKaahrj increases the consistency of Dead Ringer, always drawing a card and is a good tempo play against aggressive decks (often a better version of Piloted Shredder). A few other great cards as a base to this draw package is Novice Engineer, Northshire Cleric, and Acolyte of Pain. They’re all cheap minions that allow us to keep the board somewhat while maintaining our gameplan of cycling through our deck.
Mass Dispel is also in our draw package, while more on the expensive side, it’s a bit of a tech card in certain matchups and doesn’t have too much of a cost to run since it still helps our gameplan. Finally, to round out the draw-package we have two card selection tools in Shadow Visions and the newly released Sphere of Sapience, which allows us to control what gets placed into our hand a bit.
Next, is our removal package to help us stay alive until we can assemble our combo. Removal is plentiful in the Priest class, and it’s good to start with the basics; Psychic Scream, Mass Hysteria, Breath of the Infinite, Spirit Lash, Shadow Word: Death, Penance, and Potion of Madness. These are all pretty common cards you’ll see in controlling Priest decks. I personally like Forbidden Words over and Shadow Word: Pain and thus its inclusion.
Tech Cards for the Scholomance Academy build
Finally, at this point in the deck’s construction, I have four slots left. Here is when I start considering tech cards and what matchups I’m trying to target. Let’s talk about the new card everyone is hyping up at the moment, Mindrender Illucia. This card is insane and helps combat some of Raza Priest’s worst matchups like Combo Druids, Quest Mages, and the infamous Mecha’thunlock. This card becomes an auto-include in every Raza Priest.
The next two cards are Loatheb, and Gluttonous Ooze, which I think are the two best neutral tech cards in the format right now. They both help target multiple decks across the format, whether it’s spell centric decks or decks with important or obnoxious weapons. Lastly, we have Mind Blast, which is quite peculiar in a list without Prophet Velen.
I like it because it allows a little more reach in certain matchups, especially when you discover a second copy off Shadow Visions. It also still allows us to do 17 damage with Spawn and Anduin when we do not draw Raza, which can be enough damage to close out a game we’re falling behind in.
Luna’s Pocket Galaxy Reno Mage in the Scholomance Academy expansion
Reno Mage is also a deck close to my heart as it was the first deck I ever crafted way back when it was in the standard format. This deck is the whole reason I ever got into Wild after its rotation. Similar to Raza Priest, it runs the highlander package for survivability.
However, unlike Raza, this deck has no fancy combo to close out the game. Instead, this deck is centered around Luna’s Pocket Galaxy to cheat a lot of mana and gain massive tempo swings for the win. This deck can be very difficult to play but can be very rewarding when mastered. Nothing feels quite as good as drawing one mana minion after one mana minion with Stargazer Luna until you have a monstrous board and a full hand.
Where to Start?
The trouble with LPG Mage is there’s no clear wincondition, which makes not only piloting the deck difficult but also building it. But to begin, we’ll include our Pocket Galaxy in and our crucial highlander cards, both six-cost Renos, Kazakus, and Zephrys.
As aforementioned, the synergy with Luna and her spell is crucial for this deck and earns her a spot. Since our gameplan centers around LPG it’s good to have some way to dig for it. Tortollan Pilgrim is a great card to help discover it as long as you run a low spell count. This low spell count has great synergy with Book of Specters, which can help us dig for survival tools like Reno.
At this point, you have a very good base for an LPG Mage, and you can begin looking at the next two categories of cards; survival tools and value cards.
Surviving until LPG
The base of any survival package in Mage in the Scholomance Academy expansion begins with Flame Ward and Ice Block. These are very dumb tools, and when cheated out with Mad Scientist. We don’t only tutor them and play them for free but we also get spells out of our deck for Pilgrim and Book. From here I like putting in Volcanic Potion and Rolling Fireball.
They are pretty standard Mage board wipes in this meta. The new card Lab Partner excites me a lot. Lab Partner is a premium stated minion which makes a spell damage package seem appealing since we already run Astromancer Solarian as an early game minion. With the recent nerf to Dragonqueen Alexstrasza, I’m less inclined to run her, which makes Arcane Breath seem less appealing. Thus, Arcane Blast comes in as a replacement with synergy with our other cards.
Along with these cards I added Azure Drake as another dragon for Malygos and another spell damage minion. Devolving Missiles is a new card that helps slow down some matchups and is a decent “silence” effect. For a little more heal, Zilliax is included as a good roundabout card. As we talk about healing, it’s good to mention Alexstrasza.
Alexstrasza is a dual purpose card in the deck. Not only can Alextrasza save you in a pinch by healing you to 15 but she can also put your opponent to 15, which might be enough to close out the game. The final card I’d consider a survival tool in the Scholomance Academy build of the deck is Escaped Manasaber. While this card was a lot better when people played Dragoncaster Alanna. Escaped Manasaber still allows us to skip five mana straight to six for our Renos and helps play LPG earlier on occasion.
Value Tools for Reno Mage in the Scholomance Academy build
Generating value is important in this deck, especially when we can play a lot of cards in a turn due to their cost. Brann Bronzebeard is a great place to start, allowing us to double-dip on our very good battlecries like Kazakus or Malygos. Speaking of Malygos, the Aspect of Mage is an insane card. The spells are more often than not very powerful tools for your gameplan in each matchup. I often find myself picking the poly effect or fireball.
To complete our dragon package, we have Kalecgos, which generates mana cheat, discovers some goodies, and has a fat butt. With all these battlecries it’s great having Barista Lynchen in this deck. When everything is very cheap this card can very easily “draw” you 2-3 cards, sometimes even more, especially with a cheeky Brann Bronzebeard in play. Finally, to wrap up our value package we have the Sphere once more. This is just a very good card selection tool.
Four slots left, and we get to play with some tech cards. Firstly, is The Amazing Reno, while for the most part, it’s a staple in this meta due to its mass poly effect, I’m not a big fan of the hero power, and it’s merely in the deck to give us an edge against decks like Cubelock and Big Shaman. Next, we go right for our two neutral tech card buddies, Loatheb, and Ooze for the same reasons as mentioned before. Lastly, as a combo disruption tool, we place in Dirty Rat.
Leoroxx Burst Reno Hunter
I know, I know, *another* Reno deck. I promise this is the last one, but I can’t help myself. This one’s a little different though. Instead of the control style gameplan of the previous two decks, we have a tempo style midrange deck with survival tools and a couple of big burst finishers.
I present, Leoroxx Burst Reno Hunter. The goal of this deck is to curve out; one, two, three, four, and finish the game out with one of two big burst combos. The first one is pretty simple; Dinotamer Brann into Shan’do Wildclaw for 16 damage. As for the namesake card, Beastmaster Leoroxx, we have two big chargie boys in Charged Devilsaur and King Krush.
This alone presents 15 damage, 17 if you can weave in the hero power. But it doesn’t stop there, with the presence of Ramkahen Wildtamer we can duplicate one of our chargers for another seven or eight damage.
Previously, I had Kathrena Windrunner in this deck to try to add consistency to get out our big beasts, but we couldn’t run the good cheaper beasts we see in Hunter, and it was awfully slow. Luckily, we now have Lorekeeper Polkelt to put our big cards on top and more reliably set up our big burst. Add a Zephrys and a Reno, and you have the start of a decent shell.
The success of this deck is to reliably curve out while trying to set up our burst finisher. To do this, we must look at the best cards Hunter has to offer at each mana cost, focusing heavily on the early turns of one, two, three.
First are our one drops for the deck. I think the three best one drops we can play in this deck at one are Demon Companion, Dwarven Sharpshooter, and Springpaw. These allow us to have reasonable or even premium stated minions on one while not increasing our beast count too much that it interferes with our combo.
Going into turn two, I think the best way to go about it is to play the traditional secret package in Hunter; Cat Trick, Explosive Trap, Wandering Monster, and Man Scientist. While not the most aggressive set of cards it’s likely the best thing we can do without adding more beasts than necessary. On turn three is really where this deck gets to start flexing its muscles. Ace Hunter Kreen is a great board control tool against aggressive decks.
Professor Slate is a premium stated minion with the ability to turn our small removal spells into poisonous monsters. Diving Gryphon helps kill crucial must die targets on curve and tutors important survival tools. Finally, Zixor, Apex Predator, is a decent board control tool and can offer a big swing turn later in game, which Lorekeeper can put on the top of our deck.
Lastly on our key curve slots we have turn 4. I prioritize this turn a little less and only have two cards outside Lorekeeper; Dragonbane and Houndmaster Shaw. Dragonbane is a wincon within itself. Shaw is a pretty good board control tool and seems nasty when paired with Kreen.
Tech and Removal tools in the Scholomance Academy build
We want some form of removal to pair along with Professor Slate. Admittedly this list might be lacking in this department as we only have two. Overwhelm seems like a good card in the early game. It’s very cheap and it seems easy enough to scale for a couple more damage. Quick Shot is another card to play on two and is the closest thing we have to Frostbolt besides Corrosive Breath.
However, since we only run one dragon, I think Quick Shot is probably the better choice. As for some more anti-aggro tech we have Unleash the Hounds and Zilliax. Unleash seems especially powerful when paired with the Kolek Demon Companion and especially paired with Veranus, which is a tech against bigger minions. Like those seen in Big Shaman or Even Shaman.
Finally, as tech against slower decks, we have Loatheb and Deathstalker Rexxar. It’s crucial when playing Rexxar to remember his Zombeast can interrupt your combo, and it’s important to remember that with your play patterns.
Okay, finally, let’s do something a little wacky. Exodia Paladin is a deck I’ve been trying to work for a long time. Expansion after expansion continues to get more help. It began with Licensed Adventurer and continued with Librams. Any card that literally says “win the game” has the potential to be an absolute powerhouse when given the right tools. Maybe the Scholomance Academy expansion is the deck’s time to shine.
For those who don’t know, this deck centers around two crucial cards; Uther of the Ebon Blade, and Auctionmaster Beardo. After you play Uther, you can assemble Auctionmaster Beardo and cheap spells to summon all four horsemen and win the game. The problem with this is that at minimum, you need 11 mana to play Beardo and hit the button four times.
A card like Emperor Thaurissan is slow and poor tempo. The solution is zero mana cards like the coins from Adventurer and Libram of Wisdom. And now, with the newly released Tour Guide. We can play Uther and Tour Guide on 10, setting up a turn where you only need 9 mana to hero power four times and play Beardo. Because of this, we don’t even necessarily need coins as two zero mana Librams of Wisdom and a one-mana spell will do the trick here.
We can run The Last Kaleidosaur and not feel too bad for completing our quest without coins. I still think we run Adventurer for consistency but it’s placement in the deck is no longer as crucial as it was. Once this deck is all together the key is just understanding all the different combinations of spells that work with setting up the OTK.
Support Cards and Draw
Now that we have our gameplan, we need to add the proper support cards and enough cycle to draw to our combo pieces. Firstly, is supporting our Libram of Wisdoms. Aldor Attendant and Aldor Truthseeker reduce the cost of our Librams, which is important. The second Truthseeker often feels clunky to me, and since we aren’t running Libram of Hope feels unneeded.
Libram of Justice is part of this package and is often better than Equality. Running two Crystology helps tutor our Attendants to get our zero mana cards online as quickly as possible. Novice Engineer is a great card draw tool and helps round out this package. Hand of A’dal has great synergy with our quest, it draws a card, and helps maintain the early board pressure we want to be doing with our buffs. Finally for draw, we have one Solemn Vigil, once again the second one often feels clunky to me, but the one can often reliably be an Arcane Intellect at the very least.
Survival Tools for OTK Paladin in the Scholomance Academy expansion
Drawing cards and making beefy boards are nice but sets up the potential to get run down by aggressive decks, which was often the weakness of this deck when I’ve tested it. Luckily the deck got a few new tools that we’ll talk about that will hopefully give this deck a little more survivability. To start, obviously, Consecration and Wild Pyromancer go in the deck. With cheap spells and Equality effects, these cards are great ways to control the board. Speaking of Equality, Lord Barov is what this deck needed.
I’ve often found I wanted a third Equality effect in my deck, but actual Equality felt way too bad. This card does exactly that but cheaper and with a body. Zilliax once again makes the cut as a decent tempo card and life gain tool. We get another taunt in the form of Devout Pupil. This card might want to be a two-of. It seems very easy to get this card cheap. I only have one because I’m afraid it might be clunky with draws that don’t include Libram right away.
Instead, I have one copy of Spikeridged Steed in the Scholomance Academy build of the deck. It’s a very decent anti-aggro card and you can cheat it out with our next card; High Abbess Alura. High Abbess Alura seems absolutely nutty. Not only does it possibly cheat out Spikeridged Steed but it can draw cards or cast Consecration. Sure, sometimes it’ll cast Libram of Justice on an empty board, but I think more often than not, it’ll do something good, and the potential to high roll is worth it.
Wave of Apathy in OTK-Paladin
Finally, this last spot is very flexible. I have one Wave of Apathy. This card is like a cheaper Time Out!, but doesn’t work against OTKs. Wave of Apathy is definitely worth testing out, however, I could see removing it from the list early on. I just like it as a cheap option to trigger Pyromancer, Alura, and Beardo.
I hope you liked my deep dive into the decks I’m most excited to try on day one of the Scholomance Academy expansion. If you like my work feel free to check out my twitter to see other projects I’m a part of. I hope you learned something and enjoyed my breakdown of the thought process I go through when making decks. For more day-one decks for the Scholomance Academy expansion, be sure to read all about Norwis’ Zoo Warlock decks.