While you remove their tempo
So that you may win
While you remove their tempo
So that you may win
The scourge of current Hearthstone is Pen Flinger. While a tiny one-mana 1/1 might seem inconspicuous at first, it has a profound effect on the game and its players.
Some people have suggested nerfing it to a two-mana 2/2 to prevent its Spellburst effect from being triggered so many times, but even that would merely be a bandaid.
The real problem is the voice line. Being called a loser hundreds and hundreds of times cannot be good for the already questionable mental health of the poor card game addicts who have to listen to it over and over again.
In Battlegrounds, Blizzard went over the top to make Bob a positive influence. Bob will tell you that things are OK even after you completely mess up your turn and you’re in the last place with one health left. You’ve got this!
Sure, we joke about Pen Flinger.
Or do we? There is always a hint of truth in humor, and we use it as a coping mechanism.
The real fix to Pen Flinger is to change its voice lines and speed up its animations. It could just say “Hey!”, or “Catch!”, or even “Cowabunga!” (probably not possible due to copyright reasons). Just make it quick to hit the board and fast to return back to hand. That would improve the lives of millions of people.
Are you considering coming back to Hearthstone? In this returning player guide, I take a look at the most important things you need to know to get started with Hearthstone again!
Important note! There are returning player rewards that you will get if you have not logged into Hearthstone for 120 days. The returning player quest line will be updated from 9 Classic packs to 15 packs from recent expansions in the 20.0 update. Returning players should wait for that at this point to maximize their rewards. The estimated launch of patch 20.0 is around March 23rd, so check whether your Hearthstone is version 20.0 before logging in. If you already logged in, it’s not a disaster: you will get fewer returning player rewards, but can partially compensate for that by getting further in the rewards track before it resets on March 30th.
One of the first things you will get is a free deck if you have not logged into Hearthstone for 120 days. The game merely prompts you to choose which class you want a deck for without showing you what’s in them. They are not all equally good!
The free decks will change with patch 20.0. Before the patch, Paladin and Rogue are your best options. The post-patch decks are somewhat weaker, but Paladin is still a fine choice. I have examined all the decks in more detail in this video:
Basic and Classic sets are rotating out of Standard format on March 30th. They will be replaced by the 235-card Core set that is given to all players for free!
The Core set cards can change every year: you will lose any that rotate out, and automatically get any that rotate in. The Core set cards cannot be disenchanted.
You may want to hold on to your old versions of Core set cards because of this, so that you will continue to have access to them for Wild. You also need the originals if you want to play the Classic format, which is vanilla Hearthstone the way it was in June 2014.
The Standard format consists of Basic and Classic (or Core after March 30th) and expansions from the current and previous year. Older expansions rotate out of Standard when the first expansion of a year is released.
In 2021, when Forged in the Barrens is released on March 30th, the Standard format will consist of Core, Forged in the Barrens, Ashes of Outland, Scholomance Academy, and Madness at the Darkmoon Faire.
You will want cards from all of these expansions to build Standard format decks.
Hearthstone has a duplicate protection system: you will always get new cards from a set until you have opened all playable copies of every card of a specific rarity. For example, you need to open two copies of each Common card in a set before you start to see duplicate Common cards. Likewise, you need to open two copies of each Rare card in a set before you start to see duplicate Rare cards.
If you disenchant a card, it still counts as acquired and you are not guaranteed to get it back: the exception is Golden cards – if you disenchant a Golden card that you got as a playable copy, you will open a regular version of that card first after getting a full set of cards of that rarity. For example, if you open a Golden Common and disenchant it, you will open a regular version of that card once you have opened two of each Common card from that set.
You will get a Legendary card within the first ten packs of a set. After that, you will get a Legendary card at the latest every 40 packs, and on average every 20 packs.
The way the system works means that you want to open at least some packs of every available set in Standard.
We can also calculate fairly accurately how many packs you need to open to get all the cards of a specific rarity:
For Ashes of Outland, Scholomance Academy, and Forged in the Barrens (before the mini-set):
For Madness at the Darkmoon Faire (including the mini-set):
Mini-sets are a new thing for Hearthstone since Madness at the Darkmoon Faire. They’re basically like adventures in that they add some tens of cards to the game, but they include no single-player content and they are added to the most recent expansion so that they can be opened from the packs of that expansion and crafted. When a mini-set is released, there is also a bundle for real money and gold to get all the mini-set cards without opening packs.
Every expansion in 2021 will have a mini-set that will be released around halfway through the expansion’s cycle.
There is no new solo content with exclusive rewards in Hearthstone, nor does the new solo content cost anything.
Strictly speaking, the Ashes of Outland Demon Hunter Prologue opens the Demon Hunter class and gives some class cards for you until patch 20.0, so if you return to the game before that, it is the first thing you should do. After patch 20.0, Demon Hunter can be opened by playing against it in practice mode and the solo content will give you one Demon Hunter card pack.
The other current solo content is Book of Heroes. These are short, but occasionally challenging, story missions built around each class. Completing the story gives you one class card pack for that class.
The solo content is completely optional.
Hearthstone’s quest system was revamped in late 2020. There is currently a battle pass style rewards track in the game, and all quests give you experience for the rewards track instead of gold. You get gold from the rewards track.
There is a free path and a paid path, but don’t worry about buying the battle pass: the paid path is mostly for cosmetics and while it gives you some gold, you will not get enough gold to be comparable to buying packs unless you play a lot. If you play a ton, it will actually give a fairly nice amount of gold. The gold gains are from xp bonus, so they are not retroactive: you need to know whether you want it right at the start of a new season to get good gold benefits.
You get experience from quests and from simply playing the game – all modes included, including Battlegrounds! Quests form the bulk of the xp gain, so try to complete as many of the weekly and daily quests as you can. Other than that, just play the game.
Those are all the most important things you need to know to come back to Hearthstone. Have fun!
You can also find this guide in video format on Youtube:
I have built Hearthstone budget decks for years and played budget decks to Legend in all the recent expansions.
In Scholomance Academy, I took budget decks a step further and reached the high Legend x11 star bonus playing nothing but budget decks.
In this post, I go through all the decks I have had success with. You can also find gameplay videos of all the decks on my Youtube channel, links to the specific videos are in the segments for each of the decks.
People often ask me what is the best budget deck. That can be a difficult question to answer because most of these decks do not have large enough sample sizes to give definitive answers.
I am more comfortable giving you the rough tiers the decks are in: the staples that are strong, reliable workhorses, the challengers that I have had good success with but that lack the hundreds of games needed to really understand them thoroughly, and the playable decks that I am able to win at least half of my games with, but that I would not readily recommend for climbing.
The large majority of budget decks I have played go in a fourth category, the failures. When building decks, you will end up playing more bad decks than good decks, but all of that is necessary to find the insights that allow the good decks to be built. I will not showcase the failures in their full form, although I may reference some of the lessons learned from them as appropriate.
With that introduction, let’s journey deeper into the best budget decks in Hearthstone in Scholomance Academy!
These decks are strong, proven, and I would be happy to take them to the ladder any day.
Deck code: AAECAR8AD6gCtQOHBP4Mn6UD+68D/K8DorkD/7oD3MwDm80Dos4DgtADxtEDudIDAA==
Face Hunter is once again one of the top tier archetypes in Scholomance Academy, and there is but a small difference in performance between the full-cost versions of the deck and the budget version. I have used this same budget list almost since the beginning of the expansion, and it just keeps delivering.
The secret package is always something you may want to tech for the meta you’re playing against, but double Freezing Trap and double Pressure Plate has been very reliable almost throughout Scholomance Academy. I occasionally replace one Pressure Plate with an Explosive Trap if I meet a lot of Rogues, but Rogues are not that common right now, so the basic package seems to be performing the best.
Hearthstone Top Decks: https://www.hearthstonetopdecks.com/decks/old-guardians-budget-face-hunter-3/
Deck code: AAECAaIHAA+0AYwCywPNA8YFiAePlwP1pwO5uAOI0AOk0QP+0QOK1APV1AP31AMA
It took me almost a hundred games to find a good Budget Rogue deck. There are fairly cheap ways to build a good Rogue deck with Greyheart Sage and Secret Passage, that’s just four Epic cards, but I was convinced that there had to be a way to build one without them as well.
The Self-Sharpening Sword, Vulpera Toxinblade, and Cutting Class weapon synergy package proved itself early in the testing, but I kept running out of resources before I was able to finish the job. After a detour with Budget Galakrond Rogue (which turned out OK too, just not quite as good as this one), I was convinced that some additional resource generation would be the solution. It still took some fine-tuning, but the addition of Pharaoh Cat and EVIL Miscreant proved to be exactly the thing the deck needed to have enough resources to win the game.
Compared to the meta Rogue decks, the budget Aggro Rogue is an amalgamation of Stealth Rogue and Weapon Rogue: it cannot fully support either style but creates its own mix in between. Upgrading the deck would therefore mean making a choice to pursue one or the other.
Hearthstone Top Decks: https://www.hearthstonetopdecks.com/decks/old-guardians-budget-aggro-rogue/
Deck code: AAECAea5AwLMugPWvgMO/acD+a4Di7oD4LwD174D3r4D2cYD98gD+cgD/sgD3MwDgtADxtEDi9UDAA==
While Soul Demon Hunter is the more popular archetype right now, Aggro Demon Hunter is also still powerful. I have built several versions of the deck throughout Scholomance Academy, and this is my current favorite.
There are two fundamental ways to build the deck: either with Skull of Gul’dan and Altruis the Outcast, or without them but with Marrowslicer. The Skull variant has more swing and comeback potential whereas the Marrowslicer variant is even more aggressive.
I see a lot of people building the deck with both Skull and Marrowslicer, but in my testing already in August I found that solution unsatisfactory. Subsequent statistics of meta builds seem to indicate the same.
After making that fundamental choice, there are also some tech slots to fill. I currently like Cult Neophyte and Frozen Shadoweaver as my tech cards. Frozen Shadoweaver is usually better than weapon removal (Ooze) in a tempo deck because freezing the opponent for a turn is often as good or even better than removing a weapon, and Shadoweaver can also freeze big minions as needed. Cult Neophyte can serve to buy time against many of the current meta decks, such as Druid and Mage. You want your tech cards to be good in as many matchups as possible.
Hearthstone Top Decks: https://www.hearthstonetopdecks.com/decks/old-guardians-legend-budget-aggro-demon-hunter/
These are decks that I believe in, just not quite as much as in the absolute top decks. Some of them lack a good sample size, others are more dependent on hitting the right meta. Some of them might become staples in the future with more testing.
Deck code: AAECAZICAA/+AfcD5gXDlAPKnAP9pwP/rQP5rgPXvgPevgPczAP5zAObzgPG0QO50gMA
Early in Scholomance Academy, Gibberling Druid was perhaps even the best budget deck. Alas, the meta has evolved and Gibberling Druid has not proven to stand the test of time quite as well as Face Hunter. It is still a formidable deck, clocking in an above 51% winrate in Diamond even today, but it is no longer a fully reliable climbing deck in higher ranks.
Hearthstone Top Decks: https://www.hearthstonetopdecks.com/decks/old-guardians-budget-gibberling-token-druid/
Deck code: AAECAZ8FAA9GjAGeAcgErwe+mAOOmgOQmgPXvgPevgPKwQPczAOezQPG0QPK0QMA
Paladin is one of the big winners in Scholomance Academy, but a good budget Paladin deck proved to be elusive. Libram of Hope, High Abbess Alura, Lady Liadrin, and Argent Braggart are such key cards in many of the current Paladin decks that it can be hard to see how they can be replaced.
Ultimately, I found the answer in Secrets. Secretkeeper, Mysterious Blade, and Sunreaver Spy are still perfectly viable cards, they are just slightly too weak compared to the current main Paladin archetypes, but they can still come together for some unexpected results.
This is the deck I finished my Legend climb with in September.
Hearthstone Top Decks: https://www.hearthstonetopdecks.com/decks/old-guardians-legend-budget-secret-paladin/
Deck code: AAECAaoIAA/5A5YG4AbGmQO1rQO2rQPbuAPXvgPevgOmywPczAPhzAPOzgPG0QPw1AMA
I think Burn Shaman is underrated and I believe the reason is that most people build the deck with the wrong strategy in mind. Sorcerous Substitute, for example, is a trap card that is not able to succeed in an archetype the can fight for the board for a limited time only after which it has to switch to direct damage spells to finish the job.
The way I believe Burn Shaman should be built is to keep the curve very low and aggressive to maximize early minion pressure and then finish the job with spells. Expensive minions are a waste of space with that strategy in mind.
Recently, there have been some individual full-cost Burn Shaman decks that have adopted this philosophy and I have a lot of faith in the archetype should it be more widely adopted. I built this deck in early August and retested it in September to find it working even better in the current meta.
Hearthstone Top Decks: https://www.hearthstonetopdecks.com/decks/old-guardians-budget-burn-shaman-2/
Deck code: AAECAaIHAs0Dy8ADDrQBlwaIB4+XA/WnA7muA/6uA6qvA86vA4KxA7m4A9a+A6TRA/7RAwA=
After failing to build a Budget Aggro Rogue for some time, I returned to Budget Galakrond Rogue, and found it to still be a viable deck! (As it happens, the lessons learned from this deck led me to build an even better Budget Aggro Rogue.)
This take on Galakrond Rogue is not that heavily dependent on Galakrond itself, you can think of it more as a Questing Adventurer + Lackeys decks. The key resources are Lackeys that are generated from all Invoke cards: they give you minions, spells, buffs for Questing Adventurer, and targets for Faceless Corruptors.
It is a fun deck to play, although the pure aggro approach seems somewhat better. It is often a good idea to just win the game as fast as you can.
Hearthstone Top Decks: https://www.hearthstonetopdecks.com/decks/old-guardians-budget-galakrond-rogue-4/
During my experimentation, I came across some archetypes that can win enough games to slowly climb, but that I cannot seem to make good enough to really roll through the ladder.
Deck code: AAECAa0GBtwBigfTCpibA8jAA9fOAwzJBpmpA5+pA9qsA/KsA/6uA82vA5O6A5u6A6+6A/S7A9y+AwA=
I really wanted to build a budget control deck. I realize that it is a difficult task because Hearthstone is monetized so that control and combo decks are expensive. I tried several ideas, such as Big Warrior (does not work on a budget by the way), but the only class that had what it takes is Priest.
Budget Galakrond Priest is slower and more control-oriented than its more expensive kin: with no Soul Mirror, Mindflayer Kaahrj, or Murozond the Infinite to provide big swing turns and no stealing synergies available, Budget Galakrond Priest needs to play a slower, grindier style.
It still requires four Epic cards to work: two copies of Sethekk Veilweaver (for value) and two copies of Plague of Death (for hard removal).
Hearthstone Top Decks: https://www.hearthstonetopdecks.com/decks/old-guardians-budget-galakrond-control-priest/
Deck code: AAECAa0GAtYKyMADDskG0wqClAOZmwOhoQOvpQPRpQOZqQOfqQPZrAPyrAPNrwOTugOWugMA
I also tried another Priest variant, Resurrect Priest. When building Resurrect Priest on a budget, you lack some of the value from Archmage Vargoth and Catrina Muerte, and the best way to overcome that is to add Galakrond to the deck.
I had moderate success with the deck and it seems playable, but not particularly strong.
Hearthstone Top Decks: https://www.hearthstonetopdecks.com/decks/old-guardians-budget-resurrect-priest-3/
I actually had some success playing my old Ashes of Outland Galakrond Zoo Warlock, but I’m still uncertain what would be the best way to build a budget Warlock deck in Scholomance Academy. I believe there is one if the right list can be found.
Warrior decks are typically expensive and I am skeptical about Pirate Warrior without Ancharrr. I tried Big Warrior, but could not make it work on a budget.
A cheap Mage deck seems impossible with so many key cards being Epic or Legendary.
Scholomance Academy turned out to be an OK expansion for budget players. Voracious Reader alone provides multiple viable decks, which can be a good thing but also makes many of the decks play in a similar fashion. The meta is aggressive and swingy, and aggression works on a budget too.
Ashes of Outland is coming to a close and it was a wild ride. With five balance patches during the expansion, budget decks needed to be rebuilt and retested several times.
As a result, this became the only expansion so far where I have climbed to Legend with budget decks every month – that’s right, I played only budget decks to Legend in April, May, June, and July on NA server, which is my secondary server as I mainly play on EU. I did all of the climbing on stream, which you can find at https://www.twitch.tv/old_guardian and made guide videos for all the decks on my Youtube channel at https://www.youtube.com/c/OldGuardian/
Here is the end of my final climb after the fifth balance patch:
Demon Hunter has been a blessing and a curse for budget players: after all the balance patches, it is now by far the strongest budget deck, so there is a really cheap and powerful option to climb with, but it also means that playing other classes can feel weak in comparison.
That said, there are viable budget decks for multiple classes right now, and there are probably still a couple of others that I have not tested. In particular, Murloc Paladin with just the four Epic cards (two copies of Underlight Angling Rod and Murloc Warleader) should also be viable, although I do not think it can get the job done without those Epics.
As for the decks that I have tested, here are the seven best budget decks to climb to Legend with!
Deck code: AAECAZICBP0CmgjkCNOcAw3+AfcD5gXEBrmUA+KfA9yiA9ulA+W6A+i6A+y6A+66A++6AwA=
Before the nerf to Fungal Fortunes that was part of the final balance patch, Spell Druid was a contender for the strongest budget deck. It was close to the level of Demon Hunter and vastly easier to play.
However, the Fungal Fortunes nerf has hit Druid quite hard, and even the full-cost Druid lists are struggling to break above 50% win rate.
I still had good success with the budget list, but it was far harder to play now, often requiring setting up Glowfly Swarm + Soul of the Forest turns in order to close out games.
I attempted to build the deck in other ways as well, including a Dragon variant, but those attempts failed and for a budget option, a pure Spell Druid is still as good as Druid gets.
There are two Epic cards in Budget Spell Druid because the archetype cannot be played without those Glowfly Swarms.
Deck code: AAECAR8AD6gCyQSIBZIF7QaXCNsJ/gzzpwP5rgP7rwP8rwOiuQP5ugP/ugMA
Hunter is currently perhaps the best class in the game, but its success does not extend to budget decks. In fact, budget Hunter decks are doing worse now than they were before the final balance patch.
Midrange Hunter and Dragon Hunter used to be viable options on a budget earlier in Ashes of Outland, but in the current meta, only Face Hunter can succeed without expensive cards.
Face Hunter does its thing, it goes face. It is the fastest Hunter deck, but also the most one-dimensional, so when you run out of steam, the game is just over. The deck is all about optimizing your damage and making key strategic trades when needed. When in doubt, go face.
In aggro mirrors, the game often becomes an interesting board battle even with Face Hunter, and some strategically placed Explosive Traps can win such games for you.
Deck code: AAECAaIHAs0Dy8ADDrQBlwaIB90Ij5cD9acDua4D/q4Dqq8Dzq8DgrEDubgDu7gD1r4DAA==
Galakrond rogue was not hurt too bad by the Galakrond nerf in the end. Many other decks lost a step or two, so a slower Galakrond is acceptable and the deck can still win games.
I went back to the SI:7 Agent roots of the class to better contest the likes of Murloc Paladin, and the deck keeps performing at a high level.
I also experimented with the Secret package, but without Shadowjeweler Hanar, it is not worth it. Stealth package is also out of reach without Greyheart Sage. But hey, pure vanilla Galakrond Rogue is still good.
Deck code: AAECAaoIAA/5A5YG4AbGmQP9pwOsrQO1rQO2rQO7rQOBsQPbuAOYuQPXvgPevgPDzAMA
The only completely new entrant to the race after the fifth balance patch is Burn Shaman. With other decks weakened and Transfer Student added to the game (for free even though it looks like an Epic card!), it was finally possible to build a strong Budget Shaman deck.
Burn Shaman starts with aggressive minions and depending on the number of buffs you can find, it may even end up controlling the board all the way through the game.
Even if it loses the board, there are multiple direct damage spells and some Squallhunters to find that last bit of damage needed to close things out.
Deck code: AAECAa0GBNwBigfyrAPIwAMNHskG0wqZqQOfqQParAP+rgPNrwOTugObugOvugP0uwPcvgMA
Budget Galakrond Priest is the only control deck that can be played on a budget. Even so, the deck requires four Epic cards to function: two copies of Sethekk Veilweaver and two copies of Plague of Death. If you have some good Legendary cards, such as Soul Mirror, you do not need the Plagues, at least in two copies.
The increasing number of Hunters can make Priest’s life difficult and I have chosen to add Shadow Madness back to the deck to grab some Zixors for better use. Acidic Swamp Ooze can also relieve some of the pressure on your life total.
As a Priest, you remove the opponent’s threats, maybe steal some of them for yourself, and ultimately win with the value from Galakrond if the opponent does not concede.
Deck code: AAECAf0GAA8w4QTCCP2kA/2nA+WsA+ysA/+wA4exA7W5A7a5A8e5A9a+A9e+A96+AwA=
I came upon this deck as a deck request from makee2, and after extensive testing, I’ve concluded that it is the best way to build a Zoo deck on a budget. You can do Galakrond Zoo or non-Dragon Scrap Imp Zoo, and those are OK, but this is simply superior to them at a similar cost level.
The deck combines Imprisoned Scrap Imp and Hand of Gul’dan with the most powerful Warlock dragon synergy cards. Without a Magic Carpet, Scalerider, Nether Breath, and Crazed Netherwing provide means to wrestle control of the board back should it be lost and also serve as additional reach from hand.
Deck code: AAECAea5AwKBsQPMugMOlgb9pwP5rgOLugPXuwPgvAPWvgPXvgPevgPHxgPZxgP3yAP5yAP+yAMA
Tempo Demon Hunter is just really, really good. I have opted to add Cobalt Spellkin to the budget list as well for some additional reach, but I’ve kept Eye Beams in the deck to better contest other aggressive decks. Should you find yourself in a more control meta, you can add a second Cobalt Spellkin over an Eye Beam.
This is the deck that I finalized my Legend climb in July with and it is extremely strong. I am 17-6 with the deck after the fifth balance patch, and throughout Ashes of Outland, my Budget Demon Hunter score is 109-37 (75% winrate). This is with x10 multiplier and Diamond 5 – Diamond 1 games only, so no newbie farming there.
The berserker package of Bonechewer Brawler, Amani Berserker, Guardian Augmerchant and Beaming Sidekick provides major threats right from the start, Cobalt Spellkin gives some more reach, and ultimately there is always Skull of Gul’dan and Altruis the Outcast to come back to a difficult game.
Playing all the way to Legend on a budget has been possible throughout Ashes of Outland. Furthermore, there are multiple decks you can play to get there right now.
If you’re coming back to Hearthstone for Scholomance Academy or are a free-to-play player, these are some competitive options you can play without investing too much dust right before a new expansion.
There are new free decks up for grabs in Hearthstone: players who graduate to the main ladder from apprentice ranks receive a free deck as do any players who log in to Hearthstone after being away for 120 days (4 months).
The free deck program was originally not updated for Ashes of Outland, but on July 30th the decks will receive a number of Ashes of Outland cards and some of them change drastically. Most notably, the Mage deck that used to be one of the top recommendations will be by far the worst deck to pick!
In this article, I will go through all the new player decks and help you decide which one to choose.
If you prefer to listen to the review, you can also find it on my Youtube channel:
The free Druid deck has changed from Token Druid to Big Druid. Both are mediocre right now, as Druid generally struggles a little in the current meta.
There are some interesting cards in the deck, especially Ysera, Unleashed, which is arguably the strongest Druid Legendary card at the moment. The deck also includes Winged Guardian from the first chapter of Galakrond’s Awakening, so if you are not planning to buy the adventure, this is the only other way to get the card.
Nonetheless, Druid is a mediocre choice at best.
Highlander Hunter is the best deck in the game right now, and this free version comes with several powerful Legendary cards, two of the Neutrals!
Zephrys the Great, Dragonqueen Alexstrasza, and Dinotamer Brann form the core of Highlander Hunter, and this deck is both valuable and powerful.
There are some weaker cards in the list, such as Unleash the Beast and Marked Shot, but the deck is strong out of the box and easy to upgrade with some cheap powerful cards such as Bonechewer Brawler.
Mage went from best to worst in an instant. Dust-wise, this Spell Mage list is the lowest-value deck available and its cards are not too awesome to use either.
Sure, you get many of the Spell Mage staples such as Font of Power and Apexis Blast, but the only Legendary card you get is Evocation, which is OK, but nothing too great. The deck would need The Amazing Reno (Legendary) and Puzzle Box of Yogg-Saron (Epic) to be viable and it’s a shame that those have not been included, considering how the dust value of the deck is far below all the others.
Do not pick.
Pure Paladin has improved throughout Ashes of Outland as other decks have been nerfed. It is currently a fine deck, not exactly tier 1, but easily playable all the way to Legend, and this free version has all the goodies: full Libram package including Lady Liadrin (Legendary) and two copies of Libram of Hope (Epic), two copies of Lightfoged Crusader (Epic), and even Shotbot from Galakrond’s Awakening adventure.
As a downside, it is all Paladin class cards, so you cannot use them anywhere else, but this is a great starter deck for a Paladin fan.
Resurrect Priest is not really part of the meta now, the main Priest variant is Galakrond Priest, so it is surprising that the free deck is still a Resurrect Priest. The list has been improved from the previous one and it includes the main expensive Resurrect Priest cards apart from Soul Mirror, but the archetype itself is mediocre and not easily upgradeable to a meta deck.
The free Rogue deck is still a Galakrond Rogue with some minor modifications: Edwin VanCleef has been dropped from the deck in favor of Flik Skyshiv. This makes the deck slightly weaker, but it is still a strong option that comes with several staple Rogue Legendary cards and the Neutral Galakrond synergy Legendary card Kronx Dragonhoof: you get all five Galakrond cards for free when you open your first Descent of Dragons pack, so Kronx can help fill up several different decks.
The deck is Edwin VanCleef (Legendary) and two Questing Adventurers (Rare) away from a viable meta deck. A strong choice with many valuable cards, mostly for Rogue but also a little for all five Galakrond classes.
Galakrond Shaman sees some play on the ladder, but it is a faster, more Evolve-based variant. This control version does not see any play.
The deck comes with Kronx Dragonhoof, which is good news for all of your Galakrond decks, and it also includes The Lurker Below, which is perhaps the strongest Shaman Legendary card, but overall Shaman is a sub-par pick.
The free Warlock deck has not changed much, it is still a Galakrond Zoo Warlock with the Lackey package supported by Dark Pharaoh Tekahn.
This is sort of an amalgamation of two meta decks: Lackey Zoo with Tekahn sees some play, as does a slower Galakrond Warlock, but combining the two is a little mediocre.
There are lots of parts for multiple Warlock decks as well as Kronx Dragonhoof, the Legendary Neutral Galakrond synergy minion, so the deck is not a terrible choice although it is rather mediocre.
The free Warrior deck has not changed much either, it is still a Pirate Warrior, the purest aggro deck of the bunch.
It is a fine deck, capable of reaching Legend, and it comes with several good Warrior cards, such as Ancharrr and Livewire Lance, both of which see play in a wide variety of Warrior decks.
The problem with switching to a different Warrior archetype is that they are all built around Risky Skipper, which is from the Galakrond’s Awakening adventure, so without that you can only play this one Warrior archetype.
There have been some improvements to the free decks, but also some strange changes.
Hunter is now perhaps the strongest deck out of the box and it also includes the most valuable Neutral Legendary cards. Highlander decks can be expensive to build though, so you might not have the tools to fully take advantage of them. Still, Hunter is an excellent choice.
Rogue remains powerful. Probably the second-strongest deck out of the box and includes most of the staple Rogue Legendary cards. Another excellent option.
Paladin and Warrior are also strong decks immediately. Their upgradability is weaker: Paladin is just Pure Paladin and does not give you any Neutral cards and Warrior needs Risky Skipper from Galakrond’s Awakening to become anything other than the aggro deck it is. Nonetheless, both are good options for class enthusiasts.
Warlock deck is OK: decent performance and a bunch of pieces to build two different Warlock archetypes. It is behind the top four decks though.
Druid, Shaman, and Priest are mediocre at best, and Mage is bad.
Well, it finally happened. Just about every Demon Hunter card has been nerfed now that the latest balance patch hit Warglaives of Azzinoth, Kayn Sunfury, and Metamorphosis.
Is Tempo Demon Hunter dead? Far from it. Rather, it has finally been brought in line with the other classes and Demon Hunter decks even use some Neutral cards nowadays. I guess filling the entire deck with class cards may have been a sign of some minor balance issues.
It only took players a couple of days to figure out multiple potential paths for Tempo Demon Hunter to take in its new reality: building the deck without Warglaives, finding new ways to support Warglaives, or just doing things as if nothing has changed.
The top contenders to replace the nerfed cards are History Buff and Cobalt Spellkin. History Buff can make your minions more difficult to handle whereas Cobalt Spellkin provides some excellent spells for Demon Hunters: Consume Magic, Mana Burn, and Twin Slice are the only current one-cost Demon Hunter spells, so you’re guaranteed to get some of them from Cobalt Spellkin.
Deck code: AAECAea5AwLMugPaxgMOlga8pwP9pwP5rgOBsQOLugPXuwPgvAPXvgPevgPZxgP3yAP5yAP+yAMA
This popular Tempo Demon Hunter list combines the power of these two new additions with the powerful early-game package of Bonechewer Brawler, Amani Berserker, Beaming Sidekick, and Guardian Augmerchant. If you can buff your berserkers, they are difficult to answer and can carry the game almost by themselves. History Buff gives you another way to buff them in the mid-game if you do not find them in your opening hand, and Cobalt Spellkin helps you to find reach and protect your berserkers.
With Warglaives of Azzinoth at six mana, Tempo Demon Hunter lacks a good play for turn five. Another approach to mitigate this issue is to skip directly to six mana with Escaped Manasaber.
Deck code: AAECAea5AwLMugPaxgMO/acD+a4DhLYDi7oD17sDxLwD4LwD1r4D174D3r4D2cYD98gD+cgD/sgDAA==
This popular new Tempo Demon Hunter list keeps Warglaives of Azzinoth and adds Escaped Manasabers to get them out on turn five as if no nerf ever happened. It does not have room for Amani Berserkers, which weakens its early aggression, but it can still dominate the board in the mid-game with Warglaives of Azzinoth.
Surprisingly enough, simply ignoring that anything bad happened is actually a viable strategy for Tempo Demon Hunter.
Deck code: AAECAea5AwSWBsy6A8O8A9rGAw39pwP5rgOLugPXuwPEvAPgvAPWvgPXvgPevgPZxgP3yAP5yAP+yAMA
This older favorite list is still perfectly functional despite including all the nerfed cards, even Metamorphosis, which was hit the hardest.
As an unexpected upside, the Corsair Cache nerf means that Warriors now struggle to remove Bonechewer Brawlers and Amani Berserkers in the early game, which improves the deck’s weakest matchup despite the hits it took from the balance patch.
There is no strong unconditional on-curve play for turn five in the deck anymore, but combining multiple cards and possibly the Hero Power or using Glaivebound Adept if you have Umberwing equipped can still keep the tempo up even during that challenging turn.
I played the old variant after the nerfs and still had good results, you can see more about it here:
Tempo Demon Hunter decks will continue to undergo experimentation in the coming weeks. Early results indicate that Cobalt Spellkin is the most promising new addition and a Warglaive-less version of the deck that includes the card is the strongest approach, followed by the Escaped Manasaber variant and the old Metamorphosis list. All of them can easily win more than half of their games and remain viable options for laddering, but I currently recommend the Cobalt Spellkin list the most for a smooth path to becoming legendary.
Oh, and budget Demon Hunter is also still completely viable. In fact, with Druid taking a hit, Budget Demon Hunter is now the uncontested best budget deck in the game.
Here’s my latest take on the archetype:
Deck code: AAECAea5AwKBsQPMugMOlgb9pwP5rgOLugPXuwPgvAPWvgPXvgPevgPHxgPZxgP3yAP5yAP+yAMA
You can find my guide video to Budget Demon Hunter here:
Overall, then, Demon Hunter is still doing fine and I expect its numbers to go back up on the ladder soon.
While having a large collection is useful in Hearthstone, it is by no means necessary to succeed in the game to a fairly high level.
Many streamers have completed free-to-play Legend climbs, where they start a new account and work towards a single top-tier deck and climb to Legend in a matter of days. The current favorite way to do so is to choose the free new player Rogue deck and build from there, and it is indeed the most effective way to reach Legend quickly.
However, my approach is a little different. I climb to Legend with cheap decks from a variety of classes, most of the time without a single Epic card, although some of the classes are only playable if you add a couple of Epic cards in the decks, and some classes cannot be played on a budget at all.
During Ashes of Outland, I have climbed to Legend with budget decks twice: after the first nerf patch and after the second nerf patch. I believe my approach is closer to a genuine free-to-play player experience: playing multiple classes but not having all the cards to build the meta decks for any of them. (I would expect long-term F2P players to be able to build a couple of full meta decks for every expansion, but they would probably still need to play budget decks for some of the classes.)
Ashes of Outland is actually a fairly nice place to be on budget decks. There is, of course, Demon Hunter, which is the strongest budget class ever thanks to a plethora of free cards, but success is not limited to one class. In fact, the majority of classes can reach Legend right now with budget or semi-budget decks.
In this post, I will take a look at a collection of Legend-capable budget decks for multiple classes.
Deck code: AAECAea5AwT5rgPMugPWvgP5yAMNlwb9pwOLugO9uwPXuwPgvAO6xgPHxgPZxgPXyAP3yAP+yAPyyQMA
Tempo Demon Hunter is incredibly powerful and fairly easy to play. My budget version includes the Raging Felscreamer / Priestess of Fury package, but also some actual tempo plays with Questing Adventurer and Mana Burn.
Mana Burn at the right moment is back-breaking and the card is extremely good at protecting your Questing Adventurer. Without access to the expensive power cards – Warglaives of Azzinoth, Kayn Sunfury, and Metamorphosis – the Questing Adventurer package gives the deck the power it needs to succeed.
Deck code: AAECAea5AwLMugPUyAMOlwb9pwP5rgOLugPXuwPgvAPWvgO6xgPHxgPZxgP3yAP5yAP+yAPyyQMA
The deck can also be built as a faster version without the Priestess of Fury package. In this variant, controlling the tempo of the game is even more important, and well-timed Mana Burns and Questing Adventurers are the keys to success.
Deck code: AAECAR8AD6gCyQSIBZIF7QaXCNsJ/gzzpwP5rgP7rwP8rwOiuQP5ugP/ugMA
Face Hunter remains a powerful alternative for climbing the ladder. Thanks to Scavenger’s Ingenuity, the deck also works without Toxic Reinforcements, so it is one of the cheapest ways to climb to Legend with something else than Demon Hunter.
Deck code: AAECAR8AD6gCyQThBJcI/gyKrQP5rgP7rwP8rwPnsAP/sAOFsQOHsQP/ugPZvgMA
Dragon Hunter struggles more on a budget than Face Hunter because giving up on Stormhammer and Rotnest Drake hurts. The upcoming nerf to Priestess of Fury may help the deck a little because then Evasive Wyrm can kill a Priestess.
Deck code: AAECAR8AD6gCtQPJBJYGlwjFCP4M+a4D+68D/K8DorkD/7oD1r4D174D2b4DAA==
This is the deck that I completed my Legend climb in May. The deck targets Demon Hunter and Warrior by playing cards that make them as uncomfortable as possible, including early Enrage minions.
Unfortunately, it has an abysmal matchup against Priest, so increasing Priest numbers may make life difficult for it.
Deck code: AAECAZICBP0C05wDsawDrroDDf4B9wPmBcQGuZQD4p8D3KID26UD5boD6LoD7LoD7roD77oDAA==
I played the same Spell Druid list in April and in May and had excellent results both times.
Without access to Rising Winds, I have opted to ditch Moonfires (not enough reliable draw to use them) and went for Worthy Expeditions instead. This gives the deck access to surprising tools, or sometimes just Rising Winds.
Deck code: AAECAa0GAvYHyMADDh7cAZcCyQbTCpmpA5+pA9qsA/KsA/6uA82vA5O6A5u6A6+6AwA=
Galakrond Priest is known for its plethora of Legendary cards, but it is actually possible to play the archetype without any, apart from the free Galakrond, of course.
The budget version is a bit more control than the full-cost version because it cannot steal the opponent’s win conditions as quickly.
Sethekk Veilweavers give the deck access to surprising resources and provide the needed power to push through when you don’t have your Galakrond.
Deck code: AAECAaIHAs0Dy8ADDrQBlwaIB90Ij5cD9acDua4D/q4Dqq8Dzq8DgrEDubgDu7gD1r4DAA==
I struggled with Budget Rogue a lot. The Secret package without Hanar just did not seem to be good enough and eventually I moved to a vanilla Galakrond Rogue with Questing Adventurers and Cursed Vagrants as win conditions. Cursed Vagrant has proved to be hilarious, because most decks have no good way to deal with it. Except Priest. Sadly, the budget version is far worse than the full-cost version against Priest.
Deck code: AAECAf0EAk3CoQMOuwLJA6sE7QSWBZ+bA/+dA7+kA/SrA/GvA8G4A4y5A4G/A97EAwA=
Spell Mage has been surprisingly good on a budget. Lots of direct damage and stall give me some Freeze Mage vibes when playing the deck.
There are three Epic cards in the deck: two copies of Apexis Blast (the archetype payoff card) and one Puzzle Box of Yogg-Saron. If you run out of options, Box can always bail you out.
Deck code: AAECAf0GAA8woQKIBeMFzgfCCIidA/2kA/2nA/muA7W5A7a5A8e5A96+A9++AwA=
Zoo is already a cheap deck to build, you only need a couple of Magic Carpets. Nonetheless, I decided to experiment with Carpetless Zoo, and the charge variant turned out to be playable even without the Carpet. I went 10-6 with this deck, but I only won games where I had the Scrap Imp by turn six at the absolute latest, so I don’t know how I really feel about the deck. Nonetheless, it is another option for a budget player.
Hunter is an extremely versatile budget class in Hearthstone’s Ashes of Outland expansion. Face Hunter and Dragon Hunter can both be built on a budget, and there may be even more options.
While working on the Budget Dragon Hunter, I found myself asking whether the Dragon package is worth it without Rotnest Drake. Sure, Corrosive Breath is great, but what if I just take out the Dragons and put in some good cards for the meta to replace them.
That brought about this unique deck that I played to Legend in May 2020: a 1200 dust Budget Midrange Hunter.
HSReplay categorizes the deck as a Face Hunter, but that is not how I play it at all. I play it like an old-school Midrange Hunter. Midrange Hunter was always very aggressive, but it did not give up the board right away like Face Hunter does. Instead, it was happy to fight for the board as needed and push when an opportunity presents itself. That’s the way I play this deck too, and it got me to Legend with a 12-5 record.
Deck code: AAECAR8AD6gCtQPJBJYGlwjFCP4M+a4D+68D/K8DorkD/7oD1r4D174D2b4DAA==
The key innovation in the deck is to use Scavenger’s Ingenuity to tutor for Phase Stalkers (and therefore Explosive Traps) and Burrowing Scorpids. Most current meta decks cannot handle an 8/5 Stealth minion, so Scorpid threatens to push a lot of damage and it also activates Kill Commands while it is on the board.
The rest of the deck is Dragon Hunter without the Dragons and good tech cards for the meta. Frozen Shadoweaver is excellent against Demon Hunters and Warriors, and Bonechewer Brawlers and Amani Berserkers are a puzzle for those classes as well.
Deadly Shot can deal with a Priestess of Fury in a way that Evasive Wyrm in Budget Dragon Hunter cannot.
Mulligan for your early game.
Blazing Battlemage and Dwarven Sharpshooter for a one-drop and then ideally Imprisoned Felmaw or Scavenger’s Ingenuity for a two-drop.
Bonechewer Brawler is often also a good keep as is Phase Stalker.
You can consider Explosive Trap against Demon Hunter if you don’t have Phase Stalker.
Here is a gameplay video of my Legend climb with this deck. It showcases the effectiveness of the Burrowing Scorpids and how the card choices in the deck can make things rough for some of the main meta decks.
I have built several Budget Dragon Hunter lists after the release of Galakrond’s Awakening. Most of the time, a Dragon Hunter without Rotnest Drakes and Stormhammers has still been doing fine, but in the current meta – after the second balance patch of Ashes of Outland – I found myself struggling with the archetype.
Eventually, I was able to build a list that wins roughly half of the time, but it is still not a great deck for climbing. I figured I’d post about it anyway, because it is playable, and one key innovation in the list ended up working in another budget Hunter deck I built afterwards, which I will showcase in the coming days.
That key innovation is combining Scavenger’s Ingenuity not with Stonetusk Boar, but with Burrowing Scorpid. There are very few decks in the meta that can handle an 8/5 Stealth minion – ironically, the full-cost Dragon Hunter with Rotnest Drakes is one of those decks though.
What would be interesting, and yet untested, is whether Burrowing Scorpid could also improve the full-cost Dragon Hunter deck.
Deck code: AAECAR8AD6gCyQThBJcI/gyKrQP5rgP7rwP8rwPnsAP/sAOFsQOHsQP/ugPZvgMA
This is where I ultimately ended up. Scaleriders are back to ping away early-game minions, and Scavenger’s Ingenuity now tutors for either Phase Stalker or Burrowing Scorpid.
You may also notice that I have cut Primordial Explorer. After reviewing my games and stats, I noticed that Primordial Explorer was underperforming without Stormhammer: with the hammer, it provides you with a sweet stream of Dragons to keep hitting, but without the hammer, it is such a low tempo play that it hinders the deck more than it helps it.
Mulligan is the same as before: Dwarven Sharpshooter, Blazing Battlemage, Scavenger’s Ingenuity, and Phase Stalker.
Faerie Dragon can work against Rogue or slow decks.
The deck is now somewhat different from the main meta version.
The straightforward upgrades are still there: Stormhammer to replace Eaglehorn Bow and Rotnest Drake to replace Evasive Wyrm. Now you’d probably also want to reintroduce Primordial Explorer to the deck instead of Big Ol’ Whelp, when you add the Stormhammer.
Scaleriders are typically replaced with Imprisoned Felmaws (or one Felmaw and a Dragonbane) and Burrowing Scorpids with Stonetusk Boars, although I’m not sure whether the latter is an improvement.
Finally, here is a gameplay video of the deck that showcases how to draw and play some 8/5 Stealth minions for four mana.