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Tools of the Trade - Holy Hero (TCG)

04-17-2009 (Fri), 04:00

The original reason for the update was the presence of Tankatronic Goggles. I, as well every other World of Warcraft TCG player, was blown away by the sheer number of powers UDE managed to pack onto a 2-cost armor.

By Phil Cape

Last time, I left you with three options for a Horde deck to develop. The discussion in the forums was plentiful, and there were a lot of good ideas thrown around. In the end, the Thoros the Savior deck received the most votes. For reference, here was the original list I proposed:
Hero: Thoros the Savior
3 Tankatronic Goggles
Obviously this differs greatly from the previously accepted builds of Red Paladin, a la Brad Watson at 2008 NACC. Even though there are some fundamental changes, my list clearly owes a lot to that original template—the reliance on 4-drop allies and the endgame of recurring epics go back to the popular way to build red Paladin from last summer. The original reason for the update was the presence of Tankatronic Goggles. I, as well every other World of Warcraft TCG player, was blown away by the sheer number of powers UDE managed to pack onto a 2-cost armor. No card with so much power for so cheap can be bad, and so with the printing of a Blood Elf holy Paladin that just happens to have the engineering spec, I made the logical leap to include the Goggles. They fit pretty nicely into the overall strategy, allowing you to soak damage early, doing recon to determine when it is safe to cast your expensive cards, and turning off the traditional enemies of the control deck: untargetable allies. However, donning the Goggles has a subtle effect on the rest of your deck. Because you have cheap equipment, Band of the Inevitable no longer seems like such a great idea for the main deck. Munkin Blackfist, the current gold standard for equipment destruction in an ally, no longer works reliably. Moreover, your incentive not to play more equipment is gone. Vindicator’s Brand, you’re in! Not only is Brand one of the most flexible cards in the game, but it helps shore up the inability to target equipment created by cutting Munkin.
Once those things changed, Blessing of Wisdom begins to look less impressive. Now I have a weapon I would like to attack with, creating the tension—do I attack or draw a card? Moreover, which of my cards that I have already invested resources to play will I simply not use this turn? These types of decisions are never good because there is no right answer. Either way you won’t be getting maximum value for your investment. This is where Seal of Wisdom comes in. Seal cheaply replaces Blessing and does not interfere with our intent to attack! The only potential problem that I see is lacking a weapon to deal damage with. Enter Twinblade of the Phoenix. Twinblade ensures that as long as I have resources to spend, I will always be armed and able to use my Seal to draw cards. Of course, this is what leads to the inclusion of the Darkmoon Faire over the highly overrated Silvermoon City. The rest of the list is simply juggling numbers to make everything fit, as I try to cram the new equipment + Seal of Wisdom package into the summer 2008 Red Paladin frame.
It’s time to give the deck a pass-through. How does this deck intend to beat opponents? It certainly doesn’t intend to tempo them out; there are way too many expensive cards here to hope to do that. It also doesn’t intend to rush the opponent with damage, although it can certainly play that way once the game has progressed. No, this deck intends to beat the opponent on sheer card advantage. The goal is to have more stuff to do than your opponent and to have your stuff be better than their stuff. That means you have three parts of your deck: the part that lets you survive the early game, the part that lets you get ahead on cards, and the aforementioned “better stuff.” Break down the deck list above and you can see that everything in the deck falls into one of those three categories. Most likely we will not deviate from this basic game plan, so we’ll adjust the deck by choosing cards that fill the roles and adjusting card quantities. The goal of my testing is to determine what works and what doesn’t work. Can I reliably get ahead on cards with my quests, seals, and incidental card advantage? Are my late game cards actually better than what my opponents are trying to do late? Do the cards I have selected for defense function to protect me long enough to get my midgame operational? These are the specific questions I set out to answer in playtesting.
Since I didn’t (and don’t) have all the cards to build this deck, I relied on MWS to do some of my playtesting. It obviously pales in comparison to playing actual games with actual cards, but when the goal is discovery, it is a reasonable substitute.
How did it play? Well, better than I expected. The first time I faced a control deck, I realized just how insane Twinblade of the Phoenix actually is and how it shifted the matchup and made me the inevitable aggressor. When I faced opposing aggressive decks, I began to miss some of the low drops I cut, like Vexmaster and Bhenn. I had little problem getting ahead on cards, but I wasn’t certain my stuff was actually better than my opponent’s. I faced another Red Paladin in one particularly instructive game, but this one had Ishanah, High Priestess of Aldor and it was a pain in my butt. Even when I could kill her, she got some value by stealing a stray Doshura or Tatulla. She was very hard to play against due to the ease with which he could return her to play with Redemption. Specifically, I was afraid to play my own epic allies because I was pretty sure I would lose if they were stolen. Despite Ishanah’s power, I felt I had the game under control when he dropped the bomb in Gorehowl, and surprise—you’re dead. I made a mental note to try those two cards out.
Of my own three expensive allies, the one I was most impressed with was Maiev Shadowsong. While she is vulnerable against AoE damage, she is simply a card advantage machine who locks the board down once she gets going. Black Ice should never be able to answer this ally when she’s on the table, and she should win all but the most absolutely hopeless games. Exarch Onaala was the least impressive of my crew, as I never reached a situation where I couldn’t attack but had to win immediately, and I never needed the healing. She’s pretty slow against aggressive decks where you are most likely to need the heals, and Paladin has other options (armor and damage prevention abilities) to lock it up later.
Speaking of armor, let’s talk about the elephant in the room: my omission of Antonidas’s Aegis of Rapt Concentration. This is clearly one of the most powerful cards in Blood of Gladiators, and it helps tremendously in one of Thoros’s least favorable matchups: Varanis. It is also reasonable against aggressive decks, as 2 armor is always welcome. The reason I didn’t include the new shield is simply that I didn’t want to destroy it with my Twinblade. I try to avoid including any sort of conflict in my first draft of decks because I simply don’t know if the card in question is actually necessary. After playing some games against Varanis and other decks with interrupts, I can say that the Aegis is in fact necessary. The ability to force through Redemption or Holy Shock would do wonders for my win percentage against decks with interrupts. Against Varanis, if you have an Aegis, you don’t need a Twinblade, so the two-handed issue shouldn’t be too much of a problem.
I didn’t feel the Lay on Hands were necessary in the maindeck, as the metagame has significantly shifted away from rush. I could also cut one Seal of Wisdom, or all if I found a better seal to replace it with. Sacrificing the Seal to draw a card was never my plan because it just costs so much to replace, and I found myself falling victim to solo hate to keep me off my card draw. In addition to the copies of Aegis and Gorehowl, I would also like to add another ability: Recall from the Brink. While it lacks the card draw of its counterpart Redemption, it adds the flexibility to return equipment as well. Returning Vindicator’s Brand or Gorehowl seems solid. To fit these into the deck, I will split the Redemptions with them. Finally, I felt like I was lacking a bit of early defense. I will surely add the fourth copy of Goggles, but I would like another 2-drop that can help me get to my midgame. Rather than Bhenn or Vexmaster, who are unreliable but have a higher upside, I will use Blessed Life. Blessed Life will help ensure that I can use all my resources effectively every turn as well as help make up for my lack of healing by locking down the opponent’s damage sources (in conjunction with my armor) in the late game.
With these things in mind, here is my new, updated list:
Hero: Thoros the Savior
4 Tankatronic Goggles
Side Deck
This was pretty much where I planned on ending the article, and then Raphael Ait-Slimane went and made the Top 8 in the most recent Darkmoon Faire with a Thoros deck that at least bears a passing resemblance to this one. It would be irresponsible of me to write this whole thing and then not discuss such a high-profile deck, at least to compare and contrast. Here is his list, for those of you who haven’t seen it:
Hero: Thoros the Savior
4 Tankatronic Goggles
2 One Draenei’s Junk...
Side Deck
1 Silvermoon City
Actually, that’s more than just a passing resemblance. The biggest place where our decks diverge is the amount of allies. My deck is more ally-heavy, as I really like what Niyore, Greench and Maiev bring to the table for controlling the late game. This, in turn, affects my choice of abilities, putting Redemption and Recall from the Brink in. Let’s look at the cards his deck includes that mine doesn’t:
4 Seal of Righteousness
3 Sacred Purification
3 Penance
2 Owned!
2 Rak Skyfury
These cards are the big difference between our decks. His Seal does a lot more against aggressive decks and contributes just fine to the Twinblade plan against opposing control decks. It’s also nice that it costs one, as this deck notoriously has nothing to do on turn one. It might as well be free, since you never use your turn one resource anyways. Sacred Purification is a good card when it has targets; mine are in the side deck, but I can imagine wanting them in the maindeck for certain metagames. Penance I find a little baffling, as it doesn’t kill a lot of what needs killing. Nevertheless, it is AoE damage that is difficult to stop, and it gets better because you don’t have many allies. I don’t like it on paper, but it could be good in practice.
The next two cards get me far more excited: Owned!, in conjunction with Goggles and Aegis, can rip the still-beating heart out of a Black Ice deck and stomp on it. Nothing is more disheartening for your opponent than losing all his Myriams. There are several other good targets, especially in the semi-mirror, and the ability to recur these with Solanian’s actually seems pretty exciting. The card is obviously slow as molasses, but it is very effective at making sure your stuff is better than their stuff. The Rak Skyfury is obviously there to combo with Gorehowl for the insta-kill. It seems cute, but I don’t know that I would want such a card to sit in my hand all game. Still, it can also be used to good effect with your other weapons, often killing another ally when it comes down. Most of all, I think the card got a lot of its value by surprising opponents. If it sees widespread adoption in this archetype, I expect the power level to go down accordingly.
I suspect that the best build of Thoros lies somewhere between Ait-Slimane’s deck and my own. His inclusion of Owned! In particular is quite innovative. I just don’t know if I can reliably beat aggressive decks without Niyore and Redemption, and I don’t know if I can beat control decks without Greench and Redemption. Those cards performed up to my expectations in all of my games played. I still want to play some games with the Ait-Slimane version, but I need to wrap this up or Will’s gonna strangle me.
Thanks for reading, and tune in next week when I talk about the Alliance deck you all voted on.

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