Welcome to the Grand Tournament, champion! Though Justicar’s long gone from standard, her most defining upgraded hero power lives on. With Baku, Odd Warrior is an extremely potent control deck that can out-tank a huge proportion of the meta. Players like David “Dog” Caero gave it a strong tournament showing at the HCT playoffs. But Odd Warrior isn’t the only challenger for the one true Control Warrior build. Despite the loss of Coldlight Oracle, Dead Man’s Hand warrior is slowly rebuilding its viability. Most notably, Michaël “Maverick” Loose took his list to Dreamhack, winning the tournament. The deck performed amazingly, going and unbelievable 16-2. But out of these two archetypes, which is the stronger warrior? And what unique strengths and weaknesses do they present?
One of Odd Warrior’s obvious advantages is its ability to out-heal most burn strategies reliably with the 4 armor hero power. Decks like Control Priest, Aggro Rogue and Tempo Mage that rely on burn have a tough time breaking through that sustained armourgain. Gaining 4 doesn’t sound too earth-shattering, but it’s consistency and ability to come down every turn results in obscene amounts of continual survivability.
Of course, Dead Man’s Hand Warrior has its fair share of lifegain in cards like “Bring it On!”, but its lifegain tools are less reliable. They have to be played only when an opportunity arises, giving the deck far less flexibility. To make matters worse, the deck must save its armor to shuffle back in, meaning it can’t react to continual pressure as well. As such, aggressive Death Knight hero powers like Bloodreaver Gul’dan, Shadowreaper Anduin and Malfurion the Pestilent can grind you out. Luckily, Dead Man’s Hand can avoid the damage in the first place.
But what Dead Man’s Hand lacks in reliable long-term lifegain, it makes up for in removal ability. Unlike Odd Warrior, Dead Man’s hand can run Executes, Blood Razors, Warpath and Scourgelord Garrosh. This gives it incredible board-clearing potential, especially for small minions. The Scourgelord heropower alone can completely shut down decks like Odd Paladin. In addition, this removal can be extended. Versus certain decks like Taunt Druid, you can shuffle in Brawls and Shield Slams early to maximize your ability to clear Hadronoxes.
Odd Warrior does have solid removal options; but is weaker against continual small or medium minion pressure. It’s great at blowing up big boards with Reckless Flurry or Brawl. Unfortunately, those Flurries can leave it dangerously vulnerable to finishers once the armor is lost. Hard removal is also in short supply, with only the two shield slams available. As such many Odd Warriors run sub-optimal clears like King Mosh or Baron Geddon to flesh out their lists, making them clunkier and less reliable.
Turning the corner
An advantage that Odd Warrior can have is its ability to curve higher and run greedier late-game threats. An Odd Warrior’s hero power grants the survivability to run expensive cards, tech cards and niche options like Zola, Elise, Harrison, and Direhorn Hatchling. It doesn’t need to rely on fatigue for a win condition, it can end the game with its bulky threats.
But because a huge proportion of the Dead Man’s hand deck-list must be dedicated to cheap, easy to play cards, as eventually, you will have to refine your deck down to a few key components. If the total mana cost is too high, this would be impossible. It can go the distance into fatigue, but it’s comparatively terrible at putting out proactive threats.
Odd Warrior has a lot more room for tech cards, but it’ less flexible than Dead Man’s Hand Warrior. And while Dead Man’s is harder to play, the ability to have even cards essentially doubles the ability to react to the meta. With that said, Odd Warrior will likely become the superior option as more cards are released in the 1, 3 and 5 slots. And of course, eventually, Dead Man’s Hand will leave standard forever. But until then, the decks seem both to be worthy successors to the resurgent Control Warrior mantle.
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