Hearthstone’s Control decks have a big polarization problem. Odd Warrior, Big Spell Mage and their ilk have a huge range of massively favored and unfavored matchups. But, unlike these decks, Control Priest has a relatively even spread. Aside from one or two archetypes, almost all of the Priest’s matchups are in the 60-40 range. Even their worst matchups are around 20-30%, rather than Odd Warriors 5-10%ers. So why is Priest so much more flexible? The answer might lie in Dragons.
One of the big reason decks like Control Priest are more flexible than other control decks is that they’re relatively heavy in minions that provide a big tempo swing. Twilight Acolyte, Twilight Drake, Duskbreaker, Alexstrasza, Cabal Shadow Priest and Primordial Drake all give you a powerful body and a powerful effect all in one. This allows priests to be masters of seizing the board in the mid-late game and begin to push face damage.
Dragon synergies allow for this perfectly. They force Control decks to generalize. By tying powerful spell-like effects to minions, they encourage a reactive gameplan that can also become proactive when needed. This means that Dragon decks tend not to become too effective against aggro (as they aren’t quite as good at being entirely reactive) but are instead far superior to other Control decks in pushing for tempo in otherwise unfavored situations.
Dragon Warrior returns?
Rastakhan’s Rumble provides hope that this treatment will extend to other classes. There are a suspiciously large number of big scaly lizards in the reveal schedule, and we’ve already seen several perfect candidates for the kind of tempo-turning minion Dragon decks and Dragon synergies thrive off.
Take Smoulderthorn Lancer. This 3 mana Warrior Epic essentially functions as an Execute on a 3/2 body, provided you have a Dragon in hand. This kind of reactive, synergistic minion is perfect for bringing Warrior out of its current polarizing Doldrums. By adding both a more proactive version of Execute and more incentives to run Dragons, Warrior may be finally coaxed out of its anti-aggro niche. Encouraging cards like Alexstrasza in particular can give Warrior a win condition that doesn’t rely on Fatigue.
The Dragon danger
Of course, Dragons can provide a threat to control as well as a boon. After all, the last Dragon Warrior was a potent aggressive midrange deck. So, how can dragons be tamed?
The key here is reactivity. Duskbreaker is a perfect example of this, as it’s both inherently powerful and wholly unsuited for an aggressive strategy. Hopefully, Rastakhan will introduce more of these types of minions, encouraging our Control decks to be a little bit less controlling and a little bit more flexible and fire-breathing.
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