Aggro Warrior has been a constant force in TESL’s competitive scene for the better part of a year now. It is consistent, flexible, and rich with highly impactful small decisions that allow skilled pilots to achieve remarkably high win rates with the deck. If you are an aspiring competitive player you should be looking to learn more about the deck. Even if you don’t plan to play it yourself you should expect to frequently be faced with it and understanding it at a higher level will dramatically impact your ability to perform in competitive environments.
Aggro Warrior is often seen as a good deck to learn the game on because of its generally linear nature: when the overarching game plan of a deck is easier to understand you can focus on learning how to play the game rather than how to play the deck. At its core, it is a low curve, proactive deck, looking to snowball early trade priority into dominant board positions backed up by some of the most efficiently costed bodies in the game as well as a wide array of powerful sources of direct damage that make quickly closing out games a constant threat.
Aggro Warrior has gone through many iterations throughout its development with several different builds seeing competitive play concurrently. Recent nerfs to Ash Berserker have caused the deck to adapt once again and post nerf lists are still very much up for debate.
For the time being I am using this list as a starting point:
EndoZoa’s Aggro Warrior:
One of the bigger changes to Aggro Warrior which took place this past summer was the lowering of the curve to accommodate Siege Catapult. Siege Catapult is an extremely high power card that makes you warp your game plan around it in order to take advantage of it. I spent some time talking about how to play Catapult openers in my lesson on opening sequences.
This curve lowering helped to give the deck much more explosive starts and over time has facilitated many other strong changes such as the ability to include Hlaalu Sharpshooter instead of Earthbone Spinner if you choose to play a build with a hand full of 1-drops.
There are a number of ways to adapt Aggro Warrior depending on the meta game you are preparing for and/or its role in your lineup.
Lists tend to run between 0 and 2 copies of Candlehearth Brawler, with the card seeing more play when attempting to obtain a higher winrate against aggressive opponents. Creating a greater emphasis on the bottom of the curve accomplishes a similar goal. Players tend to run between 2 and 5 1-drops with the increased density a more reliable start and better ability to activate catapults early and often. The primary sacrifice of course is that 1-drops tend to be low value and thus can leave you more prone to running out of gas. I think very highly of Mudcrab Merchant for this reason: it increases 1-drop density while helping to keep cards flowing and prevent running out of steam in match ups where your opponent’s win condition is to run you out of resources.
On the other side of the spectrum, there are a number of tech choices you can make to improve your match ups against slower opponents. More ways to refuel like Wilds Incarnate and Aela’s Huntmate can allow you to sustain your assault over a longer period. Black Worm Necromancer is a card employed by some as a way to keep resources flowing without losing mana efficiency while developing threats. Plzdonhakme and I tested Necromancer extensively leading up to QuakeCon but found its strength against controlling opponents to not be worth how utterly atrocious it can be in other situations. Nevertheless, strong players like Frenzy1 continue to consistently use the card in their personal builds because of its situational strength. Additional density of reach tools like Underworld Vigilante can also help to ensure your ability to close out games against slower opponents who turn the corner toward stabilization.
Frenzy1’s Aggro Warrior:
Key Gameplay Elements
One of the most important misconceptions to clear up about Aggro Warrior’s game play is that “Aggro” does not mean “going face”. One of Aggro Warrior’s biggest strengths is its ability to dominate board early and leverage this tempo and positioning advantage to protect its key threats and prevent its opponent’s efficient plays. Taking trades early while building a board is also beneficial because if you can choose to do the same amount of damage to your opponent now or later it is typically better to do it later to reduce the impact of any prophecies and to limit your opponent’s options for as long as possible. Additionally, being able to protect your Barrow Stalker against an aggressive opponent or your Withered Hand Cultist against an action based control opponent through trade manipulation can frequently win you games even if it means putting out less damage in the short term.
Against other aggressive decks you should always be keeping a close eye on “race math”. That is, every turn you should be estimating how many turns it would take you or your opponent to win the game if you were to both start pushing damage as fast as possible rather than playing for board. This dance of “lethal threat” often defines aggressive match ups, as you will frequently find yourself in positions where you will need to interact with your opponent just enough to prevent their kill while attempting to set up your own. Its a skill that takes significant practice, but it influences virtually every decision in these match ups: which lane to deploy to, whether to develop the most stats you can or push the most damage over a two turn period, whether to fight for board or commit hard to the race, etc. (Example of Warrior gameplay in aggressive matchups)
Core game concepts can often be the most impactful in linear decks like Warrior, and your ability to determine whether to take the highest value play or highest tempo play on any given turn will drastically change your win rate. Similarly, this deck as much or more than any other, rewards being able to plan your curve, that is playing cards not just so that you maximize your mana utilization on any given turn, but also so that you maximize the probability of optimal mana efficiency on future turns.
Remember that TESL allows you to sacrifice a creature to play another if you have a full lane. “Overwrite lethals” are very common for this deck, either sacrificing Haunting Spirit or Sower of Revenge.
Remember that your orcs have extra value because of their ability to trigger Wood Orc Headhunter. Even if you don’t have one in hand its important to value your access to an orc to activate Headhunter. They’re a very relevant resource for the deck.
Warrior is a deceptively challenging deck to a play at a high level and I’ve greatly enjoyed the time I’ve spent working on it over the past few months. I’ve really just scratched the surface here but I hope it helps you get started on your own journey with the deck. As always let me know if you have any feedback or ideas for what you’d like to see me write about next.
Thanks for reading, until next time,