It's no secret that decks like Zoo Warlock and Aggro Shaman are running rampant on the ladder in both Standard and Wild format. Sure, a completely viable strategy is to simply play them yourselves, as they are absolutely top tier right now. However, if you (like myself) are more of a fan of later game control style decks, it's very likely that you haven't been having the best time on the ladder. Over the past couple weeks, I have been working on implementing new cards and mechanics into my decks to make them more resistant to the aggressive Meta, which I will share with you here.
First, let’s take a look at why these aggro decks are working so well right now. For starters, Aggro Shaman is strong due to the crazy amounts of tempo they can bring, and even work the downsides that come with it into advantages for themselves. Turn 1 Tunnel Trogg followed by a Totem Golem is nearly impossible to deal with, especially lacking such control cards like Deaths Bite and Antique Healbot. The working of the Overload mechanic also proves troublesome, as now only do they now have 2 ways of removing Overload, but cards like Unbound Elemental and Tunnel Trogg actually turn these negative effects in the favor of the aggressor. And, even if the early game fails, a Flamewreathed Faceless protected by a couple of Feral Spirit wolves can melt through a feeble, 30 health or less hero.
Moving on to Zoolock, it’s strength is primarily derived from the use of Darkshire Councilman and Forbidden Ritual. These cards, especially when combined with each other, provide Warlock players with the Zoo board control dream: sticky minions that can output a lot of damage. Sound familiar? Both Zoolock and Aggro Shaman share similar strengths in their board control. The problem with Zoo, though, is in the Darkshire Councilman. He can snowball crazy out of control fast. His +1 attack will proc off of just about everything, including Imp Gang Boss effects and Deathrattles that summon minions, even from your hand. If not dealt with, this minion will only become stronger with few side effects, and can easily start dishing out damage to their opponents face.
Now, how do we deal with this kind of aggression? For starters, it is simply the way of the Meta that control decks are inferior in both damage and early game board control to aggro decks. However, it’s about surviving the early game. I’ve found that many aggro decks tend to play a board-flood style of play, which means that they will have lots of low cost, typically small minions that can be used to roll over any defensive taunt minions or attempts at board control. Due to this, the inclusion of board clear is essential, even if it means running cards like Revenge for Warrior, the most typically used control class. It also means that some form of healing will be necessary. Without Antique Healbot, though, a few replacements can be found in Cult Apothecary and even Tournament Medic, a card we haven’t heard about for a while. We can run the ladder of the two due to the loads of health that it can restore to your Hero, up to 14 if they have a full board. Tournament Medic is simply a generally good anti-aggro card. Not only can it heal you up nicely each turn, but a 1/8 body is an aggro deck’s worst nightmare. It can be used to take out more than a few small minions before it goes down, netting a massive amount of value for its user.
Another form of dealing with aggro is contesting for early-ish game board control. The use of heavy Tempo play cards like Corrupted Healbot (which actually saw a lot of play in the 2016 Seoul Cup), Infested Tauren, and the Mage’s Faceless Summoner. These cards, while not all too influential on their own, can provide the stopping power that your board needs to delay the game long enough to get your late game cards off. A healthy combination of these two styles of anti-aggro can, if done properly, shut down a flood style of deck before things get too out of hand.
Finally, the mindset is all too important to fighting the aggressive Meta. Wait and think each turn, even if you already know what you are going to do. Predict his turn, and start thinking about how you are going to counter it now, not when it happens. For example, it might look like a great idea to Shadow Strike that Imp Gang Boss, but your opponent (presumably Zoolock), has yet to play any Darkshire Councilmen, which are destroyed by Shadow Strike. I cannot emphasize this point enough – stop, think, play. In that order. Do your best to utilize these mechanics, and your win rate should at least improve slightly against aggro decks. Keep in mind that, even if these are done, you can still lose very easy to aggro. Just do your best while learning the new Meta, each game at a time.