Friday, 25 July 2014

The Curse of Naxxramas - Heroic Grand Widow Faerlina and Anub'Rekhan

Grand Widow Faerlina's hero power isn't changed between normal and heroic modes - it is still basically an arcane missiles for a number equal to the number of cards in your hand - but the cost is reduced from two to one. That means that most games you'll go first, pass the turn, and her turn will be four damage to your face.

But that's not a huge threat. Letting a computer opponent get a life total lead is almost always going to be the way to get ahead. Ultimately you can empty your hand and turn off her power, so it seemed like she would be a lot easier than Maexxna. It turns out, though, what makes her powerful is not the hero power, it's the Worshippers.

In normal, Faerlina has a special minion called a Worshipper. It costs three mana, it is 1/4 and it gives her +1 attack on her turn. That's actually a pretty good card that I imagine people would find a spot for in some top tier decks. In heroic the Worshippers are 2/4 and give her +3 attack. They still cost three mana. This card would be a problem if she was capped at only two in her deck. But she is not capped at two. In one game I counted five and she was only 13 cards deep at the time.

So the challenge is less about how to overcome her hero power and more about how to deal with ludicrously unfair minions. For the hero power I took a two part approach: play with Nerubian Eggs and Haunted Creepers to punish her for using her hero power early, and use ramp to justify putting in lots of expensive creatures since I know I will be playing from the top of my deck at some point so I need individual cards to have a large amount of raw power.

For the worshippers the plan was to put in as much kill for them as possible and just hope she didn't draw too many.

You see the winning deck here. Unlike my Maexxna deck, I would not call this a great deck for this boss. I won on about my third try with this iteration, but I had lost about three or four games with very similar iterations before. Still, I think I went through a lot fewer decks than I did with Maexxna because it's more about getting lucky in the game than getting the deck right. The basic plan of the deck is solid but it would be greatly improved by having real power creatures at the top end like Ragnaros, Gruul, Onyxia or even Deathwing. There is only one Nourish and one Starfall because I only own one of each, I think both are good for the match.

Anub'Rekhan, to me, seemed the most daunting of the lot. I think he only has one special card in his deck - the seven mana Locust Swarm that deals 3 damage to each of your creatures and heals him for 3 - but his hero power is something else. Instead of making 3/1's as it does on normal, it makes 4/4's, and it still costs two.

I was having a lot of trouble conceiving of a deck that could stand against turn one 4/4, turn two 4/4, turn three 4/4 and 2/3 charge, which is what I expected to see from him. I wasn't sure I'd be able to win without some legendaries and epics I am missing. As it turned out he goes all out on hero power some games, but a lot of games he passed his first turn with the coin still in hand. A lot of games he plays a two drop on turn two, or coins for a three drop. In general, if he has cards to play, he tends to play them instead of making 4/4s.

So I started to build a deck around the premise of him playing badly. But also, he has a bad card choice that can be abused. He plays with Deathlords which, when killed, put a random minion from your deck into play. If you play few small minions and plenty of big ones then killing a turn two or three Deathlord could catapult you into the lead. Plus, his removal is Frost bolt, Shadow Bolt and Mortal coil - nothing like a Sap or Vaporize or Assassinate to punish you for putting all your eggs in one basket.

I began with a druid deck so that I could play with Ironbark Protector and Naturalize. If he dropped a turn two Deathlord then I could get an 8/8 for one mana. Unfortunately after a few games I found it wasn't working out. 8/8 was simply not big enough to take over the game since it was only two hero powers or a hero power and a shadow bolt from death. Even if I got a mark of the wild on it it didn't seem big enough. I tried using healing touches to heal them up but that mostly worked out to trading a healing touch for one hero power activation.

So I needed to manufacture a bigger creature. Priests are good at making giant things because of Inner Fire and Divine Spirit so I went with that. Plus the priest hero power would let me keep a large thing that had to contend with 4/4s alive a lot longer.

My winning game didn't work out quite the way I thought it would. I didn't get a good Deathseeker creature into play but instead he just kept playing cards and I kept playing good cards. Maexxna was an all star, taking down four of his hero power minions with the help of heals from me. Finally I put out a war golem and doubled it with Inner Fire and Divine Spirit and that was more than he could handle.

Like my Faerlina deck, this deck seems fine for Heroic Anub'Rekhan but is hardly great. I won on my second try but I think I was actually pretty lucky.

If I had the full set of cards to play with, I would have a deck with no minions other than Ysera and Gruul and just concede every time he didn't play a turn two deathseeker opposite my Shadow Word: Pain. It would probably be faster than playing our long games that I might not win.

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