In the months since I first started writing these articles, I have changed up my ladder decks very frequently in order to bring you guys fresh content each week. Many of the decks that I write about I end up getting dropping shortly after I write an article about them, because I need to get to work on something for the following week, but there are a couple of favourites that I keep coming back to when I have some free time.
Probably my favorite deck out of all the ones I have written about was The Forgotten God. Not only was the deck highly effective, but it was also a ton of fun to play. There is nothing quite like demolishing an opponent under a landslide of enormous minions!
The Forgotten God was a deck that also felt like it still had potential to improve. I improved the list that I posted in the article, based on my own work, as well as several fantastic suggestions from my readers on the reddit thread (props to Averysillyman and SetoGuyba for suggesting Soggoth, the Slitherer who was a great addition to the list!).
The thing that really puzzled me is that even though the deck was a ton of fun, and super powerful, it never even managed to make it onto the radar for the TempoStorm tier list. The Forgotten God remained forgotten, despite my best efforts.
So, what does it take to get some attention for my Secondary Lord and Savior Y’Shaarj (behind Yogg, of course)? Maybe Y’Shaarj just needed a little showmanship, a little pizzaz, and some time in the spotlight…
…well, you know who specializes in giving minions a chance to shine under the spotlight?
Pro Player Hoej built the beautiful concoction I am featuring today, and played the deck to a 67% win rate at high legend. Similarly, I have run the Hoej list to a similar 64% winrate (32-18 record over 50 games), between levels 6 and 4. The winrate should have pushed me higher, but I took a break from it to try out Loyan’s cool Totem deck which sucked epically for me.
How is this List Different than The Forgotten God?
Hoej’s list really is the spiritual successor to the Forgotten God. The list is based on getting huge monsters onto the board way sooner than you should be able to and throttling your opponent with them. In my view, however, the addition of Barnes, along with a couple of other innovations, have drastically improved the deck.
Let’s start with the stage manager himself: Barnes. While you often prefer not to play Barnes on 4 mana, you certainly can, and he will provide a lot of potential value. When you tap out for an early Barnes, you are hoping to hit Cairne, Emperor, Ragnaros, Ysera or Y’Shaarj. Your best flip is Y’Shaarj himself, especially since, in my personal experience, mini-Y’Shaarj has approximately a 100% probability of hitting big Y’Shaarj with his first trigger (based on anecdotal evidence…that actual math may not add up). So, out of 12 potential minions, 5 of them are powerful flips when you tap out for Barnes (plus two potential mini taunting Bog Creepers, which aren’t terrible either). In addition to that, if you play Barnes with an extra mana or two available, you have two other powerful potential hits: Fandral and Aviana. This means that with a couple of extra mana (and a Wrath or fatty in hand, as the case may be), Barnes has a 7 out of 12 shot of being a bomb. These odds are increased even further because two of your “misses” (your Mire Keepers) are opening hand keepers in every matchup, while your best Barnes flips are almost always mulligans.
Although Barnes is the flashiest new addition, I don’t think it is the most important innovation in the list. The biggest issue the Forgotten God had back in the spring was that it needed to hit its acceleration, or it would come out of the gates very slowly, and often fall too far behind. Hoej has gone a long way to solving that issue by adding some significant additional early game tools.
In my later versions of the Forgotten God, I had added Fandral, one Raven Idol and one Feral Rage. Hoej has taken that one step farther, adding both copies of Feral Rage, both copies of Raven Idol and a Mulch. After playing with this list, I am of the opinion that this was exactly what the deck needed.
Until now, I had played Feral Rage a bunch, but had never played more than one copy, and had never really appreciated it as much as I should have. It always just felt like a nice one-of that was situationally powerful. In this list, however, Feral Rage is so much more important. Feral Rage usually acts as a removal spell early, if you are short on ramp cards, and a life gain spell or finisher in the late game. Feral Rage will take down a Totem Golem on turn 3. Along with your hero power it can take down a 5 toughness creature like Emperor Thaurissan for 5 mana (not the greatest return, but sometimes necessary). Rage’s most important ability is the armor ability, though, since this deck often takes a while to get going. The extra life buffer absolutely makes the difference in many games. All of this doesn’t even take into account how awesome Rage is alongside Fandral.
Raven Idol is an innocuous card, but also should not be underestimated. You often want to play it on turn 1 to try to pull a Wild Growth or Innervate. This slightly increases your concentration of ramp cards, which this deck is always desperate for. Alongside Fandral (or mini-Barnes Fandral), Idol also becomes a ridiculous card advantage spell, letting you discover both a spell and a minion, which helps you in attrition matchups. More often, however, Raven Idol just ends up acting as a card that can find you the right spell for most mid-game situations. Sometimes that means getting a Healing Touch to keep yourself out of burn range, sometimes that means getting Naturalize or Mulch to deal with a troublesome creature, and sometimes it can means getting Starfall to wrath an opponent’s board. Druid has lots of powerful, albeit situational cards that you would rarely play in your maindeck, but would gladly take in the right situation off an Idol.
In playing several versions of this deck over many, many games, I believe that this early game lineup really helps to shore up the biggest weakness the deck has had, in the past. With Barnes onside, I think this list is ready for its moment in the spotlight!
Before I get into analyzing the particular matchups, I am going to address the general mulligan strategy, because it changes surprisingly little between matchups. You are desperate for ramp cards and early game defensive cards. Wild Growth is the best card to see in your opening hand, followed by Innervate. Raven Idol is a keep across the board (usually played on turn 1 to search for Wild Growth or Innervate). Similarly, Wrath is a keep in all but the strangest hands (ie. Wild Growth + 2 Wraths, I would probably throw back one Wrath to find something proactive). Mire Keeper is, similarly, a keep in all but the strangest hands. Living Roots and Feral Rage are cards that are matchup dependent, although both are keeps more often than they are mulligans. Barnes is a contextual keep across the board. If you have some acceleration (ie. Wild Growth or Innervate) you often want to keep him, because he is strong early action, and a one-of, but if you have no acceleration then send him back and find some.
My most played-against class was warrior, with most of them being the Dragon Warrior variety. The 10-4 record against arguably the top deck in the meta is a pretty big plus in the column of this deck, in my humble opinion. OTK Warrior was my second most common Warrior matchup, and this deck is very good there, too. Against Dragon Warrior, TFGGTTO (“The Forgotten God Goes to the Opera”) can just go over the top of the Warrior player, swinging the tempo quickly and running them out of gas. Against OTK Warrior, TFGGTTO can use Feral Rage and Bog Creepers to buy the time it needs to finish an opponent off before they can combo. The mulligan strategy is pretty standard against Warrior except I will send back Living Roots, due to the relative lack of strong 2 health minions in most Warrior decks, and will keep Feral Rage, as long as I don’t need to dig for acceleration, since it removes the key 3 and 4 health minions most Warrior decks play.
Against Dragon Warrior, your minions will ultimately outclass theirs, so you need to keep the board under control and accelerate your mana, until you can start slamming fatties. If you do so at a relatively healthy life total, then you should be able to ride them to victory.
Against OTK Warrior, the amendment to this strategy is that you ideally want to hold your Bog Creepers until your opponent has hopefully exhausted his Executes, since this list has several less taunters than the original Forgotten God list. Do not hesitate to use Feral Rage to gain armour if it is looking like you are getting into the danger zone lifewise, even if your opponent likely cannot combo off yet. You often need all your mana to drop fatties in later turns, so getting a Rage out early, instead of holding it for possible removal, can sometimes make the difference between winning and losing.
The other top deck out there, as usual, is Shaman, and, yes, this deck also beats up Shaman. Most of my matchups against Shaman were against the aggro or midrange lists. You want to keep Feral Rage here, since it removes Totem Golem. Wrath is great for getting rid of Tunnel Trogg, and Living Roots plus hero power also removes the Trogg. Mulch is usually held for Flamewreath Faceless or Thing from Below. Usually you want to prioritize ramping with Mire Keeper at 4 mana over removing something with Swipe (although sometimes you obviously get too juicy a board to lay off). Nourish is almost always used for ramping, as opposed to card draw here (and this applies to every other aggro matchup, too). If you didn’t use Feral Rage in the first few turns as removal, you probably want it for life gain, and if you end up with 3 extra mana, and don’t think you are going to run out of gas anytime soon, then go ahead and armour up.
Mage has also gained a lot of popularity, and is a very good matchup. Feral Rage is a keep, since it removes Flamewaker and Mana Wyrm. In the late game, again, the life gain is also crucial for avoiding getting burned out with direct damage, so if you have a different removal spell to use in the early or mid-game, it is often correct to hold the Rage. All of Mage’s removal (except for random Polymorphs) is damage based, so they have a lot of trouble with your fat creatures once they come down.
One note on Barnes: as a general rule of thumb, you want to play Barnes with extra mana available (or a coin/Innervate in hand) against Druid, Rogue and Mage, since their hero powers can remove whatever he creates so easily. Warrior is similar, since they have so many Whirlwind effects. By holding for a turn, you open up the possibility of gaining additional value if Barnes hits Aviana or Fandral. Against classes like Shaman, Paladin, Priest, Warlock and Hunter, however, your opponent likely needs to use a card from hand to remove your Barnes (if they have nothing on board), so you can feel more free to tap out for Barnes, if you don’t have a better play available.
My Druid matchups were pretty varied. I believe I lost twice against Control Druid variants with Malygos. Against the more common matchups of Token Druid and Beast Druid, I was about 2-1 and 1-1 respectively. The Token Druid matchup is pretty even, and pretty swingy. If you get a timely Swipe, or a good Barnes, or you go off with your Fandral before they do, then you probably win. If they get a big board with Soul of the Forest, or go off with Fandral, or get a good Barnes hit, then they probably win. If you feel like all is lost, Deathwing is a pretty reasonable out to play to. Token Druid usually has one Mulch (but often zero), so Deathwing can often steal games if you both exhaust each other’s resources before he hits the table. Beast Druid feels a little more positive, but my games against it were played pre-Menagerie Warden, so the newer builds will likely be more midrangy, and that matchup data is likely not an indication of how those matchups go.
The Hunter matchup is all about protecting your life total. I will mulligan Feral Rage here, because I specifically don’t want to use it as removal early. This matchup often comes down to whether you have a Feral Rage to keep them from burning you out after you have taken the board. Bog Creeper and Feral Rage are the two cards that usually slam the door shut after you have won the board. Hero power to remove Fiery Bat is usually correct over cycling Wrath on it, since Wrath has lots of useful targets (such as the Huge Toad they likely follow the Bat with). When you win this matchup it is usually by the skin of your teeth, and when you lose this matchup it is usually a blowout. Early tempo and maintaining your life total are what make the difference between the two. Overall, I would say that this is your worst matchup, but it is far from unwinnable (probably about 40%).
The Paladin matchups were against control variants, and those matchups all come down to their Equality board clears. If you can force them to use a board clear on one or two minions, then you are golden. If you overextend, then you are going to get punished.
The Rogue matchup was surprisingly strong this time around, after being really rough for the original Forgotten God list. I believe the difference is that TFGGTTO doesn’t fall as far behind on tempo, so Sap isn’t as high impact. While I only played the matchup twice, both wins were pretty decisive. From my experience with the previous list, however, I can say that if Rogue gets an aggressive start and can Sap your first fattie, then you are often in a lot of trouble. Always hold Mulch for Edwin, if you can.
I only had one Zoolock matchup, and I won it. From my experience with the previous Forgotten God list, I expect that this matchup is positive (it was about 55% with The Forgotten God). Innervating into an early fatty often makes all the difference here. Once you get going, you swing the momentum too quickly for their life tap to save them. Feral Rage is usually a mulligan here, but can be key card later on in the game for keeping yourself out of burst range.
Priest…well I haven’t played against much of those with either version of the deck, but it’s Priest, so I assume the matchup is pretty good.
First of all, I tested the deck with the exact list that Hoej used, making no substitutions, even though there was one particular one that I thought pretty strongly should have been made. Emperor Thaurissan is occasionally amazing with Barnes (in theory, I never actually pulled him), but other than that, is pretty lackluster. Emperor also isn’t a great Y’Shaarj flip, since his ability won’t trigger until the following turn, and he is usually dead by then (and 5/5 is a relatively small body in this deck). I would test Sylvanas in the Emperor slot. Ultimately, reducing the cost of Y’Shaarj to 9 is not that relevant. You aren’t playing as many cards a turn as Token Druid does, so you don’t get nearly as much value. Sylvanas, on the other hand, is an awesome Barnes reveal, a great Y’Shaarj flip, and just, generally, a way more powerful card in play than Emperor is. If they have to board clear themselves to deal with Sylvanas, as often happens, then they are probably going to hate to see the Bog Creeper or Ragnaros that you probably have coming down the next turn.
In regards to substituting out legendaries, when I went through the list of cards you could substitute out of the old school Forgotten Gods list, I said that the fatties in here were relatively interchangeable. That is no longer the case. There are far fewer cards that work as great Barnes reveals than there are cards that work as great Y’Shaarj flips. If you are missing any key legends, there are only a few substitutes that you can use that will have anywhere near the same impact. Sylvanas is one big exception (while still being a legend herself, of course), but aside from that, you are losing a lot of value if you drop any of your big legends like Cairne, Ragnaros, Aviana, Ysera, Fandral or Y’Shaarj. There just aren’t any non-legend cards with huge game changing abilities like that.
If you are going to substitute out one or two legends, and still want to play the list, I would recommend inserting Sunwalker, who is still a pretty impactful and annoying-to-deal-with Barnes reveal. A couple of other potential legends to use would include Soggoth, the Slitherer or The Skeleton Knight, both of whom have pretty solid effects when revealed with Barnes (Skeleton Knight will come back to your hand at full size if you win the joust).
The most indespensible of your legends in this deck is undoubtedly Barnes, with Y’Shaarj probably being second. Both of those cards are insanely high impact, and without them the entire deck construction changes significantly.
Aside from Emperor, Deathwing is probably the least necessary legend in the deck. He occasionally steals games, but he is also occasionally an awkward draw when you need some action that won’t cause you to discard a hand full of useful removal. Deathwing is a great last-ditch card, much like Yogg often is, that will win you games that you have no business winning, but is pretty useless at helping you finish off games that you are winning. Deathwing is also a pretty poor Barnes reveal. Arguably, he doesn’t actually deserve a spot, but he has stolen enough games for me that I haven’t been able to bring myself to drop him, yet. If you don’t have Deathwing, I would recommend Soggoth, the Slitherer as the best substitute, with Cenarius also being a consideration (or Sylvanas if you haven’t already put her in for Emperor). Outside of legends, this is the one slot where you can pretty easily just sub in a huge non-legend fatty like Ancient of War or Ironbark Protector, since you aren’t diluting Barnes in any way by doing so.
One final note: while I think Fandral is absolutely the correct card in that slot, if you do not have him, and don’t usually like playing Druid (because if you do then you really should craft him), then Violet Teacher is a pretty decent substitute. It has a pretty comparable effect and fits in the same spot on the curve. I would not use Teacher to sub for any of the other legends, however, since she is not as high impact, and lowering your curve too much lowers the power of your ramp cards.
As always, if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to join the discussion on reddit here. Upvotes there are always appreciated, too. 🙂
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In other news, I am proud to announce that we have set a date for the EndBoss Hearthstone Open Tournament #2! The tournament will take place on Sunday, September 18th at noon on the North American server. Like last time, we are making entry free, and will be putting up the entire $100USD prize pool ourselves, so check it out here. This will probably be our last free entry tournament for Hearthstone (we have some cool stuff in mind for future ones, so stay tuned), so take advantage of the freebie while you can.
Of course, we are also planning to stream the entire event on our Twitch stream. Coverage will start at noon, when the tournament does, and, like last time, we will show all the semi-final and final matchups in their entirety. I will be commentating along with my partner Ben “Overseer” Wastle. We had a blast doing so last time, and we are very much looking forward to this one!