The tides are turning. Well, I think.
Honestly, how long is it going to take for the WoW TCG audience to get sick of puns based off of the Throne of the Tides title? Probably not long, if people aren't already sick of them that is.
I was going to do another deck-dump style article for the New Core format, but I wanted to instead focus my attentions on the elephant in the room. In case anyone has been living under a rock and has not noticed how quickly [Grand Crusader] rose in popularity, let me clear something up for you: this ongoing is freaking good.
You know how [Aspect of the Wild] was one of the big boom booms of Worldbreaker Block? Well, [Grand Crusader] stacks, affects more than just nature allies, and comes with the added bonuses of a half-decent hero flip ([Rohashu, Zealot of the Sun]) and [Bottled Light]. So again, just to remind you, [Grand Crusader] is good. So good, in fact, that it will define the New Core format. If you are looking to compete in the World Championship and you can't answer some allies into a turn three [Grand Crusader], then you may as well pack it in. Your deck has no business being at Worlds. This is public enemy #1, and is what you should focus your efforts on beating.
And just to clear something up for you: [Grand Crusader] > [Holy Shock]. I don't think the decision is close. I wouldn't be caught dead running a Paladin deck going for [Holy Shock] control over a Paladin deck built around [Grand Crusader].
I've already seen multiple versions of the deck on Magic Workstation, and have been toying with a version of my own. I've seen all-in strategies that just flood the board with allies and then drop [Grand Crusader], and I've seen builds looking to get filthy with some Murlocs like [Crabbyfin]. Some builds have focused on efficient allies, while others are suicidal and run [Dagax the Butcher] with [Bottled Light] for fun and profit.
These plans are all well and good, but there is one specific card that I feel takes advantage of [Grand Crusader] best. One Horde ally (sorry blue team) that reigns over all as the card you want to build around when constructing an ally-base to pair with [Grand Crusader]. The time for this specific ally has come, as his greatest nemesis, a certain two-cost Dwarf from Blood of the Gladiators has finally rotated out of Core.
The ally's name? [Trade Prince Gallywix].
Hero: [Rohashu, Zealot of the Sun]
4 [Trade Prince Gallywix]
4 [Runzik Shrapnelwhiz]
4 [Cairne, Earthmother's Chosen]
4 [Bronze Drakonid]
4 [Bronze Warden]
3 [Bronze Drake]
3 [Telor Sunsurge]
3 [Alethia Brightsong]
3 [Lordann the Bloodreaver]
4 [Grand Crusader]
3 [Righteous Cleanse]
4 [Etched Dragonbone Girdle]
4 [Bottled Light]
3 [Shalug'doom, The Axe of Unmaking]
4 [Twilight Citadel]
4 [Seeds of their Demise]
This deck looks to position itself between being hyper aggressive, with the right draw involving [Grand Crusader], to a pseudo combo deck that looks over grind out long attrition wars with its opponents all while threatening immediate board recovery or a [Sinestra] powered final turn.
The best ally in this deck, in my mind, is the Trade Prince. He is in essence a 3/2 ally for one resource, but he becomes a lot more if left unchecked. Combined with [Bronze Drakonid] or [Runzik Shrapnelwhiz] (who, by the way, will be crucial as early board control and as a Goblin that gets Gallywix's power), he can help accelerate allies out of your hand for a pivotal [Grand Crusader] turn. He also lets you get multiple uses out of your [Twilight Citadel], which when combined with the Paladin ongoing, lets you pump out 3/3 dragons. It's this second mode that makes Gallywix really powerful, as you no longer are required to commit to the field with any in-hand allies if you are making monsters with your location.
Another use to [Trade Prince Gallywix] is the rebate he gives you on [Bottled Light]. Bring a Gallywix back, get a resource back to use towards other cards. Bring back Gallywix and Runzik, and your [Bottled Light] just let you play two guys for only one resource. Sweet!
For those that did not get a chance to see the strength of [Sinestra] at DMF Philly, I want to emphasize how incredible she is. Against most decks, she was game over the turn she hit. Her effect is so explosive that it's what the Canadian crew built around with their [Fraznak the Furious] Warrior deck. Games ending with [Sinestra] followed by a [Shalug'doom, the Axe of Unmaking] were not uncommon.
Needless to say, [Sinestra] makes a lot of sense when combined with [Grand Crusader]. If your opponent gives you a free turn with [Grand Crusader] and some other cards out, you can easily send an opponent for 0 to dead with the six cost dragonkin, as each token she produces becomes a 3/3 Ferocity ally with the Paladin ongoing active. You've also got the zero-cost epic weapon to pair with her as a nail in the coffin if the opponent is still standing.
This version of [Grand Crusader] takes a more controlling approach. Against most Paladin decks, you will want to keep hands with [Grand Crusader] and/or [Righteous Cleanse]. It is very important that you have an answer to an opposing [Grand Crusader] on the draw, and on the play it is important that your team does not get out-sized by their own copies of the ongoing.
One of the key ways that this particular build plays control is with its host of dragonkin allies along with [Etched Dragonbone Girdle]. While not exactly “undiscovered”, the girdle/citadel combo I feel is too good not to play when you are also running [Twilight Citadel] for being great with Gallywix and [Grand Crusader]. It lets you play more grind-happy games against other aggressive decks, where you will typically always win out in the end with more cards than them. It's hard to ever run out of cards when so much of your stuff is inherent card advantage, but the girdle serves an especially important purpose against opposing control decks, as when you start digging, your potential to threaten a kill out of nowhere is far greater than most control decks can ever hope to do.
This version of [Grand Crusader] also runs an assortment of Delve effects, namely through [Alethia Brightsong] (with artwork from the local great Michael Hayes! SoCal players should bug him for autographs when he's able to make it to local events!), and [Seeds of their Demise]. The Delve ally serves an important purpose of setting up your draws while giving you the chance to be aggressive, even if he's rough against a lot of aggro openings. She also enables you to pop your [Bottled Light] while leaving your hero ready, which is important for things like Shalug'doom. The quest is one of those gems to come out of Throne of the Tides, and I would not be surprised if it sees a lot of play in the next two years. Drawing a card with your quests has become an expensive venture, and paying no resources in order to dig towards something you need is a bargain when it's also a resource for you.
There were a couple of things I tried in this list, but eventually omitted due to space constraints. They might make their way back into the deck at some point, but as of now there are a couple of slots that are undecided. This build is admittedly cramped, so finding space for everything has been tough.
This guy was cute with Gallywix, as he had Time Is Money and could reset your girdle or bring back [Bottled Light] for a second use. Ultimately he didn't impact the board enough and got cut for [Lordann the Bloodreaver], who has been very important due to his Protector keyword.
[Dagax the Butcher]
He's a lot of damage with [Bottled Light] but ultimately not enough enough. It was the same problem as the Giblin Hoarder: he just doesn't impact the board and, when you're behind, 5 damage to the face does nothing to save you.
[Sava'gin the Reckless]
Many people probably consider this guy a Horde staple, but I simply don't have the space for the resource. It was this or [Seeds of their Demise], and I feel the Delve is more important to you getting out of bad situations. Also, 2 damage is a lot less exciting when most of the aggressive decks are running around with +2/+2 pumps and the two early allies you won't to take care of most in this format ([Boomer] and [Lordann the Bloodreaver]) are both 3 health.
[Scimitar of the Sirocco]
I wanted Shalug'doom over this purely because it is that important in the early game right now. You'd be surprised how many decks pack it in against an early Axe of Unmaking. Or maybe you wouldn't be surprised, as that was the case at DMF Philly. The one advantage to this card, at least, is that it's pretty sweet with [Twilight Citadel] once [Grand Crusader] is active, but honestly that's pretty win-more, whereas the card that most compete with this slot ([Sinestra]) allows for come-from-behind victories.
This has been one of my most regrettable cuts, and may very well end up in this list again. The key is that it kills [Sinestra], and also allows for some pretty sweet ally trades in your favor. I've missed this card the most, but ultimately it ended up getting cut for [Righteous Cleanse], which is far too important in the format to give up on right now.
While I think Crusader-Paladin is the deck to beat going into Worlds this year, it is not the only deck of the format. I'll look at a couple of other options later this month in a future Deck Dump article that shows off a couple of archetypes.
I also want to address this, as some people will comment that this list looks boring, or not that different from something out of Block. The turns are very complex for these decks, more often than not, and a whole new level of complexity is added due to Delve. While I think that [Etched Dragonbone Girdle] does pose a bit of a problem to the format, I also feel that answers can be found. This is by no means the fastest deck in the format (I'd give that honor to the Druid, which I'll look at later this month), just one of the more consistent options.
Do not dismiss this deck as dumb-aggro. Sure, you can play sub-optimally and win games. That's what having access to the most potent tools in the format often does for you. However, there are a ton of decision points in each turn, so be ready for those if you wish to have an edge over other Crusader-Paladin players in the room in November.
Also, as this is the elephant in the room, why not discuss your findings in the forums? I assure you; most teams probably know this deck exists and are aware of your tech options. You may as well discuss them in order to find answers to this deck in New Core!