Though not as meta-defining as Naxxramas was, the Hearthstone Blackwing Lair expansion has still enabled a number of exciting new decks and shifted the viable and available decks considerably — Grim Patron Warrior, a relatively cheap combo deck has shot to the top of the meta, and some previously strong decks like Oil Rogue and Control Warrior have seen new variants that take advantage of the cards earned in Blackwing Lair. While there are fewer “auto-include” cards like Sludge Belcher and pre-nerf Undertaker, some of Blackwing Lair’s offerings are very strong, especially Emperor Thaurissan, which has added a lot of variety a to mid-range and control decks.
One of the new types of decks opened up by Blackwing Lair — and the one deck type that is truly ‘new’ — are decks that rely on having lots of dragons and taking advantage of their many synergies (these types of decks are called ‘tribal’ decks in other CCGs). While none of these decks are as powerful as Grim Patron Warrior or Face Hunter, they are still competitive on the ladder and offer some truly unique and interesting plays, as well as some powerful combos. Furthermore, because many of the cards are gained from the Blackwing Lair Adventure, it can be easier to get your hands on the core parts of these decks.
Dragon decks rely on one of two mechanics introduced with Blackwing Lair to boost the power of their cards. The first, and most crucial mechanic, are conditional bonuses that trigger if you are currently holding a dragon in your hand. These bonuses can be very powerful, and can help with board control, removal, or smoothing out your mana curve. Dragon decks are, with cards like Blackwing Technician, Twilight Whelp, and Blackwing Corrupter, able to make strong plays well ahead of the curve simply by having a dragon in hand. Additionally, these cards make having powerful late-game dragons like Ysera, Malygos, and Alexstraza in your hand more attractive, because keeping them in your hand actively affects the board state.
Less critical to a dragon deck but still potentially very powerful are cards that have a reduced cost based on the number of minions that have died that turn. Cards like Volcanic Drake, Solemn Vigil, and Volcanic Lumberer can be played for exceptional value, or even for free, depending on the board state, making them strong choices for classes with good board clear or inexpensive minions that can be easily traded. If the deck lacks a reliable way to remove minions — yours or your opponents — then these can end up being dead cards, but clearing the board and dropping a cost-reduced minion can effect a very large tempo swing.
While many decks now include one or two of the new Blackwing Lair dragon cards, especially those without specific dragon synergies, like Hungry Dragon and Volcanic Drake, there are a few that base the core of the deck’s playstyle and win condition around dragons and their synergies. With one dragon class card and easy synergy with conditional cards like Blackwing Corruptro and Dragonkin Sorcerer, Dragon Paladin is one the more popular decks to emerge from Blackwing Lair. While a truly exceptional deck has yet to appear, Dragon Paladin performs well on the ladder and has seen play by several popular pro Hearthstone players and streamers, notably Strifecro and Brian Kibler, and with more experimentation may yet become more viable.
Other classes with dragon synergy are Priest, which also has a dragon class card and strong combo potential with Dragonkin Sorcerer, and Warlock, which can utilize their card draw to make sure that a dragon is always in hand and drop heavily discounted Volcanic Drakes by making use of cheap minions and readily available board clear.
Dragon Paladin Tips and Decklist
Dragon Paladin decks can be played both as mid-range and control, with Dragon Consort allowing the Paladin to play high-cost dragons like Ysera and Chromaggus ahead of the curve. Both Volcanic Drake and Solemn Vigil can synergize extremely well with Muster for Battle and Consecration, allowing for high-value plays after a board clear or sacrificing Silver Hand Recruits. Paladins also have many cards that can activate Dragonkin Sorceror, and with so many viable dragons, Blackwing Technician and Blackwing Corruptor are very strong picks.
Ideally, you want to maintain board control, especially vs. aggro, aiming to play Blackwing Technician or Muster for Battle on turn 3, setting the board up for a discounted Volcanic Drake or a Hungry Dragon. Your Blackwing Corruptors can help keep the board clear or swing it in your favor, and a Dragonkin Sorcerer with Blessing of Wisdom or Blessing of Might is a serious threat. If you can use Dragon Consorts and/or Emperor Thaurissan to set up an early Chromaggus, Nefarian, or Ysera, then it’s your game to lose.
Where these decks suffer is that they can be slow, and the meta is very aggro heavy at the moment. If you don’t draw the correct cards, it can be impossible to set up your combos. It also lacks a strong win condition or a powerful combo to quickly close out games, but neither of these limitations make Dragon Paladins non-competitive, just more challenging than Tier One decks like Grim Patron Warriors and Face Hunters.
Essential Cards: Dragon Consort, Dragonkin Sorcerer, Volcanic Drake, Blackwing Technician, Truesilver Champion, Consecration, Chromaggus, Tirion Fordring.
Strong Cards: Muster for Battle, Blackwing Corruptor, Ysera, Shielded Minibot, Zombie Chow, Nefarian, Azure Drake,
Coghammer, Blessing of Wisdom, Holy Light, Solemn Vigil, Toshley.
Tech Cards: Sludge Belcher (vs. Aggro), Big Game Hunter (vs. Control), Wild Pyromancer (vs. Aggro), Ironbeak Owl
(vs. Control), Rend Blackhand (alternative to Big Game Hunter).
Dragon Priest Tips and Decklist
One of the advantages of Dragon Priest decks is that they struggle less vs. aggro, which can be a problem for many late-game oriented Priest decks. Twilight Whelps are Zombie Chow without any of the drawbacks and a very strong turn one play, and the cheap removal that Priests have make Hungry Dragons much more attractive. Velen’s Chosen and Power Word: Shield also synergize very well with Dragonkin Sorcerer.
There is a lot of flexibility in terms of card choices, but you want to make sure that you have enough dragons to guarantee a a trigger for your Twilight Whelps and Blackwing Technicians. All of the big dragon legendaries have a place in this deck, especially Ysera and Chromaggus, and you might actually have a chance to get them out, especially if you also run Emperor Thaurissan.
While this deck is strong against aggro, especially Face Hunters, it is weaker than traditional control Priest against other control decks and Grim Patron Warriors, which are very popular on the ladder right now. There is no decklist that especially dominant, so feel free to experiment with different card combinations and see what brings you success.
Essential Cards: Twilight Whelp, Azure Drake, Hungry Dragon, Shadow Word: Death, Chromaggus, Holy Nova, Power Word: Shield, Northshire Cleric, Velen’s Chosen, Sylvannas Windrunner.
Strong Cards: Dragonkin Sorcerer, Twilight Drake, Ysera, Blackwing Corruptor, Emperor Thaurissan, Cabal Shadow Priest, Mind Control Tech, Shadow Madness, Resurrect, Volcanic Drake.
Tech Cards: Sludge Belcher (vs. Aggro), Zombie Chow (vs. Aggro), Big Game Hunter (vs. Control), Wild Pyromancer (vs. Aggro), Rend Blackhand (in place of Big Game Hunter).
Dragons have interesting synergy with several other classes, and have the potential to be the cornerstone of other powerful decks — rogues can clear the 1-drop produced by Hungry Dragons, allowing for a very powerful series of opening turns, and Hunters can make Volcanic Drakes very cheap with cards like Snake Trap and Unleash the Hounds. Druids, which already have strong ramp potential, can include dragons to improve the power of their mid-game, and they can easily reduce the cost of Volcanic Drakes and Lumberers with Swipe or Poison seeds.
The meta is still new, so experiment with different combinations and card lists — the next legendary deck may be yours!