Mill you say? That strategy hasn’t been viable in Hearthstone since… well, ever. The GvG expansion really shook things up though, and all of a sudden, so called “Fatigue” decks are really starting to catch on.
If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, don’t worry, it’s pretty simple. Instead of beating your opponent the old fashioned way, ie: slamming minions and spells into their face until their health hits zero, Fatigue decks are looking to cause the opposing player to run out of cards in their deck.
Why? Well, if a player ever runs out of cards, they’ll take “Fatigue” damage every time the game would otherwise have them draw (at the beginning of the turn for example). This damage is incremental, meaning the first time it happens they’ll take 1 damage, then 2, then 3, etc.
Informally, this strategy is often called “milling,” a term inspired by a Magic: The Gathering card that had opponents discarding cards off of the top of their deck.
If this sounds like a really roundabout way to win, it is, but that hasn’t stopped clever deckbuilders from creating some really interesting builds.
The jury’s still out on whether or not they can hang with the best of the meta (probably not), but even if they can’t, there are still enough tools now to make them a serious threat, even in ranked play.
So if you’re looking for something waaay out there to brew, here’s how you can get started.
First off, let’s get the big sticking point out of the way. Hearthstone was really not designed with these so-called Fatigue decks in mind. Unlike games such as Magic: The Gathering, there are really no dedicated “mill” cards in Hearthstone; effects that would cause an opponent to put cards directly from their deck into their discard pile for example.
Instead, Hearthstone Fatigue decks rely on the idea of causing your opponent to draw cards. Normally, this is a very bad thing; after all, your opponent wants to draw whenever possible, it’s one of the most fundamental principles of the game.
To make sure this work then, Fatigue decks aim to fill up their opponent’s hand as quickly as possible. A player can only have 10 cards in their hand at the same time, so if they were to draw an 11th, they would automatically discard it.
Still, giving your opponent that much draw is very dangerous, so much of your deck will also be dedicated to shutting down the board; removing and neutralizing threats as your opponent plays them.
Luckily, this isn’t as difficult as it sounds, as you’ll be able to play the entire game defensively. You don’t need to worry about protecting your own side of the board, just making sure you can stall your opponent long enough that the Fatigue damage does the work for you.
So now that you have the basic concept down, here are some of the cards that make this strategy work.
Since the dawn of time (or at least, the dawn of Hearthstone players trying to make mill decks), Coldlight Oracle has been a go-to inclusion. The card’s effect is doubly-good, as it not only causes your opponent to draw, but it also gives you two cards as well (and a minion that you an use to trade).
Naxx gave us this solid little number. Its Deathrattle effect (giving your opponent a draw) was meant to be a downside, but in this deck, it’s a plus. A 4/4 body for 3 mana that makes your opponent draw? That’s good news all-around.
Deathlord has two things going for it. On one end, its Deathrattle takes a card out of your opponent’s deck. This one goes straight to the battlefield, so it’s way worse than making your opponent draw, but it still works. More importantly though, Deathlord is a 2/8 Taunt-er for just 3 mana, which is crazy effective at buying you some time as you try to stall the game out.
For 3 mana, Mr. Mukla brings down a 5/5 body onto your side of the table, which is already pretty great. Even better though, he fills your opponents hand with two cards (which, depending on their board position, might be completely useless). Those two cards make it that much easier to fill your opponent’s hand up, and since this effect happens on your turn, with any luck it could negate your opponent’s next beginning-of-turn draw.
Outside of these cards, you’ll be mainly looking for ways to slow the game down. Removal, both spot removal for big threats and board wipes for aggro decks, is a must. Annoying minions with Taunt (Sludge Belcher MVP) will also be extremely helpful, as are control and midrange staples like Loatheb and Defender of Argus.
An example deck list to get you brewing.
For an example decklist, we’ll be going with the Druid class, due to its access to Naturalize and Grove Tender, two more ways to make your opponent draw. Obviously there are a lot of options out there though (Freeze Mage seems worthy of experimentation), so feel free to get a little crazy with your brewing.
Naturalize – x2
1 mana to destroy any minion? And it makes my opponent draw? Yes please.
Wrath is basically a staple removal in just about any Druid deck because of how cheap and flexible it is.
Grove Tender – x2
A new GvG addition, Grove Tender is a pretty solid body that can also make your opponent draw.
Keeper of the Grove – x2
Another piece of your removal package, Keeper can shoot 2 damage at something, or silence a particularly negative effect.
Swipe – x2
One half of your anti-aggro spell package. Don’t forget that you can throw the 4 to your opponent’s face if there aren’t any better targets on the battlefield.
Starfall – x2
Another big of anti-aggro, Starfall can clear the board or throw 5 damage at a particularly dangerous minion.
Force of Nature – x1
Force of Nature is another pretty flexible card, allowing you to allocate 6 damage where you see fit. Treat it like removal in this deck.
Tree of Life – x1
Troll level: Tree of Life. There are few cards that can cause more frustration than seeing your opponent’s life pop back up to 30. Tree of Life is super expensive at 9 mana (which is why we’re only taking one), but it’s the perfect card to stretch the game out a few more turns as your opponent’s deck runs out.
Explosive Sheep – x2
Fear the sheep, because this card has the ability to really shutdown aggro decks that are trying to empty their hand.
Youthful Brewmaster – x2
If you’re familiar with some of Hearthstone‘s combo decks, you’ll understand why Brewmaster works here. Use him to get a double whammy out of cards like Coldlight Oracle.
Coldlight Oracle – x2
Dancing Swords – x2
Deathlord – x2
King Mukla – x1
See above for an explanation on these four cards.
Defender of Argus – x2
Argus is still as staple-y as he’s ever been. Throwing a taunt onto guys like Mukla and Dancing Swords is sure to slow things way down.
Loatheb – x1
Loatheb is pretty expensive, but his Battlecry can really effectively wreck your opponent’s plans for their next turn, especially in spell heavy decks. The 5/5 body doesn’t hurt either.
Sludge Belcher – x2
Arguably the best neutral Taunt-er in the game, Sludge Belcher takes a minimum of two attacks/removal spells to get ride of, and he’s got a pretty chunky amount of health to boot.
The Fatigue concept has a lot of holes, which is why it’s never really taken off in any meta. While the idea makes sense, stalling out the board until your opponent runs out of cards is a lot easier said than done.
A typical control deck is only looking to slow things down to give them time to drop their own threats, whether they’re giants or fireballs or whatever. A Fatigue deck really doesn’t have any threats, so your only option is survive long enough for your opponent to run out of cards (and often a few turns longer).
This means using every single one of your cards as effectively as possible. Every single one of your games will be a long and protracted back-and-forth, with your opponent laying down threats, and you neutralizing them as efficiently as possible. Any wasted cards gives your opponent the momentum they need to beat you.
Additionally, decks that can drop their entire hand quickly and snowball from there are very dangerous. The Zoo and Mech variants running around will give you a lot of trouble, so make sure you’re timing your board wipes to be as effective as possible, without waiting too long and allowing those enemy minions to bulk up on you.
All of that being said, Fatigue is still a really fun concept, and a great little diversion for a brewer looking for something new. Give it a try, see how you like it. Maybe you can be the one to finally build a viable ranked version!