You queue into what seems to be the 5th Secret Paladin in a row and you are fed up. You go into the deck creation screen and add a Flare or two to your deck. You look at Kezan Mystic and consider throwing her in. After all, if all you play against is Mysterious Challenger you might as well go all in.
Unfortunately, as many people realized when TGT came out, adding a Flare does not really solve your problem. Your opponent plays 11 mana worth of stuff on turn 6. Surely nuking 5 of that mana for 2 mana is a favorable trade! It’s massive card advantage as well! Except now you have 4 mana to answer that 6/6 that’s going to bash your face in. Wait, wasn’t Flare supposed to make the Secret Paladin cry? Why does this feel just like a decent play?! Flare is in this deck for this matchup only! Taking Doomhammer to the museum this is not.
The problem with the train of thought above is not understanding what a tech card is. Let’s fix that.
What is a Tech Card?
It’s a card in a flex spot to adjust your deck against the metagame.
The king of tech cards is Harrison Jones. His purpose is clear: to make players with weapons cry. His power level is through the roof. He can draw 6+ cards and destroy a weapon while putting a decent body on the board. Even if he hits a dagger he is still an Azure Drake on steroids. Sure, he stinks in some matchups but his floor is paying 1 extra mana for a 5/4.
Flare and Kezan Mystic are the other obvious tech choices. People play secrets, you play them and win because you built your deck better. Wait no, that’s not what’s happening at all. Secret Paladin is not all that upset you stole Redemption.
Modorra, this is awful. Do I just have to resign myself to lose to Secret Paladin? Is this the part where you are going to tell me that it’s the best deck and that if I wanted to win I should just play it? Nope, I’m here to tell you to tech smarter.
Hunting the Top Dog
The trick here is that Flare is not the best hunter tech card against Mysterious Challenger, Hunter's Mark is. With a small board, or even just Unleash the Hounds or Explosive Trap without a board, Hunter's Mark deals with the dangerous part of Mysterious Challenger. All that’s left is Competitive Spirit plus a Repentance and we all know those cards aren’t scary on their own. Oh, and Hunter's Mark costs 0. Yep, you still have a bunch of mana to develop a board after clearing the scariest 6 drop in the game.
But Modorra, Hunter's Mark is standard in Midrange Hunter! How is it a tech card?
1 Hunter's Mark is pretty standard but 2 at the expense of Ironbeak Owl is not. Do you suffer sometimes for not having a silence? Yes, but this is what a tech choice is: a sacrifice in one matchup for another.
Deckbuilding is not done in a vacuum, so let’s take a look at a list inspired by TwoBiers’s Dreadscale Midrange Hunter teched out to beat Secret Paladin.
This list has a lot of subtle and not so subtle tech choices to be good against Secret Paladin and Midrange Druid. Lets look at them:
Unleash the Hounds #2: not core to the deck, but it supports the main theme, so it’s in.
Sludge Belcher: The second 5 drop slot is always contested between Stranglethorn Tiger, Ram Wrangler, Sludge Belcher or another 4 drop. Sludge Belcher is the best against Secret Paladin because it lets you stabilize if you are playing the slower that game.
Bear Trap: Secret Paladin’s early game is faster than Midrange Hunter’s early game. Adding in undercosted taunts is a good way to stabilize the board.
Freezing Trap: Not the best against Paladin, but it’s too good in other matchups not to run it.
Where does the Midrange Druid tech come in? Well, the list is already playing 2 Hunter's Marks which are great against Midrange Druid. By choosing to add 2 Quick Shots you increase the chance you will be able to answer a turn 2 Darnassus Aspirant, one of the weaknesses in an otherwise good matchup.
All this theory is well and fine, but does it work? Does the deck actually perform? I hit rank 30 legend with this deck in November, largely due to how good the deck is against Secret Paladin. I also took it to a second place finish in a $300 prize pool tournament.
The Million Flavors of Tech
The decklist above is designed to beat a deck built around secrets and weapons and there is not a Kezan Mystic or Harrison Jones in sight. There are a ton of ways to adapt your deck to the meta that aren’t adding the right proportion of Harrison Jones, Mind Control Tech, Antique Healbot, The Black Knight and Kezan Mystic.
Ragnaros the Firelord instead of Archmage Antonidas in Tempo Mage: The fireball factory will win you games you have no business winning especially with [Finicky Cloakfield]s, but it can be a little awkward in a deck that is prone to running out of gas. Do you keep your last cheap spell on turn 12 in your hand in case you topdeck an Archmage Antonidas? While the good archmage has a huge impact on the next turn, it is still takes a turn longer than Ragnaros the Firelord to burn something and it’s surprising how often that one turn matters.
Blingtron 3000 in Tempo Mage: Blingtron 3000 was amazing tech back when Patron Warrior ruled the roost. Being able to break a primed Death's Bite is usually Harrison Jones’s job but if you care more about tempo than card advantage getting a weapon now can be better than drawing a card.
Fel Reaver in Mech Mage: For a while in the late BRM meta it seemed Mech Mage was dead. It was rare to see the former #1 deck on the ladder anymore. The someone made a drastic tech choice: cut Mad Scientist and secrets for Fel Reaver. The deck had a new surge in popularity.
Cutting the second Fiery War Axe in Combo Patron: Not all tech is adding obscure cards to your deck. Cutting the second ‘Fiery Win Axe’ was unthinkable in any Warrior deck, but it was definitely the right call for the BRM meta and one of the biggest innovations in the deck.
Cutting Voidcaller in Zoo: Ever since Mal'Ganis came out it seemed ludicrous to cut your 4 drop that’s really a 9 drop. Its such a plainly unfair thing to do that it must be correct to run right? Recently the smaller version of Zoo, loudly proclaiming Dire Wolf Alpha > Voidcaller seems to be winning out. Being able to contest the board early is more important than getting free 9 drops in this meta.
We can rebuild it. We have the technology.
A properly teched deck can bring back an archetype. Sometimes it means busting out a card that everyone has forgotten about and sometimes it means taking the deck to an earlier version. Seeing decks come back from the memory hole is a joy. Happy Brewing!
As always, any feedback on the article or site is greatly appreciated.