Creativity in Deck Building

Hi guys, today I have a fairly short article for you. Basically I’m going to show you a Druid deck I built recently and then talk you some of the more interesting and creative ideas I had when building it. As you probably guessed, I got distracted by image filters, lol. ūüôā Anyway…I was testing […]

Introduction

Hi guys, today I have a fairly short article for you. Basically I’m going to show you a Druid deck I built recently and then talk you some of the more interesting and creative ideas I had when building it.

About The Deck

As you probably guessed, I got distracted by image filters, lol. ūüôā

Anyway…I was testing this deck at Ranks 4 and 3 on Ladder during the October Season. At the time I was facing a lot of Secrets Paladin, Face Hunter, and a tiny bit of Aggro Druid. ¬†So I decided I wanted to build a Druid deck that was decent against these fast decks (while also strong enough to hold its own vs control decks). My solution was to add four swipe‘s (i.e. Wild Pyromancer + Wrath) and a Refreshment Vendor to the deck.

Now, this particular article is not intended as a ‘deck tech’ nor is it intended as a deck-building guide. Thus, I don’t really wish to talk about the deck (in general) any more than I already have. Instead, I want to focus on some of my ‘creative’ uses of cards and mechanics.

If you want to try the deck on ladder by all means go for it, but I’d like stated on the record that I do not claim that this is a strong deck.¬†

Fyi, my most recent version is:

+1 Refreshment Vendor

+1 Mulch

-1 Ancient of War

-1 Keeper of the Grove

Synergy

I while ago I wrote and article on Synergy which you can read here. For the purposes of this article all you really need to know about synergy is that there basically two types. The first type is basically card text synergy: The interaction (or “synergy”) between webspinner and Houndmaster can be understood simply by reading the cards. The other type of synergy is what I call ‘strategical synergy’. In many cases this latter sort of synergy is often subtle and requires a good deal of thought to comprehend. In a nutshell, building decks with a lot of strategical synergy requires both a lot of creativity and understanding of the game itself. This brief description will suffice for today, but if you want to know more about this sort of synergy just read my other article. ūüôā

So yeah, before reading on why not have one last look at the list above and see what synergies you can see. In what follows I’m going to talk about some of the more interesting ideas contained within the deck.

Spare Parts

In terms of design, Clockwork Gnome is one more my favourite cards in the entire game. Basically, the spare parts this little robot generates upon death (poor guy) allows deck-builders to do some pretty interesting things.

For example, I added Clockwork Gnome is a Murloc Deck a few months ago, the main idea being that I could buff Murlocs with Reversing Switch. For those of you that are unaware, if you have a 1/1 minion buffed by a flametongue totem and then cast the switch it becomes a 3/3 (once the totem dies it becomes a 1/3). Murloc Warleader works in the same way. The really cool thing was that if I both those cards where on the field then I could make a MEGA MURLOC, muahahahaha.

In this Druid deck the spare parts we get from the Gnomes have some obvious uses (the more cheap spells a deck has the better Wild Pyromancer becomes), but talking about that sort of stuff is both obvious and boring. Instead, I want to talk about some or the more creative and ‘novel’ uses of these parts.

I’ll take that back.

Okay so you play the little gnome it dies and you get Time Rewinder. Since the deck has a couple of nice Battlecry like effects (e.g. Ancient of Lore, Keeper of the Grove etc) there are a handful of really obvious uses for this particular spare part.

But what is less clear (at least initially) is that this spare part has some synergy with Aviana and also the darnassus-aspirant. In the case of the aspirant the cool thing you can do is it bounce back to your hand and then replay it. Doing this gives you a permanent mana increase (just like Wild Growth does) because bouncing a minion back to the hand does not trigger Deathrattles. Cool huh?

As for the Aviana synergy, well that perhaps takes a bit more explaining (please note: for the follow combo to work you also need the coin/ emperor thaurissan/ innervate in the hand). The problem with Time Rewinder¬†in general is that the card costs a considerable amount of tempo.¬†This is probably one of the reasons why you don’t really see Youthful Brewmaster that much in competitive play; the +1 card advantage is rarely worth the expensive cost in tempo.

But since Aviana drops the cost of  minions to 1, the tempo cost of bouncing a big minion is reduced significantly; if I bounce an Ancient of Lore then I am effectively paying 2 mana for two card draw or 5 health. And both of these options are reasonable (e.g. compare with Ancestral Knowledge, Holy Light).

In short, if I get Time Rewinder I have two clever uses for the card, I can combo with Aviana late-game and in the early to mid-game I can get a permanent mana ramp via bouncing Aspirant.

It should be noted however that we only get this particular spare part 1 in 7 times. So…what can we do with the other spare parts?

Hiding Big Trees

When was the last time you made a 10/5 Ancient of War? I’m guessing the last time you did that was when your mouse decided to misbehave by clicking on the wrong shit. The problem with 10/5 mode is that it gets removed easily; at 5 health minion attacks and spells (e.g. Fireball) are frequently efficient. Moreover, the 10 attack makes the Ancient vulnerable to a variety of other cards as well (e.g. Big Game Hunter, Shadow Word: Death). But what if we could avoid such downsides, might there be merit in making a 10/5 then? Of course!

Enter Scene: finicky cloakfield

A 10/5 is easily killed but a 10/5 with stealth is considerably more resilient. Therefore, I think that — unlike most other Druid decks — we can use legitimately use War’s ‘attack mode’ under certain circumstances.

As you go through the deck list it should be clear that there is a plethora of good stealth targets; sylvanas-windrunner, Emperor Thaurissan, Malorne, and Aviana.

Okay so that’s two out of seven spare parts explained, what about some of the others?

The Other Parts…

If the deck contained Savage Roar we would have a neat little trick with reversing switch  but as it is the only really cool thing we can do is swap the stats of Wild Pyromancer (which enables us to play a 3rd spell without killing it).

As for Rusty Horn I guess it works nicely with Malorne and Cenarius.

As for Armor plating, Whirling Blades, and Emergency Coolant the deck doesn’t really run anything that can exploit these to max effect, so we probably play¬†these ones for value as opposed to trying for combos.

With that said, if we want to we could add other cards to the deck to squeeze additional juice (e.g. Big Game Hunter + Whirling Blades = A FUCKED UP tirion-fordring/ Mysterious Challenger, or The Black Knight + Rusty Horn = A FUCKED UP ANYTHING (more or less)).      

To wrap up…

In conclusion, adding spare parts to almost any deck can allow you to do some rather interesting things, and that’s why I love the little gnome. While of course these cards work great in spell focused decks (e.g. Tempo Mage) in other decks the true value is to be found by finding ¬†a variety of novel and creative uses for the parts.

  • In some cases these spare parts can make situational¬†cards (e.g Big Game Hunter, The Black Knight) more versatile or consistent.
  • In other cases, you can use the spare parts to set up powerful plays (e.g. Stealth with Archmage¬†Antonidas or confessor paletress).
  • In other cases you can surprise the opponent (e.g. Shadow Madness and Reversing Switch/Time Rewinder).

In short, whenever you build a deck and feel like you need a 1-drop consider for a brief moment Clockwork Gnome: This little guy can potentially do a number of surprising– and sometimes powerful– things for your deck. With that said sometimes spotting the opportunity requires a little bit of creative thinking on your part; the combos and idea’s are not always obvious.

Wild Growth

“In order to be creative, one must spot patterns other players have missed or have taken for granted.”

On Turn 10 playing Wild Growth draws you the card Excess Mana.

“What can you do with this?”

If you ask most players what Wild Growth is for they will tell you it is used to ramp out big minions/spells earlier than you normally should. In the late game it’s just a two-mana cycle card.¬†This description of the card (while rather accurate) misses a trick: Casting¬†Wild Growth on Turn 10 allows you to play two spells for 2 mana.

Once you start thinking about Wild Growth not merely as ‘ramp’ but also as being ‘two spells’ the creative juices should start flowing and suddenly you might spot a number of interesting ideas. For example:

  • Draw 2 cards with gadgetzan-auctioneer
  • Create 2x 1/1 tokens with Violet Teacher or 2x 2/1 tokens with Illidan¬†Stormrage
  • +2/+2 stats on Questing Adventurer
  • + 2 cards (for the opponent) with Lorewalker Cho
  • Whatever the new set(s) bring…
  • …and so on…

Once you spot the potential to draw two cards with Auctioneer you might start wondering if there is a deck that could be built that utilises that idea; Spare Parts, Innervate, Wrath and moonfire are all examples of cards that could work nicely with the Auctioneer. Come to think of it, if the excellent Ancient of Lore didn’t exist in the game Auctioneer would probably be the card draw engine of choice for most Druid players. But anyway, I digress; the salient point I want to focus on is that once you think about how Wild Growth can be ‘two spells for two mana’ you might spot an opportunity that otherwise might have been missed.

Can my deck take advantage of the ¬†“Wild Growth = 2 spells” idea? Yes it can. With Wild Pyromancer¬†my deck effectively gains two copies whirlwind. Since this combo is only possible at Turn 10 this isn’t some sort of ‘magical cure’ against Aggro, but it is nonetheless something I can do¬†and in the right circumstances¬†it might¬†be the best play available to me.

In my particular deck this Pyromancer combo is simply a board clear, but if you are willing to get a even more creative you can probably come up with some interesting (if a little crazy) ways to use this effect. For example:

  • Grim Patron —> Moonfire¬†—> Wild Pyromancer —> Wild Growth —> Excess Mana

    9 mana combo = +1 Card Draw, +2 AoE, Board Full of Patrons.

  • Acolyte of Pain—> Wild Pyromancer —> Wild Growth —> Excess Mana

    7 mana combo = +3 Card Draw, +2 AoE, 1/1 Acolyte on Board

  • ¬†…and so on…

I wouldn’t recommend building a deck specifically around these ideas. Rather, you should consider these ideas ways to make some of the cards you want to play anyway (e.g. Wild Growth, Acolyte of Pain) more consistent/powerful/versatile.

In conclusion then, being creative requires you to constantly ask yourself questions about how things work; if you are lucky you might just find something that is both cool and practical. But anyway, this is a different topic for a different day.

Let’s return to studying the Druid deck, shall we?

The Problem with Malorne

I decided to add Malorne¬†to the deck in the first place because I the deck didn’t really do that well against some of the slow control decks (e.g. Control/Fatigue Warrior, Dragon Priest, etc). I thought that Malorne’s¬†Deathrattle could almost single-handedly win me a bunch of these match-ups.

Against Control Warrior for example, since that deck lacks burst you often can just drop Malorne on Turn 7 and then let the Warrior “waste” an execute¬†or shield slam dealing¬†with it. The Warrior is in many cases going to be unable to fully capitalise¬†on the tempo killing it for 1 mana generates.

To use a metaphor, putting Force of Nature + Savage Roar in your deck is like adding a venomous cobra; it strikes hard and fast. Adding Malorne to your deck is a bit¬†like adding¬†a boa constrictor, that snake positions itself and then slowly squeezes¬†(…literally…squeezes…)¬†the life out of its prey.

So Malorne is good in slow match-ups, cool. What about fast match-ups? Well, this where the card can really suck; spending 7 mana on a pile stats is not a good idea when playing against a tempo deck. They will either ignore it (fyi I think Marlorne would be a much better card if it was an 8/5 with Taunt) or deal with it efficiency (e.g. a Rogue can use Sap and with the rest of mana develop a board).

In short, the weakness of Malorne is that sometimes it is hard to find the time to play it; against fast decks (or those decks with high amounts of burst damage) you may struggle to play any card that is not primarily defensive. On the flip side though, the card’s strength lies in the fact that it can generate incredible value (should the game go long enough).

The Problem with Aviana

With a little help from Innervate and/or Emperor Thaurissan, Aviana is capable of setting up incredible tempo plays. In my deck one of the most fun things to do is:

Aviana —> Ancient of Lore (2 Cards) —> Innervate —> Ancient of Lore (2 Cards) —> Big Dude (e.g Malorne)

That’s a crazy turn right there; the tempo generated is insane. But even if you don’t get a crazy combo in mana cases she is still a 1-2 mana 5/5 minion (+ability).

But there’s a problem, and its do with value. ¬†In some match-ups (mostly against Control) flooding the board can easily be punished: Warrior has Brawl, Rogue has Blade Flurry, Priest has Lightbomb, Paladin has Equality and Handlock has Shadowflame combo’s.

Its worth remembering that before the release of TGT lots of players (including myself) were hyped for varian-wrynn¬†but he basically suffers the same sort of problem; if he pulls minions out of your deck then you are vulnerable to AoE and worse still you get no value from any Battlecry’s those minions may have.

In short, Aviana and Varian suffer the same basic problem; making a strong tempo play now often costs you value in the long run. In some match-ups (e.g. against Control) not getting value from your cards may lose more games than what you win from insane tempo boosts.

The Power of Combination

When I wrote about Malorne I mentioned that the strength of the card is value but it can be difficult to play because the card is not particularly good at the ‘tempo game’ and nor is it sufficiently defensive in the fast/’high bust’ match-ups.¬†Aviana meanwhile is a great tempo play but on the downside the card can cost you value (since big board get cleared by big Lightbombs, etc).

Now consider this play:

TURN 10: Aviana —> Malorne

Notice how the weaknesses of each card compliment each other.

  • You are not particularly weak to AoE because Malorne will just get shuffled back into the deck, meaning that the opponents board clear only killed a 5/5 (in effect). Thanx to Malorne cards like Brawl are not scary.
  • Meanwhile, Malorne’s weakness, is tempo. But with Aviana we got to play the card for 1 mana, and should she stick on the board trying to use Freezing Trap or Sap on Malorne is going to be rather ineffective. Remember also that one of the key selling points of cards like Big Game Hunter is that you get to kill a 7 mana minion while only using 3 mana of your own (which thus allows you to gain a 4 mana tempo lead). But in this case we only spent 1 mana on Malorne, thus BGH does not provide the same tempo lead it normally would.

Conclusion

Okay so today we have looked at how thinking about game-mechanics and strategy in-depth we can sometimes find interesting and creative uses for cards. In particular we saw how this deck can take advantage of the various spare parts, how we can use a Wild Growth on Turn Ten and how we can mitigate the various weaknesses of cards (e.g Malorne, Aviana) by combining them.

By understanding the game at the strategic (and mechanical) level, I was able to come up with a few interesting ideas that I could build a deck around. Hopefully when building your own decks you can apply some of these lessons and create something rather ingenious. **Fingers Crossed**

Smashthings out!