Hey all, DarkArbiter here, and welcome to the second addtion to the Weekly Deck Spotlight series. For information on what will be entailed in this article, view my first WDS here.
If you follow the tournament scene in Hearthstone as I have, you’ll know that the Sunshine Open was held over a week ago. It was quite the turnout with thousands competing for the first place.
The finals were quite interesting to watch and came down to two fairly big-named players; Impact, a Canadian player with a fairly decent tournament history, and Brian Kibler, a Magic: The Gathering pro player and game designer. In the end, Impact took away the grand prize, but Brian Kibler is the focus of this weeks Spotlight.
Most of Kibler’s decks for the event were pretty standard. However, there was one of his decks that stood out above the rest for its unique composition; a Druid list called “CAT is 4 FITE“. This deck was a mixed medley of different elements that were quite confusing at first.
However, eventually the synergy of the deck was quite impressive, and this deck helped Kibler fight his way to second, a pretty considerable feat considering the thousands of players that attended the tournament.
Now, let’s dive into the decklist, shall we?
The list you’ll see on the left looks a bit odd, and it’s hard for me to put my finger on what type of deck this actually is. It’s definitely not a Ramp Druid list; the lack of Wild Growths is quite telling in that regard. At the same time, it’s neither exactly a Token or a Midrange Druid, although it incorporates elements of both.
In the end, I might consider it more of a Token Druid list, simply because it utilizes more of the cards used in that lineup than it does the ones used for Midrange Druid. With that in mind, we can divine the focus of the deck; flooding the board with cheap minions and utilizing them to maintain board control.
As far as cards go, the list has some pretty standard fare for Druids. The majority of our staple minions are here, such as Harvest Golem, Druid of the Claw, Keeper of the Grove, and the best seven-drop in the entire game Ancient of Lore. In all, these are included in almost every Druid composition, and it’s no surprise that they’re included here.
Both Legendary minions are also pretty standard for Druid decks; Cairne Bloodhoof is an amazing card for maintaining board presence, and Loatheb is an incredible tempo card.
All of these minions pull tremendous weight in the deck and more often than not make favorable trades and provide tempo advantage.
All of the spells included are also quite typical of a Token Druid list. Wrath is solid early-game removal, while Power of the Wild provides a huge buff for the tokens Druids are capable of producing. Innervate is one of the unique signature cards of Druid that allows them to cheat out larger minions or more spells in a single turn, creating a large tempo advantage.
Kibler even runs two copies of Force of Nature and Savage Roar, something you don’t see in many Druid decks recently. For the most part, this is because this combo isn’t as necessary as it used to be, and more often than not Force of Nature is used as removal.
Considering this is more reminiscent of a Tokens list, two Savage Roars is more understandable as it combos as either removal or as a finisher for all of your weak minions, similar to Bloodlust in Shaman decks.
Now that the staples are taken care of, there are some unique and, in a couple of cases, curious additions to the deck that deserve some analysis. Some of these cards are still considered standard as far as Druid is concerned, but their inclusion together in the same deck is the puzzling part.
Violet Teacher: A staple for Token Druid lists, Violet Teacher is a unique card. Her stats are decent for the cost, but the perceived value that she gets from spawning minions is what generates the card’s value. Combo’d with some of the Druid’s spells, such as Innervate and Power of the Wild, this card gains even more value.
The only downside to this card is that the minions are prone to most board clears when they aren’t buffed, but in many cases it’s usually worth doing so, as your opponent will rarely be able to actually kill the Teacher herself.
Now, while I did state that this card is a staple in Token Druid, it is still worth noting that this list includes two copies of this card. Often times I see either a single copy of this card or Force of Nature, as you will rarely need both second copies of either card. This generally means that Kibler was going for a heavier emphasis on board control rather than aggression, which is sometimes the case with decks like this.
Spectral Knight: A Curse of Naxxramas card that has quickly become another staple in some Druid decks, Spectral Knight presents a very frustrating quandary for your opponent. It’s not hard to see why either; having the stats of a taunted Druid of the Claw with the ability of a Faerie Dragon, this card is incredibly frustrating for your opponent for several reasons. Removing it is incredibly hard, and it’s not hard to Innervate this card out early, possibly by turn one with double Innervate. It can’t be targeted, and almost every deck has so much difficulty dealing with this kind of pressure this early in the game.
The curious thing about this though is that, in general, Spectral Knight is mostly ran in Ramp and Midrange Druid. In the case of a token deck, Spectral Knight is a strong card, but ultimately does not contribute as much to the win condition as it does in other decks.
Nevertheless, Kibler opted to run two copies of it in his deck. One possible reason may be to combo with cards like the next one, but in any case this addition to a Token list makes for some very interesting decisions.
Sunfury Protector: Whoa, this card came out of nowhere from left field. It’s not that it’s a bad card; on the contrary, before Naxx, Sunfury may have been one of the better neutral two-drops in the game.
However, you hardly ever see it included in a Druid lineup, barring of course the once-popular Watcher Druid. Even then though, normally you would see two copies of it being ran, while we have only one copy being ran in Kibler’s deck.
In general, this means that the card is being used as a utility card, a questionable choice for a card like this. Normally utility cards are specific answers to very specific cards on the opponent’s side of the board, such as Big Game Hunter and The Black Knight. Running this card as if it were a utility card is odd to say the least, and there aren’t many creatures that you would want to taunt here.
I didn’t get to see all of Kibler’s games and didn’t get to see this card in action, so I can merely speculate. It may have been meant as a combo card for something like Spectral Knight or to keep any heat off of his win conditions, such as Violet Teacher. In either case, I still question how often you will be able to utilize it to full effectiveness, especially with there only being a single copy.
Acidic Swamp Ooze: Another card you don’t see that often in Druid lists, this Ooze is almost entirely meta-dependent on how useful it is. In many cases, it may never destroy a weapon, meaning it will simply be a Razorfen Raptor. However, it’s pretty clear what the card is doing in this list.
As of the last few weeks, Hunter and Warrior have increased quite exponentially in popularity. Both of these classes have at least one thing in common; both utilize powerful weapons in their deck lists. Therefor, it would be incredibly likely that these two classes would make a significant appearance during the tournament, and this was indeed the case.
With that in mind, Acidic Swamp Ooze would be quite effective at providing a more favorable match up against these classes. While the case may have also been made to run Harrison Jones instead, the five-drops spot in this list has already been fairly saturated with other cards. Acidic Swamp Ooze keeps the mana curve relatively consistent in this case, which is a crucial part of keeping a deck consistent.
Shade of Naxxramas: This card is yet another curious addition to the deck. In fact, with its inclusion I almost feel like Kibler didn’t know whether he wanted to commit to a complete Token-focused deck or not. Despite that, this card has been gaining popularity since the end of Naxxramas, something I find a bit surprising. Initially, this card didn’t look as promising as it did before the full spoiling of the cards being added. This was due simply to the fact that so many of the other cards being released quickly over-shadowed it, but this in no way means that the card is bad.
In fact, the card is useful when you’re trying to maintain board control. Its ability is more consistent than Undertaker‘s in the long run, and it will be incredibly hard to deal with if played on turn three. Two copies being included in the list is merely for the consistency of drawing it early, as later in the game this card becomes less useful when drawn off the top of the deck.
Now, considering many of the other unique picks I have mentioned normally are all about controlling the board as well, it has become pretty obvious at this point that Kibler was more focused on this aspect with this deck than being aggressive. Given how many people attended the tournament though, it is indeed more imperative for each deck to be consistent, so its inclusion makes more sense in this light.
As for what I think about the deck, I’m have mixed feelings about it. On one hand, I haven’t seen a deck like this before, so I love the innovation. On the other hand, I don’t feel like it will have consistent enough answers that pure Midrange and pure Token lists will have.
Nevertheless, I feel like this deck has a lot of flexibility to it and has some options that the pure lists don’t. Above all, it’s a deck meant for heavy board control, and I want to try out some of these ideas that Kibler had when making this deck.
Whether or not it’s playable on the ladder is another question entirely. I have yet to see anyone playing this currently on the ladder, which is understandable. I don’t think it’s consistent enough, and Midrange Hunter, which is incredibly popular on the ladder at the moment, will normally be able to deal with it quite handily. However, this deck does have one thing going for it; it will keep your opponent guessing as to what deck you are playing exactly, which on the ladder can mean the difference between rank 5 and Legendary.
That wraps up another WDS for the week. It was really exciting to see such a great turnout for the Sunshine Open, and Brian Kibler making it all the way to second with decks such as this one was very interesting to watch. As always, I hope you enjoyed the article, and stay tuned next week for another deck to come under the Spotlight.
If you have questions or comments about the article or the deck, feel free to email me at [email protected] or just leave a comment in the section below! In addition, if you have a deck list you would like to see in a future deck of the week article, feel free to message me as well, and I will showcase it if I can.
As always, thanks for reading!