Jade Golems were supposed to be one of the biggest themes of the latest expansion. Before Gadgetzan’s release, a lot of people have speculated that Jade decks are going to dominate the meta. After all, mechanics that snowball are often really strong. The idea of early/mid game cards scaling insanely well into the late game was inviting. And so, deck builders around the world have rushed to create their own Jade decks.
That was 3 weeks ago. 3 weeks in the early meta is like an eternity. If something survives that amount of time, it’s probably a solid deck and we’ll see it in the future. And how about Jade decks? Are they still present in the meta? Are they strong? Did they meet the expectations?
I’ll start with Druid – the class which was meant to be THE class to build Jade deck in. After all, it’s the only class that can go infinite with Jade Golems. Jade Idol means that Jade Druid will never run out of cards and will be able to spawn 1 mana 10/10+ forever. The Druid’s ramp mechanic makes the high cost Jade cards more appealing, not to mention the great synergy between Jade Idols and Gadgetzan Auctioneer.
And yes, Jade Druid was the most popular choice to build Jade deck. Slow Jade decks were all over the ladder early in the season. I’d even go as far as saying that Jade Druid was one of the reasons why Pirate Warrior was popular. First, unoptimized, greedy Jade decks were punished hard by face rush strategy of Pirate Warrior. For the first few days, you literally faced Pirate Shaman and Jade Druid in 70% of your games.
Right now, the Jade Druid is still one of the most popular deck choices. According to the latest Data Reaper Report, Jade Druid’s popularity is at 10% overall. However, if we only count the Legend rank, that popularity gets down to 7%, which means the deck is still relevant, but far from the best choice.
Jade Druid is amazing at punishing slow, Control decks. There is almost no chance that the deck will lose the value war. But the problem is that it takes really long before it gets there. Sure, with the perfect curve, ramp, cycle etc. the deck can beat almost anything. But getting a dream hand isn’t that easy and in the end, Jade Druid struggles with the tempo – especially early game tempo. The deck is beaten by anything that can outtempo it – Aggro decks (Pirate Warrior, Aggro Shaman), high tempo Midrange decks (Midrange Shaman, Dragon Warrior) or even Miracle Rogue (adding early Pirates really improved the matchup).
This means that the deck has really polarized matchups. On the one hand, a good Jade Druid player gets a free win against slow, Control decks (e.g. Reno Priest, Control Warrior), but on the other it loses hard to anything that’s fast enough to rush him down. And that’s why Jade Druid is currently placed at the bottom of Tier 3 or top of Tier 4 (depending on the rank) by the Vicious Syndicate tier list. 46-47% win rate across the board just isn’t good enough.
I think that Jade Druid’s popularity will fall down even further. It might be dusted off whenever some Control deck starts to dominate the meta, but I don’t think that it’s going to happen any time soon.
Before the expansion’s release, Jade Shaman was usually considered as the second most likely Jade class. While it couldn’t go infinite like Jade Druid can, Shaman got a lot of high quality cards for the last few expansions, and those could boost the deck’s win rate quite significantly. And well, people weren’t really wrong. Even though Shaman didn’t get the strongest Jade cards, its Midrange core is good enough to still carry the deck.
People have tried to take a lot of different approaches when it comes to Jade Shaman. Some were going Aggro (more about it later), some were going Control, but the deck that represents Jade Shaman best is a more Midrange approach. I’m talking about the deck created by Nalguidan, which he took to #1 Legend.
Even though both this and Jade Druid decks are based on the same mechanic, they’re completely different. Jade Druid is much slower, but Jade Shaman tries to fight for the tempo since the early game. While it doesn’t have a lot of early drops, they are quite high in terms of quality. Tunnel Trogg into Totem Golem or Feral Spirit is a great opening in any matchup. But even stacking a few totems isn’t that bad – it might let you drop an early Thing from Below or get some Flametongue Totem value.
Overall, the deck is well-equipped to fight against Aggro. It has some early drops, it has enough removal (including AoE), it has Taunts, it has some healing (Jinyu Waterspeaker). Of course, it’s still possible that the Aggro deck will rush you down after a bad start, but the deck should fare quite well against them. On the other hand, it’s also solid against slower decks. After all, with a good curve you can put pressure on them while spawning some Jade Golems at the same time. Even though the deck can’t go infinite, it can go up to 9/9 or most likely even 10/10 or 11/11 thanks to the Brann. Even though the deck doesn’t look like it has a lot of late game, those Jade cards make that late game strong. I mean, if you have a 4 mana “deal 4 damage, summon a 9/9” card, that’s your late game right there. Not to mention that White Eyes is a very interesting card in slower matchups. It’s very likely that you will draw the second copy and you get an extra 10/10 Taunt for 5 mana. There is almost no way that your opponent will remove EVERYTHING.
So what are the deck’s downsides? Well, even though it’s better against Aggro than Jade Druid, Pirate Warrior is still a bad matchup. The thing is, even though you have a lot of Taunts, a lot of the games end before you can even draw and play them. Then, the deck is pretty weak against Dragon Priest – without AoE clears, Priest can put lot of Mid game pressure and Dragonfire Potion is a great swing card in that matchup. And last, but not least, it’s kinda bad against RenoLock. Jade Druid is a bad matchup for Reno, but Jade Shaman isn’t. Even if RenoLock doesn’t manage to win the mid game, summoning a finite number of big minion isn’t good enough against infinite number of 6’6/s from Lord Jaraxxus. A quick Jaraxxus is a game against Jade Shaman – they have no way to burst you down and no way to outvalue you, so in the end you should win.
However, overall the Jade Shaman deck is still stronger than Jade Druid. It’s still not a great deck, with overall win rate sitting close to 50% and win rate in Legend around 49% (Tier 3 deck). The overall deck’s popularity is 3.5%, which goes down to 2.5% in Legend. Which means that the deck is about 3 times less popular than Jade Druid, while having around 2-3% higher win rate
Jade Rogue is in a very weird spot. Rogue got only two Jade cards, unlike other classes which got 3. However, it’s still possible to get the deck working thanks to the Deathrattle synergies – Jade Swarmer synergizes really well with Unearthed Raptor. However, I still think that Blizzard shafted Rogue once again – they can’t decide on the theme for that class and give it a little bit of everything.
Sure, Unearthed Raptors and possibly even N’Zoth the Corruptor can give you the extra Jade cards you need, but that also makes everything a little more inconsistent. You need to get both Jade Swarmer AND Raptor to really make the train work in the early/mid game. Then the other Jade Golem summon card – Jade Shuriken has the summon part on Combo, which makes it awkward to use sometimes (unlike its Shaman counterpart – Jade Claws).
But hey, Jade Rogue still has its moments. Thanks to the standard Rogue toolkit – high tempo cards, e.g. Sap – the deck can do its snowball while not falling behind on the tempo that much. Than, Gadgetzan Auctioneer is still a great way to cycle through the deck in slower matchups. And after cycling, it can throw Jade Golem after Jade Golem card + get one big N’Zoth turn by the end of the game. Great thing about resurrecting Jade Swarmers is that you need 2 AoEs – 1 small and 1 huge to deal with them. You can’t just Twisting Nether and clear everything, for example.
The deck’s biggest problem is that the lack of Rogue’s defensive tools mixed with the Jade theme doesn’t really work well in fast matchups. You will most likely get rushed before you can do anything. While it’s true that the deck shines in some slow matchups, it doesn’t work too well in this meta.
Overall, Jade Rogue seems to be the weakest out of the 3. The deck sits at around 43% win rate across the board, making it one of the weakest meta decks in general. It just loses to stuff like Pirate Warrior and Aggro Shaman too easily. It’s also pretty low on the popularity charts, sitting at 2.5% in all ranks and only 1.5% in Legend.
If you’re a big Rogue fan, you can still play this deck, but if not – I wouldn’t recommend it.
Unexpected Winner – Aggro Jade Shaman
And here we go. I’ll have to say that probably no one expected it, as I haven’t seen ANY comments about Jade theme fitting an Aggro deck AND it being the strongest Jade deck AND it being probably the strongest deck in the game right now…
The deck doesn’t even use that many Jade synergies. It uses the strong, offensive ones – Jade Claws is 4 damage, not great for a 2 (+1) mana weapon, but it also leaves a small minion behind. Then, Jade Lightning is 4 damage burn that you can also use as a removal. Again, it’s not great by itself, but getting an extra minion can be solid. And last, but not least – Aya Blackpaw. It’s not a burn card, but it’s a pretty aggressively statted minion with 3 bodies in total. It’s really hard to remove completely which makes it a perfect fit in such a deck. The Deathrattle also makes it pretty AoE-resistant.
Overall, the deck can go “only” up to 6/6, but it actually doesn’t need more – the games wouldn’t last long enough to get more anyway. In such a deck, even an extra 2/2 or 3/3 is already quite strong. The fact that it’s not a completely all-in deck and can win some mid game matches too makes it really strong. For example – destroying a turn 5 Azure Drake with Jade Lightning and summoning your own minion is a great tempo swing. Adding the Pirate core to the deck was also a great idea – I think that spawning 2 minions on turn 1 is stronger in Shaman than in any other class. I’ve lost a lot of games to turn 1 Pirate + Patches the Pirate followed by Flametongue Totem. As much as Patches is annoying in Warrior, it often straight up wins games in Shaman.
Multiple players have climbed to high Legend ranks with the deck and the stats just prove how strong it is. Let’s start with popularity – while Pirate Warrior is still more popular on the ladder overall, Aggro Jade Shaman sits at 10%, which is pretty nice. In lower ranks, Pirate Warrior still dominates, because people don’t bother to counter it that much. However, in higher ranks, especially Legend, Aggro Shaman took over as the #1 Aggro deck and #1 deck in general. Deck’s popularity in Legend sits at 18%, making Shaman the most popular class once again. Now, onto the win rate. Every other Jade deck has sub-50% win rate, while Jade Aggro Shaman is ranked #1 when it comes to win rate. Which is REALLY impressive – it’s over 55% in all ranks, almost 53% in Legend only. The only deck that works slightly better in Legend is Miracle Rogue, which has 0.3% better win rate.
I was seriously impressed, because I didn’t expect this deck to work that well. If I had to pick #1 deck to ladder with pre-Legend, it would definitely be Aggro Shaman. Games are pretty quick, the deck has very high win rate and it’s relatively easy to play. If you play it for a while, that might be your easiest Legend grind ever.
So far, Jade mechanic turned out to be pretty cool, but too slow. The “normal” Jade decks, Jade decks in the form that everyone though they would be, are either Tier 3 or Tier 4 decks. Jade Druid and Jade Shaman are still very playable on the ladder, but they surely aren’t the best picks. However, if you really want to enjoy a “Jade” deck without losing a lot – play Aggro Jade Shaman. While it doesn’t showcase the mechanic so well, you can often feel the snowball as your minions grow and grow over time. I feel that unless the meta seriously slows down, that might be the only competitively viable Jade deck this expansion.
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Good luck on the ladder and until next time!