I like Hearthstone. You can probably tell that. I wouldn’t play so much AND write about it if I didn’t like it. But lately laddering was sort of an empty experience. I’m a very competitive player, so I like to play the decks that win most. But sadly, I don’t really enjoy playing Dragon Warrior or Aggro Shaman. It’s okay, but it gets boring after a few games. So I was stuck on ranks close to Legend, not really knowing what to do. Playing the strong decks I’ve mentioned led me to closing the game after 30 minutes. And playing the more fun, but weaker decks made the grind sooo slow.
So, after seeing some tweets about Muzzy hitting #1 Legend with a Malygos Yogg Druid list, I’ve decided to give it a go. I mean, why not? And I was having a blast with it. The deck ended up being both very fun and very strong. I’ve pretty quickly hit Legend (from rank 2) and then played some more games in Legend, peaking at L150.
In the end, I’ve liked the deck so much that I’ve decided to write a guide. The deck is very hard to play and since there are so many decisions each turn, especially in the mid/late game, it’s very easy to make a mistake. I’m definitely not playing it flawlessly, but since I had experience with quite similar lists in the past + I’m doing pretty well with it right now, I wanted to share some analysis and strategy tips.
I’ll be honest – I don’t know who created this particular list. I’ve tracked it back to Xixo – but I’m not sure if he created it. Then Muzzy took it to #1 Legend. Then a few other players also started playing it. As it turns out, 3 out of 8 players have brought this exact same list to Americas Summer Championship, so it seems to be working out pretty well, regardless of who played it first.
I’ve been playing some Token Druids before Karazhan and this deck shares some similarities. Even right now, Token Druid lists with Yogg & Arcane Giants are quite popular on the ladder. This is, however, not one of them. While both are spell heavy and both play Yogg, this one dropped the Violet Teacher + Power of the Wild combos completely and focuses more on ramp and cycling. I wasn’t sure about Gadgetzan Auctioneer at first, but he won me so many games. He’s not as strong as in Miracle Rogue (because Druid has no way to Conceal it), but he consistently cycled 5+ cards every time I’ve played him. My record was getting close to the bottom of my deck on turn 9, thanks to the double Emperor Thaurissan proc followed by Auctioneer.
One can be curious, what is exactly the win condition of this deck? Malygos? Surprisingly – not exactly. Malygos is just a finisher in slow matchups, but in a lot of them it’s not used that way. Actually, in many matchups you don’t even need Malygos at all. Most of the games are won, because you get ahead of the enemy. Initially you lose some tempo in order to ramp up and draw some cards. But once you do that, you should have both mana advantage and card advantage. At this point all you need to do is to constantly clear opponent’s board. At some point, most of the decks you play against will run out of stuff to do, while you will still have a lot of cards in your hand. Not to mention that after certain amount of spells, you can start dropping a free or nearly free 8/8’s. And then you can finish the game with them, with the rest of your minions or with Malygos + a few spells.
The deck is really hard to play and I have to say that I probably screwed up at least once each game. Especially during the Auctioneer or Fandral turns, when a lot of things happen, you’re very limited by time. If you have to figure out the most optimal way to clear opponent’s board, not overdraw (which is very easy with Auctioneer), not throw away your win conditions, not overextend and at the same time keep track of the Arcane Giant’s mana cost and how much spells you can cast if you still want to drop them… Yeah, let’s just say that some turns are difficult.
I’ll start with the mulligan. I’ll divide it into two sections – always keep & situationally keep. I’ll try to give a short explanation to each card.
- Wild Growth – It’s your #1 mulligan priority. The deck needs mana to do stuff. It has almost no early game plays. You can say that the game really starts once you have 5 mana and it means that you want to get there as fast as you can. I wouldn’t keep double Wild Growth most of the time, though, because 2x WG can easily lead to those “I have ramp, but I don’t have stuff to do” kind of hands. You will probably want to follow up the first WG with something else anyway, and the second might turn out to be a dead card. 2x WG is okay only if you also have something like Nourish to guarantee not running out of cards in the mid game.
- Innervate – Innervate has lower priority than Wild Growth. It’s still a great card to keep (again, one copy), especially against faster decks. The immediate tempo might be more necessary than long run mana advantage if you face strong early game. It can also let you play t2 Mire Keeper for ramp, which is a very strong move, especially if you have some follow-up.
- Raven Idol – I tend to keep Raven Idol only when I already have my ramp. While it’s a cool t1 play, I prefer to play it later in the game for two reasons. First reason – on turn one I might not know what deck I’m exactly facing and what will I need (e.g. healing, taunt, removal, card draw). And second reason – it’s good to combo it with Fandral Staghelm (to discover a minion on top of a spell) or Gadgetzan Auctioneer (for a cheap card draw). But if I already get my ramp, I don’t mind keeping it to play on t1.
- Living Roots – I keep Living Roots in faster matchups, where I know that I will get some value out of the two 1/1’s on turn 1 or early 2 damage. E.g. it’s great against Hunter – it can trade with the 1-drops and 2-drops quite easily. Playing it on turn 1 might even stop enemy from playing a Fiery Bat, which is nice. It’s also good against Tempo Mage – 2 damage kills their 2-drops (Sorcerer’s Apprentice and Cult Sorcerer). Against Shaman the 1/1’s can clear some Totems (if they have slow start), kill Tunnel Trogg with help of Hero Power or Totem Golem with help of Wrath etc. If I know that I won’t likely need 1/1’s OR 2 damage early, I mulligan it away.
- Wrath – Similarly to Living Roots. If I know that I might have some high priority targets to clear, I keep it. Turn 2 Wrath can save A LOT of health in the long run. Since it’s one of the only sources of the direct damage in the deck and it deals 3, it can save your skin against Shaman’s Flametongue Totem, Warrior’s Alexstrasza’s Champion and few other similar cards.
- Mire Keeper – I keep it alongside Innervate or Wild Growth. With Innervate I can get it out on turn 2 and ramp up to 4 mana. With Wild Growth played on turn 2, I can drop it on turn 3 and either get more mana or summon a 2/2, depending on what I need.
- Azure Drake or Nourish – If you are sure that you face a Control deck, you really need your cycle cards, so you can keep the 5 mana stuff that gets you further into your deck. In slow matchups you aren’t in a rush and don’t need the early game removals anyway. You really need to know the matchups, though, so if you e.g. face a Warrior and you aren’t sure if it’s Dragon or Control, don’t keep those.
I’ll be honest – writing strategy section for this deck is very hard. Pretty much every game is different – with so many mid game decisions, random effects like Raven Idol or Yogg-Saron, Hope’s End it’s almost impossible to write down what you should focus on each turn. Instead, I’ll try to give you some general tips. What to think about when playing certain card, how to play against certain decks or cards, how and when to save your win conditions etc.
- I’ll start with Raven Idol. It’s pretty much obvious to say that you pick Spell 99% of time. Even if I don’t have any minion I can play in my hand, I usually go for the spell – it has a chance to give you ways to summon stuff (Force of Nature, Wisps of the Old Gods, Moonglade Portal) or cycle through your deck (Wild Growth, Nourish). Quality of the Druid spells is quite high and it’s really uncommon to get 3 useless things out of the Raven Idol. Which spell you pick usually depends on the matchup, board state and your hand. And so, on turn 1 you usually want to pick Ramp, Wild Growth is the best choice (the other 2 in your deck you will be able to cycle lateR). Against Aggro deck you usually want to pick life gain (Feral Rage, Healing Touch, Moonglade Portal), Taunt (Mark of the Wild/Mark of Nature) or removal if they have something on the board you need to handle. Against slow decks, you want to pick the highest value card most of the time. You can also get Mulch if you think that you will need some removal. In general, try to get the card that will work well with your hand and game plan too. If you’re holding Fandral Staghelm, prioritize Choose One cards. If you have Gadgetzan Auctioneer, an Innervate or another cheap spell is great. If you already have Malygos in your hand or you know that you will likely want to finish the game with burst – another Moonfire or Living Roots is great. Even though it’s just a 1 mana, seemingly not that important card, the Raven Idol choices you make might influence a whole match, so choose wisely.
- Mire Keeper – Ramp or 2/2? That’s a very common problem. While it’s obvious that in the late game, where you don’t need more mana, you pick the 2/2. But before that? First of all – ask yourself a question, do you need that additional mana point? If it’s turn 4 and you have a turn 5 follow-up in form of Azure Drake or Nourish, I’d pretty much always summon a 2/2. You won’t likely need that extra mana point, while an extra 2/2 might always come handy. If you Innervate it on turn 1/2, get +1 mana. Ramp is very important and being stuck with nothing to do for a turn longer is not worth the extra 2/2. I also prioritize 2/2 over ramp when enemy starts to take the board control from me. With no good AoE (besides Yogg), this deck has a very hard time coming back on the board when enemy drops a few mid game minions. On the other hand, I sometimes ramp up even on turn 7-8 if I know that I’ll need that extra mana point next turn. Let’s say you are at 6 mana and you have Fandral + 2x Wrath that you want to play next turn. In that case, ramping up might be a good idea, as it gives you the 1 extra mana you need.
- Do you play Malygos without immediately killing your opponent? Yes, you do, a lot of times. While Malygos is best as the finisher, if you know that enemy has no more removal (e.g. Druid that already played Mulch, Dragon Warrior that played 2x Execute) or doesn’t run hard removal at all (e.g. Zoo Warlock) – you can easily drop him on the board without immediately getting value. If it stays on the board, you will likely get A LOT of value next turn. Moonfire becomes 0 mana Fireball, Swipe is now actually a great board clear (9 damage to the main target + 6 to everything else), Wrath can remove pretty much anything you want etc. And even if you don’t actually have spells, it will make enemy scared, for a good reason. Malygos pretty much has a Taunt. I’ve played against Shaman throwing 12 damage (Totem Golem + hit from Spirit Claws + Lava Burst) just to kill my Malygos. Was that a good play? From his side, probably yes, I haven’t played a single Swipe that game yet and one Swipe would completely clear his board and thus chances to win (I was around 30 health). If I had a few spells, I might even kill him. But from my point of view – I only had a single Living Roots in my hand, so I couldn’t really do much with it. I won the game thanks to him throwing so much damage to kill it. And that wasn’t the only time. Malygos is like a damage magnet, enemy is likely to throw in everything to kill it. You also can’t forget that it’s a 4/12 minion by itself. So it can push for some damage or get some trades with his body alone. There is also a thing I call “desperation Malygos” – when things are going poorly for you and you know that you need miracle in order to win. Then you just throw Malygos on the board and hope that enemy has no way to kill it. 4 out of 5 cases, enemy just kills it, but you get a slight chance for it to survive and then snowball the game. So if you know that you won’t win in the long run, e.g. against Warrior that starts stacking Armor like mad or RenoLock who played Lord Jaraxxus, just slam Malygos and pray.
- Don’t overextend into the board in Control matchups. If you play against Control Paladin or slow Warrior, don’t drop too many threats at the same time. This deck runs very limited number of minions. Playing Azure Drake, Mire Keeper and Arcane Giant in one turn is a huge tempo move, but then if enemy plays Brawl or Equality you can get punished heavily. You want to have enough minions to put pressure on the enemy, but not enough to play into the AoE. When enemy clears one minions, you play another. This way you force enemy to play single target removals every turn, which he should run out of pretty quickly. Having let’s say two minions on the board at the same time might also bait pretty weak AoEs. Once Warrior plays both Brawls, now you can play your whole hand and you’ll most likely win.
- In slow matchups, Malygos is your main win condition. That’s why you don’t use your Living Roots or Moonfire unless you absolutely need to. With just a single Emperor proc (on either Malygos or one copy of Living Roots), you might perform the whole combo – Malygos + 2x Moonfire + 2x Living Roots. The whole combo deals 26 damage, which should be enough to kill anyone outside of the Armor stacking Warriors (and Ice Blocked Mages). It’s amazing against classes that can heal ongoing damage, but deal poorly with the burst – e.g. Priest and Paladin. You just need to punch them lightly with a minion and then finish off with the combo. The maximum damage you can realistically do is 35 if you add one Swipe to the combo. That, however, requires Emperor proc on at least 3 cards (Malygos/Swipe/Living Roots) AND Innervate. Since that’s a 7 cards combo, you won’t see it very often and you will use it only in the extreme scenarios. Saving the full combo won me one game so far, against Warrior, when he was already getting out of range.
- Do you ramp up with Nourish? Usually not. By the time you get to play Nourish, you usually prefer the card draw, not ramp. In some cases, if you have a pretty costly hand, you can Innervate out a Nourish to ramp up. It’s especially good on t2 with Coin if you have another 5 mana move to follow-up (second Nourish, Azure Drake) or on turn 3 without Coin if you have 6 mana card follow-up (Moonglade Portal, Emperor Thaurissan).
- Use Feral Rage as the early game removal, even in fast matchups. It’s better to remove that 3/2 on turn 3 than Armor up for 8. If you leave a minion on the board, it’s going to deal damage to you anyway + you will have to clear it later with something else. Later in the game, in fast matchups prioritize Armor over damage (use your minions and other spells to clear) and in the slow matchups, where your life total is not a concern, try to clear something with it (or keep it for reach).
- In most of the matchups, don’t wait with Emperor Thaurissan – drop him as soon as you can. The tempo you will gain from him will let you do much more next turn/the turn after. Even without any Emperor activations you can still do 19 damage from your hand. You can also use Innervate to squeeze in 2nd Living Roots if you will really need that. Only in the slowest matchups, where you might need the whole combo, you can wait a bit with Emperor Thaurissan as long as you have other meaningful plays. If waiting with Thaurissan would mean passing a turn, don’t do that.
- Having full hand is a real concern with this deck. With so much card draw/cycle, you often end up with 9-10 cards in your hand. It can be awkward, because then it’s hard to play Azure Drake, Fandral Staghelm + Wrath or Gadgetzan Auctioneer. If that’s the case, you want to do a high tempo turn and get rid of some of your cards. Play Wrath for 3 instead of cycling it, drop Mire Keeper, play Feral Rage even if you don’t have a good target or you still have quite high health total etc. You often need to play cards sub-optimally just to get them out of your hand so you can draw more. When it comes to Auctioneer, if your hand is near full but you still want to cycle, you might START your turn by playing Innervate/Coin/Living Roots/some other cheap spells before dropping Auctioneer. I know it might seem weird, but you don’t really want to discard a potentially important card, so getting rid of something from your hand first might be crucial.
- Yogg-Saron, Hope’s End is pretty much played as a comeback mechanic or when you need to pull a miraculous win out of nowhere. You don’t need him in most of the games, but you have so much card draw that having one dead card shouldn’t be a big deal (as long as you don’t draw him on the first turns). Enemy has overwhelming board lead? Drop Yogg. Enemy has guaranteed lethal next turn and you can’t do anything about it? Drop Yogg. Other win conditions failed? Drop Yogg and hope that it will play Call of the Wild, Kara Kazham!, Soul of the Forest and Infest. It can happen, right? I personally hate this card because of how swingy it is and how a lot of games are decided by Yogg RNG. But it works too good in such a deck and you can’t really take it out. Oh, and if you let’s say run out of things you can do in your hand and Yogg is the only viable play, even if enemy has no huge board lead, you can drop him. Sure, he’ll probably die, but he can also summon some stuff, draw some cards, play Secrets etc. It’s generally better than passing a turn on 10 mana.
Statistics & Matchups
Just like with every deck, whether it will work for you or not heavily depends on the meta you face. For example – for me it performed better pre-Legend, where I’ve faced less Shamans. Once I hit Legend I started facing much more Shamans and my win rate has dropped.
Let’s start with the stats. My final win rate with the deck, from both pre-Legend and in Legend, was 42-20 (67%). I had few more games played on mobile, where I don’t keep track of the stats, but the final win rate should be about the same. And here are the stats against different classes:
- Druid: 6-1 (86%)
- Hunter: 8-6 (57%)
- Mage: 8-2 (80%)
- Paladin: 2-0 (100%)
- Priest: 1-0 (100%)
- Rogue: 4-0 (100%)
- Shaman: 7-7 (50%)
- Warlock: 3-2 (60%)
- Warrior: 3-2 (60%)
Even though I don’t have too big of an experience, it was quite obvious that some of the matchups were good and some were bad. I’ll try to divide the popular ladder matchups into 3 categories:
Ramp/C’Thun Druid, Tempo Mage, Control Mage, Control Paladin, Control Priest, Miracle Rogue, RenoLock, Dragon Warrior
Aggro Shaman, Beast Druid, Midrange/Hybrid/Secret Hunter, Control/C’Thun Warrior
Midrange Shaman, Zoo Warlock, Reno Mage
The biggest weakness of this deck are Midrange Shamans and Zoo Warlocks. I felt like I was struggling most against those. The main reason is the lack of board clears. Both decks can flood the board again and again and again and the only AoE this deck runs is Swipe, which isn’t even that good. The deck also needs a few turns to take off, which Shamans & Zoo Warlocks won’t give you if they curve out well. By the time you start doing anything, they have 4+ minions on the board and you’re basically dead. The only way to win in both of those matchups is the early ramp and good curve, which can propel you into the mid game much faster.
Edit: After playing some more games, I think that Reno Mage is a bad matchup. If they realize what deck you play, they can counter your game plan completely. You can’t burst them down from high health because of Ice Block. Against standard Control Mage you leave them at low health after that, but not against Reno. They play Reno Jackson and get to full again. They have Polymorph for your Malygos. And they will most likely find some way to deal with other big threats – namely 2x Arcane Giant. So the only hope of you winning this matchup is a great Yogg. That’s if Mage knows what to do, of course, because I’ve played against bad Mages who played Reno way too early or didn’t save Polymorph for Malygos.
On the other hand, it works well against other Druid lists, it’s AMAZING against Mages (pretty much every type of Mage) and slow decks that struggle against high burst finishers – Control Priest, Paladin, RenoLock. It seems like the deck works quite nicely against Dragon Warrior too, but I didn’t have high enough sample size to be 100% sure about that.
Aggro Shaman is a much closer matchup than Midrange. Honestly, it MIGHT even be a good matchup, but I wasn’t very lucky with the draws against Aggro. The thing against Aggro Shaman is that as long as you stop the early minion damage, you should win the game easily. Sure, they have a lot of burn in the deck, but with 2x Feral Rage, Moonglade Portal, some Armor from Hero Power and possible Raven Idol picks, you should be able to survive. Hunters, which are also very common on the ladder, are pretty much 50/50. The matchup is really draw-dependant – it depends on their curve and your ramp. If you get to the mid game without them having huge board advantage, you should be in the lead. On the other hand, if they have 3-4 minions on the board, you will be too busy dealing with it to do anything else, and you’ll take damage each turn on top of that. It also depends on whether they run the Deadly Shot list or not – sometimes a pretty early Arcane Giant (playing it for 4-5 mana for example) can carry you against Hunter, but if they just Deadly Shot it, you pretty much lost the game.
Here is a short list of other cards you could add into the deck, depending on what you want to do with it or the meta you face:
Mulch is pretty much the only “hard” removal available to Druid. You can say that it’s kinda similar to Sap, but if you’re Mulching something big, a random minion will most likely be small and pretty weak. Most likely, because the card can still screw you by giving enemy the single best minion he can get in that scenario. But hey, beggars can’t be choosers.
The problem with this card right now is that it’s not very necessary. There aren’t really a lot of great targets for it in the meta. Most of the decks you face are high early game tempo ones. A lot of the Shamans have dropped Flamewreathed Faceless. Killing a 4-5 health minion with a Mulch might be okay, but not the most optimal, since enemy gets something back. And in order to fit the Mulch, you probably have to cut Feral Rage, which is way better in all those fast matchups.
If you face a lot of good Mulch targets, by all means, play it. It fits the deck quite well.
Violet Teacher + Power of the Wild
Well, not running the Violet Teacher + Power of the Wild combo is the main difference between this list and the more token-oriented. If you want to run those, you should just find a list that does that. There are quite a lot of them, with Fr0zen’s one being probably the most popular. You can check it out here.
Which list is better? It’s very hard to say. I like this one more, but it’s probably just personal preference. I think that both have very similar power level. I think that Violet Teacher combos are kinda too hard to pull off in the current meta. Everything is FAST. And I mean it – really fast. Unless you get something like a perfect Violet Teacher + 2x Innervate + Power of the Wild + another spells or two (like Raven Idol and/or Living Roots) turn 4, the combos are late-game oriented. If you just drop t4 Violet Teacher, it dies 90% of time. And to get the full combos without Innervate, you need at least 7-8 mana.
On the other hand, the combos are very powerful. You’re doing what the deck wants to do – spam a lot of spells, cycle etc. – and at the same time you flood the board again and again. In the long game, it gives you two more win conditions (assuming you don’t drop both Teachers or PotWs together) – maybe even more if you count random Raven Idol stuff. Yeah, that’s also a thing – Violet Teacher improves the average outcome of Raven Idol by quite a lot. Power of the Wild, Savage Roar, Soul of the Forest or Wisps of the Old Gods are all quite mediocre in non-Teacher list, but if you combo them with lots of tokens, they are amazing.
So it’s pretty much up to you if you like the Teacher or non-Teacher list more.
Medivh, the Guardian
I’ve seen Medivh, the Guardian in a few similar lists. But I don’t really think he’s that necessary. Because you need to cut something in order to fit it in. That something will most likely be either Gadgetzan Auctioneer or Emperor Thaurissan. But I feel like I like both of them more.
I mean – the first reason why I don’t like Medivh very much is that this list isn’t very heavy on high cost spells. When it comes to 5+ mana ones, there is only 2x Nourish and 1x Moonglade Portal – 3 in total. Well, you can also add in two Swipes. But the biggest part of the list is 0-2 mana spells. Innervate, Moonfire, Living Roots, Raven Idol, Wild Growth, Wrath… they all don’t really combo too well with Medivh. But you often HAVE to cast them, even with Atiesh equipped. Enemy has minions on the board that you have to clear – you can’t be like “oh, I will cast Nourish this turn to get Atiesh value”. No, you often have to cast Wrath, Living Roots etc.
And thus, I feel like Medivh might work in the Token version better. Why? Because you can get much more value out of those small minions in Token version. Even if you cast 3 cheap spells, that’s 3 more minions for Power of the Wild, for Savage Roar, for Soul of the Forest etc.
I’d probably cut one Feral Rage or maybe Mire Keeper for Medivh if I didn’t face high tempo decks all day long. Control are maybe 10% of my matchups right now. And I feel like those cards are stronger in high tempo matchups than Medivh is.
That’s all folks. I’m really happy that I finally found the deck that I’m really enjoying. RenoLock, my favorite deck of all time, is sadly very weak in this meta. It’s still possible to make it work, but it has too many bad matchups and not enough good ones. But hey, now I play this deck and I like it a lot. I hope that you have learned a thing or two about it and that you’ll also enjoy playing it.
If you have any questions or suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comment section below. If you want to be up to date with my articles, you can follow me on Twitter.
Good luck on the ladder and until next time!