In the past, Midrange Druid has been a really rough matchup for Control Warrior. They have a constant stream of threats, hard-to-remove minions and the double combo. Darnassus Aspirant has made them even more consistent. However, where this match was once one of Control Warrior’s worst, it has now gotten better. A lot better. This guide will break down mulligans, card choices and play style in order to help you understand exactly why that is.
Control Warrior is a deck that has a couple of different versions these days. It is not simply that you just run the same thirty cards as everyone else, it’s not that simple anymore. You can still play the classic Control Warrior build, but you can also play armor heavy, more minion based, removal-light or with a higher curve. While all of those decks play in roughly the same way, the way they do it that is quite different. To help figure out which one best fits your play style, a couple of sample decklists are laid out below. Always understand a deck archetype before looking into specific matchups.
When mulliganing against Midrange Druid you want to play it straight. That means, there aren’t any fancy cards or crazy combos you want to look far. Just stick to your curve, look for weapons and always try to have one removal spell (Execute is best) to answer an early Innervate. Beyond that, throw anything back that is too expensive or doesn’t help build your first turns.
Cards to KeepExecute Fiery War Axe Slam Armorsmith Acolyte of Pain Bash
Shield Slam is a good keep if you don’t have any other removal at your disposal.
Death’s Bite, while not Fiery War Axe, can be kept if you have the coin and you are light on removal.
Piloted Shredder is a good keep if you have a strong curve coming before it.
Justicar Trueheart costs a lot, but she is going to be one of your primary win conditions. If you have the coin and a really good opening, I would also consider keeping her as well since you want to drop her as early as possible.
How to Win
Armor is the most important thing at your disposal. Midrange Druid is, as it always has been, focused around ending games with the combo. While you need to be careful with removal, you can fight them through gaining health. Bash, Justicar Trueheart, Shield Block and Armorsmith all combine to give you a ton of extra health. Your life total should always be your first your priority, and you need to use these tools as a way to keep the pressure off. That will allow you to control the game in the way you want.
While Midrange Druid is a very powerful deck, most of their minions are petty lackluster. While a Piloted Shredder or Ancient of Lore is very scary when you’re worried about dying to Force of Nature[card]/[card]Savage Roar, they get completely outclassed by the slew of finishers you have at your disposal. This is very important because you need to adapt to your life total. When you are falling down near combo range, of if you’re worried about getting bursted down, just focus on spending removal and gaining life. However, once you have a comfortable life total, or if your life is very high, try and get something big onto the board. Always look for windows to push your big minions down. Sometimes this is going to be difficult since you constantly need to be clearing the board, but once you get something into play and you live a turn, the game gets much, much easier.
Beyond armor, Control Warrior generally runs Alexstrasza and Sludge Belcher as ways to stay alive. Just with your armor, try to utilize both of these tools in any way you can. Most Druids will burn a Keeper of the Grove on an early Acolyte of Pain or save one for Sylvanas Windrunner. That means they are rarely going to have a clean answer to belcher. While it is a great card on turn five, saving one to shut down a later combo is never a bad idea. On the other side, Alex is almost always going to be pointed at yourself since it is the only form of healing you have access to. She should only drop Druid to fifteen if you have burst the following turn or two.
The last key to winning this game is removal. Druid has a lot of sticky minions that they absolutely need to set up their finishing combo. You want to combat that by making the most of your removal cards. Big Game Hunter is exclusively for Dr. Boom, while you want to use Execute and Shield Slam on any other huge or high priority targets. The weapons should be for the early game, but any time you can kill a five health minion with a Death’s Bite you should not hesitate to do so. The general rule of removal is, always use the worst if you can. For instance, while you can remove a ancient with a Shield Slam, using a Slam/Bash combo is much better since the Shield Slam can hit bigger targets later on that Bash and Slam cannot.
Early Game Guide
The first turns are all about a solid mulligan. Look for your early game cards to pull you through here. Fiery War Axe and Bash are the two most important cards to open the game since they both shut down Darnassus Aspirant, which can not only ramp, but also keep you off of armor if it isn’t killed.
This part of the game is going to be spent making sure the game doesn’t get out of hand. Though you do have some ways to bounce back, if Druid starts pumping out unanswered threats, even a Brawl won’t be able to bring you back. You need to keep any form of removal that you can get. Of course, Slam, Bash and Fiery War Axe are going to be your best options, but if you don’t have any good removal, Shield Slam and Death’s Bite should also be kept since you just need a way to clear the board.
Acolyte of Pain is also very strong on turn three because it almost always forces either removal or a Keeper of the Grove. You don’t mind Druid spending a turn doing either, since it will push you further along in the game towards your bigger threats. Not only that, but if they spend turn four using a Wrath to prevent card draw they aren’t adding to the board.
One more important note is to always keep Execute. Innervate is a very common opener for Druids, and you want to be able to respond to some huge minion on turn two or three. Execute is the best for this job since it kills anything that comes down regardless of their health, stats or abilities.
The middle turns of the game are where you want to start making use of your Shield Slams and Executes. Always remember that Druid is racing towards turn nine, and you want to head them off as much as possible. These turns are where they will try to set up larger threats or get down Emperor Thaurissan. Just know that a lot of their midgame minions have five health, which means you should always attack with Death’s Bite on turn four. This will enable you another powerful removal tool that won’t cost cards in your hand.
Sludge Belcher should almost always be dropped on turn five, since it’s body usually makes Druid have to react or trade in ways they don’t want to. In addition, while Shieldmaiden is great against Druid, if you have a Shield Slam in hand, you should only play the 5/5 on the same turn that you can use the removal. Otherwise the armor is usually going to go to waste due to the pressure that Druid can put on.
The last important card is Justicar Trueheart. Most of the time in this part of the game you are still going to be at a comfortable life total. If that is the case do not hesitate to play the knight. Tank Up is the way you are going to win almost every single game, as it puts you out of combo range once and for all, and you want to switch your hero power as soon as you can.
Late Game Strategy
As stated above, you need to spend the later parts of this game counting Druid’s cards and worrying about how not to die from the combo. Against any deck with such a stock list as Druid, you can usually guess or estimate when and where they are going to play cards. That is a huge advantage, and will give you a chance to neatly respond to their later threats when they come down. These are the turns where you want to make the most of premium removal. Most Midrange Druids only run Dr. Boom as their big finisher. Once you get that out of the way you want to clear any 5/5 that sticks, since it is going to be the biggest minion they have left.
Big threats are also very important, and the way you are going to win the game. While once upon a time you needed your own combo to combat theirs, nowadays Control Warriors can simply outlast Druids through a war of attrition. The general rule is to remove their threats over and over until they are forced to combo their board or you are such a high life total they cannot touch you. If you already played Justicar Trueheart, then you really want to make sure you hero power every turn. Remember, if you have not seen the combo, gaining health is almost always going to be more important than trying to fill up the board.
Grommash Hellscream should also be used as removal when Druid runs low on cards. If they have a small hand they will have a tough time responding to him. This is also a fine risk since you don’t need him to win the game.
Play scared. Yes, there is a difference between playing “to win” and “not to lose” but here staying up in life is much more important that going for the throat. The reason for this is that you are always going to win in the long run due to the nature of both decks. The longer the game goes past ten, the better chance you have of winning. There is no reason to lose an all-but sure win just because you wanted to drop Sylvanas Windrunner or Dr. Boom over playing Shield Block and armoring up.