Aggro Druid is a hyper-aggressive deck that has been rising in popularity recently. However, strong as it is, there are many different lists that can stand strong in the face of the endless damage. Dragon Priest is one of those lists. Due to its healing, high amount of taunts and powerful board clears, Dragon Priest can really do some damage when facing down Malfurion. This guide will take you through those steps and show you the best way to handle the constant pressure of Aggro Druid.
Dragon Priest is a deck that is constantly shifting in cards. The core remains the same from deck to deck, but there are a ton of fringe and tech cards that you can choose to better fit your play style. While some versions run the Cabal Shadow Priest/Shrinkmeister combo, other runs more big dragons, while some are more aggressive with a lower curve. Each list has its own strengths and weakness. To figure out the strengths of these decks, and to understand exactly what deck you want to play, some sample lists have been linked below.
You cannot mulligan against Aggro Druid. This is because when facing Druid you always want to prepare for combo. Even so, you are going to start out against both in relatively the same way, which give you an acute advantage. Besides Secret Paladin, there isn’t a deck that relies on its curve as much as Dragon Priest. While you do have some catch up in the form of AOE, you want to come out of the gates rolling. When playing against Aggro Druid this curve becomes even more important. You need to start out as fast as possible since they are not a deck you can afford to fall behind to, even with the healing and large taunts at your disposal.
Also note that you want to keep your big dragons if they are your only activators for your other early cards.
Cards to KeepNorthshire Cleric Twilight Whelp Shadow Word: Pain Wyrmrest Agent
Power Word: Shield should always be kept if you have another early game minion.
If you have a weak opening, Shrinkmeister is a good keep to challenge Darnassus Aspirant
Dark Cultist is an always keep with the coin.
Blackwing Technician follows the same rules as Dark Cultist.
Velen’s Chosen is fantastic with a turn one or two drop.
Shadow Word: Death should always be kept if you have other early game.
Twilight Guardian should be kept with a good early curve and the coin.
How to Win
On paper it seems like this should be a very easy matchup for Dragon Priest. However, while it does fall into your favor, it is much more difficult than you first might think. Aggro Druid, while extremely aggressive, does not operate like other aggro decks. Instead of trying to push through with direct damage or giant finishers, they rather depend on board control to win. Most of their minions are going to get hits in, which enables them to leverage the board in the same way that Midrange Hunter does: by forcing their opponent to be reactive instead of proactive. While this hurts a lot of decks, you don’t mind taking this route to win a game.
Different decks are going to battle Aggro Druid in different ways. Some try to out race them, some fight for board control, and some outlast them. Dragon Priest is a combination of the last two, attempting to outlast them through a high amount of board control. You can do this with your taunts and high health minions. The early taunts are key because, not only do they protect you, but they force Aggro Druid react to your minions, which is something they do not want to do. Leverage these cards, and try to protect them with healing and health buffs as much as you can.
Just as when playing Hunter, you want to get as much reach out of your hero power as possible. This applies to your own health as well as your minions. Clearing is the way you are going to win this game, slowly chipping away at Druid’s board and running them low on cards. First, you always need to be aware of your life total and understand how much damage Druid has at their disposal. You never want to fall into combo range, and your hero power can allow you to stay at a high life total. On the other hand, there are many minions that you want to stay alive to keep a hold on the board. For this reason, use your hero power on your minions during the first turns and then switch to yourself during the late games when things get tight.
Leverage your removal as much as possible. Most of the game is going to be spent clearing out minions after minion, board after board. You want to know all of the spells you have, all the ways your can clear, and the best targets.
Early Game Strategy
The first turns are going to often decide the pace of the game. Aside from crazy Innervate games, you need to prevent them from building a solid board presence. Do everything you can to kill off Darnassus Aspirant to prevent them from moving ahead too quickly.
One of the most important parts of playing Aggro Druid is recognizing it as Aggro Druid. Combo is still very popular, and you will tend to react to things in the wrong way if you think you are playing agianst the wrong deck. Any aggressive early game minion (Knife Juggler, Leper Gnome, Living Roots) should tip you off. Once you see any of those cards understand that you need to start clearing as much as possible.
Your early game minions are incredibly strong, especially backed up with Power Word: Shield. You just want to run them out when you can and let Druid deal with them. Even a naked Northshire Cleric can be a good turn one play because it might force Druid to play a Wrath, which means they will add nothing to the board.
Never underestimate the power of Velen’s Chosen in this matchup. Aggro Druid is a deck that tends to ignore board. The reason for that is most of their minions trade well, which keeps the pressure off of their face. However, if you can get down something that trades extremely well and also acts as an extra threat they are going to have many problems. In addition, because of the way they play, Druid will often leave most of your early minions on board, which gives you a target most of the time. Even if they do clear, their early minions often can’t tangle with your three drops.
These are the turns of board clears. Holy Nova and Lightbomb are both extremely important in this matchup for the games where you don’t start out that fast or where you fall behind. When it comes to AOE, you often want to try to hit as many minions as possible. That works here only if you are at a lot of life and can afford to take a hit. However, Aggro Druid is racing to the combo, and you don’t want to get greedy or take an unnecessary hit.
While Aggro Druid does not have too many solid midgame plays, they do have access to Fel Reaver, which can end the game very, very quickly. You should always thinking about the reaver since you have many ways to combat it. Shadow Word: Death is your best option, but you can also drop taunts in its way to slow it down or kill it with Lightbomb. Either way, start thinking about it coming down around turn four.
The last midgame tool you have (which is also one of your best cards) is Blackwing Corruptor. This mini Fire Elemental is exactly what you want in this match, a way to clear while also adding for board control. Never hesitate to drop this card down if you can kill a minion with it.
Late Game Strategy
The way the late game goes depends on the amount of health you have. If you are at high amounts of health you want to make use of your larger minions and can play a little more relaxed. However, if you have taken a lot of hits or are close to combo range you need to make sure you either get taunts onto the board or use your hero power every turn.
Aggro Druid isn’t going to surprise you. They are going to try to kill you and constantly telegraph damage. This is where you just need to outlast them. Staying alive for one or two key turns will allow you to get some breathing room which will then give you the ability to stabilize. Use all of your healing and resources at your disposal. Even if you have the board, you do want to be careful of their charge minions. Always heal yourself out of range before trying to save your minions.
Druid has the combo, but Savage Roar is even more of a problem. This is because of the way the Aggro plays. While many Druid decks try to get one large minion to stick, Aggro Druid swarms the board. This enables them to use Savage Roar to get lethal without needing the whole combo. Respect this at all time and always add three damage to everything they have when calculating their possible lethals.