MUA: Tempo Mage vs. Aggro Druid

Aggro Druid is a relatively new deck, and one of the few powerhouses that emerged from TGT. It is a hyper-aggressive list that can apply early pressure, end games very quickly, and steal wins out of nowhere. Those three make for a deadly combination that you need to know how to combat on the ladder. […]

Introduction

Aggro Druid is a relatively new deck, and one of the few powerhouses that emerged from TGT. It is a hyper-aggressive list that can apply early pressure, end games very quickly, and steal wins out of nowhere. Those three make for a deadly combination that you need to know how to combat on the ladder. In this guide we will look at how Tempo Mage uses its own tools to fight against Aggro Druid’s early push.

Sample Decklists 

You always want to fine tune your deck in a way that best fits your play style. There is no set list in Hearthstone. Almost ever popular archetype can be tweaked with different cards here and there. Tempo Mage has a ton of card choices at its disposal. To understand these different choices, and to see how they affect the overall curve, some sample lists have been linked below. Study them to figure out which style of Tempo Mage is best for you.

One, Two, Three

Mulligan Guide

Aggro Druid only has one goal, to kill you very, very quickly. Your job is to stop them from doing that. However, when facing down Malfurion you are always going to assume it is combo. That is fine, since the mulligans are largely the same against both decks. You need to keep all of your cheap spells and early minions. Druid will start very quickly unless you force them to slow down.. Making them answer an early board is a great way to do this. The general rule is to throw back everything that doesn’t challenge Darnassus Aspirant or apply pressure. Only if you have that early start already can you keep some of the more midgame options.

Cards to Keep

Mana Wyrm Arcane Missiles Mirror Image Sorcerer’s Apprentice Mad Scientist Frostbolt Unstable Portal

Situational Keeps

Flamecannon is a very good keep with other early minions.

Flamewaker is a must keep with the coin or with cheap spells.

Water Elemental can be kept with the coin and a solid curve coming before it.

Piloted Shredder follows the same rules as Water Elemental.

How to Win

You are going to win this game by obliterating your opponent. That may sound like an odd word choice, but it’s true. You do not want to mess around. Aggro Druid is a deck that largely depends on board presence to set up their burn, charge minions, or combo. If you mercilessly kill all of their threats they will quickly run low on cards, which forces them to be reactive. This is where you want to be, because Aggro Druid is not a deck that is built to be reactive.

There are a couple of parts of this matchup for you to understand. When it begins it is going to be a quick fight for the board. This is where Druid attempts to keep your minions off of theirs in order to set up some strong states that can curve into larger threats. They depend on a lot of early cards to make this happen, ranging from Living Roots to Wrath to Druid of the Saber. However, if you fight through that (and you should be able to) they are going to start pushing hard for damage.

Remember, unlike most aggro decks, Aggro Druid always has access to the combo. That means the games isn’t just over because you got ahead in the first turns. They also have access to some bigger minions. If you don’t properly plan ahead for the top end of their curve, or if you suddenly can’t answer a threat, you are going to be back on your heels.

Always understand what your removal is going to do and the possible threats they can play. Fel Reaver and Druid of the Claw are both very scary, but so is Dr. Boom. If you can clear one of their threats with your own minions, do so. This will allow you to save your larger removal for their larger threats.

It is always important to note that you do not run many taunts and you have access to no healing. That means once you lose the board, unless your opponent is at a very low life total, it will be near-impossible to come back. You need to fight for the board as much as you can, taking the time to kill off every single threat that comes your way. Sometimes, even if you do survive, you will still be in combo range. For this reason you need to be as proactive as possible, always being careful to not take too many hits on your life total.

The last important part of facing Aggro Druid is properly identifying it. This will enable you to use your removal more efficiently and also allow you to pilot your deck in the correct way. Always watch for Leper Gnome, Druid of the Saber, Living Roots and Knife Juggler. Those are the cards that will tip you off to what you are playing.

Early Game Strategy

These turns are one of the best reasons Tempo Mage matches up well against Aggro Druid. Aggro Druid, while very, very aggressive, is dressed in a tempo shell. It has a lot of hard to deal with minions and, just like Midrange Hunter, depends on their opponent not being able to answer a board to get through huge chunks of damage. Shade of Naxxramas and Druid of the Saber both have stealth, and Knife Juggler combined with Living Roots or other cheap minions creates an early swarm.

However, while most decks have trouble striking back against those openings, you can absolutely crush them. Arcane Missiles is one of the best tools against Aggro Druid’s openings, while Flamecannon gets around stealth and [card]Frostbolt vaporizes their two drops. All of those removal options can help you steal the board, which sets you up for later turns.

You want to play to your combos here. Utilize Sorcerer’s Apprentice and Flamewaker as best as you can. A 3/2 that comes down with a Frostbolt or Flamecannon is a massive tempo swing, and waker combined with a spell or two can be a full clear that leaves you with a “must kill” threat on the board.

Mana Wyrm is a pure control card during these turns. While pressure is always good, you want to view the one drop as more of a Zombie Chow than anything else. Never be afraid to trade it away.

The most important card to watch out for here is Darnassus Aspirant. You need to kill the panther-rider at all costs, because giving an aggro deck ramp is never an option. For this reason, always mulligan for early removal. In addition, never be afraid to coin out a two drop in order to challenge the potential aspirant play. Even something as simple as a Sorcerer’s Apprentice or Mad Scientist can trade it away. It does not matter what you use to kill the aspirant, but if she lives for a turn you are going to have a bad time.

Midgame Strategy

The middle game is where Aggro Druid begins to back up their first push with larger threats. These are Druid of the Claw, Fel Reaver and Piloted Shredder. Piloted Shredder can usually be dealt with by the board, and is almost a non-factor if you have control during turn four. However, the other two threats are a little harder to deal with.

You need to be constantly think about Fel Reaver. While you do have ways to kill it, if you burn those before turn five the game is going to end very quickly. Fel Reaver is a gigantic threat that almost always leads to lethal if it gets one hit in. You want to remove it in anyway that you can, whether that is through minion combat or a removal spell. Frostbolt does a nice job of keeping it locked down for a turn, but know that if you freeze it you run the risk of it being silenced by a Keeper of the Grove.

Fireball is absolutely key during these turns of the game. Most of your removal is good during the first turns, but doesn’t quite matchup to the midgame threats. Fireball cleanly deals with Druid of the Claw and basically ends both Fel Reaver and Dr. Boom. For this reason, save it for a huge tempo swing when you can.

Water Elemental is also very powerful on turn four (or coined out on turn three). Six health is a nightmare for any Druid deck. Add freeze that can lock down both Druid’s attack as well as its minions and you have the ultimate boogeyman. As stated, most of the game is going to be spent clearing and locking Druid out through board control. Water ele does this better than any card in your deck. It is so strong you can risk taking a hit or two in order to get it on board.

Late Game Strategy

There are only two things that matter during the end of the game: Dr. Boom and the classic combo or Force of Nature/Savage Roar.

Just with most of the larger threats, always have some type of plan for dealing with Dr. Boom. That can be removal or it can be minions, but you need to be ready for the seven drop when he comes a-laughing.

On the other hand, Force of Nature/Savage Roar is extremely deadly when built into an aggro deck. If you take too much damage, even if Druid is almost out of cards, the combo will end the game no matter how many waves you stop. For this reason, you always want to be aware of your life total. Be careful, and remember that even the smallest minion can lead to lethal when you add fourteen damage to it.

The way you end the game is by playing to you and your opponent’s life totals. Aggro Druid is not a deck that cares that much about its life. Rather, it plays loose and fast, slinging minions and spells at will. This means they will dip low sometimes, which will give you the opportunity to finish them off with burn spells.

If you find yourself slipping behind during the later turns, or if you see that you won’t be able to survive the combo when it comes, you should start pushing for damage as much as you can. However, never give up the game by playing too recklessly either. You only want to go for lethal if you can definitely set it up that turn, or if you have a high enough life total.

Final Tip

Frostbolt is one of your best tools during a race. While the first one will often be burned during the first turns, never underestimate how strong it can be in the late game. It can freeze Druid’s face to prevent the full combo, and can also be used to shut down a huge minion. These plays can sometimes buy you the extra turn you need to win the game.