The New Standard: Karazhan Edition! (Minion-less Druid)

Buckle up boys and girls. This week we are going in. The last wing of Karazhan dropped and we now have the whole set at our fingertips. I knew that I wanted to really play something crazy, but I wasn’t sure which direction that was going to go in. Secret Mage, Discard Warlock and All-Armor Warrior […]

Introduction

Buckle up boys and girls. This week we are going in. The last wing of Karazhan dropped and we now have the whole set at our fingertips. I knew that I wanted to really play something crazy, but I wasn’t sure which direction that was going to go in. Secret Mage, Discard Warlock and All-Armor Warrior were all calling my name. I even thought about messing around with Prince Malchezaar. However, as I began to explore the different decks I found many of them were not fun and, more importantly, a lot of them were bad. I mean really bad. Like “say hi to rank 20 for me” bad. As such, I quickly went back to the drawing board and looked over the Karazhan cards in my collection. The two cards that most caught my eye were Moonglade Portal and Medhiv, the Guardian. That got me thinking about a minion-less Druid list, which led me to this week’s deck.

Yogg Druid has been around for a long time. As a result, I wanted to take the build and really make it feel it different. While almost every list has either been strict combo like Maly or token-based with Violet Teacher, I just wanted to (mostly) take minions out of the picture. Though not every minion is gone (the list actually runs six) being able to cut back on those cards and pack in more spells really helps with the consistency and helps you go long. More removal is always welcome in a list like this, especially because a lot of it will eventually become minions. That is very powerful and something I haven’t seen before. The new “portal package” really comes in handy and allows the old shell to travel in a brand new direction.

The Deck

Ok, so the title is a bit misleading. There are a few minions in this deck. However, all of them are very important and heavily interact or depend on the spell theme. Fandral Staghelm is just crazy good with half of the deck, both Arcane Giants are needed as extra threats, Yogg does what Yogg does, and both Medivh, the Guardian and Summoning Stone are crucial to turning your spells into threats.

This deck operates much like traditional Yogg Druid, but has a completely style of play and a different set of win conditions. While you still have the games where you can randomly win with Yogg-Saron, Hope’s End (as seen in the videos), you typically want to just stall your opponent out, kill all of their stuff, and then spam the board with random threats. You have many forms of removal and you also have ample healing. In that way, I would say this feels like a hybrid ramp-control deck where you want to quickly get to your larger removal so the games go long. Of course, quickly getting bodies down doesn’t hurt as well.

The last thing to remember is that this deck has a lot of damage. Though it may not feel like it looking at the mess of random spells, you have many ways to go face. Claw, Swipe, Living Roots, Feral Rage and Starfire can all lead to lethal in different situations. Always count the damage in your hand and figure out the games or situations where you want to shift into a burn deck.

One notable exclusion I want to bring up is Emperor Thaurissan. There is no real reason I haven’t included the fire-loving dwarf. I simply just ran out of room and felt like I didn’t need him. While he does let you go huge with Summoning Stone, I am not sure you need that to win games. If you want to include him, I think cutting Claw feels right.

Key Cards

This section will help to explain why certain cards are in the list and how they’ve performed so far.

Raven Idol

While everyone who has played with or against Yogg Druid is familiar with Raven Idol, I bring it up because it is easily one of the most important cards in the entire deck. This card has multiple uses here, and understanding each of them is key to winning the game. The first and foremost use for the idol is ramp. This is pretty stock, but you always want to use an early idol to fetch things like Innervate, Nourish and Wild Growth. This can help smooth out of your curve and bring you back into games where you have a clunky draw. Often, if you draw the card later on, you still want to look for spells because of how well they interact with your deck. In this scenario, always either search for hard removal (you want as much as you can get) or look for draw if you are low on cards.

Now, while in most decks you only want to get spells from Raven Idol, there are two instances where you want to go for minions instead. If you are later in the game against other control decks, or in a situation where you and your opponent are both topdecking, you need to search for a threat. That is by no means a guarantee due to the sheer amount of minions in the game, but it does give you something to put on the board, which is very important. That goes double against control. In addition, if you have the idol when it does no good as ramp or removal against any deck, you should try your hardest to combine it with Fandral Staghelm.

Summoning Stone

Part of the “no-minion” package, Summoning Stone allows you to really go all-in on spells. This card may seem gimmicky and rather slow, but it has a very strong effect in a deck like this one. Flooding the board is always going to be powerful, especially when you are flooding the board with much larger minions. Random minions are not great, but when you can get a random five, two and three drop in one turn you suddenly have a threatening board. Not only that, but stone is the biggest threat of them all. This usually puts your opponent into a position where they either kill it and take damage, or leave it up and risk you filling the board all over again.

The most important part of playing Summoning Stone is knowing to only put it down when you need to bait out removal or when you can get immediate value. The 0/6 is a scary card (especially when set up on an empty board) and it will eat Fireballs, Eviscerates, Siphon Souls, Deadly Shots and the like. Most of the time, this is not how you want to use the stone, but there will be games where you need to get something out of your opponent’s hand to set up a big threat. Primarily, you want to get at least two minions or one big minion from the stone. Playing this with Atiesh is an insane amount of value, as is combining it with Moonglade Portal. Doubling up is always strong here and you want to take every opportunity you have to do so.

Moonglade Portal

It is really hard to describe just how important Moonglade Portal is to this deck. Not only is it a threat tacked onto a spell (which is what you want everything to be) but it is also acts as another powerful healing spell that you can run alongside Feral Rage. One of the biggest reasons Healing Touch is not good enough in a tempo or burst-oriented meta like this one is because it only heals. Spells with a single purpose are very one-dimensional, which limits your possibilities throughout a game. Versatility is ever-important Hearthstone, and being able to heal yourself while also putting down a minion is more than worth six mana. It is those type of proactive and yet reactive plays that really help this deck out and gives it the threats it needs to be a contender.

One of the biggest parts of the current meta is being able to make it through both Doomhammer and Hunter’s ample burst. Though this deck cannot always do that, having two more ways to gain health can go a long way. Especially when those heals come with a six mana minion tacked on. Aggro decks are always going to be tough, and you need ways to get out of burst range once you have stabilized or run them low on cards. This can do that without needing any help from the Atiesh or Summoning Stone. Just never forget you can use this on your minions as well. This is going to come up much less than healing your face (since you run so little minions in the first place) but there will be times where putting your big threats out of burn range can help you win the game.

Medivh, the Guardian

Another “must have” for this style of deck, Medivh, the Guardian is the real deal. What makes this card so strong is that his body is almost completely irrelevant. Though a 7/7 is definitely worth noting and will force removal (as well as push for lethal) what matters is having access to a third Summoning Stone. Not just a third Summoning Stone, but a better Summoning Stone. Unlike the five drop, which has to be on board to get value, the Atiesh sits and gains value whenever you need it to. It also allows you to have some very large turns with things like Starfire that you usually cannot combo with the stone. Medivh is a card where the battlecry is most important, so you want to run him out whenever you have an opportunity to do so. Even if he dies right away, that is less removal or minions you have to worry about later on.

Always remember when you have the Atiesh equipped. This may seem like an odd comment, but it is something you have to get used to and you will forget. The biggest reason you are going to forget you have the Atiesh is because you are a Druid and you are going to want to use your hero power. Once you play Medivh, the Guardian you do not want to hero power unless you need the attack for lethal or to remove a must-kill threat. In addition (and this goes for Summoning Stone as well) be very careful how you sequence your spells. While you may really want to Wild Growth in order to get a card from your deck, it is much better to hold off for a turn to play out that Moonglade Portal or Starfall in your hand. These interactions matter. To make sure you get the most value, you should always try and have a plan for how you want to use your charges the turn before you drop the guardian down.

Arcane Giant

One of the most important parts of this deck is figuring out how to actually kill your opponent. While you have a lot of random minions and burst at your disposal, you still need some threats. This is not a deck where you slowly want to chip at your opponent’s health over the course of the game. Rather, you just need to get as big as you can and take chunk of life after chunk of life. Arcane Giant is one of the strongest ways to do this because it allows you to slam down an 8/8 while also playing spells (are you noticing a trend yet?). Many decks today have a hard time easily dealing with such a large minion (especially if it comes down on an empty board) and this is often going to eat a lot of resources. Even better, if your opponent doesn’t have an answer you can use it to trade or just go face to put on pressure or set up lethal. This also has a fantastic interaction with Yogg where you can draw into them and then, if they cost zero, put them onto the board for free after a big clear. That play alone is worth putting the two 8/8’s into your deck.

Matchups

Some of the most common matchups I’ve seen so far.

Aggro Shaman

It’s baaack. As expected during any time of serious flux, Aggro Shaman has rapidly risen back to the top of the meta. This is going to be a tough matchup where you need to be really careful. Your first priority here is removing all of your opponent’s threats and your second is healing as much as you can. You want to play the control deck here, and you want to ramp as much as possible to make that happen. This will give you more options and allows you start going in with your later combos. Once you have the board you can mostly mitigate what your opponent can do, but you need to be very careful early on to make sure you very little opening damage. As you have no built-in taunt, you are often going to be extremely susceptible to Doomhammer. Though healing can save you in situations where your opponent is getting in for four plus a turn, it won’t last. You have to work hard to get ahead of your opponent, and you should run out any minion you can. Even something like Summoning Stone can eat six damage, buying you both health and extra time.

Midrange Hunter

Hunter is back, and that is not great news for this deck. This is easily the hardest matchup because, not only does Hunter have built-in forms of burst that can just instantly win them the game, but they also have a ton of annoying deathrattle cards that are very difficult to get through. Call of the Wild can be a nightmare to deal with, and Steady Shot makes it so you will eventually succumb during most long games. The whole goal of this match is to survive up through turn eight and then try to go over their head with big minions. As the game progresses, always try to count their cards and think about the potential damage they could have in hand or top deck. Your heals do a lot of work in this game, and you never want to die with one in hand because you forgot your opponent had a second Kill Command.

You really want to be on the Yogg-Saron, Hope’s End/Arcane Giant plan with this deck. That means, your whole goal is to ramp up as fast as possible and get as far ahead on mana as you can. Most Hunter’s today only run one Deadly Shot as their form of removal, making your giants quite strong here. If you ever have a window to put an 8/8 down against Hunter you should because it makes you the aggressor and suddenly forces them onto the back foot. In that same vein, anytime you can put just get a body onto an empty board you should. Hunter is going to almost always have priority here due to their incredible curve, but if they blank you should take the opportunity to get ahead. Also try to use your hero power as much as possible to gain life and always clear beasts to limit Houndmaster value.

Tempo Mage

Tempo Mage is a strong and consistent deck, but this game is largely in your favor (as noted many times in the video). The reason for that is two-fold. First, Mage needs their minions to survive for more than a turn in order to enact their gameplan. That is very hard to do against this list, which runs many, many ways to remove small, early game minions. Just kill everything your opponent plays and make sure they never get something to stick if you can help it. Nothing snowballs better than tempo, and you want to confine them to burn if possible. Once you stall out there early push it is going to make their later cards much worse.

The second advantage you have here is all the built in healing. Mage has a lot of burn, and you want to be careful that you aren’t going to lose the game out of nowhere. Feral Rage and Moonglade Portal are fantastic for climbing out of burn range and invalidating your opponent’s big Fireball or Flamewaker turns. In addition, most of your healing and proactive removal comes with minions. This allows you to play the control role while also pressuring, and it puts your opponent in a tight spot. Most games Tempo Mage is going to have to decide if they want to remove things from the board or try and make up for your healing by hitting you in the face. This often creates scenarios where you can easily win. If they burn the board they are rarely going to be able to finish you off through your healing, but if they hit your face you are going to be able to run them down.

Yogg Druid

The “mirror” match, Yogg Druid is going to be a 50/50 affair that comes down to two important factors. The first factor, as so apparent in the video, is ramp. Getting up on mana is absolutely key in the Druid vs. Druid game, and you need to mulligan hard for anything that can put you ahead of your opponent. Beyond that, the second factor is “big turns”. What I mean by that is, turns where one person just takes over the board. Yogg Druid has the potential to do that with things like Violet Teacher and Cenarius, and you can do it by making use of your Summoning Stones or portals. Always look for opportunities to really go off with your spells against Druid. They have no AOE, and will largely crumble under multiple solid midrange threats.

One of the most important parts of this matchup is properly identifying exactly what version of Yogg Druid your opponent is running. The two most popular lists right now are the Malygos combo version and the more classic version that packs Violet Teacher and tokens. The reason this is so key is because it affects how you play the game. You can be more relaxed with your life total against the teacher one, but you have to very careful against Maly. If you are facing Violet Teacher you should save your removal for when they fill the board, but against Malygos you want to really make use of your healing. Though both decks are very similar, any token cards like Power of the Wild or Violet Teacher are signs you are facing traditional Yogg, while anything combo oriented, such as Gadgetzan Auctioneer, means it’s Malygos.

Zoo

Zoo never truly goes away, and I have seen a lot of it over the past week. I expect that trend to continue upwards with the release of the Malchezaar’s Imp. This is a very interesting matchup because if you can break Zoo’s pressure by turn five or six you should be able to win the game, but if you fall short you are going to die. Zoo has a lot of explosive starts, but they also crumble to decks that can reliably pump out minions. Once you get your portal package going you should be able to take this down. As a result, your whole goal during this game is going to be to remove all early threats and do your best to keep pressure off of you. Your life total is extremely important to stop midgame combos and allow you some breathing room to ramp. Yogg-Saron, Hope’s End is also a win condition. If you have him in hand you need to ramp up as fast as possible while also mitigating the board.

The hardest part of this matchup is knowing how to properly use your removal. Beyond the early spot cards like Wrath and Living Roots, you have Swipe and Starfall. That means you are going to clear one-by-one during the first turns, and then try to set up bigger AOE later on. Just know your priority targets. While you may want to use that Wrath on a Dark Peddler, it may be better to hit it with your face to set up a Swipe for the next turn Imp Gang Boss. Do not be afraid to mulch a Darkshire Councilman, and if you ever can use the Fandral Staghelm/Starfall combo, you should. It is also important to not hold back on healing. Zoo has ample burst at their disposal and they can usually kill you from the mid-teens if they have one or two minions on the board. Suddenly gaining six or eight can buy you some valuable turns.

Mulligan Guide

With this deck you want to see all of your low spells and throw back all of your expensive minions. You want to start every game with Living Roots, Innervate, Wild Growth and Wrath. This will help you begin strong and give you time to ramp or remove threats. Feral Rage can also be kept against any deck where you can get value out of it on turn three (such as to kill Flamewaker or Animal Companion). Nourish, while not a must-keep, should be kept anytime you can quickly ramp into it, or if you have the coin and a good curve.

When it comes to specific keeps, you want Claw against any deck where you can kill an early minion and you need Swipe versus swarm aggro like Shaman and Zoo. Mulch can be kept against both Druid and Shaman, but only if you have a good opening to go along with it. Fandral Staghelm should only be kept if you have early ramp and you can get value out of him early on. Beyond that, always play to your ramp and understand how it allows you to keep slower cards if they fit into your curve.

Conclusion

Goodbye oh Karazhan, you will be missed. Though some naysayers still exist, there is no doubt this was an awesome adventure. Not only did we get some unique cards, but there have been a wide range of decks on ladder as well. There is a lot more to explore in the coming weeks and plenty of more things to brew. I will be keeping up this week-to-week basis for the rest of the month before switching back to my normal one-deck-per-month model. I hope you come along for the ride and I hope you’re ready to brew. Until next week, portal, portal, and portal some more.