The New Standard: Season 2, Episode 1 (Beast Druid)

There are many questions you must ask yourself in life. Why am I here? What is my purpose? Cheese or chocolate? Why the hell has no one made Beast Druid good? This month of the New Standard we tackle the latest question. When Whispers first got announced I was really excited about the prospect of […]

Introduction

There are many questions you must ask yourself in life. Why am I here? What is my purpose? Cheese or chocolate? Why the hell has no one made Beast Druid good? This month of the New Standard we tackle the latest question. When Whispers first got announced I was really excited about the prospect of finally being able to get some Beast Druid under my belt. However, that plan was quickly forgotten with all of the new decks that popped up so quickly. Even so, I never forget a good deck, and I am ticking the clock back two months. Maybe there isn’t enough beast synergy to carry this deck, maybe Druid just wants to operate differently, but impossible is just a word. I am convinced there is some real untapped potential here, and we are going to dive in and find out if I’m right.

This should be a fun ride for two reasons. One, synergy is always cool. I inherently love any deck that plays to strong combos and powerful interactions, and I think most people do as well. Two, Druid is just not as popular as it once was. While Yogg Token made a brief splash and C’thun Druid pops up every once in a while, Malfurion has drastically dropped in popularity over the past month. My aim is to bring that back and see exactly what cool cards we can bring to light. Druid is not a beast-heavy class, but they do have some really powerful options to play with. I am not sure how all of those pieces are going to fit together, but there is only one way to find out: sit down and make a deck.

The Deck

When sitting down at the drawing board you need to see exactly what type of deck you want to make. The first inclination with Beast Druid is to go the aggressive route, but I think it actually plays much more midrange than anything else. There are different reasons for this and all of them are important to understand. The most important is the fact that curves are very important in Hearthstone. So much so that playing a deck without a curve will get you crushed against the faster decks in the meta. Looking at the cards, Beast Druid has a very pretty curve that can outpace many popular decks. What really pushes Druid ahead of so many classes is the ability to go above the curve with things like Wild Growth and Innervate. Though strong, Wild Growth is much too slow for what we want to do here, which is play one minion a turn, Innervate, on the other hand, is fantastic. It is perfect for smoothing out awkward draws and helping you win the game on turns two or three. You are not always going to hit a minion a turn, but you need to make sure you are able to with as much consistency as possible.

As noted, Druid is a tricky class to fit into the beast mold because there are not that many options at their disposal. While some neutral beasts do exist, almost all of them are very weak or below the curve. You want to play a beefy minion each turn, using those to slowly curve out the game and put on more and more damage. In that way I see this list a lot like Midrange Hunter with different tools. This is a deck where you want to try to wrap things up during the middle turns of the game, using your midrange threats as your finishers. There is a lot of potential for early damage here, but you also have the ability to trade and advance your board in several ways. That type of versatility is important and gives you two paths to victory.

I am not sure how this initial list is going to play but it seems like it wants to pilot like Tempo Warrior, a deck I have a lot of experience with. Though this does not have the same ceiling and big finishers that Warrior does, there are a lot of similarities in the exact way that you play the game. That is, you want to use your minions to advance the board and then use that presence to advance your damage potential. This will force your opponent to answer your threats and keep them on the back foot. You are not an aggro deck, but you are a midrange shell with an aggressive sub-theme. There are a lot of interesting cards at work here, and I believe that sifting through them is really going to work well.

Key Cards

This section will help to explain why certain cards are in the list, what I think about them, and how they’ve performed so far.

Darnassus Aspirant

Oh my, Darnassus Aspirant, what happened to you? The panther-riding two drop was once everywhere during the early days of TGT, but she has rapidly faded since. The reason for that is because the decks that want ramp these days just want to get their mana crystals going. Rather than having their ramp conditional or being able to be ruined by a Fiery War Axe they want cards that are going to give a permanent bonus throughout the game. However, due to our low curve we don’t care as much about that. In fact, putting down a “must kill” 2/3 on turn two against a lot of aggro decks can really slow them down or act as a removal spell. In addition, there are also the times where your opponent has no answer and you just want to run away with the game. Wild Growth may give you a permanent bonus, but this is not a deck where you want to spend a turn not interacting with the board. The golden rule is to always play at least try to get a minion down each turn, especially if those minions also ramp. There is a chance this card is not good enough and we don’t want to run any ramp options at all, but I want it in the original list just to see how it is going to work against the current meta.

Savage Combatant

Fire Elemental this is not. However, the four drop beast does a very nice impression of the flaming six drop. Savage Combatant may not be a super powerful card, but it is one of those necessary Druid threats that can just end the game if ramped out early on. A 5/4 for four is fine enough in its own right, but a 5/4 that allows you to hero power down early threats can be huge at commanding the game. This card may seem very straightforward, but what makes it so inherently strong is how it can be used as such a strong tempo play. There are many 3 health minion running around these days, and being able to snipe them while also advancing your end game is very key. Even playing Combatant on turn four and then Innervateing into a hero power to kill your opponent’s minion can be a strong swing. Those are the type of small plays that make your deck strong.

Another reason that Savage Combatant is so powerful is because of how it can be used as both as damage and a removal spell. No deck wants to take eight damage (five from attack and three from hero power) early on, making this card close to a “must kill” threat. Just know that if you have other options at the start of the game you usually want to play them over Combatant so you can save it for turn six and beyond. Though it costs four, the beast is really a late-game option. If you can bait out your opponent’s removal early this card will do a great job of supplying massive amounts of pressure or clearing the board as a psuedo-Fire Elemental. Very nice for a four mana minion.

Wildwalker

There was no way I was going to make a Beast Druid deck without Wildwalker. In my research I found the few people who attempted to built past Beast Druid lists eschewed this card, and I have no idea why. Sure, it doesn’t do all that much if you don’t have a beast, but you are almost always going to have something on the board to set this up with. Health has always been more important than attack in Hearthstone. This is the reason a 2/3 for two is almost always going to be stronger than a 3/2, and the reason health buffs are so hard to come by. Being able to raise your beast’s health is going to be key for efficient trades and really help you play the tempo game that this deck wants to have. Maybe I will cut this card and everyone else is right, but for now it is at least worth testing. I never want to ignore an ability that is inherently this powerful.

A 4/4 for four is not the most exciting stat line in the game, but a 4/4 that also gives a beast three health is a huge swing that can really turn the tides of battle. I see this card a lot like Dark Iron Dwarf in Zoo, where you play a beefy threat that allows one of your other minions a good trade. However, even without a trade this card’s buff is always going to be relevant regardless of what’s on the board. Just turning a Mounted Raptor into a 3/4 or a Savage Combatant into a 5/7 will deter removal and crush decks that depend on damage like Tempo Warrior or Tempo Mage. It can even deter AOE and threaten a ton of damage across multiple turns. This is something you want to play on curve if you have a target and never look back.

Stampeding Kodo

I would say this card is the sole reason this deck is going to be able to exist in its current form. Anyone who has played against Midrange Hunter or N’zoth Paladin knows how strong Stampeding Kodo is right now. There are just so many high-impact minions this can hit, ranging from Flamewaker to Frothing Berserker to Doomsayer to Bloodhoof Brave and Darkshire Councilman. Being able to clear a minion while putting down a 3/5 is extremely powerful and can really push for both pressure and presence during the later stages of the game. It also helps you keep priority, especially in a deck that runs so little hard removal. Yes, many of the cards that Kodo destroys come down far before turn five, but putting this thing out on turn three with an Innervate or ramp can be gamebreaking.

This card brings me back to the tempo-oriented style of this list. You are minion-based but you want as many cards that do things as possible. Vanilla cards are just not going to cut it these days. While some of your cards do not have the best stat lines, they have all have some type of ability tacked onto them. Most of those try to enhance their stickiness (stealth or deathrattle) or are pushed (Druid of the Claw). Stampeding Kodo is in a very interesting spot because it has one of the strongest swings around. It is like Savage Combatant except does not require extra mana to make its ability work. Yes, its ability can only be used once, but just having a 3/5 beast around is very powerful. Five health is hard to take down during the middle game and if your opponent spends a turn removing Kodo it will often open the door for your other threats.

The Black Knight

As will be covered in more detail below, I am terrified by this deck’s lack of removal. There is the old philosophy that reads, “if you’re fast you don’t need to worry about removal”. While that’s true in decks like Face Hunter or Aggro Shaman, we are not that fast. As a result, I am currently teching in The Black Knight. Everyone who follows me knows how much I love tech cards. I think having one or two is always important to countering a meta and will always lead you to some victories you normally would not have otherwise. Druid is not a class that has hard removal, and while that is fine in ramp, it leaves a much bigger hole in tempo. As a result, I just want something than puts down a solid body and takes something else off of the board. The knight does that better than most and gives you an option that you can also play out as a threat should you need it during the later game.

What’s really cool about The Black Knight is that if serves two very important purposes in this list. The first is that it gets rid of taunts, which can be really important in an aggressively-tuned deck like this. While not an Aggro deck, there are going to be quite a few games where you are pushing for damage or racing. A lot of beefy taunts can really upset that plan. Every deck loves their big taunt minions of some sort and hitting anything from Thing from Below to Bloodhoof Brave to Chillmaw or Dark Arakkoa can be a huge swing that quickly turns the tide of the game. A 4/5 is not super impactful on its own, but if you already have board presence it is fine to play as just another threat. The knight also acts a straight tempo card in a deck that always could use more of it. It is never bad to have more options at your disposal, especially one with so many targets.

First Week Recap

So far, the biggest thing that stands out to me is an inherent lack of solid removal. While the usual Wrath/Swipe split is here like always, it just doesn’t quite feel as powerful as I want it to be. Midrange Hunter has Deadly Shot and Hunter’s Mark, Tempo Warrior has Execute, and we have a couple spells that do a couple damage. Yes, most of the time your minions are going to act as removal spells, but there are may huge threats that we you can’t quite deal with. A second Savage Roar (something I don’t really want to do) may be a way to deal with this problem, but I am not sure if that’s correct. I am also not above testing out Mulch.

The two cards that really scare me so far are Savannah Highmane and Sylvanas Windrunner. I find that there are very few ways to actually deal with either of the six drops and both of them can decimate our minion-based boards. The obvious answer here is silence, but almost all silences are too weak to actually fill out a curve. If I was going to run one I would choose either Spellbreaker or Keeper of the Grove, but both of those just fall flat. Ironbeak Owl is a beast, but at three it simply isn’t worth its dust. I am not sure what to do about the threats just yet (maybe ignoring them is all I can do), but so far they are both problems that I haven’t been able to solve.

A card I want to mention here is Huge Toad. The reason being that the two-drop is almost certainly the best beast that is not in the deck. A 3/2 for two is nothing to write home about, but it’s deathrattle actually is very relevant in the current meta. It also has aggressive stats and could help our curve out even further. I am not sure if its good enough, but it is definitely worth testing.

While Ragnaros the Firelord has been very good as a late-game threat and way to find lethal, he could also be replaced by N’zoth, the Corruptor. I know many people may think I’m biased towards N’zoth (since I always try to find ways to include him), but the truth is he would really help out with some control games (as is his purpose). I have often discussed the idea of surprise in Hearthstone, and running the Old God as a “gotcha!” finisher against slower decks could be an absolute blow out. Of course this would mean shifting around the curve (as well as adding in Huge Toad), but it could help take down Paladins and Warriors, both of which have been tricky so far.

The final note I want to make is regarding another card I have thought a lot about, which is Living Roots. This is a very strong card that does a great job turn one against aggo and helps as a middle-game removal spell. I didn’t include it in my first list because it isn’t a beast, but it could be worth an inclusion. Especially if I find myself wanting for ways to begin the game on turn one.

Conclusion

Week one’s are always so fun. Getting a crack at a new deck that you haven’t explored is always exciting, and I think this list really speaks to my playstyle. Of course, we will see if that continues as the weeks go on, but I am, as always, optimistic about the future. I hope you guys enjoyed last month’s series, I hope you guys are excited to bring something new to Druid, and I hope things are well. Until next time, may you always curve, and curve hard.