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

If you are just tuning in, be sure to check out Week One of this month’s New Standard. Week 2, and things are rolling. I knew initially that Beast Druid would have a solid core, but there’s a real difference between what you expect and what happens. A friend of mine once said that he […]

If you are just tuning in, be sure to check out Week One of this month’s New Standard.

Introduction

Week 2, and things are rolling. I knew initially that Beast Druid would have a solid core, but there’s a real difference between what you expect and what happens. A friend of mine once said that he really liked the idea of Beast Druid, but he kept running out of cards. That is a very big problem, and something that holds a lot of decks back. It is especially problematic for a midrange list like Beast Druid, because you can easily be out-paced if you don’t keep the threats coming down. However, the most I played with this deck the more I realized that cards don’t matter if you never lose control of the board. My initial list (and this modified one) are very good at keeping you one step ahead of your opponent, which enables you to keep pace and control the trades. You need that for this deck to work, and it is the primary goal of the current thirty.

Where We Are Now

Did somebody say deathrattle? No? Just me? Fine. Since we last talked I have shifted away from the strict midrange-aggro approach and gone with something that can been as a little slower. N’zoth, the Corruptor is a very strong card and one of the best finishers in the game. Though he is not quite so “all in” as he is in lists like Paladin and Rogue, he works very well as an extra value card that gives you some much needed punch against control decks that can slowly grind you down.

The biggest reason for the deathrattle shift is because of the resurgence of Control Warrior. While this list can outpace just about every midrange or aggro deck in the game, it can be hard when topdecking against control. The Old God package fixes that and adds a way to fill the board without over-committing your hand. You can cut the end-game card for something lower in mana if you aren’t seeing as much control, but I think he’s a good fit for now. You may also be tempted to add in an extra deathrattle threat such as Sylvanas Windrunner or Cairne Bloodhoof, but I think those cards are worse in this list than proactive threats like The Black Knight.

Another card I’ve been thinking a lot about is Fandral Staghelm. The four drop legendary has proved to be solid in many Druid builds and could be an essential asset here. He has a natural synergy with a lot of the “choose one” beasts and even gets extra value off of Wrath. The problem is that I am not sure where the 3/5 would fit. I feel like this is a very tight list and every single card plays a key role. Maybe cutting a Wildwalker for him would be the way to go, but so far the 4/4’s have been amazing in my early games.

There have been very few changes since the initial version of this list because, honestly, I really like where this is going. The beast plan has worked really well, and I like a lot of the current numbers (such as only running a single Savage Roar). There are still a couple changes I am not sure I love (I really want Sir Finley Mrrgglton back), but for right now I think this has some real climbing potential.

The only thing I am still struggling with is hard removal. Mulch keeps popping into my mind and it could be worth doing some testing on. Wrath and Swipe could be good enough (especially because there are few open slots) but I want more tempo plays and Mulch fits the bill. Not to mention, most of the games I lose are because I cannot quite overcome some huge threat.

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.

Innervate

While this card may be one of the most self-explanatory cards in the history of Hearthstone, I think understanding Innervate is very important in knowing how to optimally pilot this deck. The reason is that the more I played with this list the less and less I began to use Innervate early on. We have been taught that you want to try and get the two extra mana as soon as possible to overtake the board. However, there are very few early threats that are worth Innervating out. That does not mean your cards are bad, but sticking the to the curve of playing a 3/2 on turn two is often going to be just as good in the long run of getting out a 4/4 two turns early.

The golden rule of playing Innervate is, stick to your curve. Sometimes you want to hold this until turn three or four because you start strong and sometimes you want to play it on turn two so you can go two, three, four. Using the ramp spell is going to change from match to match and shift based on what’s in your hand. For instance, if you can play a turn one Mounted Raptor into a turn two Druid of the Saber against Control Warrior you probably should. However, if you also have The Black Knight against Druid, then it is best to save the Innervate to kill a taunt should they ramp one out early. Those small plays are important and you should always think about them throughout different stages of the game.

Huge Toad

Huge Toad was a card that I really wanted to fit into the deck from when I first built it and N’zoth, the Corruptor made that even more possible. This card is the aggressive, beast version of Flame Juggler. While its ability is a little worse as a deathrattle, the three attack is very relevant and enables the beast to trade up better than most threats around. That role is very valuable and really helps you keep control of the early turns. Having more two drops is never going to be a bad thing, especially in a deck that wants such a strong curve like this one. You always need to get something down each turn if you can with this deck. That will enable you to keep in control of priority and make the various trades that you want to make. As mentioned, you are going to win the game through the board much more often than keeping cards in your hand. For that to work you need ways to start out early, and Huge Toad, a beast with a strong deathrattle and aggressive attack, is perfect for that job.

Mounted Raptor

This deck would just not exist without Mounted Raptor. Though it is much lower in power level, this card reminds me a lot of Piloted Shredder in that it is a sticky midgame minion that, even when dealt with, just keeps pouring on the pressure. Most one drop minions in the game are 2/1’s. A few are less but a few are even stronger. As a result, this usually is going to be an early 3/2 threat that is going to eat removal to become a 2/1. That means you are not only going to be able to keep a minion on the board, but you are going to grind your opponent down on resources and keep up the pressure at the same time. That strategy is particularly effective against both slow control and midrange.

Mounted Raptor is quite easily the most powerful card in the deck for countering the current meta. That is to say, this is a card that does a lot of work against most popular decks including Shaman, Hunter, Control Warrior and Zoo. If you start out with fast ramp or an early curve this card should really be able to lock down the board. This entire list is predicated on the fact that you are going to play something each turn that is more dangerous than the last. If you can enact that strategy while using your three drop to trade into two minions or eat removal, you are often going to win. I have had numerous games where my opponent spent two turns dealing with the raptor, only to lose control of the board around it.

Ragnaros the Firelord

While Ragnaros was in the original version, I wanted to discuss him in more detail this week because of why, despite me upping the curve, I decided to keep him in. The firelord has seen a resurgence in many decks across the meta. In this list, we want the 8/8 for two distinct reasons. The first is that it acts as damage with a built in threat that must be killed immediately. There are many games where you need to make a final push or want to pour on the last bits of damage. Ragnaros helps you do that by giving you a quick way to do eight damage to the face from an empty board. In that way, he can been as a sort of burn spell. Even if you aren’t able to do that damage to the face, the pressure that Rag represents will force your opponent to spend resources killing it, giving you more time to breath and plan out your future turns.

The second reason that Rag is so important is because he serves as a form of removal. I have both mentioned and talked on end about the lack of removal in this deck, and it continues to be a problem as I move up the ladder. There are many big threats currently in the game. While not always scary on their own, there is so much burst running around you never want to take six plus damage to the face if you can avoid it. Ragnaros helps with this by giving you a way to take down a big end-game minion that has six, seven or eight health. Yes, the damage from the eight drop is random. However, the upside is too good not to run. Even in games where he is just taking a small minion off the board each turn is more than fine, because he may eventually go face and give you that final burst you need.

N’zoth the Corruptor

The big bad in the list, N’zoth, the Corruptor is a psuedo-finisher than acts much more like a surprise value card than a traditional end-game card. Normally when you see N’zoth you see a “build around me” style card that demands a deck fill it with as much deathrattle cards as possible. However, here it just going to be another tool that can help you fight against some of the slower decks that are able to break down your resources over the course of a game. This card fights back against those decks by just giving a way to refill the board and instantly threaten massive amount of damage all in one card. Even against midrange or aggro N’zoth often puts so much pressure on the board that it is hard for them to come back.

As you can see from the list, N’zoth can only bring back Huge Toad, Darnassus Aspirant and Mounted Raptor. Underwhelming compared to what he does in other lists, but still quite strong. That break down, mix with mulliganing for a low curve, makes it so you are often going to get three minions back when the corruptor comes down. That may not seem like a lot, but it is often going to be around 11/11 worth of stats spread out across three bodies. Some long games you may even have more power and be able to draw a full board. Just know N’zoth’s role and don’t wait around to save him for some huge turn, he is more than fine with another minion or two. The only exception to that rule is when you are playing slow control, then save him until their AOE is gone.

Mathchups

These are the five matchups that made up almost all of my games in my climb.

Aggro Shaman

Though its popularity is fading, Shaman still has a firm grip on the meta. While by no means easy, this is a matchup that should fall into your favor as long as you stick to your curve. The reason for that is Shaman needs those first turns to be able to take over a game, but once they fall behind they are going to have a very hard time coming back. You not only have the early drops to challenge Shaman, but you also have the midgame swing tools that set them back. In this way, once you get ahead on board it is going to be very hard to lose. Your whole job here is to control the trades and use your board presence to add more and more pressure. This will force Shaman to use their burst on your board rather than your face, slowly grinding them out of damage. Just remember to always clear their minions (even totems) to limit their buff potential.

Something to take note of is that many Shaman’s today run a whole mess of midrange cards, even in aggro decks. Hex and Lightning Storm are both popular options that can blow you out if you aren’t ready. You shouldn’t live in fear of the clear cards, but you should be cautious enough to understand how they can hurt your tempo, especially if you are behind. If you have a set board or have enough pressure to control what Shaman plays, you typically do not need to add anything else down. The only exception to this rule is when you are pushing hard for lethal against a burst-heavy list or a Doomhammer.

Control Warrior

As mentioned above, Control Warrior is currently one of the strongest and most popular lists on ladder. There is a good reason for that, but this is going to be one of your better matches. That is because, while you only have two sticky minions, Warrior is a class that does not do well with a string of threats. They only have so many premium kill spells, and once those run out they are going to be at the mercy of the board. Just about every card in this deck can do a lot of damage if left unchecked, meaning that Warrior is going to constantly be on the back foot, removing minion after minion to stay alive. That allows you to push and control the game through pressure. If Warrior gets an open turn they might be able to take the board, but if you stick to a string of threats into a burst finish they won’t be able to keep up.

If the game is starting to go long you typically want to do your best to try and get as much value out of N’zoth, the Corruptor as possible. That does not necessarily mean waiting around to fill your board, but rather to try and bait out at least one Brawl (preferably two) before dropping down the Old God. This will ensure your opponent is going to have very few ways to come back. Your opponent is often going to be at a lower life total towards the end of the game, so any presence will greatly threaten them. In the same vein, try your best to use Ragnaros the Firelord after you have already seen premium removal or when you have a chance to push for eight damage to the face.

Zoo

As Control Warrior grows stronger, Zoo’s light slowly fades away. However, as much as the aggressive Warlock list has tanked over the past few weeks, it is still around. The best way to combat the swarms of minions is by simply going over their head. While you cannot match what their deck can do in terms of stickiness, your minions are much stronger and threaten much more damage than your opponents do. That works very well because if you can kill their minions before they can become buffed you are almost always going to be able to keep something on the board. The new version of Zoo only really has minions at their disposal, meaning they can only trade with what they have on the board. This is important to note because if you have more minions that them during a turn, you are going to be able to keep some around when that turn ends.

This is a game where you are going to be strictly focused on playing the role of control. You want to always remove their minions and do what you can to keep them lifetapping instead of playing from the hand. Stampeding Kodo and Huge Toad are both amazing here because they can trade well and also remove a minion. This is the one game where if you can Innervate something out early on you absolutely should. Having a dead turn against Zoo is never going to be acceptable, so you want to try as hard as you can to make it so you always get something down. Even Innervating for one mana to play a three drop into a three drop is almost always the right play. Zoo has a ton of buffs and ways to trade up into larger minions so the body is much less relevant than having something on the board.

Tempo Mage

Tempo Mage is shaping up to be the premier deck in the meta and one of the most burst-heavy lists around. It has a lot of strong minions, quick damage and relies on a ton of small combo-like interactions to really bring the whole list together. Unlike past lists that relied on board presence to take over games, the new version (championed by Hotform) is all about card draw and damage. They run a lot of ways to get cards into their hand, which they like to hoard until they can go all-in with spellpower or Flamewaker. The way you beat that strategy is by playing out your curve, which, as with Warrior, forces Mage to be reactive instead of proactive. This deck is all about getting tempo in any way that you can. Here, that is done through a strong board and large minions. Most of Mage’s spells only do so much damage, so even something like a Stampeding Kodo can cost them two spells to remove.

In this match you need to pressure your opponent as much as you can to force them to use their burn on your board. Tempo Mage only has so much damage at their disposal, meaning that if you can get them to use their Frostbolts and Fireballs on your board rather than things like Arcane Missiles and Arcane Shot you should be able to quickly run your opponent low on cards. Though they have a ton of ways to kill you, Mage has never been great playing with a low hand count. In addition, like Zoo, they also do not well when playing from behind. Use all of your ramp to power out minions and allocate your resources to make sure you play minions onto an empty board.

Midrange Hunter

This is one of your most evenly matched games, and it is largely going to come down to the first turns. Both you and your opponent play the tempo game on the board, where you each want to use minion pressure and fast damage to set up your powerful mid-to-end game turns. Whoever falls behind here is generally going to lose, since the other person will be able to leverage the life battle. You want to mulligan low and try to stick to your threats as best you can. The most important part of this game is watching out for Hunter’s removal. When facing down midrange it is very easy to get caught up in their minions. However, they have a lot ways to remove the board, all of which can be very problematic for you if you aren’t prepared. While Hunter’s Mark is not popular anymore, Deadly Shot, Quick Shot, Kill Command and even Freezing Trap can all set you pack immensely. Never play into them too hard if you can and try to spread out your buffs across multiple minions. Beyond that, just know you need to have the board by turn six to deal with Savannah Highmane into a turn eight Call of the Wild. Being behind against either of those cards is an instant loss.

Conclusion

I feel like I am always at my height during week two. I am not sure why that is, but around day five through seven (which is when I am writing this) I seem to be rolling along the most. Maybe its because I can better predict how legend players play, or maybe its just because I am still fresh. Either way, this deck has been doing well for me in the early testing, and I hope it brings some success as well. Until next time, may nature rise with you.