Smashthings’ Quick Brew: Astral Ramp Druid

Hi guys, today I’m going to show you a deck you can try out once the expansion hits. Sure, this deck is very expensive but I think a lot of the Legendaries are replaceable (for example, if you don’t open you can always replace with the cheaper alternative ).  In this article I’m going to […]

Introduction

Hi guys, today I’m going to show you a deck you can try out once the expansion hits.

Sure, this deck is very expensive but I think a lot of the Legendaries are replaceable (for example, if you don’t open Chillmaw you can always replace with the cheaper alternative Ancient of War). 

In this article I’m going to show you my list and explain some of the design decisions behind it (I know that some of you out there love deck-building theory). 🙂

Today’s deck: a ‘build around’ the card Astral Communion.

Making this deck was tough…

So right off the bat I want to making something clear: this is probably the hardest theory-craft I have ever attempted. Make no mistake budding deck-builders; trying to figure out a way to get this deck working is bloody hard (and only time will tell if I have been remotely successful).

You can see my review of the card (and my first attempt at building a deck based on it) here.

Principally, you face 3 problems when building around Astral Communion:

  1. Consistency: How will the deck function when we don’t draw into the key card(s)?
  2. Win condition: How do we win the game after playing Astral Communion?
  3. Defences:  Can we run tech cards (e.g. Big Game Hunter) in a deck like this? How do we defend versus Aggro?

In what follows I’m briefly going to cover some of these theoretical difficulties:

Problem One: Card Draw

Since Astral Communion discards your hand Card Draw, (post-communion) is clearly going to be important. Moreover, Card Draw is also important for drawing into Communion in the first place!

The first theoretical question is: “Do we want Battlecry’s or Deathrattle’s?”  Or put another way: “Do we want ‘instant card draw’ or ‘delayed card draw’?”

Consider for a moment Novice Engineer / Wrath versus Loot Hoarder / Bloodmage Thalnos.

The advantage of the Deathrattles (and, for that matter, cards like Acolyte of Pain) is that it they function as delayed card draw. Ergo we could play Loot Hoarder and then on the next turn we could play Communion and then kill off the Loot Hoarder.  With such a play we could dominate the enemy, a Turn 4 Deathwing is genuinely possible in this case (and I’d love to see a Zoo deck win after that!).

Likewise, suppose it is Turn Four and we have Innervate in hand alongside Communion and Loot hoarder. Since we are going to lose all our cards anyway it makes perfect sense to innervate out Loot Hoarder and then play communion. Next turn we are likely to have two cards to trash our opponent with.  Meanwhile, Innervate + Novice Engineer merely develops a 1/1 minion on the board (since we discard the card we draw).

Okay, so it looks like Deathrattle’s are superior to battlecry’s (i.e. instant card draw)…right? Wrong.

The key advantage of the battlecry’s over the deathrattle’s can be seen once we imagine a post-communion top-deck situation: On Turn Five getting novice Engineer allows us to play it and then spend the remaining 8 mana on whatever we draw. This is a considerable tempo boost. Meanwhile, top-decking Loot Hoarder means we have to wait until Turn Six before we do anything scary.

In short, Delayed card draw is great on the turn (or the turn before) you play Astral Communion but unfortunately such cards make for terrible top-decks.  Meanwhile the reverse is true for instant card draw; huge tempo boost in the top-deck situation at the cost of being less inefficient on pre-communion turns.

Problem Two: How do we achieve consistency?

When building Astral decks we always need to keep in mind how the deck will function with and without Astral Communion.

At first glance it is very tempting to build an extremely high-curve deck: With a metric-shit-tonne of late-game power-houses, once communion is played we ought to feel confident in our ability to top-deck dangerous threats. 

But, if we build a deck with incredibly high amounts of late-game what happens when we don’t draw communion? Well, We are probably doing nothing except Hero-powering all the way to Seven Mana, which is obviously likely to be a totally lost game.

Clearly then, there is a balance that needs to be found: We need some early and mid-game plays so that we have some things to do before we get to play/draw into Astral Communion. But the more early and mid-game we add the less potent our post-communion top-decks become.

Basically there are two basic solutions:

  1. In case of not drawing Astral, add a lot of Ramp in order to make the late-game playable.
  2. When adding Early Game, add a lot of cards that ‘cycle’ through the deck.

Okay, so that’s a bit of deck building theory out-of-the-way, In the next section I’ll briefly discuss how I tried to solve some of this issues.

Card Choices

The ‘Cycle’ Package (10 cards):

  • Wrath, Wild Growth, Astral Communion, Ancient of Lore, Grove Tender,

So these are the cards we can potentially top-deck post-communion to cycle through the deck and find something else to play (on that turn). Such cards are critical in a deck like this, I think. As it currently stands a third of our deck is capable of fulling this function, which obviously means that post-communion if we don’t top-deck something great in the first place (e.g. Deathwing) we have a 33% chance of getting a second chance at it.

Beginner’s take care to note that In the case of Wild Growth and Astral communion is that if you are are 10 mana when you play them you get the Excess Mana card.

The ‘Hand-Refill’ Package (6 cards):

  • Yseranefarianchromaggus, Ancient of Lore, nexus-champion-saraad

So these are the cards we are going to use to try to recover from the huge hit our Hand Size took when playing communion.

I also like the fact that all of the above cards (except Ancient of Lore) ‘add’ cards to our deck. This might be important since our deck runs a lot of card draw and mostly probably wins in the late-game. This combination of factors may mean we have to consider how this deck works once Fatigue sets in.’Adding cards’ (as opposed to ‘drawing from the deck’) should help protect us against being Fatigue’d out.

Also, I think Saraad is extra noteworthy here; the Inspire mechanic makes this card function a bit like Loot Hoarder and Novice Engineer. For example, in the post-communion top-deck situation we play him and Hero power and may then in some cases play the card we draw, which would also use to use most of our mana for that turn. Also possible is Turn Three Innervate Saraad and then on Turn Four Astral + Hero Power + play whatever we draw, which works a bit like Loot Hoarder.

The ‘Ramp’ package (8 cards):

  • Innervate, Wild Growth, Grove Tender, darnassus-aspirant

Earlier I suggested that making the deck consistent (without diluting the win condition) is really difficult.   I think adding a lot of Mana ramp is part of the solution, since with ramp you have a decent chance of playing out some of the late-game early even when you don’t draw Astral Communion. For example:

  • Turn Two: Wild Growth
  • Turn Three: Grove Tender
  • Turn Four: Innervate + Ancient of Lore
  • Turn Five: Dr. Boom
  • Turn Six: Chromaggus

So yeah, by adding a lot of Ramp we reduce the decks reliance on Astral Communion.  I also really like the fact that Wild Growth and Grove Tender are dual purpose, they give us ramp when we need ramp and card draw when we need card draw. Nourish could also be very interesting in this deck, for the same reason.

The ‘Defence’ Package (10 cards):

  •  Chillmaw, Deathwing, Keeper of the Grove, Druid of the Claw, Master Jouster, Ancient of Lore

So the defence package is all about adding cards that help keep us alive, Lore gives us heal while Master Jouster, Chillmaw and D.Claw provide taunts.

Talking of Chillmaw I thought he might be worth adding since we do have a few other Dragons and a lot of card draw. The ability might not trigger that consistently but given that Druid is a class that typically struggles with Board Clear I thought that even if you only get the trigger one in five games it might be worth it. Compared with Ancient of War, we are giving up 4 health on a Taunt for a chance to wipe the board.

Keeper of the Grove is in the deck mostly because I am scared of something like an enemy sylvanas-windrunner.  It’s a rather sad card to top-deck but hey, sacrifices must be made.

Replacements & Other Ideas

There is actually a large number of cards that could potentially fit into this deck: Nourish, Swipe, other late-game legendaries (e.g. cenarius), Tech options (e.g. Kezan Mystic, Mind Control Tech, Big Game Hunter, etc), Faceless Manipulator, Starfire, Tree of Life, Force of Nature + Savage Roar combo, Jeeves, and so on.

The number of things to tinker and experiment with is simply mind-blowing.

Also guys, I know that a lot of you love Swipe and that’s a card currently missing in deck.  Well, the omission of Swipe is mostly due to how I build decks; I sometimes like cutting ‘obvious cards’ when making a ‘first version’ of a deck because: (1), I get to experiment with more cards and (2), if some cards are not performing I immediately know of a very good card I could replace those poor performing cards with.

Conclusion

Okay, so that completes the article. Hopefully you have some fun with the deck list and maybe the discussion contained within will help you tweak your own version of Astral Communion Druid.

For what its worth, I don’t think we have enough support in the current card pool for this style of Druid (yet), and so I’m not expecting to have much success with this list or any version of it. But hey, even if the deck concept doesn’t work we can still have fun trying it and thinking about it. …Right?

Anyway, Good luck guys (you’re probably going to need it if you play this deck!) 🙂

Update

Okay, Here’s some game footage of me playing the deck (vs Ctrl Warrior).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bhePpicK-fk