Ramp Druid is one of the oldest decks in the game, created back in the Beta. There were times when it was considered one of the best decks in the game – but since GvG, it has seen almost no tournament or ladder play. Luckily, for Druid players, TGT introduced two cards that can get the Ramp Druid back on the track – Darnassus Aspirant and Aviana. Both of them are incredibly strong by making the Ramp Druid more consistent and giving it a game finishing move.
I’ll present you my version of the deck I was playing in Legend after TGT release. The deck is still a subject to some changes and will shift depending on which way the meta goes.
Let’s start with explaining where the deck’s name comes from. The term “ramp” comes from the Magic the Gathering card – Rampant Growth – which works almost the same way as the Druid’s Wild Growth. Normally you can play only one land (mana) per turn, but some cards let you play more lands or gain more mana in other ways. Ramping up means accelerating your mana gain.
In Hearthstone, it looks really similar. Ramping up means getting more mana then you should have at the given turn – mostly permanently, but sometimes as an one-time boost. Druid is the only class that can really ramp up, he gets a lot of tools to do so, but most of them weren’t consistent enough to put into the deck. But what does the ramping up give you?
Playing ahead of enemy in terms of mana is really strong. Against faster decks, you can play big Taunts in the early game and don’t let enemy push for too much damage. Against slower decks, your 4-5 drops played early might bait removals, so enemy won’t be able to get rid of your big Legendaries. Even one mana is a big difference in Hearthstone and Druid stays 1 or 2 mana ahead of the enemy constantly. Sometimes you can even pull out threats 4 turns before you should (playing Dr. Boom on turn 3 for example), which is massive tempo gain.
Most of the deck is a pretty standard Ramp Druid that was used before TGT. But few choices are more interesting – I’m gonna go through all the cards and explain the picks that were a little harder.
Innervate – Druid staple. One of your main ramp tools – it lets you play your bigger threats earlier. In this deck however, in slower matchups you might want to keep it to combo with Aviana on turn 10. More about it later.
Wild Growth – Druid staple. Your main ramp card – you sacrifice the turn 2 tempo and card advantage to gain mana advantage. Base of the deck.
Wrath – Druid staple. Early game removal. It’s good because it’s never useless – if you don’t need the 3 damage, you can always deal 1 damage and cycle it.
Darnassus Aspirant – Introduced in TGT, this 2-drop is the blessing for Druid. The class was always a little problematic – outcome of the game was often decided by whether you draw into your Wild Growth at the start of the game or not. Darnassus Aspirant gives you another way to ramp up as well as an early board presence. If enemy can’t answer it on turn 2, you can either Silence it with Keeper of the Grove to make the effect permanent or hide it behind Sen’jin Shieldmasta. And if it dies, it’s still fine – it’s usually 1 for 1 trade. It’s great against Aggro decks, because it gives you something to drop on t2 without Innervate. It also could as well have the Taunt – even the Aggro decks can’t just ignore it. In the late game, it’s just 2/3 for 2, which is pretty bad, but you will likely have other things to play anyway.
Big Game Hunter – Druid always struggled with killing big minions and Big Game hunter is an answer to this problem. It became slightly worse in TGT, because Blizzard introduced a lot of strong late game minions that have less than 7 attack – but Dr. Boom is still really popular so you should find the target pretty often.
Deathlord – Anti-Aggro tech. The deck doesn’t need a 3-drop most of time (because the Wild Growth or Darnassus Aspirant pump you up to 4 mana), but sometimes it happens that you miss your early ramp. Against slower decks it’s usually fine, but against Aggro it often means death. Deathlord helps to fight the problem – a 2/8 Taunt stops most of the fast decks in their tracks. The average Deathrattle outcome against Aggro is a small minion, so you can easily deal with it too. Deathlord can backfire against slower decks like Control Priest, Control Warrior or Handlock – that’s why when you get matched against one of those, you might either want to not play it or Silence it after it hits the board.
Swipe – Druid staple. Mid game removal, especially useful against the decks that flood the board with small minions. Against slower decks, usually used either as a single target removal or a way to push for damage.
Keeper of the Grove – Druid staple. Very good because of its flexibility – it can be either used to Silence (really good in the current meta), but if you don’t need it, you may deal 2 damage. Keeper is one of the best cards against fast decks – the 2 damage deals with most of the early drops, Silence comes handy against cards like Nerubian Egg or early buffs like Blessing of Might and new Seal of Champions. It’s also defensively statted (2/4), so it can further trade with some small drops.
Sen’jin Shieldmasta – Ramp Druid’s 4-drop of choice. While most other decks run Piloted Shredder, it’s a little too aggressive for a deck like that. Sen’jin is good because it slows down the game by forcing enemy to trade. And slowing the game down is very good for you, because of powerful late game. Even in the late game, 3/5 with Taunt is not that bad – it either protects your more important minions, trades with something or just stops a little damage.
Druid of the Claw – Druid staple. Another flexible card. When you play Ramp, you’re gonna use him in Bear Form (Taunt) most of time, but the Cat (Charge) also comes handy in certain situations. It can instantly clear an important minion or push for damage. When played on curve, combined with Hero Power on the next turn, it contests most of the enemy drops while surviving itself.
Sludge Belcher – A Taunt spawning a Taunt. The minion is really solid – it’s not flashy and probably won’t do much by itself, but it’s great at what it should do. It stalls the game, allowing you to develop the board. If not Silenced, enemy has to deal at least 7 damage to kill it – and in two hits. It’s really important against slow decks – it often stops two big minions, giving you the time to deal with them. It has great synergy with Kel’Thuzad, you might easily put impassable wall of Taunts thanks to all the 1/2 Slimes it spawns on death.
Emperor Thaurissan – Mid/late game ramp card. It’s mostly used in Combo decks, but it’s also great in this deck. One of the biggest Ramp Druid’s weaknesses is that in the late game, it usually drops only one threat per turn. Because of that, it can easily fall behind in terms of tempo. Thanks to Thaurissan, you might play something like 7 drop + 5 drop on the same turn without Innervate, instead of just playing the 7-drop and passing the turn. It also combos nicely with Aviana – discounting her means that you can play more minions on the same turn. Even one discount means that you can follow Aviana with two big drops.
Sylvanas Windrunner – One of the best cards in slow matchups. What’s great about her is that she makes enemy turns awkward. If he has no Silence, he can’t really play big minions because you can steal them. On the other hand, he can’t skip his turn because you’re gonna develop your board even further. Properly timed Sylvanas can often win you the game. Her only weakness is that her power comes from the Deathrattle – if Silenced, 5/5 for 6 is really weak.
Ancient of Lore – Druid staple. Your source of card draw, or sometimes heal if you need to. Very strong card – it gives you the Arcane Intellect effect + 5/5 body in one card for 7 mana. 5/5 for 7 is not that big, but the fact that you cycle it AND draw another card makes it incredibly powerful. If you’re in pinch, especially against faster decks, or you just don’t need to draw more (e.g. you’re close to fatigue), you can use it to heal for 5. Even though Ramp Druid doesn’t rely on drawing to be successful, having more options is always nice.
Ancient of War – The biggest Taunt in your deck, but also the one that’s most vulnerable to Silence. 5/10 with Taunt is really massive – even slower decks often have hard time getting through it. Innervating it out on 5 is a risky move, but can be game winning. The card has one flaw – when Silenced it loses 5 health, becoming a plain 5/5 for 7 mana.
Dr. Boom – Used in most of the Midrange and Control decks, Dr. Boom is the strongest card introduced with GvG. The 7/7 for 7 is nice, but what really makes the card are the Boom Bots – even if the main body gets removed, they can still get value. Depending on your luck, they might even kill some big drop or 2-3 smaller ones. The only Big Game Hunter target in the deck, but luckily it rarely dies for free.
Aviana – Another card introduced in TGT. Great finisher that can completely swing the game in your favor. It can gain you A LOT of tempo in one turn – dropping her alongisde 3 other big minions is a common sight. You put enemy in a really difficult spot – he has to kill the 5/5 Aviana or you’re gonna flood the board next turn, but he also needs to kill other big minions you play with her. Normally you can only play 1 minion alongside her – which is often enough, it still gets the value. But you aim to either discount her with Emperor Thaurissan or keep the Innervate. She combos really well with Kel’Thuzad – not many decks have a way to kill both of them in one turn.
Kel’Thuzad – One of your finishers. If you have some board presence and enemy can’t deal with it – it’s game over. Thanks to Kel’Thuzad, you can kill everything enemy plays for free, because your minions get resurrected. If you hide him behind Taunt wall, it’s unlikely that enemy is gonna deal with all of that. The 6/8 stats are also great – 8 health is outside of many removals range (e.g. Fireball) and 6 attack is outside of BGH range. You need to set this card up, but if when it works, it wins you the match.
Cenarius – Classic Druid legendary. Yet another flexible card – on the empty board, you can play it as a 5/8 + two 2/2 Taunts. Very good when you need some protection. The fact that he comes in 3 bodies means that he usually gets at least 2 for 1. Enemy is often gonna use their AoE just on your Treants. The second option is giving all your minions +2/+2. This one is very strong when you already have some board presence. It can let you make better trades, make your Taunts even bigger or push for some damage into enemy face if you’re close to lethal.
Ysera – Another “finisher”. While she doesn’t do much by herself (4/12 stats aren’t necessarily aggressive), the longer she sticks onto the board, the more value she’s gonna get. And it’s often pretty hard to kill the 12 health minion. Every turn you draw an additional card – most of them are really good and even the weaker ones give you card advantage. Good thing about the deck is that it runs so many threats that if you drop Ysera later in the game, enemy likely won’t have any removals left for her. Great in every slow matchup. Against fast decks Ysera is pretty useless, because you’ll rarely have time to play her. But if you do, that’s mostly for the stats, not the effect – 4/12 minion can trade really well against Aggro, so if you manage to ramp up in the mid game, it’s a pretty solid “which minion should I Innervate out” choice.
Mulligan in Ramp Druid is generally really easy. There are really few cards that you want to keep depending on the situation or your opponent – most of the cards are either “keep” or “throw away” no matter who you play against (few exceptions are listed below).
When it comes to “must keep” cards – your main mulligan target are ramp cards. Innervate, Wild Growth and Darnassus Aspirant – those three are what you want. Don’t overextend on your ramp, however. You don’t want to let’s say keep two copies of Innervate or Wild Growth in your starting hand. If you do, you’re often gonna end up having the ramp, but without any good minions to play after you’ve ramped up, it’s useless. Darnassus Aspirant is different – since it’s a minion, you can even keep two of them at the start. If not for the ramp, it’s gonna serve as a small drop.
Another “keep” is Wrath, but this one is not a “must keep” in some matchups. Against Paladin or Hunter, you should keep it to deal with their small drops you can’t kill with Hero Power – especially Knife Juggler. If you leave it be, it’s gonna push for a lot of damage. However, in slower matchups, let’s say against Warrior or Priest, you can mulligan it away in order to look for the ramp (it’s not like it’s a bad keep – ramp is just better). Also, if you have a smooth curve of Wild Growth into 4-drop, you also can drop it and look for a 5-drop – you probably won’t have time to use it early.
Deathlord is definitely a keep if you think you’re facing Aggro. If you play against slower decks, especially Priest (because of Shadow Word: Pain), throw it away. Deathlord allows you to keep up with Aggro even if you don’t ramp up – they have to either throw 3-4 small minions into it or Silence it (and you don’t mind that). But against slower decks it’s just a nuisance – you don’t need to slow the game down, because it’s slow anyway and you don’t want it to backfire.
Big Game Hunter, depending on the meta, may be a keep against Warlock. If you’re 100% sure it’s Handlock, then always keep it. If you face only Zoo – don’t keep it. If it’s a mix between Zoo and Handlock – you probably should keep it, because it can serve as a 3-drop or a way to get rid of an early big Void Terror or Mal’Ganis from Voidcaller.
Swipe is a keep only against decks flooding the board with a lot of 1 health minions (like Aggro Paladin). You can keep it against other fast decks like Zoo or Hunters only if you drew into your ramp (it’s more important to ramp up than to have Swipe).
Keeper of the Grove and Sen’jin Shieldmasta are keeps, especially if you draw into your ramp. You want to have a 4-drop in order to not fall behind.
The 5-drops – Druid of the Claw and Sludge Belcher are keeps either if you have the smooth curve (like Wild Growth into 4-drop into 5-drop) or when you have the Innervate.
Every other card is “throw away”. There are certain niche situations where you’d want to keep some of them, but they are really rare.
Tips & Tricks
- Playing on the curve is really important. Squeezing maximum value of your mana is the point of the deck – if you play a 4-drop on t5, 5-drop on t6 etc. then the Wild Growth you’ve used at the start was completely useless. Sometimes it’s worth to make a suboptimal play one turn in order to get back on the curve.
- Cycling Wrath if you have nothing else to do is not a bad play. Sometimes you even might deal 1 damage to your own minion if enemy has nothing on the board.
- Remember that you can Silence your negative Deathrattles – when you Silence Darnassus Aspirant, you don’t lose your Mana Crystal after it dies and when you Silence the Deathlord, you don’t give a random minion to your enemy (it loses Taunt, but that’s often not important).
- If you have no better play, you often want to drop Big Game Hunter as a 3-drop in faster matchups, even if it could hit something later. E.g. against Zoo Warlock – even though it might hit Mal’Ganis or Sea Giant, losing early board control is much worse. If you keep the board control – you should be able to deal with enemy big minions another way.
- You might use Wrath and/or Keeper of the Grove to damage your own Sylvanas Windrunner. It might come handy when you want to steal something in particular. For example – enemy has a big drop and a 3/3 minion on the board. You can attack the 3/3 with Sylvanas and finish her off yourself to steal the other minion.
- When you’re ahead on the board, consider playing Druid of the Claw in Cat Form. Dealing 4 instant damage and threatening 4 more every turn is very strong if you’re already ahead and can force enemy to make inefficient trades in order to survive.
- Ancient of War resurrected by Kel’Thuzad does NOT have the Taunt. It’s a plain 5/5 minion.
- You can use the Ancient of Lore‘s heal on minions. Since you run a lot of Taunts, it’s often more valuable to heal one of them instead of you. 5 more health on your Taunt usually stops the 5 damage anyway, but it also forces enemy to trade in more minions in order to kill it. Killing enemy 5/5 with your Ancient of War and then healing him back to full with Lore is often a valid play.
- Aviana + Innervate might be one of the strongest moves in the game. While it’s not instantly winning you the game, you might pull her out along 3 other minions of your choice – they can be Taunts, it can be Ancient of Lore to draw the cards/heal, it can be one of your big Legendaries. Very strong move, which usually seals the game. That’s why if you’re playing in slower matchup, you can save your Innervate and don’t use it early. For example, against another Druid, pulling this combo means winning the game, unless he runs some strange build with Poison Seeds. Be careful however, and don’t play into enemy removals (see next point).
- Don’t overextend into board wipes such as Brawl, Lightbomb (Kel’Thuzad, Ysera and Cenarius are pretty resistant against Lightbomb, though) or Equality + Consecration. While it’s usually hard to overextend since you play really slowly, Aviana and Kel’Thuzad make it much easier. Kel’Thuzad makes you feel safe about your board, which is not always true – if Kel’Thuzad dies among other minions, nothing gets resurrected. When it comes to Aviana – comboing her with Innervate and 3 big minions can be punished hard if enemy still has a way to deal with them. One Brawl can get 4 for 1 and get rid of your win conditions (big minions). Make sure that enemy can’t actually answer it easily before getting a huge board.
Alternate & Tech Cards
While the deck doesn’t have many flexible spots, you can fit couple tech cards or switch out the existing ones. Especially when it comes to big legendaries – there are quite a lot of options there, which can be better or worse depending on the decks you face. Here are couple of the cards you might consider adding into your list:
A standard anti-Aggro tech – Zombie Chow. Considering that the deck already runs 2-drops, unlike the previous version of the Ramp Druid, the Zombie Chow isn’t really needed. It’s good only if the meta gets really aggressive. If you face a lot of Aggro decks – you might consider adding one. The minion itself is awesome when it comes to fast matchups. Dropping it on t1 gives you a lot of tempo. The 2/3 stats are great to deal with enemy 1-drops and most of the popular 2-drops (and even those pesky Huffers!). Dropping Zombie Chow means that you won’t completely fall behind on the board if you spend your turn 2 on ramping.
Possible switches: Big Game Hunter, one of the bigger drops (gives you boost in Aggro matchups at the cost of Control matchups)
Mind Control Tech
Mind Control Tech is pretty standard tech in Druid. The class struggles with clearing the board – when Druid falls behind, he usually loses the game. Mind Control Tech can save you in in dire situations – even stealing their small drop often makes a difference. The outcome might straight up win you the game – for example stealing Tirion Fordring and leaving enemy Paladin with three 1/1 tokens is win. And in the end, it can serve as a 3-drop. 3/3 stats aren’t the best, but 3 health means it survives after trading with the unbuffed 1-drops and some of the 2-drops.
Possible switches: Big Game Hunter, Deathlord, Sen’jin Shieldmasta
Loatheb is a very strong 5-drop. The 5/5 stats for 5 are enough to be threatening and the effect can cripple enemy. It might protect your board, it might save your life for another turn. Great against decks that are spell-heavy, e.g. Freeze Mage or Oil Rogue. They often have to completely skip the turn because you deny any plays they could make. A solid minion that is pretty much never bad. Great pick if you face slower decks and you don’t really need that many Taunts. I actually consider adding him to the main list, but I face too many Aggro Paladins right now, so the Taunt on t5 is usually better.
Possible switches: Sludge Belcher
Another option for a Taunt. Sunwalker can be really strong in certain situations. If enemy can’t get rid of the Divine Shield easily – it’s gonna get a lot of value. Even if he can, it’s gonna take some resources. I don’t think it’s a great option right now, because both Mage and Druid are pretty popular after TGT release and both of them can ping the Divine Shield. But even then, a 4/5 Taunt is not that bad. The 6 mana cost also means that you get a 6-drop that you can play whenever you want (Sylvanas is situational and Thaurissan is much better if you have certain cards like Aviana in your hand).
Possible switches: Sludge Belcher, Emperor Thaurissan, Sylvanas Windrunner
Ragnaros the Firelord
One of the most popular big drops – Ragnaros the Firelord is a solid choice. Druid really lacks removal and Ragnaros can serve as a one. Even though it’s RNG, sometimes it happens that most of the targets are good and Ragnaros delivers. I don’t like him because of the RNG part, but if someone feels lucky – he’s definitely a strong pick. The only bad thing about him is Big Game Hunter. Sometimes it happens that you’ve spent 8 mana and your whole late game turn, Ragnaros hits face (when enemy is still at high health amount) and it gets BGH’d. That’s really crushing.
Possible switches: Cenarius, Ysera
Alexstrasza is an interesting card in Ramp Druid. Even though it doesn’t seem like a fit, it might be very good. Besides providing an 8/8 body, it serves two purposes. First one is aggression – you often don’t hit enemy Hero until the late game. When he’s at full health, Alexstrasza deals 15 damage, which is a lot. If you have some board presence already, you can easily threaten lethal after Alexstrasza. Second one is defense – especially against Aggro decks. Sometimes it happens that you’re really close to stabilizing but you’re couple health points short. Alexstrasza might heal you back to 15 and get you back into the game. Thanks to your ramp, you can often get her out earlier than turn 9. Problem is – like usually – that she dies to Big Game Hunter. Luckily for you, the effect is instant so you’re getting some value anyway.
Possible switches: Cenarius, Ysera
Ramp Druid might get back into Tier 1 again thanks to TGT. The deck is worth giving a try. It’s very good deck to start if you haven’t played slower style before. Even though it’s slow, it doesn’t require that much decision making. It means that even more novice players could give it a shot if they manage to gather the cards needed to build it (because let’s be honest, it’s really expensive).
I’ll test the deck further – adapting it to meta that’s just shaping. If something changes, I’ll update the list! I hope you guys enjoyed the guide. If you have any thoughts, questions or ideas – leave your comments in the section below.