When we last took an in depth look at a Hearthstone deck, it was the unique Miracle Rogue. Known for its equally high learning curve and win rates, particularly at the top levels of competitive play, the Miracle Rogue was without a doubt the standout deck of the first post-release season of Blizzard’s digital collectible card game, with 15 of 25 of the top North American players using it.
Though that deck is still very popular, others have risen in popularity over the past month. At the end of last season, Blizzard reduced the effectiveness of, or nerfed, the Hunter’s card Unleash the Hounds, which has led to what I would anecdotally describe as a significant decrease in the class’s play. The absence of Hunter on the ladder has prompted renaissance in a specific type of deck that had fallen out of favor: big board control.
Unleash the Hounds had typically been paired with another Hunter class card called Starving Buzzard. Unleash the Hounds would create one hound for every card your opponent had on the board, while Starving Buzzard would draw a card for every hound created. This powerful synergy encouraged gameplay that played as few minion cards, or cards that remained on the board, as possible.
In the wake of the Hunter nerf, we’ve seen more top players playing Token Druid and other styles that make use of lots of minions, styles that had fallen out of favor as amid Hunter-mania.
Token Druid uses cards that create creatures, or tokens, to further their control of the board. The word token is borrowed from traditional, physical card games where the creatures that were generated by cards would be represented by non-card tokens, like pieces of paper or marbles.
Token Druid is a relatively straightforward deck, and it plays with a style that is easily transferable to other decks. There are several variations of Token Druid floating around, but I personally prefer the version that was made popular on the European server that was created by the player Runningpie.
The two most notable cards in the deck are the Violet Teachers and the Gadgetzan Auctioneers. The Violet Teacher generates a one damage, one hit point minion every time your spells are used. These small minions are the tokens that we referred to above. You want to use these cards to their fullest and play them when you think they’ll live the longest.
The Gadgetzan Auctioneers draw a card each time a spell is cast. This deck is filled with cheap spells, and you should be using the Auctioneers to try and draw cards that will give you the burst damage you need to finish the game, such as the six mana Force of Nature and the three mana Savage Roar.
The deck is named after the tokens that the Violet Teacher generates, and, as such, one of the most important things is to try and maximize both the amount of time that Violet Teacher sees on the board and the number of tokens it creates. You want to play your Violet Teacher when you have board control so that the the card is as safe as possible. When it’s on the board you should try and think of the most effective ways to use the spells in your hands. That way you can keep pumping out the 1/1 tokens it creates.
One of the most powerful synergies in the deck is using the Power of the Wild card to give all your creatures an additional one life and one hit point. Since Power of the Wild is a spell, it will also add another token to your board and give it the stat upgrade.
The Violet Teacher is a high-priority target, so there’s a good chance your opponent will target it for a kill, even willing to sacrifice one of their more powerful minions to do so. But don’t fret because the deck has a lot of horsepower and as long as you’re keeping your side of the field filled with minions you can safely assume that you’re ahead.
Force of Nature, at six mana, puts three, two damage two hit point treants on the the board with charge for one turn. Savage Roar, at three mana, gives all characters, including your hero, two damage that turn. When used in tandem, this nine mana combination gives you 14 damage on a completely empty board. This will be one of the most frequent ways you defeat your opponent using this deck. So, for the most part, you want to make sure you don’t jump the gun and use one card without the other.
In situations where you’re behind on board control, however, you may want to use Force of Nature to keep the few minions you have alive. You may also need Savage Roar to get or keep board control. But before doing this, make sure you’ve exhausted all all other options. If you’re opponent is smart, they’ll know that you’ve just sacrificed a lot of burst damage down the road, and they’ll make sure to take advantage of this.
Turn four is interesting because you’ll have a couple of choices. You’ll be strongly inclined to play your four-mana Violet Teacher because it’s always great to start the token creation as early as possible. When you have board control, that’s certainly often your strongest play. But if you’re behind by turn four, there are likely better moves to make than throwing a Violet Teacher to the wolves. Consider any spells that you may have in hand, in combination with your Hero, or a Keeper of the Grove to tidy up the board if you feel like the Violet Teacher would die before the next turn.
Turn five is another where you may have to make difficult decisions. Your two five drops are Azure Drakes and Gadgetzan Auctioneers. Auctioneers synergize fantastically with all the spells in the deck, but an Azure Drake draws a card automatically. If it’s turn five and you have a Moonfire in hand and can use it to help kill one of your opponent’s minions, playing it and Auctioneer is the way to go. If it’s turn five and you’re just looking to play a minion, the Azure Drake is preferable because it guarantees a card draw.
Turn nine will be important for you and your opponent. You’ll have the opportunity to play your six-mana Force of Nature and your three-mana Savage Roar combination for 14 damage. That’s 14 damage on a completely empty board—if you have any minions, you can do even more. Provided you haven’t played either, yet your opponent will assume you’re going to soon, and they’ll do one of two things: They’ll either start playing very defensively, or very offensively.
Overall Strengths and Weaknesses
One of the deck’s biggest strengths is its cheap cost, as it only has one legendary card: Bloodmage Thalnos. If you’re deadset on grinding cards through Arena and quests, the deck should still be relatively easy to assemble.
The Token Druid fairs very well against both midrange and aggressive decks, thanks to its relatively cheap spells and minions. Matchups like Warlock Zoo, aggressive Paladin, or midrange Hunter will typically favor you—if your starting hand is strong. If you trade efficiently with minions and spells, you should be in a good position to control the game entering turn five.
Druid, as a class, suffers from one thing in particular: It has no hard removal. All your spells do damage, but there’s no commonly used spell that simply gets rid of cards like there is for Warlock, Mage, Shaman, or Warrior. This means that if you don’t have board control, early decks that can get big minions out fast, like the Warlock’s Handlock, will be very frustrating to deal with. If a Handlock gets their high health Twilight Drakes or Mountain Giants out on turn four and you don’t have much, or anything, on the board, things will turn sour very quickly.
Force of Nature and Savage Roar is one most impactful card combinations in the entirety of Hearthstone, and this deck gives the combination extra snarl as Savage Roar gives your tokens extra damage as well . The ability to use this combination with plenty of minions on the board results in truly satisfying gameplay. It is not unusual to be able to do twenty damage in a single turn with this deck.