Wailing Soul Druid

Welcome to my Wailing Soul Druid Guide. The only deck I have played in Ranked this Season (January), and at my peak I reached Rank two - 3 stars.

Introduction

Hello there! Welcome to my Wailing Soul Druid Guide.  This is the only deck I have played in Ranked this Season (January), and at my peak I reached Rank two with three stars. I even hit this peak with a reasonable win-rate (more on win-rates this later), which is good evidence to suggest that this deck is legend viable, despite its looks.

With that said, I DO NOT consider this deck a good meta choice right now. The problem this deck suffers from is the prevalence of big game hunter in the current meta. BGH is the perfect awnser to fel reaver; not only does BGH easily deal with the 8/8 body the fact that the card is a mere three mana typically means that you can often find yourself milled for six-to-nine (sometimes more!) cards in the process. When this happens, it is often back-breaking (at the end of the article I have a short little rant about BGH and why I think a ‘nerf’ is needed).

I would recommend trying out this deck because it can be fun to play and has a certain amount of ‘uniqueness’ to it.

So what is the deck? Well, readers of my first HS players article will be familiar with the theme of the deck; its all about using silence to counter the negative effects of our minions (such as ancient watcher). It also has a few ‘mill elements’ (e.g. coldlight oracle) and uses savage roar + force of nature combo to serve as the decks primary win condition.

How to Play The Deck

The first thing I want to say is some decks are harder to play/understand than others. A deck being easy or hard to play has no direct correlation with how powerful the deck is (to give you a Chess example of this idea; A Queen + King versus a lone King ending is both a won position and an easy position for the side with the Queen. Whereas a Knight + Bishop + King versus a lone King ending is a position just as ‘won’ as the Queen ending, BUT the latter position is significantly harder ‘to win’). In my opinion, I would say that this deck is at the harder end of that spectrum.  If you do decide to take her for a whirl expect a steep learning curve!

Later on in this guide I will give you a breakdown as to how to play particular match-ups. But that can wait; this section is about giving you a broad overview as to how the deck functions. The general ‘game-plan’ looks something like this:

  • Turn 1: Pass (unless you can innervate out an Ogre Brute/King Mukla)
  • Turn 2: Play Ancient Watcher
  • Turn 3: Play Ogre Brute. (or some other 3-drop)
  • Turn 4: Silence the Ancient Watcher.  Start applying lots of pressure
  • Turns 5-8:  Remove big threats with tempo (e.g. Naturalize). If you can get a few discards, then thats a nice bonus.
  • Turns 8-10: Drop the massive dudes (Fel Rever, Ragnaros, etc). Use said minions to bring them into combo range.
  • Turns 10+: Finish with Force + Roar Combo. If needed, use Naturalize to push through a taunt.

One thing you should notice about this ‘game-plan’ is that I don’t mention ‘milling’ or ‘fatigue’ at all. The simple reason for this omission is that this deck is NOT A MILL DECK!! (Well, actually it is a mill deck (of sorts), but that discussion will happen in the next section of this article 🙂 )

What makes this deck hard to play is that it basically runs a number of “high complexity” cards. What does this phrase mean?  Well, I think there a cards that are easy to understand and utilize efficiently (e.g spider tank) and then there are cards that are significantly more complex (e.g. sylvanas windrunner), the latter sort of card requires more skill to wield effectively.

Compare, for example, zombie chow and flame imp. Both of these cards are similar in the sense that they both are one-drops with large stats. Moreover, both cards are balanced by  using ‘life as a resource‘. But the cards are dissimilar in the sense that flame imp has a much lower learning curve than zombie chow.  One simple reason for this is that deathrattles are –generally speaking — more complex than battlecries; this is because the former mechanic requires a bit more calculation (e.g you have to ask questions like “when/how/if the deathrattle resolves…“).

Here’s another example; a card like Coldlight Oracle is more complex than arcane intellect. Why? Well,  with the intellect you only have to consider what you could draw into, whereas with Oracle you must also consider what your opponent may draw into. So basically, Oracle requires double the effort to understand.

A third example; If you play King Mukla you have to consider how your opponent may use the banana‘s. This makes Mukla a card that is harder to understand/use correctly than say ironfur grizzly.

The Deck I am showing you today has lots of  ‘complex cards’. The most ‘complex card’ of all of them is probably Fel Reaver. When you play it you force yourself to stand on a knife’s edge; one small misstep and the card can easily lose you the game. It is equally true however, that the card can outright win you the games as well. Here’s a quick check-list:

I Should play Fel Rever if…:

  1. If…you can win the game with my current hand.
  2. If…you will (probably) only lose a negligible amount of cards from Reaver’s ability.
  3. If…you can Silence Reaver the turn I play it.
  4. If…you have no other option.

Okay, so that should give you a broad understanding as to how this deck works. Lets now look at the ways in which this deck isand is not— a ‘mill deck’.

Its not a mill deck!

I’m going to quickly reproduce a comment I made on this article. The comment I made is in response to the definition  proposed for a “mill deck“:

[…]

I think you need to make a distinction between three ideas; (a) the concept of winning the game via fatigue (b) the idea of forcing discards, and (c) otherwise benefiting from the opponent having a large hand size (e.g. clockwork giant, goblin sapper, etc)

Your article acknowledges (1a, 1c).

These three concepts are not mutually exclusive, but it is worth pointing out that you could feasibly build a ‘Mill Druid’ deck that does not intend on winning via fatigue (1a). Rather, the intention behind adding mill elements to the deck could be in order mitigate the downsides of cards like Coldlight Oracle and Naturalize. In this case, you aim to win the game by turning Oracle into and exceptional card draw engine and/or by turning Naturalize into the best hard removal in the game.

An Aggro Druid for example, may feasibly want Naturalize in the deck since that card is great removal, it may also then add Coldlight Oracle since Aggro needs card draw. At this point the Aggro Druid player may start to add cards like King Mukla for the big body + (1b) mill synergy. Since the deck is aggro, it is unlikely to be a “mill deck” in the (1a) sense of the term, but can could be considered ‘mill’ if you look at (1b or 1c) definitions.

[..]

Loatheb, for example, is a pretty good card for mill decks since it limits your opponents options, and that makes it easier to force a few discards on your next turn (in other words, it’s a great card for (1b decks and decent for 1c decks). It is worth noting however, Loatheb does little to help the fatigue win condition (1a decks) ).

By Contrast Iron Juggernaut is poor for (1b decks) since if the card [i.e burrowing mine ] is discarded it doesn’t do the damage. But it’s great for (1a decks) since they will eventually step onto that carefully placed mine.

You also failed to mention Malorne and cards like Thoughtsteel, Ysera. These sorts of cards can be good for (1a decks) since they effectively add more cards to your deck (Making Coldlight Oracle’s effect less punishing to oneself).

So basically in that comment I tried to argue that there are three distinct ways ‘mill decks’ work in Hearthstone. This deck I’m showing you today is not a mill deck in the sense that it wants to take the game to fatigue. Indeed, if you think about it logically, fel reaver has absolutely no place in any deck that wants to win in fatigue. And this deck runs two of them!

However, it is a ‘mill deck’ in another sense; the deck utilises King Mukla, et al to force the discarding of cards. It should be noted however that the discarding of cards is of marginal utility in card games; if your opponents has eight cards  in hand and you play Coldlight Oracle then the single card** they draw will — in most games — far outweigh the penalty of having to discard one.

To demonstrate that point imagine a 3 mana 3/3 whose battlecry was “draw a card”. This card is super-op, so lets change it to “draw a card. discard a card”. while many beginners may not see the power of such a card Pro’s would run two copies in almost all of their decks. The simple reason being that discarding cards only ever matters if you end up hitting fatigue.

On a related note, players who do not understand this concept typically underrate gnomish experimenter.  I explained how that card works in detail over at the hearthpwn forums. If interested, look for comments by “Dr.Smash” (thats me) in this thread.

So what if we changed the battlecry to “draw a card. discard two cards”? Again, most control decks would probably run one (maybe two) copies. This then, begs the question; How many cards must we discard before people stopped playing this 3-drop?  my estimate would probably be about five cards, beyond that point even the ‘hyper-aggro’ decks may struggle to justify using the card.

This example shows you just how worthless the ‘discard effect’ actually is. So, if the effect is worthless why make a deck that uses discard as part of its overall strategy?  Well, the crucial point I want to make is that while forcing your opponent to discard a card is — in itself– a weak effect it is substantially better than your opponent benefiting from your cards.

In other words, I want to force my opponent to discard cards not because the discard effect is strong, rather, by forcing discards I can generate card advantage via coldlight oracle (e.g. if they have eight cards in hand when I play oracle they draw one and discard one** whereas I draw two cards. The result is +1 card advantage). If they are at 10 cards when I play naturalize, then naturalize is a one-mana assassinate with a [minor] upside!

When playing this deck it is important you realise this idea;  Naturalize + Oracle are not in the deck to enable a fatigue win condition, nor is their inclusion really about forcing discards for the sake of forcing discards. Rather, the value comes from the decks ability to negate the drawback of coldlight oracle, naturalize, etc.

** That’s not a typo: if the opponent is at eight cards and we play oracle then they only draw a single card (not two) because being at max-hand-size (i.e. 10 cards) will negate their next draw step **

Lets now look at some statistics, shall we?

Deck Statistics

As mentioned in the introduction, I’ve only played this deck (or a variant of it) this season (clicking on the image will enlarge it):

**note: the enlarged image opens in the current tab. If your Browser is Google Chrome I recommend you click on it whilst holding the ctrl key down. This will open it in a new tab**

View post on imgur.com

**note: the ranks are approximate. I didn’t keep track of this and so the ranks above is a bit of ‘educated guesswork’ for the most part. ** 

These statistics seem to suggest that:

  • Strong Match-ups: Priest, Hunter, Mage, Warrior
  • 50/50 Match-ups: Shaman, Paladin, Rogue, Druid
  • Weak Match-ups: Warlock

In the match-up section (below)  I will explain these numbers in a bit more detail.  But for now, the salient point to note is that the deck is reasonably competitive;  the long-term trend is toward win-rates in the range of 50-60%.  These numbers are not bad (especially when we consider how hard BGH counters this deck), but are not really suitable for a legend climb (at the end of the guide I append a few notes about the numbers behind hitting legend).

Anyway, lets move onto looking at how some of the common match-ups play out.

A guide to the Match-ups

CLASS & ARCHETYPE: Warlock, ‘Zoo’

WIN EXPECTANCY: Low, 30-40%

MULLIGAN FOR: Owl, Innervate, Wrath, Ancient Watcher, Ogre Brute, mind control tech

GENERAL  TIPS:

This is a hard match-up to win. Typically you will need an excellent start and continually good top-decks throughout the game. You should focus your efforts on clearing the board until you get to a point where you feel as though you can race them (e.g. with combo and/or Fel Reaver). My last tip would be to hold onto Naturalize for as long as possible; since this card represents your best chance at clearing a sea giant.


CLASS & ARCHETYPE: Warlock, ‘Handlock’

WIN EXPECTANCY: Good, 55-70%

MULLIGAN FOR: Owl, Innervate, Naturalize, Coldlight Oracle, King Mukla, Ogre Brute, Keeper of the Grove (don’t keep the Keeper if you have an owl!)

GENERAL  TIPS:

This is a match-up you can basically plan out from turn one. The game will ideally go a bit like this:

Turns 1-3: drop a a few threats. If you are prepared for turns 4-5 feel free to mill them for a card or two (with Mukla/Oracle).

Turn 4: If twilight drake counter with Owl + Hero Power.  If mountain giant counter with Naturalize

Turn 5:  You usually spend this turn killing whatever they didn’t play on turn 4. (e.g if Turn 4 was a Drake then Turn 5 is likely to be Giant. (and vice-versa))

Turns 6-8: Keep on applying pressure by dropping big threats (e.g. Dr.Boom, Fel Reaver, etc). Manage their health wisely; eg don’t allow molten giant + shadowflame combos

Turns 8+:  Look to win the game with Roar + Force combo.

With this all said, to do not underestimate handlock;  In the games where you don’t draw the counters in time they will crush you. Ergo, this match-up is often won/lost based on your starting hand. On ladder, this is a HUGE problem since your Zoo muligan is quite different to the Handlock muligan.


CLASS & ARCHETYPE: Mage, ‘Freeze’/’Fatigue’

WIN EXPECTANCY: High, 60-70%

MULLIGAN FOR: Early threats (e.g. Ogre Brute, Mukla), Wailing Soul, Innervate, Owl, Loatheb

GENERAL  TIPS:

Both Freeze and Fatigue Mage rely on slowing you down with Freeze combos (often used in conjunction with doomsayer), but due to the high amount of silence in the deck these freeze combos rarely work against us.  Just build a board and push for damage, once they freeze resume the beatdown via Wailing Soul.

Against Freeze Mage: You must prepare for their Alextrassa turn; the best counter is Loatheb + Naturalize.

Against Fatigue Mage: You must take great care when playing Fel Reaver. Try to silence it on the turn you play it.


CLASS & ARCHETYPE: Mage, ‘Mech’

WIN EXPECTANCY: Good, 50-65%

MULLIGAN FOR: See Warlock Zoo above ^

GENERAL  TIPS:

This match-up is quite a bit like Zoo (but easier). Just focus on clearing the board and you will probably do fine.


CLASS & ARCHETYPE: Hunter (Midrange & Face)

WIN EXPECTANCY: Good, 55-65%

MULLIGAN FOR: Owl, Innervate, Wrath, Ogre Brute, also consider keeping sunfury protector and mind control tech.

GENERAL  TIPS:

Firstly, Undertaker is soon to be nerfed and so therefore we are likely to see a lot less of this sort of hunter deck. And thats a shame since (a) Hunter is a favourable match-up and (b) this match-up leads so some of the most exciting and dynamic games. Basically, you usually get your arse kicked in the opening. But then at some point in the mid-game you stabilise and drop a big bomb (like Fel Reaver). And then all of a sudden the Hunter struggles to race you!   When you win, it is quite frequently the case that you have 5 or less life.


CLASS & ARCHETYPE: Paladin (Midrange & Control)

WIN EXPECTANCY: Almost Equal, 45-50%

MULLIGAN FOR: Owl, Innervate, Ogre Brute, Wrath

GENERAL  TIPS:

With no swipe in the deck muster for battle is often a major threat to us. Truesilver champion is powerful enough to deal with a lot of the early game minions. And then the equality combos and aldor peacekeeper‘s can keep our larger minions at bay (although Silence does well against peacekeepers, obviously).  The trick to this match-up is (a) deny quartermaster value, (b) be prepared for Tirion (e.g. Owl + Naturalize).


CLASS & ARCHETYPE: Rogue

WIN EXPECTANCY: Not sure but probably equal, 50%

MULLIGAN FOR: Not Sure

GENERAL  TIPS:

I don’t think I have played enough games versus this class to tell you how to play it. All I will say is that if you suspect a preparation (or two), avoid dropping Fel Reaver!


CLASS & ARCHETYPE: Shaman (Midrange)

WIN EXPECTANCY: Not Sure but probably Equal, 50%

MULLIGAN FOR: Not Sure

GENERAL  TIPS:

Shamans usually lose if they don’t have board control, so aim for that.


CLASS & ARCHETYPE: Druid (Ramp)

WIN EXPECTANCY: About Equal, 50%

MULLIGAN FOR: Innervate, Ogre Brute, King Mukla, Ancient Watcher

GENERAL  TIPS:

This match-up is usually won & lost based on who is able to threaten lethal with Force + Roar combo.  Most Druids only run a single answer to Fel Reaver (which is BGH) so often you can innervate one out and cause utter carnage. Moreover, since Druids tend to have a slow early game keeping King Mukla is usually fine.


CLASS & ARCHETYPE: Priest (Control)

WIN EXPECTANCY: Good, 55-65%

MULLIGAN FOR: Ogre Brute, Wrath, Innervate

GENERAL  TIPS:

The reason Priest tends struggle against us is for the same basic reason they struggle versus handlock; that is, the Priest can’t deal with the number of huge minions that will hit the board. Moreover, they tend to have a slow start as well which typically means we can gain board control early on and the Priest will often struggle to recover from that point.


CLASS & ARCHETYPE: Warrior (Control)

WIN EXPECTANCY: Good (but difficult), 55-65%

MULLIGAN FOR: Ogre Brute, Wrath, Innervate

GENERAL  TIPS:

Of all the match-ups I would say that this one is the third most skill intensive (only behind Handlock and Hunter), execute, Brawl and Shield Slam are all cards that will effortlessly annihilate our ‘big-guns’. Moreover, Death’s bite is great against our minions and the amount of armour gain the the deck typically makes it hard to burst them with combo.

One way to win the match-up is to be a bit aggressive early on and see if you can force them to use premium removal (e.g Execute) on sub-optimal targets (e.g. An Ogre Brute).

Video Footage

On my youtube channel I currently have a few video’s showing this deck in action.  In the video below I play a Best of 3 series, you can see me use the deck twice:

http://youtu.be/iN2d-0w8NoE?t=1m1s

In the next video, the deck list is slightly out of date (I replaced ETC with S.Windrunner), but it should nonetheless be instructive as to how this deck works:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w53O7SisECk

Conclusion

…And that more or less sums this deck up. If you have any questions just leave a comment and I’ll get back to you.

The next two sections (Appendix I and Appendix II) are about Hearthstone in general. Skip them if you like 🙂

APPENDIX I: The numbers behind hitting legend (with any deck)

This is a bit off-topic but…About a year ago I wrote a bit of Python code that would simulate a legend run. Give the code a win-rate and the starting Rank and it would tell you how many games its going to take to hit legend.  If your goal is to hit legend in a season then my advice would usually be to find a deck that you can achieve a 60-70% win-rate with (Starting from Rank 5). While of course its possible to hit legend with a win-rate of 50% I would not recommend attempting to do so because of the sheer number of games you will have to play.

Here, let me quickly run the python script and show you the output:

>>> run (50, 70, 1000)

‘Simulation ran 1000 times with a win-rate of 50 percent, starting with 70 stars [i.e Rank 5]. The average run took 575 games. The longest run was 3560 games and the shortest run was 58 games.’

>>>

The code simulated a 1000 players all at Rank 5 (o stars) with 50% win-rates and predicted how long it would take to hit legend. As you can see, it takes the average person well over 500 games. If we run the code again but increase the win-rate by 1%:

>>> run (51, 70, 5000)

‘Simulation ran 5000 times with a win-rate of 51 percent, starting with 70 stars. The average run took 427 games. The longest run was 3019 games and the shortest run was 44 games.’

>>>

So what we can see here is that a 1% increase in win-rate means you will have to play about 100 less games in a season to reach legend. But even still, 400+ games it still a hefty time commitment. What if you had a win-rate of 60%?

>>> run (60, 70, 1000)

‘Simulation ran 1000 times with a win-rate of 60 percent, starting with 70 stars. The average run took 113 games. The longest run was 349 games and the shortest run was 39 games.’

>>>

So as we can see, even with a fairly high win-rate of 60% it still takes 100+ games. 

If this sort of stuff interests you then you can read this forum post where I talk about the code in more detail. 

APPENDIX II: Why BGH sucks

Am I the only player out there that thinks BGH is one of the worst designed cards in Hearthstone?  In a recent video by Noxoius he has a look at a bunch of underutilised cards and tries to suggest buffs to them. His solution to make flame leviathan better? change it to a 6 mana 6/6. His reasoning? Basically, a 7/7 for seven dies to a BGH but a 6/6 for six doesn’t. But wait, it gets even better! His solution to make prophet velen playable is to make the card ostensibly worse; he would like to ‘nerf’ the card by reducing its attack by one (making it 6/7 for seven). The sad–yet crucial– point is that Noxoius thinks that this ‘nerf’ actually makes Velen more playable since post-nerf it is not weak to BGH. I don’t disagree.

A while back a saw Kripparian make a similar sort of commentary regarding mech bear cat; in his opinion the single fact that it is a 7/6 and not a 6/7 makes it a worse card than boulderfist ogre. Why? once again the reasoning revolves around the idea that one is a BGH target and the other is not.

In my opinion there is something quite perverse about the idea that you could basically improve any card with 7+ attack by reducing it to six. That’s the influence BGH seems to have these days, and thats why I happen to think the card (in its current form) is badly designed.  Personally, I wouldn’t be too surprised to see some sort of change happening to the card in the next few months.