Weekly Legends: Astral Druid

For those of you keeping track, we are three weeks into the new adventure. That means there are enough cards to make some truly wacky decks. Today, we enter that realm by looking at a very strange legend deck made by Enclase. The deck is Astral Communion Druid. While that in itself is not terribly strange […]

Introduction

For those of you keeping track, we are three weeks into the new adventure. That means there are enough cards to make some truly wacky decks. Today, we enter that realm by looking at a very strange legend deck made by Enclase. The deck is Astral Communion Druid. While that in itself is not terribly strange (the deck has been attempted more than a few times by some very popular streamers), this version has a wide range of interesting tools and intriguing one-ofs that allow you to pilot it in a brand new way. Even if just one card is from the new set, I have never seen a Ramp Druid deck built quite like this.

Unlike most Astral decks, this one has a lot of cards to help you in games where you don’t go from zero to ten in two turns. In the past, most decks of this style were half heavy ramp, and half heavy minions. While this new version still runs all the big fun fatties you know and love (as well as the ramp) you also have a lot of removal spells and lower cost cards to heal and survive into the late game. Though this plan dilutes your topdecks and can make you very sad after an early Astral Communion, it also gives you more consistency and helps you fight better against decks that would normally just swarm you down. By doing this, the deck can either play like a gigantic combo deck, or it can play like a more traditional ramp build. Hedging your bets and adding that consistency goes a long way.

Key Cards

Mulch

Quickly becoming a Druid staple, Mulch is a very interesting card in this list because you do not always want to save it for premium targets. In the past, you played Mulch in a way where you can get the most value out of it. That is to say, you used to save it for the one big threat your opponent would have and try your hardest to use your other removal on everything else. Though this rule still largely applies, you should also not be afraid to use this as a tempo play to shut down a small but problematic minion like a Frothing Berserker or even a Misha that you have no answer for. This is especially true if you use it the turn before dumping your hand and ramping.

You will notice (as I have already mentioned) this list has a lot more removal than early versions of the deck. The biggest reason for this is that you really want to hedge your bets on the Astral gameplan and make sure you have ways to not die against faster decks. You will almost always win games if you can stay alive until your massive threats start to come down. However, getting to those massive threats is not an easy task. You need to work hard to make sure you are taking as little damage as possible during the early stages. This ties into Mulch because you may be tempted to not use it on a smaller threat, even if you don’t have other removal. However, that can often be the right play. Before you do so you always see how your hand is going to play out and then calculate the damage you are going to take. It may not feel good Mulching a Tomb Pillager, but it sure beats taking fifteen damage.

Barnes

Perhaps the most important card in this new version, Barnes changes a lot of things. First off, since you can back-load your deck with so many powerful minions, the swings he gives can be absolutely insane. There are so many live targets there than can just lead to huge blowouts or tempo swings, such as Ragnaros the Firelord, Ysera, Emperor Thaurissan and Y’shaarj, Rage Unbound. He is also one of the main reasons that Malygos is in this deck. Yes, the 4/12 is very good off an early Astral Communion (as is every big threat in this deck), but it also just makes Barnes that much more powerful. In a deck like this you want as many chances as you can to go for the home run. As such, you should always run Barnes out when you can. Even at his worst, two bodies are really good at stalling to make way for your bigger turns.

Another reason Barnes is good is because he adds more to the duality tool box, allowing you to play both a go big Astral deck as well as a ramp deck depending on the game. You will notice that this deck can go two routes. You can just play as a normal ramp deck, using early removal and ramp to get you to your big threats, or you can play as a combo deck. Because of this, you want as many cards that bridge the gap between those worlds as you can. While there are going to be some blanks with the opera master, having a pseudo-large threat that comes down and mucks up the board with two minions is one of the pieces that really makes this whole thing tick.

Astral Communion

The namesake of the deck, Astral Communion is a very strong, but very risky card. It obviously can lead to some instant wins, but it can also lead you down a dark path of bad topdecks and instant death. The reason I bring this card up is because it is important to always read your hand and make sure you know what your plan is. With so many early spells, there are plenty of games where you are going to play Astral and then draw a series of blanks. There are also going to be games where you play it and then topdeck a turn four Ysera. The way you determine what route you take with Astral depends on your hand, how much early ramp is at your disposal and the deck you are playing.

For instance, if you are facing Zoo and your hand is full of removal, it is better to just pace them instead of trying to go big since they can often ignore your top decked threat by swarming the board. However, if you have that same hand against a slower deck like Warrior or Priest you want to Astral as soon as you can. Beyond that, plan out your turns and see your possible lines of play. If you can Astral on turn four when playing a Hunter who already has board, it is often better to quickly ramp to a Yogg-Saron, Hope’s End or Deathwing in your hand than drawing blindly off of your deck. However, if you have those threats but no ramp, you should go for the Astral. These reads are going to be on a game-to-game basis, but you always need to calculate your future turns in relation to your opponent’s board before you pull the trigger. The only exception to this is when you can Astral on turn one or two, which you should always to.

 

Nourish

In games where you don’t have Astral Communion, there’s Nourish. Deciding how to use this card is not easy, and it is possibly the most important decision you are going to make with the deck. Similar to Astral, each mode you use this in is going to depend on the board, your opponent’s class and your hand. Most of the time getting mana crystals is much better than getting cards, but you don’t always want to make that call. For example, if you spent your early turns ramping or pushing out removal to keep pace with the board, it is usually right to re-fill your hand. However, if you pushed out a lot of early removal but have a big threat that you can get to in a single turn, then you want to take the crystals. In that same vein, if you have some big threats coming in five or six turns, you may want to draw cards to look for removal to keep you alive since even with the ramp those minions are going to be a few turns away.

Something else that greatly impacts Nourish is what turn you use it on. If you have an early Nourish that comes down on turn two or three you always want to use it to ramp since drawing will most likely fill up your hand with junk that you cannot use. However, during the middle to late-middle game the decision gets a lot trickier. These are the turns where you are going to be trying to set up some big minions, which means you are often going to ramp. However, you are also likely going to be low on cards. The way you decide what to do is by looking at your curve. Your minions are so strong that over-ramping into something (for instance jumping from seven to ten mana so you can play Ysera next turn) is usually the right play when facing threats or trying to take priority. On the other hand, if you aren’t under pressure, maybe it is better to see what other threats you can pull from your deck.

The Fatties

This deck runs a lot of huge minions and terrifying threats. All of them serve different purposes against different decks and have a wide variety of different effects. However, this is not a set list. Which ones you play are completely up to you. Aviana, North Sea Kraken, Soggoth the Slitherer, Alexstrasza and Icehowl are all suitable cards to put in here. The general rule is to play as many threats that have an immediate impact on the board as you can. While there are some big cards that will take down the Barnes value, that shouldn’t matter if you have enough ways to mitigate the board. When choosing your threats for this list always think “what does this card do?” before deciding to put it into your deck. Just having stats is not enough to justify including a card. Taunt is a possible route to go as well.

Note: Though you have some freedom with the threats, I think the early game is exactly where it wants to be.

Matchups

The five decks I see the most when playing ladder.

Yogg Druid

I have no idea where this came from, but Yogg Druid has rapidly evolved to be the most popular deck around. This is not good news for you, but it is also is not bad news. That’s a lot of double negatives, but the point is that this matchup is roughly 50/50. On one hand, your opponent can flood the board (which is your greatest weakness), but they also cannot deal with big minions. Your number one goal in this game is to ramp (or Astral Communion) as soon as you possibly can. The sooner you can get a big threat down, the sooner you can put the pressure on them. Priority is key in this game because Yogg Druid can simply run away with the board if you give them enough leeway. Try to build as many threats as you can. They also run Mulch, so always try to play your lower-value big threats first.

Beyond getting things down, you always want to count your opponent’s spells and damage potential. This is important because Yogg Druid has a lot of ways to put on pressure and build from lethal. Everything from Swipe to Power of the Wild to Cenarius and Savage Roar can pour on damage and you need to be careful as the game progresses that you don’t get caught up in your minions and forget to mitigate the board. Finally, watch out for Yogg-Saron, Hope’s End. Though it is unlikely the Old God will be able to destroy a board full of giant minions, it is better to never take the chance. If you are ahead on board you generally want to just hold back a threat or two in case Yogg brings AOE.

Aggro Shaman

The ever-present threat of the meta, Aggro Shaman is a deck that has some real power. The burst is still there and, at the end of the day, the class has one of the best curves in the game. As a result, this is not going to be an easy ride. You need to stay ahead of them as much as you can and make use of your healing. During the early turns you typically want to clear as much as possible to limit their explosive starts. However, fast ramp into a big minion is usually going to also give them fits, especially if it comes down turns three or four. The general rule here is to play to your healing. There are more than a few cards in this list that help you gain health. If you have ways of bouncing back from an early push, you should take it and try to get as much mana as possible. If you do not have that luxury, or you don’t quite have the ramp hand you want, it is best to just pace with Shaman until you get an opening to play a trump card.

The most important part of this matchup is to put on pressure much faster and harder than your opponent. Though not trading against Shaman can be very scary, you need to be able to realize when it is right to just blow past them and force them on the back foot. You will often have a large minion down much earlier than them, which gives you a way to race. You do want to be careful at times, but also know when you can pour on damage faster than them. Not to mention, you also have a wide range of different heal spells at your disposal. Once you start pushing, if you are not at a very low life total, you can really force Shaman to use their burn on your board. That helps you stay alive longer and lets you build into more threats. Always look for ways to heal here, and always try to find a way to get anything big down. Shaman runs a lot of burn and burst, but they have almost no ways to handle giant minion after giant minions.

Midrange Hunter

Cloaked Huntress and Kindly Grandmother (along with a shifting meta) has rapidly brought Midrange Hunter back into the limelight. While they do have some problematic cards (anything with deathrattle printed on it) this game is mostly going to be in your favor because your quick ramp and large minions rapidly go over their head. To make way for their new curve, most Hunters have cut their hard removal. The few that still tech in any kill spells play one copy of Deadly Shot. That means you don’t have to play around their tempo swings. Rather, you just want to get as much power down as you can and let your opponent deal with it. However, similar to Shaman, this is also a matchup where you want to watch your health and play to your healing to make sure you don’t get worn down by their hero power.

The card you need to watch out for here more than anything is Freezing Trap. The secret is one of the best ways to offset ramp, and it can absolutely kill you if you run into it with one of your big threats. In that same vein, it is also important to understand just how much damage Eaglehorn Bow can do. Keeping your health high is very important against Hunter, and a bow equals five damage a turn. You have a lot of minions with extremely strong abilities that can just sit out on the board and generate value. Don’t just attack into traps because you want to, only do so if you have a set reason for doing so.

Zoo

As happens when new cards get released, Zoo has come back with a vengeance. This is bad news for you because this is probably one of your worst matchups. While there are some games where you can just out-value Zoo by ramping and using early clears to keep their board in check, most of the time they are just going to swarm the board. That then overwhelms your large threats and invalidates almost all of your plays. The two most important cards in this matchup are Deathwing and Yogg-Saron, Hope’s End. Each of these cards clears the board and gives you a way back into games that are close to hopeless. If you have them in your hand you need to ramp to them as fast as possible. Beyond that, just try to get board presence in anyway that you can.

Unlike Shaman, this is a matchup where you want to be afraid and you always need to clear. The only exception to this is when you can out-pressure your opponent or when they are very low on cards and you are at a comfortable life total. The new Zoo lists are very strong because they now pack a ton of burst. Leeroy Jenkins is very common, as are Doomguard and Soulfire. All of those, in addition to Zoo’s ample buff effects, can kill you quickly if they manage to swarm during the early game. You need to stall in any way that you can and work hard to run them low on cards by forcing them to trade rather than push. The most important part here is getting them to use Power Overwhelmings to trade up instead of going at your face. That will make it much easier to stabilize later on in the game when you recover with cards like Feral Rage.

Dragon Warrior

How the mighty have fallen. It has been a good while since I have seen a Dragon Warrior deck (or a Warrior deck for that matter), but I hear enough whispers of it to still include it in my matchup guides. Karazhan has brought on a new face to the meta, which has really impacted the amount of this deck you are going to see. However, when you do see it, you are most definitely favored. The reason for that is you typically have two lines of play: ramp quickly or remove early threats. Each of those plans is very strong against Dragon Warrior because you either take down their minions and shut off any push they might have, or you simply go so big they cannot keep up. The important thing to remember during this matchup is that Dragon Warrior only runs two removal spells in their Executes. As a result, while they will usually be able to take down one big minion, any after that is often going to stick and take over the board. Just do your best to push out a big threat before turns six or seven. Those are the turns where Warrior caps off their curve with a huge threat that can quickly end the game. If you put something down they have to answer to first, they won’t have the luxury of setting up that plan

Mulligan Guide

This is the easiest mulligan guide you will ever do. The basic rule of this deck is to look for all of your ramp and early game and throw back any slow cards or big threats. It really is that easy. Raven Idol, Innervate, Wrath and Astral Communion are your must-keeps, and you want to keep Feral Rage in games where you have a weak hand or little ramp. You never want to keep Mulch, except when you have a strong curve versus Shaman or Druid. Swipe is a good keep against aggro decks, and you only want to keep Nourish if you can ramp into it quickly. Beyond that, just stick to the keep low, sell high rule. Though, you should play to your ramp as much as you can. Do not be afraid to keep a strong minion if you can push it out on turns three, four or five.

Conclusion

Go big or go home, that’s what I always say. I love versions that build off of Ramp Druid, and this is one of the spiciest lists I have ever seen. Many people have tried to go all-in on Astral Communion with these types of decks, and it is nice to see someone having success with a different approach. You should always be rewarded for thinking outside the box, and this is a good example of that. I hope you liked taking a trip on the wild side with me and I hope you’re enjoying everything Karazhan has to offer. Until next week, may you always Astral as soon as you can.