As we move down the road to another season of Hearthstone, I (as always) look for the new and the interesting Legend decks. While I have covered a ton of different builds, guides and assorted lists over the years, my favorite things to cover (besides the truly crazy) are the decks that bring a new spin to an old class. As metas develop, most classes fall into one (or two) set builds. Those builds become optimized as time moves on, and get stronger and stronger with each passing week. This locks them into a mold and keeps them there for months at a time. I like to break that mold whenever possible, by taking classes that seemingly only have one style and looking at decks that move them in the complete opposite direction. This week is an example of that. Instead of giving us the classic Ramp or C’thun build that just about every Malfurion has been since the combo flew the coop (got nerfed into oblivion) GeorgiusHELLAS brings us a version of the old Egg Druid aggro deck that can really do some work when piloted correctly.
Egg Druid was once a very strong deck during the pre-standard days. It has lost many of its staple cards (the combo, Nerubian Egg, etc.) since then, which caused it to quickly fall of the way side. That, combined with the fact that it was never a super popular list, quickly faded it out of existence. This week’s list seeks to change that by giving us a very strong version of the classic. Druid has a lot of ramp options, but they also have a lot of ways to kill their opponent. Even without Force of Nature, Savage Roar still gets you from thirty to zero in a hurry. Swipe can do a lot of work, and there are ample ways to buff up your cards. I would say this list operates much like an aggressive token build where you want to swarm the board and try to overwhelm your opponent before they can find enough resources to stabilize. One of Aggro Druid’s biggest problems has always been the weakness to AOE. However, mass removal has become a lot less popular since the addition of Standard. In addition, this deck also has a good subtle beast sub-theme, which can really come in handy when the time is right.
Note: The original list did not run Innervate. I do not understand why that was, and I would not play any Druid deck (especially one with as many explosive openings as this one) without the free ramp spell.
Nerubian Egg this is not. However, that does not mean that it is a bad card. Though it may be hard to see, the power level has dropped significantly with the inclusion of Standard, causing many cards that were once too weak or not strong enough to slot into the limelight. While I am not saying Dragon Egg is one of those cards, it is certainly good enough for this list. A 0/2 for one is not terribly exciting, but a 0/2 that can build an army on its own is. There are a good amount of buffs at your disposal in this deck, and you want to try to get as much use out of them as possible. While you ideally want to set this up with one of the 2/2 buffs, anytime you can trade this in and still have board presence is a win. This deck pilots in a similar way to Zoo, and you always want to control the tempo and pace of the game through efficient trades. This card is key to that because it starts that train on turn one.
Unlike Nerubian Egg (which has deathrattle) you just want to try and get as much value out of this card as possible. It may be tempting to try and pair it with only your bigger buffs, but being able to take something down and make this into a dragon is more than fine.The only exception to the above rule is when you are facing down an opponent who is going to have access to damage-based AOE like Hellfire. In that case you want to try to keep the egg in its first form to make sure you have something on the board when the dust settles. It is also worth mentioning that this card is very strong against Tempo Warrior because of how it deters Ravaging Ghoul.
Mark of Y’shaarj
Mark of Y’shaarj is perhaps the most important addition to the entire deck. Having access to Mark of Nature is very key, since it gives you a way to both control the board early by buffing your small minions. In fact, you want to start every game by going one drop into turn two buff. Having one is good, but having access to a second 2/2 is hugely important for this deck’s consistency. So much so that I think this deck would not work with just one buff. What sets Y’shaarj apart from Nature is that, while it may not have taunt, it enables you to draw a card. A small swarm deck like this one can be tricky to use because of the lack of natural card draw. This solves that problem in a wonderful way by giving you a card that helps you keep board and pressure while also helping you cycle through your deck. It is a lot like Power Word: Shield, but gives attack in addition to the health.
Mark of Y’shaarj is an extremely powerful card that has many different uses, all of which help push either lethal or board presence. However, it is important to remember that this card does not need to be played on a beast. It may seem like an obvious note, but it has tripped me up from time to time. Card draw is always going to be strong, but having a minion on board (or being able to kill something and keep your minion) is usually going to be much more important early on. Getting the board in the first two or three turns is much more valuable that waiting until turn four to draw a card. However, it is also important to remember there are going to be some times where you do want to wait to draw a card. This is usually going to be towards the middle/later turns of the game where getting through your deck is key. The overarching rule for using this card with the buff is to ignore it early and pay attention to it late. This is especially important when you are trying to dig deep for a Savage Roar.
Dire Wolf Alpha
This may seem like a strange inclusion to this build, but, as mentioned, this deck operates a lot like Zoo. By that I mean, you are going to have many turns where you look for efficient trades while also advancing your own board. You basically never want your opponent to have minions. You need to trade a lot to keep your minions on an empty board, and then use those minions to steadily push damage through to your opponent’s deck. Dire Wolf Alpha has always been a staple for that type of role. One extra damage has always been good, but it is extremely key in the current meta. There are a ton of decks that rely on getting the board on turn two or three (Zoo, Midrange Hunter and Shaman come to mind), and you need to find every way to challenge that. Swarming the board is good, but most popular minions have health that is just out of your minion’s damage range. This fixes that by allowing to swarm. Add on the fact that this card is a beast (giving you more Mark of Y’shaarj synergy) and you have a very solid two drop for putting on pressure.
The hardest part of playing any variation of Aggro Druid is figuring out the optimal time (and way) to use Savage Roar. The card serves as your primary win condition, but it also is a good way to keep up pressure or clear the board. Looking at the first mode, you always want to play to this card. Even if you don’t have it in your hand, it is a good idea to count up your potential damage by adding 2 to every attack. This will help you win a lot of games by helping you understand when you need to push or need to trade. In a board-oriented deck like this one it is easy to get caught up in trades. Often times you will be so focused on the board and getting the most value that you can miss out on damage or ways to apply extra pressure through attacks. A good habit to prevent this is by counting your damage at the start of each turn. If you also add in roar, it will enable you to figure out if your should go face and knock the top of your deck, or if you should hang back and keep playing the tempo game. There is usually going to be one key turn where you want to switch to pure aggro, and counting your damage will always help you realize when that is.
Always keep in mind that you have two Savage Roars in your deck. This is because you can always “burn” one of them on something other than lethal if needed. For instance, you can use one to clear the board, blast through a taunt or simply push through damage and apply pressure. The way to figure out the mode to use roar in is by analyzing the board state at hand. If you have a way to control the board without burning a roar, you should take the opportunity as soon as you can. However, if you have no other options you need to take the opportunity to do so. While this card is your first and foremost win condition, that is not going to ever happen unless you have access to board control. Using a roar to protect your board may never feel good, but it is often a necessary way to stay ahead.
Druid of the Flame
Though it may seem underwhelming at first glance, Druid of the Flame is one of the strongest cards in this deck. However, it is also one of the trickiest. I have played more than a few games with this list, and I can say I have no idea how to fully use the three drop. A lot of the time you want to put it down early and get a 2/5 onto the board, but there are also many times where I have tried to bait out removal and get it as a cheap source of five damage. This comes up when you manage to Innervate this out early on. Against Aggro it is right to make this into a 2/5 to trade with all early drops, but against Control decks (especially Paladin and Priest) I like to make this into a 5/2 to ramp up as much pressure as possible. Of course, the mode of this card is also going to depend on the rest of your hand as well. A 5/2 can be very good if you have an aggressive curve, but if your curve is slower or buff-heavy, then you generally want to take the 2/5 route.
When given the choice, I will almost always play Mounted Raptor on turn three over Druid of the Flame. This is an important choice that I found has come up time and time again. While I initially always played Druid, I began to switch up my actions to see what type of impact it would have. A 2/5 is a really strong slot into your curve, but the fact that Raptor is sticky really gives you an extra edge against almost all decks around. I would compare this to Midrange Hunter. On an empty or contested board you always want to play Infested Wolf over any other choice because it helps you plan ahead for the following turn. Raptor works in the exact same way, forcing your opponent to use resources to get rid of it while still keeping something around for future buffs. Furthermore, if your opponent has no way to kill it or attempts to contest it with a minion of their own, you are going to have the opportunity to trade up. As mentioned, one extra damage means a lot right now, and three attack on an empty board is much more impactful as two.
The five decks that I see the most on the current ladder.
While still the most popular deck in the game, Shaman has definitely dropped in the past few weeks. That is not to say that it’s gone, but you don’t need to only plan for it like you once did. Though there are a couple of different versions, the most common form of Shaman is going to be the Aggro/Midrange hybrid that is built off of melding pressure like Doomhammer and Tunnel Trogg with hefty midrange threats like Tuskarr Totemic and Thing from Below. The way to combat that dual threat is by applying more pressure than your opponent. This will force Shaman on their back foot and keep you in control of trades throughout the game. Once they start using their removal on your board rather than your face you know you are in a good position.
This match is usually going to be dictated by the opening three turns. Shaman loves having building on their early minions and can run away with the board like no one else. However, once they lose that board control they also have one of the hardest times coming back. Your one/two punch of a one drop into a buff is a great way to kill a turn one Tunnel Trogg or the like, and it also helps clear out totems. The one thing you always want to remember is that Flametongue Totem can help Shaman rebound if they have the right tools. For this reason, always try to keep their board clear of all minions, even if you are ahead. Pushing through for the final Savage Roar burst is key, but you don’t want to get blown out because you kept a few totems alive. It is also important to watch out for Lighting Storm. While not in every deck, the AOE is fairly common these days and can be a huge blowout if you’re not ready. Never overextend into a board if you don’t have to.
Looking at my stats, I have not seen one Zoo deck this season. Not. One. In its place is Tempo Mage, a deck that has popped up out of nowhere in the past week or so. Freeze Mage is largely gone, meaning that just about every Mage list you see is going to be tempo. This is a really tough matchup because they are one of the few decks that can control the board better than you can. While an early Innervate or strong curve can overtake Mage, they are often going to get rolling quicker than you. Pressure is going to decide this game, whether it is coming from you or your opponent. If you have board, Mage will never be able to get the opportunity to get a minion to stick. This will force them to use their damage on your minions, allowing you to play at the turn by turn pace that you want. However, if you let Mage get ahead they are going to use their early minions and efficient spells to crush everything you play and set up a midgame lethal. You need to do everything you can to get your minions onto an empty board, using any resources you have to make that happen. Sometimes that means burning a Savage Roar, sometimes it is using a buff, and sometimes it is trading away most of your minions. You can wear down Mage throughout the course of a long game, but that can prove to be a very difficult task due to their immense amount of burst. You want to end this quickly, and that begins on turn one.
While control is quite popular across all levels of the ladder, nobody does it better than Uther. N’zoth Paladin has all of the tools a good control decks needs; healing, removal and finishers. However, they do have one large weakness, which is their inability to deal with a constant push. While they often can handle boards built up by Zoo with Consecration or Wild Pyromancer, your buffs and larger minions are usually going to climb out of that range very quickly. That then forces Paladin to rely on cards like Aldor Peacekeeper and Truesilver Champion to take the day. That might help with one card here and there, but it isn’t going to allow them to keep up with you. The only turn you really need to watch out for is turn six, where they have access to Equality/Consecration. It is largely going to be a judgement call, but you need to realize when you need to keep adding to the board to set up lethal and when you want to hold back.
This matchup is going to be all about setting up Savage Roar. Paladin has a lot of control options, but in terms of healing they only really have access to Ragnaros, Lightlord and Forbidden Healing. Each of those cards enable them to rapidly climb out of lethal range when needed, but it is going to cost them a turn. As such, to beat the control deck you need to convince them they are safe so you can set up a large final push. This is not going to be easy to do, but you will often have one window of opportunity each game. Sending out as many minions as possible can be good if that gives you lethal through a large heal, but often you need to be much more cautious about the way you push through if you don’t have a lot of damage upfront. If you have an early push they will usually succumb to your pressure, but if they manage to clear the board then you want to to do your best to be covert.
Note: Always remember to clear in a way that keeps your Equality resilient minions (Dragon Egg, Argent Squire, Mounted Raptor) in their first form so you can keep hitting after AOE.
Though it is very hard to play, Miracle Rogue is still very popular and a very real threat. While that spells trouble for most decks, it actually falls in your favor. By losing Blade Flurry Rogue has lost almost all of its AOE options. Fan of Knives is strong, but most of your minions are resilient to it. This is one of the games where you just want to push for damage as much as possible and let your opponent come up with answers. Yes, Valeera has a wide range of powerful one/two removal punches that can set you back, but those are few and far between. If Rogue has a set of answers, there isn’t much you can do about it. You never want to hold back on potential damage or board presence to play around some type of removal package. Even if they are clearing out your board, it is going to cost them a combination of resources and mana. That usually means that they are going to spend their turns clearing rather than adding to the board, keeping you in control of priority throughout the early turns.
While you are the aggressor, the biggest rule of playing Rogue is clear. Clear, clear, clear. While some versions of this list do run Leeroy Jenkins as a in-a-pinch finisher, almost all Rogues these days go the Conceal/Cold Blood route. That is very strong, but if they never get a minion to stick it is very hard for them to do any real damage. That means you can eventually create a strong board and wear them down through damage or Savage Roar. Never let anything live, whether it be an Azure Drake, Earthern Ring Farseer or SI:7 Agent. Killing their minions is so important that you should do it even over setting up two turn lethal. The only exception to that being when you are such a high life total that it largely doesn’t matter.
There are several iterations of Warrior running around right now, but Tempo Warrior is easily the most popular. The midrange deck is one of the strongest in the game and a very formidable opponent. This is a very tricky match because of all the ways Tempo Warrior can clear the board. They have access to Whirlwind, Ravaging Ghoul and Execute in addition to their various weapons and midgame threats. This gives them ample ways to deal with your threats. To beat them you need to out-tempo them. A large part of that is controlling the board and forcing through damage, but anticipating their plays is very important as well. For instance, it is always important to try to have a way to do four damage by turn three to answer a Frothing Berserker or six on four to take care of Bloodhoof Brave. Planning one turn ahead can save you in a lot of games by allowing you to structure your board in the right way.
Your strength in this game is going to come from your numerous ways to fill the board. As noted, Warrior loves clearing. The way you offset that is by being very careful when playing minions. Tempo Warrior is a deck that does not do well to pressure, and will always try to beat you to the punch. That is to say, they will clear as soon as you amass even a small army. You want to take advantage of that by only playing out a few small threats at a time and holding back “army in a can” cards like Mire Keeper and Living Roots. By doing that it will give you ways to rebound after their big turns and keep you in games where you would normally lose.
When it comes to mulliganing, the only rule for this deck is to keep your early game. You want Innervate, Argent Squire, Sir Finely Mrrgglton, Dragon Egg, Living Roots and Druid of the Saber in every matchup. Beyond that, you want your two buffs only if you have something to come before them. Power of the Wild should only be kept if you really need something to slot into your curve. Same with Dire Wolf Alpha, which just doesn’t do enough without a one drop coming before it. While Mounted Raptor and Druid of the Flame are a little slow on their own, they are must keeps with a good curve or the coin.
Swipe should be kept against aggro decks or against Hunter or Warrior provided you have a strong early curve. On the other hand, you only want to keep Mire Keeper with a very strong curve and the coin. The final rule here is, as with any Druid deck (especially one with so much early game) note how Innervate will change the way you mulligan. The card will suddenly make your high-cost cards come down two turns earlier, giving you much more lenient keeps. Always calculate your curve with it in mind to make decisions.
I always like a new twist on an old class. While this deck is not new, it is new for Standard. And that’s pretty cool. I always preach the importance of breaking the mold, and you should always look for ways to bring something new to the table. When looking for ways to rank up or break through the ladder, do not be afraid to look into the past. Just because the meta and cards have changed does not mean the old decks still don’t have potential. Never stop searching. Until next time, may you always Innervate early.