Ah, Ramp. Say what you will about Hearthstone diversity, but there sure are some extremely fun archtypes in this game. One of my personal favorites is teaming up with Malfurion and slamming down as many big minions as I possibly can. Go Big Druid decks have always been cool to me because you get to play a bunch of cards that normally never see the light of day. It’s a traditional belief that big cards are too slow to be good in Hearthstone. Early game tempo decks have long-dominated the game, and it’s hard to keep up with them while playing so many back-end threats. However, this week’s proves that it can be done.
This week, we once again call back to the idea of adaptation. You need to be able to make tweaks to survive in this wild game, and trying to make a deck with no regard to the meta will get you nowhere. Yes, there are parts of this list that you are going to instantly recognize, but that only accounts for half of what is here. Spell-based Druid decks have been very popular as of late, and this deck borrows all of those powerful tools. Not only do you have the early game package of Raven Idol, Living Roots and Wrath, but you also have Arcane Giants to add to your threat base. Even so, what makes this deck special is that it decides to run a slew of heavy taunt minions instead of Malygos. That allows you to have threats throughout the curve and gives you much more flexibility in your plays.
An old Druid staple, Bloodmage Thalnos is a very important piece of this deck. We live in an age where spell damage is very, very important. So important that not having it against decks like Shaman and Zoo is often going to lead to a loss. That may be a bit of a hyperbole, but the truth of the matter is that most Druid removal does very little against the wave of high-statted early game minions that have taken over the ladder. You need the extra punch. As a result, it is very important to know what you need to use Bloodmage Thalnos for. Sometimes he should be saved for big spells, sometimes he should be used as a tempo play, and sometimes you want to run him out to just to draw a card. This is never going to be an easy decision, but you often want to make it by planning out your curve in relation to your opponent’s threats. For instance, while you generally would not use an early Bloodmage/Wrath combo, it can be a very good play to kill off a two health minion if you have a bad hand. This is because it removes a threat and gives you two chances to draw some action. However, if you are playing against a Shaman this can be the wrong play because of how good the skeleton plus Swipe is against them. Always have a plan for the two drop and always ask yourself if the spell damage or extra card is going to be more important.
Feral Rage/Moonglade Portal
I have lumped these two cards together because they are your only ways to heal (barring what you get from Raven Idol). This is extremely important to note because the main goal of this deck is to stay alive. You are a ramp list, which means everything you have is geared towards playing gigantic, high-cost threats onto the board. In order to do that you often have to sacrifice health or the early board. Then, you come back into the game with huge taunt minions and, of course, healing. These two cards do that quite well and give you ways to fight back against aggressive decks that have a massive early push. Hold onto these cards and recognize when you need to use them. Burst is not as prevalent as it once was, but it still exists in many forms. Most decks have ways to kill you from the hand, and you always need to know when to climb out of that range. This especially goes for the end game when you are trying to figure out when to play minions. You need to get threats onto the board, but never open yourself up to lethal if you don’t have to.
While healing, due to your high threat density, is always going to be priority number one, it is also important to understand that these cards have other uses as well. Feral Rage‘s eight armor will save you in a ton of games, but the four damage is also extremely relevant. Not only does it allow you to kill things like Totem Golem and Animal Companion, but it gives you more ways to put together lethal. You are a deck that does not have too much face damage at your disposal, but playing to that extra four (especially when you’re out of Swipes) can be vital to winning slower matches. In addition, Moonglade Portal does a very good job at healing minions. This is not typically going to be your first move, but always recognize when your opponent cannot get through a big taunt minion and is trying to wear it down. If they trade a minion in or use a burn spell to drop its health, do not be afraid to heal it back to full. This invalidates their play and keeps you in control of the board.
Easily the most interesting addition to the deck (and the reason for its name) Faceless Shambler is a beast of a card that can easily win you games if you manage to hit the right targets. This is a very hard to play because you need to recognize where it’s going to get value early on. As you run so many big minions in this list, you have ample chances to get this card buffed. However, to do that you are either going to need to get a big minion to live for one turn, or to play this in the same turn as another big threat (usually done with Innervate). Work hard to set up your minions into situations where they aren’t going to take much damage. This will help you get full value from Shambler and let you really take over a game. For example, playing into a Brawl to make sure you at least have something big the following turn.
Do not be afraid to use this card just to get value. As with so many copy-type effects, many people will hold shambler back to try and live the “dream”. However, doing that is often going to be a recipe for a loss. This is because, unlike other dream cards, Faceless Shambler is absolutely terrible without getting a copy. You cannot afford to play a 1/1 at any point during the game. That means you need to get the combo off in any way that you can. Even if you get a small amount of value, this card is still going to have taunt. As such, your opponent will have to deal with it no matter what. Playing a 4/5 or 5/4 with taunt for four is not the best value, but it can be a good tempo play and add to your wall in tight situations.
This deck runs a lot of taunts. In fact, it’s kind of the win condition. Unlike traditional Ramp Druid, you are a list that is going to win most of your games through simple attrition. While most Druids today want to end the game with Malygos, you forgo the dragon for an entirely different path to victory. You put up walls, and then you dare your opponent to tear them down. Almost everything you have, from Druid of the Claw to Dark Arakkao to the two Ancient of Wars, builds to that goal. One of the big problems with high-cost minions is that they don’t interact with the board. This fixes that by putting down big bodies your opponent must get rid of right away. As a result, you always want to value your taunts over your other cards. While clearing the board is good, playing a large taunt is often the same thing. Understand this dynamic and always figure out how your opponent can clear a minion with x amount of health. If they can’t, just play what you have.
Out of all of these cards, the one you want to be the most careful with is Ancient of War. This is because a 5/10 with taunt is extremely hard for all classes to deal with. This makes the card your highest-priority minion, which means you need to work hard to bait out removal on your other threats. Though this will not always be easy to do (you typically want to play this on curve) but if you have some other options against removal-heavy decks you typically want to choose them first. A good example of this is against Shaman, who has Hex. If they can frog the ancient they will be extremely far ahead, but if they have already used their removal they are going to have to commit a ton of resources to killing it.
Ragnaros the Firelord
One of the most important Druid cards, Ragnaros the Firelord is a massive threat that fills two big gaps in the class: removal and damage. As good as this deck is at going over your opponent’s head, it is much worse at finishing games. You generally try and fight back against your opponent’s minions with big minions of your own and then win the game through general damage. Rag really helps smooth out your later turns by giving you ways around that. The damage is especially relevant because many people will assume you do not have burst, especially when you’ve used your direct damage. Take advantage of that and always try and keep your opponent’s minions off the board if they are at low health.
Like Ancient of War, Rag is a finisher that you really want to work to set up. That means you either want to play him while you are ahead to seal a game, or you want to craft the board in a way where he is going to have a high chance to take down a big threat. Pushing Rag when you already have one large minion will almost always lead to a win, so do your best to set up your other taunts before him. This will make your opponent use their resources and whittle down their board to make Rag have much more of an impact. The firelord is a very good card, but the more minions your opponent has the worse he gets. Always try your best to use him as removal if you don’t need to push damage. This will let you save your other cards and allow you to go deeper into games.
The five decks I see most when playing the ladder.
Yes, Shaman is still number one. And yes, this is not going to be an easy match. Shaman has always naturally preyed on slower Druid decks, and this is no exception. The way you win this game is simply by running your opponent out of cards. Thrall makes a living on card advantage, and he will absolutely bury you if you cannot stop them from from drawing. The way you do this is by running out as many high-health minions as you possibly can. This will force your opponent to two-for-one themselves by spending multiple resources on one card. This then breaks them down and causes them to take sub-optimal plays like trading their whole board into one threat. Understand your opponent’s removal and always calculate how they are going to kill something before they play it.
The number one threat here is Hex. The card is going to hit and it is going to do some damage when it does. The way you combat that is by understanding that your opponent is going to have it and then deciding what you want to get Hexed. Shaman loves tempo, and they will often burn a Hex as soon as anything they cannot directly answer comes down. As such, it is very easy to bait the spell out on a Druid of the Claw or Dark Arakkoa, especially if you have control of the board. That them helps you set up big Faceless Shambler or Ancient of War plays in the future.
Another tough one, Secret Hunter is going to be a game where you just want to live. Hunter is a class that is always going to have a high damage output, and they also come with a lot of big minions. That combination spells trouble for you. As a result, your goal in this matchup is to simply lay out big taunts and then force your opponent to deal with them. Though that may be counter-intuitive, being able to just pump out taunt after taunt and force your opponent to answer your board will allow you to protect your health and, similar to Shaman, run them low on cards. Once Hunter is topdecking you should be able to take this down, but getting to that point is not easy. This is a game where you don’t mind going long, so don’t be afraid to be reactive.
As always, watching out for Savannah Highmane is key to winning this game. The lion is an absolute nightmare for Druid and if it ever comes down uncontested the game is over. As mentioned, the way you beat the lion is by having walls so big that Hunter has no choice but to trade into them. This will force them to break the lion without you having to expend resources. Beyond that, always be aware of Ragnaros the Firelord. The eight mana elemental is a Rexxar staple now and it will absolutely destroy you if you aren’t ready. Try your best to control the board by turn eight and always try to save your Rag to answer theirs. This will help you turn the tide should the 8/8 erupt on your opponent’s side of the board.
Note: Never attack into a potential Freezing Trap unless your opponent has no strong board or you have multiple minions to burn. Testing for it is almost never worth it because it can quickly lead to a loss.
As tricky as the two above matchups are, this is one of your better ones. The reason for this is that Warrior has never been good at dealing with a string of constant big threats. They run very powerful spot removal, but it only goes so far. Two Executes and two Shield Slams will help them, but that means they are only going to be able to take down four big minions easily. The rest of the time they will be scrambling to come up with answers. Do your best to stack up as many minions as possible and run them out turn after turn. Eventually Warrior will run out of answers and they will then succumb to damage. Grind them down and work really hard to count their spells as they use them.
The one card you want to watch out for is Sylvanas Windrunner. Warrior does not run a lot of minions, but you need to keep the six mana Mind Control in mind. While it may not feel good, the best way to beat her is by simply running out multiple cards and killing her on your turn. Never give Warrior priority on her deathrattle. I typically save Living Roots specifically for Sylvanas if I can.
Finally, you should watch out for Brawl. You are going to win this matchup by stretching Warrior’s removal thin and forcing them to spend multiple cards to deal with each one of your minions. Never give them a chance to remove multiple large threats with one card. If they have no answers or you are ahead on priority you should never have more than two large minions on the board. This makes it so that even if they do Brawl it won’t matter because they are only killing one threat with it.
Another favored matchup, Spell Druid does what you do but they have much less options throughout their curve. You and Spell Druid share many of the same cards, which means that your early games are going to look the same. However, as you move up the mana curve they start to fall behind on the board. This is because you can pump out multiple hard-to-deal with threats, which then forces them to be reactive. As this grows, it puts Druid into a bad spot where they are constantly trying to keep up while you just keep getting bigger. Always try and put a body down on every turn. This will allow you to hold onto priority and eventually pump out minions your opponent has no answer for.
Be very careful with your health. Spell Druid has very few large threats, but they do have Malygos. Any good player will play to the dragon and horde burst damage throughout the game. This means you are on an ever-ticking clock and you need to really punch in damage when you get ahead on board. Spell Druid (especially the ones that have cut Mulch) simply have no good way to answer something like an Ancient of War. As such, when you have a threat that big you need to just push as hard as you possibly can to force your opponent’s hand. Just always be aware of your health and count your opponent’s spells. If they get a big Emperor Thaurissan or hold a large hand you typically want to heal up to thirty and beyond. Getting out of range will let you play your game and not have to worry about theirs.
Tempo Mage is a very even matchup. Either you are going to get your early removal and overwhelm them with hard-to-kill minions, or they are going to come out of the gates swinging and bury you in damage by turn four or five. Health is the most important factor here, both for yourself and for your minions. One of Mage’s biggest weaknesses is large threats. This is because they have a limited amount of damage they can do with their burn and they need to be able to use it to both control the board and do damage. If they need to use multiple spells on one card they are going to suffer from card disadvantage. As such, your goal here is to bait everything they have on your board. This also has the added bonus of making sure that your minions are eating the damage instead of your face. Mage is a very strong deck, but you can eventually run them out of damage. Do not be afraid to take this slow. Play your big threats when you can, be careful to remove all threats, and heal when the opportunity calls for it.
When mulliganing with this list you need to do whatever you can to find your early spells. As good as your minions are, they are all for later on in the game when you have already pushed your mana or killed early threats. This means that Innervate, Raven Idol, Wild Growth, Living Roots and Wrath are your must-keeps. Almost everything beyond that you want to throw back.
The only exception to the above rule is if you have any early ramp. Innervate and Wild Growth will always change how you mulligan with Druid and you want to calculate how and when you can play minions when you have them in hand. Beyond that, Feral Rage is good against any deck with early game four-health threats like Flamewaker, Animal Companion and Totem Golem, and Swipe should always be kept against aggro. An early Mire Keeper is very strong with early ramp and Bloodmage Thalnos can also be acceptable with a bad hand against a deck where you just want some early presence and card draw.
Nature will rise (against you). It is not often that I get to play a ramp deck, so when I get the chance I absolutely take it. This is a deck that really shows some cool class diversity and calls back to the early gays of the game. There is always something to learn from legend decks, and this just shows how far putting a twist on some of the existing archetypes can take you. Hope you enjoyed it and, until next time, may you always ramp, ramp, and ramp some more.