Weekly Legends: Mech-Bear-Acolyte-Gadgetzan-Cat Druid

Sometimes on Weekly Legends we break down meta decks. Sometimes, we analyze how to tweak existing decks, making small changes and showing how just going one or two cards off of the norm can be invaluable. And sometimes…Sometimes, we take a dive off the deep end. Legend is something that everyone, regardless of your play […]

Introduction

Sometimes on Weekly Legends we break down meta decks. Sometimes, we analyze how to tweak existing decks, making small changes and showing how just going one or two cards off of the norm can be invaluable. And sometimes…Sometimes, we take a dive off the deep end. Legend is something that everyone, regardless of your play style or favorite class, can hit. That is something that I try to make clear with my articles, and why I take the time to cover things like Shaman and Priest in a world where everyone thinks they’re dead. Nothing is truly dead, merely sleeping, and if you have a proper deck composition, anything can take you to the orange diamond. To exemplify this, this week we are looking at a Druid list by Yauld, which doesn’t just break from the norm, it takes the norm and crushes it with a steel mallet.

Mech-Bear-Cat is a very strange card. On one hand, it is very aggressively costed, powerful minion that, due to its ability, will almost always get some type of value. On the other hand, it is a minion with low health that doesn’t impact the board immediately and dies to BGH. However, much like the Crusher Shaman deck of old, this is the style of list where you simply want to overpower your opponent with sheer force and then combo them down in the end. However, unlike the Crusher Shaman deck of old, this list has an assortment of very specific tools (listed below) that will enable you to survive the early turns, and push for control in the middle game. Those tools come together very well, and they are what allow the list to really shine. You are a Combo Druid deck at heart, but on top of that you are an amalgamation of strong minions and very powerful spells that all set up your end game plan; which of course is to get your opponent to fourteen health.

Key Cards

Wild Pyromancer

Despite the range of unusual cards that permeate throughout this list, I truly believe that Wild Pyromancer is the most strange. This is not just a card that is not normally seen in Druid, it is a card that is never seen in Druid. Something that is very important to understand is, this deck has a decent curve, but it is very top heavy. You have a surplus of huge minions in addition to two copies of the Force of Nature/Savage Roar combo. That can lead to awkward hands from time to time, and you need a way to climb back into games when that happens. Kezan Mystic (you can also run Mind Control Tech if you see a lot of aggro) helps with this, but you want another answer, much more consistent answer.

At certain times, this card will act very similar to Bloodmage Thalnos, but with the added bonus of adding “deal 1 damage to all minions” to every spell you play. An early pyromancer can help lock down a board where you would normally fall behind. Muster for Battle? Imp-losion? Face Hunter? Zoo? A well timed Wild Pyromancer (or one paired with Swipe) can just decimate their board. One small thing to remember, is that this card is not sticky, and it is not meant to be. Often you will play two spells with this card and let it die. Being able to kill off a board full of small minions is usually invaluable in today’s game, and that’s exactly what this two drop does.

Acolyte of Pain

When people first look at this list they almost always say ”why Acolyte of Pain instead of a stronger three drop?”. The answer is two reasons. First, Acolyte of Pain can get triggered off of Wild Pyromancer, which can chain you into a good number of cards throughout the game and keep your hand full. Two, this card will almost buy you either board presence or time. Most people will spend the turn after you play acolyte (whether you drew off of it or not) killing acolyte. This is one of those important aspects that many people often overlook. As a combo-style Druid, you want to always be pushing towards the combo, and that means trying to take the board in the process. You are chock full of giant minions, which means any turn your opponent spends removing something is a good turn for you. A turn three Acolyte of Pain may only draw one card, but the turn your opponent spent getting rid of it is much more valuable. Of course, this is not always the case, but this is the type of mindset you want to have.

You will quickly notice that deck runs a high number of card draw. Double combo plus Emperor Thaurissan means that you need to keep seeing cards. If you ever run out of steam you are going to be in a lot of trouble, so you want to always keep your hand full. That is the main reason the acolyte is here. Since you will almost always either win by bashing your opponent to death with huge minions or with the combo, you don’t really need things like Shade of Naxxramas. Rather, you just want a constant stream of cards and ways to stay alive. This may seem like a really funky one-of, but Druid is not a deck that usually drops a lot of cards in one turn, making the extra draws even more valuable.

Gadgetzan Auctioneer

No, this is not as typo. Yes, there is one copy of Gadgetzan Auctioneer in this deck. Just like Acolyte of Pain, this is another draw engine. However, unlike acolyte, this draw engine is a threat, and can go a lot bigger if need be. Two Mech-Bear-Cats, on top of small spells like Wrath and Innervate, means that auctioneer is a card that will almost always give you at least one draw. The spare parts dream happens a lot more that you would expect, as does going off with Innervate. In those games, it is very hard to lose, because you will almost have a combo in your hand after the dust settles.

Gadgetzan Auctioneer is also interesting because, like so many other cards in this list, it will usually bait removal or a trade. We will talk about over-saturation in the section below, but simply running your opponent out of removal through high-power minions is a very good way to keep the game long. Auctioneer is not the end-all in this deck, but it is strong with the combo and is a great engine for what it does. While you do not have to get the most value out of it (it is ok just to draw a card or two) you never want to play it unless you can at least draw something. This requires some extra set up, but it is always worth it since you always want to get at least one copy of Force of Nature/Savage Roar into your hand.

Mech-Bear-Cat

Here’s a quick riddle for you. How do you deal with BGH? The answer: overwhelm it. Many people have opted to run no Big Game Hunter targets in order to make sure you don’t lose your bombs to the pesky three drop, but this deck races into the opposite direction; giving you so many targets that BGH cannot kill them all. Not only are your Mech-Bear-Cats BGH bait, but your finishers (Dr. Boom and Nefarian) are as well. Most of the time, your opponent will try to avoid killing Mech-Bear-Cat with BGH, but there are plenty of games where they will be forced to. When this happens, it clears the path for both Nefarian and the doctor, which makes your late game that much better. Even in games where they don’t bet BGH’d, the threat of their power and their ability to trade with any minion will make them eat heavy removal, which indirectly also sets up your end game.

The other half of Mech-Bear-Cat is its ability. While many decks (especially combo based ones) would just be happy with the undercosted minion, the spare parts can be relevant, and you can get a lot of them if your opponent doesn’t have a clean answer. On their own, none of the parts do much. However, they all serve a purpose that can be relevant in the shell of what this deck is attempting to do. Freezing and taunt can both work to stave off lethal, while freezing and one extra health can keep your minions on board. Beyond that, this deck also works with the parts with synergy between both Wild Pyromancer and Gadgetzan Auctioneer. Each of these cards benefits greatly from the parts, as they allow them to trigger. You don’t need the spare parts to make Mech-Bear-Cat good, but you should view it as an added bonus on an already powerful minion.

Nefarian

Hearthstone has reached the point where there are so many finishers, you can pick and choose the one that fits your play style. For instance, many combo decks would love to have a giant finisher here such as Ysera, while others would want Cenarius. However, neither of those cards push the “BGH or bust” mindset, and that is why Nefarian made the cut. The legendary dragon is not just a nine drop, it is a card that, even if answered right away, has the ability to give you card advantage. Those cards may not always be good, but they can also be incredible in the right situation, and will keep your opponent guessing at the very least.

Combo is what should always be on your mind when piloting this deck, but Nefarian is representative of the other win condition. Due to your endless stream of threats, you do have the ability to go into the long game and win via damage in the same way that Handlock wins the war of attrition through giants. This is by no means the preferred way to go, but it is another reason to play the giant dragon in addition to its damage potential with the combo. While you could play another huge finisher to largely accomplish the same thing, you would lose out on the two free cards, and you would lose out on more giant BGH minions. I know I keep going back to that point, but it is very important to understand. Eight damage in a Druid deck will make people panic, and even if they do stave off your early push, they will eventually they will run out of answers.

Matchups

Patron Warrior

I’m not sure if it’s a sign of the days to come or a trend for the start of the season, but Patron Warrior, while still the predominant Warrior deck in the game right now, is on the decline. Even so, much like Face Hunter (which is pretty much nonexistent these days) you have to be ready for Patron at all times if you want to succeed the blood-soaked landscape of the ladder. This game is a tale of two combos, and whoever hits theirs first will win the game. You are racing to turn nine (or ten or whenever you can roar them to death) but on the way you want to make sure to limit them as much as you can. That means you want to push your own agenda, but not the point where you are letting them draw cards or make a board full of drunken dwarves. There are very few minions in this deck that have two or less attack, but you need to make sure they are gone come turn seven or eight to limit their combo potential. It also helps to limit the number of minions you have to lessen how much a Frothing Berserker can hurt you.

Beyond killing off the weak and mitigating possible lethals, you need to keep their board clear. All minions in Patron Warrior, from Acolyte of Pain to Gnomish Inventor, can help buff a Frothing Berserker, and they also can all make Battle Rage just that much stronger. Board control is very powerful against Patron, and if you can force them to clear with their weapons, you should be able to get their life total to fall into combo range. Finally, Execute is their only real source of removal, but it is removal you want to play around. If you can get them to burn them early or on Mech-Bear-Cats, you should be able to set up the final turns in a very nice manner.

Zoo

Warlock is all over the place these days, and I just don’t know what I expect Gul’dan to be packing anymore. I think Zoo is the more common matchup right now, which means that’s the one I’m covering. This fight comes down to two words: Wild Pyromancer. This card doesn’t just beat Zoo, it crushes it. Of course, as with most sources of removal, you need to be very selective when you play it, but getting triggers at the right time can just win you the game outright. Every card in Zoo is predicated on the idea of resilience, and most of that resilience comes down keeping 1/1’s around for things like Power Overwhelming or Abusive Sergeant. Pyomancer ends that nonsense, and can be a board wipe in a lot of situations. The only two cards the fiery two-drop is bad against are Nerubian Egg and Imp Gang Boss. As such, you typically want to not use the pyro when those are out if you can help it.

You are the control deck in this matchup. Plain and simple. Zoo is a deck that does a lot of damage to itself, which means that if you live long enough they are going to fall right into your trip. While this game starts out in the way that most Druid vs. Zoo matchups do (keep their board clear at all costs) you want to seriously start setting up the combo around turn seven. Don’t be afraid to be aggressive here. Zoo is a deck that does trade very well, but the longer the game goes, the weaker they get. Since you are the combo deck, you almost always have them on a clock. Do what you can stay alive until that clock goes off, and you cannot lose.

Tempo Mage

Ah, Tempo Mage, my old friend. There is an ancient Sumatran saying (probably) that says “he who stumbles with Tempo Mage will be the first to fall to the folds of time”. Whether I made that up or not is not the point, what matters is how relevant it is. Tempo Mage is a deck that cannot stumble, and will absolutely crumble if anything goes wrong. You play this match just like any other Druid. Keep their board empty in any way that you can, and then play minions that are bigger than theirs while also mitigating their removal and burn potential. Frostbolt and Fireball are the only two cards that you truly care about, as both can give them lethal behind your taunts and out of nowhere. You need to always watch your health and, even if they have played all of your burn, be careful and don’t forget about Archmage Antonidas. Kezan Mystic is an all-star here, but if you don’t have her, you want to almost always save a cheap minion for the later game, as a well time entity can flat out ruin your day.

Midrange/Combo Druid

Druid vs. Druid battles are normally very interesting, and this is no exception. It may be a bold statement, but I would venture to say there is not a single Druid deck that isn’t packing at least one copy of the combo (and most run two). That means, this matchup is much more of a race than a normal game. This is a mirror where board presence is key, but the game is going to end with the combo, there’s just no way around that. It’s either you or them, which means that being aggressive is most often the way to go. Druid always packs one Big Game Hunter, but (as you should know) their removal package is extremely limited. While Swipe and Wrath do the job just fine, they don’t quite cut it when you keep slamming down seven health minions.

As with Midrange Hunter, you want Druid to spend their time (and their turns) removing your minions instead of trying to damage your face. This is done by adding pressure and forcing them to worry about your combo (whether you have it or not). While it is not always right to ignore their minions and hit face, if they are close to combo range, this can be the right play. For example, why trade seven drops if yours puts them to ten life and theirs would only put you to 20? Those are small things that can really go a long way. Life total is a very important resource in Hearthstone, and that gets extrapolated in the Druid mirror because both decks want to get to their combo first. You have bigger minions, but they have some really scary cards that can interrupt your plan really well. Keeper of the Grove is one of the best cards in this matchup due to the strength and size of your minions. It answers both Sylvanas Windrunner and Ancient of War, which can be annoying, and it also can clear the path for the trees to race through.

Midrange Hunter

The Midrange Hunter matchup really plays out very similar to Patron. I say this, because, while Patron has a giant combo and Midrange Hunter doesn’t, they also don’t care about your game plan. Their goal is only follow their curve and just win with a bunch of cards that do face damage in one way or another. However, unlike patron where you are really succeeding by simply keeping your small minions off the board and trading, you have to be more proactive here. This is another match where sticking to your plan is far less important than keeping them off of theirs. Midrange Hunter has a seemingly endless litany of tough-to-deal-with minions, and they all add up to lethal very, very quickly. Of course, Keeper of the Grove is best used on Savannah Highmane, but since you have so many large minions for the middle turns, you really want to keeper anything that could give them early board control, from a Haunted Creeper to a Piloted Shredder.

As with Druid, life total is a very important resource here, and that goes in both directions. In one, if they start to pressure you and force you to answer their board, you really need to respond. Their hero power, Eaglehorn Bow, Kill Command and Quick Shot means they will almost always be able to deliver the final blow. As such, you have to keep your life total up, using your hero power when you can, and Ancient of Lore when you get to around ten. However, the other side of the coin is, just like them, you can put pressure on them and force them to trade. When you do this, Hunters operate very poorly because they can’t control the board through threatening lethal. Instead, they have to keep your side clear, which buys you more turns to draw the combo. Kill their minions as much as possible, buy time through huge threats, assume all traps are freezing, and never overextend into the hounds, it’s just not worth it.

Mulligan Guide

This is a very tricky deck to mulligan with, but those familiar with Druid should be fine. Since this is a combo deck, you want to adhere to a very strict set of rules. Always look for ramp (Wild Growth and Innervate) and never keep either part of the combo. You also don’t ever want to keep Big Game Hunter, and, mana wise, Druid of the Claw or higher is just not worth it. Your two other tech cards (Kezan Mystic and Claw) should be kept against their respective decks. Kezan is for Hunter and Mage (but can become Mind Control Tech if need be) and Claw should be for any aggro matchup (Paladin, Mage, Zoo, Hunter).

As with last week’s list, this is a deck that has a very high number of must keeps, which is very strange. Wrath is good in today’s meta with all of the “must kill” early game minions, and Acolyte of Pain does a fine job against both control and aggro. Innervate will always alter the way you can mulligan, and there are so many scenarios it is hard to go over them here. I will just say that typically, if you have a really powerful mid-game minion, it can be kept with Innervate, but that is the only way you would keep something that costs five or higher. Swipe and Keeper of the Grove both fall into a very strange category. With no ramp and no coin, they should never be kept. However, with ramp and with the coin, they can both be very strong against certain decks that you need to answer early on. Paladin (Muster for Battle), Hunter (Animal Companion/Mad Scientist), Mage (Sorcerer’s Apprentice), Warlock (Twlight Drake/Nerubian Egg) and Shaman (mechs) all have things that you need to react to. These two cards can do that very well, but you don’t want to keep them if you’re sacrificing your chance at a solid curve.

Conclusion

Another week, another season. August should prove to be a good month, and will bring us a brand new set of 130 cards. It is not yet time for my “top 10 TGT cards” list, but the more cards that get spoiled, the more excited I get. I hope all of you have success in the new season, and I hope life is as sunny as it is here. Until next time, may your combos always reach lethal, and may you always Innervate as early as you can.