What do you do when the going gets tough? Adapt. Adapt or die. Hearthstone is a game of shifts, and that could not be truer with the recent string of nerfs peppering across some of the most popular decks in the meta. Typically, old staples tend to do the best during times of fluctuation where they can really take advantage of a shifting meta. However, sometimes the old lists have lost something that makes them not quite good enough for the current game. Such is the case with C’thun Druid, a powerful list that once reigned supreme but has since fallen out of favor. This week we take a look at that deck and see how PzaiDuck2 adapted it to the current game enough to take it all the way to top 100 legend.
In this past, C’thun Druid has been a play-on-curve deck that steadily increased its strength turn by turn. While that powerful core is still around, this list helps adapt it by adding in some of the packages that made Yogg Druid so powerful. In this way the deck operates like a hybrid between the spell-heavy Druid decks over the past few months and the minion-stacked C’thun decks that dominated when Standard first dropped. That combination creates a very strong C’thun Druid that is a lot leaner and has a much lower curve than we have seen in the past. Most of this deck comes with low-cost cards and uses only a few finishers to win the game. That gives you a lot of more consistency and helps you better control the board in a world where priority is all that matters.
A long-time staple in C’thun decks, Brann Bronzebeard is an extremely important card that you must get value out of. That is not to say you need to make use of his ability, but rather than it is important to make sure this card is being used well. While how to use Brann is rather obvious, knowing when to get the most out of him is very important. Though there are going to be many games where you simply have the dream hand and you play him for full value, most of the time you are not going to spoon fed. Notice that Brann has a ton of interactions in this list and they all are good at different times. Sometimes it is right to play him with Azure Drake to refill your hand, sometimes he is good with Disciple of C’thun as a tempo play/removal spell, and some games you absolutely need to save him for Twin Emperor Vek’lor. Every situation is different and while it can be tempting to hold him for the homerun hit, most of the time you want to use him long before then.
Something else to note is there are times when you can play the three mana explorer just to force your opponent’s hand. Brann is the definition of a “must kill” minion and your opponent is going to do all they can to prevent it from sticking around. I would view the dwarf in the same vein as Flamewaker or Frothing Berserker. While it will not always win the game on its own, there is so much potential for it to take over then it cannot be allowed to live. Work hard to play Brann with other battlecry cards but also look for the scenarios where you want your opponent to play removal or in situations where they will have a hard time to kill it. Yes, they may have the spells to deal with the four health, but if they don’t play minions it that keeps you in control of priority and sets up your next turn.
Mind Control Tech
Going back to the idea of adaptation, Mind Control Tech is another card that is currently built for the meta at hand. While this may seem like an oddity, the three drop serves very well in a sea of Shamans that have completely taken over the ladder. Thrall (or Morgl) loves to flood the board, and having a tech card that crushes those type of openings is very important. The reason this takes precedence over other tech cards is because Hunter and Shaman are two of your hardest matchups and this card can drastically swing them back into your favor. Just winning a few games here and there that you would normally lose can really help you move up. This also has the bonus of hitting Zoo, which has a decent stake in the current game. Just remember that there are going to be games where the ability won’t matter (such as against Druid) and you just want to put this down as a body when you have nothing else to play. A 3/3 for three is not exciting, but it is much better than doing nothing.
Note: If you are looking for a tech card to play over this one, I would suggest Harrison Jones.
One of the stranger choices in this deck is the decision to run two Twilight Elder over two C’thun’s Chosen. While the Chosen was once considered a staple for all C’thun decks, this version is much more streamlined and lean. That is to say, it has a much lower curve and much more ways to build on pressure. This helps you start early and keeps you in control by constantly threatening damage at all parts of the game. Twilight Elder is a big part of that shift because having a 3/4 on turn three that must be killed to prevent C’thun buffs really helps you start out strong. You can often use this to control the early board, which helps you naturally build into larger threats. In addition, it also allows you to go turn one Coin/Wild Growth. That may not seem like a big deal, but it really helps you with your consistency and can eliminate awkward coin games.
Similar to Brann Bronzebeard, this card is going to act as a lightning rod. That is to say, it is going to attract all of your opponent’s attention as soon as it comes down. The +1/+1 buff works very similar to Acolyte of Pain in that it does very little right away but really builds up over time. As a result, your opponent is going to do all they can to stop you from getting value. That usually means either trading away their board or spending their early turns casting spells rather than playing minions. Remember, your goal is to keep your opponent blasting off spells instead of adding to the board. Though you will often get your C’thun to ten attack on its own, your opponent is going to keep it from happening as much as they can. As a result, you can also use the three drop to distract from other minions as well.
A left over from the Yogg/C’thun Hybrid, Nourish is one of those “go big” cards that can just crush your opponent out of nowhere. Once deemed too slow (which it was), this spell has become more and more popular with each passing week. Not only does it interact well with Fandral Staghelm, but it has the type of versatility that ramp decks need in order to survive in today’s Hearthstone. Nourish is one of your trump cards that will often rocket you so far ahead of your opponent they will not be able to come back. Being able to rapidly ramp to your big minions is often going to be more than your opponent can handle, and drowning someone in late or mid-game card advantage is often going to put you on top for good. This is one of the strongest Druid cards around and gives you a lot of extra consistency past C’thun decks did not have.
I have spoken about this card many times in the past, and that is merely a testament to how hard it is to use. Each mode on Nourish can be very important. Once upon a time I would have told you that ramping was almost always right. However, as someone who has played a lot of Druid in the last months, I can say you almost always want to draw. So much so that you only want to use the ramp if you are getting to a specific minion next turn or your hand is so clunky that you will die without the mana. Your deck has a generally low curve. As a result, you are going to get a lot more value tearing through your deck rather than ramping up to things that don’t exist. While you never want to play the five mana spell over minions, whenever you have the chance you should draw three. This will keep your threats coming, find your removal, and set up your end game.
Ragnaros the Firelord
Pressure. Though there are many important elements of this list, pressure is the key to the whole deck. This is easy to overlook because of the ramp base, but you are largely an aggressive midrange deck. Not only that, but you have the ability to win at every single point in the curve. That means you can build very quickly and actually hit your opponent’s life total in a way that other midrange decks cannot. This pilots much like Dragon Warrior, which means you need a big finisher that can stack that pressure and act as lethal. No neutral does that better than Ragnaros the Firelord. The eight drop is exactly the type of curve-topper you want in this list as it works as a fantastic way to end games. Just know how important he can be when your opponent has no answer and work hard to bait out other removals before dropping him down. I will even play C’thun before him if possible because the old god gets immediate value even if he’s removed, while Rag is much better over a long game.
Ragnaros the Firelord is also very good when it comes to stalling. As you will find, you are going to win pretty much every game where you manage to play C’thun (barring random Control Warrior matches). That means you often just need to get yourself to turn ten. While you have many cards that help you with that, Rag does it very well because it usually takes a turn to remove (and it must be removed). As such, playing him on turn eight usually forces your opponent to kill him, which then gets you turn nine. That is the type of thinking you need to have in order to be successful with a list like this one. Always look for ways to get further into your deck. Though you are going to want to use Rag as a strong tempo play, know the times where you just need to get him down to distract your opponent.
The five decks that I see the most when playing on the ladder.
Still at the top and still as totemy as ever, Shaman continues to beat down the meta. The midrange deck has the most efficient tools in the game and is one of the most consistent lists around. While this is going to be one of your hardest matchups, it is much better for you that it is for other Druid lists. The reason is that you have a whole slew of threats and removal spells that help you keep Shaman at bay. This is a game where you need to curve out hard and work to challenge Shaman’s early plays in any way that you can. You need to work very hard to not get overwhelmed. Thing from Below is very hard for you to deal with, and you always want to restrict your opponent’s totems. Not only will this limit their spell power potential, but it also stops big swings with things like Flametongue Totem.
You beat Shaman by forcing their hand turn after turn. That is a common theme with this deck, but it is very important against Thrall because you cannot afford to be reactive. Once Shaman dictates the game you might as well pack it up and go home. If you can force them to use their overload spells and AOE instead of putting down big threats you should be able to pace the game in a way where you can pull ahead. You have a much stronger mid to end game than Thrall, but it is the early turns where you are going to lose. The biggest card to watch out for is Thunderbluff Valiant. The five drop is not only very hard to kill (and is definitely worth a Mulch), but it will beat you in a turn or two if left unchecked. Always make sure your opponent cannot stack up totems before turn seven.
The shifts were always going effect many top tier decks, but they largely left Tempo Mage untouched. That is great news for Jaina, and she is thanking Blizzard by striking all over the ladder. This is a game where you want to work hard to control the turns (as noted in the Wrath play in the video). Anytime Tempo Mage gets out ahead of their opponent they can use that pressure to become a hyper-aggressive deck that just plays to their Fireballs. You need to get them to use burn on your minions over your face and push hard to limit their hand size. They run a good amount of draw, but if they spend most of their time controlling the board you will simply overwhelm them. Kill their minions as much as you can and constantly force them to play from behind.
The whole point of this game is to force your opponent to have one dead turn. That’s it. Once Mage has a turn where they do nothing (such as playing a lone Arcane Intellect) you will have control of the board. As good as the tempo is, they have a big weakness against high-health minions. This is because they depend on their removal to easily remove anything that comes down. If you can present them with a string of five plus health minions it is going to stretch out those spells and force them to commit more than one per minion. Once that happens they will quickly run out of resources and either have no way to deal with your big threats or no way to finish you off during the later stages of the game.
Another nerf winner, Control Warrior is a strong deck that has the right tools to keep pace with any other competitor in the game. However, you stack up very well against Garrosh. The reason is that Warrior only has so many removal options, which makes them struggle against decks with a high-density of threats. Though your curve is low, you do have a lot of big threats. Always try to get a big body down onto the board and push as hard as you can. The only thing you really need to be wary of is Brawl. You are going to win this game by going one-for-one with your opponent’s clears, and you never want to give them a chance to kill multiple minions in a turn. If you have the board you typically never want to add more to it unless you are going for the kill shot. Having two big threats is often more than enough.
The way you win this game is simply through pressure. That does not mean going all in on damage, but it simply means playing a bigger and bigger threat each turn. This type of attrition play will cause Warrior to falter and run them low on cards in the same way you break down Tempo Mage. Eventually, they will not have an answer, and then you will put on the finishing blow. Control Warrior is very strong but they are also very reactive. You are going to control the game, and you want to pace it by playing minion after minion. Wait for your C’thun to get as big as you can afford, use Nourish to draw and turn any late game Raven Idols into minions.
While the Call of the Wild nerf has crippled Midrange Hunter (as a certain good-looking HSP writer so accurately predicted) Secret Hunter has become very popular over the past few days (as that writer also predicted). This is a very strong deck, but you have a very large advantage here because of how strong all of your threats are. Hunter’s no longer run hard removal. Rather, they just go all-in on combo and interaction packages. As a result, if you can play out enough big minions to get ahead of them they should not be able to come back. The goal of this game is to just get board before turn six so you can deal with Savannah Highmane. Being behind against the Lion is one of the only ways sure-fire ways you lost this game.
While Hunter has always matched up well against Druid, as the videos show, you are better against Secret Hunter. The reason for that is they rely on a lot of secrets that you do very well against. While Freezing Trap can hit you very hard, Snipe, Cat Trick, Explosive Trap, and Snake Trap do almost nothing. Not only that, but you can also take your time in this game and steadily build up a gigantic board instead of triggering secrets. That is important to know and you should always ask yourself if it is worth triggering the secret on any given turn. A lot of the time you shouldn’t, but if you can easily deal with them you should.
The king of all nerfs (and all post-nerf metas) Zoo is an incredibly annoying deck that is going to take some real guts to beat. I say that because this is a game where there is going to be a turn or two where you do not interact with your opponent (through ramp or draw) and they are going to build big. However, not making those plays is often going to lead to a loss. Always play to win here, and do not be afraid to take chances. The whole goal in this match is to get to your big taunts and then hide behind them while Zoo wastes valuable resources and damage knocking them down. Once that is over you should be able to simply sweep up the ashes. It is getting to that part of the game that is hard. Play strictly control and use your removal liberally. Anything Zoo has is a threat that needs to be dealt with, and even something as simple as a Flame Imp can cause you a lot of problems. Save Swipe for big value boards and try to only use Mulch on things like Doomguard or Darkshire Councilman.
You want to mulligan here as you would any other Druid deck. That is, you need to look for an early ramp, removal, and minions. Innervate, Living Roots, Raven Idol, Wild Growth and Wrath are your must keeps, while you should always keep Disciple of C’thun and Twilight Elder with the coin or a solid curve. Brann Bronzebeard and Mind Control Tech are often too slow to keep, but they can do well against slower decks where you just want an early three drop. Fandral follows those rules as well.
When it comes to four drops, Klaxxi Amber Weaver is solid with the coin and a good curve or with early ramp, but it is too slow on its own. Swipe should be kept against any aggro deck, especially because four health is more important than ever. Finally, understand that Innervate is going to change your curve, as will Wild Growth. Always keep your mana jumps in mind when looking at which cards to keep. Though you never want to get anything that costs five or more, that can change based on your mana. Nourish is a particularly strong keep with early ramp because it helps you overcome your loss of cards.
It has been a long, long time since I have seen C’thun Druid have success on the ladder, and I am glad it got adapted for the modern world. Old staples are always extremely fun to play, especially when they come with a fresh twist that makes them unique. I always say that it is important to look into the past when it comes to deck building, and this continues to prove it. If you are ever having trouble climbing look at past top tier decks. You never know what you might find. Until next time, may you always C’thun for 40.