Weekly Legends: Silence! (Druid)

Shhh! No talking in my series! Of course, I’m only joking. However, this week we are celebrating one of Hearthstone’s most iconic mechanics: silence. The mechanic is most often an ability you use to shut down one of your opponent’s minions as a way to take away an ability to get through an annoying taunt. […]

Introduction

Shhh! No talking in my series! Of course, I’m only joking. However, this week we are celebrating one of Hearthstone’s most iconic mechanics: silence. The mechanic is most often an ability you use to shut down one of your opponent’s minions as a way to take away an ability to get through an annoying taunt. However, sometimes, as in the case of this week, you can use it on your own minions to get some really nice effects. While it always feels good to take out a Sylvanas Windrunner or Tirion Fordring, any Handlock player will tell you that getting a turn two Ancient Watcher activated feels even better. This weeks deck, made by one of my favorite deckbuilders, CrusherHS, takes that idea and pushes it to the max by including a whole slew of minions that you want to silence as soon as possible.

I have said this many times, but it is hard (very hard) to make Druid feel fresh. Force of Nature/Savage Roar has completely taken over the class, and just about every build runs the same four of five sticky minions plus Emperor Thaurissan. Yes, this deck does run the combo, but the tools to get to that combo feel very fun and, if possible, even more unfair than normal. Last week I covered a new, interesting twist of Midrange Paladin that focused on minions and buffs more than its predecessors. This week I am taking another look at a tweak on popular archetype. While silence Druid has popped up from time to time, it has never been terribly meta-breaking. However, this is a version of the deck I have wanted to try since my original LOE series. Not just because it has some of the coolest openings in Hearthstone, or because it is very strong in the current meta, but because most of these cards are just so fun to play.

Key Cards

Note: I made a couple of changes to the original list, which I explain in the video.

Innervate

Innervate?” You might be saying, “Why talk about Innervate? We all know what it does.” The answer, quite simply, is because of how important it is to this list. While every Druid deck in the game plays this card, its uses differ from style to style. The reason it is so important here is because having a strong curve is vitally important to this deck’s success, and Innervate really helps you make that happen. While in Ramp or Midrange you want to just get to your biggest minion as fast as you can, you really want to think about how Innervate is going to affect your future turns here. Sometimes you may want to hold it until turn four so you can Coin/Innervate out a Dr. Boom or Ancient of Lore. However, a lot of the time it is better to put out a turn three Druid of the Claw so you can play your turn two Ancient Watcher and a turn four Wailing Soul. This is not the type of Druid deck you may be used to. You want to get something down onto the board every turn if you can. Innervate and the coin both help you do that, greatly smoothing out your plays and making each move count just a little bit more. You have a lot of strong minions, and you typically don’t want to skip over playing them if you can.

Ancient Watcher

An oldie but a goodie, Ancient Watcher is vital to any style of “silence” deck. A 4/5, even after all this time, is still very strong. That is especially true when that 4/5 comes out at the start of the game. This is one of your best opening plays for two reasons. One, it really helps you build out your curve because, not only does it give you something to do on turn two (something Druid struggles with from time to time) but it also allows you to set up your later turns. Having giant non-attack minions on the board (such as Eerie Statue) enables you to sculpt your gameplan based on what your opponent does. For instance, if they play something like a Nerubian Egg or Piloted Shredder you can use your Keeper of the Grove to shut those down. However, if they play a strong minion or take another line of play you can suddenly add a 2/4 to the board while also triggering a 4/5 beatdown machine.

Another important thing to remember about Ancient Watcher is that it basically has charge. That is because almost nobody (unless they are in threat of dying) is going to try and kill it until you turn it on. This is very powerful because it is a body on the board that your opponent has to be aware of. However, they aren’t going to waste resources on it unless it has taunt or has been silenced. As such, always think about the best time to silence your watcher and get in for that all-important damage. You can use its large body to clear, or you can also just start putting on some serious pressure in terms of setting up the combo. Either way, always have a plan for this card, and know the best time to use it.

Sunfury Protector

While many people have made versions of this list, Sunfury Protector is singlehandedly the one card that really pushed Crusher’s version over the top for me. A lot of the time these decks will run Defender of Argus as the primary taunt giver, which makes a lot of sense. The four drop is very solid, the buff is relevant, and giving two minions (especially ones that can’t attack) taunt can be a great way to slow your opponent’s down. However, Defender also comes with two problems. One, it is kind of slow, especially when you are trying to get something down as soon as you can to block off aggro decks. And two, that higher mana cost makes it a lot of worse with Innervate. Going back to my original paragraph, you always want to use Innervate as a way to smooth out your curve and fill up your board. Sunfury is amazing for this, because she can be played perfectly with the ramp spell, enabling you to put down some giant creatures on curve and then taunt them up the same turn. While she is not a card you have to play right away, she is a great option to have access to, especially in such a burst-heavy meta.

Though this almost never comes up in Druid (which is why you could easily forget), be aware of your minion placement. Sunfury Protector is extremely important when battling against aggro (or even midrange) decks, and you need to make sure you are giving the right things taunt. There is nothing worse than putting out your board, preparing to shut down your opponent’s push for lethal, and then discovering that you cannot taunt-up both of your Eerie Statues because they are two spots away. This may not seem relevant, but it can easily be the difference between winning and losing the game. Pushing through a 2/4 is much easier than a 7/7.

Wailing Soul

While I am beyond, over-the-moon, oh-my-God, excited about the coming release of Standard, there are some cards I am going to dearly miss. One of those is Wailing Soul, a strong four drop that, when put into the right list, can be absolutely devastating. And here, this card is absolutely devastating. While it’s base stats are strong on it’s own (3/5 for four), this can just take over the game for the low, low price of four mana. Not only that, but soul is good both early and late, and it will almost always give you some type of value. Because of how strong its stats are, you can feel free to play it down even if you are only triggering a single card. Yes, most of the time you want to set up a bigger turn, but you also don’t want to wait for that combo if it means sacrificing or hindering your all-important curve. Remember, a minion a turn is key, and a 3/5 that also ramps you or turns on a 4/5 is fantastic, even if the card could do more later on.

Wailing Soul is a one card combo that interacts with almost everything in your list in a positive way. More specifically, it is really strong with your early minions. Darnassus Aspirant, Ancient Watcher and Zombie Chow all benefit greatly when silenced. So much so, that hitting two of them on curve usually leads to a win at the end of the day. Another impotant part of using soul is how strong it can be with the coin. Without the coin the soul should only be kept with a perfect curve, but with it, it is almost always a must-keep. Having one extra mana allows you to play into either combo of turn two Ancient Watcher, turn three Coin/Wailing Soul, or turn three Coin/Eerie Statue, turn four Wailing Soul. Those are the type of unfair plays you are looking for, because they are what really push this deck over the top.

Eerie Statue

Yes! Yes, yes, yes. This is a card I have been extremely hyped about since the early days of LOE. However, due to locking myself into The Brewmaster series, it is a card I never got to play or experiment with. Now that I have the chance, I have to say that Eerie Statue is just as strong as I though it was going to be. While the drawback may seem really weak at first glance, in a deck that is running five silences and two taunt-givers it truly doesn’t matter. No matter how you use this card (taunt or silence) a 7/7 for four is an insane deal. Just understand that a lot of the time, unlike Ancient Watcher, your opponent is going to deal with this card before you turn it on. While four damage can be ignored, seven from a Druid cannot. Even so, that’s fine. You can save your silences for other things and they have to burn resources. It is even better if they get rid of it with Big Game Hunter, as it sets up your Dr. Boom.

Another important note is that, while its ability is very similar to Ancient Watcher, it is actually much better. This card does not need a silence to attack. You may often forget about that from time to time, but you shouldn’t. Getting this out on turn one or two with Innervate can often place it down onto an empty board. That means it is going to be able to attack immediately during the next turn, getting in repeatedly for seven damage. Yes, most players do have small minions these days, but even if they play something to take away the statue’s ability, you can then use a removal spell to take it off the board. Just note that the statue is affected by your minions as well. If you can get a hit in on an empty board, attack before playing something else.

Matchups

The five decks that I encounter the most on ladder.

Secret Paladin

Time keeps ticking away for old Uther, and the closer he gets to death, the more people seem to want to play him. Secret Paladin is once again the most popular ladder deck, and you better be ready for it when trying to rank up. When going against Sectre, you need to look for all of your early minions backed by removal. While it may seem surprising, you can out-minion Paladin early on by going over their head with cards like Zombie Chow, Ancient Watcher and Innervate. Once that happens, you want to clear everything that comes down as Paladin does not operate well with an empty board. However, once turn five or six rolls around you need to get aggressive. This will pressure your opponent, and they will be forced to play much more cautiously for fear of dying to the combo.

Swipe is one of the most important cards in this matchup. Muster of Battle can be a huge problem for you if you aren’t careful, as it gives Paladin a ton of targets for things like Blessing of Kings and Coghammer. Always use the removal to get rid of the 1/1’s, unless you are setting up a huge combo turn. Sunfury Protector is another all-star when facing Uther. Not only does she give you two gigantic taunts that they are going to have a lot of trouble fighting through, but those taunts allow you to stall, which pulls you closer to your ending combo. Just remember to always save a silence for Tirion Fordring if you can.

Renolock

On the flip side of Secret Paladin, we have Renolock. The grindy Warlock deck is quite popular at the moment, and that works very well in your favor. This is because, you can sit back and relax while they Lifetap themselves closer and closer to death. Renolock is a deck that, like most Warlock decks, does very poorly against the combo. It does even worse against a deck that can play a high density of high-attack minions. They really depend on their AOE to carry them through most of the game, but when that AOE doesn’t hit, they are in bad sorts. You never want to give Warlock a chance to full clear, unless you want them to spend their turn playing spells. Always try to have something big on the board, and clear their minions to take away use of Shadowflame.

Most people will hesitate to drop Warlock to low levels of life. However, Renolock really can only rebound through one Molten Giant and Reno Jackson. While you do want to be careful, you don’t need to live in constant fear of doing damage. Usually you want to keep them at around twenty health, which is enough to put them into combo range but not quite low enough to scare them into using Reno. However, if you need to get them lower for the kill, that works just as well. Even if they do have Reno, he is much less impactful if you have a board to keep the pressure up.

Also remember to make use of your silence. Hitting your own minions is always priority number one, but against Renolock there are many targets such as Twilight Drake or Sludge Belcher. It is almost always a good idea to hold onto a silence as taunt insurance when pushing for the ending combo.

Control Priest

Control Priest is still the premier control deck of the meta. However, as strong as it is against hyper aggro and heavy control, it is extremely weak to this build. The reason is two-fold. One, Priest, like so many other fatigue style decks, does a very bad job against Force of Nature/Savage Roar. While they have a lot of removal, they won’t have answers forever. That is a huge problem when leaving just one minion up can lead to death. Most games you just want to keep throwing out threats until they eventually crumble to the pressure. The second reason you are at such an advantage in this game is because of how much trouble Priest has with a constant string of large or four attack minions. Ancient Watcher and Druid of the Claw both give them fits; dodging their removal as well as any potential AOE. Getting one of those early can usually lead to a quick win. In addition, while they may have a Shadow Word: Death for your first 5/5 or 7/7, Priest may not for the second. Finally, with so many minions with more health than attack, this deck is also very strong against Lightbomb. That cripples Priest by taking away one of their strongest cards. Passivity is the only way you lose this one, just hit them early and don’t stop until they fall to zero.

Tempo Mage

Tempo Mage is a deck that comes and goes so often it is hard to figure out when you are going to see if over Freeze. However, it has exploded in the past two weeks (I once played ten in a row). This is a matchup where you need to be very careful. While in most games Zombie Chow and Darnassus Aspirant can carry you for the first few turns, Tempo Mage has a ton of early minions and cheap removal. This allows them to take over the board extremely quickly and put pressure on everything you play for the rest of the game. The way you beat this is by going over their head. It is a rule that whoever controls the board early on will have it for most of the game. For this, Ancient Watcher is your best tool. Unlike your other early plays, Mage will often not remove the two drop until you use it to attack, giving you a free path to take out a Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Mana Wyrm or the like. That is not always enough, but it can set up your middle game quite well.

The longer the game goes, the trickier it becomes. While you can whittle your opponent down turn by turn until they fall into combo range, the more cards they draw the more damage they have access to. You need to keep their board clear to prevent them from getting any kind of momentum, but you also need to pressure them in the same way you do against Paladin. Aggro decks do very poorly when they are the back foot, and if you force them to use their burn on your minions it takes an enormous amount of pressure off. Always count their burn spells, this will tell you how careful you need to be when it comes to trading late versus getting in damage. In addition, always be aware of Mad Scientist. You have a bunch of cards (Eerie Statue, Ancient Watcher, Zombie Chow, Darnassus Aspirant) that you can play into Mirror Entity, and you never want to give them a good minion by being careless.

Midrange Druid

The last deck we are going to look at is Midrange Druid. While I cannot believe I am saying this, you are actually favored here. Midrange is a deck that is completely based on big minions, which they use to take the board and build into the combo. That is a very solid plan, but it means they are not readily equipped to take down a constant string of giant minions like you can supply. A strong curve from your deck, such as Ancient Watcher into Darnassus Aspirant into Wailing Soul, will almost always trump theirs. You are running the same Druid shell, but where they have things like Living Roots and Azure Drake, you have Eerie Statue and Wailing Soul. That is just a better deal at the end of the day, and makes your combo much stronger than theirs.

This is another matchup where you can get a lot of use out of Sunfury Protector. Druid has very little in the way of big minion removal. If you can taunt up some of your larger bodies, it can force Midrange to trade in their board. This not only allows you to have priority, but it also is a good way to kill of their minions. Remember that you do not always need to actually kill their minions to kill their minions. A lot of the time the threat of the combo or just constant pressure will force them to trade, which is the largely the same thing. You want to use your big minions to keep the board as clear as possible. This will take them off of their finishing combo while just adding to yours. Anytime you can kill something without losing a minon, you should.

Mulligan Guide

Mulliganing with this deck is very interesting. Some games are going to be very easy, where you get the classic curve of one, two, three, and some games are going to be much more complex. The overall rule is to just play to your curve. As I explained with Innervate earlier on (and as I also went over in the video) you want to have something to play each turn much more than trying to get something big out early. Yes, a turn five Dr. Boom can be great, but using that Innervate[/card] to make a solid two, three, four, five curve is usually just stronger. Because you have a big minion you can play at every stage of the game you really just want to get them down. As a result, mulligan in a way that fits into this plan, and only keep higher-cost minions if you have a way to play them out. For example, you normally wouldn’t keep Wailing Soul. However, if you have a turn two Ancient Watcher with the Coin or an Innervate, it is a must-keep. Ramp greatly affects this deck, and you always have to think about it when choosing what goes into your opening hand.

The “must keeps” for this list are Innervate, Darnassus Aspirant, Zombie Chow, Ancient Watcher and Wrath. Ramp aside, those are the cards you want to begin every game with. Beyond that, Ironbeak Owl should be kept with an early Watcher or Eerie Statue, and is also good against Warlock and decks that run Mad ScientistSwipe should always be kept against aggro like Zoo or Paladin, and you only want Sunfury Protector when you have a big minion to pair it with.

Conclusion

What a fun deck. I normally try to stay away from Druid, but sometimes somebody does something so cool you have to take notice. That is the case this week, and Crusher really gave us a gem. There are a ton of awesome cards in this list, and they all are extremely unique. It is always good to be different in this game, and a different take on the most cookie-cutter class is even better. I hope you guys enjoyed my trip into nature, and I hope you all have a good week. Until next time, shhhh!