Time continues to move forward, Blackrock Mountain is on the horizon, and I find myself spending more and more of my days looking into the past. Last week I revisited Zoo, not convinced that the once-ladder dominating deck ever truly left. Today, I also revisit a deck from the days of old to answer a very interesting question, do decks ever truly become bad? Of course, they could fall out of favor, or perhaps they are not as dominate as they once were, but in the past two months I have found that many decks from last year are still ladder viable. That includes the Token Druid deck that makes some bold new changes (no Violet Teacher or Power of the Wild) but has the same old core.
One of my biggest tips when it comes to grinding the ladder is, never be afraid to try new things. Net decking is fine, but remember that, even if an idea goes against the grain, it could very well be successful. Today’s decklist runs some cards you don’t normally see in Token Druid, and that is what breathes new life to the old archetype. Everyone who plays Hearthstone knows the power of the Savage Roar/Force of Nature combo, but this deck plays to it better than almost any I have seen in recent months. Instead of operating like an aggro deck like the token decks of old, this deck operates a lot more like Zoo; battling for board control. It is a great example of outside the box thinking, and shows that, while some things may lie dormant, they are never truly dead.
When playing Druid there are some cards you have to play. There is just no way around that. While that may change in the future, Keeper of the Grove, Swipe and Druid of the Claw are always going to be there. However, there are some choice cards that differ on this list, and those will be listed below.
The light protects her, and it protects her so well. In a deck where stickiness is the name of the game, Argent Squire is a savior. Not only is this card very hard to remove, but it also has the added bonus of being able to trade in the early game with things like Clockwork Gnome. I have said (and will continue to say) that this deck operates in a board control fashion similar to Zoo, and having a one drop that is good against both aggro and control is key to that process.
Another important note about the squire is that it is easy to ignore. What this means is, many people will not spend time or resources trying to deal with it. That may seem like strange praise, but it is very good in a deck that cares about having things on the board. While you are not going to be comboing this card with things like Abusive Sergeant, squire still serves as something to be buffed with Savage Roar or Mark of the Wild. It also makes the combo better, which always helps.
Mark of the Wild
There is just one mark in this deck, but I bring it up because it serves to reinforce a very important point. If you have the board with this deck, it is very hard to lose. In that same vein, when you do not have the board, it can be very hard to come back. While Mark of the Wild is very good with Echoing Ooze (two 3/4’s) there are really no bad targets for this buff. Haunted Creeper, Piloted Shredder and Argent Squire all do wonders with this card, and enable it to get great value. Versatility is very important in Hearthstone, and a card that can be used as a tool to stop aggro while also creating threats against control is very strong indeed. The only thing to be aware of, is try to bait out a silence before slamming this down.
I bring up Savage Roar, not to highlight what we already know about this card, but to say that you have two of them. Not the most astute observation, but you should always be aware that you can burn a roar if you need to. That is, while you can always use it as a way to push through massive amounts of damage, it can also be used as a very effective removal spell. When playing, I found myself using the first roar to kill off minions quite often. As stated, you always want to be in control of the board, as the more minions you have, the easier it will be to combo off. Since most of your minions (Piloted Shredder, Argent Squire etc.) can crash into your opponents and live (or at lease leave something behind) to tell the tale, this is not a bad play.
An important aspect of this deck is playing to the combo while also knowing when to clear. For the most part, clearing the board is always the right move, but sometimes you will want to push for lethal. Savage Roar can be very important for both of these, and the lines can become blurred around the midgame. The later the game goes, the greater your chances are of drawing Force of Nature, but you also don’t want to hold roar and fall behind. Knowing when and how to play roar is one of the most important parts of making this deck work.
Defender of Argus
Although it would be hard to prove, you could make a solid case that this is the best card in the deck. Defender of Argus has always been amazing with swarms of small minions, but here it really takes the deck to the next level. It is of course very good with its partner in crime, Haunted Creeper, but it also serves as a great card with just about anything else. Buffs are very important in decks such as this, as it enables you to turn some very small, non-threatening minions into very real damage machines (a 2/2 is infinitely scarier than a 1/1). Being a tool against aggro is always a nice bonus, and no card allows you to maintain board control quite like the defender.
Though the power of Loatheb has been proven time and time again since Naxxramas came out, it is still important to note because it acts completely different in a Druid deck. The best way to think about Loatheb is, not as a 5/5 that shuts down spells, but as another combo. Why? Because, while you can play him on turn five to gain some tempo, no card allows you to set up next turn lethal better than the fungal lord. Savage Roar/Force of Nature is incredibly strong when you have minions on the board (as is the basis for this deck) and Loatheb ensures that happens as planned.
Loatheb has two modes. The first of those is to try and take board. He can be really good when played on an empty field because of his ability, which also makes him very strong when you have a couple of small minions you need to stick around. However, he primarily going to be used as a set up card; a play that allows you to get your combo off unfettered. Loatheb makes the combo do 21 damage. As such, you always want to try and hold him the turn before you have lethal. He should only be used before that if you desperately need to get control of the board.
Paladin is a deck that has one of the best openings against us, but also a deck that stumbles greatly when they don’t storm out of the gates. While 1/1’s are really good when they get paired with Quartermaster, they don’t cut it on their own anymore. For this reason, this deck is very strong against a Paladin that can’t find things to play. You want to mulligan for early cards at all costs, and never get rid of a Swipe or Wrath. While this game will end in the later stages of play, the early turns are largely about who can stick something.
Argent Squire is clearly an all star, and, due to Paladin’s lack of silence, Mark of the Wild tends to get really good value. At some point in the game Paladin is going to be playing to its combos, or jut putting one thing on the board a turn. When this happens, if you have control they can’t really keep up or play to avoid the combo. Sylvanas Windrunner is usually weak against all of our small minions, and the only real threat is (as always) Tirion Fordring. You usually want to try your best to save a Keeper of the Grove for Tirion as he can be a real problem. Besides that, always be aware of Equality/Consecration and only fill the board when you have a chance at lethal.
I will never stop writing about this deck, and that greatly saddens me. Hunter is just such a powerful deck, and Blackrock Mountain doesn’t look to change that. While your healing really is only Ancient of Lore, you do have some options to countering their push. Lore is almost used for healing here, as getting card advantage does very little against such an explosive deck. The number one rule is to always stay alive, and rule number two is to always be aware of Unleash the Hounds.
In reference to the above sentence, this deck does have a glaring weakness against unleash, which makes playing Hunter tricky. You want to put down enough threats where you can make the most of your Defender of Argus but not too many that you die in a flurry of hounds. Push for lethal when you can, but mainly try to turtle up behind your taunts and kill everything they play. One last note, always watch out for Explosive Trap, even if it means not attacking for a few turns.
Ah Mech Mage, we knew thee well. Tempo Mage is a very real deck that relies on some very strange interactions to win games. Luckily, we have many cards that indirectly counter their game plan. Haunted Creeper is an absolute allstar in this match, countering most of their early plays, and shutting down Flamecannon. There are only two real things to keep in mind when battling Tempo Mage. The first is, they don’t run any removal which makes swarming the board very easy. Never be afraid to dump all of your minions when you get the chance; here you are racing to the combo.
The other point to keep in mind is, tempo only runs two secrets (two Mirror Entity and one Counterspell. You can easily play around Mirror Entity by checking it with all of your small minions. Counterspell is a little trickier. Almost all of your spells are at a premium, and if you don’t have the coin, you typically want to check with Innervate. Obviously that is not an ideal situation, but you cannot afford to lose any removal or a key combo piece.
Control Warrior is a deck that has risen from the decline of Mech Mage. Typically, Warrior is weak against Druid, because, despite all of its armor, it can’t really keep up with the combo. That is true here as well. Overall, you want to play as if you are the aggro deck. You want to push for damage and end the game before things like Ragnaros the Firelord and Grommash Hellscream start flying around. Savage Roar will always carry you, as the longer the game goes, the less of a chance you have.
For the most part, Warrior’s targeted removal is pretty weak against a swarm deck like this. Piloted Shredder, Argent Squire and Haunted Creeper all laugh at their removal, which gives you a very large advantage. As Warrior has a wonky curve sometimes, you want to make sure yours is as sharp as possible. Shade of Naxxramas is very important here, because the only way they have to interact with it is through Brawl. While I never like to attack with shade unless I have lethal, against Warrior you want to make sure you get at least one hit in. If you feel Brawl coming, then you should clear a minion or hit their face.
As you can see by the video, Druid has made a very large resurgence in the past week and I am honestly not sure why. It is not that the deck is bad, I am just not sure why people started with it again. Either way, it’s back, and that is bad news for us. Druid, with their Wild Growths, tend to get to the top of the curve much faster than we do. This is usually bad news because it allows them to Dr. Boom or combo off first. The one advantage you have is that Druid has never been good at keeping up with a lot of minions. If you can swarm the board before they can ramp, you have a pretty good chance of winning the game. Just always be aware of their combo as much as they are going to be aware of yours.
Note: This matchup is a case for adding The Black Knight to the deck, although I am not sure where it would fit.
When mulliganing with this deck you always want to look for four cards. They are Argent Squire, Innervate, Haunted Creeper and Wrath. Echoing Ooze can also be on this list, but it is much weaker than the previous four cards. You want to mulligan away anything that isn’t these cards in hopes of starting off strong. Shade of Naxxramas is another strong early card, but it should only be kept if you have an Innervate or you have a one and two drop leading up to it. Otherwise, you don’t want to sit back and do nothing for your first two turns.
Another good rule about mulliganing is, you never want to keep anything that costs five or more. Likewise you never want to keep Savage Roar early either. While Piloted Shredder and Defender of Argus are too slow to be kept, they are great when you also have an Innervate. Even without Innervate, Keeper of the Grove and Swipe should both be kept against aggro (Mage and Hunter). Each of those cards fill great roles, and can swing crucial turns at the midgame. When it comes to Mark of the Wild you only keep it when you have something to pair it with (ooze, squire, creeper) and only against aggro. Often, the buff doesn’t do enough against control, and you want to try and get some of your more reliant minions for that match.
I hope you guys enjoyed this new take on an old favorite. It is almost (finally) April and I cannot wait to share my new deck ideas. Next week we will have our final pre-Blackrock Weekly Legends. Until then, may you always Innervate a Shade of Naxxramas on turn one, and, of course, thanks for reading!