Featuring a Druid guide from DarkKnight, a deck that he piloted to Legend. Read on for more!
Hey I’m DarkKnight. I have been playing Hearthstone since open beta and have reached Legend Rank in Test Season 4. So, how did I come about playing Watcher Druid?
Well, it started when I was playing a Midrange Shaman deck on the ladder one night. I was able to reach as high as Rank 2 with that deck until I faced deck after deck of Hunter Aggro. After the onslaught of Hunters came variations of Warlock Aggro and Paladin Aggro. By the end of the night I had dropped from rank 2 all the way back down to rank 7. I felt extremely frustrated because in many of the matches I flat out did not have the answers to deal with a tide of minions swinging at my face.
As a result I decided to craft this deck, designed to combat the numerous Aggro decks currently on the ladder. If this feels like your experience playing in Ranked then this is the guide for you.
This is not a glamorous card by any means. It is the work horse of the deck and is the card that makes this deck so effective against Aggro decks hence, the name of the deck Watcher Druid. The stats of this card are insane for a two drop at 4/5. It has the same base stats as a Chillwind Yeti, which costs two additional mana. The downside of this card is that it can’t attack.
Now you might wonder, what is the point of playing a card that can’t attack and why is it so good against Aggro decks? Well, if you give it taunt it doesn’t need to attack. It can just sit there preventing your opponent’s minions from attacking you until they kill it or find some way to go around it. This is extremely useful as it usually takes 2 early game minions to bring down the Ancient Watcher. This really slows the tempo down of Aggro decks as they don’t have enough methods of direct damage to kill you. This allows you to survive until you can bring out other minions, taunts, and board clear spells. Generally there aren’t many ways of going around a taunted Ancient Watcher as silencing it is not an option.
If your opponent silences your Ancient Watcher to bypass the taunt you can make you opponent pay as your Ancient Watcher can now attack. The other option of getting value out of your Ancient Watchers is by silencing your own Ancient Watcher which allows it to attack. In the rest of the article I will explain card choices which will allow you to get the most from your Ancient Watchers.
Sunfury Protector / Defender of Argus
Both of these cards serve a similar role in the defense against Aggro decks. Their battlecry gives adjacent minions taunt. As I said previously, taunt is extremely useful against Aggro decks as most Aggro decks want to hit you in the face with their minions and don’t have many ways of going around multiple taunts.
Both of these cards work very well with Ancient Watchers however; they do not have to be reserved for Ancient Watchers. They can be used with any other minion in the deck to create a barrier in front of your health. They are also useful cards in matchups against control decks as you can give your less useful minions taunt to force your opponent to kill them first; letting your more useful minions stay alive for an extra turn.
Sometimes it is more advantageous to only give one minion taunt to force your opponent to target a specific minion first. The only difference between the cards is that Defender of Argus acts as the older brother of Sunfury Protector as it costs a little bit more to play but in addition to taunt it also provides neighboring minions a +1/+1 buff.
Keeper of the Grove
Keeper of the Grove is one of the best druid cards and should be included in every Druid deck. Its base stats aren’t bad for a four drop but what sets it apart is its battlecry. The ability to deal two damage when it comes into play means that often it can trade two cards for one before it dies.
The silence is also very beneficial as it allows you the ability to make buffed creatures much more manageable and deal with annoying persistent effects. What is even better is that you have the flexibility of choosing which effect you want. The value that this card brings is even higher in a Watcher Druid deck as the Keeper of the Grove’s ability to silence gives you the option of silencing your Ancient Watcher and allowing it to attack.
One point of caution is that your two Keepers of the Grove are the only methods of silence in the deck so sometimes the silence should be saved for high value enemy minions such as Ysera, Sylvanas Windrunner, or Cairne Bloodhoof; while other methods exist for getting value out of your Ancient Watchers.
Staple Druid Cards
Swipe, Wrath, Innervate, Ancient of Lore, and Druid of the Claw are all solid Druid class cards which have shown time and time again why they belong in every Druid deck.
Druid of the Claw provides another beefy taunt for Aggro decks to get through. Ancient of Lore is very useful in providing a five health boost which can often keep you out of lethal range after you have set down your wall of taunts. Most decks have some methods to do direct damage to your hero (Kill Command, Steady Shot, Soulfire, Eviscerate) but these methods are limited.
Staple Neutral Cards
Chillwind Yeti, Harvest Golem, Azure Drake are solid neutral cards which work well in many decks. Harvest Golem and Chillwind Yeti are both extremely strong cards at the three and four drop positions respectively. They are both extremely hard to remove with a single spell or minion. They are strong minions which sets you up to take control of the board in the middle of the game which is the goal of this Midrange deck.
In addition, they can survive most forms of board clear. As for Azure Drake it allows you to draw a card which is extremely beneficial. It can’t be stressed how important card draw is in this game. Generally the player that wins is the one who has drawn more cards.
Besides the card draw, Azure Drake also grants +1 spell damage which synergizes extremely well with your two spells Wrath and Swipe. Often Swipe +1 spell damage can clear most of your opponent’s board.
Savage Roar / Force of Nature
This combo has become the bread and butter finisher for Druid decks. This combo deals fourteen damage even when you have no minions on the field as Savage Roar grants +2 bonus attack to all characters, including your own hero.
The amount of damage that can be dealt in one turn is amplified significantly for each additional minion that you have on the field. Savage Roar works well with a lot of the smaller minions in this deck as some opponents may underestimate the damage of minions such as Harvest Golem and Sunfury Protector.
If people ignore them or opt to place more aggressive minions rather than minions with taunt you make them pay by unleashing the Savage Roar and dealing a ridiculous burst of damage in one turn.
Generally, you want to save both of these cards as an extremely lethal finisher but there are cases where one or both of the cards have to be sacrificed in order to bail yourself out of a sticky situation.
Big Game Hunter
This inclusion of Big Game Hunter in Druid decks has been highly debated ever since the nerf to Tinkmaster Overspark. The problem with the card is that it often sits in your hand for long periods of the game and may never be played to its full effect in many games.
The reason that I have included it in this deck is because the Druid class lacks reliable methods of neutralizing large threats such as giants, Ragnaros the Firelord, and Alexstraza and these are used in two of the more common Control decks that you will face in ranked play, namely Warrior Control and Handlock. Naturalize is not a viable option as it concedes card advantage which is too valuable in this game.
In this deck, the legendary cards that I have chosen to include are Ragnaros the Firelord, Bloodmage Thalnos, Cairne Bloodhoof, and The Black Knight.
First off, Cairne Bloodhoof is one of the best legendary cards in the game. At first, it doesn’t look too impressive as it is a 4/5 for six mana. However, with its deathrattle you are effectively getting 8/10 worth of stats for six mana which is insane value. Cairne Bloodhoof synergizes extremely well with the general strategy of the deck which is take control of the board in the middle of the game.
The Black Knight is an extremely useful card in the deck. It is included because it is extremely useful in certain matchups that Druid decks typically have troubles with, namely Handlock. In addition, many decks currently run cards such as Defender of Argus and Sunfury Protector so there are countless of targets for The Black Knight to trample over.
The next legendary card I have chosen to include is Bloodmage Thalnos. This card doesn’t seem the most impressive initially however, the +1 spell damage synergizes extremely well with the Druid spells. This is especially true of the Bloodmage Thalnos + Swipe combo as it is much easier to get off as it only costs six mana instead of nine with the Azure Drake + Swipe combo. In addition, the minions that are on the board at turn six are generally smaller which means that there is greater chance that the combo will result in a clear board. The little guy also packs a deathrattle ability which grants you the ability to draw a card which can’t be underestimated.
The last legendary that is in this deck is Ragnaros the Firelord. He was not in the initial version of the deck that I used when climbing the ladder however, I included him later as I began facing more control decks and needed a bigger threat later in the game. I think he is the best late game legendary for this Druid deck because he is one of the high cost legendary cards that can directly impact the board on the turn that he is played. This Druid deck is more Midrange oriented than Control and has trouble hanging around with Control decks in long drawn out games. Having a legendary that can deal eight damage to your opponent on the turn that it is played instantly quickens the pace of the game. It synergizes extremely well with the Savage Roar + Force of Nature combo as it costs eight mana and can deal eight damage to your opponent; setting him up at lethal range for the Savage Roar + Force of Nature combo on turn nine.
Two cards that are sometimes seen in Watcher Druid decks but have been left out are Mark of the Wild and Cenarius.
Mark of the Wild was left out because although it provides another way of taking advantage of your Ancient Watchers it is usually a bad idea to spend an entire card on just giving a buff. Many decks have ways to destroy a single minion (Deadly Shot, Shadow Word: Death, Siphon Soul, The Black Knight). This means that if they destroyed your buffed Ancient Watcher they would effectively be spending only one card to negate two of your cards, instantly putting you at a disadvantage. That is why using a minion with battlecry is the preferred method of buffing your Ancient Watcher because even if the Ancient Watcher is removed the other minion remains.
Cenarius was omitted from the deck because he feels a bit too slow. Since this is a Midrange deck and not a Control deck you want to end the game before it gets too long and Control decks can play multiple high cost minions that you will have trouble dealing with. At the end of the day he was left out and replaced with Ragnaros the Firelord because Ragnaros the Firelord provides that immediate burst of damage that your opponent cannot react to. Cenarius has to live for a turn in order for him to deal his damage. Another problem with Cenarius is that he costs 9 mana which is the same cost as the Savage Roar + Force of Nature combo. This means that the earliest that you can use these 3 cards in successive turns to attempt to end the game would be turn 9 and turn 10. Ragnaros the Firelord is a better finishing combo with Savage Roar + Force of Nature because the combo can be played one turn earlier.
This is a Midrange Druid deck which means that the objective is to secure board control in the middle of the game and to establish a wall of taunts between your hero and your opponent’s minions.
As you can see in the deck list the minions that have been selected fit with this game plan. You are trying to swarm your opponent with an endless swarm of Midrange sized minions such as Ancient Watcher, Chillwind Yeti, Cairne Bloodhoof, Keeper of the Claw, and The Black Knight.
Notice the deck packs six minions with the stat 4/5 alone and only one minion that has base stats above five. The deck also has the ability to field a total of 10 minions with taunt which is an extremely daunting task for any opponent to get through.
Wrath, Swipe, and Keeper of the Grove can be used to remove your opponent’s minions to seize board control. Azure Drake, Ancient of Lore, Bloodmage Thalnos, and Wrath can be used to ensure that you have a constant stream of cards and more minions to play. Increased card draw is also crucial as it increases the chance that you will have both parts of the Savage Roar + Force of Nature combo in your hand which makes you much more deadly.
Playing Against Aggro
If you know your opponent is playing an Aggro deck you should prioritize Ancient Watchers, Sunfury Protector, Wrath, and Harvest Golem in your starting hand. Always hold onto Innervate in your starting hand and think about things that you can innervate into. Good picks are Chillwind Yeti, Druid of the Claw, and Keeper of the Grove. Keeper of the Grove might not seem like a good card to innervate to but its battlecry is effective at killing quite a few of the dangerous early game minions that Aggro decks like to run such as Knife Juggler, Flame Imp, Dire Wolf Alpha, Faerie Dragon.
The main focus in these matchups should be to bring out as many taunts as possible and to use Swipe if the board gets too out of hand. In many cases you will have to play Sunfury Protector on turn two when you have no minions to make use of her battlecry because they played a 3/2 minion.
It is important to secure the field with multiple taunts as many decks run methods of removing a single taunt (Sap, Ironbeak Owl, The Black Knight). In these matchups it is important to not greed for card draw with Ancient of Lore as it is often better to opt for the heal instead. This is the case even if you have multiple taunts on the field because as I said previously, many decks have some methods of dealing direct damage to your hero.
These games should be rather easy if you can get an early Ancient Watcher down with taunt as most Aggro decks have to trade two cards to remove your Ancient Watcher. In addition, this lengthens the game and buys you time to place additional taunts down to reinforce your control of the board. You should be trying to clear your opponent’s side of the board and your opponent will eventually run out of minions as most of yours are stronger and your opponent will be forced to trade two minions to kill each one of yours.
Playing Against Control
Once again in terms of mulligans, Ancient Watchers, Sunfury Protector, Wrath, and Harvest Golem should be kept in your starting hand. Always hold onto innervate in your starting hand and think about things that you can innervate into. Good picks are Chillwind Yeti and Keeper of the Claw. Keeper of the Grove is not a good option here as many controls decks don’t play many minions early and Keeper of the Grove should be saved in case you need to silence a minion later in the game.
Against most Control decks you want to play as many minions as possible and keep his board clear. You should also be looking to lower his hero’s health so that you can set up a finisher with Savage Roar + Force of Nature. If your opponent is getting low on health you should try to play as many minions as possible to set up a play with Savage Roar on your next turn.
In most of these matchups you don’t want the game to progress too long as this is a Midrange deck not a Control deck. As such, you don’t have the answers for multiple late game threats such as Ysera, Alexstrasza, Ragnaros the Firelord, and Giants.
This is a fairly easy matchup and one of the main reasons for playing this deck. Try to get one or two taunts out and watch out for Misdirection. Try to limit the number of minions you have on the field to minimize the effect of Unleash the Hounds. I recommend only keeping two big minions on the field and it is crucial to use heal on Ancient of Lore because Hunters can do decent direct damage with Kill Command and Steady Shot.
This should also be an easy matchup. Keeper of the Grove and Wrath are quite good as they allow you to get rid of dangerous threats despite the taunts that they use. Zoolock has trouble dealing with all of your taunts and eventually your opponent will end up lowering his own health to lethal in order to keep up with your minions.
This should be an easy matchup as many of your minions are at four attack and sitting at a sweet spot that is immune to many of the Priest cards such as Shadow Madness, and both Shadow Words. Just watch out when using Defender of Argus as it can bring some of your minions into range those cards. Many of your minions are also at 5 health or more so they can live through the Auchenai Soulpriest + Circle of Healing combo.
Aggro Paladin should be an easy matchup as they don’t have many ways to get through your taunts. Swipe is quite good in this matchup as it can get rid of the divine shields easily. Try not to have too many cards in your hand to minimize the amount of cards that the Paladin can draw with Divine Favor.
Control Paladin is not really played in the current meta. You should be able to overwhelm him with minions as long as he doesn’t kill too many of your minions with a Wild Pyromancer + Equality combo.
Against most Rogue decks multiple taunts will win you the game. Generally Rogue decks cannot deal with multiple Midrange threats. Having only one taunt is usually not very safe as most Rogue decks run sap.
You should consider using Ancient of Lore’s for healing as Rogue decks can deal decent direct damage with Eviscerate. Miracle Rogue is a slightly rougher matchup as you are a slower deck which will allow your opponent time to draw the entire combo. Keeper of the Grove should be saved as a silence for Edwin Van Cleef.
This should be an easy matchup as many of the Mage spells aren’t very effective in this matchup. Most of your minions have more than four health so Flamestrike can’t kill them in one shot.
Their Polymorph is also not very useful in this matchup as you don’t run many high value targets. You should be able to win the matchup because you have multiple methods of card draw while most Mage decks that are popular on the ladder don’t have many methods of card draw.
In the mirror match The Black Knight will be instrumental. You should be looking for a finisher with Savage Roar throughout the game. Defender of Argus is also critical in the game as it allows your minions to have the upper hand against your opponent’s minions.
This is probably the hardest matchup because it is difficult for you to deal with multiple giants, especially an early Mountain Giant. You should play aggressively early on and try to deal as much damage before multiple giants are played. Big Game Hunter and The Black Knight are the cards that will help you win this matchup. I would save a Keeper of the Grove to silence a taunt later in the game.
This is one of the tougher matchups because it is hard to end games against Warrior Control decks early due to the amount of armor they get. Shield Block + Shield Slam works quite well against you because most of your minions have at most 5 health.
In order to win this matchup you need to be aggressive early and limit your opponent’s benefits from Acolyte of Pain and Armorsmith. You can win if your opponent is unable to draw too many cards or prolong the game. Watch out for Brawl and try to bait it out with minions that can survive it to some degree such as Harvest Golem and Cairne Bloodhoof.
Shaman decks have many removal spells for your Midrange creatures. It is also hard for you to deal with the army of totems that Shaman decks typically summon. Shaman decks also have many methods of card draw and will typically draw more cards than you.
In order to win this matchup you need to try to kill any minions that give additional spell damage and try to bait out Hex before playing Cairne Bloodhoof and Ragnaros the Firelord. Big Game Hunter can be used on Fire Elemental when it has been buffed by Flametongue Totem.
One good thing about this deck is that most of the legendary cards are not crucial and running a budget version of the deck is very viable. In terms of importance I would say Cairne Bloodhoof is the most important legendary card in the deck because this deck generally tries to take board control in the middle of the game and Cairne Bloodhoof gives so much value as a 6 drop. If you don’t have the card I would replace it with a Faceless Manipulator. Faceless Manipulator allows you to match any card he plays and is great in budget decks as it evens the playing field against players running strong legendary cards. Faceless Manipulator + Big Game Hunter is an especially terrifying combo when your opponent plays cards such as Ragnaros the Firelord or Alexstrasza.
It is hard to directly replace The Black Knight and he is quite indispensible in certain match ups. In the budget version I opt to replace him with a Loot Hoarder. Loot Hoarder does quite well against Aggro decks as it can trade 1 for 1 with most 2 drops and in addition, it nets you an extra card. Both of which increases the likelihood that you will be able to drop a big taunt minion to stem the tide. Loot Hoarders are also decent against control decks as sometimes control decks don’t have many playable minions early in the game and the Loot Hoarder can net some free damage. In addition, card draw is very important in Control matchups and often the player that wins is the player that has drawn more cards.
For quite some time, I played this deck without Ragnaros the Firelord and it worked pretty well. In many games it is better to drop multiple minions instead of Ragnaros the Firelord to set up a Force of Nature + Savage Roar combo the following turn. I would replace Ragnaros the Firelord by adding another Azure Drake.
Bloodmage Thalnos could be replaced with a Loot Hoarder as sometimes Bloodmage Thalnos is just used as a method of card draw. Most of the epics in the deck are crucial and cannot be substituted with a different card.
Watcher Druid is an extremely strong deck in the current meta and is a very good deck to ladder with. It is so strong because it is very effective against the countless number Aggro decks on the ladder at the same time it can hold its own against control decks.
I feel that this deck does have some harder matchups but no matchup is unwinnable. I encourage everyone to try it out, even if you are lacking some of the Legendary cards. This is an extremely powerful deck that is also extremely fun to play.
Feel free to contact me and watch my stream!
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