A few new decks have risen since the release of TGT. One of those decks, which is continuing to prove its power on the ladder, is Aggro Druid. While not quite as dominant as Face Hunter once was, it is getting to the point where you need to know how to play Aggro Druid if you want to be able to rise in ranks. Every deck is going to have a different approach to this. In this guide we will explore how Midrange Druid can battle its more-aggressive counterpart, and what plays you can make to try to get the matchup to fall your way.
Midrange Druid is not a deck of mystery. Strong class cards mixed with a set combo limit the amount of card choices the list has. However, there is always room for some tweaks here and there. These tweaks can be made to fit your style or to simply react to what you are seeing on ladder. For this reason, some sample decklists are listed below to give you an idea of the card choices you might want to make
It is important to understand that when facing Aggro Druid you can’t actually know that it’s Aggro Druid. To hedge your bets, you want to mulligan against Combo Druid whenever you see Malfurion staring at you from across the game board. This will let you start out in roughly the same way, which is to focus on the early game and get ramp out early. Just as when mulliganing against combo, you need to start playing things as soon as you can. Also note that early ramp will change your mulligans, allowing you to keep higher minions.
Cards to KeepInnervate Wild Growth Wrath Darnassus Aspirant Shade of Naxxramas
Keeper of the Grove is a good keep if you have a strong opening with the coin or early ramp.
Swipe should not be kept over Wrath. However, if you have a turn two play it should be kept if it’s your only form of removal.
Piloted Shredder is a very solid four drop and should be kept with a turn two ramp or with the coin if it fits into your curve.
How to Win
There are two ways to win this matchup. One is to stay alive at all costs and slowly wear your opponent out of both cards and threats. The second is to simply race them to the combo. Each of these paths are perfectly respectable, but you have to understand which one you are going for based on the state of the game.
While not as taunt heavy as ramp, Midrange Druid has certain ways to stay alive. Once you identify your opponent as aggro Druid (though plays like Leper Gnome or Knife Juggler) you need to start thinking about the ways your can take the pressure off. Your main taunts are going to be Sludge Belcher and Druid of the Claw. An early or fast Belcher can really force aggro Druid to put on the brakes, and should always be ramped into as soon as you learn you are playing against aggro. On the other hand, Druid of the Claw should be in taunt form 99% of the time. You only want to put it in charge form for lethal or if you want to run something down.
Ancient of Lore is your other healing/taunt tool. You only really want to draw cards if you are looking for lethal or if you are ahead on the board. Any other situation five health is all too important to pass up.
One of the other ways to stay alive is through board presence. Aggro Druid, while very, very fast, is a deck that operates much more on board presence rather than charge. This means that they depend on their minions to give repeated source of damage. They try to swarm early, and then use that swarm backed up with damage or Savage Roar to end the game. However, once they lose the board the game falls out of their favor very, very quickly. That is even more true when playing against a deck that can use board control as well as Combo Druid can. For this reason, you want to use your sticky minions and removal spells to clear their board as much as possible. Once you get something down onto an empty board the game shift greatly in your favor.
The other way to play this matchup is through racing. Due to the way the deck is constructed, Aggro Druid does not really take care of its life total. All-in aggro decks cannot afford to worry about their life total, since it forces them to slow down too much. You can take advantage of this by getting into a position where you are going to beat them to the combo. This path should on be taken if you have the ramp to get to the combo before turn nine, but if you can this is a position you can take. It is normally not wise to race an aggressive deck, but if you can through Innervate or Emperor Thaurissan, you always should go for lethal.
Early Game Strategy
As soon as you see their first turns you will instantly know you are facing down Aggro Druid. Leper Gnome and Knife Juggler are both huge tip-offs, but so are cards like Druid of the Saber and Living Roots. Understand this, because the faster you realize that you’re facing Aggro Druid the faster you can change your game plan. While against Druid you want to try to play a little looser, against Aggro Druid you need to react to their threats to keep your life total as high as possible.
That starts during the first turns. Darnassus Aspirant is a very good tool, and you should get it out onto the board as soon as possible. If you don’t have Wrath you also want to coin it out if your opponent has no turn one play. This is because it will allow you to respond to their Aspirant or Knife Juggler, which you have to kill immediately. In that same vein, as soon as you want to Wrath anything that comes down on turn on turn two as it helps keep the early pressure off that builds up so well.
The final rule about the first turns is anytime you can ramp or Innervate out a taunt you should do so immediately. As power as their starts are, Aggro Druid has almost no answers to an early Sludge Belcher or Druid of the Claw. Even if you need to burn a couple of cards to play them early, you should. They will put up a wall and buy you some extra turns to add other minions to the board or to find removal.
Here you want to worry about one card and one card only: Fel Reaver. While Big Game Hunter is the best way to kill the giant mech, often it will be very difficult to deal with in one go. As such, you want to slowly wear reaver down with taunts. Aggro Druid is going to hit you in the fact for eight and completely ignore the board as soon as they get the chance. However, if they have to spend turns killing off taunt minions you will eventually be able to finish it off with removal or something like a Piloted Shredder.
On the flip side, while you need to react to Fel Reaver, they need to react to Emperor Thaurissan. The emperor is a very strong card that basically has taunt. Aggro Druid is a deck that loves going face, but they also know that Thaurissan has to die. Know this, and don’t be afraid to drop down Thaurissan down to set up your later turns and to soak up some damage.
Beyond taunts and reacting to Fel Reaver, another important element of the midgame is Savage Roar. Though you should be able to handle a lot of Aggro Druid’s early swarms, you are going to take some hits in the process. This means their bigger or high-attack minions can kill you with a well-timed roar. Know this, and continue to clear as much as you can. Always have your life total in mind during this game, constantly keeping track of the cards they’ve played and the damage they could do.
Late Game Strategy
Aggro Druid is not a deck with a real late game. They come at you and just keep coming out until you run out of threats, stabilize, or die. That means you are either going to have very low health during the late game or be so far ahead the game is all but over. While there is no reason to discuss the games where you’re super far ahead, there are two different situations where your health can be low.
If Aggro Druid gets off to a very fast start your health is probably going to fall into the single digits. When this happens you simply want to heal with Ancient of Lore, keep up all taunts and kill ever single thing your opponent drops. Even if you want to push for damage, you should always clear first since it is very easy to die once you are in this situation.
The other thing you want to watch out for is the combo, which is alive and well with Aggro Druid. Fourteen is always the benchmark life total when playing against Druid, and this game is no exception. When your life is very low you usually cannot afford to play around the combo since you need to be more proactive, but when your life is in the high teens you need to be careful. There is no reason to lose the game because you got greedy and let a 2/2 or 3/2 live.
Always look for lethal. You have a lot of ways to do damage, which can add up really quickly. Even if your lethal is constructed over two turns understand that Aggro Druid does not have a lot of ways to stop damage from getting through. If you are winning in life total, start to push your damage through and see if they blink. If they don’t and you can race them, just keep hitting them until they die. If they do react, then they have abandoned their gameplan, which is also good for you.