When it comes to combo decks, Murloc Paladin is one of the strongest around. Not only does it have the healing and taunts needed to hold its own against aggro, but its numerous and reliable combo pieces help it crush control. However, it can be weak to midrange decks, and none are stronger than Midrange Druid. In this guide we will break down the matchup between the two in order to show how, while it may be hard, Murloc Paladin can out-race Druid through card draw, mid-game minions, and solid removal.
Though Murloc Paladin, so dependent on combo pieces and certain removal spells, has a very strong core, there are a lot of tweaks you can make to the rest of the deck. Some decks like to run extra removal, while other lists are more dependent on taunts and healing. The end game plan is always going to be the same (kill them with murlocs), but you can choose how you want to get there. Each version has its own pros and cons, and you just want to find one that will best suite your playstyle. To help with this decision, two decks have been placed below.
Every Druid deck these days loves to ramp, which means you need to start putting down minions early on in the game. This will help you hold the board and trade into Druid’s minions as they come down. Always mulligan for your early plays, no matter what they do. A body is more important than anything else here. Beyond that, you do want to watch for your larger removal and always make sure to hold onto [card]Equality[/card], whether you have a way to trigger it or not.
Cards to Keep
[card]Acolyte of Pain[/card]
[card]Solemn Vigil can be kept[/card] if you have a minion-heavy opening.
[card]Wild Pyromancer[/card] is a solid keep with the coin or other cheap spells.
Both [card]Antique Healbot[/card] and [card]Sludge Belcher[/card] can be kept if you have a strong opening and the coin.
[card]Old Murk-Eye[/card] is a good keep with the coin.
[card]Truesilver Champion[/card] should always be kept with the coin.
[card]Keeper of Uldaman[/card] is a strong keep with a good opening and the coin.
[toc]How to Win[/toc]
Though you are a combo deck, you do have a fair amount of minions at your disposal. To win this game, you need to get those minions onto the board as fast and reliably as you can. Even something as simple as a [card]Murloc Warleader[/card] can really offset Druid’s plan and force them to use some of their limited removal instead of playing a minion. While you are a control deck, never underestimate just how powerful tempo plays can be. Druid is a class that sticks to one plan, and anytime you can force them to do anything other than put down a minion, you should.
The other part (as always) of playing against Midrange Druid is to keep your life total up above that all-important fourteen. Their combo comes down much faster than yours (turn nine and nothing needs to die to trigger it), and you need to get as much out of your healing as you can. Your deck has a ton of stall options, but you need to make sure to use them at the right time. However, when it comes to healing you don’t want to wait. Anytime you are in combo range you need to get back up a safer health.
Finally, apply pressure when you can. Druid’s lack of removal makes them very weak to multiple minions on the board. Yes, you are a slow control deck, but you also have a lot of solid midrange cards. [card]Aldor Peacekeeper[/card], [card]Keeper of Uldaman[/card], [card]Sludge Belcher[/card], your murlocs and even your hero power can build a pretty solid presence as the game goes on. If you ever get control of the board, you should push as hard as you can. Not only does this make your combo stronger, but it also really puts Druid on their heels.
[toc]Early Game Strategy[/toc]
Druid usually opens the game in a pretty slow way. They either are going to ramp with [card]Darnassus Aspirant[/card] or [card]Wild Growth[/card], or they are going to play something like [card]Living Roots[/card] or [card]Shade of Naxxramas[/card]. Each of those cards is not very impactful, instead they build for the later game. If you can play some minions down early you can really force their hand.
However, also note that Druid has access to [card]Innervate[/card], which brings them from zero to sixty in a matter of seconds. It is hard to keep track of the cards they could Innervate out, but you want to be ready for it if it comes. Just always try to have an [card]Equality[/card], [card]Keeper of Uldaman[/card] or [card]Aldor Peacekeeper[/card] to respond to Druid if they ever go big early.
[card]Doomsayer[/card] is an incredibly powerful early removal option. Druid’s only real answer for the two drop is a [card]Keeper of the Grove[/card], which doesn’t come down until turn four. If you can play this in response to [card]Living Roots[/card], an [card]Innervate[/card]d [card]Shade of Naxxramas[/card] or [card]Darnassus Aspirant[/card] you can buy some very key time.
Another big part of the early game is [card]Acoltye of Pain[/card] and [card]Murloc Warleader[/card]. Both of these cards are important parts of your curve that can take Druid out of their set plan. Acolyte is very important for draw, and Warleader is a threat. Druid will have to take the necessary time to get rid of each of those cards, which is not how they want to build their curve. If you have these on turn three, get them down.
The middle turns of the game are where Druid starts to set up their ending combo. You have to work really hard to make sure that doesn’t happen. Always clear off their minions and do everything you can to build some type of board. If start to slip behind, use your AOE and healing to drag the game out. The longer this contest goes the better chance you have of winning.
The two best cards for these turns are [card]Aldor Peacekeeper[/card] and [card]Keeper of Uldaman[/card]. Druid is going to steadily grow their minions, and you need to be able to take them down as much as you can. This not only helps you set up cards like a mid game [card]Doomsayer[/card], but it also keeps off pressure. Each of the minions are basically removal spells, and you should not hesitate to use them whenever you are facing a giant minion across the table.
Constantly look for an opportunity to play [card]Equality[/card]. This is by far your best option against Malfurion, and you need to time it perfectly to catch as much in the AOE as possible. While sometimes you just have to burn it to stay alive, you should wait as long as possible before clearing. This is especially true if you are also holding healing.
[card]Doomsayer[/card] is also very strong during these turns, especially if they have already used a [card]Keeper of the Grove[/card]. While it can be a good removal spell, it also works very nicely as a preemptive play. For instance, dropping this onto an empty board on turn six to take away Druid’s turn seven. That type of play may seem weak, but it keeps your priority while also allowing you to buy an extra turn towards ten.
Note: There are some games where you should keep [card]Murloc Warleader[/card] for these turns if you can combine it with [card]Bluegill Warrior[/card]. That combo serves as a four damage removal spell that also nets your a 3/3.
[toc]Late Game Strategy[/toc]
You are going to win with your combo, and they are going to win with theirs. That is how the end of the game breaks down, which does not normally bode well, as their trees come down one turn (or more with ramp) earlier than your murlocs. Not only that, but they also do not need any activators to hit you for fourteen. The way you combat that is by healing, clearing and playing as conservatively as possible until you can enact your finisher.
While they may come down earlier, these are the turns where you need to get value out of [card]Sludge Belcher[/card] and [card]Antique Healbot[/card]. These two cards (along with [card]Lay on Hands[/card]) are how you stay above fourteen health. You basically need to spend every turn trying not to die. Most of the time that is going to be done with removal, but these are a little better because they also give you some board presence as well.
The first [card]Anyfin Can Happen[/card] is a lot less important than the second. This is important to note because you don’t need to use the first one to end the game. While it will win the game from time to time, don’t be afraid to play it earlier as a clear or as board presence. A board of a few murlocs can really cause trouble for Druid, and the clear the chargers can give you can also give you some extra turns. Lethal is always going to be the first mode with this spell, but understand its other uses as well.
Watch out for [card]Loatheb[/card]. The five drop is pretty much a staple in any Druid list, and not keeping him in mind can lead to some disastrous blowouts. The best way to respond to the fungus-lover is by keeping an [card]Antique Healbot[/card] or [card]Sludge Belcher[/card] in hand just in case.