Weekly Legends: High Roll Druid
This week we ask a very important question: who needs Innervateanyway? Druids have taken a large hit from the recent nerfs, but that does not mean they are dead. Far from it. To prove it, we are going to break down a top 3 legend ramp list that cuts all the jade fluff and goes back to what Druid is so good at. This build is a high-roll deck that seeks to push out large minions as fast as possible. While you no longer have access to the zero mana boost, you can still ramp in a million ways. Not only that, but the one-two punch of Nourishand Ultimate Infestationstill gives you a range of ways to take over a game.
This section will explain certain key cards to the list as a whole.
Now that you no longer can explode up two mana whenever you want, you need ways to stay alive. Losing Innervateis not big deal from a power standpoint, but it is a problem from a consistency one. Without being able to adjust your curve on the fly, you can get exposed. That is especially a problem against faster decks, which can run you over before you get properly set up. For that reason, Earthen Scalesis a very important piece to this build. Not only does it help you stay alive, but it gives you a gigantic chunk of health for an extremely low investment. Living is one of the hardest things to do with ramp, and this enables you to survive into the late-game while also sticking to your curve. Your ramp often gives you extra mana work with, and the cheap spell is a great way to use it.
Playing Earthen Scalesis a tricky subject because it is going to change every game depending on board state and matchup. Sometimes you need to use it as soon as you possibly can to deny damage or top decked burn, sometimes you want to wait a turn or two to get greedy, and sometimes it is best to save it for late in the game when you can combo it with a gigantic body. Treat this card like a win condition against faster decks and do not worry what you're using it on. Even gaining five armor against Pirate or Hunter can go a long way. However, if you can get that extra turn or two to gain an extra four plus armor, it is almost always worth the risk.
One of the core pieces here, Bright-Eyed Scoutis a (potentially) unfair card that helps push a deck like this one from good to great. Yes, this card can backfire, and when it does it can be an absolute disaster (five mana Wild Growthanyone?). However, when the 3/4 hits any big minion (and there are a lot of big minions here) you are going to just cruise. The idea behind this card is that you play it as soon as you possibly can because, as it is just a 3/4, it gets worse as the game goes on. You no longer have Innervatein this one, which means you are going to be capped at ten mana. You cannot do unfair things with twelve plus anymore. The scout helps you get around that hitch by cutting down your high-cost cards. Even a one mana discount on something like Dark Arakkoacan help you smooth out your curve.
It is important to note that Bright-Eyed Scoutis going to take a little bit of work to get going. As mentioned, you are going to be under the gun early in a lot of matchups. Your opponent is going to start slamming down bodies as fast as they can while you try to get to your long game. The four drop is strong, but the turn you use it is also a turn where you do not ramp or put up a taunt. For that reason, while you want to get it down as easy as possible, you don't want to force it. Make a read and go from there. If you're taking big hits you should play defensively and work to get to your other threats. This card is not great once you have ten mana, but it is not worth dying to make it work.
Mana. In the past I have praised Nourishas being one of the best card draw engines in the game, but times have changed. Ultimate Infestation(as predicted by yours truly) is a card that has greatly changed the landscape of ramp decks. In the past, you would use Nourish to draw 99 percent of the time because you needed cards to fuel your early ramp spells. However, now that you want to push to ten mana to set up infestation, you typically want to just get the crystals. Even if you don't have infestation in your hand, playing to it as one of your outs can be a good way to win games. Setting up a big turn to play a finisher is also a great way to start putting pressure on your opponent and take back a lost board.
Now, that does not mean you are never going to draw with the spell. It just means you are just going to do it much less often than you typically want to. Your deck is extremely top heavy, which means you have some extremely powerful top decks. In fact, once you get to seven or more mana nearly everything you draw is going to be an instant threat. This is great, but it also means your early game is going to be quite inconsistent. Do not leave yourself open for damage and do not get too greedy. If you have no removal and cannot do much with extra mana, you should take the chance to draw some extra cards. However, if you have strong plays with two extra man, that's the route you need to go. That plan should stay consistent, regardless of what deck you're up against.
Even at six mana, Spreading Plagueis still good. Very, very good. The spell is another great way to stay alive and helps you lock down boards against any class or archetype. It is at its best against aggro, but it does a fine job of holding off control and midrange as well. Even a single 1/5 taunt can go a long way, but being able to get multiple really helps. Ramp operates in a way where it uses taunts to buy time in order to play big bodies. This card is one of those tools, a powerful spell that gives you a bit of extra longevity. In fact, pushing yourself towards this with early ramp can be a win condition against fast openings or damage-based decks. Never underestimate the power of extra taunts, and never skip the chance to get down a few bodies when you're under the gun.
As with so many odd cards we have cover in my series, one of the reasons Spreading Plagueis so strong is because almost nobody is going to expect it. There are always going to be certain cards that just blindside your opponent in the right situation. Specific tech cards can do this well, and that is exactly what Spreading Plaguedoes against aggressive decks. I have noticed that almost no fast list plays around this card anymore. Something about nerfs is that they almost often remove the nerfed card from player's minds. This creates a strong place for you because people will constantly over-extend into the scarabs. Try your best to set this up, and do not shy away from waiting an extra turn to bait your opponent into putting down more minions. If they think you have it, that one extra beat should be enough to deter them from playing around it.
I want to finish this section by discussing the idea of ramp as a whole. These type of decks can be very powerful, but they are not easy to play. That goes for both on-board gameplay and mulligans. You are going to be in a difficult situation from the start, always doing your best to take pressure off while also moving up your curve. For example, do you kill a 3/2 on turn two with Wrathor do you use Wild Growth? This is one of the most important decisions you will make, and it comes up quite often. Always look to what you can do with your mana, and then make your decisions accordingly. There is no reason to prioritize ramp if you can do nothing with the crystals, but it also makes more sense to power out a turn four Dark Arakkoathan just using a Wrath. In that same vein, do not be afraid to play to your top decks. There are going to be times where you lose the board and have little outs. In those situations it is best to simply get as much mana as you can and trust in your deck. Trying to be defensive with no defensive tools simply does not work.
Some of the most common matchups I see while playing ladder.
While there is no doubt the meta is still shifting, Priest remains a constant. Anduin sits at the top with many different forms, but none of them are as powerful as Kazakus (or Razakus) Priest. The list is very strong, and comes with so many tools that the fact it is a one-of build does not matter. The way you are going to play this game is by running out threats early and often. Treat this matchup as if you're playing against pure control. That is, do everything in your power to run your opponent out of removal. Once you stick something like Yseraor The Lich Kingyou should be able to run away with the game. However, you need to watch out for Shadowreaper Anduin. The death knight is the only way Priest can clear a full board and you never want to play too far into it. Just one or two big minions should be enough to secure a win.
One of the most important parts of this game is going to be your health. These games, unless you get a huge Bright-Eyed Scout, are typically going to go long. For that reason, your opponent will almost always get to their finishing combo of Shadowreaper Anduin/Raza the Chained. That is going to give them access to a ton of damage that you need to be able to rise above. Kun the Forgotten Kingis great for gaining ten armor, and you should play Malfurion the Pestilentas soon as possible. Gaining three armor a turn is invaluable and will likely give you a lot of extra turns against your opponent's constant damage. It also helps to be greedy with Earthen Scalesin this one.
The new flavor of the week, Tempo Rogue is a very strong midrange-ish build that combines hefty minions with powerful burst to kill people out of nowhere. This deck is powerful, but it should be a winnable matchup if you know what your opponent is up to. The way Rogue works is they use a small early board to build into much bigger midgame threats. Then, once they've solidified a board state, they try to end the game as fast as they can. Your job is to resist that push with a combination of big taunts and cheap removal. That is not going to be easy to do, especially because of their ample removal. However, once you get a taunt to stick you should be able to take this one down.
The number one rule of this game is to watch out for your opponent's burst (as I did not properly do in the video). This new version of Rogue has a lot of "slow" minions, but they also pack a ton of ways to push damage through. Leeroy Jenkinsis going to be their finisher of choice, but cards like Southsea Captainand Prince Kelesethalso go a long way in terms of damage. Always calculate what your opponent can do. Beyond that, you also need to know the different way your opponent can get around walls. Sap, while uncommon, is still something you need to keep on your mind, and Vilespine Slayercrushes big bodies. Play around the plant as best you can by always putting out your second-best threat first.
While it is waning, I am still seeing quite a bit of Aggro Druid on my climb. The deck misses Innervate, but it still explosive and does a ton of unfair things that other decks cannot. For that reason, it is as scary as ever and can kill you out of nowhere. While you are technically favored in this one, that really depends on the early turns. As mentioned, you mulligans are going to be a bit scattered. If you get stuck with a couple ten mana threats you are simply going to have no chance. To resist that you need to keep all of your early or low cost cards. It does not matter what those are so much as you have something to do during the first turns of the game. You need to race to any taunt you can find and slam it down as soon as possible. Aggro is not great at beating back big bodies. However, also note that you need to prioritize removal over anything else. Unless you have an extremely powerful ramp target, you never want to leave yourself exposed. Yes, a 2/2 may not seem terrifying, but when that suddenly becomes a 4/4 alongside a board of 2/2's you are going to be in big trouble.
Rexxar saw a brief explosion after the nerfs, then he died down, then he shot back up. Midrange Hunter is a deck that has always been strong in shifting times, and that remains true now. This is probably going to be one of the most difficult matches for you because, more than any other deck, Hunter can punish you for starting out slow. It is extremely easy for the class to take over the board. So easy that even spending one turn on Wild Growthor Jade Blossomcan drop you into a hole. To make up for that, you need to rely on your taunts or big minions to drag you back once things get out of control. Be aware of the way Hunter paces the game and react accordingly. It is always important to kill beasts, but getting a crystal is often going to be worth more in the long run. The only exception is when you can take out your opponent's whole board before turn four or if you need to kill a high-problem threat like Tundra Rhino.
This is a two-phase game that, in order to play, you need to not get nervous. It is very easy to abandon your plan as soon as you see a minion or two on the other side of the board, but doing that usually means you won't be able to ramp. That then leaves you exposed on the back end. Rather, the way you pace this match is by first ramping (and taking some damage in the process) and then catching up by forcing your opponent to fight through your big bodies. While your top-end may not always be enough to pull you back, you cannot play Hunter's game. You are going to have this one once you stabilize, and you need to race to that stabilization as quickly as you can. This is another matchup where healing is key. Try to always get at least six armor from Earthen Scales.
As touched upon before, you need to be extremely careful with mulligans with this deck. You have a lot of bad early cards and getting stuck with them can be game over on the spot. Your must keeps are going to be Wild Growth, Wrathand Jade Blossom. You need to do what you can to get at least one of those in every game, including giving up otherwise strong plays. Beyond that, you should always keep Bright-Eyed Scoutwith curve or early ramp, and Swipeagainst aggro. Nourishis good if you have early ramp to support it, and the same rule can go for Spreading Plague.
However, as noted, you never want to give away a decent hand for a terrible one. For example, if you have a turn two Wrathand a turn four Coin/Nourishyou should just keep the Nourish. Yes, it does not fit into the curve, but giving away that spell for a dead, end-game threat simply isn't worth it. This is a deck where keeping your awkward hands can still be better than doing nothing for the first four turns and dying.
What is dead may never die. Many people have written of Malfurion, but this list shows Druid has some gas left in the tank. While I am not a big fan of Jade (or aggro for that matter), I do love getting big. Nothing is as cool as gigantic legendary minions, and this deck is chock full of them. I mean just packed. If you're a Druid player who is bummed about the nerfs, this serves as a great remedy for that. Just be careful with your mulligans and always prioritize taunts over everything else. Until next week, may you always Ultimate Infestationon turn five.