Man, oh, man is it a good time to be a Hearthstone player. While there are some clear cut “best decks” out there, the meta is wide open. A ton of different lists are making the climb to legend and each class has something to play. That being said, everyone who follows this or my Brewmaster series knows how much I despise Midrange Druid. It is by far the most stale, one-dimensional deck in the game as it revolves around a set finishing combo in the exact same way that Patron Warrior and Miracle Rogue once did. Because of that, I have been dying for someone to take a non-midrange Druid list to legend. Adviltripp answered my prayers by creating a aggro Druid list unlike any I have ever seen.
This is a deck that plays a lot more like Zoo than anything else. It uses small or sticky minions to swarm the board, and then uses that presence to do a lot of damage very, very quickly. Yes, this deck still mainly relies on [card]Savage Roar[/card] as a finisher. However, not only is there no full combo, but it plays a lot of interesting cards to make roar work. This is not a “jam in the combo” Druid deck. Rather, it is a deck that is shaped by Savage Roar and the idea of cheap minions. There are many interesting ideas in this list, all of which come together to create a very cool, cohesive whole that can end a lot of games very, very quickly.
[cardinsert card=”dragon-egg” float=”right”]
There are so many strange cards in this list it was really hard to narrow down which ones I wanted to cover. I decided to start this section off with [card]Dragon Egg[/card] because it is a minion that has seen basically zero play since it was first released in Blackrock. A one mana minion with no attack is the definition of underwhelming, even if it can spawn numerous 2/1 dragons. However, in a deck that can reliably enable it the card can be quite strong. This list goes all in on minion buffs and gives you a lot of ways to allow the egg to attack. Those include [card]Mark of the Wild[/card] (which will be discussed below), [card]Power of the Wild[/card], [card]Lance Carrier[/card], [card]Defender of Argus[/card] and [card]Savage Roar[/card]. Each of those buffs the egg and allows it to get some sort of value. While it is not quite as strong as [card]Nerubian Egg[/card], it is a solid one drop that helps you build the board as the game goes on.
Another important note about this card is how well it plays into the exact type of deck this wants to be. Not only does the egg help create swarms of small, aggressive minions, but it is incredibly resilient to AOE. Damage occurs before the dragons spawn, so even if your opponent uses something like [card]Holy Nova[/card] to clear it will still get you a 2/1. While that may not seem like a huge deal, anytime you can keep something on board you are going to be ahead. Part of this deck is like playing aggro and part of it is like playing tempo. In that way you want to think of this a lot like Zoo, where something as simple as a 1/1 or a 2/1 matters just because it is another threat to have.
[cardinsert card=”mark-of-the-wild” float=”left”]
Mark of the Wild
One of the more situational cards in the list, [card]Mark of the Wild[/card] is a card that has been largely overshadowed by its brother, [card]Power of the Wild[/card]. While Power is also a big part of this list, [card]Mark of the Wild[/card] has a very important role to play as well. Generally, buffs in Hearthstone are seen as weak. This is because, not only do they need minions to trigger (making them very poor topdecks or lategame cards), but if your opponent kills one of your buffed minion it is often a 2-for-1. In that way, they are usually card disadvantage, which is something all decks seek to avoid. However, there is an exception to that rule, which is buffs that are particularly strong. Mark of the Wild (+2/+2 and taunt) follows that by being an extremely strong buff. Not only can you use the extra stats to take over the early game or push damage though, but this card also has the added versatility to “turn on” your deathrattle minions and protect some of your more important ones. It also is a great tool against many aggressive decks out there and, like [card]Defender of Argus[/card], can help you win a race. Very few people expect this card to come out of a Druid, aggro or not, and you can really hit them where it hurts with the factor of surprise.
[cardinsert card=”imp-master” float=”right”]
Out of all the cards on this list, [card]Imp Master[/card] is by far the most obscure. It has been a long time (or never) since this card has seen constructed play. The reason for that is mostly the body. A 1/5 for three, regardless of what ability it has, is usually not going to cut it in modern Hearthstone. It doesn’t trade well and gets embarrassed by other popular midgame threats like [card]Piloted Shredder[/card]. However, as with so many other cards here, you have to evaluate this beyond just its stats. Imp Master serves a very important purpose in this deck, which is to create board presence with one card. Yes, it most often will die right after it is played, but any turn you can have this out you are going to be at least getting a 1/1. Just like with [card]Dragon Egg[/card] that really adds up, and any minion on the board represents a solid chunk of damage when setting up [card]Savage Roar[/card]. This also has the added bonus of giving Secret Paladin absolute fits by being able to constantly trading away their recruits, and is really, really strong when buffed by spells or minions.
When discussing aggro or swarm decks I often talk about the power of cards like [card]Dr. Boom[/card] or [card]Imp Gang Boss[/card]. This is because they are all “armies in a can”, meaning they can build a board on their own. In that way they are a great form of card advantage that enables you to hold your other minions back and better play around AOE. This card follows that same principle, enabling you to get board presence in the same way that [card]Violet Teacher[/card] does. A constant supply of 1/1’s not only gives you more ways to set up lethal, but it also gives your more buff targets and, once again like teacher, can create an army when combined with [card]Power of the Wild[/card]. While no means a “take over the game” card, the master is another solid minion in a deck full of them.
[cardinsert card=”hobgoblin” float=”left”]
Beyond my own love for this card (which is very deep I assure you), [card]Hobgoblin[/card] has always been extremely strong in swarm or swarm style decks. There are a lot of strong one attack minions in Hearthstone, and they all usually work well together. This deck is an example of that, running things like [card]Imp Master[/card], [card]Annoy-o-Tron[/card], [card]Haunted Creeper[/card], [card]Echoing Ooze[/card] and [card]Jeeves[/card]. All of those cards are solid plays in their own right, but they all become extremely powerful when given Hobgoblin’s buff. Just know that it is extremely unlikely this thee drop is going to live for more than a turn, so get your buffs when you can. Another reason that Hobgoblin has always been extra strong in Druid is because of [card]Innervate[/card]. Just like [card]Cairne Bloodhoof[/card] back in the day, you can get some disgusting openings with the seemingly-innocous three drop and steal the win on turn two. Yes, that rarely happens, but it does happen and the potential is always there.
Always look to get value when playing this card. The best Hobgoblin decks (much like this one) only have Hobgoblin as a tool rather than a win condition. Here you are generally going to be playing the Zoo game of board control aggro, but this three drop also lets you completely steal some games that you normally wouldn’t win. For that reason throwing this out without getting a buff is almost always a mistake. Even in games where you find yourself getting set back by AOE or when you’re drawing blanks, this card can put you right back in a hurry. As with [card]Jeeves[/card], this is a card that you can topdeck later on in the game when you just got cleared and suddenly be threatening once again. You never know if that moment is going to come, but it most certainly won’t if you waste this on turn three or four.
[cardinsert card=”cult-master” float=”right”]
Defender of Argus
I have said it once and I will say it a thousand times: to be a good aggro deck you need to be able to beat aggro decks. The reason for that is many aggressive decks (like Aggro Warrior or Aggro Shaman) have a big weakness to other aggro decks. Most rush-down lists are built to largely operate within their own sphere and force the opponent to adapt to them. Once that plan breaks down and they are under pressure, they crumble. That means they usually need some way to fight back against other fast decks, be it [card]Feral Spirit[/card], [card]Druid of the Claw[/card] or [card]Explosive Trap[/card]. Here, it is [card]Defender of Argus[/card]. This is the card that helps you win races, and is the surprise that suddenly catches a ton of decks off guard. Even certain control or midrange builds normally don’t expect this kind of thing in a Druid deck, but it really shines during a race where your opponent ignored the board and suddenly became vulnerable.
Another point I wanted to mention while discussing the outline was the fact that you should always be thinking about which cards you hit with [card]Defender of Argus[/card]’ battlecry. Sometimes that is really easy, such as in situations where you have two eggs on board and you give them both some attack. However, most of the time playing defender is going to be a little more complicated. People tend to caught up on defender’s buff while ignoring its most important ability: it protects things. When using defender you want to always be looking to protect your “high target” creatures from your opponent. A lot of the time that is going to be Hobgoblin or another key threat, but also there are many games where you want to hide your sticky minions behind other cards to give you answers to AOE.
The five decks I see the most on ladder.
[cardinsert card=”flame-imp” float=”left”]
Fighting against Zoo is very interesting because in a lot of ways this feels like a mirror match. However, each deck has one major difference. Zoo will try to trump the game with their giant minions and you are going to end it with [card]Savage Roar[/card]. As such, most of this game is just two people trying to get ahead on board in any way that they can. You want to primarily focus on minion combat, only pushing damage through when it is absolutely necessary to. This is especially important to note because you are going to usually end the game with a giant finisher, so early damage is not as important. Use your buffs and swarms to get ahead and clear everything they play. Just as Zoo can do nothing without some type of board presence, you are very weak to decks that start out faster than you. Utilize all of your resources and trade as much as you can to prevent that from happening.
While sometimes it may feel bad to use a buff just to get rid of a minion, it is always the right choice if you still have priority when it is over. In fact, priority is the number one asset in this match and you always need to be trying to get it. In that same vein, don’t be afraid to use [card]Savage Roar[/card] as a clear in this matchup. Zoo runs a lot of big minions, and you can begin to get outclassed if your ignore too many of them. Unless you are setting up a turn two lethal (or are just very close to lethal) you never want to hold a roar and then fall behind on board. There is a second in the deck, and you absolutely have to have some board presence to stand up to them in the later turns (if there are any). They are going to play their large minions eventually, but so much of this is focused on the early and middle turns you only want to be thinking about things like [card]Dr. Boom[/card] on the turn right before they come down.
[cardinsert card=”tirion-fordring” float=”right”]
Secret Paladin is still public enemy number one, which means you still have to be ready to beat it. While some Druid decks can combat Paly with their removal and midrange threats like [card]Azure Drake[/card] or [card]Druid of the Claw[/card], you are not one of those decks. In fact, you don’t even know how to get big. To make up for that difference you need to end this game before turns six/seven (or pretty much have the game locked up by the point) or you are going to get pummeled. While that may sound bleak, the good news to that is you are often going to have the board, which usually enables a win. That is because Secret Paladin is not a deck that likes fighting through swarms of minions. Almost no popular versions of the deck run [card]Consecration[/card] anymore, and their only removal is their minions. You can easily take over this game early on by trading well and making the most out of your buffs. Even something as simple as [card]Mark of the Wild[/card] on a [card]Nerubian Egg[/card] to trade into [card]Knife Juggler[/card] can really get the ball rolling. Just as with Zoo you want to look for anything that will give you some sort of priority on the board. Once you have that, spam as many minions as you can to kill them before they can rebound with their larger threats.
[cardinsert card=”northshire-cleric” float=”left”]
I thought, given enough time and attrition, that Priest would fade back into anonymity on the ladder. Boy, was I wrong. The class seems to just keep growing and growing as people experiment with different minions, buffs and spells. While you can start pushing the damage through right away, this game is mainly going to be spent avoiding their removal, tricking them into playing the way you want, and then using that to enable a finishing [card]Savage Roar[/card]. Priest is going to have answers to your minions and board throughout the game, you just want to control how and when those answers come into play. For instance, getting them to take one of your minions with [card]Cabal Shadow Priest[/card] on turn six when you are setting up [card]Savage Roar[/card] lethal on turn seven. This is a classic Priest trap where it seems like they are making the right move from their perspective, but they are actually costing themselves the game because they are tapping out to play no taunts and no heals.
The other part of this match is doing your best to invalidate their AOE. Just like Hunter’s numerous traps, it is very hard to know which removal suite Priest is going to use. The only real constant is [card]Lightbomb[/card], but they could also be running [card]Excavated Evil[/card], [card]Holy Nova[/card] or Auchenai/Circle. All of those will destroy your board pretty easily if you let them. However, in this deck those mass clear spells are also very easy to play around. The easiest way is to always keep at least one deathrattle minion on board, but you can also hold back minions in your hand and create pressure through buffs. Just remember, almost all of your minions have more health than attack, so [card]Lightbomb[/card] is rarely a problem. It is the other spells you need to watch out for. Even something as simple as a [card]Haunted Creeper[/card] being kept in its first form can be the difference between winning and losing.
[cardinsert card=”twisting-nether” float=”right”]
While it varies day to day, there are a ton of Renolocks out on the ladder. Not only does the deck crush aggro (something that a lot of people love), but it has the power to go late with any other popular control deck. Just like when playing Secret Paladin, this is a game that you need to try to end early. [card]Reno Jackson[/card] is any aggro deck’s nightmare, and if you don’t have a strong start he is going to come down eventually. If that happens, unless you have an overwhelming board presence, the game is just about over. In this way, known that you can usually survive a turn six Reno (though it is not easy) if you have a lot of minions. Never use [card]Savage Roar[/card] unless you have already seen the legend or you have lethal. Beyond that, be careful to only buff your deathrattle minions. Renolock has a lot of removal at their disposal but only one silence in [card]Ironbeak Owl[/card]. You never want them to be able to kill something and get an easy 2-for-1.
This match is largely won through sheer surprise. While most experienced players will expect some type of [card]Savage Roar[/card] play to come from your swarms, you want to bait them into situations where their life isn’t low enough where they want to play defensively. For all of their healing and taunts Renolock is a deck that has many plays that do neither. In fact, most of their go-to plays like [card]Twilight Drake[/card] can be ignored when you are pushing through. Yes, a lot times those big minions are going to get taunted up by minions like [card]Defender of Argus[/card], but it won’t matter through a giant roar.
[cardinsert card=”innervate” float=”left”]
My own reservations about this deck aside, Midrange Druid is very strong and is at a very good spot in the meta. The creatures are solid, their ramp is crazy powerful and the combo is stronger than it ever was. This spells doom for most decks in the meta, but that differs a little bit here. While there will be games where your opponent just starts innervating right away and then steam rolls you, there will also be a lot of games where they stumble for a turn and you just take over the board. As always, Druid is not a class that enjoys swarms of minions. They have very little removal, and [card]Swipe[/card] is the closest thing they have to AOE. This means you have free range to get as many minions down onto the board as you can and let them figure out ways to answer you. Any quick opening or fast board usually spells doom for Midrange.
The two cards you need to watch out for in this matchup are [card]Keeper of the Grove[/card] and [card]Swipe[/card]. Each of those will hurt you in different ways, but they will both hurt you. [card]Swipe[/card] is bad because it is Druid’s only real answer to your smaller minions and cards like [card]Imp Master[/card]. To prevent this, get the most use of your buffs ([card]Defender of Argus[/card]) to play around it when you can. Note that [card]Dragon’s Egg[/card] does a great job of fighting back against [card]Swipe[/card] as well. On the other hand, [card]Keeper of the Grove[/card] hits almost every single minion you play. Everything you can put down is weak to silence, so you have to try and give your opponent the worst option. Usually try to get them to hit something that is buffed, which will keep their focus away from your deathrattles. Finally, be aware of their combo. When playing a deck like this it is very easy to get caught up in your own mechanisms and ignore the other player. You never want to go so deep in the tank that you get hit for 20 plus damage while thinking of all the ways you were going to set up lethal the following turn.
One of the best parts about playing a deck like this is how straightforward the mulligans are. While most decks have a lot of situational keeps, a deck where more than half of it costs one or two does not. You want to look for all of your one and two drop minions here as well as [card]Innervate[/card]. Those are your “must keeps”. Beyond that, the only two real situational cards are [card]Power of the Wild[/card] and [card]Mark of the Wild[/card]. Each of these cards can be really tricky to use, and you only want them if your have early minions to play. Even then, only keep Mark if you have access to a strong deathrattle or sticky minion and only keep Power if you are going to swarm. Otherwise, send them back in hopes for more small minions. [card]Imp Master[/card] can be kept with a good curve coming before it, as can [card]Jeeves[/card], [card]Keeper of the Grove[/card] and [card]Defender of Argus[/card]. Unless you are going to explode out of the gate, never hold onto [card]Savage Roar[/card].
The two biggest influences on the way you mulligan are [card]Innervate[/card] and the Coin. As I discuss in the video, Innervate will completely change your hand and allow you to keep many things you normally would not such as a lone [card]Hobgoblin[/card] or [card]Keeper of the Grove[/card]. While it is hard to explain every combo this card can enable, you always want to play to it. When it is in your hand simply treat the card like you have two extra mana at your disposal (because you do). The coin is also extremely important because one extra mana can go very, very far in an aggro deck. [card]Imp Master[/card] becomes an insta-keep, as does [card]Hobgoblin[/card] alongside any other small minions. Your four drops, while still needed some early action to be kept, also get a lot more plausible with the coin.
Finally, a Druid deck I can get behind. Sometimes decks (or classes) fall into set molds. While this is fine in terms of game evolution, I dislike it because it usually halts innovation and causes people to only think with one mindset. As such, I love when people take those “set” classes and use them to break the mold. That’s all I have to say for this week, and I hope you guys have a good one. Until next time, may you always open with Innervate.