My greetings! As a bit of a break from the constant barrage of Naxxramas discussion we’re having on an ongoing basis – and, believe me, you can still look forward to week by week wing breakdowns (and more!) – I wanted to offer up another competitive style of decklist. I’ll go through this the same way I did with the Control Warrior deck, explaining individual card choices and how to use them! Some options for sideboard/alternate card options are also referenced, in case you don’t have the cards to pull this off or need to handle a particularly popular playstyle:
Hopefully this deck will be one of your many answers to that all-but-NSFW image.
Here’s the complete card selection and a little bit of the rationale behind each:
2x Innervate – One of the single best tempo cards in the game, Innervate allows the Druid to trade a card slot for a tempo advantage at any stage of the match. Since one of the primary goals of the Ramp style of play is to get high cost (6+ mana) minions out early and in force, Innervate helps get you there faster. Lots of variants on this deck include a single Chillwind Yeti just to pull off the obnoxious Coin/Innervate/Yeti turn one play. My advice is to use these either early on to secure a board presence with a taunt minion, or hold them until late game to play into your Auctioneer or to be able to play two six mana minions in the same turn.
1x Mark of the Wild – Mark of the Wild can do a few things for you, but I generally recommend against running two to diminish your risk of ending up with an all-spell hand. It either turns a non-taunt minion into a safety net, allows you to get a trade you couldn’t have otherwise, or acts as an emergency combo with Black Knight to get critical removal. Tip: Don’t play it on to Loatheb or an Ancient of Lore until you’ve seen your opponent’s Big Game Hunter, unless you’re reasonably certain they won’t have one or are avoiding lethal with it.
2x Wild Growth – Another tempo play – albeit slower than Innervate – Druids can use Wild Growth to gain a long-term mana crystal on every future turn. This is your optimal turn two play, without question. If you can’t get early game value from them, Wild Growth can be used at 10 mana, and will give the player Excess Mana. Never a dead drop, you simply trade two mana to cycle through your deck, which can be advantageous. You’ll also find a Gadgetzan Auctioneer further down the list – playing Wild Growth at maximum mana into him will let you draw a ton of cards fast (three for two mana – two from the Auctioneer, one from Excess Mana – at the cost of only one card!).
2x Wrath – Druids get a ton of really great cards with two effects to choose from, and Wrath is one of the staples. Three damage for two mana is a great spell value (a minion-specific
Frostbolt), and one damage and the ability to draw a card is a slightly modified Mortal Coil (the draw is guaranteed). In either case, you can get good value – well-costed removal, or minion damage and card draw. I’ve never seen a competitive Druid deck that doesn’t run Wrath.
2x Nerub’ar Weblord – This is one of the slots that is certainly up for debate. Personally, I think this is a tremendous fit. For one, if your Druid deck isn’t a token-style deck (using Violet Teachers as its backbone), you generally won’t have any minions at a cost below five (I’m ignoring the minions included specifically as counters, e.g. Big Game Hunter). For two, the Nerub’ar Weblord’s effect on Battlecry minions has no effect on any of the Druid’s Choose One minions – the only affected cards in this deck are Loatheb and The Black Knight. Your opponent’s deck almost assuredly has Battlecry minions, though, so you’re gaining tempo in another way! If you’re making substitutions, these replaced Faceless Manipulators for me – and those can be game winning plays, under the right circumstances.
1x Healing Touch – A great answer to aggro or Alexstrasza alike. I consider Healing Touch to be the singular best health restoration card in the game, in terms of its card and mana cost to restore health (as compared to cheaper spells, like Holy Light, or comparable amounts of health restoration that comes at a premium cost attached to minion bodies, like Guardian of Kings). Keep an eye on the major health breakpoints to be aware of against each class, and use this to keep yourself out of lethal range.
1x Savage Roar – Ideally, this card is your primary win condition, in tandem with Force of Nature and whatever board presence you’ve successfully been able to build. A lot of variants on this deck will run two of these, but for that to be effective, you need a much more aggressive mana curve. This decklist favours big taunts, minions that are hard for Priests to clear, and almost all minions that should trade at least two to one. If you want to run a second Savage Roar, you should probably investigate a Token Druid deck.
1x Big Game Hunter – Don’t leave home without him. BGH is your answer to core win condition cards in almost every other style of control deck.
If When your opponent is an aggro deck, don’t hesitate to use him earlier as a way to maintain a board presence.
2x Swipe – I almost don’t feel the need to explain this one. Swipe is one of the best removal cards in the game. It appears in every serious Druid deck ever built. Use it.
2x Keeper of the Grove – Tremendously good card. Druids have access to the only class-specific minion that applies Silence – and, if you don’t need the Silence, you can drop two damage onto any target on the board. Against aggro decks, your Keeper can ostensibly go three to one (kill a 1-2 health minion with the Choose One, then trade into two 1-2 health minions after that). Use the damage early against Zoo or other rush decks, but it’s smart to hold one of these back for the Silence against bigger Control decks.
1x Nourish – A total cornerstone of the Ramp style. If you get it early, adding two mana crystals (on both the current and future turns – like a double Wild Growth PLUS Innervate!) sets you up for a massively advantageous tempo window, at the expense of one card/turn. If you see it once you’re already past turn eight, being able to draw three cards quickly is a perfectly acceptable fallback play. You will very rarely not get value from this card, and it’s absolutely worth the risk that it ends up being at the bottom of your deck for the 90% of the time when it will be massively useful.
2x Druid of the Claw – The first of many excellent taunt plays in this deck, Druid of the Claw can also be used as part of a finisher or an emergency trade with Charge. Either option is valid and well-costed, but you will probably end up running the taunt option more often than not.
1x Gadgetzan Auctioneer – This is a personal preference card, and I recognize that. Ramp doesn’t suffer hugely for lack of draw with Wraths, Nourish, and Ancients of Lore. I have seen tremendous value come of having this guy on the board with the huge volume of spells this deck runs, though (13 in this version). If he’s not your bag, I’d recommend thinking about either a Sylvanas to help against control, or a Starfall to help against aggro. A second Ancient of War would also work, as would Ragnaros (this is a less defensive playstyle, though). Mind your curve!
1x Loatheb – This is a meta play more than anything right now. Being able to delay your opponent’s lethal combination (for most classes, save maybe Warrior) by a turn can be immensely valuable, and in general this helps you solidify your tempo position. It’s a good fit, however, if you’ve already got a fat taunt on the board, because it slows or prevents your opponent’s removal.
1x Force of Nature – Should feature as part of your win condition (Force of Nature into Savage Roar for 14 damage on nine mana – learn it well!), but this spell can also act as emergency removal in a pinch. If you’re forced to make that trade, you don’t have an explicit win condition any more, and you need to focus on incredibly efficient trades to slowly whittle your opponent down. Some variants run two of these; see my comments on taking a second Savage Roar above. It absolutely works, you just need to tailor the whole deck to be more aggressive.
1x Cairne Bloodhoof – Just good value. He’s a great part of your toolkit – baits removal, fits the anti-Priest theme, and trades efficiently. If you need something else, he’s an okay option to trade out, but there isn’t much better for neutral plays on six mana. (You’re running most of the other ones already!)
2x Sunwalker – More core taunts to flaunt! Sunwalkers are great at going two for one, or sometimes better. A lower curve alternative would be to try the new Sludge Belcher, who would fit thematically very nicely as a part of the All Taunts All The Time mantra this deck was born with.
1x The Black Knight – I can only think of one serious decklist that doesn’t include taunts, and that’s the old Divine Zoo (which was too slow, and ended up losing to far too many other aggro decks). For everything else, there’s The Black Knight.
2x Ancient of Lore – These high-value minions can either serve as part of the late-game draw engine if you’ve burned through other possible draw opportunities, or they can provide a lifesaving last-minute heal against your opponent’s carefully calculated win condition. Either way, you will always be able to get great value out of these minions at any stage of the game.
1x Ancient of War – Your only weak-to-Priests taunt minion is immensely beefy against everything else. If you’ve successfully baited removal prior to putting down a 5/10 taunt, there is very little in the game that can get through this guy efficiently. Your opponent will be holding their own Black Knight back for this, which makes the Sunwalker bait play all the more tender. If you can survive a rush deck long enough to get an Ancient of War on the board, you’ve generally won.
1x Ysera – I’ll be honest, this should probably be a Cenarius, for several reasons. Sadly, I don’t have him, so I use Ysera instead. You’re not looking for the burst of damage from Ragnaros in this particular slot (but feel free to work him in earlier at the expense of something else) – this nine drop spot is reserved for another tempo positive play, and preferably one that isn’t weak to Big Game Hunter. Whether you’re getting Cenarius’ taunt minions up, buffing an existing board, or drawing one (or more!) of the hugely useful Dream Cards, you stand to gain further positive tempo interactions from this play at this point in the game. (You don’t generally survive this long if you’re truly behind.)
Other options – Variants on this decklist will add Harvest Golems and Chillwind Yetis for a more efficient midgame, Faceless Manipulators to capitalize on the 6+ mana minions you’re running, or even more Legendaries (adding in Ragnaros and/or Alexstrasza, and running up to seven total!).
How To Play It
This is a very straightforward style of deck to play. You’re always going to mulligan for Wild Growths and Innervates, and work towards building a board aggressively. In this variant, getting your Weblords out early is also hugely valuable. Against aggressive decks, use whatever options you have to clear – most of them suffer if they can’t snowball value over multiple turns, and even a single fat taunt will absolutely shut down charge-based decks. As soon as you know it’s a faster deck, you want to blow up anything you can with Wrath, use the Moonfire effect from your Keeper of the Grove, and take any trade you can get with Swipe.
As far as match ups for this deck are concerned, things are still getting shaken up constantly by the new Naxx cards (I expect to see boatloads of Spectral Knight today), but you should fare well against a lot of opponents. Priests hate this deck, and you’ll win more than you lose against Rogues, Warriors, and Mages. The super-fast Hunter, control Paladin, midrange Shaman, and both popular flavours of Warlock are decks you can expect to split pretty evenly with. The mirror match is awful, and you will not enjoy it. 😉
If you’re not already comfortable with decision making, I would almost encourage you to do an Arena run as Druid. The mentality behind this deck is very much the general brainsport that is Arena – efficient trades, high-value individual cards, and tempo positive plays. You’re rarely worried about special combos – you just want to play slow and safe. It’s actually some of the easiest play you’ll ever do, because there isn’t a huge amount of complex decision making or risky gambling happening.
Questions? Comments? Criticisms? Complaints? I’ll take the first three, you can lob that last category at my wonderful editors. 😉