After hitting Legend playing exclusively Shaman last season because it was the one deck I could put together with my winnings from arena, I decided to mix things up and try a new deck this time around. As the Magic players among you certainly know, my heart lies firmly in the midrange of my chest. I have a predilection toward decks that are aggressive, but have the tools to switch gears and take a controlling stance when necessary.
It probably should come as no surprise, then, that the next class I gravitated toward was Druid. Druids are all about versatility, with a plethora of cards that offer multiple modes. These give them the ability to take a lot of different lines of play based on their opponent and the game state.
I had long since gotten bored with the arena and wasn’t about to spend another month grinding out packs, so I broke down and bought some. Given that my love of accelerating into big creatures is nearly as strong as my affinity for midrange decks, the first thing I put together was a Druid Ramp deck.
I went through a bunch of different iterations of this deck while I played up to around Rank 5, but ultimately abandoned it because it felt too inconsistent. Playing with so many expensive spells makes the deck heavily reliant on drawing Innervate and Wild Growth in the early turns of the game, but both are mediocre at best when you draw them in the mid game. On top of that, the Force of Nature/Savage Roar combo felt necessary to be able to close out games against decks like Miracle and Handlock, but meant that you had even more situational draws that could gum up your hand while you were getting the tar beaten out of you by aggressive decks.
Perhaps most important was the fact that the giant monsters I was ramping into weren’t even winning me games. Ancient of War in particular felt very underwhelming once I got past all of the Zoo decks in the middle ranks and started hitting the scrum of Hunters. Hunter’s Mark basically let them kill my seven mana creature for absolutely no cost at all – if I even survived to that point while my hand was gummed up with expensive cards and they were beating me up with cheap creatures.
The more I played, the more I felt like the top end of the deck didn’t belong. The games that I was winning against almost every opponent were the ones that I was able to take an aggressive stance – things like Innervating out Chillwind Yeti or Druid of the Claw early on and attacking were far more effective than trying to play a big protector to keep myself alive. I found that my win rate went up drastically once I started playing Druid of the Claw in cat form more often than as a bear.
I realized that I going about things all wrong. Rather than play a ramp deck that had some tools to go aggressive, what I wanted to be doing was playing an aggressive deck that could change gears to play a control game when the situation called for it. In short, I needed to remember the eternal lessons of Alamo: Cat is 4 FITE!
In most matchups, you want to be the aggressor, even though it may sometimes seem counter to how things look on paper. Against Hunter, for instance, you want to put as much pressure on them as possible while trying to mitigate the impact of Unleash the Hounds. Even against Warlock Zoo, you’ll frequently want to be attacking their face with your larger creatures to reduce the number of cards they can draw with their Hero power. Your goal in many matchups is to try to get your opponent into range of your Force of Nature/Savage Roar combo kill, though in many cases you’ll actually just finish them with Swipe and Keeper of the Grove damage to the face, so be sure to pile on the damage where you can.
The version above is the one that I played for my climb from Rank 5 to Legend. I have since made some modifications, mostly because Azure Drake kind of sucks. It doesn’t win in a fight against anything around the same cost and gets killed by Hunter’s Mark, Kill Command, Shield Slam, and Death’s Bite, all of which are quite popular in decks at the Legend rank. It does draw a card, which is nice, but with only Wrath and Swipe the spell power isn’t that impactful, and I just wanted a creature that could brawl better, since that’s what I spent most of my time doing. Instead, I switched to playing Spectral Knight, who dies to none of those things, and can sometimes win games almost singlehandedly against unprepared opponents. You can Innervate it out without fear of removal against pretty much everything but Deadly Shot, and it’s a big creature that you can play into a potential Unleash without worrying about losing it to Hunter’s Mark, which is a really big deal.
Here’s my new list:
I have been strongly considering cutting The Black Knight because it’s pretty situational, and because the primary protector I see in decks these days is Sludge Belcher, which isn’t nearly as exciting to kill with TBK as things like Sunwalker or Ancient of War. I’d likely add a Cairne Bloodhoof or a Sylvanas (or maybe both, and cut something else) because the deck frequently just needs one sizable creature in play to start the turn in order to finish someone off with FON/Roar, which makes the removal-resistant six drop legendary pair very attractive. I don’t have either card right now, though, so I haven’t had the chance to try either of them out.
I’ve had a lot of success with this list against most of the decks that I’ve run into. Spectral Knight helps shore up the Warrior Control matchup, which was previously a bit shaky. Priest is the matchup that feels like it needs the most work, and is also the matchup where I think Cairne and Sylvanas are likely the make the biggest difference, since so much of the dynamic there is about maintaining board presence while they try to grind you down.
What do you think? Does Druid have what it takes to compete with the top decks right now? If not, what does?