In the Magic community, I am sometimes referred to as “The Dragonmaster”. I earned the nickname many years ago when I made the semifinals of a Pro Tour with a deck prominently featuring Rith, the Awakener, a legendary dragon. At the time, most competitive decks tended to either be very aggressive, full of small, cheap creatures, or very controlling, with lots of removal and counter effects. While casual players loved big creatures – especially dragons – they were largely disregarded by the pros. My success with dragons in my deck stood out back then, and even now my affinity for winning with big creatures remains. I like winning, but I like winning in dramatic, fire-breathing fashion even more.
After I peaked at #2 Legend on the NA ladder last month with anti-aggro Priest, I decided that I wanted to mix things up a little bit. I was bored of eking out victories in slow, grindy fashion. It was time to call in the big guns. It was time to call in the Dragons.
The obvious class choice for my Dragon deck was Druid. Since so many of the dragons in Hearthstone are very expensive, I wanted to have access to Mana Acceleration. Wild Growth, Innervate, and even Nourish are great for playing big things quickly, while Wrath, Swipe, and Keeper of the Grove provide removal and general utility.
My first take on the deck looked like this:
As you can see, this was a very heavily dragon-themed deck. I included every Dragon in the game, from Faerie Dragon, Twilight Drake, and Azure Drake all the way up to the aspects – Alexstraza, Ysera, Nozdormu, Malygos, and Deathwing, along with his daughter Onyxia. The rest of the list was ramp effects and class staples, like Druid of the Claw and Ancient of Lore.
This deck was pretty bad. While it had a reasonable curve, the cheaper cards weren’t particularly well suited to actually keeping me alive long enough to get to play my big dragons. In particular, Faerie Dragon and Twilight Drake just didn’t do enough to warrant their inclusion. Sure, they’re dragons, but in name only. They’re not big and exciting, nor do they have dramatic effects. There’s nothing especially fun about winning with them, and certainly nothing very fun about losing with them.
I decided to distill the deck more down to its essence. The cool part was the big dragons, and actually getting to play and win with them. Faerie Dragon and Twilight Drake did nothing to help get to that point, so they got the boot. In a world of Hunters, the most important thing to focus on was protecting myself, so I rebuilt the deck with a focus on Taunts.
This deck played a lot better, and I actually started to win a reasonable number of games. Keep in mind that I started to play this deck when I was already Legend, so I was facing nothing but “real” decks.
One weird thing that I noticed after playing with this version for a while was that Ancient of Lore felt pretty bad. With so many expensive minions, you rarely find yourself empty handed and playing off the top of your deck. This means that Ancient of Lore’s most commonly used mode – drawing two cards – isn’t nearly as effective as it might be in a deck that has more efficient cards, or one that is attempting to assemble some kind of combo like Force of Nature plus Savage Roar. In fact, with Deathwing in my deck, I sometimes found that drawing extra cards was a liability, since it brought me closer to fatigue when I was just going to end up discarding my hand anyway.
Despite insistences from Twitch chat that cutting the Druid staple was foolish, I replaced Ancient of Lore with his bigger, rarely-Uprooted buddy – Ancient of War – which made the deck look like this:
Ancient of War played much better, and fit very well with the theme of just playing big Taunt creatures to keep me alive until I could start dropping dragons. The change paid off huge against aggressive decks like Hunter and Zoo, especially since cards like Ironbeak Owl and Hunter’s Mark seem to have somewhat fallen out of favor.
With so many big taunts, I found that I was often able to hold off most of the minion-based damage from Hunter decks. Without Ancient of Lore in my deck, though, I had no way to regain lost health, and I was frequently dying to Steady Shot and Kill Command despite locking up the ground.
At the same time, I was growing somewhat disillusioned with Nourish. While there’s nothing quite like a double Wild Growth/Nourish/Innervate hand to explode out of the gates, it’s a card that otherwise can be difficult to fit into your curve against any kind of aggressive decks, since if you take a turn off from meaningfully impacting the board, you’re pretty much as good as dead. Even in the late game, I found that I rarely wanted to use Nourish to draw three cards for much the same reason as I didn’t want to use Ancient of Lore for card draw – my hand was already full of giant Dragons that I didn’t have the time to cast – what was point in drawing even more of them?
With both of these issues in mind, I swapped out one copy of Nourish for a copy of Healing Touch, and it has been fantastic. Healing Touch is incredibly effective at keeping you alive against Hunter, and has significant applications even against control decks like Warrior and Freeze Mage, since it helps you recover from Alexstraza and keep you out of range of their finishers. I’m strongly considering trying to find room for another copy, since it’s been downright fantastic in the short period I have been playing with it.
This is what my deck looks like right now:
Your basic strategy is pretty similar against most decks. You’re looking to curve out with Taunt minions and stay alive until you can start dropping dragons. The most important card in your opening hand against every deck is Wild Growth. I’ll keep Wrath against Hunter and Keeper of the Grove against Zoo, as well as Innervate against both of those decks, but otherwise I’m basically mulliganing everything to try to find Wild Growth every time. Sometimes you’ll get really explosive ramp hands, like double Wild Growth, Innervate, and Nourish. In this case I actually just keep every card, because the deck is so full of expensive cards that you can afford to spend your entire opening hand ramping up your mana, because you’re certain to draw into something big.
Before I go, I wanted to tackle some of the questions I’ve gotten about the deck in a quick FAQ. If you have a question that isn’t addressed directly here, you can still probably figure out the answer.
Q: Why are you playing with Malygos? You only have four spells that deal damage, only two of which can hit your opponent, and all of them are too expensive to cast on the same turn that you play Malygos.
A: Because Malygos is a dragon.
Q: Why are you playing Nozdormu? Even against combo decks like Miracle Rogue, they can just sap him before they start “going off”, so Nozdormu doesn’t really stop them from doing much, and the effect is even bugged and doesn’t work a lot of the time!
A: Because Nozdormu is a dragon.
Q: Why are you playing Ysera? Normally, Druid decks are more based on tempo, and Ysera is generally a card intended for attrition matchups.
A: Because Ysera is a dragon.
Q: Why are you playing Onyxia? Isn’t she vulnerable in a world filled with Death’s Bites, Brawl, Unleash the Hounds, and Holy Novas?
A: Because Onyxia is a dragon.
Q: Why are you playing Deathwing? Isn’t Deathwing’s battlecry effect weak against all of the deathrattle minions people are playing right now?
A: Because Deathwing is a dragon.
Q: Why aren’t you playing the Force of Nature/Savage Roar combo? Isn’t that the best way to finish off your opponents?
A: Because Force of Nature doesn’t make dragons.
I hope this clears everything up!
I plan on streaming with this deck regularly and using it to climb the ladder this season, at least until Goblins vs Gnomes comes out, so be sure to tune in to my stream and catch the hot Dragon action. Here’s a few examples to whet your appetite: