Kyle’s Deck of the Week: Beast Druid

Beast Druid
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Kyle “EndBoss” Smith

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Overview
General Play & Mulligan Advice
Matchups
Shaman
Hunter
Druid
Warrior
Other
Potential Substitutions
SignOff and Announcement

The funny thing about highly anticipated archetypes is that sometimes they don’t end up looking the way we expected them to. As soon as Karazhan was spoiled, everyone and their kindly grandmother were ready for Beast Druid to be a top tier, format defining deck. After all, Beast Druid was already a fringe deck, and now it was adding a premium 1-drop and an absurdly powerful 6-drop. How could this possible fail?!

The week before Menagerie Warden was released, Tempo Storm’s tier list had Beast Druid in tier 3 alongside the comment that they expected it to jump up to tier 2 the next week when Menagerie Warden joined the format. The next week, the prophecy was fulfilled, and Beast Druid flew up the ranks to the top of tier 2! Unfortunately, the party didn’t last, and Beast Druid’s 15 minutes of fame came to a crashing halt the next week as it dropped right back to tier 3. The deck has stayed there ever since.

Why did Beast Druid not sustain itself as a top tier choice, with all of its powerful new additions? I’m sure that there are multiple theories out there, but I will share mine. Some of you may know that, by-day, I am a lawyer in downtown Toronto. And, I truly believe that the secret to success in law, as in many other areas of life, is controlling expectations. If your client expects to get $50,000 out of a lawsuit and you get them $200,000, then you are a wizard! If your client expects to get $500,000 out of a lawsuit and you get them $200,000, then you are a failure.

How does this apply to Beast Druid? Well, the community simply had expectations of the archetype that were too high. They expected the new tools to come in and make an instant contender out of the deck, when really it was always going to take a bit more time and work to find the right build. Not only that, but the metagame reacted to the surge of Beast Druid lists, and a new archetype, which hadn’t had the time to become refined, accordingly got crushed by a metagame that was ready for it.

Fast forward a couple of weeks, everyone has forgotten about Beast Druid, no one is expecting it at all, and good old Muzzy seems to have cracked the code, reaching rank 5 Legend with it!
I, myself, managed to put up a 30-20 record with the deck, for a 60% winrate, between ranks 4 and 2. My matchup data can be found in the matchup section below.

Overview

So, all the players out there who thought that you could build a top 5 legend Druid deck without Wrath put your hands up…yup, that’s what I thought.

This list is more surprising for its omissions than its inclusions. Wrath and Fandral are pretty much taken as absolute givens in every Druid list built nowadays. Beast Druid, however, is not a midrange burst-turn tempo deck like Token Druid. Beast Druid is an aggro deck, that just happens to have staying power due to its fat creatures. This list wants to take the tempo as soon as possible and carry it through to victory. The weakness in Wrath is that it cannot be used as a proactive spell. Living Roots can be used proactively to summon tokens or hit an opponent in the face. Swipe can also be used to hit an opponent in the face, and is often used to finish an opponent off. On the other hand, however, if your opponent does not have a minion on the board, then Wrath is pretty much useless.

This deck wants to be proactive. Its cards are way better when you are playing from ahead then they are when you are playing from behind. As such, Wrath, unfortunately, has to sit on the sidelines.

Fandral is also an interesting omission. As much of a fan boy as I am of the card, after playing the deck, I am pretty sure the omission is correct, even despite the “choose cards” the deck still has, such as the Druids (Saber, Flame and Claw) and Living Roots. The fact of the matter is that Fandral is usually used as a burst card, and this deck isn’t interested in using him that way. Fandral + Living Roots on turn 5 just isn’t that impressive, and counting on your Fandral surviving to be used next to Druid of the Claw is probably a pipe dream. The deck lacks some of Fandral’s early game companions like Raven Idol and Wrath, as well as lacking some of its best case scenario cards like Nourish and Ancient of War. As such, and since Fandral lacks the beast sub-type, he ends up taking a seat on the pine this time around.

It is important to remember when deckbuilding not to have any sacred cows. Question every single card’s use in a decklist because sometimes the secret to breaking a new archetype is by dropping cards that most consider to be untouchable. Context is everything.

General Play and Mulligan Advice

The deck’s strategy is pretty straight-forward. You want to be aggressive, and you want to maintain tempo. As I mentioned above, the deck’s tools are far more effective when you are ahead than when you are behind, so in the early game you want to fight to maintain control of the board. For instance, Darnassas Aspirant is a great card when played on an empty turn 2 board, because it requires your opponent to either play a removal spell from hand or let you accelerate your mana. If your opponent already has a Totem Golem on board, however, Aspirant looks pretty lame. As another example, Mark of Y’Shaarj is a great card to play on a minion who can attack right away, but is lame to play on a creature you just cast, since you don’t get to make use of the buff right away, and you may have just invested extra mana in a creature that will die to an Execute or the like.

Because of the deck’s desire to control the board, Innervate is the deck’s best card. Getting a fatty down early makes a big difference in helping you to keep your board advantage, even against serious threats like Totem Golem. A Golem will eat an Aspirant, but is not so hot against a Druid of the Claw. One of my favourite plays to make with Innervate is turn 4 Savage Combatant + Hero Power. Removing an opposing minion like this, while getting a dangerous 5/4 like Combatant on the table is a pretty strong tempo swing.

Once you are through the early game, you have strong midgame threats that can keep your tempo advantage going, such as Stranglethorn Tiger + Menagerie Warden. The Curator also plays a strong role in maintaining tempo, while often protecting smaller supporting minions and providing card advantage. Then, you have your burst potential. Druid of the Saber and Druid of the Claw are both excellent tools for finishing off a game, especially in conjunction with Savage Roar and Mark of Y’Shaarj. You will often steal wins with these sorts of burst cards, if you can get your opponent low enough on life. Due to this burst potential, the art of the deck is often choosing when to stop trading and go to the face, so as to put your opponent in a position where your burst damage will be able to finish him, even if he can regain board control.

For mulligans, they do change a bit in some of your matchups (which I will address below), but typically you are always looking for Enchanted Raven, Innervate, Darnassas Aspirant and Druid of the Saber. You can keep a Druid of the Flame if you have the coin or already have proactive turn 1 or 2 plays, but you generally want to be pretty aggressive in mulliganing to make sure that you have proactive action as early as possible. Most will expect Living Roots to be a snap-keep, but it is not. Roots is matchup dependent, and should only be kept in matchups where two 1/1’s on turn 1 is a good play (ie. not against Warrior’s Ravaging Ghouls or Shaman’s Maelstorm Portal), or in matchups with key early minions (like Mage’s Sorcerer’s Apprentices and Cult Sorcerers). If you don’t want to play the card in the early turns against a given deck, then the fact that it has a low casting cost is irrelevant.

Matchups

Shaman (7-4):
It all starts with Shaman nowadays, doesn’t it. If you can’t beat Shaman with a given deck, you probably shouldn’t be playing it because Thrall (and Morgl) are everywhere on ladder right now. Luckily, this list does beat up on Shaman decks pretty well. This matchup is all about tempo. Not only are your cards better when you are ahead, but theirs are, too. Flametongue Totem and Mana Tide Totem are both really lame plays when the only minions on board belong to your opponent.The early swing cards in this matchup (either against aggro or control Shaman) are Totem Golem and Innervate. Innervate usually lets you overpower Totem Golem to take an early board advantage, but if they have a Golem and you have no Innervate you could be in for a long game. Alternatively, turn 1 Raven + turn 2 Mark will also trump a Totem Golem, as well turn 2 stealth Druid of the Saber, turn 3 Mark. If I don’t have a way to deal with an early Totem Golem, I will often dig deep and dump a Darnassas Aspirant, because counting on a Shaman opponent to not have Totem Golem in their opener is like hoping for a Warrior to not have War Axe or for Animal Companion to not be Huffer…it just doesn’t happen.

Druid of the Flame is a very good drop as a 2/5 in this matchup, as it is tough to remove and it does solid Totem clean-up duty. You can’t let a Shaman start to accumulate totems or you are just asking for them to blow you out with Flametongue Totem. Additionally, allowing them to keep any basic totems of any kind increases the likelihood that their next one will be a spell damage totem, turning on Spirit Claws and making their sweepers far more effective. You will lose some games to RNG, because a timely spell damage totem or a Tuskarr Totemic that hits Totem Golem can drastically change the tempo of a game (don’t get me started on the issues I have with the Blizzard design team for the fact that I have to say that). Barring that, you have a natural advantage from the fact that your minions are generally beefier. Decks that go wide against Shaman often get blown out by Maelstorm Portal or Lightning Storm, but decks that go big are much better positioned. Be aware of those sweepers when making trades and try to make it as tough as possible for the Shaman player to swing the game with them.

Also, Stranglethrorn Tiger + Menagerie Warden is very very difficult for a Shaman to deal with (as it is with most decks). Don’t throw away tigers if you have other comparable minions to play, so you will have the chance to set this up if you draw into a Warden. Also, hang onto Power of the Wild if it is reasonable to do so, because it can often be very strong to Power of the Wild your Tigers or Wardens so that they can take down a Thing from Below without having to trade.

One random thing that will sometimes come up: remember that the Frog you get off Hex is a beast. This makes it often a pretty decent Mark of Y’Shaarj target, since it already has taunt.

Hunter (5-2):
This is also a strong matchup. Once again, it is all about tempo and board control, but once again you have the better cards with which to take the board. Living Roots is a keep here, since it kills early Fiery Bats and Huge Toads. Again, Druid of the Flame usually comes down as a 2/5, which is pretty well positioned against Hunter’s early minions. The Innervate + Savage Combatant turn 4 is also a very good tempo play here, since there are many good targets for it to hit.

There is certainly a balance in this matchup. You want to take the board, but once you have, you have to balance that interest with maintaining your own life total. Hunter has great burst cards, and you don’t want to open yourself up to letting them steal a win with Kill Command + Quick Shot + Hero Power. As usual, always expect that turn 8 will be Call of the Wild, and make sure to position yourself accordingly, if possible. Also, remember that one of Hunter’s best swing cards is Unleash the Hounds, so don’t go unnecessarily wide with cards like Living Roots, unless you are desperate.

Druid (7-6):
Beast Druid is generally quite good against Malygos Druid, but has a much tougher time against Token Druid. Malygos Druid is often slower to get board presence, so you can often snowball an early advantage before they get going. Token Druid is usually able to swing the game a bit earlier, so it is tougher, since Beast Druid hates playing from behind. Both of these matchups are about getting to the face aggressively, and setting up to be able to finish with your burst, ideally before Ancient of War starts barring your path. One of my favourite ways of punching past an Ancient is to copy Savage Combatant with Menagerie Warden and use the original Combatant + hero power to trade for an Ancient. You are more than happy to trade life total for board advantage in this matchup, because if your life total becomes an issue you have probably already lost. Due to the presence of Ancient, always be careful not to use your direct damage spells unnecessarily (Swipe and Living Roots), if they could be better put to use finishing an opponent off. Sure, there are many situations where you are going to Swipe or Roots for a good early board advantage, but I have also gotten several wins by sending charge minions in for a bunch of damage, watching a big Ancient of War come down, and casually finishing my opponent with an Azure Drake and Living Roots for 3.

Warrior (6-6):
I much prefer playing against Control Warrior than I do Dragon Warrior. Control Warrior is still a tough matchup, but it is slightly positive. Curator and Ragnaros are your most important cards. You never keep them in your opener, of course, since they come down so late, but they are the cards that will often allow you to finish a Warrior off. Curator allows you the ability to wear a Warrior down and run them out of answers. Warrior also has a lot of trouble dealing with Stranglethorn Tiger + Menagerie Warden. Brawl is their only really good answer to this, and it still leaves you with a 5/5 on the board, which may have stealth. Innervate is especially important here, since Aspirant matches up so poorly against Fiery War Axe. Druid of the Flame and Druid of the Saber are both better early plays than Aspirant since they matchup better against the Axe. Druid of the Saber’s stealth is a great tool, and allows you to keep it alive long enough for it to bear the Mark of Y’Shaarj and give you some early board presence.

Dragon Warrior is a much tougher matchup, since they are very good at taking away the board from you. Innervate is especially important here in order to let you swing the board back. The early game cards you want are similar to Control Warrior, because it is still all about matching up well against War Axe. If they get to kill your turn 1 Raven and your turn 2 Aspirant with that Axe you will probably lose. If they don’t draw Axe (which, of course, never happens) or if you get a good Innervate fueled start then the matchup becomes a much fairer fight.

Other Matchups:
Is it just me, or do we have a little bit of a skewed metagame at the moment? I played only 7 out of 50 games combined against the other 5 classes. Blizzard should maybe pay attention to this when designing the fall set or figuring out whether to nerf anything. I played against a grand total of zero Priests or Paladins, so I don’t have much to say about those matchups. I went 2-1 against Rogue, and expect that it would continue to be a very good matchup. They usually have no way to gain health and no taunters, so if you can put on good early pressure, they often have no way to deal with a charge fueled burst in the late game. Zoolock appears to be on the decline, as its more powerful form (Discardlock) has some consistency issues. Still, my two matchups with it were very easy. You have bigger minions then they do, and Innervate is a huge weapon against them. A turn 3 Druid of the Claw or a turn 4 Combatant + hero power is the sort of thing that just wrecks them. Of course, as usual, Swipe is also a great way to swing a board back in your favour. My two Mage matchups both felt very good. I lost one of those to a double Fireball the turn before I could go lethal, but if I had been more conservative and protected my life total a little earlier I think I could have won that one (I was at exactly 13, including armour, for double Fireball + hero power). Their removal is damage based, so your fatties are tough for them to deal with. Save Swipe for Flamewaker if you can.

Potential Substitutions

This is going to be a super easy section to write this week, because this list is actually very cheap to build. It features only two legendaries and zero epics. You need to have One Night in Karazhan to even consider building the deck, since playing the deck without Menagerie Warden would be a terrible idea. As such, I expect that anyone playing this deck will have The Curator, which is good since he is very important in any grindy matchup. Ragnaros, on the other hand, is definitely a card that is easily substituted out. He is certainly good, mostly for his ability to take down Control Warriors or Freeze Mages, but he is not particularly central to the deck’s strategy.

While it has a very different use than Rags, my recommendation for a substitute would be Mulch. This substitution would hurt your Control Warrior matchup, but would help your Druid and Shaman matchups. While you can bash past an Ancient of War, it isn’t fun to do so. The tempo advantage of Mulching an Ancient is huge. Similarly, Rags is poor against Shaman, who often have a wide board by turn 8. Hitting a Thing from Below to open up an attack to the face in the late game is probably more valuable than dropping a Rags and hoping it doesn’t hit one of their random totems. While Mulch doesn’t actually fill the same role as Rags, it is usually played at the same time of the game as Rags would be, so it actually fills that spot more appropriately than it would appear at first glance. In fact, after my testing, I have actually made this substitution just as a metagame tweak, since there are so many more Shaman and Druid decks in the current meta than there are Control Warrior and Freeze Mage ones.

Sign Off and Announcement

We are excited for this coming weekend, as our second EndBoss Online Hearthstone Tournament will be taking place on Sunday, October 2nd at noon on the North American server. Like last time, we are making entry free, and will be putting up the entire $100 prize pool ourselves, so check it out on the Events page here. This will probably be our last free entry tournament for Hearthstone (we have some cool stuff in mind for future ones, so stay tuned), so take advantage of the freebie while you can.

We are also planning to stream the entire event on our Twitch stream. Coverage will start at noon, when the tournament does (even though matches will be on a delay to avoid stream sniping), and, like last time, we will show all the semi-final and final matchups in their entirety. I will be commentating along with Ben “Overseer” Wastle. We had a blast doing so last time, and we are very much looking forward to this one!

Whether you are interested in playing or watching, I hope that you guys will join us this Sunday for the tournament! Full Rules and Signup Details can be found here!

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