Mother of Dragons
After a busy fall full of trials (I am a lawyer in downtown Toronto by day), I found the time to get back to jamming some Hearthstone. While the metagame had gotten a little stale there, it seems like it is finally adapting to the Shaman menace. You certainly can’t call it a balanced metagame or anything, but it is moving in the right direction, and hopefully we can find some more tools on the Mean Streets of Gadgetzan to help us fight against Thrall and his totems.
As excited as I am about the new set, however, I was not ready to give in to Thrall’s dominance just yet. Luckily for me, my favourite streamer, Hotform, put together just the list to help me with that task!
When most people thing about Dragon themed decks in Hearthstone, they think about Dragon Warrior, Dragon Priest, or maybe even Dragon Paladin. But, anyone who has watched any Game of Thrones understands that Dragons are difficult creatures to control, and respond best to their mother. Who would have thought that Jaina Proudmoore was actually Khaleesi in disguise?!
I present to you, the Mother of Dragons!
Seems counterintuitive doesn’t it? That you would want to play a Dragon deck in a class with no Dragon theme cards? Well, it might seem that way, but Blizzard has really opened the door to this type of deck in recent sets by making far more neutral Dragon themed cards. Between Twilight Guardian, Netherspite Historian, Blackwing Technician, Blackwing Corruptor and Book Wyrm, there are lots of Dragon incentives available to any class that wishes to use them. Sure my going the Mage route you lose access to Twilight Whelp, but that’s ok, by playing Mage we get Mana Wyrm instead! We don’t get Alexstrasza’s Champion in the two drop slot, but that’s ok because we get Frostbolt instead!
Mother of Dragons is decisively a midrange deck. It can play the control role against aggro decks with removal spells, Twilight Guardians and Flamestrikes. It can also play the long game against control, pressuring with creatures, getting card selection or advantage off of Historian and Babbling Book (either one provides excellent card advantage alongside Brann Bronzebeard), and finish the game with burn to the face.
The Dragon theme of the deck provides some tools that most Mage decks don’t normally get. Mage decks normally have relatively fragile early game threats. Mage’s 2-drops are generally 3/2’s that die to one drop cards like Lightning Bolt and Living Roots that can’t touch a Faerie Dragon. In the 3-drop slot, Mages often only run Flamewaker, which ideally is never played on turn 3 on the play. Blackwing Technician is a bulky early game body that Mage normally doesn’t get access to. Similarly, Twilight Guardian in the 4-drop slots provides a lot more bulk than your opponent is expecting from a Mage at that phase of the game.
To supplement all the Dragon tools, Mage provides the best suite of support spells on the market today. Frostbolt and Fireball are premium removal options with the flexibility to go face, while Polymorph is an unsung superstar that has very frequently saved me from death by Ragnaros or Savanah Highmane. In a deck that thrives in the midgame, 4 mana a perfectly reasonable amount to pay to solve pretty much any minion problem that comes along. Let’s see Dragon Paladin put together a removal suite like that!
Just before I move on to matchups, I want to highlight two cards. First, Book Wyrm is a card that was largely ignored when it was first released. People just thought of it as the evolution of Stampeding Kodo with a dragon drawback. Turns out a lot of people (myself included) missed the fact that Book Wyrm’s ability doesn’t just kill a random minion…it actually targets! That means that you can reliably kill Thunder Buff Valiant with it…I hear that could be relevant. Book Wyrm also reliably kills Flametongue Totem, Totem Golem, Feral Spirit wolves, and that’s just from the Shaman class. Against Freeze Mage he kills Doomsayer without costing you burn. Against Zoolock he kills Imp Gang Boss without giving your opponent a token. Against Druid it kills Fandral, ‘nuff said!
The second card that I want to mention is Brann Bronzebeard. Personally, I didn’t think he was that great in the deck until I started playing with it and realized how powerful he can be. This deck has a lot of really strong battlecry effects. When you are trying to grind out a control deck, playing Brann on turn 6, followed up by Netherspite Historian and Babbling Book, is just a brutal card advantage play. I have also used Brann with Azure Drake to get the double draw effect, and I have used him with Blackwing Corruptor to send 6 damage at an opponent’s face, or to remove a big minion. Believe in the beard!
General Mulligan Advice:
The mulligan decisions with this deck change more based on the context of your own hand than the context of the matchup you are playing. In general, you are looking to start the game with Babbling Book, Mana Wyrm, Faerie Dragon, Frostbolt, Netherspite Historian, Blackwing Technician and Twilight Guardian in your hand. The big variable, however, is the dragon aspect of it. You have 8 Dragons in your deck, and two of your favourite early drops (Historian and Technician) rely on having a Dragon in hand to maintain their power level. As such, you often want to hang onto a Dragon. Faerie Dragon is the best opening hand Dragon, since it can also be played as a 2-drop (although you often only do so if you have a second Dragon by then). Twilight Guardian is the second best, since it is the second cheapest Dragon you have. I normally wouldn’t keep a 4 or 5 drop, in most decks, but in here you often have to keep a Guardian or an Azure Drake to ensure that your dragon-pay-off cards get their full value.
One additional note, part of the importance of Netherspite Historian is that it functionally acts as Dragons 9 and 10 in the deck. If you have an opener with Historian and Twilight Guardian, you can be sure that the Twilight Guardian will be able to come down, with its effect, on curve, since your turn 2 or 3 Historian will guarantee you having a second Dragon in hand.
Here is my decktracker data for the deck:
This matchup is positive, but still difficult. It is difficult because Midrange Shaman is an absurdly overpowered deck, but it is positive because Mother of Dragons is very well positioned against it. Flamestrike is a kick in the teeth for Shaman. Book Wyrm is exceptional value that they don’t see coming, while Corruptor is also exceptional value, even though they do usually see it coming. You also have a lot of targeted removal which helps to get rid of problematic minions hiding behind a taunt-wall. Frostbolt is absolutely key here, so make sure you get good value out of it. Hitting Flametongue Totem or Mana Tide Totem hiding behind a taunt-wall can be game-changing, and Frostbolt (combined with hero power) is one of the best answers to turn 2 Totem Golem. Polymorph also helps by cleaning up potential problem cards like Thunder Buff Valiant, Thing from Below, or Ragnaros.
This deck beats Shaman by grinding it out. Shaman typically does not get the sort of fast starts that the aggro versions used to get, so you have time to out-value them with all your battlecry minions. You will also note that every minion in the deck that costs more than 4 gets immediate value. As such, Hex is less of a kick in the teeth than it is against most decks. It sucks if they get your Ragnaros, but you already got one hit in. It sucks if they get your Blackwing Corruptor, but he already got his 3 damage in…so on and so forth.
Shaman’s biggest threat against you is being able to have a big swing turn in the mid-game with cheap Thing from Below. A timely Flamestrike can often be the difference between a win or a loss, so make sure that you don’t use it prematurely. Aside from that, just keep answering their treats, keep their board narrow and hope that they don’t have Bloodlust (which stole a couple of games from me, and is often impossible to play around without opening yourself up to losing in more conventional ways).
The other top dog on the block is also a pretty solid matchup. You should usually expect any Druid opponent to be running the Malygos version, and if you lose the matchup, it is probably going to be because they managed to set up the combo kill. Polymorph is probably your most important card here. It helps you punish them for playing a tempo-Malygos, before they have the kill set-up. It also helps you get past Ancient of War, or deal with an Arcane Giant. Obviously, they have more of those cards than you have Polymorphs, so you need to make up the difference with cards like Fireball, Flamestrike, Ragnaros and big Dragons off of Netherspite Historian. Generally, you get on the board before they do, and the key is keeping them off the board. You can grind them out with value, but just be careful of your life total, because you don’t win fast, and Malygos gives them a more explosive end-game than you have.
Now we move from solid matchups to one of the best reasons to play the deck. Control Warrior has a very tough time with this deck. You get a lot of value from your cards, you can grind them out of answers, and you have good answers to their big threats. Book Wyrm kills Acolyte of Pain without giving them any value, which is often a big surprise to them. Getting card advantage off Brann + Historian or Babbling Book is also very important for grinding out that advantage. When you play Historian, your best picks are, generally, Nefarian or Ysera, because they are both must-answer threats that provide additional value even if they are answered. I won multiple games against Warrior that went almost into fatigue, despite my opponent having Justicar, just by grinding out all their threats and answers. This deck actually has the capacity to do that.
Also, your most important Polymorph threat out of Warrior is usually Sylvanas, who can certainly turn things around. Hitting Sylvanas with Polymorph is doubly important since many Control Warrior lists rely on N’Zoth for their win condition, nowadays. Hitting Sylvanas and Cairne with Polymorphs significantly dents their ability to do that.
One note on mulligans for the Warrior matchup, typically Frostbolt is not a keep. You keep Frostbolt in most matchups, but against Warrior you are expecting them to be running Control variants which don’t have early Frostbolt targets, so you prefer to send them back for something proactive. On the other hand, Mirror Image is often a keep, especially if you have Mana Wyrm, because it soaks up Fiery War Axe damage. If you have both of these cards, hold your Mana Wyrm until turn two and play them together, so you don’t open it up to coin + Axe.
Freeze Mage and Tempo Mage are both on the rise again. Mother of Dragons is pretty happy about this, but certainly prefers to play against Freeze Mage than Tempo Mage. The Tempo Mage matchup is solid and favourable, since you have the tools to grind them out, but you are always playing the game on the edge because one extra Fireball off the top can make the difference between winning and losing. The key in the Tempo Mage matchup is to keep your life total high, and out of burn range, while grinding incremental advantages and slowly running them out of gas.
Against Freeze Mage, you typically aren’t in as much suspense. You know pretty early whether you have enough pressure to win the game. Mana Wyrm, Faerie Dragon and Blackwing Technician are very important early drops to put on that pressure. Polymorph and Book Wyrm will often derail your opponent, since they both cleanly take out Doomsayer. This means that the Freeze Mage player usually can’t get a full board clear, which keeps a lot more pressure on them. Freeze Mage will also often count on Acolyte of Pain getting value, since they assume that you will need to damage it to take it out. Again, Polymorph and Book Wyrm don’t need to do so, which often takes a card away from the Freeze Mage player, who is desperately trying to assemble his combo. Lastly, your burn spells present significant issues for the Freeze Mage player, since he needs to have an Ice Block in place a little early than he otherwise would, just in case you have a couple of burn spells. This also means that you can pop their block a turn or two earlier than they would normally expect, while your hero power means that even freezing your board won’t save them if they are at one life with no Ice Block.
The record would indicate that this is a toss up matchup, but this is really a matchup that you either win by the skin or your teeth, or lose by a landslide. I suspect that over the longer term this would probably be closer to a 40-45% matchup than the 50% I put up with it. These matchups come down to the wire. Often the key to winning them is to avoid setting off Cat Trick for a couple of turns, if you can. Blackwing Corruptor and Book Wyrm are both nice removal options that won’t trigger Cat Trick. Babbling Book is a nice card to check for Snipe, while also making Freezing Trap a bit more awkward. If you don’t use a deck tracker, you need to have a piece of paper or something that helps you track their Traps, because the best way to lose this matchup is to play into the wrong trap.
The key in this matchup is to maintain your life total and to swing the board as quickly as you can. If you started with 40 life, this matchup would be a cake walk, but you don’t. Running them out of gas is easy; Doing so and then killing them before Steady Shot gets you, is not. Often these matchups, will come down to whether the top card in their deck is a burn spell at the end of the game.
Yup, apparently Paladin eats this deck for breakfast. Who knew?! Three of these matchups were against Soul Sisters (or similar Paladin Aggro builds). Love to see people playing the deck, but damn it beats the tar out of Mother of Dragons. Soul Sisters gets on the board fast, and the Divine Shields make it tougher than usual to get their key minions off the board. The win I got was against another aggro variant, which didn’t draw into Divine Favor.
I also played two matchups back-to-back against a dude playing Murloc Paladin. I got close to stealing one game (one point off of burning him out), but aside from that, I felt like I was at a huge disadvantage. They have a lot of life gain to keep themselves out of range. Ragnaros Lightlord is particularly rough here, because even if you have the Polymorph, that 8 points of life gain is often enough to keep them out of range.
The other Paladin matchup I had was a strange Murloc aggro build. This one was a much closer fight. Without the Divine Shield minions I was able to get control of the board with removal spells and hero power. Unfortunately, I came up one hero power short in the end after he swung the board with Anyfin Can Happen. Regardless, it was a cool list that I was surprised to see in Mythic Brawl, and I would suspect that you won’t see this matchup all that often.
Not too much to say about the other 3 matchups. Priest felt very easy (2-0), but represents a very small sample size. I killed their Northshire Clerics and then grinded them out of gas. You have much bigger dudes than most Mage lists, which helps you to overcome their AoE effects. As for my Rogue matchups, I was 1-0 against Miracle Rogue, while going 0-1 against N’Zoth Rogue (complete with Gang Up!). Flamestrike does give you a very nice tool to deal with stealthy Auctioneers out of Miracle Rogue, but once again, the sample size is too small to tell me much about the matchup. Lastly, my Warlock matchups (2-0) were actually against Reno versions, not Zoolock. That matchup feels strong, since they don’t pressure you very much, and give you time to get on the board. I suspect Zoolock might be a little more difficult since they can put a lot more early pressure on, and it might be tougher to swing the board.
Luckily, this deck only has two Legends in it, and both are ones that most competitive players have. Ragnaros is a very powerful tool, especially against Control decks and Druid decks. If you need to replace him, I would probably do so with a big Dragon like Nefarian or Ysera, both of whom are cards that you love to get against control decks off of Netherspite Historian, anyways.
Brann is a lot harder to replace, and hopefully most people have him from the League of Explorers set. He is one of my favourite cards in the deck, due to his interaction with Historian and Babbling Book. His effect can’t really be replicated by anything else, so you probably just want to play another good card in that slot, like Arcane Intellect or Forgotten Torch.
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