Yet another expansion is coming to Hearthstone in a few days, but this one in particular is not just another expansion. In fact, it has been creating buzzes all around, both in the Standard and the Wild meta, for cards with insane powerlevel, interesting mechanics that have never been seen before, and for applications in many of our beloved existing archetypes. Never before have I seen so many good cards introduced in a single set, for every single class in the game. In this series, we’ll be looking through each of nine classes, dissecting all the tools they got comes the new expansion, and build theorycrafts for them accordingly.
Druid has gotten some of the most powerful Control tools we’ve seen since Spreading Plague/Ultimate Infestation in an Overflow and Anubisath Defender package. Overflow can be seen as a cheaper Ultimate Infestation that still fulfills the most important aspect of the flashy 10-drop: drawing 5 cards for you. For a Control deck like Druid, a sustainable source of card draw is crucial to the point of make-or-break in many of their games. You won’t get a 5/5 minion nor sometimes you will heal for your opponent, but I don’t think that can cancel the huge upside of the spell being able to be casted three turns earlier! As a Control deck, you won’t mind giving your opponent some extra health that often (although healing their minions can be a bit of a concern). My opinion of this card is that it’s going to be a staple in many slow Druid archetypes going forward.
Most other Druid cards in this set are of reasonable power level at least. Elise the Enlightened is a strong Highlander card, the Quest itself is neat and the 2 mana minion can be slotted in as card draw even in non-Quest decks. Garden Gnome is solid and easy to trigger. The Choose One minions are mediocre, but they won’t be anymore if you can trigger both of their effects! Apart from Overflow, however, most of the other cards are not game-breaking (unlike in many of the classes you will see); hence, I can only give Druid a ‘pretty good’ score.
Druid set rating: 8/10
Overflow being 7-mana makes it another great spell to activate Anubisath Defender. It’s another Arcane Tyrant, a card that has been used in some Druid decks in the past, but it’s (arguably) better due to having taunt. Druid is one of the best classes for these types of cards, since they have consistent access to powerful high-costed spells (Ultimate Infestation, Spreading Plague, Overflow, Nourish). You would also like to dump cards from your hand after a huge draw turn to prevent overdraw. Last, but not least, you wouldn’t mind playing four Arcane Tyrants in your deck. Consistency is often overlooked, but is a core aspect of high-level Hearthstone deckbuilding.
Naturally, Overflow and Anubisath Defender goes into Jade Druid, the strongest Control Druid archetype there currently is on ladder. I thought of building an Aviana Togwaggle Druid with these two cards, but I feel like that list in particular is much tighter than Jade, with most of its cards providing some sort of utility. The most reasonable switch would be simply a straight swap between Overflow and Ultimate Infestation. However, I have concerns of Aviana Druid not being able to dump its hand to draw 5 extra cards as early as turn 7. But of course, you don’t HAVE TO play Overflow on 7. Furthermore, you can totally execute the typical Aviana + Kun turn, but Overflow only costing 7 allows you to dig five card deep into your deck while still being able to play Togwaggle and Azalina in the same turn.
Jade Druid Viability: 10/10
Azalina Togwaggle Druid Viability: 8.5/10
Another niche archetype that I really wanted to promote is Taunt Druid, with Hadronox and N’zoth, the Corruptor. I used to pilot the deck to Legend, with Juicy Psychmelon being a strong draw engine that can fetch my whole late game, allowing for consistent huge boards on Turn 10. Anubisath Defender fits naturally into the deck as an extra Taunt, while the new Taunt neutral – Khartut Defender – resummons itself upon death. That means an extra two taunts for N’zoth!
Taunt Druid Viability: 6/10
Another card that could be easily overlooked at first glance would be BEEEES!!! What seems like just a mediocre board clear may have some interesting applications. You can use BEEEES!!! to kill off a Devilsaur Egg and give yourself 9/9 worth of stats for 6 mana, or you can kill a small token and buff up the remaining bees with a board buff or Mark of Y’shaarj. But one that stands out the most for me is its synergy with Linecracker.
Blizzard has confirmed that Linecracker’s attack will indeed be doubled for each bee running into it. This would make the card a 80 ATK minion just after the first BEEEES!!!, and a 1280 ATK minion after the second one. 1280 ATK is just barely enough to kill another Druid through all their armour! The two card combo can easily be incorporated into Druid’s Control shell, which is a huge plus. However, the thing about Linecracker is you need him to stick; therefore, you can try locking the board with Loatheb (you need 2 Innervates though), or play a second one just in case. If all fails, I also included a single copy of Jade Idol, because with all the card draws you have, why not go infinite?
Another more viable to fully utilize the Linecracker combo is to actually use Earthen Scales on it. You get a crazy amount of armors (to the thousands!) and threatens lethal the following turn. You will need at least an Innervate to gain 81 armors, and will need cost reduction with Thaurissan or mana cheat with Floop’s Glorious Gloop to be able to outfatigue control decks. But Jade Idol will always be present should you need it. I actually think that this might be one of the strongest Control decks in the upcoming meta, just from its sheer potential of outlasting other decks.
Linecracker OTK Druid Viability: 8/10
Linecracker Armor Druid Viability: 9.5/10
The new Druid Quest – Untapped Potential – is also something I see huge untapped potential in. The reward isn’t particularly powerful, but what good about it is how easy it is to fulfill. You only need to not spend all of your mana (or have an Innervate) on each of your first four turns, and will automatically get a passive hero power (which means you won’t even need to spend extra mana later on!). Questing Explorer and Crystal Merchant also provide excellent and consistent card draws in the early game. I’ve built a generic Untapped Potential Druid, utilizing cards that usually won’t see play if you only play it for one of their Choose One options, like Wardruid Loti or the new Oasis Surger.
Untapped Druid Viability: 6/10
Finally, I feel like Quests are something that can help Highlander Druids taking off. One thing about slow Druids is that you just cannot hold too much value on your hand due to it always being full. Therefore, to gain value from Elise the Enlightened, you need a way to either dump the cards on your hand the turn you play her, or dump your cards before then. Both Untapped Potential and the old Quest – Jungle Giants – which turns all your big minions into 0 cost ones – can achieve that. Two Renos from your Elise? Sign me up! Barnabus Druid struggled to survive before, maybe the introduction of Reno and Zephrys the Great can really help with that. Zephrys anti-synergize with Oaken Summons a bit, but I think it’s too good to not include, since it’s probably one of the strongest support for the Highlander archetype in this set. A card that gives you a perfect card for the situation is exactly what an arguably inconsistent archetype like Highlander needs. And who’s stopping you from playing Linecracker and BEEES!!! in your Barnabus Druid?
Blatant Decoy is another good consideration for Barnabus Druid. It pulls you the smallest costed minion upon deathrattle (which would be a 5 ATK minion most of the time). It can fuel your quest, give you a big drop, or disrupt your opponent’s combo at the same time. A really versatile card. I won’t be building a non-Reno Barnabus deck in this article, but for starters, you might want to include things like Cursed Disciple, Hungry Dragon, Blatant Decoy, Giant Anaconda, Faceless Manipulator and some other huge drops, then Carnivorous Cube to gain extra minions on board (it’ll be easy to do a huge Cube combo once your Cube is 0 mana).
Reno Untapped Druid Viability: 6/10
Reno Barnabus Druid Viability: 5/10
Perhaps, the most viable Reno Druid variant might be an OTK variant, utilizing either Linecracker + BEEEES!!! (as mentioned above) or a very creative Elise combo. This Elise combo features Elise to copy a hand of Twig of the World Tree, Naturalize and Flobbidinous Floop (which should transform into another Elise). You can keep breaking your Twig again and again by copying it with Elise-Floop, and Naturalize your Elise non-stop so you can mill your opponent to their inevitable death (should animation time allows it, of course). Druid has a respectable defensive arsenal even with one-ofs, and the inclusion of Reno and Zephrys might just be enough to get you there. But the question is, why play this over Aviana?
Reno OTK Druid viability: 8/10
This final deck is of courtesy to GetMeowth. Along with the Anubisath Defender package, he also plays Garden Gnome, a very good upgrade to the deck that provides extra Treants to fuel Dendrologists and Mulchmuncher. I personally would like to try Treespeakers as well, so I put a couple in in place of Swipes.
Treant Druid viability: 7/10
Hunters didn’t get the best stuffs this expansion (which is no surprise), but they did receive some really nice cards. To my amusement, many Hunter cards this expansion had some really interesting effects (and no new Mechs, I know, right?!?).
I’m used to straightforward and one-dimensional Hunter cards that just does one thing and are just good in some decks (usually faster decks), things like Emerald Spellstone or Crackling Razormaw, but some Hunter cards this expansion provide multidimensional decision makings. Wild Bloodstinger is a Dirty Rat that trades as it enters play, and is a minion oftentimes you cannot just play on curve, while Scarlet Webweaver opens up a huge range of combo potential that wasn’t available if the beasts were too highly costed. In fact, I will even go so far as claiming the Webweaver to be one of (if not) the best Hunter card that’s been printed in a long while. Well, since Deathstalker Rexxar at least.
Pressure Plate is another peculiar secret that isn’t in-line with the rest of Hunter’s secret kit. I think that if you’re building your Hunter deck a bit more defensively, Pressure Plate is a much better secret than Cat Trick, and may even be better than most defensive secrets barring Wandering Monster, because it’s a more proactive card.
The new Hunter weapon – Desert Spear – has good synergy with Scavenging Hyena. I think you can use it instead of Candleshot if you wish, but I personally still like to have a good Turn 1 play. Dinotamer Brann is a solid SMORC card for Highlander Hunter, one that synergizes with the old Brann and Zola. The remaining cards are, unfortunately, bad. The Hunter Quest, Unseal the Vault, takes too much resources to complete. It might be decent in the future, but for now, I can’t see it being strong enough yet. Even Wild Bloodstinger is a very doubtful card, since even though it’s very strong, it’s not in line with Hunter’s one-dimensional playstyle. I remain skeptical of Hunter’s strength in the upcoming expansion, and am willing to bet that Hunter will still not have a Tier 1 deck for the next few months.
Hunter set rating: 6.5/10
The new support we received for Secret Hunter are some of the more straightforward cards. Hunter’s Pack is a great refill card for decks with lower curve, as it gets you a secret, along with extra value to use later on. The Hyena Alpha naturally curves in really well after a Cloaked Huntress turn and right before a Subject 9 turn. This means that you can do a dream curve of Huntress into Hyena into Subject 9 into Spellstone – which is, understandably, a lot of pressure. Hunter secrets are known for their defensive capabilites; therefore, having some extra offensive force is crucial to its relevance on ladder.
This Secret version that I’ve built tried to incorporate the new beasts, with extra value from Dire Frenzy-ing/Ramkakhen Wildtamering Alphas or a cheap King Krush. Ramkahen Wildtamer offers crazy value on top of an already well-statted 3 drop. If you only play big beasts, or if you will play an OTK Webweaver deck that will eventually pops up, Wildtamer seems like one of a must-haves. The only problem with the Wildtamer herself is that she isn’t a beast, so if you play her in a beast centric deck, you’ll have to remove another really powerful draw tool in Master’s Call. You can omit the late-game beasts and go for another package if you wish.
Secret Hunter viability: 8/10
If you’re going for good ol’ Master’s Call Beast Hunter, this is the deck for you. You’re playing all the awesome new beast with this new Beast Hunter, but with a slight twist: you have an in-built OTK. With Scarlet Webweaver, either Gah’zrilla or Tundra Rhino can be reduced so they can be played together. A couple of cheap spells can easily buff Gah’zrilla to a 32 ATK or 64 ATK minion, which is made very easy due to the fact Rapid Fire gives you another spell. If you’re not a fan of ‘clunky’ combo, I’ve also built a traditional Beast Hunter with some Secret synergies sprinkled in to best capitalize on the new secret cards. I play one-ofs of most secret to gain the most value possible from Subject 9, which is coincidentally also a beast. I think the generic version is more viable, but don’t tell anyone about it. I want to see some Gah’zrilla action, it’s about time.
OTK Beast Hunter viability: 7/10
Beast Hunter viability: 8/10
The Hunter quest seems slow, but it might work with the right cards. Desert Hare, Desert Spear and Swarm of Locust all seem like very decent cards to both complete the quest and take advantage of the rewarded hero power. The Beast package is still a great package in my opinion, for its ability to both swarm the board quickly and refills your hand with Master’s Call. Remember that the Quest says summon, that means even cards like Animal Companion, Snake Trap and especially Unleash the Hounds will count towards quest completion.
Vault Beast Hunter Viability: 5.5/10
Another potential way to build a Vault Hunter is to just slot the quest in an Egg Hunter deck. Each Deathrattle minion is 2 minions towards the quest, and that is before any extra Deathrattle triggers. Eggs are also perfect target for an attack buff. A notable inclusion in this version would be the new Serpent Egg. Although it’s weaker than both Devilsaur Egg and Nerubian Egg, it fits the curve into Terrorscale Stalker much better than a 3 drop. Although the quest will take a bit long to complete, it is okay to naturally play it as Egg Hunter usually skips Turn 1 anyways.
Vault Egg Hunter viability: 6.5/10
Dinotamer Brann must be the flashiest Highlander card of the bunch (let’s ignore new Reno’s animation). When he comes down into play, a huge dinosaur will come stomping and makes you go ‘oooooooh, big beast, SMORC SMORC’. Even before the Highlander support, Reno Hunter wasn’t a bad deck. It was capable of fending off aggro and applying pressure when needed; in fact, Dane (yes, the meme guy) took the deck to Legend in Wild once. This Reno Hunter version of mine tried to incorporate all the new cards, while ensureing maximum value potential out of all your cards. Fun? Lots of fun. Viability? I’ll give it a 7/10 for now.
Reno Hunter viability: 7/10
In my next article, I’ll be discussing the next two classes: Mage and Paladin. Stay tuned!
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