So you want to master the Druid?
Welcome to the Druid corner of Hearthstone. Druid is a fine pick for the newbie and pro alike – and one of my favorite classes to play. Currently, it is the second most-used class in Hearthstone tournaments, right after Warlock, even if it sees a bit less use on the Ladder and the Arena alike. The recent Goblins vs. Gnomes (GvG) expansion also introduced some interesting new cards, even if they have been less interesting for Druid than some other classes.
Having said that, the first time I played against a Druid feeding me 2 card draws each turn, replenishing both our characters’ health towards the end of the match with Tree of Life and letting me die of fatigue… I was ready to tear out someone’s hair. Given the unknown location of my opponent, I opted for tearing out my own.
Yep, Druid is far from boring, even more so now than ever before. He is multi-purpose, with several distinctive ways to play him effectively and several distinct types of decks. He is fun even in the cut-throat higher ranks of the Ladder where you predominantly see decks creatively copied from the Internet.
In the following sections I will give a brief overview of how the Druid works and the specific quirks of its class-specific cards, before moving on to show you a playable starting deck. I’ll also mention additions to the basic build that will make it more competitive as you acquire and craft new cards.
I’ll also look at the different types of decks that roam the Ladder nowadays. I will mention the meta (short for meta-game, the way that the game changes as a whole as some strategies and cards become more popular) and at the ways that the two expansions affected how the Druid class evolved.
For those of you in love with the Arena, as you should be, I will hold your hand as we enter the pit and take a look around through the eyes of the green-haired Druid, antlers and all: a strong contender for one of the best Arena classes.
Druid as a class
Druid’s class power is both defensive and offensive, making it handy during turns where nothing else can be played. Whereas the Priest’s power can make you feel like a fool on turn 2, Druid never disappoints. The offensive aspect of its power also makes it strong in Arena where the ability to deal 1 point of damage consistently without the need to play a card makes a big difference and works well against aggressive (aggro) decks.
Druid is strong on class-specific cards, with Innervate and Wild Growth giving the Druid a unique opportunity to accelerate mana and throw out strong minions earlier than the opponent. As both cards are basic, this strategy can be utilisied from the very beginning.
Area of Effect (AOE) damage is very important in Hearthstone as there often comes a time where the opponent’s board is filled with minions, especially if you play against aggro decks that use cheap minions (looking at you Warlock and Hunter), in which case a good AOE spell can put the game back in your hands. AOE also has the added advantage of hitting stealthed minions. Druid doesn’t have the AOE card to rule them all, but it has a solid one in the guise of Swipe, which deals 4 damage to a character (meaning face or minion) and 1 damage to all other enemy characters. This card is basic and available from the start.
Druid also has one of the best finishing comboes, using the synergy (the combined effect) of Force of Nature and Savage Roar, which gives 14 points of damage for 9 mana. Savage Roar is basic, while Force of Nature is epic, requiring some luck in order to find it in-between the 5 cards you get when opening a bought deck. It is 400 dust to craft. The image below shows me dealing a hefty 29 points of damage to a very disappointed freeze Mage using just this combo.
Druid is also strong in the late game – it has the powerful taunter Ironback Protector in the basic set, the 2 old ones – Ancient of Lore (essential in most high-level decks for the card draw, alternatively offering a heal) and Ancient of War (another big card, allowing for defensive or offensive play).
When it comes to class-specific Legendaries, I find Druid a bit disappointing. While a lot of people like Cenarius a lot and it sees a lot of play, I don’t think that it provides a significant advantage – Druid doesn’t tend to fill the board with minions to make the buff useful and a 5/8 with 2 2/2 taunters for 9 mana is not game-changing, even if it offers some breathing space and a potential synergy with Savage Roar. Malorne, the new GvG ‘unkillable’ Legendary sees very little play at the moment and with good reason as a removal spell like Hex or Polymorph will remove it altogether, even the good old Big Game Hunter will kick its ass all the way back into the deck. There are neutral Legendaries, often cheaper, who give some immediate benefit to the player, even if killed. When in doubt, go for Dr. Boom (his name is Boom, Dr. Boom) or Ragnaros. I suspect that the developers were hoping for synergy with the new Tree of Life but it’s simply not worth the trouble.
Other cards worth mentioning are Keeper of the Grove – a Druid staple that provides a silence, or 2 points of damage, freeing space in the Druid deck that would otherwise be taken up by silence inducing minions, while being an okay minion at 2/4. Druid of the Claw is another solid card, both in its taunted and charged forms, and as such a favorite in most Druid decks.
Starting Druid Deck
You will hear Hearthstone players talk a lot about skill, but cards matter and they matter a lot. You heard it from me first. The basic set of cards that you get for reaching level 10 will allow for an adequate deck build, although one that won’t take you too far in ranked play. If it takes you anywhere near rank 10, you are a born legend and with some card swaps you are going places. Like competitions, or reddit to brag about your triumphs.
Below I will list a deck built entirely of basic cards (cards that are available from the start, as well as class specific cards granted for reaching level 10 with Druid, which is best done in Practice mode), with an explanation of how the deck works and some basic strategy. Afterwards, you, my dear reader, and me, will look at how to improve the deck further.
This kind of Druid deck is called a ‘ramp’ deck – its name coming from Magic: the Gathering (that lesser known and perfectly uninteresting card game that is most certainly outdated and in no way can compete against Hearthstone), implying that this deck works around the ability to accelerate mana and summon expensive minions faster than your opponent. It uses Wild Growth and Innervate to make this happen. Consequently, both cards should be kept when mulliganing (choosing which cards to keep for your opening hand). It’s a good idea to throw these cards on the table early, although Wild Growth can be used after reaching 10 mana in order to draw a card. Other cards to look out for when mulliganing are Claw, Bloodfen Raptor, followed by other cards that allow you to play something each turn (ie. it’s nice to have a 3 mana play on turn 3, etc.).
Getting out stronger minions than the opponent, as well as using spells like Claw, Swipe and Starfire to kill off enemy minions (only attacking the face if it finishes the match) should create a late game situation where the opponent’s forces are depleted. When playing against aggro, make sure to pick the right moment to use Swipe.
Ironbark Protector and Boulderfist Ogre are your late game big hitters. It’s important to be aware of the opponent’s ability to take out big minions with spells like Shadow Word: Death, Hex, Assassinate or Polymorph and to wait with the big hitters until they are relatively safe from harm.
Taunts protect from smaller minions and can work wonders against more aggressive decks. Shattered Sun Cleric can be an unwelcome surprise for your opponent, allowing for a favorable trade with its Battlecry.
Acidic Swamp Ooze is also most useful for its Battlecry, which destroys weapons – consequently it is a good idea to keep it in hand against characters who use weapons, particularly warriors, paladins, rogues and to a smaller extent hunters and shamans. Against classes that don’t use weapons, it serves as a standard 2 mana drop. Knowing when to play this card is a valuable skill to develop, which requires the ability to identify and predict the opponent’s probable deck build (i.e. is the Shaman you are facing going to be carrying a Doomhammer?).
It’s a very good idea to utilize the hero power to take out minions with 1 health rather than wasting your own minions, who can deal damage next turn without you having to pay 2 mana.
New Cards To Get
There are numerous cards worth adding to this deck as they become available, I will distinguish them according to whether they belong to the classic set, the Naxxramas expansion, or Gnomes vs. Goblins.
- Keeper of the Grove (a wonderful card giving a silence effect or 2 points of damage, often enough to send an enemy early minion to sleep)
- Big Game Hunter (in the post-GvG world of Dr. Booms, there are few decks that don’t have a minion with attack power 7 or higher, making the world-famous BGH a useful addition to most decks, this one included)
- Druid of the Claw (lovely and versatile, even if you usually end up using the taunted version)
- Force of Nature (allowing for the ultimate Druid finishing combo, necessitating the addition of Savage Roar to the deck)
- Ancient of Lore (this is where more expensive ramp Druid decks get their card draw)
- Cenarius (worthy late game card, in the unlikely event that all 3 minions survive, synergy with Savage Roar)
- Shade of Naxxramas (in this type of deck, it is possible to keep it stealthed for a long time and use it to deal huge amounts of damage, or deal lethal)
- Spectral Knight (hard to remove, also a staple of many Druid decks)
- Loatheb (one of a kind Legendary that protects from AOE, other spells and prevents board wipes – it can protect your board in order to set up for a lethal next turn)
- Kel’Thuzad (I don’t tend to use this Legendary when playing Druid but if lacking in other late game Legendaries, it is a worthy pick and it doesn’t need to be crafted)
Goblins vs. Gnomes
- Anodized Robo Cub (although not as good as some of the other new class specific 2 mana minions, it still beats all of the standard neutral ones, also synergizes with other mechs if you decide to go for a mech deck)
- Piloted Shredder (very strong for 4 mana, sticky and hard to remove)
- Piloted Sky Golem (same story, different mana cost, arguably more useful than the Legendary Cairne Bloodhoof because of its high attack value)
- Dr. Boom (most decks run this card nowadays and with good reason – lots of value even if the good doctor gets killed, leaving behind 2 bombs, not to mention the possible synergy with Savage Roar)
If you are just starting out in Hearthstone, which, let me tell you, is the best decision of your life, beating both the decision to ask that girl you like out for the first time, as well as the decision to move out of your parents’ house, there are a few decisions that need to be made in order to maximize the potential that you get the cards that you want and need. You will be getting new cards at a steady rate from decks bought by gold earnt by finishing daily quests, as well as for finishing the starting challenges.
Are you going to be using this gold to buy decks or to play Arena? Arena can be a good source of gold, dust and cards if you learn how to play it well and have the time to play it. Arena becomes profitable once you start winning more than losing, which takes a little bit of time and practice. While Arena can be very profitable once you get to the point where you consistently win 6 games each run, it’s not easy to get there. Like, it’s really hard. The first week of playing Arena I was getting a consistent 1 win per run. I guess that at least I was being consistent, but it’s not something I like to share. Don’t tell anyone. Really.
There is a large number of cards in Hearthstone by now and it takes a long time to get everything you need – I am looking at you epic and Legendary cards. Splashing out a little bit of money on the Naxxramas expansion (which offers a fun single player experience) earns a number of useful cards, including a few Legendaries, that can make a Druid deck a lot more competitive – apart from the cards listed above, all of which find a useful place in Druid decks nowadays, cards like Zombie Chow, Harvest Golem and Sludge Belcher will work wonders for most classes, this one included. Aiding the basic set of cards with the Naxxramas set can be a very powerful boost. Going for Naxxramas, if you decide to pay a little, can be a very wise decision.
What to do with all this dust??
The next decision, one that comes as you start collecting larger quantities of dust – from selling multiple copies of the same card, from selling golden cards, or from winning at the Arena – is which cards to craft first. It can be a bad idea to start crafting the cheaper cards as they tend to appear in decks that you win or buy with gold most often. It doesn’t take a lot of time to collect all of the common cards, even the rares, but you will wait a while for epics and Legendaries. I personally only craft those, often collecting dust for a specific Legendary that makes my chosen class work better.
With Druid, the only exception to the rule is Keeper of the Grove, a rare card that comes in very handy. The first epic I crafted was Ancient of Lore as it is insanely useful – you know, I live for card draw and 5/5 is nothing to frown on (unless you are into frowning). Force of Nature came second, allowing for the rather spectacular Druid finishing combo.
When it comes to crafting Legendaries, the decision to make is whether you will be playing Druid solely, or other classes as well. Cenarius isn’t a bad Legendary and gets played in many Druid builds, but there are other neutral Legendaries that can replace it – particularly Dr. Boom, probably the most used high cost Legendary in the game at the moment. Good old Doctor would be my first Legendary to craft, for this class and others. There are numerous other strong Legendaries that can fill that all-important late game slot – Sylvanas Windrunner, Ragnaros (who has been seeing less play since the release of Goblins vs. Gnomes), as well as situational Legendaries like The Black Knight, who works well in a meta that sees a lot of Sludge Belchers and other taunters, or Harrison Jones – invaluable against opponents using weapons. I tend to be disappointed when I can’t respond to a specific situation in the most damaging manner so I like cards like The Black Knight and Harrison Jones a lot – when they come in handy, which tends to be often, they do a tonne of damage (read, they give you advantage).
Most Used Decks
Now is a good time to settle down in front of the fire, put your cards down for a minute and listen to me talk about the different builds that are running up and down the Ladder these days.
Druid likes to takes advantage of the ramp mechanic, but it can vary the speed at which it goes for the win. There are faster decks that use sticky, hard to remove cards and cheaper minions, with the usual Druid finisher to seal the deal, and slower control variations where one may see the formidable Ancient of War and other ferocious late game minions.
The Goblins vs. Gnomes expansion has mixed things up somewhat – through the addition of new class specific cards, possibly more so through the addition of some new neutral cards. Cards like Dr. Boom and the 2 piloted mechs see a lot of play today. Some people try to play around with mech decks, but frankly, I don’t see the point.
Tree of Life is an interesting new card, which allows Druids to play for a long game, forcing the opponent to draw cards quickly, reaching fatigue quicker than the Druid and dying of it. It’s a lot of fun to play this way and very frustrating to play against if you are running a slower control deck where you can’t play your cards quickly. I have run against this deck a few times with my trusted and stalwart control paladin and cried a little every time. It’s questionable how competitive this build is in ranked play as it’s rarely seen on the Ladder.
A build that has re-emerged since GvG is the token Druid – which seeks to quickly place numerous 1-attack minions through the Violet Teacher‘s ability, or through employing minions like Echoing Ooze or Haunted Creeper, then buffing them using the new Hobgoblin card that gives each token an automatic +2/+2, or through the use of Power of the Wild, which buffs the entire board. I am a big fan of this deck.
I like Druid a lot. There, I said it (if you couldn’t tell by now). It’s a fine starting class with solid class-specific cards and it can be played in various ways. Druid is strong in both standard play and in the Arena (as it has a good class power for Arena, as well as adequate class-specific cards) and it can safely take you to legend rank in ranked play. It also sees a lot of use in competitions.
There are some essential rare, epic and Legendary cards that make Druid truly effective and it can be a good idea to go for those when thinking of what to craft next. It just takes practice to learn how to play to Druid’s strengths and to learn to use the specific synergies that make Druid tick so well.
May Cenarius be with you and may you deal those 14 points of damage every time you need to finish a match and send your opponent screaming into the night. See you on the Ladder.