An In-Depth Look at Jade Idol

Now more than ever, with the incoming nerf to The Caverns Below, it is crucial to learn everything there is to know about Jade Druid, considered by many to be the prime beneficiary of this change. So let’s take an in-depth look at one of Hearthstone’s most unique, powerful and controversial cards to ever see the light of day – Jade Idol!

History

The card was first seen on November 22, 2016 when pro player and streamer Thijs revealed it to the world.

Ever since that historic day, Jade Idol has been one of the most popular, hotly-debated cards in the history of the game, receiving both love and hate from the community. For reasons that we will delve into below, it has been called a “control deck killer“, “counter to fatigue“, “worst card ever made“, etc. Yet despite all the complaining, there are those who would defend it as “fair”, citing that a deck which tries to go infinite with the card will be vulnerable to aggro and midrange pressure, as well as OTK/Semi-OTK combo decks.

Eventually, the Mean Streets of Gadgetzan expansion finally came along and for a while it looked like Jade Druid was not going to be as problematic as predicted. The expansion solidified Pirate Warrior as a deck with new powerful threats and tribal synergy. Leading the charge were Patches the Pirate and Small-Time Buccaneer, with the latter eventually being nerfed a couple months later. Additionally, the MSG era was deep into the Shamanstone days, with Aggro/Midrange Shaman being the best deck in the game (also benefiting from the very same “pirate package”). These two decks, more than anything, helped keep Jade Druid in check and dominated the meta for the majority of the expansion’s life. After the nerfs, however, Reno(and Kazakus)-style decks became the most prominent with Mage being the last to be discovered but considered the best choice after it was. This is when Jade Druid really started to shine and the power of Jade Idol was truly revealed – infinite value incarnate. The deck could go against the greediest control lists and generate more value than a Mage with three 10-mana Kazakus potions and it did it with a single card.

Earlier versions of the deck looked a lot like Orange’s from SeatStory Cup VI, focused on playing progressively bigger taunts in hopes of surviving against aggro, while later, more refined versions, were less focused on walling off and settled on a more spell-focused style, often including Yogg-Saron, trying to cycle through as much of their deck as fast as possible – a style that has translated well into the current era.

Modern variations of the deck retain the spell-orientated aspect of their predecessors. Yogg has become a mainstay for the archetype and the powerful anti-aggro tools from Un’Goro have helped provide the deck with an answer to the only obstacle on it’s way to dominate the meta.

Most recently in a Q&A with designers Ben Brode and Mike Donais the future of Jade Idol was brought up due to the previously mentioned concerns that Jade Druid will see a rise in play and potentially dominate once Quest Rogue is nerfed. The developers don’t necessarily see it as problematic just yet, but they are watching it closely – with a shakeup in the meta and a fresh expansion on the horizon, anything is possible.

Mechanics

Before we continue, let’s take take a look at what the card is and what it really does. Here is a complete breakdown of how Jade Idol functions:

Casting Jade Idol

Cards that summon “jades” are truly unique in Hearthstone – they are the first ever cards with dynamic text, a.k.a. text that changes based on the state of the game. While in your collection, Jade Idol will read “Summon a Jade Golem”, however it will read “Summon a X/X Jade Golem” when you are actually playing the game, even before you have summoned any golems. It looks akin to how Spell Damage alters the text on cards in your hand in that regard. This is a significant improvement on the C’Thun mechanic where updated information only showed once you have successfully played a Cultist – the jade count is always visible as long as you have a card that summons jade golems in your hand.

If we take a technical look at what the card really is we can see that it is a 1 mana Druid spell with the Choose One mechanic. While this might seem trivial at first, those are actually the most important characteristics of the card because they are how we are going to abuse it later when we look at strategies involving Jade Idol. A really interesting interaction occurs when we look even deeper. As a Choose One card, Jade Idol will actually offer two choices to the player casting it as a first-order action – before even mana costs are paid:

 

Typically, if one of the choices is invalid and won’t do anything, it will be greyed out and the player will not be able to pick it. This can happen, for instance, when attempting to play Power of the Wild on a full board – your only option will be to give everything +1/+1. With Jade Idol, however, the player is free to attempt to summon a Jade Golem even with 7 minions already out. This is due to a property of Jade Golems listed below, in which they still ramp up in power even if an attempted summoning fails. Because of this, the card is not treated as if it won’t do anything and is therefore an available option.

Jade Golem Trivia

  • The Jade Golem’s cost, stats and art are determined upon summoning, depending on how many Jade Golems the player has already summoned that match.
  • The first Jade Golem summoned is a 1 mana 1/1.
  • Each friendly Jade Golem will be bigger than the last, with base stats greater by +1/+1, up to a maximum of 30/30.
  • Each friendly Jade Golem will have a higher cost than the last, up to a maximum of 10.
  • The increase to the Jade Golem’s stats is not achieved through an enchantment, but through a different version of the minion being summoned; the ‘increased’ stats are the new minion’s base stats. As a result, the increased stats cannot be removed through Silences.
  • The size counter of the Jade Golem is attached to the controlling player, like C'Thun‘s Cultist buff counter, so if the opponent steals a card that summons a Jade Golem, it will start from 1/1.
  • There are four different pieces of card art for the Jade Golem. They are used, respectively, for golems 1-3, 4-6, 7-19, and 20 onwards.
  • Failing to summon a Jade Golem (for example because your board is full) will still make the next golem larger.

This last one is particularly important. In some matches you will find yourself with a board full of weaker minions from the early game (such as against Freeze Mage) and it is important to realize you can keep investing into your jades so when the board clear inevitably comes along you can start flooding it again with bigger threats.

Infinite Value

A Problematic Design

The biggest issue with Idol is that it is Hearthstone’s first and only self-contained source of truly unlimited value. Technically, the card is self-sufficient and a deck containing no other cards but a single copy of Jade Idol can win games. This is truly unprecedented in the history of card games and while not necessarily a bad design, it still raises many concerns. Typically, any one card should not be able to form a complete deck. While theoretically any minion that goes on the board can win a game if left unanswered, the reality of Hearthstone is that every deck plays interaction of some description, even everybody’s favorite Quest Rogue. The reason that Idol’s design presents a problem is something very trivial – it’s a spell that summons minions and can generate more copies of itself than the amount you started with. As such, the only way to interact with it so far is Mage’s secret Counterspell. Not only is that a single card in a single class, but it’s also a card that most Mage decks are hesitant to run since it can be played around so easily. So far in Hearthstone, Jade Idol cannot be really interacted with, which means the card is free to summon, shuffle and summon again for as long as the player is alive. This is the reason that it is the only true “infinite value” card in the entire game. The only other example of a card that can perpetually generate resources on it’s own is Lord Jaraxxus, which is a 9 mana minion (meaning there are a plethora of ways to avoid it’s Battlecry activation) that comes with several strings attached, the most prominent being that it caps your health at 15 for the rest of the game.

It’s not to say that the game has not seen other cards that “technically speaking” also represent infinite value. Most recently we got Nether Portal, the reward for the Warlock Quest Lakkari Sacrifice from Un’Goro. Once this permanent is played, it will generate imps every turn and it cannot be interacted with. This however comes at the steep price of discarding 6 cards and paying 5 mana upfront, which is a very high investment into potential future returns.

Breaking the Card

Jade Idol becomes truly powerful when paired with either Fandral Staghelm or Gadgetzan Auctioneer.

With the former, each Idol turns into 4 copies of itself, both immediately generating a Golem and shuffling 3 additional Idols into the deck. This is where the simple fact that Jade Idol is a Choose One card actually becomes its most important attribute. Going off with Fandral requires more prep work since you will ideally want to have several Idols in hand already, however the payoff is much greater. This is the preferable way to make sure your deck goes over the top of anything the opponent might try to do – a turn of Fandral and multiple Idols is one of the highest (if not the highest) value plays in the entire game.

With Auctioneer, the strategy is slightly different.  The other very important aspect of the card comes in play here – the simple fact that it’s a spell. While it won’t pull double duty like Fandral, the best deals anywhere allow you to skip all the prep work and do it in one turn. Gadgetzan Auctioneer speeds up the rate at which you can generate and play Idols but he doesn’t help you generate more value that you otherwise would. As it turns out, combining everybody’s favorite 6 mana 4/4 with cheap spells can be very powerful (no, not Fight Promoter). Despite being slightly lower in raw power level, this combo is actually preferred by most pilots because while you are not in danger of fatigue when playing Jade Druid, you don’t want to give your opponent all the time in the world.

Playing with Jade Idol

As we previously discovered, a deck that contains a single copy of the card is already a self-sufficient deck. But it doesn’t have to be. Hearthstone is played with decks of exactly 30 cards and we will very soon find out that we sure are glad it is! Often times we look at a card as powerful as this one and wonder how it came to see the light of day. But if we try to use it in practice, we will inevitably find out that, much like a rekindled romance with the ex, Jade Idol comes with a lot of baggage.

Obstacles

Were we to attempt playing our single Jade Idol deck, we would quickly realize just how bad of an idea this is. To start off, the very first thing we have to do is play it and shuffle. At that point, we can play a 1/1 and a 2/2 before we have to shuffle again. Note that this entire process takes 4 turns, due to the lack of card draw. After that it will take another 3 turns to play out a 3/3, a 4/4 and shuffle again, at which point we would be dead to just about any other deck in the game. Note that these are also vanilla X/X minions that can be ignored by the opponent at no real cost. So, our first order of business is to make sure we don’t die and secure all those turns we need. This is accomplished by the defensive shell of taunt minions that Jade Druids love to play – it helps a lot that one of them also spawns Jade Golems. Generally, anti-aggression tools such as taunts and removal are essential for any deck trying to shuffle cards into their deck as a win condition. Coincidentally, this is greatly facilitated by any and all ramping done in the early game.

Next, we want to speed up the rate at which we “do our thing”. Not losing and winning sound similar but are actually very different things. To put it simply, not losing only works for a limited time, so when that time runs out we have to be winning. We want to leverage the power of this self-contained one-card game plan by playing as many of it as possible, resulting in an ever growing army of minions, however first we have to generate all the extra copies and then actually draw them. That’s why Jade Druid utilizes a lot of cycle and draw, in order to access all of the shuffled copies of Jade Idol in the late game.

Tips and Tricks

Once we have taken care of everything and have constructed a Jade Idol deck (also known as Jade Druid), we can start playing it. Below you can find key plays and useful tips on interactions to look out for:

  • You have to be aware of your win condition – shuffling and playing Jade Idols is very powerful, but you can get a lot of extra mileage out of the deck by combining the Idol with Fandral Staghelm or Gadgetzan Auctioneer.
  • But don’t tunnel vision on that Fandral! One of the best plays you can do is to pair him with Nourish, which will propel you into the late game ahead of schedule and with extra cards to boot.
  • Be careful when combining Idol with Auctioneer. A key feature of his ability is that it triggers before the spell has been resolved, so you will draw a card before the shuffled copies get into your deck. If you are looking to generate extra Idols, make sure to keep another spell as an enabler to start off your chain.
  • Never shuffle your first Jade Idol. Always summon. Always.
  • Keep in mind the fact that your win condition is non-disruptable and find turns of low pressure from the opponent to invest into copies of the Idol if you have an enabler but not before you have drawn the tools you need to stave off aggression.
  • Don’t be afraid to powercycle through your deck on every possible occasion – you can’t fatigue!

Jade Druid

The creation of Jade Idol has lead to the conception and rise of a truly unique and powerful archetype – one control deck to rule them all. Jade Druid is commonly referred to as the “anti-control control” and it’s not hard to see why. Packing true “infinite value” and a plethora of tools, there are few things this deck can’t do. Despite it’s relative fragile state on ladder, the control archetype has been dominating tournament play and with the nerfs to Quest Rogue on the way, it’s showing no sign of stopping. Check out our coverage of the decklists for the upcoming Spring Championships in Shanghai and pay close attention to all Jade Druids out there. If you want to be prepared for the upcoming shift in the meta, give this short but excellent guide on the archetype a shot!

Looking to the Future

It might be obvious that Jade Idol is only going to grow in strength with the upcoming changes, but that’s not where it ends! It’s going to be in Standard until the first expansion of 2018 and remain a terror to control decks in Wild even longer after that. With new expansions being released, cards with as much potential as Idol can only grow in strength, especially as the card pool for Standard grows and defensive tools become even better. Every card that interacts with spells is a potential enabler for Jade Idol and every card that wants minions to be summoned will love it. Be on the lookout for new and crazy interactions and start banking on that infinite value.

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