Descent of Dragons is approaching, and it will finally make Year of the Dragon worthy of its name by bringing tons of dragons into the game. From the reveal in Blizzcon, we know that each class will get some dragons, and the League of Explorers classes (Druid, Hunter, Mage, and Paladin) will get at least two each – a Legendary dragon and a smaller dragon explorer. Furthermore, each class will get at least one dragon synergy card, a breath that will be more powerful if you’re holding a dragon.
This means that every single class in the game will be able to build a dragon deck! But what kind of a dragon deck? Will they all be the same, or is it possible to make some meaningful differences between them? In this article, I take a look at the current and upcoming dragon and dragon-synergy card pool and how it will shape the dragon decks that are soon to be unleashed upon the meta.
The Common Ground: Neutral Dragons
Dragons as a tribe have always leaned towards expensive and powerful individual minions. I guess that’s kind of inevitable when its ranks include many of the most powerful beings in all of Azeroth, the renowned dragon aspects. This pushes dragon decks towards a control or combo approach to the game, although we have also seen a number of successful midrange dragon decks over the years, such as Dragon Priest and Dragon Warrior.
The current neutral dragons available in the Standard format are:
Faerie Dragon – A small but elusive minion that sometimes sees play in aggressive decks, because control decks can have a hard time getting rid of it.
Brightwing – If it’s good enough to be offered by Zephrys the Great, it has to be pretty good, right? A random value generator that sees occasional play if you need to get your dragon count up for synergies. Assuming Dragon Highlander decks will be attempted, Brightwing will see play in Descent of Dragons.
Nightmare Amalgam – Reasonable stats but no other redeeming qualities. It’s a little bit of everything, so if there’s ever a multi-tribe deck, it is a potent choice.
Twilight Drake – Control player’s baseline dragon. It’s just a solid minion overall.
Dragonmaw Scorcher – Area-of-effect damage for dragon decks. Strong whenever one point of area-of-effect damage is relevant.
Alexstrasza – Great late-game threat for decks that try to win through burst damage, whether from a direct combo or with just damage in general.
Malygos – The essence of many combo decks. Not useful in other types of dragon decks.
Nozdormu – A mental threat more than a strict gameplay threat. It can win through the power of panic, and previously by making the opponent skip a turn (fixed).
Onyxia – A board-flooding dragon that has seen occasional play when slow, combo-style token decks have been good.
Deathwing – Emergency board clear. Has seen some recent play as an anti-Shaman tool.
Overall, that looks like a decent number of dragons, but not many of them see play.
At one point, Dragonmaw Scorcher and Crowd Roaster were crucial removal pieces in just about all dragon decks, but their damage potential does not line up well with the current meta, so they have been in the background. Both of them can rise again, if the meta is right.
There are enough neutral dragons in the game already to form the backbone of a dragon deck. You want at least seven dragons, if you try to activate any dragon synergies, and if you want to activate them early in the game, you want eight or more. Some of the current cards are not very strong right now, but they remain fallback options for any class, if you’re short just a dragon or two.
There are also some dragon synergy cards available:
Firetree Witchdoctor – Early-game minion that Discovers a spell.
Scaleworm – A decent Rush minion for dragon decks that is likely to see play in most of them.
Wyrmguard – A big Taunt minion, but the meta has not been kind to low-Attack, high-Health Taunt minions lately.
In addition to the existing roster, two new neutral dragons have been revealed:
Evasive Drakonid – A big Taunt minion that cannot be targeted by spells or Hero Powers would have had a great time in many of Hearthstone’s earlier expansions. Hey, Soggoth the Slitherer used to see play! However, Evasive Drakonid is a perfect target for Crowd Roaster (finally making it relevant again?) and can also be shot at with Lackeys and Weaponized Wasps. Nonetheless, it is an option for a dragon deck.
Twin Tyrant – A lot of Health, but not much Attack and there is a big eight-mana price tag on this thing. Battlecry to damage two random enemy minions is somewhat decent, but would need to be a perfect match to the meta to be good. A mediocre filler card that is unlikely to make the cut.
Overall, the neutral dragon pool has a couple of late-game powerhouses and several mediocre cards that can shine in the right meta, but are otherwise going to find a spot in the deck only if the cards they support are really good.
Descent of Dragons Dragon Druid
Druid is definitely getting some dragon goodies in the expansion. We already know the Druid breath, explorer, and Legendary dragon, and they are all awesome:
Emerald Explorer – Decent stats, Taunt, and Discovers another dragon. That’s incredible!
Ysera, Unleashed – A really interesting take on the value provided by Ysera. In a class that can easily draw cards, like Druid, playing Ysera, Unleashed can give you some immense future swing turns with multiple random dragons. Too bad that those random dragons can be anything from a 3/2 to a 12/12, but the odds of getting some major bombs are quite good.
The new Dragon Druid looks to be a ramp deck that draws a lot of cards and summons big minions. How does that line up against the current Quest Druid? Big minions are difficult for Quest Druid to deal with, but the power of the Quest cannot be denied, and when it gets rolling it can just do so much, even if Dragon Druid has ramped up ahead of it. Nourish with Quest is also just insane.
Maybe the two can be combined? None of the Dragons benefit from the Quest, but maybe there is enough room to fit in around nine cards in a Quest shell. There is a lot of deck-building to be done around Dragon Druid, but the power of the revealed synergy cards is so high that there has got to be some way to use them.
Descent of Dragons Dragon Hunter
Can it be real? Will we get a good Dragon Hunter deck? Will Emeriss get some friends and rule the meta?
Hunter has two dragon cards in Standard format at the moment, Emeriss and Carrion Drake. Both are somewhat leaning towards Control Hunter, the eternal meme that goes against everything Hunter’s history and Hero Power teach us.
We have seen two Hunter dragon synergy cards from the new set, Corrosive Breath and Primordial Explorer, and they, well, are not Control Hunter cards. Instead, Corrosive Breath looks like a fabulous tools for going face while getting rid of some pesky Taunt minions on the way. You could consider Primordial Explorer a nod towards a slower archetype, but it is nowhere near enough to get there.
The non-dragon cards revealed from the set are also, let’s say, face-oriented. I have no idea how to build a Face Dragon Hunter, but Corrosive Breath makes me want to try.
Descent of Dragons Dragon Mage
Mage already has Kalecgos, and it is one of the main threats in Highlander Mage at the moment. Two new cards have been revealed, Azure Explorer and Malygos, Aspect of Magic, both also related to spells.
None of the Mage dragons are fast enough to make a Tempo Dragon Mage viable, so they need to go into a slower shell. Highlander Mage seems like an ideal fit: between the three Mage class dragons and the neutral dragons, there are enough dragon minions to support a Highlander version, and both Azure Explorer and Malygos, Aspect of Magic generate additional resources that help keep the deck going. Alternatively, a more pure dragon build with a spell burn finisher could be an option.
Descent of Dragons Dragon Paladin
Paladin’s upcoming roster includes Sand Breath, a cheap but effective buff, and Nozdormu the Timeless that is even better than the four-mana 7/7 meme, as it goes all the way to 8/8 for that four mana. It also sets both players to ten Mana Crystals, but those crystals start out empty, so it is your opponent who gets the first full-mana turn.
With all of these tools, Paladin could try many things with dragons. Handbuffs are of course an option. With Bronze Herald to give more cards to hand and potentially both Dragon Speaker and Glowstone Technician to provide the buffs, Paladin could build some insanely big dragons.
I don’t have high expectations for Nozdormu the Timeless. Giving your opponent the first ten-mana turn is risky, even if it comes with an 8/8 on the board. Paladin does have access to multiple board clears, so perhaps there is a Paladin deck that can make more use of the mana than its opponents, but I’d expect to be hit in the face fast and hard if I gave my opponent some extra mana.
Sand Breath, while perhaps a minor buff, can nonetheless lead to some sweet value trades thanks to the Divine Shield it bestows on its target. That sounds great for a midrange deck – perhaps a Highlander variant with dragons?
Paladin does not have an obviously strong dragon deck, but it has a lot of options and there will be plenty of brewing to do with the class.
Descent of Dragons Dragon Priest
Priest has a long history with dragons. I remember how excited I was about The Grand Tournament release and all the dragon synergy Priest got in that expansion, even if it did not turn out to be all that good. Well, at least Chillmaw wrecked some Patron Warriors for me. Good times.
However, those days are long gone, as are the best times of Dragon Priest when Drakonid Operative was in Standard. The only current Priest dragon is Nightscale Matriarch, which has never had any success in any deck.
We don’t know much about Descent of Dragons Dragon Priest yet. We’ve seen Fate Weaver, which hints at combo synergies and also requires you to play a Galakrond deck.
So far, there are no indications that the good old midrange Dragon Priest would return.
Descent of Dragons Dragon Rogue
Dragon Rogue is something I don’t think I’ve ever heard of before, but Descent of Dragons wants to make it possible. Rogue gets a great card draw spell, Candle Breath, and an infinite value Dragon, Waxadred. Alas, Waxadred has neither Charge, Rush, nor Taunt, so even when it gets summoned back – assuming it is not hit with a Polymorph – it is just going to sit there for a turn before it gets back into action.
The current top Rogue deck is Tempo Rogue, and pretty much every good Rogue deck has been a fast one, with the notable exceptions of Quest Rogue and Kingsbane Rogue, both subjects to extensive balance changes. Rogue as a class does not have the tools to play a long game, and whenever they have received such tools, they have been nerfed.
The best I could think of for Dragon Rogue would be some kind of a Quest Rogue deck. Waxadred providing tons of value to go alongside the immunity-granting weapon from the Quest could perhaps get something done. It’s still hard to see why Rogue would give up on tempo, given how successful that approach has been for the class.
Descent of Dragons Dragon Shaman
Dragon Shaman has existed in multiple forms over the years. Combo decks with Malygos used to be a thing, and Dragon Control Shaman has been attempted as recently as this year. We do not have much information about Descent of Dragons Dragon Shaman yet, because only the breath card has been revealed. Lightning Breath is a decent damage spell, albeit one that cannot go face, so it cannot resurrect Malygos Shaman. It looks like a control tool to me, so perhaps we will see the rise of Dragon Control Shaman? Many Dragons have Battlecry effects, so Shudderwock can have some good times in such a deck.
Descent of Dragons Dragon Warlock
Blizzard has so far revealed nothing about Dragon Warlock. Given that Warlock Galakrond deck will be a Zoo deck, hopefully we will finally see Warlock get some control tools again. Control Warlock was phenomenal for a long time, but it lived entirely on its year 2017 cards, especially Bloodreaver Gul'dan, and was devastated after they rotated out of Standard format. Almost two years have passed with Control Warlock not getting great tools. Hopefully it can return in dragon form, but so far there has been complete radio silence regarding its fate.
Descent of Dragons Dragon Warrior
Back when Alexstrasza's Champion was a thing, Dragon Warrior was a scary midrange deck. Later on, some attempts have been made to build a Control Dragon Warrior, but it has not been a match to Mech-based control lists. In Descent of Dragons, it looks like Control Dragon Warrior will have its time to shine.
Warrior already has a number of Dragon synergy cards in Standard format: Emberscale Drake, Smolderthorn Lancer, War Master Voone, and Dragon Roar. That’s an impressive selection, and one that could have been core to Control Warrior, if Dr. Boom, Mad Genius was not so good with Mechs.
Descent of Dragons further adds to the roster with Molten Breath and Deathwing, Mad Aspect, another pair of Control Warrior dragon cards. In fact, there are so many dragon cards available to Warrior now that even Highlander Dragon Control Warrior – a monster by name at least – can be possible.
The new cards are clearly control tools, although I could see Deathwing, Mad Aspect as a curve-topper in a midrange deck too. Its downside is that you cannot play it when you have board control, but it could give you the board back if you lose it and potentially stay on as a major threat too.
Unfortunately, the existing Warrior dragon cards will rotate out in April, at the same time as Dr. Boom, Mad Genius, so we will never get to see whether Dragon Control Warrior could have been a thing in the absence of the good Doctor. However, we have not yet seen Warrior’s version of Galakrond, so Boom might also be pushed out of the meta by the introduction of an even more powerful Hero card. That’s a little scary, but it could happen.
Dragon Decks for All Classes!
I hope that too much of a good thing will not turn sour, because we are getting lots and lots of dragons in the new expansion. There are interesting potential archetypes for each class, and it looks likely that several classes will have a Dragon deck in the meta even after the dust settles down:
- Ramp Dragon Druid, perhaps a Quest version too
- Dragon Face Hunter, maybe also Control Hunter with Emeriss
- Highlander Dragon Mage, could also be a non-Highlander Burn Mage
- Handbuff Dragon Paladin, Highlander Dragon Paladin
- Some kind of Combo Dragon Priest? Not sure if any are viable
- Quest Dragon Rogue? Looks inferior to Tempo Rogue though
- Control Dragon Shaman
- Control Dragon Warlock – I can dream, right, we have not seen the cards yet
- Midrange Dragon Warrior, Control Dragon Warrior
Dragons do not easily turn into an aggro deck, but we’ll see where Hunter can take them. Other than that, it’s Midrange, Highlander, and Control, and some potential for Combo, should any class have the spells to use with Malygos, or should Priest get some brand new combo dragon.
More dragons are coming to Hearthstone than ever before. In December, we’ll find out if we really wanted what we thought we wanted.