When it comes to classes in Fractured in Alterac Valley, Druid is a pretty interesting one. On the one hand, the class has been at the top of the meta for basically the entire United in Stormwind expansion – the Aggro Taunt Druid was discovered very early into the expansion and it’s still a great deck to play. However, Druid didn’t really receive too many new cards that could bolster this kind of playstyle. Sure – Clawfury Adept and Wing Commander Mulverick might be serious considerations, but they won’t change anything about the deck fundamentally, possibly only slightly improve it.
No, Druid’s main focus in Alterac Valley is somewhere else. Blizzard has once again decided to push Beasts in the class. If you look at how well that worked out in the past, you might be disappointed, because even though Beast Druid has gotten support many times in the past, it was rarely forged into an actual, viable build. But this time might be different. The new package is quite extensive, and I actually think that it might be good enough to push a new archetype. Or rather, a twist on an already existing, strong archetype.
There’s a new duo I really like, playing into the Druid’s “Choose One” mechanic – Pathmaker and Pride Seeker. I actually think that they’re both quite powerful cards, but there’s one issue… Druid doesn’t really have great Choose One spells right now. There’s Nourish and… honestly, that’s about it. The new Capture Coldtooth Mine is okay, but I feel like it will only fit into specific decks that want to tutor low/high cost cards. I don’t think that card draw is currently something Druid is struggling for, and technically it doesn’t even give you any card advantage – you trade 1 card (and 2 mana) for another card. That’s why I haven’t included them in theorycrafts yet, because I feel like they’re both dead cards unless you draw Nourish. And while their interaction with Nourish is amazing, it’s a bit too specific condition for my taste.
And finally, the Druid’s Hero card – Wildheart Guff. While it’s the only card that really pushes the evergreen “Ramp” mechanic, it’s a really, REALLY good one at that, that’s why it landed in two of my theorycrafts.
Since I wanted to focus on “truly” new decks, I only have two lists to share. I’m sure that players will put 1-2 new cards into old decks like Aggro Taunt Druid or Clown Druid and they will be better, but I feel like it’s a bit boring to talk about those.
Aggro Beast Druid
First one is an Aggro Beast Druid. At first I’ve tried building a slower, more Midrange version of Beast Druid, but frankly I don’t think that it’s going to work nearly as well as the Aggro version – Druids right now has an abundance of Aggro/Token-related tools and not enough Midrange ones. Midrange version might be more fun to a novelty factor, but it most likely won’t be better – although I still think that it might be worth testing out.
The deck might remind you a bit of the already existing Aggro Taunt Druid – and yes, the overall playstyle would actually be quite similar. You trade Taunt synergies like a really powerful Razormane Battleguard and Greybough for Beast synergies. One of the better pay-off cards has to be Shan'do Wildclaw, which I rated highly at first, but it never had time to shine because Druid didn’t get enough synergies. While maybe not as strong as Prince Keleseth of old, given that the deck has fourteen Beasts in total (more if you count tokens, but sadly it won’t affect them), it would be a massive boost in power if played on Turn 3. Later in the game, the alternative option would also be pretty okay at times – getting an extra 3 mana Park Panther or Dire Frostwolf might not be the best thing ever, but it’s still pretty good.
And then we get to the other Beast synergies – cost reduction. Both Fangbound Druid and Frostsaber Matriarch give you an opportunity to “cheat out” some Beasts for cheaper than you normally would. While that’s already a good thing by itself, those card really shine because of their synergy with Oracle of Elune. Matriarch will often be 0 mana in the mid-late game, so she will make an amazing copy target for Oracle. Getting an extra 4/5 Taunt for free can lead to some blow-out boards like the ones you could create with Battleguard discounts. And Fangbound Druid can either make your Oracle turn stronger by reducing 1-2 mana Beasts to 0, or even activate the copying of Park Panther and Dire Frostwolf, since it will reduce their cost to 2. Talking about Dire Frostwolf, I actually really like the card for one extra reason – Stealth. A 4-drop with Stealth makes your Turn 5 Arbor Ups much more consistent. Even if your opponent somehow clears it,
There’s an argument for including two copies of Heart of the Wild, but I do think that Arbor Up is still a better AoE buff card because it creates extra minions on the board instead of just buffing the currently existing ones. And the deck already runs a lot of cards that you want to have a big board for – Composting, Clawfury Adept. Putting too many such effects would lead to hands where you have your board-wide buffs but not enough tools to actually create one. I will also try to test out Frostwolf Kennels – 3x 2/2 with Stealth for 3 mana is really tempting, although the card feels a bit too slow.
The truth is that Ramp Druid is one of my favorite archetypes in Hearthstone history. It was never an overly complex deck with intricate mechanics or cool combos, but there’s something fun of playing your big drops way earlier than they should normally be played. The feeling of racing against the clock in the early game just to stabilize with a big Taunt, after Taunt, after Taunt, was something I always enjoyed. And I think that this kind of play style MIGHT become somewhat viable again.
Let’s start with stating the obvious – Wildheart Guff is the only reason why I’m even attempting something like this. The card is really powerful – the initial effect is already roughly worth its mana cost (after all, it’s Shield Block + Wild Growth in one), and then your upgraded Hero Power is pretty nuts too. You can start by ramping up, and then you have an unstoppable draw machine. Oh, and excuse my Wild Growth comparison – it’s much better than WG. Not only the Hero Power costs 2 mana, but it also gives you a FULL Mana Crystal, not an empty one. So technically, using your HP to ramp up only costs you 1 mana. You can, for example, play Guff on T5, then Hero Power on T6 and still have 5 mana left to drop Spammy Arcanist. Which is actually a really interesting option in Druid – it will most likely be bad in decks that already have a solid way of clearing the board, but as a Druid your AoE options are very, very limited. So having a Neural Defile on a stick can be powerful. The fact that it costs 5 is also less severe in Druid simply because of Ramp. The card might often save your skin against the likes of Aggro Druid or Face Hunter.
There’s also an extra way to “ramp up” without actually ramping up – Vanndar Stormpike. Getting the card on curve can lead to some really interesting games. Now your 7+ mana cards will be much more accessible even if you didn’t ramp up particularly well. However, keep in mind that he’s kind of an experimental option – there’s an argument for cutting him out of the deck and running a smaller minion or two, such as Ivus, the Forest Lord or Speaker Gidra.
But of course, the creme de la creme of every Ramp Druid decks are your big, pay-off cards. Just like always, the main point of focus is survivability. It doesn’t matter that you get to 10 mana if you just die right after without doing anything. That’s why all of the high cost cards either have an immediate board impact or Taunt. The card I like in particular is Lokholar the Ice Lord – Aggro decks are really vicious and will kill you quickly. Being at or below 15 health on Turn 5 is going to be common in many matchups, and having an 8/8 with Rush and Windfury for just 5 mana can save your skin at times. Clearing two biggest minions right away, with an extra “threat” of killing up to two more next turn is sweet.
And the best part is that all of those minions really double-down as threats in slower matchups. Lokholar is an 8/8 with Windfury. Mo’args are also 8/8’s. Colossus is a sticky 7/7 that will require two removals (or transform/Silence). Druid of the Plains can be used to clear a mid-sized minion and then still leave a big body. And, of course, there’s always your Solar Eclipse + Cenarion Ward win condition, creating a big board out of nowhere. I think that unless we get to see a really heavy Control meta, that’s more than enough threats to win against slow decks too.