“Druid has been the most powerful class in 2018’s Hearthstone.” We don’t like to put statements in superlatives, but this one deserves it: The combination of Druid’s incredible Basic and Classic toolkit and card additions from the last six expansions turned the class into an armor-spamming, Moonfire-nuking and deck-swapping abomination – and all of that while still being able to easily survive through the early- and mid game.
But these days will be gone. After one and a half years worth of balance changes to Druid powerhouse cards like Spreading Plague, Innervate, Wild Growth, Nourish, the classes’ overall popularity dropped tremendously, and this trend will likely continue with the upcoming Standard rotation.
The lion’s share of the community heavily agreed on said balances changes, but the fact that not only the classes’ archetypes but its core fantasy is in shambles as well sets the tone for a rather rough outlook into the new Standard year.
Will Druids need to have high hopes in regards of 2019’s expansions, or is there any silver lining on the horizon in the form of underrated cards from the last three sets?
Druid’s Lost Cards
Journey to Un’Goro
Remember when Journey to Un’Goro released? Maybe most Druid players won’t. In terms of class cards, Druid was not offered a whole lot of new toys. The Druid quesst Jungle Giants didn’t really create new archetypes that could survive the very polarized meta of 2017 up to this day, and thus only Earthen Scales and Living Mana saw regular play throughout the years.
However, neutral powerhouses like Tar Creeper, Stonehill Defender and Primordial Drake were more than welcome in Druid’s control-based archetypes back in the day: all of those minions rang in the reign of Druid as a class and are still represented in many lists up to this day.
Knights of the Frozen Throne
This is where the pain starts. For Druid players at least.
It is very safe to say that, in retrospect, KotFT was the expansion that broke Druid. We don’t even know where to start!
First off, the not so honorable mentions go to Ultimate Infestation. There has not been another card in the whole game of Hearthstone that was as controversial as this 10-cost spell. From the very start, we as a community could see that Team 5 really loved and still loves the card; however, through printing Ultimate Infestation, all the design “pot holes” on the Druid development road became clearly visible. May it be the insane ramp mechanism through Classic set cards like Wild Growth or Nourish or the copious amounts of removal with Swipe and Wrath: UI, as people call it nowadays, was put in each and every single Druid archetype and clearly showcasted a disturbance in class balance.
The same goes for Malfurion the Pestilent. Despite being such a great card in terms of design and mana-cost, its flexibility and raw power level made Druid the impenetrable fortress that it is today. Together with another balance problem called Spreading Plague, Druid went from being the average jack-of-all-trades to a class that was able to handle endless pressure while mana-cheating its way to victory.
These three cards made every Druid archetype work wonders. Token Druid received a lot of love with KotFT and reigned supreme in the first months of the new meta featuring cards like Crypt Lord and Druid of the Swarm, while other cards like Hadronox were waiting in the wings to complete the nightmarish vision of what the community should call the “Year of the Druid”.
Kobolds and Catacombs
As already said, KnC completed the circle of Druid domination. In retrospect, both Lesser Jasper Spellstone and Branching Paths should have never been printed. These two cards pushed Druid over the line of being killable even by the most fierce aggro decks by providing amounts of armor where even Warriors paled in comparison.
Another card that shook up the meta and may have been the most powerful print of the set was Carnivorous Cube. This minion made – together with Master Oakheart and Witching Hour from the Witchwood set – Taunt Druid a real deck and created the most broken board swings in the history of Hearthstone. Ironwood Golem as well as Oaken Summons fit perfectly into that archetype and made Lesser Jasper Spellstone the single-target removal that Druid needed for the “perfect run”.
Not last should we mention King Togwaggle and Twig of the World Tree, two cards that started out with a lot of meme potential, but contributed towards the trend of OTK decks in late 2018 and early 2019. Many hoped that this card combo would never be represented as much in the meta, because we all – including Team 5 – know that it is not a fun experience to play against decks with mill mechanics.
All in all, KnC showcased the pinnacle of the upcoming Druid dictatorship, and it hopefully has been a lesson learned for both players and developers that more and more power level doesn’t necessarily equals in more and more fun gameplay.
Druid’s Upcoming Archetypes
Due to a lot of tools staying in the Basic and Classic set, Token Druid has always been a fan favorite after new set releases. That goes for the Standard rotation as well, and flexible cards like Wardruid Loti and Floop's Glorious Gloop could add just enough power to form a very basic but still strong archetype for the beginning of the new Standard year.
Normally we would put Treant Druid as a sub-category of Token Druid, but the immense amount of support it received with the release of Boomsday as well as Rastakhan makes this archetype Druid’s dark horse of the upcoming meta. It may look laughable now, especially compared to older iterations of Token Druid, but we could see a more hand-size-based version including synergy cards like Mountain Giant as well as a more combo-like list with cards like Treespeaker do some serious work. Again, printing this many Treant synergy cards makes it a very high possibility that 2019’s sets will support the archetype as well, so don’t forget to put it on your list!
Oh, the memes we have been receiving from this great, great archetype. But what if Gonk Druid actually becomes viable?
As already said, the Togwaggle combo had experienced a similar treatment in the past – yes, milling your opponent to death does sound a lot easier in comparison to Gonk, the Raptor‘s win condition, but power levels decrease across the board, so we might very well see a bunch of gonkhage in the first weeks of the new Standard year!
“Wait, didn’t the community say that Druid will get completely and utterly destroyed with the upcoming rotation? How would Malygos Druid still be a thing?”
Well, Malygos will still be in the game, just like Moonfire, and – as we all have seen in the last years – those two cards don’t need a whole lot of support to turn Druid into a one-turn kill combo class.
Again, Druid will of course be in dire straits after the rotation, especially when looking at the future of current archetypes, but some elements of the Druid fantasy still remain despite being nerfed into the ground. And that should give Druid players at least some hope that not only their old archetypes like Malygos Druid, but their class as a whole could receive some much needed healing after the upcoming brutal reality check called Standard rotation.