Hi! I'm Asmodeus, Hearthstone coach and author of The Complete Guide for Hearthstone Player. Recently I've been exploring more aggressive decks and strategies and while doing so, I found more wins than I'd expect with this druid list. After testing it in more games, and playing against all classes, I decided to share the list as well as the insights I've gathered from using it.
This guide will first explain the basic strategy in an overview, then we'll move on to shedding some light on important card choices and mulligan strategies, and to finish it off, I'll go over all class matchups.
Disclaimer: this is NOT a beast druid deck. I am sure there will be soon a good Menagerie Warden deck that focuses more on beast synergy and a midrange, board-centric strategy, but that's a completely different approach to the game. This aggro list is designed for fast and fun games when you want to make your climb time efficient or get through your quests fast because it abuses a hole in the current metagame.
Deck Overview and Strategy
As the name suggests, this is a Fast Aggro Druid deck. In most matchups you'll have a limited time to kill your enemy and if the game goes on for too long, your chances of winning will go down with each turn. Almost every game you'll assume the offensive role of beatdown and either try to kill the enemy before he stabilizes the board or race him to be the first player who can inflict lethal damage. As with all aggro decks, you'll have to manage the risk and know how your opponent wants to deal with your minions so that you can anticipate it and either play around it or take calculated risk. Always pay attention to the ways your enemy removes your board and learn to play around it in all common matchups.
This deck does not rely on any single synergy but there are many great combos you can perform with it (Innervate and Fandral Staghelm can create some spectacular situations). It works by using cards which are powerful on their own as well as in combination with other cards, which is always a good way to build a deck. It also fits very well into the current metagame where people are not used to fighting for their life on turn 4.
Enchanted Raven was the initial inspiration for this deck. It works great with Mark of Y'Shaarj because of the low cost and the ability to survive against hero abilities if played on turn one. Aggro Druid has to get on board fast and this card makes this task significantly easier.
Mark of Y'Shaarj works perfectly in this kind of deck for the same reason that buffs work well in a Zoo Warlock. Almost always you'll have your minions on the board before your enemy and buffing one of them allows you to trade better and maintain that board presence while at the same time drawing you a card. It's very easy to ensure that you can cast it on a beast for the additional card draw and you'll be able to do it most of the time.
Darnassus Aspirant went out of the fashion recently but it's still a solid card in this type of a deck. It will help you with developing your board faster in the early game and force the enemy to respond, often in a very inefficient way. It's just another tool to gain a tempo advantage in the first few turns, which are the most crucial for an aggressive strategy.
Sir Finley Mrrgglton is a staple in aggressive decks which do not have access to either Life Tap or Steady Shot. Discovering either of those will automatically make your deck better and even if you don't find these particular hero abilities, the flexibility of choice between 3 others, will make up for it. There is also a neat trick you can use with Savage Combatant on board. If you use your hero ability, Discover a new one through Sir Finley Mrrgglton, and then use your hero ability again, you'll be able to hit for at least 5 points of damage with your hero (6 if you discover Dagger Mastery)
Fandral Staghelm might seem like a card that you'd like to include in a deck which tries to get more value in it. You get a combination of both effects from the cards with Choose One mechanic, but it's not only good in terms of the value you get out of these cards. You also do two things at the same time and don't have to spend more mana, which means that it's also a great tempo move. Fandral Staghelm also adds another target which your enemy has to remove, making it easier for your other minions to survive and sometimes forcing your opponent to take awkward line of play, because you dictate when you play it and he's not always going to be prepared for it. If you're unsure how the affected cards will work, check out this wiki page: http://hearthstone.gamepedia.com/Fandral_Staghelm
Nourish is the plan B of this deck. If you run out of steam you'll end up with a lot of unspent mana anyway, so what better card to use it on than a powerful card draw to refill your hand. You'll almost never use it for ramp effect because you simply won't draw enough minions in time to benefit from all of the mana 99% of the time. The synergy with Fandral Staghelm is also just a small bonus but even without Fandral Staghelm I'd still run Nourish in this deck.
Mulligan and Matchups
Mulligan is very important in this deck, and as I've said before in one of my previous articles: "If you think mulligan is very important, you're still underestimating how important it is". It's also very complex because there is no simple solution to mulligan in every game. You need to factor in the class and deck tendencies to play all popular early game cards. You need to consider your chances of drawing all the other cards that work well with what you have. You also need to always evaluate the entire group of cards together because having something like an Innervate will change completely what you can and can not keep in your opening hand.
You'll keep Mark of Y'Shaarj if you have a high chance of sticking a beast on the board. This means Enchanted Raven against classes unlikely to remove it right away or Druid of the Saber.
Normally you'll be trying to get 1-drops and 2-drops as a priority, while favoring those which fare better in the matchup you find yourself in.
1. Against Druid - you'll want simply the strongest minions to play as early as possible, which means 1-drop, 2-drop, and a 3-drop if you're going first and double 2-drop plus a 3-drop if you're going second. That's of course if you don't get an Innervate. The main cards you'll want to play around are Swipe and the possibility of Ancient of War. Look at your own board and think if your enemy wants to Swipe it. If you think he'd do it and he doesn't, that's a signal to expand wide and play unafraid because he's much less likely to have it in the following turns.
2. Against Hunter - the player going first will have an advantage, just like in most other aggro vs aggro matchups. It's very important that you get a 1-drop above anything else. The player with the earliest board presence will have the choice of trading or attacking the face and if you start attacking the face before your enemy you'll win the race which forces the other player to react defensively, putting him even further behind in the race to lethal. You never want to be on the defensive side, so do everything you can to force your enemy into taking trades while you chip away at his health while developing your board as much as you can. Avoid trading into Deathrattle mininions. This way the hunter will be forced trade them in order to use the additional value that their Deathrattle effects provide. At all times be aware of the damage potential on both sides. Count the available damage as well as the damage you expect to come from hand, to see if you need to kill off some enemy minons or if you're safe to damage the enemy.
3. Against Mage - this matchup is one of the most difficult ones. The overabundance of removal spells in mage decks makes it incredibly difficult to build a threatening board and without it, you can't end the game fast, and if you can't end the game fast - you lose by default. Most mage decks are actually midrange lists masquerading as tempo mage. They have much more fuel in their tank and are perfectly capable of outlasting you. Your best bet is to time your one health minions for turns where it's awkward for the enemy to use his hero ability. Mulligan for a hand that can deal with an early Mana Wyrm (for example Enchanted Raven + Mark of Y'Shaarj if you're going first) and save your direct damage for the removal of Sorcerer's Apprentice and Flamewaker.
4. Against Paladin - you'll have a good time fighting paladins. Currently popular paladin decks are too slow to handle this type of aggro. Mulligan for a simple, strong early curve and keep your direct damage to deal with Doomsayer. If the paladins plays Doomsayer against a single 2-drop and dealing with it would require wasting more cards, it's better just just let it go off and flood the board the turn after, but if your board can deal any significant damage then it's well worth it to remove a Doomsayer.
5. Against Priest - this matchups is not up to you for the most part. It's also not up to priest. It depends mostly on the quality of priest's draws. Some games, you'll destroy them on turn 5 without seeing any answers. Other times you'll have your board removed turn after turn until you completely run out of resources and are forced to concede. Priest's weakness is still having an appropriate answer at the right time so you should not be afraid to develop your board asap and try to finish the game early. The more trades you're able to ignore the better for you. For example if you suspect that your enemy will Resurrect his 4/3 Injured Blademaster, then do not kill it with your 2-drop. Let the priest suicide it and Resurrect it next turn, while you cash in the free face damage. Only trade with minions which are critical to remove, such as Wild Pyromancer
6. Against Rogue - you'll want to focus on minions that aren't vulnerable to the most common, early removal. You're going to deal mostly with Backstab, SI:7 Agent and Eviscerate so make it awkward for the rogue by arranging your minions in the most difficult way to remove with those cards. Don't mind the rogue's ability to remove your minions with his hero power. Even if he does it, the damage he takes while doing it will still contribute to killing him faster. Against rogue it's better to have a wide board than a tall board. This means that you'll want to use cards like Mark of Y'Shaarj on smaller minions, to have multiple threats, rather than stacking it all on one minion. This plays around Sap and Shadow Strike
7. Against Shaman - try to mulligan for cards that will allow you to deal 3+ damage in the early game. You will need to trade efficiently against Tunnel Trogg and Spirit Wolf. If you can get through those taunts while keeping your minions alive, you'll have a great shot at winning the game. Even if shaman finds his Lightning Storm it's still an inefficient way to deal with your board and will give you more time to rebuild it. Similarly to the hunter matchup, you want to dictate the terms here and become the offensive side, while shaman is forced to trade against your minions.
8. Against Warlock - playing against a control oriented warlock deck should end in a disaster for the warlock, just as if he was playing against a face hunter. Against zoo it will largely depend on how the earliest drops match up against each other. Try to remember the most common zoo minions and mulligan for cards which can deal with them. Living Roots + Abusive Sergeant or Enchanted Raven + Mark of Y'Shaarj are optimal if you're going first. This plays out similarly to zoo vs zoo, so don't be afraid to use cards like Savage Roar just to pick up efficient trades early on. If you stay ahead on the board early on, the game will become easier and easier. It's one of the only matchups where you actually want to trade and leave enemy with no minions on board.
9. Against Warrior - many games will depend on the Fiery War Axe presence or lack thereof. For this reason you'll want to prioritize playing minions with less value or those who are bad targets for the weapon such as: Sir Finley Mrrgglton, Living Roots, or Druid of the Saber. You do not want to play around cards like Execute and even playing around Ravaging Ghoul isn't always the right choice. See if you have a lot resources to drag the game longer, if you can, then playing more conservatively and trying to dodge a bad Ravaging Ghoul should be a right call. If you're running out of steam soon and need to finish the game swiftly however, then you should just risk it and maximize your damage while disregarding the Ravaging Ghoul possibility.
Innervate adds a lot of exceptions. When you already have Innervate you'll want to plan exactly how you're going to use it and then select your mulligan choices from the other cards. Do not plan too far ahead. You're supposed to use Innervate as soon as it is safe to do it. If you have a minion that's particularly vulnerable to a very common removal which your enemy is likely to have in his opening hand, then do not prioritize innervating that card in this matchup and look for another way to use it. Since you're often all-in from the start, developing your board as early as possible is often the best move. Do not use Innervate to Nourish unless you have nothing else to do and need to draw cards and never Innervate it to then gain permanent 2 mana crystals. That side of Nourish should almost never be touched in this deck.
I hope this guide will give you enough information for a good headstart so that you can abuse the friendly metagame while it lasts. I find aggro decks especially effective in those experimental times, shortly after release of new cards because people are still trying new things and refining their decks and while it is true that aggro decks such as this, also need to keep evolving and improving, it's much easier for a proactive deck than for the slower lists. I've had a lot of fun playing this deck and hopefully you will as well. Share your opinions or questions in the comments, I'm always happy to answer them and good luck in your games!
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