Hearthstone’s Journey to Un’Goro expansion cards have all been revealed, and now is the time to really start theorizing over upcoming decks.
While the Druid legendary quest, Jungle Giants, encourages slow gameplay, faster Druid decks also received some new tools to work with. In this post, I will take a look at these tools and theorycraft a couple of decks that utilize them for a more aggressive approach to the game.
Any discussion of aggro tools just has to start with Bittertide Hydra. It is the new Fel Reaver for Standard! It is a 5 mana 8/8 Beast that has a drawback: whenever it takes damage, it deals 3 damage to your hero.
Most of the time, Bittertide Hydra is worse than Fel Reaver, which came with the same cost and statline, but as a drawback destroyed three cards from your deck whenever your opponent played a card. For an aggro deck, this drawback was generally meaningless. Think about it this way: Your deck is randomized. Therefore, as long as you do not run out of cards, getting random cards destroyed from your deck is effectively meaningless, as cards could come in any order anyway. A common mistake players made when playing against Fel Reaver was milling cards and using unnecessary resources just to do that. However, sometimes you could recognize an opportunity, especially when you had a hand full of cheap spells, and mill every card from your opponent’s deck, in which case the drawback became very real.
One lesson learned from Fel Reavers was that you don’t go full Fel Reaver, unless you have the kill in sight. Playing two Fel Reavers on the board at the same time generally meant losing the rest of your deck. This lesson carries over to the Bittertide Hydra: playing two on the board against any class that has aoe is asking for trouble. Sometimes you will still want to do that, but you need to be careful about it.
The risks with Bittertide Hydra are much more pronounced than with Fel Reaver. You may lose up to 24 health if your opponent can kill the Hydra one damage at a time. Most of the time this is not going to happen, of course, although a Control Shaman running Volcano is a nightmare. Then again, if the Hydra eats a Siphon Soul or Shadow Word: Death, there is no drawback whatsoever as it does not take damage. It cannot be ignored, so one way or another, your opponent will have to deal with it or lose.
With the Beast tag attached, Bittertide Hydra is an ideal aggressive card for both Hunter and Druid, and I expect it to see a lot of play.
More old stuff reborn! Nerubian Egg used to be a key card in Zoo and Egg Druid, and now a new, slightly worse, reprint is available for Standard. Devilsaur Egg is a 3-mana 0/3 with a deathrattle to summon a 5/5 Beast. The Egg itself is not a Beast.
Compared to the Nerubian Egg, it costs one more mana, has one more health (generally a bad thing as you want it to die), and summons a creature with +1/+1 in stats. It is worse, because the tempo swing comes a little later and is more difficult to activate, but the Beast tag on the summoned Devilsaur comes in handy for Druid, because of Mark of Y’Shaarj. Sometimes you need to play the Mark on the Egg and don’t get the draw though.
Devilsaur Egg will see a ton of play. Egg Druid loves it, Token Druid loves it, and should any non-discard variant of Zoo be viable, it would love to play this on three followed up by Ravenous Pterrordax on four.
On the subject of old cards coming back, Ravasaur Runt resembles the old favorite, Shielded Minibot. It is a 2-mana 2/2 Beast with a battlecry to Adapt if you control two other minions. So, if you can fulfill the condition, you can build your own 2/2 with Divine Shield – the Shielded Minibot statline.
So, you need two other minions to activate the Adapt. Seems ideal for decks that can get on the board fast and stay there, such as Egg Druid. The Beast tag is also handy, as it activates Mark of Y’Shaarj.
Hunter and Paladin are also interested in the card, but they may find it difficult to keep two minions on the board in the early game. Ravasaur Runt is great if you can play it on two, but becomes less influential as the game goes on. Therefore, you really want to be able to take that early board to use it.
It has been a while since we had a neutral card that creates tokens as a deathrattle. Haunted Creeper was a staple in many token-based decks, but I am a little unsure whether Eggnapper can repeat that success. It is a 3-mana 3/1 that summons two 1/1 Beasts as a deathrattle. The Eggnapper itself is not a Beast though.
The big downside of Eggnapper is that 1 Health. Classes that find it easy to deal one damage can kill it very effectively, and decks that have small minions can get a good trade easily. On the other hand, that 3 attack means that Eggnapper also has an easy time to take a good trade if not dealt with.
The 1/1 Beasts are again good targets for Mark of Y’Shaarj, so I expect there to be a lot of experimentation around this card. Time will tell if it is good enough.
I already took a look at Shellshifter earlier when examining slower Druid decks. However, it is such a flexible card that it can find use in more aggressive strategies as well: defend yourself with a 3/5 taunt in an aggro mirror or get that 5/3 stealth ready as a threat against slower decks.
Evolving Spores is yet another tool for the Token Druid toolbox. This time, spend 4 mana to Adapt your minions. Note that all minions receive the same adaptation when you play this, so it has a 30% chance to be a permanent Bloodlust.
Still, I’m not that sure about this card. Mark of the Lotus already gives all your minions +1/+1 (the same as one of the adapt options) for mere 1 mana, and Soul of the Forest can give them a better deathrattle than the one offered by Evolving Spores for the same 4-mana price tag.
Perhaps there is value in flexibility, but this card faces a lot of competition.
Finally, one of the most interesting cards in the set. Living Mana is a 5-mana spell that transforms your mana crystals into 2/2 minions with a deathrattle to gain an empty mana crystal. Get your lands, no, wait, mana crystals, to fight for you!
Living Mana comes with a number of strings attached. First, you cannot transform temporary mana crystals, so if you Innervate this out on three, you will get three minions and lose all your mana crystals. Second, it only transforms as many mana crystals as there is space on the board: cast Living Mana on an empty board at 10 mana and you will get 7 minions and have 3 mana remaining. Do the same with one minion on the board, and you will get 6 minions and have 4 mana remaining to cast a Soul of the Forest. Interesting.
Furthermore, when the minions die, the mana crystals are returned to you empty. Therefore, if the opponent kills them on his turn, everything goes on as usual, but if you kill them on your own turn, you will not have that mana available immediately.
There are two cards in the game that can severely punish you for playing Living Mana: Mass Dispel and Devolve. Both of these cards transform all your Mana Treants, which removes the deathrattle from them and makes them not return the mana back to you upon death. Right now, Priest is not playing Mass Dispel a lot, nor are there that many Priests around, but Shaman is popular and Devolve is being used. So far these seem to fall under acceptable risks, but it’s good to be aware of their existence.
Building those decks: Egg Druid
Egg Druid is a different, Zoo-like way of playing Druid, and it definitely gained more than it lost in the expansion. Devilsaur Egg, Ravasaur Runt, and Eggnapper all provide interesting options for the deck, as well as potential Beasts for Mark of Y’Shaarj.
Egg Druid has more tools to build a board than it has had in a while, and with Living Mana topping out the curve, it can craft itself a board from nothing in the late game to have one more go at winning the game.
Here is a sample Egg Druid list I built with the new cards:
Building those decks: Token/Aggro Druid
The token strategy can also be played in a slightly slower fashion, with Violet Teachers and Living Mana providing multiple boards of tokens. Add in Bittertide Hydra for some extra pressure, and you have the makings of an Aggro Druid deck.
While this can be powerful when it works, this deck is currently lacking a good 2-drop. Druid of the Saber was hugely important, and with that gone, I’m not sure how the board will swing to the advantage of the Token Druid.
Still, there is no denying the power of an Innervated Bittertide Hydra. Maybe it can also find a better home in a non-token, purely Aggro Druid list.
While the Druid quest directs Druids towards playing big minions, and Jade Druid will remain a force to be reckoned with, Journey to Un’Goro provides some nice tools for a more aggressive, token- or beast-based approach to playing Druid as well.