Cards That Didn't Make the Cut
Budget Deck Replacements
How To Play The Deck
Foreword by monk: Earlier last season, Irronman aka coreyrj hit rank 1 Legendary on NA with a curious Token Druid deck. After posting about his achievement on reddit, he received a lot of inquires about how to play the deck and even a few requests for a guide. Today, I am pleased to present said guide.
For our readers who are unfamiliar with the Token Druid archetype, it's an aggressive variation of Druid designed to secure board presence through efficient early and mid-game minions, flood the board through token generation, and pump them with Savage Roar or Power of the Wild (PotW) for the win.
Initially my thoughts regarding 'Token Druid' were likely the same as most of the community: "Token Druid is inconsistent, how is it meant to perform without drawing into its Violet Teacher - PotW combo"?
The thing that surprised me the most about Token Druid was its versatility. It has the capacity to play the long game vs control decks -- with Ancient of Lore and Cenarius -- and manages to contest the board early against aggro decks with Argent Squires, Harvest Golems, and Claws. The deck's versatility can be partly attributed to many of the Druid's class cards which give you an option on how to play the card. All said, Token Druid is a deck that wants to snowball board position: securing the early/mid game is often going to secure you the game.
When we're looking at the Hearthstone ranked ladder -- and climbing it specifically -- the most important consideration in a deck is win percentage. You aren't crafting a deck to counter a specific archetype, you're crafting a deck that performs the most consistently against the field of decks you are likely to be playing against; therefore, versatile decks make for the best Ranked decks.
The second thing to consider after selecting a versatile or adaptive deck archetype is the current state of the meta game; for example, which decks are the most popular at the moment and which cards are most popular within those decks. Understanding your selected deck, and the state of the meta game, is critical when deciding which cards should be in your deck.
Zero/One Mana: 2x Innervate, 1x Claw, 2x Argent Squire
Innervates are an instant addition to most Druid decks and this is no exception. It's one of the strongest and most versatile cards in the game right now it allows you to accelerate your board position or get out an early Ancient of Lore to cycle through your deck. Claw is a card that has been gaining a lot of popularity in the current metagame largely to respond to Zoo Warlock. Claw is often used turn three paired with a two mana minion or removal spell like Wrath to stabilize the board position. Argent Squires are perfect minions for Token Druid with uses throughout the game: they can be used on turn one for a sticky minion; or even used later in combination with a Power of the Wild or Cenarius. The Divine Shield means it has great synergy with any buff in the deck.
Two Mana: 2x Power of the Wild, 2x Wrath, 1x Bloodmage Thalnos, 1x Loot Hoarder
Power of the Wild is the backbone of any Token Druid deck. While you typically see the +1/+1 buff used in conjunction with a Violet Teacher, being able to use it as a 3/2 against aggressive decks makes it an extremely consistent addition to the deck. Wrath while being a low cost spell is just far too good not to instantly justify a slot in every Druid deck. Whether you're removing minions in the early/mid game, or using it to cycle through your deck in the late game, it's rare you're upset to have a Wrath in your hand. Bloodmage Thalnos founds his strength in the deck when used as a combo card. The power of a turn four Bloodmage and Wrath or Bloodmage and Swipe on turn six will make you regret playing this card in the early game. Loot Hoarder is a card i grappled with largely because of its underwhelming synergy with PotW: even two Health is a liability against board clears. That said, however, it has consistently performed well in aggro match ups. This in conjunction with playing it to draw versus control earns it its place in the deck list.
Three Mana: 2x Savage Roar, 1x Blood Knight, 2x Harvest Golem
Savage roar is the sources of your burst potential. Using one or two Savage Roars with anything resembling a board can often steal you games seemingly out of thin air. It is often important to adjust your play when you draw this card to try and establish a board which can secure lethal the following turn. Blood Knight is a card I am in love with with the current state of the meta. The rise of Zoo decks, in conjunction with a variety of control decks like Shaman running Argent Squires, I am of the opinion that Blood Knight should be a natural choice for most decks. Harvest Golems are another fantastic additions to Token Druid: the ability it has to stick to the board with its Deathrattle is invaluable when coupled PotW or Savage Roar.
Four Mana: 2x Swipe, 2x Keeper of the Grove, Leeroy Jenkins, 2x Violet Teacher
Swipe is yet another versatile Druid card which continues to see play in almost every build. It is a strong single target removal spell coupled with a one damage sweep that sets up favorable trades. Swipe often single handedly shuts down warlock aggro and further makes it an auto-include in the deck. To continue the string of strong and versatile Druid cards, we have Keeper of the Grove. While there are no Ancient Watchers to activate in this deck, its ability to answer Cairne Bloodhoof or Sylvanas Windrunner -- which have both been seeing more play since the Tinkmaster Overspark nerf -- or smite an unfortunate two Health minion -- more than earns it the inclusion. Leeroy Jenkins is in here to round out and add consistency to your Savage Roar combo. Leeroy also can be used on turn eight and coupled with a Swipe if you're desperate for board presence.
Violet Teacher along with PotW is the core of every Token Druid and the deck would have trouble existing without her.
Five Mana: 1x Azure Drake, 2x Druid of the Claw
Azure Drake is in a flexible slot in the deck at the moment. This is one of the only cards in the deck which helps you recover from a large deficit versus control and 4/4 body goes a long way versus aggro. Druid of the Claw is a card which really pushed Druid over the top in Constructed. Most decks are dying to have a five drop as consistent as this guy and you're never sorry to see him.
Six Mana: Force of Nature
The turn nine Force of Nature and Savage Roar combo found its way into every Druid deck and makes even more sense in this aggressive Token Druid list that's already running double Savage Roar.
Seven Mana: 2x Ancient of Lore
A frankly overpowered card and one which is impossible not to include. The double card draw turn seven -- or even earlier with Innervate -- on top of a solid body makes this a 'god-tier' card in the control match ups and really enables you to play a long game and grind them out. The ability to heal vs aggro is just the icing on the cake!
Nine Mana: Cenarius
If you had to pick a theme for this list it would be versatile: Cenarius is no exception. Token Druid is one of the only decks where you're consistently using the +2/+2 to minions and boy is it a viable option in control match ups. An army of 3/3's and 4/4's is near impossible to manage, even in the late game. Combine that with ability to make Taunts on a clear board to Savage Roar he turn after makes it one of my favorite cards in the deck.
Cards That Didn't Make the Cut
Defender of Argus: While constructing this deck, I gave Defender of Argus a lot of thought because this card is great when trying to snowball from a board position and the Taunt would give me a higher win rate versus Hunter. I eventually concluded though that it was a bit too inconsistent; especially considering I'd need to cut other four mana cards. I want to curve out and he was simply outperformed by the other options.
One Force of Nature: The deck isn't running two Force of Natures because two are unnecessary. A single Force of Nature, double Savage Roar, and Leeroy are more than enough burst potential without needing another combo card to clog up your hand.
Imp Master: Imp Master was in the deck over Blood Knight for a long time; however, the rise of argent Squires on ladder and the popularity of Zoo makes it impossible not to run Blood Knight. Imp Master will likely be subbed back into this slot if the meta were to shift away from Divine Shields.
Big Game Hunter: I thought this card for a long time with the hope of it improving my 'Handlock' match up. It didn't, however, improve my win rate versus Handlock enough to justify weakening nearly every other match up so I eventually passed on the card.
One Azure Drake: I was running a second Azure Drake over Cenarius for a long time. This is a judgement call, but this Token Druid deck has to play a lot of games versus control and Cenarius gives potential to play the long game and not fizzle out.
Moonfire: A lot of the original Token Druid lists I saw ran one or two Moonfires to combo with Violet Teacher. While the card performed decently in the Warlock aggro match ups, you're not running enough card draw to warrant such a low curve. Overall it just performed far too inconsistently and was useless in many match ups.
Gadgetzan Auctioneer: This is a card with a lot of potential in Azure Drakes slot; especially considering you have seven spells at two mana or less. Currently I'm preferring Azure Drake for the guaranteed draw and Spell Damage but there is definitely an argument to be made for this card and I may have him in my deck in the future.
Chillwind Yeti: In the very early days of this deck, I was running Chillwind Yeti over Keeper of the Grove. In a similar way to Defender of Argus, however, Keeper of the Grove outperformed him more consistently and is the deck's only answer to Cairne or Sylvanas.
Soul of the Forest: There is an argument for this card as the second Force of Nature. The problem is, filling your deck with combo cards makes your deck less consistent and frequently clogs up your hand. This card just didn't perform consistently enough for me to feel good about including it.
This the core combo in this deck. While sometimes you can't afford to keep the Coin/PotW in your hand, or you're forced to play Violet Teacher on turn four, being able to combo these in one turn for guaranteed value is incredible in terms of tempo advantage. This is the ideal play if your opponent is playing slow enough. You could normally feel safe playing Violet Teacher into a clear board turn four but this synergy is so well known within the community that your opponent will likely make any trade just to remove it: so be hesitant playing it if you have no turn five follow up.
Don't be afraid to play Leeroy as mid-game removal or pressure if you can Swipe the Whelps; that said, ideally Leeroy is saved for a Savage Roar burst.
Everyone should be familiar with the Force of Nature Savage Roar combo by now. Doing 14 damage from your hand and a clear board is a really powerful burst. Hopefully one of you can live the 22 damage double Savage Roar dream.
Always be looking for possible lethal combinations or ways to set up for lethal the turn after reliably with these cards in your hand.
One of the strongest two-card combinations in the game currently. It's always preferably to save Bloodmage to play with these cards. This is also extremely important versus the aggro Warlock match ups as they have a plethora of 3/2 minions.
It is often worth it to save Argent Squire if you draw into it after turn one. You can get more value out of it with a buff on the same turn.
Budget Deck Replacements
Since this deck runs three Legendaries, one of which being a flexible slot, it is a good budget option for newer players. The following is ordered by least easily replaced to most easily replaced.
Bloodmage Thalnos: Replacing this cards slot is honestly a little bit tricky, only two obvious options come to mind: the first being Loot Hoarder; and the second being Kobold Geomancer. Bloodmage is likely going to be used more for the spell damage combo than it is to cycle cards so I would lean towards the Kobold, but it's hard to feel good about the substitution.
Leeroy Jenkins: This card can be replaced with a Force of Nature and can be used in largely a similar way: burst late game or desperate mid-game removal. Leeroy costing 2 mana less, however, makes it much easier to combo with Savage Roars and it sticks to the board. Token Druid has a lot of ways to deal with the Whelps. That said, don't feel as bad about this substitution because there are situations where you're going to be wanting a Force instead, it is more effective in the aggro Warlock match up for example. A second Force of Nature also increases your chances of finding that turn nine lethal.
Cenarius: While I am in love with this card at the moment, there are a many substitutions like Azure Drake or Imp Master which can work just as well in the deck: experiment with this slot and see what works best for you!
As stated in the introduction this deck wants to fill the board with efficient early mid-game minions like Argent Squire, Harvest Golem and Druid of the Claw, create tokens with Violet Teacher, and pump them all up with Power of the Wild and Savage Roar for a surprise lethal. Having control of the board is critical in every match up. Your pace should, however, depends on the match up. Versus control decks, you don't want to overextend or rush out early and play into removal: use your resources intelligently and it's frequently correct to sit on combo cards. You might find yourself having done minimal damage by turn seven only to play an Ancient of Lore and flood out the turn after to set up a win by turn nine.
How To Play The Deck
Versus fast decks, it's important to be as mana efficient as possible and to stop your opponent from establishing a board presence. Frequently, this involves using Power of the Wild as a minion, a turn four Violet Teacher, and the Ancient of Lore as a heal.
It is important to note that because you snowball, decks with many board clears -- like Shaman or Paladin -- or even decks that accelerate the board like Handlock prove difficult to manage.
Ordered -- as always -- from most difficult to least difficult.
Vs Warlock (Handlock)
Like every other Druid deck, you will have a serious problem with Handlocks. Turn four Mountain Giant is a Token Druid's worst nightmare. This minion will completely negating your board position and Druids have no hard removal answers so it can take your entire board to remove. If your opponent doesn't have the timely Mountain Giant, however this is definitely a winnable match up. Play around Hellfire as much as possible and try your best to burst the Warlock from the 14-18 health range to play around Molten Giants.
While Warlocks are typically hard to mulligan against because you don't know whether it's a control or aggro deck -- both are very popular on the ladder -- it isn't as bad for the Token Druid as it is for other classes. You want to keep Keeper of the Grove as it is very strong versus both Twilight Drakes and Flame Imps and Knife Jugglers. You also want to aggressively mulligan for early minions to create a board presence early. Unfortunately, you will likely be forced to keep Swipe in your opening hand -- even though it's weak versus Handlock -- because of how essential it is in the aggro match up.
Shamans, simply put, have too many early answers for your minions: Lightning Bolts, Earth Shocks, Rockbiter Weapons, Lightning Storms, and even Hexes can make it very difficult for you to build a board and transition into late game burst mode.
When playing versus a Shaman, you want to prioritize Innervates to get out an early Druid of the Claw or Violet Teacher so that they can't easily remove them. Keep any removal -- Claw, Wrath, or Swipe -- to deny their board and prioritize removing Unbound Elemental on the turn it is summoned or you won't be able to efficiently deal with it later.
While you have the capacity to out-race the Hunter deck, if they draw into their Unleash the Hounds + Starving Buzzard + Timber Wolf combo early your token generation can work against you. You want to try and control your token generation as much as possible and use Druid of the Claw for Taunt almost exclusively. As a Token Druid, playing against Hunter it is often a race. If you suspect that they have played a Misdirection, try and trigger it with your Shapeshift and not your minion so as to maximize damage output.
When you mulligan vs a Hunter, hold on to any early minion as well as a Swipe in case you need to clear a flood of small minions.
This is where it starts getting easier as far as match ups go. This class is listed fourth because of control Paladin list Equality combos. An Equality combo in conjunction with a crazy amount of healing can potentially make the Paladin match up a very difficult one.
Paladin is a match up where I feel good keeping Violet Teacher in my opening hand because of how slow they play. You typically will not needed to prioritize early removal. I would consider keeping a Swipe in case it's the aggressive variation.
Whether the Rogue you're facing is Miracle or Tempo, I think Token Druid generally has an edge in this match up. You don't need to worry about overextending on the board and most of your minions are tricky enough to remove that you end up finding an edge. If you draw poorly though, and the Rogue draws well, they definitely have enough tools in their arsenal to put you down so don't relax too much!
When you mulligan versus a Rogue, Harvest Golem, Argent Squire, and Druid of the Claw are all fantastic cards to keep. I would even consider charging Druid of the Claw in order to play around Sap. Be wary of using Innervates early because of Sap: but generally speaking this is fine.
Using Power of the Wild as a buff is often incredibly important in this match up to play around Swie as most Druids do not run Starfall in the current meta. Your Violet Teacher + Power of the Wild combo will often win you games so try to keep Violet Teacher in your opening hand and save it. Always keep Swipe and the Force of Nature + Savage Roar combo in the back of your mind when playing against a Druid: you shouldn't have too much trouble breaking through their mid-game Taunt minions.
While this match up can be tricky, Mages have a notable lack of early game board clears. If you find an early edge in board position, you are frequently able to snowball it into a victory. Always be wary of the turn seven Flamestrike versus a Mage, but also don't be afraid to drag the game out and rely on your card draw and late game Cenarius to secure you a victory.
Versus a Mage, throw back anything above three mana apart from Violet Teacher: return this as well if you returned your other two cards.
Vs Aggro Warlock
Many people are surprised to see a deck as feared as Aggro Warlock so low on this list; however, I really feel like we have all the answers. Keeper of the Grove, Wrath, Claw, Loot Hoarder, SWIPE, Argent Squire, Harvest Golem, and Blood Knight are all cards that you enjoy seeing in your opening hand versus an aggressive deck and Ancient of Lore, Cenarius, and Druid of the Claw are great in the mid to late game. Oftentimes it is correct to use Savage Roar or Force of Nature to board clear versus the Warlock. You are going to win this game more consistently by stifling their board and not by bursting them down. It is rare that I find myself having enough of a board presence in a mid game to be comfortable with using Power of the Wild for the buff, it is typically used for a minion to help stabilize the board in this match up. At the end of the day, it is still possible to lose if they draw into turn five Doomguard as you can often have a lot of trouble taking it off of the board.
Priests generally exist to give control decks trouble. Thankfully this isn't us. Unless the Priest draws into turn two coin, Injured Blademaster, and Circle of Healing -- or Auchenai Soulpriest + Circle of Healing -- you're going to have a very easy time snowballing into a win. Even if the Priest does manage to wipe your board in the mid game, as long as you don't overextend, you have enough fuel to keep pumping out threats into the late game and they usually keel over and die.
Violet Teacher is definitely worth keeping in your opening hand versus a Priest and typically saved for the one turn Power of the Wild combo. Additionally, be reticent to Power of the Wild your Druid of the Claw if you can avoid it to keep it at four attack.
Warrior is at the very bottom of this list because of control Warrior: although you have a reasonable time against the aggressive deck as well. Simply put, the control Warrior has a lot of trouble dealing with your board and typically gets bursted down early in this match up. Power of the Wild used as a buff is always correct to play around whirlwind. As long as you don't overextend your entire hand into a Brawl, you're usually going to be able to grind the Warrior out.
Keep Violet Teacher and Wrath in your opening hand. Wrath and a Shapeshift or Claw is an often a necessary answer to early Armorsmiths and Frothing Berserkers.
Thanks for reading and good luck climbing the ladder!