What Broke Jade Druid?
Knights of the Frozen Throne has brought us a few key players in both Arena and Standard. Bonemare (aka Dr. Bone), for example, is a potent threat in Standard and an absolute bomb in Arena. The Death Knights can be equally as powerful in Arena, and a few of them have had an enormous impact on Standard, as well (Malfurian and Anduin in particular), while the Lich King himself shows up in both aggro and control decks.
Although there are some interesting new decks (the Dead Man’s Hand/Arcane Giant fatigue Warrior deck seems really sweet and skill intensive), this article will focus on one of the most popular decks in the meta: Jade Druid.
Changes and developments from Knights of the Frozen Throne have resulted in a lack of diversity among the general standard metagame. Although games are longer and defined by midrange or late-game slugfests, the diversity among decks has largely decreased with this expansion. Jade's surge in popularity has resulted in a lack of format diversity, and this article will explore why. Moreover, we will discuss the key cards in Jade Druid and how it currently operates. Whether or not you play this deck, it is important to know your enemy, as across the ladder and legend this deck sees an extraordinary amount of play.
The builds of Jade Druid are pretty standard despite a few open slots for a couple tech cards that help combat certain metas. The general game plan of the deck relies on its ability to ramp in the early game, thereby creating an enormous amount of power in the mid-game that helps to invalidate an opponent’s early plays. The result is a massive swing in tempo favoring the Druid whose early Primordial Drakes wipe the entire board of 2 and 3 mana creatures. Generally speaking, these Druid decks tend to win by this mid-game tempo advantage and not by creating infinite value via Jade Idols. In fact, many control lists run Skulking Geist to prevent Druid decks from winning in this fashion. Instead, the game’s are decided by powerful mid-game threats that opponents are simply unable to answer with any efficiency. They cannot play both a threat and removal in the same turn due to mana limitations, and are eventually run over by the Druid’s threats and card advantage. The Jade deck prioritizes the mid-game as a sweet spot for dominating the board, able to deploy threats and removal spells via mana advantage. As a result, it is almost essential to hard mulligan for some form of ramp.
So what happened? How did Druid get to this level of consistency and power? The simple answer is Ultimate Infestation. It is an interesting thought experiment in deck-building, however, to think about why this card interacts so well with the Jade game plan. Ramping is critical. In fact, it is often worth using a Nourish for mana in the early game. Previously, some Druid decks were under tension with regards to the two options for Nourish. In many games, it became apparent that, while ramping up mana was essential, it was also possible for the deck to run out of relevant or powerful cards to play. Ultimate Infestation has completely changed this play pattern. Being empty handed is now less of a risk and more of a temporary setback.
Druid decks can safely use the first Nourish for mana in the early game and be confident in drawing another massive card advantage spell in the late game. Instead of relying on the second Nourish, which is still great, the deck is also live to draw into one of two copies of Ultimate Infestation. Moreover, casting this card ahead of schedule can be absolutely devastating to opponents. This kind of consistency in a ramp deck creates a fairly large problem for the meta-game and would-be deck builders. Whether the Jade decks are packing The Black Knight, Spellbreaker, Harrison Jones, Mind Control Techs, or any other tech cards, the fundamental core of the deck is built around its ability to trade early mana cards that don’t affect the board for powerful late-game cards that both affect the board and create card advantage.
It’s difficult to understate the effectiveness and consistency that a card like Ultimate Infestation adds to this style of deck. Ultimate Infestation has played a huge role in skewing the metagame by pushing out other Midrange and Control decks. Simply put, these decks cannot compete with the tempo advantage in the mid-game that Jade and Ramp decks produce.
As a result, there is a notable uptick in aggressive Aggro decks hoping to capitalize on the Druid taking off the first few turns to ramp. I’ve been smashed by a few turn one Innervate into Vicious Fledgling’s over the last few days, for example. While Spreading Plague helps, it is almost essential to draw one to survive against a fast aggressive start to stand a chance.
It isn’t obvious to me at this point where the metagame shifts, but I’ll be hanging out at DreamHack Montreal hoping to see how players adapt. Nevertheless, I’m sure players will be drawing 5 for quite a while as long as this card is Standard legal.