Liquid`Sheth on StrifeCro Druid
Hi, I'm Liquid`Sheth and last season I hit Legendary in Hearthstone using this deck as of rank five. My goal with this Deck Guide is to explain this deck and share some of the things I've learned thus far. If you'd like a beginning look at this deck, feel free to simply watch this video primer. Gnimish explains everything very nicely and he helped me when I was just learning this deck quite a bit! Beyond the video, I plan on covering how to play against each class, things to look out for, the correct time to cast your spells, and how to mulligan. Below is my version of StrifeCro's Druid deck. Note that I've replaced a Loot Hoarder with a Tinkmaster Overspark.
Before we begin, I also want to share my record from the past hundred games:
- Warlock 17-14
- Hunter 5-0
- Paladin 5-3
- Druid 14-4
- Mage 14-10
- Rogue 9-11
- Warrior 2-2
- Shaman 3-1
Note: there is no mention of Priest because I've never played them in 100 games.
In the rest of the article, I want to give you an idea of how this deck matches up against all the other popular decks in the metagame (An example of each deck will be shown!). I'll also try to give you tips on how to best play against these decks and what your chances are against each one.
The Aggressive Warlock!
This matchup includes two main types: Murloc based Warlock; and charge/power overwhelming/leper gnomes type of Warlock. This matchup is high variance so all you want is to be slightly over 50%. The cards to keep when looking at your opening hand are Innervate, Wrath, Claw, Wild Pyromancer, Keeper of the Grove, and Swipe. Those are the cards you will always want. Keeper of the Grove, for example, is really good all around: it provides board presence and does two damage right away. Pyromancer is the most conditional as you'll often pitch him if you have no spells in your hand: he goes up in value if you have the coin because Pyromancer into coin and spell gets rid of Blood Imps. The cantrip minions are some you should consider getting rid of because they are too slow for this matchup.
You also have to carefully consider when to play key cards against Warlock. This class can snowball quickly, so you have to watch out for minions getting buffed. As a rule, if you CAN kill something -- say with Wrath or Claw which won't work if it has +1 health -- you need to kill it right away. Gnimsh brings up an interesting point, if you have Pyromancer out and Wrath a Harvest Golem, then the token will die as well. Breaking Divine Shields is another important upside to avoid getting hit with a resilient and buffed minion. Another play to consider is making a Druid of the Claw in cat mode to trade right away. Innvervating out Keeper of the Grove can also be great on turn two. If you are playing vs Murlock variant, you really want to try to kill murlocs off quickly before they can get buffed. Finally, you should not be afraid of trading early because you become more favored the longer this game progresses.
The Mid-Game Board Control Warlock:
This is a similar matchup to the Aggro Warlock decks but requires you to be more reactive. Keep Battlecries in your hand until you can maximize their effect. You want to play more cost efficiently here because the midrange deck has a better late game. The main difference you have more time against this variant, and you should be aware of what the differences are between these two decks: Leper Gnome is a big tell. Obviously decks can blend together, and people run crazy decks, but in general you know how they want to kill you. Just like in chess, think about each move they do and try and figure out why they did it. Did they draw a card with Life Tap on turn two? Perhaps it's more of a Mid Warlock or someone who doesn't have as many two drops. Something else to consider, is many times you don't want to make your big strong minions into Taunts. This sounds counter-intuitive, but you want don't want to lose your game changer to Black Knight. If you can get a Taunt out when he has four mana crystals -- and you have five -- you should have time to benefit before Black Knight. Just try to stay alive versus this deck: you will be more mana efficient.
The Giants / Late Game Warlock:
You still want to keep the mulligan strategy the same against any Warlock: you always need to play around the chance of them being a fast Warlock. There are two paths once you identify this slower Warlock build. One way involves playing control and trying to keep his HP high enough that he won't be able to play his Molten Giants for cheap. In this matchup, you will need to save your Silences for drakes and you save removal for the giants as well. Keep Thalnos back to cast at the same time as your removal because he will never trade well. Don't be afraid to make everything a Taunt versus this deck. Play around Hellfire -- which can do 3 damage -- and make sure you don't have minions at 3 hp. You also don't want to make things with 4 hp: both Shadow Bolt and Soulfire kill those. Leaving minions at 1 hp is asking to be Mortal Coiled. The other line is to play as aggressive as possible and hope to bring him down before he draws the giants or before he can play many Taunts: aim for the face and ignore non-Taunt minions. If you added Big Game Hunter, this wouldn't be as big of a deal, but would be weaker against other decks. So maybe consider what you personally have problems with. I recommend you keeping track of your win rates with each plan. Cairne is also very strong to get out early, and Cenarius can also help with burst damage. As with any game, the cards you draw will impact your decision whether or not to try to race. Ultimately I think this is a less then 50% matchup for us and is one counter to our deck.
Those are the three Warlock variants that are most popular right now. I took quite a bit of time on this one because this is the class which you will see the most of on ladder.
The Secret Hunter:
This deck wants to clock you with the bow and force you into traps. There is a really interesting way to deal with this deck. The plan is to build a board and avoid triggering traps until you are safe from the weapon regardless of its durability. The way you do this, is to never attack the hunter and allow those traps to go off. You take it very slow -- sometimes even winning with fatigue -- because you can heal up and his power only does one damage. It is really key to wait him out and play safe against this. It may be slow, and painful, but it will keep you alive and you will very likely win against this as long as you don't get baited into traps.
The Aggro Hunter:
This deck wants to charge and hit you until you die. In general, you want to try to kill his minions however possible and get a Taunt out quickly. You want to prevent charges and explode traps, but be careful that you aren't doing so with a bow up. Many times it will be a race, but you have heal and Taunts while he doesn't to interact with you. Card draw is important in this matchup and getting spells is also very important. You want to mulligan similarly to against the Aggro Warlock decks. The easiest way to tell which Hunter deck you are facing is to see when they place down a weapon and how many traps they play.
I'm not going super in depth against hunter, because this article is already going to be long enough and you won't encounter many Hunters. Just remember, attacking Hunters and triggering traps is a bad idea!
Sword of Justice and the other is a committed control deck. You will probably have some problems against the control deck, but the mid game deck isn't usually that scary; therefore, I will only really go over the control Paladin. Generally, they will be using greedier minions and thus will have higher quality card. Their late game will, therefore, be better so you'll want to be aggressive and force out his bombs early. You will want to mulligan for minions instead of spells, as you usually would. You also don't have to worry about early aggression versus most Paladins: cards like Harvest Golem, Cairne, Druid of the Claw, or Ancient of Lore are OK to keep in this match up. You don't generally have to worry about him buffing too many minions, and you want to be able to have the tempo edge and always count the amount of Equalities he has cast. The main thing to remember is that he can completely clear the board as early as turn 3 with coin; therefore, you never want to have more than three minions on the board at one time. Three average minions -- or two little ones and one big one -- is generally a good mix versus paladin. You want to hold some cards in reserve even if it seems correct to play them: Keeper of the Grove, Tinkmaster and Black Knight. You hold Keeper of the Grove for Sylvanas or Cairne and save Tinkmaster for Ragnaros or Sylvanas. Black Knight is for Tirion. You can also use Black Knight if you are getting him fairly low on health and have another way to deal efficiently with Tirion. Make sure you keep all of these in store for control Paladin and you can do well. If they start to beat down, you have Swipe, Starfall and Pyromancer to deal with it: usually they are much too slow to kill you.
This deck wants to take you to the late game and win with large minions. You are going to want to treat this match up similarly to control Paladin. You again want to mulligan to minions and force him to use up his spells. You want to keep your spells, if possible, until you have something that gives Spell Power. You hope to make him use his spells on your little minions. The reason for this, is it's most important to save spells for your legendaries. If your opponent can't clear them with spells, it's quite tough for him if you have the tempo advantage. Our deck includes many cards that buff up minions and theirs generally doesn't. Feel free to make your small minions Taunts; however, keep your big minions Taunt free even if you have to play Defender of Argus into an empty board. Most time, keeping your Druid of the Claw as a 4/4 with charge is fine to play around the Black Knight. Don't get too greedy and force them to play out their spells. If they get the edge on you, you need to take back initiative. Playing Cenarius on turn seven with Innervate is usually quite difficult to handle. Abusing him is generally the strongest play in this match up because they don't have a simple answer. If they Tinkmaster Cenarius, your Sylvanas becomes even scarier! Try to abuse those cards, and many times if you have some Taunts, you will want to go upstairs with them. If you are only using your minions, you can end games with two Swipes to his face and attacking with your minions. So make sure you play aggressive at all costs: you will lose the late game situation unless you go in with a significant lead.
The Mirror Match:
I haven't played the exact mirror a lot, but it is still about gaining an edge while trying to pressure: force him to have answers for your minions. Try to avoid having minions at one health, to play around Swipe. Save heals for your minions in just about all situations. Remember they usually only have one Starfall, so try to avoid playing Sylvanas until it has been cast. If he plays Sylvanas, try to clear your own board or silence it, but you should always hold some answer until she is cast. Sylvanas makes or breaks this matchup. It is usually easy to keep in mind what cards he could have because they will be the same as yours. Try to remember how many taunts he has left, for example, so you can use your Black Knight efficiently. Ancient of Lore should always be used to draw cards or heal minions: Innervating him out early is often the strongest play. He can eat Starfalls so your Sylvanas doesn't have to. You again want to mulligan for minions, and card draw. I feel like cantrips are also a good way to play against this deck. Cycle through your cards and find the most efficient way to deal with his threats. Above all else, remember what board clears he's cast!
This deck has gone slightly out of fashion due to the nerfs and this list might be a bit out dated as well, but you will get the idea. Their goal is to stall you into the late game and use giants to help kill you. Many decks throw in Alexstraza in order to get your hp low enough and make your heals irrelevant. They want to be cost efficient while slowing you down, and then their endgame is quite strong. We can have two different lines of attack against this deck. As with most other classes, Ice Block is the main hurdle for us. The first approach involves simply trying to burst him down before he can draw all of his cards. We want to keep our heals in our hand and try and build up our armor through the hero power, while forcing him to use spells on minions and keeping up some Taunts of our own. We want to avoid getting everything in range of a single Blizzard, or even a spell powered Blizzard later in the game. One way of doing this is to burst him down; however, I have another method I prefer.
My favorite way of dealing with Frost Mages is to actually keep them above 20 hp. Our goal is to slowly remove the minions they play -- such as Mountain Giant -- and to keep them too high to cast Molten Giants. We want to leave them at 20 for almost the entire game. We also want to trick them into using spells on our minions, so we pretend we aren't going to stop at 21. The most damage they can burst us is 2x Fireball, 2x Pyroblast + Alexstraza. This amounts to 32 dmg, on top of being reduced to 15 health: try not to use any heals until an Alexstraza has been played or you reach 15 or so health! Our deck runs two heals for three and two heals for five, a total of 16 healing. So lets do the math. If we are brought to 15 health, and he hits with 32 damage, we need 18 healing to live with 1 hp. We need, therefore, several armor in place before we are hit with Alexstraza.We also want Frostbolts to be played onto our minions to attempt to kill them. We posture as if we are going to get aggressive until 21 health to hopefully bait out their spells early. We want to wait until they are starting to take fatigue damage or at least until they have 0 cards left in their deck. This works because, we can then try to burst them to 0 here with our minions on the board, and even if we don't kill them, the next turn we can use Swipes or spells to go around the giants So try to save Swipes for reach and use Wraths, Starfall, and minions to kill his Mountain Giants. The idea is that his Ice Block won't save him from fatigue; therefore, his plan of living for two turns and killing you with those Molten Giants is obsolete. Say you can only do 12 damage to him with minions the turn that he is going to run out of cards. That is still fine, because you should have those two Swipes to finish him off. Keeping Thalnos and doing 10 damage with Swipes is also an option. So that is how I try and deal with this frost giants deck! Long explanation and still really tough! Not taking extra damage, and dealing with the 8/8 Alexstraza is tough while playing around getting completely board wiped is hard. Really consider what cards are in your opening hand, and definitely consider the ability to silence your minions if they are frozen.
This deck wants to use early spells and minions to gain board control then finish by burning you out. He ideally wants to get your health down to around 15 before losing control of the board around turn 6. We want to stop him cold, without really having to take much damage early. If we get to turn 6 with around 20+ health we are in good shape; however, this isn't easy. We want to mulligan for spells such as Wrath, Claw, or Pyromancer. Swipe is sometimes good to keep as well and Harvest Golem is usually solid. Starfall is pretty weak, on the other hand, and not something we really want to keep. We end up sometimes taking a lot of damage from his Argent Squire or Mana Wyrm if they are hidden behind Mirror Images. It's very difficult for us to stop all of that damage, so we need to draw cards and hope for control followed by healing spells. Hitting with our armor ability to clear the board is risky as it costs us a bit of health. Having Innervate to power out a Taunt can be good but this runs the risk of eating a Fireball. Two minions and an Argent Defender is usually safer. Innervating Harvest Golem or Keeper of the Grove is quite strong. Mana Wyrm can still get hits in for quite a lot so we must save a Wrath. Don't be afraid to overkill things: this matchup isn't about efficiency. Stopping damage is all that matters. Even using a four mana spell to kill a one drop can save you. His hero power and yours cancel out if you just ping him every turn. Maintaining board control and keeping yourself out of Pyroblast range is the key to this match. This is another matchup that is difficult, but winnable.
Simply playing out the cards you have and forcing them to have an answer is the best bet. As with any beatdown strategy, there is always a chance they just can't stop you. Hopefully even if they can, they'll be using their spells and minions to kill your minions and not you. I know that Keeper of the Grove is great because of his Battlecry, but he doesn't always need a minion target in this match up. If you can get to late game, you generally will have the lead again. The mid game is where we are going to struggle. Which of our minions allow us to trade equally or better? We have to really think ahead and plan in this matchup. Rogue isn't too aggressive at the start, so trying to come up with a good plan then could make sense. I need to practice this matchup more as I'm not great in it. Trying to force Rogue to have answers for your cards seems to be working the best for me. Best of luck in this matchup! ^^
Warrior is a vast unexplored continent! There are a bunch of variations floating around; but in general, you want to keep Warrior at around 20 health until you can burst him down. You also want to consider keeping him higher, so he can't use a weapon to get below the threshold. These are just basic tips versus warrior. I play it similar to Frost Giant Mage in that I wait them out and try and figure out which variation they are playing. The sooner you solve it, the sooner you can adjust. Some small ideas are still to not put out more then two or three big minions to play around Brawl: most decks only run one. You always want to kill their Spell Power minions if possible and try to keep one Taunt around if you think they are getting low enough on hp to use their combo. For our deck, waiting them out can work out fine. Be prepared to use Cenarius as a finisher. Once you've baited out the Brawl, load up the board and try to keep your threats alive. Then with Cenarius -- or with Swipes in your hand -- you can try to burst him down in one turn. If you can't finish him, but you get close, he will probably kill you on the backswing. I don't have great experience playing against this, but I've played this deck quite a bit. Your main priorities are figuring out which deck he's running and keeping your health topped off.
Have fun versus Warrior and really try and read deeply into the moves he makes. Is he afraid to get low now? Could you burst him down quickly? Is he likely to have Gorehowl/Alexstraza with those Worgens? He has some Brewmasters down, but why now? Consider Warrior a murder that you have to solve before the timer of his health ticks down and you die.
Sylvanas for a good time, and save Black Knight for their Earth Elemental. Tinkmaster should be saved for Ragnaros, as is always the case. You can bring them as low as you want and you will be in good shape as long as you maintain tempo. I'd say aim for a mix of minions and spells in your opening hand. Choosing anything low cost to mulligan to is fine. There is a wide range of different types of Shaman, so consider what they play early. If it's a one drop minion, they are probably aggro with Bloodlust. As always, read into what they are doing and consider which cards they might have. Be aware they have two hexes so try to count those. Basically you are aggro when you play against shaman, but also be control once you gain board control.
- Warlock – Innervate / Wrath / Keeper of the Grove / Claw / Harvest Golem / Pyromancer / Swipe;
- Hunter – Innervate / Wrath / Keeper of the Grove / Claw / Harvest Golem / Pyromancer;
- Paladin – Innervate / Wrath / Keeper of the Grove / Claw / Harvest Golem / Pyromancer;
- Druid – Novice Engineer / Harvest Golem / Keeper of the Grove / Pyromancer;
- Mage – Innervate / Wrath / Claw. And maybe Keeper of the Grove / Swipe;
- Rogue – Innervate / Claw / Wrath / Harvest Golem / Pyromancer
- Warrior – Innervate / Wrath / Keeper of the Grove / Claw / Harvest Golem / Pyromancer;
- Shaman – Innervate / Wrath / Keeper of the Grove / Claw / Harvest Golem / Pyromancer / Swipe.
Innervate, Wrath, Keeper of the Grove, Claw, Harvest Golem, and Pyromancer are generally the best to keep! When playing second, it's easier to mulligan correctly; when playing first, sometimes you have give away cards that just aren't as good in order to get the initiative early.
- Count how many Defenders of Argus and Taunt minions they can and should have. For example, Rogue generally one has up to two Defenders of Argus. Druid can have that plus up to two Druid of the Claw and two Ancient of War. Warriors generally don't have any Defenders of Argus, although don't be surprised if a few surprise you out of the blue. After your opponents have played these Taunts, don't be afraid to play Black Knight on an empty board.
- Sylvanas is not a counter to Cairne. If your opponent plays a Sylvanas and all you have is Cairne on the board, you can hit Sylvanas with your hero power and then hit her with Cairne. You will keep a 4/5 Baine and his Sylvanas will be dead.
- Use Harvest Golems and Pyromancers as bait for smaller spells in most match ups. Especially if you don't need Pyromancers for their ability.
- Cenarius is my favorite minion to Innervate out and I think he is very strong when making Taunts on turn 7.
- Using two Innervates to bring out something early, very often ends in disaster. Try to only use one Innervate per minion to avoid over committing.
- If someone plays Gorehowl against you in a later turn, and might have Alexstraza, make sure to use your hero power that turn to keep at least one armor!
- Sometimes it's important to just play a minion. Using a coin to play Pyromancer can be ok. Using Keeper of the Grove's ability on the enemy hero can also be good to apply some pressure, especially against control decks.
- Saving spells for Pyromancer can be a double edged sword as he will hit your own minions as well. Don't be afraid to use him as an attacking minion if you don't think you'll need that extra damage effect.
Alright, that's it! Thanks so very much to StrifeCro for talking to me about the deck and letting me write about it! Also a huge thanks to monk and KadaverBB for helping me revise the paper and giving me ideas as well! They've all given me good pointers for against Rogues and plenty of other help.
This has been a basic overview of the knowledge I picked up getting to legendary in ladder. It's a lot of information, and I realize I repeated a few things, but hopefully it helps you play and understand this deck if you'd like. It truly is a lot of fun, and it takes a long time to try and make the right plays in all situations! Please send feedback to me on anything: it is all appreciated. Hopefully this helps some of you out there, and if you have any questions then feel free to ask!