Decksperiments #1: Malfurion, Dragon Tamer

Ysera

Ysera – By Gábor Szikszai

AzureYeti here with the first installment of “Decksperiments,” a series where I use unpopular or even brand new deck archetypes and analyze whether or not they are competitively viable. If you have a deck archetype that you would like to see featured in the series, please leave a comment!

Archetype Background

The first deck to be covered in this series is named “Malfurion, Dragon Tamer,” and it could perhaps be classified as a Dragon Ramp Druid deck. In my own classification method, I consider there to be 4 main Druid archetypes.

  1. Combo Druid. I think of Combo Druid as a mid-ranged Druid deck that blends together the strategies of ramping out big minions, obtaining card advantage, and ending the game with a Force of Nature + Savage Roar combo.
  2. Aggro Druid. Decks of this archetype may use cheaper but more aggressive minions than Combo Druid (think Knife Juggler and Druid of the Saber) as well as Fel Reaver and the Force of Nature + Savage Roar combo.
  3. Token Druid. Token Druid decks, including Egg Druid, often attempt to play lots of minions and may use cards such as Power of the Wild and Soul of the Forest to make powerful and/or difficult to remove boards.
  4. Ramp Druid. I consider the Ramp Druid archetype to focus on playing big threat after big threat and forego the Force of Nature + Savage Roar combo. Ramp Druid decks can struggle in the early game, but Taunt minions can help to protect Malfurion’s health against aggressive decks that develop an early board.

The Dragon tribe of cards contains many big threats, some of which can result in massive value if left on the board. A common downside to running many late-game threats in a deck is that they may be dead cards in your hand for multiple turns if drawn before you can play them. However, several dragon-synergy cards exist that gain stats when summoned if you have a Dragon in your hand, often making it beneficial to hold an expensive Dragon minion for multiple turns. Not only that, but one card in particular, Twilight Guardian, is a member of the Dragon tribe, synergizes with other Dragons, AND can gain Taunt.

It seems to me that the Ramp Druid model and Dragon-based cards could work very well together. But is such an archetype competitively viable?

The Gameplan:

Turns 1-3: Basically just try not to let your opponent build a large, difficult-to-remove board. Focus on taking out early threats and ramping up your mana curve to either get out big threats early or use Wild Growth(s) so that you can get to your more threatening minions more quickly. Given the opportunity, ramping out a threat during the early game (for example, playing Innervate + Innervate + The Coin + Dr. Boom) might allow the player to take the board quickly and easily win.

Turns 4-6: During these turns, or perhaps during turns 3-5 if you used a Wild Growth, make use of the deck’s great medium-cost minions to develop a valuable board, remove the opponent’s minions, and/or use Taunts to slow down aggressive decks.

Turns 7-9: Use threatening and valuable high-cost minions to develop a fantastic board and/or gain card advantage over the opponent. Against more aggressive decks, use combinations of removal, healing, and counter-aggression to achieve victory. Against slower decks, aggression after gaining board control or playing for value and card advantage may be effective ways of defeating the opponent.

The Decklist:

Innervate x2: A useful card for ramping out big threats.

Zombie Chow x1: Playing a Zombie Chow on turn 1 can be an effective way to combat early aggression, and this deck can lack early game.

Wild Growth x2: Another ramp card. You can think of it as allowing you to skip a turn with a certain mana crystal total available.

Wrath x2: Great for dealing with early game threats, putting a dent in a big threat, or even cycling in matchups where removal might not matter much. Think of it primarily as a removal tool.

Darnassus Aspirant x2: Acts as both a potential ramp card and as an early-game minion that can help counter aggressive decks. The opponent may also rush to remove it because of its effect.

Big Game Hunter x1: I’ve recently even seen Zoolock playing Big Game Hunter. It can be such a massive tempo swing to get a 4/2 on board AND remove something like Dr. Boom for only 3 mana.

Blackwing Technician x2: Do you kind of hate Shade of Naxxramas and how it can die to things like Consecration, Arcane Missiles, Flamewaker + a spell, Knife Juggler + Muster for Battle / Unleash the Hounds, Blizzard, etc? Allow me to introduce you to Blackwing Technician. Instead of being a 2/2 when you play it, it actually can be a 3/5 if you have a Dragon in your hand. Bye, Shade.

Swipe x2: Say goodbye to Paladin boards. It’s useful in other situations too. Don’t forget that you can also target the opposing hero instead of a minion with Swipe.

Keeper of the Grove x2: The 2-damage option can be great for removal and the silence can be critical for minions like Sylvanas Windrunner.

Twilight Guardian x2: Piloted Shredder may be a strong card, but when you’re looking to increase a deck’s survivability and challenge the opponent to win on the board, Twilight Guardian might be more effective. Remember that Twilight Guardian is both a Dragon and a dragon-synergy card. It can enable other minions’ Dragon-based bonuses, but it cannot enable its own.

Azure Drake x2: Many combo Druid decks run Azure Drake(s), so seeing this Dragon in a Druid deck is not uncommon. It allows you to play a threatening minion, potentially get more value from Swipe and/or Wrath, and draw a card.

Blackwing Corruptor x2: Sure, 3/5 Blackwing Technicians and 3/6 Twilight Guardians may be nice, but the use of Blackwing Corruptor may be the single most logical reason to play a Dragon-based deck. It can be thought of as a Fire Elemental with slightly worse stats for 1 less mana whose effect is conditional. Playing it on curve with the effect allows you to develop a minion with the stats of a 4-cost minion AND remove perhaps a 3-cost minion, for only 5 mana. Unleash the power of the Blackwing on your foes and take control of the board with Blackwing Corruptor!

Druid of the Claw x2: Can act as removal or reach, but more often I play him in the 4/6 form with Taunt. Playing Druid of the Claw can be an impediment to aggressive decks.

Ancient of Lore x2: Using the Ancient of Lores for card draw may help keep the deck from running out of steam, and the healing may be critical for defeating aggressive decks or staying out of lethal range against Freeze Mage or Combo Druid.

Dr. Boom: If only you could get Turn 2 Dr. Boom every game.

Chromaggus: Whoooooo 6 attack instead of 7! Chromaggus may be very troubling to players who count on Big Game Hunter to remove big threats, and if this Dragon is left on the board for even 1 turn it can result in major value. Imagine drawing Dr. Boom the turn after you play Chromaggus and getting 2 copies of it.

Nefarian: It may be vulnerable to Big Game Hunter, but at least this Dragon has a useful Battlecry effect. Maybe it’ll even get the Force of Nature + Savage Roar combo when facing Druid!

Ysera: What a card advantage generator! If your opponent dares to leave Ysera sitting on the board un-silenced for multiple turns, they may get hit by a slew of powerful “Dream” cards that can decimate their board. Even if silenced, a 4/12 can still remove a lot of common minions.

Other Potential Cards to Include:

I don’t want for articles in this series to just be guides to specific off-meta decks; I want to provide an actual look at whether off-meta deck archetypes are viable. For this purpose, here are some other cards that I think may fit in well in a deck of this archetype.

Living Roots in place of Darnassus Aspirant

Brann Bronzebeard in place of a Blackwing Technician

Piloted Shredder, because it’s Piloted Shredder

Loatheb in place of a Druid of the Claw

Sludge Belcher in place of Druid of the Claw

Sylvanas Windrunner in place of Druid of the Claw, or possibly Nefarian

Onyxia in place of Nefarian

Alexstrasza in place of Nefarian

The Results:

I recorded a sample of 40 games played with the deck while I was at Legend rank and ended with an exactly 50% winrate (20-20). Do not place too much emphasis on this winrate; for more on how winrates can be misleading, see my article “Binomial Probabilities and Misleading Winrates: Does a 75% Winrate Over 20 Games Prove that a Deck Is Good? [STATSTONE #1].”

|   DRUID 4-5   |   HUNTER 0-2   |   MAGE 3-4   |   PALADIN 0-3   |   PRIEST 2-1   |
|   ROGUE 3-0   |  SHAMAN 3-1   |    WARLOCK 5-3   |   WARRIOR 0-1   |

I believe that I started this sample around legend rank 1300 and that the highest rank I achieved with the deck was 561.

Hearthstone Screenshot 01-26-16 00.23.15

Analysis:

The deck seemed to me to do fairly well against Combo Druid. I estimate that over a larger sample the deck could obtain a winrate of about 50% against other Druids. The Hunter sample size was only 2 games, and I believe 1 was a very close game against an aggressive Hunter. I think that because of the lack of Force of Nature + Savage Roar combo, the deck isn’t quite as strong against Freeze Mage as Combo Druid is, but it doesn’t seem to be too bad a matchup to me. The Paladin sample size was only 3 games, all of which were losses, but I also remember using the deck in a game not included in this sample to beat a Secret Paladin. I wouldn’t conclude that the matchup is unfavorable. Shaman seemed to be a generally favorable matchup, as well as Renolock, but Zoolock may be one of the more difficult common matchups.

Viability:

I think that the Dragon Ramp archetype is possibly completely viable. It seems to me to potentially be better than Combo Druid at combating aggression (it still has Wrath, Swipe, Druid of the Claw, and Ancient of Lore, but adds in Twilight Guardian, Blackwing Technician, and Blackwing Corruptor), but its winrate may be harmed overall by lacking the win condition of Force of Nature + Savage Roar. That being said, the deck is not without burst damage; Druid of the Claw and Swipe can be used together for potentially 8 or more points of burst damage for 9 mana. Because the deck does not have 4 combo-oriented cards, however, I would think that it may be more consistent overall than Combo Druid. I think there are pros and cons in the comparison between these 2 Druid archetypes, but that Dragon Ramp may, in reality, be completely viable. It may just take a better player than myself to prove it.

In Conclusion:

If you’re looking for a fun, strong deck archetype for next season, try Dragon Ramp. If you can take it to the top of Legend, you may become a famous player and help to popularize the off-meta archetype. You may also find a hearthpwn page for “Malfurion, Dragon Tamer” here.

Thanks for reading, and may you always play Turn 3 Ysera!

Hearthstone Screenshot 01-25-16 22.57.59

If you liked this article, you can find me on Twitch and Hearthpwn.

Kai

My mom said my eyes would turn into rectangles from playing too much PC. Joke's on her though, they are in glorious 16:9 now.

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