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Skulking Geist can’t save us from Jade

geist
Community stats suggest unprecedented Druid dominance

Druid has taken over the metagame. Vicious Syndicate puts the class at roughly 50% of some ranks’ population. While Aggro and Midrange Taunt variants have seen success, by far the most popular variant is Jade. Massively improved by Druid’s new anti-aggro and draw tools, Jade’s infinite threats are hard to beat. Supposedly, Knights of the Frozen Throne included a “Jade Counter”, Skulking Geist.

The six mana ghoul destroys all one mana spells (such as Jade Idol), no matter where they are. Annihilating Druid’s infinite win condition is powerful. So why isn’t Skulking Geist saving the day?

The Tempo-less tech

Expensive, situational, and tempo suicide. It’s also Control’s best answer to Jades

Skulking Geist’s problems begin the moment it hits the board. As a six mana 4/6, it has horrible stats for such a limited effect. Unlike other Tech cards, such as Goloakka Crawler or Harrison Jones, Skulking Geist does not impact the board. Instead, it only affects cards in hand and deck. The problems this generates are twofold.

Firstly, this means it does little to help the immediate threat from the Jade onslaught. Jade rarely needs to go infinite. In many decks, a Skulking Geist would reduce the overall winrate. If you rely on out-tempoing and rushing the Druid down, a six mana 4/6 won’t help. As a result, midrange decks lack the power to tech against Jade the way they do Pirate Warrior or Murloc Paladin.

Secondly, it means that even in Control decks that might outlast Jades without Idol, the winrate doesn’t improve much. Druids can easily grind down an opponent. Not only does Geist have to be drawn early, but Druid has up to 8/8 Jades without Idols. Combined with continuous damage from Malfurion and consistent ramp and draw, they’re strong even without idols.

The sad singleton

A six mana 4/6 needs a powerful effect

The tempo loss from playing Geist even against the deck it is designed to beat necessarily precludes it being a two of. Not only does it have anti-synergy with itself, but any deck that ran two would struggle to beat non-Jade Druid opponents. Running only one copy of Geist also creates a whole host of other problems. Often it will sit in the bottom of the deck, waiting until all removal has been exhausted and lethal is represented on board to pop up.

Smart Druids can take advantage of this. By shuffling Idols early against control, they can prioritise playing them before they get destroyed. Normally, if a Druid can play 3-4 Idols, then the game becomes unwinnable purely due to the sheer weight of remaining Golems.

Collateral damage

Geist
Shield Slams are great for removing Jades. Unfortunately, Geist destroys them along with Idols

Running Geist also represents a danger for many decks. Since Geist also destroys your own one mana spells, it can gut your own as well as your opponent’s tools. Warriors and Priests hurt the most. Pint-Sized Potions, Shield Slams and Power Word Shields are often key for defeating Jade, but these will be ripped prematurely from your deck; or worse, your hand.

While this can be countered by waiting until you’ve played these cards to Geist, Druid often affords you no such luxury. With the relentless march of the Jades, Geist needs to come out as early as possible. In doing so, it can often leave you without the necessary spells to kill the remaining Golems.

An expensive investment

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If you don’t draw Geist in time, Jades quickly spiral out of control

By far the most prohibitive part of running Geist is its cost. Unlike other cheaper tech cards that can be kept in the mulligan, Geist will clog up your hand for six turns. Often Control decks will be caught in a dilemma; keep Geist in the mulligan and risk losing horribly to a strong start? Or toss it and lose when you cannot draw it in time?

Its expense also prevents efficient usage. By far the best time to use Geist is immediately after an Ultimate Infestation; one of the few times a Druid will have an Idol or two kept in their hand without being instantly played. However, spending six mana on a 4/6 when the opponent has just had a tempo swing with five mana and a 5/5 is a poor idea. Once again, the trap of risking being out-valued or out-tempo’d remains.

Ineffective, but satisfying

Skulking Geist won’t give you a massively improved winrate vs Jade Druid. Even if you play the kind of super-reactive deck archetype that benefits from it, it likely won’t shift your winrate to positive. However, there is one overwhelming advantage to Geist: Hope.

Ladder can be a demoralising experience for a Control deck, especially in a world of Druids. While successfully fatiguing out a Jade Druid may be a difficult and rare experience, it certainly tends to brighten your day. And that may be just enough reason to run a six mana 4/6.

Artwork courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment via Hearthstone.gamepedia.com. Data featured from vicioussyndicate.com. 

Title artwork by Dany Orizio.

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