Reddit’s least favourite class might have gotten away without any nerfs for now; but that may be about to change. With an update on card balancing due on the 15th, we may be seeing Malfurion’s fall from grace. The smart money is on a change to Spreading Plague, the anti-aggro powerhouse that’s ruined many an Odd Paladin’s evening. But there are plenty of less obvious, but similarly potent cards making their way into almost every Druid deck. Is it time to swing the nerfhammer at some less flashy targets?
A key facet in Druid’s current position as arguably the best class in the game is their incredible armorgain. Between Malfurion the Pestilent, Ferocious Howl, Ultimate Infestation, Oaken Summons and even the starting hero-power, Druid’s armor potential makes even Warrior blush. Burn decks and aggro alike struggle against the giant mass of HP. But at the core of this power is one card: Branching Paths. As the most powerful and reliable source of armour in the entire game (25% of Unidentified Shield notwithstanding), gaining 12 armour for only 4 mana is incredibly strong.
But what really pushes Branching Paths over the edge is its incredible flexibility. By also acting as draw or minion power when needed, it allows decks to run such incredible lifegain with the bare minimum of trade-offs. In this regard, it puts all other armor cards to shame.
A Branching Paths nerf need not be drastic, but something should address Druid’s ability to gain more life than any other class with virtually no downside. Perhaps the best option is to limit players from picking the same Path, so that it is more of a generalist card than one that can specialise quite so powerfully.
Removing hard removal
One of Druid’s key weaknesses is meant to be hard removal. So why do many Druid decks have so little trouble dealing with big, beefy minions? The answer lies in the power of two cards: Jaspar Spellstone and Naturalize.
Jaspar Spellstone received little attention initially, but has since wormed its way into virtually every Druid deck as part of its ‘core’ of powerful spells. It’s not hard to see why; even when not upgraded, it’s an efficient and useful tool, essentially a Holy Smite or Arcane Shot that can’t go face. But when upgraded, it can remove virtually any minion, especially when combined with a Wrath or Swipe. Given Druid’s fantastic and efficient armorgain, this is hardly a difficulty.
Meanwhile, Naturalize, while worse against aggressive decks, can be crushing for both Combo and Control. Removing a key threat while burning your opponent’s deck is critically strong, and frequently gives Druids free wins out of nowhere. Especially when you consider the combo potential for burst damage with King Toggwaggle, Naturalize is looking increasingly overpowered.
When Druid’s key weaknesses are ignored, it becomes harder and harder to counter. Either Jaspar Spellstone, Naturalize or both may need big changes to make sure they do not continue to disrupt Druid’s class identity.
Dethroning the King
King Togwaggle isn’t technically a Druid card, but he may as well be. Almost all of his uses on ladder are part of the Mill Druid package, where after a few turns of stalling, ramping and drawing, he combines with Azalina to steal the opponent’s deck.
While Togwaggle is a fun and interesting card in most situations, here he simply becomes tiresome. There is virtually no way to prevent or interact with your deck being stolen, and it will almost certainly result in your death from fatigue. Even your own Azalina is rarely enough to save you from being ground down, especially if your opponent saves their naturalizes to hit you for 15 when they swap.
This kind of uninteractive and disheartening gameplay sucks. At least with Mecha’thun OTK, you can play Geist, predict their hand, or leave minions on board to win. Togwaggle has no real counterplay for most decks.
In order to keep the fun side of Togwaggle alive while preventing uninteractive combos, there should be a change to the Ransom card to limit Azalina shenanigans. Instead of simply swapping decks, it should return decks to their original owners. This way, Malfurion cannot simply ransom back his stolen deck, and Druid will have to find more honest ways to win games.
Images courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment via hearthstone.gamepedia.com.