There’s been a lot of angst lately about Jade Druid. Various reddit posts complaining about its discouraging effect or its imbalance related to previous mechanics have sparked debate and vitriol. Alongside them, counter-posts stating that it’s not as overpowered as made out, or poking fun at the frequency of the complaints. Jade Druid is relatively straightforward, as decks go. So why is the debate over it so divisive?
The deck is not particularly oppressive in terms of pure win rate. Tempostorm ranks it as only high tier two, with middling matchups for the majority of the ladder. Meanwhile the VS Data Report grants it an overall sub 50% win rate, that drops further the higher you climb. Unlike previous complaint-drawing meta tyrants, it has clear counters. So why does it garner such a disproportionate amount of frustration?
Countering Control isn’t the Whole Story
One of the main reasons cited for Jade Druid’s unpopularity among certain sections of the user-base is simply that it counters slow Control decks hard. This is certainly the case; a combination of constantly ramping threats, powerful draw engines, and fatigue-resistant win conditions makes them near unbeatable. Their very existence has made non-combo-based Control decks almost extinct.
But this is not the first time Control decks have had counters. It’s not the first time that fatigue has been an unachievable goal against certain archetypes either. Decks like Midrange Hunter and Mill Rogue have preyed on Control for a long time before Jade Druid ever showed up. Even old combo Midrange Druid punished slower decks hard. This is more a matter of players being salty at an uneven matchup. Jade Druid inspires such malice, despair, and outright anger that gives its opposition a quality all of its own.
Unfair? Or Just Not Fun?
It’s likely, then, that the complaints relating to Jade Druid go deeper than raw win-loss stats. Is there something uniquely frustrating about the matches themselves? Particularly the Control matchups? After all, the experience of Hearthstone is not just about who wins and who loses. It’s also the variance, the break-points, the skill-tests, and the emotions.
One complaint often aimed at Jade decks is that Jades are simply big, dumb minions with strong stats. These are portrayed as being fundamentally boring and non interactive. Unlike C’thun or other ramping strategies, each card feels mostly similar (being a bundle of stats with a Jade attached) and interacts with the Golems minimally.
Still, that is also not unique. Plenty of decks rely on ramping up with bundles of stats; most notably past versions of Druid. In any case, Jade Shaman has the same reliance on vanilla minions and attracts far less angst.
When Control Doesn’t
Of course, all of these complaints contribute to the problem. But one aspect that is arguably overlooked is the way it makes players play. Jade Druid is nowhere near the first deck near-immune to fatigue that relies on vanilla minions with under-costed stats, or that counters Control. What is relatively new is that it fundamentally changes the win condition of Control decks and their resulting playstyle.
Consider the way you win against a Jade Druid as a Control player. You have to pray they draw badly and you draw well, play out high-tempo threats, and pressure them down. If they draw the right answers at the right time, you’re invariably doomed, buried under an infinite train of golems.
Does that remind you of anything? The Jade Druid matchup, invariably forcing the Control player to take a Beatdown, creates exactly the kind of dynamics that Control players specifically play Control decks to avoid.
Choosing Your Game Plan
When you pick up Reno Mage, Control Warrior, or Renolock, you’re deliberately making a choice to avoid having games decided by early-game tempo and draw RNG. Queuing into Jade Druid means that these aspects of Hearthstone resurface once more to become paramount.
What to take away from this should be that players don’t necessarily mind one-sided matchups; but they do mind being forced to do something their deck wasn’t designed to do on a regular basis. People choose archetypes for a reason, and sometimes that choice should be respected.
Title image courtesy of hearthstone.gamepedia.com and Blizzard Entertainment