Zechs Files: Druidstone - Druids of Druidcraft
I see druids. They're everywhere. It's time to talk about the 5/5 elephant in the room.
A little while before Knights of the Frozen Throne was released I got my second golden portrait. My druid had been in the 480’s for a long time, but I didn’t enjoy playing any of the decks that had been viable in recent months. It was a struggle, but I set my mind to it and finally got that shiny portrait about a week before the launch of the new set
I shouldn’t have bothered, though, should I? If only I’d waited a week I could have breezed through those last 15 or so wins in no time. Because druid is stupidly overpowered now, right?
Reddit certainly seems to think so. That is not enough to go on by itself, but when Druid’s popularity has overtaken that of Undertaker Hunter it must be worth a look. Blizzard agrees. Iskaar chimed in yesterday with this little gem: “We are discussing what potential changes we could make if Druid increases in popularity over time.” When a Blizzard employee chimes in on balance within a week of the set’s launch, there must be a problem.
Nobody seems to have a specific answer about what that problem is, though. Ultimate Infestation was an early pariah - it certainly does a lot of stuff for ten man. But ten mana should get you a lot of value. It’s the highest mana cost you can actually pay for a single spell so if it didn’t do something powerful it would be very underwhelming. Sure, it’s frustrating when your opponent casts it on turn five but in any other class this card would be fine.
Then Spreading Plague popped up as juicy target for people’s ire. I have a little more sympathy with this line of reasoning. Druid has almost always been a top tier deck in one guise or another. Rare is the day that Malfurion doesn’t show up in tournament play, but his one weakness has always been aggressive, board-filling decks; decks that go wide. Spreading Plague goes a long way to shoring up that problem. Couple it with the other taunt-centric cards in the set and suddenly druids are mocking Garrosh: “nice quest, bro.”
Spreading Plague has made aggressive decks more manageable, but don’t forget that druid still has the best anti-control card in the game. Jade Idol is still around and it doesn’t really care much about Skulking Geist. Druid still has plenty of late game value via the other jade cards, even if you do cast the geist in a timely fashion. So druid is no longer particularly weak against aggressive decks and it’s just as good as ever against control decks: is it any surprise that it has become the most played and the most successful class in the game?
But none of these cards are individually responsible for druid’s dominance. Spreading Plague is frustrating for Pirate Warrior but most paladins can just ignore it. Ultimate Infestation generates a ton of value but a vanilla 5/5 isn’t going to stop you being dead on-board to a bunch of evolved Fireflies and Murloc tokens. Even the combination of all these cards would be reasonable if it wasn’t for two factors: druid can ramp them out faster than you can answer them and they can draw through their deck better than anyone except (perhaps) rogue.
Spreading Plague wouldn’t be so bad if the druid didn’t draw it every single game. Ultimate Infestation, as we already established, would be perfectly fine on turn ten. But druid gets around both of these issues - often in a single card: Nourish. Druid’s ramp used to be a tempo disadvantage, and a huge part of what kept the class in check was that they would often die while pumping out nothing but mana crystals. Now, both Spreading Plague and Ultimate Infestation neuter that weakness and Nourish is the glue that holds them together.
In fairness, though, it’s still early days. As Iskaar said on Reddit, there is time for people to discover an answer to the current problem. My own stance is that Blizzard stumbled upon a perfect storm of absurdity. Clouds of strong basic cards collided with clouds of strong expansion cards and we are all stuck in the ensuing downpour. I would like to see at least one high level tournament played before Blizzard make any changes, but if the pros can’t figure out a way to beat it and the amateurs continue to complain, action is inevitable.