Jade Druid is a deck that is built around the Jade Golem mechanic, which lets you play a larger and larger Jade Golem for each one you summon. Jade Druid is a strong contender on ladder, thanks in no small part to the new cards in Knights of the Frozen Throne, [Spreading Plague] and [Ultimate Infestation]. Last Saturday, I wrote part 1, which offered an introduction to the deck and dove into the deckbuilding aspect of playing Jade Druid. This week, I’ll go more in-depth about how to play the deck, including various tips and advice against every opponent class.
I’ve reached legend the last two months with Jade Druid. While my results with the deck haven’t been super impressive (I finished the October season at rank 68 Legend), I still hope I can speak about the deck with authority.
Mulligan Guide / Early Turns
Mulliganing well with Jade Druid can be more difficult than it first appears. Here are some guidelines to properly mulligan with the deck:
- The key cards that you want to keep almost all the time are [Wild Growth and Jade Blossom].
- I used to keep Jade Idol all the time in my opening hand, but that was a mistake. In reality, there’s many factors to consider when deciding to keep Jade Idol. In matchups where you want to stay ahead on your Jade count early on, matchups where you want to be the aggressor, or in matchups where a 1/1 can trade favorably, playing turn 1 Jade Idol can be very handy. Jade Idol loses value in matchups where the opponent can kill a 1/1 easily.
- You can keep Living Roots if your opponent is playing aggressive decks, but if your opponent is a Warrior, I don’t suggest playing the saplings on turn 1 because [N’Zoth’s First Mate] will clear one of them.
- I toss back [Wrath] more often than not. Wrath is a good card against Warrior or if I also have Jade Blossom in my hand.
- If you have [Wild Growth] or [Jade Blossom] with the Coin, cards like [Jade Spirit] and [Nourish] become better keeps. However, you should almost never keep [Nourish] against aggressive decks.
- [Aya Blackpaw] can be a strong keep against control decks if you also have ramp.
- Likewise, [Spreading Plague] can be a strong keep against Aggro Druid or Paladin if you also have ramp.
The early turns are usually about ramping up at your earliest opportunity. You might have to plan your future turns so that you have something useful to play every turn, and you’re not wasting resources like the Coin. For example, you should avoid Coin [Wild Growth] on turn 1 if you have nothing to do with 3 mana next turn. The early turns can also be about removing key minions like [Vicious Fledgling]. Keep in mind that not every minion has to die immediately, and you can simply ramp up with [Wild Growth] or [Jade Blossom] in more situations than you might think.
Vs. Warrior (Pirate, Control)
Keep: Wild Growth, Jade Blossom, Wrath, Living Roots
You should always assume Pirates in the mulligan stage. If it is Pirates, try to minimise the damage you take in the early turns. If you have to decide between playing ramp or a removal spell, you often have to ask if it’s better to remove one of their minions now
or if you can clear their minions even more efficiently if you ramp first.
Spreading Plague can be a key card that can win you the game against Pirates, but you will sometimes need to keep their 1/1 pirates alive so you can get the maximum number of Scarabs. [Malfurion the Pestilent] can also be a game-winning card if you have already stabilised the board because it effectively heals you for 15.
Vs. Control: Whenever I played against Control Warrior it was a pretty easy matchup, but the Control Warriors that I have seen haven’t been playing [Skulking Geist] in their decks. You should have plenty of time to ramp up, play your Jade minions, and draw cards. You can often play around a potential [Skulking Geist] by getting value out of your Jade Idols before your other Jade minions, especially if you have [Fandral Staghelm] to simultaneously shuffle your Jade Idols.
Vs. Paladin (Recruits)
Keep: Wild Growth, Jade Blossom, Jade Idol, Living Roots, Spreading Plague (with ramp), 4 drops (with ramp), Wrath (with Blossom)
Recruits Paladin is by far the most common Paladin deck at high ranks. While I went negative, I don’t think it’s a bad matchup if you play the matchup right.
You will have time to play your [Wild Growth] and [Jade Blossom] early on, and [Jade Idol] is a good turn 1 play. However, the Paladin does have [Steward of Darkshire], a minion that can cause you to lose the game if not dealt with. After you reach 4 or 6 mana, you have [Swipe] and [Spreading Plague], both of which are good ways of dealing with wide boards of Silver Hand Recruits. [Spreading Plague] can be a tricky card to play properly because it’s often best to hold off on playing it immediately and try to summon more Scarabs than you would otherwise. [Mark of the Lotus] is an excellent tech card against Paladin because it makes [Spreading Plague] much more powerful.
Unfortunately, some Recruit Paladins play [Equality] in their deck, which makes the matchup more difficult because it answers [Spreading Plague].
Vs. Hunter (Giants)
Keep: Wild Growth, Jade Blossom, Jade Idol, Living Roots, 4 drops (with ramp)
I barely ever see hunters, and when I do, it’s usually Giant Hunter. If they play giants on turn 5, you probably lose, but there are some things you can do to make the matchup more favorable. You can tech [Mulch] in your deck so you can easily deal with small numbers of Giants. You can also play around the effect of [Molten Giant] by not attacking face or play around [Clockwork Giant] by not holding back cards and not drawing cards with [Wrath] or [Nourish]. You can also summon poisonous spiders with [Malfurion the Pestilent] in order to distract the Hunter from playing any Giants. Or you can simply play a lot of Jade cards extremely quickly and try to beat down the Hunter.
Vs. Mage (Tempo, Reno, Exodia, Freeze)
Keep: Depends on archetype
Vs. Tempo Mage:
Like playing against Paladin, you will have time to play your [Wild Growth] and [Jade Idol]. There are two variants of tempo mage: Secrets
. The Secrets version plays a lot of minions that have useful battlecries or deathrattles, but don’t have any threatening abilities, so you can keep them alive for longer. Of course, you’ll have to play around the Mage’s secrets, which is a nightmare because there are eleven
Mage secrets, and I could probably write an article that’s just about playing around Mage secrets. The Flamewaker
version plays must-kill minions like [Sorcerer’s Apprentice] and [Flamewaker]. Don’t be afraid to kill your opponent’s [Flamewaker], even if it seems inefficient.
Vs. Reno Mage: Reno Mage is a fairly straightforward matchup. You have a lot of time to ramp and play Jade minions, and the Mage doesn’t have any particularly unfair synergies, except for perhaps [N’Zoth the Corruptor] or [Medivh the Guardian]. They may play [Skulking Geist] in their deck, but it’s not likely since there are so few Jade Druids on ladder. Some other cards you should watch out for are [Frost Nova] plus [Doomsayer] or [Mind Control Tech]. You should also watch out for the Mage’s AOE, like [Meteor] or [Flamestrike].
Vs. Freeze / Exodia Mage: Freeze and Exodia mage are the least common type of Mage, but if you do encounter one, you should try to maximise the amount of damage you deal at all times in the game by playing minions. You should ignore trades into minions like [Mad Scientist] and [Arcanologist], but trading into [Acolyte of Pain] is acceptable. [Malfurion the Pestilent] can also be an important card because it allows you to deal an unavoidable 3 damage per turn.
Vs. Priest (Combo, Big, Reno)
Keep: Wild Growth, Jade Blossom, Aya Blackpaw (with ramp), Mulch (with ramp), 4 drops (with ramp), Nourish (with ramp)
This is an unfavored matchup, but you can win if you can kill their large minions or they draw poorly. Reno or Big priest is much more common, so it’s not worth mulliganing for Combo Priest. Their minions are very high health, so unless you draw Mulch, much of the time you’ll have to play your Jade minions and hope you don’t die. Summoning poisonous spiders with [Malfurion the Pestilent] can be very strong.
Vs. Big Priest: This is a favored matchup if you play [Mulch]. It’s up to the Priest to kill you before your Jades become too big and you draw too many cards. If they play [Barnes] on 4, and get a powerful minion like [Ragnaros the Firelord] things can turn nasty quickly. But you should be able to play your Jade minions in peace more often than not.
If you and the Priest start to run out of resources, it’s sometimes possible for the Priest to draw enough removal that you are reduced to playing one [Jade Idol] a turn, and they can sometimes win from there. If that’s the case, it can sometimes be a good decision to try to pressure them with only one Jade Golem at a time.
Vs. Reno: Reno Priest has some very powerful board clears, so it’s important to keep track of which ones they use. [Shadowreaper Anduin] and [Lightbomb] can kill a large board on their own, and [Shadow Visions] can sometimes create an extra copy of [Lightbomb]. [Dragonfire Potion] can be a concern, but only early in the game when your Jades are 5/5 or smaller. It can be worthwhile to let your opponent clear with Dragonfire so you can play bigger Jades next turn.
Sometimes you should prioritise going face so your opponent has to play [Reno Jackson] or [Lightbomb] earlier than they would otherwise.
You might ask if you should deal damage with [Malfurion the Pestilent]’s hero power or if you should gain armor. The answer to that is… it depends. If you want to try to end the game or force out [Reno Jackson], you should deal 3 damage. The downside to always going face is that if you don’t think you can end the game soon, your opponent can play Reno anyway and you’ve just missed out on 3 armor.
The Priest will win if they draw [Raza the Chained], [Shadowreaper Anduin], and [Spawn of Shadows] and they still have enough life so they don’t die to [Spawn of Shadows]’ ability. In my experience, the game comes down to just a few life points fairly often.
Vs. Warlock (Reno, Zoo)
Keep: Wild Growth, Jade Blossom, Living Roots, Jade Idol, 4 drops (with ramp), Wrath (with Blossom)
Unless you know what your opponent is playing, you should assume your opponent is playing an aggressive Zoo warlock. Once you make it out of the early turns alive, it should be easy to get a lot of value [Spreading Plague]. Keep in mind that you might want to save a Spreading Plague for when your opponent plays Bloodreaver Gul’Dan. Funny enough, [Ultimate Infestation] can also be a key card because the deck plays a few 5-health minions like [Despicable Dreadlord] and [Bonemare].
Vs. Reno: Like any Reno deck, you should play around the AOE in the deck. Renolock runs [Defile], [Hellfire], [Despicable Dreadlord], [Abyssal Enforcer], and [Twisting Nether]. There can also be [Corrupting Mist] and [Shadowflame], but they aren’t seen as often.
If the Warlock draws both [Krul the Unshackled] and [Bloodreaver Gul’Dan] early, it can be very difficult to win. The best way you can play around the Warlock having those cards is to be ahead on board at all times once turn 9 comes around.
Vs. Druid (Aggro, Jade)
Keep: Wild Growth, Jade Blossom, Jade Idol, Living Roots, Jade cards (if Jade), Spreading Plague (if Aggro)
Aggro druid likes to go wide and give their minions +1/1 very quickly. The best way to win against Aggro druid is simply to ramp up and play [Spreading Plague]. Cards like [Living Roots] and [Wrath] usually aren’t enough to keep the other Druid from making a wide board. Aggro Druid is common enough that you can often just keep [Spreading Plague] in your opening hand if you have ramp, so it’s very common that you will have Plague ready to play on turn 6. Of course, if you’re not that far behind on board, you can play your other 6 drops instead and simply wait for [Living Mana].
Vs. Jade: Jade Druid Mirrors are all about who can play the most Jade Golems the fastest. Never shuffle in the Jade Druid mirror without Fandral! If you know your opponent is Jade, it’s reasonable to simply keep Wild Growth and every card that says “Jade” on it.
Vs. Rogue (Tempo)
Keep: Wild Growth, Jade Blossom, Living Roots (If First), 4 drops (with ramp), Wrath (with Blossom)
The Rogue will sometimes try to snowball the game with cards like [Edwin VanCleef] or [Southsea Captain]. A card like [Wrath] or [Mulch] will sometimes be good, but I still recommend you hard mulligan for a [Wild Growth] or [Jade Blossom].
After you make it out of the early turns, the Tempo Rogue will start to play a lot of medium-sized minions like [Piloted Shredder], [Azure Drake], and [Bonemare]. You should be able to go even using cards like [Aya Blackpaw], [Jade Behemoth], and [Malfurion the Pestilent]. Once you reach 10 mana, [Ultimate Infestation] should be able to hit an important minion, and it will often end the game.
Vs. Shaman (Aggro)
Keep: Wild Growth, Jade Blossom, Wrath (with Blossom), 4 drops (with ramp), Living Roots
I haven’t played very many games against Shaman. Aggro Shaman is a face deck, so you need to stabilise the board as fast as possible, which means damage-dealing spells can be good to keep. [Spreading Plague] and [Malfurion the Pestilent] are very good once you have reached 6 or 7 mana. [Flamewreathed Faceless] is not as common as it once was because many players are playing [Piloted Shredder] alongside [Powermace].
Tip: When to Shuffle or Summon with Jade Idol (or both!)
It’s preferable to shuffle [Jade Idol] once before you reach fatigue when playing playing against any control deck. Typically, you have to sacrifice the opportunity of summoning a Jade Golem in order to shuffle. However, if you have [Fandral Staghelm], you can shuffle and summon a Jade Golem at the same time.
But if you have no Fandral, you often have to decide whether or not to shuffle. Against most tempo decks, like Rogue and Hunter, you should never shuffle. Against other Jade Druids, you should never shuffle. If you’re playing against a control deck but you’re very far behind, you should summon. If you find yourself in a situation where the game will be over in the next couple of turns, like against a Razakus Priest who used Lightbomb and drew their entire deck, you should summon shuffle.
If you’re very far through your deck and you have the option to shuffle, draw cards, and play one of the three Jade Idols immediately, then you should shuffle.
Tip: When to ramp / draw with Nourish
If you play [Nourish] when you have 5 mana, you should gain two mana crystals more often than not. You might want to draw three cards if you need a specific card next turn to win the game; For example, [Spreading Plague] against an Aggro Druid. You might also want to draw three cards if you’re against a control deck and you haven’t drawn [Ultimate Infestation] or the second [Nourish]. Sometimes not drawing cards can be a huge risk, especially if you’ve drawn situational cards like [Spreading Plague] or [Mark of the Lotus].
Tip: When to armor or deal 3 damage to the enemy hero with Malfurion the Pestilent
Vs. aggro /midrange: Aggressive and midrange decks are the beatdown against you. If you’ve already stabilised the board, it’s better to gain three armor than it is to deal three damage unless you can set up lethal.
Vs. Control: You are the beatdown against control decks, so it’s usually better to deal three damage. It can be worthwhile to gain three armor to get out of lethal range sometimes.
Vs. Reno Priest: Reno Priest is like a control deck, but they can also deal over 30 damage in one turn. You should deal three damage if you’re planning to win the game in the next few turns, or if the priest already played [Reno Jackson].
Tip: When to summon Spiders or Scarabs with Malfurion the Pestilent
Spiders can be very strong against decks that play big minions, like Combo Priest, Big Priest, and Giants Hunter. They can also be strong if you happen to have a wall of Scarabs from [Spreading Plague], or if the board is completely empty and you’re expecting the opponent to play a big minion, or if you opponent has one big minion.
Scarabs are strong if you’re low on life, your opponent has small minions, your opponent has [Potion of Madness], or if you simply want to ignore your opponent’s board and go face with your other minions.
Tip: Should you play Aya Blackpaw or Jade Behemoth first?
Usually you should play Aya Blackpaw first, but there can be situations against aggro when you draw two [Jade Behemoth] and you might not have the time to play both Behemoths.
Tip: Is it okay to overdraw with Ultimate Infestation?
Overdrawing cards is only important in games against control decks. Usually, you should play your other cards first to avoid overdrawing, but it’s fine to overdraw one card, or sometimes more if it’s your only option. In rare situations, overdrawing a second [Jade Idol] can be game-losing.
Tip: Keeping a hand of Jade cards in the mulligan
If your hand comprises of all Jade cards, you can keep them all and simply overwhelm your opponent in a few turns.
Possible inclusions from Kobolds and Catacombs
That’s it for the gameplay section of this guide. Since today is the day before release of Kobolds and Catacombs, I want to briefly look at some of the cards that might make it into the deck. Since there are a lot of cards in the new expansion, I have created a shortlist of three cards that I think have the most potential.
Branching Paths: Drawing cards and gaining armor are both very strong in Jade Druid. Branching Paths lets you choose which effect you need, so it’s almost never a bad draw. Granted, the card draw aspect is a little overpriced at four mana, so the card might not make the cut in Jade Druid for that reason.
Arcane Tyrant: This card costs 0 when you play a spell that costs 5 or more. Jade Druid plays two [Nourish], so you can play this card on turn 5 quite often, and sometimes you can even play both copies at once. The other spells that cost 5 or more mana are [Spreading Plague] and [Ultimate Infestation]. Sometimes, you will play this for free after playing [Ultimate Infestation] while you have ten cards in your hand, preventing yourself from overdrawing.
Zola the Gorgon: Zola the Gorgon is handy because it can give you an extra [Jade Spirit], [Jade Behemoth], or [Aya Blackpaw]. [Brann Bronzebeard] is still better, but perhaps you can play Zola in addition to [Brann Bronzebeard].
Hopefully you enjoyed both of these articles on Jade Druid. With proper management, Jade Druid can eventually overwhelm even the most resilient control decks. The deck can be quite fun if you like to play big minions, and it also rewards proper decision making more than it might seem. I hope these two articles have inspired you to try out the deck, or has improved your decision making on ladder.