Crushing Melons: Disrupting Druids in the Boomsday Meta
If you’ve played Wild Hearthstone since the release of Boomsday, you’re no doubt familiar with the plague of Combo Druids spreading across the ladder. Whether they’re stealing your deck with King Togwaggle, killing you with Star Aligner, or going the old fashioned Malygos route, dying to a full combo on turn seven is incredibly frustrating.
With Druid so dominant in the meta, players are essentially left with three options for climbing the ladder:
- Play Combo Druid
- Play a deck that counters Combo Druid
- Tech against Combo Druid.
Option two is more difficult than it sounds, as the Togwaggle and Star Aligner sub-types have completely different counters. Instead, this article will focus on option three. We’ll seek to lay out some of the common and not-so-common options for disrupting your opponent’s gameplan, and offer some tips for using these cards optimally.
We will focus primarily on disrupting Combo Druid in this article due to its current prevalance on ladder. However, we’ll also discuss disruption more broadly.
Core disruption cards
Core disruption cards work by summoning your opponent’s combo pieces prematurely. These cards are the most commonly played due to their effectiveness. While the temptation might be to try out some unusual techs, there’s a good reason why the popular options are popular, and the others aren’t. Core disruption cards will directly affect cards in your opponent’s deck or hand, either pulling them onto the board, destroying them, or rendering them useless.
The key to these cards’ success is their usefulness not just in disrupting a combo, but achieving secondary purposes too. Dirty Rat and Deathlord are both high-health taunts that help against aggro. Deathlord and Gnomeferatu put your opponents one card closer to fatigue. And Demonic Project… well, demons are cool, OK?
Dirty Rat is your number one way to beat Combo Druid. It’s not perfect, but it’s better than the other options. Luckily, it’s a neutral card, which means any deck stands a chance of grabbing a combo piece.
Ideally, you want to wait until your opponent plays Juicy Psychmelon before playing your Rat. The problem, however, is that your opponent is likely to be aware of this strategy.
When playing Combo Druid, if you draw Aviana and Kun the Forgotten King, you can wait until after you’ve played them to play Juicy Psychmelon – drawing and playing your combo in one fell swoop. If you suspect that your opponent already has a partial combo, and they have 10 mana next turn, it’s often better to play your Rat while you still have the chance. This is especially true against the Star Aligner variant, which can kill you as soon as it gets to 10 mana.
While this was traditionally a great disruption tool (and useful against aggro), it’s not performing as well in the current meta. The main issue is that it’s too slow. Why is it too slow all of a sudden? Juicy Psychmelon strikes again. When your opponent is able to pull all their combo pieces out of their deck by turn three or four, there isn’t enough time for Deathlord’s deathrattle to trigger consistently.
That being said, this card is still worth consideration for inclusion in slower decks like Control Warrior due to its ability to disrupt non-Druid combos that take longer to set up, such as Shudderwock Shaman, and provide aggro protection early in the game.
Unlike Dirty Rat, this card is usually fine to play on curve. The fact that its ability is a Deathrattle, combined with its high health, means any threats pulled by its ability should be fairly easy to handle when they hit the board.
Demonic Project is a Warlock-specific single target removal that affects your opponent’s hand, similar to Dirty Rat. Use with caution, however, because it also affects a minion in your hand. If possible, you want to avoid playing this with valuable minions in hand. However, a lot of the time this won’t be possible, and it’s better to transform one of your best minions than to die or have your whole deck stolen.
This card is primarily used in Renolock, and some lists run Sacrificial Pact and Skull of the Man'ari for synergy. We’re not huge fans of these additions due to their lack of consistency, but some lists have had success.
Gnomeferatu turned the Hearthstone subreddit into a war zone after being revealed. Some referred to her as River Crocolisk, arguing that the card burn didn’t matter until the game went to fatigue, as the card burn had a similar effect to just moving the card to the bottom of the deck. Others saw her as the anti-combo tech card she turned out to be.
Although the effect is largely the same, Gnomeferatu has a couple of key advantages over traditional milling strategies. First, you don’t rely on your opponent having a full hand for the effect to work. Second, you don’t have to add cards to your opponents hand if it isn’t full.
About the aforementioned fatigue issue; as it turns out, fatigue matters in a lot of matchups. If you’re facing another control deck, putting them into fatigue earlier can win you the game. For that reason, you should always try to extract maximum value from this card in control mirrors, using cards such as Brann Bronzebeard and Zola the Gorgon.
We’ve grouped these cards together as they all revolve around the same basic strategy; wait until your opponent has 8+ cards in hand, then destroying one or more of their cards by forcing them to overdraw. Giving your opponent cards is generally bad, which means these cards are under-costed for their effects. However, if you can turn that downside into an upside via overdraw, you can extract immense value from these cards.
Core milling cards:
Forest Guide, Grove Tender, and Dancing Swords have seen niche play in Mill Druid and Mill Rogue respectively. Since their effects only draw one card for your opponent, it’s almost never worthwhile if you are trying to mill cards. More often than not, you end up helping your opponent get to those combo pieces faster.
Similarly to milling cards, we’ve grouped these two secrets together due to the similarities in their goal and use. Both of these Secrets are capable of neutralizing Aviana, and some other combos, but are fairly easy to play around.
The first step to using these cards correctly against Druid is getting an accurate read on what type of combo you’re playing against.
Against Togwaggle or Malygos, you ideally want to save them until they’ve played or summoned both copies of Ironwood Golem. The problem with this, of course, is that your opponent can save a copy of Ironwood Golem to test for secrets, or even combo off before playing both. For this reason, if you run both Secrets, you should only play one at a time in an effort to draw out all your opponent’s testing cards, and maximize your chances of hitting a key minion.
Against Star Aligner though, you’re pretty much out of luck unless your opponent misplays. This variant of Comb Druid runs enough combo pieces that it should easily be able to avoid getting anything critical destroyed.
At higher levels of play, the second-guessing of your opponent becomes highly complex, as both players understand what the other is trying to achieve and are trying to make this as difficult as possible. We can’t give you a hard-and-fast rule on handling these situations; some improvisation may be required.
Disrupting other popular decks
Widely regarded as the strongest card in the game at many points in Hearthstone’s history, Loatheb remains incredibly powerful today. The beauty of the card come from the combination of versatility and power. Against a control/combo opponent, it can be used to prevent heal or stall to help you close out the game. On the other hand, a control deck can also use it against aggro decks to prevent burst damage to ensure survival for another turn. Finally, it can also be used to disrupt spell-based combos such as Exodia Mage.
To seal the deal, the incredible effect comes with a solid 5/5 body attached to help control the board.
Disrupting that one off-meta deck that keeps beating you even though it sucks (A.K.A. The Counter-Queuing Toolkit)
Most of these cards are either too bad or too niche (or both) to ever see serious competitive play. However, it’s worth keeping them in mind in case the meta ever shifts to a point that they’re useful.
The less popular twin of Loatheb, Rebuke has not seen any real play as its even mana cost doesn’t allow it to be played in Odd Paladin. However, if Even Paladin ever makes a comeback (maybe Gunnolf’s Even-Inspire Paladin?) this could be worth consideration. The lack of a minion body is also a considerable loss.
This card is unlikely to ever see play as it’s ineffective at doing what it’s designed to do. Due to the effect being an aura, an opponent can simply remove the minion to end the effect. The biggest problem with this card is that Dirty Rat and Deathlord are more effective against battlecry-based combos.
Remember this card from that one Trolden video where the Shaman evolves his board and this minion prevents the Mage from playing the Antonidas Exodia? This card in a nutshell is a weaker Loatheb that has an aura instead of a battlecry. Loatheb is almost certainly better, but if you are running into a lot of Mages, this is your guy.
Noticing a pattern here? Aura-based disruption cards are generally bad since their symmetrical effect also affect you, and your opponent can generally kill off the minion easily and proceed as normal. Mana Wraith is no exception to this trend.
Want to know a great way to lose a game of Hearthstone? Do nothing on turn three or four. Which is essentially what you’re doing when playing these cards. The upside is that they shut down your opponent’s Reno Jackson, Kazakus, and other Highlander cards while there are two or more of the tokens in the deck.
Howlfiend, Treachery, and Defile
How do you beat a combo? With your own combo of course. One of the classic meme decks, this Warlock deck aims to discard cards in your opponents hand by playing Howlfiend, then Treachery, and finally Defile to discard as many cards as possible. Despite being able to discard up to six cards from your opponents hand, this is an extremely weak combo for several reasons. It requires all three combo pieces, and defile needs multiple targets to hit for maximum effectiveness. Some versions also include Fel Reaver, which has similar drawbacks. Due to these huge drawbacks, this combo will likely remain on the sidelines.
With combo decks running rampant on ladder, combo disruption is quickly becoming an auto-include. These cards provide a huge advantage, and are game winning when played correctly. However, incorrect use can render them ineffective or even lose you the game.
Try out different techs, see which ones counter the meta you’re facing, and crush some melons.
Co-written by Daboss212 and Doctor P.