Hello! The HCT Summer Championships are happening as I’m typing featuring some of the best players in the world battling for seats to the world championships and a share of a giant prize purse. These players have brought highly tuned decks that they feel give them the best chances to win with a few meta choices to shore up weaker matchups and a few unusual tech choices (like the Prince Taldaram we talked a bit about in last week’s article). In the post-errata world Priest and Rogue have risen to join Druids at the top of the metagame in terms of popularity, and the decks have definitely flexed their muscle with all 16 competitors bringing Priest and 12 of the competitors bringing Rogue.
And yet, everyone is (still) banning Druid.
Of the matches I’ve watched, Druid was banned in, well, just about all of them. Jade Druid is so powerful that players have mostly taken the “ban it and forget it” track on dealing with it rather than trying to figure out a way to deal with it. Due to the way the conquest format is structured, tournament lineups are more about your weaknesses than they are about your strengths and while Jade Druid is notably powerful it also doesn’t have that many exploitable weaknesses. Yes, it’s a bit slow and can be a bit clunky but it also has some of the best tempo and card advantage cards available to it in Ultimate Infestation and Spreading Plague, both of which provide a substantial buffer to the druid’s life total
With the extra turns, Jade druid can keep growing their board with undercosted, oversized golems and slowly grind away the opponent. Because of the raw power level of the deck, Jade Druid in the conquest tournament format is very unlikely to go 0-3. In addition, Jade has the strongest inevitability of pretty much any deck in Hearthstone so anyone who brings midrange or a slower control deck and doesn’t ban Jade Druid in conquest runs the risk of essentially handing a free win the their opponent. The current format is also topped by a pair of slower, more midrange decks: one on the aggressive side (Rogue), and one on the control side (Priest). Even the aggro decks are slightly less favorable against Jade’s strategy, as they focus more on swarming the board and gaining an overwhelming board control; all of which can vanish instantly for six mana from the Druid. Banning Druid lets the players completely ignore it as a potential matchup and simply focus on the other decks in the format. It’s simple, easy, and generally speaking causes a lot fewer headaches for the player because beating Jade would force a player to warp their lineup to the point that they’re sacrificing other matchups.
The other possibility is what OmegaZero chose to do, which is just bring all-out aggro decks (plus the “best deck” in Highlander Priest) and try to sweep Jade. This is not something new either as a strategy or for the player: OmegaZero notoriously favors ultra aggressive decks and players have tried to go the smaller, faster route in the past.
Luckily, the lack of Jade Druids actually being played has created a lot of close, interesting games with a lot of play on both sides, but I don’t think the always-ban-Jade strategy is a net positive. Blizzard just went through a large wave of bans where Jade took a big hit because of its dominance. What the HCT has shown is that even though Jade might not be quite as powerful it still has a very warping effect on the metagame and in particular the high level tournament metagame. It’s impossible to balance nine separate, distinct classes but when a top tier deck just had multiple cards nerfed and still has an almost 100% registration and 100% ban rate, something went very wrong. So far the HCT matches have been incredibly good and I expect that to continue all weekend, and I recommend tuning in whenever possible. The competition is world-class, the commentary is on point, and the games have been exciting, even if there hasn’t been any 10/10 Jade Golems yet.