As anyone who lived through the era of the Midrange Druid combo can tell you, being attacked by angry trees was once a staple of the Hearthstone experience. With the release of The Boomsday Project expansion on August 7, we will likely be picking more splinters out of our faces thanks to a package of new Druid cards that rely on synergy with Treants. For the unfamiliar, Treants are mobile trees with faces that don't take kindly to littering in Azeroth's forests.
Druid has always had multiple ways to summon Treants thanks to spells like Force of Nature and Soul of the Forest from the vanilla sets. These have been bolstered by more recent additions like Poison Seeds, Living Mana, and Witchwood Apple. Today we can exclusively reveal three cards from The Boomdsday Project which will help make the Treant deck a reality. Given that the Token Druid archetype is currently considered Tier 1, and already runs Soul of the Forest, I would expect these new Treant cards to slot in nicely.
Earlier this week I spoke with senior game designer Peter Whalen and lead balance designer Dean "Iksar" Ayala to discuss the power of the new Treant cards, and the inspiration behind them (short answer: Flobbidinous Floop is conducting all manner of terrible experiments on trees inside Dr Boom's lab). It's worth noting that Whalen also told me that there's at least one as-yet unrevealed Druid card that "plays into this a little bit", but added that the three cards we're sharing today represent the core of Druid's new Treant synergy. With that in mind, let's head into Netherstorm, where first we find...
This card immediately looks like one of the key reasons to run a Treant deck. We know from the likes of Hydrologist and Dark Peddler that cheap minions with Discover tend to see a lot of play. Obviously Dendrologist is more conditional in that you have to have a Treant in play to trigger the Discover effect. Nonetheless, a 2/3 for 2-Mana isn't the end of the world if you have to play it in 'naked' River Croc mode, and the potential upside if you can get the Discover off is huge.
Interestingly, Whalen said that the reason behind designing Dendrologist with a Discover ability was to prevent the Treant deck from feeling dull. "When we were trying out the Druid deck very early on in initial design, one of the things that we found was that you tended to have a bunch of these 2/2 minions that were pretty vanilla—and it was kinda boring. We needed ways to spice up the deck and have more things going on that you were excited about. One of the things in Hearthstone that's the most fun to do is play spells… Druid spells across the board are actually pretty good and not super situational."
What I like most about the card is its versatility. Taking a hammering against aggro? Look for Branching Paths or Healing Touch. Fighting a value game against control? Pick Ultimate Infestation or Nourish. Druid has so many good, high utility spells that being offered nothing useful is pretty unlikely. And that clutch Naturalize or Tree of Life (in Wild) will make for some great highlight reel moments. The power of Dendrologist is such that, even if you don't play it on curve, the flexibility of Discover means it's always a card you're happy draw.
Perhaps not the flashiest of the three new Treant cards, but Landscaping is the kind of rock solid card that helps pull all the other synergies together. It's also worth noting that prior to The Boomsday Project, Druid didn't have a class card that instantly put 4/4 of stats onto the board. The fact that this is also a spell means you can still run Oaken Summons to pull out guaranteed Ironwood Golems or Violet Teachers, helping shore up your early game board presence.
"Landscaping really is one of the core pieces of the Treant deck," confirmed Ayala. Whalen pointed out that being able to potentially pick Landscaping off Dendrologist further enhances the deck's synergy. The value of Landscaping is such that it may even be run just as an early game option in Druid decks which aren't all-in on Treant synergy.
Landscaping's efficiency does mean that paying 5 Mana to summon three Treants with Force of Nature now looks even more like a bad deal, but Ayala argued that "there are tons of decks which want to reach a critical mass of a particular kind of effect." He cited the fact that Cinderstorm is worse value than Arcane Missiles, but both cards are played in aggressive Mage decks. The point is that when building around a particular synergy you need multiple ways to generate the same thing, even if that redundancy comes at the cost of including less efficient cards.
Last but certainly not least is this big mech boy. Lore-wise Whalen told me Mulchmuncher is "a giant hippo robot" that's powered by the bodies of your Treants being fed into its mechanical maw. The 8/8 statline effectively makes this a Druid-specific Giant, only here the cost reduction is triggered by having friendly Treants die. Thanks to cards like Living Mana and Soul of the Forest, it's not unreasonable to think Druid is going to be able to play Mulchmuncher for free in some games. "Cost reduction effects are both dangerous and exciting," said Ayala. The fact the card has Rush is also going to make it a potent removal tool, as well as a threat which has to be dealt with immediately.
Mech a change?
Also new to The Boomsday Project sets are Omega cards, which gain an effect once you've reached 10-Mana. I asked Whalen why Omega Defender isn't a Mech, as the artwork is very robotic. "Omega Defender is definitely intended to be the pilot inside," he said, "so that's why it's not a Mech." I pointed out the same is true of Piloted Shredder, so could the Mech tag be added? "That's one of the things we're taking a look at. We've heard the community feedback on it and we're going to see what we can do."
"Gameplay-wise, Rush is something we've really enjoyed playing with," Ayala said, citing the fact that Rush minions can swing board states much like spells, and enable the designers to use powerful stat lines without the risk of creating unineractive OTK combos. So definitely expect more Rush minions from The Boomsday Project. However, Whalen did confirm that Echo and Odd/Even cards will be staying unique to The Witchwood, much like Adapt has only appeared in the Journey To Un'Goro set so far.
Ayala told me that in testing Mulchmuncher's cost reduction enabled it to be played early enough that it was exciting, but not so early that there was no counterplay. No doubt someone (probably Toast) will find an egregious combo using Ixlid and Faceless Manipulator to summon a bunch of them on the same turn, but how much top-end a Treant deck actually needs is debatable, given that Treant decks are probably looking to close the game with Savage Roar on a bunch of little dudes. My guess is that the final build may be pretty midrangey, but including Mulchmunchers plus Cenarius as your late game could be a thing.