Cycle Scout Ramp
Many scout decks treat Hist Grove as primarily a ramp card that lets them play powerful, big minions like Blood Magic Lord and Night Shadow earlier with the upside of sometimes giving more late-game punch against control decks. This deck instead focuses on Hist Grove as a primary win condition. Running all 9 cheap cycle cards (3 Shadow Shift, 3 Thieves Guild Recruit, 3 Enchanted Plate) helps you draw Hist Grove and other ramp cards consistently. Additional stall cards like Giant Snake, Midnight Sweep, and Blacksap Protector help to delay the game for the extra turns needed to reach 15 magicka and stabilize. The deck also includes fewer threats than most scout decks. Keeping in mind that the deck is heavily focused on surviving to reach 15 magicka, you should focus mostly on playing a defensive game and avoid popping runes and giving the opponent resources.
Always keep Hist Grove and Tree Minder. Keep Histmage if you have Hist Grove or Tree Minder already.
Matchups and Special Mulligans:
Assume Midrange/Aggro Archer and keep Crushing Blow.
Be careful of Daring Cutpurse and lane-shifting effects. Fighters Guild Recruit and Tree Minder are much worse in this matchup because of Murkwater Witch so don’t count on early taunts too heavily. Earthbone Spinner and ping effects combined with Finish Off/Leaflurker provide good answers to later game taunts so try to get taunts down early and then follow up with Giant Snakes so that, if they are able to answer the taunts, it’s before they have too much pressure in a lane. If they have a slow opener and you get an early lead, it’s often worth it to be aggressive and pop runes to deny Soulrest Marshal value early on. Late game, you can play around Burn and Pillage by trading in a way that keeps a few large minions healthy instead of spreading the damage across all of your minions.
This matchup is much easier than the Aggro/Midrange Archer matchup because they play slower early game cards. Hold Shadowfen Priest for Wrothgar Forge, hold Giant Snake for Markarth Bannerman, and hold Territorial Viper for any minion that are 4/4 or better but especially Vigilant Giant and Belligerent Giant.
Assume Action or Prophecy Assassin and keep Crushing Blow and Fighters Guild Recruit. Keep Shadow Shift or Enchanted Plate if you have a Fighters Guild Recruit.
Aggro assassin decks almost always revolve around snowballing with an early 2-drop like Crystal Tower Crafter, Daring Cutpurse, or Goblin Skulk. Do your best to deal with those minions before they get out of control. As long as you make it to the mid-game with a decent amount of life, you can usually stabilize with a Snake Tooth Necklace. Be mindful of lane-shifting effects like Dune Smuggler and Shadow Shift being used to protect the 2-drops and try to spread out taunts between lanes. Often you’ll have to use Shadowfen Priest on an early minion like Crystal Tower Crafter or Daring Cutpurse but you should try to save one as an answer for Lillandril Hexmage.
Always assume Prophecy Battlemage and keep Crushing Blow, Fighters Guild Recruit, and Thieves Guild Recruit to slow down early aggression. You can also keep Enchanted Plate if you have a Fighters Guild Recruit already.
Prioritize ramp over everything else. Combo Battlemage struggles with removing large minions so the way this matchup is won is by getting a large wall of threats in play to threaten 2-turn lethal before your opponent pieces together enough burst to kill you with Supreme Atromancer or Merric. To do that, you need enough magicka to play out your large threats. Try to save Crushing Blow or Shadowfen Priest to answer a Supreme Atromancer and Shadowfen Priest or Giant Snake to answer a Markarth Bannerman. Territorial Vipers should be saved to answer creatures that are 4/4 or larger including Markarth Bannerman, Crystal Tower Crafter, Belligerent Giant, and Vigilant Giant.
This matchup is all about reaching your large taunt minions as quickly as possible. While 2-drops can be helpful for mitigating some early damage, it’s Thorn Histmage, Giant Snake, Preserver of the Root, and any large minion with Snake Tooth Necklace that do the real heavy lifting when it comes to stabilizing. Play 2-drops on 2 if you can but, once you get to turn 3 and beyond, you should focus on ramping so that you can stabilize earlier.
Assume Aggro/Token Crusader and keep Fighters Guild Recruit and Crushing Blow.
Rift Thane, Fifth Legion Trainer, and Orc Clan Captain are the biggest threats early on because they represent the most damage. Your priority should be removing as much damage from the board as possible. Crusader decks tend to run out of steam very quickly so your goal should be to deny as much damage as possible early on and keep your runes intact to play around Burn and Pillage so that your taunts will be more impactful later on. This one of the few matchups where it’s often correct to prioritize Giant Snakes before taunts to buy time. Try to use Shadowfen Priest or Giant Snake to answer Markarth Bannerman but don’t hold them if you have no better play otherwise you risk taking too much damage.
Assume Control Mage and keep all magicka ramp cards.
If you reach the Hist Grove turn in this matchup, you’re heavily favored. Most losses in this matchup will come from the Control Mage getting early pressure but it’s a risk to them because they’re also giving you a resource advantage. The average card quality is higher for their deck so, until Hist Grove goes off, you’re also likely to be playing from behind in card advantage. To counter early pressure, go for ramp so you can develop large taunts early. To counter the late-game strategy, try to stagger your Hist Groves and not play them all at once. If you play your Hist Groves out all at once, you give the opponent a chance to stabilize with Dawn’s Wrath. Try to hold Territorial Viper for Mantikora and Shadowfen Priest for Daggerfall Mage.
Builds of action mage have different amounts of top end threats but they all have a pretty similar early-game strategy of snowballing with Crystal Tower Crafter. Always kill a CTC with Crushing Blow if possible because otherwise it can get out of hand and you’ll have to use a Territorial Viper or Shadowfen Priest to answer it. Action Mages typically run Piercing Javelin so be careful with relying on a taunt minion stopping a lot of damage. A lot of builds also run Hexmage, so try to hold back at least one Shadowfen for that in the late-game if you can.
Assume midrange Pilfer Monk and keep Crushing Blow and Fighters Guild Recruit. Keep Shadow Shift if you have Fighters Guild Recruit.
This matchup is very favored as long as the opponent isn’t able to snowball with an early Daring Cutpurse so try to answer it as early as possible. Expect the opponent to have access to lane-shifting effects like Shadow Shift and Dune Smuggler and try to spread out your taunts between lanes. Hold Shadowfen Priest for Thieves’ Den as a lot of Pilfer Monk builds use the combination of Master of Thieves and Thieves’ Den to pull off big burst damage turns. Pilfer Monks sometimes run Immolating Blast to answer Hist Grove so try to stagger them since even a single Hist Grove is usually more than Pilfer Monk can handle with its limited removal.
Assume Ramp Scout and keep all ramp cards and Fighters Guild recruit. Keep Enchanted Plate if you have a Fighters Guild Recruit.
This matchup is almost always decided by Hist Grove so try to use Shadowfen Priests to answer your opponent’s Hist Groves. What you should do and what a good opponent will do is hold Hist Groves until they’re almost at maximum magicka and then play Hist Groves to reach 15 so they immediately trigger that way they can’t be targetted by Shadowfen Priests. If you suspect your opponent is doing that then you can use your Shadowfen Priests more liberally on Fighters Guild Recruit, Preserver of the Root, Blood Magic Lord, or minions hidden in the shadow lane so that you can take more favorable trades. If it’s clear that your opponent is going to trigger their Hist Groves first but you’re able to get yours to trigger within a turn, try to hold Giant Snakes and Red Bramman to prevent lethal and swing the race in your favor.
Their deck is all about snowballing with Soulrest Marshall and Blackwyrm Necromancer so do your best to deny those going into turn 5. Prioritizing removal, hitting face, and using an early Snake Tooth Necklace are all ways to achieve that. If you’re not able to deny them, then your main focus should be developing large taunt walls. Midrange Scout decks tend not to have too many consistent or efficient answers for big taunts so taunts should be the goal. Usually you’ll want to hold Giant Snakes for the threat of the opponent splitting lanes or in order to set up favorable trades.
Assume Ward Sorcerer and keep Enchanted Plate.
Try to develop small minions away from ward minions to deny value trades. Eventually you’ll have the magicka to play your larger threats and those will usually be able to contest small ward minions very effectively and you’ll still have your smaller minions in the opposite lane to stop your opponent splitting lanes to pressure. Later game, be careful of leaving large minions like Night Shadow alive as your opponent might have a Mentor’s Ring + ward minion combo to take favorable trades. Daggerfall Mage and Stormhelm Champion are your primary Shadowfen Priest Targets.
Play the early game similarly to the Ward Sorcerer matchup. Hold Hist Groves until you’re able to play them when they immediately trigger to play around Shadowfen Priest. Likewise, try to hold your Shadowfen Priests to answer your opponent’s Hist Groves. Their late game will usually be more threat-dense but you should be able to play out your Hist Groves much earlier and more consistently and sorcerer has no answer to that if you play around the Shadowfen Priest.
Assume Control Spellsword and keep all ramp cards, Shadow Shift, Enchanted Plate, and Fighters Guild Recruit.
Never play Hist Grove until it will go off immediately. Triple Edict of Azura and triple Shadowfen Priest means your opponent is well equipped to remove Hist Grove so don’t give them the chance to counter it. Immolating Blast is sometimes included in the deck to counter Hist Grove so try to stagger Hist Groves instead of playing them all at once. Dawn’s Wrath is more common so try to spread out threats between lanes in the late-game. Spellsword has good late-game removal but pretty mediocre early game removal so try to use Enchanted Plate and Shadow Shift to take favorable trades. Because they have a lot of removal for big threats, trying to set up one turn lethal is almost impossible but if you can get a board lead through favorable trades, two or three turn lethal is achievable.
Hold Shadowfen Priest for Divine Fervor. Try to hold Crushing Blow for Fifth Legion Trainer. Like Control Spellsword, Token SS also struggles a lot with early game removal so using Shadow Shift and Enchanted Plate to take favorable trades can result in a big board lead early on. Depending on whether your opponent is running Bone Colossus, it’s possible they can outvalue you if they’re able to remove Hist Groves with Edict of Azura or Shadowfen Priest so use your best judgement on whether you should hold Hist Groves until the late game to play around removal.
Assume Orc/Aggro Warrior and keep Fighters Guild Recruit and Crushing Blow.
Most aggressive warrior decks are very all-in and rely on getting a lot of damage early to set up good Burn and Pillage pushes in the late game. If you can shut down early aggression, you can usually stabilize eventually. Don’t worry too much about playing into favorable trades because, if your opponent is taking favorable trades, they’re not hitting your face. Fast warrior decks tend to favor Earthbone Spinner over Shadowfen Priest so don’t worry about holding Hist Grove. Try to keep your Shadowfen Priests for minions with items equipped or Chieftain’s Banner against Orc Warrior.
This matchup is almost identical to the Wrothgar Archer matchup which you can read about above. The only card that really makes you play differently is Doomcrag Vampire; try to hold a Shadowfen Priest or Territorial Viper to answer that.