Jan 15 2015 - 7:05 pm

The very best (and very worst) Hearthstone legendaries

In a vacuum, there’s no Hearthstone card that’s elementally bad
Dot Esports

In a vacuum, there’s no Hearthstone card that’s elementally bad. Even with scrubs like Goldshire Footman or Mana Wraith, there’s feasibly some direction the meta could go in where having one-mana taunts or mutually-destroyed tempo could be a huge benefit. It’s hard to envision. But it’s possible, and that’s what keeps us coming back.

That’s the dominant thing I kept coming back to when I was ranking the Legendaries in Hearthstone. Sure, Hemet Nesingwary might be terrible now, but there could be a situation as early as this year where he’s one of the most important tech cards in the game. That’s how Hearthstone can, and should, evolve. So don’t take these tiers as definitive, consider them more as a snapshot of January 2015. Someday we’ll have nostalgia for pre-nerf Sneed’s.

1) Tirion Fordring

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I thought long and hard about this, but Fordring still seems like the card that earns the most value for its cost. It’s an eight mana 6/6 with divine shield and taunt, which is already annoying, but if your opponent doesn’t have a silence on hand, pretty soon you’ll be holding that devastating 5/3 Ashbringer. It’s a card I fear the most. We’ve all seen it swing games when confronted without an answer. Without the Paladin requirement and excluding aggro, it’s hard to think of a deck that wouldn’t run it. Tirion is king, at least for now.

2) Ragnaros

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Ragnaros always gives you a chance, that’s its beauty. When you drop Rag on the table, there’s always that chance that you roll exactly what you need and hope stays alive for another turn. It’s hard to understate how valuable that is.

3) Lord Jaraxxus

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At its worst you’re getting a heal-to-15, which admittedly isn’t great. At it’s best you’re getting a heal-to-15 with an extra three damage needed to clear the board and then an endless, stream of Infernals and threaten emotes. Jaraxxus is the most unique legendary in the game, and he’s become one of the primary reasons Handlock is enjoying such a golden age right now. When you cement the usefulness of a dominant meta, that puts you in the upper-echelon of this list.

4) Sylvanas Windrunner

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There’s almost something vaguely boring about Sylvanas. Six mana for a 5/5 with a deathrattle chance to steal an enemy minion for yourself. Once upon a time you’d see Sylvanas routinely steal away the Ragnaroses and Mountain Giants of bewildered scrubs, but now she’s mostly just a secure way to pin down the board. Not flashy, but a mainstay for years to come.

5) Sneed’s Old Shredder

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As it turns out, a card that gives you a useful 5/7 body with the promise of popping out another random Legendary is a pretty good deal. Sure the Sneed’s into Thalnos line sucks, but I’m not sure the Sneed’s into Tirion wombo combo ever loses. Spend eight mana to win the game, a pretty good deal!

6) Cairne Bloodhoof

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Ol’ Cairne has gone out of style over the past few months, Control Warriors and Paladins aren’t running him in favor of the faster, cheaper Sludge Belchers, which makes sense given all  the corrosive aggro you’ll find on ladder right now. That doesn’t bother me, we’re still talking about 8/10 of combined stats for a bargain six mana. I tend to favorite cards that make opponents sigh when they hit the table, and forcing someone to chew through Cairne is the ultimate vibe killer.

7) Archmage Antonidas

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If Archmage survives more than one turn you win the game, especially post-Goblins vs. Gnomes with all those one-mana Spare Parts flying around. It seemed inevitable that we’d eventually find ourselves in a meta where Antonidas is a must-run in every Mage deck, and sure enough the Archmage into Finicky Cloakfield is absolutely devastating.

8) Alexstraza

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I don’t particularly like Alexstraza because she sort of feels like cheating. It’s odd how one card has become absolutely integral to all sorts of different control decks. Without Alex we wouldn’t have Freeze Mage, or Control Warrior, or pretty much any deck that needs to draw a ton of cards to win. She’s not as consistently useful as some of the other cards in the top 10, but she’s still ridiculously important to Hearthstone as a whole.

9) Loatheb

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There are some moments where Loatheb wins you the game, like a final nail snuffing out any desperate comeback. Gently pushing Flamestrike, Equality Consecration, and double Lightning Storm out of range. But there are also plenty of times you play Loatheb because you have nothing else to play and you don’t want to lose tempo. A great card, but probably a little overrated.

10) Grommash Hellscream

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“I can wait no long-BACK TO WORK,” still the most terrifying combination of sounds in Hearthstone. A great Warrior card that gets knocked down a bit because it would really only make sense in a deck Cruel Taskmasters, Whirlwinds, and Death’s Bites.

Except for Mage. Just wait until a Mage Unstable Portals into Grommash on you. Trust me, it’ll happen someday.

11) Ysera

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There’s really no card I hate going up against more than Ysera. Too small to get Big Game Hunter’d or Shadow Word: Death’d, but sporting enough health to be impossible to trade evenly for. Also she fills up your opponent’s hands with super useful cards (except for you, Laughing Sister.)

12) Vol’jin

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Vol’jin introduced us to the world where a Priest drops it onto your Ragnaros, leaving it with a paltry two health, and then zapping it dead with a tiny Holy Smite. Oh yeah, also that priest has a 6/8 Vol’jin now. Thanks for the health! Sorry about your keyboard.

13) Dr. Boom

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Dr. Boom might need to be higher, but it’s a new enough card that I’m slotting him comfortably at 13. You’re getting 9/9 worth of stats for seven mana, which is obviously great, but those two Boom Bots are lowly 1/1s and can just as easily get lazily tossed into your opponent’s face for a pittance instead of the board-clearing dream. Basically what I’m saying is Dr. Boom can sometimes be worse than say, Stormwind Champion, but there are also times it can be the best card in your deck. We’ll know better with more time.

14) Edwin VanCleef

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Nobody plays Miracle anymore, so it’s difficult to figure out where Edwin’s legacy is right now, but he’s still able to be an awesome capstone to an already killer turn. 6/6 VanCleefs, 8/8 VanCleefs, there’s a ton of upside, and also he gets a little extra push because of those hysterical Unstable Portal’d VanCleef openings.

15) Al’Akir the Windlord

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He’s pretty good with a Rockbiter, and pretty great with double Rockbiter, but generally I like my Legendaries to stand on their own without supplementary cards. Don’t get me wrong Al’Akir is a deserved mainstay in every Shaman deck, but it’d be nice if I didn’t have to spend a total of 10 mana to get the desired value.

16) Kel’Thuzad

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A great card. Resurrecting your entire board after every turn is ridiculous. But it doesn’t quite help you enough on its own. It’s a card that turns a winning situation into a hilarious winning situation, but it’s rarely going to turn the tide.

17) Harrison Jones

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Great against Warrior and Paladin, okay against Hunter and Rogue. Otherwise inefficient deadweight. Pretty good with Blingtron though, if that ever becomes a thing.

18) Hogger

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You know, before Goblins vs. Gnomes, there was this weird little run where Control Warriors, (and even some Handlocks!) were putting in Hogger at their six spot, mostly to replace the fading Cairne Bloodhoof. Things have gone back to normal, but I still think Hogger’s ability to snowball is a little underrated. He’ll have his moments.

19) Bloodmage Thalnos

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It’s two mana for a 1/1. Yes you get a draw a card, yes it’s that extra burst of spell damage you need for board clears. I get it. It’s a good card. I run it in plenty of decks. But is Thalnos really that much better than Kobold Geomancer or whatever? Well, yes, but not by that much.

20) Cenarius

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It’s a good nine drop. But I’ve always found it kinda boring. a 5/8 body, a couple of 2/2s. Sure it helps you win games, but I’d rather win games in different, more efficient ways.

21) Deathwing

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Every once in a while I have this crazy idea of putting Deathwing into an aggro deck, like Zoolock or something. I know that’s nuts—discarding your entire hand and wiping the board in aggro is the worst thing you could do. But, it would be pretty fun to do some immediate catch-up on those awful times you fall behind after a Sunwalker or something. There’s more to this, I think. Maybe that’s the niche that Deathwing needs to find.

22) Mal’Ganis

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I might be underrating this card, but it really seems like it’s only a great play if you’re able to get it out through Voidcaller. When that happens, Mal’Ganis might be the best card in the game. In the more likely scenarios where you’re spending nine mana? Not so much.

23) Toshley

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It’s a card named after a vaguely recognizable NPC from a years-old World of Warcraft expansion. It gives you Spare Parts, which are useful if you’re running a deck that takes advantage of cheap spells. Not bad! But you know, whatever.

24) Gazlowe

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Gazlowe is one of those cards that can take advantage of cheap spells, and he’s pretty good! Getting a 3/6 body for six mana kinda sucks, but turning a Whirling Blades into a Foe Reaper is pretty great.

25) Trade Prince Gallywix

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Rogue is dead in the meta, which means we haven’t seen too much of Gallywix. But we do know that in a vacuum, a 5/8 for six mana is excellent, and photocopying the Fireball needed to take him down is even better. Seriously we need to run this thing more, he might be so much better than we realize.

26) Neptulon

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Murloc Shaman has yet to surface, but using Neptulon as a way to fill up your hand with some quick, useful cards is still good enough to justify Neptulon’s existence. Getting two Grimscale Oracles and a Murk-Eye is a lot of fun.

27/28/29/30 - Foe Reaper 4000, The Beast, Onyxia, Gruul

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All these cards fall into the same category. Fine, solid plays that don’t do quite enough for their mana cost. Foe Reaper is most useful if you’re playing it into a situation where there’s already stuff on your opponent’s board, in which case he can usually be dealt with without too much hassle. The Beast can get swallowed up by a BGH or even a Fireball/Fireblast, and letting your opponent have that 3/3 is pretty annoying. Onyxia is crippled by Swipe, or even the lowly Arcane Explosion, and Gruul doesn’t grow fast enough.

Again, these are all fine cards, most Legendaries are, but the reason you don’t seem them played is because they don’t make enough of an immediate impact. The solution? It’s always Ramp Druid. If you can ramp into Gruul/Onyxia/Foe Reaper/Beast, they’re a lot better. That translates into a simple “they cost too much.”

31) Gahz’rilla

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Hunters can’t run Whirlwinds or Death’s Bites, and they don’t have a hero power like Fireblast. So that means Hunters can’t effectively activate things with enrage. There’s a reason Hunters don’t run Gurubashi Berserkers, just like there’s a reason they don’t run Gahz’rilla.

32/33) Feugen/Stalagg

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Ah, the Feugen/Stalagg Reincarnation dream. It worked one out of a hundred times, but it certainly was fun when it did. Otherwise, in the faint scenarios where you managed to get both of these on the board in a single game, they would get harmlessly popped bringing forth the 11/11 Thaddius, who would then die to the Siphon Soul, BGH, Hex, Polymorph, whatever that the opponent specifically held onto once they saw the first of this tandem. Unfortunately in Hearthstone, your plan can’t be this easily telegraphed.

33) Troggzor The Earthinator

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It’s a great anti-spell card, and it puts your opponent into fits when they realize easy-outs like Polymorph and Hex aren’t going to work. But it costs seven mana, how much better is it than like, Loatheb?

34) The Black Knight

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Pretty great when you’re cutting down a Tirion or a Sludge Belcher, not nearly as fun when you’re playing it in a piddling top-deck war. Like Harrison Jones, but without the major upside.

35) Malorne

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It looked a lot better when we thought Mill Druid was going to be fought with Clockwork Gnomes and Dancing Swords instead of Antique Healbots and Tree of Lifes.

36) King Mukla

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It’s a tempo play. You put down a 5/5 for only three mana and hope those Bananas don’t come back to haunt you. Generally they won’t, so it’s fine. Mukla got most of his run back in those Backspace Rogue days, but I think he’s got some usefulness left.

37) Tinkmaster Overspark

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Tinkmaster used to be a must-run in practically every deck. Seriously, go back and watch those ESGN matches. But then he got nerfed, and he wasn’t one of the most efficient removals in the game, and now he’s hardly played. That’s just how it goes in the realm of cutthroat balancing patches.

38) Old Murk-Eye

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Rest in peace Murloc Warlock! It was fun while it lasted.

39) Nat Pagle

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Pagle used to win games. You played Pagle on turn two, and if he drew, then you’d probably win the game. Now he only gets a chance to draw at the start of a turn, which means your opponent has a chance to snipe him off the board, and even if he doesn’t, you’re still only looking at a 50 percent chance to draw. That’s just not good enough anymore. I wish Blizzard wouldn’t nerf things into oblivion, don’t you?

40) Mogor the Ogre

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Hilarious, but I can’t find a single purpose for him. That’s fine, we need gag cards in this game.

41) Prophet Velen

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One day Nuke Priest will become a thing, and Velen will melt faces with ridiculous Mind Blasts and Holy Fires. But unfortunately today is not that day. Still rooting for you Velen, you’ll have your moment.

42) Mimiron’s Head

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Yeah that whole “have three mechs alive by next turn” thing? That’s really, really hard to pull off.

43/44) Elite Tauren Chieftain, Gelbin Mekkatorque

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These were both promo cards, which come with decent stats and an effect that mostly works the lols. Like the panic-inducing I Am Murloc! Or the potentially game-losing Heal Bot! Again, I’m glad these are in the game, even though we’ll never draft them.

45) Illidan Stormrage

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Illidan can be great. I’ve seen it. Illidan can also enter play, get Swiped, get pinged, and die. I wish Illidan was a better card, he deserves to be a better card, but unfortunately he’s not quite good enough.

46) King Krush

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It’s a huge dinosaur! But nine mana for an 8/8 with charge is kinda bad! BUT HE’S HUGE DINOSAUR!!!

Another card we wish was better.

47) Iron Juggernaut

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It’s not actually this bad. I like the Iron Juggernaut, but it’s going to need a real deck around it in order for it to be truly good. Unfortunately that real deck hasn’t shown up yet, because ideally you want to run this thing in a mill, which doesn’t necessarily suit the other Warrior cards. Although, now that I’m thinking, a Warrior that runs a bunch of invincible healing and armor and a couple pandas with this thing might actually be okay. TO THE DRAWING BOARD!

48) Leeroy Jenkins

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It’s okay. You’ll never ever have to deal with Leeroy Shadowstep Leeroy Shadowstep Leeroy ever again. You can come out now. His reign or terror is over.

49) Maexxna

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But it’s better than Boulderfist Ogre which costs the same! No, because sometimes you want to hit the face. I know that technically Maexxna has “infinite” attack. But not when you hit the face for two! That kinda sucks!

50) Mekgneer Thermaplugg

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I have no idea why this card costs nine mana, nor do I get what it’s intended use is for. I might be a giant idiot, but apparently everyone else is too, because nobody has been able to put this guy to good use.

51) Lorewalker Cho

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I love Lorewalker Cho. I want to believe he’s a good card that buries himself deeply into the psyche of my opponent. But that’s mostly not true. He’s a 0/4 with a mutual effect. That’s generally not very good.

52) Nozdormu

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Nozdormu has an amazing design. Directly messing with the turn clock is a brilliant effect. I still think it might work in a curveball tournament setting, but it’s impossible to sacrifice something in your deck for a nine mana 8/8.

53) Malygos

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Malygos was pretty scary in Malygos Rogue, but now nobody plays Malygos Rogue because Gadgetzan Auctioneer sucks. Eventually more cards will come out, and Malygos Something will emerge. I’ve seen it a little bit with Shaman paired with Ancestor’s Call, actually. Until then Malygos has one of the most powerful effects in the game, which is also incredibly difficult to take advantage of.

54) Millhouse Manastorm

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Never play Millhouse.

55) Hemet Nesingwary

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Hey man, at least Millhouse can get you a tempo boost. Hemet on the other hand, is a five mana 6/3 that mostly kills Haunted Creepers. That’s freaking terrible man. One day Hunters will run Gahz’rilla, and this will be a different story. But until then, Nesingwary holds the crown for worst Legendary in the game.