Howdy! I’m TrainerDusk. I’ve been playing Hearthstone since day 1 and I’d like to share what I’ve learnt with you in the past year or so. Today I’ll be going over a few of my personal favourite cards to draft in the Arena mode that don’t get a lot of coverage. There are a lot of cards that look objectively bad at first glance, but I feel that almost every card has their niche. You don’t need another person telling you how good chillwind-yeti is. These cards are often overlooked by the majority of players, but have their place in the right draft.
By reading this article, I hope your opinion of some of these cards will change. I’ve found all of them useful in their own way and I believe they are worth a second thought if you have previously passed on them in the draft.
This card is so rarely seen that I wouldn’t be surprised if you don’t know what it does. I’m not talking about spellbreaker, the 4/3 with a silence battlecry. Spellbender is a mage secret that works similarly to counterspell, but has some unique and powerful interactions that are rather common in arena. When your opponent casts a targeted spell at any minion, the new target is a 1/3 on your side of the board. If your opponent tries to fireball your water-elemental or swipe your kirin-tor-mage, too bad. The spell is redirected. This card isn’t particularly interesting until you come up against buffing spells. How would you feel if you spent 4 mana (and a card) on blessing-of-kings to find out that you just spawned a 5/7 for your opponent. I’d be disheartened to say the least. Spellbender alone can instantly win you games with dramatic swings to board presence. It is exceptional in every matchup as it can waste valuable spells and can ruin your opponents plans.
- Difficult to play around as it is the least recognised of the 7 mage secrets (due to its lack of use in constructed).
- Has the potential for huge board swings and can win the game single-handedly.
- Protects your minions from removal spells (such as hex).
- Does not stop AoE spells (e.g. flamestrike)
- Requires your opponent to cast a spell for it to be useful.
- kirin-tor-mage and mad-scientist allow you to play a secret for free.
- sorcerers-apprentice reduces the cost of spells by 1. (This effect stacks with multiple Sorcerer’s Apprentices on the board)
- ethereal-arcanist is at least a 5/5 with this secret on the board and cannot be removed with a spell due to the effect of the secret.
Guardian of Kings
You have to actually kill your opponent in order to win a game of Hearthstone. Guardian of Kings is a reasonably strong card in this respect, because it removes a lot of the pressure applied by aggro decks and is also a relatively beefy minion. My personal experience has shown that this is definitely a card that stacks well with itself, so dropping it 2 or 3 turns in a row will either solidify your victory or slow down your defeat for long enough to give you some time to turn the game around. I was lucky enough to draft a deck with 7 (:O) Guardian of Kings once, and that deck netted me a clean 12 wins. While the Guardian of Kinds is a pretty dead card early game due to its huge mana cost, the heal will mitigate some of the damage you take from your weaker start, essentially neutralizing the main weakness of picking such a highly costed card.
- Provides a solid 5/6 body on the field to trade with other minions.
- Is a common card, so you are likely to get more that 1 in a single draft.
- Slows beatdown decks (like Hunter) and gives you more breathing room against burst damage.
- A solid topdeck in the lategame.
- 5/6 stats alone for 7 mana isn’t very efficient.
- The heal is sometimes wasted (though that usually only happens when you are already winning).
- Dead card in the opening hand.
- argent-protector has a useful battlecry on such a large body.
- sword-of-justice doesn’t push the minion into big-game-hunter range.
- There is enough leftover mana for a reinforce lategame.
Sap is the complete opposite of a value card. You spend one of your cards and don’t destroy one of your opponents. Players who don’t know how to use this spell will likely have a bad experience with it and will be left with a sour first impression. The idea behind Sap is that you force your opponent to spend significantly more mana than their card is worth to get it on the field. This is known in the world of CCGs as a tempo play. I’ll give you an example, because some people might not yet see the true power of this spell.
- Your opponent spends 6 mana playing boulderfist ogre.
- You spend 6 mana playing sap and a chillwind yeti.
- Your opponent spends 6 mana playing a Boulderfist Ogre again.
- You spend 6 mana on your own Boulderfist Ogre.
At the end of this ordeal, both players have spent 12 mana. You have 10 manas worth of minions on the board compared to your opponent’s 6 mana equivalent. You’ve gotten more out of your mana that your opponent at the cost of an extra card. From this point it is up to you to snowball the stronger board presence into a victory before your card disadvantage becomes an issue. Back-to-back saps are very demoralizing to play against, but I wouldn’t take more than 2 of these in an arena draft unless my other options are quite awful.
Aside from the standard tempo play with Sap, you can also use it on minions that have received buffs (blessing-of-kings), taunt minions standing between you and lethal (sunwalker) or cards that have a detrimental effect when they are played (earth-elemental). Sap is versatile in its uses and when played correctly it is extremely powerful in the minion heavy meta found in the Arena.
- Costs your opponent more than it costs you.
- Allows you to draft a more aggressive deck and delay any taunts that stand in your way.
- Provides cheap utility and often leaves you with leftover mana for more cards that turn.
- Works as a pseudo-silence spell.
- Puts you at risk of running out of cards before your opponent.
- Can be used incorrectly (e.g. sapping a 2 drop that poses little threat).
- Cheap and aggressive minions, like si7-agent and knife-juggler.
- Draw mechanics: loot-hoarder/gnomish-inventor/sprint.
Personally, I think Dread Infernal one of the best common minions in the arena. While others may argue that fire-elemental has a stronger battlecry, Dread Infernal has devastating synergy in a Warlock deck. Since the release of Naxxramas, we have been able to draft voidcaller as a Warlock in the Arena. When the Voidcaller’s deathrattle is triggered and you have a Dread Infernal in hand, you have just got 9/10 stats for 4 mana. This is near-unbeatable in pure value and will net you either a free win or a free hard removal spell from your opponent’s hand. Remember that both Dread Infernal and Voidcaller are common minions, so it is pretty easy to get several of them in a single draft.
If for a moment we ignore this possibility and look at the minion by itself, it is still an incredible minion. As many of you know, trading minions for one another is a popular strategy in the Arena. As a result of this strategy, many players with a leading position on the board will leave their own minions on 1 health after a successful trade. The AoE 1 damage clears up many of these lost trades (or lets you make some great trades of your own) that have happened leading up to your 6th turn. If this isn’t enough to convince you, just remember that a Dread Infernal can even trade with the mighty boulderfist-ogre.
- Great stats for the mana cost.
- Immediately affects the state of the board when it is played.
- Has fantastic synergy with another common card.
- The 1 damage AoE can occasionally be detrimental. (Remember to attack first if it will kill one of your own minions).
- Is sometimes a dead card in your hand early (but not always!).
Neutral: Darkscale Healer
Take 2 parts chillwind-yeti, a dash of circle-of-healing, bump up the mana cost and you’ve got yourself Darkscale Healer. As the release of Naxxramas has made the 5 slot rather crowded with new minions, loatheb, sludge-belcher, spectral-knight etc, players often forget the strength of the older minions. Darkscale Healer is a great example of what you want in the current Arena metagame. If your play up to turn 5 has allowed you to make favourable trades with your minions and they are looking quite weathered, Darkscale Healer will buff them all right up again. Most trades in the early game happen between the 3/2 minions and the 2/3 minions, so usually a 2 health heal is all you need to get a second favourable trade out of a card. Just like the dread-infernal, drafting this card assumes that you will be playing with and against minion heavy decks.
The ever-powerful Mage with their fireblast will often try to ping minions over several turns to remove them, so the AoE heal can be rather effective in that matchup. This is also true, but less so when facing Rogues, Druids and even Paladins, due to their 1 damage hero powers. Many classes also have AoE removal spells and Darkscale Healer can be used to push minions out of the range of these spells. For example, Mages that ping your minions to ?4hp with the intention of casting flamestrike will have wasted a considerable amount of mana if you just heal them back up again.
- Heal allows you to make multiple trades with minions.
- Trades well with most other 5 drops.
- Base stats are not ideal for the mana cost (though few 5 drops are).
- Any minion heavy arena draft.
Frost elemental is a rather incredible card when you consider that it’s a neutral common minion. For 6 mana, you can gain control of a board that was fairly even (or slightly in your opponent’s favour) beforehand. The base stats of most minions start to fall off after 5 mana and you begin looking for strong effects that come with such powerful minions, so 5/5 for 6 mana isn’t that bad. The base minion still trades well with 2/3/4 cost minions, which make up the majority of most arena decks. The downside of having lower than average stats is often irrelevant as you will be freezing the larger minion and trading with the smaller ones.
Tempo gain is hard to quantify in terms of mana, but stacking multiple of them in an arena deck that contains cards such as ice-lance. frostbolt, water-elemental and blizzard gives you total control over the trades that are being made. Getting the choice of which minions trade with which is invaluable and makes freeze effects incredible in the minion heavy arena meta. So strong are the freeze spells that Blizzard was forced to nerf several of them for being too strong.
Freeze effects are also notably quite strong against Druids,Paladins, Rogues, Shamans and Warriors as you can delay their weapon attacks and trade away the vulnerable minions. If you can’t trade away the minions that are going to die to their weapons, you will at least get a bit more face damage from the extra attack.
- Gives you a large tempo advantage.
- Slows down weapon wielding classes.
- Silences, such as keeper-of-the-grove and spellbreaker.
- Lower than average base stats when compared to boulderfist-ogre
- Any minion heavy arena draft.
- water-elemental for perma freezing weapons.
I hope this article has helped you re-evaluate some of the cards available in the Arena. The collection I’ve talked about today are cards that I notice newer players often overlooking in their draft. Each has their own specific niche to fill and all have won me games that I would have otherwise lost. My favourite card that didn’t make this list is worgen-infiltrator. If you’ve got a card you really enjoy drafting, you can explain it in the comments below. If you have any further comments or queries, please let me know either by commenting on this article or ingame at Trainerdusk#2126 on the European server.