It’s already 3 weeks since TGT’s release and we can easily see how the expansion has impacted the whole game. Quite a few things have changed, new decks have emerged, others have been made much stronger and some weren’t even touched at all.
In this 3-part series, I want to talk about how TGT cards have impacted each of the classes. Analyze the new cards, see whether they are seeing play or not and judge whether the class was improved with the TGT or not, as well as the latest sample deck lists of these classes. I’ll give one of the three final verdicts:
- Positive – The class has significantly improved with TGT – either the new, very strong archetypes were created or the old ones has became better.
- Neutral – The class received positive changes, but they are rather small – no new archetypes created or they aren’t very strong and the old ones were only slightly boosted or got cards that are similar in strength to the current ones and can be used as a tech/alternate choices.
- Negative – The class got close to no good cards, no new viable archetypes were created and the old ones also didn’t get a lot of alternative card choices.
I’m going to start alphabetically by covering the Druid, Hunter and Mage first!
Druid really deserved a lot of attention this expansion, and that’s exactly what he got. Since the vanilla, there were really no big changes in the class – adding couple of neutral cards that are good in Druid decks here and there, but nothing really impacted the playstyle since introducing the Shade of Naxxramas in Naxx. And the class cards he got in the last 3 expansions could even not be released and no one would see a big difference. However, this expansion is completely different. Druid is one of the biggest winners of TGT. The ever popular Midrange Druid got stronger, while the other archetypes, which were deep in the slumber finally emerged again (Token Druid and possibly Ramp Druid). The new ones were also created – Dragon Druid and Beast Druid. I can’t really say how strong they are, because I haven’t tested them, but some people seem to enjoy playing them. Let’s start analysis with the spells.
TGT Druid Spells
- Living Roots has made a huge impact on the class. 1 mana removals like Holy Smite are pretty good – the low mana cost makes them very flexible, they are great in the early game to deal with opponent’s small threats and still not useless in the late game (they boost your trading potential or can push for lethal). Living Roots is even more flexible, because instead of dealing 2 damage you can actually summon two 1/1’s. 2x 1/1 for 1 mana is a great tempo play, especially in the class like Druid. You want to play proactive, you want to have board presence (to utilize Savage Roar for example), and against Aggro you really want the tempo. With Living Roots you don’t have to skip turn one – you can make a tempo play of 2x 1/1 instead. The card combos really nicely with Violet Teacher and Power of the Wild in Token Druid, but is a fine card even in the standard Midrange Druid. One of the best spells introduced in TGT.
- Mulch is the removal spell Druid got. Druid has interesting removals – all of them are the tempo plays, giving enemy something back when you kill their minion. It really fits the theme of the vanilla Naturalize and GvG Recycle. Is it good, though? It really depends on the meta. You don’t want to use it on the small minions – it’s just a waste. Using 3 mana removal to get rid of something like Knife Juggler AND give them another minion in their hand is pretty bad deal. It’s good only as a way to deal with really big minion – 7+ mana. Not only it gains you the tempo this way, but also the random minion enemy gets will probably be worse than what you’ve destroyed. You can kinda compare it to Rogue’s Sap. Mulch is a better way to deal with really big minions (most of the time), but can backfire. It also procs the Deathrattles, so not a great way to kill things like Sylvanas Windrunner or Tirion Fordring. The card is definitely not bad, but it doesn’t fit the faster Druid archetypes. Ramp Druid or Mill Druid could definitely make a use of it, but they aren’t the most popular decks right now. An interesting card, but it didn’t make much impact on the meta.
- Astral Communion is a card you need to build a deck around for it to even remotely work. It’s very interesting and a lot of people have tried to make a deck centered around this card. However, after a lot of testing, it became evident that those decks are too inconsistent. If they work and you can get Astral Communion out in the early turns (thanks to the Innervate), you can easily overwhelm enemy with big drops every turn. On the other hand, if you don’t, you just lose most of the games, because your deck is so slow. A very cute card, but not particularly strong right now. Maybe in the future.
The spell with biggest impact is definitely Living Roots. Mulch and Astral Communion are more gimmicky/situational, but they can make some impact in the future. Now let’s see the minions.
TGT Druid Minions
- Darnassus Aspirant – Only a 2-drop, but a 2-drop Druid has needed. The class was very hit or miss before – drawing or not drawing into Wild Growth on turn 2 could be a matter of life and death. With Darnassus Aspirant, you can not only ramp up more consistently, but also have some early board presence. Combined with Living Roots, it makes the class much more threatening in the early game. Against slower decks, it’s good, because it can ramp you up without losing the tempo. Against fast decks, it’s a 2/3 on the board that trades for something AND possibly can even gain you like 1 additional mana (rarely more than that). Some people run one of those, some two, in Token Druid you can even completely drop Wild Growths and go for them. Another very impactful TGT card, great in most (if not all) of the Druid archetypes.
- Druid of the Saber – The card is very solid in faster versions of Druid. It’s also really flexible – you can use it as a small instant removal, as “delayed” removal, as a burst with Savage Roar or just as a 2-drop that is pretty much guaranteed to survive on the turn you play it (there aren’t many things that can kill Stealthed minion on turn 2). The card itself is solid, but doesn’t have a very big impact on the game. There are other similar options and Druid of the Saber isn’t much stronger. Strifecro has tried it in a faster, more aggressive Midrange Druid and it worked out okay, but the results weren’t phenomenal. The good thing is that it’s a Beast (after it changes), so it can be used in a deck with Beast synergies.
- Savage Combatant – It would seem that it’s a great include into a Beast deck, but as it turns out, it’s more than that. I’m not a fan of this card, but a lot of people are running it in Midrange Druid. The 5/4 are very aggressive stats – on the one hand rather easy to remove, but on the other if enemy has no answer, it can push for a lot of damage or trade up. The effect is also awesome – it makes the minion have a great transition into a late game. Your Hero Power having 3 attack instead of 1 is a huge difference – you can easily take out most of the 2-drops and even some 3-drops. You can make better trades if you have some other minions on the boards or spells in your hand. High priority removal target for the enemy, a good, solid minion. Doesn’t have a HUGE impact on the class, but makes it more consistent in terms of removals.
- Wildwalker – A 4/4 for 4 is pretty bad and the Beast synergy needs a proper deck (non-Beast Druid decks don’t run enough targets). If the card hits its Battlecry – it’s very good. Something like an Upgraded Repair Bot for the Priest – it’s great in a synergistic deck, but without too much impact overall. If you play Beast Druid, you can definitely include it, but the archetype didn’t take ladder by the storm, so the card isn’t seen too often.
- Knight of the Wild – Similarly to the the previous minion, this one is a fit only in the Beast Druid deck. And honestly, even in that deck it’s not especially strong – it needs to be in your hand for you to get the discounts, so unless you’re lucky it’s usually something like 4-5 mana 6/6 in the late game. Not bad, but nothing impressive.
- Aviana – A huge include in the Ramp Druid. It allows some crazy combos with Innervate or Emperor Thaurissan – getting her alongside 2-3 big legendaries is a powerful play. The problem with the card is that it’s really slow, making it almost useless against Aggro decks. Another one is that using her usually means overcommiting on the board, and it’s a bad play against certain cards (Brawl for example). But in the right situation, Aviana is incredibly strong. I actually run her in my Ramp Druid and she has won me a lot of games. Still, the main problem is that right now Ramp Druid is inferior to some other Druid archetypes, so running it may not be the best idea.
Blizzard has tried pushing the Beast Druid once again – and while they made it much more viable, I still think it’s not enough for the deck to rise. But generally, minions released in TGT were really good – Darnassus Aspirant and Savage Combatant are being commonly seen and the rest of them aren’t bad. Let’s finish the Druid class with the Neutral TGT minions that had impact on the class.
TGT Neutral Minions
- Twilight Guardian and Chillmaw are used in the Dragon Druid. They make the deck much more defensive and stronger against Aggro decks and some Combo decks. The first one gives an turn 4 Taunt that is a lot stronger than Sen’jin Shieldmasta. Even though it’s only +1 Health, so early in the game it’s a big difference. It also has a Dragon tag, meaning it synergizes with “Holding a Dragon” mechanic. The second one finally gives Druid a real AoE – 3 damage to all minions is a lot and unless enemy can Silence it, it’s a great way to clear the board and slow down the game. Those two are main reasons why Dragon Druid has became at least semi-viable.
- Eydis Darkbane and Fjola Lightbane – Those are being tested in certain Druid decks. The main purpose of them is just being a solid 3-drops – 3/4 for 3 are a very good statline. But unlike something like Spider Tank, they can also get more value thanks to the Mark of the Wild combo. Either a 5/6 Taunt with Divine Shield or 5/6 Taunt that deals 3 random damage. Both are powerful mid game plays that can snowball the game. And without MotW, they’re just a plain 3/4 for 3.
- Flame Juggler is being used as an anti-Aggro card in certain faster, minion-heavy Druid builds. It’s a very nice turn 2 play if enemy started with a 1-drop. It can also take care of the Divine Shields against Paladin (makes huge difference if played on t2 against Shielded Minibot). The problem is that it’s random and doesn’t always work. But even then, it’s just a 2/3 for 2 that at least pushes for 1 face damage.
- Master Jouster and Refreshment Vendor were both tried in slower Druid builds, like Ramp Druid. But since the deck didn’t really became a ladder phenomenon, they still need a lot more testing.
- Icehowl can fit into a slow Druid deck for two reasons. First, it lacks solid removal options. Second, if it sticks into the board after removing something, Druid runs 2 Silences to possibly attack enemy face for 10. I haven’t tested it yet, but it seems like a valid option for Ramp Druid – when enemy plays some 8+ health minion and you have no board control, you have really hard time dealing with it (besides the ones you can Big Game Hunter, but you don’t always draw it). Icehowl can work against those and possibly even bait something like Execute or at least small removal after trading.
Final verdict: Positive
Druid got much stronger in TGT. The expansion was really good for the class – some class cards became new staples, other are useful in certain decks/situations and even some Neutrals are being played. Before TGT, the only really viable archetype was Midrange Druid (and maybe Ramp to some extent). After TGT, you have a lot to choose from. When you play against Druid, you can never be sure what you play against until few turns into the game, and that’s really cool. I really appreciate what Blizzard has done with Druid in the latest expansion.
Hunter also didn’t get too many tools during the last expansions, but the ones he got were pretty good. It was Webspinner from Naxx and Quick Shot from BRM. This expansion Blizzard has tried to push the Beast Hunter archetype even more – adding 7 cards that synergize with Beasts or are Beasts. Another thing they’ve tried doing is to make a slow, Control Hunter (and possibly even Lock & Load Hunter) viable. But neither of those are a thing right now – even though they aren’t completely bad and can pull off some wins, the current archetypes work much better. So even though the Blizzard tried to push new archetypes like Beast Hunter, Control Hunter or Lock & Load Hunter, none of those really got through.
TGT Hunter Spells
- Bear Trap – This spell is actually good and bad at the same time. A 3/3 for 2 mana seems rather good, not to mention that it has Taunt and is a Beast (for Kill Command or Houndmaster synergies). It’s even better if you get it from Mad Scientist. The problem is that when you play the Aggro deck – Hunter – enemy is rarely attacking your Hero in the early game. They are too busy clearing your minions. While the Explosive Trap has the same problem, it’s guaranteed 2 damage even if they proc it later in the game AND it deals a lot more damage to their minions AND it’s actually much better against decks that are more likely to attack your Hero – other Aggro decks. Against slower decks, a 3/3 once they have developed board is very weak, while 2 damage to every minion could actually do some serious damage. So, if you get the trap early and enemy procs it as soon as turn 3, it’s great. But if enemy identifies what trap it is, he can ignore it and wait for a good moment when he can deal with it easily. Overall, a pretty good spell, people are trying to use it in the current Hunter builds (Face/Hybrid/Midrange), but I have mixed feelings about it.
- Lock and Load – A very, very cool card. But sadly not strong, only cool. A lot of people have predicted that Lock and Load is gonna create a new Hunter archetype, I also was pretty convinced it’s gonna be good. But there are quite a few problems with the card. First, you need to build a whole deck around it. If you don’t have at least 10-15 spells in the deck, you won’t get enough procs. Second, those spells have to be low cost, meaning each of them doesn’t get too much value by itself – you rely to get the value from Lock and Loads. Third, the cards you get from Lock and Load are random. And honestly, couple of random Hunter cards are just enough to offset the loss of value of running the weak spells – not enough to get value itself. Fourth, the deck is really slow, so it’s pretty easy to rush it down. And if Hunter uses all the early removal spells on enemy minions, he won’t get the Lock and Load value. As you can see, the card has many problems and that’s why no one has created a viable deck around it yet. But it has a lot of potential, so maybe in future…
- Powershot – A 3 mana, 2 damage AoE is something new (well, there is a Demonwrath, but that’s a mirrored effect). The cheapest AoE like that costs 4 – Consecration. One mana makes a big difference – you can really utilize it against fast decks and clear the board on turn 3 (enemy rarely has more than 3 minions). In some cases 3 targets might be not enough or the 2 face damage might matter, but the card is still fine for an AoE. The problem is… as a Hunter, you’re the aggressor. You don’t really want a card that clears enemy board and doesn’t do anything besides that. The card would fit the Control Hunter, but the Control Hunter is not really a thing. It means that the card is never seen in Constructed, even though in theory it’s pretty strong. A good Arena card, and is gonna definitely be included in case Control Hunter ever becomes viable.
- Ball of Spiders – Another card that in theory can get you a lot of value, but is just too slow for the current Hunters. In terms of value, it’s a 6 mana card that puts 3x 1/1 on the board and draws you 3 random Beasts. Since the Beasts are generally pretty fine, the card card can put you ahead in card advantage. Yeah, there are a few bad ones, but even getting 2-drops like Bloodfen Raptor or River Crocolisk isn’t terrible. The three 1/1’s also can deal some damage or trade into something small. They can even bait the AoE in certain cases! But that’s theory. Again, just like the Powershot, the card is waaaaay too slow to use it in the current Hunter archetypes. In the slow, Control Hunter that is all about the value it could actually be viable. But maybe even then it would be too slow… Who knows, I guess again, we have to wait until Control Hunter actually becomes viable.
So, the only spell that’s used right now is the Bear Trap. Other ones aren’t really even considered in the current decks – they just don’t fit the Face/Hybrid/Midrange Hunter playstyle. Let’s see the minions now:
TGT Hunter Minions
- Brave Archer – I love the card’s art and the reference to Disney. But that’s all I like about this card. It fits the theme of Face Hunter – aggressively statted 1-drop that can gain more value if your hand is empty. There are quite a few problems, though. First – on turn 1, it’s a plain 2/1. Leper Gnome or Worgen Infiltrator are better things to drop on t1. Second, your hand needs to be empty for it to gain value. And even though you are the Face Hunter and you often dump your whole hand around turn 4-5, you generally keep some situational cards – Unleash the Hounds, Ironbeak Owl, Kill Command (as a burn). Third, you can’t realistically expect it to deal more than 2 damage, because it’s a 1-drop. Enemy is clearing your board, he’s not gonna leave a 2/1 minion unless he really has no board late in the game and no way to ping it, and in this situation you should win the game anyway. The only advantage over things like Leper Gnome or Worgen Infiltrator is that the damage is done instantly, which can matter (enemy might heal next turn for example). But no matter if you like it or not, it’s not really a huge upgrade over the things accessible before TGT, so pretty much no impact on the meta.
- King’s Elekk – This card, on the other hand, is really cool. But once again – it doesn’t really fit the current decks. The only deck is can go into is the Midrange Hunter. The slower Hunter you run, the better it is – having a lot of 5+ drops that can win the Joust obviously helps. Getting a “free” Savannah Highmane into your hand is definitely good. So if it’s a 3/2 for 2, Beast, that draws you a card 40-50% of time, it’s pretty good. But once again – is it better than the current options? In the faster decks, definitely not. You aren’t gonna reliably win the Jousts and if you don’t, other options are much better. But if you made the slower Beast Hunter or even Midrange Hunter with more big drops (like running Dr. Boom and Ragnaros the Firelord), it can definitely work.
- Stablemaster – Another Beast synergy card in the Hunter’s arsenal. In theory, it makes your trades with Beasts much better. In the practice, it requires you to actually have a pretty high attack beast on the board (it’s useless on something like Webspinner, Haunted Creeper or the Hounds from Unleash), a good target to trade into and this card in the hand. So it’s rather situational. Even more situational than something like Houndmaster and it’s sometimes already hard to get a good Houndmaster target until late game (where you can actually use the Beast and Houndmaster on the same turn). Without the Battlecry value, Stablemaster is just a 4/2 for 3, which is pretty bad. I don’t think the card is good and I doubt it’s gonna be run even in the Beast decks – maybe as one-of.
- Ram Wrangler – One of the more exciting cards of the TGT. It’s like the new Unstable Portal, aka the card that can either screw you or win you the game. This, however, is even worse RNG than Portal. Getting 1/1 from Portal sucks, but then you don’t fall that behind on the tempo. Yeah, you’ve played 2 mana 1/1. But there aren’t that many bad, small drops in the game. However, in case of Ram Wrangler, you have like 1/5 chance to get 1/1, 1/2 or 2/1. On the other hand, you have another about 1/5 chance to get something crazy like Savannah Highmane or King Krush. Just by comparing those two outcomes you can easily tell that the card can either suck or be completely broken. And that’s exactly what the card is. The problem with Ram Wrangler is that it also requires a Beast on the board for the synergy AND that the effect is so RNG. On the average, card is worth running, if you don’t mind getting screwed from time to time. I don’t think it’s good enough for the standard Midrange, but if you build the Beast Hunter, definitely include this one.
- Dreadscale & Acidmaw duo. The Hunter was the only class that got 2 Legendaries this expansion, because they thematically fit plus they synergize with each other. If you drop both of those, on turn 10 you get a board wipe and 4/2 + 4/1 on the board. Not a bad deal, but definitely not in current Hunter builds. What about running only one of those or not banking on the synergy? Acidmaw is bad in my opinion. You pay 7 mana for a 4/2. Yeah, you can theoretically clear enemy board if you combo it with something like Unleash the Hounds or the Dreadscale, but it’s a 10 mana combo and your minions also become vulnerable after that (remember that the effect is mirrored). Paladin can do pretty much the same for 6 mana with Equality + Consecration. Dreadscale, on the other hand, is more interesting. A 3 mana for 4/2 is not that terrible. It’s bad, but if the effect is good enough – why not? Is the effect good enough, though? It’s great against other Aggro decks and awesome in the current Paladin meta. Perfect counter to the Muster for Battle. If it was only enemy minions – definitely you’d see it pretty often. But the problem is that if you run him in faster decks, you also run low health minions, which means he can actually kill your own guys. When you play mirrored effects, you want to minimize the damage that is done on your side. And with those guys, it’s hard to do that. I don’t think they are good enough.
When it comes to Hunter minions, he has got couple of interesting ones. The problem is that all of them aren’t good enough or fit the Beast Hunter archetype much more than the current ones. So maybe the Neutrals?
TGT Neutral Minions
- Argent Horserider is a great drop in Face/Hybrid Hunters. Before TGT, the decks were running Wolfriders, which would be the direct comparison. You sacrifice 1 damage, but you gain Divine Shield. It means that enemy has harder time dealing with it, needs to waste more resources, it has higher chance to survive and it’s better when you actually run it into some minions (which you often do against faster decks or if enemy has Taunt on the board). If enemy has no way to get through the Divine Shield and then kill it, it should deal more damage than Wolfrider in the long run. But if enemy has easy way to do that, Wolfrider is better. There is a lot of discussion which one fits the deck better and I personally prefer the Horseriders. No matter what you think about it, it’s definitely worth considering in the Aggro decks.
- Lance Carrier is another card that can fit into an aggressive deck. The direct comparison would be Abusive Sergeant – they have the same amount of stats (but reversed – honestly, 2/1 is better than 1/2 most of time, but that’s not a huge difference) and the Lance Bearer costs 1 more, but his effect is permanent. Is the permanent effect worth it? Definitely not when you trade – but since you play a Face deck, you don’t want to trade. If you hit with the buffed minion at least twice, Lance Carrier definitely paid off. He’s good if you want to run Argent Squire as an 1-drop, because the permanent buff on Divine Shield is pretty huge. If you get the buff out on turn 2, it’s like you’ve used Scarlet Crusader on turn 1 = big deal. The problem with the card is that if you have no board presence, it’s very bad. And if the minion dies after attacking once (you trade into something or enemy kills it on his turn), it’s inferior to Abusive Sergeant.
- Gormok the Impaler can be used as a card to combo with Unleash the Hounds. If enemy has a solid board presence, you can easily reduce it with Unleash + Gormok. The ultimate combo would be Knife Juggler + Unleash the Hounds + Gormok the Impaler for 9 mana. Not a lot of things can stand a chance against it. The problem is that besides Unleash the Hounds, it’s hard for the Hunter to reliably get 4 minions on the board. And in case he does and starts pushing – really nothing can stop him, he doesn’t even need the Gormok. So if you want to have a situational 4-drop that combos with Unleash – Gormok is fine in Midrange.
Final verdict: Negative
I don’t think that TGT has impacted the Hunter much. On the ladder, people are still running the old builds. Even if certain cards can be switched with alternatives (like Wolfrider vs Argent Horserider or Snake Trap vs Bear Trap), they are very similar in terms of strength to the previous ones. The Beast Hunter turned out to be just worse version of the Midrange Hunter – yes, it can work, but why would you run a similar deck that is just inferior? The Control Hunter still doesn’t work and Lock and Load is too gimmicky to make a deck around it right now. I think that TGT Hunter cards have a lot of potential, but it’s only going to be unlocked in the future, when more cards are released.
Mage, as a class, got pretty lucky in every expansion. Mad Scientist (not a Mage card, but works best in Mage) and Duplicate in Naxx, whole Mech package and Unstable Portal in GvG, Flamewaker in BRM… So what about TGT? Mage was one of the first two “hyped” TGT classes – the premade Mage deck was used in the show matches during the TGT reveal stream. It was based around Inspire and Hero Powers. Though it looks that was the main Blizzard plan for Mage, it didn’t really work. The Hero Power Mage deck isn’t as viable as it would need to be – or at least no one has created a good deck around it yet. Luckily, Mage has got some other solid cards that are good in the without Hero Power synergies. The Tempo Mage benefitted most from the expansion. Also, the new archetype – Dragon Mage – was created. It’s still up in the air whether it works or not, but some players are trying to refine the deck. Next weeks are gonna show whether it’s good enough or not.
TGT Mage Spells
- Arcane Blast – A very interesting card, but rather useless one. The standard 2 damage for 1 mana is a good start. Sadly, it can only deal damage to the minions, so no way you’re gonna use it on enemy face for burst damage. It has synergy with Spell Damage – it gains twice as much bonus from it. It means that with +1 Spell Damage it deals 4 damage instead of 3. The question is – do you really need it? First, you need to run some Spell Damage minions. The only ones that are good right now are Bloodmage Thalnos and Azure Drake. I mean, running them in the deck is not a problem. But is dealing 4 damage for 1 mana to minion good enough to focus your deck around it? Yeah, in some scenarios you’d have +2 Spell Damage on the board, meaning 6 damage for 1 mana to a minion. It’s good, but requires a lot of setup. And it can’t deal damage to enemy Hero. If you want to remove big minions – Polymorph is more reliable. The best case scenario is dropping Malygos + using Arcane Blast on turn 10 for a massive 12 damage into a minion. But this time, you probably run Malygos as your win condition – you don’t want to use it just to remove one enemy minion unless you’re really desperate. A cool card, but not useful – if it costed 1 more and could target face, it would be much, much better.
- Effigy – A solid secret. It’s something between Mirror Entity and Duplicate. You get only 1 for 1 (not 2 for 1 like Duplicate), but the minion you get is instantly on the board. So, just like Mirror Entity, it fits into the Aggro/Tempo decks much more. But unlike Mirror Entity, you can kinda influence the outcome. If you have Effigy in the play and you throw Mana Wyrm on the board, it’s not really a good play. Getting a random 1-drop is rather bad, even if you got the Secret from Mad Scientist. But if you play Sludge Belcher, enemy is often forced to remove it and random 5-drop is suddenly much better. Even better, if you play a high curve deck and you get out cards like Archmage Antonidas or Ragnaros the Firelord while having Effigy out, the outcome will be awesome. A good Secret. Nice option, especially if you run a Tempo deck with pretty high curve.
- Polymorph: Boar – I love this card, but I don’t think it’s too good in competitive play. If you want to use it defensively, usually the 1 mana more for Polymorph is better. In case of Polymorph: Boar, you’re still forced to deal with a 4/2 minion. The 2 health means that you can’t ping it. And the 4 attack means that if you want to trade your minion into it, it’s gonna die or at least take a lot of damage. It means that, unlilke the standard Polymorph, when using it to remove enemy big minions it’s usually 2 for 1 for enemy. The strong thing about Polymorph: Boar is that it can also be used offensively – when you’re pushing for lethal. First, you can get rid of a Taunt – you don’t care if it’s gonna be 4/2 or 1/1 if you’re killing the enemy anyway, and 1 less mana can allow you to play something like Fireball alongside. You can also use it on your own minion – after you’ve already attacked with one, you can Polymorph it and Charge for another 4 damage. But 4 damage for 3 mana isn’t really that great – between Fireball and Frostbolt, you usually have enough burn. So while it might work in more Aggro-oriented decks, I don’t see it being really good.
- Flame Lance – Big minion removal – inferior version of Polymorph. The fact that it can’t target enemy Hero means that it can only be used as a removal. Not bad, but let’s see. It’s 8 damage for 5 mana – it deals with most of the minions. But, if you need removal, why not just run Polymorph? It costs 1 less mana. It can deal with EVERY minion, not only the ones with 8 or less health. E.g. Priest can buff the minion outside the range, Twilight Guardian + Velen’s Chosen is already 10 health. It can’t kill Ysera. It procs Deathrattles – so it’s a bad way to kill something like Sylvanas Windrunner or Tirion Fordring. Talking about Tirion, it also doesn’t go through Divine Shields, so you need to ping it out first. And the only disadvantage of Polymorph is that it summons a 1/1 minion, which at 6 mana you can actually instantly get rid of. I don’t get the idea behind this card, it’s just bad in Constructed. Only good if you ran really, really heavy Control Mage and you’d need more single target removal than 2x Polymorph and 2x Fireball, which is really unlikely.
The TGT Mage spells aren’t exactly great. The only one that’s good and useful is Effigy – rest of them are either very situational, gimmicky or just have better alternatives already. So, maybe minions?
TGT Mage Minions
- Fallen Hero – A small drop that boosts your Hero Power. The 3/2 stats for 2-drop pass the vanilla test and the effect is pretty big – difference between 1 and 2 damage is huge. The biggest problem with this minion is that the effect is on a 2-drop. While it works out in the early game – the 2-drop can be killed easily and you can never get value. Even if you play it on turn 2 and it survives – you rarely want to Hero Power on turn 3. Not only you float 1 mana, but you also don’t develop anything. You can do something like Fallen Hero + Hero Power on turn 4 for an almost-Stormpike Commando. It obviously has a lot of synergy with other minions that boost your Hero Power or Inspire effects – with those, you actually want to use your Hero Power more often, making his effect more relevant. So he is a great fit into an Hero Power/Inspire deck, but not really into other Mage builds. It’s too slow for Tempo Mage, doesn’t fit the Aggro Mage playstyle and the Control Mages (Freeze, Echo, Grinder etc.) don’t really need a 2-drop like that. So, in theory the card is good, but in practice it doesn’t really fit.
- Spellslinger – Mirrored effects are always tricky to rate, especially if they are mirrored AND random. This card is the RNG incarnate – you get a random spell from the game and enemy also gets a random spell. This means that you can get something like Moonfire when enemy gets Flamestrike. That’s the risk of running this card. The good thing about it is that, besides the random factor, you play him in the deck that benefits from the spells more than the opponent’s (unless you play mirror match). He’s a solid choice in Tempo Mage. When you play a deck with so many cards that synergize with casting spells – Mana Wyrm, Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Flamewaker, Archmage Antonidas, possibly even Malygos – spells should get some value, even if they are weak. Another options is to run him in a fast, Aggro deck that runs out of cards much faster than most of the enemies. This way you’re gonna benefit more from the additional random card than your opponent. The great thing about Spellslinger – unlike other mirrored “card gain” effect, Coldlight Oracle – are stats. 3/4 for 3 is a perfect vanilla statline, and the bonus effect can make it even better.
- Dalaran Aspirant – Not much to say about this card. 3/5 for 4 is okay, but nothing special. If the Inspire effect was stronger, it would be a great minion. But sadly, the +1 Spell Damage on Inspire is not strong enough. The card could as well have the +1 Spell Damage printed on it and it still wouldn’t be good enough. There is already a 4-drop with +1 Spell Damage – Ogre Magi. Switching around the stats (-1 attack, +1 health) and making it Mage card would not make it playable. So this card is even less playable. I don’t think it’s worth running even in the Inspire-based decks. Neither in the Spell Damage based, because if you don’t have it on the board already, you need to pay 6 mana to get the Spell Damage.
- Coldarra Drake – A 6/6 for 6 is a good statline, only 1 health below the vanilla. The fact that it’s a Dragon is also fine – maybe you sometimes can find a good synergy. And the effect? On the one hand, it’s very strong, but on the other, it’s almost useless without a lot of setup. First, this minion would have to stay on the board for you to fully take advantage of the effect. And even then, at 10 mana, it’s 5x Hero Power = 5 damage for 10 manas. Not really too strong if you ask me – the only good thing is that you don’t spend any card and can distribute it among any number of targets. You have to combo it with other cards to really make it useful – Fallen Hero, Maiden of the Lake – either make your Hero Power cheaper or make it deal more damage. But now you have to rely on not 1, but 2 or 3 minions to survive. Crazy combo, but it would rarely work. The minion, however, is pretty solid nonetheless – good stats, Dragon tag and situationally great effect could fit into a Hero Power/Dragon Mage.
- Rhonin – Mage Legendary. First I was pretty sceptical about it, but then I’ve started wondering. Maybe it’s actually good? And my answer is – yes, in a proper deck it’s very interesting and good minion. It’s not crazy good and making the best use of it requires a lot of setup, but even if enemy just kills it and you have no further synergy, it’s fine. 7/7 minion for 8 mana is meh. Definitely not good. But the Deathrattle is more interesting. You get 3 copies of Arcane Missiles. That means 9 random damage for 3 mana. Not bad, not bad. But that’s only the beginning. Those 3 are spells – meaning you can combo them with other cards. You can boost Mana Wyrm’s attack (4/3 for 1 is pretty good), deal additional 6 random damage with Flamewaker, get 3 Fireballs with Archmage Antonidas or, probably the most fun, deal 24 random damage with Malygos. Getting three cheap spells in a Tempo Mage deck is huge. The 7/7 actually often sticks into the board because enemy can’t afford to give you those if he knows what you can do. And having 7/7 on the board is also not bad. Even if it dies to Big Game Hunter, you can get a lot of value after his death. The only bad thing is that enemy can Silence it and then it’s a plain 7/7 for 8. But the same argument applies to a lot of Deathrattle minions – Sylvanas Windrunner or Tirion Fordring for example, yet they are very good. I really like Rhonin and I think he’s awesome card and a good option in Tempo Mage.
Mage’s set of minion would be great if the Hero Power Mage would work. But no one has made good enough deck like that yet – maybe in future. Luckily for Mage, besides those Hero Power based minions, he also got Spellslinger and Rhonin, both of which are good options for a Tempo Mage deck. Neither of them is auto-include like Flamewaker from BRM, but they work nicely. Next stop: neutral minions!
TGT Neutral Minions
- Twilight Guardian and Chillmaw are, just like in Druid, good in Dragon Mage deck. They are actually good in every Dragon deck right now, since they’re the only options for Dragon Taunts. Twilight Guardian is a very solid 4-drop, especially good against Aggro, it can stop a lot of damage and get really good trades thanks to the Mage Hero Power. Chillmaw gives you another option of the AoE. You can use him instead of something like Flamestrike. While the effect is a little more situational and can damage your own minions, it also provides a 6/6 body, which is pretty strong. If you are trying the Dragon Mage – give them a shot!
- Justicar Trueheart, Nexus-Champion Saraad, Kodorider, Garrison Commander, Frost Giant, Maiden of the Lake and possibly even few others could make into the Hero Power/Inspire Mage deck. The deck isn’t really competitive, but it can make a fun option when playing in lower ranks, casual or with friends.
- Clockwork Knight can fit into the Mech Mage deck. Right now, the 5-drop spot is usually occupied by Fel Reaver. I think Fel Reaver is a better fit than Clockwork Knight, but if you don’t like or don’t have it – you can try the other Mech 5-drop. Or maybe even 1 of each. It’s an option.
Final verdict: Neutral
Mage didn’t get the short end of the stick, but quality of the cards the class got wasn’t exceptional. Tempo Mage got a few more good options, some of the new cards are commonly seen on the ladder. Dragon Mage is also a pretty nice archetype – maybe not tier 1, but definitely can be tried and maybe after some more refining it will become competitively viable deck. Overall, Mage got slightly stronger, but not by a huge margin.
That’s it for the first part of the TGT impact analysis. 3 classes with 3 different scores. Overall, I think that TGT was a pretty good expansion. It didn’t completely shake up the meta, but we can’t expect that every expansion. The pool of cards is getting bigger and bigger, so every single expansion will have lesser impact on the overall meta. I especially like the introduction of new neutral Dragons, mainly Twilight Guardian. It made a lot of decks viable, because Dragons have now some mid-game defensive drop.
I hope you’ve enjoyed the read. Analysis of Paladin, Priest and Rogue will come out next! If you have any suggestions or comments, leave them in the section below!