It’s expansion time in the world of Hearthstone.
Blackrock Mountain, the second Hearthstone adventure, is only a month away. And we were shown five interesting, meta-swerving cards last weekend at PAX. That means the community is all abuzz with speculation, criticism, and fantastically over-idealized future deck designs. In the grand tradition we started during Goblins vs. Gnomes, we’ll be previewing each new batch of cards as they’re announced, measuring both their viability in constructed and the arena.
Ready? Let’s start navelgazing!
Arena: I haven’t crunched the numbers or anything, but I don’t know if there’s a worse five-drop in arena than the Grim Patron. The chances of your opponent not having something on the board at turn five that can deal with a three-health minion in one shot are very, very high, and that doesn’t even factor in the wide arsenal of removal (Frostbolt, Darkbomb, Lightning Bolt, Swipe, Fiery War Axe) that eat this thing for breakfast.
Constructed: So the dream is to play this thing after a Warsong Commander and then Bouncing Blade, which will fill your board up with three-attack minions with charge. That isn’t a bad deal! I could see the Patron filling a niche in those entrepreneuring Math Warriors out there. Between the Whirlwinds, the Death’s Bites, and the Cruel Taskmasters, it seems to make sense.
Arena: Luke has kind of already made this point but in arena, value is the name of the game. When your five mana play can be dealt with by a two- or three-mana play you are behind, because your opponent then has mana to play with to take the initiative. Short of getting this from an Unstable Portal, it’s not a great pick.
Constructed: This could be a niche favorite in Warrior or Mage, really any class capable of consistently doing damage to its own creatures—much in the same way as Worgens right now. But like in arena, when you look at other five-drop options it just doesn’t offer the same instant value as Loatheb, Azure Drake or Sludge Belcher.
Dark Iron Skulker
Arena: On the other hand, Dark Iron Skulker will quickly become one of the best five-drops in arena! Now 4/3 isn’t great for what you’re paying, but it does deal two damage to all undamaged enemies, like a mini Consecration plus a body. Even if it only damages one thing, that’s still much better than Stormpike Commando, which also costs five, comes with one less health, and does two damage to a single creature.
Constructed: It’s certainly not a bad card in constructed, but it’s also difficult to value because the Skulker doesn’t quite fit into the Oil Rogue archetype that’s dominating ladder right now. I mean, it certainly could! But I’d expect to see people fit this minion into a more mid-rangey, control oriented playstyle.
Arena: I have to disagree with Luke strongly here. Again the stats aren’t great, three health is certainly a sweet spot for many classes to be able to clear. The biggest problem with its effect in arena is this: What is going to be on the board on turn four or five that can be cleared with two damage? The chances are, very little of consequence. If this was in Paladin and could be combined with Equality then sure. But besides that I’m not sure how many times it’s actually going to get you out of a hole.
Constructed: As Luke said, this is a Rogue card that doesn’t fit with many others, and perhaps this will be a theme with Blackrock Mountain as the class cards are tailored more towards the theme rather than fitting existing class dynamics. The five-drop spot became crowded after Naxxramas was released, and I find it hard to see a deck where you can justify this pick over something like a Blecher or an Azure Drake.
Arena: It’ll be a 2/4 for three most of the time, which is in the same category as Illuminator or Goblin Sapper. So that gives it mediocre, if not subpar value. It’s not the worst thing you could play on turn three, but far from the best.
Constructed: Blizzard are really pushing the “Dragon” card type in Blackrock Mountain, which was a category that previously didn’t mean anything. The Tech will gain +1/+1 when you play it, but only if you’re holding a dragon. So you have your Azure Drake in hand, you drop this thing as a 3/5 on turn three. Not bad! It’s a Shieldmasta without taunt one turn earlier. This feels like it’ll be a must-run for everyone experimenting with the Dragons, much like Tinkerton Technician is mandatory for Mech decks.
Arena: Situational is never a good word for arena picks. Unless you’ve picked a bunch of dragons already, and there aren’t that many to pick, this is never going to be a good option. It’s better than some of the really low tier picks with four health, but it doesn’t have the power to trade well on turns three and four either.
Constructed: This is very much a “wait and see.” We’ve only seen five out of 31 cards, and if we get enough decent dragon type cards to make it a worthwhile archetype this might see some play.
Arena: Arena is a value-oriented game, and a 5/6 for four mana is value. If I was drafting a deck and had a choice between Hungry Dragon and a Yeti, I think I’m going with the Dragon.
Constructed: You certainly could see this getting some use in some faster, angrier aggro decks. Like, if you’re running it in Ramp Druid, you’re opening up the opportunity for a turn-one Hungry Dragon, which is pretty incredible. The card text means by playing it you’re summoning a random one-drop for your opponent, which means you could be giving them anything from a useless Blood Imp to a much more useful Zombie Chow. To me it looks like the risks are dwarfed by the rewards.
Arena: Oh the value. A 5/6 for four? Sign. Me. Up. Like a Pit Lord without as horrendous a drawback I guess, though the drawback is still worth considering. There aren’t any one-drops that could really ruin your day, but something like an Argent Squire or Shieldbearer would be super annoying. Make sure you have a way to deal two damage when you play it and most of the time you should be fine.
Constructed: This could well be the lynchpin of a future dragon archetype, but again this is a wait and see pick.
Arena: Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the worst arena legendary in the game. Seven mana for a 8/4 is awful value, and there’s almost no chance you’ll have the dragon synergy. And even you did, you hardly ever see opponents play legendaries in arena. At least with Hemet Nesingwary there’s a chance you get to destroy a Stranglethorn Tiger or something, Rend doesn’t even do that. This is the absolute bottom tier.
Constructed: I don’t get this design. An 8/4 for seven that kills a Legendary wouldn’t be good without the Dragon requirement, so Rend might actually be even worse than we think. Also, what do you really want to kill with this thing? Mal’ganis, Ragnaros, Dr. Boom, and Alexstrasza are already efficiently dealt with by Big Game Hunter, are we really supposed to use this seven mana card to kill Loathebs? Maybe ol’ Blackhand will make more sense when the rest of the cards are released, but right now I’m very confused.
Arena: Yeah, this is… not good. Situational, bad stats, high mana cost. There’s a reason we don’t play Magma Rager, kids. I don’t think it’s quite the worst. Cho does almost literally nothing in Arena, but it’s close. Saved by the panda.
Constructed: I’m with Luke, this is a bit unfathomable. Maybe it’s Blizzard’s weird way of reaction to the “nerf it to six attack LOL” argument with cards like Dr Boom? Maybe they are really worried about the unstoppable power of Kel’thuzad or Trade Prince Gallywix? At least Old Hemet is only five mana, this guy takes the biscuit.
Arena: Just kinda meh. Four mana for a 2/5 isn’t great, but there are worse things you could draft, and you’ll never take advantage of the card effect.
Constructed: If this thing did two damage to a random enemy, instead of just your opponent’s face, it might be pretty good! Like a bigger, burlier Knife Juggler. As it stands, there might be some room for Axe Flinger in a Warrior combo deck, but it’s still a very aggressive play. I just don’t know if there’s enough here.
Arena: A very mediocre four drop, when things like Piloted Shredder and Mechanical Yeti exist. Situational is the theme running through most of these cards so far, and that just doesn’t fly in arena.
Constructed: Like Grim Patron it could be a niche pick in some OTK Warrior builds, but it’s still just a pretty below par four drop even when you can build a deck to make it useful.
Arena: A decent pick, which obviously gets better the more overload cards you have. In arena there’s a chance you’ll be running with, like, triple Lightning Storms and double Earth Elementals, so it’s all kind of relative.
Constructed: Ben Brode clarified that this card clears all overload crystals, both future and present. Meaning, you’re locked up two crystals on your turn, with two more crystals about to be locked on your next turn. You play Lava Shock, and all those crystals get unlocked. That’s pretty strong! Lava Shock might not be a must-run, but I absolutely think it’ll be a consideration for every Shaman deck going forward.
Arena: In arena, not a bad pick. It’s probably not something you’ll want to draft in the first third of your deck, but if you have picked up a decent number of overload cards it could work well for you to create some swing turns.
Constructed: This is the card that has me most excited of what we’ve seen so far—well, intrigued at the very least. It has the potential to create some really powerful turns for Shaman, particularly in burst Shamans. Maybe we’ll see Earth Elementals! Who knows. This is the card that will need the most experimentation, but could potentially reap the greatest rewards.
Screengrab via Hearthstone/YouTube