What is class identity in Hearthstone? The simplest way of putting it is that class identity is the term used to describe what does a certain class do and what should it excel in. In Hearhtsonte basic cards and classic cards are the ones that usually set the standard for the identity of the class. One class is good at being reactive and the other is good at creating tempo advantage while the third class is bad at both but excels in using spells. Recognizing and understanding class identity is key to understanding how does the class function and how/why are the cards for it designed the way that they are. The best comparison that I can come up with is the color pie in Magic: The Gathering. In this game you have five different colors (red, blue, green, white and black) and each color has its own unique identity. Red color is the best for rushing your opponent because it has cheap spells that do a lot of damage while green color is best for building ramp decks because most of its spells are focused on finding a way to give you more mana per turn. Now just replace the color pie with the nine classes in Hearthstone and you should get a clear idea on what class identity should be.
Druid is to Hearthstone what green is to Magic: The Gathering, a class that is clearly designed to be the ramp class. Ramping means playing cards to add additional resource, in this case mana, to your mana pool (permanently or temporary) and the goal of ramping is to get ahead of your opponent by having more resources than him/her and using those resources to play huge cards.
Wild-Growth is the best and the most basic example of a ramp card. For two mana you permanently gain one mana crystal which puts you in an advantage over your opponent. Innervate is also a good example of a powerful ramp tool and while it doesn’t give you a permanent mana crystal it give you two mana crystals for one turn only which allows you to play your huge minions faster. Choice flexibility is also a huge part of the druid’s identity. Because of the choose one: keyword which is exclusive to druid alone the class has the most flexible cards out of all nine classes. Cards like Druid of the Claw which can push for damage with charge or protect you with taunt or Nourish which can either function as a ramp tool or as a draw engine. Although Blizzard has lately been trying to make beast tribe druid a thing and make beasts synergy a part of its identity the ramp and card flexibility still remain the core part of the druid’s class identity.
Out of the all nine classes, hunter is the big aggressor class, the one who seeks to end the game quickly and has the best tools to do the job. Hunter’s hero power, steady shot, effectively puts your opponent on a clock where they must defeat you quickly or they will lose. Unless your opponent is playing a warrior, a priest or a druid, three classes that have a reliable way to either completely negate your hero power or minimize the damage that it deals, they will have a hard time trying to keep themselves alive once you start using your hero power more often.
Another key aspect of the hunter is that it is the one class that uses aggression to heavily punish your opponents most for making mistakes and regains tempo through that aggression. Hunter’s traps heavily punish your opponents for playing into them, either by filling the board, returning a minion back to their hand or in some cases clearing the board. Houndmaster is also an example of a card that punishes your opponent for not killing your beast minions. Kill command, Animal Companion, Call of the Wild, these are all cards that heavily punish your opponent for not playing around them and then regain the tempo through extreme aggression. Also, although Blizzard has been doing its best to make beast druid a thing, hunter is still the beast class of the game due to better synergy cards.
Mage is the easiest and the most simple class to identify.
Mage is the spell class, the one that has the most efficient spells and the best spell synergy. Cards like Flamewaker, Mana Wyrm and Sorcerer’s Apprentice are all a good example of mage’s strong spell synergy minions. Like hunter and paladin, mage also uses secrets though they are more focused on keeping you alive with the exception of Effigy and Mirror Entity which are here to help you gain tempo.
Mage also has the widest variety of damage dealing spells which allows it to clear the board and maintain board control with its minions or even perform one hit kill (OTK) combos.
When I think of paladin one thing comes to mind and that is value. Paladin is the class which has cards that provide insane value by themselves or through strong synergy with other cards in the deck.
Mysterious Challenger comes the mind as the most extreme case of insane value combined with strong synergy and the winrate, presence and metagame influence of secret paladin both before the introduction of standard and today in the wild format is a true testament to that.
Another insane value combined with strong synergy card that comes to mind is Anyfin Can Happen. Paladin has also some of the highest value cards in the game. Tirion Fordring, Lay on Hand, Ivory Knight and Truesilver Champion are all good examples of great high value cards.
If you are a player who prefers playing slowly and reactively instead of taking the initiative then priest is the perfect class for you. When you open your collection and take a look at the priest cards that you have you will notice a common theme about most of them which is that something needs to happen in order for the card to work.
Northsire Cleric is a good example of such a card. Yes, you can draw a card whenever your minion is healed but for that to happen you need to first have a damaged minion. Ressurect is also a great example where you can bring back a minion for the cost of two mana but for that to happen is you need to first lose a minion. There are many other cards that show the reactive nature of the priest such as Shadow Word: Pain, Shadow Word: Death, Mass Dispel, Entomb, Shadow Madness, Cabal Shadow Priest and many more.
Just like in World of Warcraft, priest is supposed to be the healer, something that is reflected in its hero power. Blizzard has nailed that aspect of the priest by giving it a lot of ways of stabilizing itself and getting back into the game by healing itself and its minions with the combination of its hero power and powerful healing spells.
Rogue has always been the combo class which is even reflected in its exclusive keyword, combo. Rogue excels in casting lots of cheap spells to trigger combo effects and bursting down its opponents in one powerful turn.
This class is very similar to hunter in a way that while hunter gains tempo through aggressive plays and strong minion synergy, rogue gains tempo through spells and strong spell synergy. This class has had a sudden shift in direction with the introduction of the standard format and its first two sets, Whispers of the Old Gods and One Night In Karazhan. Before nerfs to Blade Flurry and the introduction of the standard format rogue was going in a more weapon focused direction, but lately Blizzard have been pushing rogue towards the direction of a roleplayer class or, simply put, ”that one class that plays the cards from my class.”.
The elements have been guiding Thrall back and forward from midrange decks to aggro decks and back to midrange decks. Shaman’s identity is being the class which has powerful tools which almost always come with a drawback in the form of overload (x). In other words, shaman is the class which is focused on playing strong cards ahead of curve, like Feral Spirit or Flamewreathed Faceless.
Because of the drawbacks that shaman suffers from his powerful spells and minions it is a class that depends very much on having stuff on the board at all times to make up for the loss of mana crystals that it will experience the next turn.
Shaman also has some really great minion synergy going for himself in the form of a totem tribal synergy. With a ton of spells and minions that interact with totems and having a hero power which creates various totems, shaman is probably the most tribal synergistic class in the entire game.
Warlock’s identity can be summarized by the phrase ”power at any cost” which is reflected perfectly in his hero power.
Warlock has a lot of amazing minions and spells at its disposal but almost all of them require some sort of sacrifice in return for playing them. Flame Imp deals 3 damage to its controller, Soulfire discards a cards, Power Overwhelming destroys a minion which it had buffed and Shadowflame also requires a sacrifice of a minion. Warlock, like shaman, also has a great tribal synergy going for it but with demons instead of totems and, much in the flavor of the warlock, all demons require some sort of sacrifice or a price to pay in order to work properly. The best example, in my opinion, is Lord Jaraxxus who literally requires of you to sacrifice your hero in order to summon him.
Warrior’s class identity is that of being the tank, the one class that can take the most damage without dying and has a reliable way of sustaining itself in the form of armor, which is way better than healing because it can go above the limit of 30.
With tons of cards that provide you with armor and mountains of removal at his disposal, warrior is considered by many to be the ultimate control class. It can reliably remove minions with barely taking any damage, or in some cases like with Shield Slam, taking no damage at all. It can sustain itself with powerful cards such as Shield Block and Bash, draw cards with tools like Slam and Battle Rage and clear the board with powerful tools like Brawl and Revenge.
Every class his its own unique class identity and every class is good at something else which is perfectly fine. The best part about it is that while each class is different in its core and it is focused on doing different things the cards themselves are diverse enough to allow you to play each class the way you like it while not stepping too far away from its unique identity and using it to your own advantage. If you want to play a more control oriented hunter you can and thanks to its hero power and class cards you will still maintain the identity of the class that aggressively punishes its opponents for making mistakes and play that identity to your own advantage. If you want to play a aggro druid you can and instead of using cards like Innervate to generate more mana to play a larger minion you can use that mana to play smaller ones or cast more spells.
That is all I have for you today. Thank you for reading and if you have any feedback please do let me know in the comments. Until next time!