In-Depth Interactions: Spare Parts

Today I want to talk about one of the most important changes I predict after the upcoming Goblins vs Gnomes expansion - the presence of Spare Part cards in the meta.

Introduction

Hey, guys. It’s RaFive, and today I want to talk about one of the most important changes I predict after the upcoming Goblins vs. Gnomes expansion — the presence of Spare Part cards as a common feature of the metagame.

Designed to represent bits of rubbish left over from the creation of mechanical beasts, Spare Parts are spell cards drawn randomly into your hand which provide a marginal effect for 1 mana. While the effects are barely more than a way to spend some extra mana without losing card advantage, they come into existence off minions that are likely to be common after the GvG release, and more importantly, they’re extremely cheap cards/spells that don’t require you to specially include them in your deck. This means that any cards taking advantage of spells on play will become stronger and more flexible with the advent of Spare Parts. In addition, the presence of Spare Parts in your hand and the hand of your opponent will mean stronger effects based off of hand size.

After deeply studying the Spare Parts — and, more importantly, their many different interactions — I have come to the conclusion that they are not receiving nearly enough professional attention compared with the impact they will likely have on the competitive Hearthstone scene. Because the generating cards for Spare Parts will let you reliably end up with 1-3 1-mana spell cards in hand per game, any effect that takes advantage of those cards will be comparatively much more powerful and consistent.

This guide is not pretty or flashy. It’s a straightforward look at how Spare Parts will change Hearthstone, geared toward fairly serious players and students of the metagame. It is current as of date of authorship and details interactions exhaustively as far as I’m aware. All listed cards are sorted alphabetically by mana cost. Where we haven’t yet added tooltips for an unreleased card, I have linked to it via HearthPwn.

The Sources

There are currently four cards known to generate Spare Parts, although the developers have assured us this list is not exhaustive.

Clockwork Gnome: As a one-mana (or zero-mana with Mechwarper) Undertaker synergy minion that carries no potential downside unlike Zombie Chow, I forecast the mechanical gnome will be a frequent inclusion in aggressive mech-heavy Deathrattle decks, like perhaps a post-GvG Zoo list. It will probably also see play in post-GvG Miracle and token decks as a source of cheap spells that also doubles as a minion to put a body on the board and divert some attention. A deck running two copies of Gnome should generally count on adding about one Spare Part card to his hand per game, on average.

Tinkertown Technician: In a mech deck, the Tech is a 4/4 plus a Spare Part for 3 mana and no downside. That’s insane value that easily tops almost any potential choice for that spot, so the Tech will be run in aggressive and midrange mech decks practically as an auto-include. As with Clockwork Gnome, decks running two copies can generally expect to get about one Spare Part card per game into the deal — the Tech’s Battlecry is more consistent than the Gnome’s Deathrattle, but the Gnome is cheaper and doesn’t have to combo off another minion on the board.

Toshley: While the stats are good and the ability solid enough, Toshley lacks the high-end impact you look for from a card at this mana cost and will probably only see play in decks specifically dedicated to milking value out of Spare Parts. However, it would be a waste of a silence effect to get rid of the Deathrattle, so if you do run Toshley, you can reliably bank on his producing two Spare Parts almost every time he comes out onto the field.

Mech-Bear-Cat: As with Toshley, MBC has stiff competition with more immediate impact for his mana cost, not to mention MBC’s weakness to Big Game Hunter, so, again, this is a card you’ll likely only see at the competitive level in decks specifically designed around Spare Part interactions. However, if you can get it out on the field, odds are it’ll yield you at least a Spare Part or two, and if you have sweeping damage interactions like with Unstable Ghoul, it might be possible to milk MBC for quite a few spare parts if carefully played in the later game.

The Parts

There are seven Spare Parts. Each is randomly generated. Two of them buff minions, and the other five effect board state (i.e., they specifically target minions and cannot be used to target the face). Two can only be used on friendly minions, while five can be used on enemy minions as well.

Armor Plating: Health is pretty huge. A minion that can survive an extra turn with 1 health remaining can trade favorably, push a little extra face damage, or force a ping from your opponent’s hero power, reducing his mana efficiency. All else being equal, Armor is probably the Spare Part you’ll be happiest to see, on average.

Emergency Coolant: Mage will be happy to see Coolant because of the excellent free synergy with Ice Lance, turning it into basically Eviscerate against enemy minions. Coolant will give a big boost to aggro and tempo decks trying to keep ahead on initiative, and also versus control to prevent large enemy minions from attacking. Freezing an enemy minion is absolutely an effect worth 1 mana, so Coolant is definitely worth hanging onto until it can be used to swing a game decisively in your favor.

Finicky Cloakfield: Miracle Rogue loves this card the most, since it’s basically an extra copy of Conceal to keep Gadgetzan Auctioneer out of harm’s way. However, with any deck that relies on minions hitting solidly to the face, the Cloakfield will help control what gets traded (or whether AoE gets baited out, as the case may be). Cloakfield is potentially extremely powerful in later games against heavier decks to keep a minion on the field as you approach fatigue or whatnot, so like Coolant, it’s probably worth hanging onto Cloakfield until the most opportune moment. This is another effect that will swing a lot of games when skillfully deployed.

Reversing Switch: This is probably the least useful effect. While it’ll be nice on occasion to take out Deathlord with the greatest of ease, pop a Nerubian Egg, or wombo-combo Ysera to an opponent’s face, most of the time you’ll find yourself turning Amani Berserker into a 3/2, or, more likely, popping it on Stranglethorn Tiger to keep a 5/5 as you exploit the spell effect. However, this does make a nice way to begin sweeping the board by giving Wild Pyromancer an effective extra point of health.

Rusty Horn: The dream for the Horn is to combo with Black Knight for instant hard removal against a huge, fat control minion like Ragnaros the Firelord. TBK synergy aside, this is also one of the more marginal effects — if you need Taunt, you’ll generally already run Sunfury Protector or Defender of Argus and putting the extra minion down will outweigh the lower cost of getting Taunt through a spell. However, it’s a good, cheap activator for effects like Nerubian Egg, and in the late game, the Horn might make a last-ditch difference between victory and defeat by funneling the opponent’s attacks toward a minion of your choosing, so if you don’t have an obvious combo use for it, save Horn for a rainy day.

Time Rewinder: The obvious use here is to heal a damaged minion or get another opportunity to employ a particularly useful Battlecry, although Rewinder could also be used to effectively remove silence effects, a Blessing of Wisdom, or other pesky stuff attached to your once-pristine minion. Rewinder will be strongest when you are ahead on the board but behind on card advantage and need to preserve your options.

Whirling Blades: Priest and Big Game Hunter will get the most use out of Blades by buffing an enemy minion’s attack to 5 or 7 for efficient hard removal, but board control decks like Zoo will also profit from the wider range of favorable trades this card enables (and also as another activator for Nerubian Egg), while Shaman will use Blades to make totems come alive and push a bit of extra damage off of Windfury attacks. Everyone can use an extra point of damage in almost every circumstance, so Blades rates as the most versatile Spare Part, one that can be played to solid advantage in every game.

The Interactions: Vanilla/Naxxramas

Preparation: Since Spare Parts are spells, Prep makes Spare Parts free, which means an extra draw off of Gadgetzan Auctioneer or an extra minion off of Violet Teacher in Miracle/Token lists. Not much else to note here.

Mana Wyrm: Casting a Spare Part means +1 attack on Wyrm. Whirling Blades on Wyrm will give him +2 attack for 1 mana without spending any cards from your deck — fantastic value!

Mind Vision: This is already a weak card that doesn’t get played competitively at all. It’s only weakened by the advent of Spare Parts, since a single Spare Part card in hand means a 10-25% chance, on average, that an opponent casting Mind Vision will end up paying 1 mana and a card in exchange for something that isn’t even worth the value of a whole card. I think this takes Vision from merely worthless to actively unplayable in a Spare Part-heavy metagame.

Naturalize / Sap / Coldlight Oracle / Dancing Swords / King Mukla / Kidnapper / Vanish: These are all basically the same effect for purposes of Spare Part interaction: they end the turn with more cards in your opponent’s hand. Spare Parts are important here because they increase your opponent’s hand size. Does your opponent have seven cards in hand? Kill his Clockwork Gnome, put down Coldlight Oracle, and mill him. Or give Mech-Bear-Cat several whacks with your minions before you cast Vanish on a crowded field for mass hard removal. Spare Parts significantly up the possibility of playing mill decks in Hearthstone.

Lorewalker Cho: Lay out a Spare Part, and your opponent gets a copy (or vice versa). Pretty straightforward. Good for filling your opponent’s hand for cheap (without giving him too much of an advantage), but not a lot of shenanigans possible otherwise.

Wild Pyromancer: Pyro is already a powerful vanilla card in control decks, and he’s set for a serious upgrade when GvG hits, with at least two ways to get Spare Part cards within the first two or three turns (particularly since Armor Plating and Reversing Switch enable Pyro to activate more than twice without killing himself). This makes Pyro a potentially viable early-game board clear solution against aggressive decks for any midrange or control mech deck, and should enable the creation of entire new deck types. Any deck running a number of Spare Parts can probably stand to include at least one copy of Pyro as a hedge against mass aggression.

Counterspell: This pesky Mage secret is getting a huge de facto nerf now that Spare Parts can test for it without even using up a card — think of Spare Parts as a neutral Flare for Counterspell. At that level of return, even playing a secret off of Mad Scientist is a bad value, so in any Spare Part-heavy metagame, expect Counterspell to be an incredibly weak card. Running one copy will still be reasonably strong in Arena, however, since Spare Parts will be much less reliably generated in random decks.

Divine Favor: Unlike Mage, aggressive Paladin builds get a boost in a Spare Parts metagame where hand sizes are 1-2 cards bigger on average. Divine Favor returns basic (if unexciting) value at two cards drawn, and three or more cards drawn is just a blowout for the spell, so lots of Spare Parts in the meta means Divine Favor actually becomes a viable card to run. This is especially since Spare Parts have to be played on a minion, which means they’ll almost always be held until their effect can prove at least slightly useful — you never want to have Reversing Switch make your Sen’jin Shieldmasta into a 5/3 just to lighten your hand unless you’re absolutely certain you’re about to lose to a huge Divine Favor swing. The downside, of course, is that you can’t run Spare Part generators yourself as an aggressive Paladin, since it makes it much more inefficient to dump your hand in preparation to reload with Divine Favor. All in all, though, Spare Parts represent a significant upgrade for the card.

Edwin VanCleef: Miracle Rogue is always hungry for more spells to feed Gadgetzan Auctioneer. Currently, it’s possible to be fairly inefficient in your plays with Backstab, Sinister Strike, and similar low-cost spells in order to draw better. Spare Parts let you get those same draws while saving the spells for situations where you can use them to maximum effectiveness, so I fully expect Miracle Rogue will try to leverage the power of Spare Parts, which, incidentally, serve as activators for VanCleef. Expect bigger, scarier, more frequent Van Cleefs after GvG — keep putting those silences in your deck!

Mana Addict: In the less Taunt-heavy days of yore, Rogue sometimes ran an OTK build that relied on Addict + Conceal with a bunch of spells spammed the next turn to buff Addict’s attack to ridiculous levels and win the game. That strategy potentially gains some more viability post-GvG with Spare Parts, especially Finicky Cloakfield, since you can rely on having a couple extra 1-mana spells in hand. I still think there are more consistent and less gimmicky ways of setting OTK moves up with pretty much every class, but Addict will still receive a relative buff from Spare Parts, and you may actually see her played on occasion, especially early on as players test out new possibilities after the expansion hits.

Questing Adventurer: This is already a solid card. It’s just a tiny bit too slow and a tiny bit too vulnerable to silences to see play on the tournament scene, but decks like my Rushlock have carried the Adventurer to Legend before and I expect they will again, with Spare Parts making cheap, easily available triggers for Adventurer’s effect. You only have to play two cards the same turn as Adventurer to get decent value out of him, so he gets an increase in strength from the presence of Spare Parts in your deck. I expect him to be an even more effective poor man’s Edwin VanCleef in Rogue, as well as continuing to serve as an anti-control tech minion in aggressive low-end rush decks. Spare Parts may make Adventurer viable as a ramp threat in midrange mech decks as well — in those lists it’ll be basically Shade of Naxxramas without stealth that ramps faster.

Spellbender: Like its sister secret Counterspell, Spellbender suffers in a Spare Parts metagame, and for basically the same reason: it’s cheap and easy to trigger the secret without even using up a card. Your best case scenario against a Spare Part is a free 2/3 — hardly worth three mana and a loss in card advantage. Spellbender wasn’t played much before GvG, and probably will be played even less afterward.

Twilight Drake: Spare Parts let you effectively “cycle” your hand size, by adding a card back to your hand at some point after you’ve played a card. This means that decks relying on large hands for big health boosts to Twilight Drake will try to run Spare Part-generating minions as a way to get early field presence without weakening the later Drake play. Another alternative will be to hold Spare Part cards in hand so that if you later draw into Drake, you’ll be able to play it with extra health. Expect Twilight Drake to be a significantly more common and more powerful minion in a Spare Parts meta, seeing play even outside of Handlock and Handmage. Silence is likely to be even more important post-GvG, as well, and for big decks, Drake will be an ideal card that either provides you a huge advantage if not silenced or clears a silence away relatively efficiently (at 4 mana rather than, say, 6 for Cairne Bloodhoof) for later win conditions.

Violet Teacher: Think of the Teacher as a vending machine for Spare Parts — put in a Part, and out comes a 1/1 token. As with Wild Pyromancer and Gadgetzan Auctioneer, Teacher is one of the cards most improved by the presence of Spare Parts (although she’s comparatively weakened in a metagame where a lot of folks are preferring Wild Pyromancer as a Spare Part combo enabler). With Mech-Bear-Cat as a reasonably strong minion, I expect to see Druid in particular running mech-token lists seeing to get Teacher out, hit her with lots of Spare Parts, and then end the game with Savage Roar. Minion-heavy Miracle Rogue running Clockwork Gnome and a few other mech cards will also probably love Teacher.

Gadgetzan Auctioneer: Auctioneer is without question the MVP of Spare Parts, since he basically enables you to use Spare Parts as a catalyst for converting mana into cards at the rate of 1 mana per card. That means that if you have Spare Parts, for the mana cost of Arcane Intellect you can draw three cards — without even using one of your cards! That’s such an insane advantage that I’ll go out on a limb here and recommend every midrange or control deck with at least four Spare Part generators should run one copy of Auctioneer. Auctioneer is a solid minion that gets value if you can draw two or more cards off of him (and pretty much wins you the game if you draw four or more cards off of him), which will happen often enough with Spare Parts in hand that you’ll be able to generate massive card advantage while also putting a good-sized minion on the board.

Archmage Antonidas: Mage’s biggest problem using Antonidas as a finisher is that Mage’s cheap spells like Frostbolt are all useful early on, and the expensive spells are too slow to combo off the Archmage. Spare Parts solve this neatly and give Antonidas an upgrade in the inevitably upcoming Mech Mage, which will likely be either midrange or just on the fat end of aggro. With Spare Parts in hand to trade in for Fireballs off Antonidas, you can safely spend your other spells controlling the board or weakening the face. Mage has incredibly powerful spells, so with this added freedom without losing the burst off the Antonidas finisher, I expect Mage to become a significantly more powerful class in the expansion.

Illidan Stormrage: He’s underpowered because he’s expensive, dies to Big Game Hunter, his effect is vulnerable to ping from hero powers, and he’s much slower for a similar effect than Violet Teacher. None of that will change with the expansion. However, Spare Parts will make his effect cheaper and easier to trigger than ever before, so he does get a relative power increase with Spare Parts around. You only see Illidan on ladder today in some gimmicky Demonlock decks that try to summon him for free through Voidcaller, and Demonlock will remain the only place you’ll see him. Based on the currently released GvG cards, I can see Mech Zoo being viable but not Mech Demonlock, so I suspect Illidan will largely prove unable to take advantage of the possibilities offered by Spare Parts.

Mountain Giant: Much the same as with Twilight Drake, Spare Parts let you maintain hand size, effectively serving as a ghetto Innervate for the Giant. Being able to consistently reduce a minion’s mana cost by 1-2 (or, conversely, being able to put down 1-2 minions on the field where you couldn’t before, without losing the hand advantage synergy) is obviously an extremely strong effect, and you can bet deckbuilders will take advantage of it. In addition, after the Spare Part makes your Giant inexpensive, you can use Rusty Horn or Finicky Cloakfield to turn it into an impassible wall or make it untargetable in preparation for a huge burst of damage, which furthers the possible synergies. I expect Mech-Handlock (or perhaps even Handmage) to be an extremely strong deck in the GvG metagame.

Interactions: Goblins vs. Gnomes

Burly Rockjaw Trogg: I think this card is currently being undervalued a bit. At 3/5 for 4 mana, it’s a decent body. If its effect triggers just once, it’s 5/5 for 4 mana, which is an extremely playable value. In a metagame with a lot of Spare Parts, I think the Trogg will be a decent tech card capable of picking up reliable value off all the players greedy to trigger Gadgetzan Auctioneer or Wild Pyromancer. There might be a particular place for Trogg in aggressive Paladin, since Trogg puts opponents in a no-win situation — if they play spells, Trogg gets buffed, but if they hoard their spell cards in hand, they play into Divine Favor. Trogg will probably be a solid card in mill decks, as well, due to the pressure it puts on your opponent to hold cards. At the end of the day, Trogg may be little more than a target for a silence or a Shadow Word: Death, but I suspect he’ll get value often enough in the right build that he’ll see regular competitive play.

Jeeves: Although Jeeves is a mech-type minion, he’s not actually one you want to play in a deck that’s also running Spare Part producers like Clockwork Gnome and Tinkertown Technician, even though these are otherwise cards that would be excellent in decks that fit Jeeves’ mechanic. Jeeves is a card that isn’t worth running unless you can empty your entire hand, and Spare Parts — requiring both mana and minions to play — will unacceptably clog up your hand and prevent you from drawing. On the other hand, Jeeves is great against decks that run Spare Parts, since they’ll let you get value from Jeeves’ effect while denying the benefit to your opponent. As with Burly Rockjaw Trogg, Jeeves currently seems like he’d be at his best in aggressive Paladin and mill builds, where you don’t run Spare Parts yourself but take advantage of all the decks that do.

Clockwork Giant / Goblin Sapper: I’m more bullish than I used to be on these cards, mainly because I foresee Spare Parts as a significant presence in the post-GvG metagame. At an average optimal mana cost of, say, 7 mana, Clockwork is a terrible card, but if you can get the 8/8 out for 5 or less mana, that’s a whole different story. In the current state of the game, CG wouldn’t be good for anything more than a tech card at the tournament level to counter Handlock, but I think it’ll be possible to build a deck with GvG cards that takes advantage of the Giant’s strengths and employs a bunch of synergies to make sure you can get him out earlier — a Paladin deck running Giant together with Coldlight Oracle, Burly Rockjaw Trogg, and Divine Favor might actually be able to pull it all together. Sapper is weaker because the strict numerical limit on its effect significantly lowers its flexibility, but it still is stronger with Spare Parts kicking around and could make its way into the right deck.

Conclusion

Spare Parts will be a common sight after Gnomes vs. Goblins launches. It’s important to start recognizing their strengths, weaknesses, and synergies now, in order to be best prepared for the coming changes. My aim has been to run you briefly through all the major possible interactions for these cards so that you can begin thinking of ways to employ or counter these effects. Hopefully I’ve succeeded in opening your eyes to some new possibilities for building a better metagame!

Addendum

The above article was written before the release of the remaining GvG cards and announcement of the nerfs. The important nerf for purposes of this article is raising the cost of Gadgetzan Auctioneer to 6 mana. At this cost, Auctioneer is probably a little too expensive to be competitively playable; my endorsement of the card, above, assumes a pre-nerf environment. Here are brief notes on the new cards:

Stonesplinter Trogg: This value-costed guy is fantastic early-game in a Spare Parts meta, especially in a deck that takes advantage of large opponent hand sizes. Removing him will usually be at best an even trade, and if you ignore him and do other stuff (or remove other minions), he snowballs quickly into a significant threat. In an anti-hand deck, not doing anything also has a cost, since it means a faster Clockwork Giant or whatnot. He’s a solid 2/3 for Arena, as well.

Mechanical Yeti: It’s Chillwind Yeti with Deathrattle. Great in Arena for the stats, and great in Undertaker decks, particularly ones that incline toward a midrange mech style. It’s also a fantastic anti-hand card. since it adds a card to your opponent’s hand while denying him the kind of marginal advantage that makes Dancing Swords a mediocre pick. And if he eats a silence, you’re not really sad, because it doesn’t really rob you of much total potential advantage. All in all, a solid card that I expect to see a lot of play — significantly more powerful than his vanilla Yeti cousin because of the tribal synergy. As one more source of Spare Parts, he’s one more reason I expect bigger hands and lots of cheap spells in the post-GvG metagame.

Gazlowe: Expect this guy to be used in what might best be termed a Spare Parts Miracle Mech deck. It’d probably be midrange in approach, focused on board control and Mech synergy, with Gazlowe serving as sort of a minion-based Archmage Antonidas whom you throw down later in the game together with a bunch of Spare Parts — generated from your earlier-game mechs like Clockwork Gnome and Tinkertown Technician — to refill your hand with tribal synergies, gaining steam to win the game. It’s a solid legendary and I expect it to see a good amount of play. Priest and Rogue have the best one-mana spells to take advantage of Gazlowe’s effect, so I expect them to be running him most frequently, particularly Rogue, since Rogue’s mech cards are better for this style of gameplay.

Trade Prince Gallywix: In anti-hand decks, Gallywix is great because he jams your opponent’s spells and also replaces those spells with Coins they’ll generally hold in hand until they can spend them efficiently, which makes all your anti-hand and anti-spell cards way more likely to get value. On the other hand, Gallywix a terrible card to play against anti-hand decks, because they can cast a bunch of spells cheaply, fill up your hand, and then get pull of an incredible Divine Favor or Vanish to cinch the game.  That said, I don’t think he’ll see much play and I doubt his impact on the game will be significant.

Troggzor the Earthinator: I love this card, the ultimate spell jammer. Expect to see some great YouTube videos of newbies casting a Spare Part against Troggzor followed by a swift end to the game. Since he demands minion-based removal, Troggzor forces an opponent to invest value in the board while holding spell cards like Spare Parts in hand. This makes him absolutely fantastic against heavy control, particularly in a hardline anti-spell anti-hand deck which forces your opponent to give you value every time they play a spell but also punishes them for holding onto cards. He’s tactically fantastic as a minion who directs when your opponent can play significant portions of his hand like Loatheb, and his presence, both in the metagame and on any particular board, is guaranteed to keep hand sizes bigger than pre-GvG.