Aug 5 2015 - 4:50 am
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First impressions of the Grand Tournament - Part 1

  The Grand Tournament is the second Hearthstone expansion. It will be released later this month and it will bring 132 new collectable cards.
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The Grand Tournament is the second Hearthstone expansion. It will be released later this month and it will bring 132 new collectable cards. The theme of this expansion is based around using hero powers, with numerous ways to modify, augment and replace them. The expansion introduces the new Inspire effect, which triggers when hero power is used. I don’t need to say that fans of the game are really excited about this upcoming expansion. It will refresh the game and trigger that creative cycle of testing cards and decks and figuring out what works and what does not. The timing is definitely right, as game meta is becoming stale and I cannot wait to see how competitive decks will change before the BlizzCon World Championship.

All cards will be revealed before the expansion is released and about half are revealed by now. In the following text and future articles, I will write about revealed cards, how good or bad they are, in what kind of deck they can find a place, and what they bring new to the game.

Lowly squire

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When I saw this card I asked myself - when do I want to play Lowly squire? It's 1 mana drop, so ideally you want to play it on turn 1, right? Well… it survives the enemy hero power with its 2 hp, unlike other common 1 drops, mainly in aggro decks, which is good. However, on turn 2 you are forced to use hero power if you want to trade for common 3/2 2 mana drop or 2/3 if your hero power deals 1 damage. This means that you are losing the tempo and give your opponent a chance to develop on an empty board. In aggressive decks, tempo is everything and you want to develop early board and kill your opponent as soon as possible. Lowly Squire seems too slow to be used in aggro decks. It can be compared to Undertaker. Before nerf, Undertaker was an unstoppable machine, singlehandedly taking down mighty control warriors, priests, druids and such. If not contested, he would grow up to 4/5, becoming a 1 mana Chillwind Yeti that was hitting your pretty face from the moment you saw it. Blizzard had to react, mainly because of the huge pressure from the community, and nerfed Undertaker (now he gains only +1 attack, before it was +1/+1). Just like that, the great champion of aggro, face hunter’s best friend, disappeared into thin air! It is rumored that he can be found in card collections, but who knows, people who say they saw him think Magma Rager is real! Even now, Undertaker is better than Lowly Squire in aggro decks; turn 1 Undertaker into turn 2 Mad Scientist is scarier than turn 1 Lowly Squire, turn 2 hero power.

If not in standard aggro and control decks of today’s meta, where can we fit Lowly Squire? Maybe in some heavily Inspire focused deck of the future meta? When all cards are revealed, we can come back and look for synergy that would make Lowly Squire viable. If you have a bunch of cards with Inspire trigger effect on board, playing hero power can become more valuable and gain more tempo than playing one extra card. Effects keep stacking up every time you press the hero power button, which can generate huge value and therefore win you the game. Lowly Squire can be one of those cards, but don’t have high hopes for him.

Garrison Commander

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When Grand Tournament comes out and everyone starts crafting their Inspire based decks, Garrison Commander is a neutral epic that most players will think about putting in. Garrison Commander is a solid 2/3 2 mana drop that gives you the ability to use hero power twice. Since it can be easily removed, you want to harness its effect the same turn you play it. My guess is that it will be an integral part of some mid to late game Inspire combo with a setup on earlier turns. In order to make that kind of combo work, you would have to ensure board control with a few minions with Inspire effect, then play Garrison Commander on turn 6+, use hero power twice, gaining sweet Inspire bonuses and huge value, forcing your opponent to have (AoE) removal or lose the game.

Two decks in current meta that use hero power the most are Handlock and Face Hunter. Can you put Garrison Commander in one of them? Six mana for 2/3 plus deal 4 dmg to the face does not sound too good and chances of it staying on board for the following turn are just too low. Double tapping as Handlock can be a thing, at least someone will try it. Funny combo decks can be made with this card! Imagine the situation - you play Majordomo Executus, then on the following turn it dies and you become Ragnaros. Hopefully you survive the turn so you can DIE, INSECT! them twice for 16 damage. As Handlock, you can play it after Lord Jaraxxus getting two 6/6 Infernals or 24 stats for 4 mana. That is insane value!

In arena, Garrison Commander is a good 2 drop with nice effect. It is epic, so you will need to choose it instead of two others, but there are some awful epics out there. Yes, I am looking at you, Captain’s Parrot, you feathery bag of worthlessness.

Maiden of the Lake

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In Hearthstone, using hero power is a bad value: 2 mana for 1/1 minion, 1 damage, 2 damage to face, etc. Since you are not using a card, a good price for hero power effect would be something like 1 mana, and Maiden of the Lake gives you exactly that. With her on board, using hero power loses less tempo and gains more value while her 2/6 body is sturdy enough to punish the early threats of many aggro decks. It could trade 2 minions for 1 and possibly decrease pressure if your opponent trades.

The value of this card cannot be defined until all cards are revealed. Only when we see all the synergy it provides, we can say how good it really is. I see it being used as a combo enabler in Inspire decks, like Emperor Thaurissan is in Malygos Warlock, Patron Warrior, or Freeze Mage. In arena, it is a little bit better than Oasis Snapjaw. Yes, it deals with early threats as I said, but you usually need to have a good 4 or 5 mana drop on the following turn to stay in the game.

Fallen Hero

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While this card is on board, it gives Mage’s hero power one extra damage (this also affects Warlock and Hunter hero ability if they get it from Piloted Shredder). Fallen Hero can be compared with Steamwheedle Sniper, 2 mana 2/3 which gives Hunter ability to aim their hero power. Steamwheedle Sniper did not find his place in competitive Hunter decks. Will Fallen Hero have the same fate? First, unlike Sniper, Fallen Hero is 3/2, and 3/2 is almost always better than 2/3. Second, Mage has more control potential then Hunter with its freeze effects, AoE, direct removal, and secrets like Ice Block and Ice Barrier. If Mage pulls out Duplicate on Sludge Belcher, you can forget about touching her beautiful face for at least a couple of turns. Therefore, I see Fallen Hero being used more often than Steamwheedle Sniper. One important thing to note is that effect stacks, so with two on board, hero power deals 3 damage. You can get even more using Duplicate and/or Echo of Medivh. Some kind of Mage combo deck focused on hero power is going to emerge after expansion and Fallen Hero will be an integral part of it.

In the Arena, this card is awesome! Imagine coin Fallen Hero and next turn you ping and kill opponents 3/2. In late game, it enables favorable trades and accumulates value over time. In worst case scenario, it’s just 3/2 and even that is not bad in the Arena.

Coldarra Drake

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This card got many fans of the game really excited because it brings something new, never seen before, something that can form the whole new way of playing the game. It will be the central piece of a Mage Inspire deck, because it enables you to play hero power any number of times. Played alone, it is pretty good. A solid 6/6 body for 6 mana. Playing it on turn 6, then on turn 7, using hero power three times for all your mana, does not sound too good. On the other hand, if the game is winding down and you are engaged in a topdeck war with your opponent, suddenly Coldarra Drake is winning you the game. Anything your enemy plays needs to have more than 5 hp to survive Fireblast machinegun.

Together with other Inspire themed cards, Coldarra Drake can be absolutely crazy. Let’s say you have Coldarra Drake and Maiden of the Lake on the board. Next turn you have 10 mana. You play 2 Fallen Heroes and gain the ability to distribute 3 damage 6 times to targets of your choosing. That is like playing 6 Frostbolts for 6 mana! Talking about crazy combos and value, imagine getting Ragnaros from Majordomo Executus with Coldarra and Maiden on board. The rain of 10 fiery meteors will descend on your opponent’s board and face, dealing 8 damage a piece for a combined total of 80 damage. It will happen once in every 100 games, but when it does it will possibly be the best moment of your Hearthstone experience.

Coldarra Drake is a dragon type card. We can see cards like Blackwing Technician and Blackwing Corruptor in an Inspire/Dragon Mage deck. With Twilight and Azure Drake, that kind of deck might have enough tools to seize control around turn 4 or 5 and bring the match to late game where it shines.

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