From Frost Giant to Lowly Squire, we preview the latest Hearthstone cards
Last week, Blizzard announced The Grand Tournament, the second major expansion for its wildly popular card game, Hearthstone. Since then, it's teased handful of new cards out of the 130 cards in the expansion.
Each week, Callum Leslie and I will be looking at new cards and giving our thoughts on their potential in both arena and in constructed. Expect me to be my usual blind, overly optimistic self, and expect Callum to let his undying, cantankerous cynicism flow through his veins. I’m pretty sure last time out I said that Majordomo would be a good card in Freeze Mage, so obviously we’re the only source you should trust.
With that, let’s get started.
Arena: Pretty awful, but maybe not the worst legendary possible in arena. Think of Argent Commander, a six-mana 4/2 with divine shield and charge. Obviously that card is a lot better. But paying seven mana for a 4/6 body with charge isn’t quite as bad as it might seem on paper. Like, this isn’t quite Hemet or Rend Blackhand bad.
Constructed: So I guess the dream here is Rogue, because you have that One-Eyed Cheat which gets stealthed whenever you play a pirate. You have two of those on the board, drop your Southsea Deckhand, then your now-four mana Skycap’n, and do 14 damage to face? It feels kinda like a poor man’s Leeroy to me, but it’s not bad. We’ve waited ages for pirate decks to become viable, and maybe this will finally push it over the top.
Arena: Not a great pick in arena, simply because you can't guarantee having picked a bunch of Pirates to make this worthwhile. Fine, it's a tiny bit of burst damage and the art is cool. That's about it.
Constructed: I actually don't think Pirate decks are awful. They just aren't terribly consistent, like Murlocs. Sometimes Murlocs can run you over on ladder even towards rank five, but a lot of the time they don't draw in the right order and you get an easy win. Same with pirates: They can be good but also utterly useless. This is a fun tool for those who want to try pirate decks, but I don't see them making a resurgence.
Lock and Load
Arena: Good, but not insane. I’d take Cult Master over this in arena, just because you can’t rely on having a ton of cheap spells to cycle.
Constructed: Remember Miracle Rogue? This card is basically that, except cheaper. There are so many Hunter cards that do direct damage, so you can drop this, roll through a pair of Trackings, Quick Shots (and whatever else) and get an Unleash The Hounds and Kill Command kicked back. Look at that. New and exciting ways towards lethal, as if Hunter needed it.
This card doesn’t fit perfectly in the current Hunter decks, but it’s not that much of a stretch, and Lock and Load certainly looks good enough to demand a brand new archetype. We’ll see.
Arena: There are more minions than spells in arena, which is why things like Cult Master are arguably better than this. If you've already drafted a bunch of spells then why not.
Constructed: Okay, so a lot of people are really excited about this card. I'm a little more reserved. I just see this as a card that makes you play a bunch of your high value spells at an inopportune time in exchange for a bunch of Cobra Shots and Gladiators Longbows. Basically you pay two mana to trade the cards you wanted (because you put them in your deck) for ones you didn't. That doesn't seem like great value to me. Hunter has flourished because of its ability to put forward consistent aggressive damage, and this just feels like something that will derail a lot of what Hunter decks are designed to do.
Maiden of the Lake
Arena: This will be good in most classes, and insane in others. The difference between a one-mana ping and a two-mana ping is nuts. Same with a one-mana heal and two-mana heal. The 2/6 body is also pretty sturdy. I expect the Maiden to be a high-tier pick.
Constructed: We’ve already seen a bunch of other cards that interact with players’ hero ability, (more on those later,) which will bring some exotic unpredictable effects, (like the idea of having an unlimited cap on your hero ability each turn) so it’s hard to gauge how good Maiden of the Lake is right now. The idea of armoring up for one mana certainly seems game-changing on paper, however.
Arena: I think this is probably strongest in arena based on what we've seen so far. Being able to outpace your opponent with hero powers could well give you a small edge in what are generally quite long matches.
Constructed: There are several problems with this card. First, Patrons. Playing anything with less than three attack in the midgame is just asking for trouble against the number one deck in the game right now. Also, I just don't see this being better than a lot of other four drops. Unless you're making a hero power deck, why would you play this over Shredder?
Arena: A six mana 6/6 dragon for Mage, which allows your hero power to be used over and over again in a turn. So on turn 10, this is basically “get a 6/6, deal two damage.” This actually seems just okay to me in arena. I mean it’s fine, it’s certainly better than other six drops, but I don’t think it does enough in a non-constructed deck.
Constructed: Meanwhile, let’s say you play this with the aforementioned Maiden of the Lake on the board. Look at that. You can ping anything you want over and over again for one mana. That’s crazy. There are other Mage cards that buff your hero power further, so it wouldn’t shock me to see Mage decks pop up entirely devoted to out-valuing opponents on hero power alone. Guess what? There’s a way to have your hero power do three damage, for one mana, with an unlimited cap. If that’s viable, Coldarra Drake will be a crucial, meta-defining card.
Arena: The body here is pretty great honestly, a six-mana 6/6 is not to be sniffed at in the value-driven world of arena. How many times you can actually use the effect is debatable, but this is a decent pick to fill out your curve.
Constructed: We have only seen a fraction of the full set, but I remain unconvinced how much of an impact the hero power manipulation will really have. I'm not optimistic, frankly. One thing that has kind of slipped by a lot of people is that this is a dragon, so maybe this is another attempt at making dragon decks viable—something which Blackrock Mountain kind of failed to do.
Arena: This is now probably the best giant in arena, because arena games are long and hero powers are a big part of winning them. I don’t know for sure, but I feel like I hero power at least five times in an average arena game. That gives me a five mana 8/8. It’s a Fel Reaver without the downside. Seriously, this might be the best epic in arena going forward.
Constructed: Handlock has a new giant. You know those first few turns in Handlock where you're hero powering? You’re now already working on Frost Giant discounts. You know those turns where you Life Tap to get under 10 health to drop your free Moltens? Now you might be doing that while also dropping two-mana Frost Giants. Out of all the cards we’ve seen thus far, Frost Giant is the one I’m most sure will be great.
Arena: As mentioned above, arena games are longer so this could be okay, but you have to consider the rarity. Epics don't come up all that often in arena, but admittedly there are a lot of garbage ones so this might be a decent pick.
Constructed: I'm not convinced this will actually be so good in Handlock. It won't become four mana until turn six, while Mountain Giants can be that cheap a few turns earlier. Having low enough health to play Molten Giants early against aggro is also important. I'm just not convinced this card will work well enough, much like Clockwork Giant.
Arena: Pretty solid. A 1/2 on turn one sucks, and following up with a turn two pass sucks more. But the new “Inspire” mechanic triggers on minions whenever you hero power, so in the Lowly Squire’s case, he gets +1 attack whenever I press my button. That gives me a 2/2 and a hero power effect on turn two, which isn’t great. But it’s not bad. There’s a good chance it can trade up with a two-drop and you have that Micro Machine chance of extended value.
Constructed: Same as arena. It probably doesn’t do enough unless we see more cards that synergize. That being said, if you play this with Hobgoblin you get a 3/4 for one with serious ramp potential. That might be alright. Tell me I’m wrong Callum.
Arena: A 1/2 stat line is pretty bad on turn one, and a 2/2 on turn two isn't much better. I'll take any number of common or basic set one drops over this.
Constructed: In constructed, one drops are either aggressive, in the case of things like Leper Gnome or Abusive Sergeant, or defensive like Voidwalker or Zombie Chow. This card doesn't do either of those things better than any number of other options. It's a no from me.
Arena: So with Saraad on the board every time you hero power, you draw a card that will probably be useful. There’s a chance it won’t (in the livestream we saw Trump draw a Savagery on Mage) but you’ll be good most of the time. That’s solid, and you’re not even taking that much of a stat hit on five mana. There are better legendaries, but this seems pretty good.
Constructed: This feels like the Loatheb or Thaurissan of the set. An entirely worthy mid-range Legendary that finds its way into a fair amount of decks. I can’t think of a class that can’t take advantage of this mechanic, especially in the context of other cards designed to make your hero power more valuable in other ways. Does it do as much as a Sylvanas? No, but I think it can still be pretty useful.
Arena: I have to strongly disagree with Luke here. There are a lot of better legendaries than this. Obviously it's not a top tier card, but even mid tier arena picks like Hogger are probably superior for guaranteed positive impact. There are a lot of spells which could be completely useless. Imagine playing as Mage and getting Deadly Poison, or Blade Flurry, or Totemic Might?
Constructed: There's a decent stat line on this—a 4/5 for five mana is in line with something like an Azure Drake. The Drake ability is a little better, so I think it's pretty balanced. As Andrey "Reynad" Yanyuk said of Unstable Portal, there are times when this will just win you the game. Other times it will draw you Tree of Life. It might find a home as a flavor pick over some other midrange legendaries. But it's not going to be meta breaking.
Arena: It’s a 3/2 for two, so no matter what, this is a good card. The ability to ping for two damage instead of one is powerful, as you might imagine. It’s got a lot of versatility, and a lot of value, so consider it a high-tier early drop.
Constructed: The comparison would be Goblin Auto-Barber, that Rogue two-drop which buffs your weapon by one damage and has fought its way into Oil decks every once in a while. Fallen Hero isn’t quite as good because you’re not guaranteed two charges with it, but it’s certainly not bad. People might lose their minds over the ability to drop two of these and a hero power for three damage (which basically gives you an at-will frostbolt). And that’s good. But you’re also paying a lot and relying on some very specific draws. As crazy as it sounds, I don’t know if Fallen Hero makes the cut in most constructed decks.
However, that Maiden of the Lake/Coldarra Drake/double Fallen Hero combo which lets you ping indefinitely for one mana and three damage is sick and very particular.
Arena: A 3/2 for two mana isn't that great. The fact that it's a rare rather than an epic hurts the card because of what it competes with in arena. I am unconvinced that every 2/3 in a mage draft isn't better, though.
Constructed: This could be good but it's super squishy at two health. a 2/3 would have been better like Steamwheedle Sniper, but this is arguably better than the Sniper because the effect is more useful.
Arena: This might be the best Mage secret in arena. It’s hard to play around, because it’s not like you’re going to let things live, so there’s a pretty good chance you’re getting value off it. And without running the numbers, it seems like you’re going to at least break even on most of the triggers.
Constructed: This fits perfectly into Tempo Mage. You’re almost guaranteed to keep tempo up under nearly any circumstances. Yeah it’ll suck when you Effigy a Boom Bot, but turning a Piloted Shredder into a Yeti and whatever else is an auto-concede.
Arena: This is a sleeper pick for best of the set. The value in arena is pretty good, turning every minion into a piloted mech effectively.
Constructed: I really like this in constructed. I'm not sure about Tempo Mage because Mirror Image is a card, but in some other Mage decks this could find a home—maybe even in some new midrange value-driven Mage archetype. If you put out something like a Belcher with this up, you force your opponent into a really awkward turn and gain great tempo.
Arena: A six mana 3/5 that can summon another 3/5 at the cost of a hero power. On average you’re looking at an eight mana 6/10 in combined stats, which is pretty good. If nothing else it makes the Kodorider a very high priority target, and a top epic in arena.
Constructed: I could see Kodorider finding a spot in, like Paladin or Warrior control decks - basically any play-style that tries to wear opponents down with relentless value. It needs an answer immediately before it starts to spiral out of control, and you can build decks around stuff like that. Also, I know this is insane, but it does combo with Warsong Commander, for what it’s worth.
Arena: This is mediocre, the three attack on the stat line just isn't good enough my turn six. Even if you can get a second one on the board in the same turn, it's a four mana 3/5. No one plays that.
Constructed: Just as above, no one plays a vanilla four mana 3/5, so why would you play two of them on turn eight—or worse, one of them on turn six?
Arena: A two mana 3/4 that puts one mana on layaway. Yes please. Cards like this exist to dominate arena.
Constructed: A couple things. One, this is the early game Shamans need, hooray for that. Two, the Totem Golem has a totem tribe type, which combines with *snicker* Totemic Might and some other cards we’re about to see. Three, I think Totem Golem will buff Lava Shock. Right now Lava Shock is a good card with too few targets, and stuff like Totem Golem might bring that spell back into flavor. Overall this seems like an easy auto-include, and a direct response to a lot of Shaman’s gripes lately.
Arena: This card is really strong all around, but especially in arena it can really help you secure early tempo and board presence. It trades really well with almost every other two drop in the game, and that value can't be denied.
Constructed: So far it seems like Shaman is getting something of a shot in the arm, and this is a card that Shaman players have been looking for for a long time. Good moves from Blizzard so far here.
Arena: Three mana for a 3/2 which summons any random totem. Yes that includes the just-mentioned Totem Golem. You’re taking a stat hit, but you basically get a free hero power. That seems okay? I don’t know. I’d probably still prefer Harvest Golem over this.
Constructed: There might be some other totems coming that we haven’t seen yet that will buff the Tuskarr Totemic. In fact, the next card we’ll talk about factors into that plan. So right now I don’t have much to say. It all depends if Totem Shaman becomes a thing.
Arena: This could be a great swing if it summons Totem Golem, but a lot of the time this is just a three mana minion with a negligible effect that trades badly because of two health. Most of the time a worse Razorfen Hunter.
Constructed: I can't stress how much of a drawback having two health is. It dies to almost everything and the effect's strength is pretty variable.
Arena: You will be making totems in arena, which makes this card a slightly better Frostwolf Warlord in my eyes.
Constructed: Basically my same take as arena. A nice card, a card that will surely make it into some decks, but nothing meta-defining. I’d lump it in the same tier as Fireguard Destroyer.
Arena: I'm not sure this is better than Frostwolf Warlord, since that card counts totems AND minions. It's okay, making it a 6/6 is probably quite likely but it might only be the case when you're already ahead and have the board control.
Arena: Before Shamans relied on stuff like Rockbiters, Defenders of Argus, and other buffs to turn their totems into something more scary. With the Thunderbluff Valiant you can muster your own personal army for five mana, and get a 3/6 to boot. Out of all the new totem synergy cards, this one might be the most special.
Constructed: The Valiant is like a mini-Bloodlust. I think it can do serious damage. It’s the card that gives me the most faith in Shaman’s future.
Arena: I like this card, and the clear totem theme in the Shaman cards so far. Good to see the class getting some much needed love after being a little neglected and left behind for a while.
Constructed: This feels like a definite wait and see for me. Could be really good if totem Shaman becomes viable, but we haven't seen enough of the cards to know if that is a reality.
Ball of Spiders
Arena: This is like Nourish. Nourish is a five mana spell that you use to draw three cards most of the time. Ball of Spiders is six mana, and gives you three 1/1s that spit back random beast cards when they die. You’re getting three cards either way, so I think Ball of Spiders is better than the burial it’ll receive. It’s a way to draw three cards while giving you a tiny board presence. That’s always pretty good.
Constructed: It’s very, very slow, and Hunters don’t really play slow. Maybe someday the fabled Control Hunter will coalesce into a real class, but until then I’m going to pass.
Arena: This is not Nourish, unless Nourish is a really really bad card. Who wants to play 1/1 minions on turn six?? No one. No one I tell you.
Constructed: If anything it's worse in constructed. This card makes me almost angry with how bad it is.
Screengrab via PlayHearthstone/YouTube