The latest Hearthstone expansion released this week, and The Grand Tournament is already shaking up the meta. After just a couple days with 132 brand spankin’ new cards, it’s clear that some of our predictions on how the set would play didn’t exactly hit the mark.
Evaluating cards before their release is a fool’s errand. Okay, not entirely; we all knew Ice Rager wasn’t going to see play. But it really is hard to tell if a Hearthstone spell or minion will be good before you get to see it. Remember Muster For Battle? The Paladin spell that gave you three 1/1s and a Light’s Justice? I remember when I first played that card, saw the value on my board, and thought “oh, yeah, this just works doesn’t it?”
I’m not saying you should never trust a so-called expert, but that you should always take recommendations or condemnations with a grain of salt. We, and the rest of the Hearthstone community, were famously cool on Dr. Boom and Grim Patron, remember? And you know what? Only a week into The Grand Tournament and there are already cards we were totally wrong about. Onwards to the public shaming!
Murloc Knight rules
I don’t feel as bad about underrating this card as I do others. On paper, the Murloc Knight looks a little fragile. It’s a four mana 3/4, which is pretty far below the general mid-range power curve, and while its ability looked powerful, it’s hard to trigger on curve. All of that is still true! But man, if you get this thing to fire you’re going to be very, very happy.
Here’s what we didn’t realize about Murloc Knight. Murlocs, as a tribe, are so much better on the board than in your hand. Take Coldlight Seer. That’s a crappy three mana 2/3. You’d hate to have to play that instead of dropping your Muster For Battle or whatever. But with Murloc Knight the inefficiency of the Seer doesn’t matter because you’re only paying two mana for it! Now, there are still some moments where you get something really crappy, like a Grimscale Oracle, but that’s still a much better situation than a vanilla Silver Hand Recruit because it automatically buffs your Murloc Knight.
When you hash it out numerically you’ve got a 60 percent chance of getting a good Murloc and a 40 percent chance to get something that’s at least better than a vanilla 1/1. Combine that with Justicar Trueheart’s buffed hero power, and you’re very happy every time you press the button.
That’s right. A Murloc card is key to the new wave of Paladin Control. Who would’ve guessed?
Maybe Varian Wrynn isn’t all that great?
So, in our card preview I said some things about Varian Wrynn. Things like “one of the best cards in the game and even at 10 mana it might be underpriced. It would not surprise me if in a couple months we see Varian Wrynn get nerfed.”
Let’s talk about that.
10 mana is so much mana, you guys. It’s SO MUCH mana. What other cards cost 10 mana in Hearthstone? There’s Deathwing, with the most potent effect in the game. It wipes the board, discards your hand, and gives you a 12/12. That’s pretty strong! But it doesn’t see much play. There’s Mind Control, which is removal and a big drop built in one. You mind control your opponent’s Ysera and get a big threat while removing one at the same time. Again, pretty strong, but doesn’t see too much play. There’s also Pyroblast, 10 mana to deal 10 damage. Very strong, a super potent finisher, but is mostly nonexistent outside of some Freeze Mage lists.
That brings us to Varian. If you spend your entire turn playing a 7/7 and drawing cards, you’re basically skipping a turn which is complete murder against any sort of pressure. One mana is a big deal in Warrior, so if Varian costed nine, you’d still be able to Shield Slam or Execute or Whirlwind. At 10 mana you’re relying entirely on your deck to bail you out of trouble. There’s the dream where you plop out a Ragnaros and two Sludge Belchers, but I’ve seen a lot of Fiery War Axe, Death’s Bite, Big Game Hunters that have already ruined some days.
I’m not saying Varian is definitely bad. But I will say that I don’t think it’s as good as I thought. It’s really hard to spend 10 mana. Really, really hard. But it’s great in control matchups! But when the meta is fast, I’d expect to see Varian get subbed out pretty quick.
Justicar Trueheart is insane
So here’s the thing. Sometimes when an ostensibly good card is announced with a mechanic we haven’t seen before, we like to hedge our bets to not look stupid. The same thing happened with Troggzor. Remember Troggzor? He was that seven mana 6/6 released from Goblins vs. Gnomes, and every time your opponent cast a spell he spit out a 3/5. It looked great on paper and is still a good card! But unfortunately, he was a little too slow.
Justicar Trueheart was in the same boat: A powerful six drop which buffs your hero power for the rest of the game. There were some winners and losers (Rogues equip a 2/2 weapon? Pass!) but it certainly looked good in certain slower classes. Paladins get to summon two 1/1s! Warriors gain four armor! You can grind your opponent to dust!
But because we all have Troggzor mis-appraisal flashbacks, we made some excuses. “What if you draw it late?” “Three health dies to everything.” “How many times will you have to press the button to really get the value?”
But now, a few days into The Grand Tournament, I’ve dealt with a literally infinite number of Silver Hand Recruits. I can definitively say Justicar Trueheart is a crucial card in control decks. My god, do you know how easy it is to get Quartermaster combos now? Paladins can beat you without playing any cards. Warriors are immortal. Mages get good trades on everything.
Mysterious Challenger is broken
Mysterious Challenger was revealed just a week before The Grand Tournament’s release, which lumped it in with a deluge of 50 other cards. Paladin secrets, one mana low-impact spells for minor tempo, have seen scarce play since the dawn of Hearthstone. The idea of playing a bunch of them at once for free seemed okay, but not thrilling, and certainly not something you’d build a deck around.
But like Mad Scientist before it, Mysterious Challenger is completely changing the power of secrets. Right now Secret Paladins are tearing up ladder for one simple reason: if you play Mysterious Challenger while you already have some board presence, it’s almost impossible to lose.
Consider the scenarios. You could take a turn to spend four mana and drop Avenge, Redemption, Noble Sacrifice, and Competitive Spirit on their own—a play which requires you having all of those cards in your hand and under absolutely no pressure—or you play your Mysterious Challenger and force your opponent to deal with all of those effects at once. You can’t kill my 6/6 because you’re running into my Get Down! If you send another guy he’s going get Redemption and come back as a 6/1. When you pass the turn my Competitive Spirit triggers and buffs my Murloc Knight, Knife Juggler, and Challenger by 1/1 each, and now you lose the game.
I love Hearthstone mechanics that make previously unused cards into vital parts of a deck. So I kind of love Mysterious Challenger. But I’m sure we’ll all be hating him soon.
Image via Blizzard