In most successful card games, designers institute a system of progressive decay, meaning that eventually old cards are cycled out of competitive play. That might seem unfair, but the prospect of balancing hundreds and hundreds of cards against each other is pretty daunting, and you’re better off slashing your catalog when it gets too unwieldy.
Last week, Blizzard announced similar plans for Hearthstone. This Spring, two new modes will be introduced: Wild and Standard. Wild is the same Hearthstone we’ve been playing, with any and all cards available for deckbuilding, but in Standard you’ll be restricted to the classic and basic sets, as well as any content released in the previous two years. So say goodbye to the Curse of Naxxramas and Goblins vs. Gnomes oeuvre, and get reacquainted with The Grand Tournament, Blackrock Mountain, League of Explorers, and whatever new cards Blizzard prints before the end of 2016.
This is a big deal! There are a ton of really powerful cards in both Naxxramas and Goblins vs. Gnomes that will no longer be featured in tournament play. So, yeah, we won’t be missing Stoneskin Gargoyle too much, but here are 10 cards that will drastically change the game once they say goodbye.
A lot of people are pointing to some other, more egalitarian cards as the biggest departure in Standard, but I think the most dramatic exit belongs to Mad Scientist. It might be hard to remember now, but most secrets weren’t played much before Curse of Naxxramas. The Scientist gave Hunters and Mages an easy way to dig into their decks without the tempo hit of using three mana to drop a Mirror Entity or whatever. Mad Scientist is the card that makes Hybrid and Mid-Range Hunter so effective, and it’s pretty key to most Freeze Mage matchups. I expect Blizzard to introduce some new secret-oriented cards in the forthcoming expansion, but Mad Scientist is a huge lose.
You can all come out now, it’s okay.
Since Goblins vs. Gnomes, Dr. Boom has been the de facto late-game drop in all of Hearthstone. In retrospect, the stats are kind of insane: a combined 9/9 plus an extra dollop of Boom Bot damage for… seven mana. Oops. Dr. Boom gets run in Tempo Mage, Secret Paladin, Renolock, Control Warrior, and like, every other minion-oriented deck in the game. It’s stupidly overpowered, and finally, finally, we’ll be free of its tyranny.
Funnily enough, I don’t think Dr. Boom’s exit will have a huge meta-shifting effect on Hearthstone, simply because his ubiquity means that the power level across the game will be taken down a notch. Good! That’s the sort of variance Blizzard is hoping for.
Not a huge thing here, but still worth mentioning. Kezan found a nice little tech spot in the meta for the moments where Hunter, Mage, and (nowadays) Paladin is dominating. We’ll miss it, because frankly there’s no greater feeling in Hearthstone than stealing an Ice Block from a Freeze Mage.
The lesser Dr. Boom. Still just as annoying and overpowered, but reserved for the more digestible early game. Shredder stood as the fundamental minion to build mid-range and tempo decks from, because it routinely gave you 6/6 worth of stats for only four mana. Shredder pops out Millhouse! Hey look, I won the game. Piloted Shredder made practically every four-health minion vulnerable and power-creeped the hell out of old stand-bys like Chillwind Yeti. Finally we get to rethink our curves! It’s been far too long.
Antique Healbot is a crucial, crucial card for a lot of molasses-slow, grind-out decks. This is true for the fringes, like Mill Rogue, Mill Druid, and Fatigue Warrior. But also, like, Handlock, or Renolock or something as tried and true as Control Warrior. Eight life points goes a long way, and there will be a ton of people missing that crucial heal once Standard rolls out.
Oh Sludge Belcher, you made playing control so easy. A solid 3/5 with taunt that spits out a 1/2 taunt as a deathrattle. You were such a quick, easy path to stabilization. You felt great to play, and unfathomably annoying to play against.
The Belcher’s exit looks like a big deal on paper simply because it might be the single best anti-aggro minion in Hearthstone, but I can practically guarantee you in the next expansion Blizzard will print some solid, mid-game taunts to take its place. If they don’t? Well, then I guess there’s going to be a huge hole in the middle of a lot of slower decks.
Zombie Chow is the best one-drop in the game for most control decks. The perfect answer to corrosive early game like Leper Gnome, Flame Imp, Haunted Creeper, and whatever else. Its exit puts a pretty sizable gap in the early game strategy for a lot of archetypes, which naturally makes the Face Hunters, Zoolocks, and Secret Paladins of the world salivate. Give us more anti-aggro tools Blizzard! Between Sludge Belcher and Zombie Chow we’re gonna be scrounging for anything.
Now we get into some of the class cards. Death’s Bite is a super important tool for Warriors. For one, having two charges of four damage is really good to clean up messes, but more importantly it’s whirlwind effect was a great anti-aggro tool and a key activator. Patron Warrior especially relied on that deathrattle to build massive boards and terrifying Frothing Berserkers, and it remains to be seen if that archetype can remain viable in a world restricted to, like, Inner Rages. I suppose if it survived the death of Warsong Commander anything is possible, but I wouldn’t get my hopes up.
Imp-losion is a powerful card that all Warlocks are going to miss. Is it going to have a huge impact on the meta? No, not really, I suppose it’ll be more difficult for Flood Zoo players to get their Gormoks and Reliquary Seekers off, but that’s a niche concern at best. The reason I’m excited about the death of Imp-losion is because I think it’s a poorly designed card. Four mana for either a game-breaking swing or curdling disappointment. That’s not the sort of game Hearthstone should be. I really hope Blizzard learned their lesson with this card.
Tinker’s Sharpsword Oil
The only viable competitive Rogue deck on ladder right now is called “Oil Rogue.” That Oil, of course refers to “Tinker’s Sharpsword Oil,” a spell that buffs a minion while also giving your weapon a three attack bonus. As you might expect, when the card that gives a deck its name is removed, it’s cause for a lot of panic.
The funny thing about Oil Rogue is that outside of the Oil, they’re not losing much in Standard. So maybe if Blizzard prints a comparable weapon effect in the new expansion everything will be fine. Let’s hope! Because otherwise Rogue remains in a pretty tough spot. Unearthed Raptor is interesting but hasn’t caught on, Miracle Rogue had a brief resurgence, but, yeah. Let’s get Rogue some good cards, okay?