Knights of the Frozen Throne: Ranking the Death Knight Hero cards
Hearthstone expansions are at their best when they create whole new ways to play the game.
Knights of the Frozen Throne is no exception to that rule. One of the big headlines of the set is the nine Hero cards, each of which transforms the player hero into a more powerful version of itself.
These cards are Death Knight variants, in keeping with the theme of Frozen Throne and the Ice Crown Citadel it is set in.
Each of them has a powerful battlecry, and an upgraded hero power. Expect to see all of them being played on the ladder, at least in the first few days, as players try to find ways to make them work.
With no knowledge of how these cards will actually perform, here is a completely theoretical ranking of their power and viability.
So lots of people laughed at Webweave when it was revealed. But the more players have thought about it, summoning two poisonous spiders could be really powerful. Your opponent needs to answer both of them, or something important could die to the worst trade ever.
The Fandral change also makes this super powerful. The effect on the card itself and the Hero Power can be stacked with a Fandral in play.
At seven mana this is just in the right spot, too. It's totally reasonable to think that you can almost always get to that spot in what will hopefully be a slower meta, and then turn the tide. This doesn't need a deck to be built around it, you can put this in something like Jade Druid and you're off to the races.
When the Hero Power for Scourgelord Garrosh was revealed, it made a ton of sense.
That's because a number of the Frozen Throne Warrior cards were whirlwind-activated. Cards like Val'kyr Soulclaimer, Death Revenant, and even Rotface have powerful effects that synergize really well with this hero power. Add in the old classics of Armorsmith, Frothing Berserker, and Acolyte of Pain, and you have a strong deck.
The weapon is great too. Being able to damage three minions and only take damage yourself from one is very powerful. Avoiding its devastating effect will take great positional awareness from opponents.
The Paladin Hero card is another one of a few that brings something truly unique and innovative. With this card, you can win the game without damaging your opponent. That's thanks to the Four Horsemen Hero Power.
Whether it will ever go off remains to be seen as it's very slow, but just getting a 2/2 token is probably powerful enough to give you great board control. The weapon is also wonderful, and potentially heals your hero for up to 15.
Rogue's Hero card has the first ever playable passive hero power. We've seen them on AI-controlled adventure bosses, but never on a player character before.
This could well end up being one of the best cards in the set. It has that potential that you see on a few cards per expansion to be so much more powerful than anyone anticipated just because of how different and unique it is. It's much harder to evaluate because of that.
Being able to copy almost anything you play in a game is great. The Stealth Battlecry is also potentially being underrated. It mitigates the potential tempo loss from using nine mana to play this, as you can't take damage to your hero the following turn (within reason).
This one is all about that Hero Power.
Dealing three targetable damage is powerful enough. Adding Lifesteal into the mix is just sweet gravy. If you've been using Lifetap all game, this Hero Power can help you regain that life and then some.
The Battlecry is good too, don't get us wrong. The only problem is that the suite of Demons available in Standard isn't outstanding. Sure there's Doomguard, Abyssal Enforcer, and Lakkari Felhound. But a lot of them are really uninspiring. Still, you will probably have time to bank the few demons you want to play for the Battlecry by the time you can play this.
This is another one that could end up being completely nuts, if Elemental Mage can be made to work. Obviously if you can get this down and give all your Elementals Lifesteal, it becomes incredibly hard for your opponent to kill you.
Similarly, being able to potentially generate a ton of Water Elementals—who would all have Lifesteal—is one of the best board presence tools ever seen.
But it might just be too slow. Time will tell.
The Battlecry is a bit of a wild card here. How good will it be to blow up all the big minions on the board—including potentially your own? What kind of deck are you playing where that isn't a massive problem? Still, at eight mana you can be relatively flexible in playing this.
The Hero Power is obviously pretty good. With Raza the Chained you can make it free, too! That's a lot of value.
The two cheapest Hero cards bring up the rear, and that's something of a shame. Their decreased cost was just offset a little too much potentially.
This is certainly trying to push a slower strategy for Hunter. The Zombeasts can be crazy, if you have the time to craft and play them, and a little bit of AoE never hurts if you're trying to play control. It's the same damage as Blizzard for the same mana, just without the freeze.
Shaman brings up the rear, mostly because the Hero Power is the weakest out of the nine. The initial two mana Evolve as the Battlecry is nice, but do you really want to be evolving your minions every turn?
That's what a Hero Power has to do—be good enough to build a strategy around clicking it every turn. The Shaman Hero card probably falls short of that.