It’s mid-February already, around 2.5 months after Gadgetzan was released. It means that we’re about halfway to the new expansion – I suppose it will be released about 2 months from now, mid-April. First expansion of the year will always be the biggest shake-up of the meta, because it comes with card rotations. Each expansion from 2015 will get out of Standard – meaning that we will be left with only Classic + 4 expansions again.
In 2015, we’ve seen a lot of new archetypes, refinements to the old ones and new, interesting, strong cards in general. And now all of those cards will leave Standard soon. In this article, I want to list some of the most impactful cards that will be gone – not necessarily impactful on the current meta, but in general. With those cards gone, some archetypes might crumble, others might need to get completely changed and we should see some fresh decks while we’re at that (as long as the Pirates get nerfed, of course).
10. Justicar Trueheart
Funny thing. This card could be the Warrior’s Legendary and most of the players wouldn’t even notice a single difference. I mean, it was played in some Priest builds too (especially after Raza the Chained got released), but it’s the card that’s always associated with Control Warrior. The reason is simple – Tank Up! is the strongest upgraded Hero Power. It’s exactly what made a long game powerhouse out of Warrior. Gaining 4 Armor each turn is great in every matchup. Vs fast decks you can most likely outheal their topdeck damage, so you basically can’t die. Vs slow decks you could get A LOOOOT of Armor in the long game. And we all know that when it comes to the fatigue scenario, having 3 times as much health as your opponent really helps.
Thanks to the Justicar, some of the Warrior matches were really ridiculous. 30 health + 70 Armor just before going into fatigue? Sure, why not. Shield Slam one-shotting basically any minion? At least it couldn’t hit the face. Oh wait…
A whole archetype was centered around this one card. Tempo Mage. When playing against Mage, you had to make sure to have an answer for an early Flamewaker or you’ve pretty much just lost the game. Especially powerful with coin, as soon as turn 3 you could do a “fun” combos like Flamewaker + Coin + Arcane Missiles, which dealt 7 random damage, usually enough to kill whatever opponent had on the board at that point (unless you were playing against Zoo player who just dropped Imp Gang Boss, then it sucks to be you). Later in the game things could get even more ridiculous. I’ve seen many late game turns when Flamewaker was a 3 mana Avenging Wrath with a 2/4 body.
Right now Tempo Mage is not a popular ladder choice, because of all the aggression. You can’t stick any early minion, the games just end too fast etc. But just a few months back, it was one of the most popular decks. Some people liked it, because it was fun to play. Others hated it, because it was one of the most RNG-dependant decks in the game. Right now one thing is sure – Tempo Mage players will have to figure out a new strategy, because with Flamewaker gone, the deck’s overall power will be significantly lower.
8. Tomb Pillager
Tomb Pillager is one of the most powerful Rogue cards. I feel like the Rogue is a class that gets least love from Blizzard and yet it always comes into the meta, because it has some broken Classic cards (or rather, a broken synergy with Gadgetzan Auctioneer). However, Tomb Pillager was one of the most broken minions the class has ever got. It might seem weird – after all, it’s just a 4 mana 5/4 that gives you a Coin. It probably wouldn’t be as powerful in some other classes. However, in Rogue, an extra coin is amazing.
Since Miracle Rogue is built around synergies with cheap spells, having an extra 0 mana spell that gives you +1 mana is insane. In Rogue, you rarely read it as “Gain 1 mana”. Most of the time it’s “Gain 1 mana and draw a card.”, “Gain 1 mana and give your Edwin VanCleef +2/+2”, “Gain 1 mana and deal 2 damage” (Combo part of SI:7 Agent and Eviscerate) etc. Those effects are incredibly powerful tempo tools for a class that’s based around tempo.
Since Tomb Pillager was printed, it was auto-include into any non-Aggro Rogue deck (and even some Aggro too). Rogue will really need to get something solid next expansion, as a compensation, or the class might be in a pretty rough spot.
7. Mysterious Challenger
One of the most impactful Paladin cards ever rotates out very soon. Those who haven’t been playing around a year ago don’t know how rage-inducing this card was. So called “Christmas Tree” Secret Paladin decks were all over the ladder. Their game plan was simple – play the most powerful minion on the curve each turn. Thanks to the cards like Shielded Minibot, Muster for Battle or Piloted Shredder, it was really easy to get an amazing curve with Paladin.
Even though the card hasn’t rotated out with the last year’s Standard cycle, it honestly wouldn’t matter that much. Since the Paladin’s early game was completely crushed and no more powerful early game cards were released for Paladin ever since, Mysterious Challenger was pretty useless, as the card couldn’t work in Control Paladin archetypes and those were the only viable ones.
I still need to put it on the list, as it’s historically a very impactful card. And one that could again be powerful some day, if Paladin ever gets some love (I guess the class is next in queue after Priest, right?)
6. Anyfin Can Happen
I’m honestly going to miss that card. Anyfin Paladin is one of the last combo decks in the meta. With Anyfin rotating out, Combo RenoLock being (probably) dead… what will we have left? I like combo decks, but they were nerfed one by one 🙁
When it comes to Anyfin Paladin, the deck has its best period before the last standard rotation. Since the Old Murk-Eye was still available, the deck was insane – Getting 2-3 Murk-Eyes back could even kill a heavily Armoring Control Warrior. After Murk-Eye was gone, the deck wasn’t as powerful, but it was still relevant. As it happened, the deck was getting more and more tools each expansion. Cards like Ragnaros, Lightlord, Ivory Knight or more recently Finja, the Flying Star were keeping the deck at least semi-relevant.
Right now Anyfin Paladin is not a popular ladder choice, but it seems to work quite well in the tournaments. Multiple players have decided to bring it to different tournaments and so far it’s been working out alright. However, Anyfin Can Happen is the card that makes the archetype. You simply can’t play that deck without it. So it will be another case of a deck completely rotating out into Wild, because I doubt that they will release a similar card.
5. Grim Patron
Honestly, I wasn’t sure about those 3 spots (7, 6, 5). I’ve decided to put them in that order, because I think that Patron Warrior had left a bigger mark on the player’s experience than Secret Paladin ever did. Games against Secret Paladin were.. boring. Very predictable. You knew exactly what he’s going to do each turn. I forgot most of my games against Secret Paladin, after a year I remember only one or two. Anyfin Paladin? I mean, sure, it was also a combo deck, so it was more memorable than Secret Paladin. But still meh. However, games against Patron Warrior… Oh that’s a whole another story.
Flooding the board with 3 attack minions every turn? Check. Clearing the board at the same time? Check. Getting a 20+ attack minion (Frothing Berserker) at the same time? Check. Oh sweet, sweet Patron Warrior. For those of you who weren’t playing back then, the main source of deck’s power was not Grim Patron, not Frothing Berserker, but Warsong Commander. Old players are still sad when looking at the card’s tooltip, because it was completely butchered. Back in the Beta it used to give all of your minions Charge (with the same mana cost and stats). That was obviously beyond broken, so it was changed. Later it used to give Charge only to the minions that have 3 or less attack. But as it happened, most of the minions player by the Patron deck had 3 or less attack. And since the minion didn’t LOSE charge when going above, after your Frothing got charge, it kept it.
And thanks to that, 60 damage from the empty board or getting a full clear against Zoo while spawning a board full of minions at the same time were possible. Old players, PTSD warning. New players, bathe in the glory of old Patron Warrior:
4. Tunnel Trogg & Totem Golem
Played by many, hated by most. I’ve decided to put those two together, because they pretty much go into exactly the same decks. If someone plays Tunnel Trogg, he most likely plays Totem Golem and vice versa. Historically, Shaman was struggling with the early game. There were just no good early game Shaman class cards and neutrals usually weren’t enough to cover that (Mech Shaman was the only exception). Blizzard has realized that and started printing more and more strong cards. Among them, Totem Golem in TGT and Tunnel Trogg in LoE. But that was only the beginning and “Shaman getting broken cards every expansion” trend remained for a few more expansions. And as we all know right now, Shaman is beyond broken and dominating the meta for like… half of year already? I mean, the leader’s position is jumping between Midrange Shaman and Aggro Shaman, but honestly people don’t care too much.
Tunnel Trogg and Totem Golem will rotate out. Does it mean that Shaman will be gone? Probably not. Actually, current Midrange Jade Shaman, which is considered one of the strongest meta decks, doesn’t even play Tunnel Trogg, Totem Golem or ANY card that rotates out soon besides Brann Bronzebeard. And while Brann is strong, him rotating out won’t likely make the deck weaker. Cards like Spirit Claws, Maelstrom Portal, Flamewreathed Faceless or Thing from Below (plus the full Jade package) will still be there.
It means that we should prepare for another Shaman-dominated meta unless Blizzard steps in and finally nerfs some of their cards (Spirit Claws and Maelstrom Portal are likely candidates, on top of the early Pirate package). So let’s just hope that the patch that’s supposed to come out by the end of February will actually fix stuff.
3. Dragon Package
People have been testing Dragon decks ever since BRM got released. Dragon archetypes were getting more and more support each expansion, usually only 1-2 playable cards, but that was enough to keep them going. Two most viable Dragon decks are Dragon Priest and Dragon Warrior, so rotation will hurt those two classes most. Maybe let’s look at the Dragon and Dragon-related cards that are rotating out (I’m listing only the ones that are viable and have seen some play)
Neutral: Blackwing Technician, Twilight Guardian, Blackwing Corruptor, Drakonid Crusher, Chillmaw, Nefarian
Priest: Twilight Whelp, Wyrmrest Agent
Warrior: Alexstrasza’s Champion
That’s a lot of cards. While some of them gone won’t matter that much, the class cards and Twilight Guardian + Blackwing Corruptor are core of the respective Dragon decks. They’re one of the main reasons why the Dragon decks are so powerful.
Given the current state of the Dragons, we won’t have enough cards to support the Dragon archetypes after rotation. They would need to print like 4-5 powerful Dragons/Dragon related cards to keep the archetypes alive. Will they do that? Probably not. Blizzard has clearly said that they want some archetypes to rotate to Wild. Maybe they will bring them back to Standard later, who knows.
To be completely honest, Dragon Warrior and Dragon Priest weren’t interesting archetypes anyway. They were very straightforward and pretty boring. So I won’t really be sad to see them gone.
2. Emperor Thaurissan
Emperor Thaurissan is one of the cards that had biggest impact on the meta ever. It was one of the most popular Legendaries, played in multiple decks, but most notably it allowed multiple crazy combos that wouldn’t be available otherwise. Since Emperor Thaurissan was released, it was played in almost every combo deck out there, like:
- Midrange Combo Druid (RIP Force of Nature + Savage Roar). Emperor made it possible to pull off a huge combos like FoN + 2x SR, which did over 20 damage.
- Combo Warlocks. Yes, Warlocks. He made the Leeroy Jenkins + Power Overwhelming + Faceless Manipulator combo viable again (normally it costs 11 mana and you can’t rely on having a Coin to pull it off), but he was also played in the Malygos Warlock deck, allowing stuff like Malygos + 2x Darkbomb + Soulfire to happen.
- Warrior combo decks. Oh, Warrior had a huge combo potential first with Warsong Commander and then with Charge, both of which were nerfed (technically changed, but both changes were pretty clear nerfs). The old Patron Warrior played Emperor Thaurissan and only thanks to that card they were able to pull off 15+ mana combos at 10 mana. Combo Worgen Warrior also played it, making Raging Worgen + Charge + buffs/Enrage + Faceless Manipulator OTK possible. Then, there was also the Giant Combo Warrior, first playing Frost Giant and later Arcane Giant and, guess what, they’ve played Emperor.
- Freeze Mage, obviously. No matter if you’ve played the Archmage Antonidas version or the Malygos version or maybe more recently the Evolved Kobold one, Emperor was always there, discounting your whole hand and making you shoot spells like a machine gun.
There were probably more, but I forgot about some. It doesn’t matter, my point is that most of the combo decks have played Emperor Thaurissan. More than that – it made A LOT of those combos possible. Then, there were also multiple non-combo decks running this card. Decks like Ramp Druid or RenoLock/Handlock (even non-combo versions) have used the card, even though they didn’t use the combos – just to get the mana discounts (Ramp Druid, because he wanted to get out big minions sooner and Handlock/RenoLock because of the average hand size).
On the one hand, I will miss that card. As you’ve probably already noticed, I’m a big fan of combo decks. And without Thaurissan, it will be much harder to build a viable combo deck after the rotation. On the other hand, Thaurissan rotating out might actually free some “design space” for the combo decks that would be too powerful with Thaurissan but might work without him. I really hope that’s what will happen in future.
1. Explorers’ League
Individually, some of the Explorers would be lower on the list, but I didn’t want to waste 4 positions with 4 of them, because each one of them deserves a position there. I’ll go through each one of them and explain how they impacted the meta and how will it change after they’re gone.
- Sir Finley Mrrgglton – Sir Finley was one of the main reasons why Aggro Warrior and Aggro Shaman first took off. Terrible Hero Power (terrible in Aggro decks, not in general) have held them back. Hunter or Warlock had it easy naturally – they could build a viable aggressive deck without worrying about Hero Powers. However, Armor Up was a pretty bad Hero Power for the Aggro deck. Sir Finley offered an upgrade virtually every time those decks have played it. And it still remains a very popular card in both of them, just like in any Aggro deck with non-Aggro Hero Power or vice versa. It was also played in Control Hunter to fix the bad Hunter’s Hero Power (it’s not a good Control one), but to a much lesser extent, probably because those decks weren’t very viable. Sir Finley rotating will be a quite significant hit to decks like Aggro Shaman or Pirate Warrior. Alone not enough to make them bad, of course, but small things like that also matter.
- Brann Bronzebeard – Played in every deck that was heavy on Battlecries. Some Battlecries are very impactful, and copying them is a very strong ability for a 3-drop with decent stats. It was always popular in the Dragon decks, because they had a lot of Battlecries, some of which were rather strong – e.g. Blackwing Corruptor. Twilight Drake (also used in RenoLock) or Netherspite Historian. But more recently, Brann was featured in almost every Reno deck. Because Kazakus is a powerhouse Legendary with an incredible Battlecry effect, getting it twice is one of the main win conditions in many slow matchups. Besides that, he had pretty good synergy with classic Zoo decks, because of minions like Abusive Sergeant, Dark Iron Dwarf, Dark Peddler or Defender of Argus.
- Elise Starseeker – Card that improved the win rate in Control vs Control matchups by quite a lot. And at the same time, it used to improve the Control Warrior’s (or similar Control decks with no clear win condition) Aggro decks. The thing about Control vs Control matchup is that the more greedy deck usually wins. However, greedy Control decks most likely sucked in fast matchups. Instead of sacrificing the Aggro matchups win rate, people have decided to run pretty anti-Aggro build with Elise as a win condition in Control games. Once the game was coming to an end, all the “useless” cards like card draw, small minions etc. could be simply turned into random Legendaries. The “random” part was the reason why the card was loved by some and hated by the others. It was really fun to watch, because the outcome was always different. But it was pretty annoying to play, because Control matchups were often simply decided by who gets a better Elise outcome in the end. Which felt like playing a 15 minutes match and then just ending it in a coin toss.
- Reno Jackson – The most influential of the 4. Ever since it was released, it was most commonly played in Warlock. It has obvious synergy with Life Tap – not only you need to damage yourself to play it (so healing works better), but drawing a lot made you get the Reno more consistently. Besides Warlock, the card used to see some play in just about every class – there were even Reno Paladins or Reno Hunters and it’s not like they didn’t work – some people used to hit rather high Legend ranks with those decks. After the last expansion, Reno decks became much, much more popular, but at the same time less diverse. Reno was pretty much forced into 3 classes – Warlock, Mage and Priest. There is little to no reason to play it in the others, as only them have access to Kazakus (and the class highlander Legendaries, but Kazakus is the main reason). Reno’s effect is one of the most powerful ones ever printed. It heals you to full for just 6 mana, while also giving you a pretty significant 4/6 body. While the card was never really broken, because using it meant that you need to sacrifice the deck’s consistency a bit, it’s definitely one of the most impactful cards ever.
If I had to rate the impact of them, I’d probably say that it was Reno Jackson > Brann Bronzebeard > Sir Finely Mrrgglton > Elise Starseeker. However, while the first two are clear, the third and fourth are very close to each other.
I will honestly miss all 4 of them. League of Explorers was my favorite expansion. Each of those Legendaries filled a nice niche. Each of them was strong, but they weren’t too powerful. I’ll be very sad to see Reno Jackson gone, as RenoLock is my favorite deck of all time. But hey, we just have to hope to get more unique, interesting, fun and strong (at the same time) cards in next expansion!
- Quick Shot – I’m pretty convinced that Quick Shot was one of the most powerful Hunter cards ever printed (not the pre-nerf Call of the Wild or Starving Buzzard level of broken, but still). 2 copies of the card were auto-include into any Hunter’s list. Hunter’s most common game plan was burning the opponent down and Quick Shot was perfect card for that. It was flexible, as it could be used in the early game as a board control tool, then in the late game as a burn and it even had an upside. If you happened to be out of cards, IT DREW A CARD. That’s insane.
- Imp Gang Boss – Probably played in every Warlock deck ever since it was released. However, it never had a huge impact outside of the Zoo Warlock. Then, because of the general power creep of the game it wasn’t even that powerful recently. Around the time it was released, it was one of the strongest cards. Right now? It doesn’t really trade into most of the small drops, as many of them have 3-4 health right now. Shaman can get a 3/3 Trogg (1-drop) before you even drop it. 4 health isn’t that hard to get rid of – I mean, people are killing Doomsayers on turn 2 for god’s sake… It used to be a great card, right now it’s only good.
- Revenge – One of the cards that made Control Warrior such a great counter to Aggro decks. Aggro decks will eventually get you down to low health. That’s inevitable. So at some point, unless Aggro deck bursts you down from 13 to 0 (and it doesn’t happen that often), Revenge will be a 3 damage AoE for just 2 mana. Huge tempo swing, I won tons of games when my opponent played into this card or vice versa – when I was playing around it as something like Zoo Warlock.
- Living Roots – One of the two basic Druid’s early game removals (the other one being Wrath) will be gone. If Aggro decks will still dominate the ladder, it will be a big hit. Not to mention that it was one of the most important cards in Malygos Druid, as it was part of the combo.
- Mulch – Another Druid card, this time a big removal. Actually, the only solid big removal available to Druid. And only “solid”, because it’s not even that strong – giving your opponent a random minion is very risky and can lead to some rage quits (I remember playing Ramp Druid mirror and giving my opponent Jaraxxus when I had zero burst available – GG). However, since it’s the only big removal available to Druid, it will be missed.
- Thunder Bluff Valiant – Another strong Shaman card rotating out. However, Shamans have so many strong cards that they won’t really cry. It was commonly used in Midrange Shaman back in the day. Right now no one uses it, because it’s just too slow. It might make a comeback if meta slows down, but we won’t have to see it in Standard anyway.
- Elemental Destruction – This rotation might not be that impactful, as the card has rarely seen any play anyway, but I will really miss it. Slow, Control Shaman builds were the only Shaman builds I’ve enjoyed and Elemental Destruction was like a base of them. Big, cheap AoE with a huge drawback – 5 Overload – which you tried to negate at all costs. The card would be weaker with Lava Shock also rotating out, but at the same time, Hallazeal the Ascended is still in Standard, and that combo is like a Shaman-only Reno Jackson. Overall a pretty powerful card, but it was held back by the fact that Control Shaman was never really powerful – or at least not as powerful as other Shaman archetypes.
- Argent Horserider – Aggro decks used to run Wolfrider in this slot, but it turned out that Horserider is pretty much better at everything. Sure, it deals 1 less damage, but it can kill a minion without dying and it’s harder to remove from the board. Right now we don’t even see Horseriders, because current Aggro have so many efficient minions that Horserider does nothing (2 damage on turn 3? hahaha) but it used to be a card ran by nearly every Aggro deck out there.
- Forgotten Torch – Powerful card, especially in slower Mage builds where you a) didn’t want to get into fatigue too soon and b) wanted to have more burst. The second part of the Torch was especially useful in Freeze Mage. 3 mana could be combo’d with other stuff easier than 4 mana (Fireball), meaning that OTK builds became way more successful.
That’s all folks. What do you think about the list? Do you agree/disagree with my picks? What would you choose if you had to name 5 most impactful cards that will rotate out in ~2 months?
I can’t wait for the next rotation, because I’m getting sick of the current meta already. The Pirates are disgusting, Shamans dominate the ladder for 6 months straight and playing against the same Reno builds over and over again (because they’re pretty much the only viable Control decks) gets boring too…
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Good luck on the ladder and until next time!