Time moves ever forward here at HSP, and this week we are going into the third wing of One Night in Karazhan. I have thoroughly enjoyed the first two weeks (it has been a long time since I have seen this much innovation on ladder) and the third week looks to be just as exciting as the previous two. In fact, it may be even cooler. This week we get some of the most powerful cards in the set, and there are many new brews and decks that are going to exist as a result. Though many of the cards are not going to be at level ten power, each of the following has something very interesting going on that is worth taking a closer look at.
A card pretty much everyone is overlooking, I think Runic Egg has a lot of potential for a wide variety of different lists and archetypes. Though a 0/2 body is very (very) underwhelming, the ability to draw a card on a one drop is very nice. This card allows you to basically cycle through your deck without having to commit too much to it. You can run this out on turn one and then just let it sit there until it eventually dies and gets you value (and it will die). This card probably works best in token builds where you have many buffs at your disposal. One mana makes it aggressive, and the two health is amazing with things like Blessing of Might, Mark of the Wild, Rockbiter Weapon or Divine Strength. Not to mention, once your opponent deals with it you get a cantrip to offset your card disadvantage from the buff.
Something important to note is that most people are going to be afraid of Runic Egg, meaning it is going to get killed a lot of the time you play it. The reason for this is that any buff makes the egg a formidable threat. As such, your opponents are most often going to kill it while it has no attack to limit any potential value. That enables you run it in decks that don’t even have that many buffs as a way to simply put down a body and dig deeper. I could also see this card in control where it can be used to eat two damage or cantrip during mass AOE. Renolock and heavy Shaman Control could both love this card for that reason. Deathrattle Rogue (which naturally runs Defender of Argus and Unearthed Raptor) may also want this to activate combo and fill out their curve.
Possibly one of my favorite cards of the set, Nightbane Templar is exactly what Dragon Paladin needs to be a top tier deck. As Muster for Battle taught us, having access to three bodies on turn three is an amazing. Now, you don’t get the 1/3 weapon with Templar, but one of your bodies is a 2/3. That is a big deal since this card can eat just about any aggro opener and really slows down tempo oriented decks like Mage and Rogue. Dealing with this card is not easy by any means, giving Dragon Paladin an instant board that curves right into their turn four Truesilver Champion or Twilight Guardian. In addition, being able to coin this out on turn two vs. aggro is just an incredible play that will shut down a lot of early pushes. Though Paladin is going to have to wait until the last wing for all of the dragon tools they need (Book Wyrm), I imagine it is going to be a very formidable deck thanks to this card.
Though people are making comparisons to Blackwing Technician, I think this card is miles better. Tempo is the name of the game in the current Hearthstone meta, and this card allows much more board presence and bodies to play with. I would see this card like Cloaked Huntress or Kindly Grandmother in the current Midrange Hunter builds. That is to say, it gives more early game, which better keeps you alive and sets up your end-game. Now that your early curve is stronger and has more consistency, I think you can run four big dragons alongside Tirion Fordring. It seems this deck will be a lot like Dragon Warrior, except you trade burst damage for superior minions. While I have no fully realized the healing package yet, you may not even need that much healing as you are now more tempo than strict control.
The topic of a lot of controversy over the past few weeks, Menagerie Warden is a very strong card that is certainly going to craft Beast Druid into a top tier deck. However, honestly speaking, I think this is a fine card. While it may be a tad stronger than many would like, these are the types of powerful minions decks need to compete. Beast Druid has always been on the edge (I got it to rank 2 before Karazhan) it now has the tools to push it over. Starting with Enchanted Raven on turn one, the list can consistently push out a strong minion at each part of the game. As a result, I would see this list a lot like Midrange Hunter, where you just build on your threats turn after turn. While you do not have the inherent deathrattle and burst damage that Hunter does, your ramp largely makes up for that.
Continuing on the Hunter comparison, Menagerie Warden is going to be Beast Druid’s Savannah Highmane. That is to say, it is going to be the trump card that comes down and cements the game when you have board going into turn six. Though it is not as strong as Highmane is, Warden can pack a huge punch and instantly fill up the board with a high mass of threats. This will allow you to swing games and force your opponent onto the backfoot in the same way Onyx Bishop can. This is a pretty straightforward deck, you play beasts and do your beast to keep control of the board. One thing to note is that, after playing the deck so much myself, I believe you only want one copy of Savage Roar. Minions and fast stats are key in this deck and you do not want to clog up your hand. I could be wrong, but that’s my personal preference.
Bababababa. Babbling Book is a very interesting card that cements itself into the Webspinner/Swashburglar cycle of being a 1/1 for one that provides some minimal card draw value over the course of the game. However, unlike the other two, this one is always going to give you a spell. And not just any spell, a Mage spell. That is important because it means this is often going to turn into removal, AOE or freeze. Of course there are a couple of fringe spells in there, but that’s the vast majority. For that reason, this card does very well in slower Mage decks that just want more options without actually diluting their deck. For instance, in Reno Mage you can now play a deck of all one-ofs that can get duplicates through Babbling Book, Ethereal Conjurer and Cabalist’s Tome. Having access to more spells outside of your deck is quite strong in the class and could really add some consistency to some less-used archetypes.
I will also mention I do not think this card is going to be a Tempo Mage card. While it could sneak its way into the deck (and will require some testing) a 1/1 for one is absolutely not what the list wants or needs. They already have a very tight thirty, and I don’t see any cards they would want to cut for a card as non-aggressive as this. However, there is a real space for this in classic control. Having a 1/1 in the early game is very nice because it allows you to ping an one or two cost minion, which then allows you to finish it off with a spell or hero power. On top of that, you are likely also going to get a freeze/AOE/removal spell to help build up your lategame. Though this card does not look like it is going to cause much of an uproar, it is likely going to be apart of the non-Reno Control Mage decks that are on the horizon. More consistency is never a bad thing and it is always nice to have something to do on turn one.
I have talked about Cat Trick in my past articles, and I think this card is going to slot right into Hunter. A two mana Jungle Panther is probably not quite good enough to see play over Hunter’s current options, but a two mana Jungle Panther that has charge and is resistant to AOE is more than fine. Add on the fact that it comes in secret form, triggering off of Cloaked Huntress, and you have an all-star card. I have long talked about how strong both Snake Trap and Bear Trap are with Huntress because they are minions. In that way you can run secrets without having to worry about losing board or giving up tempo. This card helps with that by giving you a third option. You now have a way to run an all-beast token list that can just go off with your new three drop or swarm the board early on with a plethora of secrets and beasts. In addition, adding a beast with stealth really helps when it comes to getting those all-important Houndmaster triggers.
The most important part of Cat Trick is that it adds yet another secret into the Hunter canon. This means your opponent is going to have even more difficulty trying to figure out what secrets you’re playing. Do they attack into a Bear Trap or Freezing Trap? Maybe they trade minions and trigger Snake Trap? Or do they play a minion into Snipe or risk giving you a 4/2 panther with a spell? That adds a lot of extra confusion and will lead to more misplays from your opponent. Triggering off of spells also makes this best friends with Cloaked Huntress. There are many times where you play Huntress onto an empty board and she gets instantly taken down by a spell. This now simply makes it so your traded a 3/4 for a 4/2 (which then curves into Houndmaster). A very strong card that I imagine will make it into a wide range of Hunter builds.
Shhhh! Secrets baby! While Hunter secrets seems to be back in a real way, it has been a long time since Mage has had some power in that department. Though I do not think this card is going to breed a new Kirin Tor Mage deck (though if it does I will be the first one playing it), I do think this and Medivh’s Valet (which you better bet we’re going to discuss next week) are going to create a really powerful Control Mage. To date, all Control Mage decks have been Reno. As someone who has extensively tried to make Control Mage, the reason for this is a lack of solid minions. While you have a lot of stall and removal at your disposal, it often isn’t enough to offset the high amount of burst in the meta. This means you would spend most of the game removing threats and then die to something like a Doomhammer or Grommash Hellscream. You needed Reno to offset that, which then made it so you only had one-ofs.
Avian Watcher (along with Babbling Book and Medivh’s Valet) changes that dichotomy by giving you a way to play strict control. While you will probably only run three secrets in your deck (two Ice Block and one Ice Barrier) Block never goes away. That means you are almost always going to have the trigger ready for Watcher and Valet. This deck is built like a stock control Mage where your whole goal is to grind your opponent out of resources by removing everything they play. You have access to a ton of AOE and removal options, and gaining two 4/7’s with taunt for five really helps your middle game. This will anchor you down in the same way that Sludge Belcher once did for Grinder Mage and enable you to stay alive through out-of-hand burst. Seven health is very hard to get through for many decks, especially if you can back this up with a wide range of different spells. Consistency is the name of the game here, and Control Mage has a lot of it. There are a lot of finishers you could choose from, but I think going the Alextrasza/Archmage Antonidas route is probably the best. Rhonin may even be worth considering as well.
The Curator has to be the coolest legendary of the set. The reason being that he is one of those rare cards that you see and immediately go “this is terrible” before you say “wait…there’s something here.” It is very simple to overlook this card as some wacky Ben Brode experiment, but there are actually a lot of Beasts, Murlocs and Dragons in the game. Not to mention, a 4/7 with taunt (as covered with Avian Watcher) is extremely powerful. This card is probably best in Reno decks where you can use it to search up a lot of silver bullet cards like Ysera, Alextrasza, Stampeding Kodo, Sir Finely Mrrglton and Corrupted Seer. It will add a ton of consistency to the deck and give you a way to tutor for whatever you need. If this even draws one card it is an ok trade, but if manages to draw two or three it is an absolute blowout. For those reasons, I imagine this will see a lot of play in the coming months. It may even sneak its way into control decks as a toolbox to fetch certain cards you always want to have during the later stages of the game. The ability to draw is always strong, and if you can control those draws it gets even better. I imagine The Curator will also be used in certain Druid lists to find things like Onyxia, Azure Drake.
More cards are never a bad thing, and this adventure just keeps getting better and better. It has been a long time since I have seen so much variety and experimentation on ladder, and that is just plain awesome. Karazhan is turning into one heck of a party and I cannot wait to see where the last wing takes us. I hope you’re all having a good time with it, and I hope everything is going well for all you. Until next week, happy brewing!