Hearthstone’s League of Explorers expansion is finally finished, and we’ve already seen more impact from its cards than from the massive, 120-card The Grand Tournament injection could muster. Blizzard knows when to shake things up, there was a sense their game was becoming stale, so it responded by introducing some necessary new power.
So I went ahead and looked at each of the nine classes and gauged the effects League of Explorers has had on their overall health. Some are rolling in brand new exciting archetypes and the future couldn’t be brighter. Some are basically doing what they’ve always been doing with a few new arena cards, (sorry Warrior).
It hasn’t quite caught on yet, but Rogue is easily the most interesting class coming out of Hearthstone. That’s mostly because of one card. Unearthed Raptor has a near-Legendary effect tied to a great statline. Three mana, 3/4. copy a friendly deathrattle. You get the idea. You play this thing, target your Nerubian Egg, and when it dies you get a 4/4. That’s a combined 7/8 stats for three mana.
This is sort of game breaking. It’s a drastic effect, and the sort of card you can build a whole new archetype around. Generally, Blizzard likes to avoid those massive swings, but Rogue has been criminally underrepresented since Miracle died late last year. The past few months were especially rough, with Oil Rogue falling out of favor and none of the Grand Tournament cards catching on. Valeera needed a new gimmick, and copying deathrattles is easily drastic enough to get us thinking about the class in a new way. And honestly, that’s all I was asking for.
To say that Blizzard has been trying to revitalize Shaman would be a tremendous understatement. The class has been more or less MIA since the Goblins vs. Gnomes expansion, but Blizzard has certainly been trying. In Blackrock Mountain, Shaman got a pretty useful spell, Lava Shock, that ended up being a little too specific for the current meta, and in The Grand Tournament they were outfitted with a bevy of Totem-tribe synergy (Tuskarr Totemic, Thunder Bluff Aspirant, Totem Golem) that seemed poised to revitalize the class’ mid-range roots.
Unfortunately that didn’t happen. All of those cards clunked and Shaman basically looked like a weaker version of Paladin. However, in League of Explorers the class received the most crucial minion in its history. The wee little 1/3 for one Tunnel Trogg that gets an attack boost for every mana crystal you overload with, say, Feral Spirit or Crackle, or whatever else. Locking up your resources still sucks, but when you’re also buffing a 1/3 into a 3/3 it becomes a lot more palatable. Already Tunnel Trogg has given rise to a pretty well-respected aggro Shaman deck that’s getting play from luminaries like Trump. Thrall is finally back guys.
Warlocks didn’t get anything in The Grand Tournament, and that’s mostly because Zoo and Handlock were doing just fine. Instead they got a bunch of experimental stuff like Void Crusher, Dreadsteed, Fist of Jaraxxus, and Tiny Knight of Evil. All fun! But totally not competitive. But League of Explorers has stepped Gul’dan’s game up considerably. Dark Peddler has already become a pretty valuable card in Handlocks that need the extra fuel, and as much as people dismissed Reliquary Seeker before release, it turns out that playing a 5/5 for one mana works as a foundational ingredient. Good! Blizzard threw a bone to the established decks. We’ve not seen Curse of Rafaam just yet, and while it sports a unique effect, I don’t think it’ll be ready for primetime. Still, we’re happy that Warlock is getting some real cards!
Druid has consistently been one of the most healthy classes in all of Hearthstone, with mid-range, aggro, and control archetypes constantly filling out ladder. Blizzard continues to be nice to the class in League of Explorers with three new cards that will get some serious consideration. Mounted Raptor is a 3/2 for three mana that spawns a random one-drop – like a baby Piloted Shredder – which can absolutely make sense on some faster lists. It’s also a beast, so maybe Beast Druid will finally happen? I don’t have my hopes up. There’s also Raven Idol which lets you discover either a minion or a spell for one mana, which I’m not totally convinced is worth its weight in a deck just yet.
Perhaps most intriguing is Jungle Moonkin, which gives both players +2 spell damage. That doesn’t seem like a lot, but if two of them are on the board you can Moonfire for five damage a pop. There’s a ton of combo potential here, and it might be good enough to spawn an archetype all by itself.
Mage was already pretty well represented pre-League of Explorers, with three healthy archetypes—Freeze, Tempo, and Mech—staying relevant on ladder no matter what. As such, they didn’t really need any game-changing foundational pieces, but two of their new cards are finding a home. Forgotten Torch, a spell that lets you pay three mana for three damage in hopes of paying three mana for six damage later on, has fit nicely into Freeze Mages who can always use spot removal and an extra fireball or two, and the card-discovering, weak-bodied Ethereal Conjuror is making certain lists that are experimenting with a slower, controlling style. Not bad for a class that didn’t really need the help!
Priest is one of the few classes that was truly rejuvenated post-The Grand Tournament. The addition of the uber-powerful two-drop Wyrmrest Agent gave rise to a new world of Dragon Priest, and now, a few months later, that’s pretty much the only archetype getting play. League of Explorers doesn’t add any new dragon cards, but it does offer up Museum Curator, a paltry 1/2 statline that comes with the powerful ability to discover a deathrattle card. That certainly seems interesting enough to make some lists, and certainly more potent than Entomb (expensive, but colorful removal) and Excavated Evil (yet another board clear for a class that doesn’t need it.)
Paladin has dominated the meta since the fall of Patron Warrior between their mid-range and secret archetypes. And shockingly, Blizzard made a new secret for them in League of Explorers. Unfortunately (or luckily depending on your perspective) that secret is Sacred Trial, and is easily played around and reserved for arena nonsense. We dodged a bullet!
Paladin also got Keeper of Uldaman, a quasi-removal…thing that sets a minion to a 3/3. You can use that to get a nerf an enemy big or to buff a Silver Hand Recruit for a more favorable trade. It’s good! A totally reasonable card that will probably see play forever. Kinda like the Aldor Peacekeepers and Animal Companions of the world.
Okay, there’s one other card. Anyfin Can Happen is a 10(!) mana spell that summons seven random murlocs that have died over the course of your game. That is insane, hilarious, and pretty much unplayable, but I think it’ll make for some great highlight videos. And that’s all I’m really asking for.
You’ve got to hand it to Blizzard, it’s going to keep pushing Hunter away from their ultra-aggro tendencies until it finally clicks. However, we’re still pretty far from the control dream. Explorer’s Hat is a weird, recurring +1/+1 buff that seems designed specifically to replace Hunter’s hero power, which is admirable, but it hasn’t caught on quite yet. There’s also the unreleased Dart Trap, which punishes the other player for using their hero power with five random damage—which also seems reserved for longer, drawn out games. The only real contender is Desert Camel, a big tempo three-drop that summons a one-mana creature from each deck. A perfect way to pull out those Leper Gnomes, which will only maintain Hunter’s place as the fastest class in Hearthstone.
Control Warrior is one of the most consistent, rock-solid decks in Hearthstone history, and after a brief dalliance with the broken Patron meta of the past few months, Garrosh is returning to his roots. And honestly, after Blizzard let things spin wildly out of control for the class post-Blackrock Mountain, it looks like they’re playing it safe. Obsidian Destroyer is a perfectly solid, fairly unplayable Dr. Boom wannabee that seems destined for arena drafts only, and the same could be said for Fierce Monkey which is a very vanilla 3/4 for three with taunt. The only bit of exotic design is reserved for the currently unreleased Cursed Blade, which lets you equip a 2/3 weapon for one mana with the drawback of taking double damage with each swing. That might be good? Who knows, but for the most part we’re standing pat with Warrior.
Screengrab via PlayHearthstone/YouTube
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