Old Gods Card Reviews: Arena Edition, Part 2

Welcome back to another edition of Arena card reviews! This installation starts with cards announced after March 30. Last time around, none of the cards made the Great tier, but the most recent batch of cards has been much stronger for Arena. Check out my previous Old Gods reviews for cards released before March 30. […]

Introduction

Welcome back to another edition of Arena card reviews! This installation starts with cards announced after March 30. Last time around, none of the cards made the Great tier, but the most recent batch of cards has been much stronger for Arena. Check out my previous Old Gods reviews for cards released before March 30.

Dive in with me and see what’s lurking below!

Tier ???

You’ll notice that a brand new tier makes it appearance in this installment, and that’s because we got a card that’s so weird and so different from anything in the game that literally no one knows how to really evaluate it without playing it. This tier is reserved for the one, the only…

yogg-saron-hopes-end — 10-mana 7/5 Neutral Legendary minion, Battlecry: Cast a random spell for each spell you’ve cast this game (targets chosen randomly).

You know how bonkers this card is? This card is so bonkers that even in Arena, where you can’t plan on having a bunch of spells, it’s likely to play somewhere in the range of 12 mana worth of spells on completely random targets. I can only imagine what this thing will do in a spell heavy deck.

Whether Yogg-Saron will be bonkers good or bonkers bad is yet to be determined, but there are some hints that it will at least be a decent card. There are plenty of spells that are only ever beneficial to you: Secrets, card draw, untargeted board clears like flamestrike, and enemy-only spells like mind-blast, assassinate, execute, etc. There are, of course, some incredibly bad results here (cough, *astral-communion*), but most of the time, the results should favor you over your opponent. Still, I can’t tell you whether this will be good or not, and I don’t think anyone else can, either. I do hope if you get offered a Yogg-Saron, you choose fun, because the Arena addicts among us are going to be sad that he’ll be a rare sight. Also, in the meantime, you can play around with this Yogg-Saron simulator.

Terrible Cards

This tier includes all the cards you never want to see come up in an Arena draft, either because their stats or terrible or their effects are too situational. Examples include master-swordsmith, angry-chicken, and stoneskin-gargoyle.

ancient-harbinger — 6-mana 4/6 Neutral Epic minion, At the start of your turn, put a 10-Cost minion from your deck into your hand.

Helloooooooo, windfury-harpy. You know, I would actually really like a 6-mana 4/6 minion that draws you a card, but Ancient Harbinger will almost never draw you a card (much less multiple cards). First, it has to survive a turn, an unlikely proposition when you just played 5 mana worth of stats on 6 mana. Second, you have to have a 10-mana minion in your deck, which is very unlikely in Arena. Granted, if you happen to draft deathwing or any other 10-drop, then feel free to draft Ancient Harbinger as an okay carerd. Otherwise, yeah, you’re pretty much getting a Windfury Harpy without Windfury. Sad times.

demented-frostcaller — 4-mana 2/4 Mage Rare minion, After you cast a spell, freeze a random enemy.

flamewaker is a perfectly fair Arena card for the simple reason that you cannot expect more than a handful of spells in any Arena deck. By that reasoning, Demented Frostcaller will be outright terrible, since it costs 1 more mana for the same stats, and its effect is arguably worse than Flamewaker’s. Freezing enemies is good (see frost-elemental), but the strength of that is that you can stall for better trades, make way for a face push, or neutralize a threat you don’t want to deal with. All of those require targeted freeze, so freezing randomly is really bad (plus it can target the enemy hero). So, even if you do trigger Demented Frostcaller (which is a big if), you may just end up accomplishing nothing, leaving this at a 4-mana 2/4 quite a bit of the time.

embrace-the-shadow — 2-mana Priest Epic spell, This turn, your healing effects deal damage instead.

Embrace the Shadow suffers from a common problem Epic cards face in Arena: many Epic cards are designed around synergies that just won’t work in Arena, because the individual cards are generally bad (the case here) and/or the synergies are too rare (also the case here). In order for this card to be anything other than 4-mana holy-smite, you need several of flash-heal, light-of-the-naaru, circle-of-healing, etc. Even then, you’re still stuck with some generally bad cards like Flash Heal.

Bad Cards

This tier includes cards that are not good but have some redeeming qualities, such as situationally useful cards like kobold-geomancer or cards with acceptable stats like murloc-warleader.

blood-warriors — 3-mana Warrior Epic spell, Add a copy of each damaged friendly minion to your hand.

Blood Warriors is going to be bad in Arena for one simple reason: it’s almost always difficult to end up with more than one damaged minion on your turn. For this card to be decent, it needs to trigger on two minions, much like bolster. Also like Bolster, the chances of this happening are very low. The reason battle-rage is good is because it’s almost always a cantrip and is fairly often a 2-mana draw 2 card. The times, however, when you can Battle Rage for 3 or more cards are really rare, and I would pretty much always rather have Battle Rage than Blood Warriors. I initially put this card in the Terrible tier, but there is one saving grace: ravaging-ghoul. That card being a Common card that you’ll pick fairly often (especially with the presumed “latest expansion” bonus in Arena) will give you a built-in trigger for Blood Warriors. Similarly, I would slightly bump up my evaluation of acolyte-of-pain and other cards that benefit from self-damage in Warrior because of Ravaging Ghoul.

spreading-madness — 3-mana Warlock Rare spell, Deal 9 damage randomly split among ALL characters.

To get us thinking about Spreading Madness, I’d actually like to consider whirlwind and ravaging-ghoul. Why is Whirlwind bad in Arena, while dread-infernal and (so I predict) Ravaging Ghoul are good, perhaps even great? The thing about Whirlwind is that it can be a very powerful effect, but most of the time the effect is not particularly significant. In a stand-alone card, then, you’re spending a card to do something that probably won’t really change the game (though the times when it does, you’re fine spending that card). By attaching that effect to a body, though, you have the flexibility to play it without the effect being meaningful. Even when the effect is meaningful, the body means that you can set up a board that’s favorable for a Whirlwind effect, then Whirlwind + develop a decent body on your board for cheaper (in mana and cards) than you could have in two separate cards.

I say all of that because Spreading Madness presents a similar case: a madder-bomber-like effect without the body. The reason Madder Bomber is a good Arena card is exactly the same as Dread Infernal and Ravaging Ghoul: you can set up a board where Madder Bomber is a favorable play, then you get a slight bonus from Madder Bomber + a 5/4 minion. That 5/4 minion is so key here, and that’s why I suspect Spreading Madness will be bad. While you can set up a board that’s favorable here, you can’t play this card and also develop your own board until much later in the game. The one-card vs. two-cards issue isn’t particularly relevant, since Warlocks pretty much always have card advantage, but the fact that this card hurts your stuff does make it harder to play when you’ve been using life-tap a bunch.

thistle-tea — 6-mana Rogue Rare spell, Draw a card. Add 2 extra copies of it to your hand.

It’s hard to call any large card draw bad, but Thistle Tea is about as bad as you could make a card that draws 3 cards. First, it’s overcosted at 6 mana, since cards like cabalists-tome and nourish cost 5 mana (this costs the same as ball-of-spiders, which actually puts 3/3 in stats on the board immediately). Second, the chromaggus-like duplicating of the same card is actually a significant downside most of the time. Some of the best Rogue cards don’t stack particularly well, such as backstab, sap, etc. While there will be times that Thistle Tea draws you 3 copies of eviscerate and wins you the game, the inconsistency of possible dead draws will be a problem. I would much rather have a straight draw 3 than this effect, and even then, that card would be a worse sprint. One of the great things about Sprint is that it can be used to either dig for lethal damage or to refuel your board. There will be times when you need to refuel, and Thistle Tea draws you a bunch of spells. There will also be times when you need direct damage, and Thistle Tea draws you a bunch of useless minions. All in all, then, a disappointing card that won’t make much of an impact on Arena Rogues.

vilefin-inquisitor — 1-mana 1/3 Paladin Epic Murloc, Battlecry: Your Hero Power becomes “Summon a 1/1 Murloc.”

I love this card because I love all Murlocs, and this card is literally infinite Murlocs. But, I hate to say it, 1-mana 1/3 minions are pretty bad in Arena. They’re not 100% terrible, since they can be pretty solid when played on Turn 1. Played after that, though, they’re really bad. Let’s not pretend like this effect is going to be meaningful. In fact, it may even be harmful, since warhorse-trainer is a Common card. Sad mlrrrglrlgrlll.

Average Cards

This tier includes all the cards that you’re neither upset nor happy to see in an Arena draft. Think about cards like bloodfen-raptor or djinni-of-zephyrs.

blood-of-the-ancient-one — 9-mana 9/9 Neutral Epic minion, If you control two of these at the end of your turn, merge them into “The Ancient One.”

The chances of drafting the same Neutral Epic card in twice in the same run are minuscule. Add to that the chances of drawing both in the same game and playing the second while the first is still alive and you will basically never see the-ancient-one in Arena. However, this card introduces something we have yet to have in Arena: a vanilla 9-mana 9/9 (i.e., beefier war-golem). In general, minions whose stats are even with their mana cost (e.g., 4-mana 4/4, 5-mana 5/5, etc.) fall squarely in the average range. They’re functional—and this will serve as a big minion when you need a big minion—but they also don’t really give you a lot for what you pay for them. I would generally rather have a War Golem than Blood of The Ancient One, but that’s just because it can come out 2 turns earlier. Cool artwork on this card and The Ancient One, though!

servant-of-yogg-saron — 5-mana 5/4 Mage Rare minion, Battlecry: Cast a random spell that costs (5) or less (targets chosen randomly).

While I put yogg-saron-hopes-end in its own tier, I still generally think it will be a good card (assuming you’ve cast a decent number of spells). It would be easy to call this card good, too, but that would be ignoring the principle behind what makes Yogg-Saron good. The larger your sample size, the more consistent your results: any single random spell could hurt you or help you, but on average, random spells are beneficial, so if you cast a bunch of them, the end result will tend to be consistently beneficial.

The problem with Servant of Yogg-Saron, then, is that it will be a very high-variance card. Sometimes you’ll outright win the game with an assassinate, fireball, etc. Other times, you’ll Fireball one of your own minions and be sad. That kind of variance swing hurts cards in Arena, since it hurts their consistency. Take spellslinger: it should be good based on its stats and the fact that it fills the Mage minion curve quite nicely. However, the inconsistency of the effect means that it can easily lose you the game, and that’s a bad thing for Arena players looking to go anything other than 3-3. Servant of Yogg-Saron has a worse body than Spellslinger, but its effect is slightly better than symmetrical, as we saw with Yogg himself. The question is: will that slight lean toward beneficial make this effect worthwhile? I obviously don’t think so, but there’s also a pretty good chance that I’m wrong about this card and it will turn out to be good.

wisps-of-the-old-gods — 7-mana Druid Epic spell, Choose One – Summon seven 1/1 Wisps; or Give your minions +2/+2.

I know it’s easy to look at this card and assume it will be bad, but Wisps of the Olds is surprisingly decent in Arena. The reason a card like dark-wispers is good in Arena is that it can flip between being good when you’re behind and good when you’re ahead. Taken purely on the second Choose One option, this card is worse than everyfin-is-awesome, since it will never get a discount and since it comes in a non-token class. The first option is definitely relevant, though, and as with all Choose One cards, the flexibility is not an insignificant factor. This is definitely weaker than Dark Wispers, since the buff option is much less strong, but the board development option is almost certainly better (1 mana for 2 Wisps). I certainly wouldn’t pick this card highly, but it can fill out a solid midrange Druid deck just fine.

Good Cards

These cards aren’t slouches, but they also aren’t the cream of the crop. ogre-brute, flame-juggler, and assassinate fit here.

cabalists-tome — 5-mana Mage Epic spell, Add 3 random Mage spells to your hand.

The mana-to-cards ratio of Cabalist’s Tome is somewhat average, much akin to nourish. The power level of the card, then, depends heavily on its predictability: how often will the Tome generate good cards? There are currently 29 Mage spells in the game prior to the release of Old Gods, and more than half of those (15) are generally good-to-great spells. Very few of the remaining ones are inconsequential, with ice-lance and ice-block probably being the worst draws from Cabalist’s Tome. It seems, then, that the fact that Mage spells are consistently good (and often better than almost any minion)—as seen in ethereal-conjurer being so great—helps mitigate for the randomness factor of this card.

That’s part of why I think the Tome will be a good Arena card, but not the only reason. It also fits Mage’s general play style very well (and works with Mage spell synergy cards like mana-wyrm, sorcerers-apprentice, and flamewaker). Especially since the introduction of Ethereal Conjurer, Mages in Arena often try to simply outlast their opponents by using a lot of removal and board clears. Cabalist’s Tome allows you to generate even more removals and board clears. In a deck with a ton of these cards already, the Tome is less good, but in a more minion-centric deck or in one with an even blend, it should be good. As with all larger card draw, though, you should be careful to not value this card too highly if your deck is already slow.

chogall — 7-mana 7/7 Warlock Legendary minion, Battlecry: The next spell you cast this turn costs Health instead of Mana.

Cho’Gall is the definition of a high-variance card: there will be times when you can use it to create a massive swing, but there will also be times where you don’t have either the spells or the health and you play a war-golem. The spells that work best with Cho’Gall are often at least Rare, but there are cards like darkbomb and shadow-bolt in the Common slot. siphon-soul is perhaps the best card to use alongside Cho’Gall, since you end up losing 3 health to play a 7/7 and destroy a minion. bane-of-doom and imp-losion are pretty great, too, but those cards are pretty much always great, even without Cho’Gall. That’s one thing going for this card: you don’t have to sacrifice deck quality in any way to make the synergies work. All in all, though, this should be a solid card in most decks that really shines in the occasional spell-heavy Warlock deck.

deathwing-dragonlord — 10-mana 12/12 Neutral Legendary Dragon, Deathrattle: Put all Dragons from your hand into the battlefield.

There’s not much to say about this card: it will be a big, beefy minion that occasionally (but rarely) puts a card from your hand on the battlefield when it dies. One notable thing, though, is that this is one of the only minions since dr-boom that, regardless of RNG, completely breaks the vanilla stats system of (mana cost x 2) + 1 (or for expensive cards, such as war-golem, fossilized-devilsaur, and blood-of-the-ancient-one, just mana cost x 2). That said, this will come out on Turn 10 at the earliest, and that’s a significant knock. Still, it’s a much bigger threat than War Golem (and its compatriats), and in games where War Golem is relevant, Deathwing, Dragonlord will almost always also be relevant. The effect may not be relevant often, but the pure stats on this thing make it fairly decent, since you will get to play it in a lot of games, and when you do, it will absolutely demand removal (and will be a pain to remove in Arena).

possessed-villager — 1-mana 1/1 Warlock Common minion, Deathrattle: Summon a 1/1 Shadow Beast.

On the surface, Possessed Villager is basically a Warlock-specific argent-squire. There are some edge cases where one is better than the other: power-overwhelming, permanent buffs, etc. For Arena purposes, though, they’re pretty much the same card. Argent Squire is a solid card in all classes, but it is particularly good in Warlock, since it fits into Warlock’s strength. One of the best ways to play Warlock in Arena is to simply draft a ton of small cards and constantly put pressure on your opponent. Argent Squire—and now Possessed Villager—fit that gameplan perfectly. One other thing to note here is that this is a definite buff to dark-peddler: there will be plenty of times when you now get a Possessed Villager instead of reliquary-seeker, and that’ll definitely make a difference in Peddler’s performance.

ravaging-ghoul — 3-mana 3/3 Warrior Common minion, Battlecry: Deal 1 damage to all other minions.

Blizzard continues its trend of giving Warriors good common cards in Arena with Ravaging Ghoul, which is basically half a dread-infernal. Dread Infernal is slightly better than Ravaging Ghoul, since it comes out at a time in the game when you can almost always afford to set up the enemy board to take advantage of the Battlecry. Far more often than with Dread Infernal, you’ll need to play Ravaging Ghoul on a board where the Battlecry is inconsequential. Ravaging Ghoul has mediocre stats when that happens, but those stats are generally decent enough on Turn 3.

One thing I like about this card is that it makes N’Zoth’s First Mate better. The more early-game pings a class gets, the better each of those pings becomes, since you can combine them to handle early-game minions more efficiently (think of the power of a card like undercity-valiant). N’Zoth’s First Mate into a Turn 2 minion into running the Mate and Rusty Hook into your opponent’s play and finishing it off with Ravaging Ghoul is a strong opening that’s difficult your opponent to counter in any way.

shadowcaster — 5-mana 4/4 Rogue Epic minion, Battlecry: Choose a friendly minion. Add a 1/1 copy to your hand that costs (1).

The love child of unearthed-raptor, herald-volazj, and gnomish-experimenter, Shadowcaster is definitely an interesting card. First, let’s look at the base stats: 6-mana 4/4 + 1/1 is pretty reasonable, and though that stat line means you will need something on the board, that’s not too difficult for Rogues to manage. Gnomish Experimenter is a solid enough Arena card even when it doesn’t draw a spell. Shadowcaster, unfortunately, comes later in the game, where the weaker body is going to be more of a hit (and your opponent can generally afford the time to ping). For this to be good, then, its value will need to come in the effect.

As I said in the previous installment of these reviews, I overestimated the number of times Unearthed Raptor will actually hit a positive Deathrattle minion. However, Shadowcaster can hit quite a few more things: Inspire, ongoing effects like knife-juggler, and even Battlecry/Combo effects. The fact that Rogues always like having cheap Combo activators makes Shadowcaster’s effect even better. Some good Common/Rare Rogue minions here include buccaneer, dark-iron-skulker, defias-ringleader, goblin-auto-barber, master-of-disguise, pit-snake, si7-agent, tomb-pillager, and undercity-valiant. There are also a ton of neutral minions with good effects to target. The fact that it requires you to have another minion on the board already means Shadowcaster will be a very fair card, but it will also be pretty nasty when you manage to copy a Dark Iron Skulker and completely prevent your opponent from ever spreading out.

soggoth-the-slitherer — 9-mana Neutral Legendary minion, Taunt. Can’t be targeted by spells or Hero Powers.

Sometimes, the Taunt keyword on a card is not particularly important, but this is not one of those cards. Without Taunt, this is an expensive captured-jormungar. With Taunt, this is an expensive ancient-of-war. Ancient of War is a fantastic card not for its flexibility but for its combination of excellent stats and ability to protect your face and other minions. While Soggoth’s stats are subpar for the mana cost, that’s generally okay for a 9-mana card, since curve considerations start to become less important in the late game. This will fulfill two roles in your deck—big, beefy minion and Taunt for survivability/minion protection—and that’s always valuable. In fact, it will fulfill the second role just about as well as Ancient of War: while it has to come down 2 turns later, it also requires your opponent to use their board to deal with it. While them dealing with Soggoth may leave them with a few things left alive, it will also clear out a lot of their board and give you the ability to flip the board in your favor.

twilight-flamecaller — 3-mana 2/2 Mage Common minion, Battlecry: Deal 1 damage to all enemy minions.

Twilight Flamecaller is basically a ravaging-ghoul that sacrifices 1/1 in stats for the benefit of not hitting your own minions. As I said with Ravaging Ghoul, pings can stack very nicely, allowing you to take out a minion with 2 or 3 health when you otherwise could not, so this will be a good card in a ping class. One of the tricks for playing against Mage is to leave your own minions at 2 health to prevent pinging or to flood the board with a bunch of 1-health ping targets, but Twilight Flamecaller completely wrecks that strategy. Put another way, this card is a 1-mana 2/2 plus a 2-mana arcane-explosion. Put yet another way, this card is ironforge-rifleman is it hit all minions instead of just one.

One consideration here is that Twilight Flamecaller will have diminishing return. Common class minions in Old Gods will get offered a lot in your drafts, but you should generally shy away from more than 2 Twilight Flamecallers. The stats on the body are pretty weak (unlike Ravaging Ghoul), and the effect, while good a lot of the time, will become less important as the game goes on. I would generally be happy with 2 copies of this card, but I would not really want more than that in most decks.

twilight-summoner — 4-mana 1/1 Neutral Epic minion, Deathrattle: Summon a 5/5 Faceless Destroyer.

In terms of raw stats for a 4-drop, Twilight Summoner’s only real competition are fireguard-destroyer and piloted-shredder, both of which are great cards. Twilight Summoner will not quite reach those heights, but it will still be a decent card in Arena, where Silence effects are not particularly frequent.

The only real problem with Twilight Summoner is that it hands at least one turn of initiative over to your opponent. The great thing about a card like Piloted Shredder is that both halves of the card (pre- and post-Deathrattle) are generally strong enough to be relevant on the board. With Twilight Summoner, though, the initial body is so weak that your opponent will almost certainly ignore it. In many ways, then, this card is equivalent to a 4-mana 5/6 that comes into play Frozen. It’s strong, but it’s also possible to play around it for a smart opponent.

Given that weakness, you should value Twilight Summoner higher in a deck with decent amounts of removal. However, if your deck is generally lacking in initiative, I would give this card less consideration if it’s up against an equally strong card with a better initial body.

Great Cards

Some cards you pick almost every time you see them, and those fit in this tier. muster-for-battle might break this tier system, but piloted-shredder, north-sea-kraken, and bomb-lobber certainly go here.

call-of-the-wild — 8-mana Hunter Epic spell, Summon all 3 Animal Companions.

Well, that’s a card. Call of the Wild summons one each of huffer, leokk, and misha. animal-companion is a great card for 3 mana, and now you get three copies of a great card all wrapped up in a single card at a discounted price. Ridiculous. I won’t complain, though: I love playing Hunter in Arena, and any attempt by the developers to make Control Hunter into a reality will almost certainly help Arena Hunters.

With that over with, let’s look at the practicalities here. First, the Huffer you summon will be buffed by Leokk, so you get 5 damage. On top of that, you get a 5/4 Taunt and a 2/4 that buffs any existing minions on your board. Think about a card like bane-of-doom: you’re generally okay even if it only summons a succubus. This card is almost like a bigger Bane of Doom: it guarantees at least 5 damage with initiative, but it also guarantees two solid midrange bodies, with one of those bodies having Taunt. While there will be better Arena cards than this one—I’m looking at you, dr-boom and muster-for-battle—there will be very few of them, and none of them will be in the Epic slot. For me, Call of the Wild is pretty much always an instant pick.

faceless-summoner — 6-mana Mage Common minion, Battlecry: Summon a random 3-Cost minion.

If you told me that Blizzard was planning on designing a card that would bring Mage back to the peak of the Arena meta like it was in classic, I would guess it would be something like this. Mage has never lacked for single-target removal. Mage has never lacked for board clears. Mage has never lacked for small minions. But one thing it has historically struggled with is big minions. When drafting big cards in Mage, you often have to rely on neutral minions. ethereal-conjurer helped step into that role in LoE, and now, Faceless Summoner will be a premium card helping fill a similar role.

Cards like Faceless Summoner that have two bodies are generally strong in Arena for several reasons: their weakness (board clears) are less prevalent in Arena, they allow you to split up damage more efficiently in a mode that’s all about minion trading, and they give you card advantage by often taking out 1.5-2 of your opponent’s resources. silver-hand-knight is a great example of this principle at play, and Faceless Summoner is almost unequivocally better than Silver Hand Knight.

Let’s take look at the results to see why. First, the bad results, because there aren’t many of them: alarm-o-bot, dalaran-mage, flying-machine, and stoneskin-gargoyle. Even if you hit a plain 2/2 or 2/3 (or even magma-rager), that’s still a very reasonable stat line (7/7) for a 6-mana card. When you begin to look at the good results, though, this card becomes ridiculous: there are great Deathrattles like harvest-golem/mounted-raptor/dark-cultist; there are huge bodies like injured-blademaster/king-mukkla; there are Charge minions like arcane-golem/wolfrider/argent-horserider; there’s card draw in the form of acolyte-of-pain/mana-tide-totem; there are minion factories like imp-gang-boss/imp-master. On average, then, you’re going to end up with somewhere between 5 and 6 stat points from the extra body, and you will often end up with good effects.

One final comment: Faceless Summoner comes in at a slot where there aren’t very many strong picks. It’s usually around the 6-mana slot that you stop thinking about how many “drops” you have, but it’s also a slot where having a few drops allows you to not spend a ton of resources all in one turn. It’s the perfect window between ethereal-conjurer and flamestrike, and this being a Common card means you will see it a ton in Arena. Get ready for the new Faceless Summoner meta, folks.

hammer-of-twilight — 5-mana 4/2 Shaman Epic weapon, Deathrattle: Summon a 4/2 Elemental.

The one thing that’s always kept Arena Warriors at least viable has been weapons, and that’s because they work so well in the Arena format, where board control is key and health is not usually a major issue. Weapons in general are good, but I value Shaman and Hunter weapons higher than I would value identical weapons in other classes. There is somewhat of a diminishing return on weapons, since you only have one weapon slots, your hero’s health is a limited resource, and you still have to develop minions in order to play proactively.

Hammer of Twilight does suffer slightly from coming out on Turn 5, instead of Turn 4, when the 4-damage swing with the weapon is more relevant. However, 4 damage is still very relevant on Turn 5, and this weapon escalates quickly. For 5 mana, you basically deal 4 damage and develop a free 4 damage + 4/2 minion next turn. Yes, it’s pricey and may not outright kill that pit-fighter your opponent just dropped, but it’s also a ton of stats for the cost, and it sets up for a threatening next turn, almost like a delayed swing turn. Additionally, the “delayed swing turn” approach to this weapon plays right into Shaman’s wheelhouse of cheap swing cards with Overload. Imagine playing this card on Turn 6 alongside forked-lightning. You probably don’t care about the Overload, because your next turn comes with 4 damage and a 4/2 minion.

master-of-evolution — 4-mana 4/5 Shaman Rare minion, Battlecry: Transform a friendly minion into a random one that costs (1) more.

Yeti with upside is obviously going to be a really good card, but just how meaningful is this effect? First of all, recombobulator is a really solid effect, and this is much better. Recombob is still only an average Arena card, and that’s because it’s most often just played on curve without any real effect. Master of Evolution on curve is later in the game, though, and that means its effect will be relevant much more often. On top of that, you rarely want to target a good non-wounded, non-Battlecry minion with Recombob, but with Master of Evolution, it’s generally fine to target even your spider-tank or other favorably statted minion. Even targeting your Hero Power totems would be really good, generally upgrading them from 0/2 or 1/1 to somewhere int he range of 2/2.

mire-keeper — 4-mana 3/3 Druid Rare minion, Choose One – Summon a 2/2 Slime; or Gain an empty Mana Crystal.

It seems that, like nourish and ancient-of-war, one half of Mire Keeper’s “Choose One” won’t come into play very often (like Nourish, the extra mana after Turn 4 just usually isn’t relevant). However, the other option doesn’t sacrifice power for flexibility. A 3/3 and a 2/2 on Turn 4 is really strong in Arena, basically a slightly weaker silver-hand-knight one turn earlier. This card is what infested-tauren could only hope to be. The fact that it can also be occasionally used as a wild-growth to smooth out your curve and ramp out your ironbark-protector is just icing on the cake.

shifting-shade — 4-mana 4/3 Priest Rare minion, Deathrattle: Copy a card from your opponent’s deck and add it to your hand.

First, this half-thoughtsteal effect is basically the same as drawing a card in Arena, where your cards (and thus your opponent’s cards) are rarely based around synergies. While this will occasionally hit a weapon buff from your Rogue opponent, that’s only of marginal consideration. A 4-mana 4/3 with a Deathrattle draw is a significant upgrade from polluted-hoarder: it no longer dies to a bunch of easy tempo plays like backstab or stormforged-axe. Your opponent will almost certainly have to spend a card and at least 2 mana to deal with Shifting Shade, and you’ll gain card advantage from that trade basically every time.

It’s a reasonable enough body to not be a bad play on Turn 4, which is part of the strength of a card like loot-hoarder (and part of the problem of polluted-hoarder). It also plays right into the Priest gameplan of outlasting the opponent. As Arena decks become less and less optimized over time (with all the efficient answers of Classic being diluted by the larger card pool), playing a slightly-off-curve body will become less and less of a problem. In that scenario, cards like Shifting Shade see quite a bump, since they’ll be good enough to handle the imperfect curves your opponents often have, while gaining card advantage in the long run. (More on that in the overall meta analysis at the end of my Old Gods card reviews.)

thing-from-below — 6-mana 5/5 Shaman Rare minion, Taunt. Costs (1) less for each Totem you’ve summoned this game.

Arena Shamans are going to get a significant boost with Old Gods, and Thing from Below is definitely a part of that. First, even a single discount makes this an above-curve card (a 5-mana 5/5 Taunt would be really good in Arena). On top of that, Shaman has several ways to summon Totems in the early game that aren’t tempo losses, notably totem-golem, tuskarr-totemic, and flametongue-totem. If you have these cards and play them on curve into Thing from Below, this card will be a rock star. If you don’t have these cards, though, or you don’t play them on curve, the great thing is that totemic-call is always available, so you will always be able to turn this into an efficient card. The fact that the cost reduction works even if you haven’t drawn Thing from Below yet (unlike knight-of-the-wild) means you’ll often just happen into a 2-mana 5/5 Taunt purely by accident. The combo with master-of-evolution (which transforms from the base cost, not the reduced cost) is also a possibility, though both cards are Rare, so it won’t happen particularly often.

yshaarj-rage-unbound — 10-mana 10/10 Neutral Legendary minion, At the end of your turn, put a minion from your deck into the battlefield.

Y’Shaarj is almost certainly worse in Arena than its closest comparison point, varian-wrynn, since Varian almost always brings out at least two bodies beyond his own on the board, and the extra body (or two) is almost always better than the +3/+3 in stats. Y’Shaarj can certainly snowball over time more than Varian, but the power of cards like these is not to give you a snowballing engine (though that is a nice bonus), but to give you immediate board development that can swing a close game.

That said, Varian Wrynn is one of the best Legendaries you can get in Arena. Y’Shaarj will not reach those heights, but it will be on par with a card like nefarian as a very strong late-game swing. It is always guaranteed to pull at least one minion, and even if that minion is a measly 2-drop, you’re still getting a favorable mana-to-stats ratio. Y’Shaarj will also be very difficult to remove, so the likelihood of it pulling 2, 3, or even more minions from your deck is pretty high.

Draft-Dependent Cards

Some cards depend heavily on the deck you’re drafting and can range from terrible all the way up to great with different decks. Build-around-me cards like bloodlust or brann-bronzebeard go in this tier.

forlorn-stalker — 3-mana 4/2 Hunter Rare minion, Battlecry: Give all minions with Deathrattle in your hand +1/+1.

Forlorn Stalker joins mistcaller and all the new C’thun cards in a very small set of cards that buff minions in your hand. A +1/+1 buff is a big deal, especially on a minion with a reasonable body like this, but there will be plenty of times when all you achieve with this is a 4/2 minion. This is especially true because Hunter’s only class Deathrattle minions are webspinner, which is unlikely to be in your hand still, and savannah-highmane, a Rare. Highmane is also plenty scary enough without a buff. What this really works well on is things like haunted-creeper, harvest-golem, and piloted-shredder. There are enough neutral Deathrattle minions that you will hit a buff (or even possibly two) with this card at times, but you will also whiff plenty of times. I would generally rate this as an average card, but it could range from below average (almost no Deathrattles in your deck) to possibly even great (a very Deathrattle-heavy deck).

Closing

Thanks for reading, and check back soon for more Arena card reviews!