Welcome back to another edition of Arena card reviews! This installation starts with cards announced after April 16 (including the big April 21 card dump). Check out my previous Old Gods reviews for cards released before March 30 and between March 30 and April 16. I won’t be covering all the remaining cards here, so also keep your eyes peeled for the next installation.
Dive in with me and see what’s lurking below!
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.
amgam-rager — 3-mana 1/5 Neutral Common minion.
Oh joy, it’s another Magma Rager joke. I was totally okay with ice-rager, but this card infuriates me as an Arena player. Am’gam Rager is trash and it’s common, so you’ll get offered it fairly often instead of literally any other card that this could be. The card itself might be funny, but after you get offered it three times in the same draft, you won’t find it quite so funny any more. Jokes are all well and good, but can we maybe stop putting them in the Common slot?
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.
power-word-tentacles — 5-mana Priest Common spell, Give a minion +2/+6.
Buff cards tend to be good in Arena, but Power Word: Tentacles is one of the weaker buffs out there. Its high cost means that—unlike velens-chosen—it won’t be relevant in the most important stage of the game. Beyond that, while the high health buff is good for Priests, the low attack buff means that the impact of this card will often just not be enough. A card like blessing-of-kings can turn a weak minion into a real threat that has to be cleared. Power Word: Tentacles instead makes a minion into a power-trader. That ability is useful, but there will be plenty of times that this card is just too slow and the Priest gets rushed down. Granted, in a deck with a lot of AoE and other forms of survivability, this could be at least average.
zealous-initiate — 1-mana 1/1 Neutral Common minion, Deathrattle: Give a random friendly minion +1/+1.
As I’ll address with blood-to-ichor (below), a 1-mana 2/2 is a good card, but Zealous Initiate is decidedly not a 1-mana 2/2. The problem here is that the body is so easy to kill that you opponent will often be able to kill Zealous Initiate without you getting a benefit from the Deathrattle. The cheap cost is good, though, because you can generally play it alongside other minions. In a zoo-like deck (especially Hunter or Warlock), this graduates into the Average tier, but even then, the randomness of the Deathrattle means it’s inconsistent and not impactful enough to make up for that inconsistency.
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.
bilefin-tidehunter — 2-mana 2/1 Neutral Common Murloc, Battlecry: Summon a 1/1 Ooze with Taunt.
At least in Arena, where Murloc synergies are not a thing, Bilefin Tidehunter is a strict upgrade on its uncorrupted version, murloc-tidehunter. Murloc Tidehunter has always been a decent card when played on Turn 2. The problem with it was that played in the mid-game, opponents could often easily manage to ping off the 2/1 body, leaving you with a 1/1 that won’t accomplish much. The Ooze having Taunt here means that pinging off the 2/1 will be harder for Rogues and Druids. Given the strength of the Rogue cards in Old Gods, that’s actually a meaningful thing, making this definitely better than Murloc Tidehunter. However, it still only represents 3 attack, and there are a whole bunch of good pings coming in Old Gods, so I would not pick this highly at all.
darkshire-alchemist — 5-mana 4/5 Priest Common minion, Battlecry: Restore 5 Health.
Darkshire Alchemist is a very solidly average minion. Like darkscale-healer, it trades off 1-mana worth of stats for a solid effect that still is unlikely to be incredibly relevant. I would generally take this over a Darkscale Healer, since it works better as an emergency hero heal and it plays into the Priest gameplan of having a difficult-to-kill minion to constantly trade with (see Power Word: Tentacles below). However, it’s not going the set the world on fire (unless you have a bunch of auchenai-soulpriests), and it’s not going to help Priest’s Arena problems. I’ll comment more on the disappointing cards Priest got in my final review, but the fact that this card is probably the second-best Priest Old Gods cards is not a ringing endorsement for the future of the class.
darkshire-librarian — 2-mana 3/2 Warlock Rare minion, Battlecry: Discard a random card. Deathrattle: Draw a card.
Darkshire Librarian reminds me a lot of tiny-knight-of-evil: a 2-mana 3/2 Rare Warlock minion that has upside, but usually will not realize that upside. In general, you’re going to want to play this card in the early game, and when you do, you almost certainly won’t have discard-synergy cards. Beyond that, discarding a card and drawing a card is probably worse than doing nothing, since it removes a card you potentially deliberately kept in your opening hand, either for its strength or its mana cost, replacing it with a random one from your deck. That said, the most viable strategy for Warlocks in Arena is a zoo-like flood, and Darkshire Librarian does fit that archetype very well. If you have a very low curve and a lot of other cards you can play, this is actually a good card. Most of the time, though, you’ll have to play this without that upside, in which case I’d always rather have Tiny Knight of Evil.
feral-rage — 3-mana Druid Common spell, Choose One – Give your hero +4 Attack this turn; or Gain 8 Armor.
Several classes will gain shadow-bolt-like cards in Old Gods, and Feral Rage is roughly on par with the others. The problem here is that Feral Rage is blocked by Taunt. That won’t be important in many cases, but when your opponent is hiding a cult-master behind a Taunt, you will desperately want a more direct damage than Feral Rage. That said, the trade-off is that the 4 damage can go face and the second Choose One effect is always there if needed. While you will only infrequently play this card for the Armor, the added flexibility is always nice. Shadow Bolt is a solidly average card, and Druids often lack small single-target removal, so Feral Rage will definitely help make Druid decks more consistent.
fiery-bat — 1-mana 2/1 Hunter Common Beast, Deathrattle: Deal 1 damage to a random enemy.
Fiery Bat is interesting, because it’s not that strong of a card (especially with all the freely available pings out there), but it will help Hunters be more consistent in Arena. The typical Hunter gameplan involves quite a few more 1-drops than other classes, and Fiery Bat is better than most 1-drops (and being a class Common means that it will show up a lot). As we’ve seen with huge-toad, the Deathrattle is only sometimes relevant, but even if it goes face, that’s meaningful for Hunters. In fact, I would put this about on par with leper-gnome, since it trades more guaranteed damage for a Beast tag and the ability to help with board control.
on-the-hunt — 1-mana Hunter Common spell, Deal 1 damage. Summon a 1/1 Mastiff.
Let’s start with a non-controversial statement: On the Hunt is definitely not as strong as its cousin blood-to-ichor. While the summon isn’t conditional, that condition is pretty easy to meet, and the difference between a 1/1 and a 2/2, especially in the early game, is huge. That said, On the Hunt should still be a reasonable card, since it serves as a ping that also does something else. In a world where moonfire is an acceptable card, On the Hunt should be okay, as well. The kind of disappointing thing here is that another ping-lacking (Warrior) is getting some excellent ping cards in Old Gods, while Hunter is left with generally subpar pings (and an excellent one in the Rare slot with infested-wolf).
twisted-worgen — 2-mana 3/1 Neutral Common minion, Stealth.
If Twisted Worgen had been the very first minion introduced in Old Gods, I probably would have rated it good, since it’s basically a delayed darkbomb. However, as with its untwisted brother, Twisted Worgen is vulnerable to untargeted pings like mad-bomber and flame-juggler. The thing is, we’re getting several new ones in the form of twilight-flamecaller and ravaging-ghoul. Beyond that, neither of the aforementioned cards are going away, and it’s generally more okay to have your 1-mana investment killed that way than your 2-mana investment. I still like this card and would be happy to have it most of the time, but it will be hindered by the increasing number of pings in the game with Old Gods.
These cards aren’t slouches, but they also aren’t the cream of the crop. ogre-brute, flame-juggler, and assassinate fit here.
blood-to-ichor — 1-mana Warrior Rare spell, Deal 1 damage to a minion. If it survives, summon a 2/2 Slime.
Blood to Ichor joins nzoths-first-mate and ravaging-ghoul in giving Arena Warriors strong ping cards. While fierce-monkey and obsidian-destroyer gave Warriors excellent on-curve minions, Warriors still have historically had trouble dealing 1 damage. No more.
Blood to Ichor is interesting, because you will often play it for the Slime summon more than the damage. For instance, imagine a situation where you’re facing an opponent’s 3/2 minion. Playing Blood to Ichor is a reasonable play, even though the 1 damage is basically inconsequential unless you can follow up with another ping. That said, the strength of N’Zoth’s First Mate and Ravaging Ghoul means that you will often have a few of those cards in your deck, making Blood to Ichor even better. The fact that you have to play Blood to Ichor first is a problem for things like Ravaging Ghoul, since it leaves you with a 2/1 instead of a 2/2, but the 1-mana cost is very flexible, and the ping itself is incredibly versatile. I would expect this to be a good card, and even more so in decks with the other new Warrior pings.
bloodhoof-brave — 4-mana 2/6 Warrior Common minion, Taunt. Enrage: +3 Attack.
Bloodhoof Brave is interesting, since it sacrifices some initial strength for high health and a powerful Enrage effect. When played on Turn 4, Bloodhoof Brave should be an excellent card. Very few cards can realistically deal 6 damage in one blow, so the Enrage effect will pretty much always go off at that point in the game. However, the weakness of Bloodhoof Brave is that it is not as strong as senjin-shieldmasta and other comparable Taunt cards in the late game, when the Enrage effect is unlikely be guaranteed. Still, Bloodhoof Brave is a very good Arena card, and it joins fierce-monkey as cards that can help Arena Warriors survive and thrive on their weapons.
bloodsail-cultist — 3-mana 3/4 Warrior Rare Pirate, Battlecry: If you control a Pirate, give your weapon +1/+1.
An upgrade attached to a spider-tank body is a really strong card. Unfortunately, the Battlecry trigger condition is very unlikely to happen, especially on Turn 3, when the 3/4 body is the strongest. You basically have to meet two conditions: you have to have a weapon up already, and you have to already have a Pirate on the board. There aren’t enough Pirates in the game, and while the ones that are in the game are better in Warrior, you’re still only likely to have a couple (at best) in your deck. Functionally, then, this is basically a spider-tank with a very unlike upside. In a Pirate-heavy deck, Bloodsail Cultist will really shine, but thankfully the body is good enough that it will be solid without that.
carrion-grub — 3-mana 2/5 Hunter Common Beast.
Carrion My Wayward Grub should be a good Arena card purely based on its stats. In fact, I think it’s as strong or even better than druid-of-the-flame. While it loses the opportunity to be an ice-rager, it gains the Beast tag (very relevant for Hunters). Even more importantly, Hunters often have trouble dealing with tokens, and that’s something this card excels at. The strength of druid-of-the-flame and coliseum-manager is that you can use them to clear out several smaller (often annoying) minions, and that’s something Hunter has struggled with (though on-the-hunt helps there, as well).
cyclopian-horror — 4-mana 3/3 Neutral Epic minion, Taunt. Battlecry: Gain +1 Health for each enemy minion.
So, senjin-shieldmasta is a good card, but Sen’jin minus 1 health is at best average (probably bad). The window for this card to be good, then, is 2 enemy minions. That’s not terribly difficult on Turn 4, and it becomes even less difficult to achieve after that. In fact, there will be quite a few times when this is a 4-mana 3/6 Taunt, which is an excellent card. Making it even better is the fact that comeback cards are very difficult to find in Arena, and this is somewhat of a comeback card (though weaker than AoE spells and other powerful comebacks). As with all other conditional cards, be wary of selecting this if you have an awkward curve, since you might be forced to play it on Turn 4. In most decks, though, it’s a Sen’jin with upside.
fandral-staghelm — 4-mana 3/5 Druid Legendary minion, Your Choose One cards have both effects combined.
With the addition of 3 different Choose One cards in Old Gods—feral-rage, mire-keeper, and wisps-of-the-old-gods—Druids will have 17 Choose One cards in their arsenal. Almost universally, those cards are strong Arena cards: the weakest of the bunch are mark-of-nature, nourish, and the newly-nerfed keeper-of-the-grove, and none of those cards are bad. Almost all the rest are really premium cards that you pretty much always take.
That said, mana curves in Arena can be tricky, and cards that succeed best when you hang onto them for combo plays (like Fandral and a comparable card, brann-bronzebeard) tend not be as good in Arena. Thankfully, Fandral should be better than most other combo cards because Druids also have the most consistent early-game minion curves (as well as ways to cheat the curve, especially with the addition of Mire Keeper).
The thing about Fandral is that even a single activation can be extraordinarily powerful. One starfall just devastates almost any board. A druid-of-the-claw gives you initiative and protection for Fandral. wrath lets you clear the way for more Fandral cards. All that said, you will occasionally just not draft many Choose One cards, in which case Fandral is average at best.
forbidden-ancient — 1-mana 1/1 Druid Epic minion, Battlecry: Spend all your Mana. Gain +1/+1 for each mana spent.
I already covered the general strength of flexibility in my reviews for the other Forbidden cards. In particular, Forbidden Ancient quite resembles forbidden-shaping. In fact, its consistency may even make it stronger, since you know exactly what you are getting with Forbidden Ancient. The great thing here is that this card becomes pretty solid for its cost starting at about 5 mana. You can play it before that, but it will be a below-curve body. You’ll generally only play this on Turns 1-5 when you’re desperate, but the very fact that you can play it on those turns is invaluable.
forbidden-ritual — 0-mana Warlock Epic spell, Spend all your Mana. Summon that many 1/1 Tentacles.
Forbidden Ritual is an awful lot like the new Druid spell wisps-of-the-old-gods. It sacrifices the Choose One ability but gains mana cost flexibility, which is a much more useful ability. There will be quite a few times when you play this for 3 or 4 mana, and that’s often a quite good play, since it makes your board trickier to clear and works well alongside the smaller drops that Arena Warlocks often prefer. Interestingly, this card does cap out at 7, but that’s not really going to affect its power level in any way. You’d pretty much always rather have imp-losion because of the damage, but Forbidden Ritual is akin to a less strong (but more consistent) Imp-losion.
journey-below — 1-mana Rogue Rare spell, Discover a Deathrattle card.
Many have theorized that a simple 1-mana draw in Rogue would be very good simply as a Combo activator. While very few Arena decks have a ton of Combo cards, that’s still a very relevant ability for activating your shadopan-rider or undercity-valiant. On top of that, Journey Below works really well with other Rogue cards, such as shadowcaster and unearthed-raptor. On top of that, this is probably slightly better than drawing a card, since Discover is a strong mechanic and Deathrattle cards tend to be good cards. I would actually rate this at around the power level of raven-idol, since it sacrifices the ability to dig for a spell, but gains being a Combo activator and drawing stronger minions (with potential synergies).
psych-o-tron — 5-mana 3/4 Neutral Common minion, Taunt. Divine Shield.
As I’ve mentioned with other cards, Psych-o-Tron does suffer from the preponderance of pings coming in Old Gods. Even still, it should be a good card. In a best case scenario, you basically played 2 fierce-monkeys for 5 mana. Even in a worst case scenario, your opponent will spend a 1-mana ping, leaving you with a 4-mana investment for a 3/4 Taunt. More likely, your opponent with use their Hero Power to ping off the shield, leaving you basically at the stats of a Fierce Monkey. Granted, Fierce Monkey becomes less useful after Turn 3, but like Fierce Monkey, Psych-o-Tron is good at both helping you survive and protecting your minions so they have initiative and choice in trading. I would always take sludge-belcher or sunwalker over Pysch-o-Tron, but I think Pysch-o-Tron will be in the running with senjin-shieldmasta and evil-heckler for the best Neutral Common Taunt.
shifter-zerus — 1-mana 1/1 Neutral Legendary minion, Each turn this is in your hand, transform it into a random minion.
Cards like unstable-portal and webspinner have proven that getting a random minion is definitely reasonable if it comes with a bonus (reduced mana cost or 1/1 body). Shifter Zerus is interesting, because its bonus is kind of a combination of the curve flexibility of the “Forbidden” cards and the situational choices of the Discover mechanic.
According to the stats, Shifter Zerus will cost either 2, 3, or 4 a little more than half the time. That means that on those early turns, the likelihood with several turns that you will hit a playable card is fairly good. The likelihood that Shifter Zerus will be a 6+ drop is more in the 25% range, but that’s also good enough that you can hang onto it in the late game if you otherwise curve out well, then wait for it to become a big minion.
The only unfortunate thing with Shifter Zerus is that you can’t really rely on it providing a specific role, such as Charge (4%) or Taunt (8%). However, if we conceptualize small minions, midrange minions, and big minions as roles (which we should), Shifter Zerus can fulfill all of these roles in a single card. While the RNG factor is high here, the flexibility and sheer amount of options this card provides will make a solid complement to almost any deck.
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.
bladed-cultist — 1-mana 1/2 Rogue Common minion, Combo: Gain +1/+1.
Bladed Cultist should be about on par with zombie-chow. While the Combo should be very easy to activate after about Turn 3, playing this on Turn 1 or Turn 2 makes it simply a 1-mana 1/2, which is definitely weak. There’s a narrow-ish window for this card, then: it’s great from Turn 3 to about Turn 8 or so (when the 2/3 body stops being particularly relevant). The thing is, that window is even larger than Zombie Chow, especially in Rogue, where a Zombie Chow after about Turn 5 was often a bad play. Bladed Cultist also benefits from the abundance of great cheap Rogue cards.
darkshire-councilman — 3-mana 1/5 Warlock Common minion, After you summon a minion, gain +1 Attack.
In general, escalating attack cards like mana-wyrm and stonesplinter-trogg depend heavily on how reliably you can raise their attack. The great thing here is that summoning minions is very easy for Warlocks, since they tend to have lower curves, and they have multiple-body minions like dark-peddler and imp-gang-boss. Even a single summon makes Darkshire Councilman a 3-mana 2/5, which is pretty much always good. Additionally, you will often be able to play this while you have some summon abilities on the board, such as Imp Gang Boss or harvest-golem, so that you immediately gain the attack buff. Granted, this usually won’t get to be huge, but it will be threatening enough that your opponent will need to move quickly to remove it (even better for a card with high health like this). In a deck with an awkward curve, I would rate this as an average or perhaps even bad card, but in the vast majority of Warlock decks, it should be great.
infested-wolf — 4-mana 3/3 Hunter Rare Beast, Deathrattle: Summon two 1/1 Spiders.
It’s a bummer this card is in the Rare slot, since it means Hunter’s best sticky tools (savannah-highmane and this card) will only be inconsistently drafted. When you do get Infested Wolf, though, it will perform highly. The 3/3 body is pretty reasonable and may actually threaten your opponent’s drop (unlike haunted-creeper), while the Creeper-like Deathrattle means that you will pretty much always get either 4 or 5 damage on your opponent’s minions with this card. It’s also worth considering that the Spider tokens have the Beast tag, as well, so this single card pretty much guarantees you a Beast activator for houndmaster or kill-command for a few turns. I would still choose Highmane over this card any day, but it’s definitely on the level of haunted-creeper and harvest-golem, perhaps even a touch better.
malkorok — 7-mana 6/5 Warrior Legendary minion, Battlecry: Equip a random weapon.
On average, Malkorok will be a lot like fire-elemental: a 6/5 minion that deals somewhere in the range of 3 damage immediately. There are some bad results here—cursed-blade, cogmasters-wrench, etc.—but there are also some absolutely insane weapons to get, like gorehowl, gladiators-longbow, and the new Shaman weapon hammer-of-twilight. As with all randomness, you need to look at how consistent the effect is, and in general, it will be very consistently good. Look at a card like blingtron-3000: it’s kind of bad in Arena, but it’s really not that bad, especially for a card with a way below curve body and a symmetrical effect. The fact is that a random weapon is useful as initiative, and that initiative coming alongside a solid body is a great bonus.
shadow-strike — 3-mana Rogue Common spell, Deal 5 damage to an undamaged character.
Dealing with midrange minions as a Rogue is an interesting proposition: you pretty much either have eviscerate or you combine some a weapon buff or two with a smaller minion. Not any more: Shadow Strike steps into this void and deals with almost every minion costing 5 or less for 3 mana. Like with backstab, the “undamaged” condition is sometimes relevant, but it also doesn’t cripple the card in any way. One thing to note: this can go face, but it won’t ever do that, since you don’t want the face damage when your opponent is at 30 health. All things told, then, this is a better shadow-bolt, itself a solid card. Did Arena Rogues need this? Not at all, but they got it, and they should be even stronger because of it.
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.
blackwater-pirate — 4-mana 2/5 Neutral Rare Pirate, Your weapons cost (2) less.
Obviously, the strength of Blackwater Pirate depends on your class and how many weapons you have drafted. In most non-Warrior decks, Blackwater Pirate will be weak, but it should be a very good card in a lot of Warrior decks. Imagine, for instance, playing Blackwater Pirate on Turn 4 and getting a free fiery-war-axe in the bargain. That said, a 2-mana 2/5 isn’t even that crazy of a card, so even if you get the discount off, it’s not as big a tempo swing as some cards. In general, I would not draft Blackwater Pirate unless you already have or are expecting to have somewhere around 5-6 weapons.
princess-huhuran — 5-mana 6/5 Hunter Legendary Beast, Battlecry: Trigger a friendly minion’s Deathrattle effect immediately.
While Princess Huhuran falls into the same category as several other Hunter cards this expansion (infest and forlorn-stalker), its base is much stronger than both those cards. Even if Huhuran were a vanilla card, a 5-mana 6/5 Beast in Hunter is good. Huhuran will not quite reach the great level, though, unless you can trigger her effect. As I said with Forlorn Stalker, that’s usually a hard thing to do in Arena. However, the upside here is better than Forlorn Stalker, since the immediate Deathrattle effect is quite strong, especially on summon effects like haunted-creeper, harvest-golem, and the new infested-wolf. Still, you’ll need at least 3-4 Deathrattle cards to even have a reasonable chance of Huhuran triggering. Low cost ones like webspinner and the aforementioned Creeper and Harvest Golem will be particularly valuable here.
silithid-swarmer — 3-mana 3/5 Neutral Rare minion, Can only attack if your hero attacked this turn.
This is one of those cards that performs drastically differently in different classes. In classes like Mage, Priest, and Warlock, it’s an even worse ancient-watcher (it may even be the worst card in the game in those classes). In Paladin, Hunter,and Shaman, it’s an acceptable card, but it relies on you to have several weapons in your deck. In Druid, it’s basically a slightly bigger argent-watchman (a bad to average card). Where it really shines are Warrior—which still relies on weapons, though those are more frequent in Warrior—and in Rogue. In Rogue, Silithid Swarmer should be quite good, since it can be activated off the Hero Power for 2 straight turns. In fact, if you play a lot of Rogue in Arena, you’ll know that there aren’t that many turns when you don’t attack.
On a side note, as with Am’gam Rager, I absolutely hate the design of this card for the Arena. If you get offered this in Rogue, you’ll be happy, but if you get offered the exact same card in Mage, you pick literally anything other than it. When cards exist that basically take away your choices, Arena gets more boring as a result.
Thanks for reading, and check back soon for more Arena card reviews!