Post-BRM Card Analysis: Part 2

Now that BRM is fully released, let’s take a look at how are the new cards doing and how the meta has changed! Part 2!

Introduction

The final wing for the Blackrock Mountain expansion has been released, with the theme for this expansion being Dragons and creating synergies from holding Dragons in the hand. The key questions arising from the expansion have been:

  • How good are the new cards?
  • How has the meta changed?

Part 2 of this article (click here to read part one) aims to answer these questions in light of the full release of the Blackrock Mountain expansion. It discusses the initial expectations from the community for each card, a final review of the card and its effect on the meta.

Revenge

Initial expectations

Expectations were low for revenge, with the main criticism for this card being that it is too situational. If played with more than 12 health, this card is just a Whirlwind except at double the cost.

However, some noted that it has the potential to shut down Aggro rushes. When used at 12 health or less, a 3 damage AOE would likely clear the board, followed by a weapon hit on larger minions. It also only cost 2 mana, meaning that you can also play a large minion on the same turn. Warriors can also safely remain at 12 health without dying, as they can use Armor spells or their hero power to effectively heal up.

Effect on the meta

The initial expectations for this card were accurate, as I have not seen this card in competitive play.

Flamewaker

Initial expectations

Initial expectations for flamewaker were very high, with many in the community predicting that it would give Tempo Mage a significant upgrade, due to the high number of useful and cheap Mage spells. It also synergises with sorcerers-apprentice, as it allows for turns where you play your whole hand while clearing your opponent’s board at the same time.

Effect on the meta

Flamewaker has made a significant impact on the meta, with an influx of Tempo Mage in the meta at the moment. Flamewaker works very well against Aggro decks, as the 2 damage from each spell (even the Coin) helps you take and maintain board control. Barring an AOE removal, it is very difficult for your opponent to regain board control by playing minions.

While Flamewaker only has 2 attack (meaning that it only trades well with 1 and 2 mana drops), its 4 health at turn 3 gives it a good chance to stay around on the board for at least one turn against some classes (eg. it can survive a hit from Fiery War Axe). Even if it draws removal, your opponent is effectively using premium removal for a 3 mana minion. That said, it is often a good idea to only play Flamewaker when you can combo it with other spells in order to attain immediate value from its ability.

It is also a huge threat to your opponent’s lifetotal on an empty board. With Flamewaker on board, casting 3 spells adds 6 damage to the face, which is equivalent to casting another Fireball to your opponent’s face. This means that it is also very effective against slow decks, as it turns the Tempo Mage into a Face Hunter. For example, I managed to finish a Handlock in 5 turns by exploiting Flamewaker’s ability.

Flamewaker has also made Arcane Missiles a viable inclusion in Tempo Mage decks. This is because using it with Flamewaker would result in 2 additional missiles, which makes Arcane Missiles more consistent in clearing your opponent’s weak minions and less prone to bad RNG.

Hungry Dragon

Initial expectations

There was significant hype for Hungry Dragon. Many players noted that a 5/6 minion on turn 4 is very strong, as its 5 attack would trade into common minions such as Loatheb and Sludge Belcher, while its 6 health allows it to remain alive after these trades. The cost of providing a 1 mana minion was also not considered to be a significant liability, particularly for classes with cheap removals and weapons.

However, some warned that providing a 1 mana minion to your opponent may be a significant liability. For example, Nuba described Hungry Dragon as one of the most overrated cards in Blackrock Mountain, and foreshadowed that the 1 mana cost would just provide ammunition for your opponent to hit your face.

Effect on the meta

When Hungry Dragon was first released, it made a significant impact on the meta, with many players substituting out their Piloted Shredders for Hungry Dragons. However, this was short lived, as people began to realise that providing a 1 drop for your opponent is too costly, particularly against decks that are quicker than yours. This is the case even for classes that can clear the 1-drop with weapons, as this means that they cannot clear the other minions on the board.

Hungry Dragon is too situational to be effective. It gets the most value:

  • On an empty board on turn 4, while also having a response to the 1 drop minion (eg. weapon, Backstab, etc.)
  • When you have strong board control, and can use your board to clear the 1 drop minion
  • When played in conjunction with an AOE clear (eg. Blade Flurry)

However, in all other cases, Hungry Dragon provides your opponent with further ammunition to either damage your face or clear your board. This is particularly the case against decks that are faster than yours, such as Face Hunter, which is basically giving them a free minion that can damage you for 1-3 per turn.

Providing a minion can also allow your opponent to clear your board, as providing a Zoolock a 1 drop could allow them to clear your Hungry Dragon with a Power Overwhelming.

The other issue with Hungry Dragon is that there are many instances where you cannot play it on turn 4, as providing a 1 drop to your opponent may lead to further damage to your face, or worsen a disadvantageous board. This means that it is difficult to curve properly when you include Hungry Dragon in your deck, as it means that you have a situational 4 mana minion that sometimes cannot be played on curve.

Fireguard Destroyer

Initial expectations

Expectations for Fireguard Destroyer were high. Players focused on the incredible amount of stats that Fireguard Destroyer offers for only 4 mana (and 1 Overload crystal) and noted that it offers decent value even at its lowest roll.

Effect on the meta

While Shamans have been relatively unpopular on the ladder, Fireguard Destroyer has been an automatic inclusion in all Shaman decks. In the past, Shamans were missing a good turn 4 option.

This card fits the “RNG” theme of all Shaman decks, except that even with the worst RNG roll, a 4/6 minion on turn 4 with one Overload crystal is still a good deal. With 5 to 7 attack, it transforms from a good deal to an awesome deal, as no other class can play a minion as strong as this on turn 4.

With 5 attack, it can remove most of the common 5 mana minions (such as Loatheb, Sludge Belcher) while maintaining its presence on the board. With 6 attack, it can also remove Druid of the Claw.

While Fireguard Destroyer is susceptible to BGH if it rolls 7 attack, it is effectively wasting your opponent’s BGH on a 4 mana minion, which means that you can play your other 7+ attack minions without fear from BGH (as most decks only run 1 BGH).

The Overload on the card also is not a significant issue if it is played on turn 4, as it does not disrupt key turns such as a turn 6 Fire Elemental.

Chromaggus

Initial expectations

Initial expectations were moderate for Chromaggus. Some argued that it has no immediate impact on the board. However, others noted that it is a strong body that is immune to BGH and its special ability will win the game if left unchecked. The ability can be further synergised with cards that cycle your deck, such as Power Word: Shield and Shiv.

Many people compared Chromaggus with Ysera, noting that Ysera seems to provide the better deal as it produces a Dream card on the same turn that it is played. However, Chromaggus is slightly faster than Ysera (at 8 mana compared to 9 mana), and its 6 attack trades more favourably against most minions.

Effect on the meta

Chromaggus has made some impact on the meta, as I have noticed that a few decks have been including it, particularly Dragon decks. While it has no immediate impact on the board, it has the capability of taking the game away from your opponent if left on the board.

It is particularly powerful if it is played on the board early. For example, Paladins can play Chromaggus on turn 6 after a Dragon Consort, while Druids can do the same with Innervate. Personally, I have lost to a few players that have played Chromaggus early, as your opponent wins on card advantage if it is left alive on the board, while its 8 health makes it hard to remove on turn 6.

Demonwrath

Initial expectations

Expectations were mixed for demonwrath. Some players noted that while it is a 2 damage AOE to your opponent’s non-demon minions, it also damages your own non-demon minions. They also noted that it is not an effective card against Warlock decks, particularly Zoolocks, due to their high prevalence of Demon minions.

However, others noted that it would be a very strong play at times, as if you did not have any minions on board, it can be used as a 3 mana Consecration. Furthermore, it encourages decks to focus on Demons, and hence allows this card to be a 3 mana Consecration as your Demon minions would be unaffected.

Effect on the meta

Demonwrath has not significantly affected the meta, as I have not seen Demonwrath in competitive play.

However, I have had some success playing Demonwrath in my Demonlock. Barring the Warlock match-ups, Demonwrath is very useful against classes that can quickly flood the board with cheap minions, such as Face Hunter, and Paladin. Furthermore, if you use Demonwrath in a Demon deck, many of your minions would not take any damage.

If used in conjunction with Bloodmage Thalnos, it acts as a 3 damage clear, which is very useful against Grim Patron Warrior to clear a board of Grim Patrons.

Dark Iron Skulker

Initial expectations

Expectations were high for dark-iron-skulker, with most recognising that it is effectively an AOE Backstab with a 4/3 minion for 5 mana. However, some noted that the prevalence of Dark Iron Skulker would depend on the meta, as it would have the most value in a meta full of Aggro, rather than Control decks.

Effect on the meta

Dark Iron Skulker has been a disappointment, with hardly any Rogues using it in the meta. This is mainly because its effect comes at very late in the curve at 5 mana, which is often too late against Aggro decks. As noted in the expectations, an AOE Backstab is not as effective against Control decks that usually play minions with greater than 2 health.

Furthermore, the Rogue 5 mana slot is already stacked, as most Rogue decks will already run 2 Azure Drakes, 1 Loatheb and sometimes 1 Assassin’s Blade or Sludge Belchers. Dark Iron Skulker would need to substitute one or two of these cards (depending on how many you want to play) in order for the curve to be balanced at the 5 mana slot.

Volcanic Drake

Initial expectations

Expectations were very high for Volcanic Drake due to its cost reduction mechanics. Many hypothesised that it would be very powerful after an AOE clear, as playing two 6/4 minions on an empty board is a significant threat. Others noted that Volcanic Drake would synergise well with cards that generate a lot of small minions, such as Implosion and Muster for Battle.

Due to the cost reduction mechanics, Brian Kibler described Volcanic Drake as the single most exciting card to be revealed from Blackrock Mountain (at that point in time).

Effect on the meta

Volcanic Drake has not affected the meta as significantly as predicted. The main issue with Volcanic Drake is that it only has 4 health, which makes it very fragile to either getting cleared by lower cost minions or removal. While many hypothesised that it would be very powerful after a board clear, the problem is that the Volcanic Drake can be removed rather cheaply. For example, a Tempo Mage would have 3 different options to remove Volcanic Drake (Frostbolt + Hero Power, Flamecannon, and Fireball).

However, that does not mean that Volcanic Drake is useless, as some decks do not run removals. That means that if you manage to get a board clear while also playing Volcanic Drake, it may be enough to win the game. Volcanic Drake can also be saved for when your opponent has exhausted their removals.

To maximise its ability, Volcanic Drake synergises best with decks that clear a lot of minions in one turn (either your own or your opponent’s minions). This means that Paladins are best placed to maximise the value of Volcanic Drake, as they can both generate many small minions through Muster for Battle as well as clear the board through Consecration and Equality. I have also encountered some Zoolocks that have used Volcanic Drakes, as they often have many small minions to trade with on their board.

Blackwing Corruptor

Initial expectations

Initial expectations for Blackwing Corruptor were high. Players likened it to a 5 mana Fire Elemental (which is a card that is an automatic inclusion in Shaman decks), and predicted that it would be an automatic inclusion for Dragon decks.

However, Blackwing Corruptor is more like a conditional Fire Elemental, as it requires a Dragon to be in the hand for the Battlecry to trigger. Some worried that it will require decks to include many Dragons in order to consistently trigger Blackwing Corruptor’s Battlecry. It also may restrict you from curving out correctly, as you choose to not play a Dragon in your hand in order to trigger its Battlecry, similar to the issue faced by Mech Mages with Goblin Blastmage.

The stats of the Blackwing Corruptor are also weaker than Fire Elemental, with the added disadvantage of 4 health minions being much easier to remove than 5 health minions. However, it only costs 5 mana, meaning that its effect can be triggered one turn earlier.

Effect on the meta

Expectations were accurate, as all Dragon decks are using Blackwing Corruptor. It provides a strong tempo play on turn 5, as it can potentially remove a high value minion while also creating a strong board presence through a 5/4 minion. Essentially, it plays exactly like a conditional Fire Elemental except that it can be played one turn earlier.

The surprise from Blackwing Corruptor is that it does not require many Dragons in order to consistently trigger its Battlecry. For example, the new Chinese Dragon Warrior decks only run 3 dragons (Nefarian, Ysera and Alexstrasza), while consistently triggerring the Battlecry. This is because Blackwing Corruptor is played on turn 5, which means that there are more chances to draw into a Dragon than Blackwing Technician, which is played on turn 3. These Warriors also have cycle cards such as 2 Shield Blocks and Acolyte of Pain to help draw into Dragons.

The Dragons in the deck are also high on the mana curve. The problem with lower mana Dragons is that there is a disincentive to play them in order to trigger the Battlecry from Blackwing Corruptor.

Drakonid Crusher

Initial expectations

Initial expectations for Drakonid Crusher were low. The problem is that the 6 mana slot is stacked with solid contenders, such as Savannah Highmane, Sylvanas Windrunner, Fire Elemental and Emperor Thaurissan. Many of these cards either have a strong Deathrattle ability, or provide immediate value on the turn.

Drakonid Crusher has neither of these, as at its best, it is a 9/9 minion for 6 mana, which is easily removed by BGH and does not provide any immediate value. Without its Battlecry, it is a 6/6 minion for 6 mana, which is mediocre value.

Effect on the meta

The initial expectations for this card were accurate, as I have not seen this card in competitive play.

Dragonkin Sorcerer

Initial expectations

Expectations were high for Dragonkin Sorcerer. Most believed that Dragonkin Sorcerer would greatly benefit Priests, given the number of viable buffing spells that Priests currently run in their decks, such as Power Word: Shield and Velen’s Chosen. Others noted that it could synergise well with decks that receive Spare Parts.

However, some noted that Dragonkin Sorcerer is very vulnerable to silence, and can punish investment in the Dragonkin Sorcerer. This is somewhat alleviated by only using low value buffs.

Effect on the meta

As predicted, Dragonkin Sorcerer have been adopted by many Priests as it is a solid 4 mana minion. It synergises best with Dragon Priests, though it has also been featured in non-Dragon decks such as Lightbomb Priests. Apart from Priests, I have not seen any other classes that play Dragonkin Sorcerer.

If Dragonkin Sorcerer is not removed, it has the potential to get out of control unless your opponent has a silence. With the Coin on turn 4, you can play Dragonkin Sorcerer and Power Word: Shield in the same turn to create a 4/8 minion, similar to the Injured Blademaster and Circle of Healing combo. By playing Velen’s Chosen on a Dragonkin Sorcerer, you create a 6/10 minion that can dominate the board.

Nefarian

Initial expectations

Expectations were low for Nefarian. Given that Nefarian is 9 mana, many compared it with Ysera, noting that Ysera provides a better value due to the Dream cards having a higher average value than random spells from your opponent’s class. Furthermore, Nefarian is vulnerable to BGH.

Some equated Nefarian to be an 8/8 minion with a spell-specific Thoughtsteal, though this is somewhat inaccurate as Nefarian can generate any spell cards from your opponent’s class. This means that you could end up with spells that are seldom used. In addition, the spells may only provide value for that particular class. For example, a Shield Slam for a class with no armor is effectively useless.

Nuba noted that Nefarian may be a viable option for greedy late game Control decks.

Effect on the meta

Nefarian has not made much of an impact on the meta, as not many players have chosen to adopt Nefarian into their decks. As noted in the initial expectations, Ysera simply provides better value for a 9-mana minion.

However, there have been some Dragon decks that use both Nefarian and Ysera. For example, the Chinese Dragon Warrior that was previously mentioned use both Nefarian and Ysera for the Dragon synergies. This deck offers the flexibility of having a strong late game while Blackwing Corruptor provides strong tempo plays in the midgame.

Solemn Vigil

Initial expectations

Expectations were high for Solemn Vigil, with many recognising that it offers much needed card draw for Paladins outside of Lay on Hands.

Like with Volcanic Drake, the cost reduction mechanic can be very powerful and easily exploited by Paladin. This is because Paladins are best placed to exploit this cost reduction mechanic, as Paladins can generate many small minions through Muster for Battle and hero power as well as clear the board through Consecration (and Equality if needed). To put this into context, the cost of Solemn Vigil is only 3 mana once two minions die in a turn, which is a condition that is easily satisfied for Paladins.

However, some compared it unfavourably with other draw engines such as Acolyte of Pain, noting that for 3 mana, Acolyte of Pain provides a 1/3 minion on the board as well as a good chance of drawing 2 cards.

Effect on the meta

Solemn Vigil has been adopted by some Paladin decks. However, many are choosing not to use it, as they are running slower decks that rely on Lay on Hands in the late game for their card draw engine.

From what I have seen, Solemn Vigil has been adopted into Paladin decks that were previously using Acolyte of Pains. The advantage of Solemn Vigil over Acolyte of Pain is that Acolyte of Pain does not reliably draw 2 cards, as it can be silenced or removed in 1 hit. Furthermore, unlike Acolyte of Pain, Solemn Vigil allows you to draw the card instantly in the turn, which potentially gives you more options. Finally, Paladins can easily play Solemn Vigil for 3 mana or less due to their ability to generate many small minions, and AOE spells.

Conclusion

Thanks for reading the second part of my review of the Blackrock Mountain expansion (click here to read part one). If you have enjoyed the article, please give me a thumbs up! Feel free to leave any comments below or message my twitch channel (stream forthcoming): www.twitch.tv/k3lvhs