Yeah, it’s this time of the year again. Blizzard is torturing us by slowly announcing new cards for the expansion that is supposed to come out in over a month from now. But hey, at least we’re getting some info.
First thing I want to say is that I really love the cards. Not talking about the stats, the effects, but the whole theme. Old Gods is one of my favorite lore parts in Warcraft. Although I wasn’t there to raid C’thun yet (I’ve started playing in The Burning Crusade, which was the first expansion – C’thun was the raid boss in vanilla game). Yogg-Saron, on the other hand, I’ve raided a lot. It was one of the coolest fights in WoW. Even though it had some really annoying mechanics that made us question our life choices of wiping the raid 10 times on the Friday afternoon when we could do something else, boss was INSANE. The visions, the whispers, player needing to refresh their “sanity” meter and stuff like created an incredible mood surrounding the fight.
But, back to Hearthstone. Card reviews. One thing I want to say before I start. It’s very likely that over half of my predictions will turn out to be completely untrue after the expansion. This one is especially hard to gauge, because besides the expansion itself, we’re getting new formats AND nerfs to Classic cards. We have really no idea which Classic cards will be nerfed or how Standard will really impact the meta. Then, the expansion is supposed to have 134 playable cards and we know, what, 20 so far? It makes judging the card’s strength even harder. Let’s give you a quick example – Eater of Secrets. This card would be insane in meta dominated by Secret Paladin. But with Standard coming, like half of the cards used in the deck are rotating out. Right now the Secret Paladin is dead. But! What if they release a new, strong Secret and other early game minions to compensate? Well, then it can come back even stronger. So it’s impossible to say whether the card will be strong or not. Keep that in mind when reading my thoughts, because that’s only what they are – thoughts.
My reviews will be mostly about the Standard format & Arena. It’s very clear that the Standard format will be a more competitive (Blizzcon points, official tournaments will be hosted in Standard etc.) one and writing two separate reviews for Standard/Wild seems excessive.
I’ll review about 10 cards in each article. I try to go pretty in-depth on each one and I don’t want these to be too long.
C’thun & related
I’ll open with C’thun and the related cards, because I think they should be reviewed together. Blizzard is going to release C’thun + 16 related cards. Right now we only know 5 – three Neutrals and two Class cards. It looks like every class is going to get one card related to C’thun, which leaves us with 7 Neutral Cultists. Neutrals are most important – it seems that they’re the ones buffing C’thun and making it grow. Their quality is very likely to influence the overall strength of C’thun decks. But then, C’thun class cards don’t seem to buff him, but rather have special effects when C’thun is big. And the special effects so far are very strong. One or two more good, neutral Cultists and C’thun decks might really work very well.
Oh and btw, I won’t review those in the Arena, because well, they won’t be available in Arena. But, let’s start:
Bread and butter of C’thun decks, obviously. The idea is that it grows throughout the game, no matter where it is – in your hand, in your deck. It’s supposed to grow and keep his stats even in the graveyard (even though Hearthstone doesn’t have a lot of mechanics interacting with the graveyard, the class cultists will have their bonus effects even once C’thun dies). It’s also going to keep his stats after bouncing back to the hand – Shadowstep synergy? Basically, the unbuffed version of this card sucks. But the more you pump it, the stronger it becomes. I think it’s not worth considering anything below 10/10. From what I’ve seen so far, I think that 15/15 would be a pretty fair assumption of the statline it will eventually grow to. And once it’s 15/15 and you play it, the card is pretty insane. For 10 mana, you’re getting a humongous 15/15 body with a very strong effect – Avenging Wrath on steroids. 15 random shots will usually clear something on the board and push for quite a lot of face damage. You can even strategically save him for after you clear the board to deal 15 face damage. C’thun is meant to be played as a big finisher in the deck. Even if the body is dealt with, the immediate effect is already strong enough for the card to be strong.
But, what’s important is that you’ll have to build a deck around it. Just like Reno Jackson – the card is insane, but it doesn’t work in just any deck. C’thun decks will have to sacrifice some of their early/mid game power, because the Cultists are pretty vanilla minions besides buffing C’thun. And so for example, normal deck might play the Flame Juggler instead of Beckoner of Evil to get an additional Battlecry. It doesn’t seem like a big deal, but if every card you play is slightly inferior to the ones enemy plays, better be sure that the C’thun will make up for it.
Overall I really have high hopes for C’thun and the decks built around him. I think the card is good enough that you can sacrifice some early/mid game power in order to play it.
Beckoner of Evil
First C’thun cultists. 2/3 for 2 stats are vanilla. Since C’thun will never see play in fast decks (I mean, 10 mana card, right?) the 2/3 stats are probably better than 3/2, more defensive. Vanilla 2/3 for 2 is just.. average. And average means bad for Constructed. So yeah, the card is bad in Constructed.
But then again, +2/+2 for C’thun might be worth making that sacrifice. It really depends on how well it will fair against other popular early drop choices. But I assume that with Knife Juggler most likely getting hit, Flame Juggler might become more popular. And this card doesn’t work that well against Flame Juggler – it’s often 50/50 for it to die for free (or the owner having to spend 2 more mana for the Hero Power). It also depends on what 3-drops will be played. 2/3 stats are better against 2/4’s, slightly worse against 3/3’s (depends on whether you play a class that can ping) and it REALLY SUCKS against 3/4. If 3/4 will be the most common 3-drop statline, well, vanilla 2/3’s will be eaten for free all day long.
I think this one is the worst neutral cultists revealed so far. I rate it 1/C’thun. Whether it’s going to see play in C’thun decks really depends on the quality of the other neutral cultists we haven’t seen so far.
Second cultist. Another vanilla statline – 3/4 for 3. However, I really prefer to play a vanilla 3/4 for 3 than 2/3 for 2. 3/4 is a statline that trades down really well against pretty much anything. No matter whether enemy plays 2/3’s or 3’2/s in 2-drop slot, it works well against both. It also eats the 3/3’s for 3 for free. The same problem as the last one – it doesn’t have any additional effect. Some 3/4’s are rotating out, though, so it might actually be decent even without it. Spider Tank and Dark Cultist are out in Standard, so if there will be need for 3/4’s and you happen to play a C’thun deck – sure, why not.
Then again, C’thun buff is an ongoing effect here. Something like Emperor Thaurissan. At the end of each turn, your C’thun gets +1/+1. Other neutral cultists we’ve seen so far just give +2/+2 straight away. Which one is better? It really depends. This one guarantees only +1/+1. Not only enemy can kill it on his turn, but you might have to trade it into something on your turn. So I honestly think that +1/+1 or +2/+2 will be the most common scenarios. I don’t really see it snowballing like crazy – after all it’s just 3/4 and you might not have the means to protect it so early in the game.
In some very rare scenarios, it’s going to snowball. For example if you play it in the late game while keeping the board control. If it sticks for a few turns, the buff is huge. But I assume the average stats it’s going to give is +1.5 each. Definitely could see play in C’thun decks.
I think this one is the best revealed so far. A big sister of the Scarlet Crusader. And the thing is – Scarlet Crusader is a decent card. It has seen some Constructed play back in the day. Having 1 health, though, made it really vulnerable to 1/1’s and pings. This one seems slightly better. 4/2 for 4 is obviously a bad statline, but if you add a Divine Shield…
In matchups where enemy can ping, you force them to spend 2 mana (and possibly take some damage) to get rid of the Shield. And in the matchups where enemy can’t ping… This minion might be another Piloted Shredder. It can trade into something and you still have a 4/2 on the board. Okay, it’s definitely not as strong as the Shredder, because the “first part” can be taken down with a puny 1/1 minion, but it’s still decent. I’d say that this is definitely better at trading up than trading down – it might be pretty weak in board flood matchups. It would also SUCK HARD against Muster for Battle, but luckily, that card is going away in the Standard.
If any of the 3, this one will definitely be played in C’thun decks. The +2/+2 guaranteed buff is also pretty nice. If you play two of those, that’s already +4/+4 for you C’thun.
What’s sad is that if it’s played, it might actually keep people away from playing the 4-drops with 5/4 statline. The same thing Shredder did for such a long time. For example – Evil Heckler might have been playable with Shredder AND Death’s Bite gone, but there is no way you can play Heckler into the C’thun’s Chosen.
The first class card synergizing with C’thun revealed. And if the quality of them stays the same, I really think that C’thun decks might work.
So, on the surface we have a vanilla 4/5 for 4. Chillwind Yeti anyone? That’s good enough. Druid will be looking for a new 4-drop after Shredder is gone anyway. Yeti was played in Druid A LOT. I’ve even seen some more recent Yetis in ladder and tournament play. I’ve faced a Midrange Druid running 2x Chillwind Yeti in high Legend last season. It’s obviously not the most optimal choice, but that’s not my point. It’s playable.
But then, if you C’thun has at least 10 attack, it becomes 4/10 for 4 mana. And that is INSANE. Remember how annoying it is when the Warlock drops a 4/10 Twilight Drake and you have no way to deal with it? Yeah. Oh right, you can just Silence it and it becomes 4/1. And it’s even rarely a 4/10. This one after some point is ALWAYS a 4/10 and Silence doesn’t even counter him. Yes, it turns it into a 4/5, but that doesn’t even “deal with it”. It turns insane card into okay card.
How hard is to pump C’thun to 10 attack? Even with what we’ve already seen, it’s really not hard. You just need to play two minions that give him +2/+2. But realistically, on turn 4 it will pretty much always be a 4/5. Which is still fine. Later in the game it will be bigger. It has no real downside, it just becomes an insane card once C’thun reaches 10 attack. Well, the downside is – obviously – that you have to play the cultists, but if you play a C’thun deck you have no reason to not put in this card.
The Druid’s one was great. But this is probably even better. Basically it’s a Shieldmaiden on steroids. But remember that Shieldmaiden is going away in Standard, so it might be harder for Warrior to generate the Armor. This one, however, solves the problem in C’thun Warrior deck. As we all know, Shieldmaidens are already good. Here, for just 1 more mana we get +1/+1 in stats AND twice more Armor. Gaining 10 Armor is a lot. Gaining 10 Armor on decently statted body is even better. I know that the card doesn’t see play, but just to put it into a perspective. Guardian of Kings. For the same mana cost you get +1 Attack and +4 health gain, where Armor is much better than Health. Not only you can go above 30, but it also synergizes with Shield Slam.
Talking about Shield Slam, turn 8 Shieldbearer + Shield Slam means that you can clear pretty much anything. Shieldmaiden was often a few Armor points short to kill a 7/7 or 8/8. 10 Armor means that you can clear pretty much anything that comes on turn 8 or before that.
This card is insane. And what’s the best thing about it is that by turn 7 the effect should be often already active. So in C’thun deck, unless you drew really poorly, it’s pretty much guaranteed to be a huge Armor boost. Playing two of those vs Aggro deck is like playing Reno Jackson. They pretty much have no way to go through 20 Armor. Warrior was already a likely candidate to play C’thun, because it has the necessary tools to stale the game long enough to play the 10 mana card. With Ancient Shieldbearer revealed, Warrior’s choice became even better.
Concept is cool, but the card itself not really. The biggest deal about it is that it’s hard countered by Silence. When enemy silences your Doomsayer, it’s already bad. Completely negating the card’s value with Silence is a lot of value gained for the opponent. And if you spend 5 mana to get a card out and it can be COMPLETELY shut down with a Silence, it’s bad. Stuff like Sylvanas Windrunner or Tirion Fordring are weak against Silence, but even if they get Silenced – they still leave a body on the board. With Validated Doomsayer, all you’re left with is a 0/7.
And that’s the first reason why it’s bad. There is another one. You NEED to have board control to play it. It’s not 7/7 for 5 if enemy has the board. It’s 0/7 for 5. On his turn, enemy can kill it for free before it becomes 7/7. Even if enemy can’t kill it, but can damage it, it’s already bad. If enemy deals 4 damage to it, suddenly it’s a 7/3 for 5. Worse version of the Salty Dog, which – as we all know – sucks.
A 5 mana 7/7 would be really good. But, a 7/7 that requires you to have a COMPLETE board control to work and that is hard countered by Silence? I don’t think so. The risk/reward ratio is too high. Reward – playing 7/7 for 5 is pretty small compared to the risk that it’s completely useless.
One thing worth mentioning is that it’s an ongoing effect that happens every turn. His attack becomes 7. It makes the card impossible to counter with Humility-like effects. But on the other hand, buffing his attack means that he goes back to the 7 at the start of next turn. It’s probably not going to matter, but if you ever play this card, you need to remember that.
In Arena it’s also bad. Silence is less popular, but the second problem stays. You can’t possibly play it if you don’t have board control. If enemy outtempos you, it’s a completely dead card. Yes, there are other cards like that – let’s say Cult Master. If you don’t have board control, it’s dead card. But it has 4 attack so it can AT LEAST kill something. And if you have board control, it gives you a much bigger advantage.
And another one. 5-drop with better than vanilla stats but with a negative effect. This one is a Zombie Chow on steroids. But it’s way, way worse than Zombie Chow.
Let’s start with the stats. 6/6 for 5 mana. You know what, come to think about it, it’s really nothing impressive. I mean, the statline is obviously good, but is it THAT good? Pit Fighter came out in TGT and it has seen literally NO Constructed play, even though it’s a vanilla 5/6 without any downside. If you add one attack, does it really change that much? If you hit face, yes. You push for 1 more damage. But realistically, how many popular 6 health targets are there? 2-3? Alright, we don’t know yet, some new 6 health minions might be released. But so far, most of the popular mid game stuff is 5 health. So usually there is really no difference between 5/6 and 6/6. Comparing to Zombie Chow – 2/3 for 1 was much better. Not only it gave a turn 1 play for slower decks (they already have a plenty of turn 5 plays, so no need for Corrupted Healbot), but it was so much better than other 1-drops at contesting the early board. Corrupted Healbot doesn’t seem so much better at contesting the mid game board.
Then, the downside. When you play Zombie Chow on turn 1, the 5 points of healing usually don’t matter. You use him for the early game trades. When enemy is still at full/nearly full health. So the downside is small or sometimes there is no downside at all. But then, on turn 5 enemy is very likely to have taken some damage already. Healing him for 8 makes much bigger difference. It basically means that the card is unplayable in any deck that wants to beat up the enemy. So not only Aggro decks, but also a lot of Midrange decks. Zombie Chow was playable in Secret Paladin or some versions of Zoo Warlock, because early game they have worried about board control, not pushing for damage. But on turn 5, pushing for face damage is already important.
So, the only choice is Control decks. But does a Control deck want to play a minion just because it’s a pile of stats? And not even a huge pile of stats? With a DOWNSIDE? I honestly don’t think so.
The only synergy I see is in Priest, with Auchenai Soulpriest. If you have both of those on the board, you deal 8 damage instead of healing for 8. But then again, it’s in Priest. Control Priest rarely cares about the face damage, and you can’t force it so easily on your terms as you could with Zombie Chow (e.g. play Circle of Healing to sacrifice it yourself). Overall, I don’t like it.
It’s going to be a good Arena card, though. The “pile of stats” work really well when playing Arena, because removals are more rare. Even 6/6 for 6 is good enough, and having a 6/6 for 5 is awesome. The healing effect might be a problem sometimes, but it really depends on what kind of deck are you playing. If you play a slower deck, you definitely want it, because you win by taking board control and then finishing enemy in 2-3 turns. He can be at 30 health and you don’t care. But then, in Aggro/Tempo decks, you want to rush enemy down. The 8 healing might ruin that plan. But then again, if it survives it can also push for quite a lot of damage. Overall I think it will be a very good Arena card.
Another “corrupted” minion. This time it’s a bigger version of Loot Hoarder. Twice the size. 2x as much Attack and Health for 2x as much mana. Sadly, the card draw stays the same. I… don’t really like it. It’s a 4 drop with 2 health, meaning it’s SO EASY to kill. Yes, it cycles itself, but it’s still a huge tempo loss if it’s killed with let’s say a 1-drop.
I want to compare it to two cards. First one is Cult Master. The same stat line, but the effect is stronger in most of the decks that play minions. If you cycle one minion, that’s already a card draw. The same effect. It’s really easy to play Cult Master and run a minion in. Then, it has a potential to cycle even more. But you know what? Cult Master very rarely sees Constructed play.
Then, the second card is Gnomish Inventor. The card draw is instant, so it can’t get Silenced. It’s 2/4, so it trades down better. It’s worse at trading up, it’s true, but I think that 2/4 is overall a better statline than 4/2.
Decks that want to cycle heavily prefer Loot Hoarders, because they’re cheaper for the same cycle effect. Slower decks that need the cycle will probably prefer the Gnomish Inventor. Fast, board-centric decks will prefer Cult Master. And Midrange decks prefer something that doesn’t die to a 1-drop or any removal, so they can get the mid game tempo they need. And if they need to play something to refill their hand, they can play something like, you know, Azure Drake, which for +1 mana gains +2 health, +1 Spell Damage and the draw becomes instant. I don’t really see a reason to play this card in any kind of deck.
If it would draw 2 cards, though… Then it would be a whole different story. But it doesn’t, so it’s pretty bad.
Decent in Arena, though. 4 health 4-drops are much more popular here and playing it into a 4/4 or 5/4 is actually good. The fact that it cycles itself is cool too. It probably won’t be the best Arena card, but it won’t be terrible either.
Stand Against Darkness
Dear God… I know that they might not want to release strong Paladin cards after they’ve got something overpowered each expansion, but come on. We don’t have to go completely opposite way.
That card is… exactly what you see. You pay 5 mana for 5x 1/1. If enemy has board, he can clear most of them for free, without his minion dying. If enemy has ANY AoE in his hand, they just die. Any Whirlwind effect just wipes it. Stuff like Swipe or Consecration or Wild Pyromancer + any spell… You get that. It’s weak. But yeah, they aren’t ordinary 1/1’s – they are Silver Hand Recruits. With the current information we have, though, it doesn’t matter. They need to release some really strong card that synergizes with Recruits.
Quartermaster is gone from the Standard, so that’s the one synergy that could be nice. Yes, it can still be played in Wild, but so does Muster for Battle. And I honestly see no reason to play it over Muster. Not only it’s way more flexible, because it can come 2 turns earlier AND you gain a 1/4 weapon. So on turn 5 you can actually play Muster + Hero Power. Which I’d still play over this card, because 1 less recruit for 1/4 weapon is a fair trade.
The only real Recruits synergy we’ll have left is Warhorse Trainer. And let’s be honest, this card isn’t really strong. It’s a weak 3-drop and yeah, you can maybe go for the dream turn 5 Stand Against Darkness into turn 6 double Warhorse Trainer, but it’s very unlikely. And not even THAT strong – it’s even weaker than what a single Quartermaster would do.
So, what we would need for this card to be played is some INSANELY strong card that synergizes with Silver Hand Recruits. After seeing this card released I’m pretty sure we’re getting some synergies this expansion – but the real question is, will they be strong? Strong enough to run a weak card like that? We’ll see.
Okay, so that’s the end of part 1 here. I’ll be writing part 2 soon, but like I’ve said in the beginning, I aim at about 10 cards per part, so the articles wouldn’t be too long. Expect the next one soon!
By the way, for some reason I was writing “cultits” instead of “cultists” all the time. And I didn’t even realize until I’ve spell checked the article. For some reason reading “cultits” all around the article made me laugh really hard. But I might be weird.