Stone Reviews Old Gods: Part 2

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 […]

Introduction

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.

Hogger, Doom of Elwynn

With the most notable 7-drop going out of Standard, we need something to fill this gap. This seems like the first candidate Blizzard is showing us.

First things first – it’s ain’t no Dr. Boom. It’s way, way worse. I actually think it might even be worse than the Troggzor the Earthinator, which is sad, because it has seen pretty much zero Constructed play.

So, let’s start with the upside. This card is pretty good when opponent has quite a lot of the puny minions AND no hard removal AND he’s not killing you any time soon. If you have a time to attack with it a few times, yeah, then the value is pretty nice. But not only it takes a few turns to get that value. Because come on, opponent will never run 3-4 minions into your 6/6 THROUGH the Taunts it spawns unless he’s dying, which shouldn’t be the case for deck that plays a lot of small minions and it’s turn 7. I’d say that 2-3 hits and this guy gets his value. But how often will it happen? Not often enough, in my opinion.

Then again, against “hard removals” it sucks. If it gets Fireballed, Shield Slammed etc. – you got a 2/2 with Taunt back. Which is, hm, not terrible, at least you got something. 1 for 1 and you still have a 2/2 Taunt. But like I’ve said, it’s nowhere close to the level of 2x Boom Bot. And that’s actually fine – we don’t want a second Dr. Boom. But the problem I see is that it’s most likely weaker than Troggzor too.

The reason is that big bodies like that rarely get taken out in minion combat. Yes, maybe against certain decks it’s possible, but if you drop it on empty board – well, enemy has to use a spell to kill it or let it live. If enemy kills your Hogger 2.0 with a Spell, you get a 2/2 Taunt AT BEST. AT BEST because it only works on damage. Enemy Siphon Souls it? You get nothing. Enemy Hexes/Polymorphs it? You get nothing. In case of Troggzor, you’d still get a 3/5 minion.

The card is probably not good enough to be a new go-to 7-drop. It might get you some value, but it’s slow – it has no immediate impact or no immediate additional value. It’s also pretty weak in Control matchups, where it will be just removed with a spell instead of minion combat and you’ll only get a 2/2 Taunt. So, too slow against fast decks, not enough value against slow decks… I don’t know, but I just feel like it won’t have enough impact. It’s clearly meant to “counter” the board-centric decks with a lot of small minions, but the thing is, his fellow 7-drop – Baron Geddon – is just so much better at this job. And against Control it’s like whatever, both are about the same level IF BGH gets hit (if not, Hogger might be better just because he’s at 6 not 7 attack).

In Arena, however, it’s much better. Minion combat is way more important there. It might be bad to play it into the Boulderfist Ogre or something like that, but the thing is – puny minions are played all the way to the late game in Arena. Most of the good Arena decks have pretty low curve – a few 5+ mana minions is already enough of the late game. It means that if you drop it into let’s say 3 small minions, you might get quite a lot of value. It’s still not amazing, because 6/6 stats on a 7-drop are on the weak side, but I think it might be a decent pick.

Giant Sandworm

I.. think that’s a cool mechanic. It might actually work on a smaller minion. And NOT in Hunter. Blizzard tries to push the Control Hunter theme, but I still doubt it will work. And honestly, I wouldn’t even play this in a Control Hunter. 8/8 minion for 8 mana that doesn’t really do anything special? Yes, it can attack second time after it hits a minion, but is it really that good? How many times you thought “yeah, I’d really like to play that 8/8 for 8 that CAN ATTACK MINION AND THEN HIT FACE TOO!” If you play 8/8 in Hunter, there is one direction where the second attack is going – Face. But if you play it in let’s say Midrange Hunter – for just one more mana you get King Krush, which has freakin’ Charge on the same sized body. Yeah, it can’t attack minion and then face, but so what? When you play Hunter, your game plan is to go face and force opponents to deal with you minions. If you play Giant Sandworm, enemy has chance to react even before you can attack with this one. Charge is, in my opinion, much better mechanic for Hunter than this one anyway. And the King Krush still doesn’t see play, even in the slowest playable Hunter lists.

Then again, you have Ragnaros the Firelord. Obviously, it’s random, but is probably also much better option to play in Control-style Hunter (Midrange too, honestly). First reason is that it has immediate impact and the second reason is that it doesn’t take damage when it hits something. Oh, and it’s a freaking Firelord – that’s a third reason.

And once again, I’m saying this assuming Big Game Hunter gets nerfed. If it doesn’t get nerfed, you can just cross everything I’ve said and replace it with one word: unplayable. In case BGH gets nerfed it has a slight, really, really slight chance to see some play in some kind of Control Hunter or Reno Hunter or something like that.

It’s an okay Arena card, though. 8/8 for 8 is alright. Definitely not great, but good enough. Then, the Beast tag is cool in Hunter and the effect comes pretty handy. The truth is that you rarely want to trade with 8 Attack minion when you play Hunter, but when you have this one the board you can trade AND go face on the same turn. Let’s say enemy plays a Taunt, you can hit it and then still push for 8 face damage. Enemy plays a high value minion you have to kill – no problem, hit it and still go face. It’s good to have such a flexibility, so I’d put this above average in Arena. Not in “great” tier, but good.

Eater of Secrets

First of all, I’m glad that this card exists. No matter whether it will work or not, having the niche tech cards to counter certain archetypes that might get out of control is cool. And as we’ve learned from TGT, Secrets can get out of control. Needless to say, Eater of Secrets would be a terrific counter to Secret Paladin. Playing after MC turn would be great. Not only you got rid of all his Secrets, but you’ve played a 4 mana up to 7/9 (most likely 6/8 because 4 Secrets is standard – but 6/8 is just enough to kill Mysterious Challenger and survive).

Yeah, great counter. But the question is – will Secret Paladin dominate the meta? Remember that about half of the cards played in the current Secret Paladin lists are going away, including the all-stars like the best Secret – Avenge, best 2-drop – Shielded Minibot and best 3-drop – Muster for Battle. Secret Paladin might not even be that strong to require a counter in Standard. Yes, it will still be one of the top decks in Wild, so that’s that.

Because this card is a 2/4 minion at the base. For 4 mana. It simply SUCKS in any non-Secret matchup. Even in matchups when enemy plays one Secret, it’s pretty mediocre. I mean, getting a 3/5 and destroying a Secret is nice value. But against Druids, Warlocks, Warriors, Rogues, Shamans and Priests it’s just a 2/4 for 4. You’d need like 60-70% of your matchups to play Secrets to even consider running it.

For example, if you “destroy” one Secret, Kezan Mystic was just better. Not only you’ve destroyed that I don’t know, Freezing Trap, Mirror Entity, but you’ve also taken it for yourself, giving you a free tempo. This takes away tempo from the enemy, which is still fine, but not as swingy. Yet, Kezan Mystic was rarely ran. Only when there were TONS of Mages, some have teched it in.

So while I’m glad this card exists, unless we get some insane Secret decks or Secret Paladin becomes the #1 dominating force in the meta (which wasn’t the case, for example this season Paladins were about 20% of my matchups, probably about 15% of which were Secret Paladins – which is a lot, but not enough to put this card in) I don’t see it being commonly played. Maybe as some weird anti-Secret card, just like Ooze is ran against weapon classes. But the thing is – Ooze is a 2 mana card with 2 mana worth of stats (3/2). This one is a 4 mana card with 2.5 mana worth of stats (2/4).

Horrible in Arena. Kezan Mystic was already bad, because you rarely played against Secrets. This is probably even worse, because 2/4 are worse stats for 4-drop than 4/3 most of time.

Forbidden Flame

This card is… bad. I’ve tried to find a good thing about this card and I’ve found only one – it’s a pretty flexible minion removal. I mean, it can’t even hit face… If it could hit face it would be considerably better. Good, actually. Right now it’s definitely not good enough. Let’s run a quick comparison of playing this card at certain mana costs:

1 mana: This vs Arcane Blast. Arcane Blast deals 1 more damage AND it gets double Spell Damage synergy.

2 mana: This vs Frostbolt. Frostbolt deals 1 more damage, gets Freeze effect and can hit face.

4 mana: This vs Fireball. Fireball deals 2 more damage, can hit face.

5 mana: This vs Flame Lance. Flame Lance deals 3 more damage (and is not played in Constructed).

10 mana: This vs Pyroblast. Pyroblast can hit face (and is played in Constructed ONLY because it can hit face).

So let’s be honest. You need to sacrifice a lot of power for that flexibility. This card is pretty bad at every mana cost. 2 mana for 2 damage that can only hit minions? 4 mana for 4? IT SUCKS!

This card is always 1 for 1 and never gets you any tempo, so what’s the reason to play it if Mage has access to much better removals? For example, enemy played a turn 8 Ragnaros. Yeah, you can remove it. For 8 mana. You just traded 1 for 1 and gained no tempo or anything. Just compare it to Shield Slam, which is a great single target removal, or even the Polymorph. You Poly the Rag and you can still play the 4-drop, so you’re suddenly ahead. This card will rarely get you ahead, maybe by 1 or 2 mana at best. But sometimes you can’t even remove minions on the curve. Turn 4 and 5/6 health minion? Yeah, you can’t kill it even if you spend full mana. Something like Ysera? Well, you can NEVER remove it, because you won’t have 12 mana.

I don’t see it being played in any deck. Tempo Mage doesn’t want it, because it already has enough stronger options. Fireballs and Frostbolts are way better, because they can target face too. Freeze Mage – yeah, the same thing, they need burn, not single targets removals on the board. I wouldn’t even play this in Reno Mage – I’d prefer Flame Lance if I needed more single target removal.

Forbidden Healing

This, on the other hand, is so much better. Unlike Mage removals, which are plenty, Paladin has a big gap in healing. There is a Holy Light at 2 mana, then nothing until 8 mana and Lay on Hands. The latter one even sucks when it comes to the healing, it’s played mostly for the card draw.

Having the option to heal for as much as you want is really good. This card might be auto-win in some matchups, like against Aggro decks or against Freeze Mage. It’s less efficient than Holy Light (which heals for 6 at 2 mana, meaning it’s 3 healing per mana), but like I’ve said, there is nothing in the middle. There is no 5 mana “heal for 15” (if we go with the 3 healing per mana). If such a card existed, I’d say that Forbidden Healing would be redundant. But it’s not.

With Antique Healbot gone from Standard, this might replace it in some Paladin decks.

But then again, the card might not see any play. Not because it’s not good, but because the popular Paladin archetypes are all aggressive. They don’t need to play healing. Besides the Anyfin Can Happen Paladin, what was the last time you’ve seen a Control Paladin? I don’t remember playing against one in MONTHS. This is definitely not a card fitting Aggro/Secret Paladin. Maybe, just maybe a Midrange, but I’m also not sure. And then, it could be played in Standard version of Anyfin Paladin (since the Healbots will be gone), but the deck is very likely to disappear from Standard, since Old Murk-Eye won’t be playable there. And I doubt that they release another Charge Murloc in its place. While it’s still possible to play the deck without Murk-Eye, it’s much less viable then.

Overall a cool card that might not see the light, because of the Paladin being (probably) the class that will take the hardest hit in Standard. But we’ll see.

Forbidden Shaping

I’d say that it’s the most interesting out of 3 “Forbidden” cards so far. But most interesting might not exactly mean best.

The idea itself is awesome. Priest often struggles with spending mana, with playing on curve. With a lot of reactive cards it means that Priest also has a lot of dead cards in certain situations. We all know how curving out in the early game might hard, but is really vital. We also know how some of the late game turns look like. Hero Power + pass because Priest’s hand is full of situational removal is also common scenario. This card plays around both of them. When playing this, it’s impossible to NOT curve out perfectly. You miss a 2-drop? You play it on 2. You miss 3-drop? On 3. Then, in the late game, you might drop your Hero Power to heal something and play it to get a random 8-drop.

What I really don’t like, though, is the word “random”. While it’s not as a big deal when it comes to the late game cards – not only there are much less cards on each mana cost, so you can narrow down to what you really want (like you might want to play it on 8 mana, because a lot of the strong Legendaries are on 8 mana)* But when it comes to the early game? It’s complete RNGfest. The truth is, there are A LOT of bad small drops you can get at random. The main issue is that this doesn’t proc the Battlecry or Discover effects. So getting Novice Engineer or Jeweled Scarab sucks really hard – getting a 2 mana 1/1 with no effect is never good. Then again, there are also a lot of bad small drops that are… just bad. Silverback Patriarch let’s say. You rarely want to get it on turn 3, because it usually just happens to die for free unless enemy has board full of 1 health minions. That’s a huge issue. I’d say that the early game flexibility is much more important than the potential late game big drop (you don’t need big drops in fast matchups and you have Entomb and Museum Curators for that in slow matchups).

First of all, we still need to know how many good/bad small drops for this card the expansion will bring. There might be insane Discover 2-drop (like Dark Peddler) which will be pretty bad with this card, because it will be vanilla 2/2. Then someone needs to run the math and see how big are the chances of getting something meaningful on each mana cost. This card is impossible to judge straight away – it needs A LOT of research and/or experimenting with to really tell whether it will work or not. It might be great oooor it might suck. Right now I’m somewhere in between on that one – I think that it has the potential but I can’t be sure without doing the research first (and I can’t really be bothered doing it now since it might change a lot with over 100 cards yet to be released).

*Actually, some of the strongest 8 mana cards are rotating out of Standard – Kel’Thuzad, Foe Reaper 4000 and Sneed’s Old Shredder are gone, which decreases the 8-drop value. But I think it still might be the best mana cost. There is still pretty high chance to hit one of the strong minion like Ragnaros the Firelord, Chromaggus, Rhonin and Tirion Fordring. Also, very notable that there are 2 charge minions in case you need some instant removal or more reach – Al’Akir the Windlord and Grommash Hellscream. But like I’ve said, the research on this card will come out after all cards are revealed.

In Arena, well, I’d say it’s okay. Overall quality of minions is much worse there. When the calculations about the “strongest mana to play it on” are done, it might be a really good card. I bet that if you play it on 8 mana you get either an Ironbark Protector, Force-Tank Max or Fossilized Devilsaur (none of which really sucks) OR one of the really cool Legendaries. It being random is obviously a pretty bad deal, because you can’t play around getting Kel’Thuzad and set up your board a turn before. Or you can’t play around getting Chromaggus and saving up your card draw. Small stuff like that. But I honestly think it has some Arena potential.

Infested Tauren

Unlike for the previous stuff, there won’t be a long list of “pros and cons” for this card, because there are pretty much no good things to say about it. It’s just really, really weak. They’ve tried to create something like a mix between balanced Piloted Shredder/Sludge Belcher and it turned out really bad.

Couple of things to mention. First of all, the initial body is 2/3 for 4 mana. That’s 2 mana more than it should cost. Yes, it has Taunt, but it doesn’t really matter if it can be killed for free by pretty much any 3-drop.

Then, it drops a 2/2 Slime. For Shredder, 2/2 was an average outcome, I’d actually say that it was on the worse side – 2/3’s or 3/2’s were much better. The Slime has no Taunt, unlike the one from Sludge Belcher. So you’re getting 4/5 worth of stats for 4 mana. Seems balanced, right? No. If you add stats from the main body + Deathrattle, they’ll obviously be higher. Just look at the Harvest Golem. If you go this way it’s a 3 mana 4/4. Yet no one plays it, because in reality the 2 attack is pretty low and it’s hard to kill anything outside of the 1/2 drops with it. The Taunt doesn’t really help, because that’s a 2/3 with Taunt. Even Aggro decks won’t have ANY problems going through it. Not to mention that Silence makes it a 4 mana 2/3. Not good.

The biggest issue is how easy it is to trade even with this card. A 3 mana 3/3 (stuff like Earthen Ring Farseer, Mind Control Tech) can already 1 for 1 with it WHILE having their own Battlecry effects. But it gets even worse. 5 health 4-drops, stuff like Sen’jin Shieldmasta, Chillwind Yeti or Violet Teacher can just kill it for free. Over two turns, right, but it can’t trade even with 3/5’s.

I don’t think this card will see any Constructed play.

Even in Arena it’s mediocre. But mediocre cards are playable in Arena, so that’s that. It might be a good turn 4 play when all enemy has is like 2x 2-drop. It’s also decent card in the late game to give you some safety against AoE. Other than that, it’s pretty trash even in Arena.

Herald Volazj

I can’t say that this card is bad. The card itself is good. But I don’t like it in Priest. Yes, we might get some good Priest card that synergizes with it Volazj. But right now it just doesn’t fit the Priest.

It’s a pretty strong mechanic. It’s good when you copy a minion that might be good even as a 1/1. So basically, stuff like Deathrattle minions – Loot Hoarder, Sylvanas Windrunner or minions with ongoing effects like Emperor Thaurissan, Ragnaros the Firelord… But that’s not really what Control Priest plays right now. Current lists have pretty much no minions you’d really want to copy. Unless you want to get vanilla 1/1’s, which you obviously don’t.

Then maybe the second and only other playable Priest archetype – Dragon Priest? Nah. Most of the minions have strong Battlecries and good stats, NOT ongoing effects and Deathrattles. Ysera maybe, but if Ysera sticks to the board you should win that game anyway, you don’t need double dream cards.

That card might be really strong if you build a deck around it. But I honestly don’t think that it’s right to build a deck around it. It’s not a game-winning card like the Old Gods or you know, Reno Jackson. You need to have board presence already to take the value. You can’t realistically count on getting more than 1-2 copies out of it. The effect is strong, but not as strong to build a deck around it.

Oh, and one important thing is that A LOT of good Deathrattle cards are going away. All the Shredders, Belcher, Nerubian Egg, Haunted Creeper – they’re gone from Standard. And so far no cards that really work well with Volazj in this expansion. I can see it being played in the future, though, because the card itself is pretty good.

I don’t like it in Arena, though. Not only it’s much harder to draft around it, as a Priest you rarely have board control. If you have like one minion on the board that doesn’t even synergize with it, you’re getting a 6 mana 5/5 + 1/1. Which is pretty bad, overpriced by one mana. And if you have like 3-4 minions out as a Priest, you most likely win the game anyway. Priest’s Hero Power is insane if he can dictate the trades in the mid/late game and can carry the game easily. But what is hard is GETTING to that point. Volazj doesn’t help with that, sadly.

Tentacle of N’Zoth

Yeeeeah. We’ve finally got some tentacles in the game. *cough* Anime *cough* fans may or may not be happy about it.

We’ve already knew that they’re going to “recycle” the old cards. And by recycle I don’t mean create something that’s completely the same, but rather use the old mechanics and change stuff a bit. I want to compare this card to three others:

First one is Whirlwind. I think that Whirlwind might be slightly stronger, because it’s instant. Tentacle, however, might be played a turn before into the empty board and then attack into some 2 health minion to kill it. It can be also set-up a turn earlier if you want to play something that synergizes from the Whirlwind effect next turn and you wouldn’t have enough mana to play Whirlwind alongside. Not to mention that it’s neutral – that’s the biggest deal.

The second one is Unstable Ghoul. For 1 less mana we get -2 health and -Taunt, which actually isn’t as bad as it sounds. Ghoul was played for the Deathrattle anyway. Yes, sometimes it put enemy into awkward scenarios because of the Taunt, that’s why I think it was slightly stronger. But then again, 1 vs 2 mana cost makes it more flexible.

And the third card is Explosive Sheep. It was commonly played in some slower Mage decks, because it could be dropped on turn 2 into opponent’s 2-drop and it could be played later with Hero Power for 4 mana 2 damage AoE. This is a smaller version of it. -1 mana, but -1 AoE damage. Sadly, it won’t likely take Sheep’s place, because the fact that it was 2 AoE made it much better as a board clear.

Overall, I think it’s a fair card. It has strong synergies with certain cards like Grim Patron, Frothing Berserker, Acolyte of Pain… Yeah, Patron Warrior. With both Unstable Ghoul and Death’s Bite gone, if Blizzard wants the deck to stay alive, it needs to add some cards that produce Whirlwind effects. And here it is, one of them. It’s actually a pretty good card in Patron Warrior. But I think we still need slightly more to make the deck stay strong in Standard.

Other than Patron, I’m not sure whether we’ll see it somewhere. It’s a good counter to decks that want to rush you with small minions. For example, it would be nice against current Face Hunter or Aggro Paladin. Even to drop it on turn 1

If the meta won’t be full of 1 health minions, I don’t think we’ll see this played in other decks than Patron Warrior. But what I’ve been thinking of, if another strong neutral Whirlwind effect card gets released, maybe another (non-Warrior) Patron deck will be created? We have another neutral way to proc Patrons with Wild Pyromancer already. I know it’s pretty stretched theory, but who knows?

Closing

So that’s part 2. I’ve pretty much finished with the old reveals and now I’ll try to stay up to date. A lot of new cards were announced yesterday/today, so the next part should come out pretty soon. Stay tuned!