MSG! M.S.G! Ladies and gentlemen, November has passed and it is that time of year again. The time where we sit back, give Blizzard our well earned money and crack open some packs. Yes, a new set is on the horizon and I (as with everyone else in the community) cannot wait. This set has more going on that any we have ever seen, and is without a doubt going to be one of the most exciting expansions of all time. There are just a ton of awesome cards coming out that all really raise the power level of this game. And, now that we know exactly what cards are in the set, I am going to weigh in with my own opinion. In this article I will be breaking down my picks for the top 10 cards from the set, looking at how they will play in constructed over the coming months. Of course, these picks are quite subjective. But I have a pretty good track record, and guessing is part of the fun.
However, before we start…
Honorable Mentions: Kabal Chemist, Kun the Forgotten King, Meanstreet Marshal, Drakonid Operative, Jade Swarmer, White Eyes, Hobart Grapplehammer, Abyssal Enforcer, Dopplegangster.
10. Don Han’cho
We begin our list with a card that I really came around on. I mean really came around on. When Don Han’cho first got spoiled I thought this card was bad. A 5/5 for seven is the opposite of exciting, especially in a game where tempo and bodies are so important. In that way, playing this seems extremely underwhelming and slow minion However, the more I thought about it, the more I really began to like the big baddy. The reason being that, as terrible as this card is when you’re behind, its very powerful when you’re ahead. Most good midrange decks have a way to control the board during the middle of the game and if you have priority when you drop the Don you are going to be in a great spot.
This card basically gives you two threats for the price of one, which can be huge for any solid midrange deck. For example, using this in Paladin to turn a late-game Wickerflame Burnbristle into a 7/7 or an Aldor Peacekeeper into an 8/8 is phenomenal. This also has some amazing combos with Hunter and will probably be a part of any type of tempo or taunt warrior that emerges. Forcing your opponent to deal with a 5/5 and then deal with some small-threat-turned-huge is exactly the type of value midrange decks want. And for that reason, I predict this card is going to see quite a bit of play.
A 1/1 for one may not be the card you write home about (in fact, it’s incredibly boring) but these are the types of cards that help shape a meta. While it is easy to get caught up on big legendaries, it is important to remember that most of the archetypes around are built off the backs of innocuous cards like Alleycat. Living Roots has already shown us how strong two 1/1’s on turn one can be, and that is in a class that rarely makes use of early board presence. Hunter, on the other hand, absolutely loves being able to snowball a good curve. And nothing starts off that curve like two 1/1 beasts. Not a ton to talk about here, but having the ability to slot this into your curve, start off the game with priority and also generate a cheap beast whenever you want is invaluable to any Midrange Hunter.
8. Jinyu Waterspeaker
While I originally wanted this slot to be White Eyes, Jinyu Waterspeaker is just much more important. While not as good in a vacuum as the flashy legendary, the four mana card is much better overall. Not only does it give control a decent body to play during the middle of the game, but it also allows them to heal for six. Six! That type of heal onto a very well statted minion is almost never seen, and this could singlehandedly bring Control Shaman to the top of the ladder.
Healing has always been a very tricky subject in Hearthstone. While it does exist in some fashion at all times, it almost always stapled onto undervalued minions. Jinyu Waterspeaker does not follow that trend. Rather, it just oozes value. Everything about this card is good, and a control deck would happily pay the one overload for the body and ability. In Control Shaman this card may actually be better than Antique Healbot because of how much better a 3/6 is than a 3/3. Yes, it heals for two less health, but it also costs one mana less. C’est la vie
I expect great things from Kazakus. Not only is the 3/3 one of the coolest cards ever made, but it really packs a punch for Reno decks. There are many solid Reno cards in the set, and those spread out across the three Kabal classes. That means there is likely going to be three Reno decks running around the ladder, and Kazakus is going to be an amazing fit for all of them. While the body is inherently weak, being able to craft the spell to whatever you need really makes this worth the one-of trade off. Versatility is absolutely essential in Hearthstone, and this card oozes it in so many wonderful ways.
There is just no reason not to run Kazakus in a Reno deck, and that is a testament to just how strong the four drop is. This gives you a ton of options through spells and lets you perfectly adapt to any situation. If you need something right away you can make a one-mana spell, if you want to play on curve you can go for five, and if you’re playing against control you can go for ten. On top of that, you have a wide range of tools that help you against all different classes. If you’re facing aggro you can look for healing or AOE, against midrange you can try to find AOE or direct damage, and against control you can bring your own minions back to life. Extremely powerful, and it’s only number seven.
6. Dispatch Kodo
Man, did Hunter make out like bandits in this one. It is almost as if Blizzard wanted to do away with Secret and the only way they knew how was to make some absolutely ridiculous beast cards. Without any buffs, Dispatch Kodo is a pre-nerf Keeper of the Grove. While it does not have the option of silencing a card (making it undeniably worse), it is a on-curve beast with a good body. Not only that, but if this thing ever gets buffed it goes from good to oh-my-god-how-did-they-print-this level in about four seconds.
A 2/4 beast for four that deals two damage is fine and would probably be played in most midrange Hunter decks. However, when you start messing around with buffs this card starts to feel extremely unfair. A 3/5 beast for four that deals three damage or a 4/6 beast for four that deals four damage are both unreal and will instantly give you both the board and a relevant body with a very relevant minion type. That type of power just isn’t seen in Hunter, and for very good reason. Once Rexxar gets ahead on board the game rapidly spirals out of control, and this gives them both a way to clear and a large beast to boot.
5. Patches the Pirate
We move into the top five with a card that a lot of people are sleeping on for no real reasons. A 1/1 may not seem like a big deal, but Patches the Pirate is so (so, so, so) much more than a simple 1/1. For starters, it has charge, and that really matters in an aggro deck. Being able to get value out of this immediately is important, especially during the early turns of the game. In any pirate deck it is safe to assume that you are going to see patches on turn one or turn two. That means this card is always going to be a source of damage or a way to trade. It is not a lot of extra power, but turning a N’zoth’s First Mate into a psuedo Muster for Battle or being able to coin out a Bloodsail Corsair and then trade into your opponent’s Fiery Bat are the type of plays that decks need to be competitive.
Another big part of this card is the fact that Pirate Warrior is already a competitive archetype. A lot of the time new cards are hard to evaluate because they are for new decks, but this is already a part of a legend-worthy list that is just going to get even stronger. Being able to have an extra pirate on board is always going to be good in one way or another, as is just generating more board presence. Not to mention, this card thins your deck out to 29 cards. Less may not always be better, but that extra consistency is absolutely key in an aggressive deck like Pirate Warrior where you want to limit your dead draws as much as you can.
4. Wickerflame Burnbristle
Coming in at number four is Wickerflame Burnbristle, a seemingly-innocuous Paladin legendary that has a lot going on. Off the bat, we already have one of the best ability combinations in the game in divine shield and taunt. Then, you get those two abilities stapled onto a reasonably costed 2/2 for three that comes with some very strong healing potential. All of that together creates a unique card that can be used aggressively and defensively depending on the situation at hand. Versatility is key to making good cards, and this has the type where it is always going to be useful in some way. It protects your face, heals you, trades well and enables you put down a sticky threat. That’s some value.
The reason the dwarf comes it at number four is because there is a very real possibility he will slot into every single style of Paladin. A lot of class legendaries are strong, but most of them are usually built for one style of deck within that class. However, I think Wickerflame Burnbristle breaks that rule and falls into the rare “auto include” territory. Not only is it a good wall for control, but it also serves as a sticky minion for aggro and a mix of the two for midrtange. I am not sure which Paladin decks will emerge from the new set, but I believe there will be at least one. And, no matter what that deck is, Wickerflame is going to be in it.
3. Aya Blackpaw
Now, before we get into the amazing power of Aya Blackpaw, I will concede this is a very subjective pick. The reason being that the 5/3 is only going to be as strong as the Jade Golem mechanic is. If the cards just don’t come together then this legendary is obviously not going to see the light of day. However, I do not think that the mechanic is going to be bad. In fact, I think it’s going to be very strong and the panda is going to be a big reason why. This is because Aya is simply an insane amount of stats packed into a single card. Normally, stats are not that important, but Aya has so much raw power that she proves to be an exception to that rule.
The reason Aya Blackpaw is so high on this list is because I think she is going to be one of the hardest cards to deal with in the entire game. A 5/3 body is nothing to sneeze at, especially when you have a phenomenal deathrattle to go with it. Even on the lower end of the scale, odds are you are going to play at least two Jade Golems before putting down the panda on turn six. In that situation you are getting a 5/3 that says “Battlecry: Summon a 3/3, Deathrattle: Summon a 4/4.” Bam. And that’s not even the dream. What if those become summon a 4/4 and a 5/5? 5/5 and a 6/6? This card seems to have some of the best snowball potential we’ve ever seen, and it is absolutely going to be the best legendary from the set. I am not sure which decks will be able to deal with Aya easily, and she can easily win games on her own.
2. Dragonfire Potion
While Dragon Priest also received Drakonid Operative in this set, the well-statted five drop pales in comparison to the raw power of Dragonfire Potion. On the surface, this card is one of the best swing plays that Dragon Priest has. Anytime you play this with a minion or two on board you are instantly going to come out ahead. Even having one thing live is a gigantic swing. For those reasons, this card will likely push Dragon Priest over the edge and give it the one piece its been missing for so long. However, while that is strong, where the AOE really shines is in control.
Ever since Standard, Priests have mourned the loss of Lightbomb. The reason for that is their current sweepers are all for low-health minions and they cannot do anything about midrange bodies or late-game threats. Dragonfire Potion completely changes that by allowing Priest to effective deal with many of the minions that have been giving them so much trouble over the past year. That then allows them to conserve resources and keeps their spot removal moving into the late game. For those reasons, I think this will be a Control Priest staple that will push the deck back into the spotlight. Yes, they are getting other tools to go along with this, but this is easily the most important piece of the entire puzzle. In fact, I don’t think it would exist without it. Good sweepers are hard to find these days, and I’m not sure you’ll find one more effective that this.
1. Rat Pack
Now this is how you make a strong card. While not as flashy as the other cards on the list, Rat Pack is just one of those Hunter “must haves” that oozes value. Infested Wolf and Kindly Grandmother are two very solid cards that are played in just about every single Midrange Hunter list, and the pack absolutely blows them out of the water. Even without any buffs, the three drop is a 2/2 beast that summons two 1/1 beasts when it dies. That’s solid. Add on the fact that it has to be dealt with right away because of Houndmaster and you blow this into the stratosphere. That’s just an insane amount of value packed into one beast and could prove to be the thing that pushes Hunter over the edge. It is a relevant body that your opponent must deal with in some way that also helps you become resistant to AOE and keeps your board full of beasts. Too many stats for such an efficient card, and is the reason it tops my predictions for the best cards from the Mean Streets of Gadgetzan.
Man, this was not an easy list to make. That top 10 looks very strong and there are a still a ton of high-powered cards that just didn’t quite make the final cut. I am beyond excited about the coming expansion and I can’t help but feel like the power level just got a huge bump. There are many parts to explore in the coming weeks, and I will be doing my best to break those down and see which ones are as strong as they seem. As always, let me know what you think of my list in the comments and thanks for reading!