Let the haters hate. I love aggro. Always have, and, admittedly, always will. Ever since my early MTG days, using an army of small minions to take down a game has always been more fun to me than slowly grinding my opponent down or playing big minion after big minion. However, in Hearthstone aggro decks are built in two parts. You can’t just rely on attacking through taunts or pushing through giant chunks against every deck you see. No. While you need solid minions, you also the topic of today’s list, burn.
All aggressive decks, no matter how they are built or how high the curve, need ways to do damage. While that is typically done with minions, a lot of the time (as any aggro player knows) minions aren’t going to be enough. For that reason, burn is extremely important because they give reach, a way to get around taunts and allow you to still go face when you run low on gas. Any good aggro deck is going to need some form of burn in it, and today we are going to look at the best ones Blizzard has ever given us. While this may trigger some flashbacks, just know that they are essential part of the game that keeps the triangle of midrange, aggro, control, spinning at its natural pace.
Though it saw a good amount of legend lists (including mine), Mind Blast has simply not seen anywhere near enough play to make it into the top 10. Even so, five damage for two mana is at least worth a mention. That is the most efficient burn ever printed pound-for-pound, it just never had a home or the right class.
This Rogue card has seen on-and-off play in many different styles of decks, but never had enough of a hold to take off. One damage for three mana is good, but there are just so many cards that do it better. While it has seen play in Malygos Rogue, Aggro Rogue and certain verions of Miracle, it never saw enough to make it a contender.
Lightning Bolt/Rockbiter Weapon
Continuing the trend from above, three damage for one mana is very strong but not enough on its own to slide into the best of the best. Both Rockbiter Weapon and Lightning Bolt have been essential parts of Shaman for some time. However, they are largely vanilla burn spells that don’t do enough to win the game and are often saved for early game removal more than anything else.
There could easily be a case for Swipe making the top ten. However, I left it off because the card is used as a burn card second and a clear card first. That does not mean spells cannot have multiple uses, but the cards on this list just kill the opponent much better than Swipe does. Four damage for four mana is good (and a Druid staple), but it’s simply not good enough.
The Top 10
10. Ice Lance
To kick off our list, we begin with a spell that has been a Freeze Mage staple for quite some time. Ice Lance is an incredibly effective burn spell, one of the only ones that can do so much damage for so little mana. That versatility is important because it allows it be comboed with spellpower as well as ticked down by Emperor Thaurissan. It can also easily bring people down from the high teens, low twenties with a damage heavy hand. That makes it really packs a punch and gives the card some extremely powerful reach in many different decks. While not really an aggro card, this serves as one of the most important burn spells of all time.
That being said, Ice Lance sits at number ten because it cannot do damage on its own. Many spells in Hearthstone have caveats of some sort, and that is one of the biggest. The card still earns a spot because of how much damage it can do, but only being able to use on a frozen minion really holds it back. It can only really be played if comboed with Frostbolt. While that is not often a problem for Freeze Mage or any other combo type deck, it does come up quite a bit of the time. Staring down two Ice Lance’s in your hand is never a good feeling, and needing such a specific activator holds it back from being higher up. Even so, four damage for one mana slots is just too good to ignore.
9. Lava Burst
Lava Burst is a very strong card that took a lot of time to get going. Five damage for three mana is extremely powerful (which we will explore more later on), but this card never really had the right type of deck for it to see play. In the same vein as Mind Blast with Priest, Lava Burst spent most of its time in a class focused on a strict midrange build that had better and more reliable finishers at its disposal. That really kept this in the dark and prevented it from seeing play. However, once Shaman got Tunnel Trogg and began to shift to an aggro class, it quickly became apparent just how strong Burst really was. Good burn does a lot of damage for cheap, this card is exactly that in addition to certain synergies with the class as a whole.
Anyone who played against Mech Shaman or has faced down Aggro Shaman knows how quickly Lava Burst can end the game, especially in multiples. However, it stays locked in at number nine because of the overload two and its situationality (being only used in one specific type of deck for a limited amount of time). When thinking about top 10’s it is very easy to get caught up in the here and now. While you can see just how powerful Lava Burst is because of how prevalent it has been of late, it is a very recent addition to a new deck. Good? Absolutely. Top eight? Not quite.
No card in the game does more damage than Pyroblast. Period. That raw power slots this card into our list, and its mana cost keeps it at number eight. Pyroblast is a card that has gone up and down in popularity since Freeze Mage first became a deck, but there is no denying the strength in ten damage to the dome. No taunts, no way to stop it. Just ten damage. This card has given Mage a ton of extra reach against various control decks over the years, while also giving the ability to quickly put someone into Frostbolt/Ice Lance range. While this has only ever seen play in one deck, it helped that deck dominate the meta for the better part of a year.
Though this may be the most powerful burn spell pound-for-pound, Pyroblast operates very differently that all other burn spells in the game. This is because it is a finisher in the form of a burn spell. While that it is good in some cases, it also acts a hindrance. Efficiency is very important when it comes to burn, and a lot of the best burn cards are quite cheap. This card has the highest mana cost in the game, making it act a little differently that something like Lava Burst. However, there is no denying this card is burn. It just comes all at once. It was once the best finisher Mage could of asked for, the final blow to put down your stubborn opponent down who just wouldn’t give up. While times have changed, this still was a necessary cog in the Freeze machine.
7. Soulfire (Pre-nerf)
Soulfire was once the card that pushed Zoo from good to completely out of this freakin’ world. So much so that this is one card I think would be higher on the list if not for how good everything else is. In addition, this also saw a good amount of play in both Combolock and Handlock as well, even seeing a bit of power after the nerf with things like Malylock. I have gone on enough about the power of free spells in all of my articles, but this is just another example of where the number zero proved to be too much. Ice Lance is inherently strong because it represents four damage for one mana, something that nothing else does. Soulfire, on the other hand, was four damage for free.
When looking at burn there are two things you need to look at, damage/mana ratio and ability. A free four damage is extremely powerful (just ask Keeper of the Grove), but the drawback and the fact that this card was used to clear as much as it was to go to the face are keep it at number seven. Discarding is something that usually does not matter in aggro decks, but in a tempo deck like Zoo or a slower deck like Handlock it could be devastating. Though not the norm, it could outright lose you games. Getting rid of a Doomguard or Power Overwhelming was a disaster, as was missing out on your combo piece or late-game threat. That set back makes this weaker that it could have been, but the mana/cost ratio is so good it had to be on the list.
6. Quick Shot
Two damage, three mana. That has become a cornerstone for many spells in Hearthstone, ranging from Frostbolt to Darkbomb, but none were more burn-based than Quick Shot. Not only is this card efficient at doing damage, but it is tailor-made for Hunter’s gameplan. This is because it gives face decks two things they need: reach and card draw. That combination made this a very potent spell that really pushed Face Hunter forward in a time where it wasn’t quite as strong. In fact, it really helped bring the deck back to the top of the game for quite a while, even amid a sea of Sludge Belchers and Antique Healbots. While it did not have the game-breaking impact many thought it would, it still put Rexxar back in the driver’s seat for a solid amount of time.
Another reason that Quick Shot comes in at number six is because of the class it was made for. It is very hard to only look at cards in a vacuum when evaluating power level. You also have to see how they were played (if at all) and how strong they made the deck or class they were in. For instance, if this card gets made for Druid or Shaman it is unlikely that it ever makes this list. However, Hunter, due to Steady Shot, has always made burn cards better than they should be. This card is at number six because it is an aggressively pushed burn spell that was made for the class that could use it the most.
Ice, ice baby. Despite everything noted in the above paragraph, Frostbolt slides into this list right under Quick Shot for a couple of key reasons. One, it works much better in combination with its class and two, it just has more of an impact on the game. Frostbolt has always been one of the strongest Mage cards around, and for very good reason. While Quick Shot is very strong in the Hunter class, Frostbolt is a burn spell that has applications in every single deck Mage has ever had. While sometimes that has to do with clearing or getting an early board, in almost every case it ends games.
What makes Frostbolt so special is that it was good in aggro, tempo, and in freeze. And in all three cases it was a burn spell. That’s an incredible amount of range and versatility that very few damage cards have ever had. Mage loves quick burst, and this card is one of the best sources of it. Once again, looking at this card in a vacuum it is not that special. However, when looking at all of the support cards in Mage (Ice Lance) as well as how many times this has amounted to lethal, there is no ignoring just how good it is.
A card that I never was a huge fan of (boo RNG), there is just no denying the sheer power of Crackle. While Lava Burst is strong, in terms of burn Crackle blows it completely out of the water. When I started brainstorming this list I originally had the two mana spell at number eight. Then it moved up to six, to five, and finally to number four. The reason is, the more you think about it, the more you remember how strong this card was. Even outside of Aggro and Mech Shaman (two decks it singlehandedly helped put on the map) Crackle was really strong in Midrange decks in the same way that Kill Command helped Midrange Hunter. Though your purpose was not to win with the card, it did so much damage so cheaply, sometimes you would play it for an “oops, I win” moment.
The only reason this card missed the top three was simply because of its inherent randomness. While strong, there were more than a few games where someone would lose because Crackle didn’t hit the five or six. RNG will always hold certain cards back, and it was a real problem with this card. I look at this as one of the swingiest spells in the history of the game. On one hand you had three damage for two, at the other six. Even as three or four the card did its job, but the potential of five and six was so incredibly powerful that this had to be near the top. It just didn’t have the raw kind of damage needed to make it all the way.
3. Blade Flurry (Pre-nerf)
Now this was burn. Not only was Blade Flurry one of the most efficient burn spells ever printed, but it also functioned as AOE. So far we have discussed many cards in terms of “x mana for x damage”. While there are some cards that did that really well, none stack up to flurry. In fact, they aren’t even on its level. Crackle was insanely powerful due to the fact that you could do six damage for two mana some of the time. Blade Flurry laughed at that notion and would routinely do five plus without any sort of randomness thrown in. In fact, this card could quite easily climb to six, seven, eight or even nine damage with the right tools.
The other reason Flurry flies into number three is, similar to Pyroblast, it operated as a win condition in addition to a burn spell. However, Pyroblast only saw play one deck. Flurry, on the other hand, was essential for Oil Rogue, Miracle, old verions of Tempo Rogue and Aggro. Basically, any deck that could buff a weapon would turn to the flurry as one of their answers. Even decks that ran just two copies of Deadly Poison would gladly run it . There has never been a burn spell so multi-faceted at Blade Flurry. You did a massive amount of damage, added pressure and cleared your opponent’s board. Extremely efficient and worthy of number three.
2. Kill Command
Hunter has long been the bane of players everywhere and Kill Command is almost absurdly the reason why. This card is a very deserving number two, and could even be argued for number one slot. Five damage for three mana has always been strong, but unlike Lava Burst, this card is in a much more aggressively-tuned class and has no overload. That combination is extremely powerful and gave rise to some of the most disgusting decks ever made. It also acts (and acted) as a random win condition in various beast-based midrange decks. Don’t have the right minions or falling behind? Just play to your Kill Commands. This type of burn is very rare and makes Hunter have the identity that it does.
Anyone who has ever played against Hunter knows what Kill Command can do. Giving a class like Priest or the old Shaman a cheap five damage really amounted to much. However, giving Rexxar and his army of face minion that kind of burn? Brutal. The only reason this card isn’t number one is because you do need a beast to trigger it. That may not seem like a huge deal, but as an avid Hunter player there have been many games where I lost because I could not find a beast for my KC. However, that small nitpick that is like criticizing the Sistine Chapel because some of the paint is chipped. The condition doesn’t make Kill Command bad, it just (barely) keeps it from being number one.
While not quite as efficient as Kill Command in terms of mana cost, Fireball is the card I consider to be the best burn spell of all time. This is simply due to the fact that it has no triggers, prerequisits or drawbacks. Six damage for four mana that goes around taunts is good. So, so, so good. So good that it made decks like Tempo and Mech Mage much more aggressive than their name suggests. While they could win with minions, they’re real gameplan was to drop their opponent into Fireball range. The fact that the term “Fireball range” even exists gives an idea of what this can do.
This is a classic example of how much being in a certain class matters. Fireball is solely responsible for the way Mage is built. Tempo, Freeze and Aggro (all variants) would not be able to exist without this card. Fireball is the type of card that doesn’t seem that strong at first glance, but the more you think about it, the more realize how much damage it has done. I would argue that this card has killed more people than any other card in the history of Hearthstone. And for that, it is number one.
Buuuurn. I do love me some aggro, and this list was right up my alley. There have been many good aggro decks throughout the history of Hearthstone, and these cards are why. It was very hard to put them into one certain order, and I still think there are arguments to be made for all of them. Either way, I hope you enjoyed the list. Let me know what you think and thanks for reading.