There have always been strong minions in Hearthstone and there always will be. While every part of the curve matters to a certain extent, none are more important than the first two turns. Once upon a time (when this series first started) I tackled the ten best one drops that have ever graced this game. Now, we tick up one slot and look at the two cost minions. There have been many strong two drops (something that is currently a problem with the design of this game) and they have all had a big impact on the meta. While not all of the cards in the following list are played right on curve, costing two mana has helped many different minions see play in a whole heap of decks. I would argue that having a good two drop is one of the biggest litmus tests to see if a deck is good. And there is no doubt the following minions are good. In fact, most of them are plain absurd.
We start out list with a card many of you may have originally thought would be higher: Alexstrasza’s Champion. Though it is easy to get caught up in the recent wave of Dragon Warriors, the truth is that a 3/3 with (sometimes) charge just doesn’t have what it takes to match up to the heavy hitter two drops. Of course, this card oozes value and is one of the best pound-for-pound early plays of all time. That, combined with its recent success if a mention. However, it needs a trigger to work and you need more than just a solid body to make it into the top 10.
Next on the mentions is one of my favorite cards of all time. Armorsmith has two things going for it. Not only is the two drop an insane amount of value for its cost, but it also has a lot of versatility. The smith can easily be run out on turn two to challenge aggro and eat removal, but she also works very well later in the game when you trade or pair here with a Brawl or Whirlwind effect. Almost all Warriors, from Tempo to Patron to Control, have loved gaining both armor and board presence. She provides both. The only reason the 1/4 is not higher is because she has fallen out of favor as early minions have gotten stronger.
A very strong two drop, Nerubian Egg was a card that just exploded onto the scene and was a haymaker for Zoo for over a year. A 4/4 for two is good, but a 0/2 that could be buffed and resist AOE on top of a 4/4 is particularly incredible. Even so, this card really only had a big impact in one deck and saw fringe play in others. Very few cards have matched it in terms of raw power, but the lack of overall meta shift keeps this on the outside looking in.
Mechwarper was the card that made the robots come together. Though it just didn’t have the snuff to breach the top ten, the 2/3 gets this far because it is one of those minions you just had to kill on sight. While removing it did nullify the ability (something that is not true of many below minions), not having an answer to warper was almost certainly going to lead to a bad time. Few cards have ever led to such disgusting openings as this one, and that’s pretty impressive.
The Top 10
10. Sorcerer’s Apprentice
Anyone who has ever faced off against Tempo Mage knows the inherent power of Sorcerer’s Apprentice. This card, like Mechwarper, is a minion that must die right away. However, its ability is much stronger because it is much more broad. Leaving up an apprentice is almost always going to spiral out of control and absolutely crush you. In fact, Mages dream of those turns where they can just chain spell after spell and this more than makes that happen. However, what really makes this card worthy of the list is the fact that you can use her as soon as she drops. The apprentice is one of the best value-enablers ever printed and allows Mage to have a ton of unfair combos that make them so strong. Reductions are always good, but when they hit all spells in your deck it can really get out of hand.
Though Sorcerer’s Apprentice is undoubtedly a strong card to have, she, like so many minions, she is only going to get one use. While that does not not necessarily make her bad, it does keep her at number ten. A 3/2 for two is one of the weakest, most fragile stat-lines in the game, which means she is almost all ability and no board presence. Yes, she does have to be killed (making her better than just being a spell) but there has never been a good deck that could not easily do two damage. The apprentice is undoubtedly strong and one of the most efficient cards ever printed, but to get higher on this list you need to pack a little more punch. She is also quite situational and crumbles when your hand is all minions.
9. Bloodmage Thalnos
At number nine we have the skeleton in a dress, Bloodmage Thalnos! BT was the second legendary I ever crafted, and is one of the best examples of value in the entire game. Though the undead sorcerer seems very weak to new players, having access to a two mana Azure Drake is all sorts of unreal. Spell damage is one of the strongest abilities in Hearthstone. However, most of the minions that have it are severely undercosted and not worth putting into your deck. Though BT is just a 1/1, the fact that he draws you a card means you aren’t actually risking anything by playing him. This card is just all upside and requires you to get large amounts of value without risk.
Anytime a deck has ever needed spellpower Bloodmage Thalnos has been their number one or number two answer. Druid, Warlock, Rogue and Mage have all teamed up with BT at one time or another, and all for good reason. What makes him so special is the fact that he costs two mana, allowing you to play him alongside just about any spell you want with ease. Being able to slot this with Wrath, Swipe, Frostbolt, Ice Lance, Fireball etc. really pushes his power level and versatility. And, after he dies, you get to draw further through your deck. That makes him perfect for combo decks, but also a great tool for midrange as well.
8. Dark Peddler
One of the best Warlock cards ever printed, Dark Peddler is just an insane amount of value packed into a two drop. A 2/2 for two is a perfectly fine statline on its own, and being able to choose from a whole slew of one drops on top of that is downright unfair. If peddler drew a card it would be strong (maybe a tad too strong) but it would be much worse. The reason is that you can freely adapt this card’s discover to whatever situation you are in. One drop cards are usually underwhelming, but sometimes you need a minion and sometimes you need removal. Having access to both is always going to be good, especially because that card comes with its own early game board presence.
Ever since it first came about in LOE, Dark Peddler has been a part of both Zoo and Renolock. It is very rare that early game cards are able to be played across multiple archetypes (see Fiery War Axe) but that just reinforces peddler’s power. Being a Warlock card, this can net a lot of spells (or minions) for a lot of different situations. Possessed Villager helps with board presence, Voidwalker is a solid taunt, Soulfire is great for damage or removal spell (as is Power Overwhelming), Mortal Coil kills something and nets you a card, while Corruption can help you take down a big threat. Those choices means that peddler is always going to be live (another rare trait) no matter what point of the game you play it in. Cards just don’t come with that many options.
7. Totem Golem
That’s right, Totem Golem is only number seven. That may be surprising to many of you (especially the ones who have been getting rocked by Shaman over the past few months), but it gives you a really good idea of just how strong the cards in this list are. There has never been a 3/4 for two, and I hope there never will be one again. The golem may just be a pile of stats stuck onto a body, but it happens to be the best pile of stats ever printed. Four health that early in the game is a nightmare for control decks to deal with and the three attack just eats everything in its path. Being able to control the early board is pivotal in this game, and this is one of the rare cards that can trade multiple times before dying. Add on the sheer aggression this card can pour on mixed with the fact that it buffs Tunnel Trogg and you have a real winner.
While this may seem surprising, the biggest problem with Totem Golem is that it doesn’t actually do anything. Everything further on in this list has an ability that impacts part of the game. That is what makes cards special and gives you ways to break traditional rules. The golem does not break many rules, it is just really, really good. Being really, really good will get you number seven, but it won’t take you much higher. Though it is strong now, there were many cards pre-Standard that simply had the stickiness to out muscle the 3/4. In addition, the overload can matter from time to time as well.
6. Knife Juggler (Pre-Nerf)
Honestly, even its attack was always two, Knife Juggler would have still made it to number six. This annoying gnome has been a part of tier one decks since Hearthstone’s inception, and for very good reason. Being able to ping when you play a minion is very strong in and of itself, but being able to do that upon summon completely blows this ability wide open. Almost every aggro deck in history made use of this card when its attack was three. This includes Zoo (which still uses it), Aggro Paladin, Face Hunter, Face Shaman, Token Druid and Aggro Druid. It saw play in Midrange Paladin as well. Not only did the three attack allow it to both trade effectively and pour on damage, but the knife lover has one of the strongest passive abilities ever made.
As we have learned so many times throughout Hearthstone, being able to get random pings is very good. Cards like Flamewaker are always going to be powerful because of their ability to both clear out a board or hit face for solid amounts of damage. This makes them never useless and always gives them something to do. Knife Juggler fits this category as well, but it is neutral and much easier to trigger. Unlike so many two drops, this cards power usually comes from the later turns in the game where it can be paired with cards such as Muster for Battle, Forbidden Healing or Unleash the Hounds. Those swings are extremely powerful. However, it also is fine on turn three or four alongside or one or two minions because it must be killed immediately. That fear brings it all the way to this slot.
5. Haunted Creeper
Oh, deathrattle, how we do not miss you. Haunted Creeper slides in at number five because it may be the stickiest minion ever made. Like so many other OP cards, the spider(s) seem very harmless at first glance. However, upon closer inspection you realize that this is actually a 3/4 for two. And, unlike Totem Golem (which can be killed by one removal spell) it has to be killed two or three times. The arachnid just oozed board presence and gave a ton of decks and classes ways to fight for the early board. Starting out strong has always been one of the most important parts of Hearthstone, as has stickiness. This card came with both, completing a extremely strong package that is more than deserving of the five spot (I’m actually surprised it didn’t go higher).
You can always judge how strong a card is by how many classes it was played in, and the spider saw play in many. The two-drop arachnid was a big player in Zoo, Secret Paladin, Aggro Paladin, Token Druid, Midrange Hunter, Face Hunter and Deathrattle Rogue. It also saw play in many fringe decks just to clog up the early board. It was good against aggro, and it was also strong against control. Though it was essentially multiple 1/1’s, having something on the board is always better than having nothing. Haunted Creeper showed that well. Not only was it resistant to both spot removal and AOE, but it could finish off minions, be pumped up with buffs and pick off divine shields. Board presence is a big part of this game, and very few cards have ever done it better than the creeps.
4. Nat Pagle (Pre-Nerf)
Now we’re getting to the nerfs. For the second week in a row, Nat Pagle makes it onto a top ten list. The reason being that the fisherman was a disgustingly powerful card that could easily swing a game out of nowhere (and for no reason). Not only did he have four health in a time where absolutely nothing (and I mean nothing) did four damage, but if his ability hit you were going to cruise to an easy victory. Drawing cards has always been the most powerful aspect of any card game, but those are usually kept in check. For instance, Acolyte of Pain can only draw you three and Loot Hoarder can only give you one. On the other hand, there was no limit to what Pagle could draw. That made him very dangerous. Yes, his ability could keep him in check, but when he “caught one” at the start of the game you were going to rocket into the lead. Not only was the ability unfair, but your opponent had to actually kill pagle. So, while they were spending resources taking care of your zero attack two drop, you were getting free cards and advancing your own board. That’s just gross.
3. Shielded Minibot
How good is divine shield? Turns out, very, very, very good. Shielded Minibot is an extremely unassuming two drop (see Haunted Creeper) that managed to warp, not just a format, but an entire year of this game. A 2/2 with divine shield does not sound crazy until you realize this card is actually a 4/4 for two. In fact, the card was so unbelievable powerful that it singlehandedly locked Totem Golem out of the meta. This was the card that made Paladin what it was and is the sole reason for its dominance in the days before Whispers. They may have had one of the best curves of all time, but curves are nothing if they cannot start out strong. And a removal-resistant, minion-killing 2/2 is about as strong of a start as you can get.
What made Shielded Minibot so much better than other two drops is because of how early removal works in Hearthstone. Most decks depend on either fair trades, their hero power, or early spells to take out their opponent’s early game. However, Minibot became a problem because it broke through all three. Druid or Mage could not simply ping it down, it freely killed popular minions like Mad Scientist and Knife Juggler, and it laughed off Fiery War Axe, Darkbomb, Frostbolt, and the like. The two drop changed the rules of the game, gave Paladin the early push they needed to be tier one, and took them into the stratosphere. I would say this card had one of the biggest impacts the game has ever seen, and that easily pushes it to number three.
2. Mad Scientist
Sitting comfortably at number two, Mad Scientist was just too good. There is no way around that. The two drop not only had perfect stats, but it easily had one of the best abilities ever put onto a card. While it could only see play in three classes (and only ever made it into two) it was a big part of some of the strongest decks ever made. This was a huge aspect of Midrange Hunter, Freeze Mage, Mech Mage, Tempo Mage and Face Hunter. All of those decks were tier one, and a large part of that was because of this two drop. Being able to get cards from your deck is always going to be incredibly strong, but being able to play them for zero is even better. The scientists would also often die and play secrets on your opponent’s turn, which could really screw with their plans.
What made Mad Scientist so good is that it both drew you a card (already great) and then put it into play for free. That not only gave you added board presence, but it also thinned out your deck. This then allowed you to play cards like Ice Block or Mirror Entity (which you never wanted in your hand) without the fear of drawing them. This is the second best two drop ever because, not only did it give you a reasonable body that just slotted right into any curve, but it also smoothed out your draws and made it more likely for you to draw live cards rather than dead ones. This was truly the complete package for Hunter and Mage and I doubt we’ll see something like it ever again.
1. Starving Buzzard (Pre-Nerf)
Got beasts? While some two drops have been strong and some have been OP, none have been as OP or as strong as the original Starving Buzzard. As much as I loved this bird (and man did I love it), it had to be nerfed. The scavenger was not just an absolute powerhouse, it was a problem that easily makes it into the “best cards of all time” conversation. Once again, we go back to the idea of card draw here. While having a limit is fine, when that limit is removed you get some serious problems. This card was almost always abused in some way and would routinely draw you three or more cards. That is just not ok for a two mana minion, especially one that had a pseudo-battlecry ability that could not be countered or interacted with. Even if you had to work a little to get the trigger, you would be so far ahead when the dust settled that it was always worth it.
Though this card was a big part of the beast midrange decks that got huge right before its nerf, Starving Buzzard hits number one because of its role in Face Hunter. Playing this alongside Unleash the Hounds allowed you to not only flood the board with minions (beasts no less) but also gave you the ability to draw a card for each minion your opponent had. In that way, this usually meant spending five (or four) mana to draw three, four or five cards. While that could even be ok in slower midrange, the fact that you were just drawing burn and proved to be too much. Very few cards have made people quiver in fear as much as the buzzard did, and for good reason. This card was the first OP Hunter card and allowed Rexxar to just completely dominate the meta for months and months. As strong as 10 through 2 are, none of them are even in the same league as this bird.
What a list. As strong as the one drops were, the two drops really brought the power. There are a ton of insane cards above that I am sure will make it onto later lists. It is always fun to look at individual card slots and see which ones really impacted the meta overall. While some strong cards never have a lasting affect, every card here was an absolute all-star that affected the game in its own way. It could even have one of the best top five’s I’ve ever put together. Thanks for reading!