Hello Hearthstone fans, it’s Vincent Sarius again, and today I’m going to be discussing a topic which is near and dear to my deckbuilding heart, the nature of underutilized or dismissed cards.
Often times there are cards which we can instantly dismiss as bad (Secretkeeper), or good (Chillwind Yeti), however there are some cards which are not as plain to the naked eye. In particular, this comes up with Legendaries due to their highly irregular and unique effects. We can all tell that Alexstrasza is good, but what about something like Archmage Antonidas.
A lot of the time beginner players will lose to a card like Prophet Velen and cry about how it is overpowered, over time and experience they learn more about the game and realize that the card is actually quite bad, in a sense they have cemented into the collective community brain-pool. However, what if he was actually right at first, what if for example Prophet Velen IS really good (He isn’t)!
That is what we are going to be examining today, an in-depth look at some of the stranger and less often used Legendaries which I over the course of the past couple months have come to realize are actually, quite strong.
I’m sure some or most of you will disagree with some of these points, but hopefully you come with an open mind and can see the point I am trying to make. Now then, on with the list!
#5: King Mukla
The big Kong himself. King Mukla is an immensely strong card for it’s cost. As a 5/5 for 3 Mana, few cards can compare until Chillwind Yeti, and even Yeti trades un-favorably with Mukla. So to start off, why is King Mukla considered bad.
The reasoning most people give is that he is terrible when played later into the game, or that he does nothing when you are losing. The other argument is that he gives your opponent the tools to get rid of him, something which I consider is ludicrous. Mukla gives your opponent two cards which cost 1 mana and buff a creature with 1 health/1 attack, the Bananas.
So in theory, Mukla trades for any 3-drop card in the game when the bananas are used to buff them since nearly all 3-drops have 3-attack or more. With some like KirinTor Mage, having 4.
However, the nature of the Bananas is that they cost Mana. If player 1 plays Mukla on turn 3, player 2 can respond with either a 3-drop coin-Banana, or a coin-4 drop. Few 4-drops trade 1:1 with Mukla, and most of the ones that do are not played in Constructed (like Ancient Brewmaster). In a sense, with a 2-drop on the field already, Mukla becomes a lockdown play. You can clear their 2-drop with yours, and then have Mukla on an empty board, nigh immune to any trades for the next turn.
Now, of course hard removal is an option, but having hard removal used on a 3-drop is a winning scenario. Your 4-drop and 5-drop are now safe of that removal, even if your opponent does have the opportunity to trade up for them with the Bananas, he is still using his mana on a very in-efficient card.
In decks which can support Mukla and keep the board locked down like Tempo Rogue, Midrange Hunter, or Zoo, Mukla becomes an unbelievably strong Flow and Tempo card. The reason King Mukla falls on #5 is because in recent weeks, he has seen a lot of play by top-level players and in top-level decks.
Perhaps the era when Mukla was considered bad has finally ended. Which brings us to our next Legendary, one which is probably called The Worst Card In Hearthstone more often than any other.
#4: Millhouse Manastorm
Yes, I am actually arguing that Millhouse is a good card. Stop laughing, I’m serious. Now, Millhouse is very similar to Mukla, but with a far more serious drawback. Millhouse is a card which can straight up lose you the game, or win you the game.
A 4/4 for 2 Mana is exponentially more powerful than a 5/5 for 3 Mana, primarily because he can be coined out and exert tremendous pressure almost instantly. It’s a 2:1, possibly 3:1. Now, he can lose you games where your opponent got a very bad starting hand, however I have not once had this happen. Usually, he’ll either eat up 2 early removal spells, a midrange removal spell, or be left un-addressed.
As with Mukla, he warps the flow of the game by being far, far more mana efficient than any other card in Hearthstone with the exception of Leeroy. As with Mukla, when supported by strong board presence, there isn’t much your opponent can do to wrest control away from the Millhousing player.
In certain Zoo lists, Millhouse is lately being run, including my own Rich Man’s Zoo. Now, what about when he is dealt with? Well, the most common slayer of Millhouse seems to be Swipe.
This is a 2 Mana card, trading up for a 4 Mana AoE spell. It’s a 1:1, however the mana cost of the spell far out weighs the mana cost of Millhouse, now the Druid can also plop down an Ancient Watcher on the same turn, in a sense counter-acting the efficiency, however this ‘excess mana’ often causes bad plays, where the player you Millhouse’d plays cards that he doesn’t need to just because he sees that they cost zero.
In a sense, he baits removal and baits brainfarts. In either case we have examined, Millhouse produces a favorable outcome, especially when followed up by a strong turn 2-3 play. However, these earlygame Legendaries, are not the only ones that are undervalued, our higher cost Legendaries face stiff competition as well. When you have options like Ragnaros the Firelord, Alexstrasza, Cairne Bloodhoof, and Sylvannas Windrunner, why would you pick weaker cards? Well because they aren’t weaker, merely more specific.
This is in particular exemplified by some class-specific Legendaries, which brings us to our next card…
#3: Archmage Antonidas
This is a card which I myself have called bad on numerous occasions, however in one of the recent episodes of ESGN Fight Night, Realz broke out an amazing Mage deck which I’m sure has sparked some nostalgia in us for the old Frozen Giants deck, an decktype which I sorely miss. It was a unique way of playing Hearthstone, a way which many of us have said is no longer possible.
However, Realz demonstrated that with a combination of Doomsayer, Freeze, and Alexstrasza… you can set-up a very strong turn 10 play with Antonidas, almost assuring lethal. He lost the match to Puffins playing Control Warrior, but only because Antonidas was the very last card in his deck.
Had Antonidas been drawn even 2-3 turns earlier, he would have beaten Puffins. A match-up which Realz himself called nigh impossible for his Frost Control Mage.
The lynchpin of this deck, is Archmage Antonidas. Now, often Antonidas is considered bad because he put simply, has no Immediate Impact on the board or game. However, this is not the right way to look at Antonidas.
The real text of the card might as well be Archmage Antonidas 10 Mana 5/7 ‘Discard two cards, draw 2 Fireball‘, he is never a turn 7 play, but on turn 10 combo’d with either Frostbolt+Ice Lance, Mirror Image, Secrets, or any other 3 mana total spells he set’s up an almost guaranteed turn 11 Lethal with Alexstraza being utilized for the original 15 damage burst.
A Mage utilizing Ice Barrier, Ice Block, and Doomsayers can easily survive till turn 11 against anything except the most outrageous Rush decks, a type which is rarely seen at tournaments due to very real concerns of consistency.
Antonidas requires the deck to be built around him, but when it is carefully crafted it becomes a far more serious late-game threat than the standard Ragnaros. The main issue is that many of the Mage’s cheap spells are used up in the early game for removal, however with 4 sweepers in the deck, this becomes less necessary.
You can stall till Doomsayer + Frost Nova can wipe away the board (and prevent your opponent from playing anything for that turn) or Blizzard can freeze the horde in it’s tracks. Moving unto #2, we see a card which I personally classify as deceptive, it is a Tutor-Discard spell masquerading as a creature.
#2: The Beast
The Beast is monstrous. It has a tremendous 9/7 for 6 stat-line, losing out in raw stats only to Savannah Highmane and Cairne, both of which need to dodge a silence for full value. As a 6-drop, it can end the game very, very fast if not dealt with.
Unlike Cairne which can be somewhat ignored since it doesn’t exactly exert huge pressure (a 4/5 by turn 7 is no biggie), The Beast cannot be ignored. In combination with it’s Deathrattle and high-attack, this generally means it is dealt with. However, this is precisely what we wanted to happen.
See, 6-drop Legendaries cannot really be expected to stick around for long, generally your opponent will have drawn some forms of removal or silence by this point. Which is why cards like Cairne and Sylvanas are often called Silence-Magnets, they are played in order to draw out removal prior to your high-impact 8 and 9-drop Legendaries being played.
Both Cairne and Sylvanas however, are far more likely to draw Silence than say a Deadly Shot, and they cannot draw out a Big Game Hunter.
This is the unique position of The Beast. It cannot draw out Silence (since this actually benefits), but it is one of the few cards pre-8 mana which can draw out a BGH. It is also large and durable enough that direct-damage removal like Fireball, Kill Command, etc. Are not enough to guarantee a 1:1 trade, now of course, when removed it does give your opponent a 3/3 Finkle however, is a 3/3 card hard to deal with by turn 7-8? Not particularly, it is generally easily removed for less than a card so long as you have board presence or late-game Sweepers.
Which brings us to why I call The Beast a Tutor-Discard spell, it is not in fact a 6 Mana 9/7, it is closer to a “Search your opponents hand. Discard the first removal you find. Your opponent gains a 3/3”. I value removal as more important than a 3/3, so I am absolutely willing to make that trade.
In certain decks, removing Silence is more important than removing other forms of hard removal. In particular in Paladin, Silence is incredibly good against Tirion Fordring, however in most classes, hard removal is a more pressing concern due to most late-game Legendaries being quite resistant to Silence.
Alexstraza has no persistent effect, Ragnaros is somewhat affected by Silence, however it can also be a boon depending on the exact situation on the board, being able to direct where Ragnaros does damage is often more important than his free RNG damage. These cards are also game enders when they are not dealt with immediately, being able to lessen the probability that they are improves your win-rate.
Finally, we come to our last card. Arguably amongst the most controversial and interesting, it’s the big daddy Dragon himself…
#1: Deathwing, The Destroyer
Deathwing is huge. He is the only 10 Mana creature and the biggest stat-value card in the game at his 12/12, he also has a built-in Twisting Nether/Pyro+Equality battlecry. However, his drawback is as monstrous as his impact.
Discarding your hand is something you almost never want especially in the late-game focused decks that can feasibly run a 10 Mana cost card. The obvious advantage to Deathwing is that you have a ‘failsafe’ if Ragnaros, Alexstrasza, and Grommash Hellscream fail to end the game, your opponent has a pair of taunted up Molten Giant up and Jaraxxus as his portrait, it seems like it’s all over. And then you drop Deathwing.
This scenario can be considered a Dream, in certain games Deathwing will never be played, merely sitting in your hand as a dead card as you win the game. In these cases, I don’t care that I have a dead card which is unusable when you are winning. Either your overall momentum will carry you to the win anyway, or the momentum will shift and you are put into a losing position.
When you are losing the game, Deathwing is the best card in Hearthstone. Nothing shifts the matches paradigm as hard as this beast. In classes which are particularly light on hard removal such as Warrior and Druid, having another card for removal would alone make the cut over some of the more questionable or weak cards in these decks.
When this removal is also attached to a tertiary/secondary win condition, the value goes up immensely. Now, there is the argument that if Deathwing is removed the turn he comes down, you will lose the game.
However, how many decks have ways to remove the entire menagerie of a standard Control Warrior, generally by the time Deathwing comes down, your opponent is unlikely to have any removal options left in their decks. Deathwing as Mukla is a card which has been garnering traction and popularity lately, he was included in the last NA Managrind tournaments winning Control Warrior deck.
Certain other high-profile players have also been experimenting with this high-impact card, perhaps in the coming month(s) we may see Deathwing become a Core card of certain hyper-lategame focused Control decks which currently struggle vs. other Control decks.
While sometimes our original gut feelings as a community are spot-on in regards to cards, other times we end up severely off. A great example is the Shieldbearer and Doomguard of Zoo, cards which prior to Zoo’s genesis were considered Bad or even unplayable terrible, in the end however, they showed that card advantage is not everything in a match, so long as you have ways to circumvent the temporary card disadvantage into strong Tempo and momentum.
Sometimes, it just requires looking at a card from a new angle to realize, it might not be as bad as we used to consider it.
As always you can reach me at email@example.com or @VincentSarius on Twitter. Take care, and thank you for reading!
Article by V. Sarius