Hearthstone’s latest expansion, Whispers of the Old Gods, is only a month away, and every week we’ll be looking at five cards that we think are especially promising, or just flat-out interesting. Here’s the latest installment, and I hope you’re all already theorycrafting your N’Zoth decks.
It’s funny to think that Paladin, once the class defined by long, drawn-out fatigue games, are now the de facto class for murlocs. In Hearthstone’s early days Murloc Warlock was fast, powerful, and worked like an early version of Zoo. But since then the tribe has mostly been on the shelf. That changed in the last expansion with Murloc Knight, a Paladin minion that summons a random murloc whenever you tap your hero power. While the body (3/4 for four mana) wasn’t impressive, generating an extra token each turn really came in handy, especially because you could occasionally summon, say, a Murloc Warleader which immediately buffed your Knight to a 5/5. With Vilefin Inquisitor, you get a game-long upgrade which let’s you summon 1/1 murlocs instead of the vanilla Silver Hand Recruit.
There’s a ton of potential here with Murloc Knight. Let’s look at the scenario I mentioned again; Murloc Knight, hero power into a 1/1 murloc, and a Warleader from the Knight’s inspire effect. Your Knight is a 5/5, you have the 3/3 from the Warleader, and your 1/1 murloc is now a 3/2. That’s a combined 11/10 stats for six mana. Pretty good!
It’s quite simple really. Murloc Knight is a great card, and Vilefin Inquisitor was made as an unquestionable buff to Murloc Knight decks. With the future of Paladin in question ahead of the anticipated death of Secret Paladin, this certainly seems like a solid new direction.
I’m inclined to compare this card to Elise Starseeker, a card that sets off a chain of events that eventually leaves you with a strong taunt minion and the conversion of all of your cards in hand and in deck into legendary minions. When it was first announced it seemed mostly for Trolden highlights and not much else. Too slow, too inconsistent, too cute. Elise has seen a lot of success in Control Warrior and other grinder archetypes, however, which has been a welcome surprise.
If Elise didn’t exist, I’m sure we’d all immediately bash Renounce Darkness for the exact same reasons. But we don’t live in that world anymore, and I actually think there’s a lot of potential here. This one of the most unique cards in all of Hearthstone. When you play it, you essentially switch classes in the middle of the game, and get your deck restocked with minions and spells with a one mana discount. The anxieties are obvious: what happens if you get Poisoned Blades and Kidnappers instead of anything good? Why wouldn’t I just try to win with the cards I actually put in my deck? I get all that, but you’re thinking of Renounce Darkness in the wrong way. If this card works, it’ll require an entirely different archetype, one that focuses on situational survival and removal before changing the dead weight in your hand into something you can win with. Is that one mana benefit strong enough for this card to see play? I’m not sure, but it’s certainly one of the most interesting cards we’ve seen so far in Whispers of the Old Gods.
Master of Evolution
One of the interesting things about Whispers of the Old Gods cards revealed so far is how fearlessly Blizzard is handing out great stats. Once upon a time a 4/5 for four mana was reserved specifically for the vanilla Chillwind Yeti, but we’ve seen several minions already that are equipped with those primo numbers as well as an added bit of card text. Maybe they’re more relaxed going into standard? I’ not sure, but it’s a welcome change.
Master of Evolution is probably the most interesting 4/5 we’ve seen. It’s exclusive to Shaman, and can transform any friendly minion into a random one that costs one more. This is really good, especially because Shaman can reliably have a lot of totems out. Is your healing totem useless? Don’t worry, drop Master of Evolution and get a random two-drop! Everyone leaves happy. This will be a staple in all mid-range Shaman decks (as well as a fantastic arena card) and maybe, maybe Thrall is starting to get the pieces to be a top-tier class again.
Mark of Y’Shaarj
Beast Druid has yet to get off the ground. Over the past few expansions Blizzard has given Malfurion a number of solid cards with beast synergy (Mounted Raptor, Wildwalker, Knight of the Wild, Savage Combatant) but most players were comfortable sticking with the standard Force Savage buzzsaw, which has made the class supremely powerful over the entire course of Hearthstone’s run. That will probably change once the new format rolls around, however. Blizzard has said it’s specifically looking at certain Druid cards for potential nerfs, which seems to imply that sooner than later, Combo Druid will be a thing of the past.
This leaves the class’ future wide open, but cards like Mark of Y’Shaarj certainly help. For two mana you’re getting a 2/2 buff as well as the chance to cycle—as long as you’re targeting a beast. Between the aforementioned Savage Combatant and Mounted Raptor, as well as the rock solid Druid of the Flame and Druid of the Claw, building a Beast Druid looks especially appealing right now. It might not look like much, but Mark of Y’Shaarj is good enough to be a fundamental ingredient. It’s taken almost four expansions, but finally, finally, we might be getting a viable alternative flavor for Druid.
We’ll cap this week off with what’s probably the most interesting legendary released so far in the set.
Ten mana cards are tricky. No matter how powerful they are, sacrificing an entire, max-mana turn to do exactly one thing is a tall order. Varian Wrynn has a super powerful effect, but he can also lose you way too much tempo, so he barely gets played. Pyroblast is reserved for only the greediest of Freeze Mages, Mind Control filters in and out of play—it’s tough.
I still think N’Zoth has a chance, however. The ability to summon a board of bygone deathrattle minions is incredibly useful. Yes, in standard we lose some of the most powerful deathrattles in the game like Haunted Creeper and Piloted Shredder, but you still have minions like Sylvanas, Cairne, Harvest Golem, and, hell, Savannah Highmane at your disposal. That’s not including whatever lies in the rest of the Whispers of the Old Gods set, because odds are we’re going to see a few more deathrattles introduced. It won’t always win you the game—there will be plenty of moments where you’re too far behind for N’Zoth to make a difference—but it still brings a legitimate win condition that you can structure a deck around. I have a lot of faith that N’Zoth is going to work.