19 August 2014 - 17:00

Construct (ed) ing Naxxramas: Frostwyrm Lair

The last batch of the Naxxramas cards are here! Let's take a look at them and see how they will be affect the Hearsthstone meta.
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Introduction

Four quarters down, one to go. The final wing of Naxxramas is finally upon us and, because the frozen lair of the Frostwyrm gives us less cards than the other wings, this article will be a tad shorter than my previous ones. If you have been playing the ladder at all this week (which you no doubt have) then you have by now realized that it’s a deathrattle world, and cards like Undertakerand Mad Scientistare set to completely take over the meta.

As the ladder continues to shift and grow, the last wing of Naxxramas, the Frostwyrm Lair, sets to give us access to final four cards of Naxxramas. While none of them are as going to be as game changing or as impactful as the cards we have already seen come out of the Lich King’s hallowed halls, this week’s cards will still give us some new options to play with in existing decks.

Echoing Ooze

Is it just me...just me...or is there an echo...an echo in here? Jokes aside, this two drop is probably one of the coolest cards we have seen come out of Hearthstone. The reason for this is that it’s ability is unlike anything we have seen in the game so far and opens up all new sorts of design space.  However, that's not really what's important. What's important is whether or not the ooze is actually good. That, my dear readers, is always the ultimate question.

When breaking down Echoing Ooze the first thing that comes to mind is the very unique ability. Because of the way it’s worded Echoing Ooze’s copy (which gets spawned at the end of your turn) will have every single buff the first one has, including things like Mark of the Wild, Blessing of Kingsor even Shattered Sun Cleric. This makes the ooze strong by giving it some very powerful combo potential. Unfortunately, because the effect is a battlecry, it will only make one copy, which comes out the first turn it's played. However, because you do get two for the price of one, this card does have some serious potential. 2/4 power for two mana is nothing to sneeze at, especially when that power is spread across two bodies, and the fact that the copy keeps the buffs takes this card from being decent to downright good.

Echoing Ooze

At its base, Echoing Ooze acts a lot like Haunted Creeper. Yes, creeper is technically a total power 3/4, but the idea is generally the same. It’s a two power card that mucks up the board and creates a very annoying minion to deal with. However, the ooze has a little more upside because it creates two bodies at first instead of once and each of those bodies has two toughness. As such, in something such as Druid, this card could be comboed on turn four with Mark of the Wild (or Innervated on turn two) for two three/fours with taunt. Try coming back from that. Because of this, it seems that Ooze is going to fit right into Druid. Maybe not every build, but something like Token would love to have more creatures on the board, especially ones with the all important two health.

The other deck where Echoing Ooze could find a home could be Zoo. The space is crowded in Warlock these days, what with so many powerful cards erupting out of Naxxramas, but buff or not Echoing Ooze does exactly what Zoo wants, clogs the board. A deck like Zoo  is probably the only place it can actually work without being comboed, and might be the best fit for it.  A lot of people have also suggested the power in Paladin with such buffs as Blessing of Kingsor Blessing of Might, and while might could work, both seem a weak. This is due to the fact that Blessing of Kings wouldn’t be able to be used til later in the game, and two 5/2’s is a lot worse than two 3/4’s (even if it does cost one less mana). Echoing Ooze has a very strong ability, but right now it seems that only Druid and Zoo will be able to take proper advantage of it.

Shade of Naxxramas

Shade of Naxxramas

I'm not sure if Naxxramas is truly his, but what I am sure of is that Shade of Naxxramas is a very strong minion that could not have had more unfortunate timing. If Gadgetzan Auctioneertaught us anything it was the power of stealth. As such, any new card that inherently has stealth definitely deserves a second look. The Shade is (essentially) a three/three for three that has the ability to grow as large as you need it to throughout the game without the risk of it dying to creatures or targeted removal. As good as that sounds, that plan probably just won’t ever come to fruition. Why? Two words. New Meta.

With the addition of Undertakerand Mad Scientistthe metagame on ladder has sped up dramatically. This has caused a rift in the system, where the only two types of decks right now are hyper aggressive decks trying to take advantage of things like Undertaker or very slow Control decks like Warrior and Paladin. In a world where you are either getting blitzed down in a myriad of different ways or blitzing down in a myriad of different ways there is no space to play a three/three for three.

Even if you do get you Shade to get up into the higher power levels both Control and Aggro decks can’t afford to waste that all important third turn. It may seem that playing Shade isn’t wasting a turn, but rather it’s more like investing for later in the game. That could very well be true, but what does Shade do that Aldor Peacekeeper, Animal Companionor Acolyte of Paindon’t? All of the aforementioned cards serve a distinct purpose in their respective decks while also impacting the board. Shade of Naxxramas does not impact the board and it's vanilla ability just doesn't cut it these days. There is a slim chance that it could (maybe) crawl into some of the slower Priest of Paladin decks that are just hero powering on the early turns, but it seems like that’s not even really worth spending a card on.

Kel'Thuzad

Kel’Thuzad

The lord of Naxxramas himself, Kel'Thuzadis a large, flashy legendary that many people cannot wait to play with. That reaction is more than understandable given the sheer potential he presents. A card that brings back your minions is no doubt powerful, and the fact that the ability is static rather than a battle cry makes him even better. Add on that his ability triggers at the end of each turn and you have a card that screams "must answer" much like Yseraor Ragnaros the Firelord. Yet, unlike Ysera or Ragnaros, Kel'thuzad is a card that does not pass the legendary test and probably will sit in the collection rather than being the great control tool everybody wants.

The biggest setback of our Lich friend is the “win more” aspect of his ability. For those of you who don’t know, “win more” is a phrase that refers to cards that, while being very strong, only do so when you are already winning. The catch 22 is this. Kel’thuzad is very good when you can trade off most of your minions with your opponents and then bring them all back for a huge, game winning swing. However, the problem with that scenario is that if you already have a board full of creatures, you’re usually in control of the game anyway. Not only that, but when will his ability really be relevant? At eight mana Kel'thuzad is a pure control card, but most control decks run a very small number of minions, and most of those minions don't need to be brought back because they control the game anyway. That is not to say there is no place for the Lich, or that he will never see play, but he is a card that seems a lot more bark than bite.

To further explain, card games are all about benchmarks, and the benchmark for an eight mana legendary is of course, Ragnaros the Firelord. Compare Rag to Kel’thuzad. Unlike Kel’thuzad, which is a dead card a lot of the time he will be in your hand (especially in a control deck with so few creatures) Ragnaros is always a huge threat that actually gets better on an empty board. Kel’thuzad, being eight mana, is obviously a control card, and one that does have some potential. However, the fact that you want minions to make his ability work does make him a little lackluster.

At the end of the day, Kel'thuzad does have a strong ability which can easily get out of hand if your opponent has no way to deal with it which will make many players go out of their way to make his ability work. I’m just very skeptical if they will succeed.

Avenge

Avenge

Avengewas a card that got a lot of hate when it was first spoiled. Now that time has gone by, and we have seen the impact of some of the more surprising Naxxramas cards (Mad Scientist!) I think it is more than fair to say this card could really make Paladin Aggro a force to be reckoned with. Shockadin was once a pillar of the meta, carrying many people (myself included) through the ranks to legend, and I think that deck could once again come to fruition. Divine Favorhas always been an extremely powerful card in aggressive builds, and with many decks like Hunter keeping their hands full, it seems like a cheap card like Avenge could push Paladin aggro to rise once again.

Avenge is a secret. That’s obvious, but it brings up a very interesting point. Yes, you do need two minions to make it work, and yes sometimes it will be a completely dead card, but a 3/2 “free” butff in an aggro deck is nothing to sneeze at. It also can be fetched by Mad Scientist, which essentially means you get to play four in your deck (even if you only do get to use it twice). The current Hunter deck only runs four traps and gets more than its share of value out of Mad Scientist.

Paladin could also run four traps (two Avenge and two Noble Sacrifice) alongside the scientist. Combine the scientist with everyone’s new favorite one drop, Undertakerand you already have the early makings of an aggro shell. Deathrattle is abundant these days and cards like  Loot Hoarderand   (to make Divine Favor better) could blend together to make a truly formidable aggro deck. Avenge is not a card that may seem playable at first, but there is definitely potential that people are choosing to ignore.

Conclusion

Naxx is finally at it's end, and man what a ride. The meta game has already been shaken to the core, with decks like Hunter coming back to the forefront. While Frostwyrm Lair may not have thrown us that many curveballs, there are still a good amount of fun and exciting cards to round out the set.

Hearthstone just went through its first Adventure Mode and, already based on the way it has effected the ladder, I'd say it was a success. Until next time (when I talk about the new Paladin Aggro) may you always stay one step ahead. As always, thanks for reading!

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