Hey, guys. It’s RaFive, and today we’re looking at the recent past to gain insight into our near future with this updated crafting guide.
The Goblins vs. Gnomes expansion is almost upon us, and it looks to bring the biggest shakeup of the metagame since launch. You can bet that most players will be all over the new cards as soon they’re available — but let’s take a step back and remember that most decks will still continue to be mostly made out of “vanilla” cards. We can even expect that some “vanilla” cards will grow in power with the availability of new cards. And if you’re like me, you just enjoy the feeling of expanding your card collection even if there’s fresh blood looming on the horizon. That’s why I’m providing a guide to the most valuable “vanilla” cards you can craft, along with some explanation of why I feel their value continues to make them worth crafting relative even to unpredictable new cards in the expansion — a lot of the cards on this list will form the bedrock of decks in the new metagame.
I believe in evidence-based advice. That’s why I personally reviewed every decklist from the top 16 players at Blizzcon and tallied up every single craftable card. I noticed that while some neutral cards appeared almost exclusively in a single deck archetype (like [card]Ancient Watcher[/card], which appeared only in Handlock), the most popular cards showed great diversity across classes and approaches. This is good evidence that these are versatile, consistent, valuable cards that can be fit in to a wide variety of potential decks — in other words, it’s good evidence that these are cards generally worth the effort of crafting.
There are seventeen cards on this list: five common, five rare, four epic, and three legendary. In one or two instances where a card is too situationally related to a specific archetype, I have decided not to recommend it and have skipped to the next most popular card that would get my recommendation. Cards are grouped by rarity and arranged by their relative popularity in the Blizzcon decklists.
[cardinsert card=”ironbeak-owl” float=”right”][card]Ironbeak Owl[/card]: This hard-working bird was the standout favorite common at Blizzcon, with a whopping 37 different inclusions. (Out of all cards, it was only topped by [card]Defender of Argus[/card] at a staggering 45 inclusions, which averages out to almost one Defender in each deck run by each player!) It’s easy to see why the Owl gets lots of love — it’s one of only two neutral cards with silence effects, and it’s by far the cheapest. You don’t run silence cards for their bodies, so [card]Spellbreaker[/card] usually falls by the wayside in favor of the intrepid Owl. At 2 mana, it’s cheap enough to fit into aggressive decks; as a beast-type minion, it synergizes well with the Hunter class cards; and the silence effect is versatile, able to seriously impact your opponent’s game but also able to remove freeze and [card]Equality[/card]-type debuffs from your minions in a pinch. With powerful Deathrattle cards like [card]Piloted Sky Golem[/card] coming up in Goblins vs. Gnomes, silence effects will be a standard inclusion in most decks, and the Owl provides one of the best channels for that value.
[cardinsert card=”earthen-ring-farseer” float=”right”][card]Earthen Ring Farseer[/card]: As in the real world, in Hearthstone time is life. Unlike in the real world, in Hearsthone life is time. Whenever you need to buy yourself some time and put a minion on the board, call on the Farseer. He is at his most powerful in Warlock decks that abuse the life-draining hero power but have a weak early board (like Handlock and some Demonlock lists) and in decks like Miracle Rogue that depend on delaying for a win condition, but it is also versatile direct damage coupled with [card]Auchenai Soulpriest[/card] and can be used to heal big minions after favorable trades. Farseer is a Swiss army knife at the 3-mana spot.
[cardinsert card=”leper-gnome” float=”right”][card]Leper Gnome[/card]: He’s the bread and butter of aggressive decks and the king of low-mana value town. With the exception of [card]Earthshock[/card], it’s impossible to remove [card]Leper Gnome[/card] efficiently. He’s virtually guaranteed to do 2 damage for his 1 mana cost, and in most cases he’ll cost either a card or more than 1 mana in tempo to remove, making him a ridiculously efficient minion for his purposes. He also has a Deathrattle, which buffs [card]Undertaker[/card] and makes [card]Leper Gnome[/card] an auto-include in most Zoo and Hunter lists. The future looks rosy for aggressive Deathrattle decks with the coming advent of minions like [card]Clockwork Gnome[/card], so [card]Leper Gnome[/card] is here to stay as well.
[cardinsert card=”harvest-golem” float=”right”][card]Harvest Golem[/card]: The stickiness of this agriculturally-inclined automaton makes it a beast in decks that prize board control, like Druid, Shaman, and Zoo. It’s not quite as powerful outside the tournament meta because you can’t control for the possibility that you’ll face a bunch of Priests packing [card]Cabal Shadow Priest[/card], but [card]Harvest Golem[/card] is still a durable minion that’s the king of the 3-drop slot in Zoo and most midrange decks. In the expansion, its reclassification as a mech-type will give it an added boost through synergy with cards like [card]Mechwarper[/card].
[cardinsert card=”loot-hoarder” float=”right”][card]Loot Hoarder[/card]: Hearthstone’s developers have gotten a lot better over time at developing reasonably balanced cards that fit well into a broad metagame. In other words, Hearthstone’s developers have improved their game at making decent cards (instead of unplayable crap like [card]Mogu’shan Warden[/card]). We can only expect this skill to further improve over time, which means that as more expansions are released, the average quality of the overall card pool becomes better. This means that minions which draw cards for you are relatively increased in strength and playability when Blizzard releases new, good cards. (Incidentally, this is also why some players like Reynad forecast that the Warlock hero power will need nerfing down the road, since it, too, becomes relatively more powerful as you can draw on average better cards from it). [card]Loot Hoarder[/card] is cheap vanilla minion with a pointy front end and a Deathrattle. That makes him a highly favorable card at present, especially in lower-end aggressive decks, and the Hoarder’s value will only increase after the release of the expansion. It’s definitely worth crafting two if you don’t have two already.
[cardinsert card=”defender-of-argus” float=”right”][card]Defender of Argus[/card]: The Defender was the single most popular card at Blizzcon. As mentioned above, if you average the numbers out, there’s roughly one Defender per list of cards submitted, and this is across a broad number of archetypes. That’s because the Defender is the ultimate in versatility. It provides Taunt, which protects your board or your life total. It buffs attack, which enables better trades or final pushes for lethal. You can use it to improve the utility on tokens or totems. It buffs health, which provides AoE resistance and takes minions out of efficient trading range. It costs 4 mana, which is high enough to fit in control and midrange decks but cheap enough that aggressive decks can use it as a consolidator. Although the card itself is fairly high-value, the body is only a vanilla 2/3, so you can throw the Defender himself to test secrets or other effects that need triggers. In short, the Defender fits at least one copy into most decks you could think about running, and this broad, reliable versatility is likely to keep the Defender as a popular selection well into the future. You won’t regret having this card in your collection.
[cardinsert card=”azure-drake” float=”right”][card]Azure Drake[/card]: As with [card]Defender of Argus[/card] and [card]Ironbeak Owl[/card], Azure Drake is a popular pick in a wide variety of decks because of its versatility. It’s a hefty body (that dodges cheap removal like [card]Frostbolt[/card] or [card]Shadow Word: Pain[/card]), it draws you a card, and it buffs your spells. This makes it the ultimate midrange toolbox, particularly in Rogue and Shaman, although with some new burn spells like [card]Flamecannon[/card] coming out in the expansion, I foresee that Mage will also benefit from the Drake. As a card that draws you a card, the Drake’s power only increases as the card pool improves, and the same is true for its spellpower boost — the better the spells it can buff, the greater its power relative to other cards. Since GvG looks to add quite a bit of solid cards and quite a bit of spell damage, this puts the Drake in an ideal position to benefit, which gets it my recommendation.
[cardinsert card=”sunfury-protector” float=”right”][card]Sunfury Protector[/card]: The stats are a vanilla (and valuable ) 2/3, and it gives Taunt. That’s all. [card]Sunfury Protector[/card] is a sweet, straightforward 2-drop that fits well into any deck where it’s particularly important to direct the flow of battle. Since it doesn’t buff but can be used to cheaply place huge minions in the opponent’s way, it’s most powerful in control-oriented decks. At the competitive level it currently sees most of its play in Handlock and in some heavier Druid lists, but you can expect the Protector to gain flexibility after the expansion with minions like [card]Clockwork Giant[/card] and Deathrattle minions you want your opponent to trigger, like [card]Explosive Sheep[/card] and [card]Sneed’s Old Shredder[/card]. At its absolute worst, it’s a decently-costed minion with an occasionally helpful effect, so you’re almost guaranteed it won’t be a dead draw, and its effect fits into a wide potential variety of archetypes — I’ve even run a single Protector in Zoo as an extra activator for [card]Haunted Creeper[/card] and [card]Nerubian Egg[/card] — so you can rest assured it’s a good investment.
[cardinsert card=”wild-pyromancer” float=”right”][card]Wild Pyromancer[/card]: Paladin has the strongest board clear in the game with the infamous [card]Wild Pyromancer[/card] + [card]Equality[/card] combo, and the card is also a heavy favorite as a board clear in Control Priest (that’s much faster than [card]Holy Nova[/card]) because of its synergies with [card]Power Word: Shield[/card] and [card]Circle of Healing[/card]. Since it is basically a card that you use to clear the entire board in conjunction with cheap spells, it’ll always be a control-oriented card, but the effect will be much easier to trigger after the expansion because cards like [card]Clockwork Gnome[/card] and [card]Tinkertown Technician[/card] will make cheap Spare Part cards like [card]Reversing Switch[/card] a dime a dozen. For the carefully built mech deck, this will make the Pyromancer an easy addition as an early board sweeper even for classes outside Priest and Paladin. If you enjoy playing control, picking Pyro up now is a good investment in your future.
[cardinsert card=”knife-juggler” float=”right”][card]Knife Juggler[/card]: This overconfident gnome is the ultimate booster for cheap aggression. Coupled with [card]Haunted Creeper[/card] or [card]Unleash the Hounds[/card], the Juggler can easily get two to three times his cost in value by the time your opponent frantically takes him out. He basically gives you free damage in return for doing what your gameplan already dictates you do. And just like draw effects get stronger as you have better cards you can draw, so also effects on summon get better with more minions summoned more easily. The two-stage Deathrattle of [card]Harvest Golem[/card] and [card]Sludge Belcher[/card] has clearly been popular with Blizzard and is making some significant additional inroads in the form of [card]Piloted Shredder[/card] and [card]Piloted Sky Golem[/card] (as well as some other minions in the upcoming expansion, no doubt), so [card]Knife Juggler[/card]’s damage potential looks stronger than ever. Couple this with an influx of cheap minions like [card]Cogmaster[/card] and [card]Clockwork Gnome[/card] made cheaper by [card]Mechwarper[/card], and it’s easy to see why the Juggler will be a strong pick for anyone looking to build an aggressive deck after the expansion.
[cardinsert card=”big-game-hunter” float=”right”][card]Big Game Hunter[/card]: Most minions in the game with 7+ attack also cost 7+ mana. [card]Big Game Hunter[/card] costs three. His body is wimpy at 4/2, effectively trading most of the time at the same level as a 2-drop, but that still means that for basically one mana in effect cost, you can take out [card]Deathwing[/card] himself. That’s a huge potential tempo gain, and the chances are high you’ll lose if a huge minion like [card]Ragnaros the Firelord[/card] comes down and you don’t have an efficient answer, so you see a good bit of BGH, especially in Druid where you like longer games and huge minions but lack hard removal to counter the opponent’s fatties. BGH’s power only looks to increase after the expansion (as with the other cards I’ve recommended), since the pool of BGH-able minions is set to increase with new additions like [card]Dr. Boom[/card], while the Spare Part card [card]Whirling Blades[/card] will put 6-attack minions in BGH range more frequently. If you don’t have one already, start saving up.
[cardinsert card=”faceless-manipulator” float=”right”][card]Faceless Manipulator[/card]: Just like a draw spell gets more powerful as you add more/better cards, so do duplicate effects, and [card]Faceless Manipulator[/card] is king of that heap. With delicious targets like [card]Piloted Sky Golem[/card] and [card]Sneed’s Old Shredder[/card] waiting in the wings, Faceless will only become a better and more versatile card after the expansion’s release. In fact, I’ll go as far as this, put in underline and everything: if you’re an F2P player and can craft only one card before the expansion, make that card [card]Faceless Manipulator[/card]. Speaking from my own experience as a 100% F2P player, one of the most important ways I’ve been able to get better at responding to cards I don’t own has been by drafting and playing them in Arena. Faceless is like that, except in constructed, letting you test-run all those legendary cards you can’t afford yet so that you can spend your precious dust all the more wisely. With Faceless, you are guaranteed to be able to put as powerful a card on the field as your opponent, no matter what, and that’s what makes it a great card that fits well into most decks.
[cardinsert card=”mountain-giant” float=”right”][card]Mountain Giant[/card] + [card]Molten Giant[/card]: These cards actually get my least enthusiastic recommendation of the whole list. I’m including them because as epics, they were enormously popular at Blizzcon, but that’s only because Handlock was enormously popular at Blizzcon. As such, unlike all the other cards on this list, the Giants aren’t used across a diverse swath of deck archetypes, but as their ubiquity in Handlock demonstrates, they are some of the best epics in the game in a deck that can deploy them properly. While it’s anybody’s guess how the metagame will change after GvG’s release, I suspect Handlock will continue to be viable with its unique ramp style and multiplicity of huge minions. In fact, with Spare Part cards and blowout potential from [card]Enhance-o Mechano[/card], GvG seems set only to make Handlock more powerful, getting its hand-dependent minions ([card]Mountain Giant[/card] and [card]Twilight Drake[/card]) out faster and hitting harder with them. This recommends the Giants as worthy epics to craft.
[cardinsert card=”sylvanas-windrunner” float=”right”][card]Sylvanas Windrunner[/card]: Ad nauseam, if you have an effect that piggybacks its power off the strength of other cards, you make it stronger when you add good cards to the available pool. Just like [card]Faceless Manipulator[/card] and [card]Loot Hoarder[/card], Sylvanas is also set for a significant relative power increase once the expansion comes out. Blizzard has made it clear that its vision for Hearthstone is a board-centric, minion-focused game, and Sylvanas is queen of board control, as evidenced by her standout popularity at Blizzcon (she appeared in 24/64 decks, considerably more than any other legendary). With more minions like [card]Piloted Shredder[/card] that leave cards on the board even after they’ve died, there’s more of a guarantee than ever that Sylvanas will be able to steal something decently valuable with her Deathrattle (in fact, I think [card]Mind Control Tech[/card] is set for a popularity spike after the expansion for similar reasons), and at 6 mana, she fits neatly into both control and midrange builds — I’ve even seen some Zoo shenanigans running her with [card]Void Terror[/card] and [card]Power Overwhelming[/card] to considerable effectiveness. I would rate Sylvanas without question as currently the most powerful and versatile legendary card, and given the details of her effect, I’d actually be surprised if the expansion changed that.
[cardinsert card=”the-black-knight” float=”right”][card]The Black Knight[/card]: A more board-heavy game means more Taunt to protect minions you don’t want to trade, so it’s no surprise that TBK was extremely popular at Blizzcon. Taunt looks to be on the increase through shenanigans like [card]Enhance-o Mechano[/card] and [card]Annoy-o-Tron[/card], which ought to give TBK more opportunities to be played for value (he’s a 4/5 for 6, so you have to be removing 2+ mana of value to be playing him efficiently). As with [card]Sylvanas Windrunner[/card], TBK comes in at 6 mana and therefore fits well into control and midrange, but his insta-kill on Taunt is so powerful that even Zoo and Hunter have been seen packing TBK to efficiently crush later-game Taunts. Almost every deck in the game runs Taunt on minions worth taking out with TBK, and some decks (like Handlock) run Taunt on minions it would be a crime not to remove through TBK (like the ubiquitous [card]Sludge Belcher[/card], so for the present and into the foreseeable future, he’s a great craft to improve your hard removal.
[cardinsert card=”bloodmage-thalnos” float=”right”][card]Bloodmage Thalnos[/card]: He’s probably THE Swiss army knife of cards in Hearthstone. For 2 mana, you get a Deathrattle, a card draw, and +1 spell damage. If you’re playing anything other than a dedicated aggressive deck or Handlock, odds are you’ll find one of those three effects handy at some point in the game, and this is only likely to be more true post-expansion. Deathrattle was the central focus of Naxxramas in creating a more minion-heavy metagame, and it looks like Blizzard is continuing that mentality into GvG. As with [card]Loot Hoarder[/card], a better pool of cards means greater relative power for the card draw. Last but not least, the +1 spell damage supercharges effects like [card]Flamecannon[/card] and is sure to be critical in efficiently downing minions with spell-based removal from the likes of Mage or Shaman. Thalnos has long been one of the most-played legendaries as well as a staple crafting recommendation, and this continues to be true as the expansion draws near.
New things are exciting. They’re enticing and shiny and unfamiliar. Experience, however, teaches us that change is usually incremental. After we get all excited about the new stuff, we usually find ourselves mostly falling back on the old stuff, and what’s new simply becomes a way to keep the old fresh and relevant and evolving in a positive direction. Goblins vs. Gnomes is likely to follow this time-tested pattern of human societies, where we all get super excited about the expansion, try all the new cards out, and then largely go back to improved versions of older builds. This tendency makes it a good, safe bet to invest in what’s been most solid in the present as a means of building a firm foundation for your future. That’s why I’ve put this crafting guide together, so you can stock up on the most powerful and versatile cards and then make something newer and greater out of them once the expansion launches. Get out there and build a better metagame!