Joseph Reviews: Knights of the Frozen Throne (Part 2)
Today we push on through the icy wasteland with even more card reveals! So far, we are breaking about even. Knights has had some ups (and I mean some way ups) that I cannot wait to put into some decks, but it has also had some way (and I mean waaaay) lows. The princes are the worst legendaries printed since Millhouse Manastorm(yeah, I said it), but there really hasn't been all that much filler either. In this round of reviews we have a mixed bag. There are some cards here I think have quite a bit of potential, but there are also a couple I am not the most fond of. I will be looking at the cards revealed over the weekend and on Monday in this one. Not every reveal is going to be amazing, but, as always, there are some real diamonds in the rough if you know where to look.
We begin this article with a card that I am completely split down the middle on. Stitched Trackeris an interesting minion from the stand point that it is a slow Hunter card. This has been a real theme of the set, and it shows again here. However, as has been the problem in the past, Hunter is not a class that likes to play slow. In fact, it is probably the fastest class in the game. There is no doubt that Stitched Tracker's ability (which is arguably better than just "draw a card") is powerful. Getting any minion from your deck is insane, and the fact that you can tweak it to what you need is even better. Unfortunately, the 2/2 is not a beast. That makes the body quite bad and takes away the Houndmasterthreat. In addition, there are some strong three drops running around. For those reasons, I do not think this will see play in any midrange or aggressive list. Its stats are simply too weak.
In my discussion of Deathstalker Rexxar, I said the problem with slow Hunter builds is not a lack of finisher, but rather a lack of strong control tools. Control decks don't just need one or two strong cards to work, they need a slew of efficient minions and spells that help them build to their end game. Stitched Trackeris not going to fix all of the classes' problems, but it is a good start. Being able to fill in your curve is important, as is being able to go find a finisher. Tutors are always inherently strong, and this is the first real one we've seen for Hunter. While I do not think it is going to be good in decks that want to fight for the board, I could definitely see it coming into play for any future Control Hunter decks that exist. While I am skeptical of that archetype right now, in a set or two this could be a real player.
At first glance, Mindbreakerseems like a strange gimmick card or a maybe an arena pick you'd make when you get three bad rares. However, I think the 2/5 actually has quite a bit of potential. First off, the ability is much more impactful than it appears to be. It may not seem very good to shut down hero powers, but think of the classes this can throttle. Mage, Rogue and Druid all seek to get use out of their hero power throughout the early to middle turns of the game. If you can take that extra ping away it limits just how much they can control the board. Not only that, but this stops Lifetap (limiting Warlock's draw), Hunter's damage, and it can keep both Shaman and Paladin from getting extra board presence. All of those could matter throughout different games and situations.
Something else that is very important about Mindbreakeris the fact that it has a very big body. You of course are going to limit yourself with this card, but I could see it having a lot of use in midrange curve decks that want to play minions throughout the early game and not use their hero power. This could be especially interesting in buff Paladin. With one buff this becomes a 3/6. Those stats for three mana is going to be strong, and that power will grow even more when that 3/6 directly limits your opponent's ability to control the board. Midrange, minion-heavy builds have always sought to push for board presence and then quickly build up. This card really helps that style of play and I could see a few archetypes adopting it when the new set drops. The five health also makes it perfect for on-curve buffs.
Oh, yes. Now we are talking. I have already discussed my passion for Tempo Warrior, and this is yet another piece that can make the archetype come together. I believe Midrange Warrior is going to be one of the strongest decks in the early days of Knights (I know what I'll be taking to legend) and I thought that before we saw Val'kyr Soulclaimer. While Grim Patron(or Imp Gang Bossfor that matter) this is not, the 1/4 is still an extremely powerful card that plays very well with all of the damaging tools Warrior has. A 1/4 body on turn three is not crazy, but that four health is going to allow it to live through a lot of damage. Not only that, but it has great synergy with Animated Berserker, Ravaging Ghouland Blood Razor. What makes this card particularly strong is not the fact that it is always going to do a lot, but rather that it will threaten to do a lot. There are going to be many games where your opponent goes out of their way to kill this, and tying up their early turn on a three drop is exactly what you want to do in a tempo deck.
A lot of people have knocked this card by saying that, not only does it not create a ghoul when it dies, but the more Whirlwindeffects you have, the more you are going to shred your own 2/2's. Honestly, neither of those things matter. As mentioned, most of the time this is going to tie up your opponent, which is its most important use. Being able to move up your curve while keeping your opponent back is very powerful and it won't matter if you have a 2/2 or not. Not only that, but most of the time you are going to use your ghouls to trade, which means it doesn't matter if they are a 2/2 or a 2/1. Val'kyr Soulclaimeris not a finisher than you use to pump out an army. It is just an efficient threat you use to cement the middle turns to make way for your finishing punch. Yes, it is competing with both Acolyte of Painand Frothing Berserker, but I think tempo would want the flexibility of this card (being able to go wide and trade into multiple targets) over the 2/4.
You know what we needed? More pirates. And thank god we got them. Joking aside, I'm actually not too high on this card at the moment. Before we get into discussing why that is, we first need to look at the current iterations of Pirate Warrior. Almost all of the popular builds are focused on tempo plays that help them push damage and rapidly build up the board. It is easy to see the list as a simple "play things and go face" style of deck, but that just isn't the case. There are a lot of anti-aggro cards in the game right now, and all of them make board control matter for decks that want to stack up pressure. That is the fundamental problem with Phantom Freebooter. Instead of fighting for board, it is just a big ball of stats. And, if we've learned anything, stats rarely matter. This also makes it so you have to have a weapon (which is not always the case on four) and that holds it back as well.
While this card has some potential, it gets held back because it doesn't matchup to the other Pirate four drops. Kor'kron Elitehas a ton of versatility, and is often used to trade in and advance the board moving into an Arcanite Reaper. It also typically equals eight damage while you're ahead, which ties it up with the phantom. In addition, Naga Corsairhelps you get weapon value and enables you better trades on the board. Phantom Freebooterdoes neither of those things. Yes, it is great when you're ahead, but so are the other two options. However, they also provide you with much more value and give you a way to fight back against different classes. For those reasons, I don't think the 3/3 is going to be able to make the cut.
No. Just...no. I have seen a few people talking up , but at the end of the day the shiny new two drop is just a River Crocoliskwithout the beast tag. If that sounds bad, it's because it is. Something to note about cards like Gnomish Vampire is that, while the ability is unique, it is hardly ever going to do anything. Burning a single card from your opponent's deck does nothing to impact the game. In fact, this card is bad for the exact same reason that Fel Reaver(which burned way more cards) was good. Yes, there are going to be games where you burn that one combo card from your opponent's deck or destroy their finisher, but most of the time this is going to do nothing. Even if you hit a strong removal spell, AOE, or an important legendary, it is the same as if your opponent had that card on the bottom of their deck. That means, even if you do live the dream with this card, it is really doing nothing. It is true that we are living in a time where a 2/3 for two matters quite a bit, but that isn't worth the minimal ability. If you want to move into Warlock (and I think there could be some new decks for the class) there are many better options.
At first glance I wanted to call Embrace Darknessbad. However, the more I thought about the epic, the more I began to like it. Mind Controlis one of the strongest cards ever printed. So much so that it has to be ten mana in order to keep it balanced. Anytime it becomes cheaper (Sylvanas Windrunner) there are many decks that go out of their way to make it work. Taking your opponent's minions is one of the strongest things you can do in Hearthstone, even if it comes with a delay. Every steal card has seen play at some point, and this one will too. Yes, it is easy to compare embrace to Corruption, but the pay off is much bigger. There are many situations where your opponent will not be able to kill their minion, giving you free value. The only price your going to pay is a little bit of life.
The best application for Embrace Darkness, in my opinion, could be Quest Priest. Though Awaken the Makersproved that it did not do enough to see play in the past meta, things could get better for it as we get new tools. Playing the quest is great because it offsets any damage a slower Priest deck could take and gives you a way to really take advantage of the minion you stole. I believe this card, in conjunction with Shadow Visions, will slot into just about any Control Priest deck moving forward. Sometimes it will be a one-of tech card, sometimes it will just be a double whammy, but is is going to be there. Taking damage is never fun, but Priest has enough ways to mitigate it that a delayed Mind Controlis good enough to see play.
The last card we're looking at today is probably (besides those darn princes) the most disappointing card in the set. Archbishop Benedictus, while cool, is another (another) big, do-nothing Priest legendary that I am going to be sad to open. Lyra the Sunshardbroke the mold for a brief second, but almost all of the Priest legendaries ever printed have been flashy, do-nothing cards. In fact, with the exception of Herald Volazj, archbishop may be the worst offender. Not only is a 4/6 body for seven extremely weak, but the ability of shuffling your opponent's deck into your deck is going to do largely nothing. In fact, it may even hurt you by diluting your own deck and making your draws worse. You have no way to know what is left in your opponent's deck, and you have no way to control what gets shuffled. As a result, this is basically a vanilla 4/6 for seven. And that is absolutely terrible.
There are many people who want to live in dream land where this card gets you a ton of value at the end of a long, drawn-out affair. However, fatigue decks aren't going to be able to fully comeback until Jade Druid rotates. Not only that, but even if you do go into fatigue, chances are you were going to win anyway since you're playing control. This card is just extremely gimmicky and will serve as a highlight reel legendary more than anything else. I want to like it, I may even play it at some point, but it will never make its way into constructed play.
Another round of reviews are in! While these are not quite as explosive as some of the things we've seen, I do really like the direction of the set. There are a lot of cards that I want to mess around with in Knights, and getting new toys is always fun. I have two more spoiler articles for you guys, and then it will hopefully be time to jump into some new decks and a new set! Hope you're excited and I'll see you all later this week!