I’m “Mitsuhide”, a professional Hearthstone player for Sector One and I enjoy coming up with new deck builds and deck ideas. With a fresh new batch of cards coming up with “One Night in Karazhan”, I decided to write an article.
Because I’m not the only Hearthstone deck builder & theorycrafter in town, I took it upon myself to talk to some of the best Hearthstone players around. Each of them have their own specific class “niche”, and are considered class experts among their peers.
I would like to to thank them before we start off, compiling this article would have been impossible without their help. You guys rock!
The questions we’ll answer in this article:
- Which newly released cards are relevant ?
- Will they be good or bad and why ?
- Will existing decks blossom or fall following Karazhan?
- What possible new archetypes will we be seeing, if any?
What better way to start off than with our beloved Shaman! This class dominates the current meta and most of us are expecting it to remain like that after the next expansion. To get some Shaman insight I spoke with French-based player “TicTac”, who finished #1 on the EU ladder during July season with aggro shaman.
We agreed that the Shaman class cards don’t seem great at first sight, but then again, it would be very hard for any card to take over a spot in the already extremely stacked Shaman core.
Let’s hear what TicTac has to say about the new cards
“Wicked Witchdoctor is basically a Violet Teacher with 1 less health and I don’t think there are enough good Shaman spells to make it work. Spirit Claws on the other hand is a card I really like and expect to find its way into some kind of control Shaman. Since Shaman has so many healing effects at its disposal, you can manage your health as a resource. “TicTac
Wicked Witchdoctor is basically a Violet Teacher with 1 less health and I don’t think there are enough good Shaman spells to make it work. The Shaman turn 4 is already heavily contested so you would need to play it on turn 5 with a spell like Rockbiter Weapon or Lightning Bolt which is not even good.
Don’t expect it to make the cut but we will see.
Spirit Claws on the other hand is a card I really like and expect to find its way into some kind of control Shaman.
Since Shaman has so many healing effects at its disposal, you can manage your health as a resource. It also works well with Bloodmage Thalnos, Azure Drake and your spell power totem. Maelstrom Portal looks cool, Shaman has always had problems dealing with tokens in general and was forced to use Lightning Storm inefficiently.
I predict this card will probably see play in a new aggro Shaman list or even in control Shaman.
For Druid speculations I consulted “Tyler”, a great player and streamer who has hit legend #1 with Druid on multiple occasions. We agreed that beast Druid will probably become one of the decks to be feared.
Let’s hear Tyler’s opinion.
“Druid is receiving 3 new cards of which 2 have a beast theme attached to them. Enchanted Raven and Menagerie Warden are cards that will make the beast Druid archetype viable. In fact beast Druid has arguably been tier 2 for a while now, but has flown below the radar because token/ Yogg Druid is simply better. Currently beast Druid is lacking two cards, a solid one drop and a heavy hitter for the mid game.”Tyler
Tyler: “Blizzard filled in this gap perfectly with the Enchanted Raven and Menagerie Warden. The most obvious synergies being Enchanted Raven on turn one and buffing it to a 4-4 on with [Mark of Y’shaarj] on turn 2.
Stranglethorn Tiger / Druid of the Claw on turn 5 and Menagerie Warden on turn 6 for a free 5-drop is also insane! The most optimal build would most likely be similar to the old aggro Druid we had before standard with Fel Reaver, just really fast with Innervate and a bunch of early drops and of course without Wild Growth.”
The likelihood of a successful Beast Druid build surfacing is huge, but what about the existing Yogg-Saron, Hope's End Druid?
While Moonglade Portal might seem like a pretty decent card value-wise, it’s hard to imagine a deck it fits well into as Druid doesn’t usually rely on heal to sustain in the early to mid game.
The question this leads us to: will Beast Druid be better than the Token / Yogg Druid that is currently dominating the meta?
Tyler: “I don’t think so, but I think it will be a strong 2nd archetype that is better against aggressive matchups, such as face Shaman and Zoolock.”
That statement makes a lot of sense, as aggro Fel Reaver Druid also used to be better versus Tempo decks than regular combo Druid.
By the looks of things we might finally be getting more tools to fight off the Shaman onslaught on ladder!
“I think Swashburglar is a pretty decent card. A 1/1 into a turn 2 dagger is great to deal with a 3/2 minion. A lot of what determines if a card is good or not is in what other cards are played, if 3/2’s are popular in the meta this card might be crazy good.”Dog
Guukboii: “I have been looking into the new cards of the expansion and the first card that came to mind was Arcane Giant. Miracle Rogue has always been a very spell-heavy deck so it seemed natural that this card could find a place in there. I have been thinking about it though and I’m not sure anymore. Miracle Rogue is made to cycle through your deck and finish them off with a combo, this being either Leeroy Jenkins with Cold Blood or Malygos with Sinister Strike / Eviscerate.
It will definitely still need testing but I believe playing a giant for (0-6) mana later on in the game isn’t truly worth it. Especially because by the time you’ve played this many spells, you’ve probably cycled through your deck a lot and you don’t need the 8/8 body anymore. Although I might be wrong on this and maybe another version of Miracle Rogue (non-combo?) might ‘abuse’ Arcane Giant way better.
Barnes on the contrary seems very good in certain Rogue decks. If we think about the minions Malygos Rogue plays: Bloodmage Thalnos, SI:7 Agent (2x),Edwin VanCleef, Azure Drake (2x), Gadgetzan Auctioneer (2x), Emperor Thaurissan, Malygos. There are only 10 minions in the deck, 3 out of the 10 will just give a vanilla 1/1 (but [SI:7-Agent] is very often kept in the opening hand so this lowers the chance of getting him from Barnes), 3 of them will be average (Spellpower and/or card draw) but the other 4 have incredible value. Getting an auctioneer on turn 4 means you can start cycling through your deck a lot earlier, getting a Emperor Thaurissan is always incredible value because of the effect and Malygos speaks for itself. I’m definitely looking forward to test this card.”
We expect that there might be some strong neutral cards that fit pretty well into existing Rogue decks. The main point of the Rogue fan’s criticism however, is that the class hasn’t received any notably strong class cards over the past updates. Will Karazhan be any different? Clearly the newly released cards can add to some new, interesting archetypes?
Guukboii: “With the new Ethereal Peddler coming out we might find ourselves looking into some kind of ‘Thief’-Rogue. Swashburglar, Undercity Huckster and Burgle are all Rogue class-cards that give you cards from another class. Looking at the neutrals we have: Nefarian and potentially Prince Malchezaar (if it’s possible to get a class-legendary). Although the deck might be very fun I don’t think it will see competitive play because it lacks consistency. Even if you make all the stolen cards cheaper you run the risk of them not being good enough, thus leaving you with semi-bad cards like burgle in your deck.”
Too bad. I would have loved to play some pirate burgle Rogue!
Warrior has always had a very strong set of core cards. For a long time cards like Shield Block, Shield Slam and Brawl were the core to every Warrior list. It was only until the latest expansion that people started playing tempo-based Warrior decks that didn’t rely on stalling (or Grim Patron) as a win condition.
As ladder data shows, the discovery of dragon Warrior has greatly increased the popularity of the class. Will this ongoing upward trend continue after Karazhan though? I spoke with swedish player “Bozzzton” who has recently achieved rank #1 legend on EU with his dragon Warrior.
“Hunter and beast druid got really strong cards, and if Hunter gets stronger Warrior naturally becomes a bit weaker because it has a hard time dealing with cards like Savannah Highmane and Call of the Wild. But I still think dragon Warrior and Warrior overall will keep being one of the strongest forces in the game even after the big party in Karazhan.”Bozzzton
Dragon Warrior is known for it’s good potential to curve out really well and keep putting threats on the board. It can make really strong tempo plays with cards like Fiery War Axe and Execute. The nature of the deck causes it to perform pretty well against shaman, making it very popular on ladder in the current meta. Dragon Warrior didn’t quite get any cards that they will use with Karazhan. Book Wyrm, the new dragon doesn’t fit this type of deck but might make people lean towards a more control style of dragon Warrior (like Maverick’s). Whether the card will be good enough or not depends a bit on how the meta will develop and how many 3-attack minions there will be that you can and want to target.
The new class cards are nothing too special I believe. Warrior will probably look about the same after the expansion, but will still have a premier spot in the meta-game. Maybe it gets less popular though, because of other midrange decks getting stronger. Hunter and beast druid got really strong cards, and if Hunter gets stronger Warrior naturally becomes a bit weaker because it has a hard time dealing with cards like Savannah Highmane and Call of the Wild. But I still think dragon Warrior and Warrior overall will keep being one of the strongest forces in the game even after the big party in Karazhan.
Hunter has always been a fairly competitive class. From the early days of face Hunter to patron-era hybrid Hunter to the latest midrange builds it seems like Hunter has slowed down over time. With the addition of Kindly Grandmother, the class receives a much needed 2-drop to fill the slot of Huge Toad.
I spoke with Virtus Pro’s “Naiman”, seasoned Hunter expert, to hear his opinion about the newly released cards.
“Cloaked Huntress might lead to a lot of Yogg Hunters. This card should curve out well with Kindly Grandmother and will probably allow Snake Trap / Bear Trap to be played. There won’t be any good competitive “Secret Hunter” archetypes but this card will probably allow previous fast midrange Hunters back into the meta.”Naiman
Naiman: “Kindly Grandmother looks like a pretty good card. As a sticky minion, it synergizes with Houndmaster. If the meta slows down N’Zoth Hunters might become viable and Kindly Grandmother would fit great in that kind of deck. Kindly Grandmother can be played with Bestial Wrath. The card’s 1/1 initial stats aren’t great but cards like this are important for Hunters to keep the early board control.”
It certainly seems like Kindly Grandmother is an ideal target for buff cards like Abusive Sergeant, Dire Wolf Alpha and Houndmaster. Against aggressive decks, making value trades with the 1/1 grandma can provide huge tempo swings. In a way it’s comparable to Haunted Creeper (R.I.P.). I personally think this card will become a staple in most Hunter decks for sure!
Another interesting card is Cloaked Huntress. While this card might seem overpowered when played on turn 3, you have to consider the downside of running out of cards quickly and being stuck with an all secrets hand when not drawing it. A solution to this recourse problem might lie in Lock and Load, allowing for you to cycle your secrets in the mid to late game. Add Yogg-Saron, Hope's End to the mix, and we might have ourselves an entirely new Hunter deck.
Let’s hear Naiman’s thoughts on the card.
Naiman: “Cloaked Huntress might lead to a lot of Yogg Hunters. This card should curve out well with Kindly Grandmother and will probably allow Snake Trap / Bear Trap to be played. There won’t be any good competitive “Secret Hunter” archetypes but this card will probably allow previous fast midrange Hunters back into the meta.”
If secret Hunter becomes viable, you would imagine players simply not attacking to prevent activating the Snake Trap and Bear Trap. Perhaps Cat Trick can be viable as well, as it brings some confusion to the mix. Either way, I can’t wait to see Reddit threads filled with complaints about turn 3 christmas trees!
Warlock has to be one of the winners of this update. Even though Blizzard didn’t release many control warlock cards, aggro got plenty of love and it seems like an entirely new archetype will spawn in a discard based zoolock.
Top 8 winter championship finalist Virtus Pro’s “Bunnyhoppor” shares his opinion on a possible discardlock.
Asides from aggressive warlocks, there is of course also that more defensive Reno Jackson Warlock that has fallen out of favor a bit lately. I asked Reno advocate “Chinoize” about the future of Renolock. He is a true expert on the matter as he won dreamhack France with Renolock in his lineup, with an impressive 89% with the deck.
For the upcoming adventure we are seeing a new turn of the Zoo deck being reinforced by Blizzard, Discard Zoolock. In the last expansions Blizzard has already introduced three cards that have discard synergy, Darkshire Librarian, Tiny Knight of Evil and Fist of Jaraxxus. Neither of these cards has seen play, since their overall stats/effects are not very great and Zoo heavily relies on being able to ration their resources efficiently in the early game.
The two new cards, Malchezaar's Imp and Silverware Golem are powerful additions to the discard mechanic. Firstly Malchezaar's Imp provides a decent body for turn 1, as it is better than most non-class 1 mana minions in the game. Discard synergy can therefore only increase its value. Silverware Golem however does give very bad base stats, but when discarded provides a very large tempo swing.
Both of these cards more importantly however address a fundamental issue of the Doomguard-version of Zoolock, being unable to ration your turns out well over the course of the game rather than having to empty the hand very fast (which might be disadvantageous against more control-ish opponents) and being rewarded for tapping early especially due to the usage of Malchezaar's Imp should increase the power level of Zoo. Even though I think Tiny Knight of Evil and Fist of Jaraxxus will not see play, I am looking forward to trying out Malchezaar's Imp, Silverware Golem and Darkshire Librarian in a new “Discard Zoolock”.
I would have to label all 3 of the newly released warlock class cards as unplayable in Renolock. I believe that Malchezaar's Imp and Silverware Golem will find a place in discard Zoolock, but they for sure don’t belong in Renolock. [Kara Kazham] has a very nice artwork, but the card itself has very little potential. In my eyes it’s a worse version of Force of Nature and would never be played over Stampeding Kodo, for example.
On the other hand there are a lot of neutrals that I can’t wait to test. The Curator: a 4/6 taunt which draws you 2-3 cards, it could be as strong as a pre-nerf Ancient of Lore. We have our beast and dragon already with: Stampeding Kodo, Twilight Drake / Alexstrasza and could even try running Corrupted Seer for the murloc slot. The last one doesn’t seem that strong when I think about it though, even more so since drawing 3 cards might make you discard something when playing Renolock.
Barnes: I believe this card to be the strongest out of the entire set, still, I’m unsure if it will fit in Renolock. I want to test it for sure in a N'Zoth, the Corruptor Renolock, where you have a wide range of good targets like Sylvanas Windrunner, Cairne Bloodhoof and Ragnaros the Firelord. Book Wyrm, (10/10 artwork btw!) this one will get a spot for sure in a possible dragon renolock. The only downside is that the 6 mana spot is already heavily stacked with: Emperor Thaurissan, Sylvanas Windrunner, Siphon Soul, etc.
Mage has an extremely interesting place in the current meta. While mage decks haven’t been Tier 1 in a fairly long time, the class never died, and has always been a strong outsider. Mage has for example had a huge role in RDU’s title at the last Dreamhack in Sweden.
To get an idea about the future of the class, I had a talk with my coach and mage player by heart Daydream. Let’s hear his opinion about the newly released class cards.
“Medivh's Valet is by far my favorite mage card in this new expansion. The card is insanely strong. A 2-mana 2-3 with, if the conditions are met, 3 additional damage. I think this card is amazing, because even if you can’t meet the conditions, the stats are still acceptable, and if you can meet the conditions, it’s just a huge tempo boost.”Daydream
Medivh's Valet is by far my favorite mage card in this new expansion. The card is insanely strong. A 2-mana 2-3 with, if the conditions are met, 3 additional damage. I think this card is amazing, because even if you can’t meet the conditions, the stats are still acceptable, and if you can meet the conditions, it’s just a huge tempo boost. It’s just like a Darkbomb with a free 2/3. The only downside of the card is no actual mage archetypes really suit it, but I could totally imagine a deck with more secrets making this card totally shine.
Babbling Book is in my opinion a below average card, that might be useful in arena. I compared this card to the closest card we know, Raven Idol, and Raven Idol wins all the way: being a spell is a huge advantage for Raven Idol, whereas Babbling Book is a 1/1 creature. Raven Idol also allows you to choose between 3 spells when you choose to get a spell, whereas Babbling book just gives you a random mage spell.
Firelands Portal might become the favorite card of some players due to its RNG nature. While I don’t imagine the card having a fix spot in the actual mage archetypes, it is in my opinion an insanely strong card for arena. Dealing 5 damage and summoning a random 5-Cost minion for 7 mana, is just huge for arena. An important detail is that Firelands Portal is a common card, which raises the chance of getting it in your arena draft by a fair margin.”
In conclusion, I think we can state that mage will remain an outsider on ladder and in tournaments.
I can’t wait to see if deckbuilders can incorporate Medivh's Valet nicely. As for arena, it looks like Firelands Portal will secure the place of mage as one of the top classes.
Paladin has received some very interesting cards with Karazhan. Nightbane Templar, for example, could spawn an entirely new dragon paladin archetype. Paladin expert “Monkeloid” talks about the future of the class.
“What we’ve been seeing more and more on ladder as of late is Murloc N'Zoth, the Corruptor Paladin, but perhaps with The Curator making an appearance, there could be room for a murloc dragon Paladin. A legendary minion with taunt, which draws you up to 3 cards (Stampeding Kodo, Murloc Warleader and Alexstrasza for example) from your deck must provide tons of value.“Monkeloid
Monkeloid: “First I’d like to talk about classic N'Zoth, the Corruptor Paladin, which is currently seen as the strongest Paladin build out there. There won’t be any new deathrattles for Paladin with Karazhan, but there are a few cards that could undoubtedly strengthen the deck.
I expect Barnes to strengthen the N'Zoth, the Corruptor Paladin. This card summons a 1/1 copy of a random minion from your deck. This means that you might get an extra copy of Sylvanas Windrunner, Cairne Bloodhoof or perhaps even Tirion Fordring. Apart from getting a great minion, this also means that you have an extra deathrattle that can spawn off N'Zoth, the Corruptor ! Other minions that Barnes can summon are Ragnaros the Firelord and Ragnaros, Lightlord. These two have immediate impact on the board and are thus very strong. I think this card is especially good since it’s a mid game minion which can be used to out-tempo aggressive decks.
Another possible include could be Ivory Knight. This card is not very strong stat-wise, but it does offer an extra healing effect to stall until the late stages of the game where you’ll have the upper hand.”
As it seems Barnes will be seeing play in a wide variety of decks and I’m curious if it can live up to the hype. On another note, Blizzard has tried pushing dragon Paladin with the addition of Nightbane Templar. Will this make the deck viable or is it too little to make a difference?
Monkeloid: “For dragon Paladin there will be a lot of new cards that could drive the archetype to heights it hasn’t reached before. The main issue used to be that the deck had very little early game cards to deal with aggressive decks like zoo and shaman. Now that Nightbane Templar and [Netherspite] got added, we’ve finally gotten some cards that can slow down this aggression. If these cards turn out to be good enough, and dragon Paladin is allowed to transition into the late game consistently, all the strong dragon cards should be enough to close the game.
I’m a bit skeptical about Book Wyrm. The card costs 6 mana and you’re required to have a dragon in your hand, so it would seem like a worse Stampeding Kodo. Since Paladin has cards like Humility and Aldor Peacekeeper to set an enemy minion’s attack to 1, the 2/3 attack shouldn’t be too big of a difference.
What we’ve been seeing more and more on ladder as of late is Murloc N'Zoth, the Corruptor Paladin, but perhaps with The Curator making an appearance, there could be room for a murloc dragon Paladin. A legendary minion with taunt, which draws you up to 3 cards (Stampeding Kodo, Murloc Warleader and Alexstrasza for example) from your deck must provide tons of value.”
Dragon Paladin probably won’t make a huge impact on competitive Hearthstone like Dragon Warrior did before, but it will be interesting to see what the community can come up with.
So finally we arrive at Priest, the class which design has been getting a lot of critique from the Hearthstone scene. What makes the class so bad in the current meta? Do the developers not care about the competitive viability of Priest?
Who better to ask for his opinion on the topic than the Priest god himself, “Ness”, winner of Insomnia’s i57 Truesilver Championship.
“I’m a bit scared for what they will do to the class, especially after what they have already done. It’s always worrying when developers tell you about all the nice Neutral cards which will help the class but don’t consider the class cards. Overall the 3 cards given to Priest are not particularly strong and don’t fix any existing problems the class faced – so Priest will most likely stay as the worst class after the release of Karazhan”Ness
Ness: “It’s quite clear that Priest isn’t exactly in line with the other classes right now in terms of power. With the removal of Zombie Chow and Deathlord, Priest has lost access to any early game which can combat cards like Alexstrasza's Champion and Totem Golem.”
I’m sure most of the competitive scene agrees with you. While other classes seem to get stronger and stronger cards, Priest undeniably starts falling behind. It seems like the class could use some nice cards to become viable, or at least playable again.
Will Karazhan bring hope or do Priest players have to wait once more for some love?
Ness: “In this expansion they gave Priest some interesting tools for the mid/late game, but unfortunately the lack of early game will still leave Priest in a bad spot.
Priest of the Feast is a fine card by itself but Priest already had access to a fair few 4 drops (Auchenai Soulpriest, Holy Champion, Elise Starseeker, C'Thun's Chosen, etc) so I’m not sure if it will be able to make the cut. 3/6 stats are fine but again, a 4 drop won’t fix any of the early game problems. Also the spells in Priest are basically all situational so the healing effect of this card will probably rarely be seen.
Onyx Bishop is an awkward card; it can have a lot of value in some situations (resurrecting Injured Blademaster, Sylvanas Windrunner, Shifting Shade) and I prefer this card over the standard Resurrect card – but, again, you can give Priest all the mid/late game value cards you want and without early game it will fall behind very quickly. Another problem with Onyx Bishop is there are lots of cards you probably do not want to resurrect (Northshire Cleric, Doomsayer, Museum Curator, battlecry cards). However, resurrecting a large minion late game or a 3/4 drop on 5 will probably cause this card to see play somewhere, and the design is alright – but I think the meta will be too fast for this card to be powerful.
As for the last card, Purify, there is no current Priest archetype where you would ever want to play this card. And, the card is definitely not strong enough to create a new Priest archetype revolving around Ancient Watcher and Eerie Statue. Whilst the idea sounds nice, it is far too situational and this card on its own without anything to combo with is just garbage. If I wanted a 4/5 I would just play a Chillwind Yeti. Maybe if it was 1 mana it would be acceptable; if it drew 2 cards it would be very good, but currently it is really, really bad. The worrying part about this card is the future of Priest – do they want to take Priest down the “silence your own minion route”? We’ll have to see, but I’m a bit scared for what they will do to the class, especially after what they have already done. The control Priest variant will mostly likely be too weak to compete in the upcoming meta and people will switch to Dragon Priest, a curve deck – this seems to be what Blizzard are encouraging by not releasing any early game cards to help Priest. It’s always worrying when developers tell you about all the nice Neutral cards which will help the class but don’t consider the class cards. Overall the 3 cards given to Priest are not particularly strong and don’t fix any existing problems the class faced – so Priest will most likely stay as the worst class after the release of Karazhan.”
It’s sad to hear that a class which has been bottom tier for a long time now is not getting any notable buffs with the coming adventure. I guess we have to see the bright side of this sad event and enjoy a reddit full of Priest memes for the months to come.