Hearthstone: Whispers of the Old Gods
Hearthstone has finally released it’s much awaited third card expansion ‘Whispers of the Old Gods’. These new cards, as well as the changes from the patch that accompanied it, have swung some dramatic changes to the new Meta. I will be going over the major aspects that have been most apparent since its release on Tuesday the 26th. These topics will include, the Wild and Standard formats, the rotation of staple cards, predictions on how Aggro and Control decks will change, and some short class overviews.
First let us start with the new formats that have been introduced. Hearthstone will now be running on a rotating card pool based on the year the card expansions were released, if the cards were not released either the same year or the previous year it will not be playable in Standard but will still be usable in Wild. This first year is being known as the ‘Year of the Kraken’ and allows use of both the Whispers of the Old Gods and Grand Tournament card expansions as well as the cards from the Blackrock Mountain and League of Explorers adventure modes. Meaning all cards from Goblins vs Gnomes and the Naxrammas blocks are no longer usable in Standard (and by proxy, ranked play), which has huge implications on how the Meta will shape.
This rotation has been a much needed change for those who have played for a long time as the same decks have dominating now for almost two years which can be extremely frustrating, especially when many of the decks were not even that fun to play. Some major staple cards have moved on now, leaving spots in many decks where they were absolutely mandatory such as Piloted Shredder and Sludge Belcher in terms of neutral cards as well as major class staples like Muster for Battle for Paladin, Implosion for Warlock, and Death’s Bite for Warrior. Since these changes are so new there doesn’t appear to be any new auto includes to replace these former staples just yet.
Though there aren’t any new staple cards yet it is clear there are some staple decks (these decks are still fairly unrefined and will most likely be changing to adapt in the coming days and weeks). Most of these have been modified versions of the base deck ideas that Hearthstone gives you during deck creation such as N’zoth Rogue (which I have modified and have climbed from rank 22 to rank 5 at this point), Aggro Shaman, C’thun Druid, and Aggro Warlock. All of these show great promise to become the major decks and all have been fun that I have tried. I do hope the introduction of these new cards really spurs the Meta towards a Mid-Range and Control based game rather than the aggressive/combo centered that has still left a bad taste in my mouth. Many of the new tools do encourage this control playstyle but several cards such as Darkshire Councilman and Evolve worry me for there may be a big Aggro comeback.
Lastly, I will be going over some of the major class specific cards that I foresee causing big changes it their playstyle and rankings (both in Standard and in Arena).
Mages got some great cards in this expansion that imply a bit more control tools as well as some mid-range tools. The first major mention would have to be Cabalist’s Tome (Effect: Add 3 random Mage spells to your hand) this card was a huge headache to play against due to the high efficiency and quality of most mage spells which can allow them to reach for a last bit of damage, clear your board with a clutch AOE, or possibly get an Ice Block to prevent your lethal blow to them next turn. Though this card is an epic I see it being an instant pick in Arena when available due to the sheer value it can give. The other card I see having the most potential will be Demented Frostcaller (Effect: Whenever you play a spell Freeze a random enemy) this will only freeze characters that have not already been frozen which further increases its value. The reason I see a big potential for this is it is an amazing control tool especially due to complimentary spells that have been introduced such as Forbidden Flame which can be cast for no mana to get a free freeze, as well as Shatter which allows you to destroy a minion that is Frozen. A cool combo with this card against weapon classes is to pay Demented Frostcaller into Frost Nova to freeze all of the enemy’s minions. Then, because Demented Frostcaller will only freeze unfrozen characters, it will always target the enemy hero.
Everyone’s least favorite aggro machine got some interesting additions in Whispers of the Old Gods. The first and most infuriating is Call of the Wild (Effect: Summon all 3 animal companions) this gives you the three outcomes of the Animal Companion card which include a 4/2 charging minion, a 4/4 taunt minion, and a 2/4 minion that increases the attack of all friendly minions by 1. This is an amazing ability that can build a board from scratch as well as give you the possibility to push for lethal with the board buff and the charging minions. The second card is Forlorn Stalker (Effect: Give all Deathrattle minions in your hand +1/1), Blizzard seems to be pushing Deathrattle hunter to continue to be a powerhouse even after the rotation removed most of the baseline Deathrattle cards with the removal of the Naxrammas set. However this card could be especially powerful due to two of the major Legendaries of this set affect Deathrattle minions. The hunter legendary (Effect: Trigger a friendly minion’s Deathrattle), as well as N’zoth the Corruptor which summons all friendly Deathrattle minions that have died this game.
Druids got many cards that are high quality but aren’t as exciting as some of the aforementioned from other classes the first one is Mire Keeper (Effect: Choose One – Summon a 2/2 Slime; or Gain an empty Mana Crystal) this card has been very effective for ramp decks as well as the ever popular C’thun decks. It has a great effect that is good at any stage of the game since you have a viable option in the 2/2 slime choice if you are already at 10 mana or are not requiring ramp at that moment. I see this card being run in very high rank decks as a very strong midgame card with huge flexibility. The other card that is very interesting but may still be working on finding a solid spot in a deck is the new Druid Legendary, Fandral Staghelm (Effect: Your Choose One cards have both effects combined) I can see this being a very solid card as it allows lower mana cards to become twice as valuable when they get the buffs from both effects.
There isn’t much to say about Paladins this expansion except Hearthstone seems to really be pushing the idea of an aggressive Divine Shield deck which uses Steward of Darkshire (Effect: Whenever you summon a 1-Health minion, give it Divine Shield) as well as Selfless Hero (Effect: Deathrattle: Give a random friendly minion Divine Shield). These have been infuriating so far due to the usual problem with aggro decks in Hearhstone is they are easily killed with AOE spells or effective trading but since Divine Shield absorbs one fit regardless of how much damage that hit was for, it is now very very hard to clear their board especially after they use Rallying Blade to give all of said Divine Shield minions +1/1. At least they got a solid control Legendary in the form of Ragnaros the Lightlord (Effect: At the end of your turn restore 8 health to a damaged friendly character). Hopefully such an amazing card like that doesn’t become eclipsed by how promising the aggressive Paladin archetype seems to be looking.
It wouldn’t be a proper expansion without giving Priest’s ludicrous healing potential and the ability to take all the cards from your deck. Those are in abundance in Whispers of the Old Gods with the inclusion of Darkshite Alchemist (Effect: Battlecry: Restore 5 health) as well as Shifting Shade (Effect: Deathrattle: Copy a card from your opponent’s deck and add it to your hand). With the nice control cards given in this new expansion, the idea of copying a potential board clear or late game powerhouse minion can be very powerful especially when your opponent does not know the card you got until it is played. Priests however may be lacking this time in the form of a consistent legendary as Herald Volazj (Effect: Battlecry: Summon a 1/1 copy of each of your other minions) has yet to find a good spot and is more often than not just being played as it’s normal body with maybe a single 1/1 copy that doesn’t give any real game changing effects. I really hope it can find a solid addition in a deck that really makes it shine because I still feel this has a lot of potential.
On the first day of Whispers of the Old Gods release I think I saw Rogues more than any other class, and it’s hard to disagree with why. They now have one of the most cost efficient removals in the game in the form of Shadow Strike (Effect: Deal 5 damage to an undamaged character) as well as an incredibly strong Legendary with Xaril Poisoned Mind (Effect: Battlecry and Deathrattle: Add a random Toxin card to your hand) These toxins have a variety of outcomes from a damage buff, to card draw, to a minion stealth effect to name just a few. These have paired beautifully with the Rogue class effect which is Combo cards, which means certain cards have a combo effect where they gain an additional effect if they aren’t the first card played that turn which becomes a very easy thing to accomplish when you use the 1 mana spells given from Xaril. I think Rogue is in a very good place right now and these Deathrattle decks for them are getting much stronger and will hopefully have a solid representation in the forming Meta.
Some of you may be looking specific for this specific class review as it is definitely the wildest change between expansions. Shamans, once the joke of Arena and Ranked, is now an absolute powerhouse when it comes to aggro. All of this is due to their cards with a new effect that has just been referred to as “Evolve”. This effect is present in two of their new cards the first is simply called Evolve (Effect: Transform your minion into random minions that cost (1) more), this spell costs one mana. Let me repeat that ONE MANA. That is a sickeningly good effect as it is both godlike tempo as well as a full heal on any minions that were injured before it was cast. It doesn’t stop there they also have a minion called Master of Evolution with a similar effect except it only targets a single minion instead of your entire board which literally solves the only problem with Evolve which is it is hard to gauge how many minions should be the minimum to use it on. Basically every card Shaman’s got was a welcome sight for them but is quickly becoming a nightmare for everyone else and I do hope there will be nerfs coming at least in mana cost to these incredibly good cards that are way too cheaply priced for the board swings you can get.
To absolutely no one’s surprise, Warlocks also got additional aggro tools that have rocketed the infamous Zoo deck back to the legend ranks next to its new Shaman counterparts. This was due to 3 cards, the first is Forbidden Ritual (Effect: Spend all your Mana. Summon that many 1/1 Tentacles), every class got a “Forbidden” card but this one is without question the most effective one of the bunch. This is due to many of the aggro tools only requiring minions to be “Summoned” rather than “Played” meaning it can be done by a spell or a Battlecry effect rather than played directly from your hand. One of these cards is Darkshire Councilman (Effect: After you summon a minion, gain +1 Attack). This is one of the 3 cards that has ushered the comeback due to how out of control it can get in the course of just a turn or two. The last is a very simple on in the form of Possessed Villager (Effect: Deathrattle: Summon a 1/1 Shadowbeast). This card seems very unimpressive but gives Zoo another consistent and hard to get rid of turn one drop especially after the nerfs to Leper Gnome.
Lastly we have Warriors. Warriors have eternally been in this spot where they got every card they could ever need in the classic set and now anything they get now is just either going to see no play or is going to be rotated into Control warrior until something better comes around. However the one card they did get that has already become a staple in Control warrior is Ravaging Ghoul (Effect: Deal 1 damage to all other minions), this gives them the whirlwind spell effect on a well stated minion that can be very consistent and a more forgiving deck slot to fill. That’s all they really got in terms of cards that will heavily sway ranked games so let’s talk about the amazing theme they are trying to push this expansion for warriors, Pirates! Warriors got not one but two Pirates this block as well as their legendary Malkorok (Effect: Equip a random weapon) which also synergizes with Pirates due to their focus on weapon effects. I don’t know if this will turn into an effective ranked deck but I know people are going to give it a hell of a try and I will be the first one to play it should it get off the ground.
This pack has shown that Blizzard is not slowing down with their content especially with how creative they can be with it. I am so happy with it so far and really can’t wait to play more! Overall, for Whispers of the Old Gods I would give it 8/10 with my main qualm being the additions to aggressive decks that were not needed and devalued many of the new control cards.