Sunday, 17 April 2016

Whispers of the Old Gods - Card Review 3

Whispers of the Old Gods

Card Review - Part 3

Part 1
Part 2

Here we go with a batch more cards to examine and review.

To keep things simple for myself, I'm going to review cards once they are available on Hearthstone's Facebook page, even if they've been revealed elsewhere.

Before proceeding, let's recapitulate the rating system:

Excellent - Can't go wrong with this in your deck; it will probably become standard fare.
Good - A more or less excellent card for specific kinds of decks.
Fair - Situationally useful, perhaps as a utility or "tech" card, but not a mainstay addition.
Poor - If you have nothing better to use, go ahead. Poor cards are probably still serviceable, but are underpowered relative to higher-performing cards.
Terrible - Probably best not to run this.
Millhouse Manastorm - Embarassingly bad, up to the point where you're handing your opponent the game.

As noted in previous posts, the cards' relative utility may shift because of balance changes to the existing cards and the removal of Goblins vs. Gnomes and Naxxramas content from Standard play format.

(N.B. All images are property of Blizzard Entertainment unless otherwise specified.)

For this post, we're going to look at some of the class cards revealed thus far. So far we've seen the druid and warrior cards, and some of the other classes' legendary cards, so let's take a look at some of the others.


Jaina gets a few extra goodies this expansion:

The mage legendary hasn't been revealed, and we may yet see more mage cards; this is what's been revealed thus far. We've already seen Forbidden Flame in the last review post.

This is the kind of book that Unseen
University's Librarian would keep
carefully locked up. Just sayin'

No surprises here. Well, except for
whatever it summons.

Say a little prayer to RNGesus before
using this card.

Cabalist's Tome: For 5 mana, you get three random class spells. Because of the random component, this could turn out very good, very bad, or anywhere in between. Of course, mage spells are among the best in the game (appropriately), with few genuine duds, so it won't be all bad. Cabalist's Tome itself, and the spells it generates, synergise well with several common mage cards: Mana Wyrm, Flamewaker, and Archmage Antonidas.

The big question, then, is whether Cabalist's Tome is a good fit for a 5-mana spot. While Sludge Belchers are on the way out of Standard, they and Ethereal Conjurers crowd the 5-mana spot. Is there room for Cabalist's Tome in there? A "Highlander" deck (there can be only one!) could certainly fit one in. It's just a question of whether other mage decks can, too.

Faceless Summoner: The Faceless are counted among the servants of the Old Gods. The Faceless Summoner is what it says on the label: it's a Faceless, and it summons other minions. Crunching some numbers, the average Attack of a 3-mana minion is 2.6, and the average Health is 3.1. So you're getting about 7.6/8.1 in stats for 6 mana, which is pretty good value. Of course, a lot of the value from the summoned minion will come from its ancillary effects. Unless you're a mech mage, say, Iron Sensei is going to suck. On the other hand, Injured Blademaster or King Mukla, because their battlecries don't trigger, will be awesome. You'd have to run some more in-depth number crunching, and I'm sure someone has.

Servant of Yogg-Saron: What with spells like Arcane Missiles, Unstable Portal, and the Whispers Cabalist's Tome, and minions like Flamewaker and the new minions introduced thus far, mage is turning into a very RNG-dependent class. (You might compare it to the Dungeons and Dragons wild mage archetype, or perhaps joke that Jaina's turning from mage to priest of RNGesus.)

Anyway, the Servant of Yogg-Saron is very random indeed: it casts a random spell whose cost is 5 mana or less, and the target is random. (It's rather like a micro-effect of Yogg-Saron's own battlecry.) I'm not really sure what to make of it, so let's have the player who introduced the card on Blizzard's behalf do the talking: Trump on Servant of Yogg-Saron.

As per Trump's calculations, the Servant will on balance do okay. Whether that will be good enough in constructed play remains to be seen. I suspect it will see play in some variant tempo mage decks, but not a lot else.

Cabalist's Tome - Good (although towards the lower end of this rating)
Faceless Summoner - Fair
Servant of Yogg-Saron - Fair

As with Unstable Portal, things could go pretty bad, but I suspect that on balance these three cards will have a positive effect on the game state when played. Cabalist's Tome is more of a control-style play, because you lose tempo playing it. Because Servant of Yogg-Saron's effects are so much more limited, they're likely to be better on balance than those of Yogg-Saron itself.


And what of Rexxar? Let's see:

If they'd called it "Call of Nature",
the animal companions would be
waiting in front of an outhouse.

Maybe Tanaris is going to be the heart
of Azeroth's spice mining industry.

"How did it get infested by King Krush?!?"
"Don't ask."

Call of the Wild: The Classic hunter spell Animal Companion is a mainstay of hunter decks - there's hardly a hunter deck that doesn't use it - and no wonder. Even though the minion summoned is randomly chosen out of the three options, each one's stats are far superior to most 3-mana minions you could play, especially Common-rarity ones.

While Call of the Wild may not see much play in the most aggressive of face hunter decks, I think it's likely to fit in with other hunter decks. (And since face hunter often struggles when it reaches the late game, this could be a useful tech card.) For 8 mana you get a 4/4 with Taunt, a 4/2 with Charge, and a 2/4 that buffs the rest of your board - so what you're getting is 12/10 worth of stats spread over 3 minions, and 1 extra damage per minion you already have on the board.

Giant Sand Worm: Apart from the reference to a classic in science fiction, I really, really like this card: its mechanical benefit is just plain neat. So it is with some regret that I predict it won't see lots of play, except to bait out Big Game Hunters and other removal. (That has its uses, but being target practice for Polymorph - or worse, Entomb - isn't what you want your 8 mana burrowing board clear to accomplish.) In Wild format, though, expect it to eat Sludge Belchers and their residual slimes before chomping down on face. (You'll feel really, really good if you play this onto a board containing Tundra Rhino.)

Infest: Hunters often have trouble refilling their hands, mainly because they don't have a lot of card draw. This spell may be a way to alleviate that, albeit indirectly. This isn't the kind of spell that you'll cast on curve - instead, you'll play it after, say, unleashing the hounds. At 3 mana, it's pretty reasonable, though its value is awfully dependent on how big a board you have and (like any random card effect) what Beasts you get.

Call of the Wild - Excellent
Giant Sand Worm - Poor in Standard, Fair in Wild
Infest - Fair

Call of the Wild is just that good.

Giant Sand Worm might be a 1-of in Wild format, where so many of the most egregious summon-something-else deathrattle minions will be found. I don't see it appearing much in Standard format.

Infest is probably a 1-of in decks that specialise in flooding the board. (It would actually make a really good druid card for aggro decks.)


Paladin's had more cards introduced than most classes, and I looked at two of its cards in the previous post. Here are the rest to date:

While the new class legendary is a card suitable for control-style decks, these cards are all about flooding the board.

It's a dirty job, but somebody's
got to do it.

Having a giant undead abomination
constantly attacking your town
can really ruin your day. Or life.

All Murlocs. All the time.

Stand Against Darkness: With Muster for Battle on the way out in Standard format, this the effective replacement. It's not as good as Muster for Battle - 5 mana is a high price to pay (making it significantly harder to combo with Quartermaster) and you don't also get a weapon. It may simply be better for board-flooding paladins to stick with Justicar Trueheart.

Steward of Darkshire: On the other hand, if you want to play an aggressive, board-flooding paladin, this is the card for you. You probably don't want to play this on curve, instead using it in combination with Muster (in Wild), Stand Against Darkness, or your Hero Power. It greatly increases the possibility that your fragile board will survive long enough for you to play Quartermaster such that you can actually attack with the buffed minions. (It doesn't quite make Magma Rager viable, but it comes close.)

Vilefin Inquisitor: At 1/3 for 1 mana, this minion has good stats. Its effect dictates the kind of deck you want to play, so it's not for every paladin, to be sure. If you want a board-flooding style of murloc deck, this is the 1-drop for you. The current favoured murloc deck runs a tight list of murlocs and Anyfin Can Happen to deal massive amounts of burst damage, rather than flooding the board with murlocs, but with Old Murk-Eye rotating out of Standard, this deck might be seen less often.

Stand Against Darkness - Fair
Steward of Darkshire - Excellent
Vilefin Inquisitor - Fair

It's questionable whether paladins will run much of Stand Against Darkness because of its cost. 5/5 worth of stats is okay, but being so spread out makes them vulnerable.

By contrast, Steward of Darkshire is a great choice for any paladin deck, because paladin gets so much mileage out of its Hero Power. In Wild, where Muster for Battle will still be around, it's amazing.

Vilefin Inquisitor is a decent card given its stats. Its battlecry, and the style of play it forces, though, makes it questionable. If viable board-flood murloc decks rise, then Vilefin Inquisitor will be a key part in making them happen. But that is the only deck type that will play this card.


Now, let's turn to Anduin (the benevolent Crown Prince of Stormwhind) and see how the Old Gods have affected him. (We have already seen Herald Volazj and Forbidden Healing.) Other new priest cards are:

(I'd say he's taking a darker turn here, wouldn't you?)

Why not embrace the Shadow? It's so
cozy and snuggly. Like a warm blanket!

The horror... the horror...

Embrace the Shadow is an interesting twist on Auchenai Soulpriest - basically, it's like a temporary Soulpriest. One of the most common uses of Auchenai Soulpriest is to enable Circle of Healing to act as a board clear instead of a mass heal. One of the issues was that Soulpriest stayed on the board in such cases, meaning if it hung around you might have trouble keeping your board alive. If you wanted the Soulpriest to stay on the board, though, it was difficult because you couldn't heal it.

Embrace the Shadow somewhat circumvents that. What's more, being 2 mana less than the Soulpriest, you can either use it on curve earlier in the game (to clear, say, a strong aggro shaman board), or play it any turn you would have Soulpriest but have 2 more mana to spend on something else, whether that's a Hero Power to deal 2 damage (to the face or to a stronger, surviving enemy minion), or playing a minion of your own after the board clear. The advantage to Auchenai Soulpriest is that there's a minion on the board.

Shadow Word: Horror seems like an anti-aggro tech choice. But I'm not sure it's really worth it. For 1 more mana you can cast Holy Nova, and for 2 less mana you can cast Embrace the Shadow into Circle of Healing. (What Shadow Word: Horror has over the latter combo is that it uses fewer cards, and does not also wreck your own board if you have one.)

Embrace the Shadow - Good
Shadow Word: Horror - Poor

I suspect that anyone who would run two Auchenai Soulpriests in their deck will replace one with Embrace the Shadow, and anyone who runs one Soulpriest will replace it. Because Soulpriest is hardly a universal priest workhorse, a Good rating is as good as Embrace the Shadow is going to get.

Shadow Word: Horror is probably not good enough to be a 1-of in your deck, unless you're running into so many board flooding minions that two Holy Novas just won't cut it.


Last, but not least, let's look at Valeera. The rogue class was well served by its legendary card, reviewed in the previous post. Let's see if it can come up with any other winners:

Interestingly, all the rogue cards introduced thus far, including Xaril, have the theme of adding cards to your hand without thinning your deck (too much).

Awww, isn't that mini-Ragnaros cu-

Tastes good black, or even with milk and sugar.

Homeopathy for the undead?
Seems legit.

Shadowcaster is a reasonably meagre body, with 4/4, for a 5-mana minion. However, its battlecry is very powerful. Follow up someone like Brann Bronzebeard, Antique Healbot (in Wild format), Reno Jackson, Edwin VanCleef, or any solid minion whose value doesn't depend on its stats with Shadowcaster. That the resulting minion costs 1 mana is a big benefit, making it easier to trigger Combo effects. (In particular, a 1-mana Edwin VanCleef doesn't lose anything being 1/1, as most of his power comes from his Combo effect.) There could be some issues, though, with fitting this in to a rogue deck, given Azure Drake comfortably fills the 5-mana minion slot. Also, the Shadowcaster's statline could be an issue if you're not getting immediate value out of its battlecry (such as if you had to play it on curve).

Thistle Tea is an interesting spell. It's expensive, at 1 mana less than Sprint, but it has an interesting effect: you draw a card, and then whatever it is, you add two more of it to your hand. I really like the effect, but I'm not sure you'd replace Sprint for it in most decks. I suspect that in Wild format, when you could end up with multiples of Antique Healbot, Piloted Shredder, or Tinker's Sharpsword Oil, there's much more potential for this card than in Standard format.

Undercity Huckster superficially resembles the 2-value 2/2 Dark Peddler in that it also generates a new card. The differences, though are that the Huckster's card generation triggers on a deathrattle, can be any mana cost, and the card generated is strictly one of the opponent's class cards. It's likely to be much more random than the Dark Peddler's effect, even though the Dark Peddler has a larger pool of cards to draw from (about twice as many available 1-mana cards than class cards) because the Dark Peddler uses the Discovery mechanic, meaning you choose one from three available choices. It's also got a much wider variance than the Dark Peddler draw. If you get a set of really bad choices with Dark Peddler, well, at least what you get is only 1 mana. With Undercity Huckster, you could end up with, say, Druid of the Fang (even though you have no Beasts in your deck). On the upside, you could get something that works well with Combo effects, or a real decisive card (Archmage Antonidas in your Malygos deck, say). I don't play lots of rogue, so I'd have to say that whether you use this card or not would largely depend on the deck you're playing, and how much room you have in your 2-mana slot. (Deathrattle rogues playing in Wild won't have room for this deck. Rogues in Standard mode might.)

Shadowcaster - Fair
Thistle Tea - Fair in Wild, Good in Standard
Undercity Huckster - Fair

I think all of these are decent choices, but it's hard to see where to make room to fit them into a deck. As the meta settles, I think we'll see them appearing as 1-of cards. Undercity Huckster might show up as a 2-of in the 2-mana slot if there aren't any obviously superior picks in Standard format.

That's it for this round of reviews. Stay tuned for more!

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