Thursday, 21 April 2016

Whispers of the Old Gods - Card Review 5

Whispers of the Old Gods

Card Review - Part 5

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

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. Now that I'm starting to run out of cards there (unless they bring in a big batch), I'll look elsewhere for the next post.

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.

Last post, we looked at a number of smaller neutral cards, and a few class cards. This time, we're looking at mostly larger neutral minions, with a few class cards thrown in for good measure.

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


Blizzard has released a few more legendary cards. Let's see what they're all about. We have three new legendaries to look at:
He's mad. Pun intended.

Can't you just see her starring in the next
big Disney hit musical film?

You go, little, er, thing. Don't go changing for ...
Never mind.

Cho'Gall was the head of the Twilight's Hammer, formerly an orcish clan of the Horde that, following its near-destruction, transformed into an apocalyptic death cult. Cho'Gall himself went from being a devotee of Gul'dan to a devotee of the Old Gods, making his inclusion in this set (and his assignment as the warlock class legendary) just about obligatory.

As a Hearthstone card, his role is to act as a strong 7-drop for warlocks, who are short Dr Boom and Mal'ganis in Standard format, and who may have to do without Molten Giants as well. In this role he ends up being quite solid: warlocks, who are used to spending life to use their Hero Power, can easily adjust to spending their life to cast a spell. The most obvious choice is Shadowflame, often on Cho'Gall himself, but it could just as well be Ancient Watcher or a giant.

Other board clear spells are the next most likely choices. A reasonable choice, if expensive, is Siphon Soul, if your opponent doesn't have much of a board (just one big creature, perhaps). At any rate, it seems like the best use for Cho'Gall's battlecry is to flip the board so that you go from being behind to controlling it - or from contesting it to having a stranglehold on it.

Princess Huhuran is not a terribly lore-heavy minion, being a relatively minor (as it were) mini-boss in the same raid dungeon as C'Thun. Apropos of her appearance in Hearthstone, as of World of Warcraft's Cataclysm expansion, it is possible for hunters to tame her as a hunter pet.

Therefore she ends up being a pretty good addition (lore-wise) to the game as the hunter class legendary. Her battlecry acts as a single-target Feign Death. While the spell can have a larger payoff, playing Princess Huhuran has the tempo swing of triggering a deathrattle effect (from Leper Gnome to Sylvanas) and putting a big minion on the board.

While the pickings are slimmer for her in Standard format, in Wild format... well.

Shifter Zerus, so far as I can see, has no match in World of Warcraft lore. (The only match on Wowpedia was for a Jailer Zerus who may be an NPC in the upcoming Legion expansion - with no apparent relation between the two.)

At any rate, Shifter Zerus has a very unusual effect. While... er, it would be a pretty poor 1-mana play on its own (don't play it on curve!), it has the potential to become a game-winning minion. Need that last bit of burst damage to end the game? Good thing Shifter Zerus transformed into a minion with Charge! That sort of thing. While Shifter Zerus could be useless throughout a game because it transforms into something you don't need, don't want, or can't play each turn, I suspect it will be a worthwhile addition to many decks - especially, I dare say, "highlander" decks built to exploit Reno Jackson.

Cho'Gall - Good
Princess Huhuran - Good in Standard, Excellent in Wild
Shifter Zerus - Fair in Standard, Good in Wild

Cho'Gall is a solid addition to most warlock decks, although decks that don't run healing (such as zoolock) won't find him quite as useful, especially in Standard where that Antique Healbot is getting removed.

Princess Huhuran is a solid addition, but in Wild, with the plethora of great deathrattle minions, she's a must-have.

Shifter Zerus is interesting, and I think most decks could conceivably make room for him. In Wild, with the larger base of (often overpowered) minions to play, his ability is simply better than it is in Standard.

Class Cards

Outside of the legendary cards introduced above, a small assemblage of new class cards has been introduced. They are:
They just want to give C'Thun its best
chance at making a go of it in this
cruel world.

I'm not sure why it looks like a mummy.

Just when you destroy the incorporeal
eldritch spirit, Grom Hellscream turns up.
And he's not here to help. D'oh!

Here's the pyromaniac that wanted to
learn Forbidden Flame.

The Arakkoa are a race of bird-people native to the orcs' ancestral homeworld, Draenor. Some Arakkoa are known to worship the Old Gods (such as the Arakkoa of the Dark Conclave, and possibly others). The Dark Arakkoa Hearthstone card is a second druid class card with C'Thun synergy, making druid a rather strong choice, it seems, for a C'Thun deck. Indeed, the Dark Arakkoa's stats are decent: a 5/7 Taunt for 6 mana, and it has the best C'Thun-buffing battlecry seen so far.

The Demented Frostcaller is a minion not unlike the Flamewaker in that it harms the opposing board after you cast a spell. The crucial difference, of course, is that it only freezes opponents. Freeze effects can be useful, but it's hard to see why a mage would try to include this card as their 4-drop. In Standard format, Water Elemental's statline is just plain better (and it freezes other minions, too), and in Wild format, there's Piloted Shredder.

Speaking of Piloted Shredder, the Shifting Shade acts as something of a replacement for the Shredder in Standard format, at least for priests. It's not as mana-efficient as the Piloted Shredder, as the minion you get goes into your hand and must be played. On the other hand, because you get a minion from your opponent's deck, you're not restricted to 2-mana minions - what's more, much of the randomness will be gone, as players don't usually play obviously suboptimal minions. It's not as strong a card when you're facing an aggro deck, but when facing control-style decks, you can pick up something valuable. It's a bit like a half-strength Thoughtsteal that leaves something on the board.

Finally, the Twilight Flamecaller acts as a sort of instant board clear, at least against aggro (or damaged) minions. For 1 more mana than Arcane Explosion, you get the effect of Arcane Explosion plus a 2/2 minion on the board.

Dark Arakkoa - Good
Demented Frostcaller - Terrible
Shifting Shade - Fair
Twilight Flamecaller - Fair

The Dark Arakkoa is almost strong enough to be included in non-C'Thun decks. It's a must-have for C'Thun decks, given its battlecry.

Freezing is just not that valuable an effect, so in my view the Demented Frostcaller is just not that strong, especially when far better 4-drops exist. Some decks in Standard might use one Demented Frostcaller, though I can't imagine why.

Shifting Shade probably won't see use in, say, Dragon Priest, where the 4 mana spot is filled. Other forms of priest may find it useful.

Tempo mage decks that ditch Secrets in Standard format (due to the absence of Mad Scientist and Mirror Entity) might have room for the Twilight Flamecaller, as may decks that want some efficient board control against aggro. I don't expect this card to see much play in Wild.


Let's now take a look at a few minions that cost 5 mana:
Robots with tentacles.
Will wonders never cease?

When she dispenses potions that feign death
to impulsive teenagers, she also dispenses
with the feigning part.

He was right all along, and now,
he's going to rub it in our faces.
7 damage at a time.

The Corrupted Healbot is, in keeping with the theme of corruption, a darker variant of the Antique Healbot. Both cost 5 mana, but where Antique Healbot is a 3/3 body that heals the Hero playing it as a battlecry (trading away board presence/tempo for life), Corrupted Healbot is a 6/6 body that heals the opposing hero as a deathrattle (trading life for board presence/tempo). In that respect, it is also a bigger version of Zombie Chow - both in terms of its stats and its opponent-healing deathrattle. While 6/6 for 5 mana is pretty good, statwise, the bigger size of the deathrattle is pretty hard to deal with. In order to be worth it, Corrupted Healbot probably needs to hit something twice (whether it's the opponent's face or trades), and you probably need to deal more damage to your opponent than will be healed by the Corrupted Healbot, before it dies.

There is synergy with Auchenai Soulpriest (and the new priest spell Embrace the Shadow), and as a bit of a corner case, this is a sort of counter to Sylvanas - it can trade with Sylvanas, get snatched by her deathrattle, and then you ping it to heal yourself.

The Cult Apothecary is another healing card. For 5 mana you get a 4/4 body and a healing effect that scales with the size of your opponent's board. It's good if you're dealing with a lot of board-flood aggro, although if it's the only minion on your side of the board the healing won't do you much good. Most decks are happy to have a consistent 2-3 minions in play, though, so you probably won't get much value out of it.

Last, but not least, we come to the Validated Doomsayer, a Doomsayer who is madly cackling - cackling! - with vindicated glee now that DOOM! has arrived. Like the Doomsayer, the Validated Doomsayer is a 0/7 with a slow effect, triggering at the start of your turn - thereby giving your opponent a turn to react to its presence.

The Validated Doomsayer's effect is certainly very cool - at the start of each turn, his Attack resets to 7, making him a hard counter to, say, Aldor Peacekeeper, and protecting him from Big Game Hunter on the turn of his deployment. But he's a pretty poor card choice against priest, who can remove him with Shadow Word: Pain (or even Shadow Word: Horror) or take control of him with Cabal Shadow Priest while you're waiting for him to buff his own Attack.

Moreover, your opponent can trade for free with him, so you pretty much have to try and lay him down when your opponent has an empty board, or use him as a "soft taunt" (that is, something your opponent must attack, in lieu of your face or other minions - not as a hard rule, but as a preventative measure) and/or removal bait.

Corrupted Healbot - Poor
Cult Apothecary - Terrible
Validated Doomsayer - Terrible

Corrupted Healbot is just a big enough body, and has enough possibilities for "shadow" priest, that it might be useable in such a niche. I don't see it being useful anywhere else.

Cult Apothecary could be good in conjunction with a board clear, but that means you're not getting to combo him until turn 8 or later, which is certainly too late.

I really like the idea of the Validated Doomsayer (I really do!), but it's just too slow mechanically.

Bring In the Epic Finishers

We'll round this post out with a look at some larger (6+ mana) minions, two of which can serve as veritable "finishers" in their own right, and one which does the job of getting a finisher into your hand. (They all happen to be epic rarity, as well.) These are:
So... is she ancient? Or is the thing
she's the harbinger of ancient?

Well, we know this is ancient.

Also not something you'd want to run into
in a dark alley at night.

By the power of exponential growth,
I have the POWER!

The Ancient Harbinger has one job: find your Old God or other 10-mana finisher somewhere in your deck, and put it into your hand. Rather like all those "You had one job!" memes (where the one job has failed, usually in spectacular fashion), there's every chance you'll draw into your 10-mana "big gun" before the Ancient Harbinger gets to do her work. At 4/6 for 6 mana she's not the biggest body, but plenty of other 6-mana minions have comparable stats. She probably fits into a deck with the expectation that you'll play her on curve and she'll act as removal bait or a soft taunt, and if she actually gets to use her ability, so much the better. Most decks have card draw that they'd rather rely on to fish for their 10-mana minions, but this has the advantage of being a better tempo play than card draw spells.

The Blood of the Ancient One is fun, but really, really slow. I've shown the card of The Ancient One in the pictures above so you can see what happens if you get two of these in play. They're a bit like much bigger versions of Stalagg and Feugen, who could call up Thaddius.

The Ancient One itself is obviously amazing if you get it into play. That will be the tricky part: you need to run two Blood of the Ancient One cards in your deck (plus, in all likelihood, a Faceless Manipulator for insurance), one of them needs to survive long enough for you to have both of them in play at the end of a turn, and either The Ancient One or yourself have to survive until the start of your next turn. It's a pretty tall order, and I don't think competent opponents will let it happen, unless you've managed to completely run them out of resources.

The plus side of the Blood of the Ancient one is that it is a finisher: just one of these will win the game by itself if your opponent can't deal with it, simply because it does so much damage. But with all the other finishers, many of which have better or faster (or both) rider effects, will any decks be able to make room for these?

Finally, there's the Scaled Dragon, a relatively weak body for 6 mana (2/8 stats) that, left unchecked, turns into a nightmarish monster. It's even better if, the turn you play it, you can buff its Attack so it starts at a higher baseline. While priest as a class more or less counters this card (unless you can buff its Attack by exactly 2), other classes might have difficulty dealing with it until they can use Big Game Hunter, unless they already have weapons and/or a board they can use to remove it early, or a handy removal spell that they haven't used on something else.

As a Dragon, Scaled Dragon obviously synergises well with dragon decks and cards that have Dragon-related rider effects. It has the benefit of better-than-average potential to survive at least a turn. The downside is that it's a "win more" card - it will accelerate your victory, but you can't reasonably expect it to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, although it might turn a contested or more or less tied game state in your favour if your opponent can't answer it.

Ancient Harbinger - Poor
Blood of the Ancient One - Poor
Scaled Dragon - Fair

Ancient Harbinger will seem like a fantastic play every time it actually works out, because the last thing you want is for your C'Thun (or whatever) to sit at the very bottom of your deck the entire game. The big question is how often its triggered effect will work out. As such I can't really rate it better than Poor.

Blood of the Ancient One will be serviceable if you are starting out and have few big-league finishers. But once you have played for a few months and have the dust to craft (or the fortune of opening) more valuable cards, you'll not have room for this in all but the most exotic (perhaps quixotic) decks. About the only way I see this being viable is in a control-heavy meta.

Scaled Dragon will likely fit into dragon decks (having this behind a dragon priest's Taunt wall is... intimidating), and as a niche card in some control decks (perhaps "highlander" decks). I don't see it seeing much play elsewhere.

That's it for this round of reviews. It looks like I'm getting caught up with the pace of card reveals on the Hearthstone Facebook, so after the next post, I should be able to look at fewer cards at a time. (Or I can look at other sites showing cards revealed elsewhere but not yet on Facebook.)

Since, as I linked to above, Blizzard has announced some of the balance changes to cards in the Standard set, I'm probably going to review those next. If you were a fan of some of the cards affected (or relied on some of them), you might think that you're getting a taste of the power of Mjolnerf.

Stay tuned for more!

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